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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: , ,

Prediction game: Round 10 results

July 27th, 2009 No comments

Jenson Button, Hungary, 2009The order hasn’t changed at the top of the prediction game standings with Sergio and Andrew both scoring 6 points in the last round.

Quite a few people recognised the improvement in the McLarens but only Kathryn and myself predicted a victory by Hamilton.

The Ferraris didn’t feature in anyone’s predictions, but even with only one Red Car in the race the Scuderia still came away from Hungary with 8 points.  That puts Ferrari in third place in the Constructors’ Championship, just 1.5 points ahead of Toyota who didn’t have such a bad weekend with both drivers finishing in the points.

Jenson Button is getting worried:

It is nice leading the championship, but it won’t be the case in the next three or four races if we have the performances like we have had in the last few.

Image: Brawn GP

Categories: Prediction Game Tags: ,

McLaren back on top

July 26th, 2009 No comments

Lewis Hamilton, Hungary, 2009The  Hungarian Grand Prix has been called Monaco without the glamour and, like Monaco, the twisty Hungaroring circuit has something of a reputation for processional races but on a weekend that had already seen a dramatic qualifying session the race proved anything but processional.

At the German Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton showed a hint of the performance improvements the McLaren engineers had made to his MP4-24 but his collision with Mark Webber ended any hopes for a podium Hamilton might have had.  Today there was nothing stopping him.

From fourth on the grid Hamilton used his KERS to charge past Kimi Raikkonen into the first corner and briefly take second from Mark Webber before ceding it again in the second corner.  A few laps later Hamilton had passed Webber and was hunting down a very lightly fueled Fernando Alonso.  When Alonso made his first stop, Hamilton had him.

After Alonso’s stop it soon became apparent that his Renault’s right front wheel wasn’t properly attached and a few corners into his out lap the wheel became completely detached and bounced off the track and into the Armco.

After Saturday’s incident in qualifying that put Felipe Massa in hospital, the stewards were obviously very sensitive about bits coming off cars and subsequently suspended Renault from the European Grand Prix at Valencia in four weeks time.  The stewards statement said:

[Renault] knowingly released car no. 7 from the pit stop position without one of the retaining devices for the wheel-nuts being securely in position, this being an indication that the wheel itself may not have been properly secured.

Renault have filed notice to appeal this decision.

It was the first win of the season for McLaren and Hamilton’s first victory since the Chinese Grand Prix in October last year.  Hamilton said:

It’s an incredible feeling to be back on the top spot after what feels like such a long time and such a struggle. This was one of my best races – I never gave up and, more importantly, neither did anyone in this team. I’m so proud of all the guys. We didn’t expect to win today – we didn’t think we quite had the overall pace – but the car was just perfect to drive, it felt fantastic for the entire race.

It was also the first victory for a KERS powered car.

With Mark Webber finishing third behind Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button finishing seventh, Button’s lead in the Championship has narrowed to 18.5 points and Red Bull have closed the Constructors’ gap to just 15.5 points.

2009 Hungarian Grand Prix Race Results

Pos Driver Team Grid Time Points
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 4 1:38:23 10
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 7 1:38:34 8
3 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 3 1:38:39 6
4 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 5 1:38:49 5
5 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 6 1:38:57 4
6 Timo Glock Toyota 13 1:38:58 3
7 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 8 1:39:18 2
8 Jarno Trulli Toyota 11 1:39:31 1
9 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 9 1:39:31 0
10 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 12 1:39:32 0
11 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 15 1:39:33 0
12 Nelson Piquet Jr Renault 14 1:39:34 0
13 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 18 1:39:37 0
14 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 16 lapped 0
15 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 19 lapped 0
16 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 10 lapped 0
RET Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 2 retired, 29 laps 0
RET Fernando Alonso Renault 1 retired, 15 laps 0
RET Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 17 retired, 1 laps 0

Image: McLaren

Categories: 2009 Season Tags: , , , ,

Hungary: Fuel adjusted qualifying times

July 25th, 2009 No comments

Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso, Hungary, 2009The FIA now publishes the weights of each car after qualifying on Saturday.  Those cars that make it through to the final qualifying session must use the fuel they qualified with while the rest of the field may refuel before the race.

Below is a graph showing the actual top ten qualifying times as well as those times adjusted for the weight of fuel each car is carrying.  The graph assumes a standard lap time cost of 0.3 seconds per 10kg of fuel.

From these weights we can see that Alonso’s time was only possible because he was running on fumes.  He has the lightest car on the grid.

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber can take comfort from the fact that they set the fastest fuel adjusted times and Nico Rosberg is also quicker than his time would suggest.

Jenson Button is carrying the most fuel of any of the top ten but even allowing for this he just wasn’t as fast as the Red Bulls or even the McLarens.

His Championship is looking less and less certain.

2009 Hungarian GP Q3 (weight-adjusted)

2009 Hungarian Grand Prix car weights

Image: Getty

Categories: 2009 Season Tags: , ,

Alonso grabs first pole since 2007

July 25th, 2009 No comments

Fernando Alonso, Hungary, 2009In an eventful qualifying session for Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso secured his first pole position since the 2007 Italian Grand Prix.

All the timing screens went blank right at the end of the third session so for a while no-one knew what position they were in.  This led to the bizarre situation of Fernando Alonso asking each of the drivers who had pulled into parc ferme what their lap time was.

It soon became apparent that Alonso had clinched pole position by less than four hundredths of a second from Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.  Mark Webber will line up alongside a resurgent Lewis Hamilton on the second row with Nico Rosberg and Heikki Kovalainen on row three.

Despite being on pole, Alonso is not sounding too confident:

We will try (to win) but being honest and realistic, our target is to get some good points. After the last four races where we only scored points in the Nurburgring we need some points for the constructors’, and we know if we start very heavy we go around 8th/9th position.

So it could be that he is running light; we will know more when the car weights are published.

The biggest threat to Alonso and the two Red Bull cars are the KERS equipped McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen who have looked strong all weekend.  Vettel may be starting on the front row but he knows who is just behind him:

For sure the biggest challenge is the threat from cars behind with KERS. The KERS cars are somewhere there, it is a question of where they will pass, left or right, down into Turn One. We will see tomorrow.

The warmer temperatures in Hungary did little to help the Brawn GP cars with Jenson Button qualifying in eighth and Rubens Barrichello failing to make it through to Q3.

The session was stopped briefly after a piece of suspension flew off Rubens Barrichello’s car and struck Felipe Massa in the head causing him to go straight on into the tyre wall at turn four.  Massa escaped serious injury but the 175 mph impact caused the G-warning indicator to light up on his Ferrari and he was airlifted to a nearby hospital as a precautionary measure.

This comes just a week after an accident in the Formula Two race at Brands Hatch claimed the life of Henry Surtees, the son of former World Champion John Surtees, when he was hit in the head by a wheel that had come off another competitor’s car.

2009 Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix Qualifying Results

Pos Driver Team Time
1 Fernando Alonso Renault 1:21.569
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:21.607
3 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:21.741
4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.839
5 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:21.890
6 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:22.095
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:22.468
8 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 1:22.511
9 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:22.835
10 Felipe Massa Ferrari No time
11 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:21.002
12 Jarno Trulli Toyota 1:21.082
13 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 1:21.222
14 Timo Glock Toyota 1:21.242
15 Nelson Piquet Jr Renault 1:21.389
16 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:21.738
17 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 1:21.807
18 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:21.868
19 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1:21.901
20 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:22.359

Update: Felipe Massa will not race on Sunday so all drivers from P11 move up a place.

Image: Renault

Categories: 2009 Season Tags: , ,
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