I’m being slowly driven to distraction this year by talk of Formula 1 teams being able to do “one less stop” than most. No, this isn’t a complaint about the tyres. This is about something much more important: grammar.
In such matters, I tend to defer to the ever-reliable Guardian Style Guide for a succinct explanation:
The number of pit stops a team makes in a race is a discrete number, not a continuous quantity. So the phrase should be either “one fewer stops” or “one stop fewer”. It’s really not complicated.
I’m not petty enough to have a problem with most people using ‘less’ and ‘fewer’ interchangeably. My problem is when professionals do it. They’re paid to write, so their grammar should be better than mine; if it looks wrong to me, it should bloody well look wrong to them.
I’m all for throwing stones from within my glass house, but there’s no need to name names. Though a couple of searches quickly does the job. And a few more searches reveals those on the right side of the grammatical fence, too – newspapers notably amongst them, unsurprisingly.
So let’s all just stick to ‘fewer’, OK?
It didn’t look promising…
In the early part of the BTCC off-season, I wasn’t desperately optimistic about 2013. My interest waned over the course of 2012: it was great to have a new champion in Gordon Shedden, but there was too much amateurish behaviour going on.
A couple of early announcements didn’t exactly convince me that 2013 would see a return to, you know, proper racing. Switching turbo boost adjustment from car type to individual teams smacks of penalising not mechanical advantage, but success – which success ballast already does. And I’m not convinced that the soft compound tyre, to be used in one of the three races each weekend, will see much variation in strategy.
…but as the winter went on (and on and on, in the UK)
Things got better, starting with news of a new grid penalty after any three driving offences. And the picture only got brighter.
Team and driver announcements came, if not thick and fast, then consistently at least – more so than in previous years. And with them – sponsors! Look at the entry list, and there are sponsors all over the team names. This is healthy – if a little confusing in the case of ‘PPCGB.com / Kraftwerk Racing’, run by Rob Austin Racing, and nothing to do with the German electro-pioneers.
Those daring (young?) men in their racing machines
Jason Plato and Matt Neal remain the big hitters on the grid, but after Gordon Shedden’s success last year, and the very welcome return of Colin Turkington, there are four champions on the grid. For my money, at least three other drivers should be aiming to take the fight to them: Tom Onslow-Cole, Mat Jackson and Andrew Jordan.
Those seven drivers alone, spread over six teams, will be racing five different makes of car. The grid as a whole features 11 makes and 13 models. That’s a great achievement for a national championship, and hugely encouraging for the NGTC regulations.
There are plenty of other drivers to watch among that capacity 32 car grid: young race winners (Frank Wrathall, Aron Smith); not-so-young race winners (Rob Collard, Dave Newsham); fan favourites (Rob Austin); promising newcomers (Jack Goff, Sam Tordoff).
I’m a little surprised by the Jack Sears Trophy for S2000 cars though. It would have been nice – and made sense, to my mind – to see the ‘business class’ drivers step aside a little and concentrate on the lesser prize. Though some have – Liam Griffin for example – with so few entrants, it would appear that the Trophy is one of the less successful changes to the championship.
Ooh, look at the pretty colours
Perhaps the best news from the BTCC media day last week was that MG KX Momentum Racing – or ‘MG Tesco Tesco Racing’ as I prefer – have changed their livery. Last year’s was borderline offensive, but clearly over the winter an adult noticed what they did and made them change it. The new eBay Motors BMW 1 Series was the other livery highlight.
Glued to the box
The most encouraging news for the future of the BTCC was the extension of the ITV broadcasting deal to at least 2017. The current health of the championship is founded on the remarkable seven hours of live coverage of every meeting on ITV4, giving the BTCC and its support series virtually unrivalled exposure on free-to-air television.
It works for both sides: it gives ITV an audience it struggles to attract elsewhere – men; and it gives sponsors a large population of eyeballs. That it will continue ought to give teams and sponsors confidence to invest in the series.
Incidentally, British Formula Ford strikes me as an excellent addition to the support bill – for that championship, and the TOCA package.
And finally, a prediction
The departure of Jake Humphrey means that Formula 1 on the BBC in 2013 looks a little bit different. Not as different as 2012, when Sky pinched half the live races and raided the BBC’s talent roster, but noticeably different nonetheless.
Crash! Smash! Fire!
The first change was unexpected: the title sequence. The bizarre flying cubes of 2012 have been swiftly retired, replaced by a more traditional montage of historic and modern footage.
But what hit me on first viewing was how much it concentrates on crashes and fires. My barely-watching girlfriend said the same thing.
Watching it again more carefully, it’s not actually that marked – I count about four crashes and one fire in the minute-long sequence. But the impression that they’re highlighting the sensationalist aspects of the sport is unshakeable.
Trying harder to snare the casual viewer? Maybe. Whether it’s reflected in the priorities of the coverage is yet to be seen, but I’d be surprised.
Opinion on Twitter seems very mixed from what I’ve seen, but really it’s too early to assess what difference it will make having Suzi Perry at the helm.
Not only are we only one race in, but it was a highlights-only weekend. With much less time to play with and no Eddie Jordan, there was little space for her to stamp her personality on the coverage. The same was true last year under Jake Humphrey: the highlights shows were pretty vanilla affairs.
But for my money Suzi Perry has started well.
She seemed instantly at home broadcasting from the pit lane, but with years fronting MotoGP on the BBC, that’s no surprise. What interaction there was with David Coulthard didn’t make me cringe, so it’s all good so far.
We’ll have to wait for the first live race weekend in China next month before we know whether she’s banished the banter which became so bothersome last year.
Next on BBC Two…
We’ll also have to wait until China for the first live coverage of free practice on BBC Two.
Now, that might initially sound like a massive commitment to the sport from the BBC. But actually, one of the big changes under the BBC’s Delivering Quality First cost-saving initiative, was to ransack the heck out of BBC Two daytime.
So actually, it’s a great way to fill a few hours of the schedule, for virtually no additional cost. And what’s being sacrificed? Repeats of antiques and lifestyle shows, and maybe a bit of news – which is probably taken from the BBC News Channel anyway. Everyone’s a winner!
It’s great to see Tom Clarkson promoted to a full-time pit lane role, after standing in for Lee McKenzie last year, when she was standing in for Jake Humphrey, when he was off furthering his career at the Olympics.
After Sky nabbed Ted Kravitz, his apparent replacement on the BBC was Gary Anderson. His role ended up as more of an oracle though, to be consulted on all matters technical and strategic. I love his input, but there was something missing.
Tom Clarkson fills that gap, as pair of eyes and ears in the pit lane, chipping in as and when. With Gary Anderson staying on as technical analyst, it’s a stronger-than-ever commentary line-up – and welcome sign of commitment to the coverage from the BBC, to boot.
I think the online offering is looking stronger this year too. The regular Lewis Hamilton column is the headline, but amongst others there are post-race columns from David Coulthard and Gary Anderson, and a series of memories from Murray Walker.
I also wonder whether the editorial side has more resources. Last year it seemed like Andrew Benson was doing the lot on his tod, but I’ve noticed more from Lawrence Barretto recently.
Oh, and a note about MotoGP
And it’s not just Formula 1 that the BBC has been beefing up. Over on MotoGP, the BBC have taken on Azi Farni full-time, rather than just on race weekends; she previously also worked for Dorna.
The facts: 65 minutes of Rally Mexico highlights will be broadcast on ITV4 on Tuesday 12th March at 5.50pm, repeated at 10.00am Saturday 16th March.
Which is pretty good news, all told: not only is it on UK TV, it’s on free-to-air. It’s a couple of days after the end of the rally, not exactly in a prime time slot, and it’s not clear whether it’s a long-term deal or a one-off. But we have to start somewhere.
And we should be optimistic of better coverage – just look at the new BRDC Formula 4 Championship. That’s a brand new national junior single-seater championship, and has secured an hour-long dedicated show, in a “prime-time Sunday evening slot”, the week after each of its eight race meetings. It’s a fantastic commitment to motorsport from both MSV and ITV in getting that deal done. It makes you wonder whether that sort of exposure could have helped the likes of F2 or British F3.
Which brings us back to the WRC – which is, lest we forget, one of only three FIA world championships. Fingers crossed discussions are ongoing between ITV and commercial rights holders Red Bull Media House for something bigger and better.
UPDATE: ITV has confirmed to Sport On The Box that we can expect similar coverage for the rest of the season: an hour on early Tuesday evening, with a Saturday morning repeat.
With Williams finally launching their 2013 challenger today, a good fortnight after the rest of the teams, we finally have a full set of Formula 1 liveries. So: time to pass judgement.
Red Bull Racing wins! It’s not a drastic departure from last year’s paint job, but the promotion of Infiniti to title sponsor sees a relatively subtle but rather delightful purple hue enrobe the car. The way it catches the light is quite lovely. Yes, it’s a bit busy from some angles, but I think that gives it a certain brash charm.
As Sky F1′s 2012 v 2013 gallery rather nicely demonstrates, Sauber comfortably take the award for most changed livery. It’s a smart enough shade of grey, with a nice little pop of red and white. Not exciting, but… smart.
Red Bull Racing are amongst a group of teams next down the ‘bothered to change their livery’ pecking order. Lotus is another I rather like, though it appears that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the liberal splashes of red that have been added. But then, I’d argue that the black and gold livery from which it takes inspiration is less ‘classic’ and more plain ‘old’.
Ferrari have added more of a black swoop to the lower part of the car, which is quite neat. Caterham have gone for what looks like a slightly lighter green, which isn’t great, and a bit less yellow – and less yellow is always a mistake in my book. Marussia, meanwhile, have rather inconsequentially shuffled around the red and black on their car.
Spot the difference
But special mention has to go to McLaren, for a staggeringly indistinguishable livery. You can see the spectators at the Jerez test there getting as close as they can, looking for any sign of change. They found nothing, and went home disappointed. Possibly.
Few would have thought that the UK TV coverage of the WRC could get worse for 2013, but with absolutely nothing for Rallye Monte-Carlo, it really has. With luck, that will change before the end of the season.
But in the meantime, let’s accentuate the positive: at least we won’t have this year’s new liveries piped into our telly boxes. The worst of them? It’s a fight in the Middle East. Above, it’s the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC, daubed in an ugly faux-gold.
And to the right, the Qatar M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC, with Qatar’s beloved burgundy splashed all over it. Yes, I know it’s on their flag, but someone really should tell Qatar that burgundy has not been an appropriate colour for a car since about 1986.
But which is worse? Well, it’s the tacky gold Citroen, clearly. You’ve done a bad paint job, Abu Dhabi.
It would be unfair to not mention another Middle Eastern-backed entry, the Skydive Dubai Rally Team, for not having an awful livery. The black, red and white Skoda Fabia S2000 entered in the new WRC2 category is a perfectly serviceable effort. Dubai’s neighbours should take note.
It’s the time of year for season reviews, awards – all that jazz – so I’ve given some suitably haphazard thought to the best of the season just gone. These are that.
Best Race Win: Williams F1
It’s not often that motorsport – or anything else for that matter – gets me close to tears; I’m pretty much dead inside. But when Williams won their first race for more than seven years at the Spanish Grand Prix, a certain moistness around my eyes was notable. I was pleased for Pastor Maldonado, of course, but I was bloody delighted for the team.
My attachment to Williams dates back to the mid-’90s, when I was in my teens and Williams were winning championships all over the shop – the most significant for me being Damon Hill’s 1996 drivers title. That attachment has been maintained by the presence of Frank Williams, who continues to be one of the most remarkable people in Formula 1 – a point reinforced by his reaction to the pole position, the victory, and the unfortunate pit fire the team suffered almost immediately afterwards.
Best Bowing Out: Casey Stoner
You couldn’t have written a better story than Casey Stoner’s retirement from MotoGP. It came completely out of the blue, and he was openly critical of the sport both in and after his announcement. So as early as May, we knew that 2012 would be Stoner’s only chance to add a third world championship.
That chance disappeared entirely when he was forced to miss three races following his crash in Indianapolis. That didn’t put an end to the story though, as it became a battle to come back from injury and win at Phillip Island, which would make it six in a row at his home race.
Amazingly, he did just that. Only once in his time in the premier class did he not win the Australian Grand Prix, and that was in his first season, on a satellite Honda.
It was a suitably impressive end to a regrettably short, but brilliant MotoGP career.
Best Person: Alex Zanardi
Okay, so his achievements this year weren’t directly motorsport related, but it’s safe to say that Alex Zanardi has a place in every motorsport fan’s heart. How could he not? Formula 1 driver and twice CART champion in his first motorsport career, and after losing of both legs in a massive CART crash, multiple WTCC race winner in his second.
His two hand-cycling gold medals – and a silver – at the London 2012 Paralympic Games this summer, then, were utterly remarkable, yet almost inevitable given his character. And it’s not just motorsport fans who celebrated his achievement: the IPC considered him among the twelve most outstanding athletes of the Games.
That’s not all. The tale of Zanardi helping a 17-year-old complete the Venice Marathon in October, making use of rope scavenged from a bin and good old-fashioned sticky tape along the way, cemented his reputation as World’s Most Determined Man.
You can throw a DTM test for BMW in there too. What a year.
Best Championship: Moto3
Moto2 seemed like brilliantly chaotic madness when it was introduced in 2010. Moto3, new for 2012, made that seem positively tame.
There was close racing all season, but Assen comes immediately to mind as a highlight – particularly the feisty battle between KTM team-mates Sandro Cortese and Danny Kent.
The leading pack had been relentlessly passing and repassing each other, and the race went right down to the final corner: Luis Salom was leading but slow out, leaving Maverick Vinales to take advantage and the win; Cortese finished 2nd, 0.011 seconds ahead of Kent in 3rd; Salom was only 0.001 second behind Kent in 4th. You can relive the final five laps here, in glorious German shaky-vision.
That was Kent’s first podium, but he went on to take a pair of wins, the Brit ending the season 4th in the standings. Good stuff.
There’s an unusually broad selection of Formula 1 books around this year. But those are just playing to the crowd. That crowd is ageing, and the sport needs to attract more pesky youngsters. With the season over, and Christmas approaching, that should mean merchandising-a-go-go.
McLaren’s Tooned animated series and Codemasters’ F1 Race Stars game are both around to cash in at this most lucrative time of year, but they should just be the tip of the stocking-friendly, officially-licensed iceberg.
Fortunately, I have an impressively sharp blogging ice pick, which I’ve used to chip off a few ideas:
Did Sebastian Vettel deserve to become Formula 1’s new youngest ever triple world champion yesterday? Or would Fernando Alonso have been more deserving?
Shut up, it’s a nonsense question.
The question of who deserved it, however, is less stupid in the case of 10th place in the constructors championship. With that 10th place comes valuable TV money, and before the weekend, Marussia were leading that particular battle thanks to Timo Glock’s 12th place finish in Singapore.
That all changed in the closing stages of the Brazilian Grand Prix, however, as Vitaly Petrov passed Charles Pic for 11th place, giving Caterham that prestigious title of third worst constructor. Plus the small matter of the aforementioned telly cash.
Naturally, Marussia were disappointed to lose the position. In fact, team principal John Booth said that ‘disappointed’ “doesn’t even come close”. But did they realistically deserve to finish ahead of Caterham?
Let’s have a look at who – of Caterham, Marussia and HRT only – came top in qualifying and the race at each Grand Prix this year.
Paints a picture, doesn’t it? A green and yellow picture.
That’s to take nothing away from the progress that Marussia made this year though – and without KERS, let’s not forget. Caterham had KERS this season, and Marussia will next, so the battle should only be closer in 2013 – it’ll certainly be fairer.
And with HRT unlikely to feature on the grid, unless there’s a pretty big upset elsewhere, Caterham and Marussia will be fighting to avoid the ignominy of being F1′s worst team. Now that’s something to fight about.
It’s easy to make jokes about the Formula 1 young driver test. It might even be fun. But do you know what’s more fun? Statistics.
So, now that all the tests are complete, let’s have a proper look: how young are this year’s young drivers?
Well that’s not so bad, is it? On average this year’s young driver testers are five years younger than the teams’ regular drivers. Would you consider 24 objectively ‘young’? That probably depends on how old you are.
Toro Rosso are the only team to have an older young driver line-up than their race pairing. But it’s by the smallest of margins, and given that all of their drivers are young scamps, that’s acceptable.
The two drivers in their 30s are certainly pushing the boundaries of young – those being Nicolas Prost for Lotus, and McLaren regular Gary Paffett. Only three others are over 25: Giedo van der Garde for Caterham, Davide Rigon for Ferrari, and Rodolfo Gonzalez for Force India.
Everyone else: well done.
(Rigorous analysis fans! Don’t worry, those cheeky young drivers who drove for more than one team were only counted once in the total.)