Tag Archives: Spanish GP

Spanish Grand Prix preview

The flyaway Formula 1 races have concluded, so now the sport returns to Europe until Singapore in September (excluding Canada). The first of the European races this season is in Barcelona, Spain.

The track

Like China, I have voiced my dislike of this circuit, since it is very difficult to overtake here. It does, however, pose a challenge to both the drivers and the team. High g-force corners like Campsa (Turn 9) will be a tough test on the driver, while the entire track requires perfect aerodynamic setup, which will be difficult for the team.

Overtaking opportunities are slim here, but the bet option would be on the main straight. The final chicane, put in this track in 2007, has helped slightly improved chances of getting past an opponent on the long straight. Still, it is difficult to follow the car ahead around the rest of the track, so overtaking may remain a challenge this year.

Here is Mark Webber’s video of him talking us through a lap of the Spanish Grand Prix

Weather

There is little chance of rain in Barcelona this weekend. On Sunday, there is a 45% possibility of rain falling at some point within a 24-hour period, with a 70& chance of Friday. Those figures may seem very high, but don’t forget it’s referring to an entire 24-hour period, so the chances of it falling on a 1.5 hour slot in the middle of the afternoon is very low.

So, if it remains dry, air temperature will be 20C at highest, with track temperature quite higher. Wind speeds will be 6m/s, which may well pose a challenge at corners like Campsa. The cars will be very sensitive to wind speed at this corner, where the track inclines while turning right, so watch out for this over the weekend.

Tyres

Bridgestone will be supplying the hard and soft tyres, the same as last year. There were no particular problems with heavy tyre wear last year, but that could change. With the full fuel tanks at the start, and heavy aerodynamics providing lots of grip, the softer tyres could burn out quite quickly if they are used for the first stint.

Still, I’m expecting the teams to run the soft tyres first, for about 15 laps or so, then switch to the harder tyres for the rest of the race. An alternative strategy would be to run two stints on the soft tyre, then one on the hard at the end. This was attempted by Rubens Barrichello in Malaysia, but it dodn’t work. However, if a driver wanted consistently fast pace throughout the race, without worries of tyre wear, then Barcelona would definitely be the track to use this two-stop strategy.

The three new teams may try vastly different tactics, since their cars are probably lacking in downforce. This especially will apply to Lucas di Grassi, who won’t be able to make it to the flag, thanks to his fuel tank issue. Some of these 6 drivers may opt to take on two sets of soft tyres, like I said earlier, to keep up the grip levels on the car, and to stick to the cars ahead. If reliability doesn’t get in the way, then they would have to change to hard tyres for the final stint.

Otherwise, as long as it stays dry, there should be no other changes in strategy.

Drivers to watch

Sebastian Vettel – It has been acknowledged that Red Bull have the car to beat in Spain, so Vettel is obviously the man who I’m tipping for the win. The RB6 can consume 10kg less fuel than its rivals, which gives Vettel and Webber a huge advantage for the first stint. Also, as we have seen, their car is geared towards a balance of aerodynamic and mechanical grip, which perfectly suits this circuit. I would put Webber down on the list here, but I feel that Sebastian is just better on race day. Having said that, Mark coming second wouldn’t be a surprise at all.

Fernando Alonso – If anyone is to challenge the Red Bulls, it is certainly Alonso. First of all, this is his home circuit, always packed to the brim with his adoring fans, and Fernando always tries to keep them happy. Even with the underperforming Renault he had a few years back, he always tried his best at this track, and often did very well, such as running 5th in 2008, before a gearbox problem stopped him in his tracks. In fact, this circuit is really where he put his name on the map, back in 2003, when he chased Michael Schumacher all the way to the flag, and instantly created a new Spanish hero.

His Ferrari car should hold up well here as well. Their new F-duct system was tested by Giancarlo Fisichella a few days ago, and should be put on the car in time for the race. This will give them the advantage down the main straight, without crucially compromising them in the heavy-downforce corners of the track. Just don’t mention engine failures.

Vitaly Petrov – His Renault car has been pitched as better than the Mercedes, so there is no better place to prove this than in Barcelona. While Mercedes will be bringing an updated car, which they hope will fix the chronic understeer they have been suffering, I still think that Kubica and Petrov can beat Schumacher, though it remains to be seen about Rosberg.

Still, Vitaly has scored his first points in F1, so he should be getting up to speed fully in the next few races. I’m not expecting him to match Robert, but getting within a few places would be a good achievement.

Bruno Senna – Despite the famous name, he hasn’t thrashed Chandhok like I thought he might. While the HRT car has surely been holding him back, he needs to perform better if he is to prove himself, such as not being out-qualified by Karun. Lotus are still well in front, but I would be looking for Bruno to at leat challenge them this weekend.

Virgin to update only Glock’s car

Lucas di Grassi will have to settle for the earlier version of the VR-01

Lucas di Grassi will have to settle for the earlier version of the VR-01

Virgin have said that they have only been able to update Timo Glock’s VR-01, which features a larger fuel tank, in time for the Spanish Grand Prix next weekend.

This means that Lucas di Grassi will be forced to drive the older version of the Virgin car, with the undersized fuel tank. The team, however, blame the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic flight disruption for holding up their development programme:

"What should have been a useful three-week break in the calendar,
and an opportunity to ensure we are fully prepared for the European
season, turned into something of a race against time thanks to the
fallout from “The Volcano”. It took up to five days after the
Chinese Grand Prix before the entire team were back in England,
so we had to rush headlong into preparations for Spain.

The planned modifications to the chassis were always going to be
our most significant development, but they were also the tip of the
iceberg in terms of what we will bring to Barcelona. As a new team
we will be using new trucks and a new motorhome for the first time
and on top of that we moved into our new race preparation facility
while the team were stranded in China, so we certainly had a lot
going on for us when we finally made it home.

Nonetheless, the team have done an admirable job and we’ll be
heading to Spain this week full of optimism for the next phase of
our debut season."

“The designer of the car, Nick Wirth, added:

Since Shanghai, we have conducted an extensive investigation into 
the failures that halted the obvious progress the team has been 
making since its debut. That investigation has highlighted a number 
of issues that are currently being addressed by the race team, 
Wirth Research and our key suppliers and our continuing aim is 
to put an end to the reliability issues that have dominated our 
Grand Prix debut.

Having worked tirelessly to prepare the new car for the race, 
including its successful re-homologation, it is a bitter pill 
to swallow that we are unable to complete the second car due 
to the “volcanic delays”. Running two fundamentally different 
specification cars at Barcelona will certainly challenge the 
team, but as the reliability fixes apply to both specifications, 
we’ll keep our heads down and focus solely on getting both cars 
to the chequered flag."

It really is a shame that they can’t fully sort out their fuel tank issue yet, but I have to feel that the volcanic disruption is just an excuse for them not being able to make the changes in time themselves. Even after this, there may still be hydraulic problems with the car, so I’m not expecting a Virgin to get to the finish in Spain.

2009 flashback: Button’s strategy angers Barrichello

By this time last year, the entire paddock was well aware that the Brawn car was miles ahead of anyone else in every possible area. Jenson Button had won all of the dry races so far (3 out of 4 total), and was aiming for his fourth in Barcelona, Spain. However, he surprised many by saying after Bahrain that the car hadn’t the same pace, and that the others may have caught up to them. Rubens Barrichello had already falled 12 points behind his team-mate, so he was out on a mission to beat him this weekend.

There were plenty of technical changes before the weekend as well. Ferrari had designed a new double-decker diffuser, and reduced the weight of their cars, and decided to use KERS again, despite known reliabiliy issues with overheating of the unit. BMW Sauber had completely redone their car in an attempt to kick-start their season, with new nose, front wing, sidepods, rear wing, and lightened chassis.  They also ditched KERS, and did not implement their new double-decker diffuser just yet. Force India did not use KERS, but indicated that they may use it later in the season.

Rubens Barrichello takes the lead into the first corner

Rubens Barrichello takes the lead into the first corner

Jenson Button claimed another pole position, ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Barrichello. But, by the first corner, Rubens had made a great start and took the lead from Button. However, there was carnage behing. Nico Rosberg forced Jarno Trulli wide, who spun, and Adrian Sutil slammed into the Toyota, which quickly took out both Toro Rosso cars as well. Lewis Hamilton avoided the incident, but had to slow, and fell to the back of the grid.

Buemi and Sutil are some of the casualties from the first lap pile-up

Buemi and Sutil are some of the casualties from the first lap pile-up

After 4 laps under the safety car, the racing got underway. Soon enough though, Heikki Kovalainen was forced to retire due to a gearbox failure. Fernando Alonso attempted an overtake on Mark Webber on the main straight, giving the spectators a close-up thrill while he was at it, but Webber made a fantastic switchback move to rip the position out of the Spaniard’s hands. Kimi Raikkonen joined fellow Finn Kovalainen on the sidelines, as he retired with a hydraulic problem on Lap 17.

Very soon, it became apparent that Barrichello and Button were running 3-stop strategies, as they were running away with their 1-2 lead. Button, who was behind Barrichello, was following the Brazilian for the first stint, but felt he could go faster, saying: “Come on Rubens, you can go quicker than this.” The Brawn team decided to switch Jenson to a 2-stop strategy, to make sure he avoided traffic. They did not, however, apply the same tactic to Rubens, and after his first stop, became slightly held up, while Jenson was able to put his foot down. Since Barrichello was unable to put his strategy to the max, he lost the lead to Button at his second of 3 stops.

A change in strategy left Button free while Barrichello fell behind

A change in strategy left Button free while Barrichello fell behind

Further back, Sebastian Vettel was following Felipe Massa for the entire race, and was unable to pass thanks to the Ferrari’s KERS system. But, near the end of the race, he got a surprise gift. There had been a problem at Massa’s final pit stop, and he was one lap short of fuel. He was instructed to back off to save fuel instead of pitting again, and Vettel finally took the opportunity to move into 4th. However, even though Fernando Alonso was 16 seconds behind Massa with 4 laps to go, he was told to push. He gradually burnt out Felipe’s lead over him, and took fifth place on the final lap, to the delight of the crowd.

Button takes his fourth victory of the year

Button takes his fourth victory of the year

At the front of the pack, Button took his fourth victory of the year, with an incenced Barrichello 13 seconds behind in 2nd. Mark Webber took the final podium spot, with Vettel, Alonso, Massa, Heidfeld and Rosberg filling out the top 8. Heidfeld had now finished 25 races in a row, breaking Michael Schumacher’s previous record of 24. After this result, Button extended his lead at the top, while Red Bull overtook Toyota for 2nd place in the constructors championship. But, it wasn’t over yet.

Rubens Barrichello was annoyed that Jenson and he were given different strategies, and felt that Button was given the advantage because of it. While he was happy enough after being given an explanation from Ross Brawn, this argument would heat up later in the season.

Volcanic GP ends as F1 paddock back in Europe

The threat to the Spanish Grand Prix in two weeks time is now practically gone, as most of the F1 paddock have now returned to Europe. Only Sauber, FOM employees and a few other media people are still in Shanghai.

If you use Twitter, you would have learned of the Volcanic GP – a race to see who could get into Europe first. Jake Humphrey, Lee McKenzie and the 5Live crew were the first of the media crew back, while Sam Michael and Ross Brawn are the winners of the team personnel (Virgin were in front, but their cars ran out of fuel before the end! :P).  It is believed that Mark Webber was the first driver back, but he lost his passport, so we don’t know who won there. Jaime Alguersuari was so competitive that he went the opposite way to try and get back first! Whatever happens, it was great fun to follow this  Wacky Races spin-off!

Anyways, this means that there should be no threat of teams not getting to Barcelona in time. The cars are still in Shanghai, but they are being brought over by Bernie Ecclestone’s FOM’s cargo planes, which means they are not affected by the commercial plane flight ban. However, there will still be less time than the teams would want to work on the cars before Barcelona.

Air travel disruption puts teams in doubt

The volcanic ash that has brought European air travel to a complete halt this week is now putting doubt into the minds of the Formula 1 paddock, as they prepare to fly to their bases across Europe before the Spanish Grand Prix.

At the moment, most airports are closed across Europe, because the volcanic ash poses a danger to jet engines. At the moment, there is not a chance of the teams getting their cars and equipment to their team factories within the next day or so. The engines are the most important component to be flown back, as they need to be worked on before the next race.

With this in mind, the Formula 1 entourage is currently worried about getting back and prepared in time for the Spanish Grand Prix, which begins on Friday 7th May. However, Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is not worried, as he explains:

"The main concern is getting the engines back because they have
to be worked on.

I am sure everything will be all right. There is no question
of cancelling the Spanish Grand Prix. Of course it is causing
everybody problems but we will find a way to get everyone home."

While I’m not too worried either, there is a cause for concern at the same time. Presuming the teams will get their engines back to base within a week or so, it will then take a few days to work on the car at the factory. Then, the cars will have to be sent off to the Circuit de Catalunya a few days before Friday Practice. It should be done in time, as long as the airways are opened within the next week or so.

Update: One of the European airlines ran a successful test flight to Shanghai, so this is good news for the teams. There should be little worry after this.

Outboard mirror ban delayed until Spanish GP

Outboard wing mirrors, seen here on last year's Ferrari F60

Outboard wing mirrors, seen here on last year's Ferrari F60

The ban on outboard mirrors, which was supposed to come into effect by next race in China, has now been delayed until the Spanish Grand Prix, following complaints from the teams that there was not enough time to make the changes.

After several near misses and incidents in the Australian Grand Prix, which were caused by outboard wing mirrors, the FIA decided to notify the teams that the mirrors would have to be mounted on the cockpit side from the Chinese Grand Prix onwards. However, several teams have complained that they will not be able to do this in time, and so the ban has been delayed for 1 race.

It is understood that the drivers who were concerned about the outboard wing mirrors spoke to Charlie Whiting, FIA race director, who agreed to get the FIA to ban the devices. This ban may affect the performance of the top teams who use this device, such as Ferrari and Red Bull.

The only problem I have here is why the teams are complaining. Basically, they think that two weeks isn’t enough to move two wing mirrors to the inside of the cockpit, and they need four instead. Bloody hell, if it actually took a team more than 2 weeks to change mirrors, then they don’t deserve to be running in the Lada Cup, never mind F1. Of course, the only reason they want extra time is so that they can exploit this new rule in some other way. Don’t be surprised if the teams can find a way of sneaking bargeboards into their wing mirror design.

Bridgestone announce tyre compounds for next 4 races

Bridgestone tyres

Bridgestone tyres

Bridgestone have announced the tyre compounds that they will bring to the next 4 races after Australia and Malaysia.

For all of these 4 Grands Prix, there will be one compound step in between the two that are brought. In the cases of China, Spain and Turkey, Bridgestone will be supplying hard and soft compounds. However, for the first time, the cars in Monaco will use the medium tyres, as well as the super-softs.

Clearly by putting in a compound step, Bridgestone are trying to increase the difference in performance between the two tyres, and thereby improve the racing. The problem lies in that the harder of the two tyre compounds can mostly be used for a large portion of the race, without dangerous amounts of wear.

There are two main solutions here. One, suggested by many, is to make the harder tyres less durable, so there would be more of a variety in tyre strategy. This makes sense in theory, but it is a monumental waste of tyres when you consider that Bridgestone are trying to be environmentally friendly.

The other solution, one that I think would be much better, is to bring in the old 2005 rule of using one set of tyres for the entire race. This would significantly improve Formula 1′s environmental record, as well as clear up the problem of changes in car performance across the race because of tyre compounds. Of course, a pit stop would be available for an instance of extreme and dangerous tyre wear.

Here is the table for tyre compounds used already, and for the next few races:

Race 2009 compounds 2010 compounds
Bahrain Medium/Super-soft Medium/Super-soft
Australia Medium/Super-soft Hard/Soft
Malaysia Hard/Soft Hard/Soft
China Medium/Super-soft Hard/Soft
Spain Hard/Soft Hard/Soft
Monaco Medium/Super-soft Medium/Super-soft
Turkey Hard/Soft Hard/Soft

Lotus set for mid-February debut

Mike Gascoyne, with Tony Fernandes

Mike Gascoyne, with Tony Fernandes

The chief technical officer for Lotus, Mike Gascoyne, has confirmed that the team are a week ahead of schedule on their building of their car, and still making excellent progress.

When asked how the team were faring, he said:

“We had been looking at firing up our engine for the first time on 12th February, but with the efforts everyone’s been putting in we have now been able to bring that forward to 5th February. This is obviously a great boost for everyone involved in the team, and shows how much hard work has already gone in since we had our entry confirmed on September 12th.

“With the engine fire-up date now in the diary, we are also in a position to confirm that we will be on track for the first time at the third official test at Jerez from 17th February, and then at Barcelona from 25th February. We are also aiming to run chassis two for the last two days of that Barcelona test.”

Also, he announced that there would be a mojor upgrade on the car at the Spanish Grand Prix in May. He also revealed that the team were planning to be in the midfield after the first few races of the season.

He stated: ““We have said we are aiming to be ahead of the new teams when we all reach Bahrain, but we would also like to be pretty close to the midfield teams after the first few races of the season.

“The update we have planned for Spain will see a boost in performance when we reach Barcelona which will give us the chance to start fighting with the slowest of the established teams which, given progress so far, has to be the next goal for us.”

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