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 Spain FP2 Results & Report: Webber Leads Again, Hamilton Splits the Bulls

What Happens When Times Close Back Up

9:42am EST — Mark Webber (1:22.470) was fastest in the Friday afternoon practice session for the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix, holding off a mid-session charge from Lewis Hamilton to keep his position at the top of the timesheets by .039s. Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, and Fernando Alonso rounded out the fastest five. The times from the frontrunners were so quick that at least the slowest four drivers were not within 107% of Webber’s time.

It was Webber (1:25.142) who led the morning practice session over Vettel, Rosberg, Alonso, and Perez as the fastest five. Webber was a full second quicker than his teammate with a time he set before the session was half over. Most of the teams spent the session testing and choosing upgrades as the F1 circus returned to Europe for the first time all season. Only Maldonado had a sticky session, sliding into a gravel trap as Sir Frank Williams watched from the garage. He was unhurt and the car simply needed a tow back to the garage.

Alguersuari was first out at home for the second Friday practice in Barcelona, quickly followed by D’Ambrosio and Kobayashi. Those three soon set the first times, with Alguersuari (1:29.858) quickest early on. Despite much jockeying for early position, Massa’s (1:27.056) first fast lap put him on top, only to be replaced by teammate Alonso (1:25.707), with a time that was faster than everyone but Webber in the morning practice. Just ten minutes into the ninety minute session, Alonso led Massa, Heidfeld, Kobayashi, Alguersuari, Barrichello, Perez, Maldonado, and Rosberg as the top ten. Only Button, Vettel, di Resta, and Hamilton had yet to set a time.

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F1 Spain FP1 Results & Report: Webber Tops a Session Filled With Upgrade Testing

What Happens When Practice Is All About the Upgrades

5:47am EST — Mark Webber (1:25.412) dominated a first practice session for the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix marked by aero testing with a time he set before the session was half over. He led teammate Sebastian Vettel by barely more than a second, with Nico Roseber, Fernando Alonso, and early session leader Sergio Perez, with a late quick lap, completing the top five. The only incident occurred when rookie Pastor Maldonado over-corrected his way into a gravel trap. Neither he nor the car were particularly damaged. As has become usual for the Friday morning practice, Nico Hulkenberg drove for Paul di Resta at Force India, with Daniel Ricciardo in for Sebastien Buemi at Toro Rosso.

There was a quick dash to the circuit for multiple drivers, with all teams but Williams completing an installation lap before five minutes had elapsed in the ninety minute session. With most teams bringing aero updates, there was plenty of unseen paint flying about behind the cars to test the new updates and packages. Massa (1:47.387) was the first to set a time, less than ten minutes into the session. The track soon quieted back down, with only the Mercedes GP duo lapping in the Spanish sunshine. Schumacher (1:22.513) posted the first competitive lap ten minutes into the session, with Rosberg soon beating Massa’s time as well. All were still well off of the lap record, held by Kimi Raikkonen (1:21.670) and set in 2008.

Perez was soon quickest, beating Schumacher’s time by nearly three full seconds and dropping the benchmark lap time down to the 1:30s, only to begin a timing duel with Kobayashi, the first man into the 1:29s. The Mexican driver would respond with a quicker time whilst most of the other drivers remained in their garages and out of the cars. They continued to beat each other’s times and drop the fastest time lower. Hamilton’s first quick lap was only enough to be third fastest and four seconds off Perez’s time. He was soon quicker, going only four tenths slower than Perez on his next lap.

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MotoGP Jerez Race Report: Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Hayden Podium in Crazy, Rain-Soaked GP

What Happens When Rain is an Enemy of Racers and Friend of Exciting Racing

9:08am EST — Jorge Lorenzo won the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix as seemingly the only rider to not crash out of the race. Ailing countryman Dani Pedrosa finished second after drifting well back during the race, with Nicky Hayden completing the podium, holding off Hiroshi Aoyama on the straight. Early on, Casey Stoner led, until he was overtaken by Marco Simoncelli. Stoner was under attack from Valentino Rossi when Ducati’s front end issues slid the Italian off and Stoner with him. Rossi rejoined and fought back to finish fifth while Stoner did not continue. Ben Spies was in position to finish second with a lap or two left, until he slid out, leaving Colin Edwards to finish on the podium. Except, he also had issues and was unable to finish the race. The rain and slippery conditions made for some exciting and shocking racing.

Stoner (1:38.757) continued his domination of the early MotoGP season, winning pole despite an incident on his final lap during Saturday’s qualifying. Teammate Pedrosa was second fastest while Lorenzo, who spent much of the session in the provisional pole position, completed the first row for Sunday’s starting grid. Spies started just behind Stoner, with Simoncelli and Dovizioso completing the second row. Many riders lost front end grip and slid out during the qualifying session, including Valentino Rossi. He was unhurt, but ended the session twelfth fastest on his backup bike, behind the Ducatis of Hayden (7th) and fellow crasher de Puniet (11th). Stoner was fastest again in the morning warm-up, though the damp conditions jumbled up the typical running order. Rossi was second fastest, with Dovizioso, Hayden, and Lorenzo completing the top five.

Rain was falling heavily before the race began, and the race officially started a wet one. Stoner led into the front turn, as Lorenzo slid into second through the turn, with Simoncelli into third and Dovizioso fourth. Stoner quickly attempted a gap, moving out with a lead of eight tenths by the end of the lap. Pedrosa driften well back though the first two laps, and was down to ninth by the end of them. Rossi was the shocking rider of the first few laps, moving up to sixth, then pushing hard past Spies. Meanwhile, former teammate Lorenzo was running after Stoner. He was just .390 behind the leader at the end of the third lap. Continue reading

MotoGP Jerez Quali Report: Stoner Takes Pole, Many Crash in Cool Temps

What Happens When Things That Looked Rosy, Aren’t

9:12am EST — Casey Stoner (1:38.757) continued his domination of the early MotoGP season, winning pole for the Spanish Grand Prix despite an incident on his final lap. Teammate Dani Pedrosa was second fastest while Jorge Lorenzo, who spent much of the session in the provisional pole position, completed the first row for Sunday’s starting grid. His factory Yamaha teammate Ben Spies will start just behind Stoner, with Marco Simoncelli and Andrea Dovizioso completing the second row. Many riders lost front end grip and slid out during the cool qualifying session, including Valentino Rossi. He was unhurt, but ended the session twelfth fastest, behind the Ducatis of Nicky Hayden (7th) and fellow crasher Randy de Puniet (11th).

Practices at Jerez continued much as they were at the season opening round at Qatar, with the Repsol Hondas quickest Friday and Saturday. Stoner was first fastest on Friday, followed by Pedrosa and and apparently quickly recovering Rossi. In the morning, Simoncelli and Lorenzo completed the fastest five, while Pedrosa led Stoner, Lorenzo, Simoncelli, and Rossi in the afternoon session.

Saturday morning, the standings remained much the same, with Pedrosa fastest, Stoner second, Simoncelli, Lorenzo, and de Puniet the top five. Rossi was sixth fastest. Time were slowest Friday afternoon, with cooler temperatures and gusts of winds causing complaints from the riders. John Hopkins made his return to MotoGP to fill in at Suzuki for the injured Alvaro Bautista, who broke his leg in a practice crash at Qatar.

Qualifying continued to be a cool and windy affair, with clouds covering the Spanish sky. Ten minutes into the hour session, Lorenzo (1:39.430) led Pedrosa, Simoncelli, Stoner, Aoyama, Rossi, Spies, de Puniet, Crutchlow, and Dovizioso. About five minutes later, Rossi had crashed at Turn 6, walking away and riding back to the garage on a scooter to continue qualifying. Moments later, Aoyama suffered a similar but force fate, losing the front and getting smacked in the left leg by the rear wheel of his Honda. He was carried off the track on a stretcher but was soon back in the garage. Quickly, both Rossi and Aoyama were back out to improve their times. Continue reading

F1: Webber Re-Signs at Red Bull for 2011

What Happens When Things Aren’t Subtle At All

8:05am EST — Red Bull announced Monday that Mark Webber has extended his contract with the team for another year.  The press release not so subtly leans on the idea of goodwill within the team and excitement for the continued partnership, as contract announcements usually do, but is a further indication of the team’s need to show a united front after the bad press it received for their response to the incident between Sebastian Vettel and Webber at the Turkish Grand Prix. Red Bull was, as usual, short and to the point,

Red Bull Racing is pleased to announce that Mark Webber’s contract has been extended, meaning the Australian will continue to drive for the team in 2011. As Sebastian Vettel is already contracted to the team for next year, this announcement confirms Red Bull Racing’s 2011 driver line-up.
Mark Webber said: “It was an easy decision to remain with Red Bull Racing. We began talking very early this year and were in a position to sign by the Barcelona Grand Prix. The decision to extend for a further year was a mutual one; it’s widely know that I’m not interested in hanging around in Formula One just for the sake of it and at this stage of my career, I’m happy to take one year at a time.
I continue to feel very comfortable here – I have a fantastic relationship with the whole team and the factory at Milton Keynes feels like home. It’s been incredible to be part of the team as it’s moved forward from a mid-field competitor to one that is challenging for the Championship. I hope we experience more success together in the future and achieve our ultimate goal of winning the World Championship.
Our team principal Christian Horner added: The decision to retain Mark was very straightforward. He is an important member of our team and is currently in the best form of his career, as the current leader of the Drivers’ Championship. The team is extremely happy that the driver pairing of Mark and Sebastian will remain unchanged for a third season in 2011.

While the team had indicated that they had “drawn a line” under the incident and response and everything is hunky-dory within Red Bull, the contract announcement has one very important fact.  Webber and Red Bull “began talking very early this year and were in a position to sign by the Barcelona Grand Prix.”  While the announcement is a not so subtle note that the team and driver are getting along so well that Webber signed on to drive for them another year, in fact he had signed a month ago and at least three weeks before the incident and public speculation.  Obviously, F1 contracts can be the most flimsy pieces of paper ever printed upon, but one does have to wonder if Webber still would have signed after the Istanbul incident or if his terms would have been better or worse from the team so quick to throw him under a bus in their initial reaction.

In any case, this signature brings an end to one of the earlier bits of silly season speculation.  As the team put it on their Twitter feed, “Mark Webber has signed up to drive for Red Bull Racing for 2011, people. We keep our line-up for next season. See, that’s GOOD news. And for those who weren’t paying complete attention last year, Seb is already confirmed for 2011.”  So, that’s no more Vettel to Ferrari or McLaren speculation for the moment, then.