Thai F1 Track Approved

Local authorities in Bangkok have approved the layout for the potential Formula one track set to run throughout the city. The plans are to have the race debut in 2015. In that time, the Sports Authority of Thailand will need approval from the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone.

Thailand is a promising location for a Grand Prix, as well. In 2010 Red Bull did a demonstration run throughout the downtown area of Bangkok, attracting more than 100,000 spectators. If this is any indication of Formula One I Teresa in Thailand, then it is only a matter of time before the race is approved to go ahead.

The track itself will be 5.995 kilometers in length and will go by many popular tourist attractions.

Thailand in, who is out?

As we have seen before, the F1 calendar has a limit. 20 races is the feasible maximum number of races that is safe for the teams and accommodating for time to build next season’s cars. If Thailand is in, along with several other proposed tracks like New Jersey and Russia, the question of who will be booted off the calendar is raised.

Some obvious candidates would be Korea or maybe India. Both have struggled to generate a lot of income for the sport, as attendance of the races has been well under the tracks’ capacities.

One would think Bahrain would be another track in danger. The political conflicts in the area have made getting to the race and operating at the track less than ideal. Even if conditions in the area are better than the media portray it, the image Bahrain is given is very negative. Plans to make it a night race in 2014 indicate that there is a desire to keep the track in the calendar for the long run.

The sport has ally of thinking to do. The FIA and Bernie Ecclestone need to put their foot down and either restrict the number of tracks vying to get on the calendar or to eliminate races that are unprofitable or unpopular. These will be tough decisions as money will always be invoked, but in the long run, the benefits of having the right tracks on the calendar will help the sport on the whole.

New Hard Tire from Pirelli

Pirelli have announced that a new hard tire will be introduced from the Spanish Grand Prix onwards. In response to a few teams (mostly Red Bull) Pirelli have opted to make some changes to the hard tire to make it more durable and flexible in terms of operating temperatures. this has been done in the hopes of allowing teams to run a wider range of strategies throughout the races.

When speaking of the current generation of Pirelli tires, Christian Horner has said they are “too on edge”. He criticized the recent necessity to do a 4-stop race and, even though his team has never had to do such a strategy, is adamant that changes need to be made.

In response, Pirelli have opted to steer the hard tires more in the direction of last season’s hard tires. They will be more durable and, hopefully, more readily accepted by the teams. Pirelli has been cautious about the situation, however. A majority of the teams have been happy, albeit a bit flustered’ with the 2013 tires and made it clear that they did not want too many drastic changes to be made.

Is this really the right solution?

While this change is noble and self-sacrificial and all, Pirelli now face the fear of even more criticism. Need I mention the Austin Grand Prix? While the racing was great at the Inaugural race at COTA, Pirelli’s criticism reached an all-time high as the chosen tire for that race proved to be far too durable. Every single car ran a one-stop strategy on the Sunday which put Pirelli in the spotlight for the Wei g reasons again. This race arguably was the trigger that launched Pirelli’s program to soften the tire again for 2013. Now, Red Bull is unhappy with the solution to a problem they were unhappy with as well. To make the conspiracists happy, maybe the notion that Pirelli is working with Red Bull in a Bridgetstone-Ferrari-esque is not totally baseless.

This cycle has been unending ever since Pirelli entered the sport. Red Bull’s criticisms have been largely overly exaggerated this season, as they have stated their struggle switch the tires. The fact of the matter is, Red Bull have not had to make a single extra stop because of tires. They are leading both championships relatively comfortable, and seem to be in no danger of losing that lead without a hard fight. If Red Bull are truly against the tires, it will take a true disaster of a race for them to be believed.

Mercedes Unfazed by Bahrain Struggles

Mercedes had a weekend mixed fortunes in Bahrain. After dominating qualifying with Nico Rosberg, the team discovered their race pace was well below than that of the true front runners’.

Nico Rosberg dropped from pole to third after four laps and continued to do so lap after lap until he was 9th when the checkered flag dropped. This type of tumble through the field is in stark contrast to the team’s performances in the opening three races, where they were in the fight for podiums.

Ross Brawn was understandably frustrated by Mercedes’ poor performance in Bahrain, saying that the lack of pace was unexpected. “To be honest, we didn’t anticipate quite such difficulty. It was worse than we expected,” he explained to Autosport.

Brawn admits the problem lies with the tires, which are proving to be the determining factor of success in 2013. The Mercedes is known to be harder on its tires than the other front-runners, but still manages to obtain good results from the first three races. This made the race in Bahrain all the more puzzling.

Asked if he felt a repeat of Mercedes’ performance dip of 2012 was beginning to repeat, Brawn was keen to avoid defeat, but admitted there are things to work on. “We just overheated the tires. We could have more races like that unless we improve our performances in this area, because when you are at one end of the scale, then whenever the tire become compromised because of the temperature, you’ll be the ones meeting that limit earlier than other people,” he explained.

What could happen?

While Nico’s journey from here to zero was disappointing, Lewis Hamilton’s race made the predicament all the more confusing. Having started from 9th, poor pace in the first two stints transformed into prodigious speed in the final half of the race. The change in fortunes was good enough to propel him to 5th place.

In juxtaposition, the races of Nico and Lewis make no sense, and that is something to be concerned about. Bahrain marked the last race of Mercedes’ true competitiveness in 2012. Other than the one-off successes in Monaco and Valencia, Bahrain was the last race Mercedes achieved a truly decent result. There is no midseason test this year, so Mercedes need to find a way to fix their tire troubles.

I personally Mercedes face the same fate as they endured last season. There is nothing to suggest anything different is being done to remedy the situation at Mercedes and, if the past is to be believed, nothing should change.

Tires have been the Achilles heel for Mercedes since they refutes to the sport in 2010. The problem was at its worst last year, but their underlying problems have been restricting them for the last three years. If 2013 ends up being a repeat of last season, Mercedes will have even more to think about for the 2014 regulations overhaul.