Monthly Archives: September 2012

Opnion – Grosjean ban sets a proper precedent

Much has been said of Romain Grosjean’s dangerous move on Lewis Hamilton, and the swift and unforgiving penalty issued afterwards.

Some have argued that the penalty is inconsistent with penalties issued to other incidents, and they would be correct. Pastor Maldonado causing a deliberate crash in Monaco springs to mind, where he was only handed a grid penalty.

Others claim that this crash must be used as the basis for all other penalties in the future. Fernando Alonso’s lucky escape has reminded us of how dangerous such incidents can be.

Personally I agree with both arguments, however I think that the problem is far more wide-reaching than many have realised. The fact that Grosjean and Maldonado, two of the newest GP2 rookies, continue to cause crashes is a huge cause for concern.

The drivers of GP2 and other feeder series all share the same sentiment – that they must push the rules to the maximum, and push the other drivers to the limit, in order to make progress, in both the race and their career. This kind of reasoning often results in huge, unnecessary accidents, as demonstrated this year in Monaco:

In that video, Dimitry Suranovich decided to keep on driving, despite having no rear wing on his car. He braked earlier into the chicane, and Conor Daly powered into the back of the GP3 machine, causing a huge crash and a near fatality, as the marshals post was almost wiped out.

Incredibly, Daly was awarded a 10 place grid penalty, while Suranovich walked away scot free. Aside from the sheer stupidity of the decision itself, the problem is this: if GP2 drivers are allowed to drive dangerously in their feeder series, then they will probably continue that in F1.

I’m not the only one who feels this way – Ferrari principal Stefano Domenicali urged the FIA to improve driving standards in lower formulae series:

"In my view, the most important thing is looking at the behaviour of drivers. It has 
to start in the championships before Formula 1.

You see it too often in the other series that drivers are very aggressive and try to 
do something almost over what it is possible to do, so it is important to be very 
strict since they start racing and then they will arrive in F1 in a better condition 
for that."

So far, Grosjean has been involved in 7 first-lap accidents out of 12 races. Pastor Maldonado has received 9 penalties, and deserves a few more, in my opinion. However, neither of them has been handed anything more than a 10 place grid penalty – until yesterday.

I fully support the decision to ban Grosjean from Monza, as it is the only way the stewards and FIA can lay down the law. If a rugby player interferes in a scrum or ruck, for example, he is sin-binned and forced to sit out a portion of the match.  The same should apply to F1 – if a driver clearly breaks the rules in a dangerous manner, they should be made to watch from the sidelines.

I’m almost certain that Romain will learn more from this ban than any other grid penalty or paltry fine. The same should apply to Maldonado as well, seeing as he has never learned from his previous penalties.

Perhaps this first-lap crash was a hidden blessing for the sport. As well as all of the drivers escaping without injury, it has forced many to look again at today’s driving standards, and to see how F1 can be made safer in the future. If the stewards can crack down on irresponsible driving from now on, then Formula 1 can set the standard for safer motorsport in the future.

Points standings after Belgian Grand Prix

Driver Standings

Driver Points
1 Fernando Alonso 164
2 Sebastian Vettel 140
3 Mark Webber 132
4 Kimi Raikkonen 131
5 Lewis Hamilton 117
6 Jenson Button 101
7 Nico Rosberg 77
8 Romain Grosjean 76
9 Sergio Perez 47
10 Michael Schumacher 35
11 Felipe Massa 35
12 Kamui Kobayashi 33
13 Nico Hulkenberg 31
14 Pastor Maldonado 29
15 Paul di Resta 28
16 Bruno Senna 24
17 Jean-Eric Vergne 8
18 Daniel Ricciardo 4
19 Timo Glock  0
20 Charles Pic  0
21 Vitaly Petrov  0
22 Heikki Kovalainen 0
23 Pedro de la Rosa 0
24 Narain Karthikeyan 0

Constructor Standings

Team Points
1 Red Bull-Renault 272
2 McLaren-Mercedes 218
3 Lotus-Renault 207
4 Ferrari 199
5 Mercedes AMG 112
6 Sauber-Ferrari 80
7 Force India-Mercedes 59
8 Williams-Renault 53
9 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 12
10 Caterham-Renault 0
11 Marussia-Cosworth 0
12 HRT-Cosworth 0

Maldonado penalised twice, Grosjean banned for Spa incidents

Grosjean was deemed to have caused the accident

Grosjean was deemed to have caused the accident

Romain Grosjean has been handed a 1-race ban from the Belgian Grand Prix stewards, after he caused a miniature pile-up at the start of today’s race.

At the start, Romain swerved to the right-hand side of the track, inadvertently clashing with Lewis Hamilton. The two cars then speared into Fernando Alonso, who had to be assisted out of the car, presumably from shock.

Sergio Perez, Alonso, Hamilton and Grosjean were all eliminated, while Kamui Kobayashi and Pastor Maldonado’s races were ruined. This is the seventh time in 12 races that he has been involved in first lap incidents.

As well as the 1-race ban, Grosjean has also been served a €50,000 fine.

Meanwhile, Pastor Maldonado has been handed two 5-place grid penalties for the next race in Monza. The first penalty was for an ill-judged jump start, while the second was for causing a crash with Timo Glock’s Marussia, although Pastor’s car was the one eliminated.

It was his third penalty in that race weekend alone.

Button crushes opposition with dominant Spa victory

Jenson Button has taken a dominative victory at the Belgian Grand Prix, leading every single lap. The McLaren driver utilised a 1-stop strategy and excellent pace to win by 15 seconds from Sebastian Vettel, who made several well-judged passes during the race. A huge crash at the first corner shook up the grid, allowing Nico Hulkenberg to take a brilliant fourth.

Kimi Raikkonen disappointed with 3rd place, while three of the frontrunners failed to finish the first lap. This is what happened…

At the start, it appeared as if Pastor Maldonado had massively jumped the start, leaping up to second place from 6th. A huge pile-up occurred at La Source, as Romain Grosjean clashed with Lewis Hamilton. The McLaren and Lotus cars careered into the first corner, taking out both Saubers, and smashing into Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari.

With debris everywhere, the safety car was an absolute must, as the marshals cleared up the carnage. Kamui Kobayashi pitted for a new front wing, while Sergio Perez, Alonso, Hamilton and Grosjean were all eliminated.

The safety car pitted at the end of Lap 4, allowing Button to defend his lead against Raikkonen. Further back, Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel made progress, slicing past Heikki Kovalainen for 10th and 11th places.

Amazingly, the Force Indias were on fine form, Nico Hulkenberg putting a surprise pass on Kimi Raikkonen for 2nd. Michael Schumacher passed the other Force India for 4th position, having gained 9 positions in the opening laps.

Vettel soon out-braked Massa for 10th place, while teammate Mark Webber put pressure on Bruno Senna for 8th. However, the Red Bull’s short gearing system meant that he was unable to utilise DRS. Sebastian became impatient on the radio, and decided to make a move on the sister Red Bull.

Daniel Ricciardo furthered the glee of the Toro Rosso crew, passing Paul di Resta for 5th. After falling away drastically from his teammate, the Scot opted to pit on Lap 11, taking on the harder compound tyre. Suffering from the same issue, Webber did the same. He followed Kimi Raikkonen into the pits, who was easily passed by Michael Schumacher.

As Hulkenberg pitted from 2nd, Vettel made further progress, cleverly out-braking Bruno Senna at the Bus Stop chicane. As the order settled down, it became clear that Raikkonen had undercutted Hulkenberg. Soon after, the Lotus put a move on Nico Rosberg, at the same time as Vettel getting past Ricciardo up ahead.

There was more activity, as Ricciardo and Webber got past Nico Rosberg, before the Red Bull made a move on Daniel for 7th.

Vettel was on fire, and quickly was pressurising Michael Schumacher for 2nd. The two went side-by-side through the Bus Stop, but Schumacher caught Vettel unawares as the Mercedes entered the pits. Button pitted on Lap 20, taking on the hard tyres, indicating a 1-stop strategy.

As the order became more clear, Button pulled further and further away at the front, while Raikkonen, Vettel and Hulkenberg all scrabbled to keep up with the McLaren. Felipe Massa’s decent race pace began to deteriorate, being easily passed for 9th by Bruno Senna.

On Lap 28, the 2-stopping drivers began to pit. Hulkenberg, Webber, Massa and Raikkonen all took on fresh tyres, allowing Vettel into clear air in second place.

Having not pitted for a second time, Schumacher began to hold up Raikkonen. The ensuing battle allowed both Hulkenberg and Webber to catch up to the action. By Lap 32, Raikkonen was confident enough to out-brake the Mercedes into La Source. Swiftly after, Hulkenberg was all over the 6-time Spa winner. However, Michael surprised Kimi by being able to deploy DRS to retake his 3rd position.

Raikkonen was having none of it though, putting a brave move on Schumacher through Eau Rouge, in a similar fashion to Mark Webber’s famous pass last year. Hulkenberg tried to take advantage of the slowing Mercedes, going around the outside of La Source, but DRS meant that the Force India stayed in 5th. With 8 laps to go, the team opted to change strategy, putting Schumacher on new medium tyres.

Nico Rosberg suffered from the same issue, and pitted for the third time, dropping out of a points position. Jean-Eric Vergne eased past Bruno Senna for 8th place, and teammate Daniel Ricciardo soon put pressure on the Williams driver. Following the move of Mercedes, Senna decided to take on fresh tyres with 5 laps to go.

At the back, Heikki Kovalainen spun at Pouhon, allowing Pedro de la Rosa in the HRT to move out of last place.

There was nothing left to stop Button, who cruised to the chequered flag to take his second win of the season. Vettel finished 2nd, and Raikkonen struggled to 3rd, complaining to his team of a slow engine mode near the end.

Maldonado penalised for impeding Hulkenberg in Q1

Pastor Maldonado will drop to 6th on the grid for the Belgian Grand Prix.

The Williams driver was docked 3 places for impeding Nico Hulkenberg in Q1 of qualifying today. While Hulkenberg made it through to Q2, the stewards found that he had unnecessarily held up the Force India.

The stewards report appears to be pretty clear on the matter:

“The driver of car 18 [Maldonado] was warned by his team not to hold up car 12 
[Hulkenberg] which was behind him, yet he clearly did impede car 12.

However as car 12 continued into Q2 a more severe penalty was not considered 
appropriate.”

With this, Kimi Raikkonen moves up to 3rd on the grid, followed by Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso.

Raikkonen was initially under investigation for cutting the Eau Rouge corners during both of his two laps of Q3. Although all 4 of his wheels were outside of the white line, the stewards noted that  “there was no advantage gained because the exit speed was shown to be slower than on other laps where the car did not leave the track.”

Button takes shock pole position in Spa

Jenson Button caused a huge upset in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, taking pole position for the first time in over 3 years. The McLaren dominated Q2 and Q3 to sail to pole, and will be joined on the front row by Kamui Kobayashi.

Sauber were the biggest winners of the day, with Sergio Perez 5th. Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton all disappointed in Q3, while Sebastian Vettel didn’t even make it into the top 10. Here is what happened:

Q1

After heading the field in second practice, Charles Pic was first out of the pits. He briefly led the standings, before Nico Rosberg set a 1:51.125.

Most drivers started off on the harder compound, and it showed, as even Lewis Hamilton struggled to get into the 1:49s. Tyre temperature was clearly an issue, as Felipe Massa slid into the gravel, and Narain Karthikeyan had a moment at Pouhon.

A 1:49.401 put Fernando Alonso on top, while teammate Felipe Massa’s lap was ruined by a slow HRT car. Lewis Hamilton, running a high-downforce setup, could only manage a 1:49.6.

Jenson Button, running a low-downforce configuration, then took top spot with a 1:49.250.

With 5 minutes to go, Kimi Raikkonen was out of the pits, and immediately set the fastest middle sector en route to 3rd. The Red Bulls were next, with Vettel and Webber 6th and 7th respectively.

On the medium tyre, Pastor Maldonado inherited top spot, while Rosberg could only manage 14th. Romain Grosjean decided to take on the softer compound, but had a scare at Pouhon when his Lotus oversteered at nearly 150mph.

Rosberg decided to slow down to get clear space for his final lap, and ended up missing the chequered flag, being knocked out of Q1. This sealed the bottom 7, and ensured that Grosjean’s mistake hadn’t harmed the Lotus.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Nico Rosberg – 1:50.181

19) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:51.719

20) Vitaly Petrov – 1:51.967

21) Timo Glock – 1:52.336

22) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:53.030

23) Charles Pic – 1:53.493

24) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:54.989

Q2

Sergio Perez was first up, setting a 1:48.880. Mark Webber pipped that time by 0.2 seconds, while Alonso went another 5 hundreths faster.

Hamilton and Raikkonen both set fastest laps, then Button slashed three quarters a second off their times, with a 1:47.654.

Bruno Senna was next to have a huge slide at Pouhon, just about holding the car in the right direction. With 3 minutes to go, most cars left the pits for their final runs.

Felipe Massa moved into the top 10, but was 1.5 seconds off Button’s lap. Pastor Maldonado took 9th, Hulkenberg 10th, while Sergio Perez leaped into 2nd place. There was a huge shock, as Sebastian Vettel only took 11th place, 0.012 seconds off 10th position. Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa both disappointed, neither making it through to Q3.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Sebastian Vettel – 1:48.792

12) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:48.855

13) Michael Schumacher – 1:49.081

14) Felipe Massa – 1:49.147

15) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:49.354

16) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:49.543

17) Bruno Senna – 1:50.088

Q3

The McLarens and Lotuses were out first, followed by Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado. Raikkonen was up first, setting a 1:48.205. I t appeared as if Hamilton would go faster, but made a huge mistake and ruined his lap.

Jenson Button went 0.6 seconds faster than the Lotus, while Maldonado immediately abandoned his lap. The track went oddly silent, as the drivers waited until the final few minutes to set their fastest laps.

The track temperature rose as the cars left the pits again, helping the performance of the cars.

Kimi Raikkonen’s final lap wasn’t enough to topple Button, not improving on his previous lap. Alonso, Webber and Hamilton all had extremely poor final laps, going 6th, 7th and 8th respectively.

Kamui Kobayashi took a surprise 2nd, with Pastor Maldonado an impressive 3rd. However, the biggest shock of the day was by far the McLaren of Jenson Button, taking another 0.1 seconds off his time, and taking his first pole position since Monaco 2009.

Sergio Perez will line up 5th, making Sauber the biggest winner of the day. Romain Grosjean was a disappointing 9th, and with his gearbox penalty, Webber will drop down to 12th place on the grid.

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