Tag Archives: McLaren

Vettel wins in Malaysia but not through fair play

24 Mar

Good Day, Bad Day, Malaysia 13.

Good Day:

Nico Hulkenburg: Q12 F8 8/10 – In a race full of errors Hulkenburg stood as a driver who – apart from the pit stop incident – refused to put a foot wrong, he showed he can start well, overtake and hold off guys in stronger cars. Hulkenburg is a fan of races where the surface is changing – as we saw in Brazil last year – and although the Sauber isn’t the most competitive car on track Hulkenburg’s talented enough to take it beyond it’s potential.

McLaren: 7/10 – This weekend signified a improvement for McLaren with Button fighting for 5th before the retirement and both cars making it into Q3. Having said this McLaren aren’t back yet, rain is good at evening out the field – if you want proof look at last season’s Malaysian GP won by Alonso – and both Button and Perez are better than average in the wet so the hard work isn’t over yet.

Jules Bianchi: Q19 F13 8/10 – Bianchi performed well on his debut and he’s continued in Malaysia yet again showing why he’s part of Ferrari’s development scheme, whilst the cameras were on the leaders Bianchi was working hard yet again, he was strong in qualifying (only a few tenths off the Williams in front) and maintained that today consistently setting fast lap times, with Bianchi Marussia should have a promising year.

Bad Day:

Red Bull: 7/10 – It’s going to take one hell of a diplomat to sort out this mess, if you missed the incident I’ll quickly paraphrase it for you: both cars had pitter for the last time and Webber was ahead of Vettel in a Red Bull 1-2, Horner told them to not race and to continue in those positions to the end of the race, Vettel then overtook. This led to the frostiest podium since Hockenheim 2010 and whilst in post race interviews Vettel did say he was sorry and didn’t mean too you’d have to be a Red Bull employer to swallow that, if he was sorry why didn’t he just give the place back? Apart from that though they did have a good race and looked strong throughout.

Nico Rosberg: Q6 F4 7/10 – Rosberg drove well today he was always on (or setting) the pace and showed Mercedes that he’s as good as Hamilton, despite this Mercedes also tried some team strategy today, this time telling the faster Rosberg to stay behind the fuel conserving Hamilton. Rosberg will fell aggrieved at that but his ability to follow team orders has brought him a lot respect from F1 fans (Vettel take note).

Fernando Alonso: Q3 F n/a 3/10 – It looked promising for Alonso this morning, he had a quick car, he’s a good starter and Malaysia has a long run to turn 1 but then it all went wrong, problems started at turn 2 when his tyres locked up and he gave Vettel a little shunt, this broke one of the columns supporting the front wing leaving him lacking downforce, but then the decision was taken by Ferrari not to being him in for a change of front wing (reason for this is probably that they wanted him to come in once it was time for slicks) and Alonso pretty much immediately ran over his front-wing (which lost him all control of the car) and beached it.

Kimi Raikkonen: Q10 F7 5/10 – After his phenomenal performance last week in Australia this race was a bit of a disaster he was penalised for blocking in Q3 yesterday and was pretty lack lustre today, if Raikkonen is to become a double world champion this year he needs more of what he did in Australia and less of what he did today.

Force India: 4/10: To say Force India were awful at pit stops today would be putting under-egging it they had a disaster every time one of their cars stopped, first they double stacked (where both cars come in at the same time) and sadly the rear left of Sutil (the first car in) refused to budge which meant the stop took an extra 16 seconds than normal, this also delayed Di Resta the 2nd car in the stack. Then when Di Resta came in for his second it took 2 minutes to remove the front left, and the for Sutil’s second stop they couldn’t remove the front left. Needless to say neither of them made it to the end.

Max Chilton: Q21 F16 6/10 – Whilst team mate Bianchi stars in the Marussia looks average at best, this is the second race where Chilton has been thoroughly out shone by Bianchi and if this is how he continues he could find himself back in GP2 next season, Daddy’s millions may have got him to the grid but remaining there is a problem that rests on Max’s shoulders.

Vettel on pole but only after near miss Q1 exit

23 Mar

3 winners and losers of qualifying, Malaysia 2013

Winners:

Sebastian Vettel: Q1 – 2 races this season and 2 pole positions as Vettel cruised to pole position by a whole 0.9 seconds, but it wasn’t as simple as it appears with Vettel almost leaving qualifying in Q1 after the strategy  taken by Red Bull went wrong and it was only through doing a second timed lap that he made it through to Q2 even so it left the Red Bull management shaken.

Felipe Massa: Q2 – This time last year Massa was a laughing stock and yet here he is now starting on the front row ahead of Alonso and having out qualified him for the 4th time in a row, can we now say the pre 2009 Massa is back with a vengeance and if so what’s to stop him making amends for the title miss in 2008, only time will tell.

McLaren: Q8 and Q10 – There’s definitely still a long way to go for McLaren but the team must see it as a step in the right direction to have 2 drivers into Q3 even if it was obvious that they would never take pole. With conditions set to be wet tomorrow I can see McLaren challenging for 5th place since both drivers are very accomplished in the wet and rain does seem to even out the cars.

Losers:

Paul Di Resta: Q15 – Probably should have made it into Q3 had a disastrous Q2 strategy left him out. Di Resta came in at the end of his banker lap (a lap set on tyres from the previous session so that the driver has a time even if something goes wrong) meaning he hadn’t set a time when rain came out and left him completely out of qualifying.

Romain Grosjean: Q11 – Grosjean suffered the same as Di Resta with problem of rain stopping him improving on his lap time leaving him just out of Q3. 2013 hasn’t gone well for Grosjean so far with a bad race last weekend and now this but he’s got talent and should return to the top of his game soon.

Valtteri Bottas: Q18 – It’s been a bad start for Williams so far with Maldonado out in Q1 last week and Bottas suffering the same fate this weekend the car just isn’t working like the team will have hoped and this could be a direct consequence of being the only team to miss the Jerez test.

BREAKING: Raikkonen given a 3 place grid penalty for impeding Rosberg in Q3, this means Raikkonen is now 10th whilst Button Sutil and Perez move up one place each to 7th, 8th and 9th respectively.

Lotus claim first blood but rest aren’t far behind!

17 Mar

Good Day, Bad Day: Australia 2013.

Good Day:

  • Kimi Raikkonen: Q7 F1 10/10 – What a way for Raikkonen to start 2013, not only winning but winning in style in Australia with his closest challenger Fernando Alonso 12 seconds down the road, Lotus took a big gamble opting for the 2 stop strategy but it paid off with Raikkonen now the man to beat. 
  • Fernando Alonso: Q5 F2 8/10 – Fernando has a right to feel aggrieved for not winning the race he started the race well moving into 3rd on the first lap alone and the timing of his second stop was arguably the decision of the race undercutting both Vettel and Sutil after running behind both of them in 3rd. But if Alonso is disappointed with how his race today he needs only to look at his result here 12 months ago to be cheered up.
  • Sebastian Vettel: Q1 F3 7/10 – Vettel was out played by both Raikkonen and Alonso today on the strategy front, the 3 pit strategy was definitely the slower of the two and losing out to Alonso’s undercut was just unlucky, but Vettel will not be disappointed he’s only 10 points behind Raikkonen and the year isn’t over yet.
  • Felipe Massa: Q4 F4 8/10 – The pre 2009 Massa appears to be back for good, after some impressive races this year Massa started this season as he means to go on, racing for victories, he qualified ahead of Alonso which isn’t common and you never know he could be in championship contention this season.
  • Mercedes: 8/10 – When Hamilton moved to Mercedes many – I included – wrote him out of contention due to Mercedes’ not building good enough cars but they’ve changed that for this year, both cars were competitive in qualifying (Rosberg fastest in Q1 and Q2) and Hamilton qualifying 3rd and they were competitive today until they’re luck soured, Hamilton was ‘only’ 5th because of a massive lock up that moved him from his 2 stop strategy to a 3 stop and Rosberg was unlucky to suffer an electronic problem, Mercedes are definitely contenders this season.
  • Adrian Sutil: Q12 F7 9/10 – You wouldn’t believe that Sutil had missed 2012 looking at his performance today, he made a big call starting on the mediums but it payed off moving him up to 1st before his first pit stop and with his second pair of mediums he returned to the front, sadly he changed too early onto the ‘option’ tyres which cost him a lot of time and left him trying to hold drivers off.
  • Jules Bianchi: Q19 F15 10/10 – WOW! I knew Bianchi would be good in Formula 1 but I never thought he’d be this good, his times were stunningly fast he won the class B race and he was challenging midfield drivers during the race, Marussia have produced a fantastic car this season and I don’t think it would be going to far to say Bianchi could pick up points this season.

Bad Day:

  • Mark Webber: Q2 F6 6/10 – It was the dreadful start to the race that left Webber all but out of it but Webber definitely hates this track (even if it is his home GP) because it’s never worked out for him before here and if he wants to ever become F1 champion he’s going to need to do much better than that.
  • McLaren 5/10 – McLaren have a lot of work to do since their car does not look good in any way at the moment, only Button made it into Q3 and he didn’t even set a lap and in the race both drivers were fighting for the lower points, if this is going to be a good year for McLaren they need to up their game pronto.
  • Romain Grosjean: Q8 F10 5/10 – Whilst Raikkonen was winning the race Grosjean was struggling, yes he managed to avoid hitting anyone at the start but he finished a massive 84 seconds behind Kimi, Grosjean is seen as a quick driver but it all went wrong today and if he wants to fight for big points this season he needs to regain the speed he had last season.
  • Nico Hulkenburg: Q11 F- 6/10 – Hulkenburg’s race was over before it even began with him retiring before the race started due to problems with the fuel system, this is a real shame as Nico is one of the most talented drivers on the grid and maybe could have picked up some points today.

Hamilton set to announce Mercedes move.

28 Sep

Today (Friday the 28th of September) Lewis Hamilton is expected to announce that he is leaving McLaren and will instead will be driving for Mercedes next year. After 5 season with the team in F1 and many more years being supported by the team in lower racing categories it will be an emotional farewell when Lewis drives his final race for the team in Brazil this year.

In this post I won’t be looking at the reasons behind the deal (my opinions on them can be seen here), instead I will be looking at which drivers could replace Hamilton and who will he replace.

Who will Mercedes drop?

  • Mercedes have one of two options for who will make way for Hamilton, they can drop either Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg. Schumacher is the obvious choice, there are many people who feel that Schumacher should leave sooner rather than later and in recent races there has been evidence that his powers are waining, most recently running into the back of Vergne in Singapore. If Schumacher is dropped by Mercedes I’d expect him to retire for good. But Mercedes may want to keep Schumacher as he’s a more attractive target for sponsors, and if this is the case the team may decide to drop Nico Rosberg, winner of the 2012 Chinese GP. This would be in my opinion the wrong decision as Rosberg has a lot of potential and Lewis will find it easier to get on with Rosberg than Schumacher (who he has had some disputes with in recent years). If Rosberg does leave I’d expect him to be quickly signed up by another team, maybe replacing Bruno Senna at Williams.

Who could replace Hamilton?

  • Sergio Perez will be touted as the favourite to replace Hamilton, Perez is a fantastic driver: light on his tyres, fast and able to overtake and in the longterm he could have the potential to be better than Hamilton, but there may be resentment to sign him in that the Mexican is part of the Ferrari young drivers program and McLaren may be worried that Ferrari would poach Perez off the team after only a couple of years. If I was Martin Whitmarsh I would sign Perez.
  • Paul Di Resta will also be a likely target and with him being British he’d look ideal to replace Hamilton, especially after last weekend’s performance in Singapore. Di Resta would supply them with a solid driver who probably wouldn’t challenge for next years championship but would give them points and be a possibility in the future.
  • Nico Hulkenburg has been on many team’s radars and is expected to move to a bigger team in the not to distant future, he’s quick, competitive and when he’s having a good day he’s one of the best drivers out there, qualifying 4th in Valencia and finishing 4th at Spa. Nico will be looking to put in another strong performance in the Brazilian GP this year where on his previous outing he took pole. I think Nico is 3rd favourite.

HAMILTON’S STUBBORN GEARBOX ALLOWS THE RETURN OF ‘THE FINGER’

24 Sep

The Michael Report- 2012 FORMULA ONE SINGTEL SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX

ONE THOUSAND and six hundred lights surround the Marina Bay in Singapore, guiding the F1 drivers around the tight and twisting streets under the moon’s gaze in F1’s only night time race, and it delivered a spectacular race yet again.

Lewis Hamilton’s race began very strongly, and his stunning pace demonstrated his careful manner around the Singaporean streets, but unfortunately, we were denied a good old scrap for first between Hamilton and Vettel. This was due to the fact he had to retire with a gearbox failure, and had to coast solemnly into the corner of the race track, his chances ruined today, and also providing a significant dint to his overall standings at this crucial stage of the season- all hopes for McLaren will now be pointing to Japan, and they will be praying for a disaster free couple of Grands Prix if they have any chance of reining in Alonso or Vettel.

Today’s race was dedicated to the life of the late Professor Sidney Watkins OBE, who revolutionised safety in the sport, and if it weren’t for his developments, racing here would have been impossible.

On the 39th anniversary of the first deployment of a Formula One safety car, it was only fitting that we should see not one, but two safety cars in the race, the first one following Narain Karthikeyan’s trip into a wall in a tight part of the circuit; the racers managed to close down the leaders so much so that after the restart, Jenson Button nearly collided into the back of Vettel’s car as the safety car was making its way back into the pits, and moments later, Michael Schumacher underestimated Jean Eric Vergne’s racing line into one of the corners, and subsequently careered into the back of the Frenchman’s car, causing the safety car drivers to have another spin on the track.

The near misses and unlucky moments seemed to come thick and fast following the second restart: Pastor Maldonado suffered misfortune as a hydraulic problem forced an early, yet undeserved retirement- the Venezuelan had excellent driving form and I expect that he will be disappointed with another pointless finish. Bruno Senna’s run of bad luck continued after losing power just before the end of the race, and a very poor pit stop by Vitaly Petrov saw him finish almost three whole laps behind the rest of the field.

Action further up the field wasn’t missing either- both Saubers, Nico Hulkenberg and Mark Webber jostled for position and their battle saw car body parts flying all over the track, and Felipe Massa wasn’t short of near misses, either- whilst trying to overtake Bruno Senna (before he retired) the Ferrari came within millimetres of damaging a bridge that was over a century old, and risked damaging both cars in the process- brave, courageous driving, but it eventually paid off.

The race was scheduled to last for sixty one laps, but since the safety car slowed down proceedings in an already long race, the two hour time limit elapsed, and when Sebastian Vettel crossed the finish line on the fifty ninth lap, the chequered flag was flown and twenty five points were awarded to the German- the ‘finger’ got its second 2012 outing- its first since Bahrain- nevertheless Christian Horner needed something to smile about as these points put Vettel comfortably back in contention for the Driver’s Championship. McLaren received some consolation, as Jenson Button received eighteen points for finishing second, and Fernando Alonso completed the podium earning fifteen more points to add to his tally.

Paul Di Resta did Force India proud with his best ever finish- fourth place should put a huge smile on the young Scot’s face as twelve points were much deserved and a good sign that he has a good future ahead of him. Nico Rosberg avoided the same fate of his German team mate and received ten points for fifth place, with Kimi Raikkönen receiving eight points in sixth place followed closely behind by team mate Grosjean in seventh place with six points. Felipe Massa avoided more near misses to take eighth place and four points followed by a deserving Toro Rosso in ninth place- Daniel Ricciardo did well to earn two points for his team, and Mark Webber earned he final point in tenth place.

It is also worth noting that Marussia’s Timo Glock finished in a very respectable twelfth place, and although no points were scored, the team are now statistically the best of three “back marker” teams; Sauber were very disappointed with their performance today- neither driver finished in the points after looking so good in Monza two weeks ago.

The fly away action continues next fortnight in Japan and McLaren will be hoping that both drivers will have an excellent performance without any mishaps as the season begins to draw to a close, but with everything still all to play for.

OFFICIAL STANDINGS UPDATE

There are six drivers with more than 100 points in the Driver’s Championships. Leading the way is Fernando Alonso with 194 points- if he keeps scoring good points, he might just hang on to the lead by Brazil, yet any DNF’s will be devastating, and something that all drivers will be hoping to avoid. Sebastian Vettel has re- taken second place with 165 points, followed by Kimi Raikkönen in third with 149 points and Hamilton has stayed on 142 points, dropping two places since Monza. Fifth place belongs to Mark Webber with 133 points to his name, whilst Jenson Button completes the top six with 119 points. Nico Rosberg is seventh with 93 points, and Romain Grosjean’s return has seen him score more points, taking his tally to 82.

In the Constructor’s Championships, Red Bull have increased their lead to 298 points, 37 points of McLaren’s 261 points in second. Ferrari remain third, with 245 points, and Lotus follow closely behind with 231 points. Nearly 100 points separate fourth and fifth, with Mercedes in fifth with 136 points. Sauber remain in sixth place, staying with 100 points. Paul Di Resta’s superb performance has seen Force India’s points tally increase to 75, remaining in seventh. Williams are eighth with 54 points, 40 points clear of Toro Rosso in ninth and 14 points. Although still yet to score, Marussia are statistically ahead of Caterham in tenth place, and HRT, as ever, bring up the rear in twelfth.

I will be back in 2 week’s time with another update, as Formula One returns to Suzuka in Japan- last year, the Championships were decided here, but with 150 points still up for grabs, the tide could turn at any moment and we can still expect a few surprises, just remember to set those alarm clocks if you don’t want to miss the excitement!

Since this review was written, Mark Webber has been demoted to eleventh place, with a 20 second penalty for dangerous driving (contact with Saubers and Hulkenberg) and Michael Schumacher has been issued with a ten place grid penalty in Suzuka for crashing into Vergne.

This means Sergio Perez finished tenth and has earned the point- Mark Webber’s tally is in fact 132; Sauber has 101 points and Red Bull lead by 36 points with 297 points to their name.

Vettel dominates practice, but it’s Lewis on pole

22 Sep

3 winners and losers of qualifying, Singapore 12

Winners:

McLaren: Since a disappointing start to the season McLaren have turned their season round amazingly, and with Hamilton putting in a blistering time for pole today McLaren have now had 4 poles in a row. This turnaround is vitally important, not only in keeping Hamilton for 2013 but also to make a final challenge for the championship. Button will start from 4th.

Pastor Maldonado: Despite winning in Valencia there hasn’t been a lot of good news relating to Maldonado, but it was a fantastic result for the Venezuelan to claim a front row spot for the start tomorrow and with his consistency this will throw the cat among the pigeons for any predictions relating to tomorrow’s race.

Paul Di Resta: Paul was strong in Singapore last year finishing 6th and has done very well again qualifying 6th. With Singapore having a high attrition rate I wouldn’t rule out a top 4, or maybe even a podium finish.

Losers:

Sebastian Vettel: After setting the fastest times in every practice session Vettel was widely regarded as the most likely driver to take pole position, but Vettel seemed to struggle today only managing 3rd.

Felipe Massa: With Alonso leading the championship you’d expect Massa to be competing for top 3 places in qualifying, but the reality is Massa is struggling as shown by his 13th place today. Although you’d expect him to still pick up points tomorrow he needs to up his game and pray if he’s to stay at Ferrari next year.

Sauber: To be fair to the team Sauber’s can isn’t suited to the Singapore circuit so I wasn’t expecting anything amazing, but I didn’t imagine they’d have a driver out in Q1 and not have a driver in the top 12. Sauber will need Kobayashi to show off his overtaking skills and Perez to put in one of his phenomenal performances tomorrow to pick up some points. I expect Sauber to be much stronger in the next race at Japan.

HAMILTON IS VICTORIOUS WHILST RED BULL LOSE THEIR WINGS

10 Sep

The Michael Report- GRAN PREMIO SANTANDER D’ ITALIA 2012

MONZA plays host to the fastest circuit on the F1 calendar and this prestigious venue has seen triumph and tragedy over the years and viewers were treated to a cornucopia of emotions during today’s race.

Lewis Hamilton fought off Felipe Massa’s astonishingly quick start and began the race comfortably, managing to gain a considerable lead, whilst Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso chased down the competition, and after starting tenth, managed to be battling Vettel for fourth place a few laps later, gaining the place later on in the race when Vettel was issued with a drive through penalty for forcing Alonso off the track. This manoeuvre mirrored a similar battle last year, when Alonso nearly forced Vettel off the track at the Curva Grande, and played well into Ferrari’s hands.

Jenson Button eventually took back second place from Massa, meaning that McLaren were looking forward to a 1-2 victory, but when Button was forced to pull up at the side of the road, we immediately knew that something had gone terribly wrong for last week’s champion- when asked, McLaren said on the radio that there had been an irreversible problem with the fuel pressure and the pumps, but the race was over for Button.

Things went from bad to worse for Red Bull- Vettel was told that at any point he may have to pull over and stop, and he eventually did so with the distinct order “Stop the car, we need to save the engine!” It was an alternator fault that brought disappointing memories of Valencia for the German. Webber looked strong towards the end but clipped the Ascari chicane and spun sideways and nearly crashed into a wall- he damaged his tyres and was stuck in seventh gear, and was forced to retire to the pit lane early.

More race casualties included Jean-Eric Vergne, whose suspension broke, causing him to fly into the escape road after the pit straight, and Nico Hulkenberg, who hasn’t featured well over the entire weekend.

In the end, victory went to McLaren, and Lewis Hamilton managed to take the chequered flag at Monza in front of the roaring Tifosi for the very first time, and twenty five points are very welcome, as we shall discover soon. However, the driver of the day was most certainly Sergio Perez- Sauber’s Tyre strategy paid dividends today as he managed to finish second after a disappointing twelfth place qualification- he managed to find pace in his tyres like no other, and lapped driver after driver up to the chequered flag, finishing only five seconds behind Hamilton. Eighteen points were awarded to the young Mexican.

Ferrari must have been pleased with the retirement of three of their main opponents, and clearly pleased with Alonso completing the podium, and team-mate Massa finishing fourth- his badly needed twelve points were added to Alonso’s fifteen to secure a good haul for the Scuderia team in front of their roaring fans in the grandstands. Kimi Raikkönen was the victor of his bout against Michael Schumacher- the two veterans finished fifth and sixth respectively, earning ten and eight points, and Nico Rosberg secured seventh place and six points for Mercedes.

Paul Di Resta finished eighth and received four points, and Kamui Kobayashi finished ninth, receiving two points, and final scrap for the final point was tight- Bruno Senna finished tenth and fought off his team-mate Pastor Maldonado and Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo.

The competition is still on, and it is getting more and more entertaining- both Championships are still up for grabs, and as F1 heads out of Europe for the fly away stage, it may still go down to the wire, but congratulations should go out to Sauber and also Lewis Hamilton, who deserved champagne after his Spa disappointment, and it was most certainly a weekend for Red Bull to forget.

OFFICIAL STANDINGS UPDATE

Although Fernando Alonso still leads the Driver’s Championship with 179 points, the competition is creeping up to the Spaniard- Lewis Hamilton’s victory today has meant that he is now in second place with 142 points, and Kimi Raikkönen is a mere 1 point behind with 141 points. Mark Webber retains his 8 point deficit behind team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who has 140 points, and Jenson Button stays with 101 points, and has an almost impossible task now to claim victory, but good points scores will still help McLaren seek the Constructor’s title. Lower down in the driver standings is Nico Rosberg in seventh place, with 83 points, and Romain Grosjean in eighth place and 76 place, he will hope to build when he returns next time in Singapore. Sergio Perez’s stunning performance sees him increase his tally to 65 points, ahead of Felipe Massa, who is tenth with 47 points.

McLaren could still claim the Constructors title, as they are now only 29 points behind Red Bull who still have 272 points. McLaren’s score of 243 sees them ahead of Ferrari in third place, who have 226 points, sending Lotus back down into fourth with 217 points. However, the top four are secure as Mercedes only have 126 points, 91 points behind Lotus, and Sauber have stayed in sixth place, and have creeped into triple figures, with 100 points. Force India’s tiny four point gain sees them seventh, with 63 points, ahead of William’s haul of 54 points in eighth place. Toro Rosso remain in ninth with 12 points, and, as I write with ever increasing pessimism of anything changing with my final sentence, HRT, Caterham and Marussia are yet to score- who’d have thought that?

I will have another update in a fortnight’s time, when F1 returns to Asia for the Singaporean Grand Prix, which sees drivers manoeuvring the twisting roads of the Marina Bay circuit under the spotlights in the only night time race on the calendar, and then the early wake ups start again!