Tag Archives: Malaysian GP

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."

Sepang Malaysia circuit looking for upgrade

The Sepang International Circuit

The Sepang International Circuit

The Sepang International Circuit is looking for a major upgrade to the circuit in the next year or so. Despite being only 11 years old, parts of the track need major overhaul.

The circuit boss, Razlan Razali, has said that they are searching for investors to upgrade the track facilities in the upcoming year, which should cost around €42m. He said:

"Unfortunately after three to four years, the track was not 
very well maintained. There are areas of the grandstand and 
the paddock where it leaks during a storm. We experience power 
trips and mechanical and electrical woes. We need a major 
overhaul and refurbishment.

The flat roof above the paddock is also leaking. We are 
fighting a losing battle to repair the leaks. We need to 
bring back Sepang's glory days. I hope we can secure about 
180 million ringgit over the next five years from the 
government to carry out a major overhaul and refurbishment.

Our track needs to be on par with Bahrain and Shanghai. I 
am not afraid of Malaysia losing Formula One spectators. 
I am more concerned about providing better hospitality 
services and how to generate additional revenue."

I’m actually surprised that parts of the circuit need doing up, as the pit lane still has some of the best facilities in the world. Still, I heard of many complaints after the 2009 Malaysian GP, where the rain from the storms was going through the grandstands. Since the Malaysian Grand Prix doesn’t seem to be under threat any time soon, I’d say they should get the renovations done soon enough.

Malaysian Grand Prix in pictures

The Malaysian Grand Prix was where Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel finally took their first win of the year. Here is a look back on the Malaysian Grand Prix in pictures.

Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna

Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna

Karun Chandhok on the grid

Karun Chandhok on the grid

Jenson Button in the pits

Jenson Button in the pits

Timo Glock spins as he tries a move on Jarno Trulli

Timo Glock spins as he tries a move on Jarno Trulli

Kamui Kobayashi on the grid

Kamui Kobayashi on the grid

Robert Kubica

Robert Kubica

The start of the race

The start of the race

Sebastian Vettel takes the lead from Mark Webber at the start

Sebastian Vettel takes the lead from Mark Webber at the start

The Red Bulls lead the field into Turn 2

The Red Bulls lead the field into Turn 2

Heikki Kovalainen and Bruno Senna

Heikki Kovalainen and Bruno Senna

Sebastian Vettel in parc ferme

Sebastian Vettel in parc ferme

Jaime Alguersuari

Jaime Alguersuari

Sebastian Vettel crosses the finish line

Sebastian Vettel crosses the finish line

Malaysian Grand Prix press conference

Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg at the Malaysian Grand prix press conference

Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg at the Malaysian Grand prix press conference

Here is the (slightly late) transcript of the Malaysian Grand Prix post-race press conference:

Q: Sebastian, a victory today set up by an excellent start and one that looked fairly comfortable if you ever can be comfortable in the heat of Malaysia.
Sebastian Vettel:
Well, it wasn’t comfortable. I realised straight away that I had a good start and passed Nico, who was alongside, and then got the tow from Mark, so I was able to gain, gain, gain. It is a long sprint down to turn one and I clearly had an advantage over him and then I took the chance I had into turn one. It was quite late, so I just made it and then Mark had a bit of a better exit out of turn two, through turn three and it is very slippery and we both tried to push. We are here to fight ourselves but you should keep the respect and I think we both had the respect for each other. If Mark would have been in my position I am quite sure he would have done the same. After that it was just a question about getting away from our competitors. I could see Mark and I were more or less having the same pace, I think he was a little bit quicker in the beginning. I was trying to save my tyres. It did work, so before the stop I could pull away a little bit and the second stint was extremely long. It is extremely hot here and I didn’t stop sweating. Fortunately, I didn’t run out of drinks in the car. I was trying not to be too extreme in the beginning. But it is very hot and very physical and at some stage I was hoping for rain, just to get a bit of a cool down. What a day. Yesterday was extremely difficult with the conditions. Today it stayed dry all the time fortunately and we had a magnificent car. The key was to pace yourself, watch your tyres. Bridgestone did a good job bringing two compounds here that worked fairly well. A very good result for us, especially for myself after two races where we didn’t finish where we wanted to be. To come back, thanks to the team. It is very crucial in that moment not to panic and to stay relaxed. It is a long season but getting here on Sunday afternoon having won the race is the best result we can get. On top of that Mark in second place is a big, big plus for the team. A lot of points and I am very, very happy.

Q: Mark, we heard the call on the radio to look after the tyres on the seventh lap. At the pit stop you lost two-and-a-half seconds. Was that when you lost the chance of catching up with Sebastian today?
Mark Webber:
We know these days with the strategy and how the races unfold that the first part of the race is crucial and the first sector. As Seb explained I got a little bit of wheelspin and on the run to the first corner Seb had a big tow. I didn’t really know where Nico was either. I didn’t know to go fully to the inside or stay in the middle, so I just braked late and both of us were on the limit to make the apex at the first corner. I had a bit better exit coming out of two as Seb explained and then the fight continued to turn four. We had a chat to Christian Horner at the start of the race and Christian said ‘boys, behave yourselves’ and we did. The spirit and the chemistry in our team is awesome. We fight very hard, you saw that today. It was a good fight between Seb and I. The result could have gone either way. But in the end he did the job at a crucial stage and deserved the victory. A one-two for us as a team is sensational. The cars ran very well. It was a nice comeback for us after some tough races where we didn’t finish where we should. All in all coming to the weekend you never know, you would probably take this type of result, but as the weekend went on I would like to be one spot further but a great result for the team and we executed a beautiful weekend for everybody. Well done for Red Bull and Renault, of course, the engines were great.

Q: Nico, you watched the Red Bulls sail away into the distance. You sort of had a race all to yourself but the first podium for yourself with Mercedes.
Nico Rosberg:
It is a fantastic result for us. Quite pleased. The start did not go too well. I think this time it was quite a lot down to me. I just wanted a bit too much and got a bit too much wheelspin and lost out a little bit there. From then on, once I was third, I knew it was going to be difficult to follow the Red Bulls but I was struggling a bit in the first stint with the options. I don’t know why, we need to analyse that, and (Robert) Kubica stayed pretty close which wasn’t the plan. But once we did the pit stop and got on the prime I was very comfortable. A bit worried about (Lewis) Hamilton initially as I didn’t know how he was going to come up after his pit stop and I was expecting him to be very fast but apparently he didn’t get by the people behind me. It is a fantastic result for us here at one of our home grands prix also as we have backing from Petronas, so a lot of support here at this race and it is a great co-incidence that the first podium comes over here too. I really have to thank the whole team for all the hard work they have put in over the winter. They worked crazy hours, so a little reward now with the podium, so we need to push on as we are not there yet where we want to be but it is a good step in the right direction.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Sebastian, how much of a relief was that after the last couple of races?
SV:
A big relief. I am sorry. I feel a bit tipsy from the champagne. I think I took a bit too much. I am very pleased. A great day for us and Red Bull. As you said, the first two races we weren’t finishing where we want to be. But a great result. The start for myself was crucial. I had a good start, good initial momentum. I was a bit worried to start on the dirty side as the right side is the clean side but I was patient really trying to control the wheelspin and didn’t ask for too much throttle too early. That was the key to get past Nico and then run with big tow down to turn one. It is a long sprint. It is one of the longest sprints to turn one behind Mark and I was able to catch him and outbrake him into turn one. It was quite late. Big respect for Mark. I think he would have done the same thing. But he could have behaved differently down into turn one and turn two but that was good. The fight carried on down to turn four. It was extremely slippery for both of us and it was a question who is braking first and if the car stops. Obviously going out of qualifying it was wet, but usually you are having a completely different reference point. Now you start with the car fully filled and it is a bit of an adventure to find your braking point. From then onwards I could see we were one-two which was crucial, so we were able to pull a gap to Nico. But Mark didn’t stop pushing, so I had to push myself. I was trying to look after my tyres in the first stint especially with the soft compound. I was quite pleased that they held together. I was trying to save them a little bit for the end of the stint and then the hard tyres were quite solid and you could push all the way through. Mark again did not stop pushing. He came a bit closer and I could see he was doing faster lap times than I was, so I was just trying to control the gap. It was quite difficult with the lapped cars as they were coming quicker than you thought. Over the team radio I got the call that at some stage we were about 10 seconds quicker a lap compared to them which is funny as two laps before you had nobody there and then all of a sudden you catch them up. But in the end of the day very, very pleased with the result. I think we did a very good job yesterday as a team. Mark was the poker face yesterday and got the pole but today to finish one-two is fantastic especially for myself after the first two races, so I am very happy.

Q: Mark held onto you pretty much in the opening stages but in the second stint he came back at you. Was that all to do with the traffic?
SV:
When you are in the lead and you have got a couple of seconds on your side then you don’t try to do anything stupid in traffic. For the guys I think in the slower cars it is a pretty difficult job to do as three corners before they had no-one in their mirror and all of sudden they had someone behind, so sometimes you find yourself in a bit of an adventure trying to get past. But they did a very good job. Sometimes you lose a little bit more depending on where you have to pass them and how quickly they move over but it was all fairly in control. On the primes in the beginning Mark was a bit faster. I was just trying to react to his times and then the gaps are sometimes shrinking, sometimes I am gaining a bit again. I was trying to bring the car home at some stage. I was hoping for rain as it was quite hot. I think we all lost quite a bit of water, so that is why after two sips of champagne you might feel a bit dizzy. I am still young. I am not used to this.

Q: Mark, a little bit of frustration for you with the start and the wheel nut as well.
MW:
Seb has wrapped it up. The team has performed incredibly well today and the whole weekend. We were very quick all weekend and very important that we had a clean run yesterday in a very tricky session. It could easily have gone wrong for us but both of us did a good job in tough conditions which laid the foundations for a clear race today. We didn’t expect it to be dry for the whole grand prix but it was and knowing that the third, fourth row there wasn’t the normal people, so the race was going to explode massively and probably wasn’t the normal grand prix in that sense. The run to the first corner I had a little bit too much wheelspin at the start and as Seb said he was in a reasonable position to get the tow and then it was just fighting on the brakes for the first two big stops of the lap and Seb has the inside and we fought pretty close but in the end it was really tough fighting your team-mate as we have an amazing chemistry in our team and all the mechanics, Renault, everybody, we arrive at every track in such a good style. We want to get the best result we can. Every team is like that but this is by far the best team I have ever been with in terms of wanting to get the results. When you have got all those guys in your mind it is not the best thing to see Red Bull Racing wheels flying in the air, so we had a good fight but in the end today Seb got it. After that I was like, ‘my God, I have got the whole race now I am in second’ and that was how it was going to be unless Seb had a failure or he was going to make a mistake. But we know the quality of him. Both of us pushed each other to the end and that was that. I had Hamilton after the second stop but the wheel nut was putting up a fight and it seemed like an eternity when we are used to really quick stops. Then it was waiting, waiting, waiting, ok down it goes then I went. I had to sit behind Hamilton a little bit to start with and it was then a case of bringing the cars to the end of the race. You didn’t know how they were going to go. It is still a bit of a learning phase for all the teams as we go to different venues and we do a bit of work on Friday which I didn’t get to do myself but Seb did a bit of work and we still did a lot on Sunday afternoon. Sensational result for the team and we got what we deserved. Other races we didn’t as we weren’t prepared. Today we were prepared and we blew everyone away which was great.

Q: Nico, on the podium here; you said you liked the place, what does this mean to you, the team and your sponsors?
NR:
I’m really happy for the whole team. Also for Petronas who is our biggest sponsor. It’s a great result and it’s really nice to have our first podium here at Malaysia which is a coincidence. We’ve had a lot of support. Even on the podium it was really nice to see all the Petronas guests cheering, so that was really cool. I’m also pleased because the team put so much work into it and they deserved the good result that we got here. Of course, we still need to work hard, because as we saw again Red Bull is just quicker than us at the moment and we really need to push on to close the gap now, to come up with some good ideas and some good upgrades, but I’m confident that we can do it for sure.

Q: How threatening was Robert Kubica, because he got pretty close to you?
NR:
Yeah, I was not quite so happy with the first stint. It wasn’t going well because Robert could properly stay with me and I think he was just as fast as me, so I was a bit surprised by that, but it was the option tyres, I didn’t feel very comfortable on them and I was struggling especially with the rears on high fuel. And then after the pit stop, going on the prime, it felt much better and I could really push on and I was quite comfortable after that.

Q: He still got very close to you. On lap 34 he was…
NR:
Yeah, that was a bit of a problem with (Karun) Chandhok, I think, who… I’m not sure but I don’t think he did a very good job on that particular occasion. He should have moved out a bit earlier. I think he maybe didn’t see me or something and that really gave Kubica a chance which shouldn’t have been there, because he was miles away. So we need to review that in the drivers’ meeting. It’s obviously difficult with all the slightly slower teams, the new teams that are out there. There’s always going to be an occasion where it’s never going to be perfect but we need to try and get it as good as possible.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, it only took you one race to wipe out the gap to Massa and Alonso, who were quite far ahead. Were you expecting to do that so quickly?
MW:
The championship is over, isn’t it? I thought the championship was over!
SV: Yeah, that’s what people are saying. We are just here to race. Yes, as I said before, obviously there’s always a lot of talking and things happening. Yes, we didn’t have great races, the first and second one, we didn’t do the best job we could, but that’s life. You build racing cars to go as quickly as you can. They’re built on the limit and sometimes something breaks. Obviously it depends when. When it happens on Friday, no one cares but if it happens on Sunday, obviously everyone is highlighting the issue and blaming you for poor reliability. We are a team, we stick together in good and bad times. We win and lose together and it’s not like in football where you probably change the coach after you’ve lost two times. So we carry on and we’ve proven that we can come back. I don’t know the ranking in the championship now but I think today we scored 25 points. I saw that Fernando (Alonso) had an engine failure, I think, on the last lap. As far as I remember, our gap was about 25 points, so it’s not anymore. I think that’s a good thing. If anything, it shows how quickly it can turn around. It’s a long, long season. We still have 16 races to go which is a lot, so we are here to do our best and we want to fight for the championship, both of us, and for the team, so at the end of the day, finishing first and second was good points for the team and good points for ourselves, so I think we’re in a much better position now than probably on Friday or this morning.

Q: (Simon Arron – Motorsport News) Mark, can you talk us through turn one? You said in the unilateral that you weren’t sure where Nico was. Did you have any clue where Seb was and when exactly were you aware of his presence?
MW:
I initially had a look off the start where Seb was and he wasn’t mega close initially; in second or third gear, he wasn’t mega close. It looked reasonable. You know the track is so bloody wide you think where the hell is everyone? I’ve obviously only got the mirrors to check the immediate positions just behind me. To be honest, I didn’t know Seb went to the inside. I thought he was more on the outside. Obviously that’s why I probably went back and maybe I’ll opened the door completely for him but it’s very difficult to see where the guys are on the run to turn one on such a wide track, so I just thought, ‘get in there nice and deep,’ for sure he arrived late, he wasn’t beside me, I couldn’t hear him or he wasn’t beside me when we were on full throttle or when we started braking. It was a fair fight and obviously there’s lots of different options into turn one, so it’s hard to know whether to go inside or outside. I saw him when we were on the brakes.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Sebastian, last year you won the third race, and this year you’ve now won the third race. Are you on the same schedule like last year, to carry on fighting for the championship?
SV:
I need to remember where we finished the fourth race and the fifth race. Last year is last year, this year is this year. I think we are always looking ahead but you can live in history or you can live in the future, but I think the best thing is to live in the now and live the moment, so we have to focus on what is happening now. From here, first of all we go back and then kind of come back to Asia to go to China. The cars go more or less straight there, but there’s a bit of break between races. And hopefully we will have the same result in China as last year, that’s all I can say. Every race is a new challenge. Into the first race, I think we were pretty quick. Ferrari was very quick and in Melbourne all of a sudden we were kind of back. They weren’t really that far behind in Bahrain but it just shows that a slightly different kind of track, a different layout… you know, we’ve seen here Mercedes was very strong, so we probably do have a little bit of an advantage at the time, but we have to work hard and focus on what is happening now to maintain the good performance and then we go race by race. There may be times when we will struggle as well and we won’t be able to win. We might only get fourth or fifth but we have to make sure we finish fourth or fifth then, and not put the car in the wall or finish eighth or out of the points. I think that’s how it should work.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) To Vettel and Webber, if we’d had a normal qualifying yesterday with Ferrari and McLaren closer to your team, do you think the result of the race would have been the same?
MW:
No. It was a luxury today, for Seb and I, not to have to kill the engines, kill the tyres, kill everything because the gap to the other guys was more comfortable, no question about it. But Nico drove a good race, but I think there were some quicker guys, maybe particularly Lewis, who had a different day, starting at the back. Tactically the race could have been a little bit different if he was around, or Fernando or Felipe (Massa). I obviously didn’t see how their race went. Obviously Fernando didn’t finish at the end. As Jack Brabham used to say: ‘win at the slowest possible speed.’ One second or thirty seconds is the same result. We were very much in control of today’s race. It’s not always going to be like that but when it is, you have to make the most of it.
SV: Not much to add. Walter Röhrl once said that he’s not interested in winning a rally by one second having had a close fight. He wants to destroy the others and win by a minute, so two great drivers, one in rallying, one in Formula One, but I think that in the end, especially here, the result is obviously most important for us. We got good points. As Mark said, it probably wasn’t the easiest race for Ferrari and McLaren, but still, it was a long hot race and first you have to go out and do it.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Mark, you had a different strategy to Sebastian; do you think that without the problem you had in the pit stop you could have passed him, after the pit stop?
MW:
I don’t think the pit stop cost me the victory. The start cost me the victory and then when the first car is leading, he sort of has priority or the luxury when he can stop. It was clear. Obviously if I stopped first there was a big chance I could jump Sebastian but that would not have been fair for the guy who was leading. It was really down to the start and who had track position in the first stint. I knew, when Sebastian peeled off for his stop, I pushed. Obviously I found quite a bit more pace on the in-lap but it’s not enough to take on the fresh tyres of a competitor who in this case was Seb, because we know the cars are the same weight. In seasons gone by obviously the cars were different weights because of the fuel. Now they’re the same weight and fresh tyres, so it’s very difficult to fight and then, as you say, the pit stop was a little bit of salt in the wounds or a fly in the ointment. It doesn’t help things.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Nico, you said you were really satisfied after your third place, but it also underlines how far you are from the Red Bulls, so doesn’t that frustrate you?
NR:
Frustrating? No, I would not say it was frustrating. It’s really early days. The team has just come together in the way it is now with Petronas and Mercedes and the ex-Brawn team. I think we’ve started the season OK with two fifth places and now a third place. I think it’s a good start with some solid results and I’m happy with that and it’s very important now that we push on because we need to develop faster than the others, which is not going to be easy, but I’m confident that we can do the job and that’s going to be the most important thing, to really push on now. Looking at today, it didn’t seem to be such a huge gap to Red Bull at the beginning. I’m not sure, but anyway, it’s definitely some tenths that we need to catch up.

Vettel leads Red Bull 1-2 in Malaysia

Mark Webber, Adrian Newey and Sebastian Vettel on the podium in Malaysia

Mark Webber, Adrian Newey and Sebastian Vettel on the podium in Malaysia

Sebastian Vettel finally took his first win of the year, with a Red Bull 1-2 in Malaysia.

Having passed Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg on the first corner, the German clung onto the lead for the rest of the race, and never showed any signs of slowing down. His team-mate Mark Webber finished second, 4.8 seconds behind. He may have challenged for the lead, but a wheel gun problem slowed him down by 2 seconds at his pit stop, which scuppered his chances.

Sebastian Vettel gets past Mark Webber at the start

Sebastian Vettel gets past Mark Webber at the start

At the start, Vettel took the lead from Webber, who led Rosberg and Kubica. Meanwhile, at the back, the Ferraris and McLarens began their conquest to fight back to the top. Lewis Hamilton led the charge, by making a daring move down the inside of Turn 1 to steal several positions. On the first lap he gained 7 positions in total.

There were many retirements at the start. Pedro de la Rosa failed to even start, after his engine blew up on the installation lap. Rubens Barrichello nearly stalled on the grid (just like the many times last year), and fell to the back. Timo Glock and Kamui Kobayashi didn’t get much further than a few laps. Michael Schumacher was believed to have a wheel nut problem, and retired on Lap 9. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen all had mechanical problems during the race.

He wasn’t stopping there. Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso also fell prey to the Briton, as he set fastest laps at times. He then got past both Toro Rossos, Kamui Kobayashi and Vitaly Petrov. Further back, both Massa and Alonso were being held up by Button, who was struggling after the start. He pitted after 10 laps, and switched to the harder tyre for the rest of the race. This released the Ferrari duo for 20 laps, and they set about making up for lost time. But, by the time they had pitted again, Button had overtaken them again by showing consistent pace on the hard tyres.

Hamilton got his foot down, and was soon ahead of Vitaly Petrov. However, when Petrov tried to overtake him again on the main straight, Lewis engaged in dangerous weaving on the circuit to keep him behind. He later claimed it was only to stop him slipstreaming him, although he still got a reprimand by the stewards. Nevertheless, he charged up the field, until he got stuck behind Adrian Sutil, who was faster on the straights, so Lewis had little chance of getting by. He switched from hard to soft tyres on Lap 30, but this failed to help matters.

Jaime Alguersuari was having a great race, and he got past many cars which should have been better than him. His team-mate Sebastien Buemi did well, making a few overtakes as well, but failed to keep up with Alguersuari.

Nico Hulkenberg may have started 5th, but he wasn’t able to hold onto his place. He lost several places during the start and was unable to get them back, and eventually finished 10th.

Near the end, the Ferraris began to close on Button again. After many attempts, Massa got through without serious incident, but that couldn’t be said about Alonso. He was struggling with a downshift problem for the entire race, but had still coped well. When he tried a move at Turn 1, he outbraked himself, letting Button back through. A puff of smoke as the Ferrari left the corner implied the worst. Fernando soon stopped with an engine failure, only 2 laps from home. He had been running 9th at the time. This meant that Jaime Alguersuari got an extra point, and Nico Hulkenberg got 1, which was their first ever points in F1.

Buemi and Barrichello were 11th and 12th, followed by Alonso, who was classified 13th, 2 laps down. In 14th, Lucas di Grassi got Virgin’s first ever race finish. Behind him, Karun Chandhok beat Bruno Senna, both finishing 15th and 16th respectively. Jarno Trulli’s Lotus was ailing near the end, and was extremely slow, but he stayed on track to finish last, and 5 laps down.

Vettel crosses the line to take first place

Vettel crosses the line to take first place

It was a domination for Red Bull, and about time too. Their cars finally stayed together for an entire race, and the reward was their first win of the season. Vettel is now in joint second with Alonso in the championship, while Felipe Massa takes the lead. You can view the full championship standings here.

The main surprise of the day was that the rain stayed away. I’m not sure whether I should be embarressed or not, having gone on about plenty of rain for the race a few days ago. Anyways,  it was a good race, with plenty of racing action, and no weather intervention was required.

Full result:

Driver Team Difference # of laps
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 56
2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 4.849 56
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 13.504 56
4 Robert Kubica Renault 18.589 56
5 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 21.059 56
6 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 23.471 56
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 27.068 56
8 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 37.918 56
9 Jamie Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 70.602 56
10 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 73.399 56
11 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 78.938 56
12 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1 Lap 55
13 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 2 Laps 54
14 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 3 Laps 53
15 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 3 Laps 53
16 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 4 Laps 52
17 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 5 Laps 51
DNF
18 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 10 Laps 46
19 Vitaly Petrov Renault 24 Laps 32
20 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 44 Laps 12
21 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 47 Laps 9
22 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 48 Laps 8
23 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 55 Laps 1
24 Pedro da la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari All the laps 0

Webber takes tyre risk to get pole in Malaysia

Mark Webber alongside Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg

Mark Webber alongside Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg

Mark Webber’s risky tyre strategy in a rain-soaked Malaysia paid off, as he took pole position for the race tomorrow.

However, while he and Sebastian Vettel take first and third on the grid respectively, many big names completely failed to make the cut. Here is the breakdown of qualifying:

Q1

The rain began to fall just as the qualifying session began, with the entire field running on intermidiate tyres. Fifteen cars headed out at once at the start of the session, which didn’t include most of the bigger teams, who were anticipating the track drying out.

But it didn’t. A completely unexpected rain shower poured down about 7 or 8 minutes into the session, and extreme wet tyres were nescessary. Those who had already set their times were mostly safe, while those who didn’t were in huge trouble. Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button all had to set their times in the worst of conditions.

Button is caught out and spears into the gravel trap

Button is caught out and spears into the gravel trap

Lewis went out on intermidiates just as the rain got heavy, and spun soon after, He then had to pit for better tyres again after, which meant he didn’t have much time to get a lap time in. He tried his best, but only got 20th on the grid. Alonso was trading times with him, and will join him on the tenth row of the grid. He was one of the drivers who spun at Turn 8. Massa tried his best, but just couldn’t get through to Q2 either. Button was the only of these four to set a time that would get him into Q2, but disaster struck. he spun into the gravel, and was stuck, meaning he wouldn’t be able to compete in the next session, even if he did get through.

Vitaly Petrov also spun off, but unlike Button, he kept going to get through to Q2. The lack of pace from many of the best drivers opened the door for the new teams to shine, and two of the drivers leaped at the opportunity. Both Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock got through, to the delight of their teams. Unfortunately, Lucas di Grassi was unable to set a time, because the crew were still working on his car from Saturday morning practice. Senna, Chandhok and Trulli were all unable to pounce, and will start from the back of the grid.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Jarno Trulli

19) Fernando Alonso

20) Lewis Hamilton

21) Felipe Massa

22) Karun Chandhok

23) Bruno Senna

24)Lucas di Grassi

Q2

With most of the top drivers already out, there was a knowledge that there would be a few surprises in Q2. After what had happened in Q1, nobody was going to be caught out like Ferrari and McLaren, and all 15 drivers (Button couldn’t compete) instantly went out as soon as the session started.

All of the field minus the Red Bulls were on intermidiates, and Vettel and Webber quickly realised their mistake, and changed tyres. Most of the fast laps were set in the early part of the session, as the rain got heavier as time went on.

Glock and Kovalainen had little chance of getting into Q3, but they still fought as hard as they could. The Lotus driver beat the Virgin by three tenths, to finish 15th and 16th.

Near the end, Michael Schumacher had a scare as he was nearly caught out by Pedro de la Rosa near the end of the session, but still just about made it through to Q3.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Vitaly Petrov

12) Pedro de la Rosa

13) Sebastien Buemi

14) Jaime Alguersuari

15) Heikki Kovalainen

16) Timo Glock

17) Jenson Button

Q3

All of the cars line up, waiting to go

All of the cars line up, waiting to go

Again, like Q2, nobody wanted to be caught out by the rain again, and they all lined up to go at the start. Robert Kubica made a very cheeky move around the outside of all of the cars in the pit lane, to lead them all on the first lap.

But, none of them got far. The red flag was brought out halfway through everyone’s first runs, as the rain had become completely torrential. The conditions were very similar to those that caused the rain stoppage last year.

The rain got much heavier than this, and the session was halted

The rain got much heavier than this, and the session was halted

After a delay of 20 minutes, the session resumed. The Force Indias, now wise to Kubica’s tactics, now lined up side-by-side on the pit lane exit as they waited for the session restarted.

Everyone but Mark Webber was on the extreme wet tyres. This looked like a bad gamble for Mark after his first run, when his best time only got him 9th. But, the track very quickly dried off, and Webber’s tyres were doing the job better than anybody else. His pole position time was 1.3 seconds faster than second place man Nico Rosberg.

Unlike his team-mate, Sebastian Vettel took on extreme wet tyres, and was completely unable to challege him at the top. He did however get third place, meaning he this will be the first race of the season without Vettel on pole. He will be joined on the second row by Adrian Sutil. Nico Hulkenberg got a well-deserved fifth place, while Robert Kubica ended up sixth. Michael Schumacher struggled, and was only eighth.

Here is Mark Webber’s full onboard pole lap, available in HD (aren’t I good?):

Full times from qualifying:

Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1.51.886 1.48.210 1.49.327
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1.52.560 1.47.417 1.50.673
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1.47.632 1.46.828 1.50.789
4 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1.49.479 1.47.085 1.50.914
5 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1.49.664 1.47.346 1.51.001
6 Robert Kubica Renault 1.46.283 1.46.951 1.51.051
7 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1.50.301 1.48.371 1.51.511
8 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1.52.239 1.48.400 1.51.717
9 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1.48.467 1.47.792 1.51.767
10 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1.49.922 1.48.238 1.52.254
11 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1.47.952 1.48.760
12 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1.47.153 1.48.771
13 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.48.945 1.49.207
14 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.48.665 1.49.464
15 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1.52.875 1.52.270
16 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1.52.398 1.52.520
17 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1.52.211
18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1.52.884
19 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1.53.044
20 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1.53.050
21 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1.53.283
22 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1.56.299
23 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1.57.269
24 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1.59.977

Hamilton leads Friday Practice 2

Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets again in Friday Practice 2, as yet more reliability problems struck the Red Bulls.

Hamilton’s fastest lap was a 1.34.175, set during a short-fuel run. Sebastian Vettel struggled with power steering problems, but still managed the second fastest time. He was 0.266 seconds behind Lewis. Nico Rosberg topped off the top three, only two thousands of a second behind Vettel.

However, the awful reliability of the Red Bulls hit Mark Webber harder than Vettel. Webber stopped at the Turn 9 gravel trap, though it is not yet clear what caused the stoppage. He only set 13 laps, and therefore only got 20th place, 4.6 seconds behind Hamilton.

In fourth was Jenson Button, two tenths off his team-mate’s time. He initially complained about setup difficulties at the start, but soon got into his stride. Behind him was Michael Schumacher, who got many more laps in after his hydraulic problems in the morning. He was half a second behind the frontrunners. Robert Kubica was sixth, a full seconds behind Hamilton, despite setting 34 laps.

The Ferraris continued to work on heavy-fuel runs, with Fernando Alonso seventh and Felipe Massa fifteenth. However, the mood from some of the team may indicate that not all of their pace is down to the fuel loads, and they may be in for a tough weekend. Fernando was 1.4 seconds back, with Felipe another second behind.

Sebastien Buemi continued his good form, finishing eighth. Vitaly Petrov and Adrian Sutil topped off the top ten. Both Saubers improved again, with Kobayashi and De la Rosa getting eleventh and thirteenth respectively. Vitantonio Liuzzi took the car back off Paul di Resta in the afternoon, and ended up twelfth. This was certainly a good day for the Force, with good results, and getting to test a new young driver.

Jaime Alguersuari was fourteenth, followed by Massa and the two Williams drivers of Barrichello and Hulkenberg.

Jarno Trulli again led the charge of the new teams, followed by team-mate Heikki Kovalainen. Both drivers are getting closer and closer to the midfield, being only 4 seconds behind the fastest time. Mark Webber split the Lotus and Virgin drivers, with Timo Glock leading Lucas di Grassi. The HRTs filled the back row, this time with Karun Chandhok beating Bruno Senna. He pulled out a great lap near the end of the session, and finished nearly half a second ahead of Senna.

Times from FP2:

Driver Team Fastest lap Difference
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1.34.175
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1.34.441 0.266
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1.34.443 0.268
4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1.34.538 0.363
5 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1.34.674 0.499
6 Robert Kubica Renault 1.35.148 0.973
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1.35.581 1.406
8 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.35.660 1.4485
9 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1.35.872 1.697
10 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1.35.957 1.782
11 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1.36.018 1.843
12 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1.36.221 2.046
13 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1.36.325 2.15
14 Jamie Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.36.325 2.15
15 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1.36.602 2.427
16 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1.36.813 2.638
17 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1.37.415 3.24
18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1.38.454 4.279
19 Heikk Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1.38.530 4.355
20 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1.38.786 4.611
21 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1.39.061 4.886
22 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1.39.158 4.983
23 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1.41.084 6.909
24 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1.41.481 7.306

Hamilton leads Friday Practice 1

Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets in Friday Practice 1 in Malaysia, as engine woes struck Red Bull yet again.

While Hamilton’s fastest lap of 1.34.921 was enough to put him on top, Sebastian Vettel complained of a lack of power under acceleration for the entire session. He was therefore unable to set a proper time, with a best lap of 1.36.043.

Behind Hamilton was Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes. He finished 0.185 seconds back, one tenth ahead of Jenson Button in third. Michael Schumacher was happy with fourth, Robert Kubica impressed with fifth, and Mark Webber was able to get sixth.

Force India are still on the pace, with Adrian Sutil leading the charge in seventh, albeit one second off Hamilton’s time. Paul di Resta took Vitantonio Liuzzi’s seat, and did well to get fifteenth. Ferrari focused on long-fuel runs rather than short sprints, with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa getting eighth and eleventh respectively. Vettel was just behind Alonso, while Sebastien Buemi topped off the top ten.

Kamui Kobayashi showed slightly better pace than in Bahrain and Australia, with twelfth. His team-mate, Pedro de la Rosa, could only get sixteenth. Still, there were no front wing failures in FP1, which was a nice change of form.

Jaime Alguersuari finished thirteenth while Vitaly Petrov was fourteenth. Behind Di Resta and De la Rosa, the Williams duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Rubens Barrichello finished seventeenth and eighteenth respectively.

Behind them was the usual scene of the new three teams. This time Jarno Trulli took the honours of being the best of the new boys, with a best time of 1.39.460, which was 4.5 seconds off the pace, but only 1 second behind Barrichello. Fairuz Fauzy did well, finishing 1.3 seconds behind Trulli in 22nd. He went off track twice, once spinning at Turn 12, the other bouncing the car across the kerbs.

The Virgins of Glock and Di Grassi got 20th and 21st respectively, with Glock 0.3 behind Trulli. The HRTs finished off the back row, with Senna leading Chandhok by one tenth. Both drivers were seven seconds behind Lewis Hamilton.

Apart from Fauzy, there were several incidents. Michael Schumacher missed the first hour of track time, as his Mercedes crew fixed a hydraulic problem on his car. Jaime Alguersuari’s run ended early, as his car slowed while on track. Both Pedro de la Rosa and Felipe Massa ran wide and into the gravel at Turn 11.

Times from FP1:

Driver Team Fastest lap Difference # of laps
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1.34.921 19
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1.35.106 0.185 19
3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1.35.207 0.286 25
4 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1.35.225 0.304 14
5 Robert Kubica Renault 1.35.402 0.481 22
6 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1.35.479 0.558 22
7 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1.35.955 1.034 20
8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1.35.969 1.048 20
9 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1.36.043 1.122 19
10 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.36.100 1.179 20
11 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1.36.451 1.53 22
12 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1.36.503 1.582 28
13 Jamie Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.36.645 1.724 18
14 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1.36.712 1.791 9
15 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1.36.891 1.97 25
16 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1.36.899 1.978 24
17 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1.37.802 2.881 27
18 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1.38.278 3.357 18
19 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1.39.460 4.539 21
20 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1.39.755 4.834 17
21 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1.40.159 5.238 25
22 Fairuz Fauzy Lotus-Cosworth 1.40.721 5.8 19
23 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1.41.832 6.911 27
24 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1.41.966 7.045 24

Malaysia weather predictions: Rain, rain and more rain

A sudden storm catches out an FIA official in Sepang, Malaysia

A sudden storm catches out an FIA official in Sepang, Malaysia

Last year, most of the blame was on Bernie Ecclestone for the terible time organisation of the Malaysian Grand Prix. Similiar complaints were made about the Australian Grand Prix, as the sun was in the drivers’ eyes on the straights for the entire weekend. We all hoped that mistakes would be learner, and the start time for this year’s Grand Prix would avoid the weather and stay in sunlight. But, it doesn’t look likely.

Storms and heavy rain, like the one shown in the picture above, have been catching out the entire paddock for the last few days. A few hours beforehand, the conditions were near-perfect, with the drivers and crew getting to walk the track. Soon enough though, the track and paddock were deserted, as the rain hammered down, and fears about the race on Sunday grew.

Every weather forecasting service is stating that there will be thunderstorms all weekend long in Sepang. With the high temperatures remaining, there is a high probability of a storm interrupting at least one of the sessions this weekend. For the teams, the instant thought would be to prepare a wet-weather setup. But, what are the chances of the rain resulting in the race not going full distance?

I can’t give an exact figure as to the probability of this happening, but it is much higher than it should be. To give you an idea, F1Photos on Twitter are hosting a competition, to see who can guess the lap of the red flag being brought out and abandoning the race (I’d say around Lap 25).

Really, after what happened last year, it’s shocking to see how the organisers, FIA and Ecclestone would overlook this problem again. The start time is 16:00 local time, an hour earlier than last year, but still sitting right in the middle of the Sepang storm time range. Of course, these later times are to assist European viewers in watching live F1 races, but it really is pointless. I mean, there are constant repeats on the BBC red button, and BBC 3 later that night. The only way to correct this problem is to put the race at mid-day local time, and get all of the European broadcasters to show replays later for the not-so-true F1 fans who don’t get up in the middle of the night.

But, of course, this won’t happen, so we will have to wait in worry to see will the race get to full distance or not. It will rain, but it is now just a matter of how heavy. But what do you think?


Malaysian Thursday press conference

Kamui Kobayashi, Karun Chandhok, Nico Rosberg and Rubens Barrichello

Kamui Kobayashi, Karun Chandhok, Nico Rosberg and Rubens Barrichello

Today before Friday Practice 1 tomorrow we had Rubens Barrichello, Karun Chandhok (in his first ever conference), Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Rosberg. Here is the full transcript:

Q: Karun, obviously a very steep learning curve for you this year. Tell us about it.
Karun Chandhok: It is not ideal. I don’t think anyone in F1 has gone straight into qualifying without testing or a single lap of free practice. Bahrain was far from ideal. It is going to be very tough. With the car we didn’t do any winter testing. We are two months behind the programme, but we will keep chipping away and see where we end up. Melbourne was a step forward. We got one car to the finish and that was a step in itself. The more miles we do, the more we learn about the car. These guys were lucky to be pounding around Valencia, Barcelona and Jerez in the winter time and we didn’t get that opportunity, so unfortunately we are testing in public in front of all you guys and all these cameras and it is not easy, but these are the cards we have been dealt with, so we will do the best job we can.

Q: What are the effects of the finish in Melbourne? What sort of things did you learn?
KC: First of all, morale-wise it was good for the boys. The mechanics on my car worked two nights straight in Bahrain, two nights straight in Melbourne. They just went back to shower and came straight back to the circuit. It was a fantastic effort from the guys in the garage. It is good for them to have put in all that work and see a car get to the finish. For them it is a morale boost. For us as a team we learnt a lot. We have never done the long runs with these tyres before. We learnt a lot about what the car is like on 160-170kgs, whatever it was. There is so much to learn. For me it was a bit strange as I have never been lapped before in my life in normal circumstances and it was quite difficult. It had drizzled or rained at the beginning of the race, so going off-line was quite tricky. I didn’t want to get in any of these guys’ way, so I tried to get out of the way but it was a very strange race.

Q: Where do you think the pace is going to come from? Is it from you, from just learning how to use the tyres, the engine, just the chassis, the set-up, the experience?
KC: All of the above. I think we are both rookies in the team, so we have got a lot to learn obviously. Qualifying in particular is quite critical in F1 and learning about how you have got to bring the tyres in for the one lap and get the tyres to the optimum temperature and pressure for your qualifying lap. In GP2 we did not have tyre warmers and so the way you went about was a bit different. In Melbourne, for example, that was my mistake. I was too slow on the out lap, just building the tyres up gently, and I dumped four tenths to myself just between lap one and lap two of the first sector because I did not know how to get the tyres in for lap one. Just small things like that. There is a lot to learn as drivers for the team. It is not rocket science. We need downforce. That is the big thing in F1 and we are a long way behind these guys in terms of downforce levels. Mechanically as well I think the first step was to get the car finished and now we are trying to develop it.

Q: Kamui, you had two-and-a-half tremendous races last year and then the two races so far this year. Tell us the difference between the two as they were fantastic races last year for Toyota, but so far this year it hasn’t been fantastic.
Kamui Kobayashi: I think the last two races for me were very really bad luck. In the first one I had a problem with the hydraulics which I was not really expecting from the winter test. In the last race I think the front wing failed, but also for me it was quite difficult. Last year the last two races for me were great. I had no testing, like only eight months and I expected it to be really hard but the car had good potential. I spent two years as a test driver, so it was very easy to communicate with everybody and really easy to get there. This year it’s a new team and we have to work hard. At the moment I am not showing the performance myself as I didn’t finish race, but the most important thing in the future is to finish the race.

Q: In testing the car looked very good. Do you think you are showing the true pace of it at the moment or is there more to come?
KK: Yeah, I think that’s our problem at the moment and we try to find a reason. The winter test was a great performance. We are not always looking for the top. A good place to be will be the second group on the top and this year is our best target. I think the winter test was a good shape and I think we are quite frustrated at the moment. In Bahrain the situation was a little bit difficult. We were struggling, especially on the bumps, and the car was really difficult to drive. But in Melbourne it was a good improvement for us. The position was difficult but pace-wise it was much closer with the guys in the second group, so I think it was a good step for us to improve. I think this week will be another step that we need to improve.

Q: Do you think this race will be better for you? It is a circuit you know, isn’t it?
KK: This is a circuit I know very well. I think I had two races at this circuit with GP2 Asia which was a good experience.

Q: Nico, in spite of two good finishes so far the team keeps saying it is not quite on the pace yet. Is it something that you know about or are not certain why?
Nico Rosberg: We know that we are not quite where we want to be yet, but I think that was to be expected in some ways. With Mercedes coming in and everything the team needs to grow. We have massive potential. A really strong group of people and strong support from Mercedes-Petronas, so I am very confident that very soon we will be able to close the gap.

Q: Tell us about the challenge of this circuit. What is important here?
NR: The track here in Malaysia is one of my nice favourite tracks. It is really nice to drive. There are lots of different combinations of corners and it is very challenging. It is going to be tough for the drivers because of the heat. It is one of the most challenging races for a driver’s fitness in the year but that’s why I did all my training in the winter, so I should be fine. Car-wise it is also quite demanding with the temperatures but I think we made some good progress on the set-up in Melbourne which should help us here also, so I am looking forward to a good weekend.

Q: What is it like being the team-mate of the most successful Formula One driver of all time?
NR: It has been a great experience for me as it is just interesting working with him. Until now the partnership with him has been very good. Everything has been open, very relaxed, so I am able to learn a few things and for me it has been a great opportunity.

Q: Rubens, you have done all 11 Malaysian Grands Prix. Tell us from your point of view the challenge of this circuit.
Rubens Barrichello: Much the same. It is one of my favourites. I think it has great types of corners. You go from very high speed to some low speed, quite technical corners. It is an aerodynamic driven track and you have to have a balance on the braking for you to get a fix on the corner ratio before you get back on the power, so it is quite nice. It is not easy to set up the car which makes it even more interesting. To get to a reasonable level is okay, but to get it really well set up for you to be really happy is not easy, so it is quite exciting.

Q: A new team for you this year. How are you finding Williams which is a very established team?
RB: A bunch of fighters, good people, good working method. We are working well together, a lot of fine tuning things to get to the bottom of it but working well together. I am delighted to be working with them. They are very open. There is a lot of freedom inside, so obviously they are getting to know Cosworth and Cosworth are getting to know them. It has been a good job. We are far away from where we think we can be but so far it is going in the right direction.

Q: Where do you feel you are in the hierarchy? Obviously, you feel as though you should be higher up.
RB: I think there is the top four doing better than us and then there is us Renault and Force India closely behind. It was fantastic to see Robert (Kubica) doing so well and going right up the front and keep up the pace as in qualifying we are pretty much the same. I think we can knock on the door of big points every time before we can put some new upgrades on the car and then really start to show what we are capable of.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Nico, where do you think your car can match the best cars on the grid?
NR: It’s going to be mainly aerodynamics, that’s where the main progress has to come from. One of the things is obviously the McLaren invention or whatever that is, which all the teams are looking at, at the moment, and then there’s also some mechanical things we believe that we can do better and those developments will be coming very soon. I was in the factory about two weeks ago and they presented the developments to me and it’s looking very promising, so for me it was really encouraging and I look forward to seeing how it goes.

Q: (Santhosh Kumar – Deccan Chronicle) Rubens, you are inching towards 300 Grand Prix appearances. As the most experienced driver on the grid, what is your impression of Karun Chandhok and do you have any advice for him?
RB: It’s like he said, I think he’s probably the very first driver to going straight into qualifying in Formula One history, so I think he’s done quite well. It must have been such an adventure of a rollercoaster, going into that qualifier not knowing the car and how quickly it would go. I think that so far there’s no bad stuff. You cannot see how fast either he or Bruno (Senna) are going because the car is not showing what they can do, because at the moment, you would like to see their car going throughout the one and a half hours (of practice). They would have time to sit down and talk about the set-up. Right now they are trying to fix the problems before getting the set-up, so it’s just ‘keep the feet on the ground and do the work.’ Honestly, I can say that I haven’t been in a situation like that. I’ve been young, like them, but I had cars that although they had reliability problems, I was able to run and get to know them. There was testing beforehand, so for them it must be a lot more difficult. For me, Formula One is a lot easier now. I can just concentrate on racing, that’s why I’m still thinking that I can do another 300 – not!

Q: (Ted Kravitz – BBC Sport) Rubens and Nico, you’ve effectively swapped seats. What would you say was the one difference from your previous teams to your current one, and if you could give each other one piece of advice about taking the other one’s seat, what would it be?
RB: I haven’t thought of that.
NR: It’s true. We even have the same engineers. We have, literally, swapped seats. Differences? It’s difficult, there’s not a big difference. Yes, you see some small differences in the way that the working environment is and the ways of going about things, but Williams is strong in some areas, we’re stronger in others, so it’s not a night and day difference. And advice is a bit more difficult, isn’t it?
RB: When I come to a new team, I come with the experience of the whole lot, I don’t come with the experience of Brawn last year, how they do this or that. Obviously you leave the team and you have some of the experience of what they were planning to have this year and you tend to speak out and tell the team what you know about it and how to attack. So my philosophy is to learn the team and then try to say, ‘look, this never worked in a team like Ferrari or Brawn and it never will’, so we tend to go from there. But the Williams team is very well based. They were winners from the past and it’s just a question of time before they win again. Again, on the Brawn side, I’ve had a happy time there, so there’s no bad advice as such. Maybe tell Jocky (Clear) not to punch the helmet before the race as he goes (thump) ‘good luck’. The sound isn’t great inside the helmet.
NR: He hasn’t done that to me yet, but I will tell him after this.

Q: (Chris Lines – Associated Press) Karun, you’ve started so far behind in terms of preparation and we look at all the new teams and there seems to be a mini-competition between them. Are you so far back that you can’t even hope to catch up to those guys or do you feel that you have a chance by getting back to Europe, developing the car?
KC: We’ll wait and see. At the moment, this weekend, I think it’s highly unlikely that we will be in a position to chase either Lotus or Virgin in terms of performance. As I said before, at the moment there’s no real performance upgrades on the car. There are bits coming out of Europe all the time but they’re just bits to try and get the car more reliable. It’s performance bits at the moment, they will only come once we go back to Europe. We’ve got a good team of people on board. Obviously Geoff Willis has come as technical director, we’ve got Toni Cuquerella who has come from BMW, the engineers as well, we’ve got a lot of people who have come from either BMW or Williams or Renault, so there’s people with recent F1 experience in the team. Rome wasn’t built in a day. We need to put the structure in place and get everyone working in the same direction. They’ve all got their ideas of how these respected teams did things. They now have to put it together and make sure it’s unified in a way that Hispania would do things. Like I said, there’s good enough people there to steer a development programme. I’m not here to drive around at the back of the grid for the rest of the season. I wouldn’t have signed with Colin (Kolles) and the team if I didn’t think there was potential to at least fight with the other new teams. The first half of the season is going to be tough but hopefully we can start to fight to be best of the new teams in the second half of the season. Relative to the existing teams, I think the gap is quite big at the moment. You look at qualifying in Melbourne, it was nearly two seconds between the top of the new teams and the last of the existing teams. That’s quite a big gap to bridge. Whether that gap will be closed during the season we shall wait and see. I doubt it but we can certainly try and close the gap and try, and I hope to be the best of the new teams in the second half of the season.

Q: (Chris Lines – Associated Press) Kamui, your front wing came off three times in Australia; has that been sorted out?
KK: I think the front wing has three times… there was no problem with the front wing but the first one was because of my mistake at the beginning (of free practice). I hit a pylon at the fast corner. I think we tried to repair it and maybe there was still a problem with it and maybe some mis-communication in the team and we didn’t change the complete kit of the front wing. I think that was the problem with the second wing. And the last wing was maybe because of some contact with someone. It was not really a big crash, or whatever, but maybe I touched the front wing just a little bit and suddenly after some corners, I think it was after the start with (Vitaly) Petrov and then turn three with Tonio (Liuzzi) and this was our only chance, and after turn five the wing was on but suddenly I lost the front wing on the straight. For me there was nothing to do. We just have to make a stronger front wing.

Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Rubens, Michael says that he needs some time to find the rhythm again to fight against you all. As a former team-mate and an experienced driver, do you have an explanation why he’s struggling to find the pace again?
RB: Well, give him the time, that’s all I can say. I don’t know. I haven’t stopped for three years and come back. I will sometime. I will give myself a chance!

Q: (Ralf Bach – R & B) Rubens, are you surprised that Nico is the quicker driver at the moment in the Mercedes team or are you surprised that they allowed him to be quicker?
RB: Why is the question for me? Why don’t you ask them? Well, honestly I am surprised, surprised in the way that you stop, you come back to a new Formula One that is all different and people improve and different cars and so on. But I am surprised. I think Nico is doing a super job.

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