Bahrain Grand Prix Report

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F10 passes team mate Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F10 at the start of the race.Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race Day, Bahrain International Circuit.

The start saw Vettle lead away from the lights from both Ferrari’s of Massa and Alonso, as the pack headed in to turn’s 1 & 2, Alonso was able to get the inside line for turn two and thus overtake his team-mate Massa.   Mark Webber’s Redbull then blew a large thick cloud of smoke, most probably due to an overfilled oil tank, which caused the chasing pack to be momentarily blinded.  Victims of this were Renault’s Robert Kubica and Force India’s Adrian Sutil, who touched as they went through Webber’s smoke at turn two, resulting in both drivers spinning across the track as the field ploughed they way through.

Lewis Hamilton was on the move as the pack reached turn 4 and was trying to go round the outside of Massa for 3rd place.  However the Briton left his breaking too late and Massa was able to defend him off, and which also allowed Rosberg in the Mercedes to snatch 4th place.

Despite not knowing anything about the cloud of smoke that his Redbull had created, Webber was down to eight having been jumped by Button at turn 2. However the Aussie was able to reclaim his 7th place when Jenson got out of shape midway through the new section of the lap.

So the order at the end of the first lap was: Vettle – Alonso – Massa – Rosberg – Hamilton – Schumacher – Webber – Button – Liuzzi – Barrichello. Unfortunately that was pretty much how the top of the pack stayed until the pitstops for tyres.

First retirement of the season went to Karun Chandhok who crashed on lap two, after spinning on a bump.  While the team would be disappointed to see the Indian driver lose vital running time, considering the amount of time the driver had on the track, it was perhaps inevitable that could happen.

Di Grassi was next to join him in exiting the race, having to pull off with suspected hydraulic failure.  Moments before the Brazilian pulling off the track, new boy Nico Hulkenburg had an embarrassing moment when he lost control of the rear of his car while under pressure from Buemi.

Back on track, and Vettle seemed to have perfect control of the race.  Perhaps enjoying a lighter fuel load that the two Ferrari’s behind him because of the fuel-efficient Renault, he was able to pull out a lead of around 5 seconds.

It was Mclaren & Mercedes who were first of the big guns to stop, bringing in Lewis Hamilton & Schumacher respectively on lap 16.  Rosberg moved to cover this next lap round, however lost out to Hamilton when his exit from the pit box was delayed slightly by Webber who was coming in to the pits at the same time as the German was exiting.  Button who also pitted at the same time as Rosberg and Webber was able to leapfrog the Redbull driver when the Aussie was delayed slightly with a sticking wheel during his pit stop.

Alonso was the first to stop of the first 3 to stop on lap 17, which then triggered Vettle to cover the Ferrari. This defensive style a seeming legacy of the new pitstop regulations, in which drivers are not wanting to allow their chasing rival to have too much time on new rubber.

Timo Glock brought the curtain down on the Virgin team’s first race on lap 18 with dreaded hydraulic problems that hampered them all through winter testing.  Bruno Senna was next to fall on the following lap with a Cosworth engine going up in smoke.

The second stint of the race started with Alonso managing to draw in Vettle, bringing down the lead to around 1 second. Massa still in 3rd was a further 2 seconds back behind Alonso. Midway through the race and we heard radio reports from the Ferrari team to both Alonso and Massa asking their drivers not to follow too closely or directly behind the car in front because they were suffering from high engine temperatures.

Then at the star of lap 34 the Redbull of Vettle crossed the line sounding very sick, and with Alonso right on his tail.  The team reporting back to Vettle that a suspected exhaust was causing a dramatic lost in top speed.  The poor Vettle was able to hold of Alonso for best part of a lap, until he had to reliquish the lead to Alonso at the last corner, and by the time the German had reach turn 1 of lap 35 he was 3rd with Massa gliding past on the straight.

It was bitter luck for Vettle who had driven a faultless race up to that point to have a seemingly assured 25 points in his pocket taken away from him by yet another mechanical problem.  However it was a question of if he would be caught by Hamilton, but whether the Redbull would finish in the points at all.

Vettle did a great job of bringing the car home, sticking it out, despite losing a podium position to Hamilton on lap 38 he was able to hold of Nico Rosberg to keep 4th place.

As the chequered flag dropped Alonso brought the Ferrari home to score his 22 victory and to claim victory at his first race for Ferrari, equalling Kimi Raikkonen and Nigel Mansell who also achieved the feat in the modern era. Massa completed a superb come back drive, taking 2nd place and Lewis Hamilton come home an impressive 3rd considering the problems with the cars handling that were mounting up over the course of the weekend.  Rosberg took first blood to his team-mate Schumacher to 5th place. Schumacher who had an un-eventful race came in 6th. Button took 7th on a day that indicate just how much work he and his new team need to do in order for the 2009 World Champion to mount a solid defence of his crown.

Credit also goes to Liuzz and Barrichello who took the final two points places, and Kubica will be disappointed  with 11th, but he did well to recover after being last at the end of lap 1.

Lotus took the plaudits for the new teams, in being able to get both cars to the finish, but Sauber will be disappointed in their form after being tipped as dark horses.

So it is on to Melbourne, Australia next for the 2nd round, Redbull will be looking to strike back after their disappointment  in Bahrain, Mclaren will need to improve the downforce on its new car and Mercedes and Schumacher will want to be nearer the sharp end of the field.

This was a poor spectacle of a F1 race, with very little overtaking or action, here’s hoping it was a one-off because otherwise this could be a slow old season.

1. Alonso Ferrari 1h39:20.396

 2.  Massa         Ferrari                    +    16.099
 3.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +    23.182
 4.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +    38.713
 5.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +    40.263
 6.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +    44.180
 7.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +    45.260
 8.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +    46.308
 9.  Liuzzi        Force India-Mercedes       +    53.089
10.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +  1:02.400
11.  Kubica        Renault                    +  1:09.093
12.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +  1:22.958
13.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +  1:32.656
14.  Hulkenberg    Williams-Cosworth          +     1 lap
15.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Cosworth             +     1 lap
16.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +    3 laps
17.  Trulli        Lotus-Cosworth             +    3 laps
Retirements                                Lap
De la Rosa    Sauber-Ferrari               30
Senna         HRT-Cosworth                 18
Glock         Virgin-Cosworth              17
Petrov        Renault                      14
Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari               12
Di Grassi     Virgin-Cosworth              3
Chandhok      HRT-Cosworth                 2

Bahrain Qualifying Report

Sebastian Vettle romped to pole position for Sundays’s Bahrain Grand Prix, beating Ferrari drivers Massa and Alonso to the head of the grid.  Mclaren’s Lewis Hamilton finished a respectable 4th beating his team mate Buttton who could only manage a disappointing 8th.  Michael Schumacher was embarrassed by his younger team on his return to F1 by being beaten by Rosberg who managed to put his Mercedes 5th on the grid compared to Schumacher’s 7th place.

What the qualifying session shows is that despite a strong end to winter testing for Mclaren, they are still a long way of the pace.  They look like they are struggling with downforce in the twisty parts of the track.  The race looks like it will be between Redbull and Ferrari with Vettle and Alonso the most likely protagonists.

 1.  Vettel         Red Bull-Renault       1:55.029  1:53.883  1:54.101  
 2.  Massa          Ferrari                1:55.313  1:54.331  1:54.242 
 3.  Alonso         Ferrari                1:54.612  1:54.172  1:54.608 
 4.  Hamilton       McLaren-Mercedes       1:55.341  1:54.707  1:55.217 
 5.  Rosberg        Mercedes               1:55.463  1:54.682  1:55.241 
 6.  Webber         Red Bull-Renault       1:55.298  1:54.318  1:55.284 
 7.  Schumacher     Mercedes               1:55.593  1:55.105  1:55.524 
 8.  Button         McLaren-Mercedes       1:55.715  1:55.168  1:55.672 
 9.  Kubica         Renault                1:55.511  1:54.963  1:55.885 
10.  Sutil          Force India-Mercedes   1:55.213  1:54.996  1:56.309 
11.  Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth      1:55.969  1:55.330 
12.  Liuzzi         Force India-Mercedes   1:55.628  1:55.653 
13.  Hulkenberg     Williams-Cosworth      1:56.375  1:55.857 
14.  de la Rosa     Sauber-Ferrari         1:56.428  1:56.237 
15.  Buemi          Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:56.189  1:56.265 
16.  Kobayashi      Sauber-Ferrari         1:56.541  1:56.270 
17.  Petrov         Renault                1:56.167  1:56.619 
18.  Alguersuari    Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:57.071
19.  Glock          Virgin-Cosworth        1:59.728
20.  Trulli         Lotus-Cosworth         1:59.852
21.  Kovalainen     Lotus-Cosworth         2:00.313
22.  di Grassi      Virgin-Cosworth        2:00.587
23.  Senna          HRT-Cosworth           2:03.240
24.  Chandhok       HRT-Cosworth           2:04.904

Mclaren’s controversial rear wing

Just like the opening round of the 2009 season with the Brawn’s double diffusers, the F1 paddock is abuzz with the subject of the new McLaren rear wing, which seems to go against some teams interpretations of the rules.

In simple terms, the Mclaren drivers can control the the amount of air follow to the rear win through a small vent in the cockpit.  The driver does this by covering the vent with his knee.  When the driver does this it, the amount of down force is reduced and the car can go faster, giving them, some estimate, as much as 6 kph down the straight.

Mclaren have had the wing approved by the FIA in scrutineering, after constant dialogue with FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting throughout the winter.  However RedBull and Renault are very angry with this decision, not just because they feel that a rear wing should not be able perform this feature know as “Stalling”.  and it is expected that at least one team will protest should the Mclaren team do well this weekend.

If the FIA uphold the ruling that the Mclaren wing is legal then all the other teams will have to go back to the drawing board and re-design their rear wing set ups, and with the first rounds of the season all far away races, it might be hard for some teams to get a similar design on their cars for a month or so.

One thing is for sure, that despite the tight rules and regulation, Mclaren have been innovative and aggressive in their design of the rear wing and have stolen an advantage on it’s rivals for now anyway.

Round 1 Bahrain – Free Practice 1

This morning saw the first officially timed practice session of the 2010 season.  While it was still very early days, there was some interesting points to pick up on.  With many of the teams still desperate for testing mileage the session was busy pretty much throughout.

Surprisingly Adrian Sutil ended the session fastest for Force India with a time of 1:56.583, just in front of Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari. Robert Kubica was an encouraging 3rd for the Renault team, with Massa 4th on his debut back in the sport since his accident.  Mclaren drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton were well placed in 5th and 6th respectively.

However the session seemed to be a bit of a struggle for the Mercedes and Redbull teams.  7 times World Champion, Michael Schumacher could only manage 10th, a second of fastest man Sutil’s time, and Vettle finished in a lowly 13th place.

New teams Lotus, Virgin and HRT were able to compete their first competitive laps, however Karun Chandhok was unable to get out in the HRT as his team was still building his car in the pits.  It is hoped that he will be able to take some part in the second session in a few hours.

We were able to see the new section of the track for the first time, with most commentators and fans disappointed in its slow, twisty and bumpy nature.  The extra corners has added an additonal 15 seconds or so to the total lap time.

During the session Renault’s Managing Director Bob Bell spoke to the BBC and was scathing in his criticism of the FIA’s ruling to approve the new Mclaren rear wing, which is controlled by the driver in order to achieve higher top speeds. It seems that other teams are unhappy and that there could well be a protest during the course of the weekend.

Pos  Driver         Team                   Time              Laps
 1.  Sutil          Force India-Mercedes   1:56.583            18
 2.  Alonso         Ferrari                1:56.766  + 0.183   18
 3.  Kubica         Renault                1:57.041  + 0.458   19
 4.  Massa          Ferrari                1:57.055  + 0.472   19
 5.  Button         McLaren-Mercedes       1:57.068  + 0.485   19
 6.  Hamilton       McLaren-Mercedes       1:57.163  + 0.580   19
 7.  Liuzzi         Force India-Mercedes   1:57.194  + 0.611   19
 8.  Rosberg        Mercedes               1:57.199  + 0.616   15
 9.  Webber         Red Bull-Renault       1:57.255  + 0.672   17
10.  Schumacher     Mercedes               1:57.662  + 1.079   16
11.  Alguersuari    Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:57.722  + 1.139   18
12.  Hulkenberg     Williams-Cosworth      1:57.894  + 1.311   20
13.  Vettel         Red Bull-Renault       1:57.943  + 1.360   17
14.  Buemi          Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:58.399  + 1.816   13
15.  Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth      1:58.782  + 2.199   11
16.  Petrov         Renault                1:58.880  + 2.297   13
17.  de la Rosa     Sauber-Ferrari         2:00.250  + 3.667   18
18.  Kobayashi      Sauber-Ferrari         2:01.388  + 4.805   11
19.  Glock          Virgin-Cosworth        2:03.680  + 7.097    8
20.  Kovalainen     Lotus-Cosworth         2:03.848  + 7.265   21
21.  Trulli         Lotus-Cosworth         2:03.970  + 7.387   15
22.  di Grassi      Virgin-Cosworth                             2
23.  Senna          HRT-Cosworth                                3
24.  Chandhok       HRT-Cosworth

F1 2010 Season Preview – Rules & Regulations

In the third part of our season preview we look at the new rules we will have to get to grips with.

The most prominent being the banning of in race refuelling.  This will mean that cars have to start the race on the fuel needed to get them to the end making them heavier and more challenging to manage throughout the race. The skill for the driver will be in managing the weight of the car early on in the race which will be some 50% heavier than last year.  Drivers will have to manage their driving styles so not to destroy their tyres early on in the race. It is thought that drivers with a smooth style like Jenson Button will benefit from this rule change.

KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) which was used by just a handful of teams last year to provide extra power will not be used in 2010 after an agreement from all the team not to use it. A new points system means that drivers winning a race this season will earn 25 points as opposed to just 10 last year.  Points will now go down to 10th place instead of 8th place.

Because of the banning of refuelling mid race, the rule which required a driver to qualify for the grid with the fuel load they were going to use in the race is not needed any more so Qualifying will now be carried out on low fuel loads, meaning for the first time in years, will be actually be able to tell who is the out right fastest driver in the battle for pole position.  The only slight confusing element they have added is that the top 10 drivers in Saturday’s qualifying will have to start the race on the tyres they qualified on.  The idea here trying slightly disadvantage the drivers at the front so their tyres are slight worn at the start of the race. I personally don’t think we need this rule as it adds needless complexity and I hope this is omitted from the regulations as soon as possible.

This year sees the season expanded to 19 races which will put extra demands on the teams with the addition of a Korean Grand Prix in late October.  The significance of taking the F1 show to Korea has political connotations, and we have to hope and wonder if the Korean fans will embrace F1 better than China or Turkey, as there are some important countries that do not have a F1 race, most noticeably USA and France. The Circuit is currently being build and is on target to be finished on time.

British F1 fans will be delighted that Silverstone was given a new contract, and that improvements to the track and facilities will be in ready by the time this years race comes round.  The layout of the circuit will change slightly, incorporating a new “Arena” section instead of where Bridge Bend was.

F1 2010 Season Preview – Team News

In Part 2 of our Preview of the new season, we now look at the 12 teams  in this years championship.

The main news is that Brawn GP, the drivers and constructors champions of 2009 are no more, they have now been brought out by Mercedes, giving the team that nearly folded this time last year a much-needed stable financial grounding. One of the most depressing stories of 2009 was the constant threat of withdrawal from the sport of some F1’s teams and Manufacturers. In the end, BMW and Toyota have decided to the sport behind and Renault, who stay in F1 in name have been brought out by a new investor.   However, with a new year brings positive news and new additions to the grid.  Firstly the BMW team have been saved by former team manger Peter Sauber, and will be known as Sauber going forward, and there are 3 brand new teams that will be joining the big boys on the grid on Sunday.

The historic Lotus name returns after its last race in 1994. Despite the team being based in Norfolk like the original Lotus team, this carries very few ties with the dominant team Colin Chapman built up through the 60’s and 70’s. Backed by Malaysian investment, Mike Gascoyne is the experienced figure-head that has helped formalised and design the car, and will be vital for the teams development.

Despite being a sponsor to the Brawn team last year, The Virgin name returns for 2010 with its own team.  Richard Branson has paid for the naming rights of the team which was formerly Manor Motorsport. The most important factor about this team is that the car will be the first ever F1 car to have been designed completely on computer and without using a wind tunnel to aid and improve the car’s aerodynamics performance.  Through using just CFD (Computation fluid dynamics) the team aims to compete competitively while reducing costs needed to have their own wind tunnel.

The third and final team coming to F1 this year is the HRT team (Hispania Racing Team).  This is a Spanish based team that looked like it was not even going to make the start of the season.  It was going to be called Campos however funding for the team never arrived and it was saved at the last moment.  The car and team are completely untried has not even turned a wheel in testing. Friday morning in Bahrain will be the first time the team, car and drivers would have all been in the same place at the same time and will surely be the tailenders for the first park of the season at least.

Another legendary name also returns, Cosworth will provide engines to the 3 new teams and Williams this year.

F1 2010 Season Preview – Driver News

This weekend marks the long awaited return of the FIA Formula One World Championship.  When the red lights go out on Sunday it will mark the start of the 61st Championship.  The new season is eagerly anticipated for many reasons and the winter has seen an unprecedented amount of news.  Here is a preview of how the start of the 2010 season will look a lot different to the end of 2009.

Firstly Jenson Button moves from his old team to join fellow Brit Lewis Hamilton at Mclaren. Jenson’s motives for leaving Brawn have been much debated, and whatever the reason, he will face a terribly tough time up against Hamilton who has pretty much built the Mclaren team around him. How Button settles in to his new team and performs against Hamilton will be one of the season long plots that will add constant pressure to the team despite who is performing best.

2 times World Champion Fernando Alonso leaves Renault, where he endured a horrible 2 years that was dogged with terrible cars and controversy, to join Ferrari to try and resurrect the Italian teams chances of returning to the front of the pack. He will join Felipe Massa who returns to the cockpit after suffering serious head injuries during the Hungarian Grand Prix and having to miss the second half of the season. Will the Brazilian be able to return to his good form or will the edge have been taken off the 2008 runner up, remains to be seen, but testing seems to indicate he will be fine.

The biggest headline since the chequered flag fell in Abu Dhabi in November is that 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher makes his return to the sport.  He joins the team that helped win last years World Championships and which was Brawn but is now called Mercedes.  In fact Michael joins pretty much an all out German team, with Nico Rosberg taking Rubens Barrichello’s seat.

Despite the driver changes at Mercedes, Mclaren and Ferrari, Red Bull have kept Mark Webber, and Sebastian Vettle, who will be hoping that consistency along with the Adrian Newey’s new car design will help them kick off the new season on the front foot, as they seem to be the team to beat during the second half of the 2009.

2010 will see one of the most competitive fields in decades.  There will be 4 different former World Champions on the grid, sharing 11 different championships between them.  However there are easily 8 drivers with a realistic chance of winning this years championship.  We have lost 2007 Champion Kimi Raikkonen, who left Ferrari to drive rally cars this year, which is a shame to lose a talent but it seemed his heart just isn’t in it at the moment.

Other noticeable driver moves sees Rubens Barrichello move to Williams, where his team mate will be promising young German Nico Hulkenberg.  Timo Glock move to Virgin, ex Mclaren driver Heikki Kovalainen move to the new Lotus team with F1 journeyman Jarno Trulli.

The legendary name of Senna returns to F1 this year, with his nephew Bruno Senna.  It will be an emotional and evocative image seeing the yellow helmet in racing again, but we will have to get used to seeing it at the back of the field for a while at least until Bruno is given a better car as his HRT Cosworth has a lot of catching up to do.