Monthly Archives: December 2012

Second Guessing

2012 was a truly fantastic season. Seven different winners in the first seven races, more twists and turns that the Monaco Grand Prix and Sebastian Vettel clawing his way to just winning the World Championship. After the insipidity of the 2011 season, 2012 came as a shock to the system and as such, only a fool would be stupid enough to try to second guess the 2013 season, but that’s exactly what I am, so I’m going to try.

It would take me hours to take you through the entire grid, so I’m going to go through the top five teams and decide which team holds the chance of winning the 2013 World Championship (if someone from outside the top five wins, it will certainly be embarrassing!).

Starting off with Mercedes, we can see how awful their year was. Ross Brawn has one amazing head sitting on his shoulders but he failed to realise when he needed to stop developing the RFA on the Mercedes, and try to recover. Comparing him to a gambler, the situation was bad and yet he kept digging himself deeper and deeper and deeper, assuring himself that once they hit the gold, all would be good again. But Brawn was wrong and their never-ending pursuit of the perfect double DRS absolutely killed the team. The one win and three podiums was only a shadow of what seemed to be capable at the hands of a MGP W03.

Talking to Gary Hartstein recently, he told me “Every physician in the paddock agrees, you just can’t do Formula One when your forty, not in 2012”. But yet, Michael Schumacher did seem to have good pace at the start of the season before being absolutely blighted with mechanical failures in what has to be the least reliable car since Mark Webber’s 2006 Williams.

Looking at all the problems Mercedes faced in 2012, one would question why someone such as Lewis Hamilton would make such a silly error as to leave a World Championship contending team for such an unreliable future. He’s paid to drive, not to think, but his management made a big no-no in allowing him to make the move, even if a little monetary incentive was involved. Realistically will we see Mercedes fighting for the Championship? I couldn’t imagine so. They really need to pick themselves up and be able to know when to stop digging into a bad idea, and change to something worthwhile.

(c) Sky Sports

As for McLaren, how will they fare without Lewis? Lewis is one of the most popular drivers on the grid and he was holding McLaren up in both popularity and the amazing talent of pulling the best from a situation. McLaren had a whole host of drivers willing to jump into the hot seat when Lewis jumped ship, and I believe that they’re choice is something they are probably already regretting.

Sergio Perez has put in a fantastic performance in a couple of races but when he’s not on the podium, he’s always usually well down the field. A couple of good performances, although impressive, do not in my opinion, warrant him a seat at McLaren already. He has some problems that need to yet be ironed out. Look at his crazy dart up the inside of Charles Pic in Austin, or causing the pile up in Abu Dhabi. Since signing with McLaren before Japan, his skill has jumped straight out the window and combining this with the inevitable time needed to get to grips with the McLaren, I don’t expect the Mexican to shine.

Having said that, Jenson Button should not be understated. While not the best driver on the grid, he is very talented in both the wet and the dry, but he will be of no use to McLaren. You can’t win a championship with just one good driver. Ask Ferrari.

Speaking of whom, it took me a long time to decide if they will be ready to fight. Alonso did something unbelievable, pulling the dog of a Ferrari he was forced to work with, and turning it into a championship contending car, a car which came within three points of a World Championship. Yet, look at Fernando’s pattern. In 2010, in Silverstone, he told BBC “I will win the championship”. Despite the massive deficit to the leader, he put in a fantastic run and again came painstakingly close, to finish 4 points behind Vettel. The following year, he won just one Grand Prix, the British round. If 2012 has taken as much out of him as it would seem from the post-Brazil picture, then we’re in for a slow year for Ferrari. Felipe Massa has seemingly recovered and is starting to impress, but Fernando still shoulders the brunt of Ferrari’s hopes so if he is off form, the prancing horse will be forced to chase the bulls.


Even I’m not silly enough to count Red Bull out of the Championship and I wouldn’t need to. Fernando Alonso was bang on when he said he was racing Adrian Newey. It seems that the design guru can’t be beaten. Red Bull’s prodigy, Sebastian Vettel, is going down as one of the best, like it or not. Mark Webber, his outspoken Aussie team-mate is talented, but not to the level of the German, although it is hard to tell as the RB8 seems to have been geared towards a German World Champion, not an Australian one.

So this means that Red Bull are going to grab the bull by the horns (that was awful, I’m sorry) and run away with it? No, I don’t think so.

Lotus F1 Team have slowly but surely been making their way up. Having lost Robert Kubica in the tragic Rally accident in 2011, the team were forced to look for a suitable replacement, calling Nick Heidfeld, Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna in to try to make a difference, with two podiums in the first two races all there was to show for it. But in 2012, Lotus successfully coaxed 2007 World Champion, Kimi Raikkonen back into the world of Formula One, pairing him with Romain Grosjean who was also making his return to Formula One. Kimi Raikkonen showed his huge talent, finishing every single racing lap, but one, and finishing third in the Championship despite only taking one win, which no doubt will be vastly improved in 2013.

Romain Grosjean is hugely talented even though his reputation as a “first lap nutcase” does out shine this. Seemingly over his far too ambitious racing style, he can start afresh in 2013 and have what could be one of the best partnerships ever seen in the sport.


I know the idea of the article was to establish the most likely team to win the Championship, but it will be a very close call. One thing for certain is; 2013 looks likely to see a fight between Raikkonen and Newey, and it will certainly be a fun one.

1 Comment

Filed under F1

Bribe could lead to Ecclestone era end

Bernie Ecclestone has come out to admit that his reign as Formula One’s ringmaster could end if he is charged in a bribery case in Germany, revolving around the $1.6 billion sale of F1 to CVC in 2006.

The case involved relates to a $44 million bribe that Ecclestone allegedly paid to Gerhard Gribkowsky, a German banker, to allow the sale to CVC.

On the subject, Bernie said  CVC “will probably be forced to get rid of me if the Germans come after me. It’s pretty obvious, if I’m locked up”.

Gribkowsky was arrested in January 2011 and speculation has since arisen that suggests the Ecclestone could face corruption charges. However, even after almost two years of investigation, he has not yet been charged, admitting to paying Gribkowsky, but denying that it was a bribe.

On the contrary, Ecclestone says he had been told by Gribkowsky that if he was not paid, he would hand alleged details of Ecclestone’s  tax affairs to HM Revenue and Customs.

Last week, Ferrari chief, Luca di Montezemolo was quoted as saying “If Bernie is accused under process, I think he will be the first to give a step back in the interests of Formula One” adding, “The era of the one-man show cannot continue. We are slowly approaching the end of a period characterised by the style of one man who has done significant things”.

Leave a comment

Filed under F1

Gary Hartstein Interview preview

Here is a short preview of my interview with Dr. Gary Hartstein, the former F1 doctor. The full interview will be available online soon, in both Audio and Text.


December 26, 2012 · 5:54 pm

Not bad for a No. 2 driver

Mark Webber struggles in the shadow of his dominant team-mate, the young German taking the record books and throwing them out the window. His talent is often questioned but I’m always at the frontline of a debate to defend the Aussie, whom I believe to be extremely talented and one of F1’s best. 

Starting with the start, He began racing motorbikes when he was a kid, not moving to four wheels until he was 14. Yep, You have Lewis Hamilton, earmarked as one of the best, beginning karting when he was 8. The Aussie didn’t start until almost double that, yet he has still fought his way tooth and nail up through the teams into the best team on the grid.

As I mentioned, he has had to fight his way up. Unlike Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel, he didn’t have a team nurturing him and pushing him along with an almost 100% chance of a seat. No, Mark had to start at the bottom. The very bottom. He joined F1 in 2002  and straight away stormed the grid, bringing his Minardi home in 5th place, despite driving by far the slowest car on the grid. This trait of wringing the neck off his car and extracting every sinew of performance from it have come to be recognised as a Webber trait, much like close friend and fellow competitor Fernando Alonso.

He battled with the Minardi for the rest of the season but despite no more points finishes, he was awarded both Autosport and F1 Racing’s Rookie of the Year award, aswell as being compared by Peter Windsor to Nigel Mansell, as Mark expressed similar raw talent.

His career with Williams from 2005-2006 is often used as a point against him, but his lack of success with the team really can’t be blamed on him. Look at 2006 for example when he suffered a whopping EIGHT mechanical failures, including an engine failure in Monaco while fighting for a podium, starting from the front row. This kind of mechanical failure over and over and over would break a person, except for the aptly named Aussie Grit.

Signing with the laughing-stock of Formula One in 2007 was questioned, as even though he’d been blighted by bad luck, his talent, courage and charisma surpassed the retirements and he was highly regarded in the paddock. He proved his critics wrong, showing undying determination when he fell ill with food poisoning in Japan. Vomiting in his helmet during a ridiculously wet race, which would be no walk in a park, he denied his engineers prompts to come in, instead racing around with vomit swirling around his helmet. How many drivers would do that these days? Then again, Mark’s efforts were for 2nd place and they were later ended when Sebastian Vettel in a Toro Rosso got caught out and smacked into the back of him, forcing a retirement.

When Mark won his first race in 2009, he was recovering from a drive through penalty at the start of the race, and even with the twenty-second or so addition to his race time, he still cruised to a fantastic win. Followed up by another win in Brazil, he was left with a taste for winning and a burning desire, quenched with wins in Catalunya, Monaco, Silverstone and Hungary in 2010.

He was close to winning the championship in 2010, indeed he was backed by most people, Murray Walker for example, but he threw this chance away in Korea with a spin into the wall in the wet. He eventually lost the championship by 15 points.

Obviously, the man has faults. One such example is his 2011 campaign. Loosing the championship in 2010 combined with not being able to get to grips (excuse the pun) with the new Pirelli’s cost him dearly, being gifted his sole win of 2011 when his team-mate, who had won the Championship in spectacular fashion, thanked him for his loyalty to the team and moved over. Without this, Mark would have gone a full season within out a win.

Yet, one only has to look at Mark’s overtake on Alonso on Eau Rouge in 2011, or his overtake on Fernando Alonso around the outside in Luffield in 2012 to see that there’s life in the old dog yet. Or look at his hiding of his broken shoulder in 2010 or his two fractured ribs in 2005, so that he could race; this guy is committed.

I thoroughly admire his unending commitment, determination and his unwillingness to back down to team-orders and I think he’ll be a worthy opponent in 2013, the Year of the Oz?

Leave a comment

Filed under F1

Grosjean staying put at Lotus

Lotus became one of the last teams to finalize their 2013 pairing when they announced that Romain Grosjean had beaten the likes of Kamui Kobayashi, Heikki Kovalainen and Bruno Senna to the much coveted seat.

The confirmation coincidentally came not 24 hours after the Frenchman won the prestigious ‘Race of Champions’ in Bangkok. The 2011 GP2 World Champion this year made his return to the pinnacle of Motorsport, having had a hugely unsuccessful debut in 2009. He proved himself in Bahrain and Hungary, grabbing 3rd aswell as Canada when he finished 2nd. He looked set to win in Valencia before an alternator failure on his usually reliable Renault engine struck him from the race.

“It’s fantastic for me to be continuing with Lotus F1 Team for 2013,” he said today, “It’s superb to have the support of everyone at Enstone. I’m really looking forward to rewarding their faith when we take to the track in Australia. I learnt a lot in my first full season in Formula One and my aim is to put these lessons into practice with stronger and more consistent performance on track next year,” he added.

“There are a lot of exciting developments occurring behind the scenes at Enstone and I am very excited with the prospect of the E21. I’ve already had my seat fitting and spoken with all the personnel involved with the build of the new car; I just can’t wait to get behind the wheel.”

Lotus team principal, Eric Boullier added: “Romain is a great talent and we are pleased that he is continuing with us for a second season. With the continuity of two exceptional drivers like Romain and Kimi we are well placed to build on our strong 2012 with even better results in the year ahead. Both drivers worked very well together in their first year as team mates, and I think there is the potential of even better things from the season ahead. We were regular visitors to podiums in 2012 and we certainly intend to continue with this trend in 2013.”

This announcement leaves just three seats open; Marussia , Caterham and Force India; Expected to be filled by Max Chilton, Giedo van der Garde and Jules Bianchi, respectively.

Leave a comment

Filed under F1

Team 12: Red Bull

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Ben Sweeney gave to me… Red Bull

(c) AutoMobilSport

Red Bull have had the same driver pairing for longer than anyone else on the grid, having kept Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber as their driver’s since 2009. They had a mixed 2009 season, good 2010 season and an absolutely fantastic 2011 season in terms of dominance. For example, between the two drivers, they grabbed 18 of the 19 pole positions in the season, loosing Korea to Hamilton. It was a fantastic run of form and it came as a huge shock when McLaren waltzed into Australia to really out do the Red Bull’s, placing their cars on the front row while Red Bull could only manage 5th for Webber and 6th for Vettel. They pulled some good race pace out of the car though, Vettel finishing 2nd while Webber finished 4th; his best ever race result in Australia, particularly good as he had been involved in a first corner shunt.

Vettel had a dismal race in Malaysia, tangling with Narain Karthikeyan who he later branded a ‘cucumber’. He had a strange incident near the end of the race when his engineer, ‘Rocky’, came on the radio to tell him to pit as they had to retire the car. He then immediately came back on to tell Vettel to stay out, seconds later telling him to pull over immediately as they had a KERS problem. However, Vettel kept going for the remaining few laps, finishing in 11th, while Mark Webber raced on to finished 4th, as he had in Australia. China brought a strong enough race for the team Webber outscoring Vettel when he finished 4th for the third consecutive time, while Vettel came home in 5th.

In Bahrain, Red Bull finally claimed their first win, following on from Vettel’s pole position on the Saturday. He managed to fend off a very feisty Kimi Raikkonen to grab the win for Red Bull ahead of both Lotus’. Webber finished (Guess where?) Yes, in 4th, for the fourth time in a row. Vettel in 6th and Webber in 11th in Spain was just a break from form before Mark Webber won in Monaco. He started from pole (qualifying 2nd but winning pole after Schumacher’s 5 place penalty was enacted) and the Aussie could not be touched, leading to the flag as Vettel finished in 4th, just off the podium.

In Montreal, Vettel was trying to win the race on a one stop strategy while Hamilton took a two stop strategy. But when the Brit started catching Vettel at a whopping 1.5 seconds per lap, Vettel conceded and pitted, finishing the race in 4th while Webber finished further down the field in 7th. Valencia came next, and with it, a sure Vettel win. He was leading by such a massive margin, despite a Safety Car, and no one could touch him, until the gremlins in his engine made his alternator fail, robbing him of a second win. Webber, starting from 19th, had a fantastic race to finish in 4th place, right behind Schumacher on the podium.

He carried this great form onto Silverstone where he qualified in 2nd place. On race day, he pulled off a spectacular pass on Fernando Alonso around the outside of Luffield, demonstrating his skill and the enormous trust between him and the Spaniard. He won the race while Vettel finished behind Alonso, in 3rd place.

Vettel headed to Germany, hoping for to finally bag a home win. He couldn’t pull it off against a dominant Fernando Alonso and when he was deemed to have made an overtake on Button off the track, he was demoted from 2nd to 5th post race. Webber had a poor enough race, finishing 8th. In Hungary, Vettel finished 4th, setting a fastest lap in the process. Webber finished 8th after being bizarrely and seemingly unnecessarily called into the pits in the closing stages of the race, and then getting stuck behind Bruno Senna.

(c) Fox Sports

Both Red Bull’s managed to avoid the first lap pile up in Belgium, which let Sebastian Vettel close the gap to Alonso when he climbed from 10th to 2nd while Webber finished 6th, loosing 2nd in the championship to the German. Monza was a dismal race for the team as both cars failed to finish in the points, both retiring in the last couple of laps, still being classified for having completed 90% race distance. Vettel was the victim of yet another alternator failure while Webber spun hard at the Ascari chicane, ruining his tires and damaging part of the underside of the car.

Singapore was much better for Red Bull, taking full advantage of race leader Lewis Hamilton retiring, to give Sebastian Vettel a win at the night race while Webber finished outside of the points when he was penalised for overtaking Kobayashi off the track. In Japan, Romain Grosjean bizarrely accelerated right into the back of Mark Webber into turn 1, spinning the Aussie who was dropped to the back of the grid, eventually finishing 9th, Webber later branding Grosjean a ‘first lap nutcase’ while suggesting that he ‘may need another holiday’, following on from his numerous first lap crashes, including a pile up in Belgium which saw the Frenchman awarded a one-race ban. Vettel went on to win the Japanese Grand Prix from pole position, setting a fastest lap in the process, gaining him a ‘grand-chelem’. Alonso crashing at the start saw Vettel close the gap in the Championship by 25 points.

In Korea, Vettel led a Red Bull 1-2 ahead of 3rd placed Fernando Alonso, while he led from start to flag in India, Webber finishing on the podium, in 3rd, loosing 2nd place to Alonso when he lost his KERS unit. In Abu Dhabi, a very controversial penalty was handed down when Vettel ran out of fuel on his qualifying in-lap, just after grabbing pole position. He dropped to 24th on the grid and chose to start from the pitlane. This was Alonso’s chance to finally retake control of the championship but after a fantastic storm through the grid, including nearly being taken out of the race by a Toro Rosso (behind the Safety Car!), he finished 3rd, behind Alonso in 2nd. Webber was forced to retire when stupid driving by Sergio Perez caused a Grosjean/Webber crash, leaving both drivers out of the race.

Webber’s luck was no better in Austin when he retired following a mechanical failure. Vettel started the race from pole position, eventually losing the lead to Lewis Hamilton, but still finishing 2nd which was ahead of Alonso in 3rd. While Red Bull celebrated winning the constructor’s championship for the 3rd year in a row, Vettel would have to see his Championship battle go to the final Grand Prix in Brazil.

Vettel would need to finish 4th or higher if Alonso was to win the race, but it looked like there would be no worries for the German when he and Webber qualified ahead of the Ferrari’s. Surprisingly, both Red Bull’s were slow off the line while both Ferrari’s jumped them. Vettel was under pressure, nearly getting rear-ended by Kimi Raikkonen before getting spun by Bruno Senna. It was the worst possible situation for Vettel who was left with a damaged car, while Alonso was 2nd. It was an awful challenge for the German but he made short work of the grid to soon be back in the points. Sometimes, you have to wonder if he was only playing with Alonso! He made it to 6th in the race while Webber finished 4th. Alonso finished 2nd but this was not good enough to win the Championship and Vettel was crowned the 2012 World Champion.

Season in a Paragraph: 
Everyone was caught out when the Red Bull’s weren’t on the pace in Australia but they soon made it up, winning in Bahrain, Monaco and Silverstone. When Webber started to decline in performance, Vettel picked up and got lucky with Alonso being wiped out in Spa and Suzuka which allowed him to get back the big lead that had amounted in the first half of the season. No doubt though, Vettel really deserved a championship, as he showed when he absolutely stormed the grid in Abu Dhabi and Brazil. Love him or hate him, this guy is going down as one of our sport’s greatest.

Leave a comment

Filed under F1

Team 11: Ferrari

On the elevneth day of Christmas, Ben Sweeney gave to me… Ferrari


Ferrari, like McLaren, kept their line up the same that it had been since 2010. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa took the 5 and 6 cars to the grid. They had an absolutely dismal qualifying to begin their season, Alonso spun out of Q2 in a really uncharacteristic error which left him stranded in the gravel, but still started 12th. Massa didn’t have a great qualifying session either, qualifying well down in 16th. Fernando outstandingly clawed his way up to 5th with a very uncompetitive Ferrari while his team-mate retired when Bruno Senna ran him off the track during a botched overtake.

Malaysia brought a surprising turn around for the team, or Fernando Alonso at least. Starting from as far back as ninth, the Spaniard brought the car to the lead of the race in the mixed conditions. He seemed likely to be passed by Sergio Perez who was in the form of his life, until the Mexican went wide and dropped back with just several laps remaining. Alonso won the race in a Ferrari which he described as “walking on a tight rope”. Felipe Massa was loosing his balance on the tight rope, running down with the backmarkers, finishing 15th.

Alonso finished well back in China when he crossed the line in 9th ahead of his team-mate who was in 13th. He finished 7th in Bahrain while his Massa scored the first points of his season when he brought his F2012 home in 9th place. In Spain, Alonso fought hard to pass Maldonado for the lead of the race but was robbed of the coveted home Grand Prix when Pastor held him off. Massa was again out of the points, finishing 15th.

In Monaco, Grosjean pushed Alonso towards a barrier at the start, which sparked the pile up involving Grosjean, Kobayashi, de la Rosa and Maldonado. Massa avoided the carnage to finish a respectable 6th while Alonso joined Webber and Rosberg on the podium, finishing 3rd.

In Montreal, Alonso was trying to out do Lewis Hamilton who was on a two stop strategy, by pitting once. He suffered massively in the latter stages, loosing 1.5 seconds per lap to Hamilton who wasn’t long before he shot past Alonso and Vettel who then conceded and pitted for new tires. Alonso finished 5th while Massa was double that in 10th.

Alonso headed to his other home Grand Prix, Valencia, with high hopes which were immediately shattered when he qualified down in 11th. It would be nearly as hard to win the race as winning from 11th in Monaco, but if anyone could, Alonso could. Between Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean suffering alternator failures, aswell as Pastor Maldonado and Lewis Hamilton dancing into the barriers, the Spaniard grabbed a fantastic win at Valencia, followed by Raikkonen and Schumacher while Massa finished down in a lonely 16th.

Silverstone was a big turn around for the team. Alonso qualified on pole position while Massa qualified 5th. At the start of the race, Alonso swooped over to block Mark Webber in 2nd place, leading the race until, with just 5 laps to go, Mark Webber pulled off a spectacular pass around the outside of the Ferrari into Luffield, demonstrating the enormous trust between the two. Massa went on to finish just off the podium, in 4th place while Alonso grabbed 2nd.

Two weeks later in Germany, Massa finished a disappointing 12th after his 4th in Silverstone, while Alonso kept control of the race to win the race with a small gap from second placed Vettel who was later demoted to 5th for overtaking off the track. . Alonso finished 5th in Hungary while Massa finished 9th. It seemed that Alonso could not be stopped as he extended his lead even further over Vettel. Boy, were we wrong!

(c) Big Story

Belgium marked the start of the end for Alonso. He came mightily close to loosing his head when Grosjean’s Lotus was flung like a toy straight over his nose. There was a worrying minute when Alonso remained motionless as Gary Hartstein raced towards him. Thankfully, he was ok, and he eventually clambered out of the car. Shaken, but ok. Felipe Massa finished the race, beating his team-mate for the first time in god knows how long, and finishing 5th.

In Italy, Alonso was looking good to grab pole position in front of the tifosi until a problem with his anti-roll bar cost him, and he qualified 10th. Yet again, he clawed his way up, finishing 3rd behind Perez and Hamilton. Massa was again on form, finishing in 4th behind the Spaniard.

Alonso repeated his Italian 3rd place when he finished 3rd in Singapore, while Felipe Massa had a fight on his hands following on from a puncture at the first corner. The Brazilian was miles behind the grid but stormed through it in the final laps, including a very ballsy pass on Bruno Senna who tried to stick him in the wall. He eventually finished 8th.

Alonso was very unlucky in Suzuka when he made contact with Raikkonen in the first corner which gave the Spaniard a puncture, sending him into the gravel  and out of the race. Massa took full advantage of the situation to grab his first podium since 2010, when he finished 2nd behind Vettel.

Alonso finished 3rd in Korea when his team-mate was told to back off from the championship contender, Massa finishing 4th. Fernando pulled off a fantastic double overtake on the McLaren’s at the start of the race and later went on to pass a KERSless Mark Webber, which promoted him to 2nd place. This was his finishing position and he lost another 7 points to Vettel. Massa managed to fend off Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen to finish in 6th place.

Alonso’s dreams came true in Abu Dhabi when Vettel was disqualified from Qualifying for a fuel shortage in the car, not leaving enough for the FIA to take a sample. Yet, his hopes of a tight championship was dismissed when Vettel stormed the grid, to finish the race in 3rd, right behind Alonso in 2nd while Massa finished 7th.

Ferrari deliberately broke the seal on Felipe Massa’s gearbox to give him a 5 place penalty in Austin. They did this because Alonso was starting on the ‘dirty’ side of the new track, which would lose one, it was estimated, two positions off the line. The penalty put both Massa and Alonso on the clean side of the grid, and although Alonso couldn’t catch Vettel, he came close as possible when he finished 3rd, right behind Vettel in 2nd, with Massa 4th.

And so Alonso and Massa headed to the all important final race. Alonso would need to finish in 1st with Vettel 5th or lower, to win the championship. Remarkably, both Ferrari’s had great starts, vaulting both Red Bull’s off the line, bettered for Alonso when Vettel spun at the back of the grid. Yet, Vettel made short work of the grid, soon back in the back and fighting. Alonso made it up to 2nd behind Button while Massa finished 3rd at home, but this wasn’t good enough to stop Vettel, who finished 6th, winning the championship by three points.

Season in a Paragraph: 
The Ferrari’s had a dismal first day back, Alonso spinning out of Qualifying, Massa qualifying 16th. Alonso soon recovered and outstandingly won in Malaysia while Massa in the other Ferrari crossed the line in 15th. He came heart breakingly close to a home win in Catalunya, which he then secured a month later when he won a great race in Valencia. Silverstone was the turning point for Massa when he finished 4th and Alonso 2nd. Germany was to be Ferrari’s last win in 2012 and marked the start of the end for Alonso’s championship, his lead being chiseled away at for the rest of the season. Spa and Suzuka were costly races for the Spaniard who lost so many all important points while Massa scored a podium in Suzuka to shut critics up and secure himself a contract for 2013. Alonso didn’t expect Vettel to recover from a dismal qualifying in Abu Dhabi and he just couldn’t do anything; Vettel was always there. He finally crossed the line in Brazil, just 3 points short of a World Championship.

1 Comment

Filed under F1

Team 10: McLaren

On the tenth day of Christmas, Ben Sweeney gave to me… McLaren

(c) Motor Authority

McLaren made no change to the British pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button which had been their line up since 2010. And although they weren’t the fastest team in pre-season but when they got to Australia they locked out the front row. They couldn’t have asked for a better start. On race day, Hamilton lost 1st place to Jenson Button who drove a faultless race to win the season-opener. Hamilton dropped from 1st to 3rd during the race to finish behind Sebastian Vettel in 2nd place.

Hamilton yet again grabbed pole position in Malaysia, two weeks later. Unluckily, lightning struck twice for the 2008 World Champion and he dropped to 3rd in the race. Jenson Button danced with the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan and was left down in a lonely 14th place. Hamilton qualified 2nd in China but was demoted to 7th for a gearbox change, making it up to 3rd place, for the third consecutive time, while Button finished right ahead of him in 2nd.

Hamilton had an awful race in Bahrain. He had not one, but two awful pit stops which were both over ten seconds long and both caused by problems with his rear left wheel. He was also nearly sent into the barriers when Nico Rosberg pushed him off the track when he tried to overtake the German. Lewis eventually scraped 8th place while Jenson Button frustratingly pulled in to retire on the penultimate lap with an exhaust issue, getting classified as 18th.

In Spain, Hamilton grabbed pole by half a second but stopped out on track and was later disqualified for running out of fuel and not leaving enough for a sample to be taken. He was demoted to 24th which boosted Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado to 1st. Lewis eventually made it to a respectable 8th place ahead of Jenson Button who finished 9th. Button had a dismal race in Monaco, being held behind Heikki Kovalainen for a large part of the race, eventually crossing the line in 16th while Hamilton finished in 5th place.

Montreal brought McLaren’s 2nd win of the season when Hamilton crossed the line first, fending off Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean to become the 7th winner in as many races. Button had yet another dismal race and finished 16th, as he had done in Monaco a week earlier. In Valencia, Lewis Hamilton was in 3rd place until in the closing laps of the race, he was hit by Maldonado in a botched overtake attempt, sending the Brit into the barriers. Button made it into the points for the first time since Spain when he finished in 8th.

Silverstone was both Button and Hamilton’s home race and Button suffered from home nerves. He had massive difficulty getting a competitive time in Q1 in the mixed conditions and at the last second, he was about to set a good lap to make it into Q2 when Timo Glock spun his car, forcing Button to slow down and loose his chance, qualifying 18th. He at least made it into the points when he finished 10th, not far behind Hamilton in 8th.

Germany saw a peculiar incident for Hamilton. He ran over debris on the second lap and suffered a puncture, then asking to retire the car when he couldn’t win the race. The team refused to let him retire but later called him in to save the gearbox. Button showed an improvement from his recent bad form to finish in 3rd place, being promoted to 2nd when Vettel was penalised for passing him off track.

In Hungary, Hamilton won his second Grand Prix of the season, his 19th all time, when he beat Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean to the line. Button finished 6th at the track which gave the Brit his first win in 2006.

(c) McLaren

Hamilton was wiped out in the massive pile up at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix, when Grosjean pushed over into Hamilton leaving the Brit powerless as he mounted the Lotus before being flung backwards out of the race. Button on the other hand, avoided the carnage and won the race from pole position.

Button retired in Monza with a fuel pressure problem while Lewis Hamilton fended off Sergio Perez to win his third race of the season. In Singapore, Hamilton was looking good to win the race before a gearbox failure knocked him out of the lead, giving Sebastian Vettel the win. Button reeled in the German but couldn’t pass him, finishing in 9th.

It was between Singapore and Suzuka that Hamilton was announced at Mercedes for 2013, giving Michael Schumacher the boot. It was a much speculated move, first highlighted by Irish pundit and former team-owner, Eddie Jordan.

Jenson Button finished just shy of the podium in Suzuka, grabbing 4th place behind Kamui Kobayashi as Lewis Hamilton finished 5th in an un-competitive race to celebrate his contract with Mercedes. Korea saw Button wiped out by Kobayashi on the first lap while Hamilton went on to finish 10th, getting astro-turf stuck to his sidepod on the way to the flag.

Hamilton finished 4th in India while Button finished 5th, setting the fastest lap and robbing Vettel of a Grand Chelem. Lewis Hamilton was on the pace of his life in Abu Dhabi, leading in Practice and Qualifying but was again wiped out of the race when his car gave up on him, gifting Kimi Raikkonen the win, while Button raced on to finish 4th.

Hamilton won the inaugural Austin Grand Prix after spectacularly catching and passing Sebastian Vettel for the lead of the race, which was Hamilton’s 4th win in the season. Button finished down in 5th place.

And so they headed to Brazil for the last race. Hamilton and Button both had fantastic pace and were both racing Nico Hulkenberg for the lead of the race at different times. Lewis was leading the race when he was taken out by Hulkenberg when the German slid wide during an overtake, breaking his left steering column and forcing him to retire. Button swooped in to take full advantage to win the last race, having won the first race of the season, first race after the summer break and the last race.

Season in a Paragraph: 
The McLarens had a good start to the season with Button’s race win in Australia. It took Hamilton until Montreal to win his first race but he was generally on the pace, unlike Button who suffered a bad couple of races from Bahrain to Valencia. Button came back with a bang, winning in Belgium while Hamilton was unfairly taken out of the race in Singapore and Abu Dhabi with car failures. Button took the win in Brazil while Hamilton retired, perhaps a sign of what to come for Lewis when he joins a seemingly uncompetitive Mercedes?

1 Comment

Filed under F1

Team 9: Lotus

On the ninth day of Christmas, Ben Sweeney gave to me… Lotus

(c) Lotus F1 Team

Renault morphed into Lotus and with the name change, they changed their drivers. The hugely popular Kimi Raikkonen returned to F1 after a two year sabbatical and he was partnered up with the GP2 champion, Romain Grosjean who also made a return to the sport, after a dismal 2009 season with Renault knocked him back into the feeder series for two years.

Everyone was tipping Raikkonen to be the best of the bunch but surprisingly, Romain Grosjean qualified 3rd in Australia while Kimi lined up 17th, having made a mistake in Q2. Grosjean dropped to 4th off the line but was taken out of the race when Pastor Maldonado drove into him during an overtake, breaking the Frenchman’s steering column. Raikkonen on the other hand, finished 7th place, taking three places on the last lap.

Malaysia was no better for Romain. Starting from 7th, he crashed into Michael Schumacher on the first lap, spinning the German and knocking him to the back of the grid. Grosjean then went on to spin himself out of the race several corners later. Raikkonen started and finished the race in 5th. In China, Raikkonen was running in the top 5 for the race until the last few laps when his tires degraded and he lost a whopping 12 places over two laps, eventually finishing 14th while Grosjean finished 6th and scored his first points, at the third time of asking.

Raikkonen came mighty close to winning the Bahrain Grand Prix, just not being able to make the all important pass on Sebastian Vettel who was leading the race. Grosjean finished right behind him in 3rd place. In Spain, Kimi finished 3rd while Grosjean set a fastest lap en-route to finishing 6th.

In Monaco, a clumsy Grosjean careered across the path of Fernando Alonso. Alonso was sent sideways into Schumacher while Grosjean spun and hit Kobayashi who was launched into the air. Behind them, de la Rosa slowed down to avoid the carnage and Maldonado smashed into the back of the HRT. All because Grosjean didn’t check his mirrors. Kimi finished 9th in Monaco while Canada saw an impressive 2nd place for Romain as Kimi struggled slightly and finished down in 8th place.

Grosjean very nearly became the eighth winner in as many races when Vettel’s alternator failed and left the Frenchman chasing home-boy Alonso in Valencia, and catching him very quickly. A similar problem to Vettel’s left him at the side of the track, rueing what could have been while Kimi finished in 2nd place, behind Alonso and ahead of Schumacher.

The Lotus’ sported a ‘Dark Knight Rises’ logo on their car for the British Grand Prix but it didn’t stop Grosjean spinning out of Q3 and starting the race in P10. He recovered on the Sunday and finished right behind Raikkonen; 5th for the Finn, 6th for the Frenchman. In Germany, Raikkonen finished 4th but was promoted to 3rd when Vettel was penalised for overtaking off the track, while Grosjean made it to the finish line in a very unimpressive 18th place.

Hungary was good race for the team and Grosjean pulled over for Raikkonen to give Kimi 2nd place and Romain 3rd, right behind the race winner Lewis Hamilton.

(c) Sutton Images

Grosjean was a disgrace in Belgium. He was very jumpy off the line and moved over in front of Lewis Hamilton who was left with nowhere to go. The innocent Brit became a passenger when his car mounted Grosjean’s rear wing which then vaulted over Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari. Grosjean, Alonso, Hamilton and Perez were taken straight out of the race while Kobayashi’s car was too badly damaged and had to retire a few laps later. Grosjean was later banned for one race by the race stewards for a dangerous crash. He is the first driver since 1994 to be banned. Raikkonen stepped up as the sole remaining Lotus, to finish 3rd.

In Monza, Jerome d’Ambrosio stepped in to replace the banned Grosjean. Raikkonen finished 5th while d’Ambrosio finished outside the points in 13th. Romain was successful on his return and finished 7th in Singapore, right behind his team-mate in 6th.

In Suzuka, Grosjean was up to his old tricks again, accelerating right into the back of Mark Webber’s Red Bull and spinning the Aussie. He was later branded a “First-lap nutcase” by Webber who joked that Grosjean could do with “another holiday”. Grosjean finished 19th while Raikkonen was far more successful, making it to 6th.

Both Lotus’ were in the points again in Korea when Raikkonen finished 5th with Grosjean 7th which is the same place Kimi finished in India; Grosjean coming 9th.

Kimi Raikkonen returned to winning ways in Abu Dhabi when Lewis Hamilton retired from the race while leading it, and Alonso couldn’t catch the Finn in the last laps of the race. Grosjean wasn’t as lucky and he was taken out of the race when Sergio Perez caused a pile up with di Resta, Webber and Grosjean.

Romain Grosjean was penalised 5 places on the grid for a gearbox change which shuffled the grid and led to Massa changing his gearbox to move Alonso onto the ‘clean’ side of the grid. Raikkonen was deprived the chance to finish on the podium when he had a bad pit stop which allowed Alonso to get past him, finishing 4th.

And so Lotus headed for the final Grand Prix. It was a disappointing day for the team, Grosjean spinning out of the race, hitting a barrier with a rather large shunt. Raikkonen got caught out under breaking, heading straight on instead of taking the left-hand corner. He tried to take a quick shortcut through the Marshall’s area but the gate to rejoin the track was closed, leaving the Finn spinning around and coming back out onto the track, eventually finishing 10th.

Season in a paragraph: 
Grosjean surprised everyone, really out-doing Raikkonen in the first part of the season, but always ruining it with silly mistakes on the Sunday. He was a complete disaster in Belgium and it was justified that he was given a race ban. Raikkonen was impressive and never retired from a race, completing all but one lap, which he lost in Brazil when he went ‘exploring’ the Marshall’s area. It’s not yet been confirmed if Grosjean will be Kimi’s team-mate in 2013 but the likelihood is that he will. Expect plenty of wins from the Enstone team next year.

Leave a comment

Filed under F1

Team 8: Mercedes

On the eighth day of Christmas, Ben Sweeney gave to me… Mercedes


“Mercedes three year gamble, And this is year three” was the front page of F1 Racing during the year and it pretty much summed the situation up. Since the Silver Arrows made a return to the sport, they had kept the same line up of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg and 2012 was to be no different.

What was different though was that Mercedes, on the third time of asking, seemed to have a genuinely competitive car, one which Michael Schumacher masterfully placed on 4th place on the grid in Australia. He was running very competitively, indeed up to 3rd in the race before a gearbox issue struck him from the race. Nico Rosberg on the other hand had a dismal race and brought his Mercedes to the checkered flag in 12th.

In Malaysia, Schumi qualified one better than Australia, in 3rd, and was again looking good before a feisty Romain Grosjean spun him at the start of the Grand Prix, sending him to the back of the grid. He recovered though and made it to finish 10th while Rosberg finished further down in 13th.

China was a bittersweet day for the team. Nico Rosberg fantastically took Mercedes’ first pole position since 1955 and was followed by Schumacher in P2. Both Mercedes were pulling away from the rest of the grid but Schumacher was forced to retire following a mistake in the pits which left the German without a wheel nut. Rosberg though, fought off Jenson Button and won his first ever race, becoming the third winner in as many races.

Schumacher was knocked out of Qualifying in Q1 when his DRS failed on a rapidly developing track in Bahrain, Heikki Kovalainen making it out of Q1 in place of the German. He changed his gearbox, dropping to 22nd but proved his worth when he stormed to 10th place in the race. Rosberg was in the wars and narrowly escaped a penalty when he pushed Lewis Hamilton off the track, on his way to finishing 6th. Rosberg finished 7th in Catalunya while Schumi retired for the third time in five races. Schumacher had just pitted and was on fresh tires when Bruno Senna, who was running on badly worn Pirelli’s caught him out in the braking zone and they both crashed out of the race. Schumacher was deemed responsible for the collision and given and 5 place grid penalty for the next race.

It was a costly penalty for the German who in Monaco, put in a masterclass in driving to grab pole position. However, after his penalty from Spain was put in place, he started in 6th place. At the start of the Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean careered into his path, damaging his car and causing him to retire later in the race. Nico Rosberg, on the other hand, was doing fantastic and running right up the gearbox of leader Mark Webber in the latter part of the race. On a wider track, Nico may very well have taken his 2nd race win, but Monaco, as you may very well know, is notoriously hard to overtake in, and he couldn’t get past Webber. Still, a delighted Rosberg crossed the line in P2.

In Canada, A miscalculation from the team prevented Schumacher running a second hot lap and he qualified in 9th. During the race, his DRS failed and stuck open (something it’s designed to not do), forcing him to, again, retire the car while Rosberg finished the race in P6.

But amid all of Schumacher’s bad luck, there was a good car with a good pilot. He was free from mechanical failures in Valencia and showed what he was made of, finishing P3 after starting 12th. It would be nearly as hard as going from 12th to 3rd in Monaco. Robserg finished 6th, as he did in the race previous, while setting the fastest lap.Rosberg finished 15th in Silverstone while Schumacher finished 7th as he did at his home race in Germany while Rosberg finished 10th, also his home race.

In Hungary, Schumacher messed up on the parade lap and parked in the wrong grid box which caused an aborted start. Michael however, interpreted the lights as a red flag and turned his overheating engine off. As a result, he wasn’t able to pull off the grid when the rest of the cars were waved on for another parade lap, leaving him starting from the pitlane. He then suffered a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane before retiring with a gearbox issue. Rosberg made it into the points, repeating his German GP position, 10th.

(c) Damiler

Nico Rosberg made it from 18th to 11th in Spa while Schumacher jumped from 13th to 7th, having a fantastic battle with Kimi Raikkonen on his way. In Monza, the team were happy with a 6th place for Schumacher and 7th place for Rosberg.

Singapore was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Schumacher. The race was put under Safety Car when Karthikeyan hit the barrier in the tunnel, and on the restart, Schumacher’s cold brakes saw him vaulting into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne, an almost identical incident to the one with Senna in Spain. Nico Rosberg made it to the end of the race, crossing the line in 5th place.

It was between Singapore and Suzuka that Schumacher was given the boot by Mercedes who announced Hamilton and Rosberg as their 2013 line-up. Schumacher also announced his retirement from the sport which had held him dear for 20 years.

Nico Rosberg was very unlucky in Suzuka, getting caught up in the 1st corner crash. Bruno Senna was trying to avoid the Grosjean fueled crash when he dived sideways into Rosberg, sending Nico out of the race. Schumacher finished just outside of the points, finishing 11th.

Rosberg retired in Korea, once again, not being to blame. Kamui Kobayashi was slow on the brakes into turn 3 and launched himself in Rosberg and Button, knocking both out of the race. Rosberg pulled over on the long straight which brought out the yellow flags as marshall’s scrambled to clear it. The Merc was parked in the DRS zone and this allowed Sebastian Vettel to pull out a gap to 2nd placed Mark Webber. Schumacher finished 13th.

Rosberg finished 11th in India, just out of the points, while Schumacher was given a puncture at the hands of Jean-Eric Vergne in the first corner, later retiring with a mechanical failure, just 4 laps shy of the checkered flag. In Abu Dhabi, Rosberg retired in spectacular fashion when he was launched over Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT following the Indian’s steering failure. Luckily, Rosberg was ok and walked back to the pits to see his team-mate finish 11th.

Neither Mercedes scored points in the inaugural Austin Grand Prix. Schumacher really out-performed the car to qualify 5th while Rosberg qualified 17th. Schumacher couldn’t hold off the others while driving the uncompetitive Mercedes, finishing 16th, behind Rosberg in 13th.

And so Schumacher headed to his final ever F1 race. He qualified in a lowly 13th place but managed to finish in 7th in a very hectic race. Ironic, finishing 7th for his 7 world championships. Rosberg finished in a disappointing 15th place for his last race, but will have plenty of time to finish better when he returns in 2013, unlike Schumacher.

Season in a paragraph: 
While Schumacher still had fantastic pace, he didn’t have the opportunity to show it, in an awful Mercedes car. The team had the DDRS idea (double DRS) but when it started to fail for them, they continued to fall deeper and deeper into despair. Concentrating too much on recovering DDRS cost Schumacher the chance to go out on a high, combined with a million and one things that guaranteed he almost always had a mechanical problem, unlike Rosberg who was relatively lucky. He should have won a race, in fact several, but was cheated by the team. Rosberg had a good enough season and will no doubt be not looking forward to 2013 when he will be, again, made play second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton.

Leave a comment

Filed under F1