A reason to be truly thankful – Mark Webber survives horrifying accident

VALENCIA, SPAIN - JUNE 25: Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing is seen at lunchtime during practice for the European Formula One Grand Prix at the Valencia Street Circuit on July 25, 2010, in Valencia, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

After the completion of today’s race there has not been any lack of negative hyperbol from certain teams and drivers about how their races were wrecked for one reason or another, but as Sunday turns in to Monday I cannot get away from the major incident in the race and Mark Webber’s terrifying accident in which I am so thankful that we are not here talking about the loss of a racing driver.

Webber’s accident, caused when he apparently missed his braking point and rode up the back of Kovalainen’s Lotus and became airborne.  In the split seconds that he became airborne my mind instantly took me to the fatal accident that claimed the life of Indycar driver Jeff Krosnof in very similar circumstances in 1996 racing on the streets of Toronto, Canada. On that day Krosnof’s car took off and turned in the to catch fencing destroying the car instantly.

When any racing car becomes airborne it is in the hands of the gods, and today was no exception. The moment Webber started to take off absolutely anything could have happened and despite flipping over and landing upside down and then rolling round the correct way and hurtling towards the barrier and undiminished speed the whole of the F1 world held it’s breath.

This was, and should act as a timely reminder that our sport is always very dangerous and that those that have input in to the safety rules and regulations should never get complacent.

I am delighted to see Mark walk away from this terrifying incident and  I am sorry for any driver or team that is celebrating or bemoaning their luck in today’s race because more importantly we still have 24 fit and able racing drivers heading to Silverstone in 2 weeks time.

See you at Silverstone Mark!

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Webber to drive for Red Bull in 2011

Red Bull Formula One driver Mark Webber of Australia walks at the grid before the start of the Turkish F1 Grand Prix at the Istanbul Park racetrack in Istanbul May 30, 2010. REUTERS/Murad Sezer(TURKEY - Tags: SPORT MOTOR RACING)

Mark Webber will be relieved that the incident with his team-mate in the Turkish Grand Prix has not damaged his chances of staying at the team for 2011.  Autosport today announced that Webber will remain at Red Bull for another year ensuring the team maintains continuity for another year taking the Vettel-Webber partnership in to its 3rd year.

While this is obviously good news for Mark the fact it is only a 1 year contract must surely disappoint the Australian.  I would have thought that Webber would have pushed for at least 2 years giving him some leeway and confidence in the team. Whether this has changed as a result of the incident in Turkey is not clear.

Webber staying at Red Bull is likely to mean the top teams will be keeping the same drivers for 2011 with the only real  question mark hanging over Massa at Ferrari.  Ferrari have apparently shown interest in Robert Kubica but whether Alonso and Kubica would get along in the same team remains to be seen.

Analysis of the Red Bull accident

Formula One Turkish Grand Prix

The incident involving the Red Bull drivers was clearly the hottest topic from the Turkish Grand Prix. The first rule in F1 is not to take your team-mate out, it is the worst sin in the sport that is seen as a team game despite the individual ego’s of the drivers. By having what is perceived as the fastest car in F1 at the moment, the chances that the two Red Bull drivers fighting it out on the track are greatly increased. We have seen in previous years how destructive it can be when team-mates go head to head on the track. Some of the sports most famous incidents over the past 30 years has come as team-mates take strips off each other.

Senna & Prost in 1989 is perhaps the most famous on track incident between team mates. However I feel the incident at Istanbul Park is slightly different. We are yet half way through the championship, and despite the pressure being on the drivers, now is not a time for at all costs driving.

The scene is set in Turkey as Vettel saw he early season performances overshadowed in recent races by Mark Webber, who was now leading the championship and was coming off the back of two wins and a comprehensive display in Monaco. In summary, the balance of power in the Red Bull team was shifting away from Vettel in the course of the last month. Vettel wanted to put a stop to this in Istanbul and a problem for Vettel in Qualifying meant that the German was further behind his now nemesis (Webber) for the start of the race.

Vettel got the jump on Hamilton away from the starting grid, but was convincingly past by the Briton by turn 3. Vettel however got lucky during the pit-stop window. Having pit earlier than Hamilton he was able to jump up to second and get on the tail of Mark Webber. Vettel however, unlike Hamilton didn’t seem to be able to press Webber so aggressively. Perhaps because the cars were so closely matched Vettel never really looked like making a move stick on Webber. However on lap 38 Vettel was able to take advantage of a ‘fuel saving’ phase that Webber was asked to enter for a couple of laps to ensure that he could make the end of the race. Webber having less horse power was vulnerable down the straight and Vettel decided to put himself on the inside line for the left handed hairpin at turn 12.

The gap left by Webber wasn’t large, it was just enough space to put a car, and initially when Vettel made the move to the left hand side Vettel was almost over the white line and on to the dirt. Mark Webber kept a straight and true line to the hairpin as Vettel pulled along side and marginally in front and if both drivers kept their trajectory to turn 12 then the change in position would have happened and both drivers would still have finished 1-2 for Red Bull, but in a dangerous move Vettel tried to edge Webber out to the right to give Vettel the much easier line for the hairpin and also to robustly elbow Webber out of the way.

The move slightly to the right in to Mark’s path is what in my opinion caused the accident and why I would put most of the blame on Vettel. What was Webber expected to do? He was leading the race, leading the championship and had given just enough space for his team-mate to decide if he wanted to take the risky move. Vettel under the duress his previous form in recent races acted like it was all or nothing, not from a driver that understood that there were still many laps to go and to look at the wider picture of the championship as a whole. Let’s not forget that Vettel had already lost some key points in earlier rounds of the season and could have been on top of the championship. His driving indicated that he did not appreciate his situation and had a very narrow perspective on his racing. It was win at all costs, and the need to stop Webber here in Turkey. Where in reality a more mature outlook would have realised the long game would be better. If he had listened to any words of wisdom from any world championship winner that most would have told him championships are won at the end of the season not at round 7. Sports News - May 30, 2010

I remember Jackie Stewart saying that Nigel Mansell struggled to win Championships in the late 1980’s because he was too aggressive all the time. He drove like he was always out to prove everyone wrong, and this move by Vettel reminded me that perhaps the German could do with a sit down with the 3 times world champion about his approach.

The case against Webber in my opinion is small, but let’s have a look at what he could have done.

Firstly we know he had less power and would have expected a move from Vettel on the back straight. Webber could have closed the door completely through turn 11 making sure that Vettel had to switch over the the right hand side for the left handed turn 12. This would have made Vettel’s task almost impossible.

Webber could have also have just let Vettel through. Applying the logic or commonsense I mentioned in the previous paragraphs, Webber might have been better off just letting his team-mate through, after all he would have only lost a hand full of points. This, however, would have set an astonishing precedent. It would have sent a message out the Red Bull team, Sebastian Vettel and Webber’s rivals that in a straight out dog fight he would just succumb.

David Coulthard I feel had this tag, Riccardo Patrese, Rubens Barrichello and Damon Hill to a certain extent had their careers blighted by seemingly being happy to make things easy for their team-mates. All drivers are very fast, but once you get pigeon holed with that reputation, it becomes a constant up-hill battle to convince the F1 public that you are the real deal. Mark Webber being Australian by nature doesn’t have know what capitulate means. The fighting spirit of the Australian sportsman is famous and I don’t think for one minute it should have been expected for a driver who wants to win the championship to easily give away his position not just in the race, but in the team. Webber isn’t a spring chicken and this could be his one and only chance to win the championship, Vettel underestimated his older team-mate and got his hands burnt in return for his aggressiveness towards Webber.

The Red Bull team were instantly in the public eye and the reaction from some of the senior management was telling. There seemed to be sympathy for Vettel and condemnation of Webber for not giving him room. This is just  Bull-Shit in my opinion.

Christian Horner had proclaimed to want to give each driver the best chance to win the championship, but seemed to be insinuating in his subtext that Mark had to give way to Vettel in a head to head. Helmut Marko another senior member of the Red Bull management also criticised Mark Webber post race. This lead widespread rumours that Vettel was the unofficial number 1 in the team and the team should have criticised Vettel for the incident in the same way most of the F1 paddock saw the incident.

Days after the accident Red Bull seemed to have changed their corporate tone to a more balanced view, but it seems reluctantly and that the dynamics in the senior management still blame Webber and his race engineer for not managing the situation better. Before Turkey, both Red Bull and Webber looked set to resign a new contract, but now that seems to be an impossibility. Ok so they might get a grip on the tension on the track between the two drivers, but Vettel who is clearly the darling of the Red Bull young driver programme and also foreseen as a driver that could win many championships over the next 10 years, is likely to demand that Webber be replaced for next year otherwise he would look to go elsewhere.

Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel Meet At Team Factory

The one winner though on Sunday – Formula One. The sport is at its best when the ingredients are hot and spicy between two championship contenders in the same team and it will become a unmissable spectacle throughout the summer.

Lewis Hamilton wins thrilling Turkish Grand Prix

Formula One - F1

Wow! Just where do you start with a race that is packed with excitement and controversy from the get go?  Like it or not, the Turkish Grand Prix of 2010 will be remembered for the ticking time bomb of  4 cars racing it out at the front for the win, and ending with that bomb going off in the hands of the Red Bull team, that will certainly damage their points situation as they threw away a win and handed maximum points to the Mclaren team, but it will also have an emotional cost to the team and crank up the pressure in the team .

Round 7 of the F1 championship was held on the Istanbul Park track, which over the last few years has failed to produce anything nearly as exciting as Sundays race.  In it’s sixth year of running and which still fails to captivate the imagination of the Turkish people meaning one of the exciting Grands Prix in years played out  to an empty stage!

Mark Webber went in to the race on the back of two wins on the spin in Spain and Monaco and after a commanding performance in qualifying, looked the clear favourite for the race win on Sunday. Because the only other person people thought that could get near to Webber was Sebastian Vettel and he was down in 3rd place on the grid having been split by Hamilton in the Mclaren.

The Mclaren’s had shown good pace in practice and qualifying, however, the telling signs was that despite the F-Duct giving the Woking teams cars a visible and distinct advantage down the long straight at Istanbul Park in sectors 1 & 3, the Red Bull was putting them and the rest of the field in the shade through the tight and twisty 2nd sector of the track.

Before the race there was some optimism that if Hamilton could jump Webber at the start of the race, he could have a realistic chance of stopping the in form Aussie from romping off in to the distance.  The only potential flaw in this theory was that Hamilton, like his team-mate Button, were on the dirty side of the starting grid, potentially handicapping their get away from the lights and thus giving away their good from qualifying to the Red Bulls.

As the 5 red lights went out, it was the latter that happened and as the field came through turn 1 Vettel had  jumped Hamilton in to second place and Schumacher caught out Button to demote him to 5th.  However the Mclaren’s were able to re address the balance, with Hamilton bravely driving around Vettel by turn 3 and Button passing Schumacher at the hairpin on lap 1.  By the end of lap 1 the order was back to their starting positions.  Webber – Hamilton – Vettel – Button.

This is how the race started to settle in, with Button and Vettel dropping back slightly from Webber and Hamilton. Hamilton looked particularly aggressive in the opening in the laps and was able to really push the Red Bull for the lead.  This was a great sign that despite the Red Bull’s performance in the last 2 races and in their out and out pace in qualifying, the Mclaren on full tanks was going to be a match and make Webber and Red Bull work for their win today.

The differences in the cars was clear to see during this early phase of the race, with Hamilton trying desperately to hold on to the tail of Webber through the twisty sector 2 which incorporated the challenging turn 8 which requires a car with excellent aerodynamic performance, something which the Red Bull has in bundles but the Mclaren is still clearly lacking.  However once through the never-ending turn 8 it was Hamilton and the F-Duct that inexorably pulled in the Red Bull, lap after lap Hamilton tried desperately to get close enough to pull Webber in down the long straight to be able to try and make a pass stick.  A few times Hamilton looked like he would be close enough, but Webber would have just enough lead to cover off the attempt by the time they made the apex of the tight turn 12.

With Pit stops approaching it looked like the first person to pit out of Hamilton and Webber would get the critical advantage that might give them track position to go on and win the race.  Surprisingly then it was Vettel that was the first of the top 4 to come in for tyres.  It was expected to trigger of Button at least to cover off Vettel, but the 2009 Champion decided to stay out, and started to put in some good sector times. It was clear that Button was hoping to have conserved his tyres in the early part of the race to be able to bang in some good times once he was in clear air, but he would have a bit ask to jump Vettel considering he was at least 2 seconds back on the German.

For Mclaren it was clear, pit Hamilton as soon as possible and hope that Webber stays out, but as this was the likely scenario, Redbull covered the Mclaren team and pulled Webber in at the same time.  It was disastrous for Mclaren, being a few meters down the pit lane from the Red bull team, it make the likelihood  of getting Hamilton released before Webber a virtual impossibility.  With such huge pressure on the Mclaren team it is not surprising that a fumble on the right rear wheel held Hamilton up for a crucial second or two and sealed his fate in that he came out behind Vettel and Webber, which would eventually be 3rd once Button had made his pit stop a lap after, rejoined in 4th.

There is no denying that the pit stops changed the complex of the race. Webber now had his worse case scenario playing out – Vettel in the same superbly handling car as Webber behind him and desperate to halt the Australian’s march in recent races. The pace of the top 4 was immense, with fastest laps being traded between the leading drivers lap after lap, but unlike Hamilton, Vettel didn’t seem to be able to amount a tangible attack on Webber.  Did Webber have the race under control or were there team orders dictating that Vettel stay put?  One thing is for sure it was neither!

Despite the frantic pace at the front, the Red Bull’s were still being hampered by Hamilton and Button, however the Mclaren’s were unable to make the F-Duct work as strong in the second half of the race.   Then on lap 38 the worst case scenario happened for the Red bull team.

Unknown to us at the time, both Mclaren’s and Red bull’s were tight on fuel margins, meaning that neither team could allow its drivers to race flat-out to the end of the race without having to lean off the engine and fuel mixture to get them to the end.  Mark Webber was now in this ‘fuel saving’ mode and this gave Vettel a run on him as they came out of turn 10 and out on the flat-out section through turn 11 and down the tight hairpin at turn 12.

Red Bull Formula One driver Webber of Australia leads the race ahead of team mate Vettel of Germany during the Turkish F1 Grand Prix race in Istanbul

Webber spotted Vettel’s charge coming and specifically placed his car in the middle of the road through the flat-out kink that is turn 11 and as they made the run down to the hairpin Vettel pulled alongside to the left of Webber.  Webber had left just enough space for a car to get through as the headed to the left had corner at turn 12.  Vettel looked to have the position in his pocket with the next corner being a left hander he would have the line and Webber would have to capitulate his hard-earned lead.  But in what seemed like seismic seconds, the two cars touched and were unbelievably out of control with debris flying everywhere.  In scenes that were almost beyond belief Vettel had spun off the track in to retirement and Webber was making his way back on to the track in 3rd place after taking avoidance of the out of control Vettel.  Webber needed a new nose to replace damage, and in a second the race was past to the Mclaren team. With the crowd barely recovered from the Red Bull incident, the Mclaren’s were at it as well.

Formula One Turkish Grand Prix

TV viewers were able to hear radio messages to Hamilton that both cars were to enter in to their ‘fuel saving’ mode to ensure that both cars were to get to the end of the race.  This message most people interpreted as the order to hold station and bring it home, but to Lewis Hamilton’s surprise Jenson Button didn’t seem to understand the significance of the message.  Like Webber and Vettel the two Mclaren drivers were side by side in to the turn 12 hairpin, with Jenson Button sensationally trying to go round the outside of Hamilton. The outside became the inside in to turn 13 and Button took the lead with Hamilton shaping up to pounce along the start finish straight and in to turn 1.  It was in to turn 1 that the Mclaren management and mechanics had to close their eyes as Hamilton dived deep in to the apex giving Button the choice to surrender his short reign in the lead or to have a crash with his team-mate.  Luckily Button is a much more mature driver than Vettel and he let Hamilton ease back in to the lead.

F1 2010 - Rd7 Turkish GP - Hamilton wins in McLaren 1-2

It was then an easy run to the flag for the Mclaren drivers after both having to be told again to stop racing due to fuel shortages.  Hamilton’s emotions were telling in the lack of celebration or the restrain he showed through his body language.  He wasn’t happy with Button.  Having been told to back off and preserve fuel Button seemed to chance his luck and try to take Hamilton by surprise.  A word in Hamilton’s ear from Button post race seemed to ease the tension, but like Red Bull, the Mclaren team has some pressure to ease within their camp before the next race in Canada.

What about the others, oh yes, there were others in this race, but they seemed to pale in to insignificance due to the red-hot battle at the front.  Key headlines were Schumacher beating his team-mate Rosberg again, and the lack luster performance all weekend from Ferrari and Fernando Alonso in particular.

Mclaren jump Redbull in the Constructors Championship and both Mclaren drivers are now within touching distance of Webber who managed to bring the car back in 3rd despite the mayhem.

Canada is going to be thrilling, not only because the Mclaren should be good there too with the long back straight, but the lack of high-speed corners should bring the rest of the field back towards the Red Bull’s which is probably the least of your worries if you are a Red Bull fan. Let the inquest begin….

Australian Grand Prix Review

Mar. 29, 2010 - 05696278 date 28 03 2010 Copyright imago HochZwei Motorsports Formula 1 World Championship 2010 GP of Australia 01 Jenson Button GBR Vodafone McLaren Mercedes xHOCHxZWEIx motor aviation men Formula 1 F1 F World Cup GP Australia Melbourne Award Ceremony Single Vdig xsk 2010 horizontal Highlight premiumd motor aviation Engine Formula 1 Formula One F1 F 1 one Grand Prix grand Prize Australia Australia cheering Celebration Mood mood pleased Look forward happiness jubilant cheering positive Winner Champion happiness Joy Award Ceremony Podium Medal Ceremony Ceremony Honour Human Beings Celebrates rejoicing Winner won partner02.

2 weeks after the Bahrain Grand Prix there have been 14 days full of negative press and debate about how to fix Formula 1. Round 2 in Melbourne turned those comments well and truelly on their head.  In an action packed and thrilling race in which there were more overtaking manoeuvres than can be remembered, Jenson Button came out on top to win a vital race for the 2009 as he seeks to settle in to his new team.

Race day dawned damp and overcast, the expected rain  hit the track as the cars were on the grid 5 minutes before the start of the race.  The wet conditions meant that all the drivers had to start on the intermediate tyres. As the cars lined up on the grid, the race the emphasis was how the cars were going to get off the line on cold intermediates and get through the first couple of corners without any incidents or casualties.  Michael Schumacher was told as to make sure he positioned his car perfectly between the white lines to avoid the chance of wheel spin, but and as the 5 lights went out, Championship leader Fernando Alonso could have done with similar information as he was swamped by the pack from his 4th place grid slot.  With Vettle getting away well and leading in to turn 1, it was a amazing start from Massa that took him from 5th to 2nd, Webber 3rd and then a 3 way battle for for 4th place between the slow starting Alonso, Button and Schumacher and as they turned in to turn 1, the inevitable happened.

With Alonso in a sandwich between Schumacher on his left and Button on his right, when Alonso turned in, Button who had the inside line for the corner could not help but tap the Ferrari in to a spin, with the Ferrari collecting the Mercedes of Schumacher in the process.  As the Ferrari spun across the track the rest of the field took avoiding action.  Hamilton who had made a good start, took to the grass and by turn 3 he was up to 8th from 11th place.  Schumacher who had held on to his car also went through the grass and doing so damaged his front wing.  Alonso was stranded in the middle of the track and had to wait for everyone to filter past him before he could spin turn his car back round and rejoin the race.  He was way down in 22nd place and he then started a sensational drive from the back of the grid.

There was one more major incident on the first lap.  At turn 6 the front nose of the Sauber of Kobayashi collapsed underneath the front of his car rendering his car without any form of steering, sending the Japanese driver hurtling towards the wall.  As he deflected off of the wall he rebounded back in to the field smashing in to Nico Hulkenburg and Sebastien Buemi eliminating all 3 and leaving them all lucky not to be injured in the process.

With 3 cars in the gravel and debris all over the track the Safety Car was inevitable and came out before the end of the first lap, giving Michael Schumacher the chance to pit for a new nose.  The Safety Car was out for 3 laps, coming in at the end of lap 4.

With the cars starting lap 5 Vettle led from Massa, Webber, Kubica, Rosberg, Button and Hamilton. It was Kubica in the Renault that attacked Mark Webber for 3rd straight away and indicated that the Renault would have real pace today. Further down the field we were treated to a bizzare situation with Schumacher trying to overtake Di Grassi in the Virgin only to be re-passed at the very next corner. Something the Brazilian will remember for a while.

Hamilton then managed to pass Button for 6th at turn 3 on lap 6 and set of to attack the Mercedes of Rosberg.  Two corners later a mistake from Massa in second on the slippery track let Webber through to create a Redbull 1-2. Massa was then quickly under attack from Kubica, and as Massa slowed up to defended his position a 6 car train formed – Massa, Kubica, Rosberg, Hamilton, Button and Liuzzi.

It was Button that dropped out of this group at the end of the 6th lap as he made his way sensationally in to the pits to change from intermediates to slicks.  On a slippery and wet track it was a gamble that could have ruined his race. A slow 7.7 second stop saw him rejoin to mass condemnation by BBC commentators Martin Brundle and David Coulthard.  Then as Button slide off the track at turn 3, skating across the gravel trap, it seemed that the wisdom in Button pitting was ill founded.  However, Button rejoined the track and got it together instantly, banging in the fasted 2nd & 3rd sector time.

It was obvious that slicks were they tyre to be on and the majority of the field then followed Button in to the pits to cover off Button’s move to slicks. Massa, Kubica, Rosberg, Hamilton and Schumacher all pitted leaving Vettle, Webber and Sutil out front.  As they all raced back on to the track,  it was clear that Massa and Hamilton had been compromised in their stops, both being delayed on their exit from their box by oncoming cars.  Kubica now the benchmark from the front runners rejoined just in front of Button, who despite his off had managed to jump in front of 3 cars and was clearly the fastest man on track and disposed of Kubica in clinical style while the Pole was still getting his tyres up to working temperature.

On Lap 10 Button put in the fastest lap of the race and was nearly 5 seconds a lap faster that the drivers on intermediates, and it was no surprise that Vettle and Sutil pitted, leaving Webber to lead, however he was the only front runner out on the intermediates.  The Australian pit at the end of the lap and put him out in front of Massa, but a mistake at turn one on cold tyres let Massa through and put Barrichello and the recovering Hamilton right on his tail and the Aussie down in 6th.

The order on Lap 12 saw Vettle leading from Button, Kubica, Rosberg, Massa, Webber, Hamilton, Barrichello, De La Rosa and Alonso sensationally in 10th after being dead last on lap one.

The next couple of laps saw Vettle start to pull away from Button at about 3/4 of a second per lap and saw him starting to put a bit of day light between the Mclaren.  Mark Webber made up from his earlier mistake and passed Massa at turn 1.  As he did so Hamilton pounced on Massa who was forced off line and as they made their way to turn 3 on Lap 16, Hamilton pulled alongside Webber and ahead, but Webber wasn’t having any of it and tried to brake later that Hamilton, but it didn’t work.  The Redbull driver headed off in to the gravel letting Massa have back the two places he had lost 3 corners earlier. All this allowed Alonso to join in the fun in 8th place. It had been an utterly breathless start to a race and a complete contrast to the snooze-fest in Bahrain.

Hamilton was able to get past Massa on lap 22 at turn 3 and was then quickly on to the tail of Nico Rosberg in 4th place. The Briton looking the fastest and most aggressive driver on track and an outside threat to Vettle for the win if he could maintain this blistering pace.  On lap 26 Hamilton passed Rosberg in an amazing move round the outside at the fast turn 11-12 chicane. Rosberg looked to get Hamilton at the next corner but was confronted with waved yellow flags and had to fall back in line.

Amazingly the yellow flags were for the race leader Vettle. The German facing the wrong way and sunk deep in the gravel trap at turn 13 had lost what seemed to be a stuck on race victory for the second race running.  The replays showed the Redbull locking its brakes and heading straight off.  A problem with a front wheel leaving Vettle with no brakes was to blame and left the team cursing its reliability for losing yet another win.

This put Button in the lead from Kubica running a great race in the Renault, Hamilton 3rd, Rosberg 4th, Massa 5th and Webber in 6th.  Hamilton was breathing heavily behind the Renault and looked like if he could pass the Renault, we could be treated to a battle for the win between the two team mates, but all this was about to change.

Mark Webber was in the pits on lap 33 changing his tyres from to the harder compound, and as he rejoined Mclaren decided to cover off Webber by pulling Hamilton in to the pits.  The wisdom of this can be argued in hindsight, but this ended Hamilton’s chances of race victory because, none of the other cars in front of him came in to pit.  To make the matters worse, Button had just posted one to the fastest laps of the race.  What was clear here was it was a decision by the team to pull Hamilton in, and as this slowly dawned on Hamilton his frustration became clear.

The shake out left Hamilton and Webber chasing down Alonso in 4rd place, and enjoying a tyre advantage the pair was able to recover the gap by lap 50.   This was tough on Hamilton who had worked his socks off in the early part of the race and now had to slog out quick laps to regain the ground lost, but do it he did.

Meanwhile Schmacher managed to pass the Torro Rosso of Jamie Alguersuari for 13th place, after having struggled to over take him for some 15 laps. It certainly wasn’t where the German expected to be scrapping when he decided to make his comeback.

With 3 laps to go, and Lewis swarming all over the rear of Fernando, the Britain made a move on the Ferrari in an attempt to steal 4th place, as the pair squirmed under breaking, Hamilton had to let Alonso have the turn, but as he turned in Webber failed to anticipate Hamilton’s switchback and ploughed straight in to the right rear wheel of Hamilton and spun both drivers out in to the gravel. Luckily both drivers were able to get themselves back on track, however it was the Redbull that had a damaged front wing and needed to head to the pits, Hamilton was able to recover but was now behind Rosberg.

While all the fireworks were going on Jenson Button had managed to pull out a comfortable lead to Kubica and came through to take victory, his first for his new team Mclaren. Kubica was second to raise the morale of the Renault team, and Massa took the final place on the podium after hold off his faster team mate Alonso.  On the final lap Schumacher was able to snatch 10 place from De La Rosa to earn him a single point.

This was an action packed Australian Grand Prix, that had thrills and spills all the way through.  Helped by changing weather condition and drivers on different tyre strategies, this was the best way to respond to the critics who say F1 is boring.  Next up is Malaysia in 7 days and if the race is only half as good as the race in Melbourne, then we are in for a real treat.

1.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           1h33:36.531
 2.  Kubica        Renault                    +    12.034
 3.  Massa         Ferrari                    +    14.488
 4.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +    16.304
 5.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +    16.683
 6.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +    29.898
 7.  Liuzzi        Force India-Mercedes       +    59.847
 8.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +  1:00.536
 9.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +  1:07.319
10.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +  1:09.391
11.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +  1:11.301
12.  De la Rosa    Sauber-Ferrari             +  1:14.084
13.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Cosworth             +    2 laps
14.  Chandhok      HRT-Cosworth               +    4 laps

Fastest lap: Webber 1:28.358

Australian Grand Prix Preview

The F1 circus makes its way from the low key desert of Bahrain to the hustle and bustle of the F1 crazy city of Melbourne, Australia.  For some this is the natural starting place for the F1 calender and we will see if many of the questions that were raised after the first round of the season can be answered.

The Circuit

The race is held on public roads that form the perimeter access roads to one of the city’s most enjoyed points of interest: Albert Park.   Set around the lake, the tree lined 5.3km track is a curious track that offers just a few natural places to pass, but often produces interesting and surprising races.  Most of the tracks pits complex are temporary and what is permanent is a sports hall  used as a basket ball / indoor football facility.

The track winds its way past parking lots, a cricket and soccer ground, a sailing club house and also runs parrallel to the cities busiest roads that link the bustle of the city centre to the relaxing and vibrant St. Kilda area.

Questions from Bahrain

The most obvious and most over debated subject from Bahrain is the question over F1’s excitement factor.

  • Can F1 cars pass each other?
  • Do the new tyre rules create a stalemate over strategy?

Unfortunately with Albert park not being a “typical” F1 track, it is had to say if we will be able to come to any better conclusions this weekend.

Questions marks over drivers

Michael Schumacher will be going in to this weekends race feeling a bit of pressure.  He was beaten handsomely by his younger team mate Nico Rosberg in Bahrain, and Michael will need to put him in his place if he is to avoid being asked questions all the time about if he has lost it and if he was right to return to the sport.  Of course, this is doing Rosberg no harm at all and his stock will continue to rise while he is seen to out perform the 7 times world champion.

Jenson Button, like Schumacher will want to correct the balance of power between him and his team mate.  7th place compared to Hamilton’s 3rd, highlights the 2009 Champion has some catching up to do.  Jenson will be hoping the team can find him some more downforce at the front of the car, and he will also be pushing for more flexibility on the tyre strategy after having the rug pulled from beneath him last time out in Bahrain.

Mark Webber is on home ground this weekend and while this usually brings added pressure, the Aussie will be looking for a more consistent qualifying and practice to give him a better chance of fighting at the front on Sunday.

The teams under pressure

Mclaren carries a fairly large question mark at this time over the cars ability to generate enough down force as compared to their rivals.  Both drivers struggled in the race last time out, but the team have said that they lost their way slightly in Bahrain buy not putting enough wing on both drivers cars. With their car enjoying the highest top speed down the straights, the team will be hoping that a simple set up fix will bring them closer to Redbull and Ferrari.

Will Ferrari’s engines that seemed to get a little hot under the collar in Bahrain manage to see out another race.  While the temperature levels will be nowhere near as high as Bahrain, Ferrari might have to limit revs during practice and the race to see them through to the end.

Vettle will be hoping that Redbull have confidently fixed the engine problem that the car suffered in Bahrain in the closing laps that robbed the German of 25 points.  They won’t have to use the same engine here but it will put a lot of pressure on the team should reliability strike them down again.

A word for the new guys, Virgin will be looking to get to the bottom of their dreaded hydraulic problems that dogged both drivers in Bahrain, and HRT will be looking to get Karun Chandhok out for first practice on Friday morning.

Ones to look out for

My tips this weekend are for Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton.  Webber now with the confidence of winning races in 2009 he should have the best ever chance for a home win on Sunday.  Lewis Hamilton goes really well on this track. Even last year when he was driving a pig of a car was he able to get the car up in to the top points positions (less said about the lie-gate post race the better) I just feel even without a truly competitive car the Briton can deliver a result here.

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