Archive | May 2013

Big Names in Formula 1: Renault

renaultRenault has been the jack-of-all-trades when it comes to motoring. The French car manufacturer has had its stab as an F1 Constructor, but currently works as an engine supplier to four of the current Formula 1 teams. Renault debuted in the 1977 F1 season, and stayed active as a team until 1986. Although Chevrolet is credited with designing the first turbocharged engine, Renault is credited with bringing turbocharging to Formula 1. The RS01 made its turbo debut at the 1977 British Grand Prix. Initial problems were rampant but by the 1979 French Grand Prix, Renault marked its first win with a turbocharged car on home soil with driver Jean-Pierre Jabouille.

In 1989, Renault returned to Formula 1 as an engine supplier through a partnership with Williams. In their first year, Williams-Renault finished second in the Constructors Championship, and driver Riccardo Patrese finished third in the Drivers Championship. In 1991, Williams repeated a second finish in the Constructors Championship, and a second and third finish in the Drivers Championship with Nigel Mansell and Patrese. 1992 brought home wins all around, with Mansell and Patrese taking first and second, and Williams-Renault taking the Constructor’s title by 65 points over runner-up McLaren. Not a good year for Senna.

Renault returned to F1 as a constructor in 2000 with their purchase of Benetton. Initially results were unimpressive with Jarno Truli and Jenson Button in 2002, but in 2003 Renault F1 achieved a win with young Fernando Alonso at the Hungarian Grand Prix, the team’s first since 1983. Just one year later in 2005, Renault and Alonso won the Constructor’s and Driver’s Championships. They repeated the feat in 2006.

The 2007, 2008, and 2009 seasons were marred with controversy, first following internal spying between McLaren and Renault, then in 2008 a reportedly purposeful crash by Nelson Piquet Jr., in which Alonso profited to win in Singapore. In the midst of controversy, Red Bull made a deal with Renault to use their engines for the 2009 season. Red Bull finished the season with a second place in the Constructor’s Championship – Renault at a lowly 8th.

In 2010, Renault sought a team restructuring with Genii Capital taking the majority stake, and in 2011 Renault sold its remaining share to Lotus Cars. The team, renamed Lotus F1, still employs Renault as an engine supplier. With Renault engines, Red Bull has won the past three Driver’s and Constructor’s Championships.

Renault proves it – Formula 1 isn’t always glitz and glamour. Like all great teams in Formula 1, Renault has had its balance of hardship and greatness. From its success with turbocharging in the 70s, supplying engines to cutting-edge Williams in the early 90s, and building a championship team in the new millennium – the winning Renault legacy lives on through the engines of today.

Not a bad place to be in 2013.

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By The Numbers – 2013 Monaco Grand Prix

Just a few tid-bits for the mathematically inclined reader on this weekend’s 2013 Monaco Grand Prix.

10 – # of grid places Romain Grosjean will be penalized for in the Canadian Grand Prix.

9 – # of laps Kimi Raikkonen had left when Sergio Perez made contact and pushed him back to 10th.

8 – # of points currently separating 2nd and 3rd in the Driver’s Championship – Raikkonen with 86, Alonso with 78.

7 – # of current drivers with wins at Monaco. (Rosberg-2013, Webber-2010 and 2012, Vettel-2011, Button-2009, Hamilton-2008, Alonso-2006 and 2007, Raikkonen-2005)

6 – # of most wins by a single driver. Ayrton Senna. (1987-Lotus, 1989-1993 McLaren)

5 – # of course changes in 84 years since the first Monaco Grand Prix.

4 – # of years since McLaren has won in Monaco. McLaren has 15 wins at the Monaco Grand Prix, the most of any current or past constructor.

3 – # of races in the Triple Crown of Motorsport – Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500, 24 Hours of LeMans.

2 – # of recent controversial tire tests involving Pirelli (Ferrari and Mercedes)

1 – # of leaders in the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix. Nico Rosberg led the race from pole position for each of the 78 laps.

GONE – Rosberg Wins at Monaco!

Rosberg-Nico-MonacoHe did it! What an exciting morning in the French Riviera – a day filled with lots of historic firsts and seconds. Nico Rosberg wins his first Monaco Grand Prix, giving him two race wins altogether. His win also marks the first for Mercedes at Monaco as well, and comes exactly 30 years after his father, Keke Rosberg, won in Monaco. Rosberg lead the entire race from pole with inch perfect driving, despite a number of yellow flags, safety cars, and even a red flag stoppage.

Team Red Bull fill out the podium with Sebastian Vettel in second and Mark Webber in third, despite clinging desperately to an ironed-out Mercedes in front. The Red Bull’s looked off pace compared to Rosberg and teammate Lewis Hamilton. In a suspected repayment for team orders during the Malaysian Grand Prix that cost Rosberg a podium, Hamilton sacrificed his second position to slow the front pack of cars while Rosberg built a lead and headed into pit lane for his first stop. Rosberg emerged ahead of the charging Vettel and Webber, but Hamilton had to settle for fourth which he held for the continuum of the race, constantly trying to pull ahead of Webber.

The rest of the field was pulse pumping as well. Adrian Sutil in the Force India looked tremendous in the second half of the race, finishing fifth place behind Hamilton – a personal best since his return to the sport. Will the Force India be a competitor this year? It sure looked like it as Sutil overtook Fernando Alonso at the hairpin. McLaren’s Jenson Button closed the gap finishing sixth, while constantly fighting his red-hot teammate Sergio Perez. Over the course of the race Perez made passes at nearly everyone in his field, exchanging spots with Button at Nouvelle by cutting the corner, passing Fernando Alonso at the same corner, and connecting with Kimi Raikkonen during the last few laps. He retired late in the race on Lap 73 with front wing damage, clearing the road for Sutil and Button to advance.

Perez was just the last of the many retirements on Sunday. First was Charles Pic with an engine fire during the first few laps, then was Felipe Massa after a crash nearly identical to his impact in FP2 just two days earlier. Williams‘ Pastor Maldonado impacted the wall hard after locking tires with Marussia’s Max Chilton, which took the Venezuelan out of the race. Jules Bianchi retired after multiple wing impacts, followed by and accident coming out of the tunnel by Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean.

© Getty Images

© Getty Images

Controversy also hailed this weekend surrounding reports that Pirelli underwent private testing with both Ferrari and most recently Mercedes regarding the already infamous 2013 tire compounds. We’ll see if any repercussions amount from that, but there will undoubtedly be whiplash from the constructors left out in the cold, especially the pleading Red Bull. Ferrari allegedly tested with Pirelli before their win at the Spanish Grand Prix, while Mercedes tested most recently – leading up to their win this morning in Monte Carlo.

So the World Championship is interesting once again! Mercedes seem to have the fastest car and have temporarily remedied their tire degradation woes. Red Bull sneaks more Constructor’s points from the field, and Raikkonen leaves Monaco with a lowly point.

With two weeks to Canada, what can we expect from a miraculous Mercedes, a flattened Ferrari, and a surging Sutil? Comment below!

Mercedes Handles Qualifying in Monaco!

036364-nico-rosbergWhat a spectacular sequence of events these past few days. With an arousing Free Practice 2 on Thursday and an electrifying Qualifying Session this morning, the stage is set to have a nail biter tomorrow for the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix.

The big news today, Mercedes‘ front row performance and the on-and-off weather. Mercedes secures the front row for tomorrow’s race amongst trying slick conditions, followed by a pouty Sebastian Vettel and an eager Mark Webber. The reputation of the 2013 Mercedes car as a Saturday banzai qualifier lives on for another week as Nico Rosberg secures yet another pole position. This makes it 4-in-a-row for the Mercedes AMG team, and a personal best 3-in-a-row for Rosberg. Keke Rosberg (Nico’s father) won the Monaco Grand Prix 30 years ago, which only adds to the suspense today in Monte Carlo. The real challenge will be to keep the Mercs’ ahead of the field as the race goes on – rear tire degradation will certainly be pivotal tomorrow morning.

Lewis Hamilton will sit at the #2 spot, but doesn’t look happy to be trumped once again by Rosberg. In the post-qualifying interview Hamilton said he was yet again “struggling with the car”, but still edged out enough tenths to push Vettel to the third spot at the end of Q3. Vettel will sit one spot above his fellow teammate, Mark Webber, but you wouldn’t know that from their post-qualifying interview. Vettel was quite displeased with his performance today, conversely Webber was in good spirits after qualifying. Both RBR drivers addressed the strength of  Mercedes’ outright speed, but Webber chided “we’re ready to pounce”, and they will have the perfect position on the grid for that move.

© Getty Images

© Getty Images

Row Three will sit Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus aside Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari, with both cars looking twitchy and uneasy during today’s qualifying. Both constructors had trouble with their #2 men on Saturday as well. Romain Grosjean had a second crash in free practice on Thursday which kept the car out of the first 16 minutes of Q1. With 4 minutes left of Q1, Lotus engineers got Grosjean out of the pits and he promptly set a fastest lap. During Q2, he retired to 13th position on the grid. Grosjean should feel lucky in comparison to Ferrari’s Felipe Massa who will start in last place on Sunday. Massa developed a transmission problem during Thursday’s practice and didn’t make it to the circuit this morning.

senna2teoFinishing out the top 10 are the two McLaren’s of Sergio Perez and Jenson Button, Adrian Sutil in the Force India, and a surprising Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso. This is quickly becoming a forgetful season for McLaren but the car seemed to hit its pace in the wet. Strange. I can remember a certain McLaren driver of the past who used to dominate Monaco in the wet as well… (and Lewis is wearing his helmet).

The stage is set. Mercedes will have to hold back the pack and hope their tires will last long enough, and at F1’s slowest circuit – they might do just that. Red Bull will have to prove their car is still a racer, even if it isn’t dominant. Kimi and Fernando will have to turn on the pressure to put themselves and their teams on the podium.

Predictions? I think Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso will be pushing hardest to make it three wins at Monaco, but with overtaking at a premium and Mercedes’ tire ire, Vettel is in a perfect position to win. Webber looks comfortable. Could he make it 3 wins for Red Bull? What do you think?

We’ll be watching the weather. See you on Sunday!

The New People’s Car?

© NetCarShow

© NetCarShow

Last night I wrote an article detailing the history and the significance of the Volkswagen Beetle – the original “People’s Car”. This morning, after much waving of hands and stroking of chins – I deleted it because it was terrible.

Basically all you need to know is that the VW Beetle was a car designed for anyone and everyone. This is why it stayed in production for over half a century. Alas (and thankfully), in 2003 the original Beetle was put out of production/misery, after manufacturing over 21 million units. This leaves a gap in the market. Who will replace the venerable Beetle?

Introducing the 2013 Chevrolet Spark Hatchback.

2013_chevrolet_spark_4dr-hatchback_ls_dfq_evox_1_500The Volkswagen Beetle sold so well for four simple reasons. It was cheap, practical, durable, and affectionately stylish. For the Spark to take the reins as the “New People’s Car”, it must do all four… and then some.

Price. The hatchback market is a wash of different flavors of the same recipe. So what do you really get? The only real variation is in the body (3 or 5 door) and performance, but since we’re interested in a car that gets everyday people from A to B at a pace faster than walking… we’ll focus on body design. In a comparison with 6 other popular hatchbacks (Yaris, Fiesta, Accent, Golf, Versa, and Rio) the Chevrolet is the cheapest in lowest spec models. So cheap in fact that the top spec 2LT version is only $400 more than the base Ford Fiesta, and a whopping $6000 cheaper than the base VW Golf. For the price, the people choose Spark.

Practicality. The highlight is that even on the base model (for $12,185) you still get 5 doors. To get a Yaris with 5 doors expect to pay about $2500 more. And if you wanted your Yaris to have the preferable 5-speed… get ready – nearly $4500 more than the Spark! Now, the rear legroom looks slightly dismal in the Spark, and the hatchback seems like enough space for one package of bacon and maybe a crepe – but we’re told that with both rear seats down the Spark is good for 31.2 cubic feet of storage space. Not bad! For practicality, the people choose Spark!

Durability. This has yet to be seen. It’s been a long time since “durable” and “American-made” were in the same sentence as “car”, but times are changing. GM and Chrysler have shed some weight in the past few years and consumer reports are on the rise. Maybe such classics as Chrysler’s PT Cruiser, Sebring, and GM’s Aztek are still too familiar in my memory. As for assumptions – well, the engine is a microscopic 1.2L 4-cylinder that develops 85 hp/82 ft-lbs of torque and an impressive 32 mpg in the city, and 38 on the highway. I’d bet my savings that this powerplant won’t be very sporty but should be as reliable as any offerings from Toyota or Honda. Designed by Opel, the engine features dual overhead cams and – thank god – a timing chain! These are good signs, we likey. The not so good… the block is iron and the head is aluminum. Most manufacturers (including Toyota and Ford) are going for all-aluminum engines to save weight. But this is a people’s car, so we shouldn’t care about that. For durability, the people will wait and see.

mazdaspark

Mazda Smile – Spark Smirk

Style. While it may not be your Friday night fancy, it’s certainly a good-looking car. Proportions are right, the fascia is tight and “happy” (but not Mazda “happy”), and would you look at those alloy wheels! This car does something strange, it lives perfectly in its time but has a sense of ambiguity as well. Today we can tell this car is stylish in 2013, but my hunch is that in 2023 the looks will still be refreshing. That’s something important in a people’s car. Look back to the Beetle – it had to look good for over 60 years. For style, the people choose Spark!

What do you think?

Thursday’s Monaco FP2

© Pascal Rondeau/Allsport

© Pascal Rondeau/Allsport

It must be that time of the year again. Thursday brought the second practice session for the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix… and you know what?! It was exciting! With beautiful weather, stunning vistas, and the wealth of nations on display – Monaco is the crown jewel of the Formula 1 World Championship. This year should not disappoint.

Big news came from an early crash in Turn 13 by Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, after attempting to set a hot lap. With too much speed into the corner he binned the front left wheel assembly and steering components into the barrier. Luckily he walked away unscathed and will rejoin teammate Raikkonen for qualifying on Saturday.

In other news, Mercedes yet again set fastest times with Rosberg and Hamilton at the end of practice. The trend continues to be unbridled speed, resulting in severe rear tire degradation for Mercedes, with Red Bull feeling the pinch too. Mark Webber finished with a 5th fastest time, looking very confident on the circuit. He should anyway, come Sunday he and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso are both in position to grab a 3rd win at Monaco. Webber could make it four in-a-row for Red Bull, and Alonso would be the first driver ever to achieve three wins at Monaco for three different constructors.

Traffic jams during practice nearly added a few other cars to the Grosjean paddock short list as the drivers hammered away this morning, with a near Ferrari miss midway through practice. Ferrari filled out 3 and 4 following the Silver Arrows and did so with poise. Could this be the turning point in the season for the Scuderia? Alonso is surely feeling confident coming off a win at Barcelona and having Red Bull in the rear mirrors is a welcome sight.

Nico MercedesSo at the end of practice we have Rosberg, Hamilton, Alonso, Massa, and Webber filling out the top 5. Raikkonen, Grosjean, Button, Vettel and the two Force India’s finish out the next group. Expectedly Williams, Caterham, Toro Rosso, and Marussia sitting firmly at the back.

I’d really like to see Webber or Alonso make a statement in Saturday’s Qualifying. Monaco is a circuit won from pole, and that would surely cement some confidence in the worlds fastest #2 Man or the reborn phoenix Alonso.

20 Used Cars for the 20-Somethings

© Autos.aol.com

© Autos.aol.com

It’s no secret that the 20-somethings are strapped for money, but that doesn’t mean they are unable to afford a great, reliable car. This list features 20 cars that can be found for sale for under $5000 (with most even cheaper than that!). Before buying any used car, make sure to have a trusted mechanic look it over beforehand. Pre-purchase inspections normally cost around $100, but that will save you tons of cash down the road if your perfect used car – ain’t so perfect.

(Rankings in order of predictability)

  1. civic90’s Honda Civic  –  Small, reliable, common, and cheap. The Civic takes #1, but finding an unmolested 90’s Civic with low miles should prove a challenge.
  2. Toyota Tercel  –  Precursor to the Echo/Yaris nameplate, the Tercel offers no thrills motoring with unparalleled reliability. Less common than the Civic, but 200k miles is typical.
  3. Toyota Echo  –  The Echo replaced the Tercel as Toyota’s entry-level subcompact. Looks are a little questionable, but reliability from this Millennial is tried and true. Get a 5-speed.
  4. 1990.volvo.240.11055-EVolvo 240 (sedan/wagon)  –  You knew this would be here! This shoebox has been getting professors and students alike to college for years. Expect to pay a premium for a low mileage wagon, they are apparently “cool” now.
  5. Subaru Forester  –  Every town in the Northeast is full of them. Rugged, dependable, and with AWD. Make sure you check for head-gasket leaks before you buy. The ’96-’04 years are notorious for leaks in the 2.2L and 2.5L engines – but that won’t stop people from buying.
  6. Ford Focus  –  Reliability and handling that Ford hadn’t seen since the early days of the Escort. Hatchback with a standard is the most desirable.
  7. toyota-corolla-2Toyota Corolla  –  Fantastic reliability, very common, parts are cheap. Expect to pay more than KBB because of notoriety.
  8. Saturn S-Series  –  Exceptional reliability from then “new” Saturn. Avoid the autobox, and find a standard wagon. SC1 is a great tuner car as well. Parts may be harder to find after Saturn’s closure.
  9. Mazda Protegé/323  –  Mazda finally got recognized for reliability with this stylish sedan. This is a great alternative when cheap Civics and Corollas are nowhere to be found.
  10. lesabreBuick LeSabre  –  It’s not all smooth sailing with this land barge, but the LeSabre has built a reputation for being comfortable and relatively reliable. It takes the 10 spot mainly because prices are cheap and miles are low. Thanks grandparents of the world!
  11. TIE – Toyota Rav4 and Honda CRV  –  There have been more decisive hung juries than the difference between these two “soft-roaders”. Both retain good resale value, but tend to be neglected and behind on maintenance. AWD systems are a plus, but have a mechanic give it the once-over.
  12. Saab-900-02Saab 900  –  Saab is nearly unrivaled in safety, but you risk buying from a defunct company. Reliability is good, but parts will be scarce. Prices are attractive.
  13. Chevy/Geo/Suzuki Tracker  –  Many different names, one simple design. Trackers can be found cheap, even with all the bells and whistles. Commonly overlooked, but check for rust.
  14. 190eTIE – Mercedes 190E and BMW 3-Series  –  Reliability hit a high point in the late 80’s and early 90’s for German saloons. Designs were simple, power adequate, and style was perfect. These cars are the riskiest investment on the list due to cost of maintenance, but you won’t look cooler in anything else.
  15. Jeep Cherokee  –  If your college campus is up a mountain and through a creek, then you’ll surely need a Cherokee to get you there. With a durable straight-6 and 4 corners of coil suspension, you’re ready to run to the hills. Find one with some problems? Run for your lives. (cough…Iron Maiden..cough)
  16. 1996_ford_rangerFord Ranger  –  I liken the Ranger to the “BIC Razor” of the automobile world. Prices for 2WD versions are cheap, they are plentiful on used websites, and when it disintegrates after 10 years you won’t feel bad about it. Cheap trucks don’t get better than this.
  17. Ford Taurus  –  Slow, mechanically questionable, and far from pretty. The Taurus was one of the most common cars on the road in the 2000s, and with prices so cheap – the interior cargo space is unavoidably tempting. Call your mechanic…
  18. volkswagen_golfVW Golf  –  Prices won’t be cheap, and Mk4 Golfs are notoriously prone to electrical issues, but style, fuel economy, and resale value keep it on the list. Look for a TDI with under 100k miles.

Honorable Mention

  • Mazda Miata  –  It’s been described as the best handling car in the world, and with many for sale around the $5000 mark, it’s a tempting buy. However, gear ratios make fuel economy startlingly low, the cargo space is laughable, and soft tops are prone to leaking.