Monthly Archives: September 2010

Alonso revives title challenge with win at Monza

Fernando Alonso took the victory today the the Italian Grand Prix, to revive a title challenge that many had thought had already disappeared. He lost the lead to Jenson Button at the first corner, but kept the pressure on throughout, and his patience was rewarded by jumping the McLaren in the pit stops.

While Button led most of the race, he succumbed to Alonso’s charge on Lap 40, and was 2nd. Felipe Massa was close behind in 3rd, but never really made a move. However, Lewis Hamilton retired on the first lap after collision damage with Massa. The Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber were 4th and 6th.

At the start, Alonso was sluggish, and was caught out by the McLaren. At the first chicane, both cars got too close, and Fernando clipped the back of Button, taking a very small amount out of the undertray. At the second chicane, Hamilton tried to dive down the inside of Massa, but broke the left front wheel and steering, and understeered into the gravel trap at the Lesmos corners.

Hamilton’s only consolation was that his main title rival, Mark Webber, fell to 9th on the first lap. On the other hand, Nico Rosberg made a great start, and leaped up to 4th.

The top 3 started to move away, while Rosberg led Robert Kubica, Nico Hulkenberg and Sebastian Vettel. The Force India of Adrian Sutil was caught up in the first lap melee, and ran into the gravel trap, emerging in 22nd. He pitted instantly and changed to the harder tyre for the rest of the race.

The only other car who joined Hamilton on the sidelines was Kamui Kobayashi, who suffered more gearbox problems which had caused him to start from the pit lane. He was joined later on by Bruno Senna.

While Alonso hounded Button, Vettel was complaining of an engine problem with his Red Bull. He lost control of his 7th place, and fell behind Webber and Michael Schumacher. However, after a few laps of the Renault engine mechanics trying out a few different settings, the engine healed and Vettel began to set fastest laps. The problem was later diagnosed as electrical.

As opposed the the normal race strategy, the softer tyres were lasting much longer than expected, which allowed the first stint to be extended into around Lap 35. While Robert Kubica pitted on Lap 34, there wasn’t much of a performance difference on those tyres, so both McLaren and Ferrari opted to lengthen their soft tyre stint for as long as possible.

Sakon Yamamoto pitted on Lap 30, but a nasty incident occurred. While one of his mechanics was working on the radio transmitter behind his helmet, which was apparently broken, the lollipop man released the car, and Sakon drove off, running over the mechanic while he was at it. An ambulance had to be deployed, which closed the pit lane for two laps.

In the battle for the lead, Button blinked first, and pitted on Lap 35. Ferrari reacted within a minute, pitting Alonso and then Massa one lap later. A faster pit stop, combined with better pace from Fernando, allowed Alonso to take the lead from Button, and Massa remained in 3rd.

Sebastian Vettel, who had fallen back after his engine trouble, decided on a new strategy. He stayed on his soft tyres until the final lap, a choice that was mimicked by Vitaly Petrov, then pitted to change to the harder tyre. This allowed him to leapfrog Hulkenberg, Kubica, Webber and Rosberg to take 4th place. Petrov wasn’t so successful, falling back to 13th.

His team-mate Webber was furious after being held up for a lot of the race by Nico Hulkenberg, who cut chicanes on three separate occasions. While he gained an advantage or not can be debated, but it prompted Webber to complain to the stewards. However, they believed that Hulkenberg did not gain an advantage, so Mark was forced to make the move on track with 3 laps to go.

Further back, Schumacher had a solid race in 9th, while Rubens Barrichello struggled in 10th. Sebastien Buemi was within one second of a points-scoring position, while Vitantonio Liuzzi was 12th. Adrian Sutil’s strategy only got him 16th place, while Timo Glock was the best of the new teams in 17th, while Jarno Trulli and Lucas di Grassi retired.

Alonso was unchallenged after the stops, and won the Grand Prix 3 seconds ahead of Button, who held off Massa until the end. Like yesterday, it was an almost-perfect result for the Tifosi, with Alonso leaping back into the title hunt, now 1 point ahead of Button and only 21 shy of Webber, who retook the lead off Hamilton.

There are now only 25 points, or a single win, separating the top 5, and it will be a fantastic battle into the final 5 flyaway races. The standings are updated and available here.

Alonso storms to pole at Monza

Fernando Alonso took pole position for the Italian Grand Prix, ahead of Jenson Button. Felipe Massa was third, and Mark Webber 4th. Sebastian Vettel was back in 6th. Here is the full report:

Felipe Massa, with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button after qualifying

Felipe Massa, with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button after qualifying

Q1

While Timo Glock went out at the start, all of the other cars remained on the grid. But, by the time he had reached the first corner on his flying lap, he was blocked by Vitaly Petrov leaving the pits, leaving the Russian in danger of a penalty. Lewis Hamilton was the first top driver to go out, but was again blocked by Sakon Yamamoto.

Jenson Button suffered no such problems, setting a 1.23.6. Rubens Barrichello got within a few hundreths, but both were soon beaten by Felipe Massa, who was then promptly knocked back by Fernando Alonso, and then by Hamilton. The two Red Bulls were struggling, with Vettel and Webber 8th and 9th.

Fernando Alonso, knowing he needs a good result this weekend, soon took the fastest lap. His team-mate, Massa, soon topped that by a quarter of a second. Meanwhile, Adrian Sutil, who would have been expecting to get into the top 10, was only 11th, while Vitantonio Liuzzi was struggling in the dropout zone. Even worse, there was a problem with the car, meaning he couldn’t set a new time, leaving him out of Q1.

Sebastien Buemi, sitting in 17th and in danger of being knocked out, improved to 13th. Further back, Jarno Trulli managed to get ahead of Liuzzi into 18th place.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Jarno Trulli

19) Heikki Kovalainen

20) Vitantonio Liuzzi

21) Timo Glock

22) Lucas di Grassi

23) Bruno Senna

24) Sakon Yamamoto

Q2

Unlike Q1, many cars went out at the beginning. The thing to note was the tyres, as all of the top drivers apart from Lewis Hamilton stayed on the harder tyres. This would be hinting at Hamilton running a different strategy for the race. Alonso’s first lap of 1.22.7 set the benchmark.

However, Hamilton went straight into the 1.24.4 zone. Alonso soon went 2 tenths faster, while the Red Bulls continued to fall behind in 7th and 8th. In fact, they were so slow that Nico Rosberg soon edged out Vettel for 8th. He soon improved to 4th, but still well down on the Ferraris and Hamilton.

Rubens Barrichello soon got into the top 10, while Jenson Button went 4th. Kamui Kobayashi, struggling with the car, only got 13th. Adrian Sutil knocked Rubens out to take 10th. However, once Barrichello reclimed 10th, Sutil was stuck in 11th.

Michael Schumacher messed up his final 2 runs, leaving him 12th. At the last second, Jenson Button got within a few hundreths of Alonso at the front.

Drivers knocked out of Q2:

11) Adrian Sutil

12) Michael Schumacher

13) Kamui Kobayashi

14) Sebastien Buemi

15) Vitaly Petrov

16) Jaime Alguersuari

17) Pedro de la Rosa

Q3

Within the first few seconds, both McLarens, Ferraris and Robert Kubica went out. Felipe Massa went fastest first, before team-mate Alonso blasted his way into the 1.21 mark. Lewis Hamilton struggled and could only manage 4th, while Webber and Kubica were 5th and 6th.

Jenson Button, who held back at the start, went into 2nd. While most of the frontrunners pitted, Massa stayed out and took advantage of the empty track. While he set personal best sectors, he stayed 3rd. With only 4 minutes to go, both Williams cars and Rosberg went out.

While Hulkenberg was 8th, Barrichello made a mistake and cut the first corner. At the final set of runs, Button and Massa set personal bests, but could only manage 2nd and 3rd. Mark Webber got 4th, and Hamilton didn’t improve on his time, leaving Fernando Alonso on pole position.

This was the best possible result for the Tifosi, and it was only the second time this year that a Red Bull has not been on pole position. It is also the first time since Italy 2009 that a Red Bull was not on the front row. Also, it was the first time this year that Jenson Button was on the front row.

Full times from qualifying:

Pos.
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1′22.646 1′22.297 1′21.962
2 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1′23.085 1′22.354 1′22.084
3 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1′22.421 1′22.610 1′22.293
4 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1′23.431 1′22.706 1′22.433
5 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1′22.830 1′22.394 1′22.623
6 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1′23.235 1′22.701 1′22.675
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1′23.529 1′23.055 1′23.027
8 Nico Hülkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1′23.516 1′22.989 1′23.037
9 Robert Kubica Renault 1′23.234 1′22.880 1′23.039
10 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1′23.695 1′23.142 1′23.328
11 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1′23.493 1′23.199
12 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1′23.840 1′23.388
13 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1′24.273 1′23.659
14 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1′23.744 1′23.681
15 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1′24.086 1′23.819
16 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1′24.083 1′23.919
17 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1′24.442 1′24.044
18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1′25.540
19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1′25.742
20 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1′25.774
21 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1′25.974
22 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1′26.847
23 Sakon Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1′27.020
24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1′25.934

Ferrari decision revealed: WMSC ignores recommendations, Todt says: “Not enough evidence”

The reasoning of the World Motor Sport Council letting Ferrari off with charges of team orders has been explained today, and it’s not a pretty sight. The WMSC ignored a reccomendation from the Reporter (investigator) to penalise Fernando Alonso, while Jean Todt claimed there was “not enough evidence”.

Lars Osterlind, one of the top names of the FIA since Max Mosley took over years ago, and tipped for Presidency in the future (currently Vice-President), was appointed as the Reporter for this case. Put simply, he was in charge of investigating every single aspect of the team orders case, and he showed the WMSC some truly damning evidence to incriminate Ferrari.

For example, he found out that both drivers, before the team order, were instructed to turn their engines down, presumably to save fuel or the engine. However, Lars found that Alonso soon turned up the revs on his car “without Mr. Massa being informed. Mr Fernando Alonso was therefore benefiting from a definite performance advantage over Mr Felipe Massa in the moments preceding the contentious overtaking.”

He then went on to explain why the ethics of sport were broken:

“Motor racing ought to be unpredictable, as it has been to
date. Part of that competitive element is to take equal
interest in all competitors. Irrespective of their fitness,
talent or position in the race, competitors should be able
to rely on themselves for purposes of winning the race
without any form of external aid influencing their sporting
performance.”

He presented his full findings in a 160-page document, and gave it to the World Motor Sport Council. The FIA acknowledged that Ferrari had interfered with the race, but refused to increase the penalty, stating:

"There were many examples of what could have been said to be 
team orders in Formula 1 in recent years, and therefore there 
has been inconsistency in its application.

Also its application to indirect team orders via messages 
where drivers raise no complaints is uncertain and difficult 
to detect and police."

They even admitted that rules 39.1 (no team orders) and 151.c (bringing the sport into disrepute) were broken, but still found no reason to full prove that Ferrari’s messages directly interfered with he race, rather Felipe Massa made a “decision based on the evidence presented” to him by the team.

Ferrari claimed that “team orders were different from team strategy”, meaning that there would be a difference between a “supply of information or a request for what a team would like a driver to do” and direct orders.

The WMSC also noted that they had received letters of support for Ferrari from Frank Williams and Peter Sauber, heads of the Williams and Sauber teams.

Meanwhile, FIA president Jean Todt claimed that there was “not enough evidence” to fully prove Ferrari’s guilt. Seeing as he was in charge of Ferrari during the biggest team order scandals in F1, why are we not surprised?

Really, this is a scandalous day for Formula 1. This completely undermines the team orders ban, and will almost certainly destroy the championship battle in terms of team-mates racing each other. Ferrari, the FIA, and the WMSC should hang their heads in shame.

2011 F1 calendar revealed, Brazil now season finale

The FIA have announced the full race calendar for the 2011 season, and it is the longest ever, with 20 races overall. This is due to the additions of Korea and India this and next year.

Like 2008, Brazil will hold the F1 finale in 2011

Like 2008, Brazil will hold the F1 finale in 2011

As expected, the Bahrain Grand Prix will host the season opener, for the second year in a row. The only other changes are the addition of India for the 30th October (Race 18), and the Brazilian Grand Prix now hosting the season finale, switching places with Abu Dhabi.

Also, the European season now begins with the Turkish Grand Prix, instead of Spain. Here is the full calendar:

13 March – Bahrain Grand Prix
27 March – Australian Grand Prix
10 April – Malaysian Grand Prix
17 April – Chinese Grand Prix
8 May – Turkish Grand Prix
22 May – Spanish Grand Prix
29 May – Monaco Grand Prix
12 June – Canadian Grand Prix
26 June – European Grand Prix
10 July – British Grand Prix
24 July – German Grand Prix
31 July – Hungarian Grand Prix
28 August – Belgian Grand Prix
11 September – Italian Grand Prix
25 September – Singapore Grand Prix
9 October – Japanese Grand Prix
16 October – Korean Grand Prix
30 October – Indian Grand Prix*
13 November – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
27 November – Brazilian Grand Prix

*Subject to circuit inspection

Personally, I would have made a few small changes, like pushing Suzuka to the near end of the calendar, to set up a more exciting finish to the season, but that’s just me. Also, it’s great to see the Brazilian Grand Prix back in its rightful spot. Every world championship since 2005 has been resolved in Interlagos, and I hope it stays that way.

No new F1 team for 2011 season

In addition to the decision not to penalise Ferrari further, the World Motor Sport Council have also announced that there will be no 13th Formula 1 team for the 2011 season.

The F1 grid will remain at 24 cars next year

The F1 grid will remain at 24 cars next year

Their explanation for their choice was that none of the applying teams met the criteria to join the grid, meaning that the F1 paddock will continue to be limited to 24 cars next season.

The main applicants, Epsilon Euskadi, Durango/Villeneuve Racing and Stefan GP, all had disadvantages to their entry, although I would have thought that Epsilon Euskadi would still have been chosen, thanks to their impressive Le Mans technology centre. Before this decision, they had announced that they had already tested their first wind tunnel model of their 2011 car.

An FIA statement read as follows:

"Following the press release of 19 March 2010 calling for 
expressions of interest to participate in the 2011 and 2012 
seasons of the FIA Formula One World Championship, a number 
of interested parties expressed their interest.

It was considered that none of the candidates met the 
requirements to be granted an entry into the Championship.

Consequently, the allocation of the 13th team will not be 
granted."

Again, this is disappointing news, seeing as Epsilon Euskadi looked so far into their development, as well as being a fully professional outfit. There is still a possibility of a merger with Hispania, but both parties have since denied these rumours.

No further punishment for Ferrari after team orders

The World Motor Sport Council have decided that Ferrari will escape any further punishment for their team orders in Germany this year. They also announced that the $100,000 fine imposed by the FIA will continue to be upheld.

However, no reason has yet been disclosed for their decision to let them off. A statement will be added here when it is made.

All I can say is that this is absolutely disgraceful. Even if the WMSC couldn’t prosecute them under the rule banning team orders, they could just have easily used rule 151c (bringing the sport into disrepute) to serve justice.

Put simply, the WMSC have just shown themselves as being spineless cowards. It’s not as if the fans were looking for Ferrari to be thrown out altogether, maybe a larger fine and suspended ban would have done fine. A $100,000 is nothing compared to the damage Ferrari have done to the sport in recent weeks.

More on this soon.

Update: Ferrari do have to pay the FIA’s legal costs, but this surely isn’t much. Also, the Sporting Working Group are to look into whether the team orders ban should stay or not. Ferrari have released a short statement:

“Ferrari has taken note of the decision of the FIA World Council, relating to the outcome of this year’s German Grand Prix and wishes to express its appreciation of the Council’s proposal to review article 39.1 of the Formula 1 sporting regulations, in light of what emerged during today’s discussions.

Now, all the team’s efforts will be focussed on the next event on track, when the Italian Grand Prix takes place at Monza this weekend.”

Kobayashi retained by Sauber for 2011

Sauber have today announced that they are to retain Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi for the 2011 season. The 24-year-old has been the driving force of Sauber’s 2010 campaign so far, and is probably the best rookie of the season as well.

In his 15 Grands Prix, he has scored 24 points already. Peter Sauber explains why he has been impressed with Kobayashi:

"We enjoy having our rookie as part of the team - both as a 
driver and a person.

We never had any doubts about working with him again in 2011.

Kamui has definitely fulfilled our expectations in terms 
of his speed and fighting spirit. Plus, his work with the 
engineers and his technical understanding has also developed 
very well.

The experience he has built up over his first full season in 
Formula One will certainly stand him in good stead for 2011. 
And our aim is to give him a fast and reliable car from the 
outset next season."

After a dire start to the season, Kamui has got 5 points-scoring finishes so far, with his most impressive ones being in Silverstone, Valencia and Belgium.

I’ve been very impressed with his performances so far, but less so about Pedro de la Rosa. The Spaniard has been struggling for pace in comparison to Kamui, and the team are refusing to state whether he will keep his seat next year until a later date.

Chandhok drives in Korea, says: “Needs more work”

Despite the speculation recently that Karun Chandhok would be unable to drive the new Korean GP track today, due to construction being behind schedule, he managed to drive 15 laps in a Red Bull F1 car. However, he still stated that the track needs more work before it can be ready for Formula 1.

He drove 15 laps in the Red Bull demonstration car, then 10 in a road car today. This is what he said of the track so far:

"It’s a really interesting layout. The track’s got a good mix of 
corners and I think we’ll see a lot of overtaking in the first 
sector – there are long straights into slow hairpins. The straight 
after turn one and two is really long, so we may see some good 
slip streaming there, like in Shanghai. From turn seven onwards, 
there’s a fast section of flowing corners all the way back to 
the start-finish line – so I think the Red Bull Racing guys 
will be happy in sectors two and three. It’s an interesting 
layout.

Looking at the facilities, the garages and team buildings look 
pretty much finished and they’re big! I think teams will need 
to bring around 30% more furniture to fill them! The grandstands 
also look reasonably finished. The track itself needs a bit more 
work on the asphalt and the kerbs, but the organisers think it’s 
all within their time-lines and are confident that it will be 
ready on time. And the locations nice, we’re overlooking the sea.

There’s certainly some enthusiasm for F1 here. There are a lot 
of people at the event today, which wasn’t heavily publicised, 
and there’s a lot of media, which shows an interest. The 
organisers say they have sold a significant amount of tickets, 
so it should be a good race. It’s been great to drive the Red 
Bull car again and thanks to my team, HRT F1, for letting me 
complete this demonstration run."

This is certainly good news, as up to even a few days ago I was certain that the event would not go ahead.

For a different look at the track, here are two spectator videos of the event. Don’t take the fully built grandstand and pit lane as an indicator that it’s all finished though, as the rest of the track is still being constructed:

Ground effect and turbos to return for 2013 with new regulations?

Formula 1 teams are closing in on finalising the regulations for the sport from 2013 onwards, which is understood to include the reintroduction of turbochargers and ground effect. This is being done for two reasons: To improve the spectacle for the fans, and also to make the sport more environmentally friendly.

The F1 grid looks set for huge rule changes in 2013

The F1 grid looks set for huge rule changes in 2013

The most interesting changes being suggested, and nearly definitely being introduced, involve the complete reshuffle of the engines of the cars. The engines will be 1.6 Litre 4-cylinder models, and boosted by turbochargers. These new power plants should produce 650bhp, and should be powered by numerous energy recovery systems. While this last section cannot be fully explained, I would guess that it would involve the revival of KERS, as well as generating energy from exhaust gases.

Also added onto the engine regulations is a plan to limit each driver to 5 engines a season. On the environmental side of the engines, there will probably be a fuel flow limit introduced, which will limit and reduce the amount of fuel entering the engine. This will make the engines more fuel efficient, as Sam Michael, Williams technical director, explains:

"Rather than dump as much fuel in as we can at the moment, there 
will be a fuel flow metre - so you won't be able to blow more 
than a certain amount of fuel. It is a good chunk less than we 
had at the moment."

As for the cars themselves, Patrick Head, co-owner of Williams, and Rory Byrne, a former designer for Ferrari, are working with the FIA to write up new rules. On the safety front, the cars are being planned to have greater crash protection at the front, with the sidepods being moved forwards being the main objective.

Also, all of the teams are collaborating on changing the aerodynamic setup of the cars to improve overtaking opportunities, and ground effect is the main suggestion in this area. Put simply, ground effect reduces the pressure under the car, meaning that the area above the car will have higher pressure, therefore pushing the car onto the ground. This produces a huge amount of downforce when it is used correctly, and also does not turbulate the air as much as rear wings, meaning the car behind has a better chance of following the car in front.

While it cannot be 100% guaranteed that these changes will be implemented, I would still say that it is very likely. Personally, these all look like great changes, especially the ground effect, as the aerodynamic flow of air to a car running behind should be much cleaner, and could well be a good idea to improve overtaking without making it too easy (ie. proximity wings).

Also, Formula 1 does have a role to pay in promoting environmentally friendly technology for the road. While KERS technology is being implemented on a good few road cars already, the cars’ exhaust gases are certainly untapped in terms of power potential. I will note though that the cars themselves weren’t awful in terms of efficiency (the entire F1 grid, over an 18-race season, uses less fuel than a single Boeing 747 trip from London to Japan), it is a good improvement to make.

It is still unclear when these new rules and regulations will be fully released.

Yamamoto to remain at Hispania for rest of year

Sakon Yamamoto has claimed that he will remain driving for the Hispania team until the rest of the season – and he can’t guarantee which seat he’ll be taking. At the moment, Karun Chandhok is out of a drive thanks to Yamamoto, and for the while it looks as if Bruno Senna isn’t safe either.

In an (translated) interview with Formule1.nl, he said:

 "I will make the season anyway. Or I will replace Bruno and 
Karun, I do not know. But it is certain that I will run 
all races. "

So, with the Hispania team’s decision of money over results (and the apparent snub of other test driver Christian Klien), the focus will probably move to Karun Chandhok finding a drive for next season. For the moment, he is keeping himself busy with commentating on Radio 5 Live (and he’s pretty good at it), but the problem is that there are very few seats for 2011. Karun will have to get a move on if he is to be racing next year.

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