Monthly Archives: May 2010

Hamilton tops Spanish Friday Practice 1

Lewis Hamilton in Friday Practice 1 in Spain today

Lewis Hamilton in Friday Practice 1 in Spain today

Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button led the first practice session of the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend. Jenson was a full half a second behind his team-mate.

Michael Schumacher was 3rd in the revised Mercedes with its new airbox, which will be put up in the photo section later. He led the session early on, but was demoted by the McLarens as the session went on. He remained only 5 hundreths of a second behind Button though. Mark Webber was 4th, 3 tenths back from Schumacher. Sebastian Vettel was 5th, a further 2 hundreths behind.

Nico Rosberg and Robert Kubica were 6th and 7th. Fernando Alonso was 8th, running a blown rear wing. He also did back-to-back to back tests with the unblown rear wing settings.Vitaly Petrov did very well to finish 9th, only 2 tenths behind his team-mate. Kamui Kobayashi finished off the top ten.

Sebastien Buemi and Felipe Massa were 11th and 12th, while Paul di Resta beat his team-mate by getting 13th. Behind them, it was Jaime Alguersuari, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg in the top 17.

Lotus, and Heikki Kovalainen in particular, made a good step forward by only being 4 seconds off Hamilton’s pace today. Heikki was 18th, while Jarno Trulli was a further second back in 19th place. As usual, the two Virgins were behind them, with Timo Glock leading Lucas di Grassi. Timo was the first out on track, but his left turning vane broke on his first lap out, and he spent an hour in the pits.

However, there was a surprise at HRT. Christian Klien, who hasn’t raced an F1 car since Britain 2007, beat team-mate Bruno Senna by half a second. I told you he needed an opportunity. Pedro de la Rosa was unable to set a time, because of a gearbox failure, and finished at the back.

Times from Friday Practice 1:

Driver Team Fastest lap Difference # of laps
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1.21.134 21
2 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1.21.672 0.538 14
3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1.21.716 0.582 12
4 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1.22.011 0.877 27
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1.22.026 0.892 22
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1.22.070 0.936 19
7 Robert Kubica Renault 1.22.202 1.068 22
8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1.22.258 1.124 19
9 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1.22.397 1.263 23
10 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1.22.492 1.358 26
11 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.22.588 1.454 24
12 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1.22.975 1.841 22
13 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1.23.030 1.896 21
14 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.23.110 1.976 31
15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1.23.284 2.15 19
16 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1.23.312 2.178 22
17 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1.23.471 2.337 20
18 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1.25.329 4.195 17
19 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1.26.244 5.11 20
20 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1.26.340 5.206 23
21 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1.26.694 5.56 24
22 Christian Klien HRT-Cosworth 1.27.250 6.116 26
23 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1.27.752 6.618 27
24 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 3

Klien to replace Chandhok in Friday Practice 1

Christian Klien will drive in the Spanish FP1

Christian Klien will drive in the Spanish FP1

HRT have announced that their test driver Christian Klien will replace Karun Chandhok for Friday Practice 1 in Barcelona this weekend. The Austrian driver had just joined HRT this week as their second test driver alongside Sakon Yamamoto.

As well as Fairuz Fauzy and Paul di Resta, Klien will be the third test driver so far this year to be given driving time during the race weekend.Colin Kolles said this about him:

"He is a young and fast driver. I have been keeping a close eye on 
him since his first races in the ADAC series as I believe he has 
great potential. We look forward to having Christian alongside us in 
Barcelona later this week so he can spend some valuable 
familiarization time with the team. As a young team we are looking 
or drivers who can grow with us."

Klien last raced in F1 when he replaced Jenson Button at Honda for one race at the 2007 British Grand Prix. It’s great to see him be given another chance, because he was never really given space to show his potential.

Just one problem I have though: HRT really need to announce news like this better. I only found out that Yamamoto was a test driver by accident, and I only heard about Klien today, even though he was signed earlier this week. And this is just the view of an F1 fan, think of how potential sponsors must be feeling. HRT should definitely shout a bit louder about themselves if they are to progress in the F1 world.

Ferrari removes barcode from livery

Ferrari have replaced the barcode with a white box outline

Ferrari have replaced the barcode with a white box outline

Ferrari have announced that they have removed their barcode design from their cars, after complaints that it was subliminal messaging for the cigarette company Marlboro.

The previous design has been replaced by a white box outline. Ferrari explained this decision:

"Together with Philip Morris International we have decided to modify 
the livery of our cars starting with the Barcelona Grand Prix.

This decision was taken in order to remove all speculation 
concerning the so-called 'bar code' which was never intended to be a 
reference to a tobacco brand.

By this we want to put an end to this ridiculous story and 
concentrate on more important things than on such groundless 
allegations."

Because of this, the doctors that caused this row will probably cease their threat of investigation. But, will it really make any difference? This row has obviously brought Marlboro plenty of publicity, even if it was negative, and that completely renders the doctors’ argument pointless. I’d say that this row has given them more attention than if they had questioned Ferrari’s barcode design, and it was still here.

But, it’s gone, so it’s probably all over, even if the Scuderia are now stuck with a ridiculous box on their cars. Do you think Ferrari make the right call?

Jersey City bins Grand Prix plan

Well that was quick – the mayor of Jersey City has refused to give support to the planned F1 race in the area, which was announced only yesterday.

Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy said that the F1 race would be completely unsuited to Liberty State Park, and it would have a negative effect on the community:

"After a review of the draft proposal prepared by the City's
Tourism Office, I have come to the same conclusion...that this
type of event is not suited for Liberty State Park.

While we work to attract national and international events to
our city, we must ensure that they are appropriate and will have
the least impact upon the quality of life of our residents and
our community."

A plan had been made to host the New York Grand Prix in Liberty State Park, but simply appeared terrible in every single way. The track was a complete mess, and it was right in the middle of a national park. I’m delighted, and I hope you are too, and so are Friends of Liberty State Park, who were opposing the project:

"Mayor Healy did reach out to me yesterday and we had a very 
constructive conversation.

Instead of a negative wasteful controversy, we can all focus on working together on 
positive efforts to benefit Jersey City and Liberty State Park."

So, where now for plans for a race in New York? I’m delighted about this news, but at the same time would love a race in New York.

New York 2012 race plans revealed – and it may be at night

The planned circuit for the 2012 New York Grand Prix

The planned circuit for the 2012 New York Grand Prix

The plans for the 2012 New York Grand Prix have been revealed, which will be based around Liberty State Park.

The planned track is in Jersey City, is 5.79km (3.6 miles) long, and the event orgainsers have said that they plan to hold the event at night. However, the plan has already come under fire from a local environmental group.
The organisers had this to say:

"With the incredible backdrop of the New York City skyline,
selecting Jersey City for the 2012 Grand Prix Auto Race
Circuit will not only boost ticket sales as the Grand Prix
returns to the United States, but will providing striking
television footage. To maximize the dramatic effect, Jersey
City could possibly follow in Singapore’s footsteps by
holding the finals at night.

Pictured below is a generic circular circuit through Liberty
State Park, which covers a distance of 3.6 miles, the area
would provide the least impact to city functions, and the
greatest possible space to accommodate ticket holders. As
the park has 1,212 acres, with a significant portion dedicated
open space, amble viewing facilities can be erected, with the
potential to hold the largest spectator audience on record.

There are multiple ways to carve out the interior to make the
course challenging with tight turns, great straights, plenty of
options to place the pit, run off zones, team facilities, media
center, and of course the paddock area."

I’ll be blunt – I really don’t like the design. First of all, there is no proper straight, which would lead to absolute minimal overtaking from the start. Secondly, the south section of the track looks like a complete mess, kind of like Fuji Speedway. It just appears like a random sprawl of slow corners, with occasionally quick left-handers thrown in. I’d say that, in this location, this is the only layout that would be possible.

And thirdly, do they really think that they can just blast an F1 race into a national park? And I mean that quite literally – just look to the right of the Liberty Science Centre. The track plan is going straight through the park, and I can’t see the locals being too pleased with an F1 track in the middle of their park. Friends of Liberty State Park agree, saying:

"Whomever has proposed it to Formula I has no clue about the true 
purposes of LSP or about the park’s history of battles to protect 
public access. LSP is not a city property to rent out for the 
weekend and take away from public users who need it more than ever 
for the quality of their lives. LSP is a park for the people and 
is not a commercial venue. It’s arrogant for anyone to consider 
this use for our green haven."

And fourthly, the circuit orgainsers aren’t exactly doing all of the work themselves. Here is the list of what they want Formula One Managment (Bernie Ecclestone’s company) to do:

Planning, developing, logistics, marketing, and all necessary 
preparations to effectively carry out the event.
Structures for media center, paddock and VIP areas, temporary 
meeting rooms, security control tower, pit areas, team facilities, 
clubs, visitor welcome center, hospitality tent, and all other
necessary structures.
Providing ample portable facilities for visitors.
Obtaining all the necessary permits and licenses required to hold the event.
All equipment needed to stage the race as well as staffing.

I’m not a circuit planner, but isn’t that a massive amount of work they are trying to lob towards someone else? I also noticed something else – where are they going to put the pit lane, paddock and media centre? It’s a park, you can’t just exactly blast through it. And, how do they plan to illuminate the entire park and circuit at night?

There’s a lot that I’ve just given out about, but I just don’t feel that this plan can work. What do you think? Is it possible to hold a night race in the middle of a national park in a city?

Spanish Grand Prix preview

The flyaway Formula 1 races have concluded, so now the sport returns to Europe until Singapore in September (excluding Canada). The first of the European races this season is in Barcelona, Spain.

The track

Like China, I have voiced my dislike of this circuit, since it is very difficult to overtake here. It does, however, pose a challenge to both the drivers and the team. High g-force corners like Campsa (Turn 9) will be a tough test on the driver, while the entire track requires perfect aerodynamic setup, which will be difficult for the team.

Overtaking opportunities are slim here, but the bet option would be on the main straight. The final chicane, put in this track in 2007, has helped slightly improved chances of getting past an opponent on the long straight. Still, it is difficult to follow the car ahead around the rest of the track, so overtaking may remain a challenge this year.

Here is Mark Webber’s video of him talking us through a lap of the Spanish Grand Prix

Weather

There is little chance of rain in Barcelona this weekend. On Sunday, there is a 45% possibility of rain falling at some point within a 24-hour period, with a 70& chance of Friday. Those figures may seem very high, but don’t forget it’s referring to an entire 24-hour period, so the chances of it falling on a 1.5 hour slot in the middle of the afternoon is very low.

So, if it remains dry, air temperature will be 20C at highest, with track temperature quite higher. Wind speeds will be 6m/s, which may well pose a challenge at corners like Campsa. The cars will be very sensitive to wind speed at this corner, where the track inclines while turning right, so watch out for this over the weekend.

Tyres

Bridgestone will be supplying the hard and soft tyres, the same as last year. There were no particular problems with heavy tyre wear last year, but that could change. With the full fuel tanks at the start, and heavy aerodynamics providing lots of grip, the softer tyres could burn out quite quickly if they are used for the first stint.

Still, I’m expecting the teams to run the soft tyres first, for about 15 laps or so, then switch to the harder tyres for the rest of the race. An alternative strategy would be to run two stints on the soft tyre, then one on the hard at the end. This was attempted by Rubens Barrichello in Malaysia, but it dodn’t work. However, if a driver wanted consistently fast pace throughout the race, without worries of tyre wear, then Barcelona would definitely be the track to use this two-stop strategy.

The three new teams may try vastly different tactics, since their cars are probably lacking in downforce. This especially will apply to Lucas di Grassi, who won’t be able to make it to the flag, thanks to his fuel tank issue. Some of these 6 drivers may opt to take on two sets of soft tyres, like I said earlier, to keep up the grip levels on the car, and to stick to the cars ahead. If reliability doesn’t get in the way, then they would have to change to hard tyres for the final stint.

Otherwise, as long as it stays dry, there should be no other changes in strategy.

Drivers to watch

Sebastian Vettel – It has been acknowledged that Red Bull have the car to beat in Spain, so Vettel is obviously the man who I’m tipping for the win. The RB6 can consume 10kg less fuel than its rivals, which gives Vettel and Webber a huge advantage for the first stint. Also, as we have seen, their car is geared towards a balance of aerodynamic and mechanical grip, which perfectly suits this circuit. I would put Webber down on the list here, but I feel that Sebastian is just better on race day. Having said that, Mark coming second wouldn’t be a surprise at all.

Fernando Alonso – If anyone is to challenge the Red Bulls, it is certainly Alonso. First of all, this is his home circuit, always packed to the brim with his adoring fans, and Fernando always tries to keep them happy. Even with the underperforming Renault he had a few years back, he always tried his best at this track, and often did very well, such as running 5th in 2008, before a gearbox problem stopped him in his tracks. In fact, this circuit is really where he put his name on the map, back in 2003, when he chased Michael Schumacher all the way to the flag, and instantly created a new Spanish hero.

His Ferrari car should hold up well here as well. Their new F-duct system was tested by Giancarlo Fisichella a few days ago, and should be put on the car in time for the race. This will give them the advantage down the main straight, without crucially compromising them in the heavy-downforce corners of the track. Just don’t mention engine failures.

Vitaly Petrov – His Renault car has been pitched as better than the Mercedes, so there is no better place to prove this than in Barcelona. While Mercedes will be bringing an updated car, which they hope will fix the chronic understeer they have been suffering, I still think that Kubica and Petrov can beat Schumacher, though it remains to be seen about Rosberg.

Still, Vitaly has scored his first points in F1, so he should be getting up to speed fully in the next few races. I’m not expecting him to match Robert, but getting within a few places would be a good achievement.

Bruno Senna – Despite the famous name, he hasn’t thrashed Chandhok like I thought he might. While the HRT car has surely been holding him back, he needs to perform better if he is to prove himself, such as not being out-qualified by Karun. Lotus are still well in front, but I would be looking for Bruno to at leat challenge them this weekend.

Virgin to update only Glock’s car

Lucas di Grassi will have to settle for the earlier version of the VR-01

Lucas di Grassi will have to settle for the earlier version of the VR-01

Virgin have said that they have only been able to update Timo Glock’s VR-01, which features a larger fuel tank, in time for the Spanish Grand Prix next weekend.

This means that Lucas di Grassi will be forced to drive the older version of the Virgin car, with the undersized fuel tank. The team, however, blame the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic flight disruption for holding up their development programme:

"What should have been a useful three-week break in the calendar,
and an opportunity to ensure we are fully prepared for the European
season, turned into something of a race against time thanks to the
fallout from “The Volcano”. It took up to five days after the
Chinese Grand Prix before the entire team were back in England,
so we had to rush headlong into preparations for Spain.

The planned modifications to the chassis were always going to be
our most significant development, but they were also the tip of the
iceberg in terms of what we will bring to Barcelona. As a new team
we will be using new trucks and a new motorhome for the first time
and on top of that we moved into our new race preparation facility
while the team were stranded in China, so we certainly had a lot
going on for us when we finally made it home.

Nonetheless, the team have done an admirable job and we’ll be
heading to Spain this week full of optimism for the next phase of
our debut season."

“The designer of the car, Nick Wirth, added:

Since Shanghai, we have conducted an extensive investigation into 
the failures that halted the obvious progress the team has been 
making since its debut. That investigation has highlighted a number 
of issues that are currently being addressed by the race team, 
Wirth Research and our key suppliers and our continuing aim is 
to put an end to the reliability issues that have dominated our 
Grand Prix debut.

Having worked tirelessly to prepare the new car for the race, 
including its successful re-homologation, it is a bitter pill 
to swallow that we are unable to complete the second car due 
to the “volcanic delays”. Running two fundamentally different 
specification cars at Barcelona will certainly challenge the 
team, but as the reliability fixes apply to both specifications, 
we’ll keep our heads down and focus solely on getting both cars 
to the chequered flag."

It really is a shame that they can’t fully sort out their fuel tank issue yet, but I have to feel that the volcanic disruption is just an excuse for them not being able to make the changes in time themselves. Even after this, there may still be hydraulic problems with the car, so I’m not expecting a Virgin to get to the finish in Spain.

2009 flashback: Button’s strategy angers Barrichello

By this time last year, the entire paddock was well aware that the Brawn car was miles ahead of anyone else in every possible area. Jenson Button had won all of the dry races so far (3 out of 4 total), and was aiming for his fourth in Barcelona, Spain. However, he surprised many by saying after Bahrain that the car hadn’t the same pace, and that the others may have caught up to them. Rubens Barrichello had already falled 12 points behind his team-mate, so he was out on a mission to beat him this weekend.

There were plenty of technical changes before the weekend as well. Ferrari had designed a new double-decker diffuser, and reduced the weight of their cars, and decided to use KERS again, despite known reliabiliy issues with overheating of the unit. BMW Sauber had completely redone their car in an attempt to kick-start their season, with new nose, front wing, sidepods, rear wing, and lightened chassis.  They also ditched KERS, and did not implement their new double-decker diffuser just yet. Force India did not use KERS, but indicated that they may use it later in the season.

Rubens Barrichello takes the lead into the first corner

Rubens Barrichello takes the lead into the first corner

Jenson Button claimed another pole position, ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Barrichello. But, by the first corner, Rubens had made a great start and took the lead from Button. However, there was carnage behing. Nico Rosberg forced Jarno Trulli wide, who spun, and Adrian Sutil slammed into the Toyota, which quickly took out both Toro Rosso cars as well. Lewis Hamilton avoided the incident, but had to slow, and fell to the back of the grid.

Buemi and Sutil are some of the casualties from the first lap pile-up

Buemi and Sutil are some of the casualties from the first lap pile-up

After 4 laps under the safety car, the racing got underway. Soon enough though, Heikki Kovalainen was forced to retire due to a gearbox failure. Fernando Alonso attempted an overtake on Mark Webber on the main straight, giving the spectators a close-up thrill while he was at it, but Webber made a fantastic switchback move to rip the position out of the Spaniard’s hands. Kimi Raikkonen joined fellow Finn Kovalainen on the sidelines, as he retired with a hydraulic problem on Lap 17.

Very soon, it became apparent that Barrichello and Button were running 3-stop strategies, as they were running away with their 1-2 lead. Button, who was behind Barrichello, was following the Brazilian for the first stint, but felt he could go faster, saying: “Come on Rubens, you can go quicker than this.” The Brawn team decided to switch Jenson to a 2-stop strategy, to make sure he avoided traffic. They did not, however, apply the same tactic to Rubens, and after his first stop, became slightly held up, while Jenson was able to put his foot down. Since Barrichello was unable to put his strategy to the max, he lost the lead to Button at his second of 3 stops.

A change in strategy left Button free while Barrichello fell behind

A change in strategy left Button free while Barrichello fell behind

Further back, Sebastian Vettel was following Felipe Massa for the entire race, and was unable to pass thanks to the Ferrari’s KERS system. But, near the end of the race, he got a surprise gift. There had been a problem at Massa’s final pit stop, and he was one lap short of fuel. He was instructed to back off to save fuel instead of pitting again, and Vettel finally took the opportunity to move into 4th. However, even though Fernando Alonso was 16 seconds behind Massa with 4 laps to go, he was told to push. He gradually burnt out Felipe’s lead over him, and took fifth place on the final lap, to the delight of the crowd.

Button takes his fourth victory of the year

Button takes his fourth victory of the year

At the front of the pack, Button took his fourth victory of the year, with an incenced Barrichello 13 seconds behind in 2nd. Mark Webber took the final podium spot, with Vettel, Alonso, Massa, Heidfeld and Rosberg filling out the top 8. Heidfeld had now finished 25 races in a row, breaking Michael Schumacher’s previous record of 24. After this result, Button extended his lead at the top, while Red Bull overtook Toyota for 2nd place in the constructors championship. But, it wasn’t over yet.

Rubens Barrichello was annoyed that Jenson and he were given different strategies, and felt that Button was given the advantage because of it. While he was happy enough after being given an explanation from Ross Brawn, this argument would heat up later in the season.

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