Idiocy, Not Conspiracy

Adrian Sutil leads his team-mate, shortly before his spin

Adrian Sutil leads his team-mate, shortly before his spin

The German Grand Prix this weekend showcased a master class in driving as drivers such as Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton repeatedly went wheel to wheel as they battled for both position and bragging rights. But it also showcased complete idiocy and irresponsibility by the race control when they decided not to neutralise the race following a spin for Sutil, which left a car in a dangerous position on track.

Adrian Sutil spun out of the final corner as his car battled a failing engine, leaving him stranded diagonally across the right hand side of the grid. After determining that his Sauber had called time on his race, Sutil climbed from the cockpit and strolled back to the pits. Lewis Hamilton pitted for a new set of tyres, taking advantage of what was sure to be a Safety Car period, and I’m sure every team in the paddock had strategists calculating if it was worth pitting behind the Safety Car, with only fifteen laps to go.

But Hamilton’s gamble went unrewarded and the hurried strategy decisions proved useless as the Safety Car stayed parked in its standby position at the end of the pit lane. Instead, the stricken Sauber stayed stationary on the grid while yellow flags waved frantically on the pit straight.

There were two things which I found quite frustrating about this.

Starting with the lesser of the two: the delay in clearing his car. Unless Sutil parked his car in the marshal’s cafeteria, he couldn’t have put it any closer to an abundance of marshals – the pit lane is quite literally crammed to the brim with these volunteers, yet none ventured onto the track to recover the car. It was a full two minutes and fifty-five seconds between the moment Sutil spun and the time that the first marshals arrived on the scene. In the meantime, an assembly of officials gawked stupidly at the abandoned car from the safety of the pit wall. Finally, three ballsy men ran from the other side of the track, across the racing line, to push the car towards the gap in the pit wall, mere metres away.

Obviously, there was nothing the marshals could do: they can’t simply walk onto the track if they feel like it. Instead, the men and women in orange must wait for an order from race control. It is race control who must answer for the farcical delay in removing the hazard.

I joked on Twitter that perhaps Bernd Maylander was using the toilet at the time, and so could not drive the Safety Car to neutralise the race. Obviously, he wasn’t. The Safety Car had not broken down and Bernd sat ready to go, as per usual. So why wasn’t he used? It made absolutely no sense to leave that Sauber dangerously placed on the grid, when a Safety Car for a lap or two could have it cleared safely out of the way.

“A Safety Car would have normally come out in situations like that,” said Lewis Hamilton, echoing the sentiments of the other drivers in the paddock. “In fact, there should have been a Safety Car,” he told Sky Sports. “How on earth a car can be sitting in the middle of the road for a couple of laps and not come out…but I think you know why.” It’s clear that Hamilton has convinced himself that Race Control has it in for him, that they purposefully left the Safety Car in the pits in case it would hurt Rosberg’s lead in the race. It’s a ridiculous suggestion, and one I have seen echoed by a lot of people, (particularly British fans, strangely). But although the idea is outrageous and highly unlikely, I’m at a loss to find another reason why Race Control wouldn’t bother using the Safety Car.

The second (and most important thing) that frustrated and concerned me was the blatant disregard for the safety of drivers, marshals and anyone within range of debris which would be thrown up by a car smashing into the parked Sauber.

I simply can’t get my head around the logic of those who are in charge of the races. This is the same sport which only two weeks ago postponed a Grand Prix for a full hour while minor damage to a small piece of Armco barrier, the odds of which being hit again was millions to one, was repaired. How can the same apparently safety conscious organisation spend an hour repairing a barrier in one race, only to shrug off a big car parked diagonally across a track. It’s lunacy. Also, I hope the irony that Sutil’s car was parked beside a CGI road safety message was not lost on you.

For me, this almighty cock-up was merely the act of an incompetent Race Control. I would like to see a statement from them, explaining their decision, but I know that they won’t bother. The truth of the matter is that there is no excuse for not bringing out the Safety Car for a blockage on track when we have seen the AMG SLS brought out for as little as a front wing endplate out on the track. On the other hand, the officials in Race Control were simply failing in their duty to keep the competitors safe, rather than maliciously endangering the drivers in an attempt to help Rosberg, whose talent and speed on the day was enough to see him win the race comfortably, regardless. But, the British press will, I imagine, continue to rant and rave about a mixture of conspiracies and the worst of luck for Hamilton (the latter being nothing short of a case of bad sportsmanship) because, on the day, their man lost.

Image courtesy of Sauber Motorsport AG.

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Rosberg Eases To Dominant German GP Victory

Nico Rosberg breezed to victory at the German Grand Prix this afternoon, leading unchallenged from pole to flag. His only realistic rival, team-mate Lewis Hamilton, had been effectively ruled out of contention after a crash during the first part of Qualifying on Saturday, meaning he started twentieth on the grid. An alternated strategy for the Briton as a result of contact with former team-mate Jenson Button, saw him finish third behind Valtteri Bottas, who celebrated his third consecutive podium.

The five lights came on and went out, and the grid raced towards turn 11. Jules Bianchi had bogged down which forced the Caterham behind him to dive around him, while up the front, Rosberg had maintained his lead towards turn 1. Kevin Magnussen was looking to jump Felipe Massa into the first corner but the Dane ran out of room and his wheel connected with Massa’s, flipping Massa’s car and sending it scraping across the gravel in the run off at turn 1. Ricciardo was sent wide by the incident and narrowly avoided the inverted Williams, but rejoined far down the order while the Safety Car was deployed.

The Safety Car came in at the end of the second lap and Rosberg bolted away from the Williams of Valtteri Bottas behind him. In the mid-field, Ricciardo was told that Hamilton was behind him and pushing hard, following the Briton’s crash in Qualifying and subsequent penalty, which caused saw him starting from twentieth. Engaged in their own battle, Ricciardo and Hamilton came up behind Sutil, where Ricciardo pushed past into turn 6. When Hamilton tried to follow the Red Bull past, Sutil turned in and made light contact with Lewis.

Soon after, Ricciardo and Hamilton had left Sutil trailing and had caught up to the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. The Red Bull took the outside line while the Mercedes locked up the inside and sailed into the Ferrari, causing slight damage to the Ferrari’s front wing. Nonetheless, Hamilton had secured the position and had advanced two places.

Kimi was sandwiched into turn six again a few laps later when Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, repeating their close battle from the British Grand Prix two weeks ago, arrived behind the Finn. Again Kimi took slight damage in the scrap for position, which left Alonso in the lead and debris on the track.

Behind them, Perez was getting inventive with his overtakes: he pulled a move on Romain Grosjean into turn 8 which had him ahead briefly, before Grosjean moved back past the Mexican at the exit of the 9-10 section. While Grosjean came close to exceeding track limits during the overtake, Vergne had been abusing the track limits and was handed a five-second stop/go penalty for same. Grosjean soon became the race’s second retirement when his Lotus broke down on lap 28.

After pitting for the first time, Hamilton emerged in eighth, and behind his sparring partner from the beginning of the race. Making short work of Ricciardo second-time-round, he came up behind Button who provided a tougher opposition for his former team-mate. Again at turn 6, Hamilton dived down the inside of Button, but hit the McLaren’s sidepod on the exit and damaged his front wing. With a subsequent drop in performance, his team began looking for an alternate strategy.

Behind him, Alonso had caught up to Ricciardo and was looking to squeeze past. Together they passed the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg into turn 6, and then resumed racing on the clear track ahead of them. They were denied the chance to fight into the track’s permier overtaking point, turn 6, when Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso burst into flames on the back straight and parked in the run-off area of turn 6. The Russian jumped clear of his fiery cockpit and punched a barrier in frustration, rueing the lost opportunity to score some valuable points for his team.

Adrian Sutil also ended his race prematurely when he spun out of the last corner and reported that there was a problem with his car. The yellow flags were shown again, and his Sauber was in a very dangerous position but, incredibly, the Safety Car stayed park. It was not even deployed when Sutil resigned himself to a DNF and climbed from his cockpit, strolling to the pitwall and back to the paddock. Instead, the Sauber sat dangerously across the grid until some brave marshals sprinted from the opposite side of the track and wheeled it to the pitlane, two laps later. It was a farce by Race Control and an unnecessary risk.

Hamilton, on his alternate strategy to try to combat the damage caused to his front wing, expected a Safety Car and came into the pits for a fresh set of soft tyres. Ricciardo and Alonso were still battling behind him, and Alonso eventually managed to get past Ricciardo into turn 6, but the Aussie pushed back mid-corner and regained the lead of the Spaniard. This was repeated at turn 7 where Alonso pulled a ballsy move on the Red Bull, only to lose the position to Ricciardo again. Finally, Alonso moved past into turn 6, and kept Ricciardo behind him at turn 8.

Bottas and Hamilton were also fighting for position, but the Finn kept control of the battle and closed out the race merely half-a-second ahead of the faster Mercedes. Up the front, where he had been since the race start, Rosberg was completely unchallenged, and breezed across the line in front of his adoring home crowd. Bottas followed him twenty seconds later to secure his third consecutive podium, while Hamilton shadowed him as he took third. Sebastian Vettel took fourth for Red Bull while Alonso came home fifth ahead of Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Button, Magnussen and Perez to round out the top ten.

Race Results:

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

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Rosberg Eases To Pole As Hamilton Crashes

Nico Rosberg took an unchallenged pole position at his home Grand Prix today following a brakes failure on the other Mercedes car which sent his only realistic competitor into the barriers at turn 13. With no one within range of the superior Mercedes, the Williams men slotted in to second and third ahead of McLaren’s Magnussen and the Red Bull duo.

Rosberg had made a series of mistakes on his opening laps in Q1 and was pushing hard to make sure he’d progress to the next session when a Mercedes was seen hitting the barriers at turn 13. Due to the dust thrown up by the accident it was hard to identify the driver and it looked to have been Rosberg crashing out of his home Qualifying session. But as the dust settled it became apparent that it was his team-mate who had hit the barriers. Mercedes soon confirmed that Hamilton’s crash had been caused by a brake disc failure. His front brake disc broke, locking his front right tyre and causing his car to spin. The momentum carried him across the gravel and he hit the barrier violently.

The session was red flagged as the debris was cleared up and Hamilton was whisked away by the medical car, while the other cars returned to the pits. While Rosberg still hadn’t a clear lap set, he would only need to get a relatively fast lap done when the session restarted in order to progress. It was a different story in the Caterham garage though, where Marcus Ericsson’s car was still on stilts and undergoing surgery. By the time the session was restarted and the clock resumed ticking down, Caterham were no nearer getting the car ready and Ericsson resigned himself to the back of the grid.

The usual suspects moved safely through to Q2, although many of them had to burn a set of the quicker super-soft tyres to make sure they got through. Adrian Sutil, despite his seemingly improved performance this season, amid rumours of his imminent replacement, qualified down the order in a disappointing seventeenth for Sauber. Jules Bianchi out-qualified Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus by half-a-second, while Max Chilton and Kamui Kobayashi took twentieth and twenty-first – leaving twenty-second for Ericsson who failed to set a time.

Hamilton moved through to Q2 but obviously couldn’t set a lap, and so sixteenth on the grid was reserved for him. Q2 was a far more straightforward affair and resulted in Button, Raikkonen, Vergne, Gutierrez and Grosjean being knocked out, in that order. Button was quick on the radio to express his anger at a Lotus which, he said, had held him up, but replays showed that the Lotus was several seconds ahead of Button, and so the stewards ignored the complaint. Gutierrez qualified fourteenth, but his grid penalty for his clash with Maldonado in Silverstone will be carried forward, and so he will start seventeenth – promoting Hamilton to fifteenth.

While pole position for Rosberg was almost guaranteed, the grid between second and tenth was still to be decided. The Force India duo came out early but neither lap was impressive and put Hulkenberg and Perez down the bottom of the order.Bottas and Massa crossed the line next for Williams, and secured provisional second and third respectively. Kevin Magnussen pushed ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, whose team-mate then slotted ahead of the McLaren. Alonso was surprisingly off the pace and could only manage sixth for the Scuderia, while Kvyat took eighth on his first effort. For their second laps, Magnussen improved to fourth and Ricciardo to fifth, while Alonso was bumped down to ninth. Excluding Bottas’ lap, which moved him to two-tenths shy of Rosberg, no one else improved, and no one could challenge Rosberg at the front.

  1. Nico Rosberg
  2. Valtteri Bottas
  3. Felipe Massa
  4. Kevin Magnussen
  5. Daniel Ricciardo
  6. Sebastian Vettel
  7. Fernando Alonso
  8. Daniil Kvyat
  9. Nico Hulkenberg
  10. Sergio Perez
  11. Jenson Button
  12. Kimi Raikkonen
  13. Jean-Eric Vergne
  14. Romain Grosjean
  15. Lewis Hamilton
  16. Adrian Sutil
  17. Esteban Gutierrez*
  18. Jules Bianchi
  19. Pastor Maldonado
  20. Max Chilton
  21. Kamui Kobayashi
  22. Marcus Ericsson (no time)

*including a three place grid penalty

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team. 

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Hamilton Leads Rosberg In Second Practice

Lewis Hamilton took the top spot on Friday afternoon, swapping positions with Nico Rosberg who took the other Mercedes to the top of the time sheets during the morning practice session. Although Hamilton’s edge over Rosberg will give him some fuel for mind games, in reality very little separates the two racers – specifically two-hundreths of a second – which points to a tight fight for pole and the race win this weekend, excluding any technical gremlins like the ones which have cost Mercedes in the past few races.

Daniel Ricciardo took up his usual position as best of the rest, ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who was under extra pressure to make up for lost time due to a water pump issue during the morning session. McLaren star Kevin Magnussen took fifth while Button in seventh sandwiched Williams’ Felipe Massa in sixth. Sebastian Vettel was eighth for Red Bull and Fernando Alonso ninth for Ferrari, with Valtteri Bottas filling out the top ten.

The rest of the grid fell in behind the Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Williams pairings, all of whom appear to be increasingly close. Slightly far back was Adrian Sutil in eleventh for Sauber and Daniil Kvyat twelfth for Toro Rosso. Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg were uncharacteristically far down for Force India, ahead of the STR9 of Jean-Eric Vergne who himself was flanked by the Lotus duo. Bianchi proved fastest of the back-markers, with Kamui Kobayashi far off the pace due to a suspected battery fire which broke out half an hour into the session and ended his running prematurely. With enough of a challenge already, Kobayashi may now face a penalty if there has been damage to his gearbox or engine.

Free Practice Two results:

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

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team. 

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Rosberg Fastest In Opening German Practice

Nico Rosberg was the quickest man in the opening practice session ahead of the German Grand Prix at the Hocekenheimring. Returning to the track for the first time since 2012 due to the track’s co-hosting of the German round with the Nurburgring, F1 drivers had to adapt both the 2014 spec cars and the sudden loss of the FRIC (Front-Rear Interconnected) system which was banned this weekend. The loss of FRIC was expected to make the cars harder to drive and thus lead to an excess of off-track excursion.

Indeed, it seemed drivers had a hard time keeping their cars within the white lines – particularly at the first and last corner - something which could see a driver having a lap time deleted during Qualifying. This morning’s quickest man, Rosberg, was one of the many drivers exceeding the track limits, slipping straight off track at turn 2 when he out-braked himself halfway through the session. Felipe Massa was another man who became familiar with the extremities of the track, going aggressively wide at turn 1, while Kevin Magnussen played chicken with the gravel trap at turn 11.

Realistically though, the off-track trips were more due to an unfamiliarity with the track rather than a sudden mechanical drop-off in performance caused by the loss of the much talked about FRIC system.

The two Mercedes men, for example, were expected to be reeled in somewhat, but the duo ended the session firmly in front, over two-tenths ahead of Fernando Alonso who himself lead from Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. Jenson Button was fifth for McLaren as he aims to repeat his impressive performance from the British Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel and Kevin Magnussen was behind him, followed by Kimi Raikkonen for Ferrari, Daniil Kvyat for Toro Rosso and Adrian Sutil, whose position at Sauber looks to be increasingly unstable as talk has surfaced that he could be replaced by Giedo van der Garde presently.

Van der Garde was driving in place of Gutierrez in the other car today and ended the session sixteenth for the Swiss outfit, while Susie Wolff also got a run in FP1. Following her disappointingly short running at Silverstone due to a mechanical issue, she was keen to get some good laps under her belt today – but her gearbox thought otherwise and stopped up shifting about thirty seconds into her installation lap. The team managed to recover the session and get her back out on track, where she eventually went within two-tenths of her team-mate, Felipe Massa.

Free Practice One:

  1. Nico Rosberg
  2. Lewis Hamilton
  3. Fernando Alonso
  4. Daniel Ricciardo
  5. Jenson Button
  6. Sebastian Vettel
  7. Kevin Magnussen
  8. Kimi Raikkonen
  9. Daniil Kvyat
  10. Adrian Sutil
  11. Felipe Massa
  12. Jean-Eric Vergne
  13. Nico Hulkenberg
  14. Sergio Perez
  15. Susie Wolff
  16. Giedo van der Garde
  17. Romain Grosjean
  18. Pastor Maldonado
  19. Kamui Kobayashi
  20. Jules Bianchi
  21. Marcus Ericsson
  22. Max Chilton

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team. 


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Van Der Garde Given All-Clear After Testing Shunt

Giedo van der Garde has been given the all clear after a big shunt in the closing minutes of today’s test session at Silverstone.

The two day mid-season test, one of four tests this year, wrapped up today under the red flags which were brought out by Van der Garde’s crash.

The Dutchman crashed heavily at Copse corner, losing control of the car and spinning into the barrier. The G-Force meter on his car, which detects potentially dangerous levels of G’s in an impact, and leads to a mandatory trip to the medical centre, signalled a high impact, meaning that Van der Garde was sent to the track medical centre for inspection. Luckily, he was found to have escaped injury in a crash which, he says, was one of the biggest he has ever had.

Speaking to Autosport, the Sauber test driver said:  “This is really one of the biggest crashes I’ve had. All the [G-Force meter] lights went on on the car so I had to go to the medical centre. They checked everything and I am fine.”

As for the crash, he pins some of the blame on the winds, which caught him as he exited the sheltered International Pit Straight onto the open maggots/becketts section of the historic British circuit.

“It was really strange with the crosswinds. The wind picked up in the afternoon and as I came out of the corner I had a little snap and caught it, but then suddenly it went the other way.

“I lost it completely and I went into the barrier on the outside. It was broken, so that’s why they could not restart the session.”

The barrier repairs took too long to allow the session to be restarted, with only twenty minutes left in the session when the accident happened.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen caused a similar barrier repair to be carried out following a whopping 47G impact with the barriers, when he lost control on the first lap of the British Grand Prix last Sunday. Like Van der Garde, Raikkonen’s G-Force meter signalled a dangerous level of G’s, meaning he was sent to the medical centre while track officials red flagged the race for an hour as they worked to repair the broken Armco barrier where Raikkonen crashed.

Although without any serious injury, the Finn suffered a slight ankle injury in the crash and missed this week’s test as he rests in order to be fit to race at the German Grand Prix on Sunday week. Jules Bianchi replaced him today, Wednesday, and topped the timesheets for Ferrari.

Image courtesy of Sauber Motorsport AG.

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Gutierrez Penalised For Maldonado Crash

Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez has been handed a three-place grid penalty for his part in a crash with Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado during yesterday’s British Grand Prix.

The pair, who famously came together at the Bahrain Grand Prix earlier this season, made contact during an overly ambitious overtake by Gutierrez who outbraked himself, before hitting and launching the Lotus. Stewards placed the blame with Gutierrez, who retired from the race due to damage sustained in the collision, and handed him a three-place grid drop for the upcoming German Grand Prix.

Gutierrez felt that Maldonado was partly to blame as he did not leave him enough room to make an overtake, as per the regulations. “After the restart I was fighting with Pastor (Maldonado). When I tried to overtake him in turn 16 he braked and did not leave me enough space. I was already beside him and could not avoid a collision with him.”

Maldonado saw the lighter side and commented on how he was told the crash looked “spectacular”, and said that the team were not sure if the crash led to his retirement on the penultimate lap, but did add that the rear wing was moving around more than usual, so there must have been some damage to his car.

Gutierrez took a ten place grid penalty at the British Grand Prix also as a result of an unsafe release at the preceding Austrian Grand Prix.

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