Tag Archives: Nico Rosberg

Rosberg storms to Chinese Grand Prix victory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Webber's casual push to catch the car ahead

Webber's casual push to catch the car ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rosberg takes first Mercedes pole in 57 years in China

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

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

Q1

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

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

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

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

Drivers knocked out of Q1:

18) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:37.714

19) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:38.676

20) Vitaly Petrov – 1:38.677

21) Timo Glock – 1:39.282

22) Charles Pic – 1:39.717

23) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:40.411

24) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:41.127

Q2

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

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

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

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

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Sebastian Vettel – 1:36.031

12) Felipe Massa – 1:36.255

13) Pastor Maldonado – 1:36.283

14) Bruno Senna – 1:36.289

15) Paul di Resta – 1:36.317

16) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:36.745

17) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:36.956

Q3

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

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

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

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

Mercedes reveal W03 in Barcelona

Mercedes' W03 features a large stepped nose

Mercedes' W03 features a large stepped nose

Mercedes are the final frontrunning team to release their 2012 F1 car, called the W03.

The Silver Arrows car has a distinctive nose design, featuring one of the highest steps on the grid so far. The bridge sections of the nose are particularly steep.

The W03 features a lower core weight than its predecessor. The Mercedes team noted that it took 4,500 parts to construct the W03, which is 200 more than the W02.

Over the last few months, the team have hired ex-Ferrari designer Aldo Costa, Renault engineer Bob Bell and Geoff Willis, who previously worked for BAR, Williams and Red Bull.

Vice President of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Norbert Haug has said that the aim from 2012 is to move into the top 3:

"2012 will mark the third season for our Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows works team, 
which was introduced in January 2010, and our target is to take a step forward in 
on-track performance.

A lot of work has been done throughout the last year, not just to design the new 
car but also to build a technical organisation that is capable of delivering to 
its full potential, with consistency. Our ultimate goal is to become regular race
winners and championship contenders, and so to write another chapter of success 
in the story of the Silver Arrows which began 78 years ago."

Team principal Ross Brawn called the stepped nose an “acquired taste”, but stated that the car is certainly a step forward from last year.

The W03 made its track debut in Barcelona today, with Michael Schumacher at the wheel.

Jerez testing day 3: Rosberg keeps Mercedes on top

Rosberg kept the Mercedes W02 on top

Rosberg kept the Mercedes W02 on top

Nico Rosberg kept last year’s Mercedes on top of the timesheets for the third day of testing in Jerez.

Rosberg took over from Michael Schumacher, and beat his teammate’s time by over a second today. This concludes Mercedes’ running in Jerez, as they will not take part in testing tomorrow.

Romain Grosjean was fastest of the 2012 cars, finishing ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso made their first appearances in 2012 testing, taking 4th and 7th places respectively.

2012′s new rookies had a difficult day. Giedo van der Garde spun out with an hour to go, finishing 9th. His test was not as bad as Jules Bianchi’s though, as the Force India driver crashed on only his third lap, setting no fast laps. This prevented the team from running Nico Hulkenberg in the afternoon.

Times from Jerez day 3:

1. Nico Rosberg            Mercedes W02        1:17.613   118 Laps
2. Romain Grosjean         Lotus E20           1:18.419   117 Laps   +0.806
3. Sebastian Vettel        Red Bull RB8        1:19.297   96 Laps    +1.684
4. Lewis Hamilton          McLaren MP4-27      1:19.464   80 Laps    +1.851
5. Jean-Eric Vergne        Toro Rosso STR7     1:19.734   79 Laps    +2.121
6. Sergio Perez            Sauber C31          1:19.770   48 Laps    +2.157
7. Fernando Alonso         Ferrari F2012       1:20.412   67 Laps    +2.799
8. Bruno Senna             Williams FW34       1:21.293   125 Laps   +3.680
9. Giedo van der Garde     Caterham CT01       1:23.324   74 Laps    +5.711
10.Jules Bianchi           Force India VJM05   No time    3 Laps      N/A

2011 final driver rankings: 10th – 4th

This is the third article in a 4-part series, ranking all 28 drivers of the season. This section of the ranking covers drivers such as Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

10th – Paul di Resta

Di Resta has proven to be a surprisingly fast and reliable rookie

Di Resta has proven to be a surprisingly fast and reliable rookie

Previous ranking: 13th

Review from previous ranking: “Ragged drives have lost him points, but nevertheless a decent start to his F1 career for the Scot.”

It still amazes me that Paul di Resta is in only his first year in F1 – his form makes him look like an experienced veteran.

Aside from a few scrappy rookie errors, Di Resta has been incredibly reliable and solid for a rookie, amassing the most racing laps by any driver this year. He out-qualified teammate Adrian Sutil 9 times, and held this advantage 6 times in the races.

Force India later began to split their strategies between their two drivers, which resulted in a hit-and-miss second half for Di Resta. Despite this, many have been seriously impressed with the Scot’s mature attitude and confident driving this year.

The fact that he scored points in his first 2 races, as well as 6 of the last 9, spoke volumes.

9th – Adrian Sutil

Sutil performed well, but it wasn't enough

Sutil performed well, but it wasn't enough

Previous ranking: 15th

Review from previous ranking: “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.”

It’s both a blessing and a curse for teams to see their driver perform brilliantly while their contract is up for review. A blessing because it brings the results the team craves, a curse because the form rarely continues into the next season (see Toro Rosso).

Sutil found himself under huge pressure from rookie Di Resta, and delivered the goods fantastically in the second half of 2011. Taking season-best 6th places in home race Germany and Brazil were the highlights. It has been a complete turnaround from Germany only 2 years ago, when he bottled his first-ever points-scoring finish by clashing with Kimi Raikkonen.

He enjoyed a decent overall margin over Paul in both qualifying and the races, and rarely lost an opportunity when it was presented.

Adrian has proven himself to be much more reliable and mature than his previous driving indicated, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to retain his contract for 2012.

8th – Mark Webber

Webber tussled with the Pirelli tyres all year

Webber tussled with the Pirelli tyres all year

Previous ranking: 7th

Review from previous ranking: “Webber seems to be lacking in pace, and is at risk of being beaten (points-wise) by Alonso.”

After the end of one of his most disastrous seasons in Formula 1, it is a mystery as to how Mark Webber can pull his career around.

Webber has been completely annihilated by Sebastian Vettel in every single sector this year. While his German teammate finished in the top two 16 times, Mark could do the same only 3 times across the entire season.

He struggled massively at starts, couldn’t extract any performance from the Pirelli tyres in qualifying, and wore them out too quickly in the races. A solitary win in Brazil was barely deserved either – it was only because Vettel suffered gearbox issues.

His racecraft was hit-and-miss as well. His pass on Fernando Alonso in Spa was breathtaking, but he showed inability to adapt to the 2011 racing style in Korea, passing Lewis Hamilton just before a DRS zone, allowing the McLaren to sail past.

A charge through the field in China was fantastic to watch, but overall it was incredibly disappointing to see Webber toil with the Ferraris and McLarens rather than with his teammate.

7th – Sergio Perez

Perez is a completely different type of driver than other rookies

Perez is a completely different type of driver than other rookies

Previous ranking: 8th

Review from previous ranking: “Impressive pace has led many to praise Perez as rookie of the year.”

A crash in Monaco ruled out Perez when the Sauber car was at its best, but he has still done an immense job in his rookie year.

“Checo” made an immediate impact in F1 by scoring points on his debut, only to have them cruelly taken away after a minor technical infringement. A scrappy few races followed, particularly in China, where Sergio picked up two penalties after some questionable driving.

One of the things that has impressed me the most about Perez is his mature no-nonsense attitude. After his Monaco crash, he sensibly sat out the Canadian GP as well, after not feeling well in Friday practice. There are many drivers on the grid who would go into the Grand Prix regardless, putting themselves and their fellow drivers at risk. The fact that Perez reported side-effects from the crash up to 4 races later shows that his decision was the sensible one.

He was soon back to his best, taking a career-best 7th in Silverstone. He was vastly superior over Kamui Kobayashi in qualifying, and was very competent at adapting to the Pirelli tyres. The fact that he is already being lined up for a Ferrari drive is a signal of his prowess.

6th – Lewis Hamilton

Undoubtedly the worst season of Hamilton's career

Undoubtedly the worst season of Hamilton's career

Previous ranking: 4th

Review from previous review: “Hamilton needs to ease off at times, and learn which battles to fight and which to avoid.”

My prediction for Lewis Hamilton could not have been more wrong – it’s been an incredibly difficult year for the former world champion.

Needless clashes, spats with the stewards, tussling with a superior teammate, and apparent overwhelming personal issues all dogged Lewis in 2011. He hasn’t lost his racing ability, as shown by excellent driving in China, Spain and Germany. However, it was clear that Hamilton was surrounded by the wrong people.

The decision to hire a celebrity manager rather than a sporting one took its toll – Lewis was making 3 media/sponsor appearances every single day for a 3 week period at one point. His frustration took to the track, and several shunts with Felipe Massa in Monaco was just the beginning of a fracas that would last the entire season.

As well as the collisions with Massa, Monaco proved to be the worst race of the year. Hitting Pastor Maldonado near the end provoked another penalty from the stewards, and Lewis didn’t hold back in his criticism afterwards.

To make matters worse, the fact that Jenson Button had improved to become an increasingly competitive teammate proved calamitous. In Canada, relations were tense after the two collided in the treacherous conditions.

However, we must not forget that Lewis was still able to show his talents this year. He was completely deserving in every race he won, and pushed Vettel to the flag in Spain, where Red Bull have dominated so much in the past. Wonderful passes in China and Germany were a demonstration of how good a driver he is.

It’s absolutely certain that Hamilton has the pace to win championships, all he has to do is calm down. But that’s easier said than done.

5th – Michael Schumacher

A notable improvement from Schumacher this year

A notable improvement from Schumacher this year

Previous ranking: 10th

Review from previous ranking: “Further improvement this year would be the main aim for Schumacher.”

It’s been more than improvement for Schumacher – he has seriously upped his game, and pushed Nico Rosberg in nearly every way to the final race in Brazil.

Ending the season only 13 points behind Rosberg, it’s been an impressive year for Schumacher. He deserved a well-earned podium in Canada, only for an oversized DRS zone to rip it out of his hands.

Poor qualifying was his hindrance, but he frequently made it up in the races. Michael has set 116 overtakes this season, more than any other driver. Of course, this stat is skewed in the fact that Rosberg was unable to make up much places, while Schumacher would ascend from the depths of Q2, but it is still an impressive statistic.

It’s no secret that Schumacher’s side of the garage is 100% geared towards defeating Rosberg. There is apparently a growing tension in the team as both sides do their best to out-perform the other. It will be very interesting to see how the German duo battle it out in 2012, but much of it will hinge on the car.

4th – Nico Rosberg

Rosberg needs better machinery to show his potential

Rosberg needs better machinery to show his potential

Previous ranking: 5th

Review from previous ranking: “Consistently beating Schumacher will do his reputation a world of good.”

Another year, another lacklustre car at Rosberg’s disposal. It’s a wonder why he puts up with it.

While he was unable to completely dominate Schumacher in the points total, Rosberg completely out-classed his fellow German in qualifying pace. While Michael’s races were spattered with retirements, Nico has cleanly and consistently been taking points finishes by the truckload.

His points margin over Schumacher was reduced this year compared to 2010, but that was to be expected after a torrid campaign last time around from the 7-times champion.

Rosberg is completely capable of mixing it with the frontrunners whenever the opportunity arises, such as Spa or China. He has led quite a few Grands Prix, but the lack of pace from the W02 has constantly held him back from crossing the chequered flag first.

The start of next season will be similar to the start of 2011 – many will be looking to see does Mercedes deliver on its long-awaited frontrunning car. I’m also looking forward to that day – but mostly to see can Rosberg show what he’s really made of.

2011 mid-way driver rankings: 5 – 1

This is the final article in a 3-part review of the drivers’ performances so far this season.

5 – Nico Rosberg

Rosberg continues to lead Mercedes instead of Schumacher

Rosberg continues to lead Mercedes instead of Schumacher

Ranking in 2010: 6th

Review from 2010 ranking: “He never crashed on his own, only finished out of the points twice, and a brilliant qualifying in soaking conditions in Malaysia proved he has the talent when it counts most.”

Like 2010, Rosberg has never retired of his own accord. He drives as consistently as Nick Heidfeld, with the pace to match. It’s just a pity he still can’t race for wins.

Within firing range of Felipe Massa, Rosberg has the chance to finish in the top 6 for the first time – but this won’t be enough. Nico won’t rest until he gets a championship-winning car, and Mercedes doesn’t look up to the task.

With this in mind, a switch to Red Bull replacing Mark Webber could be on the cards. But what would Rosberg have to show for his performances so far? For one, he has trounced a 7-time world championship race after race for the past season and a half.

It’s not a move that’s out of the question – personally, I’d love to see it happen. But in the meantime, consistently beating Schumacher will do his reputation a world of good.

4 – Lewis Hamilton

A troubled year amid controversy for Hamilton

A troubled year amid controversy for Hamilton

Ranking in 2010: 5th

Review from 2010 ranking: “While Lewis showed good pace this year, he let himself down when he needed results most.”

Every year, we see a new improvement to who is undoubtedly a fantastically talented driver. Still, Lewis Hamilton’s reputation has taken a battering this year.

Outbursts against the press and the stewards have done him no good. Questionable driving in Monaco earned him stern words by past champions, to which he responded petulantly.

To make matters worse, the collision between him and Button in Canada has fractured what was a very good team relationship. Lewis’ anger at the team was also at boiling point last race, where it was revealed he wanted drastic reductions in the number of sponsor events in his next contract.

Perhaps this is too harsh on Hamilton. To be fair, he was doing 4 sponsor appearances every day for 2 weeks between Valencia and Britain.

Also, his spirited driving has not left him, as shown at Silverstone, where he wowed the crowd with a splendid comeback from 10th to 4th.

He is currently level with Button on points, but Lewis will never be satisfied being nearly 100 off Vettel.

You can be guaranteed some dramatic performances – good or bad – this season, and every one after. Despite this, Hamilton needs to ease off at times, and learn which battles to fight and which to avoid.

3 – Jenson Button

Button has improved in many sectors compared to 2010

Button has improved in many sectors compared to 2010

Ranking in 2010: 7th

Review from 2010 ranking: “The McLaren car was far better than what Button delivered, and this must be improved on for 2011.”

Aside from his retirement at Silverstone, Button has finished in the top 6 at every race so far. He has been stronger at McLaren than last year, where he constantly struggled for race pace.

Holding back slightly in Monaco may have cost him the race win, but his performance was still excellent. He produced one of the greatest drives in years in Canada, getting a taste of every single position, before scything through the field with blistering pace.

Strangely enough, his wet weather pace was rather poor in Britain, where he slipped behind Massa, Hamilton and Di Resta, before fighting back in the dry conditions.

Still, he has shown himself as a more complete driver this year, and unlike his teammate, shows restraint where necessary. Unfortunately, the title is probably well out of reach by now, but beating Hamilton in the standings would still be a good achievement.

2 – Fernando Alonso

Is Alonso the only man who can take down Vettel?

Is Alonso the only man who can take down Vettel?

Ranking in 2010: 3rd

Review from 2010 ranking: “Despite the controversies, Alonso is still a driver to be feared.”

Many were against Alonso last year, after Ferrari manipulated Massa to grant Fernando extra points. This year, no such controversy exists, as Fernando may well be the only driver with the skill to take down Vettel.

The Ferrari car has been inconsistent to say the least. Within 30 laps, Alonso went from leading the Spanish Grand Prix to being lapped, thanks to unpredictable behaviour on the hard tyres.

In the hands of a normal driver, this would be no car to challenge the championship with. However, Fernando is no ordinary driver. His fiercest enemies and rivals still fear him, and for good reason. Alonso has thrashed the Ferrari to its absolute max in the search for performance, and recently his endeavours have been rewarded.

When granted a sniff at victory in Britain, Alonso took it and ran, stretching out a 20-second lead to Vettel. At times, he was up to a second a lap faster than the Red Bull.

Still, a 92-point gap exists between Fernando and the championship leader. Don’t rule the Ferrari out, though. 2010 saw a similar situation, where, after Silverstone, he declared he would win the championship, despite a massive points deficit. We all know what happened next – he came perilously close to clinching the title – a defiant Renault standing in his way being the only obstacle.

It would be the stuff of legends if anyone were to still take the title fight to Vettel. But if there’s anyone on the grid who can do it – it will be Fernando Alonso.

1 – Sebastian Vettel

Clever and calculating - Vettel has managed his lead perfectly

Clever and calculating - Vettel has managed his lead perfectly

Ranking in 2010: 1st

Review from 2010 ranking: “I believe he truly is the best driver of 2010.”

It’s an accepted fact that drivers will always make a mistake. Jenson Button failed to see Lewis Hamilton in Canada, and squeezed him into the wall. Lewis made a badly judged move on Felipe Massa in Monaco. Fernando Alonso pushed Button too close to the kerbs in Canada, while Mark Webber has struggled for pace on occasions.

And Sebastian Vettel? He slipped wide and lost a place. That’s it.

That slip, of course, occurred on the final lap of the Canadian Grand Prix, costing him the win. But compared to the mistakes others have made, Vettel has proven himself as almost bulletproof in reliability.

In a complete contrast to 2010, clean, consistent and careful races are the order of the day. Never cracking under pressure, Sebastian has utilised the Red Bull’s searing pace to the maximum, slicing out an 80-point lead over his teammate.

Nearly utterly faultless all season, Sebastian is more complete a racing driver. With a favourable position in the team, the stage is set for back-to-back championships.

Or is it? Fernando Alonso took a valiant victory at Silverstone, and marked his return to the very top. With Ferrari pushing to surpass Red Bull, there may well still be a fight for the title.

In which case, Vettel’s mettle will be tested severely. Or, Alonso’s charge may fail to materialise, and Vettel may cruise to the title. Hopefully it will be the former, and we will see Sebastian’s true talent tested.

Barcelona Day 9: Heavy rain leaves Rosberg on top

Rosberg led a soaked final test session

Rosberg led a soaked final test session

The final day of 2011 testing closed rather unspectacularly, with very heavy rain limiting running all day. A slight improvement in conditions in the afternoon left Nico Rosberg on top.

The morning saw the track completely washed out. Extreme wet tyre testing would have been useless, so all 6 remaining teams (Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull, Williams, Mercedes, and Hispania stuck in the garage with no suspension parts) were waiting in the garage until just before the lunch break.

Fernando Alonso didn’t set a fast time, making 5 exploration laps in the afternoon, and the team packed up and left before the end of the session.

Michael Schumacher similarly only set 5 laps, but team-mate Rosberg set 35, getting lucky with the slightly improved conditions late in the session. His time of 1.43.814 was half a second faster than Pastor Maldonado. Lewis Hamilton was 2 tenths off in 3rd.

Despite getting little valuable data today, Rosberg was still happy with Mercedes’ progress:

"Definitely the team has made a lot of progress, so it has been great to see how much 
progress has come on," said Rosberg at the conclusion of testing on Saturday.

Of course we are not there yet, as we want to win the world championship and we are 
not the fastest car yet, but things are going in the right direction so that is really 
nice to see.

The theory says that it is going to be 0.4 seconds quicker, you put it on, generally 
there are very few issues with them and they are 0.4 seconds quicker. So that is nice 
to see."

Times from Barcelona Day 9:

Pos  Driver              Team               Time       Gap     Laps
 1.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes           1.43.814           35
 2.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Cosworth  1.44.333   0.519   23
 3.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes   1.44.560   0.746   33
 4.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes                              5
 5.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari                               5

Barcelona Day 3: Rosberg heads mixed session

Nico Rosberg headed a mostly wet session

Nico Rosberg headed a mostly wet session

Nico Rosberg unseated Sebastian Vettel off the top of the timesheets in Barcelona today, as the weather again made for unpredictable conditions.

Rain in the morning forced most teams to start on extreme wet tyres. The track dried out during the day, and the final few hours allowed slick the use of slick tyres.

Rosberg focused on KERS and tyre development today, as well as qualifying simulations. He was 3 tenths ahead of Vitaly Petrov, who completed work on a new suspension and exhaust layout.

Lewis Hamilton was 3rd, and was an entire second ahead of Pastor Maldonado in 4th. The Williams driver caused one of several red flags today, as he spun in the treacherous conditions.

Mark Webber was 5th, and Jarno Trulli 6th, as the Lotus suffered yet another water leak, limiting him to only 48 laps. Sergio Perez was another rookie to have  spin, and was delayed with rear wing problems, but still managed 7th.

Adrian Sutil was 8th. He led Sebastien Buemi, who shared his Toro Rosso with Daniel Ricciardo, who was back in 13th. Felipe Massa caused two red flags, ran off track several times, and finished a lacklustre 10th. Timo Glock was 0.09 seconds behind in 11th.

Hispania tested 2006 Midland test driver Giorgio Mandini today. He did 39 laps, and was 5 seconds off the pace in 12th. Narain Karthikeyan was last, 7.5 seconds off the pace.

Rosberg was happy with today’s progress:

"It was interesting running with the intermediates this morning and, although the 
warm-up is tricky, we definitely improved our understanding of the tyres. Our long 
runs this afternoon included some aero work in preparation for our next upgrade 
package before going into lower-fuel, new-tyre running at the end of the day. We 
made good progress in understanding the car and the tyres, and the reliability was 
solid once again."

Times from Barcelona Day 3:

Pos  Driver              Team                  Time       Gap       Laps
 1.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes              1.23.168             92
 2.  Vitaly Petrov       Renault               1.23.463   0.295     93
 3.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      1.23.858   0.690     93
 4.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Cosworth     1.24.815   1.647     60
 5.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      1.24.995   1.827     139
 6.  Jarno Trulli        Lotus-Renault         1.25.454   2.286     48
 7.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        1.25.557   2.389     115
 8.  Adrian Sutil        Force India-Mercedes  1.25.720   2.552     102
 9.  Sebastien Buemi     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1.26.155   2.987     31
10.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               1.26.508   3.340     123
11.  Timo Glock          Virgin-Cosworth       1.26.598   3.430     97
12.  Giorgio Mondini     Hispania-Cosworth     1.28.178   5.010     39
13.  Daniel Ricciardo    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1.28.329   5.161     42
14.  Narain Karthikeyan  Hispania-Cosworth     1.30.722   7.554     32

Rosberg leads Valencia Friday Practice 1

Nico Rosberg led the way in FP1 in Valencia

Nico Rosberg led the way in FP1 in Valencia

Nico Rosberg headed up the first practice session for the European Grand Prix in Valencia today. He lead the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. Test drivers Christian Klien and Paul di Resta also made an appearance in their HRT and Force India cars respectively.

Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault were all testing their new exhaust-driven diffusers, while Red Bull were testing their F-duct device again. after not running it in Canada.

In the first half of the session, the red flag was out, as Bruno Senna’s wing mirror came off his car, and was consequently hit by Sebastien Buemi and Heikki Kovalainen. The session was halted while the marshals cleared the debris off the track.

The track was very dusty, and therefore the times were quite slow, but it didn’t stop Rosberg topping the session with a 1.41.175.  The McLarens of Hamilton and Button were 0.16 and 0.2 seconds behind respectively. Robert Kubica did well to bring his Renault up to 4th, while Felipe Massa was an entire second behind the leaders in 5th.

The two Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber were 6th and 7th, then Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso were 8th and 9th. The two Williams cars of Barrichello and Hulkenberg were 10th and 11th. Vitaly Petrov was 12th, and Sebastien Buemi was 2.1 seconds behind Rosberg in 13th.

Vitantonio Liuzzi was 14th, with Pedro de la Rosa 15th. Paul di Resta was 16th, and only 0.06 seconds slower than Liuzzi. Kamui Kobayashi was 2.5 seconds back from the leaders in 17th, while Jaime Alguersuari was another 5 tenths slower in 18th, as the slowest of the midfield.

As expected, the Lotus of Kovalainen was the fastest of the new teams in 19th, only 3.3 seconds behind Rosberg. Timo Glock was 20th, albeit another 1.1 seconds back. Bruno Senna was another 1.5 seconds slower than that in 21st, and Jarno Trulli was 22nd. Christian Klien was 23rd, 2 tenths slower than his team-mate, despite setting only 14 laps. Lucas di Grassi filled the final spot on the timesheets.

After the dust cleared, tyre graining was the next problem. Lotus in particular was struggling with controlling the front left tyre’s wear. Jaime Alguersuari also said that his tyres were “destroyed”.

Times from FP1:

Ferrari fined, while Petrov, Di Grassi, Chandhok and Glock receive penalties

The FIA has handed out punishments to different drivers and teams, most of which were for gearbox-related incidents.

First of all, both Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi were given 5-place penalties, for Virgin failing to notify the FIA of the gearbox ratios they would be using within 2 hours of the end of Friday Practice. This means that Glock and Di Grassi will start 22nd and 23rd.

Next, Karun Chandhok and Vitaly Petrov also received 5-place grid penalties, this time for unscheduled gearbox changes. Vitaly Petrov changed his gearbox after his crash in Saturday morning practice, but it is unknown when Chandhok had his gearbox replaced. Either way, their gearboxes were supposed to last 4 races, so a 5-place grid penalty was inevitable.

Finally, Ferrari were fined $20,000 after qualifying, after Fernando Alonso was released unsafely into the path of Nico Rosberg. Nico was forced to brake sharply to avoid a collision, and nearly his his back left wheel against the pit wall in the process. The FIA concluded that the Ferrari mechanics failed to ensure that the coast was clear before releasing Alonso out of the garage.

You can view the FIA’s report on the two Virgin drivers here.

You can view the FIA’s report on the Alonso-Rosberg incident here.

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