Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Formula One 2009 - What Lies in Store?

Submitted - Zig Wheels (Times of India)

The Formula One season kicks off on March 29. The fans would once again find a reason to keep themselves busy on weekends with the race and again on week days with its discussions. Hamilton’s performance last year has provided the much required spark to Formula One after Michael Schumacher’s retirement. He has thus proved that his performance on debut was not a fluke. Ferrari has to pull up their socks this time around. With Fernando Alonso too coming good in the few races last year, it seems that the number of title contenders may increase this year. Force India team has entered into an agreement with Mclaren (for the supply of engines) and expect a turnaround in their fortunes. 2009 season promises to be an exciting season. Much depends on how the drivers cope up with expectations. We analyse what lies in store for them at the ground zero at the various venues around the world.

March 29, 2009 – Melbourne

Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit is a beautiful track around the Albert Park Lake. There are very few circuits in the world which are situated around water. The track gives a stunning view of the lake. Ferrari has a special liking for this circuit as Michael Schumacher has won here four times.

Melbourne track is considered to be a relatively easy track to drive on. The track runs on a public road. The corners are placed at a consistent distance on this track which enables the driver to plan their moves to overtake. The length of the circuit is about 5.3 kilo metres and there are 16 turns, but not a single one is a right angle turn. Most teams term this race at Melbourne, a crucial one because it marks the start of the season and everyone wants to have an advantage over its rivals by starting well.

The pressure of hosting a night race has been mounting on the event organisers so that the spectators in Europe can watch it. However, it is confirmed that the race may not be held at night but it would start at 5 pm this year.
Formula one racing in Melbourne started in 1996. Prior to Melbourne, it was the track in Adelaide where races were held. Many still believe that Melbourne usurped Adelaide’s right to host a race. There are therefore demonstrations and protests held every year in Melbourne prior to the race. The number of protestors, however, has come down drastically.

April 05, 2009 – Sepang

The Sepang International Circuit is the pride of Malaysia, a growing economy today. The circuit boasts of world class facilities as it is a venue which not only holds F1 races but also A1 races and the Malaysian Moto GP.

It is one of the longest, complicated and the most challenging circuit in the world. The track has 3 corners and 2 straights (hair pin shapes). The climatic conditions are extreme (35 plus degree temperature). Due to these straights of a kilo-metre each and an extreme temperature, the drivers find it very difficult to prevent the tyres from bursting. The tyre manufacturers have a task at their hand on this venue. The corners are slow though.

The spectator seating’s are superb. Around 80,000 spectators can be accommodated at this circuit at a time.

April 19’2009 – Chinese Grand Prix

The building of a Formula One circuit here started only in April 2003 and a marshy swamp land was turned into a superb formula one track only in 18 months. This boasts of the economic prowess of China.

The Formula One races in China started in the year 2004. The circuit has a length of about 5.45 kilo metres and a very long straight of about 1.175 kilo metres. There divers have to negotiate 7 right hand, 7 left hand corners and two long straights. The straights can take drivers to a speed as high as 325kms/hr. The track is sufficiently wide so as to enable drivers to smoothly overtake.

April’26, 2009 – Bahrain

The length of the Sakhir F1circuit is about 5.4 kilometres. This venue was the first host of a formula one race in the middle-east region. There are 4 left hand corners and 7 right hand corners. The track can accommodate 50,000 spectators at a time.

The Bahrain Circuit hosted its first formula one race way back in 2004. It has a beautiful track and a stadium situated right in the middle of a desert. Way back in 2004, the hosts were worried about hosting the race as the track wasn’t ready. They requested Formula One officials to cancel the race but the permission was not granted. The race, however, was hosted at the same venue and on time. The organisers were also worried that a sand storm may be a spoil sport but the hosts took proper care and the race wasn’t disrupted. The speciality of this race is that since alcoholic drinks are not allowed in Bahrain, the traditional champagne is not sprayed by the winners. Instead a rose water drink is used. Additionally, special care has been taken by planting trees around the circuit to meet the water requirements during the race as well.

May 10, 2009 - Spain

Spain has been hosting races here since 1991 and there have been a lot of changes done to the track since then. Most of these changes have been done to increase safety on the tracks. A chicane has been the latest addition to the track before the final two corners. This has so far made the track a bit easier to drive on. Many pre-season tests are carried on this circuit and therefore the track is known to most of the drivers.

Fernando Alonso can take all the credit to make Formula One popular in this country. There are fears that the Spaniards may lose interest in Formula One racing after the retirement of Alonso. The adrenaline of Formula one is always missing on this track and the race looks dull. The 2008 year race also was marred by controversy when Lewis Hamilton was jeered with racist comments.

May 24, 2009 – Monaco

Most drivers dream of a podium finish on this track. Even a tiny error on the track can lead to a disqualification. Nelson Piquet once remarked “Racing on this track is like flying a helicopter in your living room.” That is how difficult this track is. The chances of over-taking on this track are - Zero.

The Monaco circuit tests the competencies of the drivers to the core. There are tight corners on the track which would allow a speed as low as 50 kmph and as high as 250 kmph respectively. The very famous tunnel section on the track under the Fairmont Hotel is the most difficult to negotiate because the cars move from light to dark and again into the light. It is very important for teams to take pole position here due to very less chances of overtaking on the track.

Jun 07, 2009 – Istanbul

The very first race was hosted here just recently in 2005. The Istanbul circuit is one of the best, with a seating capacity of 130,000 in the adjoining stadium. The track is about 5.3 km long and has 14 corners. Most drivers do not consider this one as a great track and several attempts to modify it to create overtaking opportunities have been unsuccessful.

June 21, 2009 – Silver Stone

Silverstone track is one of the oldest Formula one track. The drivers have a sense of achievement after winning at this circuit because the track is as old as Formula One itself and is as famous as the Wimbledon tennis tournament. It has been hosting races since 1948. The track is about 5.1 kilometres long and has 17 corners. Silverstone’s contract to host the formula one race ends in 2009 and therefore the chances of this track hold racing again are grim at the moment. Overtaking on this circuit is difficult.

July 21, 2009 – Germany

This is one of the oldest venues which hosted motor racing. But it was only in the 90’s that the track was modified into what it is today. But fans feel that the new stadium is a mere shadow of the previous track. The locals were losing interest in formula one racing but one man changed the complete picture. This was none other than the man himself-Michael Schumacher. His rise to such heights in formula one made the Germans to sit back and think on bringing back Formula One to this circuit. This track is about 5.1 km long and provides ample opportunities to competent drives to balance their cars.

July 26, 2009 - Hungary

This venue is situated amidst beautiful mountains. Therefore the Hungarian Grand Prix is a major tourist attraction. Fans enjoy every moment of the race here. Since there are hardly any scoring opportunities, his track is the second toughest after the Monaco circuit. It has an offering of the second lowest speed corner after Monaco which is about 60 kmph. This one too tests the ability and skills of drivers. Perhaps that’s why the Hunagaroring circuit is liked by some drivers and disliked by some as well.

August 23, 2009 – Europe (Valencia)

This track is a bit easier compared to the others in Europe. Drivers can fly at a speed of about 300 kmph on this track. However, controlling of the cars at the turns is difficult. The track offers 25 such turns and is about 5.4 km long. There have been a few changes on the track to ensure more safety and providing more opportunities for overtaking.

August 30, 2009 – Belgium

This is the longest track (about 7 kms). The track is hilly and unpredictable. Ever since races are held here, the drivers face problems with unpredictable weather. It may be sunny at one end of the circuit and rainy and slippery at the other. This poses a challenge of completely different kind. Drivers like Schumacher, Alonso, Raikonnen and Hamilton who have a nice grip and control on the car have done well here.

The scenic beauty around the circuit is a major attraction for the tourists as well. However, for the drivers even a slight lack of concentration can spell a doom.

September 13, 2009 - Italy

The Monza track has been one of the most beautiful tracks in the world since a long time. The road is built up of concrete and looks the same old every time, even though there have been a few changes on it. This track was once known for its best corners which have been altered for changes to ensure driver safety. The track is about 5.7 kilometres long and offers a maximum speed of about 350 kmph. The locals call it a Magic Track.

September 27, 2009 – Singapore

Formula one returns to Asia once again at the Marina Bay in Singapore. It was the first circuit to hold a night race last year in 2008 which was eventually won by Fernando Alonso. The track however is a bit bumpy and had invited a lot of criticisms by the drivers. Additionally the warm climate adds to drivers woes. The track met with some severe criticism from Lewis Hamilton who said that negotiating with the bumps on the track in Singapore was twice as difficult as Monaco. He termed this track as extremely dangerous, following which the track is to be modified this year.

October 04, 2009 – Japan

The Suzuka circuit in Japan is one of the beautiful arenas in the world. Just like the Hungarian track, it is situated amidst beautiful mountains. The scenery around the circuit is breathtaking. Just like Monaco, it is one of the difficult tracks of formula one too. One of the sections on the 5.8 km long track actually intersects itself and passes over. The terrain is so difficult that there have been a lot of fatal accidents here as well.

October 18, 2009 – Brazil

This track has been named after the Formula One driver Jose Carlos Pace who died in an air crash in early 1977. The notorious bumps and anti-clockwise circuit demands mature driving on this track. This race has a lot of importance just like the previous year when Lewis Hamilton sealed his fate here because the race is normally held at the end of the season following the ups and downs of Formula One. In 2009, however, this may not be the last race of the season.

November 01, 2009 – Abu Dhabi

The Yas Marina circuit has been under constructions since 2007. It would host its inaugural formula one race this year. This race would surely be of utmost importance as it is the last race of this season. Hotels and resorts are being built around the track as well.

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