Monthly Archives: March 2013

2013 Malaysian Grand Prix Race Weekend Review

Well Formula One is back! And what a start we got to the season! Kimi Raikkonen winning the Australian Grand Prix ahead of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel. Going into the Grand Prix, concerns surrounding McLaren and Williams around their race cars are ever growing and both teams are looking to see if their little improvements gained from last weekend will help them this weekend.

In terms of the Grand Prix, the Malaysian Grand Prix is a real challenge for the drivers and the teams. The Malaysian weather can change instantly from being hot and humid to a monsoon full of rain within a couple of minutes. Pit stop strategies and tyre wear will be crucial for the drivers and the teams to get right. As tyres will be punished throughout this weekend and due to the abrasive surface of the track, looking after the tyres will be the drivers and the team’s top priorities this weekend.

This Grand Prix will be one full of questions of who can go longer on their tyres, who can save the most tyres for the race on Sunday, will it be hot or will it be raining this weekend? Alongside these questions, questions of who has maintained their competitiveness from Australia, can McLaren and Williams’s small improvements on their cars help them this weekend, who will be competitive from the off, who has the quickest car and who will win this race on Sunday?

The week 2 of the Formula One season begins now….

Strap yourselves in. The new season begins now…

Practices 1, 2 and 3

The main headline from the Practice sessions is that Red Bull look like the team to beat this weekend (even though Kimi Raikkonen topped the timesheets in Practice 2) as weather conditions test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.

Practice 1 saw Mark Webber top the timesheets with a time of 1.34.935211 followed closely by Raikkonen with a time of 1.37.003, Vettel in third with a time of 1.37.104, Alonso in fourth with a time of 1.37.104 and Rosberg in fifth with a time of 1.37.588. Adrian Sutil impressed the paddock again by topping the timesheets in 6th place with a time of 1.37.769. The McLarens of Button and Perez could only manage 11th and 13th places.

Within Practice 1, there was a lot of spinning and technical issues throughout the session. Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez had spins on the circuit by carrying too much speed into the corners. Meanwhile, Adrian Sutil despite taking 6th place, his front wing was moving due to an incident of the front wing. Also Kimi Raikkonen experienced some gearbox issues on one of his flying laps. And Mark Webber was called by the FIA to the weighbridge in order to check the safety of the KERS system on the car when receiving a message on the dashboard that it was unsafe. Webber’s KERS system was fine and was allowed to carry on to Practice 2.

Practice 2 saw Kimi Raikkonen top the timesheets again with a time of 1.36.569 followed by Vettel with a gap of 0.019 seconds, Massa in third with a gap of 0.092 seconds, Alonso in fourth with a gap of 0.416 seconds and Webber in fifith with a gap of 0.457 seconds. Adrian Sutil again managed to achieve a top 10 finish with 10th place with a gap of 1.219 seconds behind Raikkonen and also Paul Di Resta in 8th place with a gap of 1.002 seconds behind Raikkonen, showing that Force India may have the pace to get some good championship points this weekend. The McLarens of Perez and Button could only manage 11th and 12th places indicating that McLaren do not have the pace needed to have a strong weekend.

Before the start of Practice 2, it was announced that Mercedes CEO Nick Fry will be stepping down from his role after the Grand Prix to a consultant role within the team. Toto Wolff will be stepping in Fry’s role as CEO. I wish Nick a lot of best wishes for his future. Within Practice 2, rain at the track enters the frame and Intermediate and wet weather tyres are being used for the first time this weekend. Throughout the session, Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean experience running off the track due to getting used to the tricky conditions on track.

Practice 3 saw Sebastian Vettel top the timesheet with a time of 1.36.435 followed by Hamilton with a gap of 0.133 seconds, Sutil in third with a gap of 0.153 seconds, Webber fourth with a gap of 0.178 seconds and Raikkonen in a fifth with a gap of 0.371 seconds. Jenson Button also impressed the paddock with 7th place with a gap of 0.387 seconds behind Vettel. Again, the surprise of the session is Paul Di Resta managing to grab 6th place with a gap of 0.372 seconds behind Vettel showing that he does have good pace within the Force India car. The biggest surprises of the session was that Perez and Grosjean did not make the top 10 (Perez managed 12th place and Grosjean 14th place).

However, within Practice 3, Sebastian Vettel had problems with his tyres and spun off when his tyres gave up with high levels of graining. Also Mark Webber, Nico Hulkenberg and Jean-Eric Vergne experienced problems with overheating on their cars (Webber had brake and tyres problems, Hulkenberg had problems with overheating on the car and Vergne had an overheating exhaust).

You would be stupid not to bet against Vettel to gain pole position again this weekend. As he is the master of qualifying at the moment and the momentum is with him from topping Practice 3 and being in the top 6 in two sessions. Alonso and Massa also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top seven at the moment. Button and Perez at the moment seem to be struggling (even though Button had a great last practice session).  It seems from looking at their performances that the pace is not available within the car and both drivers seem to be struggling with the ride, pace and the tyres and I will admit that they will struggle to even make Qualifying 2 or even the points in the race and it will take a lot of skill and talent to do that in a car that is not capable, unless a bit of unexpected rain happens. However, I think that Force India and Lotus have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix again like last weekend and could qualify well here. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…

Qualifying

Before qualifying, weather reports state that a 50% chance of rain during the session. Also, Practice 1 on Friday saw only an hour of running from the drivers in an hour and 30 minute session allocated to the sport. There have been discussions to see if this can be improved from the fans who pay good money to see the best racing drivers in the world. Force India’s Team Principal Bob Fernley believes that the First Practice could be used ‘… as a young driver’s programme which helped both Paul (Di Resta) and Nico (Hulkenberg) into the sport.’

I agree with Bob. We have seen young drivers such as Klien, Algersuari and Buemi enter the sport on Young Drivers Programmes such as Red Bull and leave the sport due to their ‘poor’ performances. I am not sticking up for them but if the guys haven’t had much time to get to grips with the sport through testing (well lack of testing) like they did in the old days, the pressure to learn and to perform on a regular and consistent basis is constant. And I believe that if Practice 1 is used for young drivers and test drivers from each of the teams to learn their craft within the sport, chances of acquiring a new or future star for the sport is greater than what it is now. However, discussions about this matter are still being made.

It looks like Red Bull are the team to beat heading into the session. And it is looking like Lotus, Ferrari or even Mercedes may look the teams set to challenge the Red Bull for pole position today. But Force India may spring a surprise and throw a spanner into the works based on their early pace and promise within the Practice sessions. And it is looking likely that it will be a challenge for the Williams drivers of Bottas and Maldonado to clear Q1 and also the McLaren drivers of Button and Perez to clear Q2 as both teams do not have the pace within their cars to challenge the top teams this weekend.  Let the battle for Pole Position begin…

The main talking point within Q1 was the block that Perez in his McLaren did towards Nico Hulkenberg in his Sauber on his flying lap. From looking at the footage, I believe that Perez did not intentionally try to block Hulkenberg, but was trying to find the best possible line and moment to get out of Nico’s way. No further action was taken towards Perez for this matter by the FIA.

In Q1, Sutil tops the timesheet with a time of 1.36.809, Raikkonen is second with a gap of 0.150 seconds, Rosberg is third with a gap of 0.430 seconds, Alonso is fourth with a gap of 0.5 seconds and Grosjean is fifth with a gap of 0.554 seconds. Vettel could only manage 14th place and Massa in his Ferrari could only manage 12th place. And a surprise for Button who finished the session in 6th place and also Di Resta who was 7th place. At the end of Q1, we lose Vergne, Bottas, Bianchi, Pic, Chilton and Van Der Garde.

However, during the session, the conditions got worse on the track with the rain falling onto the track and these changing conditions caught out the Force India of Paul Di Resta in Turns 7 and 8. This was so unlucky for Di Resta as he looked genuinely quick and looked like he was going to qualify a decent position this weekend ready for the race tomorrow.

In Q2, Rosberg tops the timesheets with a time of 1.36.190, Webber was second with a time of 1.36.449, Hamilton was third with a time of 1.36.517, Raikkonen was fourth with a time of 1.36.640 and Sutil was the surprise of the session with 5th place with a time of 1.36.874.  Alonso could only manage 7th place behind his team mate Massa in 6th place. Vettel could only gain 9th place. Button and Perez set a brilliant times to gain him 8th and 10th places At the end of Q2, we lose Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Riccardo, Gutierrez, Di Resta and Maldonado.  The battle for pole position is on…

At the start of Q3, we see a queue of drivers within the pit lane wanting to get stuck into their qualifying programme and to qualify as high as they possibly can. All drivers seem to be on the Intermediate tyres.

In Q3, Vettel again tops the timesheet and claims his 27th pole position with a time of 1.49.674, Massa was second fastest out-qualifying Alonso again, scoring his first front row since Bahrain 2010 with a time of 1.50.587, Alonso was third fastest with a gap of 1.053 seconds, Hamilton was fourth fastest with a gap of 2.025 seconds, Webber was fifth fastest with a gap of 2.570 seconds, Rosberg was sixth fastest with a gap of 2.845 seconds, Raikkonen was seventh fastest with a gap of 3.296 seconds, Button was eighth fastest with a gap of 3.501 seconds, Sutil was nineth fastest with a gap of 3.765 seconds and Perez was tenth fastest with a gap of 4.462 seconds.

It would seem that Red Bull genuinely has the pace to challenge for the race win again this weekend which I am absolutely not thrilled about. However, both drivers seem to have the cars underneath them to do this. You cannot discount Massa, Hamilton or Alonso to be challenging also for the race win in order to keep their seasons off to a flying start. Raikkonen could also be the dark horse to take the win away from Red Bull, Ferrari or Mercedes and gain a points advantage on his rivals for the championship.

Sutil and Button could also have a decent race tomorrow and pick up some much needed points for Force India and McLaren before heading to the next race in China. Will it rain tomorrow? I don’t know, I think it might.  Who will win the Grand Prix tomorrow? I really don’t know (hoping for a Button win!). Who will lead the championship after this race? Will it be Vettel, Webber, Massa, Hamilton or Alonso? I don’t know.  The Grand Prix has been set up nicely, just like last weekend. Let’s see what happens…

Race

Prior to the race, Kimi Raikkonen has been demoted to 10th place on the grid due to impeding Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes on his flying lap during Q3. Also, there were rumours circulating around the grid that Bernie believes that if Webber had not resigned with the team after Silverstone, Lewis Hamilton may have gone to Red Bull Racing for this season. When spoke to by Sky Sports F1, Christian Horner denied these rumours by stating that ‘This is a unclear situation and that the partnership of Webber and Vettel has won three championships.’ But what a thought for F1 fans….

Before the race, rain hit the track again. Due to the tricky conditions, all drivers will start on Intermediate tyres. However, Turn 3 seems to be extremely wet and catches out Toro Rosso’s Daniel Riccardo (who suffered a damaged diffuser), Esteban Guiterrez, Valterri Bottas, Max Chilton and Pastor Maldonado.  Red Bull start the race with a front row lockout of the grid. The F1 world is watching and waiting to see if the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix will live up to expectations and who will be the winner? Here we go…

All 22 drivers are lined up on their grid positions, five red lights and its GO!!!!!!!! Vettel gets a very good start and defends Felipe Massa into the first corner.

Webber and Button (Button finds himself in fifth) both have had decent starts off the line, with both drivers fighting for position. Alonso and Massa seem to have had bad starts and all drivers are battling each other towards Turn 1 (especially Rosberg and Hamilton). Alonso takes 2nd place and Webber takes 3rd away from Massa. Massa now finds himself battling with Rosberg for position. Alonso while trying to fight for the lead in Turn 2 with Vettel touches the back of the Red Bull and damaged his front wing, which leaves the door for Webber to pass him for 2nd place, which Alonso manages to defend himself against. Meanwhile, Hulkenberg who is in 9th place finds himself under attack by Raikkonen who tries to make a pass on Hulkenberg but cannot get past.

Lap 2 sees Vettel build a 3.1 gap to Webber after Webber manages to get past Alonso. Meanwhile, Alonso’s damaged front wing gives up and has no choice but to retire from the race, even though the team should have called Alonso in at the end of the first lap to change the front wing. There is a battle for 8th place between Perez and Massa taking place. The next few laps sees Button and Rosberg and Raikkonen and Grosjean battling for track position.

Lap 5, a 3.6 gap has formed between Vettel and Webber. Perez and Hulkenberg are battling on track. Hulkenberg manages a pass on Perez for 7th place, with Perez trying to come back to Hulkenberg and cannot do so. Raikkonen goes off the road and this allows his team mate Grosjean to pass him for position. It looks like the drivers could be set for dry tyres. The race leader makes a pitstop for slick tyres with a stop of 2.4 seconds and sees him come out in 5th place, handing the lead to Webber.

Lap 6 sees a number of drivers making pitstops to change tyres. The battle for 9th place hots up Perez, Sutil and Grosjean manage to pass Vettel. This then sees Vettel once his tyres have come up to temperature passing the drivers back again. The first driver to make a pitstop was Massa, Sutil was next followed by Grosjean, Di Resta and Raikkonen. Meanwhile on track, the battle for 11th position is hotting up with Grosjean, Vergne and Guitierrez. Lap 7, sees Mark Webber pit for a fresh set of tyres with a quick pitstop of 2.4 seconds and also Lewis Hamilton pitting for a new tyres onto his Mercedes and ending up at the McLaren garage to do so.

Lap 8, Rosberg is leading the Grand Prix from Webber. Meanwhile a collusion between Pic and Vergne has occurred in the pitlane and both drivers need to pit for new front wings. The battle for 9th place between Riccardo, Grosjean and Raikkonen hots up. Rosberg pits for new tyres and rejoins the track in 4th place. The next lap, Webber regains the lead from Rosberg and has 2.5 second gap from Vettel. Grosjean manages to gain 9th place on track and leaving Raikkonen and Riccardo battling for the last championship point on track.

Lap 11 sees Webber lead by 3.1 seconds. It seems that at this stage of the race, both the Mercedes drivers are running their own races and Hamilton especially seems to be catching the leaders. Perez is also engaged in a fight with Grosjean for 9th place and Grosjean passes him. This then leads Perez and Raikkonen battling for position. The Force India drivers are battling each other on track for position and Di Resta manages to make his move on Sutil stick. Lap 13 sees Hamilton 5 seconds off the lead of the Grand Prix and the incident between Pic and Vergne is going to be investigated  after the race.

Lap 15, Webber leads by 2.2 seconds. Raikkonen and Perez battle is still ongoing on the track. The previous lap sees Maldonado go off the track and pit for a new front wing. The next lap sees Raikkonen pass Perez for 9th place with help from the DRS system from the Lotus. Sutil meanwhile loses position to Guiterrez due to Sutil going off the track.

On Lap 18, Webber leads by 2.2 seconds. Red Bull now at this stage of the race are pulling away from the Mercedes. The battle for 11th place between Riccardo and Di Resta is ongoing. The next lap sees Di Resta pass Riccardo for 11th place. Massa and Grosjean are in a battle for track position. Mark Webber pits for another set of tyres with a stop of 2.3 seconds and rejoins the race in 5th place and hands the lead to Vettel.

On Lap 19, Vettel leads Hamilton by 3.9 seconds. The battle for 7th place is still ongoing with Massa and Grosjean. Massa, Grosjean and Di Resta pit for new tyres. Di Resta has a problem with the left front tyre and is stationary in the pitlane for some time. The next lap is crucial for Vettel to pass Webber if he wants to win today’s race. Raikkonen pits for new tyres in 4.2 seconds and rejoins the race in 11th place. Hamilton pits for new tyres in 3.3 seconds and rejoins the race in 4th place. And also Jenson Button pits for new tyres also.

Lap 22, Vettel has built a 6.4 gap lead to Rosberg. Massa passes Hulkenberg for 8th place and the battle for seventh place between Sutil, Massa, Grosjean and Hulkenberg is on. Both Vettel and Rosberg pit for fresh tyres on this lap. Also, Sutil pits on this lap and finds that the spindle on the left front tyre keeps him stationary in his pitbox for some time.

Lap 25 sees Webber leading the Grand Prix again with a lead of 1.2 seconds. Paul Di Resta the previous lap retired his Force India from the race and it’s a great shame as Paul showed he had the pace for some points today. Mercedes again seem to be challenging both the Red Bull drivers on lap times and race pace. The next lap sees the gap between Webber and Vettel go to 0.5 seconds and Vettel sees to be eying up Webber for a pass. Meanwhile, Hamilton is also catching Vettel at great speed.

Lap 28, Webber leads by 0.6 seconds. Vettel on team radio asks the team to ‘get him of the way (Webber) as he is too slow’. Webber responds by extending his gap to Vettel in the middle of the lap. Lap 29 sees Adrian Sutil retiring his Force India. This is the first time since the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix that Force India have suffered a double retirement.

Lap 30 sees a 1.8 second lead on Vettel. Perez and Raikkonen are again battling for position. Down the field, Chilton and Pic are battling for 17th place. Hamilton pits for new tyres in 3.6 seconds and rejoins the race in 5th place. Lap 31, Vettel and Rosberg are battling for second place and Webber pits for new tyres in 2.3 seconds and rejoins the race in 3rd.

Lap 32 sees Vettel leading Button by 13.3 seconds and pits for new tyres at the end of the lap in 2.7 second and rejoins the race in 4th place behind Hamilton and Button leads the race temporarily. The next lap sees Vettel and Rosberg battling for fourth place.

Lap 35 sees Button lead Webber by 0.2 seconds. Webber passes Jenson for position, Jenson tries to fight back but Webber has the racing line for the corner and takes the lead. Raikkonen and Hulkenberg are battling for position but Hulkenberg is managing to defend his position well. Hamilton then passes Button for position before Button pits for new tyres. Button’s right front does not seem to be on the car right and has to stop in the pitlane to correct it.

On Lap 38, Webber leads Hamilton by 3.5 seconds. A battle for 2nd between Hamilton (even though we think that Lewis is saving fuel), Vettel and Rosberg is ongoing on track. Hulkenberg manages again to keep Raikkonen behind him for 8th place. The next lap sees Vettel successfully pass Hamilton for second place.

Lap 41, Webber leads the race by 4.6 seconds. The two Mercedes drivers are battling for the last podium place. Raikkonen now manages to pass Hulkenberg for 5th place. Hamilton pits at the end of this lap for new tyres with a 3 second stop and rejoins in 4th place. The next lap sees both Vettel and Rosberg pit for new tyres, rejoining in 2nd (Vettel) and 4th (Rosberg). Lap 43 sees Webber pit for fresh rubber.

Lap 44 sees Webber regain the lead of the Grand Prix. Vettel now tries to pass Webber for the lead and Webber defends well. And the battle continues. The next lap Vettel tries another move on Webber and cannot get past. Hamilton and Rosberg are still battling for the last podium position.

Lap 46 is a turning point within the Grand Prix. After a few laps, Vettel manages to get past Webber to lead the Grand Prix. Over on the team radio, Horner has told Sebastian that it was ‘silly and not be silly’. But with a move that shocked fans everywhere, Vettel does so (more on this in my conclusion). The next lap sees Mark put a finger up to Vettel from inside the car (and rightly so!) to show his displeasure. Pastor Maldonado also retires his Williams on Lap 47 due to a spin off the track.

Lap 49 sees Raikkonen finally able to pass Perez on track. Vettel has built up a 3.2 gap towards Webber. A battle for 6th place between Raikkonen, Massa and Perez is going on and Massa passes Raikkonen to claim sixth. Lap 50 sees the battle for third place hot up between Hamilton and Rosberg. Rosberg asks Ross Brawn over the radio for permission to pass Lewis and has been denied permission.

Lap 53 sees Vettel leading by 3.9 seconds. Daniel Riccardo retires his Toro Rosso out of the race. Lap 54 sees Massa gain fifth. The battle with the Mercedes drivers is still ongoing on team radio with Ross Brawn publically saying ‘…he wants to bring home both cars home…’

Lap 55 sees Jenson Button retire his McLaren. Sergio Perez also pits for new tyres with a stop of 2.8 seconds and rejoins the race in 9th place. And the last lap of the race is underway and Sebastian Vettel crosses the line to claim his first victory of the season. Webber claims second place with a gap of 4.2 seconds behind Vettel, Hamilton claims third place with a gap of 12.1 seconds behind Vettel, Rosberg claims fourth with a gap of 12.6 seconds behind Vettel, Massa is fifth with a gap of 25.6 seconds behind Vettel, Grosjean is sixth with a gap of 35.5 seconds behind Vettel, Raikkonen is seventh with a gap of 48.4 seconds behind Vettel, Hulkenberg is eighth with a gap of 53 seconds behind Vettel, Perez manages to gain much needed points for McLaren with nineth with a gap of 1.12.357 seconds behind Vettel and Vergne gains the last point with tenth with a gap of 1.27.124 seconds behind Vettel.

Vettel leads the Driver’s Championship with 40 points, Raikkonen is second with 31 points, Webber is third with 26 points, Hamilton is fourth with 25 points, Massa is fifth with 22 points, Alonso is sixth with 18 points, Rosberg is seventh with 12 points, Grosjean is eighth with 9 points, Sutil is ninth with 6 points, Hulkenberg is tenth with 4, Di Resta is eleventh with 4 points, Perez is twelfth with 2 points, Button is thirteenth with 2 points and Vergne is last with 1 point.

Red Bull Racing lead the Constructors Championship with 66 points, Lotus is second with 40 points, Ferrari is third with 40 points, Mercedes is fourth with 37 points, Force India is fifth with 10, Sauber is sixth with 4, McLaren is seventh with 4 points and Toro Rosso is eighth with 1 point.

Conclusion

What a race! It didn’t disappoint. The Grand Prix tested the drivers throughout the race with the threat of rain and also tyre degradation.

I was also disappointed that Jenson did not have the pace to challenge today. But I am happy that Sergio managed to score two points for the team that should encourage the team further to look into why Jenson and also Sergio are struggling with pace and grip with this year’s car. The team this weekend I believe have made small steps into looking at solutions to help and cure this problem before the championships, race wins, podiums and even point finishes are no longer within their reach. As I said last weekend, I know McLaren will bounce back to the performance they and their fans crave and when that happens, it will make it all the more special.

Despite the many dramas that Hulkenberg endured in the race, his driving today was superb. Under great pressure from Raikkonen, Hulkenberg showed that despite leaving Force India, he can still deliver and score some good points for the team. I am also slightly gutted that Force India failed to score any points this weekend. Force India have shown this weekend that their performance in Australia was no fluke and they have a car that is able to be competitive and fight for good points in the race. And I think they could be the dark horse of the midfield teams this team and could surprise us all throughout the season.

Lotus this weekend may not have gained another victory this weekend but they have scored some brilliant points from their two drivers this weekend that will help their fight in the Constructors Championship. I was a bit surprised that Lotus, especially Raikkonen was not able to challenge for the podium this weekend, but consistency and points scoring keeps you in the hunt for the title, as Alonso proved last season.

Massa again has had a solid weekend. First showing top 10 form in the Practice sessions and then yet again out-qualifying Alonso with a brilliant lap to gain his first front row since Bahrain 2010 and the first driver to out-qualify Alonso at this race track since 2006. I think Massa is driving solidly this year. He seems to have come back refreshed and a totally different character that is showing that he can hold his own in a team that is very much run by Alonso. Who knows where Alonso would have been if he didn’t damage his front wing?

Mercedes surprised me this weekend. They have been competitive all weekend long. They have shown that their car is a significant improvement from last year and is competitive throughout the course of the weekend and the race. And for Lewis to achieve 3rd place in his second race for his new team is an achievement, but did he deserve it? We all heard Nico asking permission to pass Lewis as Nico at that point in the race was faster than Lewis. But he was denied the chance. Do I think Mercedes made the right decision? No. But I do understand why they did it and for them to gain these points at the misfortune at McLaren who will be back to their fighting ways is needed if they are to take the fight to try and improve their position in the Constructor’s championship.

My attention comes to Red Bull. The victory was Webber’s, without a question of a doubt. Webber has been on the pace all weekend, drove a beautiful race and should have tasted the champagne. However, team-orders again have played a factor and been misused by Vettel to secure victory. And as we know, teams discuss situations like this before the race with their drivers and discuss the possible outcomes. And I don’t believe Vettel ‘didn’t know anything about it’. Vettel is aware. And he knew exactly what he was doing. I really do believe and I agree with Johnny Herbert that if you are a three time world champion, you need to become selfish and will take any available opportunity to fight for another championship.

That is all well and good. But not in the manner that Vettel did so. Vettel has apologised to the team and Webber publically. Vettel should have respected the team’s wishes, so why didn’t he? Because he wants his championship, on his terms, his way without looking at the consequences.

This now opens up a can of worms for the Red Bull team and how to manage this situation within the team and the media. Webber and Vettel have a history (Turkey in 2010 is the best example I can give), the management have publically announced that they support and back Vettel more than Webber (which Webber hinted at with using the word ‘protection’ when talking to the media). And obviously this would affect Webber. Because I sense now that why would Webber ever trust Vettel again even if he accepts his apology or not. Because Mark is right, Vettel does have the ‘protection’ of the team and its management. There have been many times where Mark has respected the team’s wishes and kept behind him. Vettel says he respects Mark. I don’t think he does. To call Webber slow is disrespectful in my opinion. When Webber is on form, he is unbeatable and one of the fastest on the grid. And I think Vettel is scared by Webber when he is on form.

Vettel is used to winning, his way, his terms. Vettel obviously like any race driver does not like to lose, but to win in the manner that he did today, he should be ashamed of himself and deserves every little bit of criticism that comes his way. I have absolutely lost the little respect I have for Vettel this weekend and I really do hope that Webber or any other driver takes the driver’s title away from him this year and then we can see if all the hype surrounding him is true and see also if he can regain the title that he and every driver on the field craves. Will this happen? I don’t know.

Aside from this matter, Red Bull have shown this weekend that they are still the team to beat (I did think that they would walk away and dominate the race just like last weekend) and have shown competitive and consistent pace throughout the weekend that will be concerning the other teams. Overall, this race was a brilliant, but for all the wrong reasons. The favourite, Sebastian Vettel, who many expected to win, won but in a manner that is distasteful and unsporting to show up his team-mate who is a well liked and respected driver in the paddock and with the fans.

Ferrari, Alonso and Massa have started the season well and managed to put together a car that looks able to challenge for wins and podiums straight from the off (apart from Alonso’s retirement today).  Many fans expected McLaren to have made an improvement this weekend and they did. But they are still lacking in pace and grip and are looking into trying to cure this problem as quick as possible. Hamilton and Rosberg in their Mercedes have shown that he could be a force to be reckoned with throughout the season and that their car does seem to be competitive.

Force India have also shown that they are a car that is competitive and has a good baseline for both Sutil and Di Resta to regularly challenge the midfield for strong points finishes throughout the season. Lotus may not have challenged the front runners this weekend, but they have took some strong points this weekend. The biggest surprise this weekend for me was the 13th place of Marussia’s Jules Bianchi. He has really impressed me so far. In the two races we have, Bianchi has been able to extract performance from the car, out-qualifying Max Chilton and able to out-perform the Caterham team for track position. I really do believe that Bianchi is a driver to watch out for this season, he is looking to be a driver that has a special talent.

All that is left to say about this race is that the real winner of the Grand Prix is without question Mark Webber. Webber has seems to have built on his strength from last year, got on with this own programme this weekend and that gamble should been rewarded with a cracking drive and win from him. The way he has talked to the media about the incident has been exemplary, I feel so sorry for Mark and my respect for him as gone sky-ward. I really believe that Mark is a fair racing driver and mostly a guy well liked by drivers, (apart from Vettel I believe) the paddock and the fans, wears his heart on his sleeve and will tell it exactly like it is. And I would like Mark to never forget that. Justice may not been in your favour mate, but you will get the last laugh sooner, rather than later.

Events of the race will be continuing onto China. My next post will be the latest F1 News of this week, until next Sunday!

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Track Preview: Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang

What a start to the Formula One season in Melbourne! Unpredictable weather, unpredictable track conditions, unpredictable tyre wear. And a great drive from Kimi Raikkonen.

The Malaysian Grand Prix is one of the hardest races for the drivers in terms of track conditions changing rapidly (for example last year’s race started off in the dry and ended up raining heavily), the humidity of the weather (it is extremely hot) and also high degradation with the Pirelli tyres that are presenting the driver with a challenge that tests the best.

And here we go guys with second race of the Formula One season, the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang.

Facts and Figures

  • Sepang has hosted the Grand Prix since 1999, even though the Malaysia has a long racing tradition as a country.
  • Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher jointly are the most successful driver to win the Grand Prix with three wins each
  • Ferrari are the most successful constructor to win the Grand Prix with six wins
  • Race distance: 310.40 (192.76 miles)
  • Number of turns:15
  • Top speed: 300kph
  • Lap record: Juan Pablo Montoya- Williams (2004)- 1.34.223
  • Winners from pole 7/14 (50%)
  • Winners from last 5 Malaysian Grand Prix: 2008- Kimi Raikkonen, 2009-Jenson Button, 2010-Sebastian Vettel, 2011-Sebastian Vettel, 2012-Fernando Alonso

My top 5 Malaysian Grand Prix

Here are my top five Malaysian Grand Prix races and in no particular order:-

  1. 1999 Malaysian Grand Prix:- The first ever race. Michael Schumacher comes back to the sport after breaking his leg at Silverstone. A one-two finish for Ferrari with Eddie Irvine leading Michael Schumacher to victory. However, there was controversy surrounding the result. Firstly, due to Michael handing the race to Eddie after dominating it all the way through to help his championship challenge and also a technical irregularity picked up by the FIA which handed the win to Mika Hakkinen. 
  2. 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix- Fernando Alonso wins the race. Race was stopped for 51 minutes due to a sudden downpour at the race track that was completely unbearable and undrivable. But a great challenge from Perez in the Sauber to try and catch Alonso to the win, great viewing! 
  3. 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix- Kimi Raikkonen first ever win in Formula One with in his McLaren. David Coulthard was his challenger but retired with electronical problems at the early stages of the race. But just perfection from the Kimster. 
  4. 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix- Sebastian Vettel wins the race (boo hiss). But what a great drive from Jenson Button in his McLaren to secure his first podium of the year after a great battle with Fernando Alonso. 
  5. 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix- After losing his drive due to Honda’s withdrawal from the sport in 2008, Jenson Button found himself without a drive. That is until Ross Brawn bought the team and implemented an infrastructure that allowed them to make the race. And a week after winning the Australian Grand Prix, Jenson wins this race in the torrential rain after 31 laps. As the race did not reach the required 75% to award full points, half was awarded for the 5th time in Formula One history. But a brilliant drive by Button, he showed his class in these horrible conditions and why he is a great racing driver. Fabulous race!  

If the Malaysian Grand Prix from last year is anything to go by from last year, we look set to witness a great race next weekend. Will Kimi Raikkonen be able to challenge Red Bull and Ferrari to win again and keep his championship lead? Will Red Bull be able to achieve pole position again like in Australia and try to win the race? Will Alonso, Massa, Button, Perez, Hamilton or be able to challenge them?

Sky Sports F1 are showing uninterrupted coverage of every practice session, the qualifying and race for the Grand Prix (and every race of the season) and the BBC are also showing coverage, details for both are below:-

  • Sky Sports F1:- Friday (Practice 1 and 2) 1.45am and 5.45am [Replays throughout Friday], Saturday (Practice 3 and Qualifying) 4.45am and 7.00am [Replays throughout Saturday], Sunday (Race) 6.30am
  • BBC- Saturday (Qualifying highlights) 1.00pm, Sunday (Race highlights) 2.00pm

My next blog post will be a full Race Report on the Malaysian Grand Prix. Formula One, you are well and truly back! Hope you will be enjoying every single moment of the weekend as much as me!

2013 Australian Grand Prix Race Weekend Review

Welcome to the start of the 2013 Formula One season everyone! I’m sure that you have all missed the sport as much as me. Going into the new season, it would seem that within testing Lotus were looking really good, Mercedes were showing signs of promise, even after encountering a good share of problems within the testing period.

In terms of technical changes, there has not been major rules changes going into the season (the next set of changes are happening in 2014). So it would seem that most teams on the grid have just made their 2013 cars an ‘evolution’ of their 2012 models (apart from McLaren who have decided to go against the trend). Pirelli this year have also brought new tyres into the season in order to provide teams and drivers with a new challenge this season.

There are five new rookies that are joining the Formula One grid this season. Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton for the Marussia team, Giedo Van Der Garde for Caterham, Valtteri Bottas for Williams and Esteban Guiterrez for Sauber. There is also the return of Adrian Sutil who is back to partner Paul Di Resta at Force India this season, Lewis Hamilton in his first year at Mercedes, Nico Hulkenberg in his first year at Sauber and Charles Pic in his first year at Caterham who have moved teams for the new season.

Formula One in 2013 looks be an exciting year. One full of questions of who will be competitive from the off, who has the quickest car, who is the quickest driver, who has capitalised from pre-season testing,  will Red Bull’s quest for their fourth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championship succeed and who will stop them?

Strap yourselves in. The new season begins now…

Practices 1, 2 and 3

The main headlines from the Practice sessions is that Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel look like to be the team to beat this weekend (even though Romain Grosjean topped the timesheets in Practice 3).

Practice 1 saw Vettel top the timesheets with a time of 1.27.211 followed closely by Massa with a time of 1.27.289, Alonso in third with a time of 1.27.547, Hamilton in fourth with a time of 1.27.552 and Webber in fifth with a time of 1.27.668. Adrian Sutil impressed the paddock on his return to racing by topping the timesheets in 8th place with a time of 1.28.426. The McLarens of Button and Perez could only manage 9th and 12th places.

Practice 2 saw Vettel top the timesheets again with a time of 1.25.908 followed by Webber with a time of 1.26.172, Rosberg in third with a time of 1.26.322, Raikkonen in fourth with a time of 1.26.361 and Grosjean in fifith with a time of 1.26.680. Adrian Sutil again managed to achieve a top 10 finish with 9th place with a time of 1.27.435, showing that Force India may have the pace to get some good championship points this weekend. The McLarens of Button and Perez could only manage 11th and 13th places indicating that McLaren do not have the pace needed to have a strong weekend.

Within Practice 2, there was a lot of spinning action throughout the session starting with Van Der Garde at Turn 3 who was encountering a problem within his Caterham. Also, Daniel Riccardo in his Toro Rosso had a little spin onto the track, but had no damage suffered to his car. Mark Webber within Turn 13 suffered a lot of oversteer within his Red Bull, but turned out to be a problem within the car. But the main action within the session was the retirements suffered by the Mercedes team with Hamilton spinning off the track at Turn 6 with a problem underneath the car and also Rosberg suffering a gearbox problem that forced him off the track and park up his Mercedes.

Practice 3 saw Grosjean top the timesheet with a time of 1.26.929 followed by Alonso with a time of 1.27.000, Massa in third with a time of 1.27.241, Di Resta fourth with a time of 1.27.553 and Raikkonen in a fifth with a time of 1.27.625. Nico Hulkenberg also impressed the paddock with 9th place with a time of 1.28.253. Again, the surprise of the session is Adrian Sutil managing to grab 8th place with a time of 1.28.009 showing that he does have good pace within the Force India car. The biggest surprises of the session was that the both the Red Bull’s (Vettel in 12th place, Webber in 13th place) and McLaren’s (Button in 17th place, Perez) and also Hamilton were not within the top 10.

However, within Practice 3, Sebastian Vettel had to park his Red Bull off the track as a precaution due to a sensor issue that had occurred on the car that would not have prepared him well for qualifying in a few hours time.

You would be stupid not to bet against Vettel to gain pole position. As he is the master of qualifying at the moment and the momentum is with him from topping Practice 1 and 2. Alonso and Massa also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top seven at the moment. Button and Perez at the moment seem to be struggling. It seems from looking at their performances that the pace is not available within the car and both drivers seem to be struggling with the ride (especially out of Turn 1) and I will admit that they will struggle to even make Qualifying 2 or even the points in the race and it will take a lot of skill and talent to do that in a car that is not capable. However, I think that Force India and Lotus have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here. We all look forward to the first qualifying session of the new season with excitement…

Qualifying

The first qualifying session of the year looks set to be one of surprises? I am hoping so. It looks like Red Bull are the team to beat heading into the session. And it is looking like Lotus, Ferrari or even Mercedes may look the teams set to challenge the Red Bull for pole position today. But Force India or even Sauber may spring a surprise and throw a spanner into the works based on their early pace and promise within the Practice sessions. And it is looking likely that it will be a challenge for the Williams drivers of Bottas and Maldonado to clear Q1 and also the McLaren drivers of Button and Perez to clear Q2 as both teams do not have the pace within their cars to challenge the top teams this weekend.  Let the battle for Pole Position begin…

The main talking point within Q1 was the wet conditions that hit the race track that delayed the start of the session by ten minutes. After the session started, conditions continued to get worse and caught out a few drivers. Giedo Van Der Garde in his Caterham spun out onto the track and damaged his front wing. Lewis Hamilton had a spin out of Turn 1,that forced him onto the grass at Turn 2 while trying to turn his Mercedes around and caused no significant damage to the rear wing of his car despite hitting the wall. Felipe Massa was very lucky not to have taken off his front wing after a spin onto the track. But Charles Pic and Esteban Guiterrez were not so lucky after damaging their front wings massively at the end of the session.

In Q1, Rosberg tops the timesheet with a time of 1.43.380, Alonso is second with a gap of 0.4 seconds, Grosjean is third with a gap of 0.9 seconds, Perez is fourth with a gap of 0.920 seconds and Webber is fifth with a gap of 1.092 seconds. Vettel could only manage 7th place. And a surprise for Button who finished the session in 9th place and also Vergne who was 10th place. At the end of Q1, we lose Maldonado, Guitierrez, Bianchi, Chilton, Van Der Garde, and Pic.

Due to Charles Pic and Esteban Guitierrez damaging their front wings towards the end of Q1, Q2 was delayed by 20 minutes to clear up the debris on the track. However, during those 20 minutes, the conditions got even worse on the track with the rain falling harder and harder and the FIA had no choice but to suspend Q2 and Q3 until Sunday Morning on grounds of safety for the drivers.

Sunday morning sees qualifying resume where it left off. Conditions seem to be a lot better than Saturday, even though they are not perfect conditions for the drivers. At the start of Q2, we see a queue of drivers within the pit lane wanting to get stuck into their qualifying programme and to qualify as high as they possibly can.

In Q2, Rosberg tops the timesheets with a time of 1.36.194, Webber was second with a gap of 0.3 seconds, Hamilton was third with a gap of 0.4 seconds, Button was the surprise of the session with 4th place with a gap of 0.450 seconds and Massa was fifth with a gap of 0.497 seconds. Alonso could only manage 6th and Vettel gaining 7th place. Di Resta set a brilliant time to gain him 7th place. At the end of Q2, we lose Hulkenberg, Sutil, Vergne, Riccardo, Perez and Bottas. The battle for pole position is on…

In Q3, Vettel again tops the timesheet and claims pole position with a time of 1.27.407, Webber was second fastest with a time of 1.27.827, Hamilton was third fastest with a time of 1.28.087, Massa was a brilliant fourth out-qualifying Alonso with a time of 1.28.490, Alonso was fifth fastest with a time of 1.28.493, Rosberg was sixth fastest with a time of 1.28.523, Raikkonen was seventh fastest with a time of 1.28.738, Grosjean was eighth fastest with a time of 1.29.013, Di Resta was nineth fastest with a time of 1.29.305 and Button was the surprise of the session with being tenth fastest with the time of 1.30.357.

It would seem that Red Bull genuinely has the pace to challenge for the race win this weekend which I am absolutely not thrilled about. However, both drivers seem to have the cars underneath them to do this. You cannot discount Massa, Hamilton or Alonso to be challenging also for the race win in order to get their seasons off to a flying start. Raikkonen could also be the dark horse to take the win away from Red Bull, Ferrari or Mercedes and gain a head start on his rivals for the championship.

Di Resta and Button could also have a decent race tomorrow and pick up some much needed points for Force India and McLaren before heading to the next race in Malaysia. Will it rain tomorrow? I don’t know. Who will win the Grand Prix tomorrow? I really don’t know (hoping for a Button win!). Who will lead the championship? Will it be Vettel, Webber, Massa, Hamilton or Alonso? I don’t know. I simply cannot wait for this Grand Prix. This Grand Prix has all the makings for a great show down that will would be the perfect start to an exciting season for Formula One fans. Bring it on!

Race

Prior to the race, Nico Hulkenberg is forced not to start his first Grand Prix for the Sauber team due to a problem with the fuel tank that was noticed an hour before the start of the race. The decision was taken by the team for safety reasons and it is a shame because I believe that if Hulkenberg would have started, he could have challenged for some recent points today. Red Bull start the race with a front row lockout of the grid. The F1 world is watching and waiting to see if the 2013 Australian Grand Prix will live up to expectations and will crown the first winner of the 2013 season, who will it be? Here we go…

All 22 drivers are lined up on their grid positions, five red lights and its GO!!!!!!!! Vettel gets a very good start and defends his team mate Mark Webber into the first corner. Alonso and Massa both have had decent starts off the line, with Massa moving up to second place. Webber seems to have had an awful start and all drivers are battling each other towards Turn 1. Alonso takes 3rd place and Massa takes 2nd place away from Mark. Webber doesn’t seem to have had a good start and has Di Resta battling him for position. Then Alonso while trying to defend his position is passed again by his team mate Massa who regains 2nd place. Meanwhile, Hamilton who is 4th place finds himself under attack by Raikkonen who tries to make a pass on Hamilton but cannot get past, but manages to do so on the next lap of the race to gain 4th place.

Lap 5 sees a number of drivers making pitstops to change tyres. The first driver to make a pitstop was Button, Webber was next followed by Grosjean and Guitierrez. Meanwhile on track, the battle for 11th position is hotting up with Grosjean, Vergne and Guitierrez. Lap 7, sees Sebastian Vettel pit for a fresh set of tyres with a quick pitstop of 3 seconds and also Max Chilton pitting for a new front nose onto his Marussia.

Lap 8, Massa is leading the Grand Prix. Vettel rejoins the field in 11th place after his pit stop. At the end of the lap, Massa pits for new tyres with a pitstop of 2.7 seconds and rejoins behind Vettel. The next lap sees Di Resta, Alonso and Raikkonen pit for a fresh set of tyres.

Lap 11 sees Lewis Hamilton leading the Grand Prix (he took the lead on Lap 10) and has a 3.7 gap to his team-mate Nico Rosberg. It seems that at this stage of the race, both the Mercedes drivers are running their own races and do not feel the need to pit for tyres at this stage. Perez also loses two positions within the lap to Vettel and Massa. Perez seems to be struggling for grip and the next lap sees him lose track position to Alonso and Raikkonen. Lap 13 sees Hamilton pit his Mercedes for some fresh tyres.

Lap 15 sees Adrian Sutil lead the Grand Prix in his Force India from Vettel after Rosberg pitted the previous lap for new tyres. And seems to be compromising Mark Webber’s race. On track, Rosberg, Button and Webber are battling on track for position. By the next lap, the top 5 cars are separated by 5 seconds in total. Raikkonen seems to be closing in on the two Ferraris in front of him. Sergio Perez pits on this lap for new tyres as he struggles for grip throughout this race.

On Lap 19, Sutil leads Webber by 1.2 seconds. Webber, Grosjean and Chilton pit for new tyres. The next lap sees Sutil pulling away from Webber and building the gap between them slowly and steadily throughout the race. Fernando Alonso pits for new tyres with a quick stop of 2.8 seconds with sees him rejoin in 7th place.

Lap 22, Massa regains the lead of the Grand Prix due to Sutil and Webber pitting for new rubber in the previous lap that sees Sutil and Webber rejoin the race in 5th and 7th places respectively. Alonso at this point of the race is in 4th place due to a mistake from Sutil when leaving the pit lane allowed Alonso to get through, which is not what Vettel needs if he is to win the race today.

Lap 23 sees Massa holding a 1.3 second lead. Vettel realises he needs to pass Sutil if he has any chance of winning the race, Vettel manages to get past Sutil and gains 4th place. Also, Mark Webber passes Perez for 10th place. Massa pits for new tyres with a quick stop of 2.6 seconds and rejoins the race in 7th place handing over the race lead to Raikkonen. Maldonado in his Williams retires on Lap 25 by breeching his Williams into the gravel trap.

Lap 28 and Raikkonen is leading the race from Hamilton with a gap of 12.8 seconds. Felipe Massa and Adrian Sutil are battling for 5th place on the track. And there is a battle for 3rd place between Alonso, Vettel, Sutil and Massa. Rain starts to fall again two laps later when the Kimster’s gap to Hamilton is 13.4 seconds. Meanwhile, the battle for 2nd place between Hamilton and Alonso is hotting up.

Lap 31, Raikkonen is leading the race with a gap of 12.2 seconds. The battle for second place between Hamilton and Alonso is taking our attention. Alonso tries to get past Hamilton into Turn 3, but Hamilton has covered Alonso well. Alonso tries again at Turn 11 but Hamilton is defending his line well. Further on into the lap, Hamilton locks up and Alonso still cannot manage to get past. Hamilton makes a pitstop, Alonso passes Hamilton and Hamilton rejoins the race in 7th place. The next lap sees Vettel close the gap onto second place Alonso to just half a second and joins the battle alongside Sutil and Massa.

Raikkonen pits for new tyres on Lap 34 with a pit stop of 3.3 seconds, rejoins the race in 5th place and hands the race lead to Fernando Alonso. Alonso on Lap 35 has a 2.7 second gap to Vettel. A battle for 8th place is hotting up between Button, Grosjean and Vergne. Massa pits on Lap 36 with a stop of 2.9 seconds and rejoins the race in 6th place.

Lap 37, there is a 5.3 second gap lead Alonso has over Vettel in 2nd place. The battle for 8th is still continuing on the track. Vettel pits with a stop of 3 seconds to rejoin the race in 4th place, behind Hamilton and gives second place to Sutil and gives Alonso a lead of 10.3 seconds. Lap 39 sees Webber pit with a stop of 2,7 seconds and rejoining in 9th place. Also, Alonso pits from the lead with a stop 3.1 seconds and handing over the race lead to Sutil. On track, the battle for 4th between Hamilton and Vettel is ongoing.

Lap 40, Sutil once again leads the Grand Prix from Raikkonen with a 3.6 second gap. Hamilton loses 4th place to Vettel and is now put under pressure from Felipe Massa’s Ferrari for track position and Massa is able to pass Hamilton to take 5th place in the race. By Lap 41, we have had seven different leaders within the Grand Prix ,which is the most we have had since Canada 2010. The battle for 11th place between Riccardo and Button is hotting up. Sadly, Daniel Riccardo retires from his home race with a poorly sick engine in the back of his Toro Rosso. Webber manages to get past Paul Di Resta for 9th place on Lap 42.

Lap 43 sees Sutil lead Raikkonen by 0.8 seconds. Hamilton pits with a pit stop of 4 seconds and rejoins in 6th place and finds himself in a battle with Jean- Eric Vergne in his Toro Rosso which he passes on Lap 44. Kimi Raikkonen leads the Grand Prix after passing Sutil’s Force India and has a 2.7 lead by Lap 45. Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari manages to pass Sutil after being stuck behind him for the last couple of laps. Sutil pits his Force India on Lap 46 and rejoins the race in 5th place. Raikkonen is leading the race with a 4.7 second gap.

Lap 49 sees Raikkonen with an 8 second gap to Alonso. On track, Sutil and Hamilton are engaged in a battle on track for 5th place. Two laps later, Hamilton tries to overtake Sutil into Turn 3 and does not make it stick. Further on into the lap, Hamilton tries again and makes the move on Sutil stick. Sutil also seems to be getting blue flags from the marshalls to let Webber and Hamilton pass him, even though Sutil is genuinely fighting for his position on track. Webber himself tries to make a move on Sutil, fails but manages a few corners later to get past him.

Lap 54 still sees Raikkonen leading the race from Alonso with a gap of 6.7 seconds. It would seem at this point of the race that Adrian Sutil’s tyres (Sutil is on the super soft tyres when most drivers are now on the faster and more durable medium tyres) are not well and he could be in big trouble later on in the race defending his track position. The next lap sees Jenson Button pressured by Romain Grosjean for track position (9th place), alongside Vergne.

Lap 57 sees a battle taking place for 10th between Grosjean and Perez. Raikkonen is comfortably leading Alonso by 10.6 seconds. And the final lap of the Grand Prix is underway. Adrian Sutil’s team-mate Paul Di Resta is trying to catch him for track position with better tyres. And with a brilliant drive, Kimi Raikkonen wins the Australian Grand Prix, his 18th consecutive points finish! Alonso finishes 2nd 12.431 seconds behind, Vettel finishes 3rd 22.346 seconds behind, Massa finishes 4th 33.577 seconds behind, Hamilton in his first Grand Prix for Mercedes finishes 5th 45.561 seconds behind, Webber finishes 6th 46.800 seconds behind, Sutil after a year away from racing with an impressive driver finishes 7th 1.05.008 seconds behind, Di Resta finishes 8th 1.08.449 seconds behind, Button manages to get some points for McLaren finishes 9th 1.21.630 seconds behind and Grosjean manages to score the final point in his Lotus.

Kimi Raikkonen leads the Driver’s championship with 25 points, Alonso in second place with 18 points, Vettel in third with 15 points, Massa in fourth with 12 points, Hamilton in fifth with 10 points,  Webber is sixth with 8 points, Sutil is seventh with 6 points, Di Resta is eighth with 4 points, Button is ninth with 2 points and Grosjean is tenth with one point.

Ferrari leads the Constructor’s championship with 30 points, Lotus is second with 26 points, Red Bull is third with 23 points, Mercedes is fourth with 10 points, Force India is fifth with 10 points and McLaren is sixth with 2 points.

Conclusion

What a race! It didn’t disappoint. The Grand Prix tested the drivers throughout the race with the threat of rain and also tyre degradation. I am happy that Kimi won the race. Kimi drove his own race, got on with what he need to do and was a brilliant drive. The words on people’s lips this year was can Kimi become the dark horse and take the title this year. Well Kimi has answered these claims and it looks like he is more hungry and motivated than ever to try and win more races and the championship.

I was also disappointed that Jenson did not have the pace to challenge today. But I am happy that he managed to score two points for the team that should encourage the team to look into why Jenson and also Sergio are struggling with pace and grip with this year’s car. The team really need to start looking at solutions to help and cure this problem before the championships, race wins, podiums and even point finishes are no longer within their reach. But I am confident with McLaren, I have 100% belief and commitment that they will be bouncing back and with a bang!

Despite the many dramas that Sutil endured in the race, his driving today was superb. Under great pressure from Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel, Sutil lead the Grand Prix in a race that many people thought he wouldn’t even be in this position this year after a year off from racing.That just shows how much Force India have improved year after year and that when the car is competitive, both drivers are there scoring points for the team. I really do hope that Di Resta is not too disappointed with his result today as in his three years in the sport, he has shown that he can bring the car home, is dependable and his talent is getting better and better every year, he just needs that ‘click’ and I’m sure he will get the result he badly wants.

Ferrari have been a surprise for me so far. In the last two seasons, Ferrari have struggled to get the car up to speed throughout the season. And this year, it seems that Ferrari have picked up their game and created a car that Alonso claimed throughout the weekend was ‘two times better than last year’. And it shows. Alonso throughout the weekend has been there, with a consistent pace that made teams such as Lotus, Mercedes and even Red Bull look over their shoulder. Alonso drove a solid drive to gain second place (his first Australian podium since 2007) and seems motivated to try and win the championship this year.

Massa deserves a mention. Since his latter form in the 2012 season, Massa has been a different character, similar to the one that nearly took the 2008 driver’s championship. And also to out-qualify Alonso, that is a massive achievement for Felipe and to anyone who doubted his skills as a driver. Could Felipe manage to keep this up?

Considering Vettel at the start of the weekend was competitive, he has driven a solid drive to achieve third place. Vettel of course will not be happy that he was unable to covert his pole position into a race win to kickstart his challenge to gain his fourth consecutive title, but there is still a long way to go. Red Bull have shown this weekend that they are still the team to beat (I did think that they would walk away and dominate the race) and have shown competitive and consistent pace throughout the weekend that will be concerning the other teams.

Overall, this race was a brilliant start to the season for a few years. The favourite, Sebastian Vettel, who many expected to win, only achieved third. Ferrari, Alonso and Massa have started the season well and managed to put together a car that looks able to challenge for wins and podiums straight from the off. Many fans expected McLaren to be challenging Red Bull, but sadly, they are lacking in pace and grip and are looking into trying to cure this problem as quick as possible. Hamilton in his Mercedes has shown that he could be a force to be reckoned with throughout the season and that their car does seem to be competitive.

Force India have also shown that they are a car that is competitive and has a good baseline for both Sutil and Di Resta to improve and try to regularly challenge the midfield for strong points finishes throughout the season. But the surprise of the weekend so far is Lotus and Raikkonen. Lotus provided Raikkonen last year with a really quick car that is easy on its tyres, had opportunities to try and win a race in Bahrain but won in Abu Dhabi and finished strongly in the drivers and constructors championships last year. This year, it seems that Lotus have built on these strengths, got on with their programme this weekend and that gamble has been rewarded with a cracking drive and win from Raikkonen.

I look forward to Malaysia with excitement, where my next post will be a track preview of the Grand Prix. Bring on Sepang!

Track Preview: Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne

This is a brand new feature that I have introduced for the blog for the new season. I will be doing a ‘Track Preview’ for every circuit in the F1 championship before the Grand Prix takes place with all the facts and figures you need to know.

You’re reading this, thinking I could just get GP International or F1 Racing magazine for a track preview. But I will alongside offering the facts and figures, the best five races from each circuit that I have seen and a link so you can watch the races I mention unfold.

And here we go guys with the perfect start to the Formula One season, the Australian Grand Prix in Albert Park, Melbourne

Facts and Figures

  • Albert Park has hosted the Grand Prix since 1996, Adelaide hosted the Grand Prix until 1995.
  • Michael Schumacher is the most successful driver to win the Grand Prix with four wins
  • McLaren are the most successful constructor to win the Grand Prix with twelve wins
  • Race distance: 307.757km (191.12 miles)
  • Number of turns:16
  • Top speed: 305kph
  • Lap record: Michael Schumacher- Ferrari (2004)- 1.24.125
  • Winners from pole 8/17 (47%)
  • Winners from last 5 Australian Grand Prix: 2008- Lewis Hamilton, 2009-Jenson Button, 2010-Button, 2011-Vettel, 2012-Button

My top 5 Australian Grand Prix

Here are my top five Australian Grand Prix races and in particular order:-

  1. 1997 Australian Grand Prix:- A one-two finish for McLaren with David Coulthard leading Mika Hakkinen to victory. However, there was controversy surrounding the result.
  2. 2002 Australian Grand Prix- Michael Schumacher wins the race. At the start of the race, an incident with Rubens Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher at Turn 1,sees 11 out of 22 cars failing to finish the race due to the colossal damage generated by the accident. Also, at his debut Formula One and home Race, Mark Webber in a Minardi takes 5th place.
  3. 2008 Australian Grand Prix- Lewis Hamilton wins the race after quite a bizarre race with 3 periods of the safety car coming out onto the track. The race is also memorable firstly as the fewest non finishes since the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix and secondly, the start of Lewis’s World Championship winning year.
  4. 2009 Australian Grand Prix- After losing his drive due to Honda’s withdrawal from the sport in 2008, Jenson Button found himself without a drive. That is until Ross Brawn bought the team and implemented an infrastructure that allowed them to make the race. Jenson qualified 4th on the grid and by taking an early gamble onto slick tyres than anyone else and also Vettel retiring, Jenson took a very popular and memorable win for himself, the paddock, his personal fans, fans of the sport and also for the Brawn GP team. This is one of my favourite Button wins.
  5. 2012 Australian Grand Prix- Jenson Button gets a perfect start to the 2012 season with a McLaren that is competitive from the box (unlike previous years) and takes his third Australian win in a number of years. In a race full of action, memorable moments such as the incident with Maldonado and Grosjean, Webber finishing 4th (his best finish at his home race) and also rookie Daniel Riccardo finishing in the points at his home race.

If the Australian Grand Prix from last year is anything to go by from last year, we look set to witness a wonderful start to the 2013 season. Will Red Bull be able to achieve four consecutive world drivers and constructor’s championships in a row? Will it be McLaren’s year? Will Alonso take revenge for last season? Will Kimi, Mark or Lewis be the dark horses to take the title?

Sky Sports F1 are showing uninterrupted coverage of every practice session, the qualifying and race for the Grand Prix (and every race of the season) and the BBC are also showing coverage, details for both are below:-

  • Sky Sports F1:- Friday (Practice 1 and 2) 1.00am and 5.15am [Replays throughout Friday], Saturday (Practice 3 and Qualifying) 2.45am and 5.00am [Replays throughout Saturday], Sunday (Race) 4.30am
  • BBC- Saturday (Qualifying highlights) 1.00pm, Sunday (Race highlights) 2.20pm

My next blog post will be a full Race Report on the Australian Grand Prix. Formula One, boy have we missed you! Bring it on! I will be enjoying every single moment of the weekend, hope you do too!