i1 Super Series

There’s great excitement buzzing in India. Not only are they having their first Grand Prix this year, but the first major Indian racing series will be taking place over the European winter. As part of the incredible campaign to make motor racing as mainstream as cricket in India (a big ask, let me assure you), the I1 Super Series (I1SS) will be kicking off at the New Delhi track the weekend before Christmas. It seems to be similar to Superleague Formula.

Normally, this would be nothing to shout home about, but some of the names associated with the series already make it worth watching. There will be nine teams of two drivers each. One driver will be Indian, the other international. There are only about nine Indian racing drivers out there, and I can only name four of them – Chandhok, Karthikeyan, Sureshwaren and Ebrahim. As for the international drivers, names like Schumacher (Ralf), Hakkinen and Fisichella are being bandied about. And of course Karun’s teammates Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, and Narain’s teammate Tonio Liuzzi, have been mentioned.

So with such talent, and with Sachin Tendulkar the great Indian cricketer becoming an ambassador for the series (he’s a big F1 fan too), India should really get to see how incredible motor racing is. Apart from the four Indian drivers I mentioned, nobody has been confirmed for the series. But it would be a good way to keep up with the racing during the off-season, and with three F1 tracks in the calendar – India, Abu Dhabi and Malaysia – it’s good practice too.

I’ll be bringing you more information as I find out about it, but for now the website is i1superseries.com

Summer day 3 – Narain Karthikeyan

Narain Karthikeyan – 25
HRT surprised the entire world when they announced that Narain Karthikeyan would be driving for them in the 2011 season. Although considering the team’s track record with drivers, is it really that surprising? The team put Narain in the number 22 car and accepted his Tata funding which meant that they were able to put updates on their car for the first time.
Narain had been out of F1 for several years since the 2005 season with Jordan. Jordan had Bridgestone tyres, which proved to be of great benefit to them when despite their rocky performance they got a podium for Tiago Monteiro in the infamous US Grand Prix that year. In the meantime, the Indian had been driving in the A1 GP for Team India (and winning races) and in NASCAR Trucks. He was one of the most liked NASCAR trucks drivers. So naturally he struggled a bit when returning to the pace of F1 – even in an HRT.
He only had one retirement in his seven races, having been too slow to qualify in Melbourne. His best finish was in Canada, where the HRTs shone in the rain, but cutting the chicane to overtake saw him demoted to 17th. It’s a shame he didn’t just give the place back as he could have finished 15th. He also became the first ever driver to finish 24th in a race at the European Grand Prix.
Narain was replaced by Daniel Ricciardo from the Silverstone Grand Prix, but should return for India in October.

Worst qualifying: 24
Best qualifying: 22
Worst finish: 24 (Valencia)
Best finish: 17 (Monaco, Canada)
Average difference: 2.1
Laps completed: 381/499 (76%)
Average race position: 21.68 (Best: 19.2 Canada; Worst: 24.0 Valencia)

Season so far stats

So stats and facts time. Some of this information was shamelessly taken from F1 Fanatic.

For the first time ever, 23 drivers finished classified in a Grand Prix. At Brazil last year, 23 people finished but Virgin’s Di Grassi was not classified as he’d gone into the pits for a while and was a long way behind the other drivers.

Williams have had their worst season start ever. Four retirements in the first two races, followed by a 17th and 13th place finish. The only other time they have failed to finish in the points at their first three races was in their first season as a proper constructor – 1979. That year, they only had two retirements in their first three races, as well as two ninth-place and one tenth-place finish.

Red Bull, by contrast, have had their best season start ever. With two wins and no finishes below fifth, they are leading the championship. Webber has also had two of the three fastest laps, thanks to his driving on fresh soft tyres for most of the race. In total Webber has 8 fastest laps in his career – the same as Lewis Hamilton.

Speaking of whom, Lewis Hamilton is the first driver to win the Chinese Grand Prix twice. He is now fifteenth in the all-time list of race winners, and has won in every single season of his career. This also gives McLaren the same number of wins at the track as Ferrari, and their 170th win.

Six drivers have outperformed their teammate in every race of the season: Vettel, Alonso, Rosberg, di Resta (the only rookie to do so), Kovalainen, and Liuzzi. The most consistent qualifiers are Vettel (1st in every race), Alonso (5th), Kovalainen (19th), Trulli (20th), Liuzzi (23rd) and Karthikeyan (24th).

With an average race position of 1.5, Sebastian Vettel is ahead of every other driver. His results are also closer to the average than any other driver except Narain Karthikeyan, who has an average of 22.11 and is behind every other driver. Maldonado is the only driver whose average is behind that of any of the backmarkers at 17.64. Kovalainen’s 16.45 average is better.

Narain Karthikeyan has completed only 68 laps in this year’s F1 season, with Pastor Maldonado just 4 ahead on 72.

Friday practice in Sepang 2011

A lot of problems around the wheel area for various teams. Renault suffered from brake problems on both cars in FP1, most dramatically for Nick Heidfeld when the right front locked up and refused to unlock. He was forced to drive it back to the pits with the tyre wearing down, creating a horrendous smell and putting him out of the rest of the session. Vitaly Petrov‘s car was delayed going out, and when it did go out soon suffered itself. The left front tyre exploded because of brake problems, and he went skidding into the gravel.
Virgin suffered from suspension problems, which caused Jerome D’Ambrosio‘s front right tyre to jump over to the left of the car. Meanwhile HRT had some problems with the oil supply, causing a lot of smoke to fly out the back of Narain Karthikeyan‘s car. However, he was able to get out later in the session.

In FP2 both Renaults were able to make the track, albeit a little late. Going too far over the kerb caused Tonio Liuzzi‘s car to lose all power. At the same time, Pastor Maldonado spun on the pit lane entry to crash into the sign of Williams’ former sponsor Allianz. The Venezuelan and Italian were able to get back on track right at the end of the session.
There was some impressive driving from Karthikeyan, who managed to lap his HRT within 107% of the fastest time (by Webber). Lotus were suffering from gearbox (Kovalainen) and steering (Trulli) problems, and were unable to go on track for most of the session, but eventually Trulli returned to the track and was able to get in a reasonable time. Kovalainen, however, ended up bottom of the drivers who had set times with only four laps completed.
Jerome d’Ambrosio’s car was being sorted throughout the session, and the struggling Virgin team did their absolute best, but for whatever reason they were unable to get the car out. They should be able to do so by tomorrow.

Tomorrow is FP3, and I still have no clue who I will be choosing in my fantasy F1 predictions. However, I will say that Webber looks good, and if those HRT drivers can qualify then I might be picking up a few points from them! There is very little to choose between the top runners, however, so it could go any way.

24 drivers in 24 days – twenty-one

#22 – Narain Karthikeyan ‘India’s fastest driver’ was joined by Karun Chandhok as India’s only two F1 drivers last season. So far, it looks like he’ll be the first Indian to drive at his home GP, and that it’s the first year there’s been an Indian Grand Prix seems entirely appropriate. He began his F1 career in 2005, then took a break for a few years before returing with Hispania this season. His haircut has much improved since then!
One oddly interesting statistic that he has achieved is that he has won at Brands Hatch in every series that has raced there. These are the 1999 British Formula Three Championship with Carlin, the A1 GP from 2007-8 (he also won in China) and the Superleague Formula in 2010 for PSV Eindhoven. His championship wins have been relatively few, with the last being 1996 Formula Asia. But his best finish for which I can find information is British Formula Three in 2000, where he competed for Stewart. His opponents included Takuma Sato, Ben Collins (boo!), and some other people. He had 100 points less than the Brazilian winner Antonio Pizzonia, but at least he beat Evil Stig, who was 8th. Narain had no wins or poles, but he did have four podiums in the 12 races. The last couple of years has shown that Narain is a good driver and can win races. But with Hispania, can that translate onto the F1 grid?

New Car for Hispania

Hispania Racing – who are now on Twitter, hooray (@HispaniaRacing)! – without any warning and very little fuss have revealed the first images of the new F111 today. I guess this counts as a launch, right? It does look very different to the 2010 car, but also not the same as any of the 2011 cars I have seen before, since it lacks the same distinctive nose. The livery was designed by Daniel Simon, whose work will be recognised by many sci-fi fans in such movies as the new Tron.
HRT have always been the black sheep of the new teams, and not particularly popular amongst F1 fans. I’ve supported them up and down over the year, but I’m a sucker for the little guy so I think I’ll always support them. But what do I think of the livery?
Well, it’s not black, which I like. The colours are white, black and red, rather like Sauber, but with rather less white. I like the use of the chequered flag over the back of the car; it says ‘we’re going to win’. It’s a shame, however, they they don’t have more sponsors. If I had the money, maybe I’d take the risk. Instead, their car is covered with ‘your logo here’ signs. If you look at the pics from Valencia testing, there aren’t many logos left on the 2010 car either.
Bodyworkwise, I have no idea what I’m supposed to be looking for, but I hope that Hispania’s aerodynamics guys have given it more than just the second it needed to catch up to Lotus and Virgin on last year’s times.