Pirelli Applaud Bottas’ Bravery

Pirelli have applauded Valtteri Bottas’ bravery after the Finn reached almost 200mph in wet conditions during Qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.

Bottas peaked at 196 mph on the back straight of the Shanghai circuit, but incredibly Bottas was using the intermediate tyres which displace less water than the full wet compounds. At their best, the blue intermediate tyres will displace 100 litres collectively per second, while the full wets can displace a staggering 260 litres per second – that’s more than a bathtub of water.

“Seeing Bottas achieve those sorts of speeds, in the wet in China, was one of those moments that gave you goosebumps: which is what Formula One is meant to be all about,” Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said today.

“The Cinturato Green intermediate is in fact the only tyre in our range that is completely unaltered compared to 2013, but it was still able to provide complete control even under extremely marginal conditions. This performance underlines the sheer bravery and talent of today’s Formula One drivers – which is what everyone wants to see.” 

The huge change to regulations ahead of this season reduced the downforce produced by cars, which in turn makes them faster in a straight line. This contributed to Bottas’ particularly fast speed on wet conditions, where aquaplaning is a real danger due to the width of the Formula One tyres.

Bottas qualified and finished seventh, despite making contact into the first corner of the race and briefly going off track, as well as driving the whole race without telemetry. The Finn, who is in his second season in F1, was pleased with the progress the team had made over the weekend and looked to Spain where he hopes to make further steps forward. However, Felipe Massa endured a horrible race in the other Williams following a botched pit stop which lost him over a minute. He finished the race in fifteenth. You can read my report of the race here.

Image courtesy Williams F1 Team. 

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Red Bull’s A to Z of Formula One

Watch as Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, reserve driver Sebastian Buemi, Team Principal Christian Horner and Aerodynamics guru Adrian Newey talk you through the A to Z of Formula One. This is part two, E to H.

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Another Trip To Court Looms For Red Bull

With the talk in the paddock still very much focused on the Red Bull appeal against Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix, which saw them go up in front of the FIA Court of Appeal last week, Red Bull look set to be going back to court, this time to battle McLaren.

Ron Dennis, the McLaren CEO, confirmed the plans to drag the reigning Champions to court over an employee at Red Bull, who Dennis claims signed a contract with McLaren for 2014 but failed to begin work with the Woking based team and was instead promoted at Red Bull where he currently works. Dan Fallows, the man at the centre of the controversy, was on gardening leave with Red Bull ahead of his move to McLaren before suddenly changing his mind and returning to Red Bull as the Head of Aerodynamics.

Ron Dennis claims that Fallows signed a contract with McLaren for 2014 which Red Bull have breached after, as he claims, they wooed him back with the offer of a more important role in the team.

Speaking to Autosport, Dennis said, “To be honest, that’s completely unacceptable to us. Just days before Fallows’ McLaren start date – and despite having signed a legally-binding contract with McLaren, being on gardening leave from Red Bull, and moving to a new home near Woking – he suddenly informed us that he no longer wanted to work for us.

“The problem was, he had no legal basis on which to make that U-turn because he’d already formally accepted, and contracted himself to our offer of employment. Sadly, it’s now likely that McLaren will have no alternative other than to pursue a High Court action against Red Bull, which will ask very serious questions as to that team’s integrity and sense of fair play.”

Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner aired his disappointment at this news, telling the Press Association: “I’m disappointed in Ron’s comments. The matter is now in the hands of the lawyers, but this is something we will defend vigorously. We don’t see there is any case to answer.

“It’s disappointing McLaren has pursued this route. Perhaps Ron would have been better giving me a call.”

Dennis reacted angrily to Horner’s suggestion that he should have given him a call, saying that Horner was formally contacted several weeks ago regarding the Fallows issue.

“We formally emailed Christian Horner more than two weeks ago,” Dennis said, “asking him about Dan Fallows’ whereabouts, so it’s a bit rich for him to say ‘Why didn’t Ron call me?’ now.

“Moreover, the point is that Fallows has a legally binding contract with McLaren yet Red Bull chose to ignore that and instead convince him to return to Red Bull.”

There has been no date set for the court case and, for now at least, Fallows remains with Red Bull.

Image courtesy Red Bull/Getty Images.

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Vettel Hoping That Team Can Make “Steps In The Right Direction”

Sebastian Vettel has admitted that his car is not performing to the level that he needs it to be, but has added that he thinks the team can make “steps in the right direction” in the coming Grand Prix.

I’m not yet where I want to be with the car,” Vettel said after today’s Chinese Grand Prix, “but it’s an ongoing process; hopefully at the next few races we will make some more steps in the right direction.”

“Our weakness isn’t in the corners, but on the straights. The first stint today was okay but after that I’m not sure what happened”.

Vettel had a strong start to the race, jumping team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and running in second place for the first part of the race. After that, however, Alonso had passed him in the pitlane and he was starting to lose ground to a charging Nico Rosberg who eventually got past him too. This left Vettel defending against his team-mate for the second race in a row, and for the second race in a row, Red Bull issued team orders against Vettel.

Vettel initially defied the orders, telling his engineer “tough luck”, but he later clarified that this was due to a misunderstanding over tyre strategies: “I moved over for Daniel once I knew that we were on different strategies. When I was first asked, I didn’t understand as we were on the same tyre, unlike in Bahrain, so I double checked.

“When the team said we were on a different strategy, I moved over and then, as the race went on, I saw more and more that I didn’t have the pace. There was no point in holding Dan back.”

Ricciardo has had the upper-hand on Vettel across all four races this season, especially poignant as Ricciardo only joined the team this year while Vettel has been with the team in 2009.

Image courtesy Red Bull/Getty Images.

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Grosjean And Lotus Thinking Positive Despite Race Retirement

Romain Grosjean will leave China lamenting his bad luck after suffering a gearbox failure during today’s Grand Prix.

The Frenchman was challenging for points for the first time this season after qualifying in the top ten, until a gearbox issue saw him lose fourth gear. After struggling to continue, including a deep trip into the gravel at turn 11, he was told to pit to retire the car.

“We started by losing fourth gear but it got worse and essentially we lost all gears,” Grosjean said after the race. “It’s the first time we’ve had a problem like this so we’ll have to understand what happened.”

However, the Frenchman took solace in the fact that they had been competitive before the issue: “It had been quite nice in the race as we’d been fighting for ninth position so we were in the points, which is a good improvement from before.”

His thoughts were echoed by Laurent Debout, the Renault Support Leader with Lotus, who said, “We’ve made some real progress this weekend and for the first time since Melbourne we could show we had the pace for points, which is why today is so disappointing.”

Speaking about the issue, Lotus Trackside Operations Director, Alan Permane said, “Obviously, this is not ideal and we’re investigating the cause. It’s a shame as Romain had been running reasonably well in the points and able to race his rivals, and a points finish was realistic.”

Pastor Maldonado brought the other Lotus to the chequered flag, finishing fourteenth after starting twenty-second. He suffered an engine issue during the Saturday morning practice session, and the efforts to repair it meant that he failed to set a lap in Qualifying.

Image courtesy Lotus F1 Team.

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Hamilton Eases To Dominant Chinese GP Win

Lewis Hamilton drove to a controlled win at the Chinese Grand Prix today, winning his third consecutive Grand Prix and moving himself to within four points of first place in the drivers’ Championship in the process. The Briton had taken a dominant pole position on Saturday and simply rocketed into the lead at race start and stayed there throughout the race.

He was unchallenged off the line and into the first corner as several drivers made contact into the long right hand corner. Felipe Massa was one of the drivers to make contact with another driver after he darted wildly right following a good start and hit Fernandno Alonso’s Ferrari. Remarkably, neither man seemed to incur any major damage in the relatively heavy hit. The other Williams driver, Valtteri Bottas, was also in the wars at the start as he was tapped and forced wide by the slow starting Nico Rosberg.

Up at the front, Hamilton led from Sebastian Vettel who was fending from Fernando Alonso, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo who dropped from second to fourth off the line. Grosjean made two places up, Raikkonen made three and Maldonado made four as he started from the back and cut through the backmarkers.

As the grid returned to the pit straight for the first racing lap, Jenson Button challenged Jean-Eric Vergne down the straight and into the long first corner as he tried to recover from a slow start. The Briton passed the Frenchman into T2 as Kevin Magnussen in the other McLaren also tried to recover from a botched start. Back at the front, Hamilton kept extending his lead at a rate of around a second per lap while Alonso began to fall back from Vettel.

Adrian Sutil lamented his back luck as he was told to box to retire for the third race running on the seventh lap, while Alonso began to reel in the Red Bull ahead of him. As he slowly edged towards Vettel, Ricciardo, shadowed by Rosberg, joined the tail of the battle for second. Despite the potential, it was a very stagnant battle.

Jenson Button became the first man to enter the pits as he took on the medium compound tyres and rejoined at the very back of the grid. Romain Grosjean follows him in on the next lap and rejoins the race in eighteenth. Inspired by their fellow racers, former team-mates Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen pitted for a fresh set of boots. However, as the Ferrari mechanics released Raikkonen, Massa was still parked in his box, shaking his head and looking around for the source of the delay: the rear tyres were not on his car and his mechanics ran frantically around the back of his car. They fumbled with these tyres and again failed to get the tyres onto the car, most likely due to damage he suffered during his contact with Alonso. Finally they fitted the tyres and released him, but he had lost more than a minute in the pits and he rejoined from last, ruining the Brazilian’s race. They later announced that they had accidentally swapped the two rear tyres, trying to fit the left tyre to the right side and so on, which cannot be done, hence the delay.

Massa’s former team-mate, Alonso, pitted for tyres and rejoined the race, while Vettel pitted on the following lap. To Vettel’s dismay, Alonso had taken advantage of the undercut and had moved past the German while in the pits. Vettel rejoined behind both Alonso and the out-of-place Daniil Kvyat who was yet to pit, but the Russian moved over immediately for Vettel in the sister team. Nico Rosberg pitted from a provisional third and rejoined in seventh, ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg. The other Mercedes of Hamilton is shown running very wide but his advantage over the rest of the grid means he didn’t need to worry about losing the time. He pitted at the end of the lap and rejoined easily in the lead.

Rosberg had been running without telemetry all race and had to manually tell the team how his car was performing, based on the readings on his steering wheel. At the same time, he was trying to pass Vettel for third, which he eventually did after an ambitious dive up the inside of turn 14. The two drivers ran wide and Vettel tried to out-drag Rosberg into the final corner, but lost time and fell back behind Rosberg. Although he again challenged his country-man into the first corner, he finally conceded as Rosberg began to build a gap and Ricciardo appeared behind Vettel.

Ricciardo tried to get past Vettel and chase after Rosberg but after two laps couldn’t make use of DRS to do it, prompting the team to issue team orders for the second race running. Although Vettel initially said “tough luck” and fought Ricciardo on the back straight, he ran wide at turn 1 and didn’t bother closing the door as Ricciardo dived up the inside and moved into P4.

Romain Grosjean was running in the points for Lotus, an impressive effort by the Frenchman, until his gearbox began to fall apart and he lost fourth gear. After a very big excursion into the gravel traps at turn 11, he trudged back into the pitlane and climbed wearily from his car.

As the race began to grow stagnant, the race attention turned to Nico Rosberg and Fernandno Alonso who were battling for P2, with a gap of only a second seperating the Mercedes from the leading Ferrari. The battle continued for several laps and built up to a big climax, only for Rosberg to open his DRS and breeze past Alonso as if in a video game. It was frustrating, I’m sure, for Alonso, but Vettel was even angrier as Kamui Kobayashi unlapped himself before Vettel entered the pits.

And with no one to challenge him, Hamilton crossed the line the victor, his first ever hattrick of wins. After taking his 34th pole position, the first Briton to take that many, he took his 25th race victory, to draw him equal with Niki Lauda and Jim Clark. Nico Rosberg followed him home in a distant second to give Mercedes their third consecutive one-two finish, with Fernando Alonso filling out the podium.

Provisional Race Results:

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Nico Rosberg
  3. Fernando Alonso
  4. Daniel Ricciardo
  5. Sebastian Vettel
  6. Nico Hulkenberg
  7. Valtteri Bottas
  8. Kimi Raikkonen
  9. Sergio Perez
  10. Daniil Kvyat
  11. Jenson Button
  12. Jean-Eric Vergne
  13. Kevin Magnussen
  14. Pastor Maldonado
  15. Felipe Massa
  16. Esteban Gutierrez
  17. Kamui Kobayashi
  18. Jules Bianchi
  19. Max Chilton
  20. Marcus Ericsson
  • Adrian Sutil – Power-unit failure
  • Romain Grosjean – Gearbox failure

Image courtesy Mercedes AMG F1 Team

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Hamilton Storms To Shanghai Pole

Lewis Hamilton stormed to a dominant pole position at the Shanghai International Circuit today, beating closest rival Daniel Ricciardo by a full second in wet conditions. While Hamilton’s team-mate Nico Rosberg spun on his final flying lap, Hamilton was flawless as he romped to his third pole of the season – the fourth of four for the Mercedes team. Daniel Ricciardo in second beat his team-mate who lines up third, this race being the third race where he has out-qualified his World Champion team-mate. Rosberg took fourth but could have improved if not for the last-minute spin, while Fernando Alonso took fifth for Ferrari. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas both made it through to Q3 and lined up in order, taking sixth and seventh for Williams respectively, while Nico Hulkenberg narrowly made it through to Q3 and then qualified eighth. Jean-Eric Vergne took his STR9 to ninth on the grid while Romain Grosjean rounded out the top ten, a particularly impressive feat by the Frenchman whose team-mate failed to qualify.

Kimi Raikkonen improved in all sectors on his final attempt to get through to Q3, but he missed the cut by a mere 0.013 and resigned himself to a Q2 drop-out. Jenson Button, who usually excels in wet conditions, couldn’t improve on twelfth, with the other McLaren, the one piloted by Kevin Magnussen, qualifying fifteenth. Daniil Kvyat was thirteenth for Toro Rosso ahead of Sauber’s Sutil in fourteenth. Sergio Perez, coming from Bahrain where he took Force India’s second ever podium, will face an uphill battle if he hopes to repeat that feat from sixteenth on the grid.

Gutierrez pushed hard, too hard perhaps, on his final lap in Q1 which sent him wide at the final corner and this narrowly saved Lotus’ Romain Grosjean who hung dangerously in sixteenth. Kobayashi crossed the line and took eighteenth for Caterham, while Jules Bianchi’s efforts to make it out of the bottom six were ruined when he went incredibly wide at the final corner. He subsequently qualified nineteenth ahead of the Caterham of Marcus Ericsson who himself out-qualified Max Chilton. Pastor Maldonado failed to take part in Qualifying following an engine problem which was discovered late in this morning’s practice session and which the team were unable to fix before Quali. As a result he lines up twenty-second, and his five place grid penalty for making contact with Gutierrez in Bahrain carries over to the Spanish Grand Prix.

Provisional Grid:

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Daniel Ricciardo
  3. Sebastian Vettel
  4. Nico Rosberg
  5. Fernando Alonso
  6. Felipe Massa
  7. Valtteri Bottas
  8. Nico Hulkenberg
  9. Jean-Eric Vergne
  10. Romain Grosjean
  11. Kimi Raikkonen
  12. Jenson Button
  13. Daniil Kvyat
  14. Adrian Sutil
  15. Kevin Magnussen
  16. Sergio Perez
  17. Esteban Gutierrez
  18. Kamui Kobayashi
  19. Jules Bianchi
  20. Marcus Ericsson
  21. Max Chilton
  22. Pastor Maldonado (did not take part).

Image courtesy Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

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