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Why I love F1 February 26, 2012

Posted by nicf1fan in Formula One.
3 comments

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I class myself as being a F1 fan all my life, the reason I do this is because my mum and dad were fans so for my whole life F1 races have been on the TV and I have always watched them. I’m guessing there must have been some point though when I changed from being a child who just watched the races to an actual fan but I’m unsure exactly when that was. I know that I supported various drivers when I was younger but only settled on a team in 1996, the team I have stuck with since – Ferrari.

Why F1 though, what makes F1 so special? Some might say in my case that it is because of my parents influence but I know many people who have been brought up with a particular sport and have grown to hate it by adulthood but for me the love has grown stronger the older I get. Having given it some thought I put it down to 4 reasons:

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1. Accessibility – F1 has been free to view either on BBC or on ITV for my whole life. As a result it has been easy for me to watch and enjoy races. If F1 had been on paid TV when I was growing up we would never have been able to watch it as my parents would not have paid for the channel. Would I still have been a fan? Who knows, maybe I would have still discovered it as an adult and have fallen in love with it but I have never had a lot of dispensable money so I probably would not have been in a position to pay for a sports channel anyway.
This year half the races are on the BBC and all the races are on Sky, because I am now such a F1 addict I have subscribed to the Sky Sports channels – please see my blog “best of both worlds” here . It does slightly concern me that the sport will become less popular due to this split on coverage, it also concerns me that the next generation of F1 fans may not discover and fall in love with the sport the way I did. My parents (who are still F1 fans) will be watching all the coverage on the BBC so will watch the extended highlights for half of the races, maybe as a youngster this may not have been an issue but for me now as an adult and F1 nut it is not an option.

2. The noise that the engines make. Any F1 fan will tell you that there is nothing like the sound of a F1 engine. Probably if you listen to other motor sports there may be engines that sound similar but this again links in with accessibility as none of these other races were available on free TV. For me there is nothing better than the screaming sound of a F1 car racing round the track on a Sunday afternoon (or morning or evening for that matter). For me the sound is both comforting and exciting at the same time, I find the noise almost addictive and I’m sure many F1 fans would agree.

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3. The look of the cars. F1 cars are a thing of beauty in my eyes (well they do say beauty is in the eye of the beholder) and it doesn’t matter what alterations they make I still find the cars beautiful. Even with the introduction of the so called ‘Ugly Noses’ this year – please see my blog “what’s in a nose” here , to me the cars still look amazing. It is the skill, technicalities, shape, craftsmanship and intricacies that fascinate me. I find the cars so beautiful that I have a poster of the F150 (last years Ferrari) on my bedroom wall and some framed pictures of Ferrari, Force India, Caterham and Mercedes F1 cars on my living room wall.

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4. The familiarity and charisma of the drivers. Since I grew up with F1 I have pretty much always known who the latest drivers are and which teams they drive for. Recently I tried to start watching other forms of motorsport to see if it was as exciting as F1. I found it very difficult to start following because I didn’t know who anyone was. The only one I managed to enjoy was DTM and this was due to them having a few ex-F1 drivers who I recognised. I am determined this year to try again with sports like BTCC and will be watching GP2 and GP3 because I have the Sky Channel but I discovered that it is difficult to become interested in a sport if you are unfamiliar with the players. I am sure that this is the same no matter what sport you watch. I think, therefore, that one reason I like F1 so much is purely down to the fact that I know who everyone is!
Most F1 drivers are pretty charismatic (with some exceptions- sorry Kimi) and this makes the interviews with the drivers both fun and interesting. For me as a fan there are few things better than seeing a bit of banter going back and forwards between the drivers and presenters of the F1 show, this is one main reason why, when a race is shown on BBC, I will watch it on BBC because I feel the BBC presenters have a great rapport going with the drivers and would hate to miss it. These days we have much more than just the TV coverage though, with the invent of Twitter and Facebook we have much more access to F1 drivers than we ever did before – please see my blog “F1 drivers on twitter” here, this gives us a day to day insight in to the drivers lives in a way that we never had before and I for one love it!

Will I be a fan all my life, I certainly believe so. Having watched F1 all my life so far I cannot see this changing unless something very drastic happens. I’m hoping one day to be able to say that I’ve been a F1 fan for over 80 years, now that will be something to brag about!

Follow me on Twitter @NicF1Fan

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Pay Drivers the future of F1? February 19, 2012

Posted by nicf1fan in Formula One.
2 comments

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With the recent events of Senna getting the seat at Williams rather than Barrichello and Petrov getting Trulli’s seat at Caterham a number of F1 people have spoken out about ‘Pay Drivers’ and whether this is the way F1 should be run.

“Today there are only four teams who can afford to operate without drivers that bring money. It’s an absurd situation and I don’t think it’s good for F1 and especially young drivers. Even if you get good results in the formulas below, you either have to be lucky or have money in order to get a seat.” – Felipe Massa

“If you’ve got a big sponsor behind you then you are an F1 driver and that’s not the way it should be from my point of view. There may be some people who think different, but Formula One is the top of the sport and should be full of talent that have got the results during their career and have been kicking arse since they were kids, not people that just have the money. I’m sick of it being like this at the moment, but I have to just accept it and hopefully I will get another chance.” – Tonio Liuzzi

“There is no rule, but it is true that those who pay are less accustomed to suffering. They are less committed. Hiring them is a business decision but in my opinion it’s not worth it” – Jarno Trulli

I always thought, growing up, that a Pay Driver was someone whose family had a lot of money and they would pay at each race for their son to drive the car, almost like a fairground attraction and while in some cases this is pretty close to being true in other cases there is a lot more to it. These days it is more to do with sponsorships that the drivers bring with them to the team.

We are all aware of Petrov, Senna and Maldonado as Pay Drivers but when you look at it further it is surprising to see which other drivers bring large sponsorship with them to their respective teams. Names like Di Resta who has financial backing from Mercedes and Perez who has sponsorship money from Carlos Slim along with less surprising names like Karthikeyan and Pic who are at the two extremes of age but still bring in large sponsorships.

I am in no way downgrading any of these drivers (although an argument could be made for Karthikeyan’s drive) as these drivers are very talented but with the sponsorship behind them does this make them Pay Drivers as well? If so where does it end? Could we say that Alonso is a Pay Driver since Santander now favour Ferrari in sponsorship due to the Spaniard? It is very difficult to draw a line to say which drivers are Pay Drivers and which are picked due to talent as every driver wins sponsorship for the team in some way or another (and no I would not pick Alonso as a Pay Driver, he has obviously been picked on talent but it illustrates a point).

The argument could also be made that some of the best drivers in the world started out as Pay Drivers so being in this category does not necessarily mean that a driver will not go on to greatness. Both Schumacher and Alonso paid for their first drive in F1 and no one could doubt their talent or commitment!

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In this financial climate though I feel it was inevitable that F1 would end up this way! F1 is an expensive sport and has to be funded somehow and while the larger teams have sponsorships due to the prestige of the team and prize funds to use smaller teams need to find money in order to compete and improve. This is not easy to do in this kind of climate and for a team that is not regularly winning is even harder, if a large sponsor is given the choice between giving money to a team which is winning or a team which is further down the track then they are more likely to pick the winning team (well I would). Teams are therefore having to use another asset to bring in sponsorship, their drivers. If they can use that driver to gain sponsors from the country they represent then why not and if that driver can come to their door with a list of sponsors already recruited then even better, from their point of view.

I would hope that amongst the selection process for a driver, even a Pay Driver, their driving history and previous achievements would be considered along with the money they can bring to the team. It would be pointless for a team to have the money to improve the car to the point of being a potential race winner but not have the driver there to finish the task so a balance must be struck. This is where we have to trust the teams to do the right thing. A great car without a great driver is nothing and likewise a great driver without a great car is nothing, there has to be balance!

So what do I think about Pay Drivers? I think they are a necessity in this climate and I think they can have great potential but in an ideal world I would still prefer my F1 drivers to be picked on talent alone!

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Follow me on twitter @NicF1Fan

F1 Drivers on Twitter February 13, 2012

Posted by nicf1fan in Formula One.
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I am a fan of Twitter and I use it every day. Like most F1 fans I follow F1 drivers along with the teams and other F1 fans/bloggers but I started to wonder what we really get from following these drivers, especially with the speculation that Alonso may soon join Twitter and the recent addition of Kamui Kabayashi to the Twitter scene. For those who are unaware Alonso’s ex-wife recently tweeted that Alonso is a ‘future tweeter’, see tweet pictured above!

Drivers are bombarded with tweets from fans as soon as they are online! It must be challenging to read all the comments, not least of all when some of them are negative. I think we should bear in mind that these drivers are opening up their lives to us and always be respectful if we tweet them. Remember they don’t have to be on twitter and as fans we don’t have to follow them so respect should run both ways!

Below is a brief summary table of the drivers for this year and their respective Twitter accounts:

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As I have summarised in the table all of the drivers include personal and team based tweets on their accounts but it surprised me to see just how different each if the accounts are! Some are more serious and tweet mostly team stuff eg @BSenna and @NicoHulkenberg whereas others seem to do more personal tweets like @H_Kovalainen and @realTimoGlock.

Some drivers tweet quite regularly which gives us a sense that we know them, especially when they talk to each other (who can forget @JensonButton talking to @AussieGrit about eating fish sperm) or when the drivers talk to their wives or girlfriends (remember Heikki asking @KataHyde how to work the washing machine). These tweets give no end of amusement to the fans and show that, many times, these drivers are just like us!

The team based tweets seem a little different though, they seem more planned and deliberate, this is to be expected though since the teams do employ them so they would have to be careful not speak in any way that could be viewed as negative! The Caterham team do set an example though of a team who still keep up some ‘banter’ even on team tweets with Heikki often joking with @MikeGascoyne and @TonyFernandes.

My favourite tweets from the drivers though are the ones that include pictures! If a picture paints 1000 words then each picture is worth a lot of tweets and far more entertaining in most cases. They give us a glimpse through the window in to the drivers lives which previously we would never have had, before the invent of social media we would have to wait for articles to be written about drivers before we could see pictures of the them and these would be contrived, arranged pictures! Now through Social Media we see things as they happen, even down to what the driver is having for breakfast! Here are a few of the pictures that the drivers have posted over the last few weeks:

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I feel we are very lucky these days with the kind of access we get to the drivers and their lives and we should never take it for granted. As for Alonso joining Twitter, I am very excited at the prospect of that happening and will be one of, no doubt, thousands who will follow him as soon as I can!

Follow me on Twitter @NicF1Fan

Best of both worlds February 9, 2012

Posted by nicf1fan in Formula One.
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BBC F1 v Sky F1 has been a hotly debated subject of late with people on both sides of the fence. I have been keeping an open mind as much as I could but here are my observation, feel free to agree or disagree!

With the BBC we know what we are getting. I’m sure almost all F1 fans would agree that the BBC have produced some World Class F1 coverage over the last few years so we all know that their coverage will be outstanding! But they only have half of the races live and the rest as extended highlights!

How about Sky? Sky is an unknown commodity as far as F1 goes so it is harder to say. For certain they have invested a lot of money in the new channel and the introduction of the GP2/GP3 coverage is a huge addition but does the investment of money necessarily mean that it will be amazing coverage?

Firstly lets look at their choice of ‘the team’. I personally was slightly disappointed with their choice of commentators. I have never been a fan of Martin Brundle and find Crofty fairly average, I know at this point many people will probably shout at me in disagreement but as I said this is my opinion and I don’t make any apologies for it! The choice of Natalie Pinkham and Ted Kravitz were inspired I feel, although Natalie does not have as much paddock experience as Lee McKenzie she is very enthusiastic which I think helps immensely! Ted is just a genius in my eyes so I am pleased for him to get a more prominent role. The rest I don’t know at all so can’t comment on but since I don’t know them it does make me nervous of what they will bring!

As I said earlier Sky have invested a lot of money in to their coverage but that won’t bring the rapport that the BBC currently have with the drivers/teams and I’m not talking about Martin on his gridwalk here I am talking about Jake, EJ and DC! The kind of relationship you can see between Jake and Jenson or EJ with Christian Horner or DC with Michael (tension is good as well) isn’t built up overnight, it takes time! Personally I love how EJ runs off to find some random person that might give them an insight or how he is quite happy to walk up and turn off someone at Red Bull’s ipod because the music is too loud, he may ramble sometimes but I can forgive him this for the pure entertainment he brings! Also lets not forget it was to Lee McKenzie that Lewis uttered the words “Maybe is because I iz black” and on many occasions has Vettel had a cheeky dig at Lee, she may not be top of everyone’s list but she does catch drivers on a back foot sometimes which is classic TV!

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I have (as of today) subscribed to Sky Sports in order to get the Sky F1 channel so I am not against Sky in any way. My finances allowed me to be in a position where I could purchase the channel and as a F1 fan I could not deny myself half the races. What do I expect from it? I expect excellent coverage, I expect a team working hard to bring us all aspects of F1 and I expect lots of adverts (although Sky have promised none during the race I can guarantee that pre and post race will be full of them).

Some say the BBC have sold out the fans by making this deal with Sky and maybe they have made a deal that is unpopular but at least F1 is still going to be on free TV in some format. If the viewing figures were to dip to an all time low then perhaps the BBC would give up on it altogether and then millions of occasional viewers will be lost along with those who simply cannot or will not get Sky! This is why I feel it is important to continue watching the BBC coverage, we certainly don’t want it to be lost forever and if viewing figures remain high then maybe the BBC will reconsider at the end of this contract with Sky.

So what are my plans for the races this season, simple, when a race is only on Sky then I will watch the races in full on Sky and then the extended highlights show on the BBC, when a race is on both then I will watch the BBC coverage but record the Sky coverage and watch the pre and post-race shows for all the best bits! That way I will be getting the best of both worlds!

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Testing times February 6, 2012

Posted by nicf1fan in Formula One.
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Winter testing time is finally upon us at Jerez and the excitement is building amongst the fans! What will the new cars reveal? Will the step noses be better than the conventional nose? How will the drivers get on in comparison with each other? How will the new drivers fare? And will the Pirelli tyres have the grip and wear that the teams want? So many questions so little time!

So what really will the teams get from this testing session? Data, data, data is the short answer! Teams will analyse every aspect of the car and drivers performance and will take all this analysis back to their respective offices and study it. They will also study their competitors in fine detail to see if there is anything on their car which is showing promise and also for anything they can challenge regarding legality. As always there have been a number of changes to the regulations this year and this gives the teams a chance to test their changes and try new innovations. For the drivers it gives them a chance to get back behind The wheel of a F1 car after the winter break and for many a chance to get a feel for the new car that they will be driving next year.

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What can we as F1 fans gain from the testing sessions then? Unfortunately not a lot that will be reliable, the teams will be running settings that we are not aware of so we won’t know what all the data means! It will not stop all the speculation on twitter when ‘driver X’ goes faster than ‘driver Y’ though. It does however give us the chance to see our favourite drivers out in a F1 car again and a chance to hear the magnificent noise of the engines screaming past! As can be seen in the running order above Marussia will not take part in the running at all, HRT will only take part in 2 days of testing and Mercedes in 3 days. Mercedes will be running last years car and will be using the testing session to evaluate the new Pirelli tyres. Interestingly Caterham are running their test driver one of the days with Jarno Trulli only having one day of testing compared to Heikki having 2 days!

So when will we know who is fastest? The only real answer to this is in Australia, during the first qualifying sessions! Everything up until then is just speculation but let’s face it, we all love a bit of speculation!

Running order via @F1Times

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What’s in a nose? February 3, 2012

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Today was the unveiling of the F2012 by Ferrari and the VJM05 by Force India both of which have the same ‘step’ or ‘Platypus’ noses as the Caterham so what is in a nose?

The FIA regulations have stipulated that the nose on the cars in 2012 can be no higher than 55cm from the ground, this is to help prevent a car flipping if in an accident and to give greater visibility to the drivers. With the drivers themselves having to fit in the car not far behind the nose this step concept seems to have been born!

So why doesn’t the McLaren have the step? According to an article written by @ScarbsF1 http://scarbsf1.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/launch-analysis-mclaren-mercedes-mp4-27/ which explains the technical specifications of the MP4-27 in more detail, the McLaren have a family history of low noses so much less alteration was needed.

Does this mean that McLaren has an advantage over the others? Only time, testing and racing will really answer that question. In my opinion though I don’t think there is any advantage! Any of the F1 teams have the opportunity to ‘copy’ innovations or existing parts from their competitors so would have been able to use the concepts from McLaren at any time however, so far, 3 teams have chosen to go with the step nose. After months of testing in a wind tunnel and simulations there must be some reason why this is the case and I think every F1 fan is now intrigued to see the results from testing and also what the other teams unveil! Personally I want to see what Red Bull (or should I say Adrian Newey) comes up with!

Does it matter then what the nose looks like? In an ideal world we would all like our teams to build cars that look nice at the same time as ‘going like stink’ and maybe McLaren are the team, so far, that have managed this but given a choice between a pretty car or one that is going to go faster, as a F1 fan, I would want the faster car! If this style of nose helps Ferrari, Force India and Caterham to improve their chances within the race then ‘bring on the ugly noses’ is what I say!

So what is in a nose? McLaren have gone for an aesthetically pleasing nose whereas Ferrari, Force India and Caterham have chosen the ‘uglier’ option, which is right? Only time will tell!

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Reference and pictures via @ScarbsF1

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The launching of a F1 car February 2, 2012

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I have recently started using Twitter and have discovered a whole F1 world which I never knew existed. Drivers and Teams have all of a sudden become more accessible and I am now aware of aspects of the F1 world which I was mostly unaware of before, this includes the launching of an F1 car!

As a relative novice to F1 car launches (I knew they happened but hadn’t seen one as it happened) I was expecting big things when McLaren launched the MP4-27 yesterday. I’m afraid I was very disappointed! There was a lot of hype amongst the twitter based fans but it was little more than the lifting of a cloth and a couple of interviews! Even the car, to a novice like me, looked no different to last years.

I started to wonder whether this would be the case for the other car launches as well so started to look forward to the Ferrari launch on Friday only to find out today that it is cancelled due to the bad weather in Maranello. While I was disappointed regarding this I was greatly dismayed at the reaction of many McLaren fans! While gloating at the so called marvels of the McLaren launch they laughed and remarked ‘Fail’ at Ferrari for being unable to do their scheduled launch. This angered me, do they expect Ferrari to continue with the press conference and put many journalists and staff in danger? Powerful as Ferrari are, they are unable to control the weather and I totally respect the decision they have made to cancel the launch!

I would like to say that it is a small minority of fans who have reacted this way and most have been respectful of the decision Ferrari have made. I have many friends who support different F1 teams and we can have intelligent, respectful conversations without being derogatory towards each other. To the small minority who seem incapable of doing this, I am afraid you disappoint me!

Cartoon via @grandprixtoons

Ferrari picture via @InsideFerrari

Follow me on twitter @NicF1Fan

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