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.


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 Suzuka Results & Full Race Report: Vettel Breaks Alonso’s Winning Streak

What Happens When the Drive of the Race Comes From the Back

3:47am EST — Sebastian Vettel won the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix hours after winning pole during the delayed qualifying, holding off teammate Mark Webber and the rest of the championship contenders, with Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, and Lewis Hamilton rounding out the top five. Hamilton lost position to Button after losing third gear two thirds of the way through the race, which practically began under SC conditions caused by separate incidents for Vitaly Petrov and Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Massa and Tonio Liuzzi. Both incidents are to be investigated after the race. Suzuka was harder on tires than ever, with Robert Kubica out of second under the safety car when his entire right wheel came off, as did Nico Rosberg’s in the closing stages of the race. Kamui Kobayashi wowed the home crowds by forcing his way up to seventh after qualifying fourteenth.

Vettel won pole in a dominating way Sunday morning, posting the fastest time halfway through the final session and shaving more time off at the end. It was a qualifying session of will-they, won’t-they? as rain pelted the Suzuka circuit Saturday, delaying qualifying until a sunny and dry race day morning. Webber completed the Red Bull speed duo to start second, with Hamilton starting five grid positions behind his qualifying position of third, due to a gearbox change before qualifying. Kubica showed some Renault development to post the fourth fastest time with Alonso rounding out the fastest five. They will start third and fourth with Button starting fifth after his teammate’s penalty. Both Mercedes cars and Williams teammates qualified in Q3, with Rosberg, Barrichello, Hulkenberg, and Schumacher the top ten qualifiers. Massa was unable to progress beyond Q2 and qualified twelfth eleventh. Both Ferraris had issues with the softer tires unable to improve their times dramatically, as is usual, from the harder compound. Button will start on the harder tire with a qualifying strategy gamble. Lucas di Grassi had a huge shunt at 130R on his installation lap, destroying the car, though the Brazilian appeared to be unhurt.

The sun shone as it had earlier in the day for qualifying for the start, with a crash in the middle of the pack for Petrov on the straight as Vettel led Kubica, Webber, Alonso, and Button as the top five, with Hamilton jumping up to sixth. The safety car was deployed before the first lap was completed with Massa also stopped in the gravel, Liuzzi’s car being craned away and Hulkenberg also out. Rosberg, Trulli, Glock and Senna all pitted. On replays, Petrov looked to go right across the track with some smoke from the rear, hitting Hulkenberg’s front. Massa and Liuzzi were a separate incident, with the two coming together into Turn 1 as Massa attempted to squeeze down the inside. Glock pitted for a second time, with Vettel, Kubica, Webber, Alonso, Button, Hamilton, Barrichello, Schumacher, Heidfeld, and Sutil the top ten behind the SC. Drama continued for Renault as Kubica slowed and pulled off the circuit, parking the car on the third lap with no right real wheel (rim or tire). On the radio, Button was reporting vibration while on the brakes, though McLaren told him it should clear up when under racing conditions. That moved Webber up to second and Alonso to the podium, Button and Hamilton the top five. Hamilton was also reporting a similar vibration as Button, apparently a condition of not getting the brakes cool enough behind the SC. Continue reading

F1 Suzuka Quali Results & Full Report: Vettel Goes Faster and Faster While Ferrari Struggles with Softer Tires

What Happens When the Rain Stops, the Track Dries (Mainly) and the Race is 5 Hours After Quali Begins

10:11pm EST —Sebastian Vettel won pole for the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix in a dominating way, posting the fastest time halfway through the final session and shaving more time off at the end. It was a qualifying session of will-they, won’t-they? as rain pelted the Suzuka circuit Saturday, delaying qualifying until a sunny and dry Sunday morning. Mark Webber completed the Red Bull speed duo to start second, with Lewis Hamilton will start five grid positions behind his qualifying position of third, due to a gearbox change before qualifying. Robert Kubica showed some Renault development to post the fourth fastest time with Fernando Alonso rounding out the fastest five. They will start third and fourth with Jenson Button starting fifth after his teammate’s penalty. Both Mercedes cars and Williams teammate qualified in Q3, with Nico Rosberg, Rubens Barrichello, Nico Hulkenberg, and Michael Schumacher the top ten qualifiers.  Felipe Massa was unable to progress beyond Q2 and qualified twelfth eleventh. Both Ferraris had issues with the softer tires unable to improve their times dramatically, as is usual, from the harder compound. Button will start on the harder tire with a qualifying strategy gamble.

Speculation over the status of qualifying began during the rain-soaked final practice, one where only Jaime Alguersuari and Timo Glock set times. All drivers left the garage, but only those two went around the entire lap. Vettel and Red Bull led the two dry practices, marked mainly by Hamilton’s absence after a crash that required extensive repairs, bleeding into the second practice sessions. Kubica was quick in both sessions, with the Ferraris of Alonso and Massa “improving” dramatically from the first to second session, as per usual.

Fifteen minutes before Q1 was to have begun on Saturday, the FIA announced that the session start would begin a half hour late, with a track test and further announcement ten minutes before the later start time. After the SC made it’s check, Whiting announced that there would be a further half hour delay, moving the session back by an hour, and another delay indicating that qualifying would then just be postponed to Sunday, as there would then not be enough time to finish qualifying before night fell. It was not to be, as another half hour delay was announced, with yet another decision to come ten minutes before the newly scheduled start. A half hour after qualifying was to have begun, the announcement came that it was delayed until Sunday morning. Sunday dawned with the rain having stopped and the sky turning bright blue, for a Sunday filled with both qualifying and race, a test of endurance for any mechanic unlucky enough to have a driver damage his car early in the day.

Petrov was the first man out onto the dry but still damp in spots circuit for the twenty-minute Q1 session, followed by both Virgin Racing drivers, the Williams, Lotus, Senna, and Button while the rest of the field waited to let them dry off the track. McLaren had returned to their older wing configuration with too little running time on Friday to determine its effectiveness. Very quickly, though, all but a knockout zone’s worth of drivers were circulating. Hulkenberg was the first to post a close to competitive time (1:35.352), though he was eclipsed by Sutil, Massa, and Petrov before returning ot the top position finally down into the 1:32s, though still a second and a half off of Vettel’s fastest time in the second Friday practice. Schumacher and Barrichello were quick early on as well, with Barrichello, Hulkenberg, Heidfeld, Schumacher, Massa, Sutil, Liuzzi, Alguersuari, and Kobayashi the top ten with twelve minutes left int the session. Alonso, Button, Hamilton, Webber, Vettel, and Kubica had yet to set a time, finally joining the fray at almost the halfway point. Continue reading

F1 Suzuka: Quali Delayed Until Race Day Morning, SPEED Won’t Cover Live

What Happens When ARCA Trumps F1 Quali

2:32am EST — After an hour and a half of going through the motions, qualifying for the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix was postponed until Sunday morning, likely at 10am local time, 9pm EST, due to a continued downpour.  Only Jaime Alguersuari and Timo Glock set times during the final, Saturday morning, practice session.  Alguersuari was faster, by over eleven seconds with a 1:55.902, while Glock posted a 2:07.497.  No one else risked a set lap time in the pouring and standing rain.  The most racing action at the circuit on Saturday was the boat (made from bits and bobbles about the garage) races down pit lane.  Qualifying coverage will be delayed on SPEED for American viewers until midnight, directly before the race coverage will begin at 1:30am EST.