Archive for September, 2009

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Hamilton Produces Faultless Drive to Take Victory in Singapore

September 27, 2009

Lewis Hamilton produced a faultless drive in an eventful Singapore Grand Prix this afternoon, turning pole into victory, while Jenson Button extended his lead in the drivers’ championship to teammate Rubens Barrichello.

Hamilton made the perfect getaway from pole, leading third-place starter Nico Rosberg into the first corner. Despite problems with KERS, the McLaren driver led for all but four laps, which were led by Fernando Alonso during the Brit’s second stop in Singapore’s sensational night race at the Marina Bay circuit.

Having got past second-place starter Sebastian Vettel heading into the first corner, Rosberg kept the gap to Hamilton down to three seconds in the first stint, with both drivers, and the Red Bull of Vettel pulling away from fourth place man Timo Glock.

Hamilton pitted for his first stop after Vettel and Rosberg, and he rejoined the track with a comfortable lead, not long before the safety car was deployed following a collision between Adrian Sutil and Nick Heidfeld, after the former spun trying to hunt down Jaime Alguersuari. The shunt, which was avoidable on Sutil’s part as he tried to rejoin the track, was investigated after the race resulting in a $20,000 fine for the German.

At the restart, Hamilton started to pull away from Rosberg, but when the latter dived into the pits to serve a drive-through penalty, it was Vettel who began to put pressure on the McLaren driver, closing the gap to half a second.

Hamilton said: “It was a very very tough race, I think I can speak for all of us. Conditions made it very tough but it was pretty straightforward for me. I knew I was longer than the guys around me so all I had to do was keep Vettel behind me. I felt I drove quite a nicely controlled race.”

Rosberg had been looking set for second place, until a slip up exiting the pitlane after his first stop saw him cross the white line, subsequently penalising him with a drive-through penalty. Shortly after it was issued the safety car was deployed, and the young German’s hopes to serve the penalty and get back out in the points scoring positions was crushed, and he finished in 11th.

It seemed second place wasn’t to be for Vettel either, as he too was issued with a drive-through penalty after speeding in the pitlane during his second stop. However, Vettel was able to keep on the pace and after everyone else had made their second stops, he finished in fourth ahead of championship leader Button.

With penalties robbing Rosberg and Vettel of second place, it was Timo Glock who came through to finish second, with Fernando Alonso in third.

Mark Webber lost out on the opening lap, after an illegal pass on Alonso meant he had to give up his fourth place to Glock to be able to let Alonso back through, putting him back down to sixth. Glock, who had started sixth, had already passed Alonso for fifth when Webber was told to let both drivers through. It was the start of a miserable race for the Aussie driver, who had qualified fourth, as he was the first of several drivers to have problems with his brakes, with them failing shortly after his second stop, sending him spinning into the tyre wall at the end of the start/finish straight.

Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari was the next to retire with brake problems, and it was touch and go for Button as his right-front brake appeared to be under pressure, and while closing down on Vettel in the final stint he was told to back off and just bring his Brawn home.

Despite the safety car messing up Button’s strategy, a charge in the second stint had enabled him to leapfrog Heikki Kovalainen and Brawn teammate Barrichello at his second stop, and the championship leader finished fifth, extending his lead to Rubens but one point in the championship. Barrichello finished in sixth ahead of Kovalainen, with Robert Kubica rounding off the points scorers.

Webber’s DNF almost certainly means his hopes for taking the title are over, and with Vettel 25 points adrift from Button, it is looking unlikely for him too. With just three races left to go, Button has a 15 point advantage over Barrichello, with it looking like it is the Briton’s to lose.

The constructors’ championship looks likely to be Brawn’s, with Red Bull taking second. But with three points in it between Ferrari and McLaren, the only real fight in the constructors’ battle is for third. Ferrari leave Singapore having had a miserable weekend, with both Kimi Raikkonen and Giancarlo Fisichella failing to impress in qualifying, and finishing out of the points in 10th and 13th respectively.

 

F1 returns to Suzuka next weekend for the Japanese Grand Prix, with qualifying on Saturday 3rd, and the race live on BBC One at 6am on Sunday 4th October.

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Hamilton on Pole After Red Flag Haults Q3 in Singapore

September 26, 2009

Lewis Hamilton took pole in Singapore this afternoon, after Rubens Barrichello crashed in the closing stages of Q3, causing the session to be red flagged.

Lewis, who topped the time sheets in practice this morning and was fastest in Q1, grabbed pole after just one flying lap in Q3 with a time of 1:47.891. He had been about to start his final hot lap when Barrichello’s shunt put a hault to the session.

Sebastian Vettel, who will start tomorrow’s night race from second, had been on his final hot lap when Barrichello hit the wall at turn five, meaning the German was unable to complete his lap which was looking good enough to have put him on pole.

Barrichello, who had set the fifth fastest time prior to the crash, will start tenth, following a five-place grid drop after his gearbox was changed. His teammate, Jenson Button, will start in 12th after failing to get through to Q3.

Nico Rosberg will start the race from third in the Williams. Rosberg had been looking like a strong contender for pole after putting in an impressive 1:46.197 in Q2. Mark Webber will start in fourth, directly behind teammate Vettel, after both Red Bulls put in a great performance to qualify ahead of the Brawn drivers.

Last year’s controversial winner, Fernando Alonso, will start from fifth, moving up one place from sixth following Barrichello’s gearbox penalty. Timo Glock will start in sixth, with Nick Heidfeld, Robert Kubica and Heikki Kovalainen in seventh, eighth and nineth, respectively.

The surprises during the late-night qualifying session came not only from Button, who failed to make the top ten shoot-out, but also Kimi Raikkonen, who starts behind Button in 13th, and Giancarlo Fisichella, who will start 18th after failing to make it through to Q2.

The Force Indias of Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi, who both managed to qualify in the top ten in Monza two weeks ago, will start down in 16th and 20th respectively, after a poor qualifying session for the team.

After several crashes so far this weekend during free practice, and indeed Barrichello’s shunt in qualifying, it is likely there will be more in tomorrow’s race. If Hamilton has more fuel on board than Vettel, the race may be in favour of the McLaren driver, but with the possibility of yet more crashes during the race, and the possibility of a safety car, anything can happen.

For Button and Barrichello, who go into tomorrow’s race with an advantage over Vettel and Webber in the fight for the driver’s title, they will be hoping to score as many points as possible to help retain their lead, as both Red Bull drivers have the upper-hand for the race. With only four races left to go, the fight for the title is looking more and more like it will go down to the wire.

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Suspended Sentence for Renault, Lifetime Ban for Briatore

September 21, 2009

The World Motor Sport Council issued Renault with a two-year suspended sentence today, as it reached its verdict over “crashgate”.

Former team boss, Flavio Briatore, who left Renault last Wednesday, was given a lifetime ban from all FIA-sanctioned motorsport, and anyone who is managed by Briatore will not receive their Superlicence for 2010 if they are associated with him. Currently, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Heikki Kovalainen and Romain Grosjean are all managed by Briatore.

Pat Symonds, the team’s former director of engineering, received a five year ban from FIA-sanctioned events. The FIA stated that Symonds had acknowledged his involvement in the conspiracy and expressed his regret, unlike Briatore, who continued to deny his involvement.

The FIA said that the team “had accepted, at the earliest practicable opportunity, that it committed the offences with which it was charged and cooperated fully with the FIA’s investigation. It had confirmed that Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds were involved in the conspiracy and ensured that they left the team.” The FIA also said that the team had apologised “unreservedly” and had offered to pay the costs incurred during the FIA’s investigation, as well as Renault, the parent company of Renault F1, “making a significant contribution to FIA safety-related projects.”

The FIA added: “The World Motor Sport Council considers that offences of this severity merit permanent disqualification from the FIA Formula One World Championship.  However, having regard to the points in mitigation mentioned above and in particular the steps taken by Renault F1 to identify and address the failings within its team and condemn the actions of the individuals involved, the WMSC has decided to suspend Renault F1’s disqualification until the end of the 2011 season. The World Motor Sport Council will only activate this disqualification if Renault F1 is found guilty of a comparable breach during that time.”

Renault’s team president, Bernard Rey said: “Today, we fully accept the decision of the Council. We apologise unreservedly to the F1 community in relation to this unacceptable behaviour. We sincerely hope that we can soon put this matter behind us and focus constructively on the future.”

Fernando Alonso, who attended the hearing, was found to have had no involvement. Nelson Piquet retained his immunity given to him by the FIA for disclosing information.

Piquet said he bitterly regretted his actions, and that he does not expect this to be “forgiven and forgotten.”

He said: “Mr Briatore was my manager as well as the team boss, he had my future in his hands but he cared nothing for it. By the time of the Singapore GP he had isolated me and driven me to the lowest point I had ever reached in my life. Now that I am out of that situation I cannot believe that I agreed to the plan, but when it was put to me I felt that I was in no position to refuse. Listening now to Mr Briatore’s reaction to my crash and hearing the comments he has made to the press over the last two weeks it is clear to me that I was simply being used by him then to be discarded and left to ridicule.”

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Briatore and Symonds Leave Renault

September 16, 2009

Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds today left Renault after the team announced it would not be disputing the allegations that driver Nelson Piquet deliberately crashed at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix.

The Renault team issued a statement saying:

“The ING Renault F1 Team will not dispute the recent allegations made by the FIA concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

“It also wishes to state that its managing director, Flavio Briatore and its executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, have left the team.

“Before attending the hearing before the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 21 September 2009, the team will not make any further comment.”

Piquet’s crash resulted in a safety car, and as teammate Alonso had already pitted he was able to take the lead, and eventually win the race.

After Piquet was dropped from Renault following the Hungarian Grand Prix in July, it emerged that he had allegedly been told in a meeting with both Briatore and Symonds prior to the race, to cause the crash, where, and on what lap.

A statement made by Piquet, telemetry details and radio transmissions were leaked to the press at the Italian Grand Prix last weekend, which led to Renault’s announcement that it would take legal action against Piquet and his father.

Despite the fact both have left,  Renault will still appear in Paris on Monday, as it is the team who are charged with the race fixing allegations.

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Barrichello Heads Brawn 1-2 in Monza

September 13, 2009

Rubens Barrichello took two more points out of teammate Jenson Button’s championship lead this afternoon, taking victory in a tense Italian Grand Prix, that saw pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton ditch his McLaren on the final lap.

Hamilton took an early lead from pole, putting in fastest lap after fastest lap to pull out a comfortable lead over Kimi Raikkonen, who had snatched second off Adrian Sutil on the first lap. With the front three on a different strategy to the Brawns, Hamilton was the first to pit on lap 15, rejoining the track behind Barrichello and Button in 3rd and 4th respectively.

Lewis regained the lead after both Button and Barrichello pitted for their first and only scheduled stop of the afternoon on laps 28 and 29 respectively. On lap 34, Hamilton was in again having only managed to pull out a 16 second lead over Barrichello. He rejoined behind Button, and it was there that the fight for victory began.

Barrichello had it in the bag, with the one-stop strategy working in the Brawn team’s favour, and it was Button who needed to hold off the charging Hamilton. With the gap down to a second between the two Brits, Rubens had the victory in touching distance on the final lap, while an aggressive Hamilton, hungry to snatch back second, pushed too hard and dropped his McLaren on the exit of the first Lesmo, having just set the fastest time for the first sector, for the whole race.

Hamilton said of the incident: “Every lap I was pushing like a qualifying lap. I was pushing as hard as I could.” He apologised to the fans and to the team for the accident.

Martin Whitmarsh said that Lewis’s accident just showed his aggression to racing, pushing as hard as he could to gain second in the closing stages of the race.

It seemed Brawn chose the perfect strategy for both their drivers, as the two-stoppers of Hamilton, Raikkonen and Sutil, who had all qualified on the front two rows of the grid, failed to maintain their lead when it mattered. Barrichello said of his win: “It feels great, like I said on the lap after the chequered flag. I have no words.” He added: “The car was there all the time, and it felt great.”

Barrichello’s win edges him closer to Button in the drivers standings, with just 14 points now separating the two. Sebastian Vettel, who currently sits third in the standings, is twelve points behind Barrichello, managing to pick up a single point in eighth after Hamilton’s accident. Mark Webber remains fourth in the championship after his race finished on the first lap after a tap from Robert Kubica sent him sideways into the gravel trap.

Prior to the race there had been high hopes for Hamilton’s teammate Heikki Kovalainen, who fuel corrected, would have been on pole. However Heikki, who started fourth with a heavy fuel load, lost out to fifth place starter Barrichello at the beginning of the first lap, and a half a lap later lost fifth to Button in the second Lesmo corner. From there his afternoon remained rather quiet, and he finished sixth, bringing home just three points for the McLaren team.

Kimi Raikkonen filled the final step of the podium following Hamilton’s crash, finishing just ahead of Sutil. Fernando Alonso finished fifth ahead of Kovalainen in sixth, Nick Heidfeld in seventh and Sebastian Vettel in eighth.

As the European leg of the season draws to a close, all eyes are now on the Brawn boys for the final four races of the season. With Button maintaining a comfortable gap of 26 points to third place man Vettel, it is looking more likely that the title fight will be between Button and Barrichello.

 

The next race takes place on the flood-lit streets of Singapore, with qualifying on Saturday 26th September, and the race live on BBC One at 1pm on the 27th.

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Hamilton on Pole in Monza

September 12, 2009

Lewis Hamilton will start tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix from pole position after stealing the top spot from Adrian Sutil in the final moments of qualifying this afternoon.

The reigning world champion was on the pace throughout the whole of Q3, retaining the fastest time for most of the session. After Sutil momentarily went faster at the end of quali three, Hamilton put in a charge to go even faster and secure the top spot in 1:24.066, ahead of Sutil in the Force India, and Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari.

In terms of tomorrow’s race however, it remains to be seen who has the upper-hand, as the weights will confirm who is two-stopping and who is going for just one stop.

It looks likely that Hamilton will stop twice, while the Brawns of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button, in fifth and sixth respectively are set to stop just the once.

Hamilton’s teammate, Heikki Kovalainen will start in fourth, ahead of the Brawns, with Vitantonio Liuzzi, who is filling Giancarlo Fisichella’s seat in the second Force India, starting in seventh. Liuzzi, who has not raced in F1 for 2 years, managed to get into Q3, while Fisichella, who makes his debut at Ferrari this weekend, failed to get into the top ten shoot out, and will start in 14th.

Fernando Alonso, whose team has made the headlines throughout the weekend over Nelson Piquet’s crash in Singapore last year, will start in eighth, ahead of the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in ninth and tenth.

BMW got both their cars through to Q2, however, engine problems saw both Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica fail to finish the session. Kubica will start in 13th, with Heidfeld in 15th.

However, there is a slim possibility that pole-sitter Hamilton could get a penalty for impeding the Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi in Q1. Hamilton had been exiting the pits, while Buemi had the racing line going down to the first corner on a hot lap, however, Lewis failed to see the Toro Rosso, which meant the latter had to take the escape road. Buemi, who it is likely wouldn’t have made it through to Q2 anyway, will start in 19th, just ahead of teammate Jaime Alguersuari in 20th. Time will tell whether the stewards will take any further action.

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Fisi Joins Ferrari… Vettel Joins Twitter!

September 6, 2009

It’s been a busy few days in the F1 world. On Thursday it was announced that Giancarlo Fisichella would be taking over from Luca Badoer as Felipe Massa’s replacement at Ferrari. On Friday, Renault were summoned by the World Motor Sport Council over Nelson Piquet’s accident at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix. And then, last night, Sebastian Vettel became the latest F1 driver to join the growing phenomenon that is Twitter.

The announcement that Fisichella would be moving to Ferrari, from next weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, was revealed by the Force India team on Thursday, who released the Italian driver from his contract.

The team’s owner, Dr Vijay Mallya, said that Fisichella and his management had approached the team after it had become clear that Massa would not be returning to the Ferrari team until next season.

He said: “For any Italian driver, a Ferrari race seat is a long-held dream and for Giancarlo it was no exception. No one should stand in the way of this. Furthermore the agreement will secure Giancarlo’s long-term future with Ferrari and it will be incorrect to jeopardise this, particularly when Giancarlo has made such a vital contribution to Force India.”

Fisichella in turn said he was grateful to the team for releasing him to fulfil his ambition. He said: “It is true that it has always been an ambition to do this, and for Vijay to have allowed it to become a reality is very generous.” He added: “[Force India] are now a very competitive team and I wish them all the very best.”

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said that he chose Fisichella because he deserved it, and because he is an expert driver.

The switch came off the back of Ferrari’s first win of 2009 in Spa by Kimi Raikkonen, who led home the Force India of Fisichella.

It is expected that Vitantonio Liuzzi, who last drove in Formula One for Toro Rosso in 2007, will replace Fisichella at Force India, having been the team’s test driver.

On Friday, the WMSC summoned Renault to appear in court over charges that the team caused a deliberate crash during last year’s Singapore Grand Prix. It is alleged that Nelson Piquet’s crash, that brought out the safety car, aided Fernando Alonso to take the lead and eventually win the race. The allegations emerged shortly after Piquet was dropped from the team during the summer break, however it is uncertain as to whom divulged the information. The hearing is expected to be heard later this month.

So not only have the last few days been eventful for the F1 world, the drivers also seem to have something to occupy their time with: Twitter. The first driver to make an appearance a while back was Nelson Piquet, shortly followed by Rubens Barrichello. Both Brazilian drivers tweet in a mixture of Portuguese and English, with the latter providing F1 fans worldwide with updates on Felipe Massa’s condition after his crash in Hungary. The next driver to appear was Jenson Button who tweeted Rubens telling him “you converted me big guy!!”

But it was the appearance of @real_Vettel last night that got tweeting F1 fans excited. It was Jenson who helped to figure out whether it really was Sebastian Vettel, with the former asking questions to check his true identity, and the latter appearing to give the right answers. Within less than 24 hours Vettel has just under 1,000 followers.

What remains to be seen now, is whether any more drivers will join.