Monthly Archives: June 2010

Vettel takes pole position in Valencia

Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton after qualifying

Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton after qualifying

Sebastian Vettel took pole position ahead of the European Grand Prix in Valencia tomorrow. He set the fastest lap of the weekend ahead of team-mate Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton. Here is the full report:

Q1

Jarno Trulli and the two Virgin cars went out first, lapping in the 1.43 zone.  After this, Nico Hulkenberg and Rubens Barrichello showed that Willams have made improvements, by going fastest. After this, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton began to trade fastest laps, in the effort to get on top. Soon enough, Sebastian Vettel went out and knocked them both back by taking the fastest lap.

With 8 minutes to go, the only driver who hadn’t gone out yet was Robert Kubica. He eventually went out, and instantly set the fastest lap, a 1.38.2. On his next lap, he went another tenth faster. At the back of the grid, the Virgin drivers switched to the harder tyre, but only got 21st and 22nd.

By this stage, most drivers were happy with their times, and were waiting in the pits for Q2. But, Michael Schumacher was languishing in 15th, and went out for another lap time. However, within a minute, 3 drivers behind him improved their times, and suddenly Schumacher was in the knockout zone. His final lap put him up to 12th, leaving Kamui Kobayashi to be knocked out alongside the 3 new teams. Lotus were an entire 1.5 seconds ahead of Virgin, who were 0.5 faster than HRT.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Kamui Kobayashi

19) Jarno Trulli

20) Heikki Kovalainen

21) Lucas di Grassi

22) Timo Glock

23) Karun Chandhok

24) Bruno Senna

Q2

Nearly half of the field were straight out for the beginning of Q2. Felipe Massa got the ball rolling with a 1.38.591. Fernando Alonso swiftly beat this by another tenth of a second. Lewis Hamilton, and then Mark Webber, beat those times again. Fernando went 2nd, then Hamilton 3rd, and Sebastian Vettel then went fastest with a 1.38.

Robert Kubica then went 3rd fastest. In the dropout zone, while Nico Rosberg improved on his time, he was only 12th. His team-mate Schumacher only got 15th fastest with 7 minutes to go. Felipe Massa was about to go fastest, but pitted.

Amazingly, the top 14 were covered by only 0.8 seconds in the final few minutes. While Nico Rosberg, Michael Schumacher and Adrian Sutil all improved their times, they did not move position, meaning they were all knocked out, alongside, Sebastien Buemi, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Pedro de la Rosa and Jaime Alguersuari.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Sebastien Buemi

12) Nico Rosberg

13) Adrian Sutil

14) Vitantonio Liuzzi

15) Michael Schumacher

16) Pedro de la Rosa

17) Jaime Alguersuari

Q3

All 5 teams went out immediately for Q3. Jenson Button was the first out with a flying lap, but Fernando Alonso quickly beat that with a 1.38.3. Lewis Hamilton was the first man who got below the 1.38 mark, setting a 1.37.9, but Mark Webber then went a tenth quicker to take top spot.

Williams employed a clever strategy, for their cars to go out in between the two sets of flying laps that the top teams do. With this, they had clear air and no traffic, and so Nico Hulkenberg went 5th, although Barrichello only got 10th.

Fernando Alonso was the first out for the final attempt, but only went 4th. Sebastian Vettel was up next, and set a 1.37.5, the fastest lap of the weekend so far. Lewis Hamilton messed up his final lap, and Mark Webber got 2nd. Robert Kubica went 6th, and Jenson Button 7th.

This left Vettel to take pole position for the race tomorrow, with Webber behind him, and Hamilton 3rd. It was surprising that Kubica couldn’t mount a challenge, but 6th is respectable enough.

Full times from qualifying:

European Grand Prix practice in pictures

Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso topped the two Friday Practice sessions for the European Grand Prix in Valencia today. The pictures from today are available on my Flickr account here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ciaranmor/sets/72157624230729867/

Normally I would just embed it on here, but WordPress won’t allow Flickr embeds, so unfortunately for today I had to settle for this, after many hours of trying to get it to work. Apologies for the inconvenience, this will be sorted out for tomorrow.

Alonso heads Valencia Friday Practice 2

Fernando Alonso topped FP2 for the European Grand Prix today

Fernando Alonso topped FP2 for the European Grand Prix today

Fernando Alonso topped the second Friday Practice session for the European Grand Prix in Valencia. He was ahead of the two Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, followed by Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. The track had cleared up, so lap times were considerably quicker this afternoon.

Again, like FP1, the red flags were out, this time after Felipe Massa spun to a halt at Turn 5. He was able to rejoin later, after his car had been brought back to the pits. Also, Vitaly Petrov spun at Turn 14, and spent a lot of time selecting reverse gear to get out of the way of the cars behind. Lewis Hamilton and both Red Bull drivers ran wide on the exit kerb of Turns 19 and 20. Several drivers ran wide at Turn 1.

At the end of the session, Hamilton and Schumacher nearly collided at the final corner. Schumacher had backed off to make space for himself, and didn’t notice Hamilton behind. Lewis was forced to dodge and swerve left, shaking his hand at Schumacher as he did so.

Behind the top 5, Robert Kubica was again on good form in 6th, ahead of Felipe Massa. Adrian Sutil was 8th, ahead of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello to finish off the top 10. Michael Schumacher was a full second off the pace in 11th, while Vitantonio Liuzzi was again beaten by his team-mate in 12th. Vitaly Petrov was 13th, and the two Saubers of Kobayashi and De la Rosa were 14th and 15th. Sebastien Buemi was 16th, Nico Hulkenberg 17th, while Jaime Alguersuari was again the slowest of the midfield, albeit only 2.1 second slower than Alonso.

The two Lotus drivers of Kovalainen and Trulli were 19th and 20th, with Heikki only 3.1 seconds slower than the fastest lap of the session. Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi were 4.5 seconds off the pace in 21st and 22nd, while Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok filled up the back row.

Times from FP2:

Rosberg leads Valencia Friday Practice 1

Nico Rosberg led the way in FP1 in Valencia

Nico Rosberg led the way in FP1 in Valencia

Nico Rosberg headed up the first practice session for the European Grand Prix in Valencia today. He lead the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. Test drivers Christian Klien and Paul di Resta also made an appearance in their HRT and Force India cars respectively.

Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault were all testing their new exhaust-driven diffusers, while Red Bull were testing their F-duct device again. after not running it in Canada.

In the first half of the session, the red flag was out, as Bruno Senna’s wing mirror came off his car, and was consequently hit by Sebastien Buemi and Heikki Kovalainen. The session was halted while the marshals cleared the debris off the track.

The track was very dusty, and therefore the times were quite slow, but it didn’t stop Rosberg topping the session with a 1.41.175.  The McLarens of Hamilton and Button were 0.16 and 0.2 seconds behind respectively. Robert Kubica did well to bring his Renault up to 4th, while Felipe Massa was an entire second behind the leaders in 5th.

The two Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber were 6th and 7th, then Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso were 8th and 9th. The two Williams cars of Barrichello and Hulkenberg were 10th and 11th. Vitaly Petrov was 12th, and Sebastien Buemi was 2.1 seconds behind Rosberg in 13th.

Vitantonio Liuzzi was 14th, with Pedro de la Rosa 15th. Paul di Resta was 16th, and only 0.06 seconds slower than Liuzzi. Kamui Kobayashi was 2.5 seconds back from the leaders in 17th, while Jaime Alguersuari was another 5 tenths slower in 18th, as the slowest of the midfield.

As expected, the Lotus of Kovalainen was the fastest of the new teams in 19th, only 3.3 seconds behind Rosberg. Timo Glock was 20th, albeit another 1.1 seconds back. Bruno Senna was another 1.5 seconds slower than that in 21st, and Jarno Trulli was 22nd. Christian Klien was 23rd, 2 tenths slower than his team-mate, despite setting only 14 laps. Lucas di Grassi filled the final spot on the timesheets.

After the dust cleared, tyre graining was the next problem. Lotus in particular was struggling with controlling the front left tyre’s wear. Jaime Alguersuari also said that his tyres were “destroyed”.

Times from FP1:

FIA fines and disqualifies USF1

USF1 have been fined €309,000 for failing to race this year

USF1 have been fined €309,000 for failing to race this year

The FIA World Motor Sport Council has announced that they have fined the USF1 team €309,000, and disqualified them from competing in any FIA championship, for failing to make the grid this year. The team had pulled out 3 weeks before the season opener, saying that they would not be ready in time.

The American project was set to become one of the 4 teams to compete in the 2010 Formula 1 season, but they failed to make the grid, because of a lack of sponsors, and their car was not ready. They requested the FIA to postpone their entry until the 2011 season, but the FIA rejected this proposal, seeing as the other teams were on course to make the grid. After USF1 pulled out, the FIA soon announced that they would be taking action against the team, as they had broken the terms of their entry.

USF1 representatives attended a hearing in Paris yesterday. In their defence, they argued that the period of uncertainty, caused by the Concorde Agreement and proposed budget cap rules during the 2009 season, had hampered their efforts. They also suggested that Bernie Ecclestone was deterring sponsors from the team, after making negative comments about them.

The FIA rejected all of these suggestions, saying that:

"The WMSC considered US F1 had cooperated fully with the FIA in its
investigation, and had been entirely open in answering the questions
of the Reporter.

The WMSC however did not consider events of 'force majeure' were
established in this case as there were no compelling supervening
events but instead this was about a lack of funds.

Nor did they accept statements from FOM [Formula One Management]
had had any real material impact.

Rather they considered that the team, whilst well-intentioned, had
displayed poor financial management and had underestimated the
requirement to present an F1 car for the 2010 season in the time
and with the financial resources available to them.

It was wholly unacceptable that the FIA was presented with only
three weeks warning of the total non-appearance of the team at the
Grand Prix in Bahrain and for the 2010 season, and WMSC members had
real concerns about the impact on the championship, not least the
deprivation of the opportunity for another team to have provided
two cars to run in the championship in 2010 instead of US F1.

The FIA has fined US F1 309,000 euros, the equivalent of the
championship entry fee and ordered it to pay the costs of the FIA
disciplinary process, and disqualified the team, "which definitively
deprives US F1 of the right to take part, in any way whatsoever, in
any competition."

Also, after having read the full WMSC report (link at bottom), it seems that USF1 were not very clear on their budget either. In December 2009, when doubts were growing over them competing in 2010, USF1 claimed that they had $26m of sponsorship money, under 3 different binding contracts, meaning that they didn’t have it yet, but the binding contract would force them to get it. However, the FIA found out that only one of these contracts were binding ($8m), meaning that the other $18m was not actually binded to USF1.

Because of this lack of sponsorship money, USF1 did not have enough capital to build their cars and spares, as the report explains:

"USF1 was unable to produce its race cars and necessary spares in 
the time available. This was a result of lack of adequate and 
timely capital investment combined with sponsorship arrangements 
which did not com to fruition or were terminated. This caused a 
delay in construction of the cars and equipment."

The Entry Fee for competing in Formula 1 is €309,000. This is a deposit for the FIA, and is later added to the deposit paid to Cosworth for their engines. USF1 had paid the Entry Fee, given the deposit to Cosworth, and also made the first payment under their contract (even though USF1 had previously stated that they did not want to use the Cosworth engines).

The FIA found out that after all of this, USF1 had “little or no financial liquidity”. The FIA were then advised that a new fine to the team would be pointless, as their lack of liquidity would mean that they would probably be unable to pay. Therefore, they were advised that “at the very least” they should force USF1 to forfeit their Entry Fee.

At the end of their report, the FIA fined USF1 €309,000 (in other words, make them forfeit their Entry Fee), disqualifying them from any taking part in any competition whatsoever (no timeframe specified), and force them to pay the FIA’s costs for this inquiry. USF1 have 7 days to appeal.

In my opinion, this is very good news. It is absolutely unacceptable that a team could pull out with only 3 weeks to go, leaving another prospective team without a space on the grid. Their situation spiralled out of control in late 2009, yet they continued to claim they would make the grid, up to February 2010. The team and investors have lost approx. €20m in total from this failed attempt to enter F1, because of poor financial management, and a lack of knowledge of the sheer effort required to enter Formula 1.

While this never should have happened in the first place, this is a good response from the FIA, considering the sheer farce of USF1′s attempt to enter F1.

Thoughts on the 2011 rule changes

Yesterday we saw a fleet of rule changes brought in by the World Motor Sport Council and the FIA, to tackle an order of issues for the 2011 season. These range from clarifying safety car rules and fuel samples, to the tyres supplied to the grid and the adjustable rear wings.

Unfortunately, in my view, the larger rule changes are all for the worse. The adjustable rear wings, for example, are simply a far too complicated version of trying to reduce downforce for the car behind. Banning diffusers, or any other method of reducing rear downforce, would have been better. Also, the 107% rule is quite unnecessary, seeing as the new teams are catching up quite well. The new team next year will have extra pressure put on them, thanks to this rule.

However, on the other side, some of the changes do make sense. First of all, I’m very happy that Pirelli has been chosen as the tyre supplier, as Michelin were simply bringing far too many demands. The increased minimum weight will encourage teams to run the KERS system next year (more on this in a separate post), which needs to be run by every team in order for it to work.

Other rules, like the safety car line, Ho-Pin-Tung’s superlicense and fuel samples, are less important, and won’t generate much controversy. What do you think of the new rule changes? Have a say below:

More 2011 rules: Weight, fuel samples, safety car line, licences and more

Michael Schumacher's Monaco penalty has been clarified by the FIA and WMSC

Michael Schumacher's Monaco penalty has been clarified by the FIA and WMSC

After the announcement of Pirelli being the sole tyre supplier, adjustable rear wings, and the 107%, the World Motor Sport Council have announced even more (but smaller) rule changes for the 2011 season. I would be here all year if I were to write separate articles, so I have put them all into one post:

The safety car line

The WMSC have clarified the issue regarding the safety car line, after what happened to Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso during the last lap of the Monaco Grand Prix:

"With immediate effect, no car may overtake until it has passed the
first safety car line for the first time when the safety car is
returning to the pits. However, if the safety car is still deployed
at the beginning of the last lap, or is deployed during the last
lap, it will enter the pit lane at the end of the lap and the cars
will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking."

This is good news, as there will be no more arguments about whether overtaking is allowed on the last lap after the safety car pits. The safety car line was introduced this year, so as to create more exciting restarts during the race, but not for the end.

“Competitor’s staff” FIA Licence

While this is not a rule yet, it is a proposal. This is to give licences to “staff of competitors”, in other words, all team personnel, at and away from the track:

"A proposal relating to specific licences for members of staff of
competitors entered in the FIA World Championships has been
submitted to the Formula One Commission. This is under consideration
for implementation in the FIA Formula One World Championship from
the start of 2011, with a view to inclusion in other FIA World
Championships in the future."

The only real use of this, as far as I can see, is to stop Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds returning to the sport in 2013. To be honest, apart from suspicious employees (Mike Coughlan?) this rule shouldn’t be put into use much. Hopefully.

Fuel samples and stopping out on track

This is a rule for Lewis Hamilton only, after what happened at Canada. This new rule states that, after all practice and qualifying sessions, the car must be brought back to the pits via its own power. In other words, the car cannot be switched off in order to save fuel for a fuel sample:

"With immediate effect, any car being driven unnecessarily slowly,
erratically, or which is deemed potentially dangerous to other
drivers, will be reported to the stewards. This will apply whether
any such car is being driven on the track, the pit entry or the
pit lane.

In order to ensure cars are not driven unnecessarily slowly on
in-laps during qualifying or reconnaissance laps when the pit
exit is opened for the race, drivers must stay below the maximum
time set by the FIA between the safety car line after the pit
exit and safety car line before the pit entry. The maximum time
will be determined by the race director at each event prior to
the first day of practice, but may be amended during the event
if necessary.

With immediate effect, if a sample of fuel is required after a
practice session the car concerned must have first been driven
back to the pits under its own power."

Charlie Whiting has already issued a warning, that anyone who tries what Hamilton and McLaren did in Canada will be punished, so again this is simply a clarification of the rules.

Minimum weight

The minimum weight of the cars will be increased from 620kg to 640kg. This is to encourage teams to run the KERS system next year (which FOTA is now allowing their members to use for 2011). This year, the minimum weight was increased from 605kg to 620kg, for the refuelling ban and for KERS, although the latter was not used this year.

"From 2011, the minimum weight of the car must not be less than
640 kg at all times during the event."

Hopefully this will encourage all teams to run KERS next year, rather than just a few. Certain teams have already announced that they will be running KERS next year. More on this later.

Ho-Pin-Tung’s Superlicence

Ho-Pin-Tung has been granted a probationary 4-race superlicence, which suggests that his Renault team applied for one. The Chinese driver had just taken part in a test session in a Renault R29 last weekend.

"Based on his career résumé and comparative F1 testing times, the
World Council has approved the granting of a four-race probationary
super license to Chinese driver Ho-Pin Tung."

As I always say, I love giving new drivers a chance in F1. However, I hope this superlicence isn’t for this year, as surely Pin-Tung has not had enough testing yet. Having said that, there was a rule implemented a few months back, that said that a new driver in the middle of an F1 season was allowed a test session before his first race.

Driver conduct on the road

Another Lewis Hamilton rule here, after what happened to him during the Australian GP weekend:

"The FIA, both in its motor sport and mobility roles, has a strong 
interest in promoting road safety. Competitors at FIA events must 
act as ambassadors for the sport, be aware their conduct on the 
road must be exemplary and respect road safety rules. The World 
Council agreed that the International Sporting Code be examined 
to ensure the Federation’s overall objectives and, in particular, 
its commitment to road safety, are upheld."

In other statements, the FIA and WMSC have suggested penalties to drivers who are dangerous on the road, and this should be good news. While us sensible F1 fans know how to behave on the road, there are plenty of idiots who don’t. If a race driver is driving dangerously on the road, it needs to be shown to everybody that nobody is above the rules of the road. If that means compromising the driver in their sport, so be it.

All of these new rules will be summarised in a later post.

Adjustable rear wings for 2011 – but only for overtaking

It has been announced by the World Motor Sport Council today that adjustable rear wings will be introduced into Formula 1 for the 2011 season, but can only be deployed when a car is following another, and cannot be used by the leader. This has been implemented to assist overtaking.

The adjustable rear wings would not be allowed to be used in the first 2 laps. Also, it can only be activated when a driver is less than 1 second behind the car in front. The driver is notified by his electronics (a light probably) when the system can be used. When the driver hits the brakes after using the rear wing, the system is disabled.

The World motor Sport Council explained this system in more detail:

"From 2011, adjustable bodywork may be activated by the driver at 
any time prior to the start of the race and, for the sole purpose 
of improving overtaking opportunities during the race, after the 
driver has completed two laps.

The driver may only activate the adjustable bodywork in the race 
when he has been notified via the control electronics that it is 
enabled. It will only be enabled if the driver is less than one 
second behind another at any of the pre-determined positions 
around each circuit. The system will be disabled the first 
time the driver uses the brakes after the system has been activated.

The FIA may, after consulting all the competitors, adjust the time
proximity in order to ensure the purpose of the adjustable 
bodywork is met."

I’m not sure about this one. This system gives about 15 km/h extra speed in a straight line, and that is plenty to pass the car in front. However, it may be making it too easy to pass another car, and then when a driver has been overtaken, they can just repass them the following lap.

The F-duct was banned (a good thing in my book) to make way for this innovation, and coupled with KERS (I will write on this later), this could well make overtaking too complicated for the fans, and for the driver.

107% rule returns for 2011

Neither of the HRT cars would have raced in Bahrain if the 107% rule was in place

Neither of the HRT cars would have raced in Bahrain if the 107% rule was in place

As well as Pirelli being the sole tyre supplier from 2011 onwards, the FIA have today announced that the 107% rule will return to Formula 1 in 2011. This was announced at the World Motor Sports Council today. From 2011 onwards, any driver who does not get within 107% of the fastest lap of Q1 will not be allowed to start the race.

The World Motor Sport Council explained the 107% rule in more detail:

"From 2011, any driver whose best qualifying lap exceeds 107% of
the fastest Q1 qualifying time will not be allowed to take part
in the race. Under exceptional circumstances, however, which may
include setting a suitable lap time in a free practice session,
the stewards may permit the car to start the race. Should there
be more than one driver accepted in this manner, the grid order
will be determined by the stewards."

Now I’m sure that, in the event of rain or track damage during qualifying, the stewards would allow a slower car to go through to the race, but overall I think this rule is a bit pointless. The new teams are quickly getting up to speed, and would hardly get caught out by the 107% rule next year.

After a few minutes of figuring it out, I have concluded that there would have been 5 drivers knocked out in 4 different races this year if the 107% rule was already in place. In the season-opener in Bahrain, both Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok would not have started. Then, in Malaysia, Lucas di Grassi would have been gone.

In Spain, Bruno Senna again would have been left out. Finally, Karun Chandhok in Canada would be excluded under 107% regulations. But, in the future, I can’t see how it would happen this often. If there is a 13th team in F1 in 2011, it will only make it harder on them to get into the sport.

As we have seen already, there haven’t been any serious difficulties with slow backmarkers, even in Monaco. This is why I believe that the 107% rule is a waste of time.

Pirelli announced as F1 tyre supplier for 2011

Pirelli has been confirmed as F1 tyre supplier for 2011 onwards

Pirelli has been confirmed as F1 tyre supplier for 2011 onwards

It has finally been announced by the FIA today that Italian company Pirelli will be the tyre manufacturer and supplier for all Formula 1 teams from 2011 onwards. This is after the company have had a 20-year absence in the sport. It is unclear at the moment if they will introduce 18-inch wheels.

Pirelli defeated competition from Michelin, and a brief attempt from Cooper Avon, to get the contract. It was always a 2-way battle between Michelin and Pirelli, although the main difference between the two was track sponsorship. Unlike Pirelli, Michelin would put up trackside advertising for themselves at tracks, and a share of the profits would go to the 13 teams.

However, they had also made certain demands, such as having a fellow competitor for tyres in the sport, something the teams were not keen on. Seeing as Pirelli were essentially no-strings attached, the FIA have today announced that they will be the company that wins the 3-year contract:

"Pirelli has been selected as the single tyre supplier for the FIA 
Formula One World Championship for a period of three years, 
commencing in 2011. The sole supplier will undertake to strictly 
respect the sporting and technical regulations implemented by the 
FIA."

Pirelli last competed in Formula 1, when they supplied Tyrrell, Brabham, Dallara and Benneton, while all of the other teams ran on Goodyear tyres. Their last win came in 1991, when Nelson Piquet won the Canadian Grand Prix.

Back in the 1950′s, Pirelli were the dominant force in Formula 1, winning 5 championships in the first 10 years (2 of these were when the constructor used 2 tyre suppliers).

It is good to see that this tyre saga is finally over, and there are more announcements from the FIA to be written about, while will be up soon.

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