Archive for April, 2010

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Button Heads McLaren 1-2 in Rainy China

April 18, 2010

Jenson Button became the first driver to take a double win in 2010, making a tyre call early on that would see him in control of the race, leading home his McLaren teammate in a wet Chinese Grand Prix.

There was plenty of action once again this year, and before the lights even went out, Fernando Alonso was jumping the start. His over-eagerness enabled him to get around Sebastian Vettel, while Mark Webber made a quick move past his teammate, but ultimately lost out to Alonso’s jump-start as well.

A safety car was soon to follow after Vitantonio Liuzzi, Kamui Kobayashi and Sebastien Buemi crashed at turn three, and the front-runners, bar Nico Rosberg, Button, Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov who made the call to stay out on slicks, came in for intermediate tyres. Alonso was among those stopping, but he was soon handed a drive-through penalty for jumping the start. In the meantime, Rosberg led the way on the slick tyres, while teammate Michael Schumacher, who had been among those who pitted for intermediates earlier on, began struggling, and was forced to pit once more for a fresh set of slicks. Schumacher was the first of several drivers who had to pit again, proving Rosberg and Button had made the right tyre choice.

By lap 6, Hamilton and Vettel found themselves losing time on the intermediate tyres, and both drivers raced into the pitlane, nose to tail, for a fresh set of slicks. But it was on their release from their pitboxes that became the most talked about incident after the race. Both were released within a second of each other, and it was Hamilton who ended up side-by-side with Vettel. The two fought their way down the pitlane, with Vettel nudging Hamilton, who was on the inside, between the slow lane and the fast lane, towards the mechanics. Hamilton eventually backed off, and Vettel exited the pitlane ahead of the McLaren driver. Both drivers were later reprimanded for the incident, narrowly escaping a post-race penalty.

While Rosberg maintained his lead, Vettel and Hamilton were left fighting their way through the pack. On lap eight, both drivers made their move on Rubens Barrichello, and by lap ten, Hamilton passed Webber on the back straight. On lap 11 Vettel passed Heikki Kovalainen in the Lotus. The Finn had spent the last couple of laps going backwards, having previously got up to sixth by lap nine. Hamilton made his move on his former teammate into turns one and two on lap 12, and Webber soon followed. On lap 13, Vettel was busy making a pass on Adrian Sutil, when Hamilton saw a way through, diving up the inside at the hairpin of turn 14, taking both Vettel and Sutil. Vettel eventually made the move on Sutil stick, while Hamilton continued to make a move, chasing down seven-time champion, Schumacher.

By lap 17, after two laps of trying to pass Schumacher at the hairpin, Hamilton made another attempt to get past the Mercedes driver, and although Schumacher tried to defend for the third time, Hamilton was able to get past after the German ran wide. Vettel and Webber were next on the attack, both successfully managing to pass Schumacher, sending the seven-time champion backwards through the pack.

On lap 19, after Rosberg ran off the track, Button was able to make a move to take the lead of the race. Rain began to fall, and by lap 20 cars began pitting for intermediates. Hamilton and Vettel came in on lap 21, with race-leader Button in a lap later.

Following contact with Bruno Senna on lap 21, Jaime Alguersuari suffered a broken front wing on his way into the pits for intermediates. The Spanish driver’s wing was already suffering when he clipped the kerb causing the wing to disappear under the car. The on-track incident between Alguersuari and Senna saw left-over debris on the track, and the second safety car of the race was deployed.

The restart came a few laps later, and it was Button left in charge as the safety car dived back into the pits at the end of lap 25. Button slowed right down at the hairpin of turn 14, causing the pack to bunch up, sending Hamilton slightly wide. By the last corner, after passing the first safety car line, Hamilton had Vettel all over the back of his McLaren, and Hamilton ended up pushing Webber wide. Both the Red Bulls lost ground, while Button led the way from Rosberg, Hamilton was left to make yet another move on Schumacher, who having pitted earlier than the McLaren and the two Red Bull drivers, had managed to make ground. Hamilton saw the opportunity into turn eight, and dived up the inside passing the German for fifth. A lap later and he passed Petrov in the same way, and next in his sights was Kubica in third. He didn’t have to wait long, passing the Renault driver at the hairpin on lap 30.

Button continued to build a gap between himself and Rosberg in second, and was some five seconds ahead of the young German. Hamilton tried to pass Rosberg on lap 36, but failed to make his turn eight manoeuvre work, and he pitted for a fresh set of intermediates on lap 37. Button and Rosberg pitted from the front a lap later, and while Button maintained his lead, Rosberg lost out, exiting the pits behind Hamilton who had made his way up to second.

As the last 20 laps played out, both Hamilton and Button’s tyres began to wear out. Hamilton was the first to complain, and after Button locked both front wheels into the hairpin on lap 52, it was obvious he was struggling too. Both battled on, and Button’s lock-up meant Hamilton was able to pull the ten second gap down to just 2. 6 seconds in the closing laps.

Button eventually crossed the line 1.5 seconds ahead of Hamilton, and the win, his second of the second elevates him to the top of the drivers’ standings with 60 points. Rosberg’s third-place finish sees him second in the standings on 50 points, with Hamilton just behind on 49. Alonso gained the most from the two safety cars, and despite his jump-start and drive-through penalty, he managed to finish fourth, pulling him level in the championship standings with Hamilton on 49 points. Kubica finished yet another successful race for Renault in fifth, with Vettel sixth, and Petrov seventh after a pass on Schumacher in the closing laps of the race. Webber finished eighth, ahead of Massa in ninth. Schumacher rounded out the top ten points-scorers in tenth. For the rest of the pack, Sutil finished 11th, with Barrichello in 12th, Alguersuari 13th, Kovalainen 14th, Nico Hulkenberg 15th, and Senna and Karun Chandhok 16th and 17th. Jarno Trulli, Lucas di Grassi, Pedro de la Rosa, Buemi, Kobayashi and Liuzzi all failed to finish.

For the fourth race in a row this season, the pole sitter has failed to turn his pole into victory, and Vettel now sits fifth in the standings on 45, with Massa sixth on 41, Kubica seventh on 40, and Webber eighth on 28. Schumacher and Sutil both have ten points, with the seven-time champion having failed to take substantial points for the fourth race in a row. In the constructors standings, McLaren’s one-two has put them ahead on 109 points, with Ferrari on 90, Red Bull on 73, Mercedes on 60 and Renault on 46.

The European season begins in three weeks time with the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona on the 9th May.

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Vettel on Pole Again in 2010, in China

April 17, 2010

Sebastian Vettel took yet another pole today in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix, when it had been looking like McLaren were going to be hard to beat.

Lewis Hamilton had been fastest in Q1 and Q2, but it was the Red Bulls who stole the front row yet again in Q3, with Vettel and teammate Mark Webber showing the Red Bull’s pure qualifying pace.

The usual suspects were eliminated in Q1, with Vitantonio Liuzzi the first out of the old teams in the Force India in 18th, joining Timo Glock, Jarno Trulli, Heikki Kovalainen, Lucas di Grassi, Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna down in 19th down to 24th respectively.

Pedro de la Rosa, Kamui Kobayashi and Liuzzi were trading the last of Q1’s dropout places, but it was Liuzzi who was left unable to improve. De la Rosa will start just ahead of the Force India after finishing Q2 the slowest. Nico Hulkenberg splits the Saubers of De la Rosa and Kobayashi, dropping out in 16th. Rubens Barrichello was the fastest of the Q2 dropouts in 11th, ahead of Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi, Vitaly Petrov and Kobayashi in 12th to 15th respectively.

Lewis Hamilton was fastest in Q1 and Q2, but by Q3, Vettel looked like he had found that something special. His time of 1:34.558, was two tenths faster than teammate Webber. Fernando Alonso will start third, with Nico Rosberg in fourth, once again out-qualifing teammate Michael Schumacher. Jenson Button will start ahead of Hamilton, the two McLarens fifth and sixth. Championship leader, Felipe Massa, will start down in seventh, ahead of Robert Kubica in eighth. Michael Schumacher starts down in ninth, having narrowly made Q3, with Adrian Sutil in tenth.

Tomorrow’s race promises to be exciting, with Hamilton once again looking likely to be on a charge. With a 50% chance of rain, we may end up with another Chinese Grand Prix like last year, and Vettel may become the first double winner at the circuit.

But as ever, anything can happen, and Vettel will be heading into the long corner of turn one hoping to retain his lead when the lights go out.

The race begins tomorrow morning at 8am on BBC1.

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Vettel Wins in Malaysia, Hamilton Steals the Show

April 4, 2010

Sebastian Vettel finally won his first Grand Prix of the season in Malaysia today, but it was Lewis Hamilton who stole the show, charging from 20th on the grid to finish 6th.

The predicted rain failed to fall and Vettel’s usual reliability problems were kept at bay, as he led teammate Mark Webber home for a Red Bull one-two.

Vettel made a charge from third on the grid, passing both Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, and Webber into turn one. Webber challenged Vettel into turn two, but Vettel kept it together and stormed into the lead.

Meanwhile, the two McLarens and two Ferraris, who started at the back of the grid after being caught out in the rain in qualifying, made their way through the field, with Hamilton making a charge from 20th to an early 12th on the first lap, and then passing a car per lap over the next four laps of the race.

While the Red Bulls headed off into the distance, leading Nico Rosberg and Robert Kubica, Hamilton was left making the moves. Making eight places off the start, he went on to pass Sebastien Buemi at the start of lap two, Jaime Alguersuari on lap three, and Kamui Kobayashi on lap four.

After Hamilton made his move on Buemi on lap two, it was Felipe Massa’s turn, but the Ferrari driver lost ground, and Jenson Button was able to pile on the pressure. However, Massa was able to keep the McLaren at bay, and eventually it was  Button who lost out to Fernando Alonso.

At the end of lap five, Hamilton had Vitaly Petrov lined up, and after the Renault ran wide into turn 15, Hamilton was able to make his move, but it wasn’t for long, as Petrov reclaimed ninth from Hamilton into turn one. Hamilton made the move stick soon after, but received a warning for weaving while trying to defend his position to Petrov. Hamilton was soon on the back of Vitantonio Liuzzi and Nico Hulkenberg, but didn’t need to worry as Liuzzi slowed, retiring from the race, and Hulkenberg eventually pitted.

Button made an early pitstop on lap ten, changing his soft tyres for the harder compound, while Michael Schumacher found himself taking an early retirement with a possible wheel nut problem.

By lap 13 Vettel was leading the way, with Webber second, Rosberg third, Kubica fourth, Adrian Sutil fifth, Nico Hulkenberg sixth, and Hamilton up to seventh. Hulkenberg and Petrov pitted not long after for a fresh set of hard tyres, allowing Hamilton through to sixth. The McLaren driver then started hunting down Sutil, and eventually found himself third after Rosberg, Kubica and Sutil all pitted.

On lap 23 it was Vettel’s turn to stop for a fresh set of tyres, gifting the lead to Webber, and narrowly making it out in front of Hamilton. Webber was next to pit, but a problem with the front right wheel nut cost him a couple of seconds, allowing Hamilton into second.

Meanwhile, Button, on his new, harder set of tyres, was taking around a second per lap out of both the Ferraris and Hamilton ahead of him. Button was guaranteed to leapfrog the Ferraris when they pitted, but it was touch and go with teammate Hamilton, and following Lewis’ stop for soft tyres on lap 30, the two were side by side into the first corner. Hamilton kept it together, keeping Button behind him, and back in seventh position he began his quest to hunt down Sutil once more.

Button soon found himself defending seventh against Massa, and after a late stop, Alonso was able to catch the pair. Massa eventually made a pass stick, but Alonso was less lucky, and after running wide into turn one trying to pass Button, the Ferrari finally gave in to its downshifting problem, with Alonso retiring from the race in a puff of smoke with two laps to go.

Rain had been predicted an hour into the race, but it wasn’t to be as the race made the full distance without a single drop. Vettel kept calm to bring home the win for Red Bull, his first of the season after reliability problems plagued him in the first two rounds. Webber followed just 4.8 seconds behind in second. Rosberg took his first podium for Mercedes in third, the highest result of the season for the team. Kubica followed his impressive second in Australia with fourth today, with Sutil just behind in fifth. Hamilton stole the show, making up 14 places from 20th to sixth, with Massa also making up 14 places from 21st to seventh. Button managed to hold onto eighth, and it was Jaime Alguersuari and Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the last of the points-scorers in ninth and tenth.

Following Fernando Alonso’s retirement from the race, Felipe Massa edges ahead in the drivers’ world championship, with 39 points to Alonso and Vettel’s 37. Button and Rosberg edge closer to the lead with 35 points each, with Hamilton and Kubica just behind on 31 and 30 points respectively, with just nine points between the top seven. Despite his second-placed finish, Webber trails on 24. In the constructors’ standings, Ferrari lead with 76 points, with McLaren closing the gap to 66, and Red Bull close behind on 61.

The next race takes place in two weeks time, with qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix on 17th April, and the race live on BBC1 at 8am on Sunday 18th.

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Webber Takes Malaysian Pole in Rain-Stopped Quali

April 3, 2010

Mark Webber gambled with intermediate tyres in qualifying this morning for tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix, a move he’ll be glad he took after he set a time over a second faster than second-placed Nico Rosberg on full wets.

Webber’s gamble came after heavy rain and standing water haulted Q3 less than three minutes in. In a move that showed grit from the Australian driver, he opted for the intermediate tyres at the restart of the session, and it ultimately scored him his first pole of the season, setting a time of 1:49.327.

All-in-all it was a qualifying session that shook up the grid this morning, as the two Ferraris and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton saw an early exit in Q1 after rain played God.

Jenson Button also saw an early departure from the soaked track, aquaplaning at turn five in Q1, having just posted a time good enough to get him into Q2. But despite the time, he was unable to make his way back to the pits, and was unable to compete further.

The rain began to fall ahead of qualifying and at the start of Q1, the majority of the drivers, which included Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica, made their way onto the track, with the Ferraris, McLarens and Mercedes gambling and playing the waiting game. The gamble very nearly paid off as the rain started to ease, and Button, along with Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, was able to post a time. Button’s teammate, Lewis Hamilton, wasn’t far behind and looked set to post a time good enough for Q2, but standing water in the final corner sent Hamilton into a spin, and he was unable to complete his lap. The rain then got worse, sending Button into the turn five gravel trap moments later. Hamilton was among those pitting for a set of full wet tyres, but the levels of standing water and the heavy rain meant he was unable to get a time fast enough to see him through to Q2.

It was a similar story for the Ferraris, and Fernando Alonso will start the race from 19th, ahead of Hamilton and teammate Felipe Massa in 20th and 21st respectively. The three front-runners dropping out in Q1 allowed two drivers from the new teams to go through to Q2, and with Button unable to participate in the session, and ultimately starting down in 17th, Heikki Kovalainen will start the race highest of the new teams for Lotus in 15th, with Timo Glock 16th for Virgin.

Q2 saw more of the same, and this time it was Michael Schumacher struggling in the Mercedes. He narrowly made it through to Q3, leaving Vitaly Petrov, Pedro de la Rosa, Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari in 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th respectively, ahead of Kovalainen, Glock and Button. For those who made the top ten shoot-out, Q2 saw all involved taking P1 off each other, with Sebastian Vettel fastest heading into Q3.

Q3 began and the top ten headed out onto the track, but it wasn’t to be for long, and with seven minutes and 17 seconds of the session to go, race director, Charlie Whiting, red flagged the session. It resumed not long after, and all the drivers, except Mark Webber headed out for the final time on full wets. Webber chose to gamble, heading out on intermediates. He began the restarted session over a second off the pace, but with two laps to spare, he managed to set the fastest time. Nico Rosberg followed through in second. Sebastian Vettel, Adrian Sutil, Nico Hulkenberg, Robert Kubica and Rubens Barrichello, who had been taking pole off each other in the dying stages before Webber set the pace, will start 3rd down to 7th respectively, with Schumacher unable to improve on eighth and with Kamui Kobayashi and Vitantonio Liuzzi in 9th and 10th.

All in all, the grid has been shaken up, but as the race is due to start at the same time of 4pm local time tomorrow, the rain is likely to shake up the standings as well.

Will the race make the distance, unlike last year? We wait to find out.

Coverage starts on BBC1 tomorrow morning at 8am, with the race starting at 9am.