Archive for March, 2010

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Button Wins Action-Packed Australian GP

March 28, 2010

Jenson Button took his first victory of the season this morning, letting his rivals know they have a fight on their hands if they want to steal his crown.

The reigning world champion took an early gamble, changing his intermediate tyres to slicks on lap six, and while everyone thought it was a bad move, he proved he was a worthy champion when, after the rest of the front-runners pitted, he found himself in second, behind pole sitter, Sebastian Vettel.

Button said of his early pitstop: “It was the right call and I am happy I made it.” Of his first win with Mclaren he said: “It is very special.”

Button’s race started poorly, when contact in the first corner with Fernando Alonso saw the champion lose ground. Alonso came out worse off, spinning 180 degrees, being forced into last place. Michael Schumacher got caught up in the spin, and a broken front wing saw him take an early pitstop, and he spent the majority of his race at the back of the pack caught up behind Jaime Alguersuari.

A broken front wing for Kamui Kobayashi saw him slide off the track at turn three, collecting Nico Hulkenberg and bringing out the safety car. Sebastian Vettel led the way behind the safety car, with Felipe Massa, Mark Webber, Robert Kubica and Nico Rosberg rounding out the top five.

On lap four the safety car came in, and Button, who by that point was down to sixth, was forced to defend himself against teammate Lewis Hamilton, up in seventh from 11th on the grid. Hamilton made a brave move on Button, making it stick, and it wasn’t long after that, that Button pitted for slicks.

His outlap was hit and miss, running off into the gravel in the first sector, but setting the fastest time in sectors two and three. Massa, Kubica, Rosberg and Hamilton then pitted for slicks, leaving Vettel leading Webber, with Button down in 19th.

By the time the Red Bulls pitted on the next two laps, they lost ground. Vettel, who pitted first, was eventually able to hold onto the lead, while Webber slipped through the pack, eventually ending up behind Massa. By the time the mid field, who momentarily had hold of the lead, pitted, Button was back in the mix, second behind Vettel, with Kubica, Rosberg and Massa in third, fourth and fifth.

Hamilton found himself behind Rubens Barrichello momentarily, after getting held up in the pitlane while other cars passed his pitbox, but after passing Rubens he soon had Webber and Massa in his sights. Webber made his move on Massa for fifth on lap 16 in the first corner, and Hamilton seized the opportunity, taking Massa as well to line up Webber in turn three. When Webber ran wide into turn three, nearly colliding with a dicey Hamilton, Massa saw a gap and passed both drivers to reclaim fifth.

Hamilton was then forced to stare at the back of Massa’s Ferrari until lap 22 when he got into Massa’s slipstream, passing him into turn one, while appearing to lose a bit of his front wing. Alonso, who had made his way up to seventh, passing Webber when he ran wide on lap 16, also fancied a look at his teammate, but Webber saw a way through and passed the unsuspecting Ferrari.

Hamilton then charged on, catching and passing Rosberg for fourth on lap 26. It soon became third when Vettel’s race came to an end on the same lap, suffering with brake failure.

Webber and Rosberg were the first to pit for the second time on laps 33 and 34, putting them both back behind Massa and Alonso, with a considerable gap of around 20 seconds.

Hamilton was then left to hunt down Kubica for second, and was all over the back of the Renault when he was pitted unexpectedly for a fresh set of tyres on  lap 35. Had it not been for the stop, Hamilton may have joined Button at the front, fighting for the first position Button had inherited from Vettel, but it wasn’t to be, and with a fresh set of tyres, Lewis, in fifth with Webber behind in sixth, began gaining a second or two a lap on the Kubica-Massa-Alonso train. A 20 second gap soon became no gap at all, but Hamilton, caught in Alonso’s dirty air had problems trying to pass, as his tyres started falling apart. On lap 56, Hamilton saw his chance, but while making a move on Alonso into turn three, Webber braked too late sending Hamilton into a spin, sending himself off the track. Hamilton recovered, but Rosberg was already through, having caught up with the pair. Webber was forced to pit for a third time for a new front wing, while Button was free to start his final lap on his way to victory.

Kubica kept it together to cross the line in second, just ahead of Massa, Alonso and Rosberg, with Hamilton down in sixth.

The McLaren driver said of his race: “I had probably one of the drives of my life. I am happy with the job that I did. I drove my heart out today” Of his unscheduled stop he said: “The strategy was not right.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi crossed the line seventh, ahead of Barrichello, Webber and Schumacher in tenth.

Schumacher’s main rival for the race, Alguersuari, narrowly missed out on some points, finishing in 11th, with De la Rosa in 12th, Heikki Kovalainen once again finishing for Lotus in 13th, and Karun Chandhok finishing his first race for HRT in 14th.

Button’s win elevates him to third in the championship standings with 31 points, with Massa just ahead on 33. Alonso retains the lead on 37 points, while Hamilton drops to fourth with 23 points. Ferrari extend their lead in the constructors’ championship with 70 points, with McLaren just behind on 54 points.

The next race is next weekend, with qualifying on Saturday 3rd April, and the race live on BBC1 at 9am on Sunday 4th.

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Vettel Heads Red Bull 1-2 in Australia Qualifying

March 27, 2010

Sebastian Vettel scored his second pole position of the season in Australia this morning, topping the timesheets in all three rounds of qualifying and just pipping teammate Mark Webber by a tenth of a second.

The weather may have been dismal, but the young German was on fire, setting a time of 1:23.919. Webber had set the provisional time early on in Q3, but just four minutes in Vettel set the fastest first two sectors of anybody, and despite being on the ragged edge in the final sector, managed to edge ahead of his teammate, who had hoped to score pole in front of his home crowd.

Fernando Alonso, who snatched the win off Vettel last time out in Bahrain, set the third fastest time, with reigning champion Jenson Button completing the second row in fourth, even though the McLaren was three-quarters of a second off the pace of the Red Bull.

Button’s teammate, Lewis Hamilton, who had his Mercedes roadcar impounded last night after being pulled over by the Australian police for ‘over-exhuberant’ driving, failed to get into the top ten shoot-out, and will start tomorrow’s race from eleventh on the grid.

Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg make up the third row of the grid, with Massa fifth and Rosberg sixth, once again ahead of his seven-time world champion teammate, Michael Schumacher, who will start seventh. Schumacher’s former Ferrari teammate, Rubens Barrichello will start alongside him on row four, in eighth, while Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil round out the top ten in ninth and tenth respectively.

Hamilton set the fastest time of the Q2 drop-outs, ahead of Sebastien Buemi, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Pedro de la Rosa, Nico Hulkenberg, Kamui Kobayashi and Jaime Alguersuari in 12th down to 17th. Vitaly Petrov in the Renault joined the new teams, bowing out at the end of Q1. Heikki Kovalainen was the fastest of those drivers for Lotus, taking 19th, ahead of his teammate Jarno Trulli, who soldiered through Q1 with a loose seat. Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi will start 21st and 22nd for Virgin, with Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok on the back row of the grid for HRT.

Where a second or two used to cover the entire grid, it is spaced out even more this season, with three-quarters of a second between first and fourth, and the HRT team at the back of the grid, some seven seconds off the pace of the front runners during Q1.

The Australian Grand Prix is often one of the most exciting races of the season, with turns one and two normally claiming its victims early on. The weather could also play a part in the race, as rain may well have its say.

The race starts live on BBC1 at 7am tomorrow.

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Alonso Takes First Victory of 2010 for Ferrari

March 14, 2010

Fernando Alonso won his debut race for Ferrari at the Bahrain Grand Prix this afternoon, with teammate Felipe Massa making it a one-two for the team.

It had been Sebastian Vettel who had taken an early lead from pole position in the Red Bull, but exhaust problems for Vettel in the second half of the race enabled Alonso to pass him at the end of lap 34. Alonso had been biding his time up until that point and had managed to get the original 5 second gap Vettel had pulled out in the first stint, down to a second before finally making his move. Massa made his move into turn one on lap 35, and by the beginning of lap 38, Lewis Hamilton was also able to pass the German.

Alonso said of his race: “It was a special day for me. Coming back to the top of the podium is always special.” Referring to his first win for the Ferrari team, he said: “There is no better way to start the relationship.”

Alonso had made his first move of the race, passing Massa for second in the first corner. At the same time, Nico Rosberg, who started fifth for Mercedes, was able to pass Lewis Hamilton for fourth, after the McLaren driver ran wide trying to pass Massa into turn four for third. Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber, who had started sixth, fell back after a smoky first couple of corners and Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button were able to gain a place each from him, getting up to sixth and seventh, but Webber quickly claimed seventh back off Button.

In the first round of pitstops, after being held up by Rosberg, Hamilton was able to retake fourth, while Button was able to claim seventh back off Webber. With Vettel, Alonso and Massa then retaining their positions as the front three, it was then Hamilton who led Rosberg, Schumacher, Button and Webber into the second and final stint.

From there, things stayed pretty constant until Vettel’s problems began to persist and the Ferraris and Hamilton were able to pass. Rosberg was unable to pass Vettel in the last lap, despite closing the gap, and Vettel finally finished in fourth. Rosberg was able to continue his form for the weekend, remaining ahead of his seven-time world champion teammate, Schumacher, with the two finishing fifth and sixth respectively. Button was able to keep Schumacher firmly in his sights throughout the race, but unable to pass the German, the reigning champion had to settle for seventh overall. Despite Adrian Sutil and Robert Kubica qualifying in the top ten, both fell back down the pack in the opening stage of the race, and it was Vitantonio Liuzzi and Rubens Barrichello who were the last of the points scorers in ninth and tenth respectively.

Further down the pack, and out of the three new teams, Lotus were the only one who were able to finish the race, with Heikki Kovalainen finishing 15th, and Jarno Trulli 16th, both keeping their laptimes to within three seconds of the frontrunners at times. Karun Chandhok was the first retiree in the HRT, while Bruno Senna retired with a sick engine later on. Lucas di Grassi and Timo Glock failed to finish for Virgin, while Kamui Kobayashi, Vitaly Petrov, Pedro de la Rosa and Sebastien Buemi were the other retirees of the race.

Alonso’s impressive win on his debut for Ferrari sees him take 25 points, with Massa taking 18. The two together put the Ferrari team in a strong position in the constructors’ championship early on, with the team taking a maximum 43 points. McLaren take 21 points from Hamilton and Button’s third and seventh positions, with a solid fifth and sixth for Mercedes putting them third on the constructors table with 18 points, with Red Bull just behind on 16.

The Australian Grand Prix is in two weeks time, with qualifying on Saturday 27th March at 6am (GMT), and the race live on BBC1 at 7am on Sunday 28th.

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Vettel on Pole for First Race of 2010

March 13, 2010

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel will start the first race of 2010 from pole position after showing impressive pace in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix this afternoon.

Felipe Massa will start alongside Vettel, with Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton making up the second row of the grid. Reigning champion Jenson Button starts eighth, while seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher starts his first race since 2006 in seventh.

Vettel proved he had the pace throughout qualifying, setting the fastest time for the whole session in Q2, and qualifying with a 1:54.101. Massa made an impressive return to the sport following his accident in Hungary last year, setting a time a tenth off the pace of Vettel, and four tenths of a second faster than teammate Alonso, who many expected would outshine the Brazilian.

Nico Rosberg continued to set faster lap times than his Mercedes teammate Schumacher, setting the fifth fastest time to start directly in front of the German. Mark Webber lines up alongside Rosberg, with Schumacher and Button on row four. Robert Kubica set the fastest time for Renault in ninth, with Adrian Sutil rounding out the top ten for Force India.

Rubens Barrichello will start his first race for Williams in 11th, with Vitantonio Liuzzi alongside, and teammate Nico Hulkenberg directly behind him. Pedro de la Rosa, who makes his return to a race seat from his test seat at McLaren, will start in 14th, with Sebastian Buemi, Kamui Kobayashi and Vitaly Petrov in 15th, 16th and 17th, after all having participated in Q2.

Unsurprisingly, the three new teams were the first out in Q1. Timo Glock set the fastest time of the new teams and will start 19th for Virgin. Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen will start from 20th and 21st for Lotus, with Lucas di Grassi in the second Virgin in 22nd. Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok will start on the back row in the two HRTs, with Chandhok finally getting some track time after failing to do any runs in any of the three practice sessions. Jaime Alguersuari was the first driver of the 2009 teams to fail to make Q2, and will start in 18th.

The race starts at 12pm on BBC1 tomorrow.

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Welcome to the 2010 Season

March 12, 2010

After four and a half months without it, Formula One returned to our screens today, with the first two practice sessions for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Adrian Sutil was the first to top the timesheets for Force India in Practice One, while Nico Rosberg posted the fastest time in Practice Two for the newly-named Mercedes team and reigning constructors champions.

So while the season kicks off this weekend, what has changed, who’s who on the grid, and what is the first controversy of 2010?

BMW Sauber were the first to announce mid-way through the 2009 season that they would be leaving Formula One. Soon after came Toyota’s decision to follow suit and quit the sport. Then came the 2009 world champion’s switch to McLaren, and after weeks of where will Kimi Raikkonen go now Fernando Alonso has taken his seat at Ferrari, the 2007 world champion announced a sabbatical from the sport. And that was all in the midst of digesting the new 2010 rules and regulations. But what happened to last year’s teams and drivers? Here’s a quick recap…

– Despite BMW’s planned exit from the world of Formula One, the team were eventually taken over, and returning to the sport under the wing of Peter Sauber once more, the team were pulled from the precipice, and with the exit of Robert Kubica to Renault, Pedro de la Rosa was confirmed as the veteran driver for the team after making a return to a race seat, with Kamui Kobayashi, who impressed at Toyota in the last two rounds of 2009, replacing Nick Heidfeld. Heidfeld is now a reserve driver for the newly-named Mercedes team.

– Toyota pulled out of the sport at the end of the 2009 season, and it was, as it were, replaced by not one, not even two, but three new teams. The Lotus name makes its return to Formula One, and Richard Branson and the new Virgin Racing team join the grid. HRT (Hispania Racing Team), despite no pre-season testing, head to Bahrain for this weekend’s race, rounding off the three new teams.

– Brawn GP came back from nowhere at the beginning of 2009 to take both the drivers and constructors titles after an impressive season, and in fact it was so impressive, German car manufacturer, Mercedes, ended their partnership with McLaren taking a 75% ownership of the Brawn team, which was quickly remained. The team, having parted company with both Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, signed Nico Rosberg, and eventually delighted fans when they announced their second driver would be none other than seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.

– Button departed Brawn for McLaren to team up alongside fellow Brit, and 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton. The new all-British team with its back-to-back world champions meant that Kimi Raikkonen, who had been looking at signing with McLaren, after parting with Ferrari, was left with no race seat, and he eventually announced he would be leaving F1 for rallying.

– Fernando Alonso was confirmed as Raikkonen’s replacement at Ferrari before the end of the 2009 season, and he begins his quest for his third title alongside Felipe Massa, who returns to the driving seat for the first time since his horrific accident in Hungary last season.

– Fernando’s old seat at Renault was given to Robert Kubica, while Alonso’s former teammate, Romain Grosjean, leaves the sport to be replaced by Russian Vitaly Petrov.

– Button’s former teammate, Barrichello made a straight-forward swap with Rosberg, leaving Brawn for the Williams team. GP2 winner, Nico Hulkenberg joins the veteran at the team, making a step up to an F1 race seat.

– For Force India, Red Bull and Toro Rosso, not much has changed between the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi return for Force India, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber remain at Red Bull, and Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari stick with Toro Rosso.

– In the three new teams, Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen join Lotus, while Timo Glock joins Virgin with newcomer Lucas di Grassi. At HRT, Ayrton Senna’s nephew returns the Senna name to F1, with Karun Chandhok taking the last confirmed race seat for 2010.

– With the mixture of old faces returning, and the new faces joining F1 for 2010, several of last year’s drivers have either left the sport or stepped down from their race seat to become reserve drivers. Raikkonen, Grosjean, and Kazuki Nakajima have all left the sport, while Heidfeld joins Mercedes from BMW as a reserve driver, and Giancarlo Fisichella takes up his post as reserve driver for Ferrari.

So that’s the teams and driver changes for 2010. Other changes this season see the return of the refuelling ban and an amendment to the points system, among other things. The refuelling ban has posed the biggest problem for teams as it has meant changing other parts of their cars. As well as the larger fuel tanks, and the extra race fuel, the brakes and the tyres have to be taken care of, particularly in the early stages of the race when the drivers will have more weight as they brake to slow down the cars.

A change to the points system means the top ten finishers will be awarded points, with the winner taking 25 points, the second-placed driver taking 18, third 15, fourth 12, and fifth down to ninth, ten, eight, six, four and two points, with the tenth place finisher taking one point.

And then for the first controversy of 2010. McLaren are at the heart of the latest debate, with their rear wing design being called into question. The air vent, which stalls the rear wing and increases straight-line speed, has been confirmed to be legal by the FIA, but some of the teams are still unsure about the design. A change to the regulations and the introduction of homologated parts means it will be hard and very costly for the other teams to create a similar design to keep them in line with McLaren. As the rest of the weekend develops, expect to see this controversy continue…

For now, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes all look to be in a good position for the first pole and first win of the season. Button and Hamilton finished FP1 in fifth and sixth respectively, with Hamilton second and Button fourth in FP2. Alonso and Massa featured highly in the top ten in both sessions, while Rosberg was faster than teammate Schumacher in both, finishing fastest in FP2, with Schumacher in third.

The third practice session begins at 8am (GMT) on the BBC Red Button tomorrow, with qualifying on BBC1 at 11am (GMT), and the race at midday on Sunday.