Vettel wins in Sepang amidst team orders controversy

24 Mar

It was a story of team orders, rain that happened too early and of the many pit stops, one of which never happened. Light showers 30 minutes before the lights made sector 1 wet enough for everyone to start on intermediates. So much water was there that many cars took a trip to gravel trap and couple damaging front wing and diffuser plates on way to the grid. Sectors 2 and 3 were relatively dry.

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia-2013

At the light, Alonso and Webber had a good start before Alonso hit the back of Vettel’s Red Bull and with serious damage to his front wing, for some strange reason decided to continue for another lap. The wing gave way on the start finish straight and Alonso’s race was done. A very un-Alonso like decision that and Massa also had a tough race to sum up a tough day for Ferrari. Only consolation was Massa’s late surge after the fourth pit to finish 5th.
As the track began to dry and times were around the 1:52 mark, cars started pouring in the pit lane and that was the start of the drama. Lewis somehow still thinks a lot about McLaren, so much that he stopped his car at his previous team’s box, only to see the pit crew wave at him. Force Indias decide to pit both the cars together but some strange wheel nut issue led to 4 horrifying pit stops leading to retirement of both Sutil and di Resta. A real shame for a team that looked capable of a double points finish. In another incident, a Torro Rosso and Caterham had contact while entering the pit box. Button also had a poor pit stop later in the race that put him from a chance of top 5 finish to outside the top 10.
4 stops for all drivers meant that in laps and out laps were of critical importance and Hamilton often mixed with the Red Bulls in front but fuel consumption prevented Lewis from challenging him for much longer. Webber led for a long time before Vettel slowly reeled him in. It was wheel to wheel between the 2 Red Bulls for about half a lap, the fight forcing Horner to tell Vettel that his move was “just silly”. Soon, Rosberg was all over Hamilton and demanded being released by Hamilton, only to be plainly refused by Ross Brawn’s “Negative”. Sounded like team orders at first but it wasn’t to be allowed as Hamilton was driving conservatively on team’s instructions only. It resulted in a not so happy looking podium and apologetic Vettel and Hamilton.
So, an eventful race, not the way we expected and yet again a team finishes 1-2. Red Bull are on the charge, they know that all these points are vital. No clear order set yet but we know that Mercedes is stronger than expected and Ferrari, Lotus and McLaren will have to fight hard.

F1 : Vettel is the 2012 World Champion

26 Nov

The Interlagos circuit in Sao Paolo was the setting for the finale of 2012 Formula1 season and boy was it a fitting finale!

THE BUILDUP – After 19 races, Alonso was 13 points behind Vettel, the only 2 drivers in contention for the crown. The weekend started with a hot Friday and Red Bull and McLaren looking very strong. Rain had been predicted for Sunday but the predictions were beginning to disappear as the weekend progressed. On Saturday, McLaren stole the thunder as they grabbed their 62nd front row lockout in an all time record. Red Bulls occupied row 2 and crucially Vettel was in P4, he didn’t put a particularly clean lap, just ahead of a heroic Massa. This man simply comes alive in his home race and the emotions could be seen throughout the weekend. Alonso could only manage P8, which was later elevated to P7 as Maldonado added yet another penalty to the wrong side of his CV. This time he missed the weighbridge direction in Q2 and as a result would start on P16. Earlier Massa and Alonso had barely scraped through to Q3 under changeable track conditions but Alonso’s race craft was not to be doubted, a podium was always a real possibility.

THE RACE DAY – Come Sunday and it was a day of many farewells and many firsts. It was a chance for Alonso and Vettel to become a triple world champion. The most successful driver in F1 history, Micheal Schumacher, was in his last grand prix. Nico Hulkenburg, Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez, Kamui Kobayashi, Charles Pic were all doing their last grand prix for their current teams with many other like Heikki, Vitaly Petrov, Pedro de la Rosa, Karthikeyan without a confirmed race seat for 2013 were out their to prove a point. HRT, in all probability, will not make the grid in 2013 which is sad as they had moved to a dedicated factory in Spain only this year.

POSITIONS UP FOR GRABS IN THE STANDINGS – The fight was limited not only to the front of the grid. Even though Red Bull had sealed the Constructor’s title at Austin, the second place was being fiercely contested by Ferrari and McLaren. Force India were hot on the heels of Sauber who were themselves chasing Mercedes for the fifth position. Further down, Caterham and Marussia had more than 10 million pounds at stake for the tenth spot. Caterham needed a 12th or better finish in the race to take back the 10th spot in the standings. The competition in driver’s standings was limited to Alonso chasing Vettel for the title and Kimi being pursued by Hamilton for the third spot.

THE RACE – Clouds had begun to form as the teams were preparing on the grid but all decided to start on slick tyres. Micheal Schumacher was very composed on the outside before getting in the car but as he lined up on the grid his emotions were there for all to see as he thanked the team, his fans and followers all over the world. What a legend this man has been! Many of the fans can simply be attributed to be watching the sport just because of him.

It was time for the 5 red lights to go out and signal the final 71 laps of 2012 season. The Red Bulls had a poor start and simultaneously, the Ferrari’s had a brilliant start. Massa was already in P2 as the cars reached the Senna ‘S’s and Alonso had also made 3 positions. Vettel, then started to move backwards and into the dangerous mid field. He got tagged by Bruno Senna whose home race was over by turn 4 and Vettel was left facing the wrong direction and at the back of the field. He had visible damage to his car (side pod and exhaust) but thankfully he could continue racing. Red Bulls couldn’t repair such damage anyways during the race. The conditions were very slippery and cars began going up and down the order. Lap 2 saw Massa losing positions on turn 1 as Alonso and the McLarens continued on the charge. Another man on charge for Sahara Force India’s Nico Hulkenburg and before many noticed, he was leading the race. He proved that his pole position for Williams in 2010 in a damp Interlagos was not fluke and he really likes this track when wet.

The Ferrari’s and Red Bulls pitted for tyres but the Hulk continued on his charge and lead for over 30 laps. Vettel kept moving in and out of championship winning positions as he kept on pitting and his last stop was particularly poor with the car stationary for over 10 seconds. The drama on the track continued as Hulk, who had slipped to second began attacking Hamilton for the lead and after a good run down the start finish straight, slightly lost the rear end of his car and hit Lewis. Lewis’s race was yet again over from the race lead and Hulk was handed a drive through penalty. Alonso fans were given some hope that Vettel might a penalty too as he seemed to overtake under yellow flag, which were actually the orange markers on the barriers. Another interesting and rather funny moment came when Kimi went off the track due to low visibility and foggy visor and decided to take the support race pit lane as an escape road only to find the gates closed and had to come back all the way to the race track.

In the last few laps, Alonso having already done whatever he could, could now only hope for Button, who was leading by 20 seconds or Vettel, whose tyres were almost gone, to have an issue but both were advised by their pit wall to keep the car on the track and cruise. di Resta had a big shunt on the final corner on lap 69 which brought out the safety car and with the scale of the accident and resultant yellow flags, there was no more scope for any position changes. The title had been decided. As the chequered flag fell after lap 71, Button won the race with Alonso and Massa in P3 in his home race. Alonso had fought hard, almost like the Samurai but Vettel was equally up to the task.

Fans of Vettel and Alonso can be proud of what their drivers have achieved this season making it the most exciting one for years. Vettel will savor this third consecutive title while Alonso was so composed and motivated to come back in 2013 with the same spirit. Massa was in tears on the podium as he endured a very tough year that saw him come back from almost being sacked to end the season with some really strong finishes. In my opinion, Alonso the driver, deserved the title more but he was ultimately beaten by a much stronger car being driven by an equally competitive driver. Ferrari must now put in all efforts to provide Alonso with a more deserving car next season.

Alonso captures the amazing Tifosi!

10 Sep

Ferrari and Alonso gave plenty for the tifosi to cheer about at the Italian GP 2012. Fernando, starting 10th on the grid led an early charge to pick up places and Massa did well to finish 4th. Had it not been for late tyre degration which handed the late charging Sergio Perez the second spot, the 2 Ferraris were all set to finish 2nd and 3rd! But not before Jenson Button (fuel pump issue), Sebastian Vettel (Alternator issue again) and Mark Webber (Tyre degradation) had to retire. As a result, Alonso now extends his lead at the front in the driver’s championship to 37 points from Lewis Hamilton (142 points) and Kimi Raikkonen (141 points). Mercedes finished a healthy 6th and 7th.

Alonso after trophy presentation

Schumacher, once again, is outshining Nico Rosberg towards the second half of a season. The race might have just opened up another debate regarding Vettel’s driver through penalty for ‘pushing’ off the track at Curva Grande. In my opinion it was touch and go but then again, pushing the championship leader to the edge at a flat out corner might have been a little too much. It didnt matter in the end as Vettel had to retire.

Championship wise, Button’s charge almost looks all but over while Kimi has very silently moved into the third spot. He is yet to win a race this season but has been very consistent. Could it be just like the 2003 season when with only 1 win he finished just 2 points short of eventual champion Schumacher. Alonso has done a lot of damage limitation and Massa is also beginning to take some points off his challengers. Spa and Monza were always meant to help Ferrari due to the less aerodynamic grip requirement but would it all start to move back towards Red Bull in the 7 fly away races? Ideally Alonso and Ferrari would have loved to improve their 40 point lead going into the summer break to something in the range of 60-70.

As far as the driver market goes, there are just too many possibilities. Hamilton might head to Mercedes with either Nico or Schumacher heading to Ferrari, looks unlikely but who knows. Hamilton is good friends with Nico so that makes some sense. Hamilton’s recent rant has done little to suggest that he wants to remain at McLaren. If thats seat open up, then di Resta or Kimi would be the first to pounce. On the other hand, Massa is trying everything to keep his 2013 Ferrari drive but if that doesn’t happen then Perez or the Force India drivers could be good candidates. Or will it be a swap between Ferrari and Sauber for Perez and Massa. Perez’s drive at Monza has only strengthened his case and Sauber being a Ferrari customer team makes it even more logical.

We will know what happens in the coming weeks. Singapore GP is up next in 2 weeks time, but before that 2 more minor events.

  • McLaren road show at Mumbai, Lewis will drive on Marine drive on 16th Sept
  • Young Driver’s test at Magny Cours for Ferrari, Mercedes and Force India on 11-13 Sept 2012

F1 carnival moves to Spa after a 1 month break!

29 Aug

Truly a driver’s circuit, Spa Francorchamps, along with Monaco is one of the most awaited race of the season. Senna, Schumacher and Kimi have been the most successful racers here and we’ll know soon enough if Kimi can add a fifth Spa victory and first of this season in his resume!

The 7.004 kms circuit which the drivers have to race or 44 laps is very unique. Even though the circuit has been shortened then the original, it quite hasn’t lost its flavor. It still has the legendary Eau Rouge, the la Source hairpin, the run down the Kemmel straight or the run down Blanchimont to the bus stop chicane along with variable altitudes, the forest and variable weather!

Add to this a one month break and 2012 Formula1 season and it couldn’t get any better. Pirelli have tried to do their best to allow the racing decide the winner. They are bring the Medium and Hard compounds although the intermediates and full wets could be the most required ones.

F1 : Driver Market Update

15 Jul

With the summer break just 2 races away, the driver market has already started buzzing with news of drivers extending contracts with their existing outfits, many others being linked to changing teams and few others losing their race seats altogether.

The first major news is from the reigning constructor champions and current leaders Red Bull Racing that has re-signed Mark Webber, second repeat winner this season, for the 2013 season. Webber is happy to continue for the 8th season with the team and so is the RBR management. No particular driver from previous year’s Torro Rosso line up showing potential also made the decision straight forward. Despite showing potential over the past few races, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa’s race seat is still very much under threat. The fourth place finish at Silverstone can only work in his favor. Alonso has been doing exceedingly well for the Driver’s championship but Ferrari will be looking for a candidate who can help the outfit compete for the Constructor’s championship with 2 cars.

Lewis Hamilton has been in the news for the past few weeks for a possible contract extension with McLaren or a high profile move to Lotus or partner Alonso at Ferrari. That might not be such a good idea looking at their history during the 2007 season. McLaren are rumored to have offered a multi-million dollar multi-year deal to Hamilton. Jenson Button’s season has taken a hit after the first few races but his position with the team is secure. Lotus had taken a big gamble by taking 2 drivers who had both been away from Formula1 for 2 years. Romain Grosjean has particularly been very impressive and looks the best bet for the much awaited win for Lotus. Kimi Raikkonen has not done too bad either but he wouldn’t have expected such competition from the Frenchman. Grosjean is most likely to be retained by Lotus for the 2013 Season while Kimi already has a contract with Lotus.

The team synonomous with Germany, Mercedes AMG, could very well resign the seven time world champion Michael Schumacher for the next season as well. He has not had the best return to F1 but the fastest time in Monaco Qualifying and 3rd place finish at Valencia would here made him hungry for more. We can expect more details in the next 5-6 weeks. Schumacher has recently hinted at extending his contract.

The midfield is much closer to the top teams this year, Sauber and Williams have a couple of podiums and a race win to their name. The recent outburst against Pastor Maldonado and poor form of Bruno Senna is a worry for Williams. This could just mean that both their seats are open. The Sauber driver’s contract runs out at the end of current Season but both, Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi are likely to be re-signed. Vijay Mallya’s Sahara Force India also looks set to re-sign Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta for 2013 but di Resta parting ways with Anthony Hamilton has added a new angle to this.

Torro Rosso has tried a new line up in 2012 and we may only get to know by the end of season if they will retain the drivers or look for new talent. They desperately need to prepare at the least 1 driver to be able to move up to Red Bull to grab Webber’s seat once it is vacant. Caterham, Marussia and HRT will all take time till December to finalize their line-up with fund inflow being a significant factor. Hiedfeld, Sutil, Kubica (fitness permitting), Algersuari would also be eyeing a return to the grid.

We can expect lots of high stakes poker for the next few months till the end of the season but for now, we’ll shift our focus to Germany, Hockenheimring for the Round 10 of 2012 season. Will we see a new face on the podium or will it be the same old faces?

2012 Formula 1 British Grand Prix, July 7, 2012 Qualifying

7 Jul

The qualifying session at Silverstone was perhaps the best of 2012. The lap times tumbled under ever changing track conditions, a 90 minute red flag period during Q2 with Alonso lying 14 seconds behind P1 time, yellow flag period, cars slipping and sliding, this qualifying session had it all. And that’s not all, Kobayashi & Vergne drop 5 & 10 grid spots respectively for causing collisions at previous round. Hulkenberg drops 5 for gearbox change.

Q1 started on time under wet conditions.  All the cars started on intermediate tyres and the entire pit lane was queued up well before the green light in a bid to gain track position to set a clean lap. Kimi had a problem with KERS which was not what he had hoped for this weekend. DRS was also disabled by race control in view of the dangerous weather conditions.  With rain predicted during qualifying, everyone wanted to set a banker lap in as early as possible. At one stage, the Lotus cars were close to taking each other out for track position. Button continuously faced issues in getting a clean lap in under such conditions which was spoilt further by Glock spinning on the finish line just when Button was on his flying lap. Button had to slow down for yellow flags, which meant that his qualifying was done. Rest of the drivers relegated in Q1 were the usual suspects at the back of the field. Charles Pic failed to set a time within 107% mark, so he will race on steward’s discretion.

Q2 stated in full wets and conditions worsened with every passing lap. Alonso and Schumacher barely managed to escape accidents.  Several drivers started complaining about the track conditions and the race control obliged by red flagging the session. Perez was in P1, Vettel in P10, Schumacher in P14, Massa P15 and Alonso P16. Perez was sitting pretty at P1. The clock showed 6:19 mins and even with improved track conditions, it would be tough set a quick lap as all 17 cars would be fighting for track position. Its in situations like these, the best drivers rose to the occasion. When the session restarted, Vettel, Massa, Schumacher and Alonso, all made it to Q3 and Perez ended at P17. Grosjean, who was running well in P5 had a spin towards the end of Q2 that brought out the yellow flags. Alonso managed to slow his car sufficiently and still ended with P9. This meant that di Resta was relegated to P11 as he also had to slow down for the yellow flag while on his flying lap.

Q3 started with most drivers choosing intermediates as the track conditions were expected to improve. Hamilton made a last minute from full wet to intermediate tyres. Schumacher did 2 flying laps on full wets and was setting comparable lap times to others but the improving track condition was no hidden fact. He pitted to take intermediates but he would get only 1 flying lap. Hamilton had a particularly poor session and ended with only P8. Alonso and Massa kept trading fasted times for the first 5 minutes until Webber joined the fun with Alonso. In the end, Alonso took pole by just .047 second. Schumacher on his sole flying lap on inters was less than 3/10s away. Vettel was P4 and Massa P5. The seesion was particularly good for Ferrari and Red Bull.

But the real test is on Sunday when the points are given. Alonso has the advantage of a clear track but due to changeable track conditions, no one can be ruled out. This has all the makings for a super Sunday in bright English summer which looks more like “Dark Knight”.

2012 Formula 1 British Grand Prix, July 7, 2012 FP3

7 Jul

Silverstone finally had a fully dry practice session and teams made the most of it with most teams clocking 20+ laps. Last race’s winner Fernando Alonso, finished P1 with his Brazillian teammate in P16. It could be possible that both were on different testing schedules to make the most of the limited dry track time available. The top 10 cars were covered by under a second but a lot could change in the qualifying session in the evening.

Kimi had an off at the start of the session but was able to recover without any damage to his Lotus. It will be very important for Kimi to have a good race here. Grosjean has looked better bet in the past few races. The Mercedes of Schumacher and Rosberg set early pace in the session. di Resta and Kobayashi also had moments due to the slippery surface but with continuous running, the track will get drier. It did rain for a few minutes but that didn’t affect the track conditions. Track temperature remained mostly around 24 deg cel. Major incidents of the session were caused by Charles Pic whose Marussia stopped around the 22 minute mark. The session had to be red flagged to recover the car. When Pic went out for a run in the final 5 minutes of the session, his car stopped but this time yellow flags were enough.

Alonso’s P1 time was threatened briefly by Kobayashi just minutes from the end of the session. Kobayashi had just set 2 purple sectors but had an off in sector 3 resulting in losing his front wing. Button and Vettel did set quick lap times during the final 10 minutes but were still 2 to 3 tenths off Alonso’s time. Ferrari will hope that Alonso maintains this position in the qualifying. What happens in real, we will know very soon.

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