WEC: A day out at Silverstone

Recently I have seen a number of articles saying manufacturers are preferring WEC to F1. Mark Webber seems to be enjoying himself as well having left Red Bull in 2013. So I thought I would go and see what the fuss is about.

WEC is the World Endurance Championship and features seven 6 hour long races, along with the Le Mans 24 Hours Race. It features cars of radically different speeds, with LMP1 prototypes going faster than 200mph on the same track as cars like Ferrari 458s slower in top speed, cornering and accelerating. Due to the lengths of the races, teams comprise three drivers who take turns at the wheel. The goal is rarely top speed but efficiency and endurance over the race distance.

The first race of 2015 was held at Silverstone on 12 April and I went along. The first thing that struck me was the value for money that the race provides. In 2009 we paid £125 per ticket for general admission to the British Grand Prix. Now the minimum is £155 and neither of these prices will allow you into a grandstand. In addition, parking costs extra at £50 per car. For the WEC for £35 you got 6 hours of racing, free parking and a roving grandstand seat so that you could sit anywhere.

On showing up, you get the feeling that this is charging what the series’ can get away with. Silverstone was not packed for the WEC. The organisers have quoted a figure of 45,000 spectators across three days compares to 120,000 spectators on race day for Formula One. So, the cars may be immensely impressive but the series lacks the support of F1, however, the WEC has only existed in its current guise since 2012 and is growing year on year.

Any race that features pit stops can make it confusing as to what is going on, this is especially true in an endurance race, however, it also applies to F1. It is up to you to make sure you know who is winning and have some idea of the strategies at play. We did not plan for this and got confused as to what was happening until we went and sat in the main grandstand with its decent PA system and TV screen. Unlike F1, in which a race will usually be done in a quarter of the time, this is not a race that requires your full attention. People walked around, enjoyed the fantastic track and its facilities and experienced what was on offer. Everything was much more open than at an F1 race. The paddock was completely open, a couple of teams allowed you into their pit boxes while the race was on. It was quite possible with a general admission ticket to walk amongst team mechanics, drivers and celebrities something that you would not dream of at an F1 event.

To me, it does not seem correct to compare F1 and WEC. Yes, they are both racing series that race on similar circuits at similar speeds. However, F1 historically was about speed and excitement, WEC is about endurance and efficiency. F1 seems to have gotten confused recently, it is trying to do what the WEC is doing with its fuel limits and tyre management. That is to its detriment. F1 needs to go back to being about blistering speed and pushing the limit, leave the WEC to provide the endurance challenge.

To me, the technology in the WEC is more relevant, I can see why it would appeal to manufacturers more than F1. It is more open to its fans, it costs less to watch and allows far greater access. Would I go to another WEC race to watch these marvels weaving amongst the slower cars again? Absolutely. Would I go to an F1 race right now? No, it does not appeal.

F1 Driver Rankings 2014 edition

It looks like I missed out on doing this last year, probably because I was a little bored of the Sebastian Vettel show.

So to my list (comparisons are against my 2012 list):

1. Daniel Ricciardo +17
2. Lewis Hamilton +1
3. Fernando Alonso -3
4. Valtteri Bottas NE
5. Nico Rosberg +5
6. Sebastian Vettel -4
7. Jules Bianchi NE
8. Felipe Massa -1
9. Jenson Button -5
10. Romain Grosjean +10
11. Nico Hulkenberg -6
12. Danil Kvyat NE
13. Kevin Magnussen NE
14. Jean-Eric Vergne +9
15. Kimi Raikonnen -9
16. Sergio Perez -8
17. Kamui Kobayashi -6
18. Pastor Maldonado 3
19. Marcus Ericsson NE
20. Adrian Sutil RE
21. Esteban Guttierez NE
22. Max Chilton NE

 

While Lewis Hamilton won the championship, winning over half the races along the way, it was Daniel Ricciardo who impressed the most. The new Red Bull driver dominated his four-time world champion teammate and snatched the only three victories that did not fall Mercedes’ way. In a season where one team had a second or more advantage per lap, his achievements were clear to see. Alonso again did the best he could with a poor Ferrari while Bottas had a break out year for Williams, getting his first podium finishes along the way. Hopefully in 2015 someone will catch up to Mercedes, otherwise 2015 could easily become a repeat of 2014. Mclaren now have one of the strongest lineups on the grid, they will be under a lot of pressure to perform with Alonso and Button, if Honda deliver a strong engine things will heat up.

Ice Soccer

Snow and I have not been getting on that well recently. Sure it is pretty while it falls but then it just sits around and stops me going places.

It did have one fortunate consequence though. Two weeks ago it meant that Ethan and I could invent the soon to be worldwide sensation of ice soccer.

Two players take to a quarter acre pitch and draw out a 40sq ft goal in the snow. It doesn't matter the exact dimensions as long as the area is approximately 40 sq feet. As such my goals tend to be long but narrow and Ethan's tend to be more square.

A five yard line is then drawn ahead of the goal all the way across the pitch. This is where you kick from if a goal is scored or the ball goes behind your goal.

The aim of the game is to get the ball to touch any portion of your opponents goal. It can land in and bounce out, glance a corner, whatever. If it touches the ground inside the goal area it is in.

You are permitted two touches of the ball. The first is your save of the previous players shot and the second is taken from where the ball ends up and is your shot.

F1 Driver Rankings – End 2012

So another season of F1 has passed. This was my 15th, it also marked the first year, however, that I did not watch a race the whole way through. As a kind of protest against the Bahrain Grand Prix I suffered through the fairly poor BBC highlight show instead of watching the race live. Bit of a crap protest as I still watched… but I didn't enjoy it.

Anyway, it was another title for king Vettel, Red Bull once again supplied him with a car with which to take the title. The difference between Red Bull and the rest definitely came down this year and they started the season with the second or third best car out there. Alonso's achievement was far greater though, in the first race of 2012 the Ferrari car was the eighth fastest out there. By season's end it was still only third and yet Alonso took the fight to Vettel, losing out by just three points in a tense final race. Consistency was Alonso's game and he drove a near perfect season in a middling car.

So to my end of year rankings:

1. Fernando Alonso /
2. Sebastien Vettel +1
3. Lewis Hamilton -1
4. Jenson Button +5
5. Nico Hulkenberg +5
6. Kimi Raikkonen +7
7. Felipe Massa +12
8. Sergio Perez -2
9. Mark Webber -1
10. Nico Rosberg -6
11. Kamui Kobayashi +1
12. Paul Di Resta -1
13. Michael Schumacher +1
14. Bruno Senna +9
15. Timo Glock +1
16. Heikki Kovaleinen -9
17. Vitaly Petrov +4
18. Daniel Ricciardo -1
19. Charles Pic +1
20. Romain Grosjean -15
21. Pastor Maldonado -6
22. Pedro De La Rosa =
23. Jean-Eric Vergne -5
24. Jerome D'Ambrosio RE
25. Narain Kathikeyan -1

To me Alonso was clearly the best driver all season long. Hamilton drove better than last season and was largely let down by the team with reliability problems and issues with pitstops throughout the season. He drove fast but not necessarily intelligently and as it stands Vettel and Alonso are better drivers than he is. Grosjean and Maldonado both slip as each was involved in too many incidents, Maldonado because he is malicious and Grosjean because he is careless.

My big hope for the offseason is that both Kobayashi and Kovaleinen are picked up by teams for 2013, both deserve their drives and make F1 a little bit better. I am also pleased to see that Massa is back to where he needs to be in terms of pace finally, it appeared that the new Ferrari deal he received lightened his load and allowed him to concentrate on the driving again.

Rating the races

F1 this season is reaching a record 20 tracks in 19 countries. The racing so far this year has been unpredictable and exciting but there are some tracks that I feel do not do the sport justice with their layouts. In this post I will be ranking the tracks used in this year's world championship, my criteria will be how enjoyable I find them to watch/play in games and how good the racing usually is at the circuit.

 

  1. Canadian GP
    Montreal has long been my favourite track, it is the most enjoyable for me on any racing game with its mix of tricky chicanes, long straights and hairpins. It helps that the real life racing at the circuit tends to be superb and it is exciting watching to see who will make a mistake going into the final corner the 'wall of champions'.




     

  2. Belgian GP
    F1's classic circuit is still fantastic with the brilliant Eau Rouge still the best corner on the calendar. Unfortunately the track has been neutered further in recent years. I have seen some great races there as well with last year's race definitely up there. Hakkinnen taking Schumacher in 2000 being the one that sticks clearest in the mind. That said, I've always been poor round here on games…




     

  3. Monaco GP
    The racing might not be exciting on this circuit where passing is impossible but it is always a tense race to watch where an accident could happen at any time. This year's race might be remembered as a procession after the fact but during the race we had six of the world's best drivers duking it out for the win just waiting for one of the others to make a mistake. Watching the best drivers on edge round the streets is always awe inspiring.
     
  4. Brazilian GP
    This little circuit in Sao Paolo more often than not produces stonking races, so the infrastructure may have some issues (see advertising boards falling on the circuit during one qualifying session) but this track works so well as the climax to a season. If the championship is coming down to the wire you know the final race will live up to expectations (see Hamilton's title win or Schumacher's 'last' race in 2006).


     

  5. Indian GP
    So its a new track, as soon as I played it in F1 2012 I loved the layout, it really flows beautifully. The first race there did not necessarily live up to the billing but give the track time.
     
  6. Japanese GP
  7. British GP
  8. Singapore GP
  9. Australian GP
  10. Chinese GP
  11. Malaysian GP
  12. Hungarian GP
  13. Italian GP
  14. German GP
  15. Spanish GP
  16. Abu Dhabi GP
    This track showed a lot of promise but despite the glitz and glamour the track layout is just uninspiring. The flow of the corners lends itself to dull racing.
     
  17. European GP
    I have never clicked with the Valencia track, it just doesn't work for me. The racing has also been dull with the only exciting moments the track has recorded coming in the 2010 race with Webber's flying lesson and Kobayashi overtaking Alonso in the closing moments. 
     
  18. Bahrain GP
    Political troubles do not help this track which already battles with a poor layout and perennially dull races. Kill it.
     
  19. Korean GP
    The Korean track has had a troubled existence, first its miles away from the majority of the South Korean population, second it was still being completed during its first year. Add to that the circuit's inability to decide what track it is, some sections are wide open, some sections would be at home in Monaco with the walls close in. Then you have that daft chicane at the end of the second straight. To this track I say meh, should be better.

Ranking F1 – after seven races

It is time for the return of my F1 rankings. These are my first since the end of the 2011 season. What a start we have seen to 2012, seven races and seven different winners. I have been impressed by five of those winners' campaigns so far. You can probably work out the five from the rankings.

1 Fernando Alonso +1

2 Lewis Hamilton +4

3 Sebastien Vettel -2

4 Nico Rosberg /

5 Romain Grosjean NE

6 Sergio Perez +3

7 Heikki Kovaleinen -2

8 Mark Webber +2

9 Jenson Button -6

10 Nico Hulkenberg RE

11 Paul Di Resta -4

12 Kamui Kobayashi -3

13 Kimi Raikkonen NE

14 Michael Schumacher -3

15 Pastor Maldonado +10

16 Timo Glock -1

17 Daniel Ricciardo /

18 Jean-Eric Vergne NE

19 Felipe Massa -6

20 Charles Pic NE

21 Vitaly Petrov -5

22 Pedro De La Rosa -3

23 Bruno Senna RE

24 Narain Kathikeyan /

 

I think Alonso deserves to be top of this pile for what he managed to achieve with what was an underperforming Ferrari early on. Hamilton meanwhile has been consistently fast this year with the only faults committed by his team. We have also seen two overperfoming youngsters in Grosjean and Perez. Both have had fantastic starts to the year and both appear to have bright futures. I am less impressed by Maldonado, he moves up 10 places thanks to his superb drive in Spain but his personality still hinders. His move on Perez in Monaco stops me from taking him seriously and I still blame him for a similar move on Hamilton at Spa last year. He may be quick but he needs to temper that with a hold on stupid outburst.

 

Meanwhile right at the base, I am starting to wonder if Bruno Senna is capable at this level, he is not doing well at all in that Williams. If I had to drop three drivers from F1 at this stage of the season it would have to be Karthikeyan, Senna and Massa.

Karting at Lydd

A problem encountered from not organising karting events a month in advance comes in getting people to go along. Despite booking little over a week in advance I was able to get a slot at Lydd kart circuit in the south of Kent about 50 minutes from Canterbury.

I had thought I would have seven chums along with me but on the day with the rain beating down that number dwindled to four. Those who did not attend missed out. The circuit is fantastic and you learn a lot more about control from driving in the wet than you do in the dry with the grip levels similar (but less predictable) to those you might expect at an indoor track.

The key advantage to this track though is its price. For practice time you are paying a pound a minute, much less than the £45 for 30 minutes you can expect at other outdoor circuits. It is for this reason that the circuit is likely to be picked for our August jaunt.

From the layout (picture lovingly borrowed from the circuit website) you can tell that the circuit is a good mix of straights, chicanes and sweeping corners. A good dry time is apparently around 48 seconds but as you will see we did not get near that on Saturday.

I decided not to use my camera as I figured with rain actually coming down the camera may not appreciate it but my mother braved the conditions to take photos for half the time we were out there. The best of these can be viewed in the gallery.

Our times were not fast and reflected experience more than anything I think.

  driver fastest average
1 Jonathan 72.163 78.7
2 Joe 77.209 84.67
3 Trefor 81.678 86.36
4 Tamara 97.652 106.1

And now time for a gratuitous chart

 

So I think my line is smoothest due to experience, Joe was going for the second time ever so his line is still a bit erratic. My Father has another smooth line due to plenty of experience and Tamara's line dips the most showing her improving confidence and speed as the session went on.

 

Thanks to my three fellow racers and my mother for being on photo duty, happy Mothers day.

 

Sporting events of 2011

After declaring 2010 too bad for sport and thus palming off this list to me my father has returned to give judgement on 2011.

Top 5 sportsmen of 2011
Drew Brees for breaking Dan Marino’s yardage record.
Jenson Button for coming ahead of everyone except Sebastian Vettel
Dai Greene for winning the world 400m Hurdles and for being Welsh
Nathan Cleverly for being Britain’s only remaining boxing World Champion (and for being Welsh)
Mark Cavendish for winning Sports Personality

Losers of the Year
Carlos Tevez – Perhaps it was too cold to play?
The three Pakistan cricketers convicted of match fixing.
Mike Tindall – He would have been put in the Tower 400 years ago.
Alain Rolland – For sending off Sam Warburton against France. I know he’s Irish but he sure sounds French.
Amir Khan – for losing when a Super-Fight was on the horizon.

Teams of the Years
AFC Wimbledon – well the first half of the year anyway.
Wales Rugby team – for being better than England.
England Cricket – for being better than everyone (in Test Cricket anyway).
Barcelona – for thrashing Man Utd in the Champions League Final
Oakland Raiders – well why not?

Special Mile High Messiah Award
Tim Tebow – no he’s not he’s just a naughty boy!

Note that there are no women listed, well its not really sport is it?

Trefor Little

F1 Driver Rankings – season end – 2011

So for the first time since race 5 of the season we have an F1 driver ranking post. While my feelings towards F1 were tempered slightly by the domination of king Vettel and the introduction of DRS it was still generally a good season. Possibly not up there with the last couple but fairly strong. How were the drivers though? Well Hamilton certainly struggled with his style not suiting a DRS / Pirelli tyre world. He made silly mistakes aplenty and looked like a rookie. This is the first season he has been outperformed by a teammate and that saw him slip. Heikki Kovaleinen continues his rise through the rankings. He has worked very well with a teammate not seeming to contribute much and moved Lotus near to the midfield. He deserve a high spot.

1 Sebastien Vettel /
2 Fernando Alonso +1
3 Jenson Button +1
4 Nico Rosberg +1
5 Heikki Kovaleinen +4
6 Lewis Hamilton -4
7 Paul Di Resta +6
8 Kamui Kobayashi -2
9 Sergio Perez +2
10 Mark Webber -2
11 Michael Schumacher +3
12 Bruno Senna RE
13 Felipe Massa -1
14 Adrian Sutil +2
15 Timo Glock +2
16 Vitaly Petrov -7
17 Daniel Ricciardo NE
18 Nick Heidfeld -8
19 Pedro De La Rosa RE
20 Sebastien Buemi -5
21 Jaime Alguersuari -2
22 Rubens Barrichello -4
23 Jarno Trulli -3
24 Tonio Liuzzi +3
25 Pastor Maldonado -2
26 Jerome D’Ambrosio -4
27 Karun Chandhok RE
28 Narain Kathikeyan -4

At the bottom, the two Indian drivers sit at the bottom fairly deservedly based on performances. D’Ambrosio never seemed fully cut out as Di Grassi’s replacement while I still don’t like Maldonado or Liuzzi in F1. Trulli and Barrichello need to realise it is time to retire and the two Toro Rosso drivers must have reached their ends too? Hopefully some old boys can go away and the new generation can come and play. With that being said though, Schumacher is showing the old boys still have some life in them. Curses.