[F1] [MotoGP] Champions fighting

Thanks to lots of work load, was not able to complete this writeup.

2006, possibly one of the best season of both F1 and MotoGP racing in recent times. For once there are more than one racers in the hunt of championship with only a handful races left in season. Where in F1 Alonso is being chased down closely by Schumacher, in MotoGP Hayden is hunted down to the finish line by Pedrosa, Rossi, Melandri and Capirossi (though the points gap from Melandri and Capirossi to Hayden is too big but not big enough to write them off completely).

10th Sep 2006 There are both F1 (Italian) and MotoGP (Malaysian) race on this weekend. In F1 Alonso is leading Schumi by 12 points, more than the race, people are looking forward to this weekend as Schumi will be making announcement about his F1 future at the end of the race. Dramas started as early as qualifying when Alonso was penalised for “blocking” Massa in his Ferrari during the timed lap of later. As a result Alonso was pushed to 10th from his qualifying position of 5th. Kimi driving Mclaren-Mercedes snatched pole away from Schumi.

As expected at the race start, Alonso make a good start from 10th position to jump into 6th. Kimi made a good start but Schumi made sure he follows Kimi all the way. With not much to choose between the pace of cars, it was once again left to pitstop time when Schumi comes ahead of Kimi. In the mean time Robert Kubica in his Sauber-BMW, leads the race (in his 3rd F1 race). Alonso is making steady progress on track and during pit stops and looking good for a podium finish. by lap 43 when all the leading cars have made their final stops, Alonso has confirmed his podium finish (passing Kubica and Massa), with Schumi and Kimi too far ahead of him to catch them.

On Lap 45, Alonso’s Renault suffers a very race engine failure, putting him out of race and throwing championship wide open. With Kubica and Massa right behind Alonso, Kubica avoids himself from the oil off Alonso’s car but Massa fails and damages his tyres, forcing him to make a pit stop, spoilling his chance of a point finish. The race ended with Schumi taking the win from Kim and Kubica stepping onto the podium in his 3rd F1 race.

As expected in the post race interview, Schumi announced his retirement from F1 at the end of season. It was later confirmed that Kimi will be moving from Mclaren to Ferrari at the end of season. The last three races are a “must watch” as the gap between Alonso (108) and Schumi (106) is just 2 points. For the first time in season, now Ferrari (168) overtakes Renault (165) in constructors championship.

In MotoGP, the start of weekend was not good for Pedrosa as he had a big accident on Friday, damaging his right knee badly. The race was amazingly fought between Rossi and Capirossi with Pedrosa defying all odds to outclass his team mate Hayden. It was not a good race for Hayden as, while his competitors were making a steady progress at the head of field, he was moving backwards. The final few laps were one of the best in long time, with Rossi and Capirossi passing each other few times in one corner. Though injured Pedrosa was able to stay with these two, he was too far behind to add spice to the fight. With Capirossi leading Rossi into the last few turns, Rossi made his move and passed Capirossi and during the move they both touched. Now Rossi was leading Capirossi going into the last corner, knowing that Capirossi will surely try to pass him, Rossi took the inside line, forcing Capirossi to pass him from outside, doing which Capirossi ran wide blowing up his chances of a well deserved victory (in which case it would have been unlucky for Rossi).

Finally on the podium it were three well deserving guys, Rossi and Capirossi for their amazingly fought race and Pedrosa for finishing a very brave race. With Hayden finishing well down the order, Rossi and Pedrosa are able to close the gap to him in championship.

17th Sep 2006 While its a three week break in F1, its back to back races in MotoGP (Australian). Hayden has qualified on Pole for the first time in season, giving a boost to his championship lead. Rossi is on the other side of front row with injured Pedrosa way down the grid. As the riders went on warm up lap, it started to rain on the other side of the track, forcing the race to be delayed and later declared as wet race. Still all riders start on slick tyres. At the race start while both Rossi and Hayden make a very poor start (droping down to 10th and 16th respectively), Pedrosa once again made a very brave start and at one time was upto 3rd position. Mean while Nakano was leading the race and after a poor start Rossi was making up places at a lightning pace. In few laps he was up into 2nd place fighting with Sete, when it started to rain heavily, forcing everyone to pit and swap bikes.

This was the first time, since the flag to flag race rule was introduced at start of 2005, that riders were changing bikes in the middle of a race. While everyone was pitting for changing bike, Nakano decided to stay out for one more lap, trying to gain some more time over others. After all riders switched to bikes setup for wet wether, Sete found himself leading the race, chased by Chris Vermeulen on his Suzuki (probably the rain master in MotoGP). Rossi once again dropped back right next to Hayden, who gained a lot during the pit stops. The biggest looser in this was Pedrosa who dropped back to 15th place, probably inexperience of riding in rain on MotoGP bikes and the injury being the reason.

Soon Vermeulen passed Sete to take the race lead, while Rossi and Hayden started to move up the order. Malandri once again showing his excellent skills started to close down on Sete. As rain eased and riders getting used to the track conditions, Milandri passes Sete and started to close down on Vermeulen, finally passing him. So much is the pace of the leading group that Milandri puts the injured Pedrosa a lap down. With laps two laps remaining, Rossi has moved up to 4th place with Stoner between him and Hayden. Rossi is quickly closing down to Sete. On the last lap, seeing the group lead by Rossi catching him fast, Pedrosa let them go by. With one last corner left in the race, Hayden is right behind Rossi who has now caught up with Sete.

In the last corner Rossi makes a move on Sete and manages to pass him to take the final podium position. With Rossi finishing ahead or Hayden and Pedrosa getting only a single point. Rossi (204) moves into second position in championship, behind Hayden (225) and ahead of Melandri (193), Pedrosa (193) and Capirossi (180).

With now just three races left in both F1 and MotoGP, the season finale could not have been any better.

[F1] Will he continue?

Michael Schumacher – Seven times World Champion (More Championships than anyone else in the history of F1 racing). 89 Times climbed onto the top spot on podium (More Wins than anyone else in the history of F1 racing), 153 times stepped onto podium, 246 GP Starts, 68 Pole Positions, Currently the oldest man racing in F1. These are just a few achievements of one of the greatest F1 driver ever.

With the 2006 season of F1 just 4 races away from conclusion and Michael 12 points behind Alonso in the race for another World Championship crown. Talks are doing the rounds about the future of multi times World Champion. will he quit racing at the end of season or will be carry on for another year or two?

There are talks going around saying that if Michael wins this year he should retire immediately. Though considering that he will be 38 by the time 2007 season will be about to start. It is difficult to expect him still racing but no matter what happens in the championship this year, I would like him to race for one more year, especially when Kimi Raikkonen has happened to sign a contract with Ferrari for next season.

Still remember the days when Michael in Ferrari used to fight with Mika Hakkinen in McLaren Mercedes for Championship and many people used to wonder if it is the car or the driver, why one is winning? There were suggestions that both the drivers should race in the same car but it was not possible then.

Now there is one chance in front of Michael to pit himself against a good young driver. There is no denying that in Ferrari every teammate of Michael is given No 2 status but for one year Michael can ask team to give equal support to both drivers, so that both (Michael and Kimi) can race on equal grounds. This way Michael can find out if the young drivers in F1 are good enough or not. Since Michael has said in past, he will quit racing when there are young drivers faster than him, this is one chance for him to really show the world that he still has what it takes to fight with the best F1 drivers of the next generation.

Another reason why I want Michael to race for one more season is that, there is a chance for him to become the first ever F1 driver to win 100 races, which I doubt anyone in future will be able to come close, forget beating. Not that his current records will be easy to beat.

Keeping my fingers crossed till the end of Itallian GP, when Ferrari is going to announce their next year driver line up.

[F1] Destined to Win

Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, 27th August 2006 when and where, anyone who has forgotten the power of “Destiny” was reminded of it. The plot was laid out on the previous day during the qualifying session of the race. Looking at the pace of Michael Schumacher in the second session of qualifying (1m 25.850s lap), not many people would have bet against him taking the pole position in the third and final session. But since destiny had something else in mind, Schumacher made mistake in Turn 1 during his first of two runs for setting the time, after he has completed his quota of laps to burn fuel. Failing to set a time and with only one chance left to set a qualifying time, Schumacher possibly took it a bit easy and instead of going all the way over the limit he decided to put in a lap time (1m 27.284s) which just failed short of the one set by his teammate Felipe Massa (1m 26.907s). Right behind them were Renault team mates, with Alonso (1m 27.321s) outpacing Fisichella (1m 27.564s) to take third place.

So the stage was set for Massa to start from the pole for the first time in his F1 racing career. The race start was expected, with neither Massa nor Michael allowing Alonso to pass them in the first corner, Alonso’s teammate Fisichella trying to pass Michael from outside failed to do so and landed up locking up his front brakes and got part of, one of the many accidents which happened in the first corner, in which the biggest looser was Kimi Raikkonen in his Mclaren (having to crash out after getting his blown left rear tyre fixed).

With no Safety car coming out after the first corner accidents, Alonso tried to keep pace with the leading Ferrari’s, in which he failed. Things were looking good for Ferrari, Massa and Michael as Massa was leading Schumacher by just over 2sec with Alonso further some 9sec behind. It was looking all set for Michael to win as Massa would surely move over when the time comes to do so. But that is not what Destiny has already written in the script of the race. On lap 13, Vitantonio Liuzzi spun his Toro Rosso at Turn 1 and halted the car right on the racing line. Yellow flags were out but with no visibility of the car for drivers coming into the turn, it was deemed to dangerous for drivers and track marshals, who were trying to move the car off the track. Hence the Safety car was out. Ferrari now took a gamble by bringing both their cars into pits (no point in having one of their cars lapping slowely behind safety car and loose a few on track position), since Massa was leading, he got chance to be serviced first with Michael waiting for his chance. Renault also rightly got Alonso in the pits. As Alonso was stopping for this pit stop, Massa went out and Michael moved in. It was going to be very close between who comes out first and it was Alonso who edges out Michael to take the second position. As later it was told by Alonso he filled in less fuel in the pit stop.

Safety car was still out on track, with Massa right behind it. Alonso was in second position chased by Michael but there was Nick Heidfeld, a lap down, between Massa and Alonso. As the safety car went in, Alonso immediately passed Heidfeld and tried to keep up with Massa but the pace of Massa was too hot for Alonso to pass him or even keep up. Michael took a few corners before passing Heidfeld which was enough for Alonso to build a 3 odd seconds gap. It seemed that Michael was pacing himself for a charge when the fuel load will go down, on lap 28 Michael went wide on Turn 8 and lost over 4 seconds in the process, this mistake from Michael grew the gap to over 8 seconds. Later it was revealed by Michael that his second set of tyres was having graining problems.

On lap 39th Alonso and Massa came in for their second pit stops and Michael now has started to put in fastest laps of the race, one after another. As Alonso and Massa came out of pit lane, Massa confirmed his pace by being able to stay well clear of Alonso. By now it was sure that Alonso will not be able to pass Massa and now it was left to see what Michael can do who was still putting in very fast laps. On lap 43, Michael came in for his final pit stop. As he was coming out, Alonso just went by. There are some 15 laps left and with Alonso right in front of Michael, Michael is not going to cruise to 3rd place. So he started to put pressure on Alonso, who in turn soaked all of it nicely. On lap 50 Michael almost pulled an overtaking maneuver but Alonso was not going to let it happen. In the end it was just a half car length by which Alonso managed to stay ahead of Michael as both of them crosses the finish line about 5.5seconds behind Massa.

The race surely proved that it was the Destiny of Massa to win this race. Ofcourse just Destiny can not do anything and to execute the script written by Destiny, Massa drove a brilliant race. A well deserving winner, it would have been sad (for once) if Michael would have been second for Massa to let him win the race. The emotions on podium reminded of the first race win by another Brazilian, Rubens Barrichello when he won his first race (in his 128th appearance) driving a Ferrari in an amazingly fought European GP in 2002 at Hockenheim.

The fastest lap of the race, no doubt was set by Michael (1m 28.005s) with Massa right behind him with a lap of 1m 28.123s. Alonso was around 0.2sec slower than Michael, setting his fastest lap of 1m 28.245s. More info at Formula1.com

With just 4 races left now and Michael 12 points behind Alonso, the driver’s championship is surely hot, with neither Alonso nor Michael having any plans of relaxing, the last four races can surely be heart stopping ones and the championship was never so closely fought for Michael in past so many years. Just 2 points now separate Renault and Ferrari in the constructor’s championship and the form of Massa and pace of Ferrari will be the deciding factor in the final outcome of the constructor’s championship.

Natu La

Tue, 20 June 2006. Read in news paper (Times of India) that come 6 July 2006 and Natu La will be re-opened. So another item being added on my TODO list.

Checked out in LP, there is a road from Gangtok to Natu La (4,210m) via which one can enter China. The road to Natu La also features a ride through Jelep La (4,040m) with Tsomgo Lake on left side of the pass. Must be another paradise (read Wikipedia, below, for more motivation, if one needs).

About Nathula Pass from Wikipedia

Nathula Pass (also spelt Ntula, Natu La, Nathu la, Natula) is a pass on the IndoChina border connecting the Indian state of Sikkim with South Tibet. The pass, located at an elevation of 4,310 m (14,200 feet) above mean sea level, forms part of an offshoot of the ancient Silk Route.

After remaining closed for more than 40 years, the pass is due to open for trade on 200607-06.

The route leading up to the pass is one of the world’s highest navigable roads, and is maintained by the Border Roads Organisation, a wing of the Indian Army. On the Pass the Indian army and the Chinese border guards are within touching distance of each other. To visit the Indian side of Nathula, a visitor’s permit must be made one day in advance, which is done by any travel agency.

The pass is 56 kilometres east of the capital Gangtok. Although just 5 km north of the Jelepla pass, the Nathula pass is not navigable in winters as it receives heavy snowfall. Temperatures in Nathula regularly dip to -25 °C in winters. The pass is open only to Indian nationals on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. On other days is it in use for exclusive military use. A no man’s land is absent, and the border consists of a barbed wire fence. Every Thursdays and Sunday post between the two nations are exchanged, a tradition dating back many decades.

The road leading to Nathula from Gangtok is a scenic one and the scenery changes from sub-tropical forests to temperate to wet and dry alpine to cold tundra desert devoid of vegetation. On the way one passes the refulgent Tsongmo Lake. Yaks are found in these parts, and in many hamlets are the beasts of burden. On the Tibetan side the pass leads to the Chumbi Valley of the Tibetan Plateau.

During the 1962 Sino-Indian War, the pass witnessed major skirmishes between the two armies. Shortly threafter it was closed and remained closed for more than four decades. With the recent thawing in relations between India and China, the pass was originally scheduled to be opened on 200510-02, but was postponed due to last minute infrastructure problems on the Chinese side. It’s re-opening, scheduled for July 2006, is expected to create an economic boom for the region, and also bolster Indo-China trade, which amounted to $18.7 billion in 2005. Iron ore, livestock products, wool and electric appliances are among the products that may be traded through Nathu La.