Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fortunes change fast in F1

Last year during the new drivers test, Daniel Ricciardo drove for Red Bull and was the fastest among all the drivers. Of course, it was another matter that the Red Bull car was the best car among all the cars, Daniel Ricciardo was immediately hailed as a Super star in the making. It was also rumoured that he will get a Torro Rosso seat. However, better sense prevailed and he was drafted in as a third and reserve driver in Torro Rosso.

Red Bull clearly felt that he has potential and wanted him to drive in all the first practice sessions on fridays during the race weekend. It was expected that one of the Torro Rosso drivers will not perform and will soon be replaced by Daniel Ricciardo. Unfortunately the situation got complicated. Sebastien Buemi started beating Jaime Alguersuari and when people started expecting that Jaime Alguersuari is on his way out, he bounced back and in the last 3 races started scoring points. This resulted in the Red Bull management deciding on funding HRT to get a seat for Daniel Ricciardo.

And in just two races, Daniel Ricciardo stands exposed. He has been thoroughly beaten by Vintanio Liuzzi in Silverstone and Nurburgring as well as by Narain Karthikeyan in the First Practice in Nurburgring. Now Daniel Ricciardo has been quoted as saying that HRT and Torro Rosso are his potential teams for 2012. Clearly the expectations have been scaled and Red Bull is out of his Radar. He had never talked about dreaming of a HRT seat earlier. Now HRT is his ambition.

So a great learning from Formula 1 is that if you are able to create a hype and are able to immediately cash in on that, then it is good for you. If for some reason you can't get into the mainstream with great machinery, then you stand exposed.

Same is the case of Heiki Kovalainen. He drove one season for Renault and was found wanting. His supporters chimed in and said that the Renault boss is demotivating him and it is showing up in his races. Mclaren team got bowled over by this hype and drafted him into the team. He stood thoroughly exposed. Though he did win a race but clearly he is not the championship material that Mclaren expected him to be. He is good enough for a mid of the grid team. Similarly, Daniel Ricciardo can remain at the back of the grid. Thinking that he is a Super star in the making is plain madness.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Narain Karthikeyan Vs Daniel Ricciardo

HRT dropped a bomb before Silverstone by announcing that it has replaced Narain Karthikeyan with Red Bull protege Daniel Ricciardo.

It was understood that though Narain Karthikeyan didn't have any problems in terms of his sponsorship payments, Red Bull team wanted to test Daniel Ricciardo in an F1 car before making their decision for the Torro Rosso team driver lineup for next year. For a financially struggling team like HRT it was good news and they immediately proceeded to drop Narain Karthikeyan.

Interestingly, Narain Karthikeyan had mentioned during the beginning of the year that his contract with HRT was to drive for all the races. However, there was no comments from Narain Karthikeyan.

In the Silverstone race, Daniel Ricciardo was about half a second slower than Vintanio Liuzzi, who drives the other HRT car. It was immediately hailed by people as a great job by Daniel Ricciardo. It was also said that since Daniel Ricciardo could qualify within the 107% rule, he was doing a great job. It would be pertinent to note that except for the season opening race in Australia where the HRT team was still trying to build their car part by part and failed to qualify within the 107% rule, they haven't faced any such problem in other races. So this gives an idea that the backers of Daniel Ricciardo are trying their best to find out any and every  fact, however trifle it might be, to pronounce the greatness of Daniel Ricciardo.

In the Nurburgring race, Narain Karthikeyan was allowed to drive the FP1 (First Practice ) in place of Vintanio Liuzzi. It was a pretty interesting event as now Narain Karthikeyan and Daniel Ricciardo were pitted face to face to show who is the fastest. And the result silenced the backers of Daniel Ricciardo.

Narain came in at 20th place clocking a time of 1m 38.504 seconds.
Daniel Ricciardo at 22nd place clocking a time of 1 m 39.279 seconds

So Daniel Ricciardo, who is supposed to be a fast driver and a very great potential, clocked in a time which was 0.775 seconds slower than Narain, whom he replaced.

And to make matters worse, Daniel Ricciardo drove two laps more than Narain (24 laps vs 22laps) and was still a lot slower than Narain.

Infact, the driver comments after the practice throws a lot of light on the aims and goals of a driver.

Daniel Ricciardo is quoted as "I had an easy start to get used to the car. We worked on the balance of the car and the tyres. A good first session to start my second ever F1 race weekend." 

So Daniel Ricciardo was pretty happy being 0.775 seconds slower than Narain Karthikeyan. Perhaps he understands his level and potential much better than his backers. 

Infact, Narain had driven like a man possessed. He not only thrashed Daniel Ricciardo, but also was faster than the two Marussia Virgin Racing cars as well as the Lotus driven by Karun Chandhok.

Narain still appears to have that burning desire to succeed provided he gets a good chance. We will know that later.

Infact, this is what Formula 1 is all about!

The necessary precondition to be in F1 is not just about being fast as a driver. F1 is all about politics. It is much different from Sports where each man is for himself and runs, swims or jumps as hard as possible. In F1 the machinery counts a lot and the benchmark is your team mate.

More about Formula 1 and Politics in a later article.

Narain Karthikeyan's First Stint in F1

Narain Karthikeyan’s 1st Stint in F1:
It was in 2005 when India got its first F1 driver when Narain Karthikeyan was selected by Jordan team to drive one of its two cars. The Jordan team had been bought over by Midlands.

Immediately, people started belittling Narain on the pretext that the Indian driver had brought in money via his sponsor the Tata Group. However, Narain gave ample evidence of his driving abilities when he qualified at 14th position ahead of his idol Michael Schumacher.

In the race, when the five red lights glowed the first off the blocks was Narain Karthikeyan showing tremendous reflexes as well as speed. Unfortunately, that Jordan was an ailing car without much of investments into its development. In an era, when in season testing was endless, Narain had could get very little time to test the car as Jordan was struggling financially.

In Imola, Narain had the seventh fastest lap in the race. An amazing feat considering the Jordan car was just a backmarker . In Japan, Narain was second in the practice which was headed by Giancarlo Fischichela driving a Renault. Narain had even beaten the Reinmeister Michael Schumacher who was excellent in wet conditions. Unfortunately, in 2005 there were not many wet races.

Narain, came fourth in the US GP, when only six cars with bridgestone  tyres participated. Michelin had declared that it dangerous to drive after Ralf Schumacher had crashed in the same spot as he had in the previous year, and other Michelin tyre user teams decided to boycott the race. Unfortunately, Narain had lost out to his team mate in that race when Narain locked his tyres.

After the season was over, Narain was offered a chance to race for Jordan again but he had declined. He joined Williams team as a test driver. In the practice before the season, Narain was just 0.2 seconds slower than Nico Rosberg who’s father Keke Rosberg had an excellent relation with Williams. Unfortunately for Narain, though he was fast and was highly rated by the Williams team for his excellent technical feedback, the team went in and drafted veteran Alex Wurz.

In the next year, Williams which was under increasing financial pressure bowed into the pressure from its engine supplier Toyota and took Kazuki Nakajima a Japanese driver as another test driver. The Williams team which had earlier resisted all attempts to allow Kazuki Nakazima’s fater to drive had now capitulated. Such was the decline of the once championship winning Williams team. It is no surpise that Narain hardly got any time in the car.

Narain became the first Indian to drive in Formula 1 and broke the mental barrier prevalent among people that Asian drivers can't do well in Formula 1.