Monthly Archives: September 2012

Tributes pour in for Professor Sid Watkins

The death of Professor Sid Watkins was reported last night, and has been confirmed by the FIA overnight.

Since then, tributes have been pouring in from all over the world – from drivers whose lives he saved, to close friends, to journalists and team managers. There isn’t enough space to fit them all here, but here’s the most moving:

The FIA and the FIA Institute extend their sincere condolences to the Watkins 
family on the sad news of the death of FIA Institute Honorary President 
Professor Sid Watkins.

Throughout his life Sid made a unique contribution to motor sport, particularly 
in improving safety for F1 drivers, officials and spectators around the world.

He was highly respected as an acclaimed neurosurgeon, F1 medical delegate, 
chairman of the FIA Expert Advisory Safety Committee, and as the first 
President of the FIA Institute.

Sid's experience, intelligence and endearing humour will be forever greatly 

Our thoughts are with the Watkins family at this difficult time.

Jean Todt, FIA President, said: "This is a truly sad day for the FIA family 
and the entire motor sport community. Sid was loved and respected in equal 
measure by all those who knew and worked with him. We will always be grateful 
for the safety legacy that he has left our sport."

Gérard Saillant, FIA Institute President, said: "Sid was a true gentleman of 
our sport and always a pleasure to work with. He will be sorely missed by 
everyone who knew him, from doctors and drivers to officials and fans. Sid's 
influence will live on for many years to come." 
-FIA Official Statement
Motor sport has lost a true visionary and character with death of Prof Sid 
Watkins. Great man, funny too. Saved my left foot being amputated. Sid was 
the 'go to' man for health in Motorsport. He helped, saved, or made more 
comfortable, numerous people who never sat in a racing car.

Sid would often prescribe ‘a stiff whisky and aspirin’ unless your leg was 
hanging off. His way of saying ‘just put up and get on with it’.
-Martin Brundle
Very sad to hear Prof Sid Watkins has passed away. Single handedly achieved a 
step-change in the safety of world motor sport.

My own interaction with Sid Watkins came when he looked after Martin Donnelly in 
intensive care at the Royal London. Inspirational and caring. The reaction to the 
passing of Prof Sid Watkins from the world of F1 will demonstrate just how highly 
he was regarded. By everyone.
-Mark Gallagher

Rest in Peace Sid Watkins...Motorsport wouldn't be what it is today without you. 
Thank you for all you've done, we as drivers are so grateful.
-Jenson Button
Sid Watkins gained the respect and admiration of all the drivers throughout his 
time in Formula One. I know a number of them, throughout their time as racing 
drivers, looked to Sid for many different kinds of advice, in addition to his 
medical expertise. Perhaps most significant in my mind is that Sid was held in 
high regard by Bernie Ecclestone.

"He was in all respects a very special human being. In particular, his dedication 
to the safety of the drivers required endless persistence to achieve the safety 
standards and level of medical care that were necessary to save drivers' lives.

"My own endorsement of Sid's abilities goes without saying. He took splendid care 
of me when I spent 11 weeks in his hospital post-injury. After that I emerged as 
a human being who, if not fully mobile, could continue with a perfectly normal and 
healthy lifestyle. I remain forever grateful to him.
-Frank Williams

Sid Watkins was one of the best men I have met in my life, totally selfless and the 
world has lost a great.
-David Coulthard
Prof was a great, great, man. Many drivers owe him their lives, including Mika 
Hakkinen & Rubens Barrichello. He made F1 safety what it is.
-Byron Young
RIP Prof Sid Watkins. You and Dr Gary Hartstein were my guardian angels rescuing 
myself from the F1 accident in 2001. We’ll miss you.
-Luciano Burti
Today the world of motor racing lost one of its true greats: Professor Sid Watkins. 
No, he wasn't a driver; no, he wasn't an engineer; no, he wasn't a designer. He was 
a doctor, and it's probably fair to say that he did more than anyone, over many 
years, to make Formula 1 as safe as it is today.

As such, many drivers and ex-drivers owe their lives to his careful and expert work, 
which resulted in the massive advances in safety levels that today's drivers 
possibly take for granted. But, more than that, Sid was a dear friend of mine, and 
I'll miss him bitterly.

To his widow Susan, and to his family, I extend my sincerest condolences. He was a 
truly great man, and the world of motor racing simply won't be the same without him.
-Ron Dennis

Hundreds more messages show the impact that Sid had on the motoring world. Finally, I reccommend this article by Manish Pandley, who wrote and produced the Senna movie, one of the last men ever to interview Sid Watkins. Well worth 20 minutes of your time.


Former F1 medical delegate Professor Sid Watkins passes away

Professor Sid Watkins, former F1 Medical Delegate and pioneer of Formula 1 safety standards, has passed away at the age of 84.

Watkins spent 26 years as the Formula 1 Safety and Medical Delegate, and was usually the first responder in case of a crash. His efforts over the years have saved countless drivers, including Rubens Barrichello, Martin Brundle, Gerhard Berger, Martin Donnelly, Erik Comas, Mika Hakkinen and Karl Wendlinger.

Watkins was also well known for his close friendship Ayrton Senna, who died in April 1994.

Professor Sid, as he was known, was one of the primary catalysts of change in 1980s Formula 1, making immeasurable improvements to drivers’ safety. He famously prevented Nelson Piquet from racing in Imola 1987 after a crash in practice, threatening to retire after Piquet stated his intention to race. He eventually sat out the weekend, later stating that it was the correct decision.

He would put himself in immense physical danger to save a driver. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

At the Canadian Grand Prix [1982], Wakins had to deal with the fatal accident of Riccardo 
Paletti on the first lap of the race. Watkins got to Paletti's car 16 seconds after 
impact and opened the visor of the helmet to see his blown pupils. Then before any 
medical attention could be received, Paletti's car caught fire due to the petrol 
tank having ruptured and ignited. Watkins had suitable clothing to prevent him from 
suffering serious burns but his hands were affected. After he extinguished the fire, 
he took off his gloves to put an airway into Paletti's throat but Watkins' boots had
melted in the fire.

He is also responsible for saving 2-time world champion Mika Hakkinen’s life, restarting his heart twice and performing a cricothryoidotomy at the side of the track.

Watkins retired from his medical position in 2005, but decided to take up the role of President of the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety. He was succeeded by Gary Harstein, who had worked under Sid for many years.

Robert Kubica wins rally race on return to motorsport

Robert Kubica has completed his first motorsport event since his horrific crash in February 2011.

The Pole competed in the Ronde Gomitolo di Lana Rally yesterday, and dominated the entire event, winning by nearly a minute. At the end of the first stage alone, he was 11 seconds ahead of his rivals.

Kubica’s car was modified for him, with the gear lever on his left instead of the right, to compensate for his damaged arm.

While Robert made it clear that he would prefer to be racing in Formula 1, he is still happy with returning to competitive racing:

"Obviously I would have preferred to come back somewhere else, but this is a more 
active phase in my rehabilitation path.

The hope is to be able to return where I was before [F1], and it's already a nice 
goal for me. But to be here in Biella is obviously emotional after 20-21 difficult 

Let's hope we can enjoy ourselves, without looking at stage times because in the 
end it's a matter of re-establishing the way of driving and helping the arm to 
recover better.

Having been a driver for 20 years, my body is accustomed to certain things, and I 
can feel these things only while I drive, so we'll see."

Not content with a one-off rally, Kubica is expected to race in the San Martino di Castrozza rally next weekend.

Disaster for Red Bull as Perez pushes Hamilton to Monza win

A surprisingly drama-free first corner

A surprisingly drama-free first corner

Lewis Hamilton has taken another victory at the Italian Grand Prix, but was pushed all the way by Sauber’s Sergio Perez. Fernando Alonso recovered from his poor grid position to take a podium, while Felipe Massa faltered and could only manage 4th.

The Red Bull’s races fell apart, as Sebastian Vettel was handed a drive-through penalty, and both drivers retired with only a few laps to go. Here is the full report:

At the start, Hamilton defended his lead against Felipe Massa, who had charged past Jenson Button on the main straight. Button made a move on the Ferrari, but was held back. Fernando Alonso began his charge back up the field, while Mark Webber had another awful start, dropping to 14th.

Michael Schumacher lost 4th place to Sebastian Vettel, while Alonso began pressurising the Mercedes from behind. After a few laps of tussling, Fernando used KERS to blast past him on the main straight.

Further back, Paul di Resta shoved Bruno Senna off the road at the Roggia chicane, and the Williams lost a place, nearly crashing into Mark Webber’s car when he rejoined.

Jean-Eric Vergne flies over the kerbs

Jean-Eric Vergne flies over the kerbs

Jean-Eric Vergne suffered a terrifying crash, as his suspension failed entering the first chicane, and the Toro Rosso nearly flipped crashing over the kerbs. The safety car was not called out, but DRS was temporarily disabled while the wreckage was cleared.

After a terrible few opening laps, Mark Webber sliced his way past Paul di Resta for 10th. However, by then, his teammate was all the way up in 4th, getting closer and closer to Jenson Button. Interestingly though, his team complimented the Brit on his pace, indicating a possible 1-stop strategy.

On lap 18, when most of the frontrunners were thinking of a pit stop, Sergio Perez pulled an excellent move around the outside of Kimi Raikkonen for 6th. At the same time, the sister Sauber was passed by Mark Webber for 9th place.

There were problems for Felipe Massa, as his team informed him that his car had lost telemetry transmissions. It got even worse for the Ferrari, as Jenson Button easily got past him at the Roggia chicane.

Massa pitted in response, taking on the harder tyre. After Pastor Maldonado set the fastest lap on a fresh set of tyres, Vettel and Alonso pitted in unison. They emerged just behind the slowing Massa. This pack of cars all battled to pass Daniel Ricciardo, and Alonso did his absolute best to get past the Red Bull.

Button soon pitted, but an unusually slow stop put him out only just ahead of the Massa-led pack. Hamilton pitted a lap later, leaving Sergio Perez in the lead of the race.

Alonso gets pushed off the track

Alonso gets pushed off the track

Alonso and Vettel soon began to battle lap after lap, with Sebastian eventually pushing the Ferrari onto the grass before Roggia, in a similar fashion to last year. Alonso just about held the car in a straight line, and rejoined the track behind the Red Bull.

Perez still led, but his hard tyres simply didn’t have the pace, and Lewis easily re-took the lead. At the same time, Alonso finally got past Vettel for 5th position. Surprisingly, the stewards showed unusual discipline on Vettel, handing him a drive-through penalty for forcing Alonso off the track.

Soon after, McLaren’s 1-2 fell apart, as Jenson Button pulled over with a mechanical issue. This left Felipe Massa in second, with Alonso fast approaching behind, and Schumacher 4th after Vettel’s penalty. However, Sebastian wasn’t slowed for long, finding his way past Mark Webber for 7th place.

Sergio Perez got past Kimi Raikkonen for 4th, and began closing in on the Ferraris at rapid pace. The situation was very clear, so Massa offered no resistance against the charging Alonso, allowing him into 2nd.

Almost 2 seconds a lap faster, Perez eased past Massa with absolutely no trouble. After only a few more laps, he managed to get past Fernando Alonso as well. Despite an amazing charge up the field, he didn’t stop there, instead putting the pressure on Lewis Hamilton for the rest of the race.

Alonso entertains the fans on the podium

Alonso entertains the fans on the podium

With only 5 laps to go, a disappointing race ended prematurely for Vettel, with a mechanical issue. Amazingly, it got even worse, as a spin and ruined set of tyres ruled Mark Webber out of the race with 2 laps to go.

Despite his insane pace, Perez was unable to catch Hamilton, who crossed the line 4 seconds ahead to win the Italian Grand Prix. Perez and Alonso took excellent podiums, while Michael Schumacher pushed Kimi Raikkonen all the way to the line, finishing in 6th place.

Kamui Kobayashi took a quiet 9th, while Bruno Senna leaped up from 12th to 10th on the last lap to snatch a point.

In terms of the championship, this leaves Alonso still well in front, while Hamilton moves up to 2nd, with Raikkonen further behind. Their double retirement leaves the Red Bull drivers 4th and 5th.

Alonso problem revealed as broken rear anti-roll bar

Fernando Alonso struggled to make an impression in today’s qualifying session.

Later, the Ferrari team revealed on Twitter that the problem had been caused by a broken rear anti-roll bar:

It looks like there was a mechanical failure on the rear of Fernando's car, possibly 
the rear anti-roll bar.

Later, team principal Stefano Domenicali noted that the fault occurred during Fernando’s first lap in Q3.

Alonso will start 10th on the grid, with teammate Felipe Massa up in 3rd.

Hamilton heads McLaren lockout in Monza

Lewis Hamilton has taken pole position for the Italian Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso was expected to challenge him, but a slip-up by Ferrari left him languishing in 10th place, while Felipe Massa enjoyed 3rd on the grid.

Jenson Button joined Hamilton on the front row, while Paul di Resta impressed with 4th. Predictably, the Red Bulls struggled massively, with Vettel 6th and Mark Webber not even making it into Q3. Here is what happened:


One-off Lotus driver Jerome D’Ambrosio was one of the first out, setting a 1:26.712, while Nico Hulkenberg went straight on at turn 1. Teammate Paul di Resta briefly went a second faster, before he was displaced by Nico Rosberg.

Local hero Fernando Alonso set a 1:24.5, while Hulkenberg was forced to stop, after losing a gear on his Force India. While other drivers scrabbled to beat the Ferrari’s time, Alonso improved on it by another 0.4 seconds.

After several mistakes on his opening laps, Lewis Hamilton set the fastest sector 1 and 2 of the session, but lost a tenth in sector 3, and went 2nd. Jean-Eric Vergne was the first to take on the medium tyre, but didn’t improve on his time.

Jerome D’Ambrosio pulled himself out of the drop zone, but was pushed all the way by Heikki Kovalainen. Nico Hulkenberg was eliminated from Q1 for the first time in his career.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:26.441

19) Vitaly Petrov – 1:26.887

20) Timo Glock – 1:27.039

21) Charles Pic – 1:27.073

22) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:27.441

23) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:27.629

24) Nico Hulkenberg – N/A


After one Force India was taken out of Q1, the sole remaining car driven by Paul di Resta was out first in Q2. All drivers took on the medium tyres, apart from Jerome D’Ambrosio.

Fernando Alonso’s time of 1:24.2 was again the time to beat. Jenson Button was fastest in S1 and S2, but again fell short to come 2nd. Lewis Hamilton was a tenth off his teammate, but claimed he was held up.

The Red Bulls were off the pace, with Vettel 9th and Webber 13th. The Mercedes drivers both made mistakes on their flying laps, leaving both drivers several tenths off the frontrunners.

After Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado all improved on their times, the Red Bulls were in serious trouble. Both left the pits with a few minutes to go, but only Vettel was able to move back into the top 10. Mark Webber was 11th, 0.06 seconds off Raikkonen.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Mark Webber – 1:24.809

12) Pastor Maldonado – 1:24.820

13) Sergio Perez – 1:24.901

14) Bruno Senna – 1:25.042

15) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:25.312

16) Jerome D’Ambrosio – 1:25.408

17) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:25.441


The Ferraris were first out of the pits for Q3. However, on their first lap they played a very interesting tactical piece – Alonso slowing down, giving a tow to Massa’s car. This small aero advantage put Massa on top with a 1:24.436.

Jenson Button got to within a tenth of Massa, before Hamilton went 0.4 seconds faster than anybody else. Alonso and Massa pitted, with Fernando not yet setting a fast lap.

Nico Rosberg went 4th, with Vettel back in 5th, before they were both displaced by Michael Schumacher. On his first lap with a minute to go, Paul di Resta immediately went into 2nd position.

It appeared as if Ferrari were about to repeat their slipstreaming trick, but Massa appeared to pull away from Alonso, setting his own fast lap, going 3rd on the grid. Alonso’s sector 1 was unusually poor, leaving him 10th.

Jenson Button improved on his time, but could only get within a tenth of his teammate. Lewis Hamilton led a McLaren front row lockout of Monza, while their rivals stumbled. Although Di Resta qualified in 4th, he will take a gearbox penalty for tomorrow’s race.

Italian GP practice: McLaren edge ahead of Mercedes

After Friday practice at the Monza circuit, it appears as if McLaren are the team to beat this weekend.

However, Mercedes and Michael Schumacher have shown promising one-lap pace, and several technical issues in FP2 stopped them from showing their full potential. Ferrari have decent pace, and the gap between Alonso and Massa is at its lowest in years.

Red Bull, meanwhile, are disappointed with their pace, stating they need drastic improvements by tomorrow afternoon.

First practice

Much focus was on Ma Qing Hua, making his debut appearance for the HRT team, and the first ever Chinese driver to take part in an official F1 session.

He ended the day last, 1.9 seconds off Pedro de la Rosa. On his first flying lap, he misjudged the braking spot at the first chicane, and clattered over the kerbs.

Kimi Raikkonen made the same mistake, before later crashing his Lotus over the harsher kerbs of the Roggia (second) chicane.

Michael Schumacher set the fastest time on the harder tyre – a 1:25.422, over 0.3 seconds faster than Jenson Button. Teammate Nico Rosberg was third, followed by the two Ferraris. The Red Bulls struggled back in 9th and 11th.

There were two retirements near the end of the session, both appearing to be technical-related. Fernando Alonso stopped at the first chicane and Pastor Maldonado pulled over at Lesmo 1 with his DRS flap open.

Pos  Driver              Car                   Time      Gap     Laps
 1.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1:25.422          26
 2.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      1:25.723  +0.301  29
 3.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes              1:25.762  +0.340  26
 4.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               1:25.800  +0.378  22
 5.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               1:25.861  +0.439  27
 6.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      1:25.944  +0.522  30
 7.  Kimi Raikkonen      Lotus-Renault         1:26.046  +0.624  25
 8.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        1:26.323  +0.901  26
 9.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      1:26.390  +0.968  24
10.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Renault      1:26.504  +1.082  19
11.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      1:26.508  +1.086  18
12.  Nico Hulkenberg     Force India-Mercedes  1:26.518  +1.096  21
13.  Valtteri Bottas     Williams-Renault      1:26.641  +1.219  26
14.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        1:26.746  +1.324  23
15.  Jerome d'Ambrosio   Lotus-Renault         1:27.180  +1.758  29
16.  Jules Bianchi       Force India-Mercedes  1:27.192  +1.770  22
17.  Daniel Ricciardo    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:27.373  +1.951  25
18.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:27.789  +2.367  24
19.  Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham-Renault      1:27.855  +2.433  27
20.  Vitaly Petrov       Caterham-Renault      1:28.578  +3.156  20
21.  Charles Pic         Marussia-Cosworth     1:28.751  +3.329  26
22.  Timo Glock          Marussia-Cosworth     1:29.207  +3.785  21
23.  Pedro de la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth          1:29.331  +3.909  21
24.  Ma Qing Hua         HRT-Cosworth          1:31.239  +5.817  26

Second practice

Local hero Fernando Alonso was forced to retire again with 20 minutes to go in FP2, cruising back to the pits in second gear. Despite not appearing for the rest of the session, he still managed third place, 0.05 seconds off Lewis Hamilton.

The McLarens were separated by 3 hundreths of a second at the front. Again, the Ferraris were very evenly matched, but Mercedes were unable to perform in FP2, due to a raft of issues.

Both cars lost their DRS systems at some point during the session. Schumacher’s car stopped communicating telemetry, while Rosberg suffered a variety of technical glitches.

Pos  Driver              Car                   Time      Gap     Laps
 1.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      1:25.290          32
 2.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      1:25.328  +0.038  35
 3.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               1:25.348  +0.058  17
 4.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               1:25.430  +0.140  43
 5.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes              1:25.446  +0.156  41
 6.  Kimi Raikkonen      Lotus-Renault         1:25.504  +0.214  42
 7.  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes  1:25.546  +0.256  40
 8.  Nico Hulkenberg     Force India-Mercedes  1:25.547  +0.257  36
 9.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        1:26.068  +0.778  32
10.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1:26.094  +0.804  38
11.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      1:26.104  +0.814  35
12.  Jerome d'Ambrosio   Lotus-Renault         1:26.157  +0.867  36
13.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      1:26.394  +1.104  31
14.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Renault      1:26.404  +1.114  42
15.  Daniel Ricciardo    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:26.724  +1.434  33
16.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        1:26.730  +1.440  17
17.  Bruno Senna         Williams-Renault      1:26.783  +1.493  39
18.  Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham-Renault      1:26.841  +1.551  39
19.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:26.864  +1.574  36
20.  Vitaly Petrov       Caterham-Renault      1:27.222  +1.932  36
21.  Timo Glock          Marussia-Cosworth     1:27.944  +2.654  36
22.  Charles Pic         Marussia-Cosworth     1:27.968  +2.678  36
23.  Pedro de la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth          1:28.575  +3.285  34
24.  Narain Karthikeyan  HRT-Cosworth          1:28.779  +3.489  21

Reduced DRS zones for Monza

The FIA has decided to reduce the emphasis on DRS for this year’s Italian Grand Prix.

While two independent DRS zones remain, they have been shortened in length, particularly the zone exiting the Lesmos to the Ascari chicane. Here, the activation point has been moved down the track by 50m, and is now 210m from the exit of Lesmo 2. The detection zone has been moved back slightly, in between the two Lesmo corners. This slightly reduces the likeliness of a driver being able to use DRS in this area.

The main DRS zone, on the start/finish straight, has had a more conservative reduction in length – by 5 metres. Drivers can now activate their DRS systems 115m after the start/finish line. The detection zone for this area is 20 metres before the turn-in for the Parabolica corner.

As well as this, the straight from the Ascari chicane to Parabolica has been resurfaced. This is not expected to have much impact.

Qing Hua Ma to become first Chinese F1 driver in Monza first practice

Qing Hua Ma will drive a Formula 1 car for the first time next weekend, in a HRT at the Italian Grand Prix.

It will be the first time ever that a Chinese person has driven a Formula 1 car in an official session. Ma will take the place of Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan for FP1.

Earlier in the year, he drove for HRT in a one-day Young Driver’s Test in Silverstone.

The 24-year-old has previously driven in A1 GP, Formula Renault 2.0, Spanish F3, British F3 National Class and Superleague Formula without success, but last year won the 1600c China Touring Car Championship. He came to the attention of the press in July, after crying after completing his first laps in the HRT F112:

He is not the first Chinese person to drive an F1 car, however. Ho Pin Tung completed a test drive for the Renault F1 team back in 2009.

Jerome D’Ambrosio confirmed as Grosjean’s replacement for Monza

Jerome D'Ambrosio will get another shot at Formula 1

Jerome D’Ambrosio will get another shot at Formula 1

Jerome D’Ambrosio will take the place of Romain Grosjean for the Lotus team for the Italian Grand Prix.

Romain was banned for one race by the stewards, after causing a serious crash in Spa, which eliminated several frontrunning cars. The Frenchman turned in on Lewis Hamilton, who collided with the Lotus, and speared into Fernando Alonso, Kamui Kobayashi and Pastor Maldonado.

D’Ambrosio is Lotus’ test and reserve driver this year, having been sacked from the Virgin/Marussia team last year.