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 @ 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 Hungaroring Race Results & Report: Button for the Win While Hamilton Gets Another Penalty

What Happens When It’s a Fine Day for A Race, Even When It Rains

9:57am EST — Jenson Button stormed to victory in a 2011 Hungarian Grand Prix that featured rain, fire, fighting teammates, and as many as six trips to pit lane by teams calling multiple strategies. Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso joined him on the podium, with Lewis Hamilton finishing fourth despite five stops and a drive-through penalty, holding off Mark Webber after passing him in the final laps. It was Button’s second win at the Hungaroring, where he won his first grand prix, on his 200th F1 race start.

Vettel (1:19.815) won pole on his last lap, keeping Hamilton at bay during Saturday’s qualifying session after the Briton had led both Friday practice sessions. Vettel’s late lap stunner came after a late night by the Red Bull mechanics and despite a poor time from teammate Webber, who started only sixth. Between them, Button was barely slower than his teammate, while Massa out-qualified Alonso to fourth. The Spaniard will start next to Webber on the grid.

Hamilton led the Friday morning practice while both Red Bulls were somewhat off their usual pace, with Webber losing the final seventeen minutes to a crash that tore off the nose of his car. Hamilton was also quickest in the afternoon session, but remained unable to string together a fast lap to beat Vettel on Saturday morning. On Sunday, rain was falling an hour and a half before the race start, with Mike Gascoyne susinctly summing up the weather, “Pouring down with rain here now. Since the forecast said it would stop rain and the chance of further rain was decreasing its rained nonstop.” By the time the start rolled around, the rain was still falling and the track was both damp and dry in places, and the two sides of the starting grid had different conditions.

Race Start:
On the start, Hamilton speared across the track, but could only manage to hope to take position from his teammate. Alonso got ahead of Massa while the McLaren drivers went down the track next to each other, possibly touching. The Ferraris slid backward, with Rosberg and Schumacher getting ahead of them. Alonso had a look on Schumacher by the German held him off. Vettel led Hamilton, Button, Rosberg, Alonso, Schuamcher, Massa, Webber, di Resta, and Kobayashi as the top nine at end of the first lap. As the third lap began, Hamilton had a go on Vettel for the lead, with both getting a bit sideways. However, Vettel would not allow Hamilton through. Meanwhile, Alonso had taken fourth from Rosberg.

Vettel and Hamilton continued to fight over the lead while, a bit further back, Alonso got off onto the paint, sliding off and back on, then getting retaken by Rosberg. Hamilton got next to Vettel with the DRS, but could not make a pass stick. He finally pushed Vettel wide onto the paint in Turn 2, taking the lead on L5. Button was next right behind Vettel, pushing the championship leader hard. Soon, Hamilton had two and a half seconds on Vettel, iwth the entire field having started on intermediates.

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F1 Nurburgring Race Results & Report: Hamilton Pushes to the Win, Vettel 4th

What Happens When We Don’t Need Rain for a Good Race

9:54am EST — Lewis Hamilton won the 2011 German Grand Prix, a race marked by close fighting amongst the leaders and well through the field, despite a lack of rain. Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber completed the hard-fought podium, in a race were the lead changed not just from pit stops but actual on-track passing. After the final pit stops, Hamilton took the lead he lost in a fast stop by Ferrari back decisively, pushing Alonso out of the way. Webber had no chance to fight for anything higher than third after Red Bull kept him out a long time on degrading softs in the final few laps. On the other side of the garage, a last lap pit stop allowed Sebastian Vettel to take fourth from Felipe Massa as the Red Bull boys got the German out ahead of Massa.

Webber (1:30.079) started the race on pole after holding off a stunning late fast lap from Hamilton, who started on the front row after a weekend of disappointing times. Vettel was next to Alonso on the second row, the first time the German started a race in the 2011 season off the front row. Saturday’s qualifying was one of the most exciting of the season, with surprising drivers in the knockout zone during each of the sessions, only to haul themselves forward with late fast laps.

Alonso was the first man to go quickest during the Friday morning practice, only to be displaced by Webber that afternoon, then Vettel on Saturday morning. All three practice sessions saw multiple drivers slide through the gravel traps and work on their rallying skills, though only Buemi on Friday and Chandhok on Saturday had any problems in getting back out of the kitty litter. Saturday was an even worse day for Buemi, after he was excluded from qualifying for mis-matched fuel samples over the course of the weekend. He will start from the back of the grid, next to Tonio Liuzzi, who was given a five-place grid penalty for a Friday gearbox change.

It began to rain lightly about ten minutes before the race start, becoming more heavy as the start time approached. All drivers started on dry tires, with Hamilton taking the lead from Webber as Vettel got pushed between a weaving and diving Alonso and Massa, with the Spaniard taking third position. Massa had the better start of the Ferraris, but his push toward Vettel distracted the German and allowed ALonso to push through. di Resta and Heidfeld had a moment together, but both continued on in the rear of the field. At the end of the first lap, Hamilton led Webber by over a second, with Alonso, Vettel, Rosberg, Massa, Sutil, Petrov, Schumahcer, and Button the top ten. However, Alonso soon had a moment, losing the rear end and allowing Vettel to capitalize and take third. Hamilton was off at the front, nearly two seconds ahead of Webber.

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F1 Silverstone Race Results & Report: Alonso For the Win, Red Bulls Breaks Out Team Orders

What Happens When It Rains, But Not During the Race

10:20am EST — Fernando Alonso took an eventually dominant win at the 2011 British Grand Prix after fighting over position and taking the lead during an uncharacteristically slow stop from Red Bull. Sebastian Vettel could not catch the Spaniard despite his great start and early lead. Mark Webber completed the podium, taking third from an ailing and fuel-saving Lewis Hamilton in the final laps. It was a sometimes chaotic and damp race, with a rainshower before the race began and much of the field starting on intermediate tires.

Webber (1:30.399) started on pole, beating out Vettel to the first position with a quick lap before rain began falling near the end of Q3 during Saturday’s qualifying session. Alonso and Massa made an all-Ferrari second row on the grid, with Button, Button and di Resta an all-British third row. Hamilton struggled with bad timing, managing only tenth fastest as rain slowed the final minutes of qualifying. Schumacher also qualified poorly despite early quick pace in the weekend and will start thirteenth.

Despite particularly rainy conditions throughout the weekend, Red Bull still posted the fastest time in two of the three practice sessions at Silverstone. Webber (1:46.603) led the first and Vettel (1:31.401) the last and only mainly dry session, with Massa (1:49.967) taking control for Friday afternoon’s rain-impeded session. Despite the conditions, only Kobayashi suffered a shunt after losing control on wet kerbing and Astroturf. Though he damaged all four corners of the car, the Sauber team managed to get him out fifteen minutes into the afternoon session, as he was unhurt.

As had happened all weekend, rain began falling before the race began, with Button explaining that half the circuit was wet and the other half bone dry. Perez had a difficult time getting to the grid, going off at Becketts and having to return to the garage for a new nose. Though the rain stopped before the race began, it wrecked havoc with tire choice. In the end, the top ten were on intermediates for the start.

Under cloudy skies, Vettel got a clean start, leading into the first turn from his pole-sitting teammate. Button moved up to fourth passed Massa as Alonso looked frantically for a way around Webber. Hamilton moved up to seventh from his tenth starting position as spray flew through the air. Schumacher also started well, ending the first lap in ninth. Vettel led is teammate by a second, with Alonso, Button, Massa, Hamilton, di resta, Kobayashi, Schumacher, and Maldonado. Massa went back around Button for fourth, leaving Hamilton to pick off his teammate. Vettel continued to gain time on the wet/dry track.

Kovalainen pitted on L3 from twentieth, backing into the Lotus garage with gearbox issues. Mike Gascoyne later explained on Twitter, “Gearbox failure looks to be caused by a electrical problem, nothing to do with the gearbox on heikki’s car.” Meanwhile, Vettel had a four second lead posted in the first four laps. Hamilton had a moment running wide at Brooklands, managing to continue on without losing position. Four positions back, Mercedes informed Schumacher that he would be going to slicks soon, with the German suggesting that it would be three of four more laps until he could switch.

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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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