Monthly Archives: April 2010

Hamilton keeps McLaren ahead in Chinese FP2

Lewis Hamilton in FP2 in China today

Lewis Hamilton in FP2 in China today

Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets in Friday Practice 2 in China, to keep McLaren on top of both sessions. Nico Rosberg got another good pratice session in to finish second, while Jenson Button was third.

Hamilton’s fastest lap of 1.35.217 was 1.4 seconds faster than the fastest lap of FP1. Rosberg was two tenths behind Lewis, with Button another tenth back. Michael Schumacher got another strong session in to get fourth, while Sebastian Vettel was fifth.

Mark Webber was sixth, followed by Adrian Sutil, Jaime Alguersuari, Robert Kubica, and Fernando Alonso. It was another good day for Alguersuari, who has got 11th and 8th so far today. He also set the most laps (43) in FP2. While Alonso had a lot of work to do after missing FP1 after an engine falure, this session was mostly to test Ferrari’s new F-duct system. Early data suggests the Ferrari is now only 1km/h slower than the McLarens on the main straight.

Vitantonio Liuzzi got his car back from Paul di Resta this afternoon, but only got 16th place, one less than what Di Resta achieved. Liuzzi was also slower, being 2.5 seconds off Hamilton’s pace.

Sebastien Buemi didn’t get a single lap in, as the team fixed the car’s suspension after his massive accident in FP1.

There was a surprise at the back of the grid, as a HRT beat one of the Virgins in practice. Karun Chandhok lapped Shanghai one tenth quicker than Lucas di Grassi, which was a nice boost for the HRT team. Bruno Senna filled the back of the grid, 6 seconds behind Hamilton.

Heikki Kovalainen was the only person who suffered a problem this session. His car came to a halt while on track, after the car had completed 30 laps, so there wasn’t too much damage his weekend setup.

Button tops Chinese FP1 while Buemi suffers heavy crash

Jenson Button in Friday Practice 1 in China today

Jenson Button in Friday Practice 1 in China today

Jenson Button topped the first practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix. However, the event was overshadowed by a huge crash for Sebastien Buemi.

Fernando Alonso failed to set a time, as an engine failure 6 laps into his run (these were installation laps, so no time was set). Despite this, the Spaniard claims that he is not worried about the failure, despite the fact that his last engine blow was effectively 7 laps ago. He therefore ended up back of the timesheets this session.

Button’s fastest lap was a 1.36.677, which was 0.071 seconds ahead of Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes, while Lewis Hamilton was only another 0.02 seconds back. Behind them, the top ten was as follows: Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Robert Kubica, Vitaly Petrov, Mark Webber, Adrian Sutil, and Felipe Massa.

It was a very good session for Renault, with Kubica and rookie Petrov getting 6th and 7th respectively. They were one second off Button’s pace, so it looks like both drivers may end up in the points this weekend.

Jaime Alguersuari continued his good form with 11th place, with the Saubers of Kobayashi and De la Rosa behind. Paul di Resta ran the Force India car again in FP1, getting 15th place, and 1.9 seonds behind Button. The Lotus, Virgin and HRT cars filled the back rows (in that order), with only Alonso behind.

The biggest moment of the sessions was Buemi’s crash. At Turn 14, which is the heavy-braking area at the end of the 1km back straight, the suspension appeared to completely fail, blowing off the front tyres, and sending the car spinning into the gravel. The red flag went out for 10 minutes while the car and debris were removed. The session did restart, but only for another 6 minutes, before the chequered flag came out. Here is a video of what happened:

Other drivers had problems apart from Buemi. Jarno Trulli damaged his diffuser at Turn 1, while Timo Glock broke his front wing in the same place.

Full times from Friday Practice 1:

Driver Team Fastest lap Diff. # of laps
1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1.36.677 15
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1.36.748 0.071 17
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1.36.775 0.098 19
4 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1.37.509 0.832 14
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1.37.601 0.924 20
6 Robert Kubica Renault 1.37.716 1.039 17
7 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1.37.745 1.068 25
8 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1.37.980 1.303 17
9 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1.38.008 1.331 13
10 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1.38.098 1.421 19
11 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.38.161 1.484 19
12 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1.38.375 1.698 21
13 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1.38.421 1.744 19
14 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1.38.569 1.892 20
15 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1.38.618 1.941 26
16 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1.38.678 2.001 17
17 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.39.939 3.262 5
18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1.41.531 4.854 22
19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1.41.779 5.102 23
20 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1.41.830 5.153 20
21 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1.42.181 5.504 27
22 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1.43.875 7.198 23
23 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1.43.949 7.272 20
24 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 6
Driver Team Fastest lap Difference # of laps
1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1.36.677 15
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1.36.748 0.071 17
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1.36.775 0.098 19
4 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1.37.509 0.832 14
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1.37.601 0.924 20
6 Robert Kubica Renault 1.37.716 1.039 17
7 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1.37.745 1.068 25
8 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1.37.980 1.303 17
9 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1.38.008 1.331 13
10 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1.38.098 1.421 19
11 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.38.161 1.484 19
12 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1.38.375 1.698 21
13 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1.38.421 1.744 19
14 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1.38.569 1.892 20
15 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1.38.618 1.941 26
16 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1.38.678 2.001 17
17 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.39.939 3.262 5
18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1.41.531 4.854 22
19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1.41.779 5.102 23
20 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1.41.830 5.153 20
21 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1.42.181 5.504 27
22 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1.43.875 7.198 23
23 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1.43.949 7.272 20
24 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 6

Chinese Grand Prix preview

Having already looked at the 2009 Chinese Grand Prix, we must now look at this year’s race. With three winners in three races so far this year, expect a huge fight between the teams this weekend.

The track

I have repeatedly voiced my dislike of the Shanghai circuit, but it is the venue for an interesting race this weekend. First of all, Mark Webber gives us a talkthrough of the lap of Shanghai, available in full 1080p HD:

The first thing we must note is that the back straight will be crucial in the race, as this is where most of the overtaking will be. McLaren’s F-duct system will be particularly useful here, with an extra 6km/h on a 1.1km straight. Even the Force Indias will have trouble keeping Hamilton and Button behind, unless other teams can incorporate an F-duct system as well.

The first corner may well be a scene for a first-corner accident. Although this track does not have a reputation for this, I feel that it might happen this year. With very heavy fuel loads and an ever-tightening first corner, expect at least one car to understeer into another, and cause a crash.

Tyres

The tyres are key to winning this year, as we already know. However, the cooler weather the teams have been experiencing so far may come into play.

Bridgestone are bringing the soft and hard compounds again to China this weekend. As usual this year, a one-stop strategy should be in order, with most of the field going from soft to hard tyres at around Lap 15. Because of the cooler temperatures, some drivers may struggle to get heat into the harder tyres, like Brawn did last year.

If it rains, then of course tyre choice is free to choose. There are still reports that the intermediate tyres are wearing out far too quickly, so this may cause some drivers to pit early for dry tyres. If it rains heavily like last year, then extreme wets will be kept on for as long as possible.

Weather

It’s starting to annoy me saying this so much, but the weather will play a big part in deciding what happens this weekend. According to the BBC, it should be dry for Friday and Saturday, but quite cool. The higher than normal wind speed on Saturday may also affect the cars, seeing as how the wind will blow the cars back and to the left slightly on the back straight. On Sunday, heavy rain and showers are forecast, with high humidity, and constant temperature.

So, it seems like a similar setup to last year, when it only rained heavily on race day. If that does happen again this year, then expect all tyre strategies to switch to one stop,  halfway or slightly more through the race.

Drivers to watch

Nico Rosberg – After his excellent qualifying performance in a rain-soaked Malaysia, a wet race could be a big advantage to Nico. However, even though the Malaysian race wasn’t wet, he still hung on to take a podium there, so expect him to keep up his good form this weekend.

Jaime Alguersuari – He said that his battle with Michael Schumacher helped him improve his driving skill. He has matured very well from the lack of pace we saw last year. With two good races in a row for the young Spaniard, he could well pull off another surprise in Shanghai, and get some more points.

Robert Kubica – With a rapidly improving car, the teams ay they want to leapfrog Mercedes in terms of performance. If they can do this, and if it rains, Robert could well be in with a chance of another podium this weekend. His great race in Australia showed he can beat the best drivers, with far inferior machinery.

Jenson Button – Like I said earlier, the intermidiate tyres are in risk of wearing out too quickly. If that is the case, then Jenson Button will be the man to make the most of it. His smooth driving style will come in very handy, with the tyre situation this year.

Chinese GP Thursday press conference

Sebastien Buemi, Adrian Sutil, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher at the Chinese GP press conference

Sebastien Buemi, Adrian Sutil, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher at the Chinese GP press conference

At today’s press conference, we had Adrian Sutil, Michael Schumacher, Sebastien Buemi, and Lewis Hamilton. Here is the full transcript:

Q: Adrian, what was it like having your friend Lewis breathing down your neck in the last race for 20 laps or so?
Adrian Sutil:
It was not an easy race. At the beginning it all went right and we had a good pace, so I was quite comfortable with my position and then in the last 20 laps Lewis made a lot of pressure. He arrived really, really fast and he was on the soft tyre. I just tried to do no mistakes and keep my line and concentrate to the end of the race. I knew it was going to be quite a long race and long laps for me with him pressing behind. But in the last couple of laps I had the feeling his tyres were going off a little bit, so I could breathe a little bit more and I had a little gap, so it was still under control, but I know him and he fights until the end.

Q: I guess it does confirm that the team has taken quite a step forward this year?
AS:
Yes, we are doing really well I think. I am very happy that we improved so much over the winter. I had a good feeling over the winter. We did everything very efficiently and the work is still going on. That is not only the first three races where we were doing great. Of course we have our goals this season and we want to do even better. It is all set up well and we can improve this position in the next races.

Q: What about the contribution of Paul di Resta? He comes in and drives on the Friday morning, is that a distraction for you or is that a good thing?
AS:
Well, I want to be in the car always of course even on Friday morning but we agreed to it during the winter. He is our test and reserve driver and he has his chance on the Friday morning swapping the car. Once in mine, once in Tonio’s (Liuzzi). I think in general it is a good thing for young drivers coming into Formula One to get a chance to test a little bit. Now with the testing ban they don’t have any driving experience. When there is a problem with the race driver they need to go in the car and they are not prepared, so this is a way to do it better to give them a chance to settle well into Formula One.

Q: Sebastien, Toro Rosso this year have had to design their own car. Tell us about the advantages and disadvantages of that?
Sebastien Buemi:
For sure it is not an easy thing to set up a team which was not building its own car last year. It has been big work during the winter and we are getting up to speed with the updates in the wind tunnel, so we will see the result in the middle of the season. But we have a good car to fight in the middle of the pack and score points if we do a good race, so it is not too bad.

Q: Difficult start to the season, but is it getting better now?
SB:
It was not the start of the season I was expecting but sometimes difficult things happen. It has been the case this year, so we will see what we can achieve here. We saw a good improvement in Malaysia and we seem to be quite a lot closer to Force India and Williams and I think it doesn’t look bad for finishing near the points or in the points. That will be our objective this weekend.

Q: How difficult is it for you that you have had a whole season’s experience but you don’t have a more experienced driver to help with sorting out the car? Is that a problem for you?
SB:
To be honest in Formula One I have never had a really experienced driver with me, so I don’t know how it is to work with someone with a lot of experience. I do my best to improve the car and the team and now it is getting a lot better with experience and knowing all the circuits and knowing how the race weekend goes. I think we can achieve a good set-up and a good car during the practice, so I will take it as it comes and try to do my best.

Q: So not really a problem?
SB:
I don’t think so.

Q: Lewis, I think you have been out and about in Shanghai today. You were at the Expo I believe?
Lewis Hamilton:
Yeah, this morning before we went to the track we stopped by the Expo and I got to see a little bit of it and I just have a small tour around the UK’s Expo. It was quite a cool and special building they have created there. But it was just a quick stop and I did a bit of a press conference and that was it.

Q: We are three races in to the so-called rivalry between you and Jenson Button. How is it going?
LH:
We are doing well. We are scoring lots of points for the team. He is a doing a fantastic job and we are getting on really well. He brings nothing but positiveness to the team and I think he is a very well balanced and well-rounded guy. We get on really well and it is working well for us.

Q: I guess the real worry if anything is Red Bull’s pace. How much of a worry is that? And the team was taking steps and making new technical decisions to counter that, but they have had to abandon that.
LH:
We have not had to abandon much. There are so many different things in the pipeline and one of those was to go in a similar direction as perhaps some other teams have done. But it is clear everyone cannot do that now. I don’t know how that affects others but it doesn’t really affect us. We still have updates that we are working on and should be coming in the course of the next few weeks or months. I am looking forward to seeing the updates come but I know the guys back at the factory are flat out. We try to make as many improvements as we can. Last weekend we seemed to be very competitive with them through practice but in the race the Red Bulls pace was a little bit… I don’t know if they were pushing that much, but we have just got to keep our eye on the ball and keep pushing.

Q: Michael, do you still feel Mercedes is a little bit behind? Where do you feel it is?
Michael Schumacher:
I guess you have Red Bull and Ferrari being a little bit up front and then probably it is right to say that McLaren is a little bit up front on us although the last race could not really show it. We are probably still in fourth position at the moment.

Q: How is the development coming along from your point of view?
MS:
As you expect in Formula One every kind of race you being new things and it goes step by step. I am quite happy with the general development trend. Naturally as probably most of the teams we will have a little bit bigger upgrade in Barcelona due to time availability and so on, so we are all look forward to that.

Q: You’ve now been back for three races. Have you found things very different since you left F1 three years ago?
MS:
Well, the number of questions and style of questions and all this sort of thing is pretty much the same. Driving the car, in a way, as well. It’s natural that there are some characteristic changes but at the end of the day, every year, you get a new car, and you just adapt and work the car around your needs. Yes, it has taken a little bit of time after being out for three years, it does need a little bit more time, especially with less winter testing available. But I’m feeling pretty good, I have to say. It’s worked out almost quicker than I expected it to do and I feel very comfortable in the car now and I look forward to when things get to the end to show a little bit better.

Q: Do you think a younger Michael Schumacher might have been more frustrated with the time it’s taken to get back right to the very top? You seem more relaxed…
MS:
It depends what age you’re talking about, because when I came into Formula One I would have obviously been very happy with the results we’ve had, because you haven’t had a ranking or a position. If you talk about after winning certain championships, then naturally you would have been a little bit less happy, but with having all this kind of experience, coming back after this break, I feel more than happy with what’s going on. One of the big and interesting things is working with the team to develop the car and being involved in this kind of process. That is so much of the fun. The driving is fun as well but you get used to that pretty quickly, but working on the details, that’s what makes it up for me.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, do you think that the F-duct is going to give you the big advantage that many of your rivals suspect or do you see Red Bull as the main team to beat you?
LH:
I still see Red Bull and Ferrari as the teams to beat here. You don’t know what Mercedes have brought either, so I think it’s the same as every race.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) To all drivers, with these low temperatures currently do you expect problems heating the tyres, especially the hard ones?
AS:
For sure, temperatures as low as six degrees which is what we have now is going to be a problem, especially on the hard tyre. We will have to see on Friday, tomorrow, how it looks but I know there will definitely be some warm-up problems. I’m not so concerned that they will never work but they will just take a long time to come in, probably around five or six laps until you get them to a certain speed. So we have to see, we have to adapt the set-up work a little bit to it, but we’re also expecting slightly better temperatures for Saturday and Sunday.
MS: It’s going to warm up over the weekend, so less of an issue.

Q: (Marco Degl’Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Michael, are you not a little disappointed because of this wave of criticism which has been rising up over the last few days, because a lot of people are impatient that you don’t win?
MS:
You see, I’ve been around long enough to know what I call the wave of emotion. During the winter everybody was every emotional and very supportive and positive and once you’re up on this edge of the wave, there’s a natural happening that you start to fall over the edge and whether you are the reason for it, or whether it’s just a natural happening, it’s not always important and because the results have not been as great as some people have expected and even myself, yes, I would have loved to have better results but then the competition is very high and in this respect it’s a natural happening to not have the same positive feedback in the media. But you know, I know exactly what I’ve been doing, I know what’s been going on and I’ve no reason from my side to be disappointed, quite honestly. I still feel very happy. Whether people like it or not is their own choice.

Q: (Ottavio Daviddi – Tuttosport) Michael, considering the situation that you explained very well, yesterday Fernando said that in his opinion you are still in the fight for the championship this year. Do you agree with him?
MS:
Indeed, yes, I do, because if you take the points system, and you have seen that Fernando had a retirement in Malaysia for whatever reason, it can happen to all of us. I had my retirement in Malaysia, so at one point in the season, most likely, that will hit the guys who are fighting for the championship. If we have a quick enough development pace, there’s no reason why we can’t fight for the championship, it’s far too early and there’s such a long season ahead. Development is so important, and we all know how fast the rate of development is. I’m pretty sure we have good potential to develop this car, so it’s far from feeling and thinking that this season is over, for Nico (Rosberg) and even for myself.

Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) A general question to Lewis and perhaps Michael as well. It’s quite tight at the top of the drivers’ standings after three races. Are you expecting it to remain such a tight battle between maybe six or eight drivers as we continue, or do you expect, when we get to Europe, when the development race kicks in in earnest, that we will see people leaping ahead? Sebastian (Vettel) could have won all three races so far.
LH:
Yeah, you’re right, Sebastian could be quite a bit ahead at the moment, but I think at the moment it is very close, and I’m hoping that it stays like that for some time but undoubtedly, at some stage during the season, whether or not Red Bull continue to have not such great reliability, as Michael was saying, anything can happen and it can happen to any of us. We just have to try and stay as consistent as possible. You cannot afford too many DNFs, so I think that is probably what every team is trying to maintain, try and stay as consistent as possible.
MS: I think I answered that before.

Q: Michael, I know this is the second time you have been in Shanghai over the last four years; do you have any special feelings about this city and also for your professions here?
MS:
Well, it’s been a while that I have not been here, but it’s quite impressive to see the development. I stayed in town for a couple of nights and I’ve been around a little bit. It’s impressive to see this. It’s always been one of the Grands Prix you enjoy coming to because the enthusiasm of the fans is pretty extreme, so the reception I got when I’ve arrived at the airport or when I arrived at the hotel has been interesting, so naturally we look forward to hopefully performing well for the fans that we have here.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Sebastian, you seemed to be well ahead of your team-mate most of last year and this season too, but the last race was somehow different. Do you feel threatened by Jaime Alguersuari now?
SB:
I think that the last race has been a bit difficult for me. I had a small contact on the first lap with (Kamui) Kobayashi and it broke my front wing, so I did most of the race with a broken front wing and when we changed it, I did the third fastest lap in the race, so it’s difficult to compare, but for sure he has done a good race, he finished in the points, so there’s nothing to say. If you look at the qualifying and everything, it still seems to look good for me, so I just hope for a good race weekend when I can show my speed up to the end, without any problems.

Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) Michael, this was the scene of your last Formula One victory before you retired in 2006. Could you talk about the last time you experienced that winning feeling, feeling what that race was like for you, memories of that race and perhaps how you could carry that forward into a lovely result on Sunday?
MS:
I’m not a person who looks too much into the past, quite honestly, so forgive me if that’s not in myself. I would rather look forward and have slightly better races than I have in the past two races, which were a bit out of my control. But the track and car and situation should be good enough to have a good race.
The track is a little bit particular, because there are quite a few corners that, depending on whether you have a good balance in the car, are good fun. If your car struggles in terms of balance, you get really angry because in turn one or 13, it’s going to be a mess if you don’t have a good balance and it’s going to be great fun if things work out. It changes your emotion quite a lot.

Q: (Nick Mulvenny – Reuters) Lewis, you obviously had a great win in 2008, but in 2007 you remember what happened then, when you came off the track. Do you think that you’ve matured as a driver, that that sort of situation wouldn’t happen today? That you would insist that you should pit rather than stay out on bald tyres?
LH:
Well, I know where the gravel trap is now, so I don’t think I would be in that position again. Of course, having the experience and being a few years down the line, I think I’m able to understand and make calls for myself, but I don’t think that we as a team would put ourselves in that position again. I’m confident that we won’t be there again.

Lola and Prodrive not applying for 2011

Prodrive will now focus on its rallying, rather than on F1

Prodrive will now focus on its rallying, rather than on F1

On the same day, both Lola and Prodrive have confirmed that they are not applying for the 13th grid spot for the 2011 Formula 1 season.

Both of these teams had applied for a position for this year, but failed. Prodrive had previously got a place on the 2008 entry list, providing that the FIA could get in a rule allowing customer cars. However, this rule never got through, and Prodrive never raced in F1. While Lola applied last year, they haven’t appeared in F1 since 1997, with the abysmal Mastercard Lola (it was so bad, it never saw a wind tunnel, never mind a race!).

David Richards, who runs Prodrive, said:

"Our current focus is on Prodrive’s return to the World Rally
Championship in 2011 and that alone takes significant resource
to design and develop a totally new car. At the same time, we
continue to expand our activities with Aston Martin in all
categories of sportscar racing, in the USA, Europe and at Le
Mans. We also have a full V8 Supercar series to contest in
Australia with Ford, which together with further investment
in advanced vehicle technologies for road car applications
creates a very demanding agenda for the business.

Taking on the challenge of starting a brand new Formula One team,
finding the necessary funding and developing the car from scratch
is a massive undertaking and not to be underestimated. As expected,
we’ve witnessed the financial and technical challenges that the
new teams have faced this year in just getting to the grid, let
alone being competitive and whilst I have enormous admiration for
their efforts I don’t believe this is an appropriate strategy for
Prodrive or Aston Martin to adopt.

We’ve enjoyed a successful involvement in F1 in the past and respect
the value it can create; we will therefore keep a close eye on
developments in the Championship. However, I have always made it
very clear that the timing for a Prodrive entry would be judged
on two criteria: that we could be competitive and that the business
case would make it a financially viable proposition. Today, if we
were to adopt the strategy of starting a new team, I don’t believe
it is possible to meet these two conditions."

Executive chairman and owner of Lola, Martin Birrane, also spoke today. He said that, despite having designed a car that would have run in 2010, they will not be applying it for the 2011 season:

A 2010 entry under the cost capped and performance balanced
criteria was perfect for Lola. We already have F1 standard
facilities at our headquarters in Huntingdon.

Sadly our well-developed 2010 F1 project, which included a
significant wind tunnel programme, had to be frozen in June
2009. The recently announced applications for 2011 has left
us with insufficient time to prepare for what would be a
quite different programme.

A lot of people complained, when USF1 was unable to make the grid, that teams like Prodrive or Lola would be more suited than the teams that were chosen. I certainly can’t believe how long Prodrive have waited to get into F1, only to be rejected by the FIA on many occasions. While Lola last appeared in F1 with one of the worst cars ever seen, they have a decent racing team in Le Mans, as shown when they had the fastest petrol LMP1 car in Le Mans 2009.

I would have liked to see these teams in F1, but unfortunately this isn’t the case. Now, the probable choice for 2011 is between Epsilon Euskadi and Durango at the moment, but we will have to wait and see who gets picked.

2009 flashback: Red Bulls in a China op

Adrian Newey, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button on the podium

Adrian Newey, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button on the podium

Before we look at the 2010 Chinese Grand Prix, let’s have a look back at what happened last year.

2009

Brawn GP and Jenson Button had dominated the first two races, with Red Bull having poor luck in both. However, even before Friday Practice, there was much change in the paddock, much of it KERS related. The Ferraris were to drop the system for this race, for reliability and safety reasons. While Robert Kubica took on the system on Friday, he ditched it for qualifying and the race. After the ruling that the double-decker diffusers were illegal, many teams had brought updated diffusers to Shanghai.

Sebastian Vettel took pole position in the dry conditions, with Fernando Alonso behind him. However, the Spaniard was on an extremely light fuel load, which put him in a difficult position. Mark Webber was third, ahead of Barrichello and Button.

As the race loomed closer, the heavens opened, and rain poured down on the circuit. This turned race tactics on its head, especially for Fernando Alonso, when it was revealed that the safety car would be out for the start of the race. Both Robert Kubica and Timo Glock started from the pit lane, to fill up their fuel tanks. When the race started, Bernd Maylander led the field for the first 8 laps, as conditions were treacherous. Adrian Sutil, Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso all stopped during the safety car period, and took on different amounts of fuel. While Alonso took on a regular amount of fuel, Sutil filled up the tank, and took on a risky tyre strategy.

Bernd Maylander leads the cars in the Safety Car

Bernd Maylander leads the cars in the Safety Car

Lewis Hamilton had started from 9th, and planned to make progress in the tough conditions, even with a poor car. While he did get up to 7th by Lap 11, his first spin of the race meant he lost several places, and was lucky not to get hit. Meanwhile, the Red Bull’s first pit stops came quite early, on Lap 14 and 15 for Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel respectively. While this put them at a slight disadvantage, it didn’t look like Button would be able to catch them.

But, on Lap 17, the safety car was out again. Robert Kubica aquaplaned straight into the back of Jarno Trulli, and took him out of the race, while the Pole had to pit for a new front wing. The debris meant the safety car had to come out again, and it did so until Lap 23. While it was out, Sebastien Buemi, Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello and Adrian Sutil all stopped in the pits. Sutil took on tyres to last him until the end of the race, which was a very risky tyre gamble. Meanwhile, while the safety car was out, Felipe Massa stopped on the back straight, due to an electrical problem.

Jarno Trulli struggles back to the pits, after colliding with Robert Kubica

Jarno Trulli struggles back to the pits, after colliding with Robert Kubica

Nelson Piquet Jr crashed on Lap 28, damaged his front wing, but was able to continue. The very next lap, an interesting battle developed for second place between Jenson Button and Mark Webber. “Vettel is only quicker by fuel effect,” the Brawn team told Button, “and Webber is also shorter.” But, the Briton missed his braking point at the end of the back straight, and Webber went through. But, Mark had to correct a slide 2 laps later at the last corner, and Button got past again. The very next lap, Mark put a great move on Jenson, overtaking him around the outside of Turn 7, which is a long high-speed left hander. This move was emulated from a similar move from Felipe Massa, who had similarly passed Lewis Hamilton earlier in the race.

Even though it was more than halfway through the race, the weather was still just as bad. Nico Rosberg momentarily tried on intermidiates after his second stop, but quickly spun, and had to change back to extreme wets.

Adrian Sutil crashes on Lap 51 with severely worn tyres

Adrian Sutil crashes on Lap 51 with severely worn tyres

Lewis Hamilton continued to make progress after his one and only stop on Lap 33, but 5 spins across the race ensured he couldn’t get far. These spins, especially one near the end, meant Heikki Kovalainen and Adrian Sutil were able to pass him. Adrian was still using the same tyres he had taken on 30 laps ago, and they were completely destroyed, as Adrian was sliding around the racetrack, and nearly crashed when he got past Hamilton. Still, he had got into a points scoring position, which would have been a first for Force India. But, as he generally does, he crashed with only 5 laps to go. One of his tyres bounced across the racetrack. Nick Heidfeld had to avoid the tyre, and Timo Glock and Sebastien Buemi were able to pass him.

While all of this was happening, Sebastian Vettel never lost his lead to take the victory. He was so far in front, he was able to overtake Jenson Button, even before the Briton had made his second pit stop and Vettel had already stopped twice. He did so with ease, a move which seemed similar to a move that would be done by the rainmaster himself in his heyday, Michael Schumacher.

Mark Webber finished second, which was his best Formula 1 finish to date. Jenson Button, despite being outclassed by the Red Bulls, finished off the podium in third. Behind him, the classification read: Rubens Barrichello, Heikki Kovalainen, Lewis Hamilton, Timo Glock and Sebastien Buemi. Despite getting his best finish of the season so far, Lewis was still hugely dissapointed with spinning so many times in the race. McLaren knew they still had a lot of work to do.

Red Bull celebrate their 1-2 finish in China

Red Bull celebrate their 1-2 finish in China

At the podium ceremony, there was a slight bit of confusion, when God Save the Queen was played for the constructor winner (Red Bull). Even though they operate in England, they are registered in Austria, so this mistake was corrected for the next Red Bull win.

Despite Vettel taking the win, Button led the championship after 3 races, with 21 points. Barrichello had 15, Vettel and Glock had 10, and Webber had 9.5. In the constructors’ championship, Brawn led with 36 points, then it was Red Bull (19.5), Toyota (18.5), McLaren (8), and Renault (4).

Red Bull were delighted with their 1-2 finish, and hoped that they would be able to challenge the Brawns in more races. They would, but it would take more time than they thought.

Here is the official short review:

Chinese Grand Prix in doubt for 2011

Just a few days after concerns were expressed about the forthcoming  Korean Grand Prix, there are now worries concerning the future of the Chinese Grand Prix.

When the Shanghai circuit began in F1 in 2004, the orgainsers signed a 7-year contract, which expires next year. The track cost a total of $350m, boasts a capacity of 200,000 and has one of the largest structures in Formula 1. But, apart from the contract, there are problems.

While the capacity for spectators is massive, there have been large struggles to get people to attend. Many grandstands lie completely empty on race day every year. It is so bad that the Turn 12 and 13 grandstand has been turned into a giant advertising board. The reason why not many tickets are bought is because of the methods that tickets are obtained.

The circuit gives out huge amounts of tickets for free to corporate guests and companies. If they don’t want them (a lot of them don’t), they sell them off for a much lower rate than the actual official price for tickets. This means that, no matter how many people attend, very little sales revenue is made at all.

Because of a lack of finance, it must be difficult for the organisers to pay Bernie Ecclestone for their next contract. While the Bahrain circuit (who also joined in 2004), just had their contract extended to until 2013, there have been no extensions for the Chinese circuit so far.

It is possible for the Chinese government to step in and save the Grand Prix, but I’m not sure that they will. While the Grand Prix is good for bringing in a few corporate sponsors in China, there is less interest from outside the country. And, for the amount of money they would have to pour in, they could spend their money much better. Anyways, I don’t like the Shanghai circuit, so I wouldn’t be sad to see it go.

Symonds allowed to work as F1 consultant

It has been revealed that Pat Symonds, who was banned from Formula 1 for 3 years after the crash-gate scandal, has been allowed to work in Formula 1 as a consultant only.

Yesterday, it was announced that the FIA, Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds had reached an agreement, that none of them would pursue charges against each other, as long as they took 3-year bans each. However, according to Symonds, he can now still work in Formula 1, as a consultant through his company, Neutrino Dynamics.

Today, he made an announcement, saying that he would continue to work in Formula 1 wherever possible:

"Under this agreement Pat Symonds acknowledges that it was his duty 
to prevent such an event occurring and, in not doing so, he must 
share in the responsibility attached to this incident.

As such, and with the best interests of the sport in mind, he has 
agreed with the FIA that he will not take a direct operational 
role in Formula 1 until the end of 2012 nor will he take any 
similar role in any team involved in any other FIA series until 
the end of 2011.

This agreement does not prevent him acting as a consultant to any 
team during this period and he will continue to contribute to the 
sport in this, and other, ways.

In the light of this agreement, both he and the FIA consider the 
matter to be at an end."

I simply cannot believe that, after only one day, he would try to worm his way into F1. Even if it was possible for him to be a consultant for Formula 1 teams and get away with it, the FIA can’t just allow this to happen. He orchestrated a crash, which is unbelievibly dangerous, and a full 3-year ban is minimal for what he did.

Here’s the bigger problem. Symonds happens to be the nicer of the two. What is Briatore going to try?

Ferrari to use Bahrain engines in China

The Ferrari 056 engine

The Ferrari 056 engine

Ferrari have said that they will use the engines that they had previously removed, during the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend.

During the first race of the season, both Fernando Alonso’s and Felipe Massa’s engines became overheated after qualifying, and the team took the precautionary measure of changing both engines. They have not been used since, but Ferrari have since announced that they are fit to be used during the Chinese Grand Prix weekend.

The head of engine and electronics, Luca Marmorini, said:

We have carried out an in-depth study into what happened and the
two problems are not related to one another. In Sepang, Fernando’s
engine suffered a structural failure, of a type we had never
seen during the winter. We believe there was a role played by
the unusual way in which the driver had to use the engine during
the race, because of the gear selection problems he experienced
right from the start.

Additionally, there is no connection with the problem the Sauber
team experienced on the engine front at the last race, which we
believe was down to an issue with electronic sensors.

Each car has eight engines it can use per driver over the season
and we plan our usage strategy around this. As a precaution, we
opted not to use the Bahrain race engines in Australia, but they
will be used in China, having concluded that they are fit for
purpose, despite what happened at the Sakhir circuit.

Marmorini also explained that the Shanghai circuit wasn’t too stressing on the engines, which is why they put it in:

I would describe it as medium load. It features a very long
straight, but nothing that causes any particular concern for
the power unit and also, the ambient temperature is not usually
very high, which makes life easier on the engine front.

As we all know, each driver is allowed to use up to 8 engines per season, with each engine after this resulting in a grid penalty. Fernando Alonso has already used 3 engines at different points: two across the Bahrain GP weekend, and one for Australia and Malaysia, which has failed. It is unclear how many Felipe Massa has used, but I believe that he has used 2.

Possibility of rain for Chinese GP?

You’re not getting bored of rainy F1 races yet are you? Early predictions are suggesting a possibility of rain for the Chinese Grand Prix next weekend.

While Friday and Saturday should remain dry, there is a chance of light rain on Sunday, which would mean a second rain-affected Chinese Grand Prix in a row. Temperatures will be below 20 degrees all weekend, reaching as low as 12 degrees on Friday.

The best sattelite at the moment to track the weather at the moment is the Japanese Meteorological Agency’s satellite, which you can follow here.

Now let me stress that rain is a possibility, not a certainty. After all my shoutings about rain in Malaysia, it’s better to predict conservatively this time.

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