Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This season in Formula 1

I don't mention auto racing nearly enough given how much of a fan I am of it.  Basically, if it's got wheels and goes fast, I'll watch it.  That's also pretty much the extent of my interest in cars, I'm not a huge car buff or anything.

Anyway, this season of Formula 1 is interesting thus far for a number of reasons.  First off, points are now given to the top ten finishing positions of each race.  I'm not exactly sure of the point curve, but the winner gets 25 points.  The overall higher rewards should prove to make the championship a closer fight with more drivers in contention as we get to the end of the season.

No refueling is allowed.  This is, I believe, primarily a safety measure.  The last few seasons have seen multiple fires and drivers leaving with the fuel hose still attached.  Also, this lets the team qualify their cars on an insanely light fuel load since everyone can now fill back up to the brim just before the race.  On the other side, very few motor sports don't allow refueling, so F1 seems a little weird now.

The effect that no refueling has had on the races: Instead of it being advantageous to pit later than your competition, it's now much more advantageous to pit before them to get fresh tires.  Tires mean a lot more this season, it's already been shown that if a driver is easier on their tires that they will have an advantage.  Pit stops are blindingly fast, some of the teams are changing tires in less than four seconds.

There are three new teams that haven't quite figured things out yet: Lotus, HRT, and Virgin Racing.  Since there's two cars per team, that's six guaranteed backmarkers in every race.  And yeah, I've been making jokes about the Virgins.  "He can't afford to follow that Virgin around forever!" etc.

If you've been watching the past few seasons, you've no doubt noticed that Red Bull has been getting better and better.  They've taken this season by storm.  They're leading the constructor's championship and their drivers, Mark Webber and Sebastien Vettel, are leading the driver's championship.  They look like the team to beat this season.  Webber's come alive and is taking poles and winning races, including back-to-back pole to victory wins.  Vettel had some car troubles early on that caused him to retire from two races while in the lead, but that's been ironed out and he's been right there pressuring Webber.

The stewards, who hand out penalties for in-race mishaps, have been under fire for being overzealous in the past few seasons.  To try and bring that under control, the steward panel for each race now has a former driver on it, to provide that perspective.  Personally, I still see people getting penalized for things that I deem to be "racing incidents", i.e. things that just happen every now and then in racing and don't really deserve penalization.  I still think the stewards issue won't be solved until the panel is a dedicated panel consisting of the same people every race.

Felipe Massa is back after that head injury he suffered.  He's currently getting punk'd by Fernando Alonso, but it's nice to see him back in the car.

The big news is that seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher has returned and is driving for Mercedes.  He's working with his old pal, Ross Brawn.  He's already returned to being himself in a race car, riding the edge of the rulebook all the way.  He's just not winning, that's all.

Fans of Kimi Raikkonen may be disappointed to know that he's moved from Formula 1 to WRC.  I don't know if anyone broadcasts WRC live, all I can ever find on TV is after-the-fact summary programs on HD Theater.  I don't even know if it's possible to broadcast it live given where they're racing, but it'd be nice if it were.

Renault have improved a fair amount.  Their cars are yellow and black this season instead of white and yellow, I think it's a faster paint job.  Not as fast as their old iconic blue and yellow, but whatever.  They pretty much had to change it given that their old color scheme used colors from the logo of their old primary sponsor, ING, which pulled its sponsorship after the race fixing incident happened.

Overall, my prediction so far is that Red Bull will probably walk away with the constructor's championship.  Which of their drivers gets the title is currently completely up in the air.  Both are capable and deserving.

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