Archive for October, 2009

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Hamilton on Pole for Last Race of the Season

October 31, 2009

Lewis Hamilton took the final pole of the season in qualifying at Abu Dhabi this afternoon, while Jenson Button, the new 2009 world champion set the fifth fastest time ahead of tomorrow’s race.

Hamilton set the fastest lap times in all three rounds of qualifying, showing the McLaren is in a class of its own this weekend at the brand new Yas Marina circuit. He finished the final session with a time of 1:40.948, 0.7 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel who will start alongside him on the grid.

Vettel will be aiming to come away with more points than Rubens Barrichello tomorrow in order for him to secure second in this year’s world drivers’ championship. Barrichello will start tomorrow’s race from fourth, alongside third-placed Mark Webber, on the second row of the grid, and ahead of Jenson Button in fifth in his first race after securing the title.

Kimi Raikkonen will start his last race for Ferrari from 11th after just missing out on the top ten shoot out, Heikki Kovalainen will start what could possibly be his last race for McLaren from 13th after he stopped out on track during Q2 with suspected gearbox problems. Fernando Alonso starts his last race for Renault before his move to Ferrari from 16th, while Giancarlo Fisichella will start what is likely to be his last F1 race in 20th after another poor qualifying session.

With the focus now on who can finish where in the standings for the season, with all being well in tomorrow’s race, Hamilton looks likely to secure fifth in the drivers’ standings over Raikkonen, while McLaren look set to take third from Ferrari in the constructors’, after a difficult season for both teams.

Tomorrow’s race is also set to be F1’s first ‘twilight race’, starting in daylight and finishing under flood lights. The new circuit is set to end the season on a high, with Hamilton and his KERS-equipped McLaren looking good to take the last win.

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Button 2009 World Champion as Webber Wins in Brazil

October 18, 2009

Jenson Button drove like a champion in this afternoon’s Brazilian Grand Prix to be crowned Formula One World Champion 2009, with Mark Webber taking victory.

Button held it together, putting in some impressive overtaking manoeuvres to prove that he is the worthy champion of the season. While a first lap collision saw the end of Jarno Trulli, Adrian Sutil and Fernando Alonso’s races, Button held his nerve to take the championship with one race left to the season.

Button, who sang Queen’s We Are the Champions over the radio at the end of the race, said: “It is amazing. After the last few races I’ve had this one make up for it and I am world champion baby!” He added: “I never expected to be world champion in F1. We have done it today!”

An emotional Ross Brawn said of Button’s performance: “He had a great race. He knew what he had to do.” He said that it still had to sink in.

And when you look back to just weeks before the start of the season when Honda pulled out of F1 with it looking like Button and teammate Rubens Barrichello would not make the grid in Australia, it is amazing just what the Brawn team have achieved, taking both the drivers’ and the constructors’ title in the same weekend. But at the start of the race it didn’t look hopeful for Button, as with Barrichello on pole it seemed likely the title would go down to the last race in Abu Dhabi in two weeks time.

The Senna ‘S’ on the first lap normally always claims its victims, but everyone got round in one piece, with the hairiest moment being Heikki Kovalainen tripping up and very nearly collecting Giancarlo Fisichella as he went into a spin. But the first lap carnage came after turn five, when Trulli and Sutil collided sending Trulli to the left, and Sutil over the grass to the right, collecting Fernando Alonso as he came back across the track.

Contact between Kimi Raikkonen and Sutil in the first few corners saw damage to Raikkonen’s front wing, and the Finn was soon being passed on track. As the safety car came out, Lewis Hamilton, who had started 17th, pitted, with McLaren switching him to a one-stop strategy. But it was Kovalainen’s stop that caused havoc in the pitlane, as he drove away with his fuel hose attached, spilling fuel, which ignited in Raikkonen’s face as he drove out of his pitbox and down the pitlane behind Heikki. Fortunately, both were able to make a getaway, with the Brawn mechanics releasing Kovalainen’s hose.

At the restart the champion came alive in Button, and while it was Barrichello who had the lead, it was Button making the moves, passing Romain Grosjean on the first lap after the restart, and Kazuki Nakajima on the second. It took him longer to pass rookie Kamui Kobayashi, who stands in for Timo Glock at Toyota after his crash in Suzuka two weeks ago, but after pulling an impressive move into the first corner a bit later in the race, it was all about holding his nerve and bringing it home.

After the first round of pitstops, it was clear Barrichello had lost out, with both second and third placed Webber and Robert Kubica leapfrogging him. With Hamilton one stopping, Barrichello needed to stay in third for six world championship points, with Button no higher than eighth to keep his title hopes alive. But after Barrichello’s second stop, Hamilton soon caught the Brawn driver and passed him for third. Contact between the two resulted in a right rear puncture for Rubens and he had to pit for a third time, and he could manage no higher than eighth and one world championship point.

Going into the race, Sebastian Vettel had been a contender for the title, and having started 15th, just behind Button, Red Bull were hoping for a clean getaway, through the first few corners, but with a safety car to shake things up a bit. That was what they got, and while Webber stormed to victory with a solid performance, Vettel put in a solid drive to finish fourth, to take second in the drivers’ standings with one race to go.

While the champagne is set to flow for Button and Brawn after taking the title, Mark Webber deserves praise for his impressive victory, his second of the season. The Australian driver was able to leapfrog Barrichello in the first round of  pitstops, and after pitting later than his rivals, he was able to maintain the lead as he exited the pits following his first stop. He produced a faultless drive, finishing ahead of Robert Kubica and Lewis Hamilton. Vettel came through in fourth ahead of the new champion Button in fifth. Despite his first lap woes, Raikkonen came through in sixth ahead of Sebastien Buemi in seventh, and Barrichello in eighth.

Less lucky, Nick Heidfeld ran out of fuel on the track shortly after his first stop, where his fuel rig failed to put fuel into the car, Nico Rosberg retired with gearbox failure, and Kazuki Nakajima went flying off the track at turn four after contact with Kobayashi.

While Button cannot be toppled from the top spot in the championship, second is left to decide, with Vettel now just ahead of Barrichello. Hamilton now sits in fifth behind Webber, having taken a point out of Raikkonen. In the constructors’ championship, while Brawn and Red Bull have secured first and second, McLaren have now snatched third from Ferrari. But with the last round in Abu Dhabi being somewhat of an unknown, anything could happen before the season draws to a close.

 

The next race is in two weeks, with qualifying on Saturday 31st October and the race live on BBC One at 1pm on Sunday 1st November.

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Pole for Barrichello, Rain Puts Button 14th

October 17, 2009

Rubens Barrichello took pole in a qualifying session which lasted over two and a half hours, after storms suspended both Q1 and Q2 in Brazil today.

Qualifying two weeks ago in Japan was eventful, and qualifying for tomorrow’s Brazilian Grand Prix was just as eventful, with Giancarlo Fisichella aquaplaning at turn two bringing out the red flag early on in Q1, Sebastian Vettel failing to get to Q2, along with Lewis Hamilton who had a spin at turn five. When Q2 finally started, it was Vitantonio Liuzzi’s crash along the pit straight that saw the second red flag of the afternoon, that stopped the clock for over an hour.

It was Jenson Button who lost out in Q2 when it finally got under way, as when the track started to dry out he struggled, failing to put in a fast enough time to get into the top ten shoot out, and he will start tomorrow’s race in 14th.

But while the rain had the biggest say of the day, it was Barrichello who shone through taking pole as the clock stopped in Q3. It looked like it could have been Mark Webber’s, even Jarno Trulli and Nico Rosberg looked like they could snatch the pole as the track dried out and their lap times got faster, but it was Rubens who delivered in front of his home crowd.

With Button down in 14th, and Vettel down in 16th, it is looking like the championship will be thrown wide open tomorrow, ahead of the last round in Abu Dhabi in two weeks time. All Barrichello needs is five points more than Jenson to keep his hopes alive going into the final round. If they stay where they are, and Barrichello wins, with Button out of the points, there will be just four points between them.

Vettel will need to put in the performance of his life tomorrow to be in with a chance in Abu Dhabi, but it is now looking more and more likely it is just about the two teammates.

The only question is, will it rain tomorrow? And if it does, can Barrichello keep it together when it matters?

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Renault Confirm Kubica

October 7, 2009

Renault have confirmed Robert Kubica will be joining the team from 2010.

The 24-year-old Pole will replace Fernando Alonso, who will join Ferrari, at the French team.

Kubica first tested in F1 for Renault in 2005, and after joining BMW Sauber as a test driver in 2006, he made his Grand Prix debut in Hungary that year, and has driven for the team since, collecting eight podiums, one pole position, a race win and 129 points.

 

For the full story, see my report on thecheckeredflag.co.uk.

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Vettel Wins in Suzuka and Reels in Brawn

October 4, 2009

Sebastian Vettel dominated this morning’s Japanese Grand Prix, taking victory to keep his championship hopes alive.

Vettel now trails Jenson Button in the fight for the drivers’ title by 16 points as a result of his win, and the gap to second placed Rubens Barrichello is down to just two points, with two races remaining.

The German driver got a clean getaway, and while Lewis Hamilton tried to have a look around the outside going into the first corner, from third on the grid, Vettel managed to maintain his position to take an early lead. 

Hamilton managed to get past Jarno Trulli, but after his second stop, Trulli was able to claim back the place, after Hamilton struggled with his gearbox exiting the pits, and later had a problem with KERS. The two finished where they started in second and third.

The championship leader, who started from tenth, had a poor start, and brought home only a single point, after an error from Adrian Sutil enabled him to pass not only the Force India, but Heikki Kovalainen’s McLaren as well. The incident saw Sutil spinning in the final chicane after contact with Kovalainen while trying to overtake.

Championship contender, Barrichello, who started the race from sixth, managed to maintain his position, until with just laps to go, the safety car was deployed following Jaime Alguersuari’s crash into the tyre wall at 130R, and Nico Rosberg managed to leapfrog the Brawn driver during his pitstop.

Button claimed after the race that Rosberg was speeding under safety car conditions, therefore breaking the rules. By doing so, both Button and Barrichello as well as Nick Heidfeld were leapfrogged by the Williams driver. After the race the stewards met to decide if Rosberg should receive a penalty, which would have been likely to demote him from fifth, and out of the points paying positions, meaning Barrichello would move up in the standings from a seventh place finish to sixth, with Button up to seventh. The outcome, would have also seen Brawn take the Constructors’ title, as the Brackley-based team now only need half a point to secure it over Red Bull. The stewards decided not to penalise the German driver.

Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth in the Ferrari, with Rosberg behind in fifth. Nick Heidfeld finished sixth, ahead of the two Brawns. Robert Kubica narrowly missed out on a point, finishing just behind Button. The BMW driver put pressure on the championship leader in the final few laps after the safety car came in, but was unable to make a pass.

Fernando Alonso finished in tenth, with Heikki Kovalainen 11th, ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella. The two had been wheel-to-wheel exiting the pits from their second stop.

While the race wasn’t as action-packed as qualifying, where four crashes resulted in three red flags and a yellow flag, the result means that going into Brazil the fight for the drivers’ championship is very much still on, with 14 points between Button and Barrichello. What is certain is that Brawn now only need half a point to secure the constructors’ title, and that is most likely to happen at the penultimate race in Brazil.

 

The next race is in Brazil in two weeks time, with qualifying on Saturday 17th October, and the race live on BBC One on Sunday 18th at 5pm.

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Revised Japanese GP Grid

October 3, 2009

Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button are just two of the drivers who have been handed a five-place grid penalty for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix after failing to lift under yellow flags.

The penalties were awarded after both Brawn drivers passed the yellow flags telling drivers to slow down following Sebasten Buemi’s shunt with the barriers on the exit of the Spoon curve in this morning’s qualifying session. Both drivers had been on their sole flying lap of Q2 after two previous red flags had meant they had not been able to get a time on the board beforehand, and both needed to record a time for a chance to make it into Q3.

Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Renault’s Fernando Alonso also received penalties for the same thing, while Buemi was issued with a penalty for continuing back to the pits after the incident.

McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen will drop five places after a gearbox change, and Toyota’s Timo Glock will start from the pitlane after a change to his chassis, if indeed he starts at all.

Meanwhile, polesitter Sebastian Vettel is heavier than second and third place starters Jarno Trulli and Lewis Hamilton.

After what can only be described as a crazy qualifying session, the revised grid is expected to be as follows:

1. Sebastian Vettel, 2. Jarno Trulli, 3. Lewis Hamilton, 4. Nick Heidfeld, 5. Kimi Raikkonen, 6. Nico Rosberg, 7. Robert Kubica, 8. Adrian Sutil, 9. Rubens Barrichello, 10. Jaime Alguersuari, 11. Jenson Button, 12. Giancarlo Fisichella, 13. Heikki Kovalainen, 14. Sebastien Buemi, 15. Kazuki Nakajima, 16. Romain Grosjean, 17. Fernando Alonso, 18. Vitantonio Liuzzi, 19. Timo Glock, 20. Mark Webber.

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Vettel on Pole After Disrupted Suzuka Quali

October 3, 2009

Sebastian Vettel took pole in this morning’s disrupted qualifying session for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix, where three drivers’ efforts saw them in the tyre wall.

Timo Glock’s crash at the start of the pit straight was the most worrying of the three incidents, with the Toyota driver eventually being airlifted to hospital with a wound to his left leg. The incident was the second to bring out the red flag in Q2, the first being the result of Jaime Alguersuari crashing into the tyre wall at Degner Two. Heikki Kovalainen brought out the third red flag, this time in Q3, again, sliding off the track at Degner Two.

As well as the three red flagged incidents, Alguersuari’s teammate Sebastien Buemi was also in the wars, just about managing to recover his Toro Rosso after a tap with the tyre wall at the infamous Degner in Q1. A rear wing change later, and Buemi posted the fourth fastest time in the first session, but after running wide exiting the Spoon curve in Q2, and dragging his Toro Rosso along the barriers, his car was too damaged to take part in Q3.

After Kovalainen’s accident was cleared, early on in Q3, Vettel posted the fastest time of 1:32.160, to take pole position, with Jarno Trulli second fastest in the Toyota. Last weekend’s pole sitter and race winner, Lewis Hamilton, will start in third, with Adrian Sutil completing the second row. Rubens Barrichello set a faster time than teammate and championship leader, Jenson Button, qualifying in fifth, with Button directly behind him in seventh, with the BMW of Nick Heidfeld between the two. Kimi Raikkonen was the slowest of the eight to post a time in Q3, with Kovalainen and Buemi both out as a result of their crashes.

After being checked over by medics, Alguersuari is fit to take his place in 15th on tomorrow’s grid. It is unknown whether Glock, who qualified 14th, will race tomorrow, and it is expected that Toyota will make an announcement in the morning. Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso and Robert Kubica were the three who missed out on the top ten shoot out following the restart of Q2, and they will start 11th, 12th and 13th respectively. However, after both Brawns set their fastest Q2 lap times under yellow flags, Alonso said after the session that he expects to start higher up, as under yellow flag conditions, you are expected to slow down. However, neither Brawn driver had posted a time to get through to Q3, and as the session had already finished, both drivers continued their pace.

While Vettel grabbed pole for Red Bull, at a race which is crucial for his world championship chances, his teammate Mark Webber was unable to qualify, after a shunt at Degner Two in third practice earlier in the morning, left his car needing a complete re-build. Webber will start tomorrow’s race from the pitlane.

With the amount of crashes the Suzuka circuit has seen this weekend, along with the rain which fell throughout free practice on Friday, hindering the amount of time the teams had on track, tomorrow’s race is looking like it may well be as eventful as qualifying. With Button needing only five points more than Barrichello to secure the drivers’ title, you wouldn’t want to miss it, as, as qualifying proved, anything can happen.

For UK viewers, the race starts at 6am tomorrow morning on BBC One.