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Formula One is alive and well

March 28th, 2010 2 comments

The reports of Formula One’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

I said after the Bahrain Grand Prix that judging the entire Formula One season after one race was premature and the thrilling Australian Grand Prix just proves that Formula One is far from dull.

The race was filled with action throughout and one could argue that it was the new rules that added to the excitement. Without having to stop for fuel, drivers had to decide whether to come into the pits for fresh tyres and risk losing places or stay out on worn tyres and hope to maintain their position.

An early gamble on switching to slicks and a smooth driving style meant that Jenson Button only had to stop once and was able to dominate the race from an early stage.

Further back in the field there was all kinds of action. Lewis Hamilton drove spectacularly well and if it wasn’t for a questionable decision to stop for fresh tyres and Mark Webber running into the back of him on lap 56 there would almost certainly have been two McLaren drivers on the podium.

Schumacher had another disappointing race spending most of it fighting with the Toro Rosso of Alguersuari. At one point he was even passed by the newcomer Lotus and Virgin cars.

Lewis’s charging drive also provided a classic bit of Brundle commentary:

It was an invitation to pass and Hamilton RSVP’d immediately.

Kubica’s second place finish is encouraging for both Renault and the talented Pole and Felipe Massa’s refusal to yield to his team mate shows that after only two races there is no number one driver at Ferrari.

The Australian Grand Prix proves that Formula One is still as exciting as ever, perhaps even more so. Let’s hope the excitement continues in Kuala Lumpur next week.

2010 Australian Grand Prix Race Results

Pos Driver Team Grid Time Points
1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 4 1:33:36.531 25
2 Robert Kubica Renault 9 +00:12.034 18
3 Felipe Massa Ferrari 5 +00:14.488 15
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 3 +00:16.304 12
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 6 +00:16.683 10
6 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 11 +00:29.989 8
7 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 13 +00:59.847 6
8 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 8 +01:00.536 4
9 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 2 +01:07.319 2
10 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 7 +01:09.391 1
11 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 17 +01:11.301 0
12 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Cosworth 14 +01:14.084 0
13 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 19 lapped 0
14 Karun Chandhok Hispania-Cosworth 24 lapped 0
15 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 21 retired, 41 laps 0
16 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 22 retired, 26 laps 0
17 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1 retired, 25 laps 0
18 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 10 retired, 9 laps 0
19 Vitaly Petrov Renault 18 retired, 9 laps 0
20 Bruno Senna Hispania-Cosworth 23 retired, 4 laps 0
21 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 12 crash, 1 laps 0
22 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 15 crash, 1 laps 0
23 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Cosworth 16 crash, 1 laps 0
24 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 20 retired, 0 laps 0

Image: Renault F1

Categories: 2010 Season Tags: ,

McLaren given suspended sentence

April 29th, 2009 No comments

Lewis Hamilton, Australia, 2009The World Motor Sport Council has handed down a suspended sentence on McLaren in a meeting held in Paris on Wednesday.

The team were charged with bringing the sport into disrepute by not being truthful with the stewards in Australia and Malaysia, telling them that Lewis Hamilton had not been instructed to slow down to let Jarno Trulli pass him in the closing stages of the Australian Grand Prix.  In the days that followed, McLaren sacked sporting director Dave Ryan, Lewis gave a full public apology and Ron Dennis stepped back completely from all operations of the F1 team, although he denied his move was linked to the affair.

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh attended Wednesday’s hearing alone and admitted the team’s guilt in all charges.  Here is the statement issued by the WMSC:

At an extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council held in Paris on 29 April 2009, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes admitted five charges of breaching article 151c of the International Sporting Code relating to events at the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix.

The following decision was taken:

“Having regard to the open and honest way in which McLaren Team Principal, Mr Martin Whitmarsh, addressed the WMSC and the change in culture which he made clear has taken place in his organisation, the WMSC decided to suspend the application of the penalty it deems appropriate.

“That penalty is a suspension of the team from three races of the FIA Formula One World Championship. This will only be applied if further facts emerge regarding the case or if, in the next 12 months, there is a further breach by the team of article 151c of the International Sporting Code.”

The full reasons for this decision will be issued shortly.

The penalty is similar to that handed down to Jenson Button’s BAR-Honda team in 2005 after they raced with an underweight car in the San Marino Grand Prix.  In that case, although the team was not proved to have definitely committed fraud, BAR was given a two race ban and a suspended sixth-month expulsion.  The FIA had originally wanted to throw them out of the Championship for the rest of the season.

In giving a similar sentence to McLaren the FIA have shown a remarkable (and uncharacteristic) consistency in their decisions.  Now McLaren and the sport as a whole can move on with what has so far been an exciting start to the season.

It was Whitmarsh’s 51st birthday today.  I suppose this result was the best present he could hope for from the FIA.

Image: McLaren

Categories: News Tags: , ,

Prediction game: Points update

April 2nd, 2009 No comments

Robert Kubica, Australia, 2009After all the controversy of the recent days it seems we finally have a definitive result for the Australian Grand Prix.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) it means some people’s points have changed from the original result.  This was good news for Sergio and Correa but bad news for Nathan and Eygló.

All the points have now been updated on the Prediction Game Page and we are ready for round two!  With the threat of tropical monsoons, Malaysia looks like it’s going to be just as unpredictable as Australia.

Remember, you can add (or even update) your predictions until qualifying starts on Saturday (that’s 14:00 local time) so get ’em in and good luck!

If you want to keep up to date with the blog you can subscribe to the RSS feed or even get updates sent to you by email.

Oh, and I still haven’t figured out what the prize should be.  Any suggestions?

Categories: Prediction Game Tags: ,

Australian GP Stewards Decision – The Evidence

April 2nd, 2009 No comments

Lewis HamiltonThe FIA have released a summary of key considerations in their decision to disqualify Lewis Hamilton from Sunday’s Australian Formula One Grand Prix.  The press release also includes recordings of the radio transmissions between Lewis Hamilton and the McLaren team in the closing stages of the 2009 Australian Grand Prix.

There has been a lot of confusion about what exactly happened on Sunday, but here is the rough order of events.

  1. During the final safety car period Jarno Trulli was in 3rd and Lewis Hamilton was in 4th.
  2. Jarno Trulli ran off the track (probably because of cold tyres) and so Hamilton had no choice but to pass him.  This is allowed under the rules.
  3. McLaren weren’t sure if Lewis should have made the pass under the safety car and so they asked him to let Trulli take 3rd position back.
  4. Hamilton seemed to think the pass was legal but slowed to let Trulli through anyway.
  5. Trulli sees Hamilton slow down and thinks he has a problem so he passes the McLaren.  This is allowed under the rules.
  6. The race ends with Trulli in 3rd and Hamilton in 4th.
  7. During a hearing after the race Lewis Hamilton and his team manager David Ryan are asked whether McLaren told Hamilton to let Trulli through.  They denied this was the case.
  8. Trulli is handed a 25 second penalty for passing under the safety car and so Hamilton is awarded 3rd place.

There were two reasons a second hearing was held in Malaysia.  Firstly, after the Australian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton told reporters that McLaren had in fact told him to let Trulli through and secondly, it seems the stewards did not listen to any of the radio transmissions before making their decision to penalise Trulli.

Here is the recording of the radio transmission between Lewis Hamilton and the McLaren team:

Audio MP3

Here  is the recording of the radio transmission between Jarno Trulli and the Toyota team:

Audio MP3

Here is the interview given by Lewis Hamilton to the Media immediately after the race:

Audio MP3

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh doesn’t think the team did anything wrong:

We, the team, made a mistake.  We did not provide a full account of a radio conversation which we believe was being listened to in any case, and we don’t believe was material to the decisions being made by the stewards. At that time, we did not know that Trulli was right off the circuit and Lewis was asked to give back the place to Trulli. That was a team view, having not seen it, and we thought it was the safest thing to do.

Hamilton did not agree but attempts to get an answer from Race Control failed and the the race ended under the Safety Car. McLaren assumed in the hearing that the stewards were aware of the radio exchanges that had taken place but it seems they were not.

The whole thing has been a huge fuckup and it is ridiculous it has taken the FIA so long to come to a definitive decision on the controversy.  Speaking to German broadcaster RTL, Former World Champion Niki Lauder called it “the biggest joke of all time”.

The stewards made a mistake in Australia and the statement that Hamilton “acted in a manner prejudicial to the conduct of the event by providing evidence deliberately misleading to the Stewards” just sounds like they are trying to weasel out of a complete failure of the sport’s adminstration.

Why couldn’t McLaren get an answer from race control?  Why didn’t the stewards listen to all pertinant evidence before making a decision?  And why has it taken so long for the matter to be decided?

A spokesman for the FIA has stated:

Given the seriousness of this matter, we cannot rule out further action at this stage.

Good grief!  What could the further action be?  Suspension from races or even the rest of the 2009 season?

Where is the stewards’ report?

March 31st, 2009 2 comments

Sebastian Vettel after crashing with Kubica, Australia 2009It just wouldn’t be Formula One without race stewards applying controversial penalties and last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix started the season in fine form.

Hanging over the whole weekend was the question of the legality of the Brawn, Williams and Toyota diffusers.  While Rubens Barrichello thinks his car would be quick even without the fancy diffuser and the race stewards declared it legal, Ferrari, Renault and Red Bull are taking their appeal to court on 14 April.  Williams made a point by lodging a counter-protest against Ferrari and Red Bull only to withdraw it “in the interests of the sport.”  I really hope the case is rejected but until then the results of the Australian Grand Prix and possibly Malaysia will be provisional.

The race itself was subject to some controversial decisions, too.  In the final laps, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel put his car where Robert Kubica’s BMW was and a promising race ended badly for them both.

Vettel was quick to offer his appologies to Kubica and team boss Mario Theissen and was duly handed a 10 place penalty for causing the accident.  But was it really his fault?  It looked like a racing incident to me.  Michael Schumacher seems to think so too, telling Germany’s Bild newspaper:

He (Vettel) was on the inside – he couldn’t make his car dissolve into thin air.

And Kubica himself isn’t too sure either:

It’s difficult to say who is at fault. I think he was a bit optimistic. If that was the last corner of the last lap it’s OK, but in the first race it’s important to score the points. It’s important you understand what position you are in.

Could it be that Vettel was penalised for being too honest?  If he had just kept his mouth shut and not been so apologetic perhaps the stewards would have let the incident pass.

Jarno Trulli was another disappointed driver.  Before the race even started, Toyota had been found guilty of having a flexible rear wing but after some hasty modifications they were allowed to start from the pits. After a great drive from Trulli we again had the situation where one of the drivers on the podium later has his trophy taken away by the stewards.  Ironically it was all caused by the Vettel – Kubica shenanigans.  Trulli’s Toyota slipped off the track under the safety car and Lewis Hamilton had no choice but to pass him.  According to the rules, overtaking under the safety car is permitted “if any car slows with an obvious problem”, like running off the track.

The problem seems to be that McLaren, understandably nervous about illegal passing manouvers after the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix where Hamilton was deemed to have passed Räikkönen illegally, thought they should hand third place back to Trulli so Lewis slowed and allowed him to pass.  Here is a video showing Trulli slipping off the track and Hamilton (legally) going past:

Unfortunately I haven’t found any video of Trulli taking the place back but Jarno clearly felt he had little choice:

I thought he had a problem so I overtook him as there was nothing else I could do.

The 25 second penalty handed down destroyed a great drive by Trulli and Toyota announced their intentions to appeal the decision:

There are circumstances surrounding the incident that we feel have not been taken into consideration. On Sunday, we announced our intention to appeal the ruling to the International Sporting Court of Appeals. We are currently undertaking procedures to formally appeal the ruling within 48 hours, collecting data to be used as proof of our position.

It’s all very confusing. Last year the stewards came in for some criticism over their decisions and according to an FIA meeting back in November of 2008, a number of new stewarding arrangements were to be put in place in 2009, in particular the following:

Following the race, a short written explanation of steward’s decisions will be published on the FIA website. This will supplement the formal steward’s decision which largely defines the breach of the rules.

The FIA have an awful lot of documentation on their website about lap times and scrutineering checks but the Stewards’ Report is conspicuously absent.

I do hope this information is posted soon as it is important to see how the race stewards arrived at their decisions. At least a Ferrari wasn’t involved so there are no conspiracy theories. Yet.

Photograph: Darren McNamara/AP

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