Sunday, January 31, 2010

Understanding race stoppage

If an accident blocks the track, the race is stopped by red flags shown at every marshalling post. If this occurs more than two laps into the race but before 75 per cent of the allocated distance has been completed, the race is restarted 20 minutes later, with the grid formed by the race order on the lap prior to the red flag. The cars must line up on the grid and cannot make for the pits. No fuel can be added to the cars on the grid. Because the results in this instance are an aggregate of the elapsed times of each competitor from the two parts of the race, it’s quite conceivable that strategies will be unaffected. Any advantage carried by one driver over a rival is still maintained in the aggregate result, even if not on track. But consider, say, the McLaren driver who was leading the Williams rival until pitting just before the stoppage. The slower Jordan and Sauber cars directly ahead of him – which might previously have been out of his way – are now holding him up because the restart has bunched them all together. The Williams rival who has not yet pitted is on a clear track and is brought in earlier than planned in order to take advantage of the McLaren’s delay and get out still ahead. Lots of celebration at Williams, glum faces at McLaren. Stoppages that occur after 75 per cent distance can throw the race wide open for different reasons. In this situation, the race is considered over, and the race order on the lap preceding the stoppage becomes the result. This would be very bad news for any driver who had pitted just prior to the stoppage. Who said life was fair?

Great overtaking moves still happen

One of the greatest Formula One overtaking moves of all time happened as recently as 2000, at Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix, proving that it isn’t quite an art lost to Formula One. The race was a flat-out battle of wills between the two men fighting for that year’s World Championship: Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen. Schumacher’s Ferrari had led most of the race but in the late stages was rapidly being caught by Hakkinen’s McLaren.
Schumacher, with more rear wing, was slower up the long hill that follows on from Eau Rouge, perhaps Formula One’s greatest corner. This made him susceptible to attack under braking for the tight right hander, Les Combes, at the end of the uphill straight.
A few laps from the end, Hakkinen got a run on the Ferrari there and sliced his car to the inside. At around 200 mph Schumacher began to edge Hakkinen over towards the grass. The McLaren’s front wing actually touched the rear of the Ferrari as a horrified Hakkinen was forced to lift off. But now he was angry.
On the next lap, the two cars came to lap the BAR of Ricardo Zonta at the very same place as their earlier encounter. Schumacher opted to pass on the left, and in an instant, Hakkinen dived for the right. A startled Zonta thankfully remained on his line as Hakkinen squeezed past and then proceeded to outbrake Schumacher. It was a great gladiatorial victory for the Finn who afterwards was seen to be having a quiet but stern word with Schumacher.

How to Overtake in F1 Race?

Some corners are conducive to overtaking:
  • A tightly connected left-right or right-left sequence – where the outside line for the first part of the turn forms the advantageous inside for the second part or vice-versa – allows cars to pass each other. The revised Nurburgring track in Germany includes some of these exciting corners.
  • A long straight followed by a slow hairpin – which increases the braking distance, also works and has been used well at the revised Hockenheim track, also in Germany, as well as at the Malaysian circuit of Sepang. The Senna Esses at Interlagos, combines both these features and is a classic overtaking spot. Juan Pablo Montoya made himself a hero to millions at this spot in only his third Formula One race, rubbing tyres with Michael Schumacher to take the lead of the 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix.
At such tracks race strategies can be more aggressive as light, two-stopping cars cannot be held up indefinitely by heavier one-stoppers. Formula One purists might try telling you that because overtaking is rare, it’s more special in Formula One than in other forms of the sport where passing and re-passing is frequent but relatively insignificant. Don’t worry if you feel indignant at this – it reflects well on you as a Formula One fan. You might reply along the lines of “That’s a dangerously complacent attitude, and Formula One really needs to address this part of its show if it’s to keep its fans entertained.”
A lot of thought is being given to the overtaking issue by both the governing body and teams. Circuit design and lessening the cars’ downforce are the favoured areas of investigation. But Formula One tends to spend a lot of time arguing with itself before any changes are made. Don’t hold your breath