Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Imola, 2021

Alonso expected to trail Ocon in early races

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In the roundup: Fernando Alonso says he anticipated his team mate Esteban Ocon would hold the upper hand in their first races together at Alpine.

In brief

Alonso not surprised Ocon has upper hand

Having comprehensively out-performed his previous Formula 1 team mate, Alonso was widely expected to show Ocon the way at Alpine, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Four races in, Alonso is yet to out-score his team mate in a race this year.

But given the past experiences of previous newcomers to the team formerly known as Renault, including Ocon and his predecessors Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz Jnr, Alonso says this was to be expected.

Ocon “is in a very good form right now” said Alonso, “fully integrated with the team, [scored a] podium last year in Bahrain in the last part of the championship and now giving a perfect weekends. So this is is very good, it’s impressive what he’s achieving now.”

“I’m giving my 100%”, Alonso continued, “and obviously that’s not enough to be at that level at the moment. So I need to to keep improving.

“In a way, we talk about this, but we anticipated this a little bit. When Carlos got in Renault, he was not as quick as [Nico] Hulkenberg I remember in the first couple of races, Daniel was arguably slower than Nico in 2019 and he was very good in 2020 in his second year. Esteban was struggling last year with Daniel and he is good in his second year.

“So it seems the team is a little bit different than the others, that you need an adaptation. So I’m trying to do this as quick as I can. As I said I’m not worried. It’s going to come very soon, if not already because in Imola we crossed the line together, in Portimao we crossed the line together.”

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Comment of the day

Is it a disappointment to hear Formula 1 drivers being given advice on how to go faster?

Sometimes it makes me a bit sad how much drivers are coached while driving. I know it’s necessary with these high-tech cars but it seems more romantic to me when the driver drives the car by himself.
Patrick (@anunaki)

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  • 42 comments on “Alonso expected to trail Ocon in early races”

    1. I think what that CotD and the Ricciardo article yesterday highlights is that the nature of being a driver is changing (in terms of pure pace, not other driving skills).

      If a team knows the fastest way for their car to get around a corner (which they can exactly deduce through AI simulation) then it’s more a job of hitting those marks and matching those inputs rather than feel. The more consistent and accurate they can hit those targets the more potential of the car will be realised.

      Whether F1 is at that level in terms of driver/simulation development or McLaren just using the data from Sainz/Norris is an unknown. I reckon it’s a matter of time if not.

      For sure it’s less romantic for a driver to essentially be emulating what a computer could do much better, but that is the reality.

      1. But do we want F1 drivers to drive like computers, or like humans?
        All that stuff should be sorted before they get into the car – and once they’re in, they need to do it by themselves.

      2. Rob (@realnigelmansell)
        16th May 2021, 6:32

        This is a very unfortunate trend I think we’ve seen in other solo sports/competitions like boxing (Mayweather) and chess (Carlsen), as well as team sports with the rise of advanced stats/AI. The focus has shifted from finding a way to win to just not losing, the only performance gains left to find are very incremental. The development race in f1 is an even worse example of this.

        1. @realnigelmansell Floyd Mayweather is a poor example of this. Floyd was an incredible boxer, who could adapt to any opponent and any situation. His insane work rate set him aside from everyone and raised the bar for a generation.

          I don’t like the guy much. His strategies with getting guys in the ring at the right weight/time to suit him annoyed many. But again, you have to credit his ability to master the game. He engineered that situation for himself, where he commanded the money and thus, the rules of engagement. Boxing itself is flawed in this sense as it famously lacks a structured “ladder” system, but hate the game, not the player.

          Regardless of that though, his resume is a who’s who of boxing from his era (until the McGregor silliness). And he dismantled them all in fashion. There’s no question that what he did to boxing ELEVATED the sport to a new level and inspired and enabled other competitors to push themselves harder and further as a result. Which is brilliant in any sport.

          1. And he definitely WON his fights (Castillo 1 the only exception. And he rematched him to a comprehensive victory). No historian of the sport would say he simply avoided losing.

            I’ve been drawn off topic. Apologies.

            Reply moderated
      3. It begs a fascinating question though – which drivers match a theoretical maximum lap speed, which fall short, and which add those magical extra tenths not even the computer can see…

        1. ColdFly (@)
          16th May 2021, 8:11

          AWS is answering that ‘fascinating question’ and present it as a score out of 10.
          Would be interesting if they recognise this invisible 10th and admit to it by scoring a driver above 10.

          PS does anybody know if those AWS scores pretend to rate the driver or the car/driver combination?

      4. @skipgamer Unless I’m missing something in your post, I’m not sure how one can simply simulate what makes a car go fast and then simply have the driver just do that, when they cannot possibly account for things such as the state of the tires one lap to the next, how the car is behaving on that day at that moment based on air and track temps etc etc…the hundreds of variables that go into the art of racing a car.

        No I don’t agree that ‘the nature of being a driver is changing’ and I think that the new F1 with cars less hampered in dirty air is going to bring back the art of racing for position and as well the art of defending. Oh I agree there is an art to using computer modelling and simulators to help make a fast car, but it’s still going to come down to what a driver does with that as each metre clicks by, and with closer racing I don’t know that an engineer advising over the radio from his computer will be able to keep up to the reality of what the driver is feeling and needing to do in those split seconds.

        1. @robbie

          That’s why I qualified my statement by saying on pure pace alone. Of course there is a lot more to being a driver than just executing the perfect inputs on the pedals and wheel. But you’d be mad to not have a simulator hooked up to AI running a near infinite amount of iterations figuring out what those perfect inputs are.

          The hundreds of variables as you put it are what they spend the time collecting during testing. We already know that simulator correlation is part of how Mercedes have the advantage they do.

    2. Re CotD – It shouldn’t be ‘romantic’ that drivers drive the car by themselves, it should be the only way to participate.
      ‘Driving alone and unaided’ either has some weird interpretation that my imagination can’t fathom – or more likely, just like track limits, it’s another regulation that F1 simply doesn’t care to enforce.

      I think all non-safety messages from the pit to the car should be banned. If the driver can’t drive or operate the car by themselves, then they’d better learn fast, or the team needs to simplify their car.

      1. I think the interpretation is along the lines of

        Alone – there is nobody else in the car with the driver.
        Unaided – they are making the inputs. It would be trivial these days for the pit wall to change engine modes, diffs, roll bars et al remotely if allowed.

        1. ColdFly (@)
          16th May 2021, 8:19

          To me the second part (car inputs) is the ‘alone’ part.
          The ‘unaided’ part is a part where all driving decisions are made by the driver. But this is a very grey area where the pit cannot coach the driver by advising to brake later into a certain turn, but can give them the factual input that their teammate or competitor is braking later in that same corner.
          @johnnik

        2. Interesting interpretations – but neither match the wording of the rule.
          Alone and unaided says to me that the driver is 100% responsible for the car while it is in motion. And that clearly is not the case.

          But then, this is a sport where the strict wording “The white lines are … part of the track, the kerbs are not” is even ‘mis-interpreted’ at every event.

      2. I agree with @johnnik and his interpretation of that specific rule. I seem to remember they tried banning all non-safety pit to car radio at some point around 2016 and pretty much everybody hated it. The fans didn’t know as much about what was going on as there was much less team radio, and the teams kept getting some stupid penalties because the rules over what was ‘safety’ or not was really vague (Rosberg at Silversrone in 2016 comes to mind)

      3. F1 tried and failed to ban driver coaching back in 2015-2016. It turns out that it’s easier to ban safety messages than driver coaching ones, and it made race control’s job in general a lot harder to boot because they accidentally banned some of their ability to get teams to teansmit their messages about things like track limits.

        1. I maybe behind on this, but isn’t it that you can tell someone where they are losing time, but not how to gain that time (coaching). Thought that’s why we don’t hear such things as ‘hammertime’ anymore, but instead ‘it’ll be soon’ or some such message which basically means the same thing.

    3. I think the sprint races are a great platform for trialing out what the COTD says.

      Just ban all radio from pit to car for the 30 minute race and see what happens.

      Better, give all the drivers spec cars (even road cars) for the 30 minute race.

      1. We already had the ‘no driver coaching’ radio ban and it didn’t work

      2. sumedh, the road car idea is a good one, though good luck finding a brand everyone will actually drive due to the manufacturers involved (the Ferrari-backed people in particular are unlikely to be allowed anything that is not a Fiat-family vehicle if the vehicles to be raced have a Fiat-family example in the genre).

        1. Man that would be awesome. I used to love the Ford fiesta series that supported the BTCC back in the day – the race typically ended with the top 20 covered by about 15 seconds. Imagine guys like Hamilton, raikkonen and alonso in that. It would outshine the grand prix!

      3. Spec cars for sprint qualifying – that would be so cool!

      4. I’m thinking something like a Mercedes 190 or something.. with the drivers name on the side

        … or a BMW M1 maybe

    4. Re: COTD

      Every other sport on the planet features top level competitors being coached. Nobody talks about how sad it is that Messi gets coaching. Why is it sad for a driver? I find the idea that drivers should somehow be above coaching to be bizarre.

      1. @exediron Because Messi is in a team sport and the clue is in the title?

        (F1 might have a constructor’s title, but in the main it’s regarded as a solo sport that happens to have an unusually visible backup crew).

        1. Anyone who thinks F1 is a solo sport is absolutely fooling themselves. The driver is the least important element of the entire chain, and can achieve absolutely nothing without that ‘backup crew’.

          Honestly, the idea that F1 is all about the driver is behind a good chunk of the PR problems the sport has. I always find it funny that in American racing — IndyCar, NASCAR, etc. — where the driver actually makes far more difference, the fans and commentators are much more aware that it’s a team sport.

          1. @exediron couldn’t agree more.

          2. ‘least important’ is a bit of a stretch though… looking at this season, Perez would be no threat whatsoever to Hamilton, and Bottas does not seem to be able to challenge Verstappen either. So – in a season where there is no single uber-dominant car – the driver does actually make the difference between winning a championship or not it seems.

        2. ColdFly (@)
          16th May 2021, 8:29

          F1 might have a constructor’s title, but in the main it’s regarded as a solo sport that happens to have an unusually visible backup crew

          To me (probably a minority PoV) F1 is 100% a team sport with the WCC as the main title. It’s the only championship which awards prize money.
          The individual WDC unfortunately gets most of the attention. As if in football they present the top scorers table first before the league table.

          From memory the Olympics is a bit like F1. It is supposed to be a team sport where you represent your country, but most references go to the individuals.

          1. Not a minority view! I too believe F1 is a team sport first, drivers sport next.

          2. F1 has two championships and both are of equal status.
            One for teams, one for drivers.

            And that is a constant source of conflict, like so many other aspects of F1.

            1. F1 has two championships and both are of equal status.

              If they were supposed to be of equal status, then it does not make sense to only pay prize money for one.
              The other one actually makes the participant pay a fee to FIA ;)

            2. You’re absolutely right – it does not make sense to only payout for one.
              But it is what it is.
              They both get points, and the winner of each becomes F1 World Champion.

              What good would it do to pay out prize money to the drivers when the teams are building the cars, anyway? ;)

            3. What good would it do to pay out prize money to the drivers when the teams are building the cars, anyway? ;)

              It could be an alternative to the salary cap. Pay drivers like they used to pay Piquet: $100k per point.

              But then more fans start to think that the WDC is equal to the WCC. It’s lonely enough already for us who still think it’s a team sport :P

            4. @coldfly There’s no doubt it’s a team sport – but it’s also an individual sport too.
              If it were only a team sport, there would be no WDC.
              (And lets not forget which of the two championships started first in F1.)

    5. COTD: I wonder what’s faster? Take the final sector at Suzuka from the casio triangle chicane. Should the driver do the normal racing line or take the shortest line to the finish line? To maximize lap time.
      Taking the normal racing line and keeping the car with minimum steering lock will surely give a higher speed through that sector. But is it faster to do the shorter line, keeping close to the pit lane wall…?

      In my view, they should just tell the drivers where are they losing time, not like where to break, when to turn, when to open up the steering, or any similar advice. However, advice is useless without execution, and you still need to perform properly the corner or the laps.

    6. The skills and talent drivers need has always been changing. Fast reactions and solid nerve are a given but the old cars with the manual gear box and steering were a different thing altogether compared to today’s high tech steering wheels, detailed realtime data, amazing 1000 degree C and seamless gearboxes, CAD, wind tunnels, carbon fibre and tyres.

      Which is a good reason not to try to define GOAT.

      I watched a race from the 80’s the other day and was surprised how primitive the cars seemed. while core talent for speed may remain even a few years changes the detailed demands on the driver and the dynamic between driver and engineers, strategists (imagine Fangio having one of those), and backroom data mills.

      1. Witan, drivers like Fangio did have strategists, as teams often did have to give careful consideration on how to run their races – it’s just that they usually developed those plans ahead of the race.

        Teams and drivers would have to consider whether it might be possible to complete a race on a single set of tyres, or if they would need to change the tyres partway through – Fangio’s famous victory at the 1957 German GP revolved on the decision to make a pit stop as a counter strategy to the plans by Ferrari’s drivers to run non-stop.
        Similarly, you have Moss at the 1958 Argentine GP, where his team planned to run non-stop and actively sought to trick their rivals by discussing in the pit lane how they were going to need to change tyres and complaining about the wear rate – people might complain about Hamilton talking on the radio about how his tyres aren’t in good condition, only to then backtrack on that, but drivers were pulling the same trick more than 60 years ago.

        We also saw how drivers and teams had to make plans on whether or not to refuel during a race – back in 1951, the very first victory for Ferrari was due to Ferrari being able to make one less fuel stop than the Alfa Romeo drivers had to.

        When you look at it, that side of the sport was still there, but undertaken in a different way – teams and drivers would rely more on pre-planning of the races, as opposed to a greater reliance on real-time tracking now, and the strategising tended to occur in a more private environment than in public, but it was still there.

    7. When reading the COTD, I remembered the beginning of the 2016’s championship. It was quite clear who were driving and who were coached.

      1. Not sure exactly who you are referring to (although I can probably guess). Nobody was exceptionally better than their teammate in 2016 compared to 2015 except maybe Alonso relative to Button and Bottas to Massa.

    8. Wow, that Super Formula Lights race was quite dramatic. Thanks for the link!

    9. Re Alonso: Soon Fernando will give it 110%. “It won’t be easy with Fernando”? Don’t call it yet. Just wait.

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