Notes from the Television Screen: F1 @ Sepang

Fernando Alonso won a rain stopped 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix, holding off a charging Sergio Perez in the final half of the race. Only a mistake from the young driver on a wet kerb kept him from pushing the Spaniard hard for the win, though he still ended the race barely over two seconds behind the two-time world champion. Lewis Hamilton completed the podium. The race began under a cloud and lightly falling rain that fell more heavily early on, bringing out the safety car and stopping the race just nine laps into the fifty-six lap race distance.  After fifty minutes of red flag boredom, the race restarted under the safety car with Hamilton and Button leading. Once the SC pulled back in, pit stop mayhem shook up the order and proper racing commenced. In the end, Mark Webber and Kimi Raikkonen completed the top five, while Sebastian Vettel finished outside the points in eleventh, despite odd stoppage orders from Red Bull on the final lap. Read the full Grand Prix Redux at Formula1Blog…

Hamilton (1:36.219) started next to Button on the front row after the second McLaren domination of qualifying in a row. The younger Briton set his very fast lap midway through Q3 in Saturday’s qualifying session and no one could touch it during that session. Button barely managed to join his teammate on the front row, pipping third place starter Schumacher with a final, post-checkers hot lap. Next to Schumacher qualified Webber. The Australian made for some drama, as he looked set to be nearly knocked out in Q2, but a quick lap moved him smartly up the order. Raikkonen’s lap was fifth fastest, but he lined up only tenth after a gearbox change five place penalty. That put Vettel and Raikkonen’s Lotus teammate Grosjean on the third row of starters. Vettel, however, made a gamble to use the harder tyre to set his time and was the only top ten starter to line up on that compound. Read the full qualifying report at Formula1Blog…

It really was Hamilton’s weekend, as the driver led both Friday sessions. In the dry morning practice, Vettel, Rosberg, Schumacher, and Grosjean completed the fastest five, while Schumacher, Button, Rosberg, and Ricciardo did so during the dry afternoon session. Oddly, the only damp running came Saturday morning, as a drizzle coated the circuit for about twenty minutes before that session began. It stopped around the time the final practice began and allowed a dry line to form quickly. Rosberg topped Saturday morning, with Vettel, Webber, Raikkonen, and Grosjean joining him. There were no major incidents though most drivers struggled with rear grip. Many increased the heart rates of their mechanics with power slides and trips through the gravel, but the damage was relatively light all weekend. Ferrari continued to fare poorly, as Alonso managed to set only the ninth fastest qualifying lap and Massa made it only to Q2.


ciao, Marco.

[re-posted from my other blog, Living. by VMR]

shocking. I really shouldn’t have to do this two Mondays in a row, but there’s little else I can think or write about and even my clothes seem to fit poorly. This tragedy hits a bit closer to home, since I’ve actually seen Marco Simoncelli in person, seen him ride a motorcycle at high speeds, and seen him save something that really shouldn’t have been saved. Still, in a random bit of high drama, another Sunday has come and gone, and so too has another motorsports talent.

Simoncelli was not quite twenty-five, a bright and vivacious, if controversial, rider in a sport that encourages personalities in a way that few others still do. The Italian rider, who had yet to win a race in the premier class of MotoGP racing, but who had won the 2008 250cc world championship, passed due to injuries sustained in a crash on the second lap of the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday.

He had lost control of his motorcycle in a lowside, one that oddly drew him back across the track and directly into the path of two other riders. Both veterans of the sport, Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi had nowhere to go but into Simoncelli. Edwards struck the young Italian with his front wheel, then proceeded to cartwheel himself and his own motorcycle down the track, resulting in a severely dislocated shoulder for the American. Rossi hit the front wheel of Simoncelli’s bike. Ironically, the elder Italian considered the younger to be his younger brother and often appeared to have seen him as his heir apparent to Rossi’s nine world titles and an international following. The impact from both riders managed to tear Simoncelli’s helmet off, though it was the impact to his chest and neck that actually resulted in his death less than an hour after the incident. Just like last week and Dan Wheldon’s tragic accident at Las Vegas, the race was halted, then canceled altogether.

Simoncelli had both hair and a personality larger than life. He was fiery and sometimes thoughtless on the track, pushing hard to make his machine go faster than it was capable when in the hands of others. He pushed and sometimes shoved his way to his title, but seemed to have settled down in the latter half or third of this season. It was only his second in the premier class. Simoncelli was already a great talent and needed only better machinery and the wonders of time to show just how far he might have gone. His death leaves no question as to the safety of an inherently dangerous sport: there’s nothing that can be done when no one has anywhere else to go.

Simoncelli has inspired the second great outpouring of sadness within the racing community in less than a week. No matter if one drives on four wheels or rides on two, these men and sometimes women, their family and friends, all know the dangers they face every day they make their living. It doesn’t make it any less tragic, but it does band together the various athletes and their fans across disciplines. Wheldon’s memorial service was Sunday, less than twelve hours after Simoncelli’s death and exactly one week after his own. Death, and especially death of a young and public figure, bring a lot of things into perspective. Tears may blur one’s vision, but they rarely cloud the future. Rejoice in family, in friends, in life. Be careful, but be fulfilled.

ciao, Marco.

UPDATED F1 Malaysia Race Results & Report: Vettel Takes the Win, Alonso & Hamilton Collide

What Happens When The Rain Doesn’t Fall

5:57am EST — Sebastian Vettel again dominated, winning the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix comfortably after holding off Lewis Hamilton on the start. In the end, it was Hamilton’s teammate Jenson Button who finished second, with Nick Heidfeld completing the podium. Heidfeld had a brilliant start, going from sixth to second in the first turn, and holding off Mark Webber in the final laps. Webber dropped back early, but rallied despite his four pit stops to finish fourth. Felipe Massa finished fifth, ahead of teammate Fernando Alonso, who looked to be nearly on the podium with ten laps left. Instead, he ran into the back of Hamilton, shearing off the endplate on his front wing. Hamilton continued on, but had to pit later and dropped back to finish seventh. Rain fell, but never enough to require intermediate or rain tires, despite predictions to the contrary. The only major incident came from Vitaly Petrov near the end of the race, as he slid off the track, slalomed over a huge bump in the grass, and landed heavily, breaking the steering column in his Renault. He was unhurt.

After the race, Alonso and Hamilton had a chat with the stewards and were each assessed a twenty-second penalty for their actions while tussling over third position. Hamilton received his for “for making more than one change of direction,” whilst defending. Alonso was penalized for “causing a collision,” according to Little changed in the race results with those penalties (shown in the updated chart below), as Hamilton lost seventh to Kamui Kobayashi. With Hamilton’s penalty and the distance back to Kobayashi, Alonso kept his six-place finish.

Vettel won pole in Saturday’s qualifying with a very quick last lap, breaking Hamilton’s hold on Q3. The weekend had been dominated by Red Bull and McLaren drivers with Webber quickest both Friday morning and afternoon, and Hamilton in the Saturday morning practice. Webber, though slow during much of qualifying, beat Button to start third while Alonso’s only Q3 lap was fifth fastest. Rosberg, starting ninth, shoved teammate Schumacher out in Q2 while the HRTs start their first race of the season, posting times within the 107% rule. Williams struggled, with Barrichello barely making Q2 and Maldonando starting eighteenth. Fifteen minutes before the race began, drops of rain were dotting the pitlane, but most teams and race direction were indicating that there would not be rain for the start.

Most drivers started on soft tires, banking on rain in Malaysia. Vettel led off the line, with Hamilton diving behind, the attempting to pass the German, but instead being forced wide and shoved aside by Heidfeld, who started sixth. Vettel was well away in the first lap, though Schumacher also had a great start, moving up to eighth. Meanwhile, Webber had an absolutely terrible start, though he apparently reported an issue on the formation lap. At the end of the first lap, Vettel led Heidfeld, Hamilton, Button, Petrov, Massa, Alonso, Schumacher, Webber, and Kobayashi as the top ten.

Soon, Kobayashi had passed Webber as well. Barrichello also slowed with a left rear puncture, while Sutil was the first to pit, on L4. Vettel was nearly three seconds ahead of Heidfeld, as the top five spread out a bit: Hamilton another 1.1s behind Heidfeld, Button 2.5s adrtift of Hamilton, and Petrov another 1.4s behind, with Massa challenging him on L4. Petrov had a huge moment, sliding off at the last turn and allowing both Ferraris past. Five laps in, teams were radioing their drivers that rain was on its way and would likely fall in five or ten minutes. Continue reading

F1 Malaysia Quali Results & Report: Vettel on Pole Again, but Hamilton Very Close

What Happens When the Same Old Show is Still Dramatic

5:17am EST — Sebastian Vettel beat Lewis Hamilton to pole for the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix in a last-second shootout after the Briton led most of Q3. Jenson Button and Mark Webber will complete the front two rows for Sunday’s race, and continued the Red Bull/McLaren domination of the weekend. Fernando Alonso and Nick Heidfeld will start fifth and sixth after reserving their shot at pole to a single lap, as did the other drivers in Q3. Nico Rosberg, who will start ninth, shoved teammate Michael Schumacher out in Q2 while the HRTs will start their first race of the season, posting times within the 107% rule.

Red Bull and McLaren ran away with the three practice sessions at Sepang, with Webber quickest by a long shot over Hamilton Friday morning, by a tiny margin over Button Friday afternoon, and Hamilton claiming the top spot over Webber in the final practice on Saturday. While both McLaren drivers were pretty quick during all three sessions, Webber outshone Vettel in all three, with the reigning champion seventeenth, fourth, and fifth fastest. Ferrari was either well behind the other two teams during practice or reserving their times for qualifying, with Alonso and Massa only in the top ten in all three sessions. Though Renault had a rough day Friday with front-end issues, Heidfeld was fourth fastest and Petrov seventh in the third practice. HRT continued its slow pace, though Karthikeyan and Liuzzi were faster than Virgin Racing for much of the practice, ending Saturday morning outside the 107% rule.

Q1 started dry and sunny, with Liuzzi the first driver to leave pit lane and no one immediately following him. Ferrari, whose weather predictions ruined qualifying last year at Sepang, indicated taht rain was on its way, but would not fall for thirty minutes. Five minutes in, di Resta led the way, with D’ambrosio and Liuzzi the only others to have set a time. Barrichello quickly eclipsed all of them with an early time of 1:40.157, only to have teammate Maldonado go faster. Continue reading

F1 Malaysia FP3 Results & Report: Hamilton On Top, Heidfeld Sneaks In

What Happens When the Times Might Be Tightening Up

2:12am EST — Lewis Hamilton (1:36.340) was fastest in the final practice session before qualifying for the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix, followed by Mark Webber, Jenson Button, Nick Heidfeld, and Sebastian Vettel as the fastest five. The hourlong session had no major incidents, though Vettel complained that his rear wing was not stalling correctly and Webber spent the first fifty-five minutes amongst the slowest of cars. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were sixth and eight, respectively, though the were quick on on the softer tires. Neither Renault suffered the issues that plagued them Friday and were amongst the fastest ten. If times were taken from this final practice (with the top three drivers faster than the fastest time Friday), neither HRT would qualify, having run up against the 107% rule. Both drivers were more than 6.744s slower than Hamilton.

Webber was fastest in both Friday practice sessions, leading Hamilton by over a second and a half in the first, while Button came within five thousandths of the quick Australian in the second. Vettel was slower than his older teammate in both, ending the sessions seventeenth and fourth, respectively. Meanwhile, Ferrari drivers Massa and Alonso continued the Italian team’s tradition of slow and steady times on Friday, though both were in the top ten in both sessions. HRT made it’s first appearance in Friday practice of the 2011 season at Sepang, and was on the cusp of staying within the 107% rule. It was a far worse day for Renault, though, as front suspension or upright issues plagued both Heidfeld and Petrov, as the team kept both men out of most of the second session to be sure the cars were safe.

The final practice started slowly, with all the drivers but Liuzzi and Karthikeyan quickly out for an installation lap but no times set until Petrov posted his first, seventeen minutes into the hourlong session. He was soon bettered by Trulli, though a Lotus at the top of the timecharts did not last long, until Kovalainen was fastest moments later. Heidfeld (1:39.426) was fastest twenty minutes in, followed by Hamilton, Petrov, Perez, and Kovalainen as the top five. The standard trading of fast laps ensued as cars found grip before the tires went off. Continue reading

F1 Malaysia FP2 Results & Report: Webber Remains Fastest, Button Closes the Gap

What Happens When the McLarens Are Closing. or the Red Bulls Are Sandbagging

3:44am EST — The Sepang circuit was mercifully dry but unspeakably hot for the Friday practice sessions of the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix. Mark Webber was again fastest in the second session, with McLaren teammates Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton splitting the Australian from his German teammate, Sebastian Vettel. Button was just five thousandths slower than Webber, though fifth fastest Michael Schumacher was over a second slower than the leader. Ferrari teammates Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso were sixth and ninth fastest, respectively. The most dramatic part of the session was simply the amount of rubber collecting offline, though Pastor Maldonado did his part in leading the early part of the session, then spinning and crashing into a barrier on the pit lane entrance. He returned to the session near the end. Though it was a dry Friday, the clockwork rain of the Sepang circuit is likely to arrive at both the start of qualifying and the race.

Webber dominated the first practice session by more than a second and a half, while Hamilton, Schumacher, Hulkenberg, and Maldonado completed the fastest five. Though Renault had front end issues for both Petrov and Heidfeld, the latter ended the session sixth fastest. Meanwhile, Button and Vettel languished far down the order, in fifteenth and seventeenth, respectively. The former complained heartily over the lack of rear grip while the latter was seemingly content to go more slowly. Both Ferrari drivers spent most of the session working on aero development, though Massa was sixth fastest and Alonso ninth. Both HRT machines completed laps, though Karthikeyan scard many viewers with a heavy plume of smoke while exiting the garage and through the first few turns of the lap early in the session. It was simply extra oil burning off, according to Cosworth.

Renault did not plan to run in the second practice session until the team determined the exact nature of Petrov’s failure, though it was suspected that an upright failed. Alguersuari was the first driver out, with a time straightaway, followed by Perez, di Resta, and Liuzzi following. Times came quickly with the attendant changes in order. Twelve drivers set times just over five minutes into the session, with Kobayashi the early leader, only to be toppled by Schumacher and a host of other drivers. The track temperature was an extreme 120 degrees F, and the first real test of Pirellis under heat.

Ten minutes into the ninety minute session, Hamilton (1:38.987) led the seventeen drivers with posted times. Barrichello, Massa, Schumacher, and Maldonado were the fastest five, while Liuzzi was slowest of all, less than eight seconds slower than Hamilton. Only the Renaults, Sutil, Alonso, and the Virgin Racing teammates had not set a time. Button moved up to the top three, with Alonso joining his teammate in the top ten while Vettel and Webber were in the mid-pack. Continue reading

F1 Malaysia FP1 Results & Report: Webber Stomps On the Rest of the Field

What Happens When Mark is on a Charge

11:42am EST — Sepang was its usual hot and humid mess for the first practice of the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix weekend. Mark Webber (1:37.651) put his Red Bull well ahead of the rest of the field, with Lewis Hamilton (1.665s slower than Webber), Michael Schumacher, Nico Hulkenberg, and Pastor Maldonado completing the fastest five. There were few major incidents, though Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld had front-end issues in their Renaults, with the Russian diagnosing his as a suspension failure while the German had a brake issue. Many drivers explored the runoff area at Turn 8, but few made it far into the gravel.

Just before the session ended, Jerome D’Ambrosio had a similar suspension failure from his Virgin Racing car. In a step forward, HRT ran both cars through the session, though Narain Karthikeyan seemed to have a major engine issue while leaving his garage early in the session. He was able to return before the session ended, as the smoke was simply “excess oil burnt off,” according to Mark Gallagher, head of Cosworth F1. In the trend this season, reserve drivers Davide Valsecchi, Daniel Riccardo, and Nico Hulkenberg were in for Heikki Kovalainen, Sebastien Buemi, and Paul di Resta, respectively, for this practice session.

Hulkenberg was the first to set a time (1:44.557), fifteen minutes into the ninety minute session. About five minutes later, Karthikeyan’s HRT seemingly lost its Cosworth engine as it left the garage, with the Indian driver billowing smoke behind him until he pulled over just beyond Turn 4. When a third of the session was over, Heidfeld (1:40.525) led Hulkenberg, Schumacher, Maldonado, Perez, Liuzzi (the first time set by an HRT in practice in 2011), and Valsecchi as the only men to have set times. They were covered by just over eleven seconds, though Schumacher’s time was six tenths slower than Heidfeld. No driver from Red Bull, Ferrari, nor McLaren had set a time, though others were beginning to show some pace. Continue reading