Monthly Archives: April 2012

Rosberg storms to Chinese Grand Prix victory

Nico Rosberg has dominated today’s Chinese Grand Prix, to take his first ever F1 victory. He kept the lead at the start, and never looked back. Michael Schumacher was forced into retirement, while the final 10 laps saw a crazed battle for 2nd. Here is what happened:

At the start, the Mercedes drivers held their position, while Jenson Button moved through to 3rd, and Kamui Kobayashi slipped down past his teammate. Sebastian Vettel had a dismal start, falling to 14th place.

Nico pulled out a gap to Michael, while Mark Webber made a surprise switch to the primes on lap 7. His teammate was stuck in the midfield, complaining to the team that his RB8 was too slow on the straights.

A train of cars soon started to appear behind the second Mercedes car. Not wanting to be held up, Raikkonen and Hamilton stopped on lap 11. The Lotus were were slightly slower than the McLaren crew, and Kimi slipped behind Hamilton and Mark Webber, whose gamble had paid off.

Interestingly, both Mercedes cars proved surprisingly efficient at protecting their tyres. Schumacher was the first of the two to stop, but was pipped by Button. It was about to get much worse though, as he soon pulled over to retire, citing a problem with his rear wheel. The replays revealed that one of his wheels was not secured as he left his box.

Rosberg stopped a lap later, taking on primes, and leaving Perez briefly in front. However, the Sauber driver stayed out too long, and emerged in 10th, ahead of Vettel.

Sebastian soon found his way past Perez, while Romain Grosjean harassed Kamui Kobayashi for 7th. Webber was again the first to stop at the second pit stop phase. The McLarens pitted on laps 23 and 24, but Hamilton found himself stuck behind Felipe Massa for several laps.

Jenson found some good pace after his second stop, and attempted to close the gap to Rosberg as much as possible. After cruising past Vettel using DRS, he cut over 8 seconds off the gap. When Nico pitted, he was behind the McLaren, but Jenson had to stop once more.

Webber's casual push to catch the car ahead

Webber's casual push to catch the car ahead

Further back, Lewis Hamilton was hounding Sergio Perez for 3rd. The Mexican driver locked his tyres horribly, but impressively managed to hold off the McLaren, despite running on much older tyres. He eventually made his final stop with 20 laps to go.

Replays showed Mark Webber launching his car off the kerbs of turn 13, amazingly causing no terminal damage to the Red Bull.

Button failed to increase the gap to Rosberg, and a slow pit stop ruined his chances of challenging for the win. He emerged in 6th, as a slow left rear wheel caused the delay.

A 10-car train formed behind Felipe Massa, as the Ferrari’s poor pace and different strategy closed up the field nicely. When he finally pitted, Kimi Raikkonen was 2nd, ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Fernando Alonso made a move on Pastor Maldonado, but ran wide on the marbles and lost a place to Sergio Perez.

Romain Grosjean made the same mistake while trying to pass Vettel, and rejoined the track while clashing wheels with Maldonado. They battled for half a lap side-by-side until Grosjean came out on top.

With 10 laps to go, a huge train of cars were still battling for 2nd. Kimi Raikkonen lost several places in one lap, being passed by Vettel, then running wide and losing 2 more spots. Car after car sliced past the Lotus, leaving Raikkonen 10th a lap later. The Saubers pushed each other to the limits of the track, with Kobayashi moving past Perez.

With 5 laps to go, the battle was cut down to three world champions – Vettel, Button and Hamilton. Sebastian’s tyres were badly worn, and Jenson out-braked the Red Bull into turn 14. Lewis sailed past for 3rd with two laps to go, leaving the Red Bulls 4th and 5th.

On the final lap, Webber sliced past his teammate around the outside of turn 14, sealing the positions of the top 5. The crazy racing of the final 20 laps directed attention away from Nico Rosberg, who cruised to his first ever well-deserved Formula 1 victory.

The delight from the Mercedes team was clear – after two disappointing races, Rosberg has finally shown his full potential, and given the team its first victory in 57 years.

Lewis Hamilton now leads the drivers championship, followed closely by teammate Button, with Alonso and Webber behind.

FIA: Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead

The FIA has responded to doubts over next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix, stating that the race will go ahead as planned.

Several groups, including Amnesty International, have expressed their worry that the sport will be used as a political tool. Currently, the Bahraini authorities are routinely clashing with pro-democracy protestors, and the safety of F1 personnel has been called into doubt.

However, the sport’s governing body has said that the event will be secure:

"Based on the current information the FIA has at this stage, it is satisfied that 
all the proper security measures are in place [...] therefore, the FIA confirms 
that the 2012 Gulf Air F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain will go ahead as scheduled."

Despite one team principal stating otherwise last week, most teams have claimed that they are happy to go to Bahrain. Ross Brawn has said that he believes that the situation is better than last year:

It is very difficult for us," said Brawn. "We have to take the advice of people 
who have all the information that is happening. We have reassurances from the 
FIA that they believe we can have a safe race there, so we follow that advice.
"We are not seeing what we saw last year, for sure. We are taking all the sensible 
measures you can to have the best race we can have. There are a lot of positives 
about going there, so we don't want to lose that."

Despite this, a report from Amnesty delivers a scathing attack on the Bahraini authorities:

"In recent months, the Bahraini authorities have become more concerned with 
rebuilding their image and investing in public relations than with actually 
introducing real human rights and political reforms in their country.

Indeed, for the authorities, much is at stake. They are keen to portray Bahrain 
as a stable and secure country in order to stave off international criticism. 
But as the country prepares to host the Formula 1 grand prix on 20-22 April, 
after the event was cancelled last year in response to the instability in the 
country, daily anti-government protests continue to be violently suppressed by 
the riot police that uses tear gas recklessly and with fatal results. Acts of 
violence by some protesters against the police have also considerably increased 
in the last three months.

Holding the grand prix in Bahrain in 2012 risks being interpreted by the 
government of Bahrain as symbolising a return to business as usual. The 
international community must not turn a blind eye to the ongoing human rights 
crisis in the country. The government must understand that its half-hearted 
measures are not sufficient - sustained progress on real human rights reform 
remains essential."

In recent days, protestors have directed their attention firmly at the Grand Prix. Pictures of Bernie Ecclestone have been torched, and several demonstrators have dressed up as Formula 1 drivers holding machine guns. Twitter hashtags such as “#BloodyF1″ make their message clear – they do not want the sport to be seen as supporting the authorities.

Rosberg takes first Mercedes pole in 57 years in China

Nico Rosberg took a surprise pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix, causing a major upset by leading the field by half a second.

Michael Schumacher was 3rd, but will start alongside his teammate due to Lewis Hamilton’s grid drop. Kamui Kobayashi was a surprise 4th, and will start 3rd tomorrow. Here is what happened:

Q1

Paul di Resta started proceedings with a 1:38.190. This was promptly beaten by over a second by Lewis Hamilton, pushing ahead of his teammate.

Kamui Kobayashi split the McLarens, while Webber pipped Lewis for 1st place. Jenson got within 0.06 seconds of Mark’s time to demote Hamilton to 3rd.

Felipe Massa was struggling in 16th, so he was forced to use a set of the soft tyres to survive Q1. A final push on the new rubber put Massa on top of the timesheets. However, he was soon displaced by Romain Grosjean.

Despite having good pace, Perez decided to use the option in Q1 as well, and set a 1:36.198 to end the session on top. Jean-Eric Vergne was almost a second off his teammate’s time, and was knocked out of Q1.

Drivers knocked out of Q1:

18) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:37.714

19) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:38.676

20) Vitaly Petrov – 1:38.677

21) Timo Glock – 1:39.282

22) Charles Pic – 1:39.717

23) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:40.411

24) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:41.127

Q2

Kamui Kobayashi was first out, setting a 1:35,962, but was soon displaced by Nico Rosberg. The top 5 were separated by 2 tenths of a second.

It was a poor start for Red Bull, with Vettel only 6th and Webber 9th. Romain Grosjean messed up his first attempt, and left it until the final few minutes to set his time.

The two Ferraris went on their final runs at the same time. Alonso did his best to trouble the frontrunners, but was only 6th, while Massa was 10th.

Mark Webber ended Q2 on top, while the Renaults shoved Sebastian Vettel out of the top 10 in the final minute. The double world champion will start 11th on the grid.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Sebastian Vettel – 1:36.031

12) Felipe Massa – 1:36.255

13) Pastor Maldonado – 1:36.283

14) Bruno Senna – 1:36.289

15) Paul di Resta – 1:36.317

16) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:36.745

17) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:36.956

Q3

Kimi Raikkonen was straight out at the start of Q3, setting a 1:35.898. However, Nico Rosberg set a fantastic 1:35.121 to take top spot. Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton were half a second slower than the Mercedes driver.

Mark Webber was over a second off Rosberg’s time. Jenson Button had a similarly poor lap, ensuring both drivers were out of contention for pole.

Kamui Kobayashi shocked many in the paddock by going 4th ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Hamilton and Schumacher were unable to improve on their times, leaving Rosberg half a second in front of the entire grid. This ensured that Mercedes take their first pole position since Italy 1955.

Lewis Hamilton will drop from 2nd to 7th, meaning that Mercedes have effectively locked out the front row, with Kobayashi an incredible 3rd.

Schumacher pips Hamilton in Chinese second practice

Schumacher showed good pace in the Mercedes

Schumacher showed good pace in the Mercedes

Michael Schumacher edged out Lewis Hamilton in second practice for the Chinese Grand Prix.

The Mercedes’ “Super DRS” gave it the advantage down the back straight, keeping Hamilton in second place. The Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were 3rd and 4th.

Paul di Resta and Heikki Kovalainen had spins during the session. Timo Glock was not so lucky, wiping the front wing and nose from his Marussia at turn 1.

Times from FP2:

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes               1:35.973            32
 2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes       1:36.145    0.172   29
 3.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault       1:36.160    0.187   26
 4.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault       1:36.433    0.460   23
 5.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes               1:36.617    0.644   30
 6.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes       1:36.711    0.738   27
 7.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari         1:36.956    0.983   28
 8.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes   1:36.966    0.993   30
 9.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes   1:37.191    1.218   30
10.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                1:37.316    1.343   32
11.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari         1:37.417    1.444   22
12.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:37.616    1.643   33
13.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault          1:37.836    1.863   30
14.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:37.930    1.957   31
15.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault          1:37.972    1.999   25
16.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault       1:38.176    2.203   34
17.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari                1:38.293    2.320   30
18.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault       1:38.783    2.810   37
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault       1:38.990    3.017   36
20.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault       1:39.346    3.373   19
21.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth      1:39.651    3.678   15
22.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth           1:40.343    4.370   24
23.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth      1:40.753    4.780   30
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth           1:41.125    5.162   26

Hamilton leads by a second in Chinese first practice

Hamilton led by over a second

Hamilton led by over a second

Lewis Hamilton’s final effort put him on top in first practice of the Chinese Grand Prix.

The session started off very slowly, with no drivers setting a time in the first 30 minutes, aside from installation laps.

However, around 40 minutes into the session, light rain fell again, causing Romain Grosjean, Charles Pic and Felipe Massa all to slide off the track. Most cars retired to the pits until the shower died down.

It took until the final half hour for cars to resume testing. The track was still damp, as shown by Pic’s and Alonso’s cars twitching and sliding at corner exits. Mark Webber’s early time of 1:39.558 stayed on top for most of the morning, until a charge in the final 5 minutes put him down the order.

Michael Schumacher, then Webber, and Lewis Hamilton all set fastest laps in quick succession, before Lewis’ time ended the session on top.

Valtteri Bottas, Geido van der Garde and Jules Bianchi all drove in FP1 for Williams, Caterham and Force India respectively.

Times from FP1:


 1.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1:37.106            7
 2.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1:38.116   1.010   14
 3.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1:38.316   1.210   14
 4.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        1:38.584   1.478   13
 5.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1:38.911   1.805   12
 6.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1:38.977   1.871   15
 7.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1:39.198   2.092   12
 8.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1:39.199   2.093    6
 9.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:39.748   2.642   16
10.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:39.768   2.662   14
11.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1:40.056   2.950   14
12.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1:40.153   3.047   14
13.  Valtteri Bottas       Williams-Renault      1:40.298   3.192    8
14.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes  1:40.328   3.222   13
15.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault      1:40.540   3.434   12
16.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault      1:41.071   3.965   14
17.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault         1:41.204   4.098   14
18.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth     1:42.330   5.224   14
19.  Giedo van der Garde   Caterham-Renault      1:42.521   5.415   11      
20.  Jules Bianchi         Force India-Mercedes  1:44.118   7.012    8
21.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth          1:44.227   7.121   10
22.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth     1:44.500   7.394   15
23.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth          1:47.204   10.098  12
24.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault         1:50.465   13.359  11

Hamilton given grid drop after gearbox change

Lewis Hamilton’s streak of pole positions in 2012 is set to end, after the McLaren driver was forced to change his gearbox for the Chinese Grand Prix weekend.

This leaves him with a 5-place grid penalty for the race. Gearboxes are specified to last 5 races in 2012.

So far, Lewis has started every race of the season on pole position, but with this news, he cannot qualify higher than 6th on Saturday.

Pressure grows to cancel Bahrain Grand Prix

It is clear that many do not want the race to go ahead - some more than others

It is clear that many do not want the race to go ahead - some more than others

Similar to last year, pressure is growing on the FIA to cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix, which is scheduled to take place next weekend.

Repeated crackdowns on pro-democracy protestors in the region in 2011 have spiralled into waves of violence in recent times. Only yesterday, a home-made bomb exploded in the village of Eker, injuring seven police officers. A spokesperson declared this an “act of terrorism”.

Civil unrest is just as high this year – hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is the most prolific example of the people standing up to their government. His protest has been going on for two months, and there are fears that his death in the hands of the authorities would inspire further protests and violence.

The teams have stayed silent on the matter for a while, but recently have taken a stand against the FIA. While the sport’s governing body has repeatedly stated that the race will go ahead, one anonymous team principal has broken his silence and spoken out against the race:

"We're all hoping the FIA calls it off. From a purely legal point of view, in 
terms of insurance and government advice, we are clear to go. But what we find 
worrying is that there are issues happening every day."

Last year’s farce showed that the FIA are perfectly happy to lie blatantly about the situation until the last second. Only a week before the race was cancelled, they staunchly supported the Bahraini authorities, citing a “spirit of reconciliation” in the country.

This year, they repeated that exact same phrase, while again emphasising that the race would go ahead as planned. Bernie Ecclestone, meanwhile, only blamed the media for stirring up trouble:

"It's business as usual. I don't think the people who are trying to 
demonstrate a little bit are going to use anything to do with F1. If 
they did they would be a little bit silly.

The problem is people like you [the press] who make the concerns not 
the teams and not the people in Bahrain. Seriously, the press should 
just be quiet and deal with the facts rather than make up stories."

He then went on to praise the country:

"The good thing about Bahrain is it seems more democratic there than 
most places. People are allowed to speak when they want, they can protest 
if they want to."

Of course, money has played a large factor in proceedings. The main reason the FIA left it to the race organisers to cancel the 2011 race was so that they could keep the $40m race fee paid by the circuit, despite no race going ahead. To pull such a stunt with people’s lives at risk is just obscene.

With such a large risk involved in going to the troubled region, it is unthinkable that Formula 1 could race in Bahrain this month.

Alguersuari to test for Pirelli

Alguersuari has joined the Pirelli squad

Alguersuari has joined the Pirelli squad

Jaime Alguersuari will test for Pirelli’s F1 division for the rest of this season.

He joins Lucas di Grassi at the team, as they both replace Pedro de la Rosa, who tested for the tyre manufacturer last year.

Pirelli are using a Renault R30 2010 race car for their testing programme. They will take part in 4 tests in Jerez, Spa, Monza and Barcelona.

Alguersuari was dropped from Toro Rosso this year alongside Sebastien Buemi, and was replaced by the duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne. For this year, he is commentating on BBC Radio 5 Live.

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