Notes From the Television Screen: F1 @ Bahrain

Sebastian Vettel took his first win of the 2012 season at the Bahrain Grand Prix, holding off an occasionally charging Kimi Raikkonen. Romain Grosjean made it a double Lotus podium after a lightning start while Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg completed the top five. Lewis Hamilton dropped well down the order to finish eighth through two extraordinary long pit stops from McLaren while teammate Jenson Button was forced to retire with an engine or exhaust issue just two laps from the end. Rosberg’s Mercedes was also sickly, with the team telling him of his own exhaust issue. He is under investigation after the race from the stewards for incidents involving both Hamilton and seventh-place finishing Fernando Alonso. Both Germans in the top five pulled immediately off at the pit lane exit after crossing the line to finish the race. Paul Di Resta managed a career best sixth place finish. Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher managed to scrap a single point despite starting twenty-second. Read the full race report at Formula1Blog…

Vettel (1:32.422) won pole in a thrilling post-session duel between himself, second place starter Hamilton, and third place starter Webber during Saturday’s qualifying. Button would have been the last man to cross the line, but scrapped his lap after a locking moment cost him a faster lap time. He qualified fourth. Rosberg, the weekend’s golden boy after Shanghai, managed only fifth fastest but was considerably better off than teammate Schumacher who got knocked out in Q1 by Heikki Kovalainen. In other champions’ news, Raikkonen dropped out in Q2, qualifying only eleventh, and Alonso just squeaked through to qualify ninth. Read the full qualifying report at Formula1Blog…

However, Rosberg led two of the three practice sessions (both Friday afternoon [1:32.816] and Saturday morning [1:33.254]). Though Hamilton (1:33.572) led Friday morning’s session, the real consistency came from the Red Bull teammates. Vettel was amongst the top five in all three sessions and Webber in two of them. Despite dusty conditions and plenty of complaining about a lack of rear grip, there were no damaging incidents in any of the practice sessions or qualifying. Most teams seemed quite happy to throw the softer tyre on early in qualifying, both looking for pace as the track evolved and seemingly not concerned with using the compound more than absolutely necessary during the race.

Force India did sit out the second practice after an incident involving team personnel and protestors occurred on Thursday. Instead, the team used that time to switch over their cars to Saturday set up and left the circuit before darkness fell. Di Resta qualified tenth and Hulkenberg thirteenth, though there were no shots of the cars seen on the world feed during qualifying.

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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.

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.

Notes from the Television Screen: F1 @ Albert Park, Australian Grand Prix

Editor’s note: I cover the entirety of the Formula 1 on-track action at Formula1Blog throughout each race weekend. This is just a taste of those session and race recaps. Follow the links to read the full story, as posted immediately after each session.

Jenson Button won the 2012 Australian Grand Prix in dominating fashion, having taken the lead from pole sitter Lewis Hamilton into the first turn and only giving it up for a pit stop. Hamilton would finish third, as second place finisher Sebastian Vettel pipped him in a pit stop during a Safety Car period caused by Vitaly Petrov’s Caterham stopping on the front straight. Mark Webber finished fourth, having lost positions on the start then retaking them through the race. The Australian was very close to Hamilton in the closing stages but remained unable to make a move on the Briton. Fernando Alonso rounded out the top five, having heaved his Ferrari up from a twelfth starting position. Read the entire Grand Prix Redux at Formula1Blog…

Saturday’s qualifying session added to the newly mixed-up 2012 field, as Hamilton (1:24.922) won pole with a 2011 Vettel-style lap. Only Button came close to the former world champion, making a McLaren front row on the starting grid. Grosjean showed that Lotus’ pace in testing was no fluke, though a mistake from his new teammate Raikkonen meant that the Finn qualified only eighteenth. The biggest mistake, however, came from Alonso. The Spaniard beached his recalcitrant Ferrari in the gravel halfway through Q2 and was only twelfth quickest. Still, he fared better than Massa, who went out after Alonso’s red flag and was also knocked out in Q2. Back up front, Schumacher qualified to start next to Grosjean in the mad dash to fast laps in Q3 while Webber and Vettel managed only to qualify fifth and sixth, respectively. The Australian out-qualified his reigning champion teammate, despite yet another KERS failure. Despite usually winning an appeal to the stewards despite qualifying times outside 107% last year, neither Pedro de la Rosa nor Narain Karthikeyan started the race, presumably due to their extensive balking of other drivers as moving chicanes during qualifying itself. Perez also had issues with his gearbox that forced Sauber to change it and resulted in a five place gird penalty from his qualifying position of seventeenth. Read more about qualifying for the Australian GP at Formula1Blog…

Both McLarens also showed good pace in the practice sessions, with each driver posting the fast lap for a session. Button (1:27.560) led the team 1-2 on the wet Friday morning, with Schumacher, Alonso, and Webber joining them as the fastest five. Hamilton (1:25.681) had his turn on the dry and sunny Saturday morning session, leading Grosjean, Webber, Button, and Rosberg as the quickest. Both Schumacher and Vettel had trips through the gravel in the sunshine, though no driver crashed out of either wet Friday practice. Schumacher (1:29.183) was the shining driver Friday afternoon, leading Hulkenberg, Perez, Alonso, and Kobayashi in that session as the track dried quickly in the final minutes.

F1 Abu Dhabi Race Results & Full Report: Vettel Wins Race, Championship as Abu Dhabi’s lack of Passing

What Happens When It’s the Renaults That Surprise

9:55am EST — Sebastian Vettel won the 2010 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi and became the youngest F1 Champion in one fell swoop, only giving up the lead through a pit stop and finishing ten seconds ahead of second place finisher Lewis Hamilton, who spent much of his race bottled up behind Robert Kubica.  Jenson Button finished third after taking a position from Fernando Alonso on the start and holding the lead after Vettel gave it up to stop.  Button made his soft tires last nearly two thirds of the race.  Nico Rosberg and Kubica, who made his own tires last all but the final few laps, completed the top five.  Alonso finished seventh after losing that position at the start and getting bottled up behind sixth place finisher Vitaly Petrov for nearly all of the race, with Chris Dyer of Ferrari tweeting afterward, “It was our fault, we asked Fernando to be defensive.”  Mark Webber finished eighth, after being forced to pit early, having tagged his right rear on a barrier charging after position.  The race was also paused by an early safety car after Michael Schumacher spun on the first lap and was run over by Tonio Liuzzi.  Both were unhurt.

Vettel won another pole in a nail-biting finish to Saturday qualifying in Abu Dhabi.  Fellow title contenders Hamilton, Alonso, and Webber joined him in the top five starters, with Button helpfully slotting into fourth for teammate Hamilton.  Vettel looked to have pole in hand, but Hamilton and Alonso both had time for another lap after the session had ended.  Alonso jumped from fifth to third on that lap.  Kubica had the surprising lap time to be knocked out by teammate Petrov in Q2.  If the race were to finish in the starting order on Sunday, Alonso would still win the championship, with the points as such: Alonso, 261; Vettel, 256; Webber, 248; Hamilton, 247.  For more championship calculations, read the F1B championship points charts.

The light was already beginning to fade for the day into night, final race of the 2010 season as the lights went out, Vettel led into the first turn, and Button taking position from Alonso, who didn’t let him pass, but did kkep his own car safe for finishing.  Vettel was taking quite a lead as the saftey car was deployed.  Schumacher had spun and Liuzzi ran directly into him, his Force India climbing over the top of the Mercedes.  Both were uninjured, though it was a scary incident with Liuzzi’s nose nearly hitting Schumacher’s helmet.  Rosberg, who didn’t quite bump his teammate into that spin, and Petrov, Algerusuari, Senna, and Klien all pitted as well.  Before the restart, Vettel led Hamilton, Button, Alonso, Webber, Massa, Barrichello, Kobayashi, Sutil, and Kubica as the top ten.  On their way back to the garage, Schumacher and Liuzzi seemed jovial.  Under the safety car, Hamilton was continually checking with the team that everything was ok on his car. Continue reading

F1 Abu Dhabi Quali Results & Full Report: Vettel Wins Pole, Hamilton & Alonso to start 2nd, 3rd, Webber 5th

What Happens When Everything Is Different but the Same

9:11am EST — Sebastian Vettel won another pole in a nail-biting finish to qualifying for the 2010 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi.  Fellow title contenders Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, and Mark Webber joined him in the top five starters, with Jenson Button helpfully slotting into fourth for teammate Hamilton.  Vettel looked to have pole in hand, but Hamilton and Alonso both had time for another lap after the session had ended.  Alonso jumped from fifth to third on that lap.  Robert Kubica had the surprising lap time to be knocked out by teammate Vitaly Petrov in Q2.  If the race were to finish in the starting order on Sunday, Alonso would still win the championship, with the points as such: Alonso, 261; Vettel, 256; Webber, 248; Hamilton, 247.  For more championship calculations, read the F1B championship points charts.

Vettel was quickest again in Saturday morning’s final practice with a lap time of 1:40.696, leading Webber, Hamilton, Alonso, and Button as the fastest five.  It was an uneventful session, with Vettel and Webber leading much of it, Webber a few tenths off Vettel’s times.  The Ferraris ran a few laps shorter than their competition, setting early times and staying in the garage a bit more than the others.  Alonso’s final practice time was nearly eight tenths slower than Vettel’s.  According to Mike Gascoyne, tweeting before the session, “The tyres here are not coming in on the first timed lap, fronts taking time to come in.”

Q1:
The weather was windy but moderately clear as the first third of qualifying began at the Yas Marinz circuit, with Buemi, Alguersuari, and Glcok the first drivers out, soon followed by di Grassi.  Soon enough, all but the Mercedes, Red Bulls, Ferraris, Kubica, and Kobayashi were onto the track.  Five minutes into the session, the Ferraris joined the fray, both on hard tires.  There were fast times, but Hamilton’s first put his fastest with a 1:41.245, with Button second fastest, over a second behind his teammate.  Hulkenberg, another second behind, Alguersuari, and Petrov were the top five six minutes into the twenty-minute session.  Schumacher, Rosberg, Vettel, Webber, Massa, Sutil, Alonso, Kubica, and Kobayashi had yet to set a time, with neither of the latter two having yet left the garage.  Button, meanwhile, was complaining of a massive vibration. Continue reading

F1 Abu Dhabi FP1&2 Results & Report: Vettel, Hamilton Lead Title Contenders Friday

What Happens When It’s a Slightly Surprising Saturday

9:34am EST — It was a Friday of title contenders at the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi, with the long-shots leading both practice sessions. Sebastian Vettel (1:42.760) had a substantial lead over Lewis Hamilton in the first session, marred by a morning rainshower, that led to a damp and then dry track in the desert. Hamilton (1:40.888) was quicker than second fastest Vettel in the second session, though the odd man out was a surprisingly quick Fernando Alonso, sixth in the first session and third fastest after leading the second session. Typically, Ferrari and Alonso are well down the order on Friday, waiting until Saturday to pounce, but it was not the case for the final round of 2010. Mark Webber was fourth fastest in both sessions, just a thousandth slower than Alonso in the second.

FP1:
Vettel (1:42.760) was quickest in the first session, leading Hamilton, Button, Webber, and Kubica as the fastest five, with Alonso a quicker then usual on Friday sixth fastest. In a surprise bit of weather for the desert, the circuit was damp at the beginning of the first practice session of the final race of the 2010 season after a bit of morning rain in Abu Dhabi, recalling the season opening MotoGP Qatar race postponed until Monday two or three years ago. It dried moderately quickly though remained damp in patches. Both McLaren and Red Bull were switching out parts on their four cars, with new bits to test. Webber was running with the vis-flow paint on his Red Bull. Still, there weren’t any particularly faster times until thirty minutes remained. As has become usual, Vettel’s pace was fastest, though Hamilton was close until the very end of the session, when Vettel was able to drop into the 1:43s, where no one could match him. He ended the session six tenths faster than Hamilton, a second faster that third fastest Button. Barrichello stopped on track at the end of the session with not word as to the reason why. Multiple drivers did go off during the damp, but only over the asphalt run-off areas. Continue reading