Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Top Five...Street Tracks

As a sport that prides itself on being the pinnacle of motorsport, Formula One provides vastly differing challenges to both the drivers and teams. Just one of these variables are the tracks. In 2011, there are three street tracks on the roster - read on to see if any made my top five...

5. Adelaide
The track that held 11 Australian Grands Prix between 1985 and 1995 comes in at number five. This track witnessed some historic moments in its history - including Nigel Mansell's explosive tyre and the 1994 title decider. Despite its relatively simple layout including public roads and a horse-racing course, it holds a special place in the hearts of many F1 fans, particularly those from Australia. One F1 fan, 'Doance', sums up the track in two sentences: "It went through parklands and into the city. And it was a special event." So special in fact, that many F1 fans want to see it back on the F1 calendar.

Ayrton Senna was one of the many fans of the Adelaide Street Circuit
4. Detroit
It must have been only a matter of time before F1 held a race in 'motor city' itself, Detroit. A city with a famous skyline, it first held an F1 race in 1982. It was popular with fans and drivers alike for being just that little bit unique - its narrow track and close walls resulting in lots of retirements - only five drivers finished the 1984 event, with one of those a lap down. This meant that only four drivers were on the lead lap after just over 160 miles of sunny race action. Detroit still holds some races to this day, but it remains to be seen whether Formula One will ever return to the pavements of Motown. With the addition of Austin from next year, this sadly looks increasingly unlikely.

3. Monaco
Ask anyone to name an F1 track and chances are they'll say Monaco. The cars have long since outgrown the tiny principality's twisty streets, but that doesn't stop the drivers rocketing round an at an average speed of around 100mph - slow for a Grand Prix circuit, but practically unheard of in the slow, wealthy life of a Monegasque resident. The circuit has held many memorable races on its five different variations over the years - the first was held in 1929 by a close friend of the Royal Family, and Prince Albert loves the event - he awards the winner's trophy each year. The track is just over one and a quarter minutes of unbridled terror - let's watch Jenson Button's 2009 pole lap:

2. Montjuich Park
This circuit is widely regarded by Formula One buffs as one of the greatest circuits of all time. That it only held four Grands Prix is somewhat of a travesty, but a fatal accident at the final race meant that Formula One could not continue at the track draped over a mountain in Catalonia, Spain. In fact the speeds were so high here and so dangerous, it was here that wings were first banned in F1, those devices which have become so vital to a car's performance today.

1. Albert Park
Maybe a somewhat controversial choice, but Albert Park has seen some of the best racing in recent years and is a firm favourite with many of the drivers. Although not immediately famous among non-F1 fans (unlike the notoriety held by Monaco and Silverstone), the track has also become well-known due to its feature on F1 racing games, upon which it has become one of the most popular tracks to drive. To make this all the more special, Albert Park is actually a public park for most of the year, teeming with wildlife. If looked up on Google Streetview, you can see that the main straight is used for parking, and much of the last part of the lap takes place in cycle lanes! If indeed the track is lost from the roster, as Bernie Ecclestone keeps making clear, I'm sure it will not only be a loss for the local residents and Australia, but for the sport as a whole. In years to come I'm sure we will look back on this track as one of the best of the contemporary age. Farewell, Albert Park.

The lake around which the Albert Park track runs
A notable mention to both Ned Flanders and Nik for mentioning AVUS, a German track run almost exclusively on German motorway and flanked at both ends by hairpins. The banking at one end of the track had no safety barrier - meaning cars could be launched off at even the smallest mistake, a recipe for disaster. More happily, the track is now an important part of the German Autobahn network.

Now its over to you. What do you think about my choices and what are yours? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

This article is based on a thread started on the F1Fanatic Forum.Be sure to check back there for ThatF1Blog article news and thanks to everyone who took part (sadly I couldn't mention everyone in this article).

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Was Shanghai a sign of what's to come in 2011?

Well, I don't think you need me to tell you that last weekend's Chinese Grand Prix was an absolute corker. Whether it was one of the best Grands Prix we've ever seen is subject to debate, but it was certainly one of the greatest from recent times. But can we expect the same from the remaining 16 races in 2011?

In short, and it's a bit of a cop-out, it's almost impossible to tell. Just three or four short seasons ago we could have quite easily predicted the final championship positions. But that's a luxury that 2011 doesn't permit us. With the new DRS, the return of KERS and tyres which last about as long as chewing gum, the first three races were some of the most exciting from the last few seasons. The main question to ask which will influence the rest of the season is that which asks if Red Bull can continue their dominating form. Sebastian Vettel has taken pole at all three races so far, and has won two races - a win rate of 66.6% which, if carried through the season, means he'll win 12 0r 13 of the 19 races. If Shanghai was anything to go by, that's unlikely. That's because McLaren, after a dismal month of testing, arrived at Australia and were the second fastest team. Come Malaysia, they were even closer to the Red Bulls - Hamilton only one tenth off of the weltmeister. And then...well, we all know what happened in China.

Could we see the silver cars at the front even more for the rest of 2011?
But who will be able to carry their early season form through into the European season? There's no denying that the RB7 is fast. It's not quite the class of the field like its predecessor, but it's certainly no Minardi. It looks unlikely that it won't be fast come Turkey. However, McLaren's development team have recently worked for every penny of their (deservedly large) salary. Their car was one of the slowest in pre-season testing and now it's already racked up a win on merit alone. The pace of their development does not look to be slowing - if anything, expect them to be even faster in Istanbul Park, where they took a one-two last year. And then there's a notable mention for the next three teams; Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari. Ross Brawn revealed that the W02 had chronic overheating problems, which they hope to fix for Turkey, with their aerodynamic fixes coming in Barcelona. With Nico Rosberg leading a chunk of the last Grand Prix, a win in the European part of the season is not out of the question. Renault have also looked fast, and their cars really have flown - (I'm looking at you, Vitaly Petrov). Renault were one of the fastest developing teams last year, and they don't look to be standing still this year either. And then there's Ferrari - Luca di Montezemelo is expecting great things from his red cars for the rest of the year. Let's hope Fernando Alonso and a rejuvenated Felipe Massa can deliver in Turkey. Let the three week break commence!

Image (c) Pirelli, F1Fanatic