Monthly Archives: March 2012

Malaysian Grand Prix analysis: Victories for the underdogs

The Malaysian Grand Prix will go down as a thrilling and unforgettable race. Not just because of the shuffled order, or the heavy rain showers, but because of the fierce and spirited drives that put so many surprise faces on top. A brilliant drive from Sergio Perez, an unrelenting charge from Fernando Alonso, and a quiet ascent to 6th for Bruno Senna was what made this race special.

Perez – the man of the moment

Few will argue that Sergio Perez’s drive was anything but spectacular. A good strategy call at the start put him up to 3rd, and he held the position under treacherous conditions.

Once the track dried out, he demonstrated Button-like prowess on the damp track, eating into Alonso’s lead relentlessly. A poor final pit stop, as well as a slip near the end, cost him the victory, but he has still made his point.

It is the first time since 1971 that a Mexican driver has put a foot on the podium – the last time was for Pedro Rodriguez, 19 years before Sergio was even born.

With such a great performance, the top teams have surely taken a good look at the young Sauber driver. Which leads us to…

Massa bashing: Round 2

Another atrocious drive from Felipe Massa, another reason for Ferrari to ditch the beleaguered driver. And with Sergio Perez seemingly knocking on the door, the Brazilian surely won’t be around for too long.

As his teammate crossed the line to take the chequered flag, Massa was 5 seconds away from being lapped. He now sits 19th in the driver’s championship, behind the Marussias, while Alonso leads the title hunt. There’s no denying that the gap between the two is growing immeasurably long.

The Ferrari F2012 is a handful, but it deserves to be finishing higher than 15th place. I make no secret of my disliking of Massa, and his dismal performances only make this view worse.

Another side of Sebastian Vettel?

As the Red Bull team slip behind McLaren, we are now granted the opportunity to see how Vettel handles with not having the fastest car on the grid. Unfortunately, he hasn’t gotten off to the best start.

His clip into Narain Karthikeyan may seem insignificant, but it shows a very poor attitude from the German driver. He seemed to move across Narain’s path, then showed obscene gestures when his tyre blew as a result.

Afterwards, he referred to him as a “cucumber”, which is just about the oddest insult I’ve heard in a long time. It appears as if he hasn’t learned from Turkey 2010, when he refused to take responsibility for clashing with Mark Webber.

Granted, he’s not in the position he wants to be, but this is no excuse for his behaviour. A true driver’s colours are shown when he’s dealt a bad hand – just look at Fernando Alonso. Vettel appears rattled, and will need to cap his temper if he wants to claw his way back to the top.

Points standings after Malaysian Grand Prix

Driver Standings

Driver Points
1 Fernando Alonso 35
2 Lewis Hamilton 30
3 Jenson Button  25
4 Mark Webber  24
5 Sergio Perez  22
6 Sebastian Vettel 18
7 Kimi Raikkonen  16
8 Bruno Senna  8
9 Kamui Kobayashi 8
10 Paul di Resta  7
11 Jean-Eric Vergne  4
12 Daniel Ricciardo  2
13 Nico Hulkenberg  2
14 Michael Schumacher  1
15 Nico Rosberg  0
16 Pastor Maldonado  0
17 Timo Glock  0
18 Charles Pic  0
19 Felipe Massa  0
20 Vitaly Petrov  0
21 Heikki Kovalainen  0
22 Narain Karthikeyan 0
23 Pedro de la Rosa 0
24 Romain Grosjean 0

Constructor Standings

Team Points
1 McLaren-Mercedes 55
2 Red Bull-Renault 42
3 Ferrari 35
4 Sauber 30
5 Lotus-Renault 16
6 Force India-Mercedes 9
7 Williams-Renault 8
8 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 6
9 Mercedes GP 1
10 Marussia-Cosworth 0
11 Caterham-Renault 0
12 HRT-Cosworth 0

Alonso wins while Perez shines in Malaysia

Hamilton fends off Button

Hamilton fends off Button

Fernando Alonso has won the Malaysian Grand Prix, ahead of a brilliant Sergio Perez, who drove his heart out and almost won the race. Lewis Hamilton again lost the lead and finished 3rd, while it was another poor show from Mercedes. Here is what happened:

Light rain 10 minutes before the start of the race forced all the cars to switch to the intermediate tyres. At the start, Lewis Hamilton held the lead against his teammate, while Romain Grosjean jumped into 3rd. Michael Schumacher spun at Turn 3, and fell to the back of the grid.

As the rain grew in intensity, Sergio Perez, Timo Glock and Felipe Massa opted to stop for extreme wets. Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso stopped on Lap 5 for the same tyres. Button’s passing of Schumacher on the wets prompted everyone else to make the change on Lap 6.

The safety car was out, but the red flag is soon thrown

The safety car was out, but the red flag is soon thrown

The different strategies left Perez 3rd, while Button harassed Hamilton for the lead. However, the rain had quickly become too heavy to continue, and the safety car was deployed on Lap 7. As lightning struck race control and the media centre, knocking out the power, there was some confusion about an accidental red flag.

Once it became clear that the monsoon conditions weren’t ending any time soon, the red flag was thrown. The teams bizarrely brought gazebos out on the pit straight, as the rain shower moved away.

After more than half an hour, the race was restarted under the safety car. Bernd Maylander peeled away on Lap 13, and the racing resumed. Several cars dived into the pits, while Sergio Perez moved into 2nd. Sebastian Vettel made a move on his teammate, but Webber used his superior traction to retake 5th place.

Hamilton stopped a lap later, but a slow pit stop dropped him behind his teammate. Button’s joy didn’t last long though, as he hit the back of Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT, breaking his front wing. He pitted for repairs, while Sergio Perez stopped for inters, leaving Fernando Alonso in charge of the race.

Daniel Ricciardo put an excellent move on Bruno Senna for 14th place, taking the Williams around the outside of Turn 5. DRS was enabled on Lap 21, allowing the battle for 5th place battle between Rosberg, Vettel and Raikkonen to take an extra twist.

Vettel powered past Nico Rosberg for 4th, and was soon followed by Kimi Raikkonen. Mark Webber didn’t need DRS to get past, slicing past Rosberg at Turn 6.

Felipe Massa was ordered to catch the Mercedes, but slipped wide instead, allowing Paul di Resta through for 7th. After he was swiftly passed by Jean-Eric Vergne Bruno Senna, he pitted for a new set of intermediates.

Perez gets within inches of Alonso

Perez gets within inches of Alonso

Kamui Kobayashi passed Michael Schumacher around the outside of Turn 5, while Jenson Button passed Felipe Massa for 16th position.

The focus soon switched to the front, as Sergio Perez began to reel in Alonso at incredible rates. The new rain shower failed to materialise, and the frontrunners’ worn inters soon began to come into the equation. Daniel Ricciardo was the first to try on the slick tyres, and instantly set fastest sectors.

This prompted a mad dash for the pit lane. Alonso pitted on Lap 41, while Perez stayed out. He stopped the next lap, but the damage had been done, as Fernando now led by 7 seconds.

Alonso and Perez congradulate each other after a thrilling battle

Alonso and Perez congradulate each other after a thrilling battle

Despite this, the Mexican driver continued to push, and astonishingly began to reel in the Ferrari once again. With 10 laps to go, the Sauber was only 3 seconds behind. Further back , Sebastian Vettel received a puncture, and dropped down the field.

But, the focus was on Perez. As he closed on Alonso, he made a slip at Turn 14, and dropped back by several seconds. He attempted to repair the damage, but there was not enough time left.

Fernando Alonso crossed the line first to win the Malaysian Grand Prix, with Perez chasing him past the line. Lewis Hamilton hung on to third place, with Mark Webber ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Bruno Senna impressed with 6th, while Michael Schumacher inherited a point on the second last lap after Pastor Maldonado’s retirement.

Hamilton leads McLaren lockout in Malaysia qualifying

Lewis Hamilton ensured a 100% record so far in 2012, taking pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix. Teammate Jenson Button was a tenth behind in 2nd, while everyone back to 8th was separated by 0.4 seconds.

Michael Schumacher went 3rd, while Sebastian Vettel has chosen a different strategy for tomorrow’s race. Here is what happened:

Q1

Jean-Eric Vergne was knocked out of Q1

Jean-Eric Vergne was knocked out of Q1

The two Mercedes drivers set the early pace with mid-1:37  times. They were soon split by Jenson Button, with Lewis Hamilton 4th.

Felipe Massa’s initial pace was very poor, leaving him only 18th. While he stayed out on the options, his teammate decided to use primes for Q1. Massa eventually improved to move out of the drop zone.

Mark Webber soon smashed the best time, setting a 1:37.1.

Within the last few minutes, the midfield began to move past Massa again, but not by enough. Jean-Eric Vergne aborted several laps, and failed to progress to Q2.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:39.077

19) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:39.306

20) Vitaly Petrov – 1:39.567

21) Timo Glock – 1:49.903

22) Charles Pic – 1:41.250

23) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:42.914

24) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:43.655

Q2

Massa once again failed to progress to Q2

Massa once again failed to progress to Q2

Sergio Perez was the first car out of the pits for the start of Q2. He set his benchmark time of 1:39.043.

Pastor Maldonado went massively wide at Turn 11, almost hitting the barriers. Kimi Raikkonen went on top with an impressive 1:37.715.

Teammate Romain Grosjean made a mistake on his lap, but still went 4th, setting a sector best as well.

Felipe Massa went 9th, but Fernando Alonso quickly beat that, going 6th. Maladonado and Perez jumped into the top 10, pushing Massa out of Q2. The Mercedes drivers left it until their final laps to move back into the top 10, going 3rd and 4th.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Pastor Maldonado – 1:37.589

12) Felipe Massa – 1:37.731

13) Bruno Senna – 1:37.841

14) Paul di Resta – 1:37.877

15) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:37.883

16) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:37.890

17) Kamui Kobayashi – 1:38.069

Q3

Schumacher appeared in the top 3, alongside the two McLarens

Schumacher appeared in the top 3, alongside the two McLarens

Kimi Raikkonen was the first out of the pits, setting a 1:36.833 after a scrappy lap. Jenson Button and then Lewis Hamilton beat that time, setting a 1:36.219.

Sebastian Vettel’s time was a second off Hamilton’s, though he set his time on primes. Nico Rosberg made a mistake on his lap, going 3rd. Teammate Michael Schumacher moved up to 2nd.

Fernando Alonso took 9th, while Mark Webber jumped up to 4th. Sebastian Vettel moved up to 6th, while Kimi Raikkonen could only go 5th. Rosberg did not set a final lap, and was a disappointing 8th.

Jenson Button was within a tenth of a second of Hamilton, ensuring another McLaren lockout of the front row.

Hamilton stays on top in Malaysian second practice

Hamilton stayed on top in second practice

Hamilton stayed on top in second practice

Lewis Hamilton made his intentions clear for this weekend, by topping second practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Michael Schumacher pipped Jenson Button to second place by 0.002 seconds. Nico Rosberg was 4th, meaning Mercedes-powered cars dominated the top 4 in the timesheets.

Daniel Ricciardo impressed with a 5th-placed finish. Sebastian Vettel was 10th, and complained that “The car is all over the place. Poor balance.”

Paul di Resta spun twice during the session, as well as Michael Schumacher and both HRT drivers.

Track temperatures reached up to 45C, with a constant threat of rain that never materialised. These high temperatures resulted in very high levels of tyre wear, as drivers’ times began to slip after only 6 laps.

Times from FP2:

 1.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1:38.172           28
 2.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1:38.533  +0.361   34
 3.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1:38.535  +0.363   29
 4.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1:38.696  +0.524   34
 5.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:38.853  +0.681   33
 6.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1:38.891  +0.719   27
 7.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1:39.133  +0.961   29
 8.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:39.297  +1.125   33
 9.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault         1:39.311  +1.139   22
10.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1:39.402  +1.230   25
11.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault      1:39.444  +1.272   35
12.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes  1:39.464  +1.292   26
13.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1:39.625  +1.453   20
14.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1:39.687  +1.515   16
15.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault         1:39.696  +1.524   29
16.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1:40.271  +2.099   27
17.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault      1:40.678  +2.506   34
18.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        1:40.947  +2.775   33
19.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault      1:41.464  +3.292   25
20.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth     1:41.681  +3.509   20
21.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault      1:42.594  +4.422   18
22.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth     1:42.874  +4.702   24
23.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth          1:43.658  +5.486   18
24.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth          1:43.283  +5.561   22


Hamilton leads Malaysian first practice

Hamilton beat Vettel by half a second

Hamilton beat Vettel by half a second

Lewis Hamilton got over his Australian GP disappointment to lead first practice of the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel was 2nd for Red Bull, half a second behind the McLaren driver.

The two Mercedes cars of Rosberg and Schumacher were 0.8 seconds off Hamilton’s time, while Romain Grosjean was 5th. The Renault suffered a gearbox issue during the session, becoming stuck in seventh gear.

Kimi Raikkonen was 7th, but will be dropped 5 places on the grid for the race, after undergoing a gearbox change.

Valtteri Bottas drove Bruno Senna’s Williams, finishing 11th. The Ferraris were 13th and 15th, as they continue to struggle with the F2012.

The HRT cars propped up the back of the grid, with Narain Karthikeyan only setting 8 laps after transmission problems.

Times from FP1:

 1.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes       1:38.021           19
 2.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault       1:38.535  +0.514   21
 3.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes               1:38.813  +0.792   21
 4.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes               1:38.826  +0.805   19
 5.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault          1:38.919  +0.898   17
 6.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault       1:39.092  +1.071   20
 7.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault          1:39.128  +1.107   22
 8.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes   1:39.298  +1.277   23
 9.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes       1:39.323  +1.302   15
10.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes   1:39.440  +1.419   19
11.  Valterri Bottas       Williams-Renault       1:39.724  +1.703   23
12.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault       1:39.783  +1.762   23
13.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari                1:39.896  +1.875   16
14.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari         1:39.910  +1.889   21
15.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                1:39.980  +1.959   23
16.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:40.099  +2.078   23
17.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault       1:40.247  +2.226   19
18.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:40.469  +2.448   23
19.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault       1:40.857  +2.836   25
20.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari         1:41.085  +3.064   23
21.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth      1:43.170  +5.149   18
22.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth      1:44.580  +6.559   14
23.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth           1:45.360  +7.339    8
24.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth           1:45.528  +7.507   18

Australian Grand Prix analysis: McLaren heading a new pecking order?

The first race of the 2012 Formula 1 season has brought with it the usual bundle of surprises, and the Australian Grand Prix showed us a glimpse of what’s to come over the next 19 races.

As McLaren and Red Bull strengthen their position at the top, Ferrari faltered, but Mercedes and Lotus failed to capitalise. Teams like Williams and Toro Rosso impressed with good race pace, while Marussia were quietly impressive at the back of the field.

Let’s have a look at what we learned from last weekend:

McLaren vs Red Bull – a year-long battle?

Can Red Bull claw back the deficit to McLaren?

Can Red Bull claw back the deficit to McLaren?

The first race of the season clearly showed McLaren’s strong pace. They locked out the front row in qualifying, and should have held their footing in the race, if it was not for an ill-timed safety car.

Meanwhile, Red Bull were worryingly poor in qualifying – it was the first time since Monza 2010 that neither Red Bull was on the front row – but fought back well to split their rivals.

What’s interesting is that, once Red Bull get a hold of their qualifying issues, the teams will be almost neck-and-neck at the front. Until then however, Button and Hamilton will look at building their points tally. This raises another interesting debate, as to which of the British drivers will end the season on top.

Button showed superior start-line traction, and after that he sailed into the distance. Hamilton was clearly rattled, and suffered for the rest of the race. This allowed Sebastian Vettel to close rapidly, and deny McLaren a perfect start to the season.

His Australian GP jinx aside, Mark Webber looks stronger than last year – though he had to be, to be honest. Despite this, with the EBD ban, he appears more than capable of challenging his teammate.

With all of these drivers looking competitive, we are facing a distinct possibility of all 4 drivers duking it out for the world championship.

Ferrari’s woes, Mercedes’ gain

Alonso is surely furious over Ferrari's poor pace yet again

Alonso is surely furious over Ferrari's poor pace yet again

There is no denying how atrocious the Ferrari F2012 is in terms of pace – 12th and 16th in qualifying proved this. Even their fellow Italian team, Toro Rosso, did better than this.

The team will undoubtedly look to Fernando Alonso to lead the Scuderia’s charge back up the field, but that will take time. As we saw in practice, the F2012 was wildly uncontrollable exiting corners, showing that Ferrari are still struggling to understand their own radical design.

Meanwhile, Mercedes have enjoyed excellent pace so far this year. Pole position in Australia was a definite possibility for Nico Rosberg, until he binned his lap at Turn 3.

A disastrous race left the Brackley squad without a single point, but the potential is still there to win races. Michael Schumacher’s 4th place in qualifying, followed up by running 3rd until his retirement, showed that he has improved greatly since his comeback. Rosberg’s race pace was much more disappointing, however.

Still, the rear wing F-duct innovation shows that the team are in with a chance of taking on the top two teams.

Contrasting fortunes at the back

Charles Pic performed reasonably well on his debut

Charles Pic performed reasonably well on his debut

HRT showed the world why they deserve to be racing in the highest level of motorsport – by flunking testing and failing to qualify. Enough said.

Marussia, on the other hand, enjoyed a relatively successful race, taking a 14th placed finish, equaling their best so far. Rookie Charles Pic stayed out of trouble, though he was forced to back off massively in the last few laps, eventually retiring with an oil pressure issue.

Rivals Caterham retired both cars with mechanical issues, confirming their horrid reliability for another season. With this, consistency and reliability is key for Marussia. If the time ever comes when much of the field are out of the running, they need to be ready to take advantage.

Latest young driver shoot-out

Vergne is a talented youngster, but so is Ricciardo

Vergne is a talented youngster, but so is Ricciardo

Toro Rosso’s ditching of Alguersuari and Buemi came as a relief to many – their latest duo of Vergne and Ricciardo has provided a fresh rivalry in the midfield.

Their last-gasp battle for points showed that neither is afraid to back down, and the fact that they didn’t collide shows a relative amount of maturity to their driving. I’m personally a fan of both drivers, and as of yet cannot determine who may end up on top.

This leaves us with an exciting battle within the Faenza squad. So far, Ricciardo has the upper hand, but only just. Can he remain on top for the entire season?

Button was “more than marginal” on fuel

Button's impressive victory could have been ruined by a fuel error

Button's impressive victory could have been ruined by a fuel error

It has been revealed that Jenson Button’s Australian GP win was not as easy as it looked – the Briton was running extremely light on fuel.

Jenson took the lead at the first corner from his teammate, and controlled the race from there. However, team principal Martin Whitmarsh revealed that a fuel miscalculation almost ruined his race. He worryingly stated that Button was in “severe” fuel saving mode by lap 8:

"We were more than marginal. Had we raced unfettered we would not have got to 
the finish line with either car, so from lap eight we were in severe fuel 
saving mode."

With this, the safety car appearance during the race surely saved Button and McLaren from an embarrassing retirement.

Whitmarsh also said that he felt a 1-2 finish was within reach, following the team’s front row lockout on Saturday. Despite this, he praised Button’s driving style during the race:

"He drove a really beautiful race: smooth, controlling, and he pressed when he 
needed to - just like a champion would."

Kovalainen penalised for safety car passes

Heikki Kovalainen had a difficult start to the 2012 season

Heikki Kovalainen had a difficult start to the 2012 season

Heikki Kovalainen will be dropped 5 places on the Malaysian Grand Prix grid, following a penalty during today’ Australian GP.

The Caterham driver overtook two drivers at the last corner as he entered the pits. However, he had not cleared the safety car line before he made the passes. The stewards investigated the incident after the race, and dealt the Finn the punishment for next week’s race.

He described the penalty as a “bit harsh” on his Twitter feed after the race.

Kovalainen had a troubled start to the season. He lost KERS at the start, and subsequently suffered a DRS failure on lap 6. Despite this, he was classified in 16th, and ran as high as 11th.

Points standings after Australian GP

Driver Standings

Driver Points
1 Jenson Button 25
2 Sebastian Vettel  18
3 Lewis Hamilton  15
4 Mark Webber  12
5 Fernando Alonso  10
6 Kamui Kobayashi  8
7 Kimi Raikkonen  6
8 Sergio Perez  4
9 Daniel Ricciardo 2
10 Paul di Resta  1
11 Jean-Eric Vergne  0
12 Nico Rosberg  0
13 Pastor Maldonado  0
14 Timo Glock  0
15 Charles Pic  0
16 Bruno Senna  0
17 Felipe Massa  0
18 Heikki Kovalainen  0
19 Vitaly Petrov  0
20 Michael Schumacher  0
21 Romain Grosjean  0
22 Nico Hulkenberg 0
23 Narain Karthikeyan 0
24 Pedro de la Rosa 0

Constructor Standings

Team Points
1 McLaren-Mercedes 40
2 Red Bull-Renault 30
3 Sauber-Ferrari 12
4 Ferrari 10
5 Lotus-Renault 6
6 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2
7 Force India-Mercedes 1
8 Mercedes GP 0
9 Williams-Renault 0
10 Marussia-Cosworth 0
11 Caterham-Renault 0
12 HRT-Cosworth 0


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