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Hamilton reclaims the lead

August 29th, 2010 No comments

Lewis Hamilton proved his mastery of slippery conditions by claiming his third win of the season at the Belgian Grand Prix.

From second on the grid, Hamilton took advantage of Mark Webber’s poor start to beat the Australian into the first corner. From there he was unstoppable and despite the rain led the rest of the race. Hamilton now leads the championship from Webber by just 3 points.

Robert Kubica demonstrated the effectiveness of Renault’s new f-duct by finishing third, only narrowly missing out on second thanks to an error entering his pits. Team boss Eric Boullier was happy:

Overall I think we can be very satisfied with this weekend, especially because we brought our latest updates, including the f-duct, and managed to get it working properly straight away.

Once again, Force India were strong at Spa with Adrian Sutil finishing fifth and Tonio Liuzzi fighting against Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher. Force India is now 17 points clear of Williams in the Constructors’ Championship.

While it is still a five-way battle for the Championship, Hamilton and Webber were able to pull away slightly from their rivals thanks to Vettel finishing out of the points and Alonso and Button not finishing at all.

Alonso suffered an early pitstop after being speared by an unstoppable Rubens Barrichello (on his 300th GP start) and Button fell victim to an erratic Sebastian Vettel who seemed to be doing his best to trade paintwork with everyone around him. Jenson was understandably disappointed:

All I felt was a really big bang in the sidepod and I lost drive immediately, I don’t know what he was playing at really. From the point of view of the championship, it’s a massive blow.

There is no doubt that Vettel is seriously fast, but he seems to make too many hot-headed mistakes.

Categories: 2010 Season Tags: ,

Webber back on top

August 3rd, 2010 No comments

Mark Webber lifted himself to the top of the Drivers’ Championship with a remarkable drive in the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Although the circuit is well liked by the drivers, the narrow, twisty Hungaroring has a reputation for producing somewhat processional races but Sunday’s race was anything but boring. Thanks to a safety car period and a drive-through penalty for Sebastian Vettel, Webber was able to leapfrog both his team mate and Fernando Alonso and seal a much needed  fourth victory.

Sebastian was clearly upset at missing out on what he thought would be a certain victory and for the second race in a row there were two team mates on the podium; one looking less than happy.

But while Webber now leads the Championship, Lewis Hamilton is only 4 points behind and Sebastian Vettel only 10 points. It is still very much a five-way battle between the Red Bulls, McLarens and Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari. Webber knows he can’t afford to relax:

It’s nice to have more points than anybody else, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves as there are some big events coming up.

In the closing stages of the race a furious battle for 10th was taking place between old team mates Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. Rubens had complained over the radio that Schumacher was closing the door on his passing attempts very late in the corners and on lap 68 Schumacher very nearly forced Barrichello into the wall. Barrichello managed to scrape through with centimetres to spare but it was clearly an extremely dangerous move by Schumacher.

Barrichello called for Schumacher to be shown a black flag and ex-F1 driver Derek Warwick (who was on the stewards panel) told BBC’s Radio 5 Live just how close Schumacher came to being disqualified:

Throwing a black flag would have shown a better example to our young drivers but by the time we got the video evidence we ran out of time and we had to do it retrospectively.

In the end the stewards handed Schumacher a 10 place grid penalty for Spa. With Schumacher’s current performance this virtually guarantees he won’t score any points in Belgium so it seems a fair penalty. After initially claiming innocence Schumacher eventually conceded his driving was dangerous:

Immediately after the race yesterday I was still in the heat of it all, but after I looked again at the situation with Rubens I have to say that the stewards were correct with their judgement.

What it does show is that Schumacher may have lost some of his old speed but he has lost none of his old ruthlessness.

Categories: 2010 Season Tags: , ,

Massa moves over for Alonso

July 26th, 2010 No comments

At the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, at the height of Michael Schumacher’s dominance of the sport, Ferrari ordered Rubens Barrichello to give up his race lead and let Schumacher past to take the victory. Barrichello duly slowed at the final corner of the last lap and let his team mate pass him just before the finish line.

The crowd didn’t like it. There was jeering during the podium ceremony which was made even more awkward when Schumacher encouraged Barrichello to take the top step and handed him the trophy for first. Both Barrichello and Schumacher were fined one million dollars for their behaviour and a new rule was introduced banning so-called team orders.

39.1: Team orders which interfere with a race result are prohibited

Such is the clear intention of this rule that many were surprised at Ferrari’s blatent imposition of team orders at Hockenheim on Sunday.

Having led the race from a fantastic start, Felipe Massa was told by his engineer, Rob Smedley:

OK, so, Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm you understood that message?

There was silence on the radio but confirmation was given when Massa obviously slowed at the exit of turn 6 and allowed Alonso to pass. Smedley then told Massa:

Good lad. Just stick with him now. Sorry.

The stewards fined Ferrari $100,000 for the move although the race result still stands. The stewards have also referred the issue to the World Motor Sport Council which may take further action against Ferrari.

This is the second time Alonso has picked up a victory due to the blatant altering of the race by a team mate. While not as dangerous as Nelson Piquet Jr’s deliberate crash in Singapore, Massa’s move was equally unsporting and like Singapore, Alonso doesn’t seem to treat his win as anything less than fully deserved.

There has been a lot of debate about whether team orders should or shouldn’t be allowed but the fact remains that there is a specific rule forbidding them and Ferrari willfully broke that rule.

As to the question of whether team orders should be allowed, I think it is clear that the fans don’t want them – no matter how much the teams may.

There is an inherent conflict of interest in a Formula One team. Both drivers are hired by the team to drive for the team but when it comes down to it, each driver is driving for themselves. There can be only one champion and every driver wants it to be him. And while Ferrari have legions of supporters devoted to the Scuderia I don’t think the fans want to see race results manipulated even if it is for the good of the team.

What made Sunday’s result even worse was that it was the first anniversary of Massa’s terrible accident at Hungary. A win for the Brazillian would have been a fitting and well-liked result. Instead Ferrari showed clear Alsonso favouritism and did nothing for the Spaniard’s popularity.

All the talk of Alonso being faster than Massa is specious. A similar point was made about Webber and Kovalainen at Valencia but the reality is that Formula One is not just about who has the fastest car. It is also about who is the best driver and it can be just as exciting to see a skilled driver holding off a faster car as it is to see overtaking. If it was only about speed then why bother racing at all? Why not just have each car set a lap time on its own and then rank them accordingly?

I think team orders are wrong but it is not the use of them in this case that I find as distasteful as the obvious lying by Ferrari after the event.

Categories: 2010 Season Tags: ,

Kovalainen gives Webber’s Red Bull wings

June 28th, 2010 No comments

The European Grand Prix produced the most entertaining race yet seen on the relatively new circuit as Sebastian Vettel drove practically unchallenged to his second victory of the season.

On a track where we have come to expect a procession, Sunday’s race provided plenty of dramatic moments. None more so than when Mark Webber’s Red Bull was launched into the air after ploughing into the back of Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus.

It is testament to the safety of modern Formula One that Webber (and Kovalainen) were able to walk away unhurt from such a massive shunt but after the incident many seemed to hold Heikki responsible; they felt he should have moved over to let Mark through.

Webber later wrote on his website:

I understand as well as anyone that F1 isn’t a charity event; you have to fight for every position – but not when you’re five seconds off the pace and you have one of the quickest cars in the pack behind you.  I mean, how long was Heikki going to stay ahead of me? Another 15 seconds? He must be asking himself whether it was worth it.

Webber’s boss, Christian Horner, also held Mark completely blameless, as did David Coulthard. However, I agree with Eddie Jordan and Lotus technical chief Mike Gascoyne. The only time a car should move over and allow another car to pass is when they are being lapped. It doesn’t matter if a car is 5 or 10 seconds slower, it is up to the attacking driver to pass safely.

Kovalainen was not being lapped, and while there are rules about how you can defend your position there are no rules saying you should pull over whenever a faster car is behind you. It seems like Webber was just caught by surprise at how early the Lotus had to brake for the corner.

As Gascoyne said:

Should a Force India be letting a McLaren past simple because its faster? Where do you draw the line? It is a motor race, isn’t it?

Categories: 2010 Season Tags: ,

Damon Hill has his revenge on Schumacher

May 16th, 2010 No comments

In a race that saw the safety car deployed four times it was the final lap that provided some unexpected controversy.

Mark Webber carried over his winning form from Barcelona to score his second victory of the season over team mate Sebastian Vettel. His perfect qualifying lap was matched by a perfect race and he led from lights to flag.

Robert Kubica had threatened all weekend but he had a poor start from the dusty side of the track and was forced settle for third behind the charging Red Bulls.

Nevertheless, this is a good result for Kubica and the French team. Renault have steadily improved this season and the way Kubica wrestled the black and yellow R30 around Monaco’s twisty streets proved that with the right equipment he is the equal of any on the grid.

After crashing in qualifying Alonso carved his way from starting in the pit lane up to sixth place but when Jarno Trulli parked his Lotus on Karun Chandhok’s head at La Rascasse the safety car was deployed in the dying laps of the race.

As the safety car pulled into the pits on the final lap Michael Schumacher took the opportunity to slip past a slightly sideways Alonso into the final corner and claim 6th. The stewards ruled this was in breach of article 40.13 of the sporting regulations:

If the race ends while the safety car is deployed it will enter the pit lane at the end of the last lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.

Schumacher was penalised 20 seconds which dropped him back to 12th.

Mercedes are appealing the decision. Reading the rules, I guess it could be open to interpretation but I thought it was a typically Schumacheresque piece of opportunism.

You have to smile at the irony, too. In 2006 Schumacher parked his Ferrari at Rascasse in an attempt to hold onto his pole position. The stewards didn’t buy his story then and he had to start the race from the back of the grid.

But that’s not the only interesting little bit of trivia. This year an experienced driver is assigned to the stewards at each race, a scheme that has so far seen much improved decisions. Who happens to have that role at this year’s Monaco Grand Prix? None other than Michael Schumacher’s old rival, Damon Hill.

2010 Monaco Grand Prix Race Results

Pos Driver Team Grid Time Points
1 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1 1:50:13.355 25
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 3 +00:00.448 18
3 Robert Kubica Renault 2 +00:01.675 15
4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 4 +00:02.666 12
5 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 5 +00:04.363 10
6 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 24 +00:06.341 8
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 6 +00:06.651 6
8 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 12 +00:06.970 4
9 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 10 +00:07.305 2
10 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 13 +00:08.199 1
11 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 17 +00:09.135
12 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 7 +00:25.712
13 Vitaly Petrov Renault 14 retired, 73 laps
14 Karun Chandhok Hispania-Cosworth 23 crash, 70 laps
15 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 19 crash, 70 laps
16 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 18 retired, 58 laps
17 Bruno Senna Hispania-Cosworth 22 retired, 58 laps
18 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 9 crash, 30 laps
19 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 16 retired, 26 laps
20 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 21 retired, 25 laps
21 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 20 retired, 22 laps
22 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari 15 retired, 21 laps
23 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 8 retired, 2 laps
24 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 11 crash, 1 laps

Image: Red Bull

Categories: 2010 Season Tags: ,
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