Tag Archives: Heikki Kovalainen

Heikki Kovalainen to drive for Caterham in Bahrain and Spain practice sessions

After only 3 races out of the cockpit, former Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen will drive for the team in the next two race weekends in the practice sessions.

He will take the place of Alexander Rossi, who was originally set to drive in these sessions. Kovalainen will drive in Giedo van der Garde’s car for FP1 and possibly FP2 for both race weekends.

Caterham say the reason for the switch is because of Rossi’s move to the Caterham GP2 team, replacing Ma Qing Hua. However, seeing as Heikki was originally dropped because of financial reasons, rumours are growing that the Finn is preparing a comeback with his former team.

2012 final driver rankings: 25th – 16th

As is the case every 6 months, I do a brief ranking of the current batch of F1 drivers, based on their performances this season.

This article will deal with the bottom 10 drivers on the grid, and over the next week several more posts will detail my rankings. Let’s start with a familiar face at the bottom of the rankings:

25th – Narain Karthikeyan

Previous ranking: 26th

Previous quote: “Not much was expected of Karthikeyan after a disappointing 2011 season, and not much is what we got.

Business as usual for Karthikeyan, as you can tell.

It took him until the Italian Grand Prix for him to even out-qualify his teammate, and in most other situations he was over a second off the pace.

In every single race where the two of them finished, Narain was always the one who was left behind. He was completely unable to develop the struggling HRT car all year, instead all duties were offloaded to Pedro de la Rosa.

His only claim to fame in 2012 is needlessly clashing with and holding up Sebastian Vettel twice. How he continues to be hired by HRT consistently amazes me.

24th – Jerome D’Ambrosio

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote:  N/A

It’s a little unfair to include D’Ambrosio in this season’s list. The only race he took part in was badly hampered by a malfunctioning KERS unit.

Without that, he might have finished in the points – Monza is the one place where you really don’t want a KERS failure. But there’s not much else to say about him – it was only one race, after all.

23rd – Timo Glock

Previous ranking: 20th

Previous quote: “He continues to struggle to make an impact in a hopeless car.”

Unfortunately, while Glock can fail to make progress without criticism, he has failed to hold off even his own teammate, and that could end his F1 career.

Timo did have some impressive drives this season – he did well in the season opener, and absolutely excelled in Singapore, a track that he clearly loves.

But although this looks good on paper, the performances of rookie Charles Pic were enough to cast doubts over the German’s future. Personally I don’t think it’s a talent issue, it’s that Glock is completely bored at the back of the grid.

Two excellent podiums in 2009 show that he’s a great driver, but he cannot show his potential at the back of the grid. Will the midfield teams listen to this? It’s uncertain, but the driver market is closing up so fast it may not even make a difference. Glock may have raced his last laps in Formula 1.

22nd – Vitaly Petrov

Previous ranking: 22nd

Previous quote: “If he doesn’t step up his game, he runs the risk of becoming a fully-fledged pay driver.”

A dull and uninspired first half of 2012 did him no favours, but the final few laps of Interlagos may have saved Petrov’s drive for 2013.

In a 3-team battle where every cent counts, Petrov’s 11th in Brazil gained millions in prize money for Caterham. Even out of just gratitude, his chances for a drive next year have been vastly improved.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While he improved noticeably towards the end of 2012, his performances up to then were unimpressive and lagging behind Heikki Kovalainen.

It’s unclear then whether we will see him on next year’s grid. With his raft of sponsorship money seemingly draining away, Petrov’s final gambit for Caterham may have been for nothing.

21st – Jean-Eric Vergne

Previous ranking: 19th

Previous quote: “So far I have been unimpressed with Vergne’s performance.”

Like I said last time, Toro Rosso’s decision to oust Alguersuari and Buemi is still puzzling – what new things are Ricciardo and Vergne bringing to the table?

Jean-Eric boasts a 6-point surplus to his teammate, but his absolutely atrocious qualifying form is a huge setback. Being knocked out of Q1 in the majority of races is embarrassing to say the least.

Does this mean that he has been completely out-classed? No. But it means that Toro Rosso will now overlook him while they search for Mark Webber’s eventual replacement in the future. Like it or not, Toro Rosso’s young driver programme will ditch both of these drivers if they fail to show race-winning prowess.

While he is talented, I doubt that Jean-Eric will be able to hold onto his seat after 2013.

20th – Daniel Ricciardo

Previous ranking: 15th

Previous quote: “Ricciardo hasn’t underperformed, but has still struggled to cement his place in Formula 1.”

A fabulous qualifying performance in Bahrain was enough to convince me of Ricciardo’s talent. However, a first-lap mistake put an end to what could have been an even better race.

Unfortunately, that was the only chance Daniel was given all season. Several 9th and 10th-placed finishes were scraped whenever he could manage, but otherwise a lacklustre Toro Rosso car held him back.

I’m a fan of Ricciardo, but it’s crystal clear that another mundane season in the lower midfield will effectively end his career. Daniel will need to make a step up to survive through into 2014.

19th – Heikki Kovalainen

Previous ranking: 16th

Previous quote: “Kovalainen is doing all he can – now it’s up to the team.”

Times change very quickly in Formula 1. Where Kovalainen was the driving force of his team 6 months ago, he is now at risk of losing his seat for next year.

An impressive first half of 2012 was enough for him to get on top of Vitaly Petrov, but the Russian’s 11th place in Brazil has put Heikki’s spot under threat. Couple this with Caterham needing more sponsor money, and the future is grim.

It’s disappointing that these off-track factors have influenced Caterham, but Kovalainen was also not as strong in the second half of this season as he was the first. While he continued to pip his way into Q2 whenever the opportunity arose, he became outclassed on several occassions by Petrov.

I’d like a race seat for Kovalainen next year, but it may just be out of his reach.

18th – Pedro de la Rosa

Previous ranking: 23rd

Previous quote: “He has performed well, and deserves to be retained for another while.”

I’ll happily admit to under-ranking De la Rosa in previous articles. His presence at the HRT team is possibly the only thing that has kept the team afloat this year.

Having been burdened with the task of developing the woeful F112, he held on throughout the year, pulling the car home to an impressive 8 finishes in a row at one point. He also completely destroyed teammate Narain Karthikeyan across the entire year.

Still, the fall of HRT was apparent with a few weeks to go in the season, and De la Rosa’s hopes for next season were all but gone by then. It is very unlikely that we will ever see him again in the paddock, and his expertise will be sorely missed.

17th – Bruno Senna

Previous ranking: 14th

Previous quote: “Rather quietly, he is the more complete driver of the Williams team.”

Bash Pastor Maldonado as much as you/I want, he’s an extremely fast driver who can win races. It is clear that Bruno Senna is neither of those.

Bruno began the season impressively, taking consistent finishes and a healthy supply of points, despite missed opportunities. However, in the second half of 2012 he has been totally outclassed by his teammate, and has not exploited the full potential of the Williams FW-34.

The 14-point gap between the two should be much more pronounced, if Maldonado hadn’t crashed out of many points-scoring opportunities. Senna has been outqualified by Pastor 15 times this year, and rarely catches up to him in the races.

While consistent with his finishing results, a general lack of pace is the largest issue for Senna at the moment.

16th – Charles Pic

Previous ranking: 21st

Previous quote: “Pic will have to up his game if he expects to be in F1 in 2013.”

And up his game he did. Pic improved more and more as the season progressed, so much so that he will be moving on to Caterham this year.

Charles held 11th in Brazil for a significant portion of the race, before he was dispossessed of it by Vitaly Petrov. He set the fastest time in FP2 in Belgium, although to be fair he was a full minute off the dry pace!

What’s more impressive is how he held firm against his more established teammate, Timo Glock. Despite being regularly outqualified (14 times), Pic was able to finish ahead of Timo 5 times in the 13 races where they both finished.

Combining this with his decent GP2 form, and Pic is definitely a driver to look out for in the future.

2012 half-way driver rankings: 24th – 15th

As I’ve done for a while now, every 6 months I do a quick review of each driver and his performances in that season so far.

The reviews are based on qualifying performance (particularly vs. teammate), race finishing position (+ vs. teammate), fastest laps, number of penalties, and relative form.

So without further ado, let’s start with drivers ranked from 24th to 15th…

Another disappointing season for Karthikeyan

Another disappointing season for Karthikeyan

24th: Narain Karthikeyan

Previous ranking: 26th out of 28

Ranking from previous review: “The only shining moment [2011 Indian GP] in a dull and uninspired season.”

Not much was expected of Karthikeyan after a disappointing 2011 season, and not much is what we got.

Narain has been completely out-performed by Pedro de la Rosa in every single aspect of the 2012 season. He has been out-qualified 11 times out of 11, by an average of 0.8 seconds per race. Race pace is similarly awful, with 15th and 18th places the only time he moved above 21st.

The one decent performance so far has been at the Malaysian Grand Prix, where he made the bold call to take on wet tyres at the start. As the rain hammered down, Karthikeyan was able to punch above his weight, and moved up to 5th for a brief moment. I feel he was innocent in his clashes with both Button and Vettel – it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Still, there is little to suggest that Karthikeyan should be in Formula 1 – apart from a sponsor’s paycheck, of course. It says a lot of HRT to accept the paycheck rather than the driver.

 

De la Rosa can achieve little in such a poor car

De la Rosa can achieve little in such a poor car

23rd: Pedro de la Rosa

Previous ranking: 19th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “I believe that he won’t make much impact in such a poor car  – and knowing HRT, he’ll likely get replaced halfway through the year.”

It seems I’ve lost my 100% record for predicting De la Rosa’s future – he hasn’t lost his job just yet, and is making a small impact at the back of the field, considering it is all he can do.

In such a dire car, you can’t expect miracles, but Pedro has managed to perform rather consistently. As previously stated, he has out-qualified Narain Karthikeyan at every single race so far, and has spent the majority of his race laps in front of his teammate.

His only fault was not being able to match Narain’s progress up the field during brief stages of the Malaysian Grand Prix, when a tyre gamble gave HRT an opportunity to move up the grid.

Despite this, he has performed well, and deserves to be retained for another while. But this may mean nothing, as we all know from before.

 

LIttle from Petrov to suggest he can beat Kovalainen

LIttle from Petrov to suggest he can beat Kovalainen

22nd: Vitaly Petrov

Previous ranking: 16th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “A podium in Australia was undoubtedly the standout moment of the year, but there wasn’t much to talk about after that.”

Like 2011, there was nothing awful, but nothing spectacular either to speak of for Petrov.

If there was ever an opportunity for Caterham to challenge the midfield, it was always Heikki Kovalainen who took the honours. Petrov has been out-qualified 9 times out of 11, albeit by a smaller margin than most other drivers.

While Vitaly tends to finish the races ahead of Heikki, he still has led less laps ahead of Kovalainen than vice-versa, as the Finn remains ahead of Petrov for the majority of the races as well.

Vitaly has only qualified in 3 specific places so far this year – 18th, 19th and 20th. As I said before, this is nothing awful, but Kovalainen has been up in the dizzying heights of 16th and 17th consistently, and Petrov rarely challenges his more experienced teammate.

If he doesn’t step up his game, he runs the risk of becoming a fully-fledged pay driver.

 

An average performance so far for Pic

An average performance so far for Pic

21st: Charles Pic

Previous ranking: N/A

Review from previous ranking: N/A

Not the average backmarker driver as many had expected, Charles Pic has impressed in his debut year so far, and has put a good deal of pressure on established teammate Timo Glock.

On 4 occasions has Charles been able to out-qualify Glock, by small margins. In the races, Glock is able to claw back this deficit quite often, but not without a bit of resistance, as the rookie has spent nearly 150 race laps ahead of his teammate.

Before him, Lucas di Grassi and Jerome D’Ambrosio were much the same, however, and they were not able to hold onto their drives the following year. Assuming Marussia will act the same this year, Pic will have to up his game if he expects to be in F1 in 2013.

 

Despite his talent, Glock has not extracted the Marussia's full potential

Despite his talent, Glock has not extracted the Marussia’s full potential

20th: Timo Glock

Previous ranking: 22nd out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “We all know Timo deserves better [...] next season looks like a similar struggle.”

As expected, there has been no dramatic change in fortunes for Glock – he continues to struggle to make an impact in a hopeless car.

There is, as always, data to show he has the potential to do so much more. Despite a few slips, he enjoys a comfortable lead over Charles Pic in both qualifying and the races. At race starts, he gains on average 2.4 places, and has gained 22 places in total on opening laps this year.

That is the best record of all F1 drivers so far – the Ferraris, renowned for their good starts, have only gained a total of 17 and 18 places respectively.

Unfortunately, that’s as far as it goes. While he is able to make waves on the first lap, with such a poor car, he cannot hope to keep up to the midfield, or even the Caterhams.

There is nothing left for Glock to achieve at the back of the grid. Marussia may well be pleased with Timo, but I highly doubt that he is pleased with the car. A bold move is required by the German in order to save his career.

 

The two new Toro Rosso drivers are little better than the old ones

The two new Toro Rosso drivers are little better than the old ones

19th: Jean-Eric Vergne

Previous ranking: N/A

Review from previous ranking: N/A

Toro Rosso opted to ditch Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari for a new pair of rookies, but to be honest, I’m not sure why they bothered.

Jean-Eric Vergne, in particular, has been particularly unimpressive, with a dismal qualifying record being his main weakness so far. On average, he starts in 17th place, with teammate Daniel Ricciardo on average being 13th.

A silly and needless move against Kovalainen in Valencia did nothing to improve his reputation. He has been eliminated in Q1 6 times, while Ricciardo has been into Q3 twice, compared to none for the Frenchman. On the plus side, his race pace is more impressive, with Vergne often finishing one position ahead of Ricciardo.

However, the qualifying gap to his teammate is over half a second, an astronomical amount for someone trying to defend his place in Formula 1. I think Toro Ross (effectively Red Bull) should obviously give them more than a year to prove their worth, but so far I have been unimpressed with Vergne’s performance.

 

An average race for Pastor Maldonado

An average race for Pastor Maldonado

18th: Pastor Maldonado

Previous ranking: 25th out of 28th

Review from previous ranking: “The 2010 GP2 champion has given no reason as to why he deserves to be in Formula 1, relying solely on a substantial paycheck by his fellow Venezuelan backers.”

It’s arguable whether Maldonado should be so far down the rankings. On one hand, he has some serious pace – the Spanish Grand Prix proved that. There’s no doubt that the Venezuelan driver has the talent to make it big.

But, on the other hand, he drives like a complete thug. And that’s why I have absolutely no respect for him.

It’s hard to keep count of the crashes – losing 6th on the last lap in Australia, taking out Perez in Monaco, crashing into De la Rosa (Monaco), slamming into the Wall of Champions, taking out Lewis Hamilton in Valencia, taking out Sergio Perez (again), and last but not least hitting Paul di Resta in Hungary. That would be impressive, but this isn’t Destruction Derby.

At this point, a Maldonado fan might bring up any other good performances he had, but there’s the problem – there isn’t any. And with that, Pastor has a lot of work to do if he wants to improve his destroyed reputation in Formula 1.

 

Massa can barely amount a challenge to Force India, never mind his teammate

Massa can barely amount a challenge to Force India, never mind his teammate

17th: Felipe Massa

Previous ranking: 18th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “Every single year, we are promised a return to form by the Brazilian, and every year is a let-down.”

Business as usual for Massa, then. I cannot understand the people who say that 4th place in one solitary race is acceptable – his teammate is pulling out a lead in the world championship as we speak.

While Alonso took control in Malaysia, Massa was 97 seconds down, and close to being lapped. It took him 4 races to score a single point, by which time Fernando was sitting pretty on 43. First-lap clashes aren’t even a surprise in 2012. The list of negatives just goes on and on.

And like Maldonado, he has had practically no plus sides. He performed decently in Silverstone, until you consider that his teammate was still ahead of him up the road. His qualifying record is abysmal – he has only reached Q3 4 times, hasn’t out-qualified Alonso once, and loses out by an average gap of 0.6 seconds per session.

In a championship-leading car, Massa lies 14th, in between a Force India and a Williams. How Ferrari continue to justify his performances by continuing to keep him on board is beyond me.

 

Kovalainen was persistent as always

Kovalainen was persistent as always

16th: Heikki Kovalainen

Previous ranking: 11th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “He absolutely demolished his teammate in every sector.”

2012 has been less of a cakewalk for Heikki Kovalainen, but nevertheless he continues to impress with consistently good performances.

Partnered with Vitaly Petrov, Kovalainen still has the upper hand in all areas. He is leading in qualifying by 9-2, and achieved Caterham’s best performance to date with 13th in Monaco. He has also been behind the driving force to reach the midfield, reaching Q2 on two occasions so far.

Overall, the stats are good as usual. However, Kovalainen’s future really hinges on how much more progress Caterham can make. Despite their pluckiness, they have repeatedly failed their ambitious goals (Consistently reaching Q2, scoring a point), and surely this must be beginning to wear on Heikki.

There have been a few occasions where he has been able to keep up with the Toro Rossos, but surely this isn’t enough to satisfy his desire to race at the front again. Kovalainen is doing all he can – now it’s up to the team.

 

Ricciardo has performed slightly better than Vergne so far

Ricciardo has performed slightly better than Vergne so far

15th: Daniel Ricciardo

Previous ranking: 20th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “I feel he can succeed where Buemi and Alguersuari failed.”

The second of the new Toro Rosso signings, Ricciardo hasn’t underperformed, but has still struggled to cement his place in Formula 1.

His qualifying pace is quite commendable – beating Vergne 9 times out of 11 so far, with an average margin of over half a second. He has only been eliminated from Q1 once, and has progress to Q3 twice. Not too shabby.

In the races is where the faults start to appear. He has lost an average of 3 places per race on lap 1, which is by far the worst in the field. Being located at the back end of the midfield, this is what is holding back Ricciardo’s race pace.

I feel it’s unfair to compare the two drivers in terms of points – both have only been in the top 10 only once each, after all. However, I think that if Ricciardo can get to grips with his starts, then he may emerge as the dominant force of the Toro Rosso team.

Alexander Rossi to make F1 debut in Spanish Friday practice

Alexander Rossi will drive for Caterham in Spain

Alexander Rossi will drive for Caterham in Spain

American racing driver Alexander Rossi will make his first appearance in Formula 1 at the Spanish Grand Prix.

The 20-year-old will replace Heikki Kovalainen at Caterham for Friday practice 1.

Rossi has won the 2006 Skip Barber Western Regional, as well as the 2008 Formula BMW Americas and Formula BMW World Final. He tested for the Caterham team – back when it was known as Team Lotus – in last year’s young driver test in Abu Dhabi.

He is currently competing in Formula Renault 3.5 with Arden Caterham Motorsport, partnering Red Bull-back Lewis Williamson.

At the announcement today, Rossi said:

"I am looking forward to getting back into the F1 car in Spain and I want to thank 
the team for the chance to run in FP1 in Barcelona.

I have a clear goal for the session – make sure I run to the plan set by the 
engineers, not make any mistakes and learn as much as I can over the whole weekend."

Kovalainen penalised for safety car passes

Heikki Kovalainen had a difficult start to the 2012 season

Heikki Kovalainen had a difficult start to the 2012 season

Heikki Kovalainen will be dropped 5 places on the Malaysian Grand Prix grid, following a penalty during today’ Australian GP.

The Caterham driver overtook two drivers at the last corner as he entered the pits. However, he had not cleared the safety car line before he made the passes. The stewards investigated the incident after the race, and dealt the Finn the punishment for next week’s race.

He described the penalty as a “bit harsh” on his Twitter feed after the race.

Kovalainen had a troubled start to the season. He lost KERS at the start, and subsequently suffered a DRS failure on lap 6. Despite this, he was classified in 16th, and ran as high as 11th.

2011 final driver rankings: 18th – 11th

This is the second article out of 4, ranking all 28 drivers from this season. This section includes drivers such as Felipe Massa, Kamui Kobayashi and Jaime Alguersuari.

18th – Felipe Massa

The Pirelli tyres brought no improvement to Massa's form

The Pirelli tyres brought no improvement to Massa's form

Previous ranking: 14th

Review from previous ranking: “Ferrari need a second driver who can consistently take podiums, not struggle for 6th.”

The one thing I find more frustrating than Felipe Massa is those who keep praising him despite his disastrous pace. Every single year, we are promised a return to form by the Brazilian, and every year is a let-down.

This year, it was the Pirelli tyres that were to catapult Massa to the top, which of course never happened. While teammate Fernando Alonso took 10 podiums, one of which was a win, Massa was never higher than 5th.

A clear sign of his ineptness at the Ferrari was in India, where he was the only driver to find trouble with the kerbs – and did it twice. as well as this, he was not blameless in the spat with Lewis Hamilton – turning into the McLaren in India was ill-judged to say the least.

The best indicator of a driver’s pace is their performance relative to their teammate, and Massa didn’t even get half of what Alonso won. Even Mark Webber, who had a shocking season by his standards, was able to beat this.

Renault and Ferrari have, in recent times, shown that it is entirely plausible to end a driver’s contract prematurely. Why they haven’t done this with Massa yet, we’ll never know.

17th – Bruno Senna

Senna's first race was ruined by his own hand

Senna's first race was ruined by his own hand

Previous ranking: 24th (2010 half-way rankings)

Review from previous ranking: “Senna’s potential is still unclear.” (2010 half-way rankings)

After spending 2010 lingering at the back of the grid, the Senna name was thrown into the midfield of the grid, after Nick Heidfeld was given the boot. So far, Bruno’s impact has been unconvincing to say the least.

He qualified an excellent 7th at his first race of the year in Spa, but bottled it at the first corner. A pair of points were scored at Monza, but that was the only top 10 finish of the season.

Despite this, he showed interesting flashes of pace, generally being faster than Vitaly Petrov, and driving well at his home race in Brazil, before clashing with Michael Schumacher – the first time since 1993 that those two surnames have collided.

As the Renault and its radical front exhausts fell apart, it became clear that Senna was unable to demonstrate his prowess. I’m unsure as to his full potential, but many feel that despite the circumstances, he should have performed better in 2011.

16th – Vitaly Petrov

A single podium was the only high point of Petrov's season

A single podium was the only high point of Petrov's season

Previous ranking: 9th

Review from previous ranking: “It will be up to Petrov to take the majority of Renault’s points this year.”

As the Renault car became more and more hopeless, Petrov began to falter, and was being worryingly out-paced by new recruit Senna by the end of the year.

A podium in Australia was undoubtedly the standout moment of the year, but there wasn’t much to talk about after that. In Malaysia, a mistake by Petrov resulted in a spectactular launch into the air, which was the last race the team had any chance of racing at the front.

Apart from a 5th place in Canada, he was only able to snatch 9th and 10th places throughout the year, and only had 3 points more than Nick Heidfeld – who missed the last 8 races.

It was an improvement from 2010, but not improvement enough to keep his seat for next year, and I can’t complain about that.

15th – Sebastien Buemi

The wheels came off Buemi's season in the second half

The wheels came off Buemi's season in the second half

Previous ranking: 16th

Review from previous ranking: “Of Ricciardo impresses at HRT, then Buemi may still be under pressure for the race seat in 2012.”

After the unceremonious dumping of both drivers, Toro Rosso have indicated that they have had enough of their drivers. Buemi and Alguersuari tussled for the lead in the team throughout the season, but ultimately the better driver came out on top.

Sebastien had the upper hand in the first few races, adapting well to the Pirelli tyres. He was able to out-qualify Alguersuari, and conserve his tyres better in the races. However, when Jaime turned his season around, matching pace from Buemi was nowhere to be seen.

It must be considered that he suffered more than his fair share of technical problems, but the general consensus is that Buemi should have achieved more after 3 years in Toro Rosso, which is considerably more than what many other drivers got.

14th – Kamui Kobayashi

A difficult second half of the season for Kobayashi

A difficult second half of the season for Kobayashi

Previous ranking: 6th

Review from previous ranking: “Kobayashi continues to punch well above his weight with scintillating drives.”

The fans’ favourite overtaker suffered a disappointing second half to the season, while his teammate took the limelight.

The first half of 2011 was spectacular, with Kobayashi finishing in the top 10 7 races in a row, something that neither of the Mercedes drivers could achieve.

However, his qualifying pace began to falter alarmingly, and teammate Perez began to take control. Finishing the season with 2 points finishes was impressive, and helped him end the season with double what Perez achieved. However, it must be considered that Sergio missed out on two races which I feel he would have performed well in.

Overall, it was a decent season, but improvement is still necessary for Kobayashi.

13th – Jaime Alguersuari

A spate of points-scoring finishes was not enough for Alguersuari

A spate of points-scoring finishes was not enough for Alguersuari

Previous ranking: 12th

Review from previous ranking: “Alguersuari came very close to being replaced, but several good drives have rescued his career.”

Not good enough, I’m afraid. An impressive improvement came in the second half of 2011, but Alguersuari was still dropped at the end of the year.

A series of 18th-to-points runs were entertaining to watch, and a pair of 7th places in Monza and Korea were the high points for Jaime. Qualifying 6th in Spa was also an excellent performance, before he was cruelly taken out by Bruno Senna.

In the end, he was comfortably ahead of his teammate, where he deserved to be. However, holding up Vettel in Korean practice did him no favours with Red Bull, and earned him an severe dressing-down from Helmut Mark0 (which I’ve heard will be featured in the F1 review DVD).

Whether this politics hurt his chances at retaining his seat, we’ll never know.

12th – Nick Heidfeld

Heidfeld was a casualty of Renault's demise

Heidfeld was a casualty of Renault's demise

Previous ranking: 11th

Review from previous ranking: “Reliable driving has helped him in the races, but a lack of raw pace is holding Nick back.”

A surprise ditching by Renault saw Heidfeld out of a drive halfway through the season. Because of this, we will never know how he was to handle with the deteriorating R31.

A magnificent start in Malaysia, as well as holding up the McLaren drivers, saw Nick take a well-deserved podium. As the Renault slipped down the order, Heidfeld was able to take as many 7th and 8th places as he could. He was taken out on the first lap in Germany, and an exploding sidepod took him out in Hungary, which proved to be his last race.

I’m still confused as to why Renault bothered dropping Heidfeld, considering Petrov could hardly amass his points total with an extra 8 races in hand. He was a safe pair of hands, and consistently got the job done, aside from a calamitious error at the Nurburgring.

His main weakness was dire qualifying, which principal Eric Boullier was particularly angry about. Still, I feel that Renault was worse off without Heidfeld.

11th – Heikki Kovalainen

Kovalainen far exceeded the car's potential

Kovalainen far exceeded the car's potential

Previous ranking: 19th

Review from previous ranking: “It will be up to Kovalainen to secure 10th place in the Constructor’s Championship for the team.”

With HRT and Virgin constantly falling further behind, and Jarno Trulli proving lacklustre, it was always going to be up to Kovalainen to prove Lotus’ worth.

I admit that I had nearly given up on Kovalainen after his dismal years at McLaren – he recently said that those two years had drained all his confidence. In that light, going back to basics was the best possible move for Heikki. With little pressure around him, he has been able to re-invigorate his racing spirit.

Whenever a midfield car faltered, it was Kovalainen who snatched the opportunity to move into Q2, which he did three times. He absolutely demolished his teammate in every sector – qualifying (16 successes out of 18), and races, where he often finished half a minute ahead of Trulli.

A 13th-placed finish in Monza secured 10th for Lotus in the constructors’ championship. With luck, the team soon to be known as Caterham can finally improve to the midfield, with Kovalainen the driving force of the squad.

2011 mid-way driver rankings: 24-15

This is the bi-annual review of driver’s performances over the season. Improvements have been made from last year’s review, with an indication towards a driver’s performance the year beforehand being added.

This first article will tackle drivers from 25th to 16th place. Here are the bottom ranked 10 drivers:

Note: This article was written before the British GP, and so stats will not be fully up to date, and any performance from Silverstone will not be taken into account.

24 – Narain Karthikeyan

Karthikeyan was never going to set the world ablaze in a HRT

Karthikeyan was never going to set the world ablaze in a HRT

Ranking in 2010: N/A

Review from 2010 ranking: N/A

The 34-year-old’s return to F1 racing was never going to set the world ablaze, but with disappointing pace in a lacklustre car, a replacement driver was inevitable.

However, this may still be too harsh on Karthikeyan. The only driver he had to compete with was teammate Liuzzi. But, he has qualified behind Vitantonio at every race, and the average gap between the two is 0.639 seconds.

It is common knowledge that Narain excels in wet conditions. The only race where he has had an opportunity in this sense was Canada, but he still finished in last place, whereas Liuzzi scored HRT’s best ever finish.

With Daniel Ricciardo now at the wheel, perhaps both of HRT’s drivers can take the challenge to Virgin.

23 – Jarno Trulli

Trulli has lost out in his best skill - qualifying

Trulli has lost out in his best skill - qualifying

Ranking in 2010: 18th

Review from 2010 ranking: “2011 will tell us if he still has what it takes.”

Formerly regarded as a master of the one-lap qualifying run, Trulli has succumbed to being regularly beaten at every course by Heikki Kovalainen.

Long gone are the glory days of pole position and the win back in Monaco 2004. Jarno has been out-qualified by Kovalainen 6 out of 7 races so far, with the average gap being 0.34 seconds.

Two 13th places are better than Heikki’s best, but if his best asset is being soundly beaten, then retirement may not be too far off the horizon for Trulli.

22 – Pastor Maldonado

Without a single point, a bad review was always on the cards

Without a single point, a bad review was always on the cards

Ranking in 2010: N/A

Review from 2010 ranking: N/A

The 2010 GP2 champion had huge expectations on his shoulders entering the season, replacing Nico Hulkenberg. Unfortunately a disastrous start to his F1 career has left Maldonado second last in the driver’s championship.

A points finish was on the cards in Monaco, before a collision with Lewis Hamilton ruled the Williams out of 7th place. That kind of form has not been repeated anywhere else, with a 15th place in Spain being Pastor’s best result to date.

An impressive qualifying record has kept Maldonado from finishing last in this article. Pastor has qualified ahead of Rubens Barrichello 4 times, on average 3 tenths faster than the Brazilian.

However, if he is unable to turn this form into results, then there will be little future for Maldonado in Formula 1.

21 – Jerome D’Ambrosio

D'Ambrosio has been respectable so far

D'Ambrosio has been respectable so far

Ranking in 2010: N/A

Review from 2010 ranking: N/A

A first foray into F1 has not gone disastrously just yet for Jerome D’Ambrosio, with respectable results to his name, as well as occasionally beating his experienced teammate.

Two 14th places are slightly better than a solitary 15th managed by Timo Glock. In the 4 occasions where both Virgins have finished a race, D’Ambrosio has finished ahead of Glock 50% of the time.

He has out-qualified Timo on two occasions; however he has struggled in terms of the average qualifying gap (+0.56 seconds).

20 – Vitantonio Liuzzi

Liuzzi has done well in a poor car

Liuzzi has done well in a poor car

Ranking in 2010: 22nd

Review from 2010 ranking: “I would be hugely surprised if Force India were to retain him for 2011.”

The only car Liuzzi has properly raced against is Karthikeyan, and the Italian has done well in asserting himself as the number 1 driver in the team.

A clean sheet in qualifying, combined with beating Narain 4 times out of 5 in the races, proves Liuzzi’s good form. He managed a 13th position in the chaotic Canadian Grand Prix, achieving Hispania’s best ever result, one place off Lotus’ highest finish.

Many questioned the point of remaining in F1 after being ditched by Force India, but Vitantonio has done well to demonstrate his prowess in a dismal car.

19 – Heikki Kovalainen

Dominance over Trulli as expected, but Kovalainen is yet to challenge the midfield

Dominance over Trulli as expected, but Kovalainen is yet to challenge the midfield

Ranking in 2010: 15th

Review from 2010 ranking: “If Lotus deliver on their long-developed 2011 car, then Heikki will be the one to challenge the midfield.”

In 3 out the last 5 races, Heikki has out-qualified Jarno Trulli by over half a second. This dominance has allowed Kovalainen to become the driving force of Lotus in 2011.

2 mechanical retirements have beset Heikki, but he has still managed one 14th place so far this year. Despite his teammate getting one position better, Kovalainen has also led more laps so far this year ahead of Trulli.

With Lotus struggling to match the midfield’s pace, and Trulli’s future uncertain, it will be up to Kovalainen to secure 10th place in the Constructor’s Championship for the team.

18 – Timo Glock

Like Kovalainen, Glock excels in an underacheiving car

Like Kovalainen, Glock excels in an underacheiving car

Ranking in 2010: 21st

Review from 2010 ranking: “A much faster and reliable car is what Timo needs to get himself back up the grid next year.”

In similar fashion to last year, Timo Glock continues to push well above his weight in a very uncompetitive car.

While the Virgin team appear to be being pulled in by HRT, Glock has been chasing after Lotus, with varying results.  While he has only finished in front of one of these two drivers twice, three mechanical retirements have also held back Glock. Similarly, he failed to start the race in Turkey after losing fifth gear before the warm-up lap.

Despite these setbacks, he has consistently out-qualified D’Ambrosio, and is set to perform better as the season progresses.

17 – Rubens Barrichello

Barrichello has not unlocked the FW33's slight potential

Barrichello has not unlocked the FW33's slight potential

Ranking in 2010: 8th

Review from 2010 ranking: “Hopefully, Barrichello has a few more years left on the clock, and can lead Williams to their first win in years.”

A pair of 9th places is all the veteran has to offer so far, in one of the toughest F1 seasons in his 19-season career.

Once again, a horribly uncompetitive Williams is to blame for Barrichello’s slump, but being pushed by underperforming rookie Maldonado does not bode well for Rubens. The Brazilian is 3 tenths slower in qualifying on average compared to his Venezuelan colleague.

An ill-timed move on Nico Rosberg was the start to this poor season. Two mechanical failures have also undermined Barrichello’s hopes for points.

16 – Sebastien Buemi

Buemi hasn't underperformed, but much more is expected

Buemi hasn't underperformed, but much more is expected

Ranking in 2010: 17th

Review from 2010 ranking: “2011 is Buemi’s last chance to keep his race seat at Toro Rosso.”

With the news of Ricciardo joining HRT, Buemi’s seat is safe at Toro Rosso – for this year at least. While he has not been dominated by his teammate, many were expecting more from Buemi in his 3rd season.

Qualifying is where Sebastien gains an edge over Jaime Alguersuari. The Swiss driver has out-qualified the Spaniard 7 times out of 8, with an average gap of over 0.4 seconds.

However, finishing positions between the two appear to be generally the same, with Alguersuari having a slight lead on points. Toro Rosso have a tendency to drop drivers at the slightest sign of lack of pace, so many are asking why Buemi has been retained for so long.

However, it must be remembered that Buemi is well favoured by Helmut Marko, a man who doesn’t seem to mind leaning over one driver to serve the other.

Still, if Ricciardo impresses at HRT, then Buemi may still be under pressure for the race seat in 2012.

15 – Adrian Sutil

Sutil cannot let himself be beaten by Di Resta

Sutil cannot let himself be beaten by Di Resta

Ranking in 2010: 13th

Review from 2010 ranking: “2011 will be crucial if Sutil is to prove himself.”

Legal action with Eric Lux aside, there may be trouble on the horizon for Sutil. If Paul di Resta were to out-perform Adrian in the second half of 2011, then it could be a huge struggle for him to progress any further in Formula 1.

Di Resta has a huge lead in qualifying results, beating Sutil 6 times out of 8, with more than half a second in the average distance. Results haven’t gone the Scot’s way, so Sutil has an 8-point lead in the standings. However, it must be remembered that Di Resta, apart from being a rookie, has suffered poor luck in the races.

At times during his career, Sutil has been linked with a future drive for McLaren. However, if he is beaten by Di Resta in his first year, then Adrian will find himself shunted out of the way by the hotshot rookie.

Bahrain GP Friday press conference

Today it was a case of old to new, as today’s press conference replaced world champions with up-and-coming youngsters. Today we had Lucas di Grassi, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Hulkenberg, Heikki Kovalainen and Robert Kubica. Here is the full transcript:

Q: Gentlemen, how is it to be in F1? Lucas, would you like to start?
Lucas Di Grassi:
For me it is a great honour to be here in F1. It is my first races as official driver, so there has been a lot of work, a lot of effort to arrive in this position, so I am just enjoying every minute I am in the car, trying to learn as much as I can and trying to evolve as a driver. It is a great feeling.

Q: Nico?
Nico Hulkenberg:
I mean it is nice and great to finally be here but I am sure every driver who has come here worked very hard and long for it, same for me. Just happy to be here and looking forward hopefully to a long career.

Q: It is the same thing for Robert and Heikki in a way; a new team for you, Robert. What are your feelings about that?
Robert Kubica:
Quite happy, actually. It is not easy to change after four years being with one team. It is quite a different mentality team, so we have done quite good work in winter to prepare for the new season, new challenge. It is okay.

Q: And for Heikki?
Heikki Kovalainen:
For me also. Obviously I had a very different winter. We started from zero with the team and have seen the team growing and building all the time. We managed to do a little bit of testing but arrived here a little bit on the back foot. But today has been fantastic. Both cars have been running without any problems so far. It is very good and the atmosphere is very good. I am enjoying it. I think F1 is good as always.

Q: Lucas, tell us about your day today and how things have been going?
LG:
I had pretty much a difficult start to the day in P1. I had some small issue in the car which did not allow me to do many laps and I need more mileage. Everything got back to a good position in P2 as I did quite a good run with both sets of tyres and we were able to do a different set-up change, so it helped a lot.

Q: How do you see the weekend developing for you and the team?
LG:
Everybody in the team is pushing really hard. As everybody knows the car came together months ago and we had a lot of problems in testing, so our main reason to be here and our main way of development is to get everything done properly and with it on time. We are not rushing anything. We are making sure the car is having the best performance. The team is working very, very hard and the team worked all night last night, so everyone is giving 100 per cent and I am trying to do the same when I am driving.

Q: Nico, a remarkable day for you ending up sixth. How has it gone?
NH:
It was okay. We were able to go through our programme and be able to get comfortable in the car on the track. It ran smoothly without any technical or other problems.

Q: In testing, you held the record for red flags, so you must be happy with the reliability today?
NH:
Yeah, I mean again also Williams has pushed very hard and still everyday there is a new guy coming from the UK bringing new parts, not only performance parts but reliability parts, to get our car better. A big thank you to the guys in the factory. Without them we would not be where we are.

Q: How good a teacher is Rubens Barrichello? The most experienced guy on the grid.
NH:
He is not really teaching me. I am just looking at what he is doing. As a team-mate he is always transparent. I can see how he drives, how he works, how he approaches the weekend, so in that aspect I can see and learn from him.

Q: You have got a new engine. Is it quite a surprise where you are?
NH:
With a new engine? I think Cosworth have also done a good and remarkable job. We did not have any problems during winter testing and again here the engine is running fine and performance wise it is not too bad at all.

Q: Heikki, you had the Mercedes engine last year and you can compare the Cosworth to the Mercedes. How does it come out?
HK:
I think to give a direct comparison is probably not fair as the performance of the car at this stage is very different. But I think so far they have done a very good job. Like Nico says, the reliability has been fantastic. I have not had a single problem. I don’t think if anyone had a problem with the engine and just the initial feeling is that the power is competitive. I don’t think that will not be an issue. I think it is good.

Q: What is lacking within the car? Is it your confidence?
HK:
It is not confidence. What is lacking is another 10 to 20 months of time and give the team a bit of a chance to put some performance into the car. We built the car and the team in just under six months time and you cannot ask for more than this. We put the car on the track in testing and today we looked like a professional race team. We were running the car first on the track this morning. I mean you cannot expect performance to be better than this yet. I am sure it will be. We have already shown many things that not many teams could do, so I have all the confidence that given a bit of time, give us a year or two, even less than that, we can put a lot of performance in the car and move up the grid. You have got to start somewhere and we are still growing, we are still building the team so it is not my confidence. I am very confident in fact. I have had a good winter and I feel 100 per cent shape and I feel today I had a very good today and we went forward but we need a bit of time.

Q: How do you see the weekend developing? Do you feel you will be able to close that gap to the established teams?
HK:
If we could find three or four seconds it would be pretty good, wouldn’t it. I am sure we will be working hard but we just do not know yet what everybody else has done. We have just focussed on our own preparation today like a professional race team does. We will prepare for the race, we have compared the tyres, we have done various checks with the set-up and tried to tune the car for the circuit and also for myself getting adapted to the circuit. That is what we are really worried about. I am sure eventually we can close the gap to the leaders and that is what we are here for but it will not happen overnight. The teams ahead of us are all good teams. Formula One is incredibly competitive but we have been quite brave. We have entered the competition and from what we have shown today I think we can go with chin up, full steam ahead.

Q: Sebastian, how do you feel about today?
Sebastian Vettel:
I would have loved to run more. I think this morning the circuit was not in very good shape with not a lot of rubber down, especially on the new part of the circuit. But in the afternoon I think we had quite a lot of rubber, but I did not run very much. I had a problem with the brakes, brake failure, and Mark had a problem as well, so I would have loved to do more laps.

Q: Is it a worry to have that failure? Brakes is a big thing this year.
SV:
It is not a nice feeling, but it depends where it happens. I think it happens if you go up in Monaco up to the casino it is the worst place. Here there is quite a lot of run-off, so it was no problem, but it is not something you like to happen.

Q: Fifth fastest with that brake failure. Do you feel that is where you are or do you think it should be better?
SV:
I think today is still very difficult to read. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it is a bit more difficult, but if you really want to say precisely where everyone is I think at this stage it is still a bit too early. From what I have seen in the session it is no secret that this afternoon Ferrari seemed to run a bit heavier whereas Mercedes tried with a little bit less fuel in the beginning and then put some fuel back into the car for the rest of it. I think at this stage we are in decent shape. I would have loved to run a lot more and get more laps and more data, but at this stage I think Ferrari and McLaren look extremely competitive.

Q: Last year the team did a fantastic job with the development. It is almost certainly going to be a development battle this year. Are you confident in the programme that Red Bull have?
SV:
Yeah, as you said it will be the same kind of battle as last year. Obviously that is not very cheap. But for everyone it is the same thing, so where we are now and I am sure the cars will improve a lot as they are still quite young. I think this year there is a lot to discover with the new regulations, no refuelling, the tyres are different, so I think everyone is in a steep learning curve and we will see. The cars we will have at the end of the year they might be better but you get 25 points for a win here as you do at the last race, so we will see.

Q: Robert, your feelings about today? You ended up 15th.
RK:
It was quite a good day. It was different running with this temperature compared to winter testing, so we have quite a nice run, smooth without major problems. We have to work a bit on the car to improve it and try to do our best tomorrow which will finally be the day of truth.

Q: You’re a former pole-winner here. What are your feelings about the circuit, particularly the new part?
RK:
The new part doesn’t look really interesting, at least for myself it’s a kind of a street circuit, it reminds me of a Monte Carlo a bit, the Monaco race track. It’s very slow, a lot of bumps, quite tough for the tyres and very appropriate compared to the old section of track. Yes, it was quite dirty as Sebastian mentioned. This morning it was quite slippery there. Afterwards it improved but there is still quite a big delta shift between the grip of the new section and the old section.

Q: And you’ve been quoted as saying that Renault could create a surprise?
RK:
When did I say this, a long time ago? Well, it depends how it goes but I think we were in pretty good shape in winter testing, maybe not in the last tests but before we were surprisingly good. But we have to keep working. Actually, we are doing it very hard. The guys didn’t go to bed last night, preparing the car because new bits arrived quite late, so it was quite a tough two days for them. But let’s hope we will pay them back on the performance side.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Mikolaj Sokol – Rzeczpospolita) Sebastian and Robert, with 23 cars on the track, some of them significantly slower than you, how can you deal with traffic? Is it a big issue?
SV:
Yes, I think it is a big issue, especially practice and at least the first qualifying session. Of course, speaking to Lucas or Timo or the other guys, Heikki, it’s not the easiest time that they have to face. Obviously they are just about to start, so I think it’s fair to give them time. For sure, if you arrive and you have that big delta between the cars and at least six cars are quite a bit slower than the rest and for sure it could be a problem and one or the other will suffer. It will happen in qualifying that you probably don’t get your lap time. These guys are trying their best as well, so you have to respect that, but if you’re five seconds quicker then it’s very difficult to estimate at the start of the lap if you will be fine or not. Here, I think it’s quite OK because you can see quite a lot, but if you go to Singapore or Monaco where half of the circuit is blind anyway then it’s very difficult. We’ve had problems in the past with traffic, it will be quite a mess but that’s life, I guess.
RK: Yeah, I’ve had similar problems to Sebastian. They are there, for sure they are not having an easy time to keep the car on the track, so that’s how it is. They are there and from our side we can only try and get some more space when they are in front of us, but it’s hard for them, it’s hard for us. That’s how it is.

Q: (Tomasz Richter – TV Nova) To you all, do you enjoy the new section of the track or would you prefer to go straight after turn three?
RK:
Old one, probably, old section, so old track.
SV: I think that the biggest difficulty is that you have a different level of grip as well, which makes the delta quite high. If you look at the asphalt of the new circuit compared to the new track it’s quite different. That doesn’t make life easy, it’s actually very slow, very bumpy, so I also prefer the old track.
HK: I don’t know the reasons for the change – I don’t know if there is a good reason. I thought the old one was good but for me, if we drove to the centre and back, I don’t really have a preference.
LG: I preferred the old one. I raced here in GP2 and it’s quite a fast part of the track which is now a very slow section and very bumpy, so I preferred the old one.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat ) Sebastian, how difficult is it to decide which compound to use for Q3 at this circuit?
SV:
Well, I think the biggest unknown is how the racing will look on Sunday. Obviously the temperature should help all of us but I think it will nevertheless be something new. Either it will be total excitement for the spectators, a mess for us in the car, because some drivers will struggle more with tyres, some less, or it will be boring and the cars will just follow each other because they’re stuck behind each other and they can’t do much, so I think we have to see. In qualifying, first of all we need to see what we have done today compared to the others. Then tomorrow morning – the latest at lunchtime, more or less, you have to decide what you want to do in qualifying. I think first of all you have to manage to get into Q3. It looks tight, so it won’t be easy. There is a strong midfield as well, so if you are talking of the top teams, you have a very, very strong midfield and they could easily ruin your day. I don’t know yet. If you ask me now, I have no clue. I also think it makes it more difficult, as I said, because we don’t know how the race will unfold. We will see.

Q: Nico, your ex-partner Nico Rosberg set fastest lap in his first race for Williams, so do you expect the same this year?
NH:
No, I don’t expect the same. I hope for a good points’ finish but as Sebastian mentioned, we are still a bit left in the dark as to who is where, even today. There are big differences in lap times, and obviously big differences in fuel loads, so we will have to wait and see where we end up but I hope for a good points result.

Q: (Cezary Gutowski – Przeglad Sportowy) For the Renault-engined guys: there is some noise about getting engines up to parity. Do you think your engines are that under-performing? Do you think you really need more horsepower?
SV:
I think an engine here, an engine there. Obviously engine regulations are frozen and yes, last year we didn’t have the easiest time, especially myself. We had some engine failures. Nevertheless, I think we did a very good job recovering. Reliability was fine after we fixed the problem and we did not have to change an engine, so we did not have to take a penalty. I think, last year, everyone had more or less the same opinion that the Mercedes engine was probably a bit ahead of the rest and as I said, the regulations are frozen, so what can you do? I think we don’t have anything to fear, no weakness from that side, so for sure, as I said, a little bit maybe, but it’s very difficult to measure as well. The cars are different. If you look at our top speed compared to the Renault top speed, it’s totally different because the car is a different car, different concept, different amount of drag on the straight, so you can’t really compare just from the speeds.
RK: If the regulations were the same I might have some sort of feeling because I switched from another engine supplier to Renault but we are running much heavier this year, so it’s difficult to compare. I think we just need to wait. Actually, in the past Renault has always been very good with their consumption. I think a lot of people improved that so we maybe still have a bit of an advantage but not as big as it was in the past, for sure. Horsepower is always welcome, more power is always welcome.

Q: (Oliver Knaack – Berliner Zeitung) Sebastian, you missed more than 30 minutes of this last practice, can you describe the exact failure of the brakes, what happened at the front or rear and what was the problem?
SV:
Maybe some of you, between the practice and the press conference were able to have a coffee. I was not. I just got out of my suit and had a short de-brief and came here so I don’t know the reason yet for the failure we had, so we need to see. It’s always difficult. You don’t really analyse within the session because you just make sure you change (the damaged part) as quickly as possible and use the amount of time you have left. It was on the front, the front left. I think you could see that from the TV.

Q: (Tomasz Richter – TV Nova) Nico, we could see some black smoke from the front tyres; do you expect some brake issues regarding the heavier cars and are they the same brake specification as last year?
NH:
It shouldn’t be a problem but Bahrain is always quite heavy on brakes. I’m sure every team is aware of that. We take that into consideration but it’s just brake dust. If you have big braking from 300kph down to 60 kph, there’s just a lot of smoke but right now I’m not too worried about that.

Kovalainen: We are lacking downforce

Heikki Kovalainen in the Lotus T127

Heikki Kovalainen in the Lotus T127

Lotus F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen has admitted that this year’s T127, Lotus’ first in 16 years, has a fundamental downforce problem. Today, in Jerez testing, he finished 3.2 seconds behind leader Mark Webber.

“I think the main issue is the downforce,” the former Renault and McLaren driver explained to reporters. “We have not been able to develop the aero package as we should have; we had five months to build the car and everything’s been a bit conservative. Before they started to design the car, they had no information about the engine, so cooling and everything is quite conservative.

“For sure, we can improve – just by looking at the car I could probably improve a few things; I’m sure we will be able to do this but it’ll just take a little time.”

“Once everybody in the UK – the design and manufacturing teams – begin working, we’ll be able to make big improvements.”

“I think it’s quite clear that we’re lacking downforce compared to the quickest cars. It’s not surprising, we expected it – but just looking at the numbers we knew where we were going to be.”

When the T127 was launched a few weeks ago, I actually noted the too simple rear wing design that the car had. It looks like this problem may haunt Lotus for some time.

19th February- Testing results: Webber leads in the dry conditions

Mark Webber topped the timesheets today in a sunny Jerez

Mark Webber topped the timesheets today in a sunny Jerez

At last, the sun breaks through in Jerez, as Mark Webber makes full use of the glorius sunshine to top the timesheets today.

In fact, there were torrential downpours last night in the area, as many personnel struggled to even get out of the track. In the morning, although the track was slightly damp, the sun was out, so it would clear very quickly. Nearly everyone was confident of good weather today. In the first half hour, there were only a few installation laps to check the conditions, but not much else. But, at 08:30, Heikki Kovalainen stopped out on track with a clutch sensor problem. The team brushed it off as a small problem, but the Finn was forced to wait on the sidelines until 12:00 to get out again. Meanwhile, by 09:00, the sun was out in full force, track temperatures had risen, and the track had completely dried out.

Many drivers were lapping either cautiously or very heavy with fuel. The fastest times were in the 1.23 and 1.24 zone. At 09:40, there were reports that Lucas di Grassi had crashed at Turn 12. It soon  turned out that he didn’t hit the barriers, but only just avoided them. This was to be the second red flag of the day, after Kovalainen. However, once the session restarted, Kobayashi instantly brought the session to a halt again, but it is unclear what happened. It seems as though he simple stopped on track. Once the session restarted, it was time for slick tyres, with Alonso, Kubica, Sutil and Webber out to take the most from it. Webber’s 5-lap run left him in the 1.24’s, while Alonso, and then Alguersuaria and Schumacher, all got into the 1.23’s. Jenson Button headed out at 10:30, had the track to himself for a while, and immidiately got a 1.22.6 as his reward.

Lucas di Grassi after crashing at Turn 12

Lucas di Grassi after crashing at Turn 12

Kamui Kobayashi after stopping on track

Kamui Kobayashi after stopping on track

Track temperature was now 22 degrees, and there was less wind than yesterday, so fastest laps were estimated to be nearly as quick as the ones last week. Lucas di Grassi did one installation lap, to inspect for any damage to his car, and pitted quickly, and many believed the car was fine. At 10:30, Fernando Alonso got a 1.21.969, after a 7-lap run. Button got back out again, and by 11:00 got a 1.21.435. Webber and Alonso soon got 1.21.7 and 1.21.8 repsectively, which meant the track had rubbered in well. After 6 laps, all of Button’s laps were in the 1.21’s, which shows he was really on the pace. Webber was 5 laps into his stint, all in the 1.22’s, when he stopped out on the straight, with a suspected mechanical problem.

At 11:30, it seemed that Nico Hulkenberg was mixing lap times with pit stop practice, but only getting into the 1.25 mark with his laps. This, however, was believed to have been a full race simulation, which means he would have been full up on fuel.  Soon though, Button broke into the 1.20 zone, as part of a 7-lap run. By 12:30, Adrian Sutil was the next to improve his times, getting a 1.22.5. Schumacher, after a 10-lap run, got a 1.21.9, with most in the 1.22 or 1.23 range. At 13:00, Alonso went back out, and was suddenly firing on all cylinders, getting straight down to 1.20.115, then 1.20.1, 1.20.6, 1.20.5, 1.20.6, and 1.20.7. This great consistency shows the Ferrari has true pace this year. Kovalainen was out at 13:00, to test two different types of tyre compound rather than fuel,but his fastest lap was only 1.26. He soon had to pit though, because of a cracked exhaust.

At 14:00, Webber got a 1.19.3, putting him 7 tenths clear of the rest of the field. He soon managed a 1.19.6 before pitting. At 14:20, Lucas di Grassi caused another stoppage, this time at the Dry Sack hairpin. When the session resumed 20 minutes later, Webber immidiately got a 1.19.299. Kovalinen got back on track at 15:00 after his exhaust problem, and got a 1.24.924 on one of his first laps out. From then until the end, it was just race simulations, so no new fast times were set. The session was ended 3 minutes early, after Hulkenberg stopped at the Dry Sack corner, but we’re not sure what the problem was this time. Despite this, he managed the most laps today, with 138, ahead of Alonso on 132, Alguersuari on 120, Webber on 115, Button on 101 and Kubica on 100. Di Grassi only got 34, while Kobayashi got 28.

All of today’s times:

Today’s times:


Driver Team Car Fastest lap Difference
# of laps
1. M. Webber Red Bull RB6 1.19.299 115
2. F. Alonso Ferrari F10 1.20.115 +0.816 132
3. J. Button McLaren MP4-25 1.20.394 +1.095 101
4. N. Hulkenberg Williams FW32 1.21.432 +2.133 138
5. M. Schumacher Mercedes W01 1.21.437 +2.138 79
6. R. Kubica Renault R30 1.21.916 +2.617 100
7. A. Sutil F. India VJM03 1.21.939 +2.640 69
8.

Red9.

10.

11.

K. Kobayashi

J. Alguersuari

L. di Grassi

H. Kovalainen

Sauber

T. Rosso

Virgin

Lotus

C29

STR5

VR-01

T127

1.22.228

1.22.564

1.23.504

1.23.521

+2.929

+3.265

+4.205

+4.222

28

120

34

68

Pictures from the test:

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