Category: Formula 1
There is much to enjoy about the Korean Grand Prix. For one thing, there is great joy to be had reading about how much Formula 1 journalists hate going to Mokpo, because it’s not as exciting as somewhere like Singapore. Our collective hearts bleed for them.
But that’s not the best thing; the bleak scenery is. Specifically: the cranes and other industrial equipment of distant shipyards.
The circuit was meant to be a catalyst for development of the remote part of Korea in which it’s located, with an urban landscape supposed to pop up around the street-style section at the end of the lap. That’s not happened.
But I have a soft spot for brutal industrial landscapes, so in my mind the big red shipbuilding cranes have joined the Ferris wheel at Suzuka in the ranks of great Formula 1 scenery.
I have opinions on Rush; of course I do. But in many ways they’re the least important.
My stupid opinions
So let’s get them out of the way. It’s good! – the performances especially. Daniel Brühl has been singled out for particular praise for his portrayal of Niki Lauda, but despite some serious reservations, for my money Chris Hemsworth’s James Hunt is just as impressive. I also rather enjoyed Christian McKay as Lord Hesketh – and it looked like he enjoyed chewing on that role too.
Although the film focuses on the 1976 season, I think the it covers the period prior to that better. The last third or so of the film feels slightly rushed (no pun intended, but I’ll take it), going from race to race with little time given to anything else.
More is made of the teams when Hunt is at Hesketh and Lauda at BRM. On the one hand, that’s understandable, given that those teams were rather more ‘colourful’. But on the other, there was real enmity between people at McLaren and Ferrari, and for me that doesn’t quite come across enough.
The race footage is well done – the sheer noise is particularly effective – but it’s the human story that resonates. The film maybe loses sight of that for a period, while it goes about telling the – not quite incidental, but less engaging – numerical story of the season.
There has been criticism of the ‘Basil Exposition’ commentary, but I found it only realistically patronising. While it does get repetitive race after race, it’s a reasonable enough way of pushing on.
Personally, I got more out of the documentary Hunt vs Lauda: F1′s Greatest Racing Rivals, and to a lesser extent When Playboys Ruled the World. (At the time of writing, the former is available on the BBC iPlayer for a couple of days yet – and neither is hard to find on YouTube and the like.)
There’s some stunning archive footage in those programmes; it’s almost a shame not to see that paired up with a film-level budget and taken full advantage of, especially when Senna did something so special with it.
What the money says
But that’s me, and as far as this film is concerned, I’m not the average punter.
In short: it’s done well. It’ll be interesting to see how it does in the US, where it’s just gone on general release.
What a better person thinks
I was quite taken aback by how much my girlfriend enjoyed it. Her first comment was that it was the first time in a long while that she’d forgotten she was in the cinema. Not because she fell asleep, but because she was engaged: knowing little more than Lauda doesn’t die, the remarkable story had maximum impact.
The story has a wide appeal, and Ron Howard has made it attractive to a wide audience, in a format that’s immensely marketable – in a way that a documentary wouldn’t have been. People who saw Senna generally enjoyed it, but it was a harder sell. Documentaries just are.
The good news for me is it’s had a similar effect as Senna: my girlfriend wants to try to take an interest in Formula 1 again. It won’t last, but for some it will – which is good news for the sport.
The Singapore Grand Prix is an unusual event: it’s a night race; it’s a street race; it’s a new(ish) race that not only isn’t under threat, but is actively liked by drivers, teams, sponsors, journalists and fans alike.
But better than all of those: the walls around the track are painted a different colour in each sector.
It’s best seen in an on-board lap of the track – yesterday’s pole lap by Sebastian Vettel, for example.
Ignoring the pesky advertising hoardings, the walls start out blue, change to green for the middle sector, and turn yellow to complete the lap. It’s such a simple thing, and it’s not desperately obvious, but I appreciate the unnecessary effort.
So: circuits of the world, more colour coded track furniture, please!
There’s been a lot of talk about tyres in Formula 1 circles this season. But my issue is not with Pirelli, but with the FIA’s terminology – specifically prime and option. Yes, I’m arguing over semantics. Strap in for a ripsnorter of a blog post.
The regulations state that two specifications of dry-weather tyres are available at every race. You know that. The differentiating factor between these is that drivers get six sets of the prime tyre, and five of the option.
It’s a working assumption that the prime tyre is the harder compound of the two – indeed it’s an assumption made by the Formula 1 website. But that certainly wasn’t the case at the 2011 Indian Grand Prix, and it doesn’t appear to be set in stone as the rules stand.
A couple of definitions from those helpful chaps at Oxford Dictionaries will help us on our way:
So the term prime is vaguely appropriate, in that it is the ‘main’ tyre by virtue of one more set being available. It’s not a helpful term though, because there’s an implication that it’s also the ‘best’ tyre, which it may or may not be race by race.
But it’s option that really gets my goat. In a dry race, both specifications of tyre have to be used. There is literally no option. How can such madness have arisen? I’d hazard a guess that something may have got lost in translation – from French, the FIA’s favourite language, perhaps.
Fortunately, I have a selection of alternatives to prime and option: primary and secondary; main and alternate; major and minor. But I think clearer still would be something slightly more abstract; plain old A and B would do the trick nicely.
FIA, you’re welcome.
For such a specific detail, seat fittings are a surprisingly visible facet of Formula 1. News of a seat fitting can hint at who’s going where in the driver market, and they’re a firm favourite of teams on social media for offering a controlled little peek behind the scenes.
But I must admit, I’d not really thought about the importance of getting it right.
Though obviously there’s the comfort factor, far more important than that is safety – as the latest Allianz Drive Safely video explains, with a little help from Mercedes. And a little awkward banter between their drivers…
Something that Lewis Hamilton said grabbed me though, and that’s the fact that a properly fitted seat actually contributes to his ability to drive the car. It makes sense: if you’re being thrown around in the seat, even slightly, you won’t feel the vibrations and feedback in the same way.
While that might not be so relevant in road cars, the safety aspect absolutely is. The only difference is that an adjustable headrest isn’t quite as glamorous as a fancy moulded carbon fibre F1 seat. OK, not the only difference, but you get the point.
Paul Di Resta will be making a public appearance in Milton Keynes this week ahead of the British Grand Prix, and the chosen venue is a branch of ASDA.
That got me thinking: if Force India consider themselves an ASDA sort of a team, which supermarkets would the other teams be?
McLaren consider themselves a high-end operation, so they’re an easy one: Waitrose. Red Bull are similarly straightforward: with such dominance in recent times, they can only be Tesco. Historically successful but less so now, and a homely sort of British name, Williams are clearly Sainsbury’s.
Cash-strapped at the back of the grid, Marussia and Caterham can fight over Aldi and Lidl.
Sauber feel like a Co-operative sort of a team – trying to do the decent thing. Mercedes are German, so they can be SPAR – though they’d perhaps prefer to be Marks & Spencer. Toro Rosso – Budgens, maybe? That leaves Lotus free to be Morrisons – which seems about right.
And Ferrari are, I don’t know, some sort of Italian supermarket.
Photo Credit: bilbobagweed – Flickr – Some rights reserved
With MotoGP moving to BT Sport from 2014, the BBC will be left with half the Formula 1 season and nothing else in terms of live motorsport. Where can it go from here?
I’d love to see the BBC throw its not inconsiderable broadcasting weight behind a British championship.
ITV did that with the BTCC, initially leveraging its F1 coverage to build a bigger audience, before moving it to ITV4 where it continues to be lavished with endless hours of airtime. Indeed ITV are now leveraging the BTCC, scheduling highlights of the new BRDC Formula 4 Championship directly after the live BTCC programme.
The problem is: which British championship? British Formula 3 would have been ideal, but it might be a bit late for that – it’s down to just four rounds this season. British Superbikes would be a similarly good fit, but that’s tied to Eurosport until the end of 2015.
Given that the World Rally Championship can’t work out how to do TV coverage, the British Rally Championship might be too much to ask. British GT doesn’t have a huge profile – but maybe that’s more of an argument for than against it. British Rallycross is probably even more obscure, but the fast-paced action could be an excellent choice.
Regardless, it feels like the sort of thing the BBC should be doing – supporting British motorsport, if not at the grassroots level, then at least a bit closer to it.
But that’s not exactly the way the BBC has tended to go when they’ve lost the rights to other sports. The other option I can see is standalone events.
They already do it in tennis, for example, covering Wimbledon but not all the Grand Slams. It’s not hard to imagine Formula 1 going further down that route, with the BBC perhaps only showing the British Grand Prix.
But there are more interesting directions the BBC could go, should they wish to curate a selection of motorsport events over the course of the year. The Dakar in January, Le Mans and the Isle of Man TT over the summer, the Race of Champions at the end of the season – to name just a few.
Imagine if the BBC gave Le Mans even a fraction of the treatment Glastonbury gets one weekend a year. It could be brilliant.
There must be a bit of budget going spare now, and a nice range of one-offs would surely cost the BBC less than an entire season at the highest level. It sounds good to me, anyway.
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?
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.
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.