Monthly Archives: November 2013

Lotus Confirm Maldonado As Raikkonen Replacement

Lotus have confirmed that Pastor Maldonado will partner Romain Grosjean at the team in 2014.

The Venezuelan entered Formula One with Williams, backed by the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA. Three years later and Lotus’ money problems saw them actively seeking monetary sponsorship after Kimi Raikkonen left the team for Ferrari.

Quantum Motorsports, a seemingly non-existent group of anonymous investors, fronted by convicted con man Mansoor Ijaz, were previously seen as Lotus’ saviour-to-be. The money from Quantum would have allowed the team to put Nico Hulkenberg in their car, in place of Maldonado with his $17 million from PDVSA.

However, the Quantum Motorsports deal fell through, presumably due to being non-existent, and Lotus were forced to look to Maldonado.

“Romain will be joined by Pastor Maldonado” team principal Eric Boullier said today. “It is clear that Pastor has pace and potential – demonstrated by his 2010 GP2 Series title success and then through strong races throughout his career at Williams F1 Team – and we are convinced that we will be able to provide the correct environment to enable him to flourish regularly on track.”

Meanwhile, Maldonado said, “It is a fantastic opportunity for me to join Lotus F1 Team for 2014. It’s no secret that I have wanted a change of scene to help push on with my Formula 1 career and Lotus F1 Team offered the very best opportunity for me to be competitive next season. The regulations and cars will change significantly so it is a very good time for a fresh start. I can’t wait to be racing in black and gold.”

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Brawn To Leave Mercedes

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Ross Brawn is to leave Mercedes ahead of next season.

The F1 genius has been the subject of much speculation as to whether he would keep his role as Team Principal at the team, with Brawn wanting full control over the team while others wanting a divided management to ensure a smoother running. It was clear to Brawn that his preference was no longer a possibility and so he left the team.

The announcement comes as no real surprise as Paddy Lowe, who left McLaren for Mercedes last March, was thought to be brought in to be Brawn’s eventual technical successor. Now, the two executive directors, Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe, will step up to manage the political and technical aspects to the team respectively, while non-executive chairman Niki Lauda will also hold a position within the team.

Brawn took control of the BAR Honda team at the end of 2008, changing the team name to Brawn, who won both Championships in their first season in F1. The following year, Mercedes were announced as the titular sponsor as the team hired the all German line-up of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher – Brawn having worked with the latter during his five Ferrari Championships.

It is unclear if Brawn has secured a role in another team for 2014.

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Not Bad For A Number Two Driver

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After 217 races, 42 podiums and 9 wins, Mark Webber has left Formula One. As he returns to the Le Mans racing series, he leaves behind a reputation as one of the most genuine and straight talking guys in F1. Although his twelve-year stint in the sport ended  without a World Championship win, he will be remembered as a man with extraordinary talent that, for one reason or another, never took the Championship that could well have been his in 2010

Webber made his F1 debut in Australia 2002 and placed fifth in the slowest car on the grid. It was clear he meant business. While his talent was evident, he rarely had the kit to do the job itself. His first season with Jaguar was mediocre while his second season was pretty poor as the team fought its last season. Ironically, the team was sold to Red Bull for just one dollar at the end of 2004. His time in Williams pretty much mirrored his Jaguar experience; his first season was relatively good (his tally of 36 points would remain his highest points scoring in a season until 2009 when he almost doubled that), while his second season with Williams was marred with a string of mechanical failures robbing him of strong finishes, such as a podium position in Monaco.

He moved to Red Bull in 2007 as the team were still in their infancy. His first season was just as poor as his final Williams season, with seven DNFs to his name, including the now infamous incident where team-mate to-be Sebastian Vettel rammed him from the back in Fiji. 2008 was slightly better and he doubled his points from 2007, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the long-awaited win finally came to him. Starting from his first career pole position, he made contact with Brawn’s Rubens Barrichello and was forced to serve a drive-through. Nevertheless, his determination to prove the critics wrong drove him strongly onwards and he secured the first of his nine race wins.

His appetite for wins only increased after this and he won another race in 2009, four wins in 2010, one in 2011 and two in 2012. Among the trophies above his mantlepiece are two trophies from Monaco, having driven to a commanding win in the principality in 2010 and 2012. Clearly his 2010 season was his strongest – and it will always be known as ‘the Championship Webber lost’. His wins in Spain, Monaco, Silverstone and Hungary saw him lead the drivers table as the final races of the season arrived. It was Mark’s to lose.

I reckon it was his spin in Korea that cost him the win. Running second in the inaugural Korean Grand Prix, he hit wet Astroturf and spun out of the race. His team-mate, who was leading the race, later retired meaning Webber, potentially, could have taken twenty-five points. In the end, he lost the Championship by fourteen.

Webber spun out of the 2010 Korean Grand Prix
(c) AAP

As Vettel came into his stride as the team’s number 1 driver, Webber found himself unable to get to grips with the new Pirelli tyres that were introduced in 2011. His almost went the season winless, except that Vettel developed a suspicious gearbox issue while leading the final Grand Prix and caused him to drop behind Webber. In 2012, he was back with a vengeance and won in Silverstone and Monaco, but 2013 saw him go winless.

According to Mark himself, he knew that 2013 would be his last season in the sport before he arrived for the season opener in Melbourne. For this reason, he treated the Aussie media to a dinner before his final home race.

What seems to have been forgotten given Vettel’s absolute stronghold over Formula One is that in 2010 he was far from Championship winning material. Clearly he had the speed but he was still living under the shadow of Schumacher, dubbed ‘Little Schumi’ and later ‘the Crash Kid’ following his trip into the side of Jenson Button’s McLaren at the Belgian Grand Prix. Webber was still able to equal Vettel’s achievements and even led the Championship, while Vettel didn’t lead until the final race when he won.

2010 was the first season I watched and it remains my favourite season. Quite contrary to the one-sided Red Bull that has arisen from Vettel’s string of Championships, Red Bull were once evenly split between their drivers. It’ll be a long time, I imagine, until the memory of Vettel moving across Webber in Istanbul of that year will be forgotten by the RBR crew.

In fact, it was not the duo’s first incident on track. During the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix in torrential rain, Vettel rammed into the rear of Webber, taking Webber out of the race and setting up a tense foundation for the two the following year when Vettel joined the team.

Back to 2010 and more inter-team disputes. Red Bull brought an update to the British Grand Prix in July which included a front wing for both cars. When Vettel’s front wing snapped on Friday morning, the team took the decision to take the wing off Webber’s car and give it to Vettel and to give Webber the old-spec wing, without discussing it beforehand with Webber. He was clearly angry with the decision which he felt demonstrated a clear team favourite. Indeed, when he crossed the line victorious on Sunday, he took a swipe at the team on the post-race radio message, claiming that his performance was “not bad for a number two driver“.

Vettel eventually won the title that year from right under Webber’s nose at the final Grand Prix. In stark contrast to the nail-biting conclusion to the season before, 2011 proved to be a mundanely easy Championship for Vettel who won the title with four races left, such was his dominance. On the other hand, Webber struggled to get to grips with the new Pirelli tyres and nearly went winless, except for a convenient gearbox issue on the sister RB7 which saw race-leader Vettel losing his lead of the final GP to Webber.

Webber won the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2011
(c) Getty Images

2012 was a stronger year for Mark but he wasn’t a realistic contender in the Championship which led to another exciting last-race showdown between Fernando Alonso and Vettel, both vying for their third Championship, although Webber did become a double winner in both Monaco and Silverstone of this year.

2013, however, will be remembered as the season where the friction of the previous five years came to a head. In the Malaysian round, Webber was leading following the final pit stop stint. Red Bull, with Turkey ’10 still ringing clear in their memory, ordered Vettel to stay behind Webber through the now infamous ‘Multi-21’ order (which says that car 2 stays ahead of Car 1). Webber, sure that Vettel would comply, went into fuel saving while Vettel continued to charge. Eventually Vettel caught Webber and to the background of Horner’s desperate cries for calm, he battled wheel-to-wheel with Webber for several laps until he finally got past and won the race.

This was the end of the public friendship between the two drivers with rumours circling that Webber was to leave F1 immediately while Vettel made a team-imposed apology for his actions. Vettel went on to win the Championship with extraordinary ease while Webber wrapped up 3rd in the Championship. Fittingly, I think, he finished behind Vettel in his final race.

Among the myriad of reasons for admiring Mark Webber as a driver was his pure determination. His early days with Minardi, Jaguar and Williams were occasional bright lights illuminating an otherwise poor showing, blighted by mechanical failures and his trademark bad luck. Yet Mark never gave up.

His wait to win that all important first victory was the longest in the sport and came in his eighth season in Formula One. His podium topping performance came 24 hours after also claiming his first pole position. Although his new team-mate had claimed RBR’s first race win in China earlier that year (and at a much younger age too), Webber set into motion a battle with Sebastian Vettel which would spill over into the preceding years and last until the end of his career.

Webber waited eight seasons for his first win
(c) Getty Images

One of the biggest reasons that I admired Mark Webber was his refusal to give up. Through his (relatively) early seasons with Minardi, Jaguar, Williams and Red Bull, his career was far from fruitful, and was instead riddled with reliability problems or an underperforming car. Yet he waited for that first win, and finally took it.

He also never gave up when he broke his leg. While competing in the Tasmania Challenge in the winter break between the 2008 and 2009 seasons, he was hit by a Jeep while cycling. He broke his leg but remained committed to returning to the seat which Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz promised him would be there for him when he was ready to take it. Through extensive and rapid physical therapy, Webber was back in the car when the season started in 2009.

In 2010, Webber drove injured as he fought for the Championship. He suffered a fractured shoulder in a mountain bike accident before the Japanese Grand Prix but raced regardless, although failing to tell his team until after the season. The G-forces in the car would have been incredibly painful against Webber’s fractured shoulder, but his determination to race verified his Twitter handle; ‘Aussie Grit’.

Mark was also an incredible sportsman. There are very few racers who can race wheel-to-wheel in this age of pay drivers. One of the most memorable moments of Mark’s racing career will be his overtake on Fernando Alonso in 2011. Although Alonso was exiting the pits and was slower than Webber, Mark only pulled alongside the Ferrari as the two men entered the Eau Rouge corner, wheel to wheel on the steep right hand corner which is difficult enough to get right when in single file, nevermind trying it two abreast. This wheel-to-wheel racing demonstrated the commandery and respect between the two veteran drivers, as the same overtake between most other drivers would have ended in complete disaster. I think one of the things that I’ll most miss is the Alonso/Webber friendship and on track respect.

(c) Getty Images

I’ll also miss Webber’s outspokenness. Most of the current grid are either fed a team line to pull when it comes to speaking to the media, or censor their words as to impress their sponsors or try to finalize a deal with a team. Webber was never one for holding back. In fact, it was Webber who began the Kimi Raikkonen/Vodka association, claiming that Kimi must have been drunk while driving when he crashed into Webber and caused him to retire from a race. Also, he was quite outspoken about team orders and showing his unhappiness with certain situations, such as venting his frustration regarding the front wing issue of Silverstone 2010. F1 will be running short of straight-talkers in 2014.

And so it ends. I’ve often said this season that if he didn’t have bad luck, he’d have no luck at all. I think this is a perfect summation of his career. Every driver hopes to drive for the best team in the world. Unfortunately for Mark Webber, he did just that, but alongside the best driver of the generation. From having a slow car to having a good car with an even better team-mate, Webber never had the chance to shine.

And although he was never, and will never be a World Champion, I’ll always remember Mark Webber for his ability to fight through the darkness, even when it seemed the world was against him or that the team had it in for him (even if sometimes both probably did). Even though the record books will never do, I’ll always remember Webber as a Champion.

Thanks for the memories Mark. G’day mate.

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Vettel Leads Red Bull 1-2 In Curtain Closing Brazilian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel has taken his ninth consecutive victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix after a fantastic drive and was him joined on the podium by his outgoing team-mate Mark Webber and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. His performance wasn’t flawless as he battled with backmarkers and last-second pit stops, but it was good enough to win the race with a huge margin.

Surprisingly, Vettel lost the lead into the first corner, allowing Nico Rosberg to move up into the lead of the race while Hamilton battled Alonso for third. Massa had a strong start and was right behind Mark out of turn three, while Heikki Kovalainen bogged down on the grid and was seventeenth at the end of lap 1, having taken eleventh in Qualifying.

Rosberg fought hard to keep Vettel behind him but inevitably lost it on the start/finish straight at the beginning of lap 2, while Alonso passed Hamilton for third. Webber took strong pace out of the third corner to out-drag Hamilton to turn four and pull a stunning overtake on the Mercedes. Webber’s 2014 replacement was trying his hardest to get past the Lotus of Romain Grosjean – but didn’t have to wait long as Grosjean’s engine blew up as he went to cross the line for lap four, becoming the first retirement of the race.

Adrian Sutil was unhappy with Sergio Perez who seemed to force him off track at turn five, but stewards deemed the move to have been legal. Bottas began battling Vergne at the same time and was to trade positions with the Frenchman several times before using DRS to good effect and passing the Toro Rosso into turn 1. Slightly further up the gird, old sparring partners Massa and Hamilton were fighting tooth and nail for fifth when Massa was handed a drive-through penalty for crossing the white lines of the pitlane entrance. It was a blow for Massa who stayed out for as long as possible, seemingly to slow Hamilton into traffic and limit the damage of the drive-through.

Hamilton was now up to fifth but would not be there for long. Valtteri Bottas tried to pass Hamilton into turn five but the Briton moved across the Finn and made contact with the Williams. Bottas’ wheel went airborne and he retired on the spot, while Hamilton crawled around the track with a puncture and was then handed a drive-through for the incident. The Red Bulls anticipated a Safety Car and boxed both men. However, they were unready when Vettel came into the pits which saw Vettel held up, as well as Webber who was forced to park up behind the pit box as the team scrambled for the correct tires. Vettel’s eleven second lead was halved by the incident, but was saved as Alonso jumped Webber in the pits, forcing the Aussie to retake the Ferrari.

Charles Pic was the third man to retire from the race, running off track with a suspected suspension issue. He parked his stricken Caterham on the run-off area in turn six, which is sloped, leaving marshalls trying to push the heavy Caterham to a safer area for several laps. On track, Maldonado was fending off Jean-Eric Vergne and completely closed the gap into turn 1, forcing the Frenchman off the track and spinning his Williams.

The much expected rain would have been the only wet spell during a race all season but despite very slight drizzle for most of the race, a full downpour never materialized and drivers could keep using the dry Pirelli compounds. The wet weather could also have thrown a spanner in the works for Vettel, but he remained unchallenged. He crossed the line to win the Brazilian Grand Prix, the second time he has done it, while Webber finished second in his final race, and Alonso took third.

Final Standings: 

  1. Sebastian Vettel
  2. Mark Webber
  3. Fernando Alonso
  4. Jenson Button
  5. Nico Rosberg
  6. Sergio Perez
  7. Felipe Massa
  8. Nico Hulkenberg
  9. Lewis Hamilton
  10. Daniel Ricciardo
  11. Paul di Resta
  12. Esteban Gutierrez
  13. Adrian Sutil
  14. Heikki Kovalainen
  15. Jean-Eric Vergne
  16. Pastor Maldonado
  17. Jules Bianchi
  18. Giedo van der Garde
  19. Max Chilton
  • Romain Grosjean – Engine Failure
  • Valtteri Bottas – Collision Damage
  • Charles Pic – Suspension

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Vettel Unstoppable En Route To Pole In Brazil

Sebastian Vettel blew the other drivers out of the water as he breezed to pole position in the Brazilian Grand Prix, seven tenths clear of Nico Rosberg who will share the front row with Vettel. Fernando Alonso had his best Qualifying of the session and will start third tomorrow, ahead of Mark Webber who will be fourth on the grid for his final F1 race. Lewis Hamilton was fifth ahead of Romain Grosjean while both Toro Rosso drivers made it to Q3 and subsequently qualified seventh and eighth. Felipe Massa qualified ninth for his last race with Ferrari while Nico Hulkenberg took tenth for Sauber.

Heikki Kovalainen narrowly missed out on a space in the top ten and instead took eleventh, while Paul di Resta beat Valtteri Bottas to twelfth. The McLaren duo of Sergio Perez and Jenson Button were fourteenth and fifteenth to round out a poor season, with Checo slamming his car into the barriers at the end of Q2. Adrian Sutil was sixteenth while Pastor Maldonado was the first man to drop out of Q1. He was joined in the knock-out zone by Esteban Gutierrez who is followed by Charles Pic, Giedo van der Garde and the Marussia duo of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton.

Vettel’s ominous speed could be cut should the race tomorrow start in heavy rain. If not, Vettel seems set to win his ninth consecutive Grand Prix, and equal Alberto Ascari’s record from the 50s.

 

 

 

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Webber Fastest In Final Practice Session

Mark Webber was the fastest driver in his final Formula One practice session. The Aussie came out relatively late in a session where tip-toeing around Interlagos was the name of the game as rain once again played havoc with the order. Webber, who usually excels in Brazil, was the only man to break into the 1.27s with Romain Grosjean the next man down, setting a 1.28.1 in the closing seconds. Heikki Kovalainen was right behind his Lotus team-mate, ahead of Valtteri Bottas who always impresses in weather. With wet rain forecasted for the race, he could be in with taking a second consecutive points finish this weekend. Jean-Eric Vergne was sixth ahead of Esteban Gutierrez who is still looking for a seat next year. Pastor Maldonado was eighth for Williams, while the Force India duo of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil filled out the top ten in their respective VJM-06s.

Lewis Hamilton slipped and slid his way to eleventh overall with Daniel Ricciardo just behind him in twelfth. Next down the order was the back-maker drivers; Jules Bianchi, Charles Pic, Max Chilton and Giedo van der Garde occupying thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth and sixteenth, ahead of Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel in seventeenth. Sergio Perez was eighteenth, and the slowest driver of those who recorded a lap time. Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa felt that running in practice would be worthless and chose to sit out the session after setting installation laps.

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Vergne Handed Post-Race Penalty For Gutierrez Clash

Jean-Eric Vergne has been awarded a post-race penalty at the United States Grand Prix.

The checkered flag had flown but Esteban Gutierrez and Vergne were still scrapping for 12th when the two made contact. Gutierrez was sent off track, rejoining in sixteenth while Vergne crossed the line twelfth. However, Stewards deemed Vergne to be at fault and handed him the post-race equivalent of a drive-through penalty – twenty seconds added to his race time.

This additional time means that he will instead finish sixteenth, right behind Gutierrez who moves up to fifteenth.

To see the full race report, click here.

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