Tag Archives: Pastor Maldonado

2013 half-way driver rankings: 22nd – 14th

As I do every 6 months, I rank this year’s F1 drivers and their performances so far this season.

This first part will rank the drivers from 22nd place all the way up to 14th. Let’s start with a driver who has had more than a few moments of criticism:

22nd – Max Chilton

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

Perhaps it’s a little unfair to view Chilton as only a pay driver – some decent wins in GP2 confirm that he’s a competent driver, but at this level he is simply outperformed week after week.

In all instances where both Marussia cars finish a race, Max is beaten by Jules Bianchi on every occasion. He is more than half a second off his teammate in qualifying, and rarely shows any promise in the races.

It is extremely difficult for Caterham and Marussia drivers to show talent in their own little tussle at the back of the field, but it’s still clear that there are many drivers waiting in the wings that are better than Chilton.

21st – Esteban Gutierrez

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

Many fans were disappointed to see Kamui Kobayashi forced out of a Sauber drive, and weren’t any less pleased when they saw his replacement. So far, Esteban Gutierrez hasn’t shown a single commendable performance so far in his F1 career.

I don’t expect him to outperform Nico Hulkenberg on many occasions, but the only time he has done so – the Spanish Grand Prix – was when Hulkenberg was forced to pit six times. Aside from this, Esteban has failed to score a single point, and is almost a second slower in terms of qualifying lap times.

Considering how much Nico struggles in the 2013 Sauber, it is unlikely that we will see drastic improvement from Gutierrez any time soon. But that could call time on his F1 career rather quickly – Robin Frijns is threatening to break onto the F1 scene, and if he can amass some decent finance, Esteban will be out of a job before he knows it.

20th – Felipe Massa

Previous ranking: 8th

Previous quote: “In the last few races, Massa has been superb. 10 points-scoring finishes in a row is well deserved.”

Sometimes I feel that praising Massa is pointless – every time he performs well for a few weeks, he promptly falls off a cliff and crashes into anything solid for months to come. For Ferrari to hold onto him for 2014 would be a travesty for potential world champions across the F1 grid.

His two retirements this year have been not only his fault, but embarrassing to watch as well. After two similar shunts into the wall at Monaco, he somehow managed to spin away from the first corner at the Nurburgring, on only lap 4 of the race. Much like the other drivers at the back end of the rankings, he has failed to beat his teammate in a single race in 2013.

There is absolutely no reason for him to be retained at one of the top Formula 1 teams. There is a cavalcade of drivers – Hulkenberg, Riccardo, Perez, Sutil, Grosjean, Bottas, Bianchi, Frijns, Da Costa, Vandoorne – that would be able to perform a supporting role to Fernando Alonso better than what Felipe is currently doing.

It seems that both Massa and his dwindling number of supporters are still living in the past, convincing themselves that the 2008 season can be repeated. But the sport has moved on, and so should Ferrari.

19th – Giedo van der Garde

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

Faced with the unpopular stigma of bringing sponsorship money to secure his F1 drive, Giedo van der Garde has performed decently enough in a car miles off the midfield pace.

Qualifying an excellent 15th on the grid for Monaco, and finishing there, did his reputation no problems whatsoever. Another 14th-placed finish in Hungary is Caterham’s joint best finishing position so far in 2013. Having said that, his teammate Charles Pic certainly has the overall edge on the Dutchman. Pic has out-qualified and out-raced Giedo more often this year, and therefore Van der Garde is looking less likely to hold his seat into 2014.

Another few performances like Monaco would more than likely secure his drive for next year. But that’s easier said than done – the Caterham is increasingly slow compared to teams like Williams and Toro Rosso, and breaking into Q2 looks less and less likely after every race weekend. Van der Garde certainly has a challenge on his hands.

18th – Pastor Maldonado

Previous ranking: 15th

Previous quote: “A brilliant win in Spain was marred by needless collisions and constant penalties [later in 2012]. After that, a 9-race streak without points fuelled rumours that Pastor wasn’t fast without aggression.”

Aside from a spin in Melbourne, Pastor’s crashing record in 2013 is surprisingly clear. But unfortunately there isn’t much else to say about his year, as he’s struggling to hold off rookie teammate Valtteri Bottas.

A single points-scoring finish isn’t much to report about either, since it came from the late retirement of Nico Rosberg in Hungary. Compared to Bottas, their performances are relatively close – Maldonado is beaten in terms of qualifying positions, but certainly has the edge in the races.

Considering the massive paychecks that PDVSA are throwing at Williams every year, Maldonado’s drives aren’t exactly setting the world on fire. But they could do a lot worse in terms of driver-picking, and now that he seems to have settled down a little, an interesting fight with Bottas is on the cards for the rest of 2013.

17th – Charles Pic

Previous ranking: 16th

Previous quote: “Pic is definitely a driver to look out for in the future.”

Considering that his move from Marussia to Caterham looks increasingly like a sideways step, Charles Pic hasn’t done too bad a job in 2013.

More often than not, he leads Giedo van der Garde in qualifying and races, and has a decent 14th-placed finish in Malaysia as well. There’s not too much to be said after that – Pic and Van der Garde can only drive so well with such a slow car. Still, Pic certainly deserves to be retained for 2014, if he can keep up his current form.

16th – Jules Bianchi

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

After cutting short Luiz Razia’s 0-race F1 career out of sheer luck, Jules Bianchi has performed superbly well in 2013 with the sub-par machinery he is dealt with.

As expected, he has crushed Max Chilton in every qualifying session and race where possible. A 13th-placed finish in Malaysia is Marussia’s best finish of 2013, and is even able to out-drive Giedo van der Garde when the car lets him.

Such is his commendable performances that Ferrari are eyeing him up, not for a jump to the Scuderia just yet, but to have him mature in a midfield team before having him possibly partner Fernando Alonso. In fact, Bianchi’s drives this year are almost comparable to Alonso’s year with Minardi in 2001. All Jules needs is a brilliant performance in Suzuka, and his career’s all set to take off.

15th – Valtteri Bottas

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

As much as I was pleased by his excellent qualifying in Canada, there haven’t been many other brilliant drives from Valtteri Bottas so far this year. But when you consider he’s only 10 races into his Formula 1 career, his out-driving of Pastor Maldonado is all the more impressive.

Taking 3rd on the Canadian Grand Prix grid, only behind Vettel and Hamilton, cannot be understated. Unfortunately, the Williams car gave him no pace that Sunday, and not a single point has been earned by the young Finn so far in 2013. Much of it is down to the car, as seen by Maldonado only scraping a single point out of good luck in Hungary.

The question is how much more Bottas can improve before hitting the limit of the Williams team. It remains to be seen how much the Fw35 can improve over the summer break, and this may make or break Valtteri’s 2013 campaign. Despite what many would like to believe, drivers can only do so much when they are held back by sub-par machinery.

But at the very least, Bottas has been a competent and superior replacement to Bruno Senna. That much is enough to earn him praise.

14th – Romain Grosjean

Previous ranking: 14th

Previous quote: “Three decent podiums, as well as nearly winning a race, shows that he is talented enough to mix it at the front. The issue is whether he has the confidence to do that any more.”

I’d have loved to be able to praise Grosjean’s excellent Hungarian Grand Prix win, laud him as a future world champion, and leave it at that. Unfortunately, this is Romain Grosjean, and a screw-up was almost mandatory. After botching a probable win, Romain has some serious explaining to do if he is to remain at Lotus for 2013.

There’s no doubt that Romain hasn’t shaken off the “crash kid” stigma just yet. A needless clash with Jenson Button in Hungary showed that after almost three years in F1, he still hasn’t learned the dimensions of his own car, never mind how to navigate it around someone else’s. With someone like Kimi Raikkonen as a teammate, Lotus need to sit back and judge whether having someone like Grosjean as a teammate is even necessary. While the Finn has 134 points to his name, Romain has only 49, as a result of his own incompetentness.

He has extremely good pace when he’s on form, we already know this. Both the Bahrain and German Grands Prix saw calculated, cool driving from the Frenchman, and combined with some searing pace from the Lotus E21, earned him two well-deserved podiums. But his atrocious spatial awareness does his reputation no good whatsoever – just look at his hilariously bad Monaco Grand Prix weekend to see what I’m on about.

Yes, he’s a fast driver, but that means absolutely nothing without the mental capacity to not bin the car every second race. As I said before, Lotus need to have a good long think about whether a driver like Grosjean is required for a team that’s aiming for consistent finishes and the constructor’s championship.

Valtteri Bottas to replace Bruno Senna at Williams

Valtteri Bottas will drive alongside Pastor Maldonado at Williams for the 2013 F1 season.

This means that Bruno Senna is out of a race seat for next year. Senna handed over his car 15 times during practice sessions this year to Bottas – a clear indicator that this move was always going to happen.

Valtteri is the second rookie driver to join the F1 paddock for 2013, as Esteban Gutierrez has already been confirmed at Sauber.

Bottas has previously won the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, the 2009 and 2010 Masters of Formula 3 races, and the 2011 GP3 series.

While all drivers concerned stated their usual PR quotes as expected, Bruno Senna has some interesting words to say about his sacking:

"Since the beginning of my program with Williams I accepted that I had to share 
the car with Valtteri Bottas in 15 Fridays as a part of his preparation for a 
likely debut in 2013.
It has been extremely satisfying to be the teams most regular point scorer and for 
me to demonstrate my pace in all 20 races."

 

Maldonado penalised for impeding Hulkenberg in Q1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Maldonado leads another rainy session in Germany

Maldonado made the most out of limited dry running

Maldonado made the most out of limited dry running

Pastor Maldonado surprisingly topped the timesheets for second practice for the German Grand Prix, but the session was again disrupted by rain, even heavier than that in FP1.

Michael Schumacher suffered the worst luck, crashing out with four minutes to go in the session. He languished in 23rd, having not set a time in the dryer conditions earlier on.

In the opening stages, only Bruno Senna went out on track, to assess his repaired car after Valtterri Bottas crashed his Williams in first practice.

As conditions improved, the Ferrari drivers and Romain Grosjean traded fastest laps at the top of the timesheets. While it momentarily appeared as if the track would be dry, rain quickly poured again, ruining all chances of car development for the teams.

As well as Schumacher, Daniel Ricciardo was also caught out in the tricky conditions, running wide and getting stuck in the gravel at turn 13.

Times from FP2:

 1.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault      1:27.476           14
 2.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1:27.564  +0.088   24
 3.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1:27.902  +0.426   24
 4.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        1:28.402  +0.926   26
 5.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault         1:28.420  +0.944   20
 6.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes  1:28.495  +1.019   22
 7.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:28.513  +1.037   23
 8.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1:28.516  +1.040   16
 9.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1:28.877  +1.401   21
10.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault         1:29.327  +1.851   22
11.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:29.364  +1.888   26
12.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1:29.719  +2.243   15
13.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1:29.785  +2.309   24
14.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth     1:30.090  +2.614   19
15.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth     1:30.220  +2.744   16
16.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault      1:30.291  +2.815   22
17.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault      1:30.331  +2.855   26
18.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1:30.437  +2.961   14
19.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1:30.617  +3.141   16
20.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1:31.207  +3.731   20
21.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault      1:32.241  +4.765   22
22.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth          1:32.349  +4.873   17
23.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1:32.777  +5.301   18
24.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth          1:42.566  +15.090   8

Maldonado, Kobayashi and Vergne penalised for incidents

Pastor Maldonado, Jean-Eric Vergne and Kamui Kobayashi have been punished by the race stewards for causing collisions during the European Grand Prix.

Maldonado was handed a 20-second time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Lewis Hamilton with two laps to go.

Pastor left the track in a battle with the position, but immediately returned to the track, and harpooned the McLaren into the tyre barriers. Because of the clash, he fell from 3rd to 10th. This penalty demotes him to 12th, and promotes teammate Senna into the final points-scoring position.

Jean-Eric Vergne clashed with Heikki Kovalainen, bringing out the safety car in the process. Despite the Frenchman classifying the crash as a “racing incident”, he was handed a 10-place grid penalty for Silverstone, and a $25,000 fine.

Kamui Kobayashi clipped Felipe Massa’s Ferrari and pushed him off the racing line. Massa was left with a puncture, and Kamui suffered front wing damage. He was handed a 5-place grid penalty for Silverstone.

Maldonado ahead in Valencia first practice

Pastor Maldonado was marginally fastest in first practice

Pastor Maldonado was marginally fastest in first practice

Pastor Maldonado gave an indicator of Williams’ returning pace, as he topped the timesheets for Friday Practice 1 in Valencia.

Both Red Bull drivers were within a tenth of Maldonado by the end of the session, with Sebastian Vettel pipping Mark Webber by 0.011 seconds.

The field was incredibly bunched up, even by 2012 standards, as the top 8 drivers were separated by 3 tenths of a second.

Jenson Button showed he may be getting on top of his tyre issues, finishing 4th, and only a tenth off Maldonado. Despite being tipped to shine this weekend, the Lotus drivers were 10th and 11th.

Heikki Kovalainen continued to make progress for Caterham, finishing ahead of both Toro Rossos and was only a tenth of Valtteri Bottas for Williams.

Pedro de la Rosa’s DRS jammed open during FP1, similarly to Michael Schumacher’s incident in Canada.

Times from FP1:

 1.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault      1:40.890           22
 2.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1:40.973  +0.083   21
 3.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1:40.984  +0.094   19
 4.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1:40.994  +0.104   19
 5.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1:41.065  +0.175   26
 6.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1:41.105  +0.215   15
 7.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1:41.117  +0.227   22
 8.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1:41.158  +0.268   18
 9.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1:41.182  +0.292   21
10.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault         1:41.620  +0.730   21
11.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault         1:41.784  +0.894   15
12.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1:41.838  +0.948   19
13.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        1:41.861  +0.971   16
14.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1:42.109  +1.219   20
15.  Jules Bianchi         Force India-Mercedes  1:42.175  +1.285   21
16.  Valtteri Bottas       Williams-Renault      1:42.299  +1.409   24
17.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault      1:42.442  +1.552   26
18.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:42.758  +1.868   26
19.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:42.777  +1.887   28
20.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault      1:43.209  +2.319   19
21.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth     1:44.173  +3.283   18
22.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth          1:44.996  +4.106   15
23.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth          1:45.120  +4.230   23
24.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth     1:45.338  +4.448    7

Monaco GP analysis: Historic season can only get even better

With 6 different winners in 6 different races, we have never before seen such a varied an unpredictable grid. Every race, there are 7 or 8 drivers in with a chance of winning, and nearly as many are in the battle for the championship.

This time last year, we were already becoming certain who was running away with the title. In 2012 however, there is no doubt that it is shaping up to be one of the closest seasons in history.

Heroes to zeroes, and vice-versa

For Felipe Massa, criticism is due where it’s due, but praise equally so. Under massive pressure from the Scuderia after a dismal start, the Brazilian impressed by keeping Fernando Alonso honest on the streets of Monaco.

His pace may have been complimented by Alonso’s conservative driving, but it is still a massive improvement from what we have seen so far.

It’s clear what Ferrari want from him – good, but not great, performances. A driver who can pick up points where Alonso slips, but is otherwise content to finish 5th or 6th. A few more races like Monaco, and Felipe’s season will be back on track.

Pastor Maldonado, meanwhile, has completely wiped out his form from Spain. A thug-like swipe at Sergio Perez in practice left him near the back of the grid, then the Williams driver punted Pedro de la Rosa at the start, ending his race.

It’s hard to imagine that the same driver took the top step of the podium only two weeks ago.

Reputation is a fragile thing in Formula 1, and Pastor may have gone and thrown his away with a single burst of anger. Like the BBC F1 crew commented, to use your car as a weapon is nothing less than disgraceful. After years of safety campaigning, the FIA has thrown it away by allowing such reckless behaviour to go on.

McLaren continue to throw away valuable points

Yet another shocking race for the McLaren team

Yet another shocking race for the McLaren team

Only a quarter of the way into the season, and it is clear that even single points are precious for the frontrunners. With a single race win covering the top 5, the title race could go to the wire.

In such circumstances, McLaren’s dismal form makes them stand out even more. Starting the season with one of the fastest cars, repeated mistakes and slip-ups have cost the team in nearly every race.

Monaco was no exception – Lewis Hamilton was livid after his team lost him a place in the pit stops. He was not informed of Sebastian Vettel’s searing pace up front, and subsequently dropped behind the Red Bull. He claimed afterwards that he could have pushed and stayed ahead, if he was told the information.

He has gone on and stated: “We haven’t had a grand prix weekend where something hasn’t gone wrong” which pretty much sums it up for McLaren.

While Jenson Button’s failures this weekend were largely his fault, Hamilton was frustrated by everything around him, and suffered as a result. It’s so early into the season, and the title may already be slipping away.

Meanwhile, at Sauber…

Just another normal start for Kamui Kobayashi

Just another normal start for Kamui Kobayashi

At the start of the Monaco GP, replays showed Kamui Kobayashi having a more frenzied start than usual. After being clipped by a flailing Romain Grosjean, the Sauber was launched into the air, before bouncing back onto the tarmac, nearly knocking Jenson Button into the barriers in the process.

The replays made it seem spectacular, but the photo attached even more so. That alone was why this extra section was added!

Maldonado handed penalty for deliberate crash

Maldonado swerved into the side of Perez to cause a deliberate crash

Maldonado swerved into the side of Perez to cause a deliberate crash

Pastor Maldonado has been docked 10 places on the grid for the Monaco Grand Prix.

The newest F1 race winner caused a deliberate crash in Saturday practice with Sergio Perez.

As Perez moved off the racing line to allow Pastor past, the Williams driver swerved and slammed into the side of the Sauber, causing damage to both cars. Maldonado crashed several corners later.

After a similar incident in Spa last year with Lewis Hamilton, the stewards have again punished Pastor for another needless crash.

This all but certainly rules him out of challenging for the win on Sunday.

 

Maldonado takes stunning first victory in Barcelona

Pastor Maldonado has taken his debut victory in Formula 1, holding off a spirited Fernando Alonso throughout the day. Kimi Raikkonen had a late charge to finish 3rd, while Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel had eventful recoveries. Here is what happened:

Alonso pushes past Maldonado at the start

Alonso pushes past Maldonado at the start

At the start, Alonso slipped ahead of Maldonado, while Nico Rosberg split the two Lotuses. Sergio Perez fell to the back with a puncture, while Lewis Hamilton began his recovery drive from 24th.

Felipe Massa had an impressive start, leaping up to 11th, while Charles Pic spun and fell to 23rd.

Alonso begun to eke out a gap between him and the Williams, but soon reported that his front and right left tyres were beginning to degrade. This fear was confirmed on lap 7, when Mark Webber was the first to make a pit stop. A switch to the harder tyre confirmed that the Red Bull was opting for longer stints.

His teammate Vettel did a similar move a lap later. A flurry of cars, including most of the frontrunners, chose to follow this strategy, all stopping on lap 10.

Schumacher harpoons Senna, and both cars are out

Schumacher harpoons Senna, and both cars are out

Hamilton did not stop, and was momentarily up to 4th until the order calmed down. His strategy nearly paid off massively – a safety car was almost called on an incident at turn 1 between Bruno Senna and Michael Schumacher. Defending into the first corner, Senna braked earlier on old tyres, and the Mercedes slammed into the Brazilian, taking both cars out on the spot.

Lewis pitted on lap 15, but another near miss at his pit stop caused a few fears in the garage. As he exited the pits, the McLaren hit off the older tyre, and Hamilton was delayed by several seconds.

Mark Webber had another early stop – this time for a front wing change. He dropped down to 17th place, while Hamilton recovered up to 12th. His next challenge was a familiar one, the Ferrari of Felipe Massa. They tussled for a few laps, before both Massa and Sebastian Vettel were handed drive-through penalties for ignoring yellow flags.

Vergne and Ricciardo tussle, and will soon be passed by Hamilton

Vergne and Ricciardo tussle, and will soon be passed by Hamilton

Maldonado’s second stop came several laps before Alonso’s, and it paid off. The Williams inherited the lead at the second set of stops, holding a 6 second lead over the Ferrari.

The battle for 6th began to materialise, with Nico Rosberg holding up Jenson Button, and Kamui Kobayashi keeping his distance. After several failed moves by Button, Kobayashi lost patience, and dived down the inside of Jenson, and took Rosberg’s position a lap later.

Hamilton’s comeback soon began to slow down, but by no means was over. Approaching the two Toro Rossos, Lewis sweeped around both rookies in several corners, and was up to 10th.

Maldonado pitted for the 3rd time, but disaster struck. A slow wheel change reduced his lead to 3 seconds, and soon he came under fierce pressure from Alonso. Back in 3rd, Kimi Raikkonen held back until the final 10 laps, then began blasting away the 15 second gap – by over a second a lap.

Back in 8th, Sebastian Vettel put a brave move on Jenson Button, outbraking the McLaren on the back straight. Within a few laps, he had caught up to Hamilton, and used DRS to sail past. Another lap later, Rosberg was passed at Campsa corner, leaving the Red Bull back up to 6th.

Maldonado is crowned a race winner

Maldonado is crowned a race winner

Raikkonen’s charge fell just short, leaving Pastor Maldonado clear to take his first ever victory in Formula 1, and the first for Williams since 2004.

Fernando Alonso held off Kimi by 0.6 seconds, with teammate Grosjean in 4th. Kamui Kobayashi was an excellent 5th, and Sebastian Vettel remains on top of the driver’s championship with his 6th place. Nico Rosberg was 7th, the McLarens 8th and 9th, and Nico Hulkenberg 10th.

It was an incredible drive from the Venezuelan, who withstood massive pressure throughout the race, and continued on despite a few scares. Alonso and Raikkonen did well, but today truly belongs to Pastor Maldonado.

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