F1: Turkish Grand Prix Thoughts

The final corner at Istanbul Park.
Image via Wikipedia

The Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul extended F1’s streak of exciting races to start this season. While we still had the same winner and pole sitter, that didn’t stop it from being an enthralling race in which you couldn’t predict the podium result until right near the end of the race due to predominantly the tyres.

People will undoubtedly lay blame at Red Bull’s door for being too dominant and making the outcomes predictable, but that would hardly be fair. It’s not their fault that the competition aren’t pushing them hard enough so far in the season. All they’ve done is design the best car possible under the regulations, and had drivers, one in particular that have driven them to their potential. I expect Ferrari, McLaren and possibly Mercedes to stay close to them and win multiple races this year, and not just on strategy alone, as McLaren did with Lewis Hamilton in China. We may even see Renault get back to podium clinching ways in Spain.

In other words, while Red Bull are certainly the favourites as things stand to repeat their double championship success from last year, they certainly won’t have things their own way for much longer. The other top teams have too much money and talent to let that happen.

As far as the race itself, I think it was pretty eventful, even confusing at times even for long time fans of the sport. The DRS seemed to be a bit too strong this weekend which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as it allowed multiple overtakes and re-passes from the likes of Webber and Alonso, where normally one car will get past and be done with the rival, as they won’t be able to get back into the one second window for DRS deployment.

I was happy to see Rosberg and Mercedes come back up to 5th place in the race at the end after they appeared to be struggling badly on high fuel and getting passed by everyone early on. It may be true that 6th would have been the best he could have hoped for had Button not made the mistake of only pitting 3 times instead of 4, but after his strong start I think he and the team deserved it.

Williams seemed to be stronger in qualifying pace, almost getting into Q3 with Rubens, but it wasn’t to be. Points also weren’t to be once again, another blow but at least progress is slowly being made. I hope they can finally score in Spain, but they could face stiff competition from Team Lotus, who will bring big upgrades including a blown diffuser which could find them a second in pace. They’re not just looking for their first point of the season, but ever, so both teams will be intensely fighting for that 10th place.

The other midfield teams, Sauber and Toro Rosso will also be looking to stay in the points in the next round. Kobayashi thought 7th was possible after a puncture sustained with Buemi caused him to change strategy. He made a 3 stop strategy work which was impressive and finished 10th, which is still very strong considering the car he was driving as well as having to come from the back of the grid.

The final midfield team Force India will be hoping to get back to form and into the points battle too after struggling in Instanbul. Sutil finished 13th and Paul Di Resta retired 44 laps in with mechanical failure.

Virgin had a terrible weekend. First, their upgrades including the rear wing, floor and blown exhaust system didn’t work correctly and had to be removed. Adding to this, Glock’s car had transmission issues before the race and couldn’t start. Jerome D’ambrosio drove a strong race and was the only driver to make a 2 stop strategy work. Virgin also beat HRT comfortably which is good, especially as they did it without their upgrades. They certainly can’t rest on their laurels though.

Finally, a quick mention for Felipe Massa who, if you look at the race result, you would think was comprehensively beaten by his team mate. I thought so too, but then heard that he had problems on 3 of his 4 pit stops.  This cost him considerable amounts of time and then dropped him back out on track in traffic, further ruining his race. Hopefully he’ll have a bit better luck next time out in Spain.

I’m excited for the next race at Catalunya in a couple of weeks. Many eyes will be on Team Lotus to see if they really can mix it properly with the midfield.


F1: Abu Dhabi and 2010 Year in Review

Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi
Image via Wikipedia

The race in Abu Dhabi wasn’t a classic. I don’t think it was even as good as last year’s debut at the Yas Marina Circuit. The track and facilities are incredible, but as far as the racing goes, the main two points that we’ll remember this race for are Vettel‘s brilliantly controlled drive and Ferrari’s poor strategy which cost Alonso any chance of winning the championship by putting him in the pack behind Petrov for the remainder of the race.

Mark Webber decided to pit early as the tyres on his car weren’t holding up well. Once he pitted, Ferrari thought that it would be wise to pit Alonso in order to cover Mark. They did successfully cover him, with Fernando emerging from the pits just in front of Webber, but by that time they were both effectively out of the running.

There was one other memorable part of the race. The incident at the beginning involving Schumacher and Liuzzi was a scary one. Michael span on his own and Liuzzi had no where to go but up the front of the Mercedes like a ramp. It was incredibly lucky that the car missed his head by a narrow margin because that is probably the only part of an F1 car that doesn’t give full protection to the driver.

As far as Sebastian goes, he drove a controlled race to cruise to victory in the championship. He had to be on his guard for Kobayashi at the stops but he managed to get back out in the lead and it was plain sailing from there.

Had it not been for all of the failures he had endured when he was leading races throughout the season, he would have won this championship far easier. He is incredibly deserving of the title and in the end I think that clearly the best driver and the best car won in 2010.

Mark Webber has a lot to be proud of in 2010. He was dominant in some parts of the season only to let it slip from Korea onwards. Alonso has settled in perfectly to Ferrari and was unlucky to not capitalise on Red Bull’s reliability issues. McLaren were the third fastest team for the majority of the year and yet were able to sneak ahead of Ferrari for second in the constructors. While this is partly because Felipe Massa had a very poor season, it’s also because they had some great races for both Jenson and Lewis. With Jenson completely comfortable in the team now, and with next year’s car likely to suit him more, I think the team will be formidable next year.

2010 was a great season in F1 and if the new regulations don’t cheapen overtaking too much and makes for exciting racing, then I think 2011 could be even better, despite this year being a hard act to follow.


F1: Japan, Korea and Brazil 2010 Race Reviews

Formula One 2009 Rd.15 Japanese GP: Sebastian ...
Vettel at Japan 2009. Image via Wikipedia

I haven’t posted a race review for a while so before I get into Abu-Dhabi and a season review, I’d like to quickly recap the previous 3 races.

Japan – Suzuka

Japan this year was another display of Red Bull dominance with Vettel first and Webber second followed by Alonso grabbing yet another podium for his string of solid results.

The two McLaren’s finished 4th and 5th with Button ahead due to Hamilton’s gearbox issue. Schumacher had a strong finish in 6th and the Sauber drivers were impressive in 7th and 8th, especiall Kobayashi who made some really exciting overtaking moves through the race and as usual had no problem risking everything at any point.

As far as the new teams, Kovalainen all but secured Lotus’ 10th place in the constructor’s championship with his 12th place finish, higher than any other new team driver had managed.

Many drivers also experienced a weekend to forget. Kubica after qualifying strongly among the Red Bulls, had a wheel come off under the safety car at the beginning. That safety car was brought out by multiple incidents. Petrov got a great start but had too much speed and no where to go, taking out himself and Hulkenberg who was minding his own business before the first turn. Rosberg also had a wheel come off late in the race which scuppered a promising result for him.

Massa got squeezed onto the curb at turn 1 which caused him to lose control and barrel into Liuzzi who couldn’t do anything to avoid losing all his wheels in the barrier.

The worst incident appeared to be from Lucas Di Grassi who crashed on his way to the grid, even before the warm up lap around 130 R. Whether it was a driver error or car failure I’m still not sure but it is one of the worst places to make such a catastrophic error if indeed that’s what it was.

Overall, Suzuka was a strong weekend for Red Bull that brought Vettek back into the title hunt and cemented Mark Webber’s position as a serious challenger. Alonso kept himself in there fighting and McLaren seemed to not be making much progress.

Korea – Yeongam

While Japan was a brilliant weekend for Red Bull, Korea was an absolute disaster for the team. The damp track was causing huge visibility problems and the race had to be red flagged to wait for conditions to improve. They improved but not by much. After the second safety car start, Mark Webber made a simple mistake and spun his car. He might have been able to continue had it not been for him backing across the track and taking out Nico Rosberg, who even after taking to the grass to try and avoid the Red Bull still couldn’t avoid him.

It was a massive blow to Webber’s title challenge as well as Rosberg’s race hopes. It was the second race in a row where Nico was robbed of a potential strong result. Vettel was looking at ease out in front, managing the conditions well before he suffered an extraordinary engine failure. You could clearly see nuts and bolts flying out of the back of his car as he came down the long straight with smoke barrelling out of the engine. He was remarkably dignified afterwards despite being robbed of a win and potentially his championship hopes.

Alonso sailed through to inherit yet another win from Vettel like he did in Bahrain at the first race.

Lewis Hamilton finished second to out perform his car while Felipe Massa had a strong third place although he was realistically looking at 5th or 6th at best in the dry without the two Red Bull’s and Rosberg’s retirements. Schumacher had a great 4th place and Liuzzi had an equally fantastic 6th place for Force India.

Brazil – Interlagos

Red Bull were back to winning ways with another 1-2 finish, again with Sebastian out front, which may have been a sign that Webber was going to struggle to stay ahead in the championship. Alonso couldn’t match the pace of Red Bull but finished on the podium again to stay in the fight leading the championship heading to the last race. Red Bull decided against team orders to switch the drivers as they wanted to not put all their eggs in one basket heading to the last race, where anything could happen. At the time I wasn’t sure if this was a smart move as it looked as if they were almost conceding defeat to Ferrari and Alonso, but if you’ve been following recently you would know how much of a smart move it was.

After the top three were the two McLaren’s with Lewis just ahead of Jenson, followed by both Mercedes cars with Rosberg about 8 seconds ahead of Schumacher at the flag. Nico Hulkenberg, despite starting on pole and holding up Alonso for a few laps, could only manage 8th with his car’s speed in the dry, but he said afterwards that he gave it everything and that he was happy with 8th.

Despite the home support, all 4 Brazillian diver’s had races to forget finishing outside the points, especially Rubens and Felipe who both had tyre problems and had to have extra pit stops.


F1: Italian GP of Monza Thoughts

This year’s Italian GP ended up being a fairytale for Ferrari fans, who accounts for probably about 80% or more of the spectators that come to the track over the weekend. They got what they came for, a Ferrari win and double podium and as a bonus, they achieved it without any shady tactics being deployed, which I’m glad about.

The start of the race was exciting and eventful as always. Jenson got a great start to jump Alonso, just edging him into the second turn. He did receive some damage from Fernando’s nose cone in his rear wing which caused some pretty big damage which may have compromised his race pace. Massa was in third, while Lewis Hamilton was right on his tail coming into the second chicane. He made a mistake however and broke a steering column on his front right wheel that took him out of the race. This was a massive error which cost him serious points and his lead in the championship. With 5 races to go, it will be interesting to see how crucial that error will prove at the end of the season.

The battle at the front was really a two horse race right from the beginning to the end, with Massa not quite able to keep up the pace. The win seemingly came down to the pit stop phase when McLaren pitted button first because they were worried about the pace of Kubica on the harder tire. However, Ferrari were able to wait until the lap after to pit and had a fast enough in-lap to jump Button barely when Fernando emerged from the pit lane.

Button must have felt that if the team had somehow managed to pit on the same lap as Ferrari, then he would have been able to keep Alonso behind him and take the win, because in true race pace the Ferrari was clearly faster. The damage Button’s car suffered at the first corner may have added to the performance gap as well.

Further down the grid, it was a case of damage limitation for Red Bull. Vettel will be very happy with 4th after starting 6th especially with a short lived engine issue that cost him time. Webber started 4th and finished 6th and will be less happy after being cost the 4th place by Hulkenberg who continually cut the chicanes and didn’t get penalised for it. When he did get past, it was too late as Rosberg and Vettel were too far ahead. Singapore should suit their car though so both drivers will be feeling upbeat about that race. Especially Mark as he goes there leading the championship by 3 points over Hamilton.

Mercedes had a solid race with 5th for Rosberg who qualified 7th and Schumacher who qualified 12th and converted that into 9th. Williams also had another solid race, even if Hulkenberg’s 7th was a bit controversial. Barichello maintained his grid slot to finish with a point in 10th.

Force India will be disappointed following their success at Monza last year, as will Renault who could only manage 7th with Kubica. Sauber also had a race to forget with Kobayashi retiring on the first lap and no points for De La Rosa who has now been replaced by Nick Heidfeld. It’s a harsh decision I think but Nick has experience with the tires for next year so he may have an advantage at the start of next season if he maintains this drive.

At the back of the grid, Virgin overcame Glock’s 5 place penalty for a gearbox change to finish ahead of Lotus in what would be considered a small victory for them.

The Singapore GP weekend starts in about 8 days time. It’s always an incredible spectacle and it should be an exciting race.