Category Archives: F1

Lewis Hamilton – why new F1 rules make life tough for drivers

A fascinating insight into modern F1 driving from Hamilton.

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Lewis Hamilton column: why new F1 rules make life tough for drivers
BBC Sport
28/03/2014

There has been a lot of discussion and controversy about the changes that have been made to Formula 1 this year. But don’t believe anyone who tells you it’s no longer a challenge for the drivers. In many ways, it is tougher than before.

The cars are immensely complicated, so there is a lot more work needed to understand how best to use them. And there are new challenges in driving them as well. As you may know, we have new engines this year and we have to complete the races using no more than 100kg of fuel – about 35% less than last year.

The new V6 turbo hybrid engines are more powerful and have much more torque – or ‘push’ when you go on the throttle – and the cars have less aerodynamic downforce, so have less grip. They still drive like an F1 car, but you have to really hone your technique, especially when it comes to using the fuel as efficiently as possible – or ‘fuel saving’, as we call it.

There are all sorts of ways to affect that: how late or early you change gears, what gear you take a corner in – and in particular, when you’re braking and using a technique called ‘lift and coast’. I’m sure hardly anyone knows what that means. Despite the name, ‘lift and coast’ does not mean cruising. You’re trying to be as fast as you can, and you’re still going through the corner on the limit, but you have to approach the corner slightly differently otherwise you won’t make the end of the race.

It is nothing new – we’ve been doing it for years, because it’s quicker to run the car with less fuel. But this year we are doing it a little bit more – although not as much as people are making out – and it is more of a hot topic because of the rule change.

You save most fuel by lifting and coasting in the heavy braking zones at the end of long straights into slow corners. When you’re driving absolutely flat out, such as on a qualifying lap, you would brake at, say, 80m from the corner, come straight off the throttle and get on the brakes, almost instantly together.

But on a fuel-saving lap in the race you’ll lift at, say, 200m, and coast to the braking zone. In an F1 car, just lifting off the throttle decelerates the car by 1G, so you still slow down quite a lot. That means you start braking at a different place – you have to brake later than before or you’ll slow down too much. So the trick is to know how much later you have to brake depending on where you lifted. You’re trying to get that to the optimum so you’re not locking the brakes, and so you’re losing as little time as possible with the lift and coast technique. That is the challenge and it is not easy.

It has a knock-on effect on how you set the car up, too, because its behaviour changes between qualifying and race day. In qualifying, you are stabbing the brakes, getting the car to move and pitch when you’re in the braking zone. It’s right on the nose into the apex of the corner. But when you lift and coast, it feels different. You are trying to be on the limit. But it is like doing it handicapped, so it’s really difficult. You’re still pushing, but when you hit the brakes the weight transfer is different, and it changes the way the car behaves going into the corner. The balance shifts.

All in all, racing with lift and coast is actually harder.

On the limit in qualifying

The cars are very different to drive in qualifying this year, too. Last year’s V8 engines had very little torque, so we were always as high in the rev band as possible. This year, the torque is much lower in the rev band and there is so much more of it. We also have a lot less downforce.

That means we use the engines very differently – we rev them much less, and we change gears much sooner, so at the same point on the track we’re often in a higher gear than last year. This is called short-shifting, and it allows you better control of the torque of the engine.

If we had as much downforce as last year, we would not have to short-shift as much. But we have lost a lot of grip, especially at the rear, with the restrictions on aerodynamics. It’s really difficult to put into words exactly how you judge when you need to short-shift, because it’s all done on feel.

From experience, you know where the car’s limitations are, you know where it breaks traction, you know if you go aggressively on the throttle, or past a certain percentage, that you’re going to break traction in first, second and third gear. Your mind sets those limits and you’re always trying to push them. You want to pull out of the corner with a little bit of slip, but not so much it unsettles the car. Getting that exactly right is what makes us good drivers.

On the big noise debate

Since I started driving in F1 in 2006-07, the cars have got slower and easier to drive. In 2007, we had more downforce, the speed through corners was faster, the races were a series of sprints between fuel stops.

Now, it’s still very physical, but for someone who trains a lot, like all the drivers do, it’s nowhere near as demanding. We all say, “that race was easy”, or “it’s easy to drive the car now”.

It’s all relative, of course. You still have to be very fit – if a normal person got in the car, it would destroy them. But while we’re not as stretched physically, don’t think we’re not on the limit. Whatever I drive, I will push to the limit.

This year, I am pushed more in the technical sense, in terms of the need to understand the car and all the things to optimise it, but I am still on the edge of what’s humanly possible.

As for the criticisms of the sound of the new engines, it is what it is. Every year, things change. The V10s from the early 2000s sounded better than the V8s which F1 used from 2006-13. Then we got used to the V8s and now we have gone to the turbo. It still sounds good. When I first came to an F1 race, the first thing I noticed was the noise vibrated my chest. I was 11 years old and it nearly burst my ear drums, and that excited me so much.

But people watching on TV don’t get that – even if they have the very best sound system. You only get that at the track. Now, they won’t have that. But the races still look cool.

Some people will say they just want the loudest cars they can have, but we also have to think of the wider world and F1 is now at the forefront of developing great engines with lots of power but excellent fuel consumption. What we have been able to achieve with these engines is incredible – we get the same power, if not more, out of a V6 than a V8 and use 30% less fuel. That’s fantastic. And the new era of road cars will benefit.

F1 has always been about pushing technical boundaries, and that’s what we’re doing with these new engines.

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Lewis Hamilton on braking in a Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton on Canadian Grand Prix & Sir Stirling Moss
BBC
7 June 2013

Let’s get one thing out of the way first – there has been a lot of talk about the Pirelli tyre test my Mercedes team did last month, in which I was involved. But it’s not something I’m really focusing on. The team are dealing with that and I am just trying to keep my concentration on the car and preparations for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix. I got my first win in Montreal and it has always been one of my favourite races.

I’ve always gone well on the track and I’m hoping for a strong race again this year, but it’s no secret that I’m not totally comfortable with the car yet this season. Driving a Formula 1 car is all about feel. At my previous team, I was used to the pedals, the controls and so on. It took some time to master them but once I’d got used to them it was the same every year.

When you go somewhere new, you have new people, new ways of communicating you have to learn. The same ways you communicated before don’t apply and the mechanics of the car are quite a bit different, in terms of suspension geometries and ride-heights and all those kinds of things.

So this car’s sweet spot for me is in a different zone than it used to be at McLaren. The braking has been a bit of a killer for me this year. It’s harder to get temperature into the tyres with this car than I’ve experienced in the past.

My qualifying laps haven’t been that bad, but I don’t think my tyres have ever been ready in the first quarter of the lap this year and a lot of time goes in that first part of the lap. It’s definitely something I’m working on. It’s not an excuse. It’s just different.

Braking is important because it is where everyone gains all the time. I’ve always been the latest of the late brakers, but you also have to modulate the brakes through the corner to control the car. If you don’t have the feel you need in that control zone, then you don’t have the confidence to attack the braking zones because you’re worried about locking the wheels or the stopping power. And if you damage these tyres, they don’t come back.

I’ve been working in the simulator, using different techniques. There are a lot you can use: for example, lift and coast in a race situation, so instead of braking at 100m, you lift at 120m and brake at 80m; or later downshifts. How you slide the car, how you progress the throttle, how you brake, all these things can change how the tyres work. My team-mate Nico Rosberg seems to be very good at quite a few of those. He is no pushover. He is doing a fantastic job and I have to do better.

Because of this I’m braking earlier than I would be otherwise, so that’s where I’m losing all my time. Even so, I’m still there in the mix. There is a lot of time lost on the brakes – in Monaco I lost 0.3 seconds in the first sector just on brakes and I only qualified 0.1secs off the pace. The time’s there and I’m not worried about it; I’ve just got to get that confidence back and then I’ll be in good shape.

Most boring of all time – Murray vs Mansell

This is a tough call. Who gets your vote?


Greatest Sportsman of All Time?

Also known as the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), a question to get the Sport Fan’s heart racing!  Here’s one attempt at an answer:

Top 5 Greatest Sportsmen of all time
Dave Mortlock
July 26, 2009

[W]ho are the five best sportsmen of all-time? First some ground-rules:

  • The higher profile the sport, the better (no shame in this). How do you measure ‘profile’? With great difficulty. But you know it when you see it. Football is higher profile than swimming. It just is.
  • I’m likely to favour those sportsmen where at least some degree of physical conditioning is involved; pure ‘skill’? pursuits like darts and snooker score a lower weighting on this count. I’m also picky about what I count as ‘sport’.
  • I’m looking for dominance, complete and total dominance if I can find it. Longevity is also important.
  • Various prejudices I try to avoid: the bias towards sportsmen of a more recent era; the bias towards individual sports (it’s much easier to identify the best tennis player of all-time than the best rugby player); the bias towards sports involving clear and measurable statistics (cricket, baseball etc).

[M]y Top 5 in order of conviction:

1. Sir Donald Bradman: There is a very compelling argument that Bradman is the best sportsman of all-time, across all-sports. His famous test batting average of 99.94 is light years ahead of everyone else. In fact no other player who has completed more than 20 test match innings has finished with a batting average of more than 61. The statistical difference is freaky, bordering on other-worldly. Take a look at any one of the metrics used to measure batting success in baseball (batting average, slugging, home runs); there exists no such colossal gap between one man and the rest. Remember also that the quality of cricket pitches has dramatically improved since Bradman’s day while the human physics involved in the bowling action are little changed (Harold Larwood bowled at 100mph in 1932). So the fact that no modern-day batsman has even threatened Bradman’s stats is all the more remarkable. He scored a century every third innings, he scored a century 6 tests in a row..in fact a quick read of the 20-odd test records he STILL holds (60 years after retiring) is almost over-whelming. Fast-forward another 100 years and I think Bradman’s stats will still be unparalleled. The Don is simply the greatest.

2. Tiger Woods: So let me get this straight? Around 150 professional golfers tee-it-up each week. All playing the same course, all using the same kit and all having access to the same practice facilities. Theoretically, Tiger has a 1-in-150 chance of winning..but he wins 1 in every 3 tournaments he enters? Maybe not as freakish as Bradman’s stats, but not far off. Think about golf also. Tiger is up against 150 other professionals any one of whom can have a ‘career’ weekend with birdies and eagles flying in everywhere. To win the tournament, Tiger has to be better than the guy in the form-of-his-lifeand he is better, 1 out of 3 events. It’s crazy when you sit down and think about it. Why Tiger over Nicklaus?……Tiger is the better golfer in my view. Already with 14 majors in the bank, you won’t find many people who doubt he’ll breeze past the Golden Bear’s record of 18 wins. His impact on golf has been HUGE also. Nicklaus excelled at golf, Tiger changed it. TV audiences, youth interest, minority participation, prize money..they even had to redesign golf courses untouched for over a hundred years to at least provide a challenge for him. Golf is unrecognisable compared to the pre-Tiger era. He is the greatest sportsman of his generation.

3. Michael Jordan: Jordan had a similar impact on basketball as Tiger has had on golf. As a growing teen addicted to sport, I didn’t really pay much attention to the NBA. I’d probably heard of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar but knew little about them or who they played for. And then along came Jordan…and suddenly we were all NBA fans, we all supported the Chicago Bulls and we were all buying a pair of Nike ‘Air Jordan’s’. You want impact?……there it is. Has there ever been a more dominant basketball player? When Jordan was fit and interested, it almost took an act of god for the opposition to win. He won a College Title with UNC and 6 NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls. Individual achievements?…..10 All-NBA First Team elections, 5 MVP awards, 14 all-star game appearances, 10 scoring titles, 3 steals titles, 8 defensive player of the year awards, plus he holds the records for highest career regular-season scoring average (30.1 points per game) and highest career playoff scoring average (33.4 points per game). Any good?

4. Diego Maradona: I can almost smell the controversy so from here. Well, first I wanted a footballer. Any list of greatest sportsman without representation from the only real global sport (and the highest profile global sport at that) just wouldn’t be right. Three stand-out: George Best, Diego Maradona and Pele. Best doesn’t pass my longevity test; super talent (some say the best ever on his day), but his day didn’t last that long (temptations away from football sadly took care of that). That leaves Argentina vs Brazil. Maybe there’s a case for including both? You certainly can’t argue with Pele’s impact on the game (possibly the first footballing galactic … god I hate that word). Then you’ve got his 3 world cups (the only player ever to win 3), oh..he scored 1,000 goals during his career also (that’s a lot by the way). There’s also the character issue; Pele renowned for his fair play and the ultimate ambassador for football versus Maradona and the drugs, hand of god? and general bizarre behaviour. But in terms of the ability to go out and win football matches single-handedly..you cannot better Maradona. Pele played in some great Brazilian teams (Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto and co), but when you’ve got a spare 5 minutes, take a look at the Argentinean team that started the 1986 world cup final. With the greatest of respect to the likes of Valdano and Burruchaga, Maradona was surrounded by mediocrities and nobodies; meaning he virtually won a world cup on his own. Oh yeah..Napoli (the Sunderland of Italian football?) They’ve won the Serie A title twice in their 90 year history..coincidentally both titles came during Maradona’s stint at the club. Could it be that he won one of the toughest leagues in Europe single-handedly as well? Enough of the stats; simply ask yourself this: could even Pele jink his way through an opposition team like Maradona could?……the ball impossibly glued to his foot. When I hit the tapes on both players; highlights of Pele in his pomp are impressive but the Maradona footage takes my breath away. Defenders couldn’t get near the little Argentinean nevermind tackle him. And for sheer natural talent, nor can any other footballer get near him. If you were picking a side from scratch and both Pele and Maradona were available to you at their peak, who would you pick first? I’d pick Maradona, and that’s why he’s on the list.

5. Wayne Gretzky: Not many people play ice hockey which is no real surprise given you first need a large patch of ice not to mention some pretty expensive kit. Nor do many people watch ice hockey outside the Nordic countries and North America. So you’re gonna have to be pretty good as an ice hockey player if want a spot in my Top 5which is exactly what Gretzky was. No, sorry..he wasn’t good.he was untouchable. Right, for those who aren’t into ice hockey (and that includes me), you get a point for scoring a goal and a point for an assist (creating a goal for someone else). At the end of the season these points are added-up and whoever has the most points wins the prestigious Art Ross Trophy?. Gretzky won the Art Ross Trophy a short 10 times in his career. The detail is even more impressive: only one player has ever scored over 200 points in a seasonour Wayne..and he did it 4 times. Take all the other winners of the Art Ross Trophy since 1980 (so excluding Gretzky’s 10 wins), average number of points required to win it?…..119. Average points across the 10 years Gretzky won it?….182. We’re getting into the realms of Bradman-esque statistical anomaliesand that’s why Gretzky steals 5th spot on the list. For those wondering whether he was just an individual stand-out player; he was part of 4 winning Stanley Cup teams. And finally, his shirt number (99) has been retired by ALL professional ice hockey teams (not just the teams he played for)..there is a reason his nickname is ‘The Great One’?

Near misses:

  • Boxing: As great as people say Muhammad Ali was, he lost 3 times. Yes his impact on boxing as a sport was enormous, but how can you say he’s the best boxer of all-time when the likes of Rocky Marciano and Joe Calzaghe have both retired undefeated?
  • Football: Pele I’ve discussed above, the list of great footballers who you could consider is endless: Yashin, Puskas, Mathews, Zidane, Cruyff, Best, Maldini, di Stefano, Eusebio, Moore, Beckenbaur, Gullit
    Athletics: I’ve never been so excited watching any form of athletics than when Michael Johnson was at his peak. Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Haile Gebrselassie and Ed Moses deserve mentions. Usain Bolt could feature in due course presuming he’s clean (and god help athletics if he’s not).
  • Cycling: Legend that he is, I’m not convinced Lance Armstrong was any more dominant than the likes of Miguel Indurain or Eddy Merckx. Cycling simply isn’t high profile enough either.
  • Golf: So let’s compare winning percentages. Tiger has played 12 years on the PGA tour and his win ratio is 29%; Nicklaus won 19% of tournaments he entered in his first 12 years. In fact you have to pick the Golden Bear’s greatest 5 years (71-75) to find a Tiger-esque 29% winning hit-rate. And I would argue the fields Nicklaus was up against were not as strong or as deep as those Tiger faces. Bobby Jones & Ben Hogan were both great golfers with some awesome stats, but lack the major wins of Tiger and Nicklaus to be seriously considered.
    Tennis: Although now establishing himself as the greatest tennis player of all-time, Roger Federer hasn’t yet distanced himself sufficiently from the achievements of Sampras (maybe he will go on to do so).
  • Cricket: No all-rounder has had bowling and batting stats like Sir Garfield Sobers. Shane Warne definitely deserves a mention also.
  • Motor-racing: As skilled as Michael Schumacher was, so long as the ‘how much is the driver, how much is the car?’ debate rumbles on, I just don’t think you can include motor racing drivers on all-time lists. The fact that Jenson Button went from the back of the grid to world champion-elect in such quick order doesn’t help Schumacher’s cause.
  • Rugby & NFL: it’s almost as though each position is a different sport given the massive variations in skill-set and physiques and this makes it difficult to make a case for rugby and American Football players. Jerry Rice is often considered the best athlete in NFL history. Great rugby players?…..a lot of great players but no stand-outs spring to mind.

Why Michael Schumacher will never be back to his best

Top writing!

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Why Michael Schumacher will never be back to his best
BBC Sport
By Mark Hughes
28/09/10

Having stood trackside at some stage of every grand prix weekend for the last decade and a bit, witnessed Schumacher at his peak and in his comeback, the visual evidence of the dimming of his skills is obvious.

In his Ferrari years, to see his first lap out of the pits through a corner such as Spa’s Pouhon was to witness awe-inspiring genius that left you barely comprehending how what you had just seen could be possible. He would commit totally to the blind exit, flat-in-top downhill entry corner, a down-change just after turning in and the car would be shuddering on the edge of adhesion, visibly faster than anything else – and Schumacher would make not a single further input because to do so would have sent the car off.

He would sit on this delicate knife-edge until the car was fully loaded up and pointed directly at the apex and then simply power his way out. To be able to sit immediately on this incredibly narrow balancing point was a skill beyond the reach of his rivals. It is now beyond him, too – see Schumacher in 2010 and he looks nothing like this.

Sure, the Mercedes is way less competitive than most of his Ferraris were but do not forget he produced regular displays of genius in the outclassed Ferraris of 1996 or 2005. Watching him around the Singapore streets, he looked much as he has done all year. He can carry a lot of commitment and momentum into the entry of a corner, just like he used to, but between the turn-in point and the apex he is wrestling with the car, rather than feeling and anticipating it the way he used to.

There are more frequent displays of his raw car control than before – precisely because he is not ahead of the car, not anticipating the way he used to but simply reacting to it. To the untrained eye it looks impressive but actually it is a signal of lack of feel – in much the same way that Vitaly Petrov, say, tends to look more spectacular than the much faster Renault team-mate Robert Kubica. Very rarely were two consecutive Schumacher runs through a Singapore corner the same last weekend.

Schumacher says it is to do with how the gripless control Bridgestone tyres do not allow him the front-end grip to be able to drive in his natural way. There is a logic to this. With a grippy front end, he would previously get the car pointed early at the apex using his delicate feel to transfer the weight under braking and cornering, pivoting the car around so it changed direction early, with the minimum of steering lock. The less steering lock, the less speed-sapping front-tyre scrub, the earlier you can get the car pointed at the apex, the earlier you can get on the power. These tyres do not allow you to drive in that way.

But in the past Schumacher has adapted brilliantly to understeering cars. He used to adapt his style corner by corner, lap by lap, to whatever was appropriate. He was quite brilliant, for example, in how he could adopt a very aggressive style on his first lap out of the pits to get the tyres quickly up to temperature, then adopt a totally different style as the rubber came up to its correct working range.

Schumacher is keen to try the 2011 Pirelli control tyres, especially on next year’s car. Should that combination give him the front end he says he needs, would the magic return? It would surely improve his performance but why would it see him return to his previous level?

The driving style was a mere expression of a level of feel and balance – a miraculous combination of inner ear sensitivity to lateral accelerations and the co-ordination of that with his limbs – that was on a different level to anyone else’s. His 2010 performances have revealed that sensitivity is dulled now and that his adaptability is not what it was. If he cannot be what he once was, could he bring himself to continue regardless?

Red Bull still the car to beat

Fascinating discussion of circuits, aerodynamics, and Red Bull’s big advantage this year. For that reason I agree with Brundle that Hamilton has been driver of the season thus far.

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Red Bull still the car to beat
BBC
Mark Hughes

In Hungary, the Red Bull was 1.3 seconds a lap faster than the field. Then, world motorsport governing body the FIA increased the front wing load test and at Spa and the Red Bull was no faster than the McLaren.

Therefore, the reasoning goes, Red Bull’s aero-elastic trickery has been stymied and the car no longer has a huge aerodynamic advantage. Maybe. But be careful with that reasoning. Let’s not forget that in the race just one week before Hungary – at Hockenheim – the aero-elastic Red Bull was no faster than the Ferrari. No significant changes were made to either car yet only few days later the RB6 was suddenly in a different league.

It’s clear that circuit characteristics are driving the competitive picture to a huge degree and that the type of corners that exponentially increase the Red Bull’s downforce advantage – the longer and faster the better – are found in different measure at different venues.

Hockenheim consists mainly of slow-medium, short-duration corners. Hungary, although having a slower average lap speed than Hockenheim, has a middle sector with many medium-quick corners of very long duration. Downforce squares with speed, and the longer the car is in the corner, the longer that advantage is maintained. Hence the very different level of competitiveness of the RB6 between Hockenheim and the Hungaroring.

So what about Spa? That has a middle sector crammed with high-speed, long duration turns – apparently perfect territory for the Red Bull. But what Spa also has are two mighty long straights. Not only is the percentage of the lap formed by the twisty stuff at Spa lower than that at the Hungaroring, but of even more significance is the fact that the end of those straights form the overtaking opportunities – and so therefore have to be defended by giving the cars good straightline speed.

This is not the case at the Hungarian track. Red Bull took a lot of wing out of the RB6 at Spa so Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel didn’t find themselves sitting ducks at the end of the straights. The McLaren had visibly more wing angle, yet was still super-fast on the straights. This reduced what would otherwise have been a devastating Red Bull downforce advantage through the high-speed turns of sector two. In other words, the circuit design was almost certainly much more significant in the change of form than the increased front wing stiffness tests.

However, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: “We could see [the Red Bull and Ferrari] front wings were in a different positional domain to previously,” ie the wings were running at a height more like those on the McLaren, where the downforce generated is not as great.

Given that the cars are running in excess of 200mph before the braking zone into Les Combes – at which speed the front wings will be generating around 1,300kg of downforce (at around 650kg each side, that’s 6.5 times the static load applied in the new tougher FIA test) – if the Red Bull’s nose was still deforming, it would have been very visible there.

So around Singapore, Suzuka, Interlagos and Abu Dhabi (and maybe South Korea), we should still expect Red Bull to have a significant performance advantage. That makes it even more crucial for Lewis Hamilton that he wins again at Monza, at the one remaining track where his car probably won’t be slower than the Red Bull. That would increase his currently tiny points lead, but thereafter destiny may not be in his own hands.

It’s a point of view that Hamilton himself subscribes to. … “It would appear [the Red Bull and Ferrari wings] are not flexing as much [as before] and maybe that will bring them back towards us a little, but fundamentally we’re still lacking downforce – and it’s not as if I’m hearing from the engineers that we have a big downforce increase coming.

“This is the toughest championship contest I’ve had – and nowhere near how it was in 2007 and 2008 when we had what was the fastest or close to fastest car all the time. I’ve been managing to get pretty good results but logically you’d have to look at the Red Bull guys as favourites. They have the fastest car and that makes things a lot easier.”