Monthly Archives: May 2012

The charging Bull takes the win

Mark Webber has become the sixth winner in as many races after winning the Monaco Grand Prix for the second time. The Aussie had qualified second but Michael Schumacher who had qualified in his first pole position in his return to F1, was demoted to 6th place after his penalty for his collision with Bruno Senna was put into place.

The big question was, can Mark get off the line in 1st place? Mark is no stranger to bad starts but when the lights went out in Monaco, Mark led the pack into the first corner. Behind him, Romain Grosjean drove Michael Schumacher into the barrier, sending Grosjean into a spin but not supposedly damaging Schumacher’s car. Kamui Kobayashi was the innocent victim, and had nowhere to go but straight into Grosjean’s car, and then sideways into the air. Sebastian Vettel, Nico Hulkenberg and Jean-Eric Vergne were forced off the track and cut the corner but were not penalised. Pastor Maldonado, who was given a 10 place grid penalty for purposely crashing into Sergio Perez, crashed into the back of Pedro De La Rosa’s HRT, Sending both of them out of the race and deploying the Safety Car.

Webber keeps the lead on the restart on Lap 3, followed by Rosberg, Hamilton and Alonso. Felipe Massa, who had been promising in Qualifying was clearly faster than his double world champion team mate but no team orders were issued and Felipe Massa could not find away around the Spaniard. Webber really began to pull away from 2nd placed Nico Rosberg with fastest lap after fastest lap.

Then came the suspense. Warnings of rain started to come over the team radio’s with MeteoFrance predicting rain around Lap 30. The ideal pit stop would be lap 25-30 but the teams then had to stretch out the life of their tyres, not wanting to have to pit twice in quick succession. Eventually the teams decided to risk it and the pit stops began. Nico Rosberg the first front runner to pit and he changed to the yellow marked hard tyres. Mark Webber kept the foot down and managed to come out just ahead of Nico Rosberg. Jenson Button, to continue his miserable form, came out behind the 13th placed Heikki Kovalainen, much to his frustration. Fernando Alonso put in two extremely quick laps while Hamilton was in the pits and he managed to jump him during his pit stop.

Then Sebastian Vettel who started in 10th place stepped up to lead the race. Mark Webber was 10 seconds behind him after his pit stop and he seemingly slowed down slightly to slow down the pack to allow Sebastian Vettel to come out higher up the field when he pitted. By lap 46, Vettel was 18 seconds ahead of Webber and then he pitted. He lost positions to Webber, Rosberg and Alonso but made it out ahead of Hamilton.

Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton was on the radio to complain about bits of the pit boards, falling off and hitting him in the head. Sergio Perez and Kimi Raikkonen had a collision on the way into the Pits when Perez darted in from the wrong side of the track while Raikkonen went up the inside to pass him. Perez was handed a drive through penalty for it.

With 18 laps left, Schumacher came on the radio to complain about a ‘problem’ with the car, presumably from damage from his collision with Grosjean. He pitted 5 laps later but it was to retire the car. Jenson Button also retired his car with damage from contact with Kamui Kobayashi at the start.

The last 18 laps were full of excitement. Webber, Rosberg, Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton and Massa were all seperated by just 5 seconds as they had to negotiate back markers and wet conditions. None of the leaders decided to pit and eventually the ground began to dry and Webber got the grib he needed to pull away. Despite a last lap attempt by Nico Rosberg, Webber crossed the line first.

Final Standings:

1. Mark Webber
2. Nico Rosberg
3. Fernando Alonso
4. Sebastian Vettel
5. Lewis Hamilton
6. Felipe Massa
7. Paul Di Resta
8. Nico Hulkenberg
9. Kimi Raikkonen
10. Bruno Senna
11. Sergio Perez
12. Jean-Eric Vergne
13. Heikki Kovalainen
14. Timo Glock
15. Narain Karthikeyan

Retired:

Jenson Button – Damage
Daniel Ricciardo – Failure
Charles Pic – Failure
Michael Schumacher – Damage
Vitaly Petrov – Failure
Kamui Kobayashi – Damage
Pedro De La Rosa – Crash
Pastor Maldonado – Crash
Romain Grosjean – Crash

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To tame the Bull or ride the Horse?

You do not have to be a genius to realise that Felipe Massa is in trouble. He is. Since his horrific crash at the Hungaroring in 2009, he has not shown the form that almost gave him the world championship – in 2008. The margins on that occasion were heartbreakingly slim, losing the championship by only one point to Lewis Hamilton. Felipe’s post Interlagos ’08 career has however seen margins of the gigantic sort. Since his life threatening crash in Hungary he has not won a single race and has only achieved five podiums, all of which were in 2010.

Just how he has kept his seat at Ferrari is the question on most people’s mind. Surely a world famous team such as they, cannot be happy with such frequent lacklustre performances. That’s especially when you compare it to the results that his double world champion team mate, Fernando Alonso, is achieving.

With Alonso arguably in the form of his life, and Felipe, arguably in the worst of his, it is inevitable that rumours have begun to surface, that the Brazilian will effectively be usurped. The first man to be touted as a potential in season replacement for Massa was Italian Jarno Trulli, the next was the affable, former Ferrari driver, Rubens Barrichello. Then, after Sergio Perez’ amazing performance at Malaysia, finishing in second just behind Fernando Alonso, rumour abounded that Perez could get Massa’s seat at any time.

However, with the rather unconvincing assertion from Maranello that Massa will remain at Ferrari until the end of the season; thoughts have turned to who may replace him should the likely scenario of his Italian departure bear fruition. Aussie driver Mark Webber, no stranger to being linked with Ferrari, is favourite to take up the position at the prestigious Scuderia Ferrari – should it become available. Although this may seem a tempting prospect to many, as a keen follower of Mark’s career, I sincerely hope he does not do this. I strongly believe that Red Bull are happy with their current driver line up, especially seen as this year, Webber seems to have reigned in the chasm that stood between him and Sebastian Vettel in 2011. He deserves huge credit for this; credit that should be acknowledged by Red Bull by showing a persistence to retain him for 2013.

This is only my view, and quite rightly you would think of what Mark’s views would be. Moving to Ferrari may seem a no brainer for some, but it should evoke more thought than some would perceive. First off, you have to look at Ferrari’s principles. Ferrari has a habit of picking a favourite driver and throwing their other driver to the lions. For example, look at what happened with Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello in the early 2000′s; their worship of Schumacher, although yielding staggering result, made F1 somewhat stale at times.

However, those occurrences are not a thing of the past, you only have to look back to 2010 and the infamous “Fernando is faster than you” message that Massa was given whilst leading the German Grand Prix. Of course, Felipe obeyed the direct order and moved over for his team-mate to pass him and allowing him to win the race.

As someone who loves to see Mark Webber do well, I would hate to see him restricted in such a manner. Now, before you begin to question my argument, I have not forgotten about Silverstone 2011 during which Webber was told to “maintain the gap” between he and second placed Vettel. However, true to his character, he did not pay attention and tried to pass Vettel, albeit unsuccessfully. Red Bull did not punish Mark for his refusal to obey the order, but surely, if he directly defied the Ferrari pit wall, they would not take it lightly.

One of the many quirks of Mark Webber is that people love his willingness to speak his mind. If he is performing badly, he will tell you. If the car is bad, he will tell you. If he is angry with the team, again, he will tell you. Red Bull seem pretty flexible on the subject however I have my doubts as to whether Ferrari would be similarly acceptant. You can go back to the days of Alain Prost’s stint at the Ferrari between 1990 and 1991 for evidence to support this; he took the bold step of criticising his car. The result? Well let’s just say it was sabbatical time for the Frenchmen. Even a driver as talented, as technically efficient could not withstand the wrath of Ferrari, so why should Webber fair any different?  Ferrari do not differentiate between young upstart and seasoned world champion; disunity in the ranks is simply not tolerated, they are an institution and boy do they act like it.

I would be disappointed to see Mark Webber swap the blue of Red Bull for the red of Ferrari in 2013. I think it could well be a disastrous end to a successful Formula 1 career. Any lingering hopes of crowning a last hurrah with a world championship would be pretty much nil, with Alonso as his team-mate. Whenever Mark’s time is up at Red Bull, which I for one hope will be a long time yet, I think it would be time to hang up his racing gloves. Nevertheless, let’s see.

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Explosion rips through Williams Garage

An Explosion has destroyed the Williams F1 Team garage, just an hour after Pastor Maldonado secured William’s first win in 8 years. An electrical problem near the fuel rig sent an explosion through the garage.

Personnel from all the teams ran to help the team extinguish the fire, before the fire fighters could make it to through the packed paddock. A video from BBC’s F1 Forum shows engineers battling the blaze. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l44nqe5Rljk

31 engineers were injured and sent to the tracks medical center while Four Williams engineers, four Caterham engineers and a Force India engineer were taken to a hospital in Barcelona. Luckily, No one was seriously injured.

A Sky Sports F1 cameraman who had been filming an interview directly in front of the Williams garage, bravely came to the aid of a Williams engineer who’s legs were on fire. The engineer is ok.

Williams test driver Valtteri Bottas told Sky that there had been some kind of explosion in the back of the garage while Sir Frank Williams was giving a victory speech to the team. Luckily, the quick, heroic reaction of the other teams, ensured nobody was badly hurt.

And in another extreme act of bravery, Pastor Maldonado, who won his first Grand Prix just one hour before, ran into the burning garage to carry his shaken cousin out of the garage, on his back.

In a shocking video, Sky Sports F1 show flames licking the Williams garage just seconds after the explosion http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyEELHO4Xjs

There was extensive damage to the Williams equipment in the garage, which contained Bruno Senna’s car.

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Maldonado takes Grand Prix victory in Spain

Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado has scooped up his first Grand Prix victory at Catalunya, just 24 hours after securing his maiden pole position in Formula One. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton had set the fastest time in Qualifying, only to be disqualified for not having sufficient fuel in his car for a sample for the stewards, hence promoting Maldonado to P1.

Maldonado had a good start at lights out only to be passed by Fernando Alonso into Turn 1, in an almost exact replica of the Spaniards  2011 start. Behind him, the Lotus’ who normally have lightning starts, fell into place behind Maldonado. Nico Rosberg passed Romain Grosjean into turn 2 and was followed through by Sauber’s Sergio Perez. Grosjean fought hard to keep his position, ending in a puncture for Perez. Hamilton had a great charge from the back of the grid and was up to 19th by the end of the first lap.

It was not long before the gaps began to form. Alonso got out of the one second gap needed to rob Maldonado of DRS while Maldonado did the same to Raikkonen. Behind Raikkonen, a gap of a few seconds formed to Rosberg.

Mark Webber was the first come in for a scheduled stop, unusually early on Lap 7, and changed to the hard tyres. The following lap, team-mate Sebastian Vettel pitted for his own set of hard tyres. The top three cars of Alonso, Maldonado and Raikkonen began to build massive gaps to each other and the rest of the grid while Rosberg in P4 led a long train of cars.

Romain Grosjean went for the overtake on Bruno Senna into turn 1 before getting the whack of a Williams for his efforts. He lost his front wing end-plate but this didn’t have any effect on him. Schumacher came up next to try to pass Senna before smacking into the back of him and sending both of them off the track. A very angry Schumacher threw his wheel out of his cockpit as he lamented his third DNF in five races, while Bruno Senna pulled the car in to the side of the track to retire.

While all this was happening, Lewis Hamilton made his first pit stop of the race which was going well until he ran over his old tyre which a rather clumsy engineer had dropped into Hamilton’s path. No damage was done to the car however, and Hamilton continued on.

Suddenly, on Lap 17, Webber lost positions to Di Resta, Massa, Hamilton and Vergne in very quick succession, The ‘Unlucky Aussie’ then headed into the pits at the end of the lap for a new front wing. Whatever Webber’s problem was, was fixed, and he set a new fastest lap on his first lap out of the pits. The front three continued to stay in a class of their own while Grosjean battled hard to catch them, albeit unsuccessfully.

On Lap 23, The Stewards announced that both Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel were under investigation for speeding under yellow flag conditions, caused by the Senna/Schumacher crash. Both drivers were handed drive through penalties. A few laps later, Narain Karthikeyan pulled his HRT over at the side of pit exit to retire. Maldonado moved up to 1st place after Alonso pitted.

Fernando Alonso passed the Marussia of Charles Pic into Turn 1, with the wave of his hand, giving out to him for holding him up. Pic received a drive-through for it. However, while serving his penalty, he pulled into his garage to retire his car.

Perez pitted on Lap 42 to change his tyre’s and after a very clumsy pit stop, he had to pull over at the pit exit with an unattached rear wheel.

Maldonado pitted from the lead on Lap 42, suprisingly early, and rejoined in P3, behind Alonso and Raikkonen. Alonso pushed all he could for three laps before making his pit stop, but it was not enough and he rejoined behind Maldonado. Maldonado cruised past Raikkonen into turn 1, followed by Alonso. Raikkonen pitted the lap after.

Maldonado and Alonso fought their hearts out, Maldonado for a first win, Alonso for a home win, but Kimi Raikkonen played himself into a chance of winning when he left the pits to set a new fastest lap, almost a full two seconds faster than Maldonado and Alonso. Grosjean mirrored his team-mates lap times but was too far behind to catch the trio at the front.

Over the last ten laps, Alonso and Maldonado had a great fight but eventually, Alonso’s tyre’s ‘hit the cliff’ and Maldonado pulled away. Raikkonen got very close but finished 0.6 behind Alonso in the end.

It is Maldonado’s first ever F1 victory and William’s first win since Brazil 2004.

Final Standing’s:

1. Pastor Maldonado
2. Fernando Alonso
3. Kimi Raikkonen
4. Romain Grosjean
5. Kamui Kobayashi
6. Sebastian Vettel
7. Nico Rosberg
8. Lewis Hamilton
9. Jenson Button
10. Nico Hulkenberg
11. Mark Webber
12. Jean-Eric Vergne
13. Daniel Ricciardo
14. Paul Di Resta
15. Felipe Massa
16. Heikki Kovalainen
17. Vitaly Petrov
18. Timo Glock
19.  Pedro De La Rosa
Retired:

Sergio Perez – Rear Wheel Failure
Charles Pic – Mechanical Issue
Narain Karthikeyan – Mechanical Issue
Bruno Senna – Collision
Michael Schumacher – Collision

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Why F1 Was Wrong To Go To Bahrain

F1 Messed up, you have to admit it, as far as I am concerned Formula One made the wrong decision when deciding to go to Bahrain.

Last year, during the so-called “Arab Spring” in which revolution spread across Northern Africa and the Persian Gulf, millions took to the streets to protest against their governments, including in Bahrain. Protests took place in the capital Manama and turned violent when police allegedly used live rounds against protestors. The FIA announced on the 21st February 2011 that they had postponed the Grand Prix – “The Bahrain International Circuit today announced that the Kingdom of Bahrain would withdraw from hosting this year’s F1 grand prix race so that the country can focus on its process of national dialogue,” said a statement after several protestors were killed and hundreds were injured.

The FIA continued to postpone the decision of whether or not they would hold the Grand Prix but eventually decided in October that it would be cancelled indefinitely. So, why was the Grand Prix held this season? Surely not too much can have changed in such a small space of time, police officers still wandered the streets and protests were still rife, civilians were being killed during the protests and the situation had not changed.

So how could the FIA deem the race safe? If they were willing to overlook the fact that it was highly immoral, then surely they would realise that it would be very dangerous for drivers, team-members and international journalists covering the Grand Prix.  Subsequently you have to ask yourself was the driving factor money?

A sport such as F1 has 600 million spectators per race, bringing such a circus to a country in such distress, as Bahrain would be an incredibly awful thing to do. It would endorse the government’s actions and undermine the deaths of all the civilians killed in Bahrain. Was Bernie concerned over the potential loss of revenue that would occur if they abandoned the race, or did the FIA truly decide that it was a suitable race to hold? Obviously not everybody did and according to reports, a Williams employee who refused to go to Bahrain on moral grounds was fired. Then a leading team principal, who wished to remain nameless, came forward to confirm that none of the teams felt comfortable going to Bahrain and that they would prefer if the race were cancelled.

Even if the FIA did think it was the right decision, they should have listened to the fans! If you asked F1 fans, you would have been hard pressed to find a fan that did want the race to go ahead and did not think it was the wrong decision.

To move on to the safety element, on the Wednesday night before the Grand Prix, four Force India mechanics were involved in an incident involving a thrown petrol bomb, while on the way back from the track. They were stopped in traffic when protestors became involved with an altercation with police; a petrol bomb was then thrown. Even though the Force India team members were not the intended target, it was enough for two of the mechanics to leave Bahrain the following day. During Friday’s second Free Practice session, Force India did not run their cars, as they wanted to be back at the hotel before nightfall. The following day, twelve Sauber mechanics witnessed another firebomb incident; the mechanics were travelling back from the track when the incident occurred.

“At 20.50 the 12 mechanics, being on that minibus to the Novotel, noticed fire on the medial strip of the highway,” said spokesperson Hanspeter Brack. “On the opposite lane there was no traffic. The team members saw a few masked people running from there over to their lane where a bottle was burning as well.” No one was hurt.

On the day of the Grand Prix, a Channel 4 crew were travelling from the track to a small demonstration. The crew were spotted by Police and were then chased, the driver, a Bahraini man, pulled the car over before police severely assaulted him and took him away. The Channel 4 crew and their guide, Dr. Ala’a Shehabi, a prominent human rights activist, were then taken to a prison and the crew were deported the following morning. Dr. Ala’a Shehabi and the Bahraini driver who had been feared dead were also released.

At least nobody was killed, right? Wrong. Just one week before the Grand Prix, A twenty-two year old protestor was shot and later died. Then on Saturday, while the F1 circus was in Bahrain supporting the government and saying nothing was wrong in Bahrain, 37-year-old Salah Abbas Habib was also fatally wounded; the blame for this murder was pinned on the Police by the Government’s opposition.

However, what is done is done; the F1 circus has been and gone, the damage done. Nevertheless, the question remains, what will happen next year? Surely if two protestors can be killed in the space of a week and a half, it is surely too much to ask country to introduce widespread reform in little over a year. Will the FIA again decide that it is suitable to hold a race, despite widespread belief that this is the wrong decision? To be honest, I do not know – all I know is that F1 has messed up. Bernie Ecclestone needs to hold up his hands and say ‘We were wrong and it won’t happen again’. If the country has settled down by next year, and I sincerely hope it will have, then I will be happy to see a Grand Prix there, but if it hasn’t, I do hope that the FIA realise that holding a race there is wrong.

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