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.

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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.

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F1 Monaco Quali Results & Report: Vettel on Pole After Red Flag for Perez Crash

What Happens When Monaco Is a B*t(h

9:47am EST — Sebastian Vettel (1:13.556) won pole for the 2011 Monaco Grand Prix in a session marred by a red flag, after Sergio Perez had a heavy impact into the wall separating the escape road from the circuit at the chicane with just over two minutes left in Q3. He was taken away by ambulance, conscious and talking in the vehicle. There is no definitive word, other than his consciousness, on his condition or whether he will start the race Sunday.

Vettel’s time was set before the stoppage, as the starting order remained the same after the restart, with time enough for only one lap. Jenson Button, Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, and Michael Schumacher were the top five qualifiers, with Felipe Massa, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, and Perez Maldonado completing the top nine. Both Perez and Pastor Maldonado (starting ninth) out-qualified their more experienced teammates, with Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi thirteenth and the most experienced man on the grid, Williams’ Rubens Barrichello, twelfth.

The early weekend was very kind to Alonso, perhaps Monaco’s way of making up for the 2010 shunt that saw him starting from the rear of the grid, as he was second fastest Thursday morning and fastest in both the second and third practice sessions, posting the fastest time of the weekend (1:14.443) Saturday morning. The closest the Spaniard came to damaging his Ferrari came Thursday when he nearly ran into the back of Massa’s much slower Ferrari. However, neither Vettel (who was fastest Thursday morning) nor Hamilton managed a clear run on the super soft tires as Saturday morning’s practice was twice interrupted with red flags.

Rosberg had the most dramatic crash of Saturday and the weekend, flying through the air and narrowly missing the wall at the nouvelle chicane, while Liuzzi stopped the Saturday morning session with minutes remaining after sliding through St. Devote. Those two parts of the circuit were the most likely to cause incidents, with multiple drivers damaging their cars there through the weekend. Schumacher and Maldonado damaged their cars Thursday at St. Devote while Liuzzi and Petrov were caught out after exiting the tunnel a la Rosberg.

HRT did not send Liuzzi out for Q1, with his participation in the race on Sunday up to the stewards. Meanwhile, Mercedes was working frantically to get Rosberg’s car repaired. Interestingly, the kerbs put in place to keep drivers from short-cutting the chicane had been removed after Rosberg’s flight over them. D’Ambrosio was the first driver out for the twenty minutes of Q1, followed by Petrov and Schumacher.

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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.

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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.

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F1 Turkey Race Results & Report: Vettel Tops Again While the Rest Fight It Out

What Happens When It’s the Rest of the Field That Entertains

10:02am EST — Sebastian Vettel continued his domination in the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix, winning and having such a gap that he pitted twice without losing the lead. Mark Webber Finished second, with a charging Fernando Alonso in the final podium position. The two spent a good section of the race dicing, with Webber finally taking second with a few laps left. Lewis Hamilton, fighting with teammate Jenson Button, and Nico Rosberg completed the top five. Though no driver retired from crash damage, there was plenty of forceful racing throughout the field, most notably by Kamui Kobayashi. The Japanese driver started on the last row and finished in the points, in tenth position.

Vettel set his pole time (1:25.049) before sitting out the latter half of Q3 in the Red Bull garage during Saturday’s qualifying. He and fellow front row starter Webber were out of their cars and left the other drivers to scrap over the rest of the top ten positions. Rosberg and Hamilton completed the second row, with Alonso, Button, Petrov, Schumacher, Heidfeld, and Massa the rest of the top ten. There were no major incidents during the sunny and warm qualifying session, though Kobayashi’s day was ruined when an issue kept him from setting a single lap time. He qualified twenty-fourth, though he will start twenty-third after a five-place penalty dropped Virgin Racing’s Jerome D’Ambrosio down from twentieth to twenty-fourth.

Saturday was a quick day for Vettel, as he also led the times in the morning practice, narrowly beating Schumacher to the top of the timesheets. Webber, Rosberg, and Button completed the fastest five behind the younger and older German. Both Ferrari drivers had issues in that morning practice, with a hydraulic issue nagging Alonso from Friday, and Massa undergoing a precautionary engine change before qualifying. Friday, though, was a terrible day for both Vettel and Red Bull. In the first very wet, very slippery Friday morning practice, Vettel went too far over a kerb and was slung across the track to heavily damage his car. The work required was extensive enough that Vettel also sat out the afternoon session. Alonso led the wet session, and fell to eleventh fastest in the dry and cool Friday afternoon session. It was Button who led that session, followed by two thirds of the Mercedes power in the paddock.

For the second race in a row, a team was caught out with an issue just before gridding, as “A disappointing gearbox problem surfaced on lap to grid. Frantic efforts underway to start Timo from the pit lane,” for Virgin Racing. Glock’s car would not be repaired quickly enough, and he would not directly mkae the start. The race began under a clear blue sky, with some windy conditions keeping the temperature somewhere between that experienced Friday and Saturday afternoon.

Vettel took the lead, but Webber had yet another terrible start, losing second to Rosberg. Hamilton went wide further back, only to lose position to his teammate. Alonso moved up a position to fourth, with Schumacher moving up to seventh early on. At the end, Kobayashi was already up five positions. By the end of the first lap, Vettel led Rosberg by 1.2s, with Webber, Alonso, Button, Hamilton, Schumacher, Petrov, Heidfeld, and Massa the top ten, none of whom were separated by more than a few tenths. Hamilton was soon looking racy, attempting take position from teammate Button. He did not, though behind them Petrov and Schumacher were fighting over seventh, leaving Schumacher with a damaged front wing and requiring a dive into the pit. Earlier, Perez was also into the pit lane for a new front wing. Continue reading

F1 Turkey Quali Results & Report: Vettel Dominates to Pole, Leaves Others to Fight

What Happens When A Second Quick Run Doesn’t Matter

8:12am EST — In a shocking display of superiority, Sebastian Vettel (1:25.049) took pole for the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix after a single early run in Q3. He and second-place starting teammate Mark Webber simply got out of their Red Bulls and left the rest of the drivers to fight for the starting positions behind them as the minutes ticked away. Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, and Fernando Alonso completed the fastest five during Saturday’s qualifying, while Jenson Button, Vitaly Petrov, Michael Schumacher, Nick Heidfeld, and Felipe Massa will be the top ten starters for Sunday’s race. Massa did not set a Q3 time after using an extra set of soft tires just to get out of Q1. It was a bad day (that will likely produce fabulous racing) for Kamui Kobayashi, whose Sauber failed during the early moments of Q1 and was unable to produce a qualifying time.

Friday held both rain and sunshine, though all temperatures were cooler than expected from Istanbul. Alonso led in the wet during the morning session, followed by Rosberg, Schumacher, Heidfeld, and Petrov. The rain was a bad omen for both Red Bull teammates, as Vettel shunted his way out of the entire day’s running and Webber finished the session only eleventh fastest. It was Alonso who was eleventh fastest in the dry and sometimes sunny afternoon session, fouled by a hydraulic leak and inexplicably odd-sounding engine notes. Button was the leader in the second practice, followed by a phalanx of Mercedes engines: Rosberg, Hamilton, and Schumacher, with Webber fifth fastest.

Saturday morning dawned sunny but still cooler than usual for the final practice, with Vettel (1:26.037) making the most of his limited time on track to go quickest of the weekend. He led Schumacher by just a thousandth, with Webber, Rosberg, and Button keeping McLaren and Mercedes the best of the rest. Alonso’s woes continued, ending his session early after some sort of power loss just as soft tires came into play. The team had to rebuild the car before qualifying and changed Massa’s engine as a precaution in the break as well. Virgin Racing’s Jerome D’Ambrosio will be penalized five starting positions from his qualifying position after going too quickly for yellow flag conditions during the Friday afternoon practice. He set a personal best sector time while passing yellow flags for Maldonado’s incident near the end of that session.

The temperature was much warmer in Istanbul for the afternoon qualify session, and just as important, the sun was shining brightly as Kobayashi led the way onto the track for the twenty minute Q1 session. Liuzzi (1:32.524) was the first to set a time, soon bettered by D’Ambrosio. Kobayashi did not fare well, returning to the garage slowly and possibly not under his own power. Soon, the Force Indias of di Resta (1:29.223) and Sutil led the way over D’Ambrosio, Glock, Schumacher, and Liuzzi. However, Vettel’s first lap put him at the top with a 1:27.039. Alonso was second, only to be eclipsed by Buemi. Times continued to drop as more drivers began their hot laps. Continue reading