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.

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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

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

Renault name new boss but no news on second driver

Renault F1 have announced the full time replacement for Flavio Briatore as team principle.  Eric Boullier will assume responsibility of getting the team which has been dogged with scandal and dreadful results for the past 3 years, back to the front of the grid.

Boullier comes from his ties with Gravity Management who now owns a large stake in the F1 team having purchased it off of the French Manufacturer in December 2009.  Bob Bell will continue on the technical side.

Speculation will now turn to the drivers of the team for the new season.  Robert Kubica who signed for the team late last year has officially declared his intention to drive for the team despite the Manufacturer taking a less directive roll.  This will be good news for the team as it really needed to hold on to its star driver having lost Alonso to Ferrari.  The second driver is yet to be announced.

With Schumacher now taking the final seat a Mercedes for 2010 the Renault seat looks to be the best seat remaining on the market and drivers will be keen to try and get themselves in at Renault.  There are quite a few good drivers on the market, most noticeably old boys such as Nick Heidfeld and Giancarlo Fisichella.  But it remains to be seen if the team have the confidence to stick with youth by going with Roman Grosjean or another GP2 driver.  Results will be important for the team especially in building credibility and attracting sponsorship after losing its major partners on the back of the Crash-Gate scandal.

I think they should go with Fisichella, he knows the team and is clearly still fast despite what the F60 did to him in the final races of last year.  Heidfeld to me is just a journeyman and without winning a race, one wonders if he ever will stand on the top step of the podium.

With the first testing a month away the team has a couple of weeks to make this decision.