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.

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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.

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.

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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 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 Monaco Race Results & Report: Vettel Wins 1st Monaco After SC, Red Flag, Restart

What Happens When Red Flags, Safety Cars, and Restarts Occur

10:21am EST — Sebastian Vettel won the 2011 Monaco Grand Prix in a five-lap sprint to the end, after two safety car deployments and a red flag. It would have been a fascinating fight to the finish, with podium finishers Vettel, Fernando Alonso, and Jenson Button all covered by a second and fighting for the lead with three different types of tire degradation, until they caught a train of cars fighting over points positions. The subsequent incident took Alguersuari out and put a soon alert Petrov into the ambulance, pausing the race with a safety car then red flag.

Mark Webber and Kamui Kobayashi completed the top five. There had already been a safety car when Michael Schumacher stopped near the pit entrance with an unidentified problem, as Felipe Massa had slid along the wall in the tunnel at the same time, ending his race. Lewis Hamilton (who finished sixth) received a drive-through for inappropriate contact with Massa through the hairpin just before the incident, dropping him back to ninth in a Monaco marked by passing, glancing blows, and close fighting.

Vettel (1:13.556) started on pole after a frantic and subdued qualifying session Saturday afternoon. Q3 was marred by a massive crash from Sergio Perez, who had already out-qualified Sauber teammate Kamui Kobayashi by progressing to Q3, into the barrier at the chicane after exiting the tunnel. The session, with just over two minutes remaining, was red flagged for a half hour to allow Perez to be extricated from his car and the barrier to be rebuilt.

Later, it was confirmed that Perez had suffered only a sprained/bruised thigh and a concussion, and would not be racing on Sunday. Button, Webber, Alonso, Schumacher, and Massa completed the first three rows of the starting grid. On his single run of Q3, Hamilton shortcutted the chicane, leading to the deletion of his lap and a demotion to ninth on the starting grid. Both HRT cars were allowed to start by stewards, despite neither having set a time during qualifying. Liuzzi was unable to run after a Saturday morning practice crash damaged his car too heavily to be repaired in time while Karthikeyan’s mechanical issues kept him in the garage.

Start:
The grand prix got underway with royal watchers and under a sunny sky, as Button dived directly behind Vettel, who kept the lead. Alonso slotted into third and ahead of Webber, while Schumacher had quite a bad start, dropping down to tenth. He gained position on Hamilton at the hairpin, leaving Hamilton to radio back to McLaren with worries about a rear tire. At the end of the first lap, Vettel led Button (by 2.4s), Alonso, Webber, Rosberg, Massa, Maldonado, Petrov, and Schumacher as the top ten. Button’s power steering felt “heavy” on the formation lap, which might have been why Vettel was pulling away so very quickly. Alonso was close behind the Briton, with experience in fighting his way through the field at Monaco after his 2010 race.

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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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