Monthly Archives: November 2012

Why the FIA can’t penalize Vettel

The 2012 season ended last sunday at the Brazilian Grand Prix, and with it, the championship was decided. It was a fantastic race full of incidents, twists and turns and at the end of the race, Vettel had won the championship, by just three points over Fernando Alonso. Everyone went home happy.

But Sky Sports F1 brought to light a possible incident, in fact two possible incidents, in which Sebastian seemingly overtook Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi under yellow flags. They analysed the footage live on air and there was uproar. ‘DISQUALIFY VETTEL’, people were tweeting while others were tweeting ‘FIA: Ferrari International Assistance’. Neither parties were looking at the event objectively and eventually it arose that Vettel made both overtakes under the Yellow/Red flag this indicates a slippy track. The passes were legal.

Everyone became relatively quiet except for some die-hard anti-vettel fans who maintained that he should have been disqualified. All remained good, no teams or drivers made a comment and everything was forgotten.

Until on Tuesday when a video popped up on YouTube proving once and for all that Vettel’s pass on both Kobayashi and de la Rosa were legal. But that’s not all that the video showed. The video also showed another pass that Vettel made, this time on the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne on the long straight between turns 3 and 4.

The video showed that the small lights on Vettel’s dashboard (that alert a driver to a flag) was yellow. Hence, he was in a yellow flag zone. A green flag appeared at the end of the straight which would mean that he could make a pass then. But only when he reached the flag; not beforehand. Yet, Jean-Eric Vergne slowed down, seemingly letting Vettel straight past him. Not uncommon for Red Bull’s sister team to do such a thing, but it would still count as an overtake.

So obviously, Vettel’s pass was illegal. Very controversial. This would mean a 20-second penalty for Vettel and the Championship would then be given to Alonso. Again, there was uproar. So that’s what happened.

But the FIA cannot penalize Vettel. Why not? A couple of reasons.

He’s not guilty:
A picture surfaced on twitter, taken from the onboard camera on Vettel’s car, that showed a green flag being waved beside Vettel as he made the overtake. A flag overrules the light boards and this would mean that Vettel was actually allowed to pass the Toro Rosso.

(c) Im a die hard F1 fan

The fans:
The FIA couldn’t possibly risk a storm. Sebastian Vettel’s fans would riot (online) against the FIA and even the Fernando Alonso fans wouldn’t be very happy. Who would genuinely like to see the championship been won through a disqualification? Nobody. The fallout would be monumental. On average, there are 600 million people watching each race. How much would that fall to? 500 million? 400 million? Even 300 million? Does Bernie Ecclestone really care who is watching. No, not really. But he cares how many people are watching. The more people watching means the more money to be made from advertising. The stripping of Vettel’s world championship would be of equal, if not increased controversy to the disqualification of Ayrton Senna from the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix which gifted Alain Prost with the championship. They couldn’t risk such a drop.

Red Bull: 
How would you like it if you had just won the championship and you were cruelly stripped of it? You’d be far angrier than the fans, right? Well the same principle applies to Red Bull. There is no way that they would take it lying down. They would launch an official complaint, it would go to the FIA court of appeal and it would get ugly. Ugly and drawn out. A decision of this magnitude could potentially rip the sport to pieces. Red Bull could very well leave the sport and set up a separate championship, as Ferrari have often threatened. This would surely destroy the sport.

Now before you accuse me of being either pro-Vettel or anti-Alonso, don’t waste your time. I’m simply analysing what could happen if Vettel was penalised and why the FIA would probably not penalize him. I personally think he is not guilty after looking at all the evidence, but what do you think?

Leave a comment or tweet me @BenSweeneyF1.

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Bottas in, Senna out at Williams

Williams have finally announced their 2013 driver pairing, which will come at no surprise to anyone. Finnish test driver Valtteri Bottas has been given a seat at the team alongside race winner Pastor Maldonado who brings $47 million to the team annually from his sponsors PDVSA.

23-year-old Bottas was the Williams test driver this season and has impressed on his friday outings, in comparison to other friday drivers Ma Qing Hua for HRT and Esteban Guttierez for Sauber, the latter also being promoted to a permanent driver role recently.

Bottas had this to say, “It has always been my life-long dream to compete in the Formula One world championship. To do so with one of the most legendary teams in the sport is incredibly special. I’ve really enjoyed my three years with Williams so far and feel very at home here so my goal was always to stay for 2013 and progress to a race seat. I’m looking forward to getting my Formula One career started and enjoying a lot of success with Williams.”

While team founder Sir Frank Williams said, “In Pastor and Valtteri we have two of the most exciting talents in motor racing and I am especially excited about what 2013 can bring for Williams. Pastor has always demonstrated remarkable pace and this year has seen him mature as a racing driver. Valtteri is quite simply one of the most talented young racing drivers I have come across and we expect great things from him in the future. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our departing driver Bruno Senna for his hard work over the past year and wish him the best of luck going forward.”

Bruno Senna seems to be left without a seat for 2013 with only a seat at Force India, Caterham and Marussia up for grabs.

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Top tips for being a good world champion

Tip 1: Don’t make a fool of yourself online:

Has qualifying not gone your way? A bit annoyed that your team-mate is on pole position and you’re not? Well a good tip would be not to criticise him and accuse the team of being biased. Lewis Hamilton made this ‘simple mistake’ back in September when Jenson Button grabbed pole at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Lewis, the 2008 World Champion was not happy and tweeted the following “Damn, WTF!! Jenson has the new old wing on, I have the old. We voted to changed, Didn’t work out. I lose 0.4 on the straight alone”. This tweet served with a desert of Jenson’s telemetry in one nice picture on twitter, made McLaren furious and an embarrassed Hamilton was forced to take the tweets down and apologise.

One would be mistaken for believing that this was the end of the Lewis/Jenson saga. But just before the Japanese Grand Prix Lewis made a fool of himself again, tweeting “Just noticed that @JensonButton has unfollowed me, that’s a shame. After three years as team-mates, I thought we respected each other but clearly he doesn’t”. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I was pretty certain that chivalry and respect didn’t include following one another on twitter. Again, Hamilton was forced to tweet a correction, after realising that Button had actually never followed him and he had again messed up. Nice one.

Tip 2: Don’t lose your temper:

Long day at work? Are you the reigning world champion, having won two championships in a row and now in a new team? Completely convinced that the team hate you and are trying to make you lose? Well they’re not. Yet, the voices in Fernando Alonso’s head led him to believe that McLaren completely hated him and that they were trying to make him lose. Were they? No. Probably not.

Yet poor old Fernando got a wee bit stressed out after the speed difference between him and Hamilton in qualifying, and smashed down a door in the McLaren motorhome as he put on a production of “I am Fernando, hear me roar”. The team didn’t take too kindly to it and added to the controversies of the Hungarian Grand Prix where Alonso parked in the pits to ruin Hamilton’s qualifying, it was time to go. Thankfully, Fernando has seen the light and is now fully deserving of a championship.

Tip 3: Try not to take people off the track:

Yes, Your hero Ayrton Senna may have done it, but if he jumped off a cliff, would you? Yes Michael, you won the championship by jumping over Damon Hill in Adelaide 1994 but that doesn’t mean you should try the same thing in 1997. True, if your rival didn’t score points in the race, you’d win the championship, but you should not make it blatantly obvious by ‘accidentally’ turning into his car and taking yourself out in the process. Whoops. A disqualification from the season was a bit harsh, but reflected the stupid decision.

Tip 4: Don’t join Arrows:

Just because you’ve just won the championship in an unbelievably quick Williams’, doesn’t mean you will win the championship in a backmarker car. Here’s a handy rule; If they haven’t won in 20 years, they probably wont win with you. On the rare occasion that Damon managed to finish the race, he was mingling with the guys at the back, ideally not where a world champion should be. A crestfallen Damon Hill was left frustrated and counting down the seconds until the season ended and he could flee to Jordan for 1998. Lucky for him, mayhem at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix would prove the perfect opportunity to return to the top of the podium, the following year.

Tip 5: Don’t hit your team-mate:

This one is a biggie… “A means to an end” is fairly across the board. Except, hitting your team-mate is probably one of the things you should do when trying to win a race. A young Sebastian Vettel should’ve taken this advice when racing in turkey. Yes, you’re charging after your team-mate and you really want to win. And yes, the team has even given you some help by putting your team-mate in fuel saving, so essentially it was stealing candy from a baby. Except, he forgot exactly who his team-mate was. Mark Webber doesn’t like team orders and in a remarkable coincidence, he quite likes winning. Vettel forgot this when overtaking in Turkey 2010.

A good sub-section for this tip would be check your mirrors. When Vettel made the overtake he forgot that his team-mate wouldn’t lie down and take it and seemed genuinely surprised when he spun out of the race and cost Webber his 1st place. Instead, he handed McLaren a nice 1-2. Ok, Vettel wasn’t a champion at this stage but it was his championship year. Combining the above with taking himself out again while trying to squeeze Webber into the barrier in Silverstone, and crashing into Jenson Button in a straight line in Belgium leads to one being dubbed “The Crash Kid”.

Tip 6: Be original:

If you have the sudden urge to go exploring, don’t be afraid. Doing doughnuts in a marshall’s area combined with some classic team-radio messages such as “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing” aswell as “Why do I get all the time blue flags” is the perfect recipe for an original world champion. Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion, has this great trait which a lot of people would be afraid to show.

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The 2012 Sweeney Awards

The 2012 Sweeney Awards were a group of awards I handed out (via tweet) to various teams and drivers for various events on the 26th November 2012 at 7pm. It’s all a bit of fun and here’s the list.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Best Driver’ goes to Fernando Alonso.

Fernando Alonso is the driver of the year

The Sweeney Award for ‘Best Pole Position’ goes to Michael Schumacher in Monaco.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Best Race’ goes to Brazil.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Funniest Moment’ was Kimi Raikkonen’s team radio in Abu Dhabi.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Biggest Dissapointment’ goes to Mercedes’ reliability.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Most Boring Race’ goes to India. (Sorry India!).

The Sweeney Award for ‘Most Memorable Retirement’ goes to Michael Schumacher in Singapore. Boom, crash, wallop…

Michael Schumacher had the most memorable retirement

The Sweeney Award for ‘Best 2nd Position’ goes to Sergio Perez in Malaysia. He came so close to a win.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Best Win’ goes to Pastor Maldonado. He really out raced that car.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Best Overtake’ goes to Mark Webber around Fernando Alonso at Luffield in Silverstone.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Worst Overtake’ goes to Michael Schumacher in Spain.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Best backmarker’ goes to Heikki Kovalainen.

Heikki Kovalainen is the best backmarker

The Sweeney Award for ‘Best Line In Commentary’ goes to “If Schumacher and Kimi were any closer, they’d be spooning!” – David Coulthard

The Sweeney Award for ‘Best Rookie’ goes to Charles Pic.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Paddock Personality’ goes to Eddie Jordan. Everywhere he goes, there are people cheering him!

The Sweeney Award for ‘Most Missed Driver’ goes to Rubens Barrichello.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Best Tweeting Team’ goes to Lotus.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Best improved driver’ goes to Felipe Massa.

Felipe Massa is the best improved driver

The Sweeney Award for ‘Best Race Recovery’ goes to Sebastian Vettel in Brazil.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Best 3rd Place’ goes to Kamui Kobayashi in Japan.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Best Race Start’ goes to Fernando Alonso in Austin.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Twitter Personality’ goes to Fake Charlie Whiting.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Rising Talent’ Mitch Evans.

The Sweeney Award for ‘Best Explorer’ goes to Kimi Raikkonen.

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Vettel wins fastest lap award

Newly crowned triple world champion Sebastian Vettel has added yet another trophy to his cabinet, after being awarded the DHL fastest lap award for 2012 at a special ceremony ahead of yesterday’s season ending Brazilian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver secured the award with remarkable ease, setting the fastest lap at six of the season’s 20 Grand Prix, a full four more than his closest rivals, Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button. Another eight drivers including Mark Webber who was the recipient last year, set a fastest lap each.

The rules for the award are simple. One point is awarded to the driver who sets the fastest lap in each Grand Prix. The driver who has the most points (Vettel has 6 points this season) at the end of the season wins the award. Since the awards were first held in 2007, it has been won by Kimi Raikkonen (twice), Sebastian Vettel (twice), Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber.

Vettel has been scolded several times this season by his team for unnecessarily pushing the car to the limits while in the lead of the race in an attempt to grab the fastest lap, for example at Korea where he pushed the car to the point where the tires came eerily close to ‘hitting the cliff’ while leading the Grand Prix.

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Jenson wins in Brazil, Vettel wins the Championship

Jenson Button has won the Brazilian Grand Prix, having won the race at the start, a race in the middle and the race at the end. Sebastian Vettel also clinched the Championship by just 3 points in one of the best races in the history of the sport. 

At lights out, the cars sped off the grid and pandemonium ensued. Massa had a fantastic start to vault into P2 right behind Hamilton while Fernando Alonso in the other Ferrari bypassed a really slow starting Sebastian Vettel to go into P4. Kimi Raikkonen got caught out on the long straight between turn 3 and turn 4 while Senna stuck his nose where it wasn’t wanted and ended up spinning Sebastian Vettel with quite a hefty shunt. A less than impressed Vettel reversed down into turn 5 while he waited for the grid to pass him so he could turn the right way round.

The damage looked terminal for the championship leader as Perez and Senna were forced to retire but the German was told there was nothing the team could do and he had to try his best to get points. To compound Vettel’s problems, Alonso was now past Massa and into P3. From here, Alonso would win the championship by two points. But never count out Vettel! Somehow, he managed to take his broken car and put in fast lap after fast lap and it was no time until he had caught the back of the pack again.

Alonso going wide into the tricky 1st corner gifted Webber P3 while Alonso rued his mistake. At this stage, Vettel would be champion. Vettel was storming and all of a sudden he was in P8! Alonso just did not have the pace and he had to rely heavily on his rear-gunner Massa who was right behind him and doing all he could to restrain the big line of drivers behind them.

Kamui Kobayashi was diving up the inside of Mark Webber in his best attempt to grab points and spun the Aussie in the process. The Red Bull driver was forced to wait for the rest of the grid to pass him before he could make the correct himself. Romain Grosjean was also struggling. The Frenchman was chasing down Nico Rosberg when ambition surpassed adhesion and he was sent out of the race and into the barrier with a heavy shunt. Not the way he would have wanted to end the season.

Up front, the McLaren duo of Hamilton and Button were scrapping away for the lead of the race. Button triumphed and took the lead of the race. He is always the best driver in the mixed conditions and the heavens were beginning to open. It was definetly the best race of the season and it was only lap 8!

Nico Hulkenberg and his Force India were on a charge through the grid and he didn’t need to be asked twice to pass Fernando Alonso. The German was now up to P3 and he was looking good. The backmarkers were also looking good with Heikki Kovalainen in P11 and Timo Glock in P12.

The rain was starting to affect the drivers and they opted to pit. Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel were amongst the first to pit while Button and Hulkenberg were promoted to P1 and P2 respectively with the latter looking menacing in Button’s mirrors. Webber and Vettel were involved in a scrap when they came out of the pits until the Aussie moved over for a plain and simple “Thank you” from his race engineer.

Back at the front, Nico Hulkenberg was acting as Button’s shadow and finally made it past him. The German was now leading the race! The irony of course is that Jordan’s last win was in Interlagos in 2003 and Force India are the remnants of Jordan. And if Hulkenberg could keep in the lead, He would be the 9th winner of the season!

A safety car was called out on for debris that was on track after all the incidents and everyone bunched back up. Nico Hulkenberg and Jenson Button were the big losers with the Safety Car depleting their 42 second lead. At the restart, Hulkenberg had a great start, pulling away from the pack, as Button had to fend off a racy Lewis Hamilton but couldn’t quite manage it and Hamilton stormed past.

Adrian Newey on the pitlane was looking at a picture of Vettel’s damage on his car and they were starting to look increasingly worried. Terminal problem for Vettel?

Vitaly Petrov spun himself into turn 8 but it was only a warm-up for Nico Hulkenberg drifting wide there on the next lap, a la Sebastian Vettel in Canada. Lewis Hamilton now lead the race. But it was really raining now and the drivers needed to pit. Strangely, Sebastian Vettel pitted for the Hard tires! Everyone, including Jenson Button were pitting for intermediates while Vettel took dry tires. Was it the right call? No. He was forced to come straight back in to change for intermediates a la Hamilton in Hungary 2011.

Kimi Raikkonen got caught out in the wet and went off the track at turn 12. Instead of trying to rejoin the track over the slippy green paint, he opted to go through the gap in the wall for recovering cars where he knew there was a place to rejoin the track. But he was wrong. He was forced to come back out of the marshall area and rejoin the track, loosing almost a minute in the process.

Nico Hulkenberg also got caught out in the wet conditions. and the back stepped out when he was overtaking Hamilton for the lead of the race and BOOM. Hamilton was left without a front right wheel and Nico Hulkenberg was left with a drive through penalty. Fernando Alonso was now up to P2 but Vettel was in P7 and soon let past Michael Schumacher for P6. Vettel would be champion.

Kobayashi spun his Sauber and Paul di Resta had a whopping crash into the barriers on the final straight which brought out a safety car. The race would finish behind a Safety Car and it did.

Sebastian Vettel is the 2012 World Champion and the youngest triple world champion.

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Red Bull re-brand for 2013

Three time consecutive constructors champions Red Bull Racing are set to change their name for their 2013 campaign. The deal which was announced this morning will commence in March and will see the team renamed ‘Infiniti Red Bull Racing’. 

Also, the deal will see Infiniti’s role being increased from purely commercial to a technological aspect aswell. The two companies will join together for a number of projects, including working on the team’s troublesome KERS system which is prone to failure.

President of Infiniti, Johan de Nysschen, said: “While our first 24-months have been very beneficial to both parties, our new increased relationship will bring increased advantages to Infiniti and Red Bull Racing. As title sponsor, Infiniti Red Bull Racing will help us garner even more worldwide exposure for our brand, products and technology.”

While Red Bull Racing’s team principal Christian Horner added: “Red Bull Racing and Infiniti have been working on a number of initiatives since the start of our relationship in 2011. During that time, Infiniti has demonstrated significant technical prowess and I’ve been impressed by the depth of the wider engineering capabilities of the Nissan Motor Company. In terms of marketing, Infiniti has leveraged their involvement with Red Bull Racing and Formula One extremely effectively to become much better known in a short space of time. These two attributes make Infiniti the ideal title and technical partner for Red Bull Racing.”

Design guru Adrian Newey, Red Bull Racing’s chief technical officer also said: “Formula One presents immense design and engineering challenges on a daily basis. Having a committed technical partner like Infiniti gives us a great platform for working together on technical projects, such as the Energy Recovery Systems for the 2014 season.”

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