Monthly Archives: May 2011

Monaco madness proves tyres are key

Pirelli tyres allowed for fantastic racing in Monaco

Pirelli tyres allowed for fantastic racing in Monaco

Not since 1992 has the Monaco Grand Prix seen such fantastic racing. Back then, Nigel Mansell chased down a significantly slower Ayrton Senna, hounding the McLaren all the way to the chequered flag.

On Sunday, we saw the astounding sight of three cars racing for the lead in Monte Carlo. Last year, only 4 overtakes were made here, all by Fernando Alonso passing the Virgins and Lotuses. However, 2011 is becoming one of the best seasons for on-track racing – all because of the tyres.

Many will criticise DRS, and rightly so, as being an artificial way of spicing up the racing. While it helps in a way, it also takes away the appeal of seeing cars side-by-side, rather than one simply slicing past another.

Turkey was a prime example of this, as the Mercedes and Red Bull cars were slaughtered in a straight line, and had no way to respond under braking.

On the other hand, the Pirelli tyres are promoting pure racing, and generating unpredictability at the same time. Although Sebastian Vettel has taken control of the world championship swiftly, he has been hounded to the flag in the last two races. In Spain, Lewis Hamilton, in an inferior car, clung onto the Red Bull for dear life. In Monaco, both Ferrari and McLaren caught Vettel out on worn tyres, and very nearly punished him dearly for it.

The best thing is, 3 or 4 stops are not needed by every driver in order to shake up the field. In Monaco, a 1-stop for Vettel and a 3-stop for Button both proved to be race-winning strategies (safety car periods and red flag excluded).

Unfortunately, the red flag, and the consequent switching of tyres, ruined what could have been a classic showdown to the flag. Despite this, I don’t think anybody will be disappointed with last weekend’s racing. Seeing so many overtaking moves in unpredictable locations, with varying results, has improved this sport far more than any technical gimmick ever could.

Points standings after Monaco Grand Prix

Driver Standings

Driver Points
1 Sebastian Vettel 143
2 Lewis Hamilton 85
3 Mark Webber 79
4 Jenson Button 76
5 Fernando Alonso 69
6 Nick Heidfeld 29
7 Nico Rosberg 26
8 Felipe Massa 24
9 Vitaly Petrov 21
10 Kamui Kobayashi 19
11 Michael Schumacher 14
12 Adrian Sutil 8
13 Sebastien Buemi 7
14 Rubens Barrichello 2
15 Sergio Perez 2
16 Paul di Resta 2
17 Jaime Alguersuari 0
18 Jarno Trulli 0
19 Jerome D’Ambrosio 0
20 Heikki Kovalainen 0
21 Pastor Maldonado 0
22 Timo Glock 0
23 Narain Karthikeyan 0
24 Vitantonio Liuzzi 0

Constructor Standings

Team Points
1 Red Bull-Renault 222
2 McLaren-Mercedes 161
3 Ferrari 93
4 Renault 50
5 Mercedes GP 40
6 Sauber-Ferrari 21
7 Force India-Mercedes 10
8 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 7
9 Williams-Cosworth 2
10 Lotus-Cosworth 0
11 Virgin-Cosworth 0
12 HRT-Cosworth 0

Vettel holds off Alonso and Button in Monaco thriller

Sebastian Vettel took 5 race wins out of 6, but for the second race in a row, was hounded to the flag. Both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button used their strategies to the max to push the Red Bull to its limits on the streets of Monte Carlo. Mark Webber was 4th, Kamui Kobayashi did well in 5th, while Lewis Hamilton caused several crashes and investigations en route to 6th. Here is the full report:

At the start, Vettel held off Button, while Alonso sailed up to 3rd. Nico Rosberg mved up to 5th, while a fantastic move by Michael Schumacher on Hamilton at the Casino hairpin put him up to 9th.

Sebastian began to pull away at a second a lap, while Alonso hounded Button for 2nd. Replays from the start showed that Schumacher damaged Lewis’ diffuser entering the first corner.

With quickly graining rear tyres, Michael soon came under pressure from the McLaren. A perfect combination of DRS and KERS on the start/finish straight allowed Hamilton to out-brake and squeeze past the Mercedes at Snt Devote on Lap 10. Rubens Barrichello made a move on his former teammate at Mirabeau a lap later.

Schumacher pitted in response, and changed his front wing as a precaution after his contact with Hamilton at the start. Rosberg in 5th began to hold up a train of cars behind him. Massa tried a move up the hill after Snt Devote, but clipped his front wing. Despite this, he muscled past Nico at Tabac, and Pastor Maldonado promptly followed him through.

Jenson Button was the first frontrunner to pit on Lap 16, putting on another set of super softs, in contrast to the expected 1 or 2-stop strategies. 4 seconds up the road, Vettel replied to McLaren a lap later, but disaster struck the Red Bull team. One of the tyre blankets for Vettel’s tyres was stuck on, losing precious time. Webber followed Vettel in, and lost massive amounts of time stuck behind his teammate.

New race leader Alonso stopped a lap later, and emerged in 3rd, while Button took over the lead of the Grand Prix. Interestingly, this marked the 10,000th lap led by a McLaren in Formula 1.

An impressive ascent through the field left Hamilton chasing Petrvov for 6th. He pitted on Lap 24 for super softs. However, the same mistake befell Lewis, as his mechanics weren’t ready for him, leading to a 10 second stop.

Paul di Resta was 14th after his first stop. He dived down the inside of Jaime Alguersuari at Casino, but knocked off his front wing off the Williams at the exit of the corner. He pitted for repairs, but the wrath of the stewards soon handed him a drive-through penalty as an afterthought.

Timo Glock retired on Lap 33 with suspension damage. He stopped on track, and as a precaution for a possible safety car, Button and Barrichello pitted.

A frustrated Lewis Hamilton tried a move on Massa at Casino, but replicated Di Resta’s move, and caused damage to both cars. They both continued, but Hamilton pushed Massa aside in the tunnel, and the Ferrari slammed into the barriers, causing the first safety car appearance of 2011. At the same moment, Michael Schumacher retired just after La Rascasse with an engine problem.

The safety car had caused huge problems for Button, who still had to stop again, and now had a large group of cars in between him and Vettel. As expected, the investigation into the Hamilton-Massa incident began, leading to a drive-through penalty for Hamilton. He pitted that lap, and emerged in 9th place.

Vettel was swiftly reeled in by Button after he dispatched of the backmarkers. Sebastian’s engineer instructed him to try and hold up Jenson for as long as possisble, to wear out his super-soft tyres.

Jenson opted to change his strategy, and pitted on Lap 49 for his compulsory set of soft tyres. He rejoined 3rd, behind Alonso, and 19 seconds off Vettel. He surprised everyone by setting the fastest lap of the race, only a lap after his out lap.

The McLaren was now 2 seconds a lap faster than the Red Bull, but strangely Vettel didn’t pit yet. The strategists soon realised Sebastian was staying out, and so the top 3 cars began to bunch extremely close up to each other. With 15 laps to go, Vettel’s heavily worn tyres had allowed himself to be reeled in by Alonso and Button, and so a fantastic battle developed.

Nose to tail, lap after lap, the top 3 drivers in the top 3 teams diced it out in the twisting street circuit. The tension was unbelievable, and it soon hit its limit. A massive train of backmarkers all went side-by-side into the swimming pool complex, leading to a series of crashes – right in front of the leaders. Vettel, Alonso and Button all threaded their way through the disaster zone, as the safety car was deployed again.

The replays showed the carnage – Sutil  Petrov had slammed into the barriers, while Alguersuari had run into the back of Lewis Hamilton, causing huge damage to the rear of the McLaren. The red flag was thrown with 6 laps to go, as an ambulance was deployed on track for Petrov, who was complaining of an injured back.

This gave McLaren time to replace the damaged rear wing of Hamilton. A safety car restart was promptly announced, while Petrov was taken to hospital for checks.

Unfortunately in the battle for the lead, the cars were allowed to be worked on, which allowed Vettel to change his tyres, and alleviate the risk behind from Alonso.

Soon afterwards, the safety car took the field around for one lap, and pitted. But, by the first corner, the yellow flags were already out. Lewis Hamilton, desperate to leap up to 6th, moved his car into a gap left by Pastor Maldonado. The two collided at Snt Devote, leaving the Williams driver point-less once again, and Hamilton in risk of another penalty.

Mark Webber kept the pressure on Kamui Kobayashi for 4th, and forced the Sauber wide at the Nouvelle chicane, leaving the Red Bull the position.

Fernando was unable to beat Vettel on new tyres, and the Red Bull driver hauled his way to another race win. Button rued his second pit stop call, while Webber was 4th, and Kobayashi held off Hamilton for 5th. Adrian Sutil and Nick Heidfeld collected some handy points, while Rubens Barrichello and Sebastien Buemi completed the top 10.

Hamilton demoted to 9th on the grid

Hamilton has been pushed down the order to 9th

Hamilton has been pushed down the order to 9th

Lewis Hamilton has had his only lap time from qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix deleted, which drops him to 9th on the grid.

The stewards have decided that he cut a chicane on his one and only fast lap.

Lewis will start 9th, and not 10th, because of Sergio Perez’s crash, as the Mexican will not start the race tomorrow. Pastor Maldonado has been promoted to 7th, and Nico Rosberg is up to 8th.

However, since his only lap from Q3 was disqualified, there is some confusion as to whether Lewis will be able to choose his tyres for tomorrow, or if he must keep the set he set his (cancelled) lap on.

Perez hospitalised after heavy shunt

Sergio Perez crashed out of Q3 in Monaco qualifying

Sergio Perez crashed out of Q3 in Monaco qualifying

Sergio Perez has been injured after a high-speed crash in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix.

The Sauber rookie lost control under braking at Turn 10 (Nouvelle Chicane), and slammed sideways into the barriers at well over 100mph.

Perez has been transferred to a hospital in Nice. Sauber CEO Monisha Kaltenborn has reported that he  is complaining of a headache, and is suffering from pain in his right leg, but otherwise is believed to be conscious and in good condition.

If he is in appropriate conditon to race, he will start in 10th place, after failing to set a time in Q3. Teammate Kamui Kobayashi is in 13th.

Interestingly, race director Charlie Whiting ordered the removal of the speed bumps at Turn 10 earlier this afternoon, after Nico Rosberg bounced over them in a similar, but less serious, crash. Jenson Button has since praised Whiting for the call, claiming Perez’s car could have been launched if the bumps had remained.

Update: Perez will remain in hospital overnight with a suspected concussion and sprained thigh, but no fractures or broken bones have been detected.

Vettel storms to pole in disrupted Monaco qualifying

Sebastian Vettel set a new lap record on route to pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix. He may have been beaten by Lewis Hamilton, but cold tyres relegated the McLaren to 7th. A massive crash for Sergio Perez delayed Q3 by 30 minutes, although initial reports suggest Sergio is conscious and talking. Here is the full report:

Q1

The session began with a sense of worry at the Mercedes garage, as Nico Rosberg waited with baited breath to see would his damaged W02 be repaired in time. Meanwhile, at HRT, Vitantonio Liuzzi’s car was ruled out of quaifying, leaving his fate in the hands of the stewards regarding the 107% rule.

Q1 saw a different strategy being run by many of the teams, as cars were fuelled up for 6 or 7 laps, in order to counter drivers possibly being held up.

A 1.17.0 was Jenson Button’s benchmark for the other drivers. Teammate Lewis Hamilton promptly smashed that time by 7 tenths of a second. Jenson soon responded, and carved his time down to a 1.15.9.

Sebastian Vettel and Button traded fastest laps at the top of the timesheets, while Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were 8 tenths away from the McLaren.

Surprisingly, Rosberg’s car was repaired in time, after his heavy crash in Saturday morning practice. He went 5th, splitting the Ferraris.

Interestingly, the Toro Rossos struggled massively in Q1, forcing Buemi to put on a set of super soft tyres. This got him through safely to Q2, but put him at a disadvantage later. Oddly enough, Schumacher tried the same tactic, having been 1.1 seconds off Rosberg. He went faster on the new tyres, but still slower than Nico, who was on the slower set.

Sergio Perez had a scary moment at the swimming pool chicane, but survived to go 6th. Jaime Alguersuari swiped Kamui Kobayashi as the Sauber entered the pits, causing minor front wing damage.

Neither of the HRT cars left the pits during the session. Rumours have began to float that the F111 is under investigation by the FIA, after Liuzzi’s car fell apart after a relatively small crash earlier.

Drivers knocked out of Q1:

18) Heikki Kovalainen

19) Jarno Trulli

20) Jaime Alguersuari

21) Timo Glock

22) Jerome D’Ambrosio

23) Narain Karthikeyan

24) Vitantonio Liuzzi

Q2

Q2 saw the top 5 cars begin to tear awat from the rest of the field. A 1.14.275 put Hamilton on top, 3 hundreths ahead of Vettel and 2 tenths faster than teammate Button.

Alonso and Webber were 4th and 5th, while Schumacher again struggled in comparison to Rosberg.

Vettel’s next run was only 0.002 seconds slower than Hamilton. Further back, Petrov, Maldonado and Perez began to tussle over 10th place.

Sergio’s run was faster than Schumacher, while Maldonado went 10th. Rubens Barrichello stayed 12th, while Kobayashi and Di Resta were 13th and 14th.

Vitaly Petrov’s final run wasn’t enough to get him through to Q3, for the first time this season. Teammate Nick Heidfeld was hugely disappointing, and was classified 16th.

Drivers knocked out of Q2:

11) Vitaly Petrov

12) Rubens Barrichello

13) Kamui Kobayashi

14) Paul Di Resta

15) Adrian Sutil

16) Nick Heidfeld

17) Sebastien Buemi

Q3

The top 10 cars appeared to be split over using 1 run or 2, as Michael Schumacher was the first out. A 1.15.0 was well off the pole position time expected.

Massa was the first car into the 1.14 zone, before Button slashed that time by nearly a second. Mark Webber got within 2 hundreths of a second of the McLaren, before Vettel nailed a near-perfect lap to set a 1.13.5.

That lap turned out to be Vettel’s only run, leaving the rest of the field to try again.

Lewis Hamilton went out with 3 minutes to go, but got held up slightly by Felipe Massa, who had just left the pits. Despite Lewis gesticulating, there appeared to be nothing that Massa could have done.

With 2 minutes left, the red flag was thrown, for a heavy crash by Sergio Perez. The Sauber driver went on the wrong side of the track before the Nouvelle chicane, slid into the barrier on the right, then slammed into the barrier after the corner.

A nerve-wracking 30 minutes followed, while Sergio was extracted from his car, and the barriers were repaired. The good news is that Perez appears to be conscious and talking.

When the session finally restarted, Lewis tore straight out of the pits, desperate to set his first fast lap.

However, disappointment soon followed, as cold tyres halted Lewis’ challenge, and Jenson Button ran wide at the Nouvelle Chicane. Rosberg was only 8th, and Webber abandoned his final lap.

This left Vettel comfortably on top, having set a new lap record to top off the day. He will be joined on the front row by Button, with Webebr and Alonso. Schumacher was 5th, Massa 6th, Hamilton 7th, Rosberg 8th, Maldonado 9th and Perez 10th, although it appears certain the Mexican will not start the race.

Alonso puts Ferrari on top in Monaco second practice

 A special helmet seemed to help Alonso on the streets of Monaco

A special helmet seemed to help Alonso on the streets of Monaco

Fernando Alonso was the fastest driver on the super-soft tyres this afternoon in Monaco second practice.

A 1.15.123 was more than one and a half seconds faster than Vettel’s fastest attempt in TP1. The reigning world champion was half a second away from the Ferrari in 5th.

Lewis Hamilton was 2nd, while Nico Rosberg was again 3rd for Mercedes.

Michael Schumacher was able to join the session after his crash earlier today, and finished 7th. HRT driver Vitantonio Liuzzi was less lucky though, sitting out the entire session after slamming his car into the barriers in TP1.

Mark Webber was 1.5 seconds off the pace in 8th, having missed first practice due to a gearbox issue. Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov were 10th and 11th, the latter knocking off his front wing at the end of the tunnel near the end of the session.

Pastor Maldonado was unable to continue his impressive form from earlier, and was 15th. Paul di Resta was again slower than two drivers from the bottom 3, finishing 20th. However, this time the Force India suffered from a loss of drive 35 minutes into the session.

Times from TP2:

 1.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                1.15.123           42
 2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes       1.15.228   0.105  33
 3.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes               1.15.321   0.198  44
 4.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes       1.15.448   0.325  38
 5.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault       1.15.667   0.544  46
 6.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari                1.15.781   0.658  45
 7.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes               1.16.356   1.233  33
 8.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault       1.16.642   1.519  42
 9.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes   1.17.101   1.978  46
10.  Nick Heidfeld         Renault                1.17.126   2.003  38
11.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault                1.17.337   2.214  35
12.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari         1.17.541   2.418  47
13.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth      1.17.570   2.447  39
14.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1.17.581   2.458  32
15.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth      1.17.633   2.510  49
16.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari         1.17.706   2.583  37
17.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1.17.789   2.666  43
18.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault          1.18.266   3.143  50
19.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault          1.18.490   3.367  39
20.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes   1.19.053   3.930  15
21.  Jerome D'Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth        1.19.185   4.062  40
22.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth        1.19.338   4.215  35
23.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth           1.22.066   6.943  33

Schumacher crashes out while Vettel leads Monaco first practice

Vettel beat Alonso and Rosberg to top spot

Vettel beat Alonso and Rosberg to top spot

Sebastian Vettel just came out on top in Monaco Thursday practice 1, in a spirited end to the session which saw 3 drivers lead within a matter of minutes.

It could have been 4 drivers, but Lewis Hamilton was held up on his final run, after setting the fastest sector 1 time of the day.

Vettel pipped Fernando Alonso by one tenth, while Nico Rosberg was 3rd after briefly leading. Felipe Massa was 4th, while the McLarens were 5th and 6th.

As expected, Pastor Maldonado impressed in 7th, having good experience of the Monaco street circuit. Michael Schumacher was more than 1.5 seconds off his teammate in 10th place.

Daniel Ricciardo in, 14th, came within 2 tenths of Sebastien Buemi. The Saubers were 15th and 16th, while the Lotus drivers finished 17th and 18th.

Despite setting 32 laps, Paul di Resta was massively off the pace in 19th position, only 2 tenths ahead of the Virgins. While Narain Karthikeyan got 37 laps under his belt, Vitantonio Liuzzi crashed exiting the tunnel.

He, along with Mark Webber, only set 3 laps each. The Red Bull driver failed to set a fast lap, appearing to be stuck in gear as he cruised around the circuit.

The following is a video of Schumacher’s crash:

As an afterthought, it seems appropiate to mention what happened in GP2 qualifying today. While many F1 drivers have been concerned about the use of DRS around this track, the feeder series had more fundamental problems:

Times from TP1:

 1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault          1.16.619           25
 2.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                   1.16.732   0.113	24
 3.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes                  1.17.139   0.520	20
 4.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari                   1.17.316   0.697	24
 5.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes          1.17.350   0.731	23
 6.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes          1.17.534   0.915	24
 7.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth         1.18.527   1.908	30
 8.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes      1.18.578   1.959	24
 9.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault                   1.18.733   2.114	16
10.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes                  1.18.805   2.186	14
11.  Nick Heidfeld         Renault                   1.18.928   2.309	19
12.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari        1.19.234   2.615	24
13.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth         1.19.395   2.776	24
14.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari        1.19.463   2.844	25
15.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari            1.19.768   3.149	25
16.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari            1.19.792   3.173	26
17.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault             1.20.083   3.464	23
18.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault             1.21.116   4.497	27
19.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes      1.21.548   4.929	32
20.  Jerome D'Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth           1.21.758   5.139	31
21.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth           1.21.815   5.196	17
22.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth              1.22.840   6.221	13
23.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth              1.23.885   7.266	37
24.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault          N/A                3

FIA to enforce Monaco tunnel DRS ban

DRS will be banned in the tunnel in Monaco

DRS will be banned in the tunnel in Monaco

After safety complaints from many of the drivers, the FIA has made the decision to ban the Drag Reduction System in the tunnel of the Monaco Grand Prix street circuit this weekend.

To prevent drivers taking risks at the sharp right-hander, race director Charlie Whiting has decided to ban the use of DRS in between two specific points on the circuit.

The distance markers 1350m and 2020m (the area of the tunnel) has been specified as an area that DRS cannot be used in.

Otherwise, the device is free to be used around the track during practice and qualifying, and the start/finish straight will soon be confirmed as the race location for DRS use.

In a letter to the Grand Prix Drivers Association on Monday, Whiting claimed that the FIA’s initial tough stance on DRS in the tunnel (they believed there was no safety concern) has since softened.

While most drivers are pleased with this announcement, Renault team principal Eric Boullier doesn’t see the point:

"Some feel that the incentive to benefit will force drivers to take unnecessary risks.

My own view is that the drivers will build up their confidence gradually during free 
practice and by the time qualifying arrives they will know in how much of the tunnel 
they can safely use the DRS wing.

Often in the past the tunnel has been very tricky to take flat out at the start of 
the race weekend when the track is poor.

"This has not caused the drivers to crash, they have simply built up their pace 
gradually until they were confident that it could be taken flat - I think the same 
approach will emerge with the DRS."

Points standings after Spanish Grand Prix

Driver Standings

Driver Points
1 Sebastian Vettel 118
2 Lewis Hamilton 77
3 Mark Webber 67
4 Jenson Button 61
5 Fernando Alonso 51
6 Nico Rosberg 26
7 Nick Heidfeld 25
8 Felipe Massa 24
9 Vitaly Petrov 21
10 Michael Schumacher 14
11 Kamui Kobayashi 9
12 Sebastien Buemi 6
13 Adrian Sutil 2
14 Sergio Perez 2
15 Paul di Resta 2
16 Jaime Alguersuari 0
17 Rubens Barrichello 0
18 Jarno Trulli 0
19 Jerome D’Ambrosio 0
20 Heikki Kovalainen 0
21 Pastor Maldonado 0
22 Timo Glock 0
23 Narain Karthikeyan 0
24 Vitantonio Liuzzi 0

Constructor Standings:

Team Points
1 Red Bull-Renault 185
2 McLaren-Mercedes 138
3 Ferrari 75
4 Renault 46
5 Mercedes GP 40
6 Sauber 11
7 Toro Rosso 6
8 Force India-Mercedes 4
9 Williams-Cosworth 0
10 Lotus-Cosworth 0
11 Virgin-Cosworth 0
12 HRT-Cosworth 0
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