Monthly Archives: November 2012

2012 US Grand Prix Race Weekend Review

Two rounds of the 2012 Formula One World Championship left. The Constructor’s Championship could be Red Bull Racing’s on Sunday if they can manage to score 4 points into the race. This would make the team achieve the title for the third consecutive time and the fourth team to do so in Formula One history. Raikkonen after his glorious win in Abu Dhabi is now mathematically is out of the Driver’s Championship fight.

There are two contenders left for the championship; Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso. Vettel has a 10 point lead heading into the Grand Prix weekend. Vettel can become World Champion for the third time on Sunday if:-

  • If Vettel wins and Alonso finishes no higher than 5th place
  • If Vettel finishes 2nd and Alonso finishes no higher than 9th
  • If Vettel finishes 3rd and Alonso does not finish at all.

Realistically, we know from looking at Alonso’s consistency this season, the third option does not look likely, unless Alonso encounters mechanical or technical unreliability. So we head into weekend with these statistics in mind, the first Grand Prix held in America since 2007 in Indianapolis and the tenth venue to host a Grand Prix in the country. It has been reported in the F1 paddock and the media that the Circuit of the Americans needs to put on a great show if it’s to stand a chance of holding the Grand Prix in the near future… the world is watching, the world is waiting…

Practices 1, 2 and 3

The main headline of the three practice sessions is that Sebastian Vettel tops the sheets for all of the sessions successfully. Practice 1 was fairly uneventful apart from a few drivers having problems getting to grips with the tyres brought by Pirelli and also Turn 19 that was proving to be a challenge. Vettel posted the fastest time of 1.38.125, with Hamilton in second with a 1.4 gap behind him, Alonso managed to get third with a 2.2 second gap, Button managed 4th with a 2.4 gap and Webber headed off the top 5 with a gap of 2.525 gap behind Vettel.

Practice 2 was a bit more eventful. Vettel lost nearly under a hour’s running with a water leak that needed to be fixed but still managed to post the fastest lap time of a 1.37.718 ahead of Hamilton with a gap of 0.757, Alonso in third with a gap of 0.765 behind Vettel, Hamilton managed fourth with a gap of 1.030 seconds and Jenson heads out the top 5 with a gap of 1.068 seconds.

Within this session, Kovalianen suffered from a left rear puncture from an incident on track with Jean-Eric Vergne and Pastor Maldonado was told by his team to the stop the car with suspected engine failure.

Practice 3 carried on the eventful nature of Practice 2. Charles Pic and Sergio Perez had an incident within the session that some fans felt was unnecessary. And I agree. The way Perez tried to overtake Pic was uncalled for and especially after receiving a prior warning from the stewards regarding an incident with Charles Pic’s teammate Timo Glock. Also, Vergne’s misfortune carried on with him suffering a front right tyre with him hitting something on the track.

But again, Vettel tops the timesheets with a blistering time of 1.36.790, with Hamilton second with a gap of 0.258 seconds behind, Maldonado put in a cracker of a time to get third place with a gap of 0.511 behind Vettel, Alonso managed fourth with a gap of 0.690 and Rosberg managed an astonishing fifth place on the timesheets with a gap of 0.757 seconds behind Vettel.

Looking at the end of the Practice sessions, it would be hard not to predict that Vettel would not achieve Pole Position in Qualifying. Vettel seems to have the car and the speed to keep his fight for the championship alive. As a McLaren fan, it is great to see Lewis behind Vettel and putting the pressure on. Lewis seems to be at peace with himself, no championship fight worries, wanting to end the year on the high with McLaren before leaving for Mercedes next year. Alonso is there in the background, trying to keep his hopes alive until the final race in Brazil next weekend, with a car that does not have the pace of Red Bull or McLaren in qualifying but may challenge in the race. Who can stop Vettel achieving the best position possible, claiming pole position? We shall see…

Qualifying

Heading into qualifying, Vettel looks set to achieve pole position. Can anyone stop him from doing this? Lewis looks to be on great form, not that far behind. Romain Grosjean will experience a 5 grid penalty for changing his gearbox and will want to qualify as high up the grid as possible.

The tyres that Pirelli have brought to the circuit this week don’t seem to be the right tyre and we have seen drivers caught out especially in Turn 19 finding the grip on the new racing surface. Let’s see what qualifying will bring!

In Q1, Vettel tops the timesheet with a time of 1.36.558, with Hamilton in second place with a 1.37.058, Webber takes third place with a time of 1.37.215, Grosjean manages fourth place with a time of 1.37.486 and Senna manages to get fifth place with a great lap of 1.37.520. Button could only manage 7th place with a time of 1.37.565 and seems to be suffering with problems with either the car or the tyres at the moment.

We lose ‘The Usual Suspects’ in Qualifying 1 losing Riccardo, Glock, Pic, Petrov, Kovalianen, De La Rosa and Karitheynan (who had to retire his car on the race track) and Rosberg manages to get through to Q2 by the skin of his teeth.

In Q2, Vettel tops the timesheet with a time of 1.35.796, with Webber taking second place with a time of 1.36.298, Massa takes third place with a great lap of 1.36.549, Hamilton takes fourth place with a time of 1.36.795 and Grosjean manages a great lap to get fifth with a time of 1.36.906. Jenson Button is the shock of the session by qualifying 11th place and suffering from a throttle problem that affected his performance within this session. We also lose Di Resta, Vergne, Perez, Kobayashi and Rosberg from the session.

In Q3, Vettel takes the first Pole Position at the Circuit of the Americans with a time of 1.35.657, Hamilton takes second place with a time of 1.35.766, Webber takes third place with a 1.36.174, Grosjean takes fourth place with a time of 1.36.587 (but drops 5 places to ninth after changing his gearbox which then promotes everyone a place) and Raikkonen takes 5th place with a time of 1.36.708. Schumacher did a cracking job to take 6th place for Mercedes, Massa took an amazing 7th place as did Hulkenberg in 8th, Alonso did in 9th and Maldonado in 10th place.

Looking back at the end of qualifying, Vettel seems to be in the best position possible to extend his advantage in the championship. Alonso seems to be in a position that does provide him with a challenge to get a decent result on Sunday. I’m very happy with Lewis, he seems to be the only one who can take the fight to Vettel at the moment. I was quite shocked that Jenson lost out in qualifying due to a throttle problem but he will have a good battle through the field on Sunday.

Another problem that could affect drivers on Sunday apart from the wrong tyres being selected is that people who have an even grid slot for the Grand Prix will maybe be at a disadvantage as it seems that the racing line and the grip is on the left hand side. This would then according to the teams and their engineers leave the drivers on the left hand side of the grid losing grid positions at the start due to this. The race looks set to be a cracker…

Race

Before the race, the F1 world and paddock was not shocked to hear that Ferrari have broken a seal on the gearbox of Felipe Massa’s car in a tactical move to help keep Fernando Alonso’s chance of fighting for the Driver’s Championship alive. Fernando Alonso qualified in ninth place for the Grand Prix and Massa qualified in 6th place after Grosjean’s penalty. By Ferrari doing this, Alonso would not only gain a better grid position, but also a start on the gripper side of the track, thereby forcing his teammate Massa and Hulkenberg (who had a great qualifying session for Force India) onto the dirty and less grippy side of the grid. Should this have happened? Well it’s not illegal in the FIA regulations, but it could be seen as unsportsman like (More of my thoughts in the Conclusion on this subject). Will this also force Red Bull to make a tactical decision regarding Mark Webber? We got our answer before the race and the answer was no.

Regardless of the decision made by Ferrari, the race looks to be promising. Vettel wants to keep his advantage in the title fight, Lewis wants to end his McLaren career on a high, Alonso wants to see of the decision made by the Ferrari team before the race will give him the advantage that he needs to keep his hopes alive, will Jenson and Felipe be able to achieve good results from a qualifying session that didn’t benefit them both and will Grosjean cause an accident at the start? Get ready for a ride in the US of A….

Five red lights come on and its GO!!! Vettel gets a brilliant start, as does Schumacher who takes fourth position and as does Alonso who takes the fourth position off Schumacher which proved that the advantage Ferrari and Alonso wanted paid off. Lewis had not a great start and ended up losing a position to Mark Webber who had a reasonable start. Button had a dreadful start that sees him in 16th place and with a lot of work to do. Perez manages to pass Senna but Senna now finds Maldonado pushing behind him for position. Nico Hulkenberg manages to pass Kimi Raikkonen. Vettel at the end of lap 1 has a 0.737 gap to Webber.

Lap 2 sees a lot of action. The battle for 5th place between Hulkenberg, Schumacher and Raikkonen is building up. Hulkenberg passes Schumacher for fifth place, demoting Schumacher to sixth place. Then Raikkonen tries to make a move on Schumacher himself and fails which then lets his teammate Grosjean pass him for position. The next two laps sees Jenson try to pass Maldonado with no joy and Lewis trying two attempts to pass Webber for second place in the race and has no joy. Until Lewis tries again for the third time and succeeds!

Lap 5 sees Vettel having a 2.5 second gap to Hamilton. Button seems to be struggling to get heat into his tyres even though a good battle between him and Maldonado is going on. The next lap sees Jenson pass Maldonado successfully. The battle for 5th place between Hulkenberg and Grosjean is heating up. Grosjean makes a move on Hulkenberg, locks up and Hulkenberg is able to take the place back from Grosjean. And the battle for 9th place between Schumacher, Massa, Perez, Senna and Button is building up.

Laps 7-9 are so eventful. Lap 7 sees Vettel hold a 2.399 gap to Hamilton in second place. Grosjean spins at Turn 19 (a turn that has caught out a variety of drivers out over the weekend) and loses him places to end up in thirteenth place. While this is taking place, Massa passes Schumacher for position, Grosjean is passed by Perez and also by Senna. The next lap sees Jenson gets past Grosjean. Towards the end of the 9th lap, Lewis is gaining on Vettel and the battle is on.

Lap 11 sees Vettel leading from Hamilton by 1.3 seconds. The battle between Raikkonen and Hulkenberg for 5th place is continuing. At this stage of the Grand Prix, Alonso is quicker than Webber and Massa passes the Force India of Di Resta to take 7th place.

By lap 13, the gap to Hamilton is 1.4 seconds. Raikkonen finally manages to pass Hulkenberg for 5th place. Lewis on Team Radio seems to be in the ‘window’ for his pit stop strategy. The window for the top teams this weekend seems to be between laps 20-35.  Meanwhile on the track, Maldonado passes Schumacher for 13th place. The next lap sees Kobayashi pit for his next set of tyres and the battle for 8th place heating up between Di Resta, Perez and Senna.

By lap 15, the gap to Hamilton is 1.1 seconds. Vettel looks to be rattled, especially as Lewis towards the DRS zone may get a boost in performance to help him overtake him. This lap sees the retirement of Jean-Eric Vergne who has not had a really good weekend. Vergne tries to pass Schumacher for position in Turn 12, Rosberg then tries to also pass Vergne on the outside and does so successfully, Vergne then pulls out of his move with Schumacher, ends up in the gravel and pulls out of the race. Also on this lap, Massa takes Hulkenberg for 6th place. Lap 17 sees Mark Webber suffer yet another KERS failure and alternator failure on his Red Bull. Lap 18 sees Alonso move up to third position, which at this stage of the race keeps him in the hunt for the championship.

Lap 20, there is a 3.2 second gap between Vettel and Hamilton and an 11 second gap between them and Alonso. All this is taking place with Raikkonen also gaining on Alonso and Massa gaining on Raikkonen. Lewis makes his pitstop for new tyres with a time of 2.4 seconds which sees him come out in third place behind Raikkonen. Alonso also pits on this lap with a slow pitstop time of 6.3 seconds due to a problem with the right rear tyre and sees him come out in 5th place. The next few laps sees Jenson gaining on Alonso and then passing him, Raikkonen and Hamilton battling for second place and Hamilton passes him in Turn 12.

Lap 25 sees Raikkonen pit from third place with a pitstop time of 6.4 seconds which sees him come back onto the track in 6th place and into a battle with Riccardo which Riccardo wins. The gap between Vettel and Hamilton is now 2.1 seconds. Massa makes his pitstop on Lap 27 from third place that sees him come back onto the track in 5th place with a pitstop time of 3.3 seconds and passed by Riccardo later in the lap.

Lap 29, there is a 2.3 gap with Vettel and Hamilton. The battle for 8th place between Grosjean and Rosberg is still ongoing with Grosjean coming out on top. Massa is battling hard to get 6th place back from Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen. The battle for 6th position between Raikkonen, Massa and Grosjean continues for the next few laps and Di Resta and Riccardo make their pitstops within these laps.

Between the laps of 32-35, Hamilton is still trying his best to get past Vettel. Both drivers seem to have hit the lapping of the backmarkers and this may lose the drivers time with Vettel trying to keep Hamilton at bay and with Hamilton trying to pass Vettel at the earliest opportunity. Hamilton tries a number of passes along the straight using the advantage of the DRS system and the extra horsepower but is not yet close enough to challenge Vettel fully.

Lap 36, the gap to Hamilton has shrunk to 0.998 seconds. Button is the last man today to make his first pitstop for brand new tyres from third place. With a pitstop time of 2.9 seconds, he comes out in 6th place, drops a place behind Grosjean to 7th place. By lap 39, Jenson has gained on Grosjean, passed him and is now chasing down Massa who is 2.7 seconds in front of him. Massa finally manages to pass Raikkonen for fourth place and is 1.5 seconds ahead of Button after making this pass.

Lap 41, 0.6 seconds Vettel is in front of Hamilton now. Hamilton gives Vettel a reminder than he is still behind him. The next lap sees Lewis assisted by DRS get past Vettel in a dangerous, yet brave overtaking move to move into first place! And is now trying to build up a gap between the two drivers.

Lap 46, Jenson passes Raikkonen for fifth place after a few laps worth of battle with a move that showed off both of these drivers as world class and who respected the rules and the racing regulations greatly. Within these laps, Lewis is trying to build a gap between himself and Vettel, but it may seem that Lewis may have a problem with fuel management as his lap times are not as quick as previously in the race and also not as quick as Vettel.

Lap 50, Hamilton is still leading and there is a one second gap with Vettel. There is a battle for 8th place going on with Hulkenberg, Senna and Maldonado. At this stage in the race, Hulkenberg manages to have the pace, grip and determination to hold on to this point scoring position.

Lap 52, Hamilton leads Vettel by 1.3 seconds. Both of the Williams Renault drivers are battling for 9th and 10th place. Maldonado wins the battle with Senna with a fair and clean racing overtake and gets the 9th place. Lap 54 sees the gap between Hamilton and Vettel of 1.4 seconds.

Lap 55, Hamilton leads Vettel by 1.6 seconds. Further down the field, Jenson is experiencing KERS problems with his McLaren and seems to be trying his best to fix the problem with the engineers. Meanwhile, the battle for 8th place is heating up. Maldonado in the closing laps has closed the gap down to Hulkenberg and is trying his best to pass him… Will Maldonado do it? Final lap of the Grand Prix, Lewis has a 1.8 gap to Vettel. Maldonado cannot get past Hulkenberg and is trying everything he can to force Hulkenberg into a mistake.

And Lewis Hamilton wins the first US Grand Prix since his win at Indianapolis in 2007! Fantastic drive from Lewis. He has been on super form all weekend and he has given McLaren a much-needed win before moving to AMG Mercedes Team for 2013. Another interesting fact is the top 3 drivers have never shared a podium together during their years in the sport! Three world champions on the podium, what a treat for the fans!

The top 10 result are:- Hamilton, Vettel (0.675), Alonso (39.229), Massa (46.013), Button (56.432), Raikkonen (1.04.425), Grosjean (1.10.313), Hulkenberg (1.13.792), Maldonado (1.14.525) and Senna.

The Drivers Championship has not been sealed by Vettel today and everybody who watches or follows Formula One has got their wish to see it be decided next week in Brazil. But Vettel still leads the championship with 273 points, with Alonso 260 points (only 13 points behind Vettel with one race to go!), Raikkonen in third place with 206 and Hamilton in fourth with 190.

The Constructors title was taken by Red Bull Racing for the third consecutive time in Formula One History. Only three other teams in the sport’s history have managed to achieve this. And considering that the team a few years ago was Jaguar Racing, who struggled during their time in the sport, this is an achievement. Red Bull Racing took the title with 440 points, Ferrari are still in second place with 367 points, McLaren are still fighting for second place with Ferrari still with 353 points, Lotus are fourth with 302 points, the battle for the midfield between Mercedes (136 points), Sauber (124) and Force India (99 points) is still continuing.

Conclusion

I know I said Abu Dhabi was one of the best races of this year in my last review, but I really do think that the US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas really did prove doubters wrong.

What a race we experienced. Firstly, the track is great. The first turn is one of the best in the sport. The elevation leading up to the first corner gave me such a thrill to watch, never mind what the drivers thought when driving the cars. The circuit gave us and the drivers such a challenge with a mixture of fast corners in the first sector and a mixture of medium and low speed corners in sectors 2 and 3. I personally think that the promoters and everyone associated with the Grand Prix deserves the credit for giving us a Grand Prix that gave us drama and excitement before, during and after the race which I will now discuss further as promised earlier on in the review.

Well, Ferrari have gone and done it again. Their tactical decision to break a seal on Felipe Massa’s car to make sure Alonso got to the clean side of the grid in order to keep his championship fight to Vettel alive. Now everyone will have an opinion on this.

I can see why Ferrari did it as the dirty side of the grid was not grippy enough to make sure that Alonso got the best possible start to help his championship fight. Ferrari haven’t had the pace to challenge Red Bull consistently throughout the year and they want to make sure Alonso has every chance to fight for the championship. But this will put Ferrari under scrutiny especially with their decisions in races such as in Austria in 2002 where Rubens Barrichello gave up a win that was his to help Michael Schumacher achieve the title that year.

As I stated previously, there are no rules to stop Ferrari or any team doing this, the regulations have not specifically banned this. The Ferrari mentality is ‘Ferrari is a team and we will do what’s best for the team to win and be successful’. Yes, that is all well and good to achieve this motto and not to break the regulations (which the team have not!). And I believe that is why Felipe Massa has managed to stay in his Ferrari seat for next year. Felipe knows he is second fiddle to Alonso but he is a team player and will sacrifice opportunities for himself for the sake of the team. And I have respect for Felipe for doing this.

My own personal view is that this should not be happening anyway. The FIA have regulations to make sure that ALL teams race each other competitively and fairly. Usually, that does happen. But with Ferrari doing this, this could open the doors for other teams such as Red Bull or McLaren to deploy tactics like this be it this year or many years later to keep themselves in a championship fight with their rivals. The FIA need to deal with this issue and quickly, before the Grand Prix racing we have enjoyed this year ends up being a tactical ploy by teams to keep themselves and their advantage in a championship fight that should be won on track and not through diplomatic and tactical decisions.

Phew! And now that’s out of the way, let’s turn our attention back to a wonderful Grand Prix. I was absolutely delighted that Lewis won the Grand Prix. Lewis won it the hard way and worked hard to achieve it. And even though I am not happy that he is leaving the McLaren team, he has shown this spirit throughout his years at the team to achieve 21 wins and his world title in 2007 and it is these attributes that will make Mercedes stand up and listen and appreciate the talent that Lewis has for Grand Prix racing.

I am also pleased that Jenson achieved a positive result for the team as well. I think if Jenson did not achieve the throttle problem failure in Qualifying 2, who knows where Jenson would have ended up? Jenson throughout the race from 11th place battled to achieve 5th place in a car that when the tyres where in the window of opportunity, was fastest in the field. I really hope that Jenson, Lewis and the McLaren team are in a position next week to be challenging at the front and take a win from Brazil into the winter ready for next year’s season.

Throughout the race, I was also impressed with Hulkenberg. Hulkenberg as we know is driving for Sauber next season. But Hulkenberg this weekend drove a brilliant race to achieve points for Force India who are in a midfield battle in the Constructor’s championship with Mercedes and Sauber. Throughout the race, Hulkenberg was under threat for position from drivers such as Maldonado and Senna and keep his calm under pressure to bring the car home, which is the quality I believe Sauber recruited him for for next year.

Finally, the two drivers the F1 world are talking about, Alonso and Vettel. This weekend both drivers have shown to the world why they are both double world championships. Both drivers will be aware of what they needed from this weekend to keep their fights in the championship alive. Alonso (even after the whole Ferrari Gearbox saga) managed to drive into third place to keep the championship going to Brazil next weekend. Vettel battled with Hamilton throughout the Grand Prix to keep his advantage at the top of the table. But Hamilton was just quicker than Vettel and Vettel knows that taking the best possible position ahead of Alonso would take points of his advantage, but would crucially be in front heading into the Brazil.

The US Grand Prix achieved the objectives the promoters set out to achieve. This was to create a race that would bring the American people to the track (over 100,000 people turned up to watch the race), generate excitement and passion for Formula One (which it did), give the drivers a challenge (which it did with the track providing low grip in the practice and qualifying sessions) and provide a legacy for the American people.

And that my friends, they did do. This race will be remembered as the race in an unpredictable and exciting season of Formula One in recent years the third consecutive Constructor’s championship for Red Bull Racing was achieved, the 21st Grand Prix win of Lewis Hamilton (who has passed Mika Hakkinen’s record with the team of 20 Grand Prix wins) and the  2012 Driver’s title was taken to the final round in Brazil.

The big question everyone is talking about; will Brazil provide a Grand Prix in recent years have decided the Driver’s championship (such as Lewis Hamilton’s world title in 2007) in fantastic style? Will the weather affect who becomes champion? The final question, who will become a triple world championship on Sunday 25th November 2012, will it be Alonso winning his first world title out of three with the Ferrari team, or it will be three in a row with Vettel and Red Bull Racing? The world waits with anticipation.

F1 News: 12th-17th November 2012

This is a brand new feature that I have decided to do for the blog. Every week, I will be doing a F1 news catch up to keep you guys up to date on matters that are happening currently within the sport and the F1 paddock. Here is the latest news from the paddock this week…

Hamilton regretting his move to Mercedes?

Rumours have been circulating in the Formula One world that Lewis Hamilton is already regretting his move to Mercedes in 2013 from McLaren-Mercedes. When asked, managing director of the Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes team Martin Whitmarsh believes that Lewis does indeed ‘regret’ his move.

Whitmarsh then explains further that his reasons behind his views is that Lewis was experiencing ‘different emotions’ when he made the decision to move. Whitmarsh believes that a range of factors led to Lewis making his decision to move such as wanting to flee the nest from the team who has been behind and supported his career from the age of 13 years old, Lewis wanting a new challenge and building a team around him and also wanting a big salary.

From hearing this rumour, I believe that the factors Whitmarsh have stated are correct but only slightly. I believe that Lewis was first tempted by the thought that with a bigger salary and a new challenge to make Mercedes into a race and championship leading team. There is proof that this idea is feasible (Michael Schumacher for example moving to Ferrari from Benetton in 1996, turning the Ferrari team around and winning five championships with the team) but that may take time. Lewis is more than capable of winning races and championships, but only if he has the machinery beneath him and I believe McLaren are a better fit for his needs there.

Secondly, I admire and respect Lewis’s decision massively to move from one of the most competitive teams on the grid to a team that has underperformed this year especially. Lewis has had the support of the McLaren team from a young age and has been lucky to be given the chance into Formula One with the team when he did. I believe that due to the problems that McLaren have had with the developments of their F1 cars in recent years (such as mechanical and electronic failures) and Lewis missing opportunities to keep in the fight to challenge for a driver’s championship, Lewis maybe wants to flee the nest, take the skills acquired in his time with the team and transform that into a new environment that may or may not be based around him.

Lewis no doubt about it is taking a huge gamble leaving the McLaren team for Mercedes. He is leaving behind everything he knows and is taking a risk into the unknown with a team that needs to perform in 2013 better than this year. My last point on this rumour is that will it work out for Lewis? That is uncertain, but Lewis will have to live with this decision, whatever the outcome. We shall see.

US GP is going to be ‘epic’?

McLaren’s Jenson Button has spoken out about the new challenge that is presented to all the drivers this coming Sunday… yes it is the USA GP in the Circuit of the New Americas. Jenson believes that the new circuit is ‘epic’ and will provide the drivers with a challenge that they have not been presented with before.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, Lotus F1 team’s test driver Jerome D’Ambrosio is the only driver at this current time that has driven the circuit (This was shown on Sky Sports F1 coverage at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix). He believes that the elevation, the tight corners on the track should challenge the drivers and their fitness which will encourage overtaking within the race.

And the track needs to perform. As you may or may not know, Formula One has never really took off in America. There have been a few tracks over the years such as Phoenix, Indianapolis and Watkins Glen that have failed to capture the eyes of the American people. And I believe that Formula One needs to be in America. Not only is it the world’s super-power but this is a country that has a natural passion for motor racing (Americans are really into NASCAR).

I was reading in GP International Magazine last week about the two year struggle the track promoters have had trying to get the track up and running and how they feel Formula One is important to them. Formula One needs new markets, new forms of advertising in order to get through a very depressing world-wide recession at the moment. Formula One needs America if it has any chance of surviving in the near future… but does America want Formula One? Sunday is D-Day for the Circuit of the New Americas and the world is going to be watching… and waiting.

Mercedes at Fault?

Ross Brawn has openly stated that the direction that the Mercedes-AMG F1 team have taken with the development of their car this year was the wrong decision. Mercedes was one of the first teams this year to introduce a ‘Double DRS’ system onto their cars that allow them extra downforce and speed without harming the aerodynamics on their car.

With Lotus developing their own system that was tested a few times over the season in practice sessions on Grand Prix weekend (that they decided not to implement) it would seem to say that it has not brought them any gains. Meanwhile with Mercedes, they have not being reasonably competitive since Nico Rosberg’s win in China and Michael Schumacher’s pole position in Monaco earlier on in the season. Since then, the results have been in between and with both drivers suffering problems with their cars and tyres, the system has not helped them in any way.

Brawn has admitted that due to implementing the system, they have not been able to work on improving the car throughout the year as they should have done. Recently, the areo team at Mercedes has been changed and reshuffled under Technical Director Bob Bell in order to help themselves in the future. Question is: have Mercedes learnt their lesson, time will tell.

Force India to sign Jules Bianchi?

Force India may well sign their test and reserve driver Jules Bianchi for next season if you believe what you read in the F1 press. Bianchi has made it known his intention to drive for the team in 2013 and believes he is ‘ready to race’. Bianchi has been since the start of the year has been impressing the team with his performances in Practice in the Grand Prix weekends.

Force India are due soon to make an announcement regarding their driver line up for next year. With Nico Hulkenberg driving for Sauber next season and Paul Di Resta looking set to keep his seat with the team, Sutil and Algersauri looking to make their way back into Formula one with the team, the race for the season seat alongside Di Resta within the team next year is far from over yet.

HRT for Sale

Yet again, it would seem that the HRT Formula One team is up for sale again. The Spanish based team has been in Formula One for a few years now and has had a troubled history within the sport. Lack of funds, resources and also changing business owners three times has not helped their path into the world of Formula One.

Spanish investment company Thesan Capital who took control of the company in July 2010 in order to establish themselves as a ‘Spanish national team’ felt they had no choice but to sell the outfit. In a statement from the owners, they have stated that there are a number of groups interested in buying the team, they believe there is great potential within the team (HRT I should point out have yet to score a point in their time in Formula One) and the management hope to have the deal sorted within a matter of weeks to enable the team to develop further into the sport with a new owner in place.

I hope that HRT get the new sponsor they have been looking for and get continued levels of support from the owner. As over the last three years, HRT have not yet been able to make waves into the sport has they do not have the capital or the resources necessary to make their mark into the sport. In this ever-changing nature of the sport, these two elements are crucial to surviving in the sport generally and also the elements that will provide the team and the sponsor who takes over to get the results they want to achieve. Do I think HRT will get a sponsor? Yes. Will it be one that will give them the support, funds and the resources to achieve their dream? I really don’t know.

Now for the final piece of news this week…

Vettel makes an apology

Yes, you read that right. Vettel has made a public apology to the media regarding the choice of language used on the podium while being interviewed by David Coulthard at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

While being interviewed, Vettel used inappropriate language to describe his thoughts on the Grand Prix. At the same event, Kimi Raikkonen also did the same thing after achieving his first win since his F1 comeback this year.

The FIA has issued teams with a statement informing them to tell their drivers to make sure that they use appropriate language while being interviewed and to set an example to the millions of fans that watch the sport every weekend. I agree with the FIA. Millions of fans watch the Grand Prix every race weekend to watch the very best drivers race to the edge lap after lap and are seen to be role models. And I believe that if the fans are watching race after race year after year, then the drivers should show the same respect to the fans and watch their language.

And that’s the news for this week. My next post will be a review of the inaugural US Grand Prix in the Circuit of the New Americas that is happening this weekend. Hope you enjoy the race as much as I will… it is going to be very exciting! 

2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Review

As we head into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, Sebastian Vettel’s four win streak (Vettel winning the Indian Grand Prix last weekend) has given him a 13 point advantage over championship rival Fernando Alonso who has 227 points. Last week, Alonso made his feelings perfectly clear to the media about his championship hopes by saying that he [Alonso] ‘… and Ferrari have to take the fight to Red Bull, Vettel and Adrian Newey’ [Newey being Red Bull Racing’s Techinical Director who is a legend within Formula One winning world championships with Williams and McLaren-Mercedes].

This has led to both teams in the championship fight bringing new developments and updates to their racing cars. What about McLaren you ask? Well Lewis won the race last year and it could happen again with Lewis or with Jenson, depending if they get the set up right, we shall see. The Constructor’s title could be decided this weekend if McLaren or Ferrari fail to score or gain a significant points advantage over Red Bull Racing.

Rumours are also circulating the newspapers and the F1 community that Rupert Murdock who owns Sky and the exclusive and interrupted coverage of Formula One (which I watch by the way!) wants a bigger slice of the pie from Bernie Ecclestone (Bernie controls all the rights to Formula One such as races, teams, money etc). This is unconfirmed at the moment, but I will be sure to update the blog if I hear any news surrounding this matter.

There have been talks about driver’s futures this week. Maldonado has been talked about in the F1 paddock of where he is driving next year. Will it be Williams or someone else? And to the shock of the F1 community, Nico Hulkenberg has moved from Sahara Force India to drive for Sauber next year. Due to Hulkenberg’s move, there is one seat that many drivers such as Sutil, Bianici (Force India’s test and reserve driver at the moment) and Algersauari (who used to race for Toro Rosso). Speaking of the future of F1, Marussia’s test and reserve driver Max Chilton the chance for his first competitive F1 outing in Friday practice one to maybe prove to the team that he is worthy of a drive for 2013 and impress the F1 paddock in the process, using all the experience gained in competing in junior formulas such as GP2 [GP2 is Formula One’s chosen formula to recruit new drivers from].

This weekend could make or break the Driver’s and Constructor’s world championships and see one or maybe two drivers take the fight further on into the current season…

Let’s begin…

Practices 1, 2 and 3

The main headline from the Practice sessions is that Lewis Hamilton seems to have the form going into qualifying. Lewis topped the timesheets in Practice 1 with a time of 1.43.285 and Practice 3 with a time of 1.42.130, with Vettel topping the timesheets in Practice 2 with a time of 1.41.751. However, you cannot discount Jenson who seems to be near the front too, topping second fastest in Practice 1 (1.43.618), third fastest in Practice 2 (with an 0.661 gap behind Lewis) and second fastest in Practice 3 not far behind Lewis.  As a McLaren fan, I am pleased to see this from Lewis and also the pace that Jenson has shown throughout these sessions as well. McLaren seem to look better than last weekend and seem to have the set ups on both cars on track to the position both the drivers and the teams want to be in.

The main talking points throughout mainly Practice 2 and 3 is about the problems that Red Bull have experienced with Webber (Practice 2) surrounding a cooling issue surrounding his KERS just like last weekend in India and with Vettel (Practice 3) surrounding a brake problem that needed bleeding by his mechanics. The question the F1 media, paddock and fans are asking is that are Red Bull heading into problems with their cars…

Even with Vettel not topping the timesheets like last week in India, he was not far off the pace. In Practice 1, Lewis led Vettel by a gap of 0.765 and led him in Practice 3 by. Therefore, with the form that Vettel is in, you cannot discount him either, even after the problem that he experienced in Practice 3. Alonso, Webber and Raikkonen are also in the top 10 throughout the three practice sessions and it seems that the grid will also be tight just like in India last weekend in the fight to qualify near the front…

Qualifying

We look forward to qualifying, seeing if the problems that Red Bull have experienced within the practice sessions has affected their ability to perform in qualifying. And also, we look forward to seeing if McLaren can translate their form shown on Friday by Lewis and Jenson into competitive grid slots ready for Sunday’s race and if Webber, Raikkonen and especially Alonso can take the fight to especially Red Bull and Vettel and stop their four pole position streak in qualifying…

In Q1, Hamilton tops the timesheets with the fastest time of 1.41.497 followed by Rosberg (1.41.926), Webber (1.41.933), Alonso (1.41.939) and Massa (1.41.974). Vettel could only manage sixth fastest with a time of (1.42.160), Raikkonen managing eighth fastest (1.42.222) and Jenson managing ninth fastest (1.42.342).

During this session, we lose the ‘usual suspects’ of Vergne, Glock, Pic, Petrov, De La Rosa and Karthikeynan, while Vettel hits the barrier going into the final section of the race track during one of his laps and Perez is under investigation by the stewards for holding a car up during a flying lap [no action was taken towards Perez].

In Q2, Hamilton is fastest again with a time of 1.40.901 followed by Webber (1.41.277), Vettel (1.41.511), Alonso (1.41.514), Grosjean (1.41.620) and Raikkonen (1.41.635). Jenson could only manage eighth fastest with a time of 1.41.873. We lose at the end of Q2 Hulkenberg, Perez, Di Resta, Schumacher, Senna, Kobayashi and Riccardo.

At the end of Q3, Lewis Hamilton takes his 25th pole for McLaren-Mercedes with a time of 1.40.030 that absolutely took everybody’s breath away. Webber was second with a 0.348 gap behind, Vettel taking third with a 0.443 gap behind, then Maldonado with a 0.596 gap behind, Raikkonen 0.620 behind, Button 0.660 behind and Alonso 0.952 behind.

However, the main talking point of qualifying is Sebastian Vettel stopping in Q3 after qualifying third on his in-lap as ordered by Red Bull’s engine supplier Renault. There were many theories being generated into the F1 paddock what the reason could be. Turns out Vettel had ran out of fuel, just like Lewis did in Barcelona and has to start from the pitlane (Karma, just karma!).

It looks like the race on Sunday is going to be cracking. Vettel starting from the pit lane.. can he score any points to keep his lead on Alonso? Can Alonso take advantage of Vettel’s misfortune and gain back the championship lead? Can Lewis, Jenson, Mark, Kimi or Pastor keep the Red Bulls at bay and throw the championship into disarray? We shall see on Sunday…

Race

Going into the Grand Prix, everyone is talking about Vettel starting from the pitlane. People are wondering if this was planned, did Vettel know more than he let on in his interview after qualifying yesterday? Can he produce the drive of his life to try and keep his championship lead to Fernando alive? Can he also try and help Red Bull Racing secure the Constructor’s title? Can Lewis or Jenson win the Grand Prix and keep the form they have going to try and gain second place in the Constructor’s back from Ferrari? Can Alonso win the Grand Prix with a better chance than Vettel? Will Maldonado throw a spinner in the works and maybe cause an incident before turn 1? Can Raikkonen keep his championship challenge alive with a good result today?

Questions, questions… that need to be answered. Looks like the race is going to be a good one…

Five red lights showing… and its GOOOOO! Lewis has a decent start from pole position, Raikkonen gets an perfect start and gets past Maldonado and Webber to take second place. Maldonado may lose a place to Raikkonen, but importantly keeps in front of Webber. Button is squeezed by Alonso, Alonso manages to make a pass on Button, but is now under pressure from Massa.

While all this is going on with the front runners, Bruno Senna and Nico Hulkenberg have a crash into Turn 1 that leaves Hulkenberg no choice but to retire from the race. Nico Rosberg has had an appalling start. To add to his appalling start, Rosberg and Grosjean touch and leaves Grosjean with tyre damage and needing to pit and soon. Alonso during the later stages of the lap tries to pass Webber, but manages to do so on the 2nd part of the circuit which gives the car DRS [DRS is a system that gives drivers who are under a second apart extra horsepower to overtake].

Laps 2 and 3 are action packed. Lap 2 sees Lewis have a 1.408 gap lead to Raikkonen. Lewis in the middle of the lap, locks up his brakes due to cold tyres, giving Kimi half an opportunity to try and overtake him. Rosberg and Di Resta seem to suffer damage to their cars following the collusion on Turn 1. Rosberg is suffering from front wing damage and Di Resta is suffering with his right rear tyre. Lap 3 sees Vettel getting front wing damage while battling for position with Bruno Senna, while passing Charles Pic in the Marrusia for 16th place.

Lap 5 sees Lewis having a 2.558 gap to Raikkonen. The next lap sees a battle for 3rd position taking place between Maldonado, Alonso and Webber with Alonso gaining the most on Maldonado. Lap 7 sees Lewis extend his lead to 3.078 seconds. Alonso still cannot pass Maldonado, even though he is faster. Perez passes his teammate for 8th place. The stewards will be investigating the turn 1 incident at the end of the race with Hulkenberg.

Lap 9 sees Nico Rosberg and Narain Karthikeynan having a huge accident that puts both drivers out of the race. Karthikeynan seems to experiencing a blow out or a problem with the car, catches Rosberg out and he spins very nastily into the barrier. Both drivers walk away from the incident and are okay. This is the 3rd Grand Prix in a row that sees Rosberg retire due to accidents. The safety car is now deployed to get the track clear of debris and ready to race again.

While the safety car is out, the field are bunched up and Lewis still leads from Raikkonen. Grosjean pits on lap 10 for new tyres. Can he do 45 laps on one set of tyres? Stewards have stated that they will look into the incident with Rosberg and Karthikeynan after the race has finished. Lap 12 sees under the safety car an brief encounter between Vettel and Riccardo that leads to Vettel taking the DRS sign on the side of the track off, which in turn damages his front wing even more. The next lap sees Vettel pitting for a new nose in 9.1 seconds, dropping back to 21st and having to start his charge for a good finish in the race all over again.

Lap 15 and the safety car has gone into the pitlane. So it’s back to racing! Lewis has a 3.8 gap to Raikkonen. Webber tries to pass Alonso and it doesn’t happen. Vettel is 19th by the end of the lap. Lap 16 sees Lewis have a 1.6 gap to Raikkonen. Vettel and Grosjean are battling for 17th position on the race track. Vettel makes a move on Grosjean that does not stick and needs to get past as soon as possible for his pit stop strategy to work effectively on the prime option tyre.

The next lap sees Lewis build his lead to Raikkonen to 2.343 seconds. Lotus make a complaint to Charlie Whiting regarding Vettel’s move on Grosjean. Vettel had 4 wheels off the track when he made the move which is against the FIA racing regulations. Knowing this would impact on Vettel’s strategy, Red Bull tell Vettel to give the place back to Grosjean, which he does but then takes it back again further on into the lap.

Lap 19 sees Lewis lead Raikkonen by 2.987 seconds. Perez is fighting Massa further on down the field and the battle for 3rd place between Maldonado, Alonso, Webber and Button continues. The next lap sees Lewis have a problem with his McLaren and slows down and retires from the race. First thoughts would be the gear box or engine. Turns out the electronics that control the engine have failed, causing the retirement. This now puts Raikkonen into the lead of the Grand Prix and builds up a lead of 4.6 seconds on Maldonado [who is passed by Alonso at the end of this lap].

Lap 23 sees Raikkonen build a 5.793 gap towards Alonso. Webber and Maldonado battle for position and leaves Webber losing three places, leaving him in 10th place. The next lap sees Jenson finally pass Maldonado after many laps stuck behind him. Lap 25 sees Raikkonen have a 6.710 gap to Alonso.  The announcement of the stewards looking into the incident between Webber and Maldonado and the pit stop window officially opens to all the teams. The next lap sees a battle for 6th place between Webber and Massa that ends in them both clashing and Massa is left spinning on a kerb. Vettel at this point has climbed his way up to 7th place.

Laps 27, 28 and 29 see the majority of the teams making their pit stops. Kimi has a 12.276 gap to Button who has not stopped yet. Drivers such as Massa, Riccardo, Schumacher, Kovalienen, De La Rosa and Alonso (which after the pit stop leaves him in 7th place behind Vettel). Lap 30 sees Button pit in 2.8 seconds for new tyres and ends up in 5th place and Maldonado also pitting in 3.8 seconds for new tyres and ends up in 10th place.

Lap 31 sees Webber and Perez pitting. Webber has the fastest pit stop of the race with 2.6 seconds and ends up in 9th place. Perez has a 3.3 second stop and ends up in 8th place. Vettel is in second place at this point inheriting the place from Perez who had to pit and is 23 seconds behind Kimi. Lotus know this is their chance to pit and keep the lead. This is what they do with a 3.6 second pit stop and keeps his lead to Vettel in tact, the gap being 1.498 at the end of lap 32.

Lap 35 sees Vettel trailing Kimi by 2.7 seconds. There is a battle for 5th place with Grosjean, Di Resta, Perez and Webber. Two laps after, Vettel has no choice but to pit, doing a 3.9 second stop that leaves him in 4th place. Vettel has to pit knowing that he will not last the Grand Prix on one set of tyres and does not want to risk losing 2 seconds a lap and reaching the ‘cliff’ [the cliff is where the tyre has been wore down so much that all the grip the tyre provides has gone].

Lap 38 sees Alonso gaining second position from Vettel in a clean move. Further down the field sees an incident with Di Resta, Grosjean, Webber and Perez all battling for position. Di Resta tries to pass Grosjean and is unsuccessful, but then it happens. While this is happening, Perez challenges Di Resta on the other side of Grosjean, which entackles Webber into an collusion and out of the race. The safety car is deployed for the second time today and allows Perez and Riccardo to pit under it.

Lap 41 now confirms that Webber is mathematically out of the championship fight. The next lap sees Charles Pic retire his Marussia with problems. The incident between Di Resta, Grosjean, Perez and Webber will be investigated by the stewards after the race. Shortly, it is announced that Perez is receiving an stop and go penalty for his involvement in the collusion just previously mentioned. Schumacher seems to have a right rear puncture. The safety car is also in on the end of  lap 42.

Lap 47 sees Raikkonen having a 3.183 lap towards Alonso. Perez has served his penalty the lap previously. Button is also 1.2 seconds behind Alonso and is pushing hard for 2nd place. The next two laps sees a charging Vettel trying to get past Button for 3rd place and fails, with Kimi maintaining a 2.7 gap to Fernando.

Lap 50 sees Vettel having a 0.813 gap to Button and wanting to get 3rd place. Meanwhile, Alonso is pushing Raikkonen hard within the final laps of the race. The gap between Raikkonen and Alonso is closing down lap by lap. Lap 52 sees Alonso getting the gap down to 1,3 seconds. He needs half a second a lap in order to challenge Kimi at the end of the race. Vettel passes Button for 3rd place.

The last lap sees the gap between Raikkonen and Alonso under a second. Alonso tries and gives everything he has but Raikkonen takes the flag and wins the Grand Prix, his first since being back in Formula One and his first win since 2008 Belguim Grand Prix. And this makes him the sixth different winner in Formula One this season and mathematically out of the championship fight.

The top 10 are Raikkonen, Alonso (0.852), Vettel (4.163), Button (7.787), Maldonado (13.007), Kobayashi (20.076), Massa (22.896), Senna (23.542), Di Resta (24.160) and Riccardo (27.463).

The Driver’s Championship is still lead by Vettel with 255 points, with Alonso 10 points behind with 245 points, Raikkonen is still in 3rd with 198 points, Webber is 4th with 167, Hamilton with 165 and Jenson with 153 points.

The Constructor’s championship was not sealed by Red Bull today but they only need 5 points to seal it in Austin in two weeks time. Red Bull Racing lead with 422 points, Ferrari are on 340 points, McLaren still in 3rd with 318 points, Lotus are still 4th with 288, Mercedes are 5th with 136 points, Sauber are still battling with Force India (Sauber having 124 points and Force India having 95 points).

Conclusion

What a race! One of the best of this year. Vettel coming from last place to achieve 3rd and maintain his lead in the championship fight. Alonso challenging all the way to the end for the win, Raikkonen winning his first Grand Prix since 2008. Also, the amount of over-taking and incidents between the drivers show why Formula One only has room for the best drivers (well depends on your viewpoint really). But I do believe certain drivers are doing ‘GP 2’ moves that will end up in them getting bans like Grosjean for one race or maybe more.

Vettel’s winning streak may have been stopped by a popular victory from Raikkonen since his return to F1. But Vettel is still leading the championship by 10 points after a good drive from last twice!  Alonso put in a good performance to finish second and keep his championship challenge going to the US Grand Prix in two weeks time.

Raikkonen may be out of the championship now but you cannot take away his win. He was superb and showed that his decision to come back to Formula One was the right thing to do. I am also pleased for Lotus to achieve their first Grand Prix win. They have had some brilliant races this year where they deserved to take the victory and sadly it didn’t work out. But this can only be a step up for the team now and act as a push to work towards a successful 2013 campaign.

McLaren should have won with Lewis today. They have been on form all weekend. Lewis seemed to be happy with the car, he loves the track and I believed would have won if it wasn’t for the electronical problem he suffered while leading the race. Jenson’s pace also was really good and deserved to be on the podium after a great drive. I am happy that McLaren was on the pace this weekend, but they will not take back second place in the Constructor’s  if they keep having these problems, they will not win races and they will not win championships. With all my heart, I want McLaren to win every weekend and they have proved they have the car, luck seems to be lacking for them.

Even without the incidents, Maldonado, Senna and Di Resta did fantastic to score some points this weekend for their teams who are engaged in a battle for the constructor’s championship. Kobayashi also drove a silent but good race to score some points for Sauber, which should help him try to keep his seat at the team for next year.

Looking towards the first US Grand Prix in Austin in two weeks time, it is a two horse battle for the championship between Alonso and Vettel. What will happen? No one knows. It is a new track that from the exclusive footage shown on Sky Sports F1 with D’Ambrosio [Lotus’s test and reserve driver] driving looks to be a challenge that the drivers are going to love. With 150 foot drops, elevation and a track that is brand new, it could bring up a new surprises that may or may not see Vettel clinch his third consecutive driver’s title or see Alonso outscore Vettel and keep the title to the wire at Brazil. This is a very interesting time for Formula One fans, who will win the title; Alonso or Vettel… you couldn’t call it.