F1 Spa Race Results & Report: Vettel Takes the Win, Button Podium, Schumacher 5th

What Happens When There is Serious Racing

9:47am EST — Sebastian Vettel won the 2011 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, a race highlighted by close dicing, dry conditions, a safety car, and a charge through the field by world champions. He led a Red Bull one-two with Mark Webber coming across the line second, and an entertaining charge by Jenson Button brought the Briton from thirteenth to third. Michael Schumacher also showed his mettle, fighting through the field to finish fifth after starting last. Fernando Alonso, who lost pace near the end of the race, finished fourth. Lewis Hamilton looked to be on line to fight for the win when an incident with Kamui Kobayashi ended the Briton’s race in dramatic fashion.

Vettel started on pole, having taken that position from Hamilton in the final seconds after the flag had fallen on Saturday’s eventful qualifying session. Webber, Massa, Rosberg, Alguersuari, Senna, Alonso, Perez, and Petrov completed the top ten starting grid for the race after Spa’s rainy and damp conditions provided an eventful show. Schumacher began the 20th anniversary of his first F1 start last on the grid after losing a rear wheel on his out lap in Q1, Hamilton and Maldonado collided in anger, Button and di Resta were forced into the wrong calls, and Massa outqualified Alonso for what felt like the first time in years, all in the span of an hour.

Webber led most of the practices, with only Schumacher beating him to the top of the timesheets after an early time in the dry on Friday morning. The Australian driver was fastest in the Friday afternoon session and again Saturday morning, as McLaren continued to be quick in the latter half of the season. Ferrari attempted to save tires in the wet before qualifying and was caught out by Sutil’s red flag in Q2.

Spa appeared surprisingly bone-dry for the start of the forty-four lap race, though there were issues with tires blistering, especially for Red Bull. The team asked to change their tires after qualifying due to their poor, worn, and blistered conditions (as the RBR camber was a bit outside the typical specifications) but were not allowed to do so. Weather forecasts differed as to whether the entire race would be dry, but the start certainly was. Most drivers were on the softer tire, though both Button and Schumacher started on the harder dry tire.

On the grid, Rosberg had a bit of smoke seemingly coming from his Mercedes as Vettel took a great start, but it was Rosberg was into third, then around Massa for second on a flying start. Webber again got a bad start, but it was the racing at the front that was dramatic, as Rosberg was around Vettel for the lead into Les Combes. In the middle of the pack, there was contact into the first turn. Massa made a great move to momentarily go through to second, but it was Senna hitting Alguersuri and shoving him into Alonso that broke the Toro Rosso suspension. As the field checked up, the two Lotus drivers got together and Sutil suffered some damage as well.

At the end of L1, Rosberg led Vettel, Massa, Hamilton, Alonso, Buemi, Perez, Webber, Kobayashi, and Petrov as the top ten. Alonso took a look on Hamilton for fourth, then simply powered around the McLaren on the run to Les Combes before the DRS was activated. Schumacher was also moving through the pack, already up to thirteenth by the end of the second lap.

Continue reading


F1 Spa Quali Results & Report: Vettel Takes Pole From Hamilton in Dramatic Session

What Happens When Spa Equals Drama, Drama, Drama

9:20am EST — Sebastian Vettel (1:48.298) won pole in an eventful qualifying session for the 2011 Belgian Grand Prix. Though the result might appear to indicate that it was business as usual for Red Bull in qualifying, that belies the dramatic nature of Saturday’s sessions at Spa. Lewis Hamilton held pole for moments at the very end of the session, only to have Vettel take it away by a half second in a dry, suny, and wet qualifying. Michael Schumacher did not complete a single lap, losing a rear wheel in Q1.

Both Jenson Button and Paul di Resta were stuck with bad calls that knocked them out in Q2 and Q2 respectively, and a red flag in Q2 for Adrian Sutil nearly ended Fernando Alonso’s day. Mark Webber, Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg, and Jaime Alguersuari will complete the front three rows of the starting grid, with Alonso starting only eighth and Button thirteenth. Hamilton was again embroiled in some controversy as Button pulled over on his suspected cool down lap for his teammate and Maldonado damaged Hamilton’s McLaren after Q2, likely in response to an aggresive move by the Briton earlier in the session.

Webber led two-thirds of the practice sessions with quick times in the wet. Though Mercedes might have looked strong from the timesheets in the Friday morning session, it was pure luck that Schumacher and Rosberg set times before the heavens opened on the rest of the field. Instead, Webber was quickest in the damp-dry-wet Friday afternoon session and the all-wet Saturday morning session as word came that he had re-signed with Red Bull for 2012. Ferrari spent that last session essentially in the garage, saving wet tires for the changeable Ardennes conditions. However, both McLaren drivers were strong in all three sessions, despite an uncharacteristically quick morning from the Toro Rosso duo. There were no major practice incidents as the conditions were generally either bad enough to keep drivers off the track or fair enough to allow moderately safe running.

With the sun actually shining at the start of the twenty-minute Q1 session, the Toro Rossos, Virgin Racing cars, and Lotus drivers were lined up and waiting on the green light. They were also joined by Vettel and the McLarens, even as spray continued to fly behind the cars. Less than two minutes into the session, Schumacher lost a rear wheel on the straight heading toward Rivage, forcing him into the wall, down the track, and into the gravel. Buemi posted the first fastest time, with a bogey of 2:11.806, only for Hamilton to take more than two seconds off his time. Button slotted into third on his first lap, with Alonso taking second as many, many drivers finished their laps.

Continue reading

F1 Valencia Race Results & Report: Vettel Never Lets Go of the Lead, Alonso Fights to 2nd

What Happens When It’s Not Really a Contest

9:49am EST — Sebastian Vettel won the 2011 European Grand Prix, giving up his lead only during pit stops. Even with the DRS and Pirelli’s quickly degrading tires, there was little overtaking in the typically processional streets of Valencia. Fernando Alonso did provide some excitement in a lovely pass on Mark Webber to take second early on, though he would both lose and re-gain the position through pit stops. Webber completed the podium, with Lewis Hamilton fourth and Felipe Massa fifth. The Brazilian was a demon on the start, nearly taking second but losing position to his teammate on the outside. All twenty-four drivers completed the race, the most in the history of F1.

Vettel (1:36.975) started on pole, having set the fastest lap ever on the Valencia street circuit during Saturday’s qualifying session. He was forced to set two super fast laps in Q3, rather than his now-typical one, as teammate Webber had gone back out in the final minutes to move up from fourth. The German was able to abort his final lap as Webber was only fast enough to clinch the second starting position. Hamilton and Alonso started on the second row, with Massa and Button the third.

Three of the top four starters ended a practice session fastest, with Webber (1:40.403) taking first blood in Friday morning’s session, Alonso (1:37.968) during Friday afternoon, and Vettel (1:37.258) on Saturday morning. The sessions were relatively uneventful, with the only major incident coming Friday morning at the hands of Nico Hulkenburg. The Force India reserve driver lost control on the green track and slid the left side of Paul di Resta’s car along the wall, damaging the suspension so much that the Scot had less than ten minutes running time Friday afternoon.

Sunday, Valencia was as hot and sunny as it usually is, with the temperature at the start nearly as warm as the predicted high for the day. With the medium and soft tires available (instead of the super-softs), tire degradation would not be quite as quick in the heat.

On the start, Vettel kept the lead after a barely slower start than Webber. Alonso had to momentarily fight off teammate Massa as the Brazilian got a brilliant start to get around Hamilton. Massa actually made a move on Webber to the inside, allowing Alonso to go to the outside and keep third over his teammate. di Resta made some charging moves but was only able to move up to eleventh. At the end of the first lap, Vettel led Webber, Alonso, Massa, Hamilton, Rosberg, Button, Schumacher, Sutil, and Heidfeld. Vettel already had almost a second and a half by the end of the first lap.

Continue reading

F1 Valencia Quali Results & Report: Vettel Continutes to Dominate to Pole

What Happens When Domination is the Name of the Game

9:12am EST — Sebastian Vettel (1:36.975) took pole for the 2011 European Grand Prix, with the fastest lap ever set on the dusty streets of Valencia. He came under fire at the end of the session from teammate Mark Webber, who could not quite best the young German and had to settle for a front row start. Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, and Jenson Button complete the first three rows for Sunday’s race. Webber and Alonso were very nearly knocked out in Q1, attempting to save soft tires while Massa was forced to use his at the very end of that first session. Though Q2 was red flagged for Pastor Maldonado getting stuck in the middle of the circuit, there were no other major incidents.

Three different drivers of two teams posted the fastest time for each of the three practice sessions. Webber (1:40.403) led the Friday morning session, with Alonso (1:37.968) taking over for the afternoon session, and Vettel (1:37.258) on top Saturday morning with the fastest time of the weekend. Only Alonso was in the top five in each of the sessions, lapping at least third fastest in all three. Massa, Hamilton, Petrov, Heidfeld, Schumacher, and Button were all in the five fastest at the end of a session or two.

All three sessions were remarkably uneventful, with only Nico Hulkenberg causing much damage. The reserve Force India driver damaged the left-side suspension of Paul di Resta’s car Friday morning, allowing the Scot only ten minutes of running time in the afternoon. While there were many spins and slides, nothing caused such extensive damage. In possibly the most important news of Saturday, it is now against the rules to change engine mapping between qualifying and the race.

Heidfeld was the first to take that track for the twenty minutes of Q1, with di Resta following. Two thirds of the field was out within the first two minutes. Heidfeld’s (1:41.897) was the first time, with the other runners posting times immediately. Schumacher’s time put him second fastest, with Alonso going fifth. Times and the order changed often as drivers improved upon their own times. Webber’s (1:40.429) first time was good enough to go fastest, with Massa second fastest. Vettel soon overtook his teammate, by nearly a half second. Alonso then put his Ferrari second fastest in a session where fastest was not the most important position. Button (1:39.605) was soon fastest as the halfway point approached.

Continue reading

F1 Spain Race Results & Report: Vettel Wins the Day, Heidfeld Still Gets Points

What Happens When Starting Last Gets You Points

9:52am EST — Sebastian Vettel held off a late challenge from Lewis Hamilton to win the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix, after both he and teammate Mark Webber were smoked by Fernando Alonso at the start. Though the Spaniard would lead the early stages of the race, pit strategy had him completing his home grand prix fifth. Jenson Button, despite starting fifth and drifting as far back as tenth on the start, completed the podium. Webber finished fourth, nearly fifty seconds behind his teammate, the last man on the lead lap.

Webber won his first pole of the season with a single early Q3 run during Saturday’s qualifying session, just beating Vettel’s time after leaving the garage just behind his teammate. Neither driver returned to the track, with the McLaren duo of Hamilton and Button doing the same. Hamilton’s bet paid off and he qualified third, but Button was dropped down to fifth by a single late run from Alonso.

The fastest drivers in qualifying looked rather like those in all three practice sessions, as Webber led both Friday morning and afternoon sessions, though Schumacher looked promising during the Saturday morning practice session. In the end, he qualified tenth after not posting a time in Q3. Kovalainen had perhaps the best qualifiying session, moving his Lotus through to Q2 for the first time in the dry and outqualifying both Force Indias. Conversely, Heidfeld was unable to run at all during qualifying after an exhaust failure poured fire out the rear of his Renault in the morning practice. He would start the race on the grid instead of the pit lane.

The field got away under a sunny sky in Barcelona, with Vettel catching a good start, but sliding in on his teammate. However, the best start came from Alonso in fourth, to sneak underneath the fighting Red Bulls. Vettel went to the left, with Alonso following, until he saw that he could go to the inside. The two split around Webber to drop the polesitter to third. Alonso quickly pulled out a small gap. By the end of the first lap, Alonso had seven tenths on Vettel, who was a full second ahead of Webber. Hamilton, Petrov, Schumacher, Rosberg, Massa, Buemi, and Button completed the top ten. Kobayashi was the first to pit, with a destroyed tire. Vettel did not allow Alonso to get far ahead, gaining back a tenth on the Spaniard in the second lap. Meanwhile, Button, who had lost considerably on the start, was fighting Buemi over ninth and unable to pass for a few minutes.

Continue reading

F1 Spain Quali Results & Report: Webber Finally On Pole Again, McLaren Copy Red Bull

What Happens When It’s Mark’s Time

9:08am EST — Mark Webber took pole for the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix on a single lap, beating out Sebastian Vettel by two tenths, early in the final third of qualifying, with both Red Bull drivers again stepping out of the cars after a single run early in q3. McLaren followed suit, which worked well for third-place starter Lewis Hamilton, but not so much for Jenson Button, who was pipped by Fernando Alonso for fourth at the end of the session. Interestingly, Webber was not affected in qualifying by the KERS issues that have plagued Red Bull through much of the season, but Vettel was. Pastor Maldonado had a surprisingly good qualifying session to start next to Michael Schumacher, who did not post a time in Q3 presumably to save tires. Rubens Barrichello had a terrible qualifying session to start nineteenth, while Heikki Kovalainen managed to move on to Q2 for the first time in the dry for Lotus.

Red Bull led the timesheets in every practice session in Barcelona, with Webber taking the lead on Friday and narrowly missing out on the top spot to Vettel Saturday morning. Vettel posted the fastest overall time of the weekend (1:21.707) Saturday, though he was a second off Webber’s time Friday morning and third fastest during Friday’s afternoon session. Vettel was stuck in the garage with an electrical problem Saturday morning, leaving the German time for a final installation lap and one flying lap on the session. It was enough to knock Webber’s time off the top.

Rosberg, Alonso, and Perez joined the Red Bull drivers in the fastest five Friday morning while Hamilton split them in the afternoon, with Button and Alonso rounding out the top five. Schumacher gained speed for Saturday’s practice, ending up third fastest, with Hamilton, Button, and Rosberg continuing the Mercedes-powered charge to stop Red Bull. Alonso was only ninth fastest with an “undriveable” car Saturday after their innovative new rear wing was declared illegal. Other than Vettel’s final quick lap, the most drama in any of the practice sessions came from a fire on Heidfeld’s Renault on Saturday. Caused by an exhaust failure, according to Renault, Heidfeld was forced to pull over and jump quickly out of the car while marshals extinguished the blaze.

Karthikeyan, Liuzzi, and D’Ambrosio were the first drivers out in Q1, while Renault was still frantically setting up Heidfeld’s car. Teammate Petrov was the next out while the rest of the field waited for some time to tick away from the twenty minute first qualifying session. Karthikeyan’s was the first time posted, but Petrov soon bettered it. Five minutes into Q1, nearly half the field was already out, including many of the frontrunners. Petrov continued to better his own time, only to lose the top spot when Button went fastest of all on his first timed lap. Alonso slid into third on his while Webber was fastest on his own first lap.

Continue reading

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