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
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Sauber sign Spains 2nd most successful driver ever!

That’s correct Pedro De La Rosa who’s best finish one is 2nd place out of 84 starts and has a best Championship finishing position of 11th place has won the final seat at the Sauber team.  Hardly an earth shattering pedigree, but somehow the Spaniard has found his way back in to a proper race seat for the first time in nearly 3 years after finding himself in the testing wilderness at Mclaren.

I am surprised Sauber have gone for him over Nick Heidfeld who has been with the team for years, who is now left scrambling for a seat and with Renault being the only serious seat remaining.

Autosport are quoting Peter Sauber today

“Pedro has spent many years working for a top team at the highest technical level,” said Peter Sauber. “We as a team stand to gain from his experience, and the same goes for young Kamui.”

“The combination of a seasoned racer and an up-and-coming young driver has repeatedly proved a very fruitful one. I don’t expect either of them to disappoint in 2010.”

One can only assume Pedro comes with some significant financial backing too, as this to me seems a slightly strange decision.

Time will tell if Pedro proves me wrong in the season ahead.

De La Rosa rumours intensify

The web if full of gossip this week that the former BMW team, now back in the safe hands of Peter Sauber, is set to announce that current third driver at Mclaren, Pedro De La Rosa is to be their driver for the 2010 season alongside Kamui Kobyashi.

This seems an odd choice for me, Pedro has been out of F1 for 3 full years, in fact his last race was back in 2006 when he deputised for the sacked Juan Pablo Montoya at Mclaren

Despite competing in some 72 races the Spaniard’s best result is 2nd place behind Jenson Button in the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix and has competed in just 9 races in 7 seasons.

He is by no means a ‘spring chicken’ and there are no indications in his previous form that he has the speed to lead the team towards top-level results, so why are the team interested in Pedro?

Firstly Pedro’s experience at Mclaren where he has spent the last 7 years as its official test driver, from which he would have gathered plenty of experience on how a top-level team operate – vital for Sauber.  He is also a mature head in that he has a strong presence on the GPDA and could be seen as a safe pair of hands on the track and not put added pressure on the team by crashing.

It is this experience and safe profile that I believe Sauber are attracted to in order to balance out the raw and potentially erratic nature displayed by the exciting prospect that is Kamui Kobyashi.

Hold on a minute though, Nick Heidfeld the driver previously employed by BMW and before then by Peter Sauber himself, is in limbo at the moment looking for a drive. He already fits all those criteria I previously mentioned but is able to boast continued experience of racing which De La Rosa cannot hold a torch to.

So what does this mean? Is Peter Sauber finally drawing the curtain on the nearly man Heidfeld? Are the team that has recently been saved tight on budget and unable to afford Heidfeld – This seems unlikely has one expects that Nick wouldn’t have been on superstar money, which leaves the only other possible option in that Nick is about to join Renault to complete his partnership with Robert Kubica.

With the car launches eminent and the first test under 3 weeks away it would be a worry for Sauber to have to rely upon Kobayashi who has zero experience in developing a car.

It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next week or so.