Formula 1 has Arrived

03/12/2015

Author Steve B. 

It’s no secret that I love Formula One.  With the first race of the 2015 season coming up in Australia this weekend, I figured I should discuss what makes F1 special, as well as my thoughts on the upcoming season.

“Who Cares?  Racing is boring…  All they do is turn left.”

Wrong, that’s NASCAR.  To put it simply, F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport.   This year, the series travels to 5 continents and races on some of the greatest road and street courses in the world.  The cars are the most advanced in the world, with teams spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year to get an edge on the competition.  This truly is a “world” championship.

“Ok, so they make left and right turns.  But the cars look weird, like alien space ships.”

This isn’t a glorified spec racing series like NASCAR or Indy Car, every team designs and builds it’s own car each year.  Each car has a different body, a different engine, different suspension setup, etc.  Designers need to be on top of their game because if another team comes up with a better design, they’re in deep trouble come race day.

Here’s a good comparison:  NASCAR Sprint Cup cars use 358ci (5.9 liter) V8s with 850~hp.  The 2014 Mercedes 1.6 liter turbo V6 F1 power unit had roughly 800 hp.  Take into account that F1 cars weigh less than half a Sprint Cup car, and you start to get the picture of how fast these cars are.  They’re capable of doing 0-100mph in 3 seconds, hitting 220mph on straightaways, slowing from 200-0 in a couple seconds, and pulling up to 5Gs in corners.

Technology developed from F1 include antilock brakes, traction control, semi-automatic gearboxes, kinetic energy recovery, mass produced carbon fiber, active suspensions, active damping, advanced tire tread and rubber compounds, ground effects, active aerodynamics, and countless others.

“Ok, so the cars are pretty cool…  But isn’t it a sport for rich and famous douches?”

Yes, jealous?

“Kinda…  But drivers aren’t real athletes.”

Unlike NASCAR (I’m looking at you Tony Stewart…), the drivers are actually very fit.  F1 drivers are world-class athletes, with extremely intensive training regimens.  F1 drivers train like Olympic athletes, strictly managing what they eat and what time they eat it, and of course, working out regularly.  Drivers wouldn’t be able to handle the sustained G forces for hours at a time without being very physically fit. Seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher was an extremely talented soccer player and skier.  2009 World Champion driver Jenson Button competes in IRONMAN as a way to stay in shape for the F1 during the offseason.  Also, they date supermodels and pop stars.  That has nothing to do with their athletic ability, but I felt it was important.

“Impressive, how long has Formula One been around?”

Grand Prix racing has been around almost as long as the automobile, but the first World Championship race was held at Silverstone, England in 1950.

“Ok, ok… I’ll watch the race this weekend.  What should I look for?  Who should I root for?”

Ferrari, duh.  Ok, my family is Italian, so we always root for Ferrari...  I even dragged my wife to the Ferrari factory on our honeymoon last year. 

Last year, Mercedes dominated the sport.  Their engines were generating significantly more power than the other engine suppliers, Ferrari and Renault.  This led to a thrilling battle for the championship between Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, however the rest of the cars weren’t really competitive.  Expect the Mercedes to continue to be extremely fast, but the gap won’t be as big as last year.  Ferrari seems to have made a big step forward in the preseason testing, but no one really shows their hand in testing.  Honda has returned to F1 with McLaren after leaving in 2008 due to the economic collapse.  It will be interesting to see how they do against the teams with more established engine suppliers.

Some big names switched teams this year with 2 time World Champion Fernando Alonso moving from Ferrari to McLaren and 4 time World Champion Sebastian Vettel taking his spot at Ferrari after spending his whole career at Red Bull.  Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing Alonso in Australia due to a concussion he sustained in testing.  Hopefully he’ll be back in time for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

 

So this year will be interesting, I’m super excited to see what happens this weekend when all the cars crank it up to 11 for the first time.  I’m hoping to see some quality racing and some closer competition throughout the field.  Coverage starts on NBC Sports at 12:30 AM ET (with encore viewings at 6 AM and 4 PM ET).  Get PUMPED!

The Wussification of the Auto Industry

02/02/2015

Author: Steve B.

Photos: BimmerFest

Recently the rumor mill has been saying that BMW, purveyors of all that is RWD (except the 1 Series, and Mini, and the X1, and the X3, and the X5, and nearly every 3 and 5 Series in the state of Colorado), are going to begin building M cars with X-Drive.  Naturally, this has caused Bimmer fanboys to flip out so much that they all used their turn signals on their way home from working as investment bankers.  Today, I’d like to discuss this wussification of BMW and other brands, and why it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

We enthusiasts are a unique bunch.  We get a visceral satisfaction from driving; the more manual effort, the better.  We like heavy steering with quick ratios, mastering fancy heel-toe footwork, short throw shifters, stiff suspensions, and firm brake pedals.  Our dream cars have no air conditioning, no stereo, no roll down windows, and some don’t even have doors.  We cried murder when Porsche decided to water cool their engines, when BMW and Porsche switched to electric power steering, and when Ferrari added traction control.

We’re weird and we’re the minority, the majority of the population only wants reliable transportation.  Auto manufacturers only really have to answer to one group of people, their shareholders.  And shareholders only really want one thing: Profits.  So we need to make sacrifices, be it AWD M cars, missing third pedals, or even forced induction.

This is a little hard to say, but we’re all crazy.  I mean, back when Cadillac first put an electric starter motor on their cars, were people running around yelling about how frustrated they were that they didn’t have to break their wrists every time they started their car?  No, but I guess some French people were because Citroen was still building cars with crank starters in the 1950s, but they’re French…  Did we get upset when cars started coming with synchromesh and we finally stopped grinding gears every time we shifted? No, we appreciated that we could find 2nd gear and that our transmissions didn’t need to be replaced every time we stopped for gas. 

The Ferrari F12 doesn’t have a manual, but it shifts faster than you can blink.  In fact, you can’t buy a new Ferrari with a manual anymore.  The Jaguar F-Type R can now only be purchased with AWD and automatic, which is good, because if you’re not Jackie Stewart, it will kill you.  Twenty years ago, Porsche had to make the 911 Turbo all wheel drive because it was most famous for snap oversteer and the certain death of anyone brave enough to drive it.  Now, the insane 911 GT3 and 918 are automatic only.  Acura, Audi, Mercedes, and Lamborghini have all bailed on manual transmissions in favor of smarter, faster automatics.  I mean, my wife’s VW Tiguan automatically downshifts for her when it senses that she’s going downhill.  How cool is that?!

This is the price of progress.  It’s what carmakers need to do make profits.  Most of us car enthusiasts can’t afford the M cars and AMGs we lust after.  So for carmakers to make a business case for these land missiles, they have to cater to the people who will buy them: Trophy wives.  Trophy wives can’t drive a stick, and they don’t know how AWD works, but they think they need it to get around in the winter and don’t care how fast the car is, but they need the most prestigious badge.  And that, right there, is why BMW wants to make the M5 and M6 all wheel drive.  Why sell them a 5 Series with X-Drive for $63k when you can sell them an M5 with X-Drive for $95k?  Profit.

I hardly think that AWD M cars will be boring, or that they’ll lose their character.  It’ll just be a bit different kind of character.  No one complains about the Audi RS7 being boring.  In fact, aside from the lack of USB ports, the only real gripe I’ve heard about that car is it’s too fast.  All you have to do is watch one Ken Block video to see that 4 wheel donuts are the best kind of donut.  How awesome would it be to do those in a full size luxury car?  Then you can tick off a sub 3.5 second 0-60 time because it’ll grip that much harder off the line.  And if you’re worried about weight of AWD, the RS7 is less than 100lbs heavier than the current M6.  BMW is one of the leaders in mass produced carbon fiber.  Besides, these cars are meant for high speed runs on the Autobahn, not shaving a few tenths off your time at Laguna Seca (get an M2 for that).

 

So BMW fans, you can switch off your turn signals, you have nothing to worry about.  Although BMW and the rest of the industry are going soft, BMW is not going to abandon you.  They’re just making cars that make more fiscal sense, and appeal to more people.  I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on and AWD M6 with a Carmax warrantee in 5 years.  It’ll be a blast!

LaFerrari no more...

08/15/2014

Even though the LaFerrari was just released, Adriano Raeli thought it was a good time to release his concept Ferrari F80! A 900hp twin-turbo V8 paired with 300hp KERS system accounts for 1200hp and 0-60 in 2.2 secs! Ferrari enthusiasts might cause an uproar from the switch to a V8, but remeber one of the most iconic Ferrari's used a V8, the F40. Lets hope this car makes it to production because this will help pave the way for future exotics to remain fun yet functional.

Exploding Cars

04/26/2014

Many people do not consider cars as artwork but one Swiss artist forged a path against the grain and created what we believe to be automotive masterpieces. Fabain Oefner pursued his passion for product design and photographer before embarking on a photographic journey that would twist the very fabric of automotive culture with art to create outstanding photos that help freeze unique moments in time.

His Disintegrating Series brings us a vision of what cars would be like in a specific moment, too fast for the human eye to see. Each photo from his series embodies hour’s even days of work. Each car he chose was completely disassembled, down to the smallest piece then extensively photographed in a precise location. By doing this Fabian was able to achieve the appearance of a car exploding.

The final product is astonishing, but his process to construct these photos is even more remarkable. Fabian begins his process with drafting on paper the location of each piece, down to the nuts and bolts. Next he attached string and needles to each piece in their respective position. Then he begins to photograph the car in different positions to create each image of his Disintegrating Series. Finally he combines each photo to create one individual image showing each part exploding from the car.

How long does one single image take to produce? Two months to be exact, to create a photograph that seems to be captured in mere seconds. This series was highlighted by his next project Hatch.

The Hatch Series is Fabian’s vision of a car being born. He envisioned cars breaking out of their shell and taking their first breath of fresh air. He made dozens of latex shells of a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO and proceeded to smash them onto the car. The ending result gave the impression of the Ferrari breaking free from its shell and entering the world.

Both of these series shed light on the automotive world and how both cars and art can be consider as one.

http://vimeo.com/80460060

Racing Colors

03/16/2014

Before the likes of Marlboro and Shell sponsorships, automotive racing had a gentlemen’s touch to the cars appearances. Cars were a different breed before sponsorships, sporting classic colors that would soon become a part of racing history; these colors would officially be used to distinguish which cars were representing their home country.

Because racing cars were painted a solid color, race officials obtained headaches from trying to distinguish which car was which. The origin of each nationality’s color was dependent on the team’s owner. If the team operated a Porsche but was fielded by a British owner and driver, the Porsche would be painted green to signify it raced for Britain. The governing bodies that would soon make up today’s FIA enforced these colors.

British racing green, Ferrari Red and Mercedes white became dominating colors during the beginning of top-level racing. The introduction of national racing colors could be seen in the Gordon Bennett Cup. The Gordon Bennett Cup was the first major trophy for international racing. The idea behind the competition was to promote various national automotive industries by means of races between representatives of national automotive clubs. Race organizers of the 1903 Gordon Bennett Cup suggested that the cars be painted to reflect their origin.

The only problem for Britain during the 1903 Gordon Bennett Cup was that Italy, Germany and France had already secured Red, White and Blue. Since the race was being held in Ireland, Britain chose green as a nod towards the local host. Not only did green stick but over the next few years the FIA developed a standardized color scheme for international racing.

With national colors finally standardized, distinguishing each car became easier, that was until 1968 when sponsorship colors were allowed by the FIA. Lotus was the first to jump ship and they signed a sponsorship deal with the John Player tobacco company. Lotus painted their cars the Gold Leaf brand and then eventually moved onto the black and gold livery most famous for the John Player Special brand.

With team owners abandoning national colors, cars became interesting works of art but the traditional nationality colors can still be seen today. Ferrari still uses Rossa Corsa, Audi uses silver in their paint scheme of their Le Mans cars, and even drivers used their national colors such as Ayrton Senna and his yellow helmet representing Brazil. Even though national colors have become almost irrelevant due to million dollar sponsorships, racing enthusiasts can take heart in the fact that these colors will never truly vanish.

Subscribe to RSS - Breaking News