Monthly Archives: April 2011

Webber dominates by 1.6 seconds in Malaysia FP1

Webber led FP1 by a huge margin

Webber led FP1 by a huge margin

Mark Webber was miles ahead of his rivals in Friday Practice 1 for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Webber set a 1.37.651, more than a second and a half faster than any other driver, to easily slot into first place on the leaderboards. Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher were 2nd and 3rd.

Nico Hulkenberg, driving in Paul di Resta’s Force India, was 4th after a late improvement. Pastor Maldonado held his Pirellis for 19 laps to take 5th.

Ferrari had a quiet session, spending a lot of time running the cars at a fixed speed on the straights for aerodynamic testing. Felipe Massa was 6th and Fernando Alonso 9th.

Nick Heidfeld managed 7th after only setting 6 laps. After he went fastest in the session, his front right brake completely locked. The Renault driver was forced to drag his car back to the pits on 3 wheels, with a destroyed tyre, and sparks and smoke coming from under the car.

Petrov's wheel comes off in speclacular fashion

Petrov's wheel comes off in speclacular fashion

Worryingly, teammate Vitaly Petrov suffered a front left wheel failure, which caused him to spin into the Turn 9 gravel trap. Jerome D’Ambrosio suffered a similar failure on his front right, when the wheel came completely off at the final corner. The Virgin car would not complete any more miles that day.

Daniel Ricciardo took over from Sebastien Buemi, and just pipped Jaime Alguersuari to 12th.

Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel had very low-key sessions, with the McLaren and Red Bull 15th and 17th repectively. It is known that Vettel was testing a KERS unit, but it is unknown was Webber running the device. Davide Valsecchi drove in Heikki Kovalainen’s car, but was over 6 seconds off the pace.

Narain Kartikeyan’s HRT gave up on him after 10 laps, with smoke pouring out of the back.

Times from Malaysia FP1:

Pos  Driver         Team                   Time              Laps
 1.  Webber         Red Bull-Renault       1.37.651           22
 2.  Hamilton       McLaren-Mercedes       1.39.316   1.665   16
 3.  Schumacher     Mercedes               1.39.791   2.140   29
 4.  Hulkenberg     Force India-Mercedes   1.40.377   2.726   23
 5.  Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth      1.40.443   2.792   31
 6.  Massa          Ferrari                1.40.453   2.802   22
 7.  Heidfeld       Renault                1.40.525   2.874    6
 8.  Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth      1.40.581   2.930   21
 9.  Alonso         Ferrari                1.40.601   2.950   23
10.  Rosberg        Mercedes               1.40.646   2.995   29
11.  Sutil          Force India-Mercedes   1.40.734   3.083   21
12.  Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1.40.748   3.097   23
13.  Alguersuari    Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1.40.770   3.119   24
14.  Kobayashi      Sauber-Ferrari         1.40.872   3.221   27
15.  Button         McLaren-Mercedes       1.40.927   3.276   16
16.  Trulli         Lotus-Renault          1.41.620   3.969   21
17.  Vettel         Red Bull-Renault       1.41.627   3.976   18
18.  Perez          Sauber-Ferrari         1.41.642   3.991   24
19.  Glock          Virgin-Cosworth        1.42.154   4.503   18
20.  D'Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth        1.42.540   4.889   20
21.  Valsecchi      Lotus-Renault          1.44.054   6.403   18
22.  Liuzzi         HRT-Cosworth           1.45.228   7.577   20
23.  Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth           1.46.267   8.616   10
24.  Petrov         Renault                1.47.932   10.281   4

Malaysian Grand Prix preview

Can anyone stop Red Bull in Malaysia?

Can anyone stop Red Bull in Malaysia?

The second race of the 2011 Formula 1 season is at Sepang, Malaysia. A tweak of the DRS rules, as well as ominous weather in the region, is sure to make the race unprecictable this weekend…

DRS

The Drag Reduction System didn’t have a particularly large effect on the Australian GP (not necessarily a bad thing), but with the longer straights of Malaysia, the device will have a much bigger role to play here.

The operating zone has been extended from 600 to 700 metres. Also, race director Charlie Whiting hinted at placing more than one DRS zone on the track. This has not been confirmed for Malaysia, but it is being looked at for other races.

Several drivers, including Felipe Massa, have voiced their concern over this suggestion. However, for Sepang at least, the main straight will be the prime place to pass.

As with 2 weeks ago, a significant advantage can be played to the Red Bulls, if they are able to deploy their rear wings earlier out of the corners in qualifying.

Weather

Unusually cool and overcast weather in Melbourne led to cooler tyre temperatures and reduced tyre wear. No matter what happens this weekend, the same will not happen this time around.

A tweet from Lotus technical director Mike Gascoyne reads: “Lots of heavy thunderstorms around every day so the weather will be unpredictable this weekend.”

Most of the time, Malaysia suffers from searing heat of up to 40 degrees Celcius. Any other time, rain hammers down like a tropical storm.

Weather forecasters are predicting heavy showers on Saturday and Sunday. The rain is more likely to hit in the evening time, which is onimous considering the 16:00 start time for qualifying and the race.

Tyres

As previously mentioned, cool temperatures in Australia quelled fears briefly about over-wearing tyres, but the debacle may well return this weekend.

40 degree heat will have an exponentially larger effect than the 17-18 degree conditions from Melbourne. Pirelli are stating that up to 4 pit stops may be required.

That would be presuming that raceĀ  day was dry. If it is wet, then all bets are off, because nobody is sure yet how the extreme wet Pirelli tyres stand up to a full tank of fuel at the start of a race.

Predictions

One third of a lap in Sepang is spent in braking and cornering areas. This will play right into the hands of Red Bull, whose RB7 is renowned for ripping up tarmac with its unbeievable amounts of grip. On the other hand, the Red Bull is quite slow on the straights, which could hamper them on race day, if they come under pressure from their rivals.

Ferrari’s tyre conservation could prove crucial if the race is dry. A lack of race pace was highlighted in Melbourne, so strategy is what is needed to put them back on top. McLaren and Renault are the two main teams to challenge Vettel and Webber this weekend, but it is difficult to see how they can match their pace.

It will be interesting to see how Sauber fare. Their illegal rear wing may well have been the reason why they were so fast through the speed traps in Australia. If their top speed remains high this weekend, then we know they have a properly fast car.

At the back of the grid, speculation is mounting as to whether Virgin and HRT will even be able to qualify. A new front wing is being delivered to Hispania, while changes in the technical department are occuring for Virgin. However, I fear that it may not be enough for these backmarkers.

Pirelli anticipating 4-stop strategies for Malaysia

The tyres are expected to degrade much faster next weekend

The tyres are expected to degrade much faster next weekend

After a mix of mostly 2 and 3-stop tyre strategies in the Australian Grand Prix, Pirelli have claimed that they believe some drivers will need to make up to 4 stops in Malaysia next weekend.

The cool temperatures in Melbourne reduced tyre wear, which led to Sergio Perez and Jarno Trulli needing only one stop. However, the unavoidable searing heat of Sepang is sure to put extra pressure on the Pirelli rubber.

Motorsport director at Pirelli Paul Hembery said:

"We were absolutely thrilled by our Grand Prix debut in Australia, but we're aware 
that Malaysia should be a very different proposition, with  higher temperatures and 
increased degradation. We said all along that we  would be seeing two to three pit 
stops in Australia, but in Malaysia I  think that figure is likely to increase to 
three to four. They say that  it's never a question of if it rains at Sepang but 
when, so the  performance of our wet tyres could be crucial this weekend and we're 
certainly looking forward to seeing them out on track.

Malaysia will also see the introduction of a new version of the harder tyre, which will be given to the teams to test on Friday. Because of the steep learning curve everyone needs with the new rubber, two extra sets of slicks will also be supplied on Friday.

As with Melbourne, the soft (yellow markings) and the hard (silver) will be used next weekend.

Red Bull moving closer to KERS for Malaysia

Red Bull will probably need KERS to continue their dominant form in Malaysia

Red Bull will probably need KERS to continue their dominant form in Malaysia

After ditching the device during the Australian Grand Prix weekend, Red Bull are becoming more confident of using KERS next weekend in Malaysia.

After reliability concerns, the KERS unit was removed from Vettel’s and Webber’s cars after Friday Practice. However, it made little difference to their crushing pace, as Vettel dominated from pole to flag.

With a longer pit straight in Sepang, not using the innovation would be a large disadvantage to the Milton Keynes outfit.

While last week’s decision as more precautionary rather than anything more serious, Christian Horner says that his team is now more confident with KERS:

"We ran the system on Friday it ran without any real issue, and it was purely based 
on a lack of mileage on the system that our confidence was relatively low.

I think now, armed with that mileage, and having inspected all the components, our 
confidence has grown - and hopefully if it runs well on Friday in Malaysia it will 
make its race debut during the Malaysia weekend.

It didn't hurt us too much at the last race, but it is, you have to remember, a free 
extra 80 horsepower, so over a lap it's effectively free lap time of anything between 
0.3-0.4s.

Obviously the motivation and desire is to have it onto the car as quickly as possible, 
but we won't compromise the performance of the car or the potential reliability of the 
car if we feel that the system isn't race-sturdy yet."

Raikkonen confirms move to NASCAR

Raikkonen will alternate between NASCAR and WRC

Raikkonen will alternate between NASCAR and WRC

After days of speculation, 2007 F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen has confirmed that he is to move to NASCAR in May.

Previous reports have stated that Raikkonen was to field his own squad in the NASCAR Truck Series, but he has since said that he will be driving for Kyle Busch in Charlottle on May 20.

He will continue to drive in the World Rally Championship, and will only drive for Busch in a limited number of races.

Raikkonen will get the first taste of his new machinery next week at Gresham Motorsports Park.

Busch has stated:

"We are honoured that Kimi Raikkonen, a former Formula 1 world drivers' champion and 
proven winner, has chosen to start his career in NASCAR with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Adding one of the most talented drivers in the world is a continuation of building a 
team of proven winners and champions at KBM. I look forward to assisting in Kimi's 
transition to NASCAR as both an owner and team-mate."

 

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