Tag Archives: F1 2010

How is F1 2010 comparing to F1 2009 so far?

So, 4 races into the F1 2010 season, and we have had 3 different winners with no sure idea of who is the favourite for the title. The technical rule changes this year were deisgned to “improve the show”, so let’s see how they’ve done so far.

Driver’s Championship – 2009 vs 2010

2009 Driver Points
1 Jenson Button 31
2 Rubens Barrichello 19
3 Sebastian Vettel 18
4 Jarno Trulli 14.5
5 Timo Glock 12
2010 Driver Points
1 Jenson Button 60
2 Nico Rosberg 50
3 Fernando Alonso 49
4 Lewis Hamilton 49
5 Sebastian Vettel 45

The one thing that amazes me is that, despite the huge increase in the number of points given out, the gap between the top 5 is actually smaller this year than it was last year. This can largely be accredited to the fact that drivers have not been consistent with their finishing positions this year.

By looking at the chart alone, you would be forgiven for thinking that Jenson Button is dominating the first 4 races of both years. However, this year, that is certainly not the case. While he has won twice in 4 races, his rivals have kept up with him well, meaning the top 7 this year are separated by only 20 points.

No real assumptions can be made about the championship so far, but I would think that there are 8 drivers in contention for the title this year, compared to about 3 or 4 last year. This is a very good thing to say, as more competition means a better and more entertaining fight for the title.

Constructors’ Championship – 2009 vs 2010

2009 Team Points
1 Brawn-Mercedes 50
2 Red Bull-Renault 27.5
3 Toyota 26.5
4 McLaren-Mercedes 13
5 Renault 5
2010 Team Points
1 McLaren-Mercedes 109
2 Ferrari 90
3 Red Bull-Renault 73
4 Mercedes GP 60
5 Renault 46

Again, from directly looking at the 2010 standings, you may think that the 2010 constructors’ championship is the usual battle between McLaren and Ferrari. This is completely wrong, as Red Bull, Mercedes and Renault are all in the hunt still. Red Bull should have been in the lead, but for unfortunate mechanical problems for Sebastian Vettel in the first 2 races, resulting in a loss of 38 points, which would have put them in the lead by 2 points.

While Mercedes and Renault probably won’t be battling for the title, not this year at least, there is still a very interesting battle going on between them. Mercedes have had a head start with Nico Rosberg doing brilliantly to get 2 podiums so far, but Michael Schumacher was been surprisingly poor. Meanwhile, Renault had to wait for a few races for Vitaly Petrov to get up to speed in F1, and he has just rewarded them with his first ever points. With the extremely talented Robert Kubica, Renault may well overtake Mercedes in the standings soon.

At the bottom of the standings, we have the fight between the 3 new teams, something which we certainly did not have last year. Of course, none of these teams have got points yet, but we didn’t expect them to. So far, Lotus are the fastest of the new teams, followed by HRT and then Virgin. Branson’s squad’s dire reliability have ensured that they lie bottom of the standings, behind a team that didn’t even turn a wheel before Bahrain Friday Practice.

Overtakes per race

2009 Race # of Overtakes
1 Australia 25
2 Malaysia 28
3 China 60
4 Bahrain 15
2010 Race # of Overtakes
1 Bahrain 21
2 Australia 41
3 Malaysia 24
4 China 81
2009 vs 2010 - Overtakes in first 4 races compared

2009 vs 2010 - Overtakes in first 4 races compared

These 2 charts tell a lot. Put simply, in 3 of the 4 races this year, there have been more overtakes in 2010 than in 2009.

Admittedly, the rain has played a part in 3 of these races, but the racing was still great in situations where the rain did not apply. For example, in Malaysia, where the Ferraris and McLarens were charging through the field, the Toro Rossos of Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari were doing a great job getting past fellow drivers in superior machinery.

It’s not surprising to see Bahrain bottom of the chart in both years, but there’s a simple solution to increase average overtaking across the year: Get rid of Bahrain. And throw in Valencia, Turkey, Hungary and Barcelona while you’re at it, Bernie.

Nevertheless, I’m confident that there can be more overtaking in these circuits (except Monaco) this year, and I will talk about this more in the next section.

If you want more stats on overtaking across the years, then have a look at this page by Clip the Apex, which has a section where they analsyse overtaking in Formula 1 extrmely well, you can have a look at it here.

Race-by-race analysis

2009

Let’s have a look at 2009 first. The season opener in Australia was mad, but not exactly pure racing, as most of the action was caused by badly chosen tyre compounds by Bridgestone. The crash between Kubica and Vettel near the end, which ended the battle for the lead, was a perfect example. Having said that, the Brawn 1-2 was a very special moment for many, including me.

Malaysia was again very eventful, but in a completely different way. In the first half of the race, many of the overtakes were caused by the KERS-equipped Fernando Alonso falling down the field. When the rain threatened at the first stops, we were intrigued by Kimi Raikkonen’s choice for extreme wets, even though the track was dry. When the rain did eventually fall, nearly the entire grid leaped for extreme wets, only to be out-smarted by Timo Glock, who chose intermidiates. When everyone realised their mistake, and switched back to inters, the rain fell harder, and the race fell apart. While the last 10 laps were very entertaining, it wasn’t exactly pure racing.

Next up was China, which was completely drenched with rain. This was a very good race, as the conditions stayed terrible throughout, which meant that wet weather tyre strategies didn’t apply. The battle between Mark Webber and Jenson Button, and Lewis Hamilton trying to pull his way up through the field, were my personal favourites.

Finally, Bahrain gave us the surprise of a Toyota 1-2, but only in qualifying. A disastrous decicion to put on the harder tyres for the second stint of a 3-stop strategy threw away their advantage of their front row lockout, and handed the race to Jenson Button on a plate. However, he didn’t get it entirely by Toyota, as a crucial pass on Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel in the first few laps proved decicive in the race.

2010

Instead of Australia, Bahrain was handed the honour of hosting 2010’s first F1 race. Any boy, did they make a mess of it. To make a long story short, the race was boring and processional, and the new section of the track was awful, leaving many to criticise the new F1 regulations far too quickly.

After the mess of Bahrain, Australia firmly proved F1’s critics wrong. A shower at the start nicely mixed up the grid in the first few laps, with Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher getting caught out. However, as the track dried out, Jenson Button made a crucial dry tyre call, and put himself back into contention for the lead. Meanwhile, Alonso was scything his way through the field, whereas Schumacher was stuck behind the rookie Alguersuari for up to 30 laps. Despite the rain at the start, it was a great race, even when the track dried out.

Malaysia was next, where rain in qualifying turned the grid upside down, as Alonso, Massa, Button and Hamilton were all stuck at the back of the field. In the race, both the Ferraris and McLarens battled between themselves as they tried to climb their way into the points. Many people argue that this wouldn’t have been an exciting race if these top drivers weren’t at the back, but I disagree. Jaime Alguersuari drove a brilliant race through the field to get his first ever Formula 1 points. His overtake around the outside of Nico Hulkenberg (I think!) was stunning for a rookie, and it was the highlight of the race for me.

Finally, China was another race affected by rain, but not in a way that actually brought about much overtaking during the start, which is quite odd. Nevertheless, it was another great race, as Jenson Button yet again proved his masterful tyre managment to give him the win.

In the first 4 races of 2009 and 2010 compared, there is little to separate them, although the 2010 races have been more pure, because of the ban on refuelling meaning more overtaking on track rather than in the pits. However, if you have a look at the 2009 F1 calendar, you will notice that many of the next races weren’t exactly classics, up to Silverstone anyways. So, if F1 2010 is truly better than previous years, which I believe it is, then the next 3 races (Spain, Monaco, Turkey) will have to impress. Then, after this, the F1 paddock will roll into Montreal, and then hopefully it will all become clear.

Korean GP in doubt as project reportedly not on time

There are reports that construction may not be finished in time for the Korean Grand Prix

There are reports that construction may not be finished in time for the Korean Grand Prix

Reports are coming through that the Korean Grand Prix, scheduled for the first time later this year, may be in doubt, as the project has fallen behind schedule.

This new race is planned to be the 17th of the 19 races this year, so as to give the organisers more time to finish off the circuit, like the China circuit in 2005 and Abu Dhabi last year. However, construction at the Jeonman circuit has fallen behind schedule, leading to reports that the race may be cancelled.

Bernie Ecclestone travelled to Korea right after the Malaysian Grand Prix  to inspect the circuit. It is expected that he will decide in the next few days whether the race will go ahead this year or not. In an interview with German magazine Focus Magazin, Herman Tilke, mass murderer of promising circuits, said:

"For the first time, I'm afraid that a project is not finished
on time".

The circuit organisers say differently, claiming that plans are ahead of schedule, and the track will be completed on time, according to Chung-Yung-Cho:

"The construction progress is well ahead of its schedule and 
we have absolutely no issues with completion."

Eh, sure. Remember last year, when the USF1 team was founded, and a certain duo wouldn’t shut up about being ready on time? Now we face the same situation this year, with people who will continue to pretend everything is fine, right up to (and beyond) the point where everything collapses.

Interestingly enough, many top sites have taken Chung-Yung-Cho’s quote and used it in a “everything is fine” story. Here’s my counter-argument: No site who ran that story can produce photos of the work being on time. I don’t have any photos at the moment either, but if I get them, I’ll put them up here straight away.

Stefan GP ends Toyota partnership

Stefan GP has now ended their technical partnership with Toyota

Stefan GP has now ended their technical partnership with Toyota

Stefan GP have announced today that they have ended their technical partnership with Toyota. The Serbian team, led by Zoran Stefanovich, had bought Toyota gearboxes, chassis and engines in expectation of getting a grid slot this year. However, since their application was rejected by the FIA, there will be no need for this partnership this year.

Stefanovich said:

"For 2010, it's not feasible to do it anymore. We are very grateful to Toyota, which is a great company and doing a 
great job in what they are doing. They are now organising things differently - they are now more profit-centered in 
TMG in Cologne.
We are looking for a solution which is feasible for us all the time. At the moment there is no opportunity to 
organise anything. We're basically looking to see which direction we will go in the very near future."

After this, he stated that another partnership with the Cologne squad was possible if the team were looking into applying for the 2011 F1 championship. At the moment, the FIA are open to submissions for the 13th grid place, and the reserve team. It is currently unclear if Stefan GP are going to apply for this position.

Hopefully they will, having come so close this year. To get hold of a reliable supply of vital car parts like they did is a great way of starting up an F1 team, and hopefully they can do the same next year. If they don’t, then they’re just giving up to a governing body which seriously mishandled what should have been a welcome sight, seeing many new teams in F1.

2009 flashback: When Brawn GP shocked the world

In a new series, before each race, I will look back at the race from last year, and talk about what we can expect this year. I would have done this for Bahrain, but I hadn’t thought of it then!

2009

Button and Barrichello celebrate their historic 1-2

Button and Barrichello celebrate their historic 1-2

At no point over the winter of 2008/2009 did anyone at the Honda garage in Brackley think they would even be reasonably competitive in 2009, never even be able to compete. But, thanks to a bit of Ross Brawn magic, the team was saved, and their car made its testing debut three weeks before the season opener in Australia. Their pace shocked the paddock, as the Ferraris appeared quick – right up to the point where the Brawn went out on track. Richard Branson clearly saw something in the cars, and rushed to get his Virgin group sponsorship hastily applied on the cars, two days before the race. In qualifying, the Brawns took the front row, and the real surprise was when the fuel weights were revealed, and they were certainly not running light. As the cars lined up on the grid in Australia, with Button and Barrichello on the front row, the entire world knew they were in for something special.

It was, but not initially in the way they would have expected. Barrichello nearly stalled on the grid, and fell nearly 8 places before the first corner. He was far too quick to try and recover, and ended up in a collision with Mark Webber, which consequently took out Heikki Kovalainen, Adrian Sutil, and Nick Heidfeld. He remained in the midfield, but then ran into the back of Kimi Raikkonen a few laps later, whih damaged his front wing. This would be replaced at his first pit stop on Lap 18.

While all this was happening, Button was sailing away at the front, and pitted on Lap 19. However, unknown to him, Kazuki Nakajima crashed on that exact same lap, bringing out the safety car. Button had timed his pit stop to perfection, but still saw his 47.7 second lead reduced to nothing, until the safety car pitted on Lap 24. After this, he started to make a lead for himself again. Further back, it became apparent that there were problems with the tyres. The super-softs wore out after only 9 or 10 laps, which severely affected the Ferraris who took them on their first stint, and the medium tyres were impossible to put heat into.

Kubica crashes after colliding with Vettel

Kubica crashes after colliding with Vettel

This problem came to a climax on Lap 55. Vettel, in 2nd, was struggling with the graining super-softs, while Kubica in 3rd was flying on the medium tyres. Into Turn 2, and when Kubica tried to go round the outside, Vettel understeered into the BMW Sauber, and both cars collided. They both managed to keep going, with broken front wings, but not for long. Both drivers crashed within a few corners, because of chronic understeer from their damaged front wings. While Kubica was out on the spot, Vettel attempted to keep going on three wheels. His thinking behind this was that there were only a few laps left, and since the safety car would be out again for their crash, nobody would be able to overtake him, and he could keep 2nd place. He kept going for a few laps, but eventually gave up with two laps to go, and parked his car. The stewards were unimpressed with these actions, and handed him a 10-place grid penalty for Malaysia.

Meanwhile, under the safety car, there was even more action. In 3rd place, Jarno Trulli was struggling to keep his tyres warm under safety car conditions, locked a wheel, and ran onto the grass. While that happened, Lewis Hamilton moved up past him. For the next half a lap or so, both drivers talked to their teams on the radio, about whether Hamilton had to give the place back or not. McLaren decided to play it safe, and ordered Hamilton to give the place back to Trulli. While Trulli was initially confused, he soon took the place back, and finished 3rd. But, more was to follow after the race. McLaren, after the race, told the stewards that Hamilton had not been instructed to let Trulli past, and Jarno had gone past of his own accord. This penalty after the race meant Trulli was demoted to 12th, and Hamilton took 3rd. But, this was to turn into a large controversy before Malaysia.

After all of his incidents, Rubens Barrichello was incredibly lucky to be in 2nd place. His team-mate Button was slightly luck not to have been caught by Kubica in the closing stages, but his crash left the coast clear for a Brawn GP 1-2. This was the first time that a debut team had scored a 1-2 finish in their first race since Mercedes-Benz in 1954 with Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling. Behind this duo, it was Trulli (yet to be penalised), Hamilton, Glock, Alonso, Rosberg, and debutant Sebastien Buemi for Toro Rosso. Neither Ferrari finished, as Massa had a mechanical problem, while Raikkonen spun and retired afterwards.

Button celebrates after winning in Australia

Button celebrates after winning in Australia

Button’s historic victory was the 200th for a British driver. This 1-2 finish indicated the start of a glorious season for Brawn GP. But, the battle of Trulli and Hamilton was about to resurface again. The FIA soon found out that Hamilton and McLaren had lied to the stewards, and disqualified him from the race. Trulli was handed back his 3rd position. Before Malaysia, it would be announced that Dave Ryan, who influenced Hamilton to lie to the stewards, would be fired from McLaren, and Hamilton would hold a special press conference to apologise.

2010

So, what can we expect for next week’s race in Australia? The team formerly known as Brawn – Mercedes – doesn’t appear to have the pace to win, although Nico Rosberg is gunning for a podium. Ferrari, despite their torrid record in the last 2 years in Australia, must be confident, after their 1-2 finish in Bahrain. McLaren will be looking to improve upon the last race, and hopefully get Button higher up the field this time. And Red Bull just have to pray that Renault have fixed their engine reliability woes.

The tyre compounds are the same as last year, with super-softs and mediums being the choice again. Last year’s difficulty of the super-softs graining and wearing too quickly looks to have mostly been solved by Bridgestone this year, but expect the medium to be the tyre of choice next weekend. Again, unless there is an incredibly quick rule change, expect a 1-stop strategy, with the medium tyres to be used first. Some teams may opt to use the super-softs first, but I think that this is a really bad idea. No matter how hard Bridgestone work, the super-softs will still wear quickly. The very heavy fuel loads at the start of the race will mean excessive wear on softer tyres within only about 10 laps. Therefore, my ideal strategy would be to use the medium tyres for about 40 (out of 58) laps, with the super-softs lasting for the last 18. If the mediums do not last 40 laps, which they might not, then expect a two-stop strategy, with mediums used first, then two stints on the super-soft tyres.

One mechanical difficulty this year will be brakes. Australia has always had a reputation for heavily worn brakes, thanks to its many hard-braking areas in various places around the track. Like the tyres, the full tank of fuel at the start will mean huge amounts of wear on the brakes in the first stint. Therefore, don’t be expecting to see full braking by the drivers in the first stint, unless the teams have developed more durable brakes. As the fuel burns away, you would expect to see track times to decrease rapidly, but don’t expect too much of it. By the time that the fuel will be low, I would expect the brakes to be shot by this point.

Another part of the car that will be prone to wear is the engine. According to Williams, two-thirds of the lap is spent at full throttle, so there will be a high degree of engine wear here. Expect to see the Ferraris use their first engine (practice and qualifying) in practice here in Australia, and then use their third engine for qualifying and the race. The second engine used in the Bahrain race will be used later in the season.

As for the drivers? Expect to see Nico Rosberg perform well here, as he has a good track record here. Australia 2008 is where he got his first podium, don’t forget. He would have done better than 7th last year, if his tyres had been up to scratch. Apart from him, Lewis Hamilton has always been able to get a good result here. In his first ever race in 2007, he overtook Fernando Alonso and Robert Kubica on the first corner, and did a fine job keeping that position after that. He dominated the first race in 2008, and in 2009 fought his way up from the back of the grid to 4th. His lying after the race may have spoiled it all, but he still has great form here.

The new teams will hardly expect to finish here, with the track’s car-breaker record. If anyone can do it, it’s Lotus, as both Trulli and Kovalainen have good experience of this track, and know how to handle it. But, their Hitco brakes will probably not be up to the challenge, although their Cosworth engine should perform well. Expect the same from Virgin and HRT, but their hydraulic problems will probably not be fixed fully in time.

So, before any of the cars take to the streets of Melbourne, my provisional winner would be Sebastian Vettel. Red Bull, thanks to their Renault engine, can carry 10kg less fuel than their rivals at the start, and this will be a huge advantage in the first stint, which may enable them to use the super-soft tyres at the start, if they wish. If the car is fast enough, expect Vettel to take the win, although I’m not so sure about pole position. As long as their engine holds up this time.

F1 2010 video game launched

Codemasters have launched the new series of F1 2010 games for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

They claim that F1 2010 will be “a departure for F1 games”. There are a whole new array of features to impress us at the launch in London today. While I wasn’t at the launch myself, I have compiled reviews from many people at the launch, and those who tested the game for the first time. Note that the game is “pre-alpha build” and will be different when it goes on sale in September. I have split the game review so far into different sections:

Graphics

From the screenshots, F1 2010 looks impressive. It is a complete revolution from the terrible graphics we saw on the F1 2006 game, the last F1 game for the main consoles. In the rain, the clouds of spray from behind the cars are very realistic and there are reflections on the puddles that develop on the track. Have a look for yourself in the screenshot pictures at the end of this post.

Handling

Senior producer Paul Jeal promised that “F1 2010″ would offer “authentic, predictable and consistent handling.” Of course, it was expected to be much better than the simple arcade-style handling in F1 2009 (for the Wii), and it was.

From what I have heard, F1 2010 isn’t too simple to drive, but not very punishing either. Of course, crashing your car over the kerbs will result in a spin or worse, but medium mistakes may not always result in dire consequences, which is slightly dissapointing for me. Also, within a few laps, many people reported being able to adapt quickly to the game, and avoid mistakes, which isn’t good new either. In my mind, an F1 game should punish the slightest mistake with a pirouette of the car. Now, Codemasters have promised a car that offers a mix between arcade and simulator driving, so my hopes were obviously gone at this point.

Also, anpther interestng thing to note is that it seems easy enough to follow the car in front of you in this game, unlike real F1. As I will expand on in the “Opponents” section, this makes it much easier for the car behind you to attempt an overtaking move, which is good news.

Rain and track changes

Codemasters are very happy with their track simulation, which they are referring to as “active track technology”. Every 30cm the car travels, the track changes, affecting the racing line, debris on the track, and the weather.

As the race develops, the rubber from the cars’ tyres will set into the track, causing an increase in grip on the racing line, which is a great new feature. This makes driving off-line more difficult. If you brake in the wrong area, the car will take longer to accelerate, and have less grip entering the corner. If you go out on track in Friday practice 1, the racing line will appear as green (on the HUD), which signals a low-grip track. As the weekend develops, the track rubbers in, and your laps times will start to decrease.

When it rains, puddles will begin to form instantly on the track. There will be less rain on the racing line than the rest of the track, another new feature. When the rain stops, the racing line will dry out much quicker than the rest of the track. This way, you can move your car to the other side of the track, opposite the racing line, to cool down your tyres. This will be an especially useful feature in the period of the race where it is too dry for intermidiates, but too damp for dry tyres.

Damage and safety

The areas where the car can be damaged has been increased. As well as the front and rear wing, tyres, and nosecone, now you can damage your suspension, which affects the cars’ handling badly. Debris from other cars’ (or yours) collisions will remain on the track, and can damage your car again if you hit it.

Generally, small problems can be fixed with a quick pit-stop. Serious damage will take longer to fix. However, you’re not safe any more, even in the pit lane. Codemasters showed the spectators in London today a video of a car knocking down a pit crew member. This confirms the rumor that pit stops are now fully manual, instead of the automatic stops that have become regular in F1 video games. Tyres are now full affected by damage as well. A locked wheel will result in a flat-spotted tyre, and repeated locking-up will cause a puncture. Blisters can also develop if the tyres are mishandled through the corners.

One very dissapointing lack of a feature in F1 2010 is the non-inclusion of the safety car, and the formation lap. Codemasters believe that it would have taken too long to develop (the safety car in this case), and wouldn’t bring very much to the overall game. A good point, but F1 2006 had a formation lap, and F1 1997 had a safety car, so they could partially copy the design from these games if they had tried hard enough. But I’m not too dissappointed, as they say that they are considering these features on the 2011 version of the game.

The flag system has been improved again. The red flag can now be waved to halt the race, for serious crashes or heavy rain. (Update: Red flags will not be used in the game)

The paddock

This is a section never before included in an F1 video game. After the race, how well you perform will result in how many journalists will appear around you, and how many fans turn up for autograph sections. You can also walk inside your garage and team trucks. Codemasters say that this means you can take control of your driver in a way like never before.

In the press conferences, you can speak your mind. You can choose to critisice your team-mate or team, or applaud them. What you say in the conferences can also affect your relationship with the team. Rumours that a “for sure” button can be used in the conferences are yet to be confirmed or denied.

Multiplayer

Online, up to 13 people can race at once, which is good enough for a fun race. Interestingly enough, Codemasters have been advised by the FIA to leave a slot free for a 13h team, just in case one appears later this season. They seem to have done so, which means that an additional download package will be supplied if another team joins.

Relationship to the 2010 F1 season

Since F1 2010 is being released in September, players will get to drive the new Korean track before the F1 drivers do. Codemasters are confident that they have good detail in this circuit, and have no plans to introduce a patch after the official race, in case there are significant problems.

Because of licsensing restrictions, only the 2010 F1 cars and tracks can be used in this game. Also, note that the screenshots feature the 2009 cars, but the final version of this game will have the 2010 cars.

Overall, I’m happy with the game so far. When it comes out, hopefully I’ll be one of the first to try it out (for Xbox 360), and I will let you all know what I think of it.

Note: The two shots of the onboard cameras were taken on a camera phone, so don’t take any graphical conclusions from them.

Screenshots of F1 2010:

Vettel on pole in Bahrain

Felipe Massa, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso after Bahrain qualifyingFelipe Massa, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso after Bahrain qualifyingFelipe Massa, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso after Bahrain qualifyingFelipe Massa, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso after Bahrain qualifying

Felipe Massa, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso after Bahrain qualifying

Sebastian Vettel took pole position for the first race of the season in Bahrain today, with a great lap that put him ahead of the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.

Here is the news from all 3 sessions:

Q1

Karun Chandhok in his first laps for HRT

Karun Chandhok in his first laps for HRT

Fernando Alonso set the early pace, but was soon beaten by Massa. Button and Hamilton traded very close laps as usual, while Sutil also got in the mix. Alonso got another fast lap at the very end to take top spot.

It was very worrying for Sauber, as Kamui Kobayashi struggled to get through to Q2, and his best time only got him 15th place. Pedro de la Rosa was no better.

As expected, Senna and Chandhok of HRT failed to get through, and qualified at the back. The onboard cameras showed the cars sliding about on the track, a clear sign of a lack of downforce. None of the Lotus or Virgin cars got through to Q2 either, but showed quite a bit more pace. Jaime Alguersuari was the one midfield man who was caught out, and ended up 17th.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Alguersuari
19) Glock
20) Trulli
21) Kovalainen
22) di Grassi
23) Senna
24) Chandhok.

Q2

Sebastian Vettel set the early pace. Schumacher and Button struggled on their first run. Like Q1, the Saubers of De la Rosa and Kobayashi struggled, only getting  .

There was a slight lag of action with 5 minutes to go, as many of the cars opted  to wait until the last minute. When they all went out, Jenson Button just about got through to Q3, ending up 10th. Schumacher failed to improve on his earlier lap, and qualified 9th. Compare this to their teammates, Rosberg and Hamilton, who qualified 5th and 6th respectively.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Barrichello
12) Liuzzi
13) Hulkenberg
14) de la Rosa
15) Buemi
16) Kobayashi
17) Petrov.

Q3

Sebastian Vettel after taking pole position in Bahrain

Sebastian Vettel after taking pole position in Bahrain

This time, the drivers had the choice of setting a faster time on the softer tyre, or go for race durability with the medium tyres. The near-universal choice was for soft tyres, which gives a big advantage to Rubens Barrichello, who lies 11th on medium tyres.

Like Q2, many drivers waited until the last second to get their time in. Fernando Alonso took provisional pole, but was knocked off in the final set of laps. Mercedes’ last lap-runs didn’t go to plan, with Rosberg and Schumacher taking 5th and 7th respectively.

Vettel’s fastest lap of 1.54.101 was enough to see him past Felipe Massa, who was 0.141 seconds behind, while Alonso was another 4 tenths back. Lewis Hamilton took 4th, followed by Rosberg, Webber, Schumacher, Button, Kubica and Sutil.

Full times from Q1, 2 and 3:

Position Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 S. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1.55.029 1.53.883 1.54.101
2 F. Massa Ferrari 1.55.313 1.54.331 1.54.242
3 F. Alonso Ferrari 1.54.612 1.54.172 1.54.608
4 L. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1.55.341 1.57.707 1.55.217
5 N. Rosberg Mercedes GP 1.55.463 1.54.682 1.55.241
6 M. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1.55.298 1.54.318 1.55.284
7 M. Schumacher Mercedes GP 1.55.593 1.55.105 1.55.524
8 J. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1.55.715 1.55.168 1.55.672
9 R. Kubica Renault 1.55.511 1.54.963 1.55.885
10 A. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1.55.213 1.54.996 1.56.309
11 R. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1.55.969 1.55.330
12 V. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1.55.628 1.55.653
13 N. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1.56.375 1.55.857
14 P. De la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1.56.428 1.56.237
15 S. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.56.189 1.56.265
16 K. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1.56.541 1.56.270
17 V. Petrov Renault 1.56.167 1.56.619
18 J. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.57.071
19 T. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1.59.728
20 J. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1.59.852
21 H. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 2.00.313
22 L. Di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 2.00.587
23 B. Senna HRT-Cosworth 2.03.240
24 K. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 2.04.904

Large advantage to Sauber because of tyre managment

Sauber's biggest advantage could well be in their tyre managment

Sauber's biggest advantage could well be in their tyre managment

Only an hour ago, I was talking about how tyre managment was going to be a serious issue in Bahrain. Now, Bridgestone claim that Sauber could well be a thorn in the side of the “big four” teams, because they are so good at managing their tyres.

Sauber were already showing great pace in pre-season testing, and now news has been released saying that the team suffers less tyre degradation than Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren. Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone’s director of motorsport tyre development, says that Sauber is different to the other teams:

"We have compared many teams' data and looking at the quick [four]
teams – their degradation tendency is very, very similar. Once they
have the 150kg start weight, with both the medium and soft compound,
then there is little difference – so we could expect a very close
pace. However, Sauber is more consistent."

There are two tactical advantages that Sauber can take from this. The first is more obvious, in that they can use the softer compund of tyres for longer distances than anyone else, and get a huge boost from this. In Bahrain, it is well known that the medium tyre is much worse than the super-soft, so Sauber can now benefit by being on the super-softs for longer without having to pit early.

The second is made in qualifying. In 2010, there is a new rule stating that the top 10 cars have to start the race with the tyres they set their fastest Q3 lap on. This will mean a mix of teams running the medium, who will be slower but will last longer into the race, or teams who run the super-soft, qualify well, andn then are forced to pit early. Now though, Sauber can confidently qualify with the super-soft tyre, and still be able to run a long distance with them. By my figuring, the optimum strategy for them would be to run the super-soft tyres for the first two stints, then the medium for the last stint. This would mean that they can keep up in terms of performance, and still run longer on better managed tyres.

BMW Sauber’s technical chief Willy Rampf has acknowledged that their tyre managment is one of their strong points:

"The car doesn't have any stability problems, and its performance 
and balance on high fuel loads is a strong point. We will build on 
this – it's a very good thing. Our car is not too heavy on its tyres, 
so we can do reasonable long stints without killing them.

That will help keep the strategies more flexible, if you're not 
forced to stop by tyre wear."

Last year, if you remember, Jenson Button won in Monaco, primarily because he was so good at managing the softer tyre, which degraded too quickly for the other teams and drivers, most notably Sebastian Vettel. This same scenario may well happen again in 2010.

Silverstone Arena circuit nearly completed

The Silverstone Arena circuit’s tarmac has been laid, as well as the other improvements to the circuit, which have nearly been completed.

The Silverstone track, which recently got a new 17-year contract as part of the renovations, is well on course to have all of this done before the British Grand Prix in July. As well as the new tarmac for the Arena section, there are now revised run-off areas on the Brooklands and Woodcote corners.

Also, there are new spectator areas opposite the pits, and raised grandstands at the Becketts complex. Managing Director of Silverstone Circuits Richard Phillips said work was progressing according to schedule:

"Work on the circuit and venue is on schedule. The team has been working 
around the clock, through some pretty terrible weather conditions, 
to make sure the circuit is ready on time. The track works at Brooklands 
and Woodcote are now complete, including the new run-off area for the fast 
entry into Pits Straight, while the major new development – the new section 
of circuit from Abbey, up to the Arena Complex and round to the National 
Straight – is also coming along nicely.
There is still a considerable amount of work going on at Silverstone, 
including the new elevated banks and spectator viewing areas, which will 
continue beyond March. Conference and hospitality buildings are also 
being built on the new Stowe."

Having seen these pictures and how well they’re going, I’m getting more skeptical about the Korean Grand Prix photos I reported on yesterday. Yes, there are 3 months between these races, but the track will still have to be homolgamated before F1 cars can race on it. Hopefully we can escape this imminently boring race for another year.

Photos of the development:

New photos of Korean track development

The planned layout for the Korean Grand Prix

The planned layout for the Korean Grand Prix

The Korean Grand Prix will make its debut this year, and preparations are well underway.

At the moment, a few grandstands have been partially set up, and the pit area is also getting along well. The various centres have been the most developed, and should be completed within a few months. While the track is nowhere ready, you can see the outline of it in the photos.

From this, there doesn’t seem to be too much worry about it not being ready in time. However, that’s not to say that the track will actually be any good. I really don’t like the look of it, as it seems to be completely flat and lifeless, and the corners are all in a mess. It just doesn’t fit together at all. Overtaking opportunities? Only one, and it’s a long straight in between two (surprise surprise) heavy braking zones.

To top it all off, you’ll never guess who designed it. Put your hands together for (drum roll)…. Herman Tilke. The only decent circuit he’s ever made is Turkey, and that place is more expensive than La Rascasse.

A preview of the Grand Prix is available here:

New development pictures are available here:

Brawn: Mercedes behind with preparations

Ross Brawn

Ross Brawn

Mercedes GP team principal Ross Brawn has admitted that his team is behind in preparations for the Bahrain Grand Prix and the rest of the season, but believes the team still has a strong car.

While Mercedes has returned to F1 for the first time since 1955, they had taken over the old Brawn GP team, so it w0uld have seemed that they would have been well prepared. However, Ross Brawn says differently:

"Everyone at Mercedes GP is proud to be representing the rich
motorsport pedigree of Mercedes-Benz as we start the season as the
first Mercedes works team for over half a century," Brawn began. "In
addition, knowing that we go into the new season as the reigning
World Champions gives the team confidence and a fierce pride to
defend our position.
owever, this is a new season and a new challenge. We had a strong
pre-season testing programme with the MGP W01 but we have not quite
reached the level of preparation that we would have liked prior to
Bahrain; the car shows promise and we have a strong development
programme planned for the season but there is a lot of hard work
ahead to ensure that we will be in the fight for the title.

It’s odd to me reading this, after what happened last year. When Jenson Button won his sixth race out of 7 in Turkey, Brawn GP switched focus to their 2010 car, which would end up as the W01. Their wind tunnel (believed to be up to 5 wind tunnels) system was now completely working on the aerodynamic setup for 2010, and not the rest of the season. The wind tunnel was used for 2009 twice after this, in Valencia when Barrichello ended up winning, and near the end of the season, just to ensure that Button had a good enough car to secure the title.

Apart from these two times, the 2010 car has been developed on from June 2009 until now. So how can they say they are behind in preparations? The team say the car shows promise, rather than saying it’s good right now, which says a lot. One possible reason for this problem is a wind tunnel calibration error. I’m saying this because it happened to the team back in 2007 (when they were Honda). It’s not based on facts, but it could be a possibility.

Brawn then talked about his views on his driver line-up and the 2010 season:

"I am very pleased with how our new drivers, Michael and Nico, have 
settled into the team and developed a close working relationship," 
Brawn continued. "They have really pushed the development of the car 
throughout testing and they will push each other to achieve better
results on the race track.
This season should be a fantastic one for the fans, with so many 
talented drivers competing and what is likely to be a very close 
fight for the title between the top teams - and that can only be 
good for our sport."
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