Saturday, 22 October 2011

Should a country be allowed two Grands Prix?

Spain is already the home of both the Spanish Grand Prix near Barcelona and the European Grand Prix in Valencia. Before that it was Germany that held two Grands Prix a year, at Hockenheim and the Nurburgring, but they now alternate between one another year on year. However, rumours emerged this morning that Bernie Ecclestone is set to announce a race in New Jersey from 2013. With the new American Grand Prix at Austin starting a ten year contract next season. But should a country have two races? Or should they let other countries hold a race?

Valencia holds a second race in Spain each year, dubbed the 'European Grand Prix'

First we have to examine why a country would want to hold more than one race. In the case of Spain and Germany before it, Ecclestone and FOM decided to make a quick buck from the popularity of a driver in the form of Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher respectively. However, in the case of this second US race, it's not as clear cut - the race in Austin might struggle to fill all of its grandstands straight away, so why would America need two races? For one, America is one of the biggest markets in the world, which Formula One teams and their sponsors want to tap into. Austin is on the far-Western side of America, whilst the New Jersey race will be on completely the opposite side of the country, on the Eastern seaboard. Bernie Ecclestone himself has always wanted to hold a race in or around New York, and if this rumoured deal comes to fruition then his dream will have been realised. However, if a country must hold two races, is it financially viable to have one specially built for the purpose and the other to be a temporary facility? I'm not so sure - Formula One can't return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but what would have been so wrong with using Daytona? This would have to be the Road Course, naturally, but this wouldn't have been a bad option. Formula One could have also tried its hand at an oval circuit, but this will be set back for many years to come after the untimely and tragic death of Dan Wheldon in Las Vegas 5 days ago.

So should countries be allowed to hold two Grands Prix? The answer is yes, but only in certain circumstances, if it is a big market like America. And races should never, ever alternate between two countries like France and Belgium are planning to do. But what do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Paul di Resta - Future World Champion?

Paul di Resta’s storming drive in Singapore took him to a personal best sixth place, silencing the few critics that remained. But di Resta’s more subdued drive in Japan, finishing only one place behind Suzuka specialist Adrian Sutil in equal machinery is arguably more impressive.

di Resta has managed to keep Sutil behind for most of this year

One thing to remember when analysing the Singapore race is the turning point of the Grand Prix - the safety car caused by Michael Schumacher’s almighty shunt after an attempt at overtaking Sergio Perez went awry. This actually disadvantaged di Resta, as his strategy relied upon him delivering fast lap times exactly around when Bernd Maylander appeared on track. Despite this, he still managed his best ever race position with sixth. But it could have been so much more.

Force India went to the Japanese Grand Prix quietly confident - compared to their previous vehicles, this years VJM04 is an all-rounder, not just a car for fast tracks with plenty of straights on which it can utilise its Mercedes engine. However, they faced a rejuvenated Renault, who should have done well at the much more open track, a world away from the track which has served as their nemesis - Marina Bay. Then, unexpectedly, di Resta developed a flu of some sort, similar to the symptoms which Sergio Perez also suffered this weekend. To make matters worse, Suzuka is a track which suits experience - its lines and grip are in places which conventional drivers might not expect, only with experience of the track can a driver learn them. It was always going to be difficult to beat Sutil - a driver who had driven at the Japanese track many times before - and with an illness it would be even more difficult. But di Resta was only two tenths away in Qualifying, and as we know Sutil is no slouch.

The race, for di Resta however, was even more impressive - he capitalised on home favourite Kobayashi’s tardy start and was into eighth by the end of lap one - up four positions from his grid slot. He was jumped by Sutil at the first stop by virtue of the undercut on fresh tyres, but returned the compliment at the second stops. Switching to the medium tyre, both drivers knew they had to put in some fast laps - but yet again the safety car ruined this strategy. di Resta was caught towards the end of the race and passed by his team-mate, Petrov and Rosberg after a brave move at Dunlop. However, he still managed to finish in the same place that he had started, and was only just behind is team-mate at the finish.

But will di Resta be able to carry this skill on through his entire career? And will he ever get the car to do so? It’s obvious to paddock insiders that he has the speed; he has beaten Sutil more often than not in Qualifying this year and he beat team-mate Vettel in Formula Three in 2005. Not only this, but his recent drives have shown a level of maturity and intelligence reminiscent of ‘The Professor’ Alain Prost, and to more contemporary audiences, Jenson Button. With the inevitable retirement of Michael Schumacher coming either at the end of this year or the next, it’s only a matter of time before he can get himself a race seat at the Mercedes works team, who are likely to be able to give him a race winning car in 2014 if they cope with the rule changes like they did into 2009. Until then, it’ll be Paul’s job to impress in a minnow team against a fast team-mate. Will you be keeping an eye on him? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Image (c) Force India