Monday, July 1, 2013

I wonder what goes through the mind of an F1 driver?

I'm always amused and entertained by the pit radio transmissions when watching F1 races. Kimi Raikkonen's recent "Leave me alone, I know what I'm doing". Lewis Hamilton's "I can't drive any slower". Mark Webber (after losing the end plates on the front wings) "I guess we figured out how to make the car faster". More entertaining is when the race engineer calls the driver and says things like "push push push". Because the driver's didn't realise they were racing?
So I often wonder what goes through the driver's minds when they are racing. Alonso, for example, at the beginning of this season had a relatively minor first-corner scuffle that deranged his front wing. Yet instead of coming in at the end of the first lap - something I'm sure his pit crew told him to do - stayed out, and on the main straight the wing folder up under the car, lifting the front wheels off the ground resulting in him crashing in the first corner of the second lap.
A few years ago, Hamilton was in desperate need of a tyre change at the Chinese GP, and it was raining, but he stayed out one extra lap and then crashed trying to get into the pit lane when his tyres gave up.
I'm in the camp of F1 fans that believe it's always the team, the car and the driver that win races - I don't subscribe to the theory that you can put a shit driver in a great car and get wins (Scott Speed proved that when he joined Red Bull and failed to finish a single race). Conversely, you can't put the world's best driver in a sub-standard car and expect wins. Witness Schumacher in the Mercedes team for the previous few years. So yes - the drivers very much do know what they're doing. However, if your race engineer radios you to tell you you need new tyres, or you've blown a wing, or part of the bodywork is flapping about, despite the temptation to stay out, precedent would tend to suggest that coming in when the pit crew tells you to is a good idea.
In the grand scheme of things I actually wish they'd bring back in-race refueling and multiple tyre manufacturers. Having all the teams on the same tyres is beginning to make F1 more and more like American racing series where all the cars are identical (thus removing one of the team/driver/car variables). Having a single tyre manufacturer is just the FIA's latest attempt to slow F1 down by having the manufacturer deliberately make sub-standard tyres to force pit and conservative driving. Pirelli have said as much - they're perfectly capable of making a tyre last the entire race but they're not allowed to.
So maybe the thought on their minds is this - "Why the hell do we have such crappy tyres this year?".
Good news on that front though - Alonso proved in Spain this year that the philosophy of "screw the tyres - just drive it like you stole it and daddy's paying the bill" works wonders.