Notes from the Television Screen: F1 @ Shanghai

Nico Rosberg took his first ever win in the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix, ending a dominating twenty seconds ahead of Jenson Button. The Briton had a problem in a pit stop that cost him a fight for the win. Lewis Hamilton completed the podium, having participated in a ten car fight over eight positions in the third of the race. Kimi Raikkonen looked safe to finish on the podium, but drifted back to twelfth in that fight, as Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel completed the top five. It was a race of strategy, with teams using both two and three stop strategies. There was no rain, but plenty of clouds in a grand prix that saw plenty of dicing for position, and Michael Schumacher the only retirement. Read the full race report at Formula1Blog…

Rosberg (1:35.121) set the pole winning time in a remarkable fashion, retiring to the garage after one fast run early in the final Q3 part of Saturday’s qualifying session. Though Hamilton qualified second fastest, a gearbox change penalty dropped the Briton back to the seventh starting position and put Schumacher on for a Mercedes front row. Not only is it Rosberg’s first pole ever, it is also the first pole for a Mercedes factory car since 1955, when two Silver Arrows also started on the front row in Italy. Hamilton and Schumacher set the fastest practice times, but neither’s quali lap was closer than a half second to Rosberg. Kobayashi qualified fourth fastest but began the race in third, with next to him on the grid. Button and Webber completed the third row of starters. Read the full qualifying report at Formula1Blog…

Webber contributed to teammate Vettel’s poor qualifying showing (he started only eleventh) by posting the fastest lap on the softer tyres in Q2 and knocking his teammate out in that session. Neither Red Bull looked to have any particular pace to match the Mercedes powered cars at the front in any of the practice sessions. Hamilton led both the Friday and Saturday morning sessions, with Schumacher taking the advantage at the end of the dry Friday afternoon session. Both Ferraris again struggled through the practices, but Alonso managed to qualify ninth and Massa twelfth. Despite the lack of grip and multitudinous slides and trips over kerbing, only Timo Glock suffered an incident during any of the sessions. He appeared to lose the front wing and nose cone entering Turn 1, leading to his skittering across the gravel and belting his Marussia into the tyre barrier. He was generally unhurt, though perplexed.

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F1 China Race Results & Report: Hamilton Wins Passing-Strewn Race, Webber 3rd

What Happens When It’s In the Strategy, and the Ability to Push

4:53am EST — Lewis Hamilton won a heart-pounding 2011 Chinese Grand Prix after nearly not making the grid Sunday. Teammate Jenson Button passed pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel on the start. It was not so clear-cut as that, with multiple tire strategies and close racing putting six different drivers in the lead. Vettel had his turn at leading after the first round of pit stops, but Hamilton took him in the final laps of the race. The star of the race was Mark Webber, pushing his Red Bull to finish third after starting eighteenth. Button was his last victim, finishing fourth on fading tires. Nico Rosberg, who led a good deal completed the top five, while Felipe Massa finished where he started and teammate Fernando Alonso finished seventh.

In what has become somewhat routine, Vettel started the race on pole, having set the fastest time by a wide margin during Saturday’s qualifying, and posting fastest times during both the Friday morning and afternoon sessions, as well as the Saturday morning practice. Other than Vitaly Petrov’s red flag stacking up seventeen drivers for a two minute shoot-out in Q2, qualifying followed the standard 2011 script: Vettel was very quick, with Button and Hamilton the only drivers in his vicinity. For Webber, qualifying was not standard, as he was knocked out in Q1, with KERS and possibly other issues. He started only eighteenth. Rosberg slotted into fourth to start next to Hamilton, with Alonso and Massa starting the race from the third row. McLaren barely made the grid, as Hamilton’s engine did not want to start whilst flooded with fuel, according to Paddy Lowe, though most others in the area called it a fuel leak. He managed to leave the pit lane with thirty seconds to spare, but missing bodywork that had to be added while on the grid.

The race got underway under the first clear blue skies of the weekend, with A great start for Button to take the lead, while Hamilton fought with Vettel for second, managing to take the position. Rosberg also took a look on Vettel, but could not manage to take third. Vettel lost time looking to block Hamilton, allowing Button to safely take the lead and be on his way. Rosberg then came under fire from the Ferraris, but held his fourth position. By the end of the first lap, Button had more than a second on Hamilton, with Vettel, Rosberg, Massa, Alonso, di Resta, Sutil, Schumacher, and Alguersuari as the top ten. Webber had moved up one position to seventeenth. After the second lap, Hamilton had gained back a bit on Button.

Though Button continued to lead through the first few laps, he remained unable to put more than a second between himself and Hamilton. Vettel remained less than a second behind Hamilton, with Rosberg two seconds behind his fellow German. Massa and Alonso were less than a second apart and close behind Rosberg, while di Resta was complaining of problems from the rear and over four seconds behind Alonso in seventh, five laps into the fifty-six lap race. Schumacher took some interesting lines to keep his Mercedes in cleaner air, with the team’s overheating problems continuing. Continue reading

F1 China Quali Results & Report: Vettel Wins Pole Again, Webber KO’d in Q1

What Happens When Something is Wrong

3:22am EST — Sebastian Vettel dominated his way to pole for the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix, with Jenson Button joining him on the front row. Shockingly, Mark Webber was unable to make it out of Q1, qualifying only eighteenth without KERS and on hard tires. Lewis Hamilton will start on the second row, qualifying just four hundredths off his teammate’s time and joined by Nico Rosberg on the second row. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa complete the third starting row, with Jaime Alguersuari, Paul di Resta, and Sebastien Buemi starting in the top ten. Just after going fourth fastest on his only Q2 run, Vitaly Petrov stopped on track, bringing out a red flag that left a two minute shootout to move on to Q3. Felipe Massa did, but Michael Schumacher and Nick Heidfeld did not. Though Petrov’s time put him into Q3, he was unable to compete and qualified tenth. All drivers qualified to start Sunday’s race.

Vettel ran away with the headlines in all three practice sessions, ending all three quickest, and with the fastest lap of the weekend. There seemed no limit to the Red Bull’s pace, so long as technical gremlins weren’t attacking Webber’s Red Bull. He was second quickest Friday morning, but drifted farther back as the weekend progressed, ending the Saturday morning session fifteenth and without an opportunity to run on soft tires before qualifying. Meanwhile, the only other cars or drivers able to come close to Vettel were Hamilton and Button, or Rosberg and Schumacher, all running under Mercedes power. Though the Ferrari duo of Massa and Alonso continued their slow-Friday-quicker-Saturday running, Alonso missed valuable track time with a hydraulic issue Friday afternoon. In heartening news, all times set during the final practice session were within 107% of Vettel’s quickest time (1:34.968), indicating that all drivers should qualify for Sunday’s race. “With less than 20 mins to go to the start of Q1 Webber’s car still on high stands in garage. Mechanics working flat out,” tweeted Anthony Davidson from China. He would make it out for Q1, but without KERS, again.

Q1:
The day was still cool as the first, twenty-minute qualifying session began in Shanghai. Perez was the first out, quickly followed by birthday boy di Resta. Other drivers began trickling out of their garages, though there was no mass exodus. Perez’s first time was a respectable 1:38.295, followed by di Resta, nearly seven tenths slower. Five minutes in, and only Vettel, Webber, Buemi, and Kobayashi were still in the box, though the former two would be on track just a minute or so later. There were no more times at that point. Continue reading

F1 China FP3 Results & Report: Vettel Fastest Again, Button & Hamilton Still Close

What Happens When Things Seem a Bit Clearer

12:18am EST — Sebastian Vettel completed a hat trick of the practice sessions for the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix, topping the timesheets (1:34.968) in the Saturday morning session. He led Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, and Fernando Alonso as the fastest five, though the times throughout the latter half of the session often came fast and furious. For the second session in a row, Mark Webber remained unable to match his teammate’s pace after again falling afoul of his KERS system. He never managed a final soft tire run, with his fastest time on hard tires only good enough for fifteenth fastest. Though he spent much of the session near the top, Michael Schumacher was ninth fastest when it ended.

Though Vettel was fastest in both the Friday morning and afternoon sessions at Shanghai, his quickness came in two entirely separate ways. In the morning, Vettel outpaced everyone but teammate Webber (six tenths back) by two seconds or more, but in the afternoon, he spent much of the session focusing on longer runs and well down the order. In the final third of the session, he came alive, but was just under two tenths faster than Hamilton. Webber, meanwhile, remained well down in tenth. As has become usual in 2011, only Hamilton and teammate Button came close, though Rosberg and Schumacher helped Mercedes power dominate the top five of the second practice. Though Ferrari is usually slower on Friday, Alonso lost much of the second session to a hydraulic issue. Heidfeld was Quick-ish Nick (fifth fastest) in the morning, though he managed to mangle the front of his Renault in both extremely smoggy sessions.

di Resta was the first out into the smog on Saturday morning, after no running on Friday. Barely two minutes later, two thirds of the field was already circulating for the final practice session before qualifying. All drivers completed an installation lap before five minutes were gone from the hour-long session. Nearly everyone was immediately back into the garage. Continue reading

F1 China FP2 Results & Report: Vettel Quickest While Merc Power Speeds Up

What Happens When Things Close Up Again

3:38am EST — Sebastian Vettel was again fastest (1:37.688) in the second Friday practice session for the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix, though Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were much closer, as were Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, who completed the fastest five. The smog had lessened somewhat, while the stories for the afternoon session revolved around who managed to get out of the garage. Paul di Resta was unable to post a lap, with a fuel pressure issue plaguing his Force India. Fernando Alonso was only fourteenth quickest after a hydraulic issue kept his Ferrari in the garage for a portion of the session. Meanwhile, it seemed that HRT managed to eclipse Virgin Racing for another Friday, with Tonio Liuzzi lapping more quickly on one hot lap than either Jerome D’Ambrosio or Timo Glock in their combined forty-seven laps.

Vettel continued his dominant season in the Friday morning session, with only teammate Webber within a second of his pace. Hamilton, Massa, and Heidfeld were the fastest five, despite a crash from Heidfeld on his six lap, and only the top fifteen were within two seconds of Vettel. It was a foggy/smoggy morning in Shanghai, and the circuit was dusty, but Vettel still stomped all over the early competition.

Quickly, D’Ambrosio, Kovalainen, Alguersuari, and others were out to begin the second practice session on Friday. Sixteen cars were on-track less than five minutes into the session, with Alguersuari the first to set a time: 1:44.604. The smog continued through the afternoon, though it had decreased in thickness slightly. Hamilton was quickest around six minutes in, only to be replaced at the top by teammate Button (1:40.207). Continue reading

F1 China FP1 Results & Report: Vettel Way Ahead of the Rest in Low Visibility

What Happens When It Keeps On Happening

11:42pm EST — Smog and fog hung thick over the Shanghai circuit for the first practice session of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, with Sebastian Vettel the fastest driver. He led teammate Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, and Nick Heidfeld as the fastest five, though only Webber was anywhere near the championship leader, over a half second slower. Third through fifteenth were two to three seconds slower than Vettel, with Fernando Alonso twelfth fastest and Michael Schumacher eighteenth in this first session. There only Heidfeld had a major incident, losing control and slamming into a wall, though multiple drivers spin or made use of runoff areas.

Fifteen minutes into the smoggy session, no driver had set a time, though Button had put together two of the fastest sectors of the session. Karthikeyan was the first to set a time, with teammate Liuzzi quickly following but not bettering the Indian driver’s time. Early on, Hamilton had a small triip trough the runoff area, but sustained no major damage. More drivers entered the timing fray with twenty minutes into the hour and a half session, with Hamilton the first of the top teams to set a time, soon followed by teammate Button. Webber led a half hour into the session, followed, as has become routine, but the McLaren duo of Hamilton and Button, then Massa. Continue reading

F1 Barca Results and Full Race Report: Webber Takes Charge in Spain, While Vettel and Hamilton Fall Apart

What Happens When Things Fall Apart

9:42am EST — Mark Webber won the 2010 Spanish GP from pole in a race that was exciting in fragments and at the end, as Lewis Hamilton crashed out of second with two laps to go, gifting the position to Fernando Alonso, who had gotten his third after Sebastian Vettel had a severe brake issue that caused a trip through a gravel trap and a precautionary pit stop.  He, however, managed to limp the car around slowly, with gap enough to finish on the podium, ahead of Michael Schumacher in fourth and Jenson Button in fifth, who had spent some of the most exciting moments of the race fighting for position with the German.

Mark Webber continued the Red Bull domination of qualifying on Saturday, winning pole with a fast lap of 1:19.995, with teammate Sebastian Vettel a tenth behind.  Lewis Hamilton started third, with home-county hero Fernando Alonso splitting the McLarens, as Jenson Button started fourth.  It was a generally uneventful qualifying, though Michael Schumacher finally beat teammate Nico Rosberg, with the two Mercedes starting sixth and eighth, respectively.  The other Ferrari of Felip Massa qualified ninth, with a surprise tenth place start for Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi.  Heikki Kovalainen started from the pitlane, presumably with a technical issue on the grid.

As the lights went out in a sunny but ash-cloud stricken Barcelona, it was Webber who led away, but Vettel took a look, fighting for the lead, though he wouldn’t get it.  Alonso also took a look on Hamilton after a fantastic, but not jumped, start and nearly got him down the inside on the run ot the first turn, but simply could not get around the Briton.  There were no incidents through the early corners, despite a shove from Kubica that forced Rosberg onto the grass.  Massa got up to seventh, while Rosberg dropped to twelfth.  Kovalainen did not start, while Bruno Senna and Sebastien Buemi took to the pits, though there was no footage of their possibly coming together.  In fact, Senna was stopped in a gravel trap and caused a local yellow.  de la Rosa also had to stop with a flat left rear.  At the front, Webber still led, with a bit of a visible gap back to Vettel, while Hamilton remained in close contact with the Red Bulls. Continue reading