Archive | July, 2012

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?

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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.

2012 Formula 1 British Grand Prix, July 6, 2012 FP1, FP2

6 Jul

It was a Dark Day and Dark Knight at Silverstone. Both practice sessions were affected by continuous rains with most teams choosing to limit running and not risk racing equipment. Teams that were looking forward to Friday running to test upgrades spend most of their time in their garages.


Romain Grosjean has an off during Free Practice 1 at Silverstone

Free Practice 1: Romain Grosjean topped the timesheets with a 1 min 55.5 sec mark. With 6 different teams in the top 6 and Webber 1.9 sec down on the P1 time, not much can be read in these times. Kobayashi had the maximum number of laps with 19. Alonso and the Force India’s of di Resta and Jules Bianchi decided against setting a full lap time. Force India spent most of the time resolving issues on their cars. The HRTs and Marussia of Charles Pic were significantly off pace. The mood in Marussia garage was understandably somber due to the events of past week involving Maria de Villota. Kobayashi is under investigation by the stewards for a very last minute dash into the pit lane.

Free Practice 2: Another 90 minutes for downpour made for a dull Friday practice. Action was less, as expected with the weather conditions. Hamilton was quickest from Kobayashi, Schumacher and Rosberg with the top 4 separated by only 2 tenths of a second. Rest of the field chose to do more conservative times. Kobayashi was again the leader in terms of completed laps with 16. Grosjean, Riccardo, Webber and de la Rosa didn’t set a timed lap. Senna had a major shunt in his Williams, missing on crucial track time. The session ended with Alonso losing his front wing at the very end, no major damage though. It does puts into perspective the track conditions.

Pirellis had hoped to test a new tyre compound in the Friday practice, that will surely be delayed. All the teams, especially McLaren, had bigger worries with losing 3 hours of testing of upgrades they were bringing to this race. The current weather forecast could continue well on Saturday and Sunday. This race could turn out to be another lottery. Alonso, Vettel and Button though have had successes in rain hit races. Hamilton will take heart from his win here in 2008.Teams will hope for better conditions on Saturday to gather the all important data.

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