Archive for July, 2010

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Vettel Dominates in Hungary for Another Red Bull Pole

July 31, 2010

Sebastian Vettel took his seventh pole of the season this afternoon, in qualifying for tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix, while McLaren struggled from a lack of downforce, the current champion dropping out in Q2.

Vettel set a time of 1:18.773 to qualify ahead of his teammate Mark Webber, who had been a contender until his final lap. The Ferraris find themselves on the second row of the grid, Fernando Alonso in third, ahead of his teammate, Felipe Massa, who returns to the track for the first time since his horrific accident in Q2 last year. Lewis Hamilton is a tenth behind the Brazilian, with Nico Rosberg in sixth, out-qualifying his teammate, Michael Schumacher, who will start down in 14th.

Vitaly Petrov, Robert Kubica, Pedro de la Rosa and Nico Hulkenberg round out the top 10, while Jenson Button will start in 11th after a poor Q2, while struggling for grip.

On a track which is renowned for being difficult to pass on, the start will be vital, and the key to a successful race. Who will win the 2010 Hungarian Grand Prix? Tune in to BBC1 at 1pm tomorrow.

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Alonso Takes Controversial Win in Germany

July 25, 2010

Fernando Alonso took a controversial win in Germany this afternoon, after coded team orders from Ferrari saw race-leader Felipe Massa hand over the lead.

The two Ferrari drivers got a good start, with Massa taking the lead as Sebastian Vettel attempted to close the door on Alonso. The German pole-sitter ultimately lost out, with both Ferrari drivers diving past him on either side. Massa then led Alonso through the pitstops, with the two then trading fastest times early in the second stint. On lap 49, after jostling for first place a few laps earlier, Massa’s race engineer, Rob Smedley, gave a coded message to his driver over the radio: “Ok, so, Alonso is faster than you. Can you confirm you understand?” Moments later, the Brazilian driver lifted coming out of the turn six hairpin, and Alonso made the move for P1. The team order was confirmed a lap later over the radio, when Rob Smedley told Massa: “Good lad. Just stick with it now. Sorry”.

The team’s response after the race was that it wasn’t a team order, that it wasn’t a direct instruction, and that Massa made the decision. In the driver press conference, Alonso claimed he didn’t know what happened, while when asked what happened, Massa said: “He passed me”, adding that it was his decision.

While Massa had struggled for pace after stopping for the harder compound tyres, he had been able to pull out a gap to Alonso of around three seconds, before traffic brought the two closer together, and saw Alonso very nearly make a move on Massa stick into the turn six hairpin, and through turn seven. But when he was unable to pass his teammate, Ferrari chose to switch their two drivers, sparking controversy and a post-race $100,000 fine for breaking article 39.1 of the FIA rules and regulations that team orders are prohibited, and article 151c for bringing the sport into disrepute. Ferrari will have to face the World Motor Sport Council next, who could impose a harsher penalty on the Italian team.

Elsewhere in the race, polesitter Vettel lost out in the first corner to both Ferraris, managing to hold up Jenson Button as he attempted to make a move through the field. Lewis Hamilton immediately leapfrogged his teammate, and passed Mark Webber along the long parabolika straight, on the way down to turn six. By the end of the first lap, Massa was leading Alonso from Vettel, Hamilton, Webber, Button, Robert Kubica and Michael Schumacher, who was on the move from 11th on the grid.

Contact on the first lap between the two Toro Rosso drivers, saw the end to Sebastien Buemi’s race, when he lost his rear wing. The two Force Indias were also in the pits at the end of the lap, but a mix up of Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi’s tyres meant the two drivers had to pit again soon after, to switch their tyres over.

On lap 13, Red Bull took the opportunity to pit Vettel, putting him back out in clear air in fourth, and a lap later, Ferrari chose to bring Alonso in to ensure Red Bull didn’t get the upper hand on them. Webber pitted on lap 14 as well, but was released back out into traffic. Massa and Hamilton came in a lap later, with Massa rejoining in second behind Button who was yet to pit, while Hamilton rejoined in sixth behind Kubica, who also still needed to pit.

Button held on until lap 22 before he came in for his first and only stop, and after a handful of fast laps, was able to leapfrog Webber. The order after the pitstops was Massa from Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton, Button and Webber, in the top six.

The race remained constant from then on, with Massa and Alonso swapping fastest laps, until 18 laps from the end when Massa gifted the lead, in an obvious fashion, to Alonso. The move meant Massa lost his first win since his horrific accident in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, exactly a year ago today. Had Massa won, he would have moved further ahead in the drivers’ standings, taking him to 92 points, while Alonso would have 116 points.

Alonso’s win however, moves him closer in contention to the title on 123 points, behind the two Red Bull drivers who sit joint third on 136. Hamilton maintains his lead on 157 points, with Button on 143. In the constructors’ standings, McLaren further their lead on 300 points, with Red Bull on 272, with Ferrari moving up on 208.

The next race takes place next weekend in Hungary, with qualifying on Saturday 31st July, and the race live on BBC1 at 1pm on Sunday 1st August.

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Vettel Snatches Pole by a Whisker for His Home GP

July 24, 2010

Sebastian Vettel snatched pole by a whisker from Fernando Alonso in qualifying for the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim this afternoon, to put him one step closer to a home Grand Prix win.

The Red Bull driver was flying on his final hot lap, setting a time that no one else could beat, stringing it all together seamlessly to take yet another pole for the Milton Keynes team.

Qualifying wasn’t completely his though, as Alonso looked like he had it in the bag, setting the fastest times in Q1 and Q2. But when it came down to it, pole was for one man only.

A red flag interrupted Q1, when Vitantonio Liuzzi crashed on the start/finish straight. Coming out of the final corner he got caught out on the new astro turf, and spun into the side of the pitwall. As his car crumpled, a tyre made its escape back across the track, and narrowly missed Timo Glock, who was making his way down the pit straight. Once the debris was clear, it was green lights again. Lucas di Grassi failed to set a time with gearbox problems, while Sakon Yamamoto failed to better Liuzzi’s time prior to his crash. Bruno Senna, Timo Glock, Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli all joined di Grassi, Yamamoto and Liuzzi in the dropout zone. Due to a five-place grid-drop penalty, Glock will start from 24th, with Trulli, Kovalainen, Senna, Liuzzi, Yamamoto and di Grassi 18th to 23rd respectively.

In Q2, Michael Schumacher, Kamui Kobayashi, Vitaly Petrov, Adrian Sutil, Pedro de la Rosa, Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi all dropped out, but due to problems in free practice and a gearbox change in the morning, Sutil drops five places down to 19th, elevating Trulli and Kovalainen to 17th and 18th respectively, with de la Rosa, Alguersuari and Buemi up to 14th, 15th and 16th, while Schumacher, Kobayashi and Petrov remain 11th, 12th and 13th.

In the top 10 shoot-out, Alonso was looking set to follow up his fastest times in Q1 and Q2 with pole, but Vettel just snatched it by just two thousandths of a second. The German driver will be hoping for better success off the start line tomorrow, after his disasterous start from pole in Silverstone two weeks ago. Felipe Massa was also on form throughout qualifying, the two Ferrari drivers showing that the team is once again up-to-speed, and a challenger to the unstopable Red Bulls. The Brazilian driver starts from third ahead of Mark Webber in fourth, who had to bin his final lap after running wide. Jenson Button out-qualified Lewis Hamilton for the first time in several races, the two McLaren drivers taking the third row in fifth and sixth, respectively. Robert Kubica will start from seventh, alongside Rubens Barrichello in eighth, who came to Hockenheim following his success on the Top Gear track, beating The Stig’s time in the Reasonably Priced Car. Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg round out the top ten in ninth and tenth.

Tomorrow’s race looks like it could be exciting, with the top three teams competing for the top points. Alonso will be looking to snatch back from Vettel what he stole from him in the final stages of qualifying, while Vettel will be hoping to take his third win of the season in front of his home crowd. But with only two thousandths of a second in it, the race could be anyone’s for the taking.

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Webber Wins in Silverstone, Hamilton Edges Ahead in Race for Title

July 11, 2010

Mark Webber took his third win of the season in Silverstone this afternoon, while Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button finished second and fourth, respectively, a positive result in front of their home crowd, after struggling on Friday and Saturday.

The Red Bull driver had a message for his team after he crossed the line: “Not bad for a number two driver”. His message was clear: don’t rule me out yet.

Webber made a fast move off the start, squeezing up the inside of Sebastian Vettel, to quickly take the lead, while Vettel made contact with a charging Hamilton, on the move from fourth on the grid, his front-wing end-plate touching Vettel’s right-rear tyre. Vettel ran wide through Copse, but managed to hold on to Webber, as Hamilton came under pressure from Robert Kubica. Vettel then ran wide through Maggotts, which had been caused by a puncture, and from there it was damage-limitation for the pole sitter, fighting his way back through the field, as Webber kept his cool to take the win. Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, had problem after problem throughout the race, the first being a slow start off the grid, dropping back to sixth on the opening lap, and making contact with teammate Felipe Massa, that caused the Brazilian to suffer a puncture.

Massa and Vettel were forced to pit at the end of the first lap, and rejoined the track in 23rd and 24th, respectively. While the pair were unfortunate from the very beginning, up front, Hamilton maintained the gap to Webber, but the pair pulled out a 16 second gap to Kubica in third within 10 laps, and were catching Vettel by the first round of stops, looking to lap him.

On lap 13, Alonso, Rubens Barrichello, and Kamui Kobayashi pitted, while Kubica pitted a lap later. Jenson Button, who made his way up to eighth in the opening laps, stayed out longer in the first stint, making his way up to third. Hamilton pitted on lap 17, from second, and retained his position exiting the pits just ahead of Button who still had to stop. Webber was next to pit a lap later, maintaining the lead on his exit from the pitlane. Button then finally pitted on lap 22, and rejoined in sixth, ultimately gaining two positions.

At the same time as Hamilton pitted for the harder compound tyre, Alonso was busy trying to make a move on Kubica. While trying to avoid a collision, Alonso cut a corner, but refused to give the position back, gaining from the move. Within laps, Kubica retired from the race, but Alonso still received a drive-through penalty for not giving the position back. Within two laps of Alonso receiving the penalty on lap 27, the safety car was deployed, and he was unable to take the penalty until after the safety car came back in.

On lap 30, the race restarted and Alonso peeled into the pits to take his drive through, and found himself towards the back of the pack.

From then on, Webber had control of the race, while Vettel used the safety car to his advantage to make up some places in the closing laps. He passed Massa first on lap 33 for 12th, and by the penultimate lap he was still hunting Adrian Sutil for seventh. He finally made his move stick into turn 14, to finish the race seventh, making up a lot of ground after his disasterous start.

Webber and Hamilton crossed the line 20 seconds ahead of Rosberg in fourth, and Button in fifth. Barrichello scored his highest finish of the season in fifth, with Kobayashi in sixth, Vettel seventh, Sutil eighth, Michael Schumacher ninth, and Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the points-scorers in tenth.

In the drivers’ championship standings, Hamilton edges forward on 145 points, with Button retaining second on 133. Webber leapfrogs Vettel to sit on 128, with Vettel on 121. Alonso stays on 98 points, failing to score after finishing 14th, while Rosberg edges forward on 90 points. ┬áKubica, who retired on lap 20, remains on 83, while Massa remains on 67 points after finishing down in 15th.

In the constructors’ standings, McLaren edge forward on 278, while Red Bull sit on 249. Ferrari are beginning to fall behind on 165, with Mercedes on 126.

For Webber, victory was sweet this afternoon, after he was left fuming yesterday when the Red Bull team switched his front-wing update back to the old one, after Vettel’s broke in Practice three. The German was given the sole remaining updated wing because he sat ahead of Webber in the standings, meaning Webber had to go with the old version. Webber’s message for his team was clear after the race though, telling them over the radio his victory wasn’t bad for the number two driver. So it looks like it’s now advantage Webber heading into Vettel’s home Grand Prix in two weeks, as he sits ahead of Vettel in the drivers’ standings.

Qualifying for the German Grand Prix is on Saturday 23rd, with the race live on BBC1 on Sunday 24th July.

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Vettel on Pole at Silverstone, While McLarens Struggle

July 10, 2010

For the British fans flocking to Silverstone this weekend, hoping to see the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in a British one-two, they were left disappointed after qualifying, as Red Bull locked-out the front row, and Button failed to get through to Q3.

Sebastian Vettel will start tomorrow’s race from pole, after scoring an impressive lap time of 1:29.615, with teammate Mark Webber, just over a tenth slower in second. Fernando Alonso qualified third, and will be joined on the second row by Hamilton, who was lucky to post such a fast time, after making it through to Q3 with just a three tenths of a second buffer from the drop-out zone.

His teammate, Button, was less fortunate, and after complaining that the he had no grip in the rear of the car during Q2, he failed to improve on 14th.

The Woking-based team had headed to Silverstone with new updates to the MP4-25, a blown diffuser, currently sported by the Red Bulls, that adds more downforce to the car. The updates, including a new front wing, unbalanced the car, and while the team continued to run the new wing, they scrapped the new diffuser for the weekend.

Hamilton managed fourth, an achievement he and the team were happy with, considering the lost hours in Friday practice, spent testing the new updates.

Nico Rosberg made the first ‘comeback’ for Mercedes, after their less-than-impressive run in Valencia two weeks ago, to qualify fifth, ahead of Robert Kubica in sixth, Felipe Massa in seventh, Rubens Barrichello in eighth and Pedro de la Rosa in ninth. Rosberg’s teammate, and seven-time champion, Michael Schumacher, will start tomorrow’s race from tenth.

Dropping out with Button in Q2 was Adrian Sutil in 11th, Kamui Kobayashi in 12th, and Nico Hulkenberg in 13th, with Button 14th ahead of Vitantonio Liuzzi in 15th, Sebastien Buemi in 16th, and Vitaly Petrov in 17th. In the dropout zone in Q1 were Jaime Alguersuari in 18th, Heikki Kovalainen in 19th, Jarno Trulli 20th, Timo Glock 21st, Lucas di Grassi 22nd, Karun Chandhok 23rd, and Sakon Yamamoto, replacing Bruno Senna in the HRT, in 24th.

Vettel will begin tomorrow’s race having won two races so far this season, as will Webber, Hamilton, and Button. And for win number three, so far it’s advantage-Vettel, heading into the tenth race of the season. Will he take his second successive British Grand Prix win in Silverstone, or will Webber steal it off him, or indeed, will Hamilton do what McLaren came to Silverstone to do? The race is live on BBC1 at 1pm.