Monthly Archives: May 2013

Track Preview: Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo

All rights for picture for www.formula1.com

All rights for picture for http://www.formula1.com

Fernando Alonso wins his home race in Spain, Kimi Raikkonen with a stunning drive to second place and Felipe Massa claims the final place on the podium after a good drive. McLaren yet again have made small improvements to their car in order to gain their way back to the front and picked up some much needed points for the team. And people are still wishing that Sebastian Vettel still does not have the pace with his Red Bull in qualifying.

The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most unique, challenging and demanding in terms of downforce and concentration for the teams yet most exciting circuits not only in motorsport but also on the Formula One calendar. This is one of the two circuits on the calendar that have a special aero package needed for the cars to compete here. The drivers and engineers know that you need good brake cooling and there are no room for mistakes around here.

And here we go guys with sixth race of the Formula One season, the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo…

Facts and Figures

  • Monte Carlo has hosted the Grand Prix in Spain since 1929, even though the first Formula One race was in 1950.
  • Ayrton Senna is the most successful driver to win the Grand Prix with six wins.
  • Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber are the most successful drivers currently to win the Grand Prix with two wins each.
  • McLaren are the most successful constructor to win the Grand Prix with fifteen wins
  • Race distance: 260.5km (161.87 miles)
  • Number of turns:19
  • Top speed: 284kph
  • Lap record: Michael Schumacher- Ferrari (2004)- 1.14.439
  • Winners from pole 26/59 (44%)
  • Winners from last 5 Monaco Grand Prix: 2008- Lewis Hamilton, 2009-Jenson Button, 2010-Mark Webber, 2011-Sebastian Vettel, 2012-Mark Webber

My top 5 Monaco Grand Prix

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

  1. 2009 Monaco Grand Prix- Jenson Button wins the race ahead of his team mate Rubens Barrichello and Kimi Raikkonen. Just a great drive from JB! 🙂 [No suitable video was avaliable]
  2. 2012 Monaco Grand Prix- Mark Webber wins the race ahead of Rosberg and Alonso. Safety car spices the race up. A brilliant drive from Webber to win his second Monaco Grand Prix.
  3. 2008 Monaco Grand Prix- Lewis Hamilton wins his first Monaco Grand Prix ahead of Kubica and Massa. After suffering a punctured tyre, Hamilton drove a brilliant race to win.  Also, accidents with Raikkonen, Sutil, Alonso, Bourdais, Coulthard and Rosberg made it thrilling to watch. This is Lewis at his best! 
  4. 2000 Monaco Grand Prix- David Coulthard wins the action packed race ahead of Rubens Barrichello and Giancarlo Fisichella. The start sees Schumacher have a good start to stay ahead of Trulli. Coulthard is third. In the middle of the pack, De La Rosa spins and takes Button out forcing the race to be red-flagged. In the middle of the race, Frentzen has to pit with problems and comes back out of the field miles away. Just a great drive from DC. 
  5. 1998 Monaco Grand Prix- Mika Hakkinen wins the race from Pole Position from Fisichella and Irvine. An action packed race especially between Wurz and Schumacher. A great drive from the Flying Finn at his home Grand Prix. Very happy fan that day!

A special mention to the master of the Monaco Grand Prix. The legend that is the great Aryton Senna. Senna was a six time winner of the Grand Prix and showing his utter determination, confidence and natural racing talent to succeed and conquer. But not just only the winning this race  six times but also his world championships. A true legend of the sport and I’m sure he’ll be with the drivers in spirit this weekend.

If the Monaco Grand Prix from last year is anything to go by from last year, we look set to witness a great race next weekend. Will Fernando be able to challenge Red Bull and Lotus to win again and gain the championship lead? Will Red Bull be able to achieve pole position and try to win the race without team orders in the background? Will Rosberg,Raikkonen, 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:- Thursday (Practice 1 and 2) 8.45am and 12.45am [Replays throughout Friday], Saturday (Practice 3 and Qualifying) 9.45am and 12.00am [Replays throughout Saturday], Sunday (Race) 11.30am
  • BBC- Saturday (Qualifying Highlights) 17.35pm Sunday (Race highlights) 17.35pm- Both on BBC 1

My next blog post will be a full Race Report on the Monaco Grand Prix. Loving the start of the weekend of Formula One, Hope you will be enjoying every single moment of the weekend as much as me!

F1 News 13th May- 20th May 2013

This week has seen some shocking yet exciting news for McLaren fans with the announcement of Honda engines coming back into the sport in 2015, Ferrari embroiled into a tyre row, Lotus not happy with Pirelli’s decision, Pirelli changing the tyres from Canada onwards.

Read on my friends….

Alonso avoids a Penalty

The FIA confirmed after the race that they will take take no further action against Fernando Alonso for collecting a Spanish flag after his victory in Barcelona. Following an reaction from the public, the status of Alonso’s victory at his home race was put into doubt due to taking a Spanish flag off an marshal, hereby in breach of racing regulations.

However, three hours after the race, it was announced that no further action would be taken against Alonso in regards to taking the Spanish flag while celebrating his victory at his home race.

Barcelona set to retain 2014 race

Barcelona looks set to remain the home of the Spanish GP and is now currently working on next year’s race. With the country in economic turmoil, it was reported in the press that the Spanish GP would alternate between Barcelona and Valencia. But this appears not to be the case.

“We are working on next year. We have already published the ticket prices for 2014,” Salvador Servia, Director General at the Circuit de Catalunya, said.”We have done 23 years of Formula One and our objective is to do another 23 years.Last year we started selling overseas, targeting travel agencies and tour operators and we carried the same way this year. We have sold quite a lot in England, Germany and France. We are in a crisis but we will carry on putting on the grand prix with all the qualities as if we were still rich.”

British Press Speaking out about Tyre Gate

If you have read the conclusion of my Spanish GP Race Weekend Review, you would know I feel regarding this issue. But the British press have now readily spoken out about the contentious nature of Formula One in 2013 and they believe that the sport has now gone too far in its pursuit of drama and exciting racing.

From watching the reaction on Sky Sports F1 after the race, I got the impression that the majority of drivers, team bosses, pundits and fans after the Spanish GP believe that the tyres, its wear and protecting the wear has become an ever increasing factor affecting the Grand Prix [82 pitstops were made during 66 laps]. Paul Hembrey on Sky Sports F1 believes he is in a uncomfortable situation that is left with him stating to everyone who loves, works or is associated with the sport, “What do you want?” he snapped at reporters. “We are only doing what we are asked to do. It is damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

I get Hembrey’s view, I do. But as I stated in my conclusion on the Spanish GP Review I think that Pirelli have spiced up the racing and has managed to make some great races happen since they have been into the sport. But Pirelli should be able to trust that their tyre compounds should not experience failure at high speeds that endanger the drivers. And I believe that Pirelli need to fix this situation and quickly. Pirelli need to make a tyre that is durable, consistent, can perform and keep the great racing we have had recently, but not through tyre management, but by the drivers racing 100% for himself and also 100% with their competitors while battling on track.

Which to me seems is what The Times is arguing, “Pirelli were ordered by the teams to make tyres that would shred – “degrade” is the technical term… In the quest for excitement, fans have been robbed of a narrative, of a pivotal moment in the race, simply because there is a constant flurry of activity. Cars can overtake at will with drivers helpless to fight back. Watching the timing screens is dizzying as names yo-yo from top to bottom without any apparent reason. The anoraks will get it and love it, but the casual observer watching on television was probably utterly dazzled by the frenzy.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian claims that the sport’s attempts to spice up the show is now just bewildering, “To be fair to Pirelli, it was given the brief to make the sport more entertaining, to get away from the monotony we saw in the Ferrari-dominated days at the start of the century. But at least that was real. What we have now is contrived and tedious. It means that only the start of the race and the final burst, when the cars finally start racing after their final stops, are compelling. You may as well watch a football match for the 90 minutes in between times. F1 drivers are now finding life so tricky that words such as “confusing”, “mess” and “frustrating” are popping up from those in the sharp end of the cars, who are growing increasingly fed up with engineers warning them to back off to save tyres.”

I think change needs to be done and needs to be done quickly…

Tyre changes in Canada

In a matter of days, Pirelli have announced plans to accelerate and introduce changes to their controversial 2013 tyres, with the revisions to now be rolled out in time for the Canadian GP in two races’ time.

In recent days after fans, drivers, team bosses and pundits have publically made known their views on the situation, Pirelli announced almost immediately after Sunday’s heavily-criticised Spanish GP that they would make changes to their range of compounds for the British GP at the end of June.

However, it seems that the changes will be introduced the race before in Montreal. Hembrey has revealed that the amended rubber will feature structural changes which combine elements from both last year and this year’s products in a bid to beef up their durability.

Hembrey states that “The sooner we could do it the better,” Four stops was not what we wanted, and to make a change we needed to do it as soon as possible so teams have time to react for the rest of the season. The tyre from Canada onwards will combine elements of the structure from last year, with some elements of this year’s tyre.The fine details are being sorted and will be finalised in the next couple of days.But we wanted to make sure people understood we had noted their comments, so we’ve reacted and we’ll make sure we get back to where we were last season, which is two to three stops per race.”

The decision to bring forward the changes by one race to Canada means the 2013 slick tyres in their current form will only be in use for one further grand prix, Monaco.

Pirelli have already selected the supersoft and soft tyres for the unique challenges of the Principality’s streets – a circuit that is generally quite easy on tyres and normally sees each car make two pit stops.

I am looking forward to Montreal, hope Pirelli can fix this problem to everyone’s pleasure…

Lotus and Ferrari in tyre row

In light of the recent announcement made by Pirelli to change the compounds of the tyres a race earlier than planned in Montreal, Lotus boss Eric Boullier and Ferrari columner the Horse Whisperer have stated that they not happy with the decision but will have to adapt their cars to them.

Firstly, Lotus boss Eric Boullier had been outspoken against the prospect of any move by Pirelli to improve the durability of their 2013 compounds when speaking to the media in wake of Sunday’s heavily-criticised Spanish GP.

The Team Principal intimated that as Lotus had designed their 2013 car to cope with the demands of the fast-degrading rubber rivals teams also had the chance to do the same. However, following a public demand over the nature of the Spanish race, Pirelli announced they would change their compounds from Montreal to try and bring the remaining races back into line for a two/three pitstop target.

Boullier admitted the change from Montreal was duly frustrating, “There aren’t many sports where there are such fundamental changes to an essential ingredient part-way through a season,” he said in an interview with Lotus’s website. “Just imagine for a moment that, because a football team can’t run as fast as its opponent, the dimensions of the pitch are changed at half time! That there are changes to come can be seen as somewhat frustrating, and I hope they are not too extreme.”

“It’s clear that Pirelli have found themselves in a difficult situation and under pressure from different quarters. Last year, when we were designing our 2013 car, each team received information from Pirelli and everyone did the best job they could to develop a chassis which would make best use of the tyre characteristics. We even ran with some experimental 2013 tyres at the end of last season, to assist us in confirming our development paths. As with every season, some teams do a better job than others with their designs, and some drivers are more adaptable than others to the changes of both car and tyre. It is frustrating when you’ve developed a car from a set of tyre specifications which are available to everyone – for tyres that are the same for everyone – to then be told that they are being changed mid-season. That said, we have a team of talented designers and engineers who will be working twice as hard to ensure we adapt to these changes in the most competitive manner.”

Meanwhile, Ferrari have hit out at “selected memories” in the sport after Pirelli reacted to criticism of the pitstop-filled Spanish GP and announced changes to their tyres from next month.

Ferrari’s mysterious – but famously outspoken – Horse Whisperer website column has returned to give its withering criticism of the Barcelona tyre and strategy complaints. As both themselves and Lotus will possibly lose an advantage when the tyres do change in Canada. But the former’s Horse Whisperer has pointed out that drivers making four pitstops in a race is nothing new in F1.

“These are difficult times for people with poor memories. Maybe it’s because of the huge amount of information available today that people are too quick to talk, forgetting things that happened pretty much in the recent past,” the unnamed columnist wrote.

“Or maybe the brain cells that control memory only operate selectively, depending on the results achieved on track by their owners. A classic example of this is the current saga regarding the number of pit stops. Voices have been raised to underline the fact that various teams, some of whom got to the podium and others who were quite a way off, made four pit stops in the recent Spanish Grand Prix, making the race hard to follow.

“It’s a shame that these worthy souls kept quiet two years ago when, at the very same Catalunya Circuit and on the Istanbul track, five of the six drivers who got to those two podiums made exactly the same number of pit stops as did Alonso and Massa last Sunday in the Spanish Grand Prix.”

a thinly-veiled criticism of World Champions Red Bull, the Ferrari blogger also insisted the Scuderia had nothing to feel embarrassed about after committing to four pitstops from as early as Friday practice in Spain.

“On top of that, if this choice emerges right from the Friday, because all the simulations are unanimous in selecting it, then why on earth should one feel embarrassed when compared to those who have gone for a different choice, only to regret it during the race itself.”

The ‘Tyre Gate’ saga continues on me thinks…

McLaren and Honda Back Together… well in 2015!

It was announced on Thursday that Honda will return to Formula One in 2015 by supplying McLaren with engines. This announcement comes after months of growing speculation that McLaren was leaving their two decade partnership with Mercedes Benz as engine partners.

It is being described as a ‘multi-year Formula One technology partnership’ that will see McLaren run Honda’s V6 turbocharged engine and energy recovery system. Martin Whitmarsh has expressed confidence in the new partnership which won four Driver and Constructor’s championships between 1988 and 1992.  Whitmarsh states that “It’s fantastic news for everyone who loves Formula 1 to be able to welcome Honda back to Formula 1,” said the McLaren Team Principal. “Together, we’re about to embark on a new and extremely exciting chapter in McLaren’s history. Like McLaren, Honda is a company with motor racing woven into the fabric of its heritage. We’re proud and thrilled to be joining forces once more to take on the world in Formula 1. Whilst both companies are fully aware that we’re embarking on a very demanding journey together, we’re hugely committed to the success of the partnership, and we’ll spend the next 18 months working together to ensure that we’re fully established and competitive ahead of our first grand prix together in 2015.” I simply cannot wait for this, even if things will be uncomfortable for the team in their last year of Formula One with Mercedes!

Jenson Reunited with Honda

Jenson Button has publically announced that he is “thrilled and excited” by the 2015 revival of the McLaren-Honda partnership and the prospect of his own personal reunion with the Japanese car giant.

Thursday, the F1 world found out that Honda is returning to the sport to partner again the McLaren team in 2015, twenty one years after they ended their relationship with the McLaren team. As we all know, Button is also very close to Honda himself, worked with the company for six years from 2003 when they were first an engine supplier to BAR, and eventually team owner outright, and believes the onset of new challenging engine regulations from next season presents the carmaker with the perfect opportunity to showcase its talents.

After the announcement, Jenson had the following to say, “I’ve already enjoyed a long and successful working relationship with Honda,” I first raced a Formula 1 car powered by a Honda engine in 2003, and I was a works Honda Formula 1 driver between 2006 and ’08, winning my first grand prix in Hungary in 2006 in a Honda Formula 1 car, so I know exactly how passionate Honda is about motorsport, and Formula 1 in particular. “The challenge set by Formula 1’s new technical regulations provides Honda with the perfect opportunity to return to the pinnacle of motorsport. Honda is one of the most experienced and accomplished builders of turbocharged engines anywhere in the world, has always treated Formula 1 as a platform for world-beating technical innovation, and will surely relish the opportunity once again to showcase on a global sporting stage its engine technicians’ unparalleled engineering prowess.”

Jenson then continues by saying “I grew up watching McLaren-Honda Formula 1 cars racing and winning around the world – they wrote their own glorious chapter of Formula 1 history, in fact. Even now, picturing those unmistakable red-and-white cars evokes vivid memories of some of the most dramatic and exciting motor racing the world has ever seen”.

Button then continues to say “McLaren-Honda: I know how much passion, success and pride are encapsulated within just those two words. And that’s why I’m so thrilled and excited about what’s not only a fantastic opportunity for the team, but also a great development for Formula 1 fans and the sport as a whole.”

Button’s own contract with the Woking team is currently thought to run to the end of next season, meaning the 33-year-old would have to agree an extension to be part of the new McLaren-Honda era.

My mouth is filled with delight at the prospect. McLaren. Honda. Button. What a mouth-watering combination.

And that’s all the F1 News for this week. My next blog post will be a preview of the Monaco Grand Prix which will be on the blog before Practice 1 on Thursday!

2013 Spanish Grand Prix Race Weekend Review

Sebastian Vettel wins in Bahrain, Kimi Raikkonen with a stunning drive to second place and Romain Grosjean claims the final place on the podium after a good drive. McLaren yet again have made small improvements to their car in order to gain their way back to the front and picked up some much needed points for the team. And people are still wishing that Paul Di Resta had his first podium in Formula One in Bahrain.

I have previously that I was a bit surpised that Lotus and especially Kimi Raikkonen was not able to challenge for the win in Bahrain, but consistency and points scoring keeps you in the hunt for the title, as Alonso proved last season and will Kimi be able to keep himself in the hunt after this weekend?

Also, Hamilton in his Mercedes could be able to challenge this weekend and put a stop to Alonso’s, Raikkonen’s and even Vettel’s championship fights. But have Mercedes learnt their lessons and corrected their mistakes from last year? Meanwhile, Vettel despite all the media scruinity around him regarding his actions from the Malaysian Grand Prix still is still leading the fight for the championship and is the man to beat at the moment. Can anyone stop him?

Before heading to Spain, Lotus’s ex Technical Director James Allison has left the team and speculation is rife in the paddock of where James is going to end up. Rumours are (if you believe them) that Allison is heading to his ‘second’ home Ferrari or maybe even Red Bull (speculation is rife that Kimi Raikkonen is taking up Mark Webber’s race seat in 2014, even though this has not been announced by any side as of yet!). But never the less, Allison will be missed by Lotus massively and will Allison’s departure affect the team throughout the season? We shall only see.

Also, many of the teams have brought upgrades to their cars (especially McLaren, Williams and Red Bull) to see if they can gain better performance on their cars in terms of track performance and performance on the car [For example, aerodynamics]. I am hoping that especially Williams and definitely McLaren with their ‘3 step’ programme [3 step programme is what McLaren have termed it as] of development and their programme for this weekend is a better step forward for them to achieve the winning success that they, the fans and the team would like.

In terms of the circuit, The Spanish Grand Prix is one of the most high speed circuits on the Formula One calendar. But the circuit does get used very much throughout the year (for the winter testing before the start of the Grand Prix season) and both drivers and engineers know each bump and every corner centimetre by centimetre. It is also a ‘lateral’ circuit which is opposite to the previous round of the championship, with the high speed corners more dominant to the corners that need the driver to have braking and traction.

This Grand Prix will be one full of questions of who again can go longer on their tyres, who can save the most tyres for the race on Sunday, which car has got their car set up the most competitive and race ready? Have McLaren and Williams made a significant step forward with their upgrades in their fight to get back to the front?

Alongside these questions, questions if Red Bull, Lotus or Mercedes will be able this weekend to help their own fight in the championships, can McLaren small improvements on their cars help them this weekend before Monaco where step 2 of their 3 step upgrade programme is planned to take place on the car, who will be competitive from the off, who has the quickest car and who will win this race on Sunday?

The race weekend begins now….

Strap yourselves in. The new season begins now…

Practices 1, 2 and 3

The main headline from the Practice sessions is that both the Ferrari’s, the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen and the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel look like the people to beat this weekend  as weather conditions test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.

Practice 1 saw Fernando Alonso top the timesheets with a time of 1.25.252 followed closely by Massa with a gap of 0.203 seconds, Vergne in a fantastic third for Toro Rosso with a gap of 0.415 seconds, Grosjean in fourth with a gap of 0.790 seconds and Sutil with an impressive fifth with a gap of 0.960 seconds. Paul Di Resta impressed the paddock again by topping the timesheets in 10th place with a gap of 1.503 seconds behind Alonso. The McLarens of Perez and Button could only manage 13th for Perez and Jenson did not set a time. And the Red Bull’s of Vettel and Webber could only manage 19th and 20th places.

Within Practice 1, Felipe Massa and Jean-Eric Vergne both ran off the circuit while trying to find the grip throughout the session.

Practice 2 saw Sebastian Vettel top the timesheets with a time of 1.22.808 followed by Alonso with a gap of 0.017 seconds, Webber in third with a gap of 0.083 seconds, Raikkonen in fourth with a gap of 0.222 seconds and Massa in fifth with a gap of 0.302 seconds. Adrian Sutil and Paul Di Resta again managed to achieve a top 10 finishes with a 8th place for Adrian with a gap of 1.032 seconds behind Vettel and a  10th place for Paul with a gap of 1.296 seconds behind Vettel showing that Force India may have the pace to get some good championship points this weekend. Button and Perez could only manage 11th and 13th places indicating that both maybe do not have the pace needed to have a strong weekend but very much hoping they can work on that during the weekend and work through their upgrade programme.

Practice 2 sees more incidents and spinning throughout the session. Lewis Hamilton goes off at the Turn 11 trying to find the grip on the track and dealing with a bad tailwind.  But the main talking point of the session was the puncture incident that happened to Paul Di Resta at the end of the main straight. Yet again, Pirelli tyres are under scruinity after experiencing yet another high speed failure in a race weekend.

Practice 3 saw Felipe Massa top the timesheet with a time of 1.21.901 followed by Raikkonen with a gap of 0.006 seconds, Webber in third with a gap of 0.143 seconds, Grosjean in fourth with a gap of 0.168 seconds and Vettel in a fifth with a gap of 0.328 seconds. Adrian Sutil also impressed the paddock with 8th place with a gap of 0.828 seconds behind Alonso. Again, the surprise of the session is Paul Di Resta managing to grab 7th place with a gap of 0.673 seconds behind Alonso showing that he does have good pace within the Force India car. The McLarens of Button and Perez could only make 12th and 14th places, which show that McLaren may have a fight on their hands to get into Q3 and to gain some championship points today. The biggest surprises of the session was that Jean-Eric Vergne did make the top 10 after showing very good speed and promise in the early sessions.

You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg to gain pole position again this weekend. As both drivers seem to be excelling in qualifying at the moment and the momentum is with them from claiming Pole Positions in two rounds of the championship so far and being in the top 10 in all three sessions this weekend.  Alonso, Massa, Vettel, Webber and Raikkonen also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top five places at the moment.

Button and Perez even with the start of their 3 step upgrade programme and making making good and solid progress with points finishes in previous races, seem to be struggling.  It seems from looking at their performances that the pace is coming slowly and steadily and both drivers I will admit will struggle to even make Qualifying 2 or maybe 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 (which is very unlikely). However, I think that Force India and Toro Rosso have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…

Qualifying

Before heading into qualifying, McLaren have throughout the night requested to their factory back in the UK for a new front wing to be flown out to Barcelona. However, because the front wing has not been ‘flex tested’ by the FIA and scrutinised, they will not be able to use it for the remainder of the race weekend. For me as a McLaren fan, that is gutting as it could help the drivers and the team get better results this weekend. But I am happy that McLaren are showing signs that they are fighting better than ever to try and get back to the front.

It looks like Ferrari, Mercedes, Lotus or Red Bull are looking like the teams to beat heading into the session who look set to challenge each other for pole position today. But Force India or Toro Rosso 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…

In Q1, Hamilton tops the timesheet with a time of 1.21.728, Rosberg is second with a gap of 0.185 seconds, Vettel is third with a gap of 0.430 seconds, Raikkonen is fourth with a gap of 0.482 seconds and Alonso is fifth with a gap of 0.536 seconds. The big surprise of the sessions was Di Resta who finished the session in 8th place, Vergne who finished the session in 9th place and also Riccardo who was in 10th place. At the end of Q1, we lose Bottas, Maldonado, Van Der Garde, Bianchi, Chilton and Pic.

Within the session, Kimi Raikkonen on his flying lap was held up by the Sauber of Esteban Guiterrez and this incident is being investigated by the stewards.

In Q2, Hamilton tops the timesheets with a time of 1.21.001, Vettel was second with a gap of 0.601 seconds, Alonso was third with a gap of 0.645 seconds, Raikkonen was fourth with a gap of 0.674 seconds and Webber was fifth with a gap of 0.717 seconds.

Perez managed to get 7th place for McLaren. Jenson struggled with the car throughout the session. Di Resta set a brilliant time to gain 10th place. At the end of Q2, we lose Riccardo, Vergne, Sutil, Button, Hulkenberg and Guiterrez. The battle for pole position is on…

In Q3, Rosberg tops the timesheet and claims a brilliant pole position with a stonker of a lap with a time of 1.20.718 , Hamilton was second fastest with a gap of 0.254 seconds, Vettel was third fastest with a gap  of 0.336 seconds, Raikkonen was fourth fastest with a gap of 0.459, Alonso was fifth fastest with a gap of 0.5 seconds, Massa was sixth fastest with a gap of 0.501 seconds, Grosjean did a brilliant lap to claim seventh fastest with a gap of 0.590 seconds, Webber was eighth fastest with a gap of 0.852 seconds, Perez was ninth fastest with a gap of 1.351 seconds and Di Resta was tenth fastest.

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

Di Resta, Grosjean and Perez could also have a decent race tomorrow and pick up some much needed points for Force India, Lotus and McLaren before heading to the next race in Monaco. Will it rain tomorrow? Nope. 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, Hamilton, Massa, Hamilton or Alonso? I don’t know.  The Grand Prix has been set up nicely, just like the last race. Let’s see what happens…

Race

Prior to the race, Esteban Guiterrez has a grid penalty for his part in holding up Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen during Q1 on his flying lap and now starts at the back of the grid. Also, Felipe Massa now starts from ninth place on the grid due to the three grid place penalty. This is one driver I will be watching as Massa could spring a surprise and could fight his way back into contention for some good points today.

The F1 world is watching and waiting to see if the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix will live up to expectations and who will be the winner? Here we go…

During the formation lap, Sebastian Vettel on Team Radio claims that the Pole Sitter Nico Rosberg on the Formation Lap is setting the pace ‘too slow’. As far as the regulations are concerned the Pole Sitter dictates the pace and is effectively the ‘Safety Car’ leading the drivers to the start of the race.

All 22 drivers are lined up on their grid positions, five red lights and its GO!!!!!!!!

Rosberg gets off the line and covers Hamilton and Vettel to keep his position and leads into the first corner. While this is going on, Alonso, Perez and Vergne have made cracking starts off the line. A battle between Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel is ongoing on the track. Vettel has had a brilliant start and is now in 2nd place after passing Lewis. Alonso then manages to make a move on Hamilton himself and is now in third place. Webber is making up places and is trying to get past Di Resta for position. There is also a battle between Massa and Perez for position and Massa cannot pass him.

Meanwhile, further down the field, Button has had a poor start and is currently in 17th place. But Sutil also has had a fast start and has made up five places before the end of the current lap. Marussia’s Jules Bianchi has had to pit for a new front wing.  Lap 2 sees Rosberg leading the race by 1 second ahead of Vettel. On track, Massa is finally able to pass Perez. The next lap sees Hamilton under pressure by Kimi for position.

Lap 6 and the gap to Vettel is 0.6 seconds now. Is the Mercedes like last weekend struggling for grip and pace with the Pirelli tyres? It seems so. Lewis seems to be suffering with a brake issue as his pace has gone slower than the pace he showed previous laps before. Meanwhile, Massa is battling his way through the field and is eyeing up to pass Raikkonen on track.  The next lap sees Raikkonen pass Hamilton for 4th place, indicating that Lewis maybe is experiencing some problems in his car today. At the end of the lap, Webber is the first man to make a pitstop for new tyres with a time of 3.4 seconds and rejoins in 21st place.

Lap 8, there is a 0.7 gap to Vettel. Massa then manages to pass Hamilton for fifth place. At the end of the lap, Massa pits for new tyres with a time of 3.2 second and rejoins in 14th place. Hulkenberg and Sutil also pit for new tyres. However, it seems that the Force India of Sutil is experiencing problems with his brakes in the pitlane. Also, Romain Grosjean retires from the race with broken suspension.

The next two laps sees Alonso, Hamilton, Rosberg, Raikkonen and Vettel all pit for new tyres, handing the race lead to Guiterrez at Lap 11. Meanwhile, while pitting for new tyres Maldonado maybe have been speeding into the pitlane. On Lap 11, Alonso passes Vettel for track position and then tries to pass Rosberg for position also. On track, Raikkonen tries to pass Button for position and cannot until Button pits at the end of the lap for new tyres. Pastor Maldonado receives a drive through penalty for speeding in the pitlane while pitting for new tyres.

Lap 12 sees Guiterrez leading by 2.4 seconds ahead of Rosberg. Alonso again is trying to pass Rosberg but cannot. Lap 13 sees Alonso finally able to pass Rosberg for position. Vettel needs himself to pass Rosberg for position before Alonso powers off into the distance, but cannot make the move stick and is able to do so a few corners later. Also, Massa is then also able to pass Rosberg for position. It would seem that yet again Mercedes are experiencing problems with tyres and grip. At the end of the lap, Guiterrez pits from the lead.

Lap 14 sees Alonso leading the race from Vettel by 1.333 seconds. Raikkonen is now the next driver itching to get past Rosberg who is struggling massively. Raikkonen on the next lap is able to pass Rosberg. Riccardo also passes Hamilton on track.

Lap 19, the lead is 3.8 seconds to Vettel. Riccardo in his Toro Rosso passes Di Resta for 8th place. Guiterrez is able to pass Vergne at Turn 10 for 12th place. At the end of the lap, Di Resta pits for new tyres. Lap 20 sees Riccardo trying to pass Perez on track. At the end of the lap, Massa pits again with a time of 3.1 seconds and rejoins in 7th and also Webber pits again with a time of 2.9 seconds and rejoins in 12th.

At the end of Lap 21, Alonso pits for new tyres with a time of 3.8 seconds and rejoins the race in 4th place handing over the lead to Vettel. Lap 22 sees Caterham’s Van Der Garde suffering with wheel problems on the track and before he can make it back to the pits, the wheel comes free from the car and onto the track. On track, Massa is able to pass Vergne.

Lap 23 sees Alonso passing Rosberg for 3rd place. Jenson is also looking at trying to pass Webber for track position. At the end of the lap, Perez pits for new tyres. The next lap sees Vettel leading Raikkonen by 0.613 seconds. Massa passes Rosberg for fourth place. Caterham are going to be investigated by the FIA regarding an unsafe release with Van Der Garde. At the end of the lap, Vettel pits for new tyres with a time of 2.6 seconds and rejoins in 5th place.

Lap 25 sees Raikkonen leading the race from Alonso. Webber passes Guiterrez on track. Hamilton is now behind Di Resta on track, proving that in the race Mercedes are struggling with their car and its performance. Lap 26, Vettel passes Rosberg. At the end of the lap, Raikkonen pits for new tyres with a time of 3.3 seconds and rejoins in 4th.

Lap 27 sees Alonso leading the race by 6.9 seconds. At the end of the lap Rosberg pits for new tyres with a time of 3.6 seconds and rejoins in 11th. The next lap sees a battle between both of Toro Rosso drivers and Riccardo seems to be winning the fight. At the end of the lap, Button, Guiterrez and Chilton pit for new tyres.

Lap 30 and Alonso has built a lead of 9.6 seconds. Raikkonen at this stage of the race is gaining quickly on Vettel. 18 seconds now covers the top 4 positions at this stage of the race. Lap 32 sees Raikkonen trying hard to pass Vettel but cannot make the move on him stick. Lap 33 sees Raikkonen successfully pass Vettel and also Riccardo passing Rosberg.

By lap 35, Alonso leads by 13.8 seconds. At the end of the lap, Hulkenberg and Vergne pit for new tyres, but was Hulkenberg’s release from his pitbox unsafe? We shall see. The next lap sees Alonso pit for new tyres with a time of 3.2 seconds and tries to regain his lead. Also Massa and Webber pit for new rubber.

Lap 37 sees Raikkonen leading Alonso by 2.4 seconds. The next lap sees Hulkenberg received a penalty from the FIA regarding the unsafe release from his pitbox. Meanwhile, Vergne suffers with the tyres delaminating and has no choice but to retire from the race.

Lap 39 sees Alonso retake the lead of the Grand Prix. Webber passes Rosberg on track. At the end of the lap, Vettel pits for fresh rubber with a time of 3.5 seconds and rejoins in 4th place. The next lap sees Button trying to pass Guiterrez for position but cant but manages to pass him by Lap 41.

Lap 45 and Alonso leads the race by 9.8 seconds. On track Di Resta passes Button for 7th place. Raikkonen at the end of the lap pits for fresh rubber with a time of 3.5 seconds and rejoins in third place. Lap 49 and Alonso leads by 20 seconds. At the end of the lap, Alonso pits for new rubber with a time of 2.6 seconds and regains his lead.

Lap 50 sees Alonso leading by 3.2 seconds. Button with a brilliant move down the main straight passes Hamilton for track position. By the end of Lap 51, Webber, Vettel and Massa have all pitted for new rubber. Lap 55 sees Alonso leading comfortably by 12.3 seconds. At the end of the lap, Guiterrez pits for new tyres.

Lap 57 and Alonso leads Raikkonen by 13.2 seconds. A battle for 6th place between Rosberg and Di Resta is still continuing. By Lap 59, another battle on track between Button and Perez for 8th place is ongoing. By Lap 63, Alonso leads by 12.5 seconds. Di Resta and Rosberg are still battling on track.

And Fernando Alonso wins his home race the Spanish Grand Prix for the first time in a Ferrari since his Renault days ahead of second place Kimi Raikkonen 9 seconds behind him, Felipe Massa claims third and the final spot on the podium 26 seconds behind Alonso, Vettel with a fourth place 38 seconds behind Alonso, Webber drove a brilliant race to claim fifth place 47 seconds behind Alonso, Rosberg drove well to claim sixth place 1.08.020 seconds behind Alonso, Di Resta claims seventh place 1.08.998 seconds behind Alonso, Button after all the problems with setting up his car this weekend gets eighth place 1.19.506 seconds behind Alonso, Perez claims ninth place1.21.738 seconds behind Alonso and Daniel Riccardo claims the final point with tenth place one lap seconds behind Alonso.

Sebastian Vettel leads the Driver’s championship with 89 points, Raikkonen is second with 85 points, Alonso is third with 72 points, Hamilton is fourth with 50 points, Massa is fifth with 45 points, Webber is sixth with 42 points, Grosjean is seventh with 26 points, Di Resta is eighth with 26 points, Rosberg is ninth with 22 points, Button is tenth with 17, Perez is eleventh with 12 points, Riccardo is twelfth with 7 points, Sutil is thirteenth with 6 points, Hulkenberg is fourteenth with 5 points and Vergne is fifteenth with a point.

Red Bull lead the Constructor’s championship with 131 points, Ferrari is second with 117 points, Lotus is third with 111 points, Mercedes is fourth with 72 points, Force India is fifth with 32 points, McLaren in sixth with 29 points, Toro Rosso in seventh with 8 points and Sauber are eighth with 5 points.

Conclusion

The Grand Prix tested the drivers throughout the race with the high level of tyre degradation, just like the last race in Bahrain. And now it is leaving the fans questioning the Pirelli tyres. In the last few races, tyres in the practice sessions seem to be experiencing failures and delamination. Then into the race, more and more drivers cannot get to grips with the demands of the new compounds and are having to pit more. Which in turn does not let the drivers race each other with 100% confidence and trust into the tyre compounds, at best its 80% at the moment.

At the end of the race, Sky Sports F1 managed to talk to Pirelli boss Paul Henry about the current tyre situation. Paul Henry admits that they are looking into the situation and will meet in the week to discuss the situation further (which will be covered in my F1 News blog post at the end of next week). Personally, I think that Pirelli have spiced up the racing and has managed to make some great races happen since they have been into the sport. But Pirelli should be able to trust that their tyre compounds should not experience failure at high speeds that endanger the drivers. And I believe that Pirelli need to fix this situation and quickly. Pirelli need to make a tyre that is durable, consistent, can perform and keep the great racing we have had recently, but not through tyre management, but by the drivers racing 100% for himself and also 100% with their competitors while battling on track.

I was happy that Jenson did have some pace to challenge today and gained some points for his efforts. I am also glad for the team that Perez managed to gain some much needed points for the team. However, the ongoing battle between the two of them was very good for the fans to watch but I believe that Perez has shown that he can fight for position, despite being told not to challenge Jenson. But I do agree that McLaren do let their drivers race, which is good for us to see. However, due to speculation surrounding Martin Whitmarsh at the moment, I’m sure that Martin just wanted both drivers to bring the cars home and get the much needed points for the team.

But it shows that McLaren are taking slow and steady progress to try and get to the front of the field once again. But I am happy that Jenson managed to 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 race, 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. Bring on Monaco where the team are bringing step 2 of their 3 step upgrade programme for the car!

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 win this weekend, but consistency and points scoring keeps you in the hunt for the title, as Alonso proved last season. Despite the talk surrounding the team regarding Allison’s departure, the Lotus team have managed to get again score some points, even though they are now third in the Constructor’s Championship.

Webber and Riccardo again have both had a solid weekend. First both of them showing top 10 form in the Practice sessions and then battling throughout the field to gain some solid points. I think Webber and Riccardo are driving solidly this year and are improving their form from last year.  Who knows where Webber would have been if an ‘event’ would have gone his way.

The biggest surprises this weekend for me was the 7th place of Force India’s Paul Di Resta and the third place of Massa. Firstly, Paul has had a brilliant weekend and start to the season and impressed me a lot this weekend yet again. He drove a fantastic lap in qualifying and drove a cracking race to bring home some much needed points for the team. I believe that Paul this year has learnt his lessons from his first two years and is working harder than ever to impress with his performances in the sport this year.

And surely, people will have noticed his performance this weekend.  He deserved to get into the points today, he really did. He is a great driver with a lot of potential and Force India has shown this weekend that their performance since Australia is no fluke, they have a car that is able to be competitive and fight for good points in the race and I think they have the potential to improve throughout the season.  And I think they could be the dark horse of the midfield teams this team and could surprise us all throughout the season.

Massa so far in the season has impressed me. Not only has he been able to out-qualify his team mate but he has been able to also consistently gain some good points for the Ferrari team. I believe that Massa is carrying on the form he has shown from the latter half of the 2012 season and is driving solidly at the moment. And I think that Massa drove solidly despite his penalty deserved to be on the podium today in front of his wife and his young son.

All that is left to say about this race is that Alonso was a best driver on the field today. Ferrari unfortunately seem to have a car that is undoubtedly better than their car last year. They seem to be able to make sure that their race performance is also consistent and reliable. And if Alonso keeps this up, he may find himself able to claim the championship and take away the fourth consecutive title away from Vettel. Can Alonso do it? We shall see…

My next post will be the latest F1 News of the week which will be on the blog by the end of next weekend.

Track Preview: Spanish Grand Prix, Catalunya

Sebastian Vettel wins in Bahrain, Kimi Raikkonen with a stunning drive to second place and Romain Grosjean claims the final place on the podium after a good drive. McLaren yet again have made small improvements to their car in order to gain their way back to the front and picked up some much needed points for the team. And people are still wishing that Paul Di Resta had his first podium in Formula One in Bahrain…

The Spanish Grand Prix is one of the most high speed circuits on the Formula One calendar. But the circuit does get used very much throughout the year (for the winter testing before the start of the Grand Prix season) and both drivers and engineers know each bump and every corner centimetre by centimetre. It is also a ‘lateral’ circuit which is opposite to the previous round of the championship, with the high speed corners more dominant to the corners that need the driver to have braking and traction.

And here we go guys with fifth race of the Formula One season, the Spanish Grand Prix in Catalunya…

Facts and Figures

  • Catalunya has hosted the Grand Prix in Spain since 1913, when it raced with touring cars rules. But came back into Formula One in 1991.
  • Michael Schumacher is the most successful driver to win the Grand Prix with six wins.
  • Kimi Raikkonen is the most successful driver currently  to win the Grand Prix with two wins.
  • Ferrari are the most successful constructor to win the Grand Prix with eleven wins
  • Race distance: 307.1km (190.82 miles)
  • Number of turns:16
  • Top speed: 310kph
  • Lap record: Kimi Raikkonen- McLaren (2008)- 1.21.670
  • Winners from pole 17/22 (77%)
  • Winners from last 5 Spanish Grand Prix: 2008- Raikkonen, 2009-Jenson Button, 2010-Mark Webber, 2011-Sebastian Vettel, 2012-Pastor Maldonado

My top 5 Spanish Grand Prix

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

  1. 2009 Spanish Grand Prix- Jenson Button wins the race ahead of his team mate Rubens Barrichello and Mark Webber. A big accident with Sebastian Buemi brought out the safety car. Just a great drive from JB! [No video was avaliable]
  2. 2005 Spanish Grand Prix- Kimi Raikkonen wins the race ahead of Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli. Raikkonen set a blistering pace throughout the race (especially at the start of the race). Alonso had tyre problems and had to settle for second place. Trulli drove solidly to gain third place. A great race from Kimi. [No video was avaliable]
  3. 2012 Spanish Grand Prix- Pastor Maldonado wins his first race in Formula One ahead of Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. Maldonado drove a brilliant race and had a brilliant start to get ahead of the fast starting Alonso. However, after the race the Williams garage caught fire unexpectedly and slightly damped the mood. But a great win by Maldonado.  
  4. 2000 Spanish Grand Prix- Mika Hakkinen wins his first race of the 2000 season ahead of David Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello in third place. Hakkinen has also won the race three times in a row which is a fantastic achievement. And I was so happy when he won! [No video was avaliable]
  5. 1998 Spanish Grand Prix- Mika Hakkinen wins the race from Pole Position from Coulthard and Schumacher. Pedro Diniz stalled on the warm up lap and had to start from the pits. Loads of overtaking throughout the race especially Fisichella battling his way through the field. But a dominant victory for Hakkinen. I was so happy! [No video was avaliable]

If the Spanish 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 get back his championship lead? Will Red Bull be able to achieve pole position and try to win the race without team orders in the background? 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) 8.45am and 12.45am [Replays throughout Friday], Saturday (Practice 3 and Qualifying) 9.45am and 12.00am [Replays throughout Saturday], Sunday (Race) 11.30am
  • BBC- Friday (Practice 1 and 2) 8.55am and 13.00pm, Saturday (Practice 3 and Qualifying) 9.55am and 12.10pm and Sunday (Race and Race Highlights) 12.10pm and 19.00pm

My next blog post will be a full Race Report on the Spanish Grand Prix. Loving the double dosage of Formula One, Hope you will be enjoying every single moment of the weekend as much as me!