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How to improve the Formula One World Constructors' Championship

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How to improve the Formula One World Constructors' Championship
The Simon Racing Report's guide to improving the least interesting championship in F1
Jonathan Simon | January 5, 2018

The Simon Racing Report - RaceSpot TV Commentator
 

When was the last time you had celebrated a Formula One World Constructors' Championship victory? I’m hardly ecstatic about it – even less so than Mark Webber, especially when Christian Horner would rub it in his face on the team radio whenever Red Bull Racing would win a constructors title. Christian, we love you, but Mark never gave a damn. Apart from finding out who is the most successful team for a given season, the constructors’ championship is used to determine areas such as the entry fees (Appendix 7, Formula 1 Sporting Regulations), prize money and other minuscule details.

Now I know what you’re asking, didn’t you say you were going to write this column a few months ago? Well if Williams can delay their driver decision until January, I can exponentially do the same for this column. But regardless of that, here it is… The Simon Racing Report’s guide to improving the Formula 1 World Constructors’ Championship.

Penalty points replace grid penalties


Finally, an improvement to the sheer stupidity that grid penalties are starting to become. Whilst Liberty Media and Ross Brawn are already planning a reasonable fix for grid penalties, let’s now tie that in with a coinciding improvement with the spectacle of the constructors’ championship. This is one of the major on-track issues that currently needs to be addressed within Formula 1 – for some it ruins the spectacle. We should be penalising drivers places on the grid for racecraft errors, unsportsmanlike conduct, not team or car faults. Trying to reach a wider, newer audience in Formula 1 with 2.4 million place grid penalties a round does nothing to help ease the flow of the sport.
Quantum physics or F1 grid penalties, both incredibly difficult to explain to your kids. The absolute fuck up of a conversation this would create. What’s rougher, talking to your kids about sex or explaining why a Honda powered engine suffered 825 total grid penalties from 2015 to 2017?
The solution – penalise constructors’ championship points for every major grid penalty. Once a team reaches zero, apply fines or go to extreme lengths such as negative points, even at Honda’s expense. The only hesitation for negative points is the chaos this would cause with a McLaren Honda and soon to be, the 2018 McLaren Renault.
Reliability will have an ever increased factor in the constructors’ trophy and will be pivotal to the success of reliable or unreliable teams. Your fast car is your offence, reliability is your defence. You want to compete for titles, even at the risk of a little reliability. The NBA's greatest offences generally win titles but they're not always necessarily ranked the highest in defence. They're also not ranked last either. Think about it in baseball now, sometimes fielding and especially pitching can be your greatest success, but you won't get nowhere without hitting. If anything, the NFL has shown us with the 2000 Baltimore Ravens and 2015 Denver Broncos, along with the NBA's 2004 Detroit Pistons, that defence can win titles.
McLaren's rapid MP4-20 and MP4-27 in 2005 and 2012 respectively should have claimed titles for Kimi Räikkönen and Lewis Hamilton. With all the offence of a fast car, no defence and injuries of unreliability, they turned into the mid-2000's Mike D'Antoni/Steve Nash led Phoenix Suns. An engine failing could cost a team potential points gained but also leave no lead unprotected. For those unaware of the rule/article, here it is:
Article 23.3 b) Should a driver use more than the numbers set in Article 23.3 a) of any one of the elements during a Championship season, a grid place penalty will be imposed upon him at the first Event during which each additional element is used. Penalties will be applied according to the following table and will be cumulative:

The first time an additional element is used = Ten grid place penalty.

The next times an additional element is used = Five grid place penalty.
Here is a system I’ve created that could work with constructors’ points penalties accounted for:
The first time an additional element is used = Ten grid place penalty, and six constructors points penalised.

The next times an additional element is used = Five grid place penalty, and three constructors points penalised.
I say let teams go into negative points. Can’t get a reliable power unit to finish a race? Tough luck, drink a cup of shell oil and harden up.

Bonus points for fastest pit-stop


This is interesting and borderline silly, but with the emphasis, detail and money put into improving the performance of pit-stops, why not reward the team with the fastest pit-stop with one bonus constructors’ championship point.
This would apply to the first stop only for each car, preventing teams from pitting 15 times in the final 15 laps to potentially win a championship off of a quick pit-stop. It’s Formula 1 and everyone will be looking to take advantage of this, so we’ll need to implement some other house rules. Bonus points for a pit-stop would also only work so long as there is no refuelling involved. Teams would deliberately fuel short to win the bonus points at certain races and this would occur if you’re in no contention of scoring valuable points, if any at all. Most likely if you’re involved in a first lap incident or if you were a 2010 HRT driver.
If I gave out 25 points for each fastest pit stop, Williams and Mercedes are so good they would have the potential to win the constructors championship on pit-stops alone.
This measure would make 'box-ing' more interesting, more error prone, faster and certainly more entertaining.

Teams get a choice of garage position each race weekend


Pit-lane position is critical for a number of reasons. Ensuring you don’t lose time entering and exiting a pit-box can save crucial tenths of a second on pursuit to victory. If it’s a wet qualifying session, getting track position ahead of the green light for Q1 could save you 18 minutes of stress and angst. Picking a garage that’s ergonomically efficient for your team in the paddock, all these little things pile up in Formula 1.
So why not reward the previous year’s constructors’ standings with choice of garage position in order of finishing position? Mercedes could pick first, then Ferrari, etc. My only concern is that this would be more of a hindrance administering than it would be beneficial for the show. These little incentives pile up though and could incline teams to fight for critical positions in the championship, regardless if they are challenging for first or tenth.

Cost multiplier based on team spending


Would it be overcomplicated in introducing a cost multiplier into Formula 1? Based on how many points a team scores, along with the total amount spent from the previous season’s end of financial year, to the date of the final race/grand prix weekend of the current season. Yes there would be overlap, to prevent teams from overspending, or tanking their spending to benefit one season or another. The accountant will be FIA employed and approved – that’ll put an end to corruption... Probably not, but anyway.
Example: 1st July 2017 – 25th November 2018 (Abu Dhabi Grand Prix) would be used to calculate the total costs per team used for the 2018 season.
Now the complicated part. The total of all teams in the championship is calculated, and let’s say Mercedes had accounted for 40% of the total budget of all teams, their adjusted constructors’ championship points would be 300 points * (1 - 0.40) = 180 points. If Haas scored 45 points and only used 5% of the total budget of all teams, this would be calculated as 45 points * (1 – 0.05) = 42.75 points
Let’s have a look at the constructors’ standings for 2015 and 2016, along with team budgets. Note that 2015 figures are in EUR and 2016 in GBP, but the calculations stay consistent. I’m not sure what time period these figures were calculated on, but they’ll do for now.
In terms of points with the cost multiplier, there is a difference in the scale and amount that each team has scored, but the rankings stay the same. No team climbs or drops in the standings at all. If we however based the constructors’ championship on a ‘cost per point basis’, look at how a team such as Force India would climb up the standings both years. Though the champion would still win based on the dominance of the amount of points they have scored – that’s the way it should be.
This is a much more effective way at calculating the points, a cheap team still wouldn’t win, but would be rewarded for being as well run as Force India. However teams who don’t score points would still struggle. It basically means if you splash the cash within reason, you win. However the balance is still there, rewarding teams who are wise with their money or in five years’ time, Bitcoin and Ripple. An alternative to the budget cap!

FIA / FOM mid-season test for teams in lower half of standings


The teams who finish in the bottom half of the constructors’ championship will be rewarded at a test session of their choice, whereby FOM fund up to 75% of money spent on the test, or a maximum of $3,000,000 for each team. $3,000,000 is a large guess, the FIA/FOM would come up with something better. For the bottom end of teams, this incentive would help limit expenses in a sport where the correlation to success and money is positive.
This looks like your typical knee surgery insurance scheme, think of it as a ‘heal and repair’ for those teams struggling at the bottom end of the budget pool.

Luxury Tax


I had to do some math on this hence the spreadsheet below. I promise it’s not as confusing as it looks, but I’ve mapped out an extremely basic luxury tax for the purposes of this column.
The tax threshold is 10% of the total budget – I chose this number randomly. I’ve calculated the total budget for all teams at the end of 2016 which is £1,720,000,000. Using the tax threshold of 10% stated earlier, if any team now exceeds this value, they must pay a set amount of tax based on the gap they are over 10%. In this case, four teams are over the 10% threshold which include Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and McLaren. We will set a fixed fee of £3,000,000 if over the tax threshold, and £1,000,000 per 1% over the threshold. Based on these calculations, you can see the amount of luxury tax paid by the four teams. These funds are then distributed evenly amongst remaining teams not under the tax threshold.
What does this have to do with the constructors’ championship? Not much. I was celebrating the idea as much as Felipe Massa’s family when he crossed the line to win the championship in 2008, only to stop celebrating, realising towards the end of my idea that it really didn’t have much to do with improving the constructors' championship spectacle at all.
However... We could finally see more teams pushing for excellence with a minimal budget. This is a great alternative to a budget cap and has been suggested before. Of course with a more advanced, calculated and researched method that is different from mine, the constructors’ championship could get interesting.
How embarrasing for McLaren... Paying luxury tax in a season where they finished 6th and only scored 76 points. The luxury tax helps promote improved organisation and team management skills. It's why Force India would be a title contender each season if they were on a similar budget to the big teams, such a well-run organisation. Someone suggested that they were the New England Patriots doppelganger, I truly think Force India are the San Antonio Spurs of Formula 1 whilst McLaren are slowly becoming the New York Knicks.

Time finished behind leader is now part of the Constructors' Championship


This is possibly the stupidest idea of the bunch, and at risk of ending this column like Lewis Hamilton’s 2007 season, I had to shoot the shot.
Let me explain with an example of course. After the first grand prix weekend concludes, Lewis Hamilton scores 25 points for a win, Sebastian Vettel in second place scores 18 points and finishes +7.675 seconds behind, Valtteri Bottas finishes third with 15 points and +10.405 seconds, Kimi Räikkönen fourth with 12 points and +27.898 seconds.
Jolyon Palmer finishes 3 laps down.
Mercedes would lead the constructors’ championship with 40 points and 11 seconds, Ferrari is second with 30 points and 36 seconds. Points take precedence over time. So if two teams were tied on 30 points, whoever has the LEAST amount of time would lead. We also round ‘up’ the seconds off to the nearest integer, so Vettel’s final time would be 8 seconds, Bottas 11 seconds, Räikkönen 28 seconds.
Now what happens to Palmer who finishes three laps down? We set a baseline penalty of 30 seconds + (the fastest lap of the race * laps finished behind leader). If the fastest lap time of the event was 84 seconds (again, rounding up), Palmer’s total would be 30 + (84 * 3) = 282 seconds and 0 points for Renault’s total.
This would discourage teams from avoiding retirement during an event. For a DNF, it would be the same calculation. If you’re 56 laps behind, well get ready for a face full of seconds, minutes and hours on the constructors’ championship standings.
Think of it like Mario Party, your points are your stars, your seconds are your coins.
A little confusing, but definitely would make things more intriguing for the current constructors championship. The drivers’ championship wouldn’t be affected by this.
Nothing is worse than Bernie Ecclestone’s medal idea, or did I just top it?

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Jonathan Simon provides commentary for RaceSpot TV on the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series. He also owns and hosts his own podcast called The Simon Racing Report which features guests from around the sim racing world, along with writing columns for the website.

The ideal Formula 1 Calendar

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The Ideal Formula 1 Calendar
What would be F1's most supreme modern day race calendar?
Jonathan Simon | October 25, 2017

The Simon Racing Report - RaceSpot TV Commentator
 

The 2017 Global F1 Fan Survey Results indicated that just over 50% of Formula One fans preferred a calendar of 19 – 21 grand prix events per season, remaining by far as the consistent favourite over the years the survey has been conducted. Bernie Ecclestone has also been pushing for 20 races in a season as early as 2004, knowing the full benefit it would have for the sport, along with the humblebrag of having sagging pockets filled with wads of cash. The 19 – 21 range is a great balance between maximising revenue, entertainment and workload on teams and employees in the industry. If you think about it, only 20 weekends out of 52 in a year is just 38.5%, looking at it in that sense we’d probably want more!

However... The rare the better. I’d rather watch 15 top quality races than 30 weekends a year of a bore fest – we all would. But even so, if all races are entertaining and that becomes the norm, our expectations would rise and eventually fans would be less impressed with these races and ask for more. Sometimes those boring races give the edge of the seat events that extra edge.
 
Liberty Media are pursuing an attempt to make F1 a ‘Super Bowl’ each race weekend and based on Super Bowl LI between the Patriots and Falcons, that could be an intriguing future. It’s really not the show that captured me as an F1 fan, it was the quality of racing. If Liberty Media’s plan is to make every race a Super Bowl, let’s focus on the tracks we visit, the quality of racing, and what appeals to us as F1 fans in a season calendar.
 
So let’s go through my ideal 20 race Formula 1 calendar. Now, a few house rules on this – we can only use circuits that have hosted a Formula 1 Grand Prix previously, we have to consider the month they take place in, and finally, I have a good relationship with Jean Todt in this column which allows me to FIA approve any circuit and make amendments where needed.

Round 1 – Albert Park Street Circuit
Australia (mid to late March)


Let’s open the season up in Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia. Apologies Adelaide, I’m biased. Let’s also not pretend I don’t live near this circuit, along with almost getting fired from work every day for constantly gazing at the circuit 40 floors up and picturing Martin Brundle’s crash in 1996, the Mika Häkkinen-David Coulthard switch for the lead in 1998, Ralf Schumacher turning the front straight into an airport in 2002, the entire 2010 and 2012 races, 2013 and 2014 qualifying in the wet, and what more? The green parkland, abundance of space for the crowd to fill, hearing the roar of the fans over the new power units in 2014 as Daniel Ricciardo took pole position for 15 seconds (before Lewis Hamilton turned those cheers into jeers by snatching pole position from the home favourite). You open up the season with an interesting street circuit built around a great environment, passionate crowd and produce an event perfect for someone who may be new to the sport. Think about it, you switch F1 on for the first time as the new season is hyped up, you see what Albert Park can produce for Round 1, and you leave wanting more!
 
The city atmosphere is great, along with qualifying and the race taking place in the evening – working out well as you can go for dinner on the Saturday and Sunday evening and have ample time to hit all the bars, pubs and clubs after qualifying on Saturday night. That's always a good idea, until we once had to wake up red eyed for an early morning Sunday qualifying session in 2013. Although if a grand prix weekend can create memories to remember such as that, it’s a keeper.

Round 2 – Sepang International Circuit
Malaysia (late March) – back to back with Round 1


I’ve always been a fan of the back to back to start the season and Sepang is your streaky three point shooter that comes off the bench. Potential rain, unpredictability – with the 2001 race being the most famous example of the bunch. The season flows on from Round 1 and keeps fans on their feet for the Monday before preview articles, videos, podcasts and more, are all released from the Tuesday onwards for Malaysia. Even at its utmost worse, the race track is built to produce thrilling racing, along with an extremely challenging middle sector. The circuit almost didn’t make the list due to the resurfacing last year to improve draining, completely ruining or better yet, 'differentiating' the final corner. Although it’s unfortunate Malaysia will be off the F1 calendar after 2017, I think we're all willing to give the resurfacing another shot. I felt as if the resurfacing would grow on us the same way you hate an album the first time you listen to it, but the more you give it a shot, the more beauty you find in the product.

Round 3 – Kyalami Racing Circuit
South Africa (early April)


Am I the only person who envisions a duck when I look at the track layout of Kyalami? Why not fly to South Africa for the next race as we’re ergonomically heading to Spain straight after (spoiler alert). Needless to say, this circuit is a classic and despite the financial issues, I think it’s ready for a rebirth in the modern day. My only concerns are that the duckbill layout may not be ideal for overtaking at all, but we'll give the circuit a 3 year deal and if it doesn’t please, let’s bring the Bahrain night race back (spoiler again, Bahrain isn’t on this list) to the calendar to fill in the spot.

Round 4 – Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Spain (mid April)


Why not the Valencia Street Circuit? Please.
 
How ironic that the Valencia Street Circuit’s best race was the year it left Formula 1. A circuit built perfectly for Pirelli tyres and DRS, to instead suffer from the costs of Bernie Ecclestone’s hamster wheel race deals. I wanted a Spanish race and so the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya wins this over the Circuito del Jarama. Here are my reasons for Catalunya winning this; yes it’s difficult to overtake but I believe the atmosphere built is perfectly to support the future God of Spanish motor racing, whoever that may be after Alonso, and as good as he is it’s not Carlos Sainz Jr. Don’t forget that this is also going to be our preseason test circuit, so we have to package in a deal for a race as well. Let’s bring back the old layout (Moto GP version) and re-model the beginning of the last sector to throw another huge grandstand in there, along with great overtaking opportunities. Barcelona opens the European season and the masses of upgrades as a result, quite fitting with it now also being the home of pre-season testing. That’s like the movie role where you’re killed in the first five minutes, never seen or mentioned again for the rest of film, but still proud of your appearance. That’s what the Circuit de Catalunya is to this calendar, but still good enough to make the top 20.

Round 5 – Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari
Italy (late April)


Imola is definitely a circuit I’d look forward for Formula 1 to return to. We’ve seen that it can still produce exhilarating racing as it has in the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series. So if it can do it virtually on a simulator, it should do it in the real world (as long as our wind tunnel models are big enough I guess?). There’s no more of that weird final chicane which will promote overtaking, the lap is fun to drive and let’s not ruin the already annoying Variante Alta by putting in some modern day sausage kerbs. Let the cars ride over the kerbs like Monza 2008 and enjoy the crowd roar throughout the weekend.

Round 6 – Dijon-Prenois
France (mid May)


I had a few options here. I got sick of Paul Ricard as there were too many combinations to choose from. The best combination I came up with was a figure of 8 section where the cars could smash into each other like your home built hot wheels circuit. I eventually realised there was a head on collision section as they were heading back the same way they came from and gave up trying to come up with something acceptable. The meme race for social media would have be entertaining though, as Kimi Raikkonen would find himself lapping around the tarmac run off areas, thinking he was on the racing line.
 
Anyway... No to the Magny-Cours unfortunately. This was a very tough decision, but it didn’t make it. Lovely circuit, good fun, but overtaking would be difficult and races could be progressive. So let’s head to the Fuji of France in Dijon-Prenois. Elevation change and constant undulation, wide flat kerbs with multiple racing lines and gravel run-offs. It’s a circuit that should be on the F1 calendar but isn’t.

Round 7 – Monte Carlo Street Circuit
Monaco (late May)


Come on? It’s Monaco. Good or bad, entertaining or boring, Monte Carlo stays as the 7th round of the season. Perfect logistical distance from Dijon-Prenois, with the Indy 500 taking place on the same day.

Round 8 – Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
Canada (mid June)


Now we’re really frenching it up! Three French speaking races in a row? Bonjour, merci beaucoup. A race track in a brilliant location on the Île Notre-Dame, as well as a circuit that produces consistently entertaining races year after year, fun laps to watch onboard, interesting strategies due to the surface of the race track and the toll it takes on the tyres, [BREATHE!] heavy braking zones and aggressive driving. Much like Albert Park, this is far from the ‘street circuit’ that it's classified as.

Round 9 – Red Bull Ring
Austria (late June)


I’d have this back to back with Montreal, but considering we’re flying to North America and back to Europe again, along with avoiding Le Mans the week after Montreal, I’d rather avoid both of those circumstances. More importantly, I’m going to pick the A1 ring. I quite like the modern day version of the circuit — compelling and enthralling to ride onboard with and it’s interesting having such a short and simple circuit on the calendar. Everything is still technical as well as an overall challenge for the drivers, but still succinct. This is a circuit you see in a racing game that looks simple, so you choose it when the girlfriend is over to impress her for the first time, only to realise you crash exiting the pit lane because looks can be deceiving. She then breaks up with you and it’s over. Wait, which male human being would ever play video games, I mean play racing games, I mean choose the A1-Ring in front of their girlfriend... right?

Thanks.

F1 has been my first choice topic of conversation, my fastball, that I use to repel women and most F1 fans remain single to this day for good reason.

Round 10 – Silverstone Circuit
Great Britain (Early July) – back to back with Round 9


As much as I love the trail braking thriller of Brooklands using the Arena section of the race track, the Bridge layout using the old pit complex satisfies me for this round. Copse as a first corner is essential — a necessity. An even wackier suggestion would be to have the new pit complex along with the Abbey chicane as a unique first corner. It’s not an entirely long run down to the Abbey chicane, but it’s not a completely slow corner either which would build exciting rhythm to begin the race as you progress under the bridge and so on. Wherever you place Turn 1, you win with this circuit and that’s the moral of the story. A high speed palace of corners with the lack of heavy braking zones, something diverse to the other race tracks on this calendar.

Round 11 – Donington Park
Great Britain (Mid July)


It is a sin against nature to not have two British circuits on an F1 calendar. Donington wins this slot over Brands Hatch due to its history. Donington is the former superstar, now overpaid veteran who gets the long term contract based on past performances. Ayrton Senna’s start alone excites me a lot and I would race at Brands Hatch over Donington any other day of the week, but there are seriously too many great British racing circuits out there and it’s why the UK has the best collection of race tracks in the world. I now know what it’s like to be The Bachelor – that guy wins no matter what the decision and that’s the same with British racing circuits.

Round 12 – Nürburgring
Germany (late July)


The final race before the summer break and we’re headed to the Nürburgring but unfortunately the entire Nordschleife won’t be used. I personally hesitated on this circuit, but you know what? There needs to be a bland race on the calendar each year and this one would balance things out.

Summer Break


Round 13 – Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps
Belgium (late August)


One Belgian race on the calendar is enough and Spa defeats Zolder to this slot by a country mile. The Formula 1 paddock returns from the summer break and Spa has been a positive race track of note over the very long history that ghosts itself around the race track. I don’t mind the redeveloped final chicane, I think it’s really designed well to improve the racing heading into La Source and not necessarily for the corner itself to be the highlight of all battles. Everyone misses F1 for four weeks and what better way to resume the season than returning back to a circuit such as Spa. It’ll be like F1 never left.

Round 14 – Autodromo Nazionale Monza
Italy (Early September)


Monza has etched its name as one of the best motor racing circuits in the world for both racing and fan atmosphere. The podium ceremony alone could lock this round into the calendar, not to forget the 370kph (230mph) top speeds in modern day Formula 1. Couple that with the occasional wet race here, adjoined with support series such as Formula 2, Porsche Supercup and more, there is no question that Monza should be a perpetual lock on the Formula 1 calendar for eternity.

Round 15 – The Old Hockenheimring (the good one)
Germany (mid September) – back to back with Round 14


Let’s bring back the old Hockenheim, and why not have it as the third low downforce race in succession. Teams will put extra emphasis on development for these three rounds, becoming meticulous on race tracks that require low drag. Teams without a strong engine or power unit will also be compromised, putting extra pressure on development and engineers to get all things right. I don’t know how many fans really care too much about the Formula 1 Constructors Championship apart from the teams, or as Christian Horner sometimes refers to it as the ‘Accounting World Championship’. So let’s in turn make it a little more interesting with these three rounds.
 
Circuit Park Zandvoort was also considered for this round and that was a real tough decision to leave out,
 
Man.

Round 16 – Marina Bay Street Circuit
Singapore (late September)


Singapore has been a success since Formula 1’s inaugural night race around the Marina Bay Street Circuit. The success this race has brought under lights is almost turning it into a staple in Formula 1’s race calendar. The frightening rain and dust to start the 2017 race, the physical challenge it places on drivers and of course, the glamour, which is part of the reason this race is a great fit for Formula 1.

Round 17 – Suzuka Circuit
Japan (Early October) – back to back with Round 16


Suzuka is definitely one of my favourite circuits in Formula 1, there isn’t a corner on this race track that isn’t challenging, thrilling or gratifying as you nail each apex around the figure of 8 layout. Notice the switch to these rounds that require high downforce, especially through the twisty ‘S’ curves. I’ll be honest, it was certainly tough leaving Fuji out, but Suzuka is to Fuji what Michael Schumacher was to Rubens Barrichello.
 
Should I have chosen TI Circuit Aida (now known as the Okayama International Circuit), no. Should I have at least considered TI Circuit Aida over Suzuka and Fuji, hell no!

Round 18 – Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez
Mexico (Mid October)


Picture this for the third last round of the championship, close your eyes and imagine a driver dominating the season and wrapping up the title here in Mexico, with celebrations taking place in the Foro Sol (the baseball stadium located towards the end of the lap). But whether you choose the old layout or the new layout, you have to make a sacrifice when it comes to the final corner. Foro Sol and the podium ceremony, or an adrenaline charged Peraltada as the final corner. What a tough decision...
 
But what if you choose the Foro Sol for the podium ceremony and crowd atmosphere. Bring over Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton and have them hit a home run as the winner crosses the finish line, sell out those seats to the stadium. I would love to have both, but I can’t go full sandbox mode in this column, tough decision but I’m going with the modern day layout, with the old layout’s middle sector incorporated in there. Using the internet, the Autódromo Juan y Oscar Gálvez looks like a wacky circuit, but the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez blips it by a country mile for this spot on the calendar.

Round 19 – Watkins Glen
USA (late October) – back to back with Round 18


Watkins Glen,

Sebring,

COTA,

Indianapolis Road Course,
 
First things first, Indy should always belong to IndyCar. Inviting your ex-girlfriend to your place once a year for some on track action is always screaming trouble, so IndyCar should keep their separation from F1 and claim the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for their own. Sebring is bumpy and has that touring car / GT vibe – known for hosting events such as IMSA and the 12 hours of Sebring. COTA is relatively new and there’s hardly a Tilke-drome (1) on this calendar and it should be kept that way for good reason.

(1) Hermann Tilke is a circuit designer who has been criticised by many over the years for his bland designs.

So the full layout of Watkins Glen wins. It’s something unique on the calendar with its fast sweeping corners and long straights — Silverstone’s US brother. The circuit is quite a distinctive challenge that only certain drivers will succeed at, those becoming triumphant of this challenge are capable of sustaining high minimum speeds through each beautifully shaped and cambered apex. The penultimate round in the state of New York is sure to keep things electrifying and could make or break the championship challenge in the final rounds.

Round 20 – Autódromo José Carlos Pace
Brazil (Early November)


Don’t even question this. 2007, 2008, 2012, this is the true final round to the season to how Albert Park is always the true first round of the season, it’s where it belongs. When the Bahrain International Circuit hosted the season opener in 2010, we came to Albert Park and said “this is the true season opener” after a race that stimulated excitement for the season compared to the dull opening spark plug failure that Sebastian Vettel had at Bahrain (and most recently again at Suzuka in the 2017 season). The season finale does not and should not belong at the Yas Marina Circuit. With the perpetual chance of showers in Brazil during this period, you’re not playing the lottery to win the championship, every title will need to be truly earned by the greats.
 
What if Ayrton Senna's 1991 win around here sealed his 1991 title? What if? A catch phrase used by most in the Formula 1 paddock.

The Little Piggies That Didn't Make It Home
Race tracks that missed out on the calendar


Go and google Avus, that’s a circuit I would pick in a video game and chuck 150 cars on the grid, racing around for an hour or two. But that isn’t enough of an incentive to make the F1 calendar for good reasons.
 
Estoril and Shanghai made the shortlist along with Bahrain, with the night race changing the landscape of that race a little bit in recent years. But with a lack of feel for crowd and race atmosphere, it was crossed off the list. It would've been nice to put a Middle Eastern circuit on the calendar, but I wasn’t happy with Yas Marina too.
 
Now to end, let’s get rid of the elephant in the room. What is probably infuriating a lot of people is why Hungary is left off this list. I obviously wrote this column, it’s my choice, I don’t like the circuit but I don’t hate it. A twisty layout with a lack of on track action. If you increased the scale of the Hungaroring by 25%, it could potentially be one of the best tracks on the Formula 1 calendar.

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Jonathan Simon provides commentary for RaceSpot TV on the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series. He also owns and hosts his own podcast called The Simon Racing Report which features guests from around the sim racing world, along with writing columns for the website.

F1 2007 or 2017?

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F1 2007 or 2017?
2017 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix Driver Recap
Jonathan Simon | March 29, 2017

The Simon Racing Report - RaceSpot TV Commentator
 

With only five total overtakes at Australia, it was the first time since the 2010 Formula One season that I could remember a race that had a perfect mix of strategy, drama, track action and boring periods. You see, the boring periods of the race make the rare entertaining moments extra special because you don’t expect it, like your jump scare in any Scream movie.

The 2011 – 2016 Pirelli tyres were much like the beginning of Heikki Kovalainen’s career, exciting at first but you got over it after that introduction phase. Whereas the 2017 Pirelli rubber is your red wine to the elegant steak that is a 2017 Formula 1 car.

This season also greatly replicates the 2007 Formula One Season's pecking order. The two horse race between Mercedes and Ferrari clones the dramatic McLaren and Ferrari dual in '07, along with the Red Bull to BMW Sauber comparison which is right there ready to clean up more errors than your defensive anchor at mid-field. Your mid-pack teams follow, along with the McLaren/Sauber to Super Aguri/Spyker clean up at the back of the grid.

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel

A brilliant weekend from the German who returned to the blisteringly quick form he has shown throughout his illustrious career. After Kimi Räikkönen signed his contract extension in 2017, Sebastian looked out of place in a Ferrari that struggled to compete for victories against the dominant Mercedes FW07. I’ve always said that racing drivers sometimes need a reset/refresh epiphany to get back into rhythm. Whether that’s a pit stop for a fresh set of rubber, a new race or a brand new season, the German received that extra motivation heading in 2017 with the quickest Ferrari during his tenure with the team. He made the most of it, taking advantage of Mercedes’ early pit stop to blister into 2017 with a round one victory. As long as the dreaded finger doesn’t return, there are no issues.

Kimi Räikkönen

After showing he could still compete with four time champion Vettel last season after his contract extension, Kimi could play a solid number two role for Seb this season if he maintains the same pace he showed in Australia. Whilst Sebastian powered his way to a front row start, Räikkönen qualified over half a second off his teammate and this was further replicated in the race when he finished 22 seconds off the pace. Nothing to panic about though, let’s see if Kimi can challenge his teammate in the next few rounds, but Vettel will be pushed enough by the Mercedes of Hamilton as it’s now a two team fight for the title.

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton

After Lewis notified the team of his lack of rear grip, I was concerned that the team had gone into panic mode and pitted the three time world champion too early. Sergio Pérez in the Force India was on an identical strategy to Hamilton, however as a leader Hamilton is expected to preserve the tyres longer and better compared to a middle of the pack car. His pit stop at the end of lap 17 was only a couple laps earlier than his scheduled stop on lap 19 and with Vettel allowing Mercedes no breathing room for error, I would’ve expected Mercedes to stay out until there was a clear track advantage. Instead, the few seconds they had behind Verstappen were obviously less than adequate. Maybe the team didn’t expect Lewis to find it so difficult to overtake in 2017? Regardless of this, the Mercedes is still the faster car of the two championship challengers but the team now has no margin for error compared to their previous years of dominance.

Valtteri Bottas

The Finn stayed quiet all weekend (both metaphorically and vocally), nonetheless to only qualify just under three tenths from his teammate in his first race in a silver arrows was a solid performance from the 27 year old. He was close to catching Hamilton for P2 towards the end of the event, although Hamilton was much quicker throughout the overall race weekend. Valtteri still has some pace to find, Hamilton’s poor strategy and the fresher tyres for the former Williams driver helped make him look a little bit better. Hats off to the man for being classy and stopping for every fan as he left the track late in the night in front of us, brilliant man behind the scenes with a shy humble smile.

Red Bull Racing

Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel is possibly the hardest driver to judge this weekend, as both he and Max were extremely close together based on lap times throughout all sessions. We didn’t get to see the full race potential from the Aussie after his sensor issues during the reconnaissance laps. His mistake in qualifying was also a rarity, signifying that the 2017 cars are indeed much tougher to drive. That isn’t the first and won’t be the last time we’ll see the rear of the car snap unexpectedly like that. It happened to Jolyon Palmer towards the end of practice two and will generally occur during mid-speed corners where you’re able to apply and increase throttle application mid corner (the weight will rapidly shift to the rear).

Max Verstappen

An extremely underrated race performance from the Red Bull young gun this weekend. The team may have set the car up for longevity during the race, but with a two tier fight quiet visible at the top of the pecking order between Mercedes and Ferrari, Verstappen was 6 seconds away from snatching P4 from Räikkönen. This reminded me a lot of the 2007 Bahrain Grand Prix when Nick Heidfeld snuck himself past Alonso and up into P4 despite being in the third best car on the grid by a long mile. Max had brilliant long run pace and I’m looking forward to watching the RB13 tip toe around Monaco in a few rounds time.

Williams

Felipe Massa

He basically received a free Formula 1 car that he doesn’t have to give back, was beeping his way leaving the track as if Brazil had just won the world cup and also performed outstandingly well to give Williams some optimism this season. Not much to say about Massa, the start was crucial in terms of getting past Romain Grosjean in the Haas and the 2008 almost world champion runner-up achieved the best possible result he could’ve this weekend.

Lance Stroll

Whilst any smart team principal or sports coach understands that you need to be patient with young talent to develop, the opening signs with Lance Stroll are not optimistic. As stated earlier, the 2017 cars are a different beast to handle and jumping from Formula 3 to Formula 1 may not be as easy as it was in the past, but the sample size to prove this point is obviously small at the moment. Massa had a tendency to spin a lot and make an abundance of mistakes in his early years in Formula 1, however Lance has been completely demolished by his experienced teammate which doesn’t support his case as a future world champion. He also looks nervous in front of the press and whether that coincides with his driving or not is difficult to perceive. Let’s see if Massa’s leadership along with the ideal mentorship supports the Canadian through his rookie season. If Jolyon Palmer managed to get a second season in the Renault, we can’t give up on Lance after one grand prix weekend (And all the drama from testing, I know...).

Force India

Sergio Pérez

Pérez produced some thrilling overtakes this event, despite Force India going along with the same strategy as Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes (after the Mexican started from P11). His move around the outside of Carlos Sainz into Turn 3 reinforced the point that overtaking was difficult, but in a good way. By trail braking into the corner around the outside, he closed the door by only a whisker to get ahead of the Toro Rosso. It was a move that replicated Fernando Alonso’s around the outside of Lewis Hamilton during the beginning of the 2013 race. The aim is to now get ahead of Williams (and possibly Haas depending on whether or not Grosjean maintains his comfortability in the car this season) in terms of overall performance as it is extremely close in the mid pack.

Esteban Ocon

Points for the young Frenchman in his first race with Force India is a great way to leave Australia with some ever so slight confidence. Most other young drivers / second drivers struggled to match their teammates and this was the case with Ocon. However despite the gap in qualifying between himself and Perez, Ocon made minimal errors and the late race battle between himself, Alonso and Hülkenberg was the vital point of the race. If Hülkenberg had managed to come out top in the three wide battle, Ocon would not have a world championship point alongside his name. It’s most important that Ocon steps up his level of improvement before the midway point of the season. If Bottas fails to impress on his one year deal, Mercedes need to be comfortable in his replacement when its contract time come the end of the season.

Haas

Romain Grosjean

Grosjean may well have the Alonso factor to him in that he is one of the best on the grid in terms of extracting performance from a mid-pack car. P6 in qualifying and a potential P7 in the race before his retirement (due to a water leak) is mightily impressive for a team that enters their second season in the sport. A lot forget that the Frenchman was close to winning races and scoring consistent podiums in 2013 after rejuvenating his career from his miserable 2009 season, as well as his controversial 2012 campaign. If Haas can manage to avoid the brake issues they suffered in 2016, Grosjean in a comfortable car can score some good points in 2017.

Kevin Magnussen

A weekend to forget for Magnussen, even Mark Webber couldn’t put effort into caring about his clash at the start of the race with Marcus Ericsson. Not only did he qualify 11 spots down on his teammate, he’s also a driver who has critical experience in F1 which means there are no excuses for qualifying dramatically off the pace. Years ago I predicted a McLaren lineup in 2017 to consist of Magnussen and Vandoorne, fighting for the title. We obviously know that didn't pan out accurately. K-Mag has yet to get used to the Haas machinery, but so far he’s further cemented my analysis of the ‘first’ driver being far more superior to the ‘second’ in a team.

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz Jr

Quiet weekend for Carlos who mentioned he struggled with handling issues in the Toro Rosso this weekend. If that’s the case, it’s quite impressive he still managed to edge Daniil Kvyat who is yet to bounce back from his Red Bull to Toro Rosso demotion. These two drivers were the closest of any teammates this weekend from my analysis, swapping positions two times in the final stint as they battled for the bottom end of the points.

Daniil Kvyat

We will need to wait for the first few rounds of the championship to play out before we determine whether or not Daniil Kvyat has completely forgotten the depression filled Red Bull axing. So far he performed solidly at Australia but let’s assume Carlos wasn’t 100% this round and lacked pace, I doubt the Toro Rosso is finishing any higher than where they eventually ended up. Therefore Kvyat should be proud that he was driving around like a torpedo (probably to Vettel’s dismay) and scoring valuable points. He only scored 16 points last season when he switched into the Toro Rosso compared to the 42 points his teammate scored in their head to head battle. The Russian needs to ensure he isn’t on the back foot going into the European rounds of the season.

Renault

Nico Hülkenberg

Quite a disappointing round for Renault who just didn’t have the overall pace to compete for points at Australia. Hulk was at touching distance of the final point in the thrilling three wide battle with Ocon and Alonso. I was standing over at Turn 1 watching the big screen expecting a simple move from the Force India, when I turned my head to the track to see three wide action along with sparks lighting the track up. I was as excited for an overtake for the first time since the 2010 Bridgestone days.

Jolyon Palmer

Struggle city is the title of this chapter for Jolyon Palmer’s Formula 1 book. Shall we maintain patience with the 2014 GP2 Champion? We can be lenient with his mistake at the final corner of practice two, the car snapped away and looked a handful to drive. However Palmer wasn’t at ease with the Renault this weekend and his errors in Q1 means he goes back to the drawing board to figure things out for China. He was running well in P14 before his brake issues forced him into retirement as the team also apologised. That’s a frustrating weekend to forget for the Brit who is under pressure to perform this season.

McLaren

Fernando Alonso

Do we potentially give Fernando driver of the day had he scored points? Even Fernando himself said this was one of the best race performances of his career. He has a history of saying this though and uses the phrase to let people know that ‘I drove my butt off and this car can’t do any better, so I’m going to hype up my performance to make myself look good’. Realistically though, it was impressive in comparison to the testing grief McLaren faced.

Stoffel Vandoorne

Yet again another number two driver completely demolished by their teammate. In all fairness to Vandoorne, although he finished last and behind the Sauber of Giovinazzi he still managed to complete 55 consecutive race laps in a car that couldn’t get anywhere near that mark during pre-season testing.

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson

What more to say for Marcus Ericsson? Impressed the paddock by making it through to Q2 in a Sauber that was predicted to be the slowest car on the grid for 2017. Bill Belichick would be proud, the Swede basically ‘did his job’ this weekend and his contentions for a strong result were effectively over after the clash with Magnussen on the first lap, with his retirement on lap 21 the icing on the cake.

Antonio Giovinazzi

Initially Giovinazzi thought his race call up on Saturday morning was a joke, however his performance was far from that. To jump into the difficult 2017 machinery, let alone a Sauber and qualify only a couple tenths off his teammate is a solid performance to say the least. Pascal Wehrlein will obviously step back into the car for the rest of the season, however teams will now keep an eye on the Italian in the circumstances where there is a potential mid-season driver switch. The first seats to look at here are the McLaren seat of Alonso (if he leaves the sport) as well as the Renault of Palmer (if his performances decline further, as well as Giovinazzi’s financial situation).

 
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Jonathan Simon provides commentary for RaceSpot TV on the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series. He also owns and hosts his own podcast called The Simon Racing Report which features guests from around the sim racing world, along with writing columns for the website.

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