Monthly Archives: August 2010

Korean GP will break rules even if it goes ahead

It has emerged today that even if the Korean Grand Prix event does go ahead this year, which is slightly doubtful to say the least, the FIA would be forced to break its own rules to allow it to do so. While the track organisers are releasing new photos of developed buildings, it still isn’t enough to quell the doubt of many F1 fans and the teams.

One of the new Korean GP buildings - just in time?

One of the new Korean GP buildings - just in time?

It has been accepted that if the venue fails to host a Grand Prix this year, it will be barred from doing so in 2011. To be honest, the chances of it going ahead this year are still doubtful. Karun Chandhok’s demonstration run in a Red Bull, scheduled to take place on the 4th-5th September in only a few days time, is in serious doubt, with a trusted source saying that an FIA official said that there was “no way” this could happen.

Even more worrying is the FIA’s Appendix O to the International Sporting Code, which states that the final inspection of the track must take place 90 days before the opening of the venue. With the race weekend beginning on Friday (possibly Thursday, depending on whether it is an official opening day or not), then the final inspection should have taken place on July 23rd.

Clearly, the track wasn’t developed back then, and FIA rules state that an inspection would be very stringent, and therefore the track couldn’t have passed it, even if it took place. The rule reads as follows:

"...Inspection all work relating to the track surface, permanent 
features and safety installations should be completed to the 
FIA’s satisfaction.”

An incomplete track surface can’t exactly be up to the FIA’s satisfaction can it? Never mind “permanent features and safety installations”, which wouldn’t seem to be in place either.

While all the officials and FIA heads will insist the race will go ahead, you can’t help but feel that they are delaying the inevitable. Bernie Ecclestone would never throw in the towel early, and is probably pushing the FIA to get this race done, but financial (and sporting) implications will be severe if the Korean GP is scrapped with days to go. Having said that, the organisers will still have to pay up if it doesn’t go ahead, so Bernie’s pocket is still covered.

It is understood that if the Korean GP fails to materialise, the job of handing out the punishments goes to the World Motor Sport Council and not Jean Todt. Either way, this isn’t the last we will hear of this story.

Belgian Grand Prix stats and facts

The 2010 Belgian Grand Prix saw Rubens Barrichello’s 300th Grand Prix start, but unfortunately he didn’t even make it to the second lap. Here are the stats and facts from the Belgian Grand Prix:

  • McLaren’s victory means that the McLaren-Ferrari domination of Spa continues. The last time a team other than these two won here was Jordan in 1998.
  • This was Jarno Trulli’s 231st race entry, as many as Giancarlo Fisichella.
  • This was Lewis Hamilton’s 14th Grand Prix victory, as many as Jack Brabham, Graham Hill and Emerson Fittipaldi.
  • However, it was only the second time that he has won a race from start to finish. The last time he did so was back in 2007 in Hungary.
  • It was the 6th fastest lap of Hamilton’s career, as many as Sebastian Vettel, Emerson Fittipaldi, Phil Hill, Mike Hawthorn and many others.
  • Mark Webber’s 6th pole position puts him level with Phil Hill, Emerson Fittipaldi, Ralf Schumacher, Alan Jones, Carlos Reutemann and Jean-Pierre Jabouille.
  • This was the 12th time in 13 races that Red Bull have taken a pole position, but the 6th time this season that they have lost a race win from pole.
  • Also, this was the first time this year that a Red Bull car was classified outside of the points.
  • This was the first time in 2010 that a Ferrari retired from the race. Having said that, the Ferraris still lead the “laps completed” section, with Massa in the lead with 780 laps, and Alonso second with 772. No other driver has come close to this.
  • Jaime Alguersuari got his career best 11th place position qualification, while Michael Schumacher’s 21st place grid spot was the second-worst in his career.
  • Lewis Hamilton has turned every single one of his front-row starts this year to victories.
  • Robert Kubica’s 3rd podium finishes this year means he has as many as Nico Rosberg and Felipe Massa.
  • Bruno Senna’s 7th retirement of the season means he is level at the top with Pedro de la Rosa. Having said that, Hispania’s 18th and 19th position grid spots were the best of the season.

Vettel destroying title bid with his own immaturity

Where, you may ask, is the driver that took his first victory at the Italian Grand Prix? The driver that, with an inferior car, could drive so calmly and yet commandingly to his first victory in the wet conditions? Well, he is still there, but Sebastian Vettel has begun to undermine his own talent with a series of impetuous and impatient mistakes.

When Vettel leads a race, very few will claim that he is anything but brilliant. When the track is clear in front of him, he can take control of the race and never look back, with unbeatable pace and consistency to match. But this is where the problem comes in. While his talent is obvious, wheel-to-wheel incidents have ruined Sebastian’s title challenge this year.

At yesterday’s Belgian Grand Prix, a dozen laps of sitting behind Jenson Button wore down the young German’s patience, and a silly mistake under braking left the world champion out, and the Red Bull with a broken front wing and a drive-through penalty. After analysis, it has been asserted that Sebastian made his mistake when he swerved out to the outside too quickly, and then went out of control.

This is the sort of mistake that a world champion would not make. Can you see Jenson Button making such a slip? No, because Jenson is able to calculate and strategise his every move, and while this sometimes leads to him lacking in pace, it is what won him the title last year.

Vettel, on the other hand, has a stream of gaffes to his name, the most memorable of which being the collision between him and team-mate Mark Webber in Turkey. It was a simple overtaking move for the lead, and Sebastian defended too vigorously, moving into the side of Webber, and forcing him into a crash. Since then of course, he has been in the news for completely unnecessarily sustaining a  drive-through penalty in Hungary, for holding up many of the cars at the restart.

Sure, many of his points losses this and last year can be accredited to reliability troubles, but the point is that he lacks the discipline and mental calmness to become Formula 1 World Champion – for the moment anyway. The 23-year-old has plenty of time to learn in his career, but for the moment any world championship would come undeserved.

Sebastian reminds me of Gilles Villeneuve in a way, as both of these drivers can, on  special occasions, produce blistering performances that leave their rivals in awe. What Sebastian lacks is the emotional control that pulls the driver through difficult situations, such as wheel-to-wheel races like we saw on Sunday. A true world champion would soon realise this.

Hamilton dominates Spa in thrilling race

Lewis Hamilton won today’s Belgian Grand Prix, despite two safety cars, changeable weather conditions, and controversial crashes. Mark Webber was second, after losing his lead at the start, while Robert Kubica drove well to take 3rd place. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel caused a crash between him and Jenson Button. Here is what happened:

Lewis Hamilton leads at the start

Lewis Hamilton leads at the start

On the formation lap, the teams got their first taste of the unpredictability to come, as light rain began to fall. Reports soon emerged that a further shower would commence 8 minutes into the race. Nevertheless, when the cars lined up, none made a last-gasp dash for intermediate tyres. Oddly enough, Felipe Massa completely overshot his box at the start, possibly gaining an advantage from it, but there has been no mention of it from the stewards.

At the start, pole sitter Webber fell prey to the anti-stall system, as his car bogged down, and a stream of cars passed him by Turn 1. This allowed Lewis Hamilton to take the lead, followed closely by Robert Kubica and Jenson Button. But, in true Spa fashion, the track wasn’t going to let the drivers away that easily.

Onboard with Barrichello as he takes out Alonso

Onboard with Barrichello as he takes out Alonso

By the end of Lap 1, rain was falling hard at Stavelot and the Bus Stop chicane, and chaos ensued. More than half the grid overshot the chicane, while Rubens Barrichello lost his braking grip and slammed into Fernando Alonso, ruining his 300th race entry. While Rubens was out on the spot, Fernando amazingly managed to continue, though he opted to change to the intermediate tyres, seeing as he was so far down the field.

The safety car was deployed, but not quickly enough to stop the events occurring all around the track. Robert Kubica ran wide at Eau Rouge, allowing Button through. Sebastian Vettel also had a look, but was forced to run onto the grass to avoid the Renault.

The other Renault driver, Vitaly Petrov, made a stunning outside pass on Nico Rosberg after the main straight. He shoved Nico to the run-off area on the next corner, which allowed Michael Schumacher to get alongside his team-mate. They came too close, and Schumacher clipped Rosberg’s front wing. Despite this, both cars were able to continue with little difficulty.

Once the safety car peeled into the pits, Hamilton held his lead well, while Button in 2nd was beginning to struggle. He had sustained minor front wing damage, and was facing an upcoming battle to hold back Vettel, who had got past Kubica. For a few laps, he did so impressively, until Sebastian became impetuous and made a move.

The rain had begun to fall again around Lap 15, and while conditions weren’t optimal for inters, it was enough to cause a scare for the drivers. At the braking zone of the Bus Stop chicane, Vettel dived to the outside of Button, but lost control while doing so. He fought to stay in the right direction, but smashed into Button in the process. A bang and a torrent of smoke signalled Jenson’s imminent demise, while Vettel was able to continue after replacing his front wing.

Vettel loses control and smashes into Button

Vettel loses control and smashes into Button

While another shower fell near the round of pit stops, it didn’t faze the team tacticians. The only driver affected by this was Fernando Alonso. His previous gamble on intermidiates failed to pay off, and he was forced to stop again for slick tyres, crashing him to the back of the grid. With his tyres sorted, his next job was to sort his way through the cars ahead. Vitantonio Liuzzi was his first victim, which promoted Alonso to 13th.

Adrian Sutil triggered the first set of stops by pitting first, and he was closely followed by Webber, Massa and Kubica on the next lap. Most of the field pitted later, and Lewis Hamilton was the last of those, pitting on Lap 24. The Mercedes drivers of Rosberg and Scumacher were the only notable drivers to stay out until later.

Sebastian Vettel, down in 12th place, was now attempting to get back into the points. First of all though, his previous incident with Button was going to haunt him. The stewards handed him a drive-through penalty for causing an avoidable collision, and he dropped well down the field. On a recovery mission, he dived down the inside of Vitantonio Liuzzi on lap 27, but chopped off the Force India’s front wing, and gave the Red Bull a puncture, leaving Vettel crawling back to the pits.

Once the grid finally calmed down on Lap 30, Rosberg and Schumacher were shown as being 6th and 7th, having not stopped yet. Kamui Kobayashi was up to 8th, and being challened by a recovering Fernando Alonso. Many laps were spent with the Ferrari trying passes, but Kobayashi held firm.

On Lap 34, helicopter shots revealed McLaren’s worst scenario situation: More rain was on the way, and it was much heavier this time. The Red Bull team informed their drivers that this rain was to last for over 20 minutes, meaning intermediates were going to be necessary.

Sure enough, the rain swiftly arrived, and conditions became treacherous. While some drivers like Timo Glock took on the extreme wet tyres, and other like Buemi and Yamamoto trying intermediates, Hamilton was instructed that he should only switch tyres when it became absolutely necessary. However, this plan so nearly backfired when Lewis ran wide at Rivage, brushing the tyre barriers in the process. His lead was so substansial though, that he was able to rejoin still ahead of Kubica and Webber.

Or should that be Webber and Kubica? The top 3, as well as most of the field, pitted on Lap 36 for new tyres. Robert was caught out by the slippery pit box and overshot his mechanics. This delayed his pit stop, and Mark Webber was granted 2nd place. Meanwhile, the other Red Bull was taking a gamble on the extreme wet tyres, seeing as he was so far down the pack.

Fernando Alonso, now up to 8th, pushed a little too hard in the conditions. He ran wide onto the astroturf, which was clogged with water, spun and crashed into the barriers just after Les Combes. His Ferrari was beached in the middle of the track, and the safety car was deployed again so the marshals could remove the stricken car.

Alonso is beached on track, leading to the safety car

Alonso is beached on track, leading to the safety car

This deployment was bad news for the cars on extreme wets, as their opportunity to pass some of the struggling drivers on intermediates had now passed. Standing water had not appeared, but the track was wet enough to catch out Nico Hulkenberg twice. While Vettel was unconvinced of his switch to extreme wets, his team were telling him that cars on inters were “crashing left, right and centre.”

The safety car pitted with 3 laps to go, and the chaos flared again. Nico Rosberg made a textbook restart, shoving his way past both Kobayashi and team-mate Schumacher within a few corners. The final few cars, Liuzzi in particular, were battling with a vast array of cars for position. He tried a move on Alguersuari for 11th, but despite superior speed and grip, Jaime held the Force India back. Further back, Pedro de la Rosa spun, leaving Sebastien Buemi free to take 12th place.

A few more laps would have been fantastic, but 44 was enough for Lewis Hamilton, who crossed the line a few seconds ahead of Mark Webber, to take his first victory in Spa. Robert Kubica drove very well today, and he deserved 2nd, although his mistake at his second stop cost him dearly. Felipe Massa was very quiet in his ascent to 4th, Adrian Sutil took a well-deserved 5th, ahead of the Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Schumacher.

Webber, Hamilton and Kubica celebrate on the podium

Webber, Hamilton and Kubica celebrate on the podium

Kamui Kobayashi was excellent to watch in 8th, while Vitaly Petrov took another points-scoring position in 9th. Jaime Alguersuari would have taken 10th, but a 20-second penalty for cutting the chicane and gaining an advantage (retaining his lead over Liuzzi) cost him. This left Liuzzi free to take today’s final point.

This amazing race has left Lewis Hamilton in the lead of the drivers’ championship, by 3 points to Mark Webber. Red Bull retain the lead in the constructors’ championship, but only by a solitary point. The full standings are updated and available as usual.

It was certainly an excellent race, and one of my favourites so far this year. Lewis Hamilton showed great maturity in his drive today, and seems to be becoming the main McLaren driver to challenge for the title.

P.S: Apologies for the late post, I completely missed the race, and had quite an adventure downloading it…

Webber pips Hamilton to Spa pole

Mark Webber took pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix today. He pipped Lewis Hamilton, who was 2nd, ahead of Robert Kubica. Sebastian Vettel was 4th, while Fernando Alonso was caught out and is 10th. Here is the full report:

Mark Webber in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix

Mark Webber in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix

Q1

The weather was dry at the start of Q1, but the clouds looked threatening. This resulted in all of the drivers going out at the start, but not a single one of them set a lap. This is because Vitaly Petrov brought out the red flags after a minute and a half, by crashing before the Pouhon corner, as there was a small amount of standing water on the kerbs. His session was over, and he will start from the back of the grid.

When the session restarted, the cars all lined up again at the end of the pit lane, except for the Red Bulls, who held their cars in the pits while they made space for themselves on the track. However, on their warm-up laps, the rain started to fall, and a huge scramble emerged for position on track. Many drivers, especially Schumacher, were jostling for position in the middle of their flying laps, which ruined their time.

The rain fell harder, and a disaster occurred at Stavelot corner, where half the field ran off the track, spun or nearly collided. With so many dangerous incidents, the stewards soon announced they would be investigating the incidents. Within a few minutes, most of the field pitted again. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls, who struggled as they went out later on the wetter track, decided to stay out and switch to intermediates.

Vettel’s first lap was a 1.58, which was enough to put him into 3rd, but then he had to crawl back to the pits, to conserve his inters. Adrian Sutil then went 5th, and Jarno Trulli got 14th. Timo Glock, in the middle of all the previous chaos, was now up to 12th.

Heikki Kovalainen, on the other hand, chose to experiment with the slick tyres. Rosberg and Vettel noticed his improvement, and also went onto the dry tyres. Robert Kubica went fastest on the inters with a 1.56, before the session was yellow flagged after Kamui Kobayashi slipped and got stuck in the gravel track. To make matters worse for the Sauber team, Pedro de la Rosa swiftly ran off and hit the barriers.

After all the drama, there was still time for one set of flying laps. Nico Rosberg chopped a second off Kubica’s time while on slicks, while Michael Schumacher went 5th. Not many others went out again, so it was a quiet end to a chaotic session. Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock managed to get through to Q2. Meanwhile, both Saubers, Hispanias, Lucas di Grassi and Vitaly Petrov were eliminated.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Jarno Trulli

19) Kamui Kobayashi

20) Bruno Senna

21) Sakon Yamamoto

22) Pedro de la Rosa

23) Lucas di Grassi

24) Vitaly Petrov

Q2

The track had dried out by the time Q2 started. Again, another charge of cars out of the pit lane greeted the start of the session, as there was no guarantee of the rain staying away. Both McLaren drivers went out on a used set of soft tyres. 1.50.7 was the fastest lap so far, set by Lewis Hamilton.

Mistakes by Button and Alonso, followed by a spin from Liuzzi, showed that the track was still damp in places, most notably Stavelot. Schumacher ignored this danger, and went fastest with a 1.49. Felipe Massa, on the other hand, spun and nearly got stuck in the gravel track, in the same place as Kobayashi, but he managed to struggle his way out.

Heikki Kovalainen went out for the first time with only 5 minutes remaining. His main rival, Timo Glock, went 15th for Virgin. Jenson Button went fastest with a 1.47.4, showing the track was much drier. Sebastien Buemi went 7th, while Kovalainen was 15th. Lewis Hamilton then went a full second faster than Button to take top spot.

Adrian Sutil, the man tipped to surprise the field in a dry race scenario, went 5th. His team-mate Liuzzi could only manage 12th, and was out of Q2. In the dying seconds, the Williams drivers of Barrichello and Hulkenberg went 9th and 10th, while Schumacher and Rosberg were 11th and 12th. Michael’s 10-place grid penalty means that he will be starting 21st.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Michael Schumacher

12) Nico Rosberg

13) Jaime Alguersuari

14) Vitantonio Liuzzi

15) Sebastien Buemi

16) Heikki Kovalainen

17) Timo Glock

Q3

While the Ferraris and McLarens went out quickly, the Red Bulls, Adrian Sutil and Rubens Barrichello opted to hold back. Lewis Hamilton, the first man out, was quite wild on his flying lap, but still set a 1.46.2. Felipe Massa, Jenson Button, and Fernando Alonso went 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Robert Kubica then went fastest, before Mark Webber topped all of them.

Rubens Barrichello beat Nico Hulkenberg to 7th, then Adrian Sutil split the two. While rain started to fall, Fernando Alonso was left in huge trouble, as he was in 9th, and track conditions were deteriorating quite a bit. Mark Webber’s time seemed to be unbeatable, seeing as the track wouldn’t support another driver’s challenge for pole. Despite this, both of the McLarens improved their times.

However, nobody was able to knock Webber off top spot, so he deservedly takes pole position. But knowing Spa (heavy rain forecast for tomorrow), anything can happen in the race…

Full times from qualifying:

Pos.
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1′57.352 1′47.253 1′45.778
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1′56.706 1′46.211 1′45.863
3 Robert Kubica Renault 1′56.041 1′47.320 1′46.100
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1′58.487 1′47.245 1′46.127
5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1′57.981 1′46.790 1′46.206
6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1′58.323 1′47.322 1′46.314
7 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1′55.757 1′47.797 1′46.602
8 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1′58.730 1′47.292 1′46.659
9 Nico Hülkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1′55.442 1′47.821 1′47.053
10 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1′57.023 1′47.544 1′47.441
11 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1′56.313 1′47.874
12 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1′54.826 1′47.885
13 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1′58.944 1′48.267
14 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 2′01.102 1′48.680
15 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2′00.386 1′49.209
16 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 2′01.343 1′50.980
17 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 2′01.316 1′52.049
18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 2′01.491
19 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 2′02.284
20 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 2′03.612
21 Sakon Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 2′03.941
22 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 2′05.294
23 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 2′18.154
24 Vitaly Petrov Renault

Notes: Michael Schumacher will start 21st after a 10-place grid penalty for his move on Barrichello in Hungary.

Sebastien Buemi has been docked 3 places for impeding Nico Rosberg and Timo Glock.

Timo Glock has been given a 5-place penalty for holding up Sakon Yamamoto (!).

Nico Rosberg has been given a 5-place penalty, because of  a gearbox change.

Amazingly, this leaves Heikki Kovalainen in 13th place on the grid.

Alonso continues to lead through Belgian FP2

Fernando Alonso topped the second practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix today, as the rapidly drying track allowed some fast laps at the end. He was only one tenth ahead of Adrian Sutil, who in turn was just ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

The session started with the usual Spa conditions, with the track still requiring extreme wet tyres. However, soon enough the sun started to appear, and intermidiates were swiftly attached to the cars. Later on, Jaime Alguersuari was the first to try slick tyres, and his first lap time was 3 seconds faster than his previous ones on the inters.

However, as the track was still slippy, it was sure to catch out a few drivers. Vitantonio Liuzzi spun at Rivage, while Timo Glock crashed after only 3 laps, at the next corner.

Adrian Sutil was leading for most of the session, before a very strange red flag emerged. Charlie Whiting was dispatched in the course car, to ensure that no fans were standing in a dangerous zone. It is believed that a group of kids climbed over a debris barrier at Rivage (Turn 8). This was a disaster for some drivers, as it ruined 10 of the 15 dry minutes of the session that they had.

When the session restarted, all the cars were queued up to take one last set of flying laps. The two Ferraris went out together, but Alonso pulled away from Massa by 0.6 seconds in the middle sector. This allowed Fernando to take the fastest lap of the session, a 1.49.032, to beat Adrian Sutil.

Robert Kubica was 4th, Felipe Massa 5th, and Sebastian Vettel 6th. Rubens Barrichello was again 9th, and Vitantonio Liuzzi struggled again down in 16th. The slowest of the non-new teams was actually Mark Webber, who was 2.6 seconds off the fastest time. The Lotuses were back on form, with Kovalainen and Trulli fastest of the new teams.

Lucas di Grassi was 21st, Senna 22nd, while Sakon Yamamoto was only 0.3 seconds behind his team-mate in 23rd.

Times from FP2:

Pos. Driver Car Best lap Gap Laps
1 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1′49.032 25
2 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1′49.157 0.125 17
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1′49.248 0.216 14
4 Robert Kubica Renault 1′49.282 0.250 20
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1′49.588 0.556 23
6 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1′49.689 0.657 19
7 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1′49.755 0.723 20
8 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1′50.081 1.049 27
9 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1′50.128 1.096 22
10 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1′50.200 1.168 24
11 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1′50.251 1.219 24
12 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1′50.341 1.309 23
13 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1′50.382 1.350 21
14 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1′50.682 1.650 25
15 Nico Hülkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1′50.831 1.799 20
16 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1′51.520 2.488 17
17 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1′51.523 2.491 25
18 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1′51.636 2.604 19
19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1′53.480 4.448 15
20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1′53.639 4.607 21
21 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1′54.325 5.293 17
22 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1′55.751 6.719 24
23 Sakon Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1′56.039 7.007 21
24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 2′03.179 14.147 3

Alonso leads soaked first session in Spa

Fernando Alonso topped the first practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend, but it was the weather that made the most news today. The track was already saturated, then more heavy rain made the track very difficult to drive. Because of this, no driver got below the two-minute mark.

Fernando Alonso in FP1 at Spa today

Fernando Alonso in FP1 at Spa today

Alonso’s best time, a 2.00.797, was 0.8 seconds faster than Lewis Hamilton in 2nd place, although he only went out for 7 laps. Robert Kubica was 3rd for Reanult, running their new F-duct. The Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber were 4th and 7th. Adrian Sutil was 5th while Jenson Button was 6th, having done only 6 laps.

Rubens Barrichello, celebrating his 300th Grand Prix entry with a special message on the car, was 9th behind Kamui Kobayashi. Michael Schumacher completed the top 10. Felipe Massa was a disappointing 11th, 2.8 seconds slower than his team-mate.

Vitaly Petrov struggled in 17th, while Sebastien Buemi was only 0.017 seconds faster than Timo Glock, although he was suffering gearbox trouble throughout the session, and only did 6 laps. Behind Glock in 19th was Lucas di Grassi. Trulli and Kovalainen were off the pace in 21st and 23rd. Meanwhile, Sakon Yamamoto was last, 1o seconds slower than Alonso, and an unbelievable 2.8 seconds off Bruno Senna’s time.

Times from FP1:

Pos.
Driver Car Best lap Gap Laps
1 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 2′00.797 17
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 2′01.567 0.770 7
3 Robert Kubica Renault 2′02.081 1.284 14
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 2′02.450 1.653 11
5 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 2′02.646 1.849 14
6 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 2′02.913 2.116 6
7 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 2′02.926 2.129 11
8 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 2′03.401 2.604 17
9 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 2′03.424 2.627 7
10 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 2′03.489 2.692 9
11 Felipe Massa Ferrari 2′03.601 2.804 17
12 Nico Hülkenberg Williams-Cosworth 2′03.649 2.852 17
13 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 2′03.654 2.857 6
14 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 2′03.851 3.054 17
15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 2′04.145 3.348 12
16 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2′04.250 3.453 16
17 Vitaly Petrov Renault 2′04.690 3.893 15
18 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2′05.680 4.883 6
19 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 2′05.697 4.900 18
20 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 2′06.695 5.898 14
21 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 2′07.189 6.392 15
22 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 2′07.737 6.940 13
23 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 2′07.955 7.158 15
24 Sakon Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 2′10.507 9.710 18

Barrichello celebrates 300 Grands Prix

As Rubens Barrichello stars his 300th Grand Prix this weekend, the Williams team decided to commemorate his achievement. At an event in Spa-Francorchamps today, he was presented with a medal from Bernie Ecclestone, a poster showing his years in Formula 1, and a specially made Williams bike.

He was later shown a video of his career to date, and burst into tears.

Here are just a few stats from his amazing career, starting way back in 1993:

  • To date, he has scored 637 Formula 1 points.
  • At the 1994 Belgian Grand Prix, he became the youngest ever pole position driver, at 22 years and 97 days.
  • Earlier that year, he had became the second youngest driver on the podium, at the Pacific Grand Prix, at 21 years and 329 days, only a week older than the former record holder, Bruce McLaren.
  • It took him 123 races to take his first victory, at Hockenheim in 2000. At that same race, he went to 3rd in the ranking of “Wins from farthest back on the grid”, as he started 18th.
  • In the 2004 season, he took 14 podiums out of 18 races. The only drivers who have ever beaten this are Michael Schumacher (2001,2002,2004), Fernando Alonso (2005) and Alain Prost (1988).
  • He has finished 134 races in the points, a record only beaten by Michael Schumacher.
  • He has led at least 1 lap of 51 different Grands Prix.
  • He currently holds the record for longest time between first and last podium positions. His first podium was in the 1994 Pacific GP, and his last (to date) was Italy last year.

Here are some photos from today’s event:

Rubens Barrichello receives a medal from Bernie Ecclestone

Rubens Barrichello receives a medal from Bernie Ecclestone

He later bursts into tears after watching a video of his career

He later bursts into tears after watching a video of his career

A poster of Rubens Barrichello's career

A poster of Rubens Barrichello's career

Rubens and some of the other F1 drivers

Rubens and some of the other F1 drivers

Belgium 2009 flashback: Fisichella uses the force

Before everyone’s favourite race of the year, the focus was yet again on Jenson Button, whose lead of the championship had slipped to only 18 points. He hadn’t scored a podium since Turkey, and was being pressurised more and more from Barrichello, Webber and Vettel. Oddly enough, only one former winner of the Belgian Grand Prix was racing here in 2009, a certain Kimi Raikkonen.

Throughout Friday and Saturday practice, there wasn’t much out of the ordinary, apart from Mark Webber suffering Red Bull’s third engine failure in a week. With absolutely no warning, the established backmarker, Force India, slammed themselves into pole position with Giancarlo Fisichella. Their low-downforce package had suddenly emerged as a contender in Spa-Francorchamps’s sweeping track, and now the formbook was on its head for the best race of the year.

Only one predictable event happened, and that was Luca Badoer, who crashed in Q1, bringing out the yellow flags at the end of the session and ruining other drivers’ laps. Jenson Button suffered awful form in Q2, and ended up 14th. Meanwhile, Jarno Trulli and Nick Heidfeld got Toyota and BMW Sauber into the top three.

Raikkonen uses the run-off area to gain several places

Raikkonen uses the run-off area to gain several places

As the race began, Rubens Barrichello destroyed his race within seconds, as he almost stalled his car – again. This left him at the back, and stuck behind the backmarkers. Kimi Raikkonen showed he had absolutely no intention of using the conventional track, as he sailed around the run-off area at La Source, questionably gaining several positions in the process. Adrian Sutil, who was sluggish in qualifying and was 11th, took off part of his front wing in a tangle.

Worse was to come at the Les Combes corner. Raikkonen, who had just swiftly disposed of Robert Kubica in 2nd, ran slightly wide, and the BMW Sauber driver clipped his front wing against the Ferrari. Further back, rookie Romain Grosjean hit the back of Jenson Button, who spun 180 degrees and collided with Grosjean again. Lewis Hamilton backed off, and was hit by another rookie, Jaime Alguersuari, who had lost control after a seperate crash. All four cars were eliminated on the spot, and the safety car was deployed, as cars were streamed all over Les Combes.

Hamilton and Alguersuari crash at Les Combes

Hamilton and Alguersuari crash at Les Combes

After Lap 4, the safety car pitted, and Fisichella was faced with a problem. His strategy was to get away cleanly at the start, and within the first lap get far away enough from Raikkonen to avoid his KERS system. However, the safety car restart had bunched up the field, and now Kimi was within striking range to launch a move within the next lap. Giancarlo tried his best, but at the restart Raikkonen was right behind him as they approached Eau Rouge, and easily got past using his KERS on the straight.

Further back, Rubens Barrichello was recovering from his disastrous start. He out-braked Badoer with no difficulty to get into 13th position. Adrian Sutil invented a new overtaking spot, as he sailed past Luca by using the run-off area at Pouhon. The Ferrari driver was again completely off the pace, and was a second a lap slower later on.

Toyota had got themselves in a good position for the Belgian GP, with Trulli and Glock 2nd and 7th on the grid. But, a mistake with the fuel rig at Glock’s pit stop, combined with a heavy fuel load, dropped him well down the order, while Trulli retired after the first set of stops. Yet again, Toyota had thrown away a good result.

Up at the front, Raikkonen couldn’t get away from Fisichella, who was stuck to the back of the Ferrari’s gearbox. The only thing keeping him behind was Kimi’s KERS system, which disabled the Force India’s better straight-line speed. They both pitted at the same time on Lap 14, and seemed to take on the same amount of fuel. Kimi stayed on the harder tyre, while Fisi switched to softs.

More pit-lane drama occurred, after Mark Webber was released straight into the path of Nick Heidfeld, who swerved to within centimetres of the pit lane wall to avoid a collision. He was swiftly issued a drive-through penalty, and dropped to 9th. Before he served the penalty, Barrichello (who hadn’t made his stop) made a brave dive around the outside at Blanchimont. Meanwhile, after suffering wheel damage on the first lap, Fernando Alonso was forced to retire after his first stop.

On Lap 31, Raikkonen and Fisichella pitted for the second time. No positions were changed between the two, but Sebastian Vettel leap-frogged Robert Kubica 4 laps later. He actually began to catch Kimi and Fisi, but he was so far back he decided to turn down his engine revs to secure 3rd.

Raikkonen held off Fisichella until the very end

Raikkonen held off Fisichella until the very end

With the top 3 settled, as long as Kimi held Giancarlo back with his KERS, the focus moved to the points-scorers. The BMW’s of Kubica and Heidfeld were 4th and 5th, while Kovalainen’s 6th place was being challenged by Barrichello. He could have got past, until Rubens’ engine began spewing oil and smoke in the last few laps. He coaxed his car to the chequered flag, and impressively held off Nico Rosberg to the finish.

With all of this settled, the undisputed king of Spa, Kimi Raikkonen crossed the line first, but not without being chased all the way to the flag by Fisichella. In hindsight, more fuel at his first stop could well have given Giancarlo the win, but Force India’s first points and podium was enough to celebrate for one day. After Rubens Barrichello pitted after the finish, his engine cover soon caught fire, with all of the boiling oil.

Rubens Barrichello's engine cover catches fire in the pit lane

Rubens Barrichello's engine cover catches fire in the pit lane

Adrian Sutil must have been disappointed out of the points, but Luca Badoer was even more concerned. With Ferrari fans mocking him with banners and flags after his dismal drive in Valencia, his last-position finish sealed his fate, and he was surely going to be replaced for Ferrari’s home race at Monza, otherwise he would have been murdered by the Tifosi. Rumours instantly floated around that Fisichella was being asked to fill in for Badoer for the rest of the season.

Fisichella, Raikkonen and Vettel celebrate on the podium

Fisichella, Raikkonen and Vettel celebrate on the podium

So after a race in which the formbook was thrown out the window, attention soon moved to the Italian Grand Prix. But, throughout the paddock, rumours began to surface that fired Renault driver, Nelson Piquet Jr, had one more thing to say…

Webber hinting at 2011 exit

While earlier in the year he silenced the critics who speculated that he would soon retire, Mark Webber appears to be slowly backtracking, as he talked about the possibility of leaving Formula 1 after the 2011 season.

Mark Webber has said that he cannot guarantee him racing in F1 in 2012

Mark Webber has said that he cannot guarantee him racing in F1 in 2012

The 33-year-old (34 on Friday), who first entered the sport with Minardi in 2002, has been improving all the time, and is now leading the driver’s championship for the first time as well. However, while talking to Globo, he said that he could not guarantee him driving in Formula 1 from 2012 onwards.

He said:

“I can not guarantee that my head will be in the same place in 
2012. Sure, I want to try and win the world title, I know that 
it changes people's lives; it changes the person and I want to 
see how it feels. 

I also want you to realise that athletes can get over their 
dreams, though. Maybe I'll end up doing a little hiking, I 
don’t know, but surely some more sporting challenges before 
I get too old and return to Australia to drink red wine.”

To be honest, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Webber leave after 2011. While he is driving better than ever before, it must be noted that he will be 36 at the end of 2011, and if his heart isn’t in it then, there is little point staying. To lead the world championship, and be in contention to win it, must be propelling him through this season, but maybe the team’s favouritism of Sebastian Vettel has had an impact on him.

Only time will tell, but before he leaves, whenever that is, I would like for him to win a championship, and he certainly deserves it this year.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers