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.

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: Post-Hungary Penalties Abound

What Happens When Someone Has to Take Charge

8:42pm EST — After the sometimes chaotic, sometimes mundane Hungarian Grand Prix (read the full race report here), the FIA assessed multiple penalties for multiple teams and drivers, all due to bad behavior.  Renault was fined $50,000 on top of the stop-go penalty served during the by Robert Kubica, for releasing the Pole directly into the path of Adrian Sutil, who was pitting into the Force India stall directly ahead of the Renault box.  The two cars were lodged together, ending Sutil’s race then and bringing Kubica back for a stop-go, and forcing his retirement a lap later.  Similarly, Mercedes was fined $50,000 for unsafe release, for releasing Nico Rosberg with the lose wheel that shot off his car and bounced down and through the pit lane, landing on a Williams mechanic and arguably causing the Renault/Force India incident by distracting the Renault lollipop man.  Finally, Michael Schumacher was handed a ten-place grid penalty at the Belgian Grand Prix, the next race after the summer break, for his heavy handed driving whilst attempting to keep former Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello behind.  The German lost the position anyway, but nearly forced Barrichello into the pit wall on the front straight, with all four of the Brazilian’s wheels (with half of the width of the left side tires) on the wrong side of the white line, and then across the pit exit into the grass.  Many paddock notaries called for one race ban, or similarly more harsh penalty, with Barrichello himself angrily suggesting Schumacher be black-flagged on the radio after the incident.

F1 Hungary Race Results & Report: Webber Victorious, Vettel Petulant, Schumacher Under Investigation

What Happens When Pit Lane Chaos Takes Over

9:42am EST — Mark Webber won a sometimes chaotic 2010 Hungarian Grand Prix, with Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel joining him on the podium.  A lost endplate from Tonio Liuzzi’s Force India brought out a Safety Car that led to mass pit stops, which gave rise to a lose wheel from Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes bouncing through the mechanics.  At about the same time, Renault let Robert Kubica exit his box directly into the path of Adrian Sutil, who was pitting into the box just ahead.  The two cars were stuck together.  The restart further added excitement, as Webber, who had not pitted, led off into the distance, with Vettel holding up Alonso.  He incurred a drive-through for being more than 10 lengths behind Webber.  Felipe Massa, and Vitialy Petrov completed the top five finishers.  It was a bad day for Mercedes power, with Button finishing eighth, Hamilton out with a driveshaft issue, Schumacher eleventh after losing the final point to Rubens Barrichello, despite driving the Brazilian to the pit wall in an incident to be investigated after the race, and Rosberg out due to his lost tire.

It was all Red Bull, all the time as Sebastian Vettel started from the pole.  He beat teammate Mark Webber to the position by four tenths of a second, with the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa the second row, and well back from the Red Bull pace.  Lewis Hamilton qualified fifth, though his McLaren teammate Jenson Button did not advance beyond Q2 and will start eleventh.  It was another instance of Mercedes power not doing so well in Hungary, as Nico Rosberg will start sixth but teammate Michael Schumacher only qualified fourteenth.  Vitaly Petrov just pipped Renault teammate Robert Kubica for seventh, leaving the Pole to start eighth.  Pedro de la Rosa had a lovely qualifying session for Sauber, to start ninth, with Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the top ten starters for Sunday’s race.  Kamui Kobayashi had a five-place grid penalty for not stopping for scrutineering after qualifying.

The cars got away on a sunny afternoon, with Vettel taking the lead, while Webber tried to block a good-starting Alonso, who went on to attempt a pass on Vettel; he was unable to do so despite getting a wheel ahead.  It was Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Massa, and Petrov who had gotted around Hamilton to make the top five.  Kobayashi got a fantastic start to move up to sixteenth from his penalized start in twenty-third.  Hamilton made his way around Petrov on L2.  Meanwhile, Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso let go of its engine on the racing line, with oil and possibly bits of debris spewing behind.  By the end of L2, Vettel had a two and a half second lead over Alonso.  No one else, except for di Grassi about two seconds behind Buemi had a  gap in front or behind of more than a second on L2. Continue reading

F1 Hungary Quali Results & Full Report: Vettel Takes Charge, Wins Pole by More Than Four Tenths

What Happens When Flexi-Wings Take Hold

9:12am EST — It was all Red Bull, all the time as Sebastian Vettel won pole for the 2010 Hungarian Grand Prix.  He beat teammate Mark Webber to the position by four tenths of a second, with the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa the second row, and well back from the Red Bull pace.  Lewis Hamilton qualified fifth, though his McLaren teammate Jenson Button did not advance beyond Q2 and will start eleventh.  It was another instance of Mercedes power not doing so well in Hungary, as Nico Rosberg will start sixth but teammate Michael Schumacher only qualified fourteenth.  Vitaly Petrov just pipped Renault teammate Robert Kubica for seventh, leaving the Pole to start eighth.  Pedro de la Rosa had a lovely qualifying session for Sauber, to start ninth, with Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the top ten starters for Sunday’s race.

Webber continued Red Bull’s authority over the rest of the filed in the final practice Saturday morning with a 1:19.574, nearly a half second faster than teammate Vettel.  Alonso and Massa were separated by fourth fastest Kubica, who has been expecting and experiencing a bit of Renault resurgence this weekend.  McLaren drivers Hamilton and Button were just outside the top five in sixth and ninth fastest, respectively, while Mercedes continued its not excellent pace with Rosberg and Schumacher eighth and twelfth.  Force India remained down in the standings after removing their blown diffuser, leaving just McLaren running one in Hungary.  Petrov was seventh fastest, with Hulkenberg rounding out the top ten.

Q1:
Five minutes into the session and the first times were only just being posted, with Petrov, the first out, the first to the top.  He was not beat by Webber, nor the other thirteen runners until his teammate Kubica dispaced him as the fastest man on the track with a 1:22.309, only to lose his own position to Vettel.  Soon enough, Alonso was second fastest with Webber, Petrov, and Massa rounding out the top five.  McLaren seemed to have solved some of their problems, with Hamilton slotting into second fastest with the session almost half over.  In the knockout zone were Alguersuari, Trulli, Kovalainen, Glock, di Grassi, Senna, and Yamamoto. Continue reading

F1 Hungary FP1 & 2 Results and Report: Vettel Takes the Top in Both Sessions; Red Bull Dominant

What Happens When Friday is Vettel Day

9:34am EST — Friday was Sebastian Vettel’s day in Hungary as the German kept Red Bull at the top of the timesheets for both practices.  In the first, he and teammate Mark Webber were a second clear of third fastest Robert Kubica, while Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Felip Massa made it Red Bull-Ferrari-Red Bull-Ferrari in the second practice.  Still, Vettel had a half second lead over Alonso, with times set indicating that the Red Bull might be able to take pole or at least a top four starting position on the harder tire compound.  It was not so great for Lewis Hamilton, posting an eighteenth fastest time in the first session and sixth fastest in the second.  Teammate Jenson Button had a reverse day: fourth fastest earlier but ninth in the afternoon session.  He was just faster than Michael Schumacher in FP2, while Schumacher was ninth fastest in the morning practice.  Renault, Williams, and Sauber all looked promising, with Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov quick in the second session; Rubens Barrichello and Pedro de la Rosa were in the mix for a good while in the second practice.

FP1:
The first practice of the weekend was remarkably uneventful, with both Red Bull drivers leading as soon as they entered the fray a half hour into the session and staying there until the flag.  Vettel may have ended the session fastest, but Webber was only one tenth slower while the rest of the field (starting with Kubica as third fastest) was a second or more back.  It was a session of latecomers, as fourth-fastest Button only ran for a half hour.  Surprisingly, even for a Friday practice, Barrichello was fifth, with de la Rosa sixth, continuing some encouraging development for both Williams and Sauber.  Only McLaren and Force India were running with the blown diffuser, though Force India had only one, used by Sutil, who ended the session eleventh fastest.  Force India reserve driver worked in the first Friday session, but only posted a time fifteenth fastest.  Still, he outpaced McLaren driver Hamilton, who ended the session a strange eighteenth.

Final Times for Practice 1:

Driver Time Gap Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel 1:20.976 29
2. Mark Webber 1:21.106 +.130 27
3. Robert Kubica 1:22.072 +1.096 21
4. Jenson Button 1:22.444 +1.468 17
5. Rubens Barrichello 1:22.601 +1.625 25
6. Pedro de la Rosa 1:22.764 +1.788 24
7. Fernando Alonso 1:22.772 +1.796 25
8. Nico Rosberg 1:22.777 +1.801 25
9. Michael Schumacher 1:22.792 +1.816 26
10. Nico Hulkenberg 1:22.966 +1.990 25
11. Adrian Sutil 1:23.003 +2.027 19
12. Felipe Massa 1:23.007 +2.031 26
13. Vitaly Petrov 1:23.249 +2.273 24
14. Kamui Kobayashi 1:23.327 +2.351 23
15. Paul di Resta 1:23.520 +2.544 19
16. Sebastien Buemi 1:23.780 +2.804 22
17. Jaime Alguersuari 1:23.868 +2.892 28
18. Lewis Hamilton 1:24.075 +3.099 15
19. Jarno Trulli 1:25.032 +4.056 22
20. Heikki Kovalainen 1:25.210 +4.234 23
21. Timio Glock 1:25.990 +5.014 21
22. Lucas di Grassi 1:26.686 +5.710 17
23. Bruno Senna 1:26.990 +6.014 34
24. Sakon Yamamoto 1:28.157 +7.181 24

FP2:
Fifteen minutes into the second, sunny session and Ferrari drivers were the two fastest, with Alonso leading Massa, Button, Hamilton, Kubica, Webber Barrichello, Petrov, Hulkenberg, and Rosberg as the fastest ten drivers.  Alonso was soon displaced by Webber, with Vettel slotting into second and Massa overtaking the Spaniard on the timesheets, as the times dropped down into the 1:20s range.  By one half hour into the ninety-minute session, Vettel was leading and Hulkenberg had jumped to fifth.  Just a few minutes later and Petrov had displaced Hulkenberg, with Hamilton nearly as off the pace as he had been in the first practice, down in ninth despite McLaren using their version of the blown rear wing.

At the halfway point, the Red Bulls still led the Ferraris, with Rosberg regaining his practice pace in fifth.  His teammate Schumacher was languishing down in fifteenth, two seconds off leader Webber’s pace.  Meanwhile, Pedro de la Rosa was having a chat with his team about his use of the throttle whilst on the brake, as they asked why he was doing so.  Turned out it was, according to de la Rosa, a result of the bumpiness of the circuit as his foot was forced into hitting the gas while braking.  Ten minutes later and nearly the entire field was in the garage.  It was still Webber, Vettel, then Alonso, Petrov, Hamilton, Massa, Hulkenberg, de la Rosa, Kubica, and Rosberg as the top ten.  Button was twelfth and Schumacher seventeenth.  Moments later and he was eighth fastest.

At about the half hour mark Alonso pipped Vettel, but the German soon leapfrogged both Alonso and teammate Webber to take the lead, all on softer tires.  Alonso had joined the Red Bull boys in the 1:20s lap time by using the softer tire.  Twenty minutes left and only Petrov, Hulkenberg, Rosberg, Alguersuari, and Glock were lapping the circuit, with most teams making final adjustments in the test session masquerading as practice.  Practice looked quite difficult for the Mercedes powered cars, with Button, Hamilton, and Schumacher all looking forced to add more than usual steering input.  Still, it was an improvement on the first session for Hamilton, who was sixth fastest with fifteen minutes left.  The top four kept trading second through fourth betwixt them, on soft tires.

In about the only complete determination to be made from Friday, Red Bull looked nearly capable of gaining pole on the harder tire compound.  With ten minutes left, all but Alonso, Glock, Yamamoto, and Kovalainen were on-track, Kovalainen stuck in the garage with another hydraulic problem plaguing Lotus.  Many teams were finishing off the session on longer runs, with heavier fuel loads but on the softer tires.  While second fastest Alonso was faster than Webber, barely, Vettel had a half second lead on Alonso, with Massa in fourth another almost four tenths slower than Webber.  The times would remain that way as most of the teams ended the session seemingly simulating the early laps of the race, on heavy fuel and soft tires.

Final Times for Practice 2:

Driver Time Gap Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel 1:20.087 33
2. Fernando Alonso 1:20.584 +.497 34
3. Mark Webber 1:20.597 +.510 36
4. Felipe Massa 1:20.986 +.899 33
5. Vitaly Petrov 1:21.195 +1.108 33
6. Lewis Hamtilon 1:21.308 +1.221 30
7. Robert Kubica 1:21.375 +1.288 37
8. Nico Hulkenberg 1:21.623 +1.536 41
9. Jenson Button 1:21.730 +1.643 33
10. Michael Schumacher 1:21.773 +1.686 31
11. Pedro de la Rosa 1:21.809 +1.722 38
12. Rubens Barrichello 1:21.844 +1.757 36
13. Nico Rosberg 1:22.039 +1.952 28
14. Kamui Kobayashi 1:22.212 +2.125 37
15. Jaime Alguersuari 1:22.469 +2.382 43
16. Adrian Sutil 1:22.507 +2.420 22
17. Sebastien Buemi 1:22.602 +2.515 38
18. Tonio Liuzzi 1:23.138 +3.051 36
19. Jarno Trulli 1:24.553 +4.466 37
20. TImo Glock 1:25.376 +5.289 35
21. Lucas di Grassi 1:25.669 +5.582 32
22. Bruno Senna 1:26.745 +6.658 33
23. Sakon Yamamoto 1:26.798 +6.711 32
24. Heikki Kovalainen 1:27.705 +7.618 5