Monthly Archives: February 2011

Brawn “comfortable” with Mercedes’ position

Team Principal Ross Brawn is confident Mercedes will improve before Melbourne

Team Principal Ross Brawn is confident Mercedes will improve before Melbourne

Despite a radically new car at the start of this month, Mercedes has so far failed to shine in pre-season testing, most days struggling in the midfield.

However, in a team Q&A session, team principal Ross Brawn claims that he is content with the team’s current form:

"We are well aware of the pace of our current car, the distance to the current front 
runners and the reasons for this, which include the compromises brought about by our 
cooling issues. Our intention was always to launch the car in a fairly basic 
specification to allow more time to focus on the upgrade package. This inevitably 
means that we look further off the pace than people might expect. Knowing all of the 
facts, I am comfortable with our current position and the developments that we have 
to come."

The Wo2 car is expected to recieve several large upgrades before the season opener in Melbourne. One of these is a brand new front wing, as Brawn explains:

"The front wing that we used in Barcelona will not be our final race specification 
but is moving closer to the wing that we will use in Melbourne. Our previous front 
wing was based heavily on the 2010 version, while the wing that we used in Barcelona 
moved closer to our 2011 design. We used the opportunity to investigate and confirm 
our direction before finally signing off the race-specification wing."


Barcelona Day 4: Massa ends test on top

Felipe Massa topped the final day of this test

Felipe Massa topped the final day of this test

Felipe Massa led the final day of testing in Barcelona today.

He set the quickest time out of all four days – 1.22.625 – after a successful day running various set-ups and fuel loads.

Trulli's Lotus is recovered after his crash

Trulli's Lotus is recovered after his crash

He was 8 tenths of a second ahead of Mark Webber, while Sebastien Buemi continued Toro Rosso’s good form in 3rd.

Nick Heidfeld was delayed with a KERS issue, but was 4th. Lewis Hamilton made up for losing ground on his rivals in recent days, by setting over 100 laps to take 5th.

Pastor Maldonado was another driver to suffer KERS problems, relating to the water pump, which left him without the device for most of the day. Nevertheless he set the most laps today (121) and was 1.4 seconds behind in 6th. Adrian Sutil, Sergio Perez, Jerome D’Ambrosio and Michael Schumacher were 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th respectively.

It was a disaster for Lotus today. Little more than an hour into the test, and Jarno Trulli crashed at Campsa corner. He had only completed 18 laps, and the car was stuck in the garage for the rest of the day.

Despite his crash, Trulli was still pleased with Lotus’ progress:

“It's obviously disappointing to have the test cut short like this but these things 
happen in motor racing. We started the day well and until the accident happened I had 
picked up where I left off yesterday.

The car has good balance, pace we can build on and has the potential to help us take 
the fight to the midfield, so I'm leaving here feeling confident about the season 
ahead and am looking forward to the next test, wherever that will be."

Times from Barcelona Day 4:

Pos  Driver             Team                   Time       Gap     Laps
 1.  Felipe Massa       Ferrari                1.22.625           121
 2.  Mark Webber        Red Bull-Renault       1.23.442   0.817   69
 3.  Sebastien Buemi    Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1.23.550   0.925   90
 4.  Nick Heidfeld      Renault                1.23.657   1.032   95
 5.  Lewis Hamilton     McLaren-Mercedes       1.24.003   1.378   107
 6.  Pastor Maldonado   Williams-Cosworth      1.24.057   1.432   121
 7.  Adrian Sutil       Force India-Mercedes   1.24.177   1.552   64
 8.  Sergio Perez       Sauber-Ferrari         1.24.515   1.890   74
 9.  Jerome D'Ambrosio  Virgin-Cosworth        1.26.501   3.876   50
10.  Michael Schumacher Mercedes               1.27.079   4.454   114
11.  Jarno Trulli       Lotus-Renault          1.29.992   7.367   18

Bahrain Grand Prix called off

The 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix has been postponed

The 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix has been postponed

After a week of violence in Bahrain, the country’s prince has decided that the 2011 F1 season opener will not take place.

Instead the season will commence in Melbourne, Australia, on the 25th-27th March.

The announcement was made earlier today by the Crown Prince of Bahrain Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa:

“We felt it was important for the country to focus on immediate issues of 
national interest.

Bahrain’s priority is on overcoming tragedy, healing divisions and rediscovering 
the fabric that draws this country together to remind the world of the very best 
that Bahrain is capable of as a nation once again united.”

It is currently unknown whether the race will take place at a later date, or be cancelled entirely. However, an FIA statement has referred to the race as being “postponed”:

“The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile supports the decision of the 
Bahrain Motor Federation and the Bahrain International Circuit to postpone the 
scheduled first Grand Prix of the 2011 season due to be held in the Kingdom of 
Bahrain on March 11-13.

This decision is the outcome of the close co-operation between the FIA, Formula 
One Management, the Bahrain Motor Federation and the Bahrain International Circuit.”

Similarly, the pre-season test in Bahrain, on the 3rd of March, has also been cancelled. Barcelona will organise another test on the 8th-11th March to take its place. Also, the two-week gap where the Grand Prix should have been may also play host to another test elsewhere.

After the horrific violence seen in recent days, there is no doubt that this was the right decision. Even if clashes quell soon enough, the time taken for the country to repair will take weeks or months, and it would be of no service to the people to host a Grand Prix during that time.

In F1 terms, focus will eventually switch to when the race will (probably) be rescheduled. While the event may be moved to the final round slot, I feel it should take place on the 6th November, a week after the Indian Grand Prix, and a week before the Abu Dhabi GP. The thinking behind this is that the close proximity to Abu Dhabi will eliminate the problem of 3 Grands Prix in 3 weeks.

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

Barcelona Day 2: Vettel stays on top

Sebastian Vettel continued to lead the pack on Day 2 in Barcelona

Sebastian Vettel continued to lead the pack on Day 2 in Barcelona

Sebastian Vettel led the second day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya today.

He improved on yesterday’s fastest lap by more than a second, with a 1.23.315 today. Jaime Alguersuari continued his impressive form by finishing 2nd and only 0.2 seconds off Vettel. Local fans impressively filled the grandstands to see Fernando Alonso, who was 3rd.

It wasn’t clear sailing for the Spaniard, though, as the Ferrari suffered two failures across the day. Early on he stopped at Turn 4 with an electrical problem, and later was delayed by another hitch.

Rubens Barrichello and Nick Heidfeld’s last gasp laps put them up to 4th and 5th respectively. Kamui Kobayashi was 6th, while a 1-lap rungot Nico Rosberg 7th place.

It was a troubled day for McLaren. A hydraulic problem kept Jenson Button in the pits in the morning, then he managed only 54 laps across the day to get 8th position. Paul di Resta was 9th, after spinning into the gravel at Turn 1 after a throttle problem.

Heikki Kovalainen was hindered by mechanical issues, and was 10th. The second Renault of Petrov was 11th, while Vitantonio Liuzzi was 12th testing for Hispania, and Timo Glock was 13th. Lotus also tested Portugese-Angolan driver Ricardo Teixeira today. He did 26 laps, and was 8 seconds off the pace.

Times from Barcelona day 2:

Pos  Driver       Team                  Time                 Laps
 1.  Vettel       Red Bull-Renault      1.23.315             104
 2.  Alguersuari  Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1.23.519    0.204    97
 3.  Alonso       Ferrari               1.23.978    0.663    90
 4.  Barrichello  Williams-Cosworth     1.24.008    0.693    118
 5.  Heidfeld     Renault               1.24.242    0.927    41
 6.  Kobayashi    Sauber-Ferrari        1.24.243    0.928    125
 7.  Rosberg      Mercedes              1.24.730    1.415    131
 8.  Button       McLaren-Mercedes      1.24.923    1.608    54
 9.  Di Resta     Force India-Mercedes  1.25.194    1.879    80
10.  Kovalainen   Lotus-Renault         1.26.421    3.106    58
11.  Petrov       Renault               1.26.884    3.569    61
12.  Liuzzi       HRT-Coswrorth         1.27.044    3.729    70
13.  Glock        Virgin-Cosworth       1.27.242    3.927    66
14.  Teixeira     Lotus-Renault         1.31.584    8.269    26

Barcelona Day 1: Vettel leads rain-affected test

Sebastian Vettel was fastest of the pack today, as the Formula 1 testing season rolled into Barcelona.

He finished the day an entire second ahead of Fernando Alonso, after making his laps in the dying few minutes.

Most of the day was spent on the wet tyres, after heavy rainfall in the area the night before. The track eventually dried out near the end of the day. Jaime Alguersuari was 3rd, and Kamui Kobyashi 4th, although both drivers caused red flags. Alguersuari was the victim of a technical problem, while Kobayashi ran out of fuel after a fuel consumption evaluation run.
Jenson Button and Paul di Resta saw little activity out on track for most of the afternoon, although they were still 5th and 6th. Rubens Barrichello’s day was disrupted by a technical failure and an engine change.

Narain Karthikeyan managed the most laps out of all the drivers (116), but was 4 seconds off the pace – although he was driving last years F110. Heikki Kovalainen and Jerome D’Ambrosio were both well off the pace, and were 10th and 11th respectively.

Vitaly Petrov was miles off the pace, and coupled with a KERS problem, he was stuck at the back of the field with his team-mate. Nick Heidfeld was supposed to be driving in the morning, but only managed 27 laps of pit stop practice.

Times from Barcelona Day 1:

Pos  Driver              Car/team              Time       Gap        Laps
 1.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      1.24.374              37
 2.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               1.25.485   1.111      101
 3.  Jaime Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1.25.638   1.264      57
 4.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        1.25.641   1.267      78
 5.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      1.26.365   1.991      77
 6.  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes  1.26.575   2.201      26
 7.  Rubens Barrichello  Williams-Cosworth     1.26.912   2.538      52
 8.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1.27.512   3.138      90
 9.  Narain Karthikeyan  HRT-Cosworth          1.28.393   4.019      116
10.  Heikki Kovalainen   Lotus-Renault         1.30.065   5.691      54
11.  Jerome D'Ambrosio   Virgin-Cosworth       1.30.950   6.576      116
12.  Vitaly Petrov       Renault               1.35.174   10.800     20
13.  Nick Heidfeld       Renault               1.44.324   19.950     27 

Bahrain Grand Prix in doubt?

Next month's Bahrain Grand Prix is in doubt

Next month's Bahrain Grand Prix is in doubt

After days of violence in Bahrain, speculation is growing over the potential cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix, which takes place in less than a month’s time.

Tomorrow’s GP2 Asia race has already been cancelled after violence in the region. At least 6 people have been killed, and hundreds injured.

At the moment, journalists are being turned away at Bahrain airports, meaning that if the situation does not improve soon, it would be impossible to hold an F1 race there. Those who had already entered the country for the GP2 race have already started to evacuate.

Though there is no official word yet, some speculation has hinted that if the violence does not quell by next Wednesday, the F1 paddock will be forced to postpone the season opener. At the moment, there are no medical crews at the circuit, as they have all been deployed to hospitals around the country.

Testing in Bahrain, which begins on the 3rd March, is also in serious doubt.

While I’m as eager as many to get the 2011 season underway, this sport also has a responsibility to secure the safety of its drivers, team personnel, media, and spectators. In this current political environment, hosting a Grand Prix is putting everyone involved in danger. And at the end of the day, it’s not like we’re going to lose an exciting race…

Heidfeld confirmed as Kubica’s replacement

Nick Heidfeld has been chosen as Renault's driver for 2011

Nick Heidfeld has been chosen as Renault's driver for 2011

The Renault team have confirmed that Nick Heidfeld will replace the injured Robert Kubica for the 2011 season.

Nick was always the favourite for the drive, after leading the third day of testing in Jerez after a 1-day trial with the team.

Nick said:

“I would have liked to come back to Formula 1 in different circumstances, but I’m 
proud to have been given this chance.

Everything has happened so quickly, but I’ve been very impressed by what I have 
seen so far in terms of the facilities and the dedication of the people at Enstone.

I really enjoyed the test last week in Jerez and I’ve already settled in well with 
the guys at the track. I have a good feeling for the car, which is quite innovative. 
I’m extremely motivated and can’t wait for the season to begin.”

Interestingly, when Robert Kubica was asked who he would prefer to be his replacement, he stated that he would have picked Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India’s driver last year. The 26-year-old is friends with both drivers.

Heidfeld leads Jerez Day 3

Nick Heidfeld led Day 3 in Jerez

Nick Heidfeld led Day 3 in Jerez

Nick Heidfeld made the best possible application for the empty Renault seat, by leading the third day of testing in Jerez.

Fernando Alonso had led the timesheets for most of the day, but with an hour to go Heidfeld 1.20.361 lap put him on top. Michael Schumacher concentrated on long runs, and was 3rd.

Lewis Hamilton only completed 36 laps, but was still quick enough to go 4th. Kamui Kobayashi was 5th, despite causing two red flags after stopping out on track twice. Sebastian Vettel was 6th.

Sebastien Buemi caused another red flag when he Curva Angel Nieto, and could only manage 7th. Heikki Kovalainen was 8th, and Rubens Barrichello lost a lot of time with a KERS problem, demoting him to 9th.

Paul di Resta spun at the same spot as Buemi, and was 10th, while Jerome D’Ambrosio was 11th and 2.5 seconds off the Force India.

Heidfeld said he “couldn’t have done any better” with his driving today, but was still unsure would he get the drive with Renault this year. Adrian Sutil, who handed over his Force India to Di Resta today, complained about the durability of the super-soft Pirelli tyre:

"It’s a good tyre for one lap.

Sometimes you probably lose a little bit in the last sector, already, so you have a 
very good first and second sector, the last one drops away, but it’s still a lap 
time improvement.

It will be interesting how it lasts during a race distance, they’re going to be 
really, really critical.

The medium (tyre) we have is different. It’s very hard, quite a lot harder, and it 
doesn’t last longer, for some reason.

So it’s just very slow in the first few laps and the degradation starts very early, 
still, even with the hard compound. I was not so confident on that tyre and not so 
happy. it’s just the difference you have between the tyres. It’s pretty big.”

Heikki Kovalainen, meanwhile, was pleased with the progress of the Lotus car:

“The whole concept is now a modern Formula 1 car. It’s much more like a Formula 1 
car should be.

The rear end is very good. The gearbox and the engine feels good, the gear-changes 
and generally the rear end is working really well.

And the chassis feels like a proper Formula 1 car. It’s much, much lighter. This 
time last year we were overweight, we could not take any weight out of the car. 
Now we have ballast in the car – a lot of ballast.

So it’s a huge difference. I don’t know how much the chassis is lighter – I think 
it’s around 20 kilos, something like that.

Of course we still need to improve and find more pace. But it’s very encouraging 
what the team has been able to do in a short period of time. Of course now it gets 
difficult – the last part to catch the guys ahead of us is going to be tricky.”

Times from Jerez Day 3:

Pos  Driver              Car                   Time       Gap       Laps
 1.  Nick Heidfeld       Renault               1.20.361             86
 2.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               1.20.493   0.132     131
 3.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1.21.054   0.693     114
 4.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      1.21.099   0.738     36
 5.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        1.21.242   0.881     84
 6.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      1.21.574   1.213     98
 7.  Sebastien Buemi     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1.21.681   1.320     92
 8.  Heikki Kovalainen   Lotus-Renault         1.21.711   1.350     61
 9.  Rubens Barrichello  Williams-Cosworth     1.22.227   1.866     99
10.  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes  1.22.945   2.584     64
11.  Jerome D'Ambrosio   Virgin-Cosworth       1.25.471   5.110     72

Jerez Day 2: Schumacher heads the field

Michael Schumacher was on top in Jerez

Michael Schumacher was on top in Jerez

Michael Schumacher led the way in the second day of testing today in Jerez.

His fastest lap was made more impressive by the fact that it was not a low fuel run – he had more than 10 laps of fuel on board at the time. Felipe Massa continued his good pace in Jerez, several hundreths off the Mercedes.

Sergio Perez examines his wrecked Sauber

Sergio Perez examines his wrecked Sauber

Jenson Button got his first taste of the McLaren MP4-26, and was 3rd. He later revealed that he was forced to abort his flying laps on super-soft tyres after a red flag, and never used the KERS and adjustable rear wing systems.

Jaime Alguersuari was the first of several drivers to cause red flags, the Spaniard stopping out on track in the morning. Nevertheless., he was 5th, ahead of Mark Webber, who concentrated on heavy-fuel runs, and Adrian Sutil.

Sergio Perez crashed out after only 56 laps, and ended his day prematurely in 7th, ahead of Timo Glock. Vitaly Petrov was 9th, but struggled with rear brake locking, and spun out during the day, causing another red flag.

Pastor Maldonado was the second driver to crash, but much more seriously than Perez. Maldonado crashed his Williams at Turn 4, damaging both the front and rear of the car. His team was also forced to take apart and analyse his KERS unit, after it displayed warning signs in the morning.

Jarno Trulli was last, as his day was cut short by mechanical problems.

Sutil struggled all day, and blamed high degradation on the medium compound Pirelli tyre:

"The medium tyre we have here is different to before, and I was not so confident on
that, not so happy.

The tyre is very hard, quite a lot harder than what we had before. But it doesn't last
longer for some reason.

It's very slow in the first few laps, then the degradation starts very early still.
Even after five to six laps the degradation starts again, and I was expecting much

[Pirelli] probably go a different way [to Bridgestone], which is good for the sport.
It's a big challenge to drive on the limit with these tyres.

They are very oversteery, very low grip, so it is very easy to make mistakes. The
difference you have between the compounds is very big, but in general I like them."

Times from Jerez Day 2:

Pos  Driver              Car                   Time       Gap       Laps
 1.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1.20.352             112
 2.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               1.20.413   0.061     116
 3.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      1.21.009   0.657     69
 4.  Jaime Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1.21.214   0.862     72
 5.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      1.21.613   1.261     113
 6.  Adrian Sutil        Force India-Mercedes  1.21.780   1.428     73
 7.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        1.21.857   1.505     56
 8.  Timo Glock          Virgin-Cosworth       1.22.208   1.856     57
 9.  Vitaly Petrov       Renault               1.22.493   2.141     65
10.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Cosworth     1.22.591   2.239     38
11.  Jarno Trulli        Lotus-Renault         1.23.216   2.864     40