Monthly Archives: March 2010

Button triumphs in Melbourne as Vettel crashes out

Jenson Button the race winner, ahead of Robert Kubica and Felipe Massa

Jenson Button the race winner, ahead of Robert Kubica and Felipe Massa

Sebastian Vettel was robbed of a probable victory in Australia as a mechanical problem cost him the lead halfway through the race. Anyone getting a sense of deja vu?

The German led well for the first half of the race, before a front left brake failure meant he spun out at Turn 13. This left the door wide open for Jenson Button to win the race, who had made good progress from a slick tyre gamble at the start of the race.

Button, Alonso and Schumacher all collide at Turn 1

Button, Alonso and Schumacher all collide at Turn 1

When the cars lined up for the formation lap, the track was wet, so all cars were on intermediates. The wet conditions meant it was even more dangerous at the first corner. Like I predicted, there was a first-corner crash, but not in the way we expected. Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher all went for the same piece of track, and Alonso ended up back to front, while Schumacher had to pit for a new front wing. Both of these drivers fell to the back, but benefited from the safety car being called out for another crash. With another sense of deja vu, Kamui Kobayashi had a front wing failure at Turn 3, and smashed into Nico Hulkenberg and Sebastien Buemi, taking both out on the spot.

Kobayashi takes out Hulekenberg and Buemi after another front wing failure

Kobayashi takes out Hulekenberg and Buemi after another front wing failure

Even with the safety car deployed, there were more retirements to come. Jarno Trulli and Bruno Senna fell prey to their new cars’ reliabiliy problems, and stopped soon enough after the start.

After the safety car pitted on Lap 5, the race got underway. Mark Webber lost a place at the start to Felipe Massa, then was overtaken by Robert Kubica at Turn 1 when the race resumed. By the next lap, Button made the very risky move to switch to slick tyres, seeing as how the track was still damp in places. On the first corner after he pitted, he ran straight off, but recovered well to be setting fastest laps in 2 laps time.

This news resulted in a mad scramble for tyres on Lap 8, with most of the field bar the Red Bulls pitting that lap. Sebastian Vettel stopped the next lap, and got away with it, but Webber’s stop on Lap 10 was too late, and he lost further positions. He attempted to make it up by making a move on Felipe Massa, but ran wide, and lost even more places.

Meanwhile, at the back, Alonso and Schumacher had work to do. While Fernando got stuck into getting past the backmarkers, which he did well, Schumacher had a disaster, struggling to get past Jaime Alguersuari for most of the day, and completely ruined his race. When he tried a move on Lucas di Grassi a few laps earlier, the Brazilian responded by taking the position back the next corner, resulting in many smiles in the Virgin garage. While he didn’t keep the position, it must have been a great sight to see a new driver in a new team keeping his own against Michael Schumacher.

While one Ferrari worked his way up the grid, the other was defending himself against Lewis Hamilton. The Briton made a move at Turn 1, and got away with it, but damaged his front wing in the process. The damage wasn’t enough to nessecitate a pit stop though.

Vettel loses control after a suspected brake failure

Vettel loses control after a suspected brake failure

Vettel was still leading at this point, but not for long. On Lap 25, he crashed out at Turn 13, ending his chances of a win for the second race in a row. He reported on the team radio that there was a front left brake failure, but this is yet to be confirmed. His crash handed the lead to Jenson Button, who took the lead and never let go of it throughout the race.

The next issue concerned the entire field. By around Lap 30 out of 58, there were two options: Pit once more and put on the soft tyres, or keep going on the same set for the rest of the race. When the track had dried out at the start, all the drivers except Robert Kubica had taken on the soft tyres. When the chance to pit again later cam around, most some took it while others stayed out. Button, Kubica, Massa and Alonso were the frontrunners who opted to stay out. Schumacher, Rosberg, Hamilton and Barrichello decided to pit, and all took on the soft tyres. Don’t forget that since there was rain, both compounds of tyres do not have to be used throughout the race.

The gamble to pit did not pay off for these drivers. Schumacher still wasn’t going anywhere, Rosberg’s car wasn’t quick enough to catch up to Kubica, and Hamilton got stuck behind Massa and Alonso while trying to catch up to Button.

After the mad scrambles around the track for the first half, the main battle in the second half was between Rosberg, Massa, Alonso, Hamilton and Webber. Lewis rued the decision to pit, as he had become stuck behind the Ferraris for the rest of the race. Amazingly, while Button had conserved his tyres well, Hamilton ripped up his tyres even after his pit stop, which further hampered his efforts.

This battle for third all went horribly wrong with 3 laps to go. Hamilton tried a move on Alonso at Turn 15, Webber made a mistake and slammed into Hamilton, which broke Webber’s front wing and meant Rosberg got ahead of Hamilton. Mark pitted instantly, but fell to 9th. He apologised to Hamilton after the race, but Lewis was more angry about the strategy mistake.

Jenson Button celebrates after taking his first win for McLaren

Jenson Button celebrates after taking his first win for McLaren

While all this was happening, Button was sailing away to his first victory with McLaren. Smooth tyre managment and good pace throughout, as well as good tactical choices, meant a comfortable finish for the Briton. He crossed the line first, with Robert Kubica 12 seconds behind, and Massa finished off the podium. Alonso got 4th to keep his lead in the championship, Rosberg benefited from Hamilton’s and Webber’s woes to finish 5th, then Hamilton ended up 6th. Vitantonio Liuzzi drove clean and consistently to finish 7th, Barrichello was 8th, Webber was 9th, and Schumacher was 10th after overtaking Alguersuari and De La Rosa in the final few laps.

Lotus and HRT got their first finishes, albeit 2 and 5 laps down respectively. Heikki Kovalainen, like I said, did a good job to get 13th, while Karun Chandhok survived a few mistakes to finish 14th. Both of the Virgin drivers, Trulli and Senna all had mechanical problems.

It was a fantastic race, which firmly shut up all the whingers who complain about Formula 1 being boring. Interestingly enough, the rain wasn’t really needed to make a great race, so we can all look forward to Malaysia next weekend.

Drivers and Constructors championship standings have been updated, you can view them here.

Pictures and analysis to follow soon.

Full result:

Driver Team Gap # of laps
1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 58
2 Robert Kubica Renault 12.034 58
3 Felipe Massa Ferrari 14.488 58
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 16.304 58
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 16.683 58
6 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 29.898 58
7 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 59.847 58
8 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 60.536 58
9 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 67.319 58
10 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 69.391 58
11 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 71.301 58
12 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 74.084 58
13 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 2 Laps 56
14 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 5 Laps 53
Not Classified
15 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 17 Laps 41
16 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 32 Laps 26
17 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 33 Laps 25
18 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 49 Laps 9
19 Vitaly Petrov Renault 49 Laps 9
20 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 54 Laps 4
21 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 58 Laps 0
22 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 58 Laps 0
23 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 58 Laps 0
24 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 58 Laps 0

Autralian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

The last time Sebastian Vettel took pole position, a spark plug failure cost him a probable victory. This time, he will be hoping for better luck in Australia. Before the race begins, let’s have a look at what might happen during the race.

The traditional first-corner Melbourne crash - expect another this year

The traditional first-corner Melbourne crash - expect another this year

First of all, with an extra 4 cars on the grid, and the notorious Turn 1, there will almost definitely be a first-lap crash. In 2009, Heikki Kovalainen, Mark Webber and Rubens Barrichello all collided. The year before, Felipe Massa spun, and Webber, Button, Vettel, Heidfeld and Fisichella all got involved at the first corner. Also, with the much heavier fuel loads at the start, I am sure that someone will be caught out and understeer into someone else.

Another factor to consider is that the pole sitter has a very high chance of keeping their lead. In the last 14 years in Melbourne, only 2 of the pole sitters did not win. They were both involved in accidents in the race. The driver in pole position generally can cut out a huge lead for himself, as Jenson Button did last year. Even better, they are on the clean side of the track, so a good start is very likely. With all of this in mind, Vettel has a good chance of keeping his lead.

But, what about his well-known reliability problems? Two-thirds of the lap in Melbourne is spent at full throttle, which could be a strain on the engines. However, this could be countered by the colder-than-normal conditions we have been having across the weekend. If it rains, for example, the Renault engine would hardly overheat.

Next up is strategy. If the conditions were dry, then it would be a simple 1-stop strategy for most of the field. But, the  imminent first-lap crash will cause tyre problems if the safety car is deployed. If Bernd Maylander is called out, then drivers who started on the softer tyre will have less time to get the most out of them. Drivers who start on the harder compound can go much longer in the race, when added with the durability benefit. The one problem is that the harder compound takes about 3 laps to fully warm up, which would suit them well if the safety car came out on Lap 1, and they were heated then. For the front-runners, however, most will have to start on the soft tyre, since their fastest lap was set on them in Q3. Therefore, those in the top 10 who are starting on the hard tyre (unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be an official list of who is on what tyre, but I’m pretty sure that Sutil is one of the drivers on the harder tyre) will have a good chance in the race.

There will not be the tyre-wear issue that we had last year. A few days back, I incorrectly reported that the super-soft and medium tyres were being brought by Bridgestone. It is in fact the soft and hard tyres that are being used. This means that the super-soft tyre problem that we had last year will not be happening this year, which means that the soft compound can be used for about 15 or so laps this year, compared to the 10 laps last year.

Then of course there is the weather. Unlike many other years, showers are being forecast for tomorrow. If rain does fall, then the two compounds of tyres do not have to be used in the race. Depending on when it falls, it may give an advantage to the front runners who start on the soft tyre. The perfect time for it to rain, in the eyes of the leaders, is around Lap 14-16 or so. The BBC are predicting heavy rain at points tomorrow, with moderate visibility. Temperatures will be between 12 and 20 degrees. The colder-than-normal temperatures will hugely disadvantage the harder tyre, because it will be harder to warm them up when they are first put on.

Drivers to watch

Mark Webber – The local boy, woho has never finished higher here than his 5th in 2002 with Minardi. He is 2nd on the grid this year, with the best car on the grid. with the crowd behind him, expect him to push Vettel for the win until the last lap. Unless his terrible luck catches up with him…

Robert Kubica – an upgraded front wing and other aerodynamic updates have resulted in a much better R30 than in Bahrain. Kubica starts P9, and on the clean side of the grid as well, so he could make up 1 or 2 places at the start. The Renault seems to pick up speed very well as its fuel burns off, so if the weather stays dry then he could perform well. The one thing he needs to be careful of is the first corner, with several aggressive drivers ahead of (Schumacher) and behind (Sutil and Hamilton) him.

Lewis Hamilton – I’m not expecting a good result from the Briton, but I am expecting fireworks. He is overly aggressive at starts sometimes, and he is bunched up in the middle of the field, so expect him to cause a big pile-up on Lap1.

Heikki Kovalainen – This may seem like an odd choice, but he has the best chance out of the new teams. He lines up 19th on the clean side of the grid. He has the best new car, so he may possibly get a chance of keeping the pressure on the drivers in front. The only thing that would stop him is reliability.

Australian GP Saturday qualifying press conference

Today we saw Red Bull lock out the front row of the grid ahead of tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix, with Sebastian Vettel leading Mark Webber. Fernando Alonso joined these two in the post-qualifying press conference:

Q: Sebastian, what a lap. The final sector of it you were hanging it off the edge of the kerbs, you were all over the place. You certainly spoiled the day for the Webber fans here in Melbourne.
Sebastian Vettel:
Yeah, I think obviously first of all it is a great result for both of us and for the team. Mark’s home race, so it is a little bit funny remembering last year from Germany, so kind of revenge but it is a long race tomorrow. But coming back to qualifying, I think we did a good step into qualifying with the car, improving it, and the final session was all about ‘does it start to rain or not.’ Everyone went out. We waited a little bit and the first lap was the quickest and just spot on everywhere until I reached the last three corners. I would say turn 14, the fast right hander, I was still on the edge and okay but after that I think I lost a little bit, especially the last corner onto the main straight. It was a very good lap up to that point. I was very happy. I think the result says it all, so looking forward to tomorrow. It is quite good to start at the front. We don’t know how messy it might get tomorrow, safety car, no safety car. There is always a lot happening in Albert Park but it is good to be on pole. The clean side as well, so I am very happy.

Q: Mark, eight one-hundredths of a second down on Sebastian. You lost time in the middle sector there but what did you think of your performance? Are you happy?
Mark Webber:
Not really. I would love to be on pole. Second is a good result as Seb said for the team. Both of us are up there which is fantastic. It is a lot better than my qualifying in Bahrain. The lap was pretty decent but for both of us there is always a little bit here and there where you can get a little bit more out of it. In the end I did my best. That’s all I could do. The middle sector, turn six and nine, is always a balancing act to get the entries and exit clean, so overall I would say I would like to be one place further up but Seb did a good job for the team, so very, very close and see how we go tomorrow.

Q: Fernando, you are a further eight one-hundredths down on Mark. Are you closer to the Red Bulls on race pace, do you think, than you are on qualifying pace?
Fernando Alonso:
No idea. We see tomorrow. Qualifying has been good for us. We knew that to beat the Red Bulls was a difficult thing to do here, so we just concentrated to maximise our potential, so third I think is a very good result and the pace has been good in one lap performance, so we are close to them and tomorrow we see. The race is long. We will try to finish the race and hopefully be on the podium again like in Bahrain and keep on scoring points. The race is long and as Sebastian said here will be a very long race with safety cars, accidents, problems, very tough also for the mechanical aspect of the car. First we need to finish the race and then we will see if we were quick enough to fight for the win or not.

Q: Sebastian, you said on the radio at the end that ‘we will show them’. Do you feel you have something to prove and , if so, who is them?
SV:
Everyone else. I got the call P1 and Mark P2, so at the end of the day you are a team and the result in Bahrain for both of us, myself and Mark, was probably not as the car is. We have got another chance here. There are lots of races this year but it is quickly said on the radio, things like that. We are all motivated and I am looking forward to tomorrow.

Q: Sebastian, we spoke about the final sector. That was also where both the two Red Bull cars were particularly strong. What was the trick to that?
SV:
Nail it! I think that the car has been working well yesterday. I think I was a bit behind Mark in the first two practice sessions and overnight we did a step forward. I think to qualifying again it was another step and then it was pretty much head to head. You were talking about the first run in Q3. We were all the teams in the same situation. We didn’t know if it would start to rain or not. We had the forecast of some drizzle, but you never know how strong that is going to be. It can easily spoil your lap. I think that the first run I had in Q3, the first two sectors were spot on. The third sector was getting a bit messy towards the end, so I lost it a little bit into 15, braking a bit late and I had not so clean an exit onto the main straight, so it wasn’t ideal but still it was enough. For all of us we are trying to push so hard and trying to get every single bit out of the car. Especially here in Melbourne it is very easy to overshoot on entry and therefore have a bad exit or be too patient on entry and therefore having a good exit but having lost the time on the entrance of the corner. It is always a compromise to find. I like the circuit. It is very bumpy, very rough, but you really need to concentrate hard. Being on pole positions is a great achievement from all of us. Mark second, so it is the best possible result for the team, so looking forward to the race.

Q: You have never finished here, but you have only been here twice. What are the major factors in the race going to be? How difficult is the car to drive on the bumps under braking?
SV:
Well, I think the main thing is to finish. See the chequered flag this time. Last year we were close, only a couple of laps. But today was qualifying. Similar to Bahrain, Saturday is completely different to Sunday. Now we have a rough idea what is happening on Sunday, meaning that everyone of us will jump into the car with a lot of fuel in the car and it will be totally different. I think it will be even more bumpy and more difficult to control. It is a very long race. You need to focus on your own race, keeping the car on the track and at the same time managing your tyres plus trying to keep the car always on the limit. On top of that Albert Park is well known for any kind of happenings. I remember two years back only seven cars finished, so safety car, accidents, could be quite messy, so the main thing is to have a tidy race and bring the car home. Starting first that‘s where you want to finish as well.

Q: Mark, particularly impressive on the harder tyres in Q2. That must be encouraging even if you are disappointed not to be on pole?
MW:
The team has done a great job all weekend. We have been competitive all weekend. We have always been in the top few, so that was not what we expected as we know we have some very good opposition here. But in the end we got the maximum result for the team. Obviously I am not happy with the order but Seb did a great job and both of us pushed each other hard and that is what it’s about at this level. He got one back on me from Germany last year when I got pole from him as he said before, so in the end we had a good battle today and we go again tomorrow. It is a long, long race in terms of safety cars and a lot of the smaller teams with inexperienced drivers are also getting used to this new type of venue compared to Bahrain. It is a different type of track, so I don’t think that we will be finishing in the order in terms of the top 10. I think there will be few changes potentially, so we will see how it goes.

Q: How much did you change from this morning to this afternoon and from yesterday as well?
MW:
We changed a bit overnight, as much as we could. We got pretty much the optimum out of the car today. It went very well. It is evident that Sebastian and I are trying to find time that is probably not there and we can see that with his last sector in places and my middle sector. All of a sudden you start to look for a lap time which is much more riskier to get and easy to make mistakes. I wasn’t particularly keen on repeating my Bahrain performance. That was a good lap. Just a bee’s dick off pole, but at least I am on the front row and have a good chance to start the race in a good position.

Q: Fernando, apart from everything else you had a new wing on the car today from yesterday. Has that made a big difference? Anything major?
FA:
Some, some new parts put in the car. You put it in because you believe it is better. We are talking about hundredths of seconds. Anything is welcome but for this race we didn’t change the car in a way.

Q: You won here in 2006 and you said yesterday you were concentrating on race settings, so is third on the grid a surprise for you?
FA:
Not a surprise as I was not expecting any clear order. Yesterday’s times they mean nearly nothing as with the different fuel loads we have this year anyone can have a different preparation for the weekend. Yesterday we were in P15, so we were preparing for the race compared to our competitors maybe a little bit more, so for tomorrow I am confident. But as we all three said already, tomorrow’s race is a very long race with many things that normally happen here. Also there is the weather as it is not so clear that it will be dry, so anything can happen tomorrow. Better to start in the top three, top five, if you want to fight for a podium or a win, so definitely extremely happy with the position in the top three but we know that this is only the start of the weekend and tomorrow is the real job.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, in Bahrain you were surrounded by the two Ferraris. Here you have Mark on your side. Which is the better situation?
MW:
I think clearly to have Mark here. As Mark said before we were pushing each other hard in qualifying and now we sit here first and second. That is a great achievement. It is better than having two Ferraris up here and only one Red Bull.

Q: Mark, what is your emotion right now? Is it frustration or disappointment?
MW:
For sure I have had tougher days in my life, so I will sleep well tonight. It is the competitive instinct that you come here looking to get the maximum and you always want to do a little bit better than what you did. In the end we both showed today that probably that was where the car was as we repeated the lap times a few times. I will be happy in the morning when I wake up. I am in a good position to have a decent race, but this place is incredibly unpredictable come Sunday afternoon. Not only because of the type of circuit it is but because there can be some changeable weather tomorrow afternoon. I am getting happier every minute.

Q: (Carlos Miquel – Diario AS) Fernando, what’s your plan for tomorrow? To wait for the Red Bull Racing battle or to attack your friend Mark Webber?
FA:
I will think about it tonight and make a decision tomorrow. No, let’s wait and see. Obviously, the first priority is to finish the race. We need the points. You cannot have a DNF (did not finish) in the second race of the championship because of one stupid mistake. So the first priority is to finish the race and the second priority is to finish in a better position than where you normally started the race. Not if you started on pole, but if you start third you only look ahead of you and there are Mark and Sebastian and hopefully you can have a chance to fight with them. If not, obviously we need to fight to be on the podium, because that would also be a good result, to finish the first two races on the podium. So let’s wait and see and tomorrow we will see how the race develops.

Q: (Luis Fernando – Racing Magazine) Mark, a few days ago, you said it was better to be first or third in qualifying because it would be a bit of a mess to start on the right side of the grid, so can we assume that tomorrow you will be more in a defensive frame of mind than an attacking one?
MW:
I would still take second over third, obviously. I still have a reasonable position to start the race. It’s very difficult to know how it will unfold until basically the first hundred meters tomorrow. We’re still very, very optimistic. Our starts were good in Bahrain. In the past there has been a bit of a difference from left to right here but we will see what happens. Obviously the Lamborghinis decided to smash into each other on the front straight quite solidly today, so there’s been a bit of a clean-up after that and hopefully the track is clean. It’s always the way; Budapest, Monaco, there are a few tracks and this is one of them where there is a discrepancy from left to right but that’s how it’s always been, so I will see how it goes.

Q: (Mark Fogarty – Auto Action) Mark, perhaps more than ever, the eyes of a nation will be on you tomorrow. How daunting a prospect is that?
MW:
Not really, mate, because I know tomorrow’s papers will be wrapping fish and chips on Monday. They’re very fickle and most people down here obviously think that this is the only race of the season. I have a much, much bigger thing in mind, obviously, a good result tomorrow. Of course I’m keen to do well here, but every Grand Prix is a very respectful thing to take part in. I’ve a very good team behind me and whether I’m in Australia, Budapest, Japan we give our best. Every time we get in the car we have to deliver. Today I didn’t feel any pressure at all. I felt like I drove well and I enjoyed it. When the helmet is on, it’s over to me to do the job.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Vettel, in the last race on softer tyres, it looks like you had a little bit better performance than Ferrari and when you used hard tyres, it looked Alonso was maybe a little bit better. Considering what you saw in free practice, what can you expect from the race?
SV:
Well, I think this is a different circuit here, different tyres as well, soft and hard, but they are both different to Bahrain, so I think, as Fernando has already mentioned, the lap times on Friday weren’t really representative. Everyone is doing whatever he thinks is best for his kind of preparation, either qualifying, something in between, or race. I think we will have a good car in the race. To be honest, I don’t think you have to be a genius if you look at yesterday, we didn’t really focus on qualifying too much. I think it makes us confident for the race and we should have a good car, so Fernando was saying that they have a new front wing on the car, only a couple of hundredths or as Mark said it could be two hundred hundredths. Obviously it’s not that much but everyone is trying to push, trying to improve. I think tomorrow it will be much more about having a tidy race as it is likely that a lot of things happen here: safety cars, as we said already. There’s usually a lot of action at Albert Park. I hope for a boring race and we finish as we start. I’m sorry for you but we didn’t really get the job done in Bahrain, so we will try to do it here.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) I was about to ask how boring it could be; can you promise a more colourful race for the TV spectators?
SV:
Well, I think yes, because this circuit has an edge that there is simply more action than probably in Bahrain, so more things happening. The circuit’s not that long, so you might also have more situations lapping cars, lapping groups which can always be a dangerous situation for yourself and for them as well. There’s not a lot of run-off whereas in Bahrain, if you maybe do a mistake you just run wide and you come back. Here it always looks nice on TV but it feels horrible in the car, as I felt yesterday. It’s immediately gravel or something that isn’t that smooth. Yeah, I think we will have more excitement tomorrow just because of the circuit, first of all. Secondly, I think it’s a bit closer here than it was in Bahrain. It’s also a shorter track, so it’s natural, and lastly, as Fernando said, we don’t know the weather yet. There’s usually always sunshine in Australia, so I don’t know what’s wrong this year. You never know what happens. Just a couple of drops on the circuit can make a difference. So you keep the car on the track and try to bring it home. For us, I think the target is clear.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, we have seen that the Red Bull is a fast car, but the reliability is probably not at its best. What do you have to do with the team, how have you spoken to them to try to avoid the problems that you had in Bahrain? Are you worried about it?
SV:
Well, it’s not fair to say that we are struggling with reliability. In Bahrain, we were obviously a bit unlucky with the failure that we had. A spark plug failure doesn’t really happen too often but it happened in that case. The main thing is that we carried on and we still finished fourth. I think Mark had a solid race in Bahrain. If you look at reliability, I think it was quite boring for him to follow another car for the whole race and not be able to pass, even though he was probably quicker. To come back, I think we have nothing to fear. We have good and strong people on board. If there’s any indication that we might have a weakness here or there, which, to be frank with you, in testing it’s natural, I think, because the car is new because you always have some problems here and there to solve. We solved them and so far we’ve had no issues. In that regard I’m quite confident.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Mark, there are reports in the papers that Sydney will make a bid for this race after the contract expires. But you also say you like it here. What is it about Melbourne that makes it the perfect home for the Australian Grand Prix?
MW:
Look, this is not the Melbourne Grand Prix for me, it’s the Australian Grand Prix. We should be proud of having a big event like this in Australia. I know Australia’s very territorial when it comes to separate states and in many ways we are different countries within one but it’s a big country and you can get here to watch the race from any part of Australia if you’re keen. I don’t have a clue where they’re going to run a Grand Prix in Sydney at the moment. Of course it’s a long way away if they’re looking to design something half decent, but there’s nothing wrong with this venue. All the drivers like it. Transport is sensational. Seb says we need to resurface it in places a little bit but we can do that if we have to. You always think it’s greener somewhere else. Adelaide put on a good show and so has this place. We’ve been here for a long time.

Whitmarsh questions Red Bull ride height system

Martin Whitmarsh is concerned about Red Bull's innovation

Martin Whitmarsh is concerned about Red Bull's innovation

The team principal for McLaren, Martin Whitmarsh, has questioned the system that Red Bull operate to keep their cars’ ride height as low as possible in low-fuel qualifying, thereby giving them a performance advantage.

Since refuelling is banned this year, the full tanks at the start of the race means that the cars will be much lower to the ground, then rise slowly as the fuel burns off.  This increase in ride height results in a proportional decrease in downforce and grip as the race continues, and in qualifying. Whitmarsh believes that Red Bull are operating a system that allows their ride height to adjust itself, which means the car can run lower to the ground in qualifying, giving them an advantage against their rivals.

Whitmarsh thinks that the RB6 cars operate a ride height controlling structure, which he previously believed to be illegal in the technical regulations. He said:

"There's evidence that there are ride-height control systems which many people thought weren't permissible. It
looks like Red Bull and some other cars are able to run lower in qualifying than you would expect, if they're
then going to fill the car with fuel afterwards."

The idea of the suspension or a mechanism that controls the car’s ride height, like Red Bull are doing, had originated from active suspension, the innovation in the 1980’s and 1990’s that kept the car flat and level through bumps. However, it is unclear if Red Bull’s system is illegal, or if there is a system at all. However, Whitmarsh implied that the system was legal, by saying:

"As you can imagine, we're working quite hard on those systems now. The original rulings suggested such systems 
wouldn't be allowed on cars but we're seeing some which seem to have them."

If McLaren are working on their own system, then they must believe that the innovation is legal. However, it is still unclear how much of an advantage the Red Bulls have gotten from this innovation. If it is a large advantage, then expect to see the other teams start to claw away at the team’s lead in the technical sense.

Austraian qualifying picture gallery

Today we saw Red Bull lock out the front row before the Australian Grand Prix tomorrow. Here are some of the pictures taken from today:

Vettel and Webber lock out the front row in Australian qualifying

Sebastian Vettel ahead of Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso

Sebastian Vettel ahead of Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso

Red Bull took the front row of the grid for the Australian Grand Prix tomorrow, with Sebastian Vettel leading local boy Mark Webber.

Vettel’s Q3 time of 1.23.919 was the fastest of the weekend so far, and was a tenth of a second ahead of Webber. Fernando Alonso’s best lap time was 1.24.111, putting him in third place. The biggest susprise of qualifying was Lewis Hamilton failing to get into Q3, the first of the top 4 teams to do so this season.

Q1

Red Bull were the only team who managed to get through to Q2 using only the hard tyres, which are believed to be half a second slower than the softer tyre. Hamilton, Button and Alonso, as well as the Red Bulls, were all able to get through with only 1 run. As expected, the new 3 teams filled up the back 3 rows of the grid, but HRT have now improved well from Bahrain. The two Lotus drivers finished ahead of Virgin and HRT. However, Jarno Tulli’s performance was hindered by a broken seat.

Sebastien Buemi would have been knocked out with the new teams, but for a last-gasp effort to put Vitaly Petrovin his place. The Russian might have got through to Q2, but a mistake at Turns 11 and 12 slowed him down considerably.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18)Sebatien Buemi

19)Heikki Kovalainen

20)Jarno Trulli

21)Timo Glock

22)Lucas di Grassi

23)Bruno Senna

24)Karun Chandhok

Q2

The biggest surprise of this session was that Lewis Hamilton failed to get through to Q3. He did two runs on the soft tyre, and was only a small fraction of a second behind Robert Kubica, but ended up 11th.

While Nico Hulkenberg only qualified 15th, Rubens Barrichello was 7 tenths faster, and got through to Q3. The Saubers struggled again, with Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi getting 14th and 16th respectively.Toro Rosso did well, with Sebastien Buemi getting 12th, and Jaime Alguersuari ending up 17th.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11)Lewis Hamilton

12)Sebastien Buemi

13)Vitantonio Liuzzi

14)Pedro de la Rosa

15)Nico Hulkenberg

16)Kamui Kobayashi

17)Jaime Alguersuari

Q3

Webber was initially fastest, getting ahead of Alonso. But, Vettel’s fastest lap of the weekend threw him off the top spot, despite a mistake in the final sector.All of the top drivers’ final runs were fruitless, with little improvement from their efforts.

At the end of the session, both Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher tried a run on the hard tyres, but neither improved on their time. It is clear that they were trying to improve their chances in the race, by going further in the first stint.

Jenson Button was fourth, followed by Felipe Massa, Rosberg, Schumacher, Barrichello, Kubica and Sutil.

Pictures will be added soon.

Full results from qualifying:

1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1.24.774 1.24.096 1.23.919
2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1.25.286 1.24.276 1.24.035
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1.25.082 1.24.335 1.24.111
4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1.24.897 1.24.531 1.24.675
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1.25.548 1.25.010 1.24.837
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1.24.788 1.24.788 1.24.884
7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1.25.351 1.24.871 1.24.927
8 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1.25.702 1.25.085 1.25.217
9 Robert Kubica Renault 1.25.588 1.25.122 1.25.372
10 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1.25.504 1.25.046 1.26.036
11 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1.25.046 1.25.184
12 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.26.061 1.25.638
13 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1.26.170 1.25.743
14 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1.26.089 1.25.747
15 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1.25.866 1.25.748
16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1.26.251 1.25.777
17 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.26.095 1.26.089
18 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1.26.471
19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1.28.797
20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1.29.111
21 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1.29.592
22 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1.30.185
23 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1.30.526
24 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1.30.613

Australian Friday practice analysis

Today in Australia we saw Robert Kubica and Lewis Hamilton top the two Friday Practice sessions. However, one of these was heavily hampered by rain, which makes the data more difficult to read. Here is what we have learned from today.

Mercedes vs McLaren

Mercedes vs McLaren - Friday Practice 1

Mercedes vs McLaren - Friday Practice 1

In Friday Practice 1, apart from two slips from Hamilton, both drivers from both teams had the same pattern of pace. All of these drivers started with lower fuel, filled up, then burned up the fuel as the session went on. Rosberg’s and Schumacher’s times do appear quicker than the McLaren’s on the first graph. Also, Jenson Button has hinted that they were running quite low on fuel, which may distort this chart, as we don’t know how much fuel the Mercedes cars were carrying.

Mercedes vs McLaren - Friday Practice 2

Mercedes vs McLaren - Friday Practice 2

In FP2, the rain obviously slowed the cars down considerably, especiallyin the middle of people’s stints. The fastest laps set in this session were much closer, so it can be assumed that the Mercedes drivers were running slightly heavier.


The 3 new teams

Lotus, Virgin and HRT - FP1

Lotus, Virgin and HRT - FP1

The Fp1 chart is a good indicator of how the cars get faster along the weekend, as the track rubbers in. Lotus appear to have got ahead of their rivals, as Kovalainen’s and Trulli’s stints were consistently faster than the drivers for Virgin and HRT. Timo Glock was out often in FP1, but only set one proper fast lap, so the analysis for Virgin was left to Lucas di Grassi, who was consistently slower than Senna or Chandhok throughout the session. From this, we can see that Lotus are clearly ahead, while HRT are beginning to catch up with Virgin.

Lotus, Virgin and HRT - FP2

Lotus, Virgin and HRT - FP2

Unfortunately, not as much can be learned in FP2. This is because Chandok, Senna and Di Grassi all failed to get a fast lap in. Also, the changeable conditions affected the runnings as well. Still, throughout this session, the Lotus drivers of Trulli and Kovalainen were quite a bit quicker than Timo Glock.

The Lotus is certainly ahead, but the main question is when will HRT catch up with and overtake Virgin. It is much easier to do in these practice sessions, but HRT need to transform these improvements into better race pace to have a chance of catching up to Virgin. Reliability will be key in the next few races.

More graphs and analysis will be added soon.

Australian Friday Practice picture gallery

Below are some of the best photos taken during Friday Practice sessions today.

Australian GP Friday conference

Today in Australia, the daily press conference featured team principals from the top four teams: Ross Brawn, Stefano Domenicali, Christian Horner and Martin Whitmarsh. Here is the full transcript from the conference:

Q: A question for you all. Was the result in Bahrain pretty much what you expected or were there some surprises?
Martin Whitmarsh:
We didn’t think we were going to be that slow. That was a surprise.

Q: But you still finished in the top three.
MW:
Yes, we still finished. I think you would have expected the four teams represented here certainly to be at the top and they appear to be. Ferrari and Red Bull look very quick. Other than that I don’t think there were any great surprises.

Q: But in the correct order?
MW:
Well, not from my viewpoint, but it was good for Ferrari. They have obviously done a good job and Red Bull were very quick in qualifying, startlingly quick. I think we underperformed fairly severely in qualifying. We were a little bit more respectable in the race.

Q: Stefano, any surprises?
Stefano Domenicali:
For us it was a fantastic result. To say we were expecting the result at the beginning, I would lie to you. It was a fantastic surprise but nevertheless we don’t have to forget that Red Bull seems to be quicker. I think that we are all very close, so as I said in Bahrain we took out the maximum result and considering the level of performance of our main competitors Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren on top of the others, I think we should be very happy about the fact we were first and second.

Q: Christian?
Christian Horner:
The biggest surprise for us I guess was on lap 33 when we were suddenly running on seven cylinders. But up until that point the weekend had gone very well. The problem with winter testing is that with the way fuel loads are now, it is very difficult to predict pace. We stuck to our own programme and it was only really I guess on the Saturday when the fuel came out of the cars that is arguably the first time you get an idea where you stand which was obviously encouraging. The performance of our car in the race was also encouraging. It was just unfortunate that we didn’t come away with a Grand Prix victory which was well within our grasp but these things happen.

Q: Ross, were you pretty much where you expected?
Ross Brawn:
I think so. There were no major surprises. We are not quite where we want to be and therefore the results were a little bit disappointing. But we know what we have got to do. The season goes through many phases. The first part of the season is everyone establishing where they are and then reacting to where they find themselves, so we are reacting at the moment.

Q: Another question to you all. Coming here to a very different type of circuit, how does your performance here compare to Bahrain? For example, Martin, I think you learned quite a lot from Bahrain which will be of use here.
MW:
Well, I hope so but I think we have got to be cautious. I think we have had a reasonable day today. But it is only Friday and as Christian said we are all looking to do a little bit of long running on heavy fuel and vary the fuel loads. That makes it pretty impossible to know exactly where you are. You have just got to follow your own programme but I think we had a reasonable day, but unfortunately it doesn’t count for anything, so we will see how we get on tomorrow.

Q: I think you suffered a little bit on the bumps in Bahrain?
MW:
We did. I think we didn’t have the right downforce for that circuit and we also really didn’t react sufficiently to the bumps in the new section of that circuit. We could have done a better job. I don’t think necessarily been as quick as Red Bull in qualifying but I think we could have been a little bit closer.

Q: Stefano?
SD:
Here today with the weather condition I think for all the teams they have not done a complete programme as expected. We want to keep the same line as we predicted this morning but the fact that the track was not wet enough or not dry enough that was the reason why we didn’t go out in that fraction. What Martin and Christian said is totally correct. We don’t know exactly where we are. You see the gaps are so big that we know that it is not only the performance on the same level of fuel, so we will know tomorrow exactly where we will be in comparison to all the other competitors. The only thing I can say is that at least what I saw this morning it seems that Renault have done a good job with two cars there in the first 10 places. I think we need to respect the job that they did. The season will bring us new competitors the more we go ahead.

Q: Christian?
CH:
We worked through a programme. Both drivers seemed pretty happy with the car. Again difficult to gauge fully where you stand in competitiveness, but it was a shame that a little bit of wet weather interfered with that session. But generally pretty happy and we will see how we go tomorrow.

Q: Ross?
RB:
It is very difficult to judge where you are as there are four seconds difference between empty fuel and full tanks. I think everyone runs at both levels to judge where they are on the first day. You have got to check out the brakes, you have got to do some high fuel work. I think with Michael (Schumacher) we made some progress today. I think possibly with Nico (Rosberg) we went the wrong direction on some set-up changes and he wasn’t so happy with the car at the end. I think generally we are extracting the potential of the car which we know is not quite high enough yet but we had a reasonable day.

Q: Martin, there was a story about the emphasis being very much on qualifying. Is that more than ever?
MW:
I think in the last few years in Formula One you have to qualify near the front. It is very difficult to overtake and maybe typically there are less stops. We are obviously on the same fuel load throughout the race, so we will probably have a bit more emphasis. You have got to qualify well. I think all the teams here and all the teams out there want to be as close to the front of the race as you can be.

Q: Stefano, can Fernando Alonso restore the magic when Michael Schumacher was at Ferrari?
SD:
I think it is too early to say that. What we lived with Michael and with Ross, it was a fantastic period but before saying something it is best to do the result and then maybe after that celebrate. So feet on the ground as it is too early. Fernando is a fantastic driver and he has all the potential to do a fantastic job but we need to go ahead step by step.

Q: Christian, there has been a certain amount of confusion about the reason for the problem with the lack of pace perhaps from lap 33 onwards in Bahrain. Can you just explain what happened.
CH:
Basically Sebastian immediately radioed in that he had had a big loss of power. The first time he came past it was obvious that there was something wrong. I think that anybody who was anywhere near the circuit could hear that the engine was not running smoothly. Our first diagnostic was that the exhaust had failed as to all intents and purposes that’s what it sounded like. He was playing around with some of the mixtures available to him in the cockpit and trying to adapt his driving style and at that stage we thought that not only had a race victory been lost but that he was unlikely to score any points. But he adapted brilliantly well and managed to limit the damage and come home in fourth place which was a big effort and very impressive drive from him given the circumstances. On further investigation the problem was a spark plug that had failed. It is one of those things. Not seen one like it before, certainly not in a Red Bull car and Renault have been unable to fully explain the reasoning behind it. It looks like just one of those rogues which unfortunately struck at just the wrong time.

Q: Ross, looking back a year ago here your own team was making a debut. What an extraordinary year. Just reflect on the last year and the change.
RB:
Yes, it is surprising how quickly you forget where you were a year ago when you are dealing with the challenges of a new season. It was an exceptional year for us. Certainly one of the highlights of my career. I think we have entered into a new phase now with the team where we can be more confident in our future planning and in our ideas and investment for the future. Really, quite honestly an astonishing 12 months but what we did last year very quickly disappears into insignificance in terms of what we are trying to achieve this year and what we are trying to achieve for the future, so it was very quickly forgotten. We are more focussed on performing this season.

Q: And the fire still burns just as brightly.
RB:
Oh yes, yes. For me personally a year off reminded me how much I enjoy the business. I can still get out of bed in the morning and want to get into the office. The plans we have for the future of the team have been quite invigorating from my perspective.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ralf Bach – R & B) Christian, I was very surprised last week by learning from Ron Dennis about your real problems in the race in Bahrain with Sebastian. He said your tank is simply too small.
CH:
I guess the problem with age is that your hearing tends to fail you a little bit and perhaps Ron didn’t hear the misfire that was there and probably didn’t see the fact that the other car also finished the race without any issues at all. It wasn’t anything to do with the size of the fuel tank. As I say it was a spark plug issue and that was it.

Q:(Chris Lines – Associated Press) On that fuel issue. We have seen today that Virgin has received permission from the FIA to increase the size of its fuel tanks, so that it can finish races. A question to all guys, how close are you running to the limit of fuel efficiency and on a race like this with high fuel consumption do you expect to see any teams struggling or having to drop their pace?
SD:
We are in Formula One and we know that everything is related to performance. The more fuel you put in the car, you have to consider that you run a little bit slower pace. I think it is always a balance that you have to consider as you don’t know exactly how the race will be. You may have a safety car period which can be very long, so you need to make sure that you burn the fuel when you can. You have a certain period when it is the opposite and that you need to make sure that you are in the fastest pace that you can. It is really a matter of finding the right balance in order not to have any problem as you are referring and also no problem with the reliability. It is just another challenge this year with these new regulations which you have to consider very carefully.
CH: I think Stefano summed it up perfectly. You push the boundaries in all areas. Fuel efficiency is important. Power is equally important but obviously the amount of fuel you start the race with has an impact on lap time, so it is down to the engine manufacturers. Their consumption is something that they have been quite focussed on over the winter.
RB: I think it’s all really been said. There’s a formula which varies from track to track of power/fuel starting weight and you run the engine in the best form, both strategically and from a lap time perspective. So you may chose to start with a bit less fuel and run the engine lean for a while which gives less power or you may start with a plan to run the engine at the optimum. I think it depends where you’ve qualified and how you intend to run the race. I think all of the top teams, certainly, have had enough knowledge from previous years to be able to judge the size of fuel tank (required) and none of us have made them any bigger than they need to be. Bahrain is a hard race in that respect; this is another hard race in that respect, so I think we’re all on the limit at these races which is how it should be. The systems are generally sophisticated enough that we shouldn’t run out of fuel – it doesn’t mean to say we won’t, a mistake might be made but we’ve got pretty good monitoring of the fuel usage of the car to manage it during the race. You may see or hear on the radio that management is going on, when you’re in traffic, when you’re held up by another car, you may chose to save some fuel, so that you can run the engine at a more powerful setting when you get a clear track. So it’s just part of the challenge of Formula One now.
MW: I don’t have much to add to that. I think the message is, though, that even if your fuel tank is ample, big enough which I’m sure it is on most of the cars, you will still run it to the limit, because that’s what you have to do in Formula One. We can’t carry five or ten kilos of fuel around for the entire race. We’re just giving ourselves a weight penalty, so we will, as the others have said, take some risk to a degree, you will make some assumptions about how a race is going to pan out and you will fuel accordingly and during the race you will adjust what you’re doing to burn the fuel appropriately. So if you’ve got those calculations wrong, then it’s quite difficult. We will need a bit more data tomorrow to make a judgement for the engineers before they go into Sunday because today we had limited running in good conditions.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Question for Martin as president of FOTA: I know that you have discussed with the other teams about the lack of show in the first Grand Prix. What has been the result of these discussions, is there something that you can do in the short term?
MW:
I think most of us would say that we were disappointed by the spectacle that was created in the race in Bahrain, but I think we’ve got to be careful that we don’t jump into decisions on the basis of one race. You look at any season, you will have races which can be entertaining, you will have other races that are considerable less entertaining. I think there has been a very open discussion amongst the teams, we’re aware that we’ve got to watch this very closely. We’ve agreed to meet again in Malaysia, after we’ve had two races and I’m sure we’ll talk openly about what the options are, whether we need to do anything and if so what we need to do.

Q: (Mike Doodson) Christian, we’ve spoken about the comparatively monotonous race that we had in Bahrain but I’m interested to know about the strategy both of your team and of Ferrari. If Sebastian hadn’t had the problem, those two Ferraris behind looked pretty racy to me. Do you think they might have caught up and we might actually all be talking about what a splendid race it had been with a big scrap at the end of it? Maybe Stefano would give us some details about his strategy too.
CH:
Yeah, I can’t talk for Ferrari’s strategy. I was hoping the last 16 or 17 laps were going to be quite boring but unfortunately it all changed quite rapidly with the problem that we had. I think that if you look back twelve months, there wasn’t a huge amount of overtaking again in Bahrain, even under the previous regulations. Up until the first pit stop, after the first pit stop, Sebastian was acutely aware that the Ferrari was going to be difficult for them to overtake, and heading into that first event he was quite conscious that he wanted to look after the tyres between managing the tyres and the race from that point forward. I think he knew that he had a bit in hand if he needed to respond. At the end of the day, we didn’t get to see how strong the threat from Alonso was going to be over the last few laps. Who knows how that would have panned out? Mark was in a different situation. He qualified out of position and he spent the whole race looking at either the back of a McLaren or a Mercedes gearbox and was just quite clearly unable to pass but he had that situation twelve months ago, having qualified out of position under the previous regulations and faced a similar scenario where he spent a large percentage of the race looking at the back of Piquet’s car. I think it’s difficult and it would be premature to say that’s how future races are going to pan out but we will never know ultimately what would have happened in Bahrain but we would have liked to have thought that we had the Ferraris covered on that occasion.
SD: I think that on that point Christian said what I have to say. We were trying, for sure, to attack in the case that Sebastian was in front but then what if… I don’t know. If I can say one thing, I think it’s better to focus on the positive things of this year, that is the fact that we have teams that are very close. A lot of drivers can be champion and I think that, as Formula One, we should promote our situation. I don’t understand why we should speak about negative things after one race. I think that in the past we have seen very boring races, very, very boring, if I may say. With respect to Ross, the first couple of races last year, for us, were so boring that you cannot believe it. I’m joking, of course, but you understand what I mean. So before saying something, it’s better to wait. We don’t have to hide the problem, we need to discuss it, as Martin has said, between us in order to be pro-active about this thing, but I wouldn’t advocate any urgent measure because maybe we will have a fantastic race here and then suddenly this potential issue will disappear. I think that we need to be rational about this. I don’t believe that to change something during the course of the season will help people to understand what’s going on. I think that fundamentally, what we should do together, is really to focus on the real issue that to have no artificial addition to the sport. But at the end of the day, it’s the car that is so efficient that it’s difficult for even a fantastic driver to overtake another slow car. That’s the point that we need to attack, all together, to make sure that we are able to solve it. All other things like doing something artificial, I don’t think that will solve the issue. For sure, from the spectacle point of view it’s fantastic to see rain, safety cars, accidents, that’s the philosophy of a show but I don’t advocate any urgent measures before a good period of analysis at least. Too many times in Formula One we have done something too quickly, an emotional push, so it’s better to stay cool.
RB: I completely agree with Stefano. I think it is important that we do wait and reflect on what we have before we start making changes. Changes can definitely be for the worst as well as for the better. Some tracks are not conducive to overtaking. Bahrain, historically, has been a track where it’s been very difficult to overtake, so I think we do need to wait and see and get a few more samples of what’s going on before we see what we have.
CH: I echo the thoughts of the guys really. I think we saw more action in the first session this morning than probably the whole weekend in Bahrain and I just have a feeling that there’s going to be quite a lot going on in this weekend’s race. I think there’s a misconception that there has to be loads of overtaking in Formula One. Certainly since I was a kid watching Formula One, I can’t remember any year that there’s been a huge amount of overtaking but I think what needs to happen is that the drivers need to be in a position to challenge, to race each other and inevitably if, in a worst case scenario, a situation like Bahrain continues, I’m sure that collectively we would look at measures to assist the drivers.

Q: (Ralf Bach – R & B) Ross, I understood 99 percent of the race in Bahrain; maybe you can help me to understand the remaining one percent. Obviously there is an advantage this year when a driver stops early, so it was logical for me that Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull stopped the drivers who were in front. But your strategy was different. I didn’t understand this, because Nico was in front of Michael.
RB:
I think the strategy is to stop as soon as you’ve got a gap in the traffic behind you, so you’ve got to make sure that you can come out and use the new tyres. We felt that we had enough margin with Nico to be able to react because the time difference on the tyres was pretty finely balanced with the gap we had with the car behind, so we could react when we needed to. Nico got held up in the pits; if you watch what happened, Mark and Jenson came in at a point when we wanted to release Nico, otherwise it certainly would have been a very close situation with Lewis. So in that case it didn’t work out for us but basically you were waiting to call that first stop as soon as you’ve got a gap behind and you can use the tyres. Here, it’s going to be a little bit different because the tyres take one or two laps to warm up and therefore it’s not such a dramatic change when you go to new tyres; it will take two or three laps for the cars can react. But I have to be honest and say there’s not a lot of challenge in the strategy at the moment. I think what may happen this weekend is that we may get some safety cars which will make it much more interesting, but one of the things that we have lost in my view is the challenge of the strategy because of the loss of the fuel weights and other variables but those are things that we need to study and see how we can perhaps bring back in.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) What options remain to improve the quality of the show?
SD:
I have already answered this question.
RB: I think that the fundamental is do you do something artificial or do you try and evolve the cars in a different way or do you evolve the tracks in a different way? There are lots of artificial means of changing things around. The easiest is to put the fastest cars at the back but I don’t think that’s Formula One. Things like that can be done. We will wait and see how these next few races evolve and then decide if there is something that we can do which keeps the spirit of Formula One.
MW: There is always that fundamental question about the purity of Formula One versus the spectacle. I think that Formula One was grown and developed as being the pinnacle of motor sport, the most technically advanced, the best drivers, best teams. If you get a bunch of hooligans on track, you’re probably going to have an easier, more spectacular set of events which would occur. That’s not what Formula One has been. I think it would be wrong if the teams weren’t carefully reviewing at every opportunity ways in which we can perhaps improve the show, but I think most of us want to make sure that we don’t, in pursuing the spectacle, we don’t detract from what Formula One is, which is a pure form of motor racing.
CH: I very much agree with Martin’s comments. I think you have to look at the bigger picture, what Formula One is. Being a purist, I think that if you compare it with other sports, for example tennis at Wimbledon, used to be a serve/volley game and arguably was boring, but they haven’t concreted the courts there and people go back and watch every year because it crescendos into something. I think that’s what we will see with this championship. I think there will be twists and turns to it, we will have good races and hectic races as we did last year and we will have more static races, hopefully, from our point of view, a bit more like Silverstone, which was a boring race for everybody else but obviously quite a good race for us. I think the championship will go through many twists and turns during the course of the year and I think the key point is not to panic, not to knee jerk into a reaction which could ultimately be to the detriment of Formula One and the show and the fans, which, at the end of the day, is the most important aspect. I think we have to wait and see over the next few races, how things pan out.

McLaren lead wet Friday Practice 2

Lewis Hamilton during Friday Practice 2

Lewis Hamilton during Friday Practice 2

The McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button headed the pack in Friday Practice 2 today, as showers at the start of the session disrupted the runnings.

Both of these drivers set their fastest laps in between the two showers which struck at the start of the session. The track dried out mostly by the end of the session, and slicks were being used by the end. This included Mark Webber, who took third place near the end on hard tyres. Behind him, Michael Schumacher was fourth, also taking on slicks at the end.

Paul di Resta did not feature in this session, as Adrian Sutil retook the car. He finished the session seventh, one-thousandth of a second behind his team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi.

The Ferraris were caught out by the changing conditions, and Feranando Alonso and Felipe Massa took 15th and 17th places respectively. Alonso ended up 3.2 seconds behind Hamilton, with Massa a further half-second back.

HRT struggled hugely in this session. Bruno Senna’s car was unable to run at all, while Karun Chandhok stopped at the end of pit exit on his first outing, meaning neither set a lap time, although Chandhok has been credited with 1 lap in the official timing. Neither of the cars’ problems has been accounted for yet.

Lucas di Grassi did little better for Virgin. He got 2 installation laps in, but no fast lap time, so he ended up 22nd.

Pictures will be added in a separate article later.

Times from Friday Practice 2:

Driver Team Time Difference # of laps
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1.25.801 13
2 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1.26.076 0.275 16
3 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1.26.248 0.447 22
4 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1.26.511 0.710 16
5 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1.26.732 0.931 26
6 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.26.832 1.031 29
7 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1.26.834 1.033 22
8 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1.26.835 1.034 17
9 Rubens Barichello Williams-Cosworth 1.26.904 1.103 25
10 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1.26.956 1.155 22
11 Robert Kubica Renault 1.27.108 1.307 28
12 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1.27.108 1.307 25
13 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1.27.455 1.654 23
14 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1.27.545 1.744 25
15 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1.29.025 3.224 20
16 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1.29.134 3.333 19
17 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1.29.591 3.790 21
18 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1.29.860 4.059 15
19 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.30.510 4.709 43
20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1.30.695 4.894 17
21 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1.32.117 6.316 9
22 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 2
23 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1
24 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 0
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