Monthly Archives: June 2010

2010 Mid-season review: Lotus

Whether you think they have completed 500 races or 9, there is no denying that Lotus have made the biggest leap to the midfield after building a brand new car from scratch. Their consistently fast rate of development means that, as it stands, they are well poised to be racing with Williams and Toro Rosso by the end of the season.

Lotus have had the highest rate of development in the field, and should be battling in the midfield soon

Lotus have had the highest rate of development in the field, and should be battling in the midfield soon

Despite all of this though, it wasn’t without difficulty. At the season opener in Bahrain, the slight shortcomings of the car were revealed, when the glass of the wing mirrors fell off. Regardless of this, Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli qualified well, 5 seconds off the pace of pole sitter Sebastian Vettel. In the race, while all HRT and Virgin cars retired, Lotus acheived a double finish on their debut.

Since then, they have proven themselves the fastest of the new teams in terms of raw pace. In the last 8 races, a Lotus driver has been the fastest of the new teams 7 times in qualifying. Their reliability has been very good also, suffering only 6 retirements so far this season, 2 less than HRT, and 1 more than Virgin. On the other hand, one driver has failed to start a race because of a car failure twice, once in Australia and once in Spain.

Aside from this, they have consistently outperformed both HRT and Virgin in races also. In the 9 races so far, a Lotus driver has finished the highest out of the 6 drivers 5 times. Because they have recorded only 1 double finish so far, it is impossible to compare performances by the drivers, Trulli and Kovalainen. However, it is possible, by using low-fuel qualifying times, to show that Jarno Trulli has been ahead of Kovalainen more, but only just, as he is leading 5-4 against Heikki.

As well as this, their car has been developed well to stay ahead of Virgin and HRT. In Bahrain, they were 5 seconds slower than Red Bull. Now, halfway through their first season, they are only 2.3 seconds off the pole position time, an amazing achievement.

So, with a competent driver line-up, an ever-improving car, and plenty of Malaysian finance to keep the team running, it is safe to say that Lotus will continue to be the best of the new teams, and begin to contend for position with the midfield soon.

2010 Mid-season review: Virgin

Like HRT, the team formally known as Manor Motorsport would definitely have been in further doubt for the 2010 season, if it wasn’t for investment – and a change in name – from the Virgin group. Unlike HRT, though, their rate of development has been much slower, if at all, leading to worries about becoming the slowest of the new teams by the end of the year.

Virgin are in danger of being caught by HRT

Virgin are in danger of being caught by HRT

On the day of the launch of the car, it all seemed very impressive. The VR-01 was the first ever Formula 1 car to be designed using solely Computer Fluid Dynamics. On the other hand, it has never seen a wind tunnel, the first time this has happened to an F1 car since the wretched 1997 MasterCard Lola. Despite this, the car looked good, and had a very handy line-up, of Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi.

Which would have been great, if the fuel tank was big enough.

It emerged after the first two races that the fuel tank was not big enough to last a full race distance, unless the drivers backed off considerably, rendering their efforts useless in the first place. After a very embarrassing request to the FIA to modify their chassis to allow the larger fuel tank, their new revised VR-01 was able to race to the finish – after Turkey. Which means that, for the first 7 races, the Virgin team was unable to show their genuine pace.

Since Turkey, the team have achieved their second double finish. That is pretty much the only good news that they have given us so far, as they have the highest retirement rate of all of the new teams this year so far, and their highest finishing position was 17th in Valencia.

After all of this misfortune, I’m impressed that they have kept their heads up and continued to push hard, but the fact of the matter is that, since the start of the season, they have not closed the gap to the frontrunners enough. Wirth Research (the company that did the CFD) will need vast improvements to this -and next year’s- cars if they are to stay up with the rest of the pack.

2010 Mid-season review: Hispania

There is pretty much a universal agreement that, if Colin Kolles and Jose Ramon Carabante had not taken over this new team, then Hispania (or Campos as it used to be known) certainly wouldn’t have made the grid. While their grid position has not changed a single bit since the start of the season, Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok have at least got into competition with Virgin at the back of the field.

Since Bahrain, HRT have cut the gap to the front in half

Since Bahrain, HRT have cut the gap to the front in half

It seems like such a long time ago, when Bruno Senna sent out the HRT car for the first time in Bahrain. The suspension was broken, speed was nonexistent, as was grip or downforce. Senna’s first two laps in the car were 11 seconds off the pace. Their qualifying times were well off the 107% rule that will be intorduced next year, and it seemed like a waste of time going to the first race at all.

The race was no better. Chandhok lasted an entire lap before crashing his car, and Senna’s car overheated on Lap 17, and that was the end of it. While they had made no impact on the race, I’m sure the team were relieved to have made it. Now that they had broken their way into F1, they could concentrate on developing the car, to catch up with the midfield.

But, there was another problem. Dallara, the company who made the chassis of the car, promised to make changes to the F110, but never did so, meaning that HRT were forced to spend the first 6 races with absolutely no chasss development at all, meaning they were losing even more pace to the other teams. After the Monaco Grand Prix, Hispania ended their contract with Dallara, and have since been developing the car on their own.

However, since the start of the season, HRT have come a long way in terms of raw pace. In Bahrain qualifying, they were 8 seconds off the pace of polesitter Sebastian Vettel. However, up to the last race in Valencia, this deficit has been cut in half, as Bruno Senna was only 4.5 seconds off the pole position lap. In other races such as Monaco, where aerodynamic grip isn’t as necessary, both cars leapfrogged the Virgin and Lotus cars, and later on Karun Chandhok was battling with Jarno Trulli for position, with a heavy crash at La Rascasse being the result. Seeing as Chandhok was in front, and it was an over-opportunistic move by Trulli, it’s safe to say that Karun could well have fnished in front of the Lotus.

Having said that, from this year to the next, I would be surprised if their line-up remained the same. Test driver Christian Klien has replaced Karun Chandhok for 2 Friday Practice sessions so far this year, and has performed well on both occasions. While many would feel that Chandhok has not been given enough time to prove his potential, there are rumours that he could well be replaced, mainly due to a lack of sponsorship money.

Their rate of development so far has been impressive, but unfortunately it will only get harder from here, as it becomes more difficult to extract more performance out of the car. A points finish is asking too much out of them, but more competing for position with the Virgin and possibly Lotus cars would be a good improvement.

Thoughts on the European Grand Prix

I remember, back in 2009, when the European Grand Prix weekend was approaching, I decided not to bother watching the race at all. Not even the highlights. I decided that even if the slightest bit of racing action occurred, then I would pick up on it later online, and I would therefore spare myself an hour and a half of monotonous racing. And I turned out to be right.

What a difference a year makes.

The 2010 European Grand Prix was one of my highlights so far this year, not entirely because of the exciting race itself, but because nearly every F1 fan -myself included – believed the race would be awful. I am delighted to say that we were all wrong, and for the first time Valencia gave us quite a good race.

Kamui Kobayashi's pace and last-gasp overtakes were the highlights of the race for me

Kamui Kobayashi's pace and last-gasp overtakes were the highlights of the race for me

When the paddock moved from Montreal to Valencia, the main thought was that since tyre degradation wasn’t a problem here, then the racing here would be nowhere near what we saw in Canada 2 weeks ago. This turned out to be wrong, as we realised that the 2010 rule changes, especially the refuelling ban, had fuelled the racing excitement today, and not tyres like we had (rather, hadn’t) expected.

Even in the first lap, I was surprised by the quality of racing we saw. Lewis Hamilton nearly took the lead, and damaged his car for being too optimistic. Mark Webber fell all over the place, dropping to 9th. Robert Kubica put in an early pass on Jenson Button for 5th. After this, on Lap 10, we saw what was easily the worst crash of the year, with Mark Webber backflipping his car and smashing into the barriers. It was a miracle that he walked away without injuries.

With this, the safety car was out, and strategies were made more complicated, another reason why we saw a more exciting race than we would have thought. This also gave an opportunity to Kamui Kobayashi, who had started 18th on the harder tyre, and could now jump up the field while everyone else pitted.

Once the safety car pitted, it emerged that even Jenson Button could not keep up with Kobayashi, as the Japanese driver was getting the most out of his risky strategy. From here until the end of the race, after Hamilton’s penalty, Kobayashi’s pace was a joy to watch, and showed us why he was signed up for 2010. It also proved that his Brazil and Abu Dhabi 2009 drivers were certainly no fluke.

Apart from this, there weren’t as many overtakes as we would have hoped, but it was certainly an improvement over the monotonous drone of 2008 and 2009.

Driver of the race – Kamui Kobayashi: Proved that when he is given the opportunity, he will always take it. He pulled off some great moves, at a track well-known for it’s difficulty to overtake on. Still a star for the future in my book.

Driver of the new teams – Karun Chandhok: This award isn’t how I wanted it to be, since practicallt every other driver for these 3 teams were taken out early, or held up the frontrunners whilst battling among themselves. This leaves only Chandhok and Senna as the drivers who drove a clean race, and since Karun was ahead of Bruno, he gets the award for this race.

Best rookie – Kamui Kobayashi: Call me opportunistic, but in my opinion he’s still a rookie until the final few races. Like I said, a risky strategy paid off for him, and a fantastic overtake on Alonso at the end was the icing on the cake.

Best team – Sauber: This award is intended for the team that performs above its potential, or was clever in its strategies. Sauber certainly did that, and if it wasn’t for the 5-second time penalties after the race, it would have been a double-points finish for the struggling team.

Least impressive – Fernando Alonso: I’m going to get a lot of stick for this. Yes, he was massively hindered by the safety car, and I took that into account. But, he really should have put some effort into passing Sebastien Buemi and the others, rather than moan about it after the race. That doesn’t get you extra points.

European Grand Prix stats and facts

Sebastian Vettel took his 7th Grand Prix win of his career in the European Grand Prix today. Here are more stats and facts from today’s race:

  • His 7th Grand Prix win puts Vettel in joint 34th place overall, alongside Juan Pablo Montoya and Rene Arnoux, and ahead of drivers like Ralf Schumacher and Gilles Villeneuve.
  • This was Red Bull’s 10th constructor’s win, putting them level with Alfa Romeo, and ahead of Mercedes, although they have only been competing in F1 for 3 years total.
  • Also, it was Vettel’s 10th pole position, ahead of John Surtees and Ricardo Patrese.
  • Vettel became only the third driver to win from pole this year, alongside Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton.
  • Amazingly, this is only Jenson Button’s 3rd fastest lap of his career. The other two were in Malaysia and Turkey 2009. This puts him only 1 behind Sebastian Vettel.
  • This is the 13th race that Red Bull have had a car on the front row after qualifying.
  • I found this one out today – Jenson Button hasn’t started on the front row since Turkey 2009.
  • If you believe in it, this would be Lotus’ 500th race, although you could argue it was only their 9th.
  • With their 1993-2005, 2006-2009 seasons included, Kamui Kobayashi got Sauber above the 500 points mark today. They now have 501.
  • This is the first time that the safety car has been deployed in Valencia.
  • Michael Schumacher’s finish of 15th is the worst of his entire career. Amazingly though, it is only the 9th time in his entire career that he has been classified in a race outside the points.
  • After Mark Webber’s retirement, now no driver has scored points in every race this year.
  • Robert Kubica is now the only driver in the field to have completed every single lap this year.

If you know any more, leave a comment.

European Grand Prix in pictures

Sebastian Vettel won the European Grand Prix today, after a very exciting race. Here are the pictures from today:

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10 drivers get penalties, while Alonso and Rosberg gain points

10 different drivers have received time penalties after the European Grand Prix, 9 of these 5-second penalties. These came during Lap 10 and 11, when these drivers were judged to have been speeding while they caught up to the safety car.

All 9 of these drivers got 5-second penalties: Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello, Nico Hulkenberg, Vitaly Petrov, Robert Kubica, Sebastien Buemi, Pedro de la Rosa, Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi. The two drivers who lose out here are Buemi and De la Rosa, as Sebastien drops from 8th to 9th, while Pedro de la Rosa falls out of the points entirely.

The 10th penalty was a 20-second penalty, handed to Timo Glock for not respecting blue flags, meaning he ignored 3 blue flags in a row.

This promotes Fernando Alonso to 8th place, and Nico Rosberg into 10th. Here is the revised finishing order:

1) Sebastian Vettel
2) Lewis Hamilton
3) Jenson Button
4) Rubens Barrichello
5) Robert Kubica
6) Adrian Sutil
7) Kamui Kobayashi
8 ) Fernando Alonso
9) Sebastien Buemi
10) Nico Rosberg
11) Felipe Massa
12) Pedro de la Rosa
13) Jaime Alguersuari
14) Vitaly Petrov
15) Michael Schumacher
16) Vitantonio Liuzzi
17) Lucas di Grassi
18) Timo Glock
19) Karun Chandhok
20) Bruno Senna
21) Jarno Trulli

The standings have been updated accordingly, you can view them here.

Alonso furious, Ferrari calls race a “scandal”

Fernando Alonso dropped to 9th after the safety car

Fernando Alonso dropped to 9th after the safety car

Fernando Alonso blasted the result of the European Grand Prix, calling it “unreal and unfair” after the safety car incident where he dropped from 3rd to 9th place, while Lewis Hamilton overtook the safety car and managed to keep his position, after a delayed drive-through penalty decision.

After the race, Fernando said:

"I think it was unreal this result and unfair as well.

We respected the rules, we don’t overtake under the yellows and we
finish ninth. That is something to think about.

It completely destroyed the race. Hopefully we can move forward
because after the victory of Vettel and podium for McLaren ninth
place is very little points for us.

We need to apologise to the 60 to 70 thousand people who came to
see this kind of race.

They gave a penalty already to Hamilton but it was too late – 30
laps to investigate one overtake."

Ferrari were similarly furious, describing the race as a scandal. Felipe Massa, Alonso’s team-mate, fell to 15th place and never recovered after the safety car. A team statement on their website read:

"A scandal, that’s the opinion of so many fans and employees who are
all in agreement: there is no other way to describe what happened 
during the European Grand Prix. The way the race and the incidents 
during it were managed raise doubts that could see Formula 1 lose 
some credibility again, as it was seen around the world."

First of all, they are both certainly correct in being furious at Lewis Hamilton, who managed to get away with overtaking the safety car, whether it was intentional or not. Meanwhile Alonso, who never broke the rules once, fell to 9th. The reason Hamilton didn’t lose any positions because of his drive-through is because the stewards took far too long to issue the penalty, by which time Lewis was able to create a large gap to stay ahead of Kobayashi after his penalty.

However, I must say that they are completely over-reacting when it comes to being annoyed about the safety car itself. Sometimes, drivers and teams lose out or benefit from the safety car deployment, and this cannot be avoided. I mean, look at Mercedes. Michael Schumacher fell to the back of the grid, and do you hear him whinging as loud as Ferrari? It is true that Schumacher wasn’t even in a points-scoring position, but it’s just an example.

Also, if Ferrari were to gain massively from the safety car, I doubt the other teams would complain as loudly as they would (Barrichello’s win in Germany 2000 springs to mind). In this case, when they lose out, they should just start thinking about how to get back up the field, but Fernando couldn’t even get past Sebastien Buemi.

While Ferrari are in the right, they need to learn that whining and over-reacting like this isn’t going to get them anywhere.

Vettel takes the win in dramatic European Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel won the European Grand Prix today, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button 2nd and 3rd. Also, Rubens Barrichello was 4th, with Kamui Kobayashi 7th after a fantastic performance. However, there is a large stewards investigation ongoing at the moment, so the result could well change. Here is the report in full:

At the start, Lewis Hamilton jumped up into 2nd place, and Fernando Alonso started to pressurise Webber for 3rd. At Turn 1, Hamilton made a move on Vettel for the lead, but went slightly too fast into the corner, hit Vettel and damaged his car, but remained 2nd. Webber had a torrid first lap, dropping to 9th place.

Sebastian Vettel leads the field on Lap 1

Sebastian Vettel leads the field on Lap 1

Robert Kubica overtook Jenson Button for 5th. Further back, Adrian Sutil got past team-mate Liuzzi, and Jarno Trulli lost his front wing after hitting Kamui Kobayashi. On Lap 4, Alonso’s pit radio suggested that pieces of debris were falling off Lewis’ car because of the first lap incident. Hamilton also reported that there were vibrations on his front left tyre.

On Lap 5, Trulli pitted for the second time, and appeared to retire with what seemed to be an engine failure. But, he emerged from the pits soon, albeit 2 laps down. Mark Webber, still in 9th, opted to bring forward his first stop to Lap 8, but a mistake with the front left wheel cost him 5 seconds.

Robert Kubica overtakes Jenson Button

Robert Kubica overtakes Jenson Button

On Lap 10, after some interesting battles, it was certainly a much better European Grand Prix than last year – so far. But, all of these thoughts were suddenly lost when Mark Webber had a terrifying accident, running into the back of Heikki Kovalainen, flipping the car and spearing into the barriers. Fortunately, Mark was perfectly fine, and the safety car was instantly deployed. There were shocking similarities to an earlier crash in GP2, with Josef Kral:

Even after such a horrible accident, most thoughts swiftly moved to strategy. Jenson Button was the first to pit, and got up to 4th. Kamui Kobayashi stayed out, and moved up to 3rd place. However, it was a disaster for Michael Schumacher, who pitted slightly too late, and had to wait at the red light at the end of the pit lane, dropping him to the back of the grid.

He did try and make up for the strategy slip though, by pitting again (he was already last) for the hard tyres, which should last him for the end of the race. Meanwhile, the Ferraris also suffered, with Alonso and Massa dropping to 10th and 17th.

On the restart, Fernando Alonso got past Nico Hulkenberg for 9th. Sebastian Vettel nearly allowed Hamilton past after a mistake at the final corner, but held his position, and began to move away from the McLaren again. Fernando Alonso went onto his radio, and was told that his team were complaining to Charlie Whiting, race director, about Lewis Hamilton during the safety car period. Alonso was annoyed about this, saying “It’s the only thing we can do”.

It soon emerged that Jenson Button was even slower than Kamui Kobayashi in 3rd, and he began dropping back. Meanwhile, both Mercedes drivers were being advised to back off on the brakes, as they were overheating. Then, the stewards announced that they would be investigating the incident regarding car number 2 (Lewis Hamilton) over the safety car incident, when he overtook the safety car when it was deployed, and then Fernando Alonso was stuck behind the safety car.

A few laps later, it was announced that Hamilton had received a drive-through penalty, for overtaking the safety car. He served his penalty 2 laps later, and amazingly still got out in 2nd place, just ahead of Kobayashi and Button, thanks to 2 fast laps after he was served the penalty.

He was now 15 seconds behind Vettel, because of the short pit lane not hampering his time as much as it would. After fuel saving for a few laps, he got on the pace and attempted to catch up to the Red Bull. Meanwhile, in 3rd, Kobayashi was still out, and yet to pit, having been out on the medium tyres so far.

Sebastian began to drop in pace, as all of the top 6 drivers were now faster than him. On Lap 34 out of 57, he was 12 seconds ahead of Hamilton. By now, the brake heat issue was beginning to spread, as Robert Kubica was being instructed to cool his brakes also.

With 20 laps to go, Hamilton, Kobayashi and Button approached the backmarkers of Lucas di Grassi and Bruno Senna. They were so indulged in their own battle, they didn’t notice the cars behind them. Lewis was held up for a few corners, and was understandably annoyed. But, when Kobayashi and Button approached, Senna slowed to let them past, and Di Grassi slipped past the HRT, then proceeded to smash off Senna’s front wing, giving him a puncture in the process, and holding up the Sauber and McLaren. Both backmarkers soon pitted, thanks to their childish behaviour.

Alonso, still in 9th, was now pressurising Buemi for 8th place. Sebastien locked up at the final corner, but managed to hold the Ferrari back. At the front, Vettel finally got on the pace, and began to match Hamilton’s pace. Soon after, there was good news for Alonso, as there was news that 9 cars  were under investigation for speeding during the safety car period. This would mean that Fernando might have a chance to jump up the order.

With 10 laps to go, when it seemed as if Vettel was poised to win, Hamilton dropped into the 1.39 zone, 1.7 seconds faster than Sebastian. Incredibly, Kobayashi was lapping within 1 tenth of Lewis’ time at this point. The gap was down to 7 seconds to Vettel. The next lap, Lewis went even faster, by 4 tenths of a second. Lap after lap, he chopped down the gap to the leader, until he was 6 seconds behind with 7 laps to go.

On Lap 51, Nico Hulkenberg retired, after struggling with an engine problem for much of the race, and also with delaminated tyres and bodywork. His retirement out of the points gifts Pedro de la Rosa 10th position in his home race. With 4 laps to go, Kobayashi finally pitted, and despite a slow pit stop (5.5) he emerged in 9th place. With De la Rosa in 10th, Sauber were poised for their first double points finish of the year.

Kobayashi, Buemi and Alonso were now battling for 7th position. With his brand new super-soft tyres, Kamui was the best equipped, and amazed everybody by passing Fernando Alonso with 2 laps to go, and took 8th place. Then, on the last corner of the last lap, he dived down the inside, braking late, and got past Buemi as well to finifh 7th.

Sebastian Vettel celebrates after winning the European Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel celebrates after winning the European Grand Prix

The battle for the lead never really emerged, but Sebastian Vettel crossed the line first regardless to take the win at the European Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton was a few seconds behind, followed by Button. Rubens Barrichello was completely unnoticed in his excellent drive to 4th, while Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil were 5th and 6th respectively. Kamui Kobayashi was 7th, Buemi 8th, Alonso 9th, while Pedro de la Rosa got 10th at his home Grand Prix.

However, the stewards investigation for Barrichello, Kubica, Buemi, Button, Hulkenberg, Petrov, Sutil, Liuzzi and De la Rosa was still ongoing, so this provsional result could well massively change. If it does, then Kobayashi and Alonso are set to gain massively, but that is only if the drivers ahead of them receive time penalties.

No matter what, it was a (surprisingly) very good Grand Prix to watch, with plenty of surprises, good racing action and – shock horror – even some overtakes!

The standings have been updated, you can view them here.

European Grand Prix in pictures

Sebastian Vettel took pole position today ahead of the European Grand Prix in Valencia tomorrow. Here are the pictures from today:

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