Archive for March, 2009

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Brawn’s “Virgin” on ’09 Success

March 29, 2009

As the first race of the new Formula One season took the chequered flag, the 2009 World Championship was officially under-way. And while it was the Brits who triumphed again in Melbourne, it wasn’t the Hamilton-McLaren domination of 2008. No, this year it was the turn of Jenson Button and Brawn Mercedes…

 At 7am local time, as the lights went green on Melbourne’s Albert Park, 20 men hit their accelerators and went racing.  

Leading them was Jenson Button, who three weeks ago, didn’t even know if he would be racing this season, following the Honda Racing team’s pull-out from F1.

The new kids on the grid, Brawn-Mercedes, fronted by the brains of Ross Brawn, managed an astonishing result in their first ever Grand Prix. The team started the race on Sunday with Button on pole and Rubens Barrichello in P2, and despite Sebastian Vettel dominating second place throughout the majority of the race, the British team managed to bring home a one-two, the first time a new team has qualified and finished a race at the top since the French Grand Prix in 1954 when Mercedes-Benz first entered F1.

For entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Group, the move to sign a sponsorship deal with the Brackley-based team proved to be the right thing to do as Brawn-Mercedes have dominated since qualifying on Saturday. Branson has revealed he may take over the naming-rights and identity of the team within weeks.

The reigning world champ Lewis Hamilton, who qualified 15th in his McLaren MP4-24, started from 18th on the grid following his first penalty of the season after the Woking-based team changed his gearbox as a precautionary measure. 24-year-old Hamilton perhaps gained the most in the season opener, after finishing in fourth place, following a dramatic end to the race after Robert Kubica in the BMW Sauber and Vettel in the Red Bull collided and crashed-out three laps from the chequered flag.

Hamilton’s Finnish teammate, Heikki Kovalainen, who started the race from twelfth, failed to finish the race after a first-corner collision with the Red Bull of Mark Webber, after Barrichello failed to get away cleaning from the grid. The Brazilian’s anti-stall had kicked in allowing Vettel and Kubica, the Williams of Nico Rosberg, and the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen through, before getting caught up with Webber and Kovalainen and the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld and Force India of Adrian Sutil. The Finn subsequently retired from the race.

Lap 19 saw the first safety car of the season after Kazuki Nakajima dropped his Williams and smacked into the wall. By then, Button had built a 47.7s lead over his closest rivals and he saw it reduced to nothing as the safety car remained in the race until the end of lap 24. New rules this year mean that the cars are free to pit during the safety car period and do not need to wait until Race Control open the pitlane, something Button took to his advantage when the safety car was deployed a few laps before his scheduled stop.

As for the Ferraris, neither managed to finish. Massa suffered mechanical problems later on, and Raikkonen retired following a shunt in the wall in the third half of the race.

At the start of lap 55 Vettel and Kubica, who were running second and third respectively, collided on turn three and Kubica subsequently crashed out. Vettel continued, despite his left-front tyre being mangled, but later parked his car on the grass. The safety car was again deployed and remained there until the end of the race.

Button took the chequered flag to claim the second win of his career, followed by teammate Barrichello, who had been fourth prior to the crash. Jarno Trulli, who along with his teammate had started the race from the pitlane, came through in third place in the Toyota, followed by reigning champ Hamilton in fourth. The second Toyota of Timo Glock came through in fifth, with the Renault of Fernando Alonso in sixth and Rosberg in seventh. Rookie Sebastien Buemi took the last of the points-paying positions in eighth.

Button’s victory marked the 200th Formula One victory for a British driver. In the press conference after the race he said the win was not just for him, but the whole team; he dubbed it the “fairytale ending” to their first race as a team.

 

Following the race, the stewards investigated an incident involving third place Jarno Trulli, who had run off the track behind the safety car in the final stages of the race. Hamilton had taken the position off the Toyota driver, who then claimed it back. The stewards handed Trulli a 25 second penalty for passing under waved yellow flags.

 

For the McLaren team, who have struggled with the grip of their car since testing, a third place and six points for Hamilton are a welcomed reward. For Brawn-Mercedes, the reward is huge considering their non-existence just weeks ago.

 

With the new season finally under-way, and with the grid mixed-up, this year is set to be more exciting than before, where it really can be anyone’s for the taking.

 

 

The next round is in Malaysia next weekend, with qualifying at 10am on Saturday and the race live on BBC One at 10am on Sunday.

 

 

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Countdown to Australia

March 5, 2009

On Sunday 29th March 2009, F1’s newest world champion will line up on the grid for the start of the 2009 season at Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit to begin the fight to defend his title.

Alongside reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton will be his closest rival from 2008, Felipe Massa, and his 2007 team-mate Fernando Alonso.

With new rules and regulations coming in in 2009, this is the year many predict will be the closest season yet. But how can it get any closer than in 2008? You cannot forget Massa and Hamilton’s fight to the bitter end in Brazil last November, where it all seemed to be lost for the second year in succession for Hamilton- that is of course until Timo Glock and his performance-lacking tyres stepped in, or rather stepped aside to allow Lewis through to take the title. However, this year sees a number of changes to the rules and regulations, which promises to keep F1 fans teetered on the edge of their seats right up until the finale in Abu Dhabi on November 15th. 

As well as the changes to the rules and regulations, which sees the introduction of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS), the return of slick tyres and new aerodynamics that are set to make overtaking easier, there have been a few amendments to the racing calendar. Last year both Valencia and Singapore hosted new and exciting street races, with Singapore being the first ever night race in F1. This year, both tracks will be back, along with another brand new circuit in Abu Dhabi, which promises to be an exciting end to the season where all cars and drivers will be racing in the unknown. After two consecutive years at the Fuji Speedway for the Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka will be making a welcome return to host the country’s GP, and there will no longer be rounds in France or Canada as both were removed from the calendar during 2008. 

Over the winter the teams have been testing out their new cars to make sure they have perfected them under the new regulations for when the lights go out in Melbourne. New rules this year state that teams will not be able to test their cars during the season, so testing has been crucial throughout the winter. With KERS coming in in 2009 the drivers will be able to recycle energy wasted under braking at the push of a button to give them an extra boost for up to seven seconds per lap. KERS, along with new aerodynamics and the return of slicks, means 2009 is set to be F1’s closest and most unpredictable season for years.

It may not be possible to predict who will come out on top in Melbourne, or in fact, the season as a whole, but one thing for sure is that Lewis will be aiming to defend his title when the lights go out in Melbourne at the end of the month.

In the words of Murray Walker, when the lights go out, it’ll be “Go! Go! Go!” for 2009.

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Lewis Hamilton- Britain’s Favourite Champion

March 2, 2009

In the years that will follow, many fans will tell the story of how Formula One ace Lewis Hamilton clinched his first world title.

Sunday 2nd November 2008, and after a season that saw many highs and lows between the Briton and his title rivals, Felipe Massa is set to take the driver’s title at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo, Brazil, after taking the chequered flag. Hamilton, having lost his all-important fifth place to Sebastian Vettel of Toro Rosso because of lack of grip in his intermediate tyres, appears to have lost a championship that he had led for most of the season.

Back in the UK, Lewis’ fans watch and wait in disbelief as history repeats itself for the second year in a row.

Then enter Timo Glock, the young German driver in a Toyota, the man who has now officially become Britain’s number two sporting hero. As the rain pours down onto the track, Glock starts to lose pace; his slick tyres just don’t have any grip left in them, it’s too wet, and Lewis who has been busy hunting down Vettel has started to close in on the Toyota on the final lap. Lewis is on the penultimate corner, Massa, his only title rival has already won his home Grand Prix; the Ferrari team and Massa family are prematurely celebrating what started out as the nearly impossible, their man is champion… Then in the words of Martin Brundle, “is that Glock, is that Glock? It is! That’s Glock!”, and Hamilton is back in that all-important position again. The McLaren garage goes wild, Lewis’ father Anthony and brother Nic are on their feet, the Ferrari team and Massa family have realised, and over the radio Massa is told, “he has passed Glock.”

The chequered flag has drawn an end to the 2008 season, it is over, Felipe Massa has won the Brazilian Grand Prix and the world title; and then in the last 20-odd seconds of Lewis’ race, he steals it back in what is likely to be the most memorable, nail-biting season finale ever.

The Brazilian fans in the grandstands, who seconds earlier were on their feet to cheer their man home to victory, are now booing at the man who has just taken it away from him; the man who could not quite make it stick twelve months before.

But boy didn’t he deserve it.

OK, so Hamilton has made some big mistakes in his championship year, but then again, was Michael Schumacher ever squeaky clean in his seven winning years?

Some might say that the bad luck Hamilton has had this year, with no less than six penalties from the F1 governing body, the FIA, makes him less worthy of the title; but then again, Massa has made his share of mistakes this season too. Think of that Singapore pit lane incident, for example.

In years to come Hamilton fans will look back on their man’s first world championship and remember the day when he left them hanging, waiting until the very last opportunity to celebrate. Needless to say, many fans were left teetered on the edge of their seats, praying for that all-important fifth place; not to mention losing their voices from the sheer determination that screaming at the television was going to give them what they had been dying to see for a whole year.

But now lays the question of what is next for the British number one? With new and tougher regulations expected for 2009, a Ferrari team determined to claim back their number one car, and a Spanish man going by the name of Fernando Alonso, the question is can Lewis defend his title? Let it be known he is determined to succeed, in fact McLaren boss Ron Dennis has promised the 23 year old, that if he makes it a hat-trick of titles, the McLaren driver is destined to get his hands on one of only five McLaren F1 LM supercars that is currently on display at the team’s HQ in Woking. Now if that is not an incentive to defend his title, then what is?

Not to mention the possibility of Hamilton becoming the UK’s highest paid sportstar in years to come, being tipped to be paid more than David Beckham.

It has to be said it was sad to see the many Massa fans boo the champion, in a fashion that showed little sportsmanship, that even Massa himself did not possess at the end of a competitive season. What is even sadder is the amount of racist abuse the young driver has endured this season even after the title had been decided. Yet, he doesn’t let it faze him.

Right now Lewis is at an all-time high, he is champion, and he has set some records. He is the youngest ever Formula One Champion, beating his 2007 team mate Fernando Alonso by four months. He is also the sport’s first black champion.

But who is he really? He is Lewis Hamilton from Stevenage, and whether he goes on to win more championships, or maybe even smash Schumi’s record of seven titles, the world will always know, he is destined to be a sporting legend that only dreams are made of.

So what’s next for Britain’s new hero? Next season of course, when he’ll be back in the driver’s seat to defend his title against the Felipe’s and Kimi Raikkonen’s and even the Vettel’s of the grid.

Lewis Hamilton, Formula One World Champion 2008- has a nice ring to it don’t you think!?