Fantastic Fernando!

March 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Fernando Alonso has won the Malaysian Grand Prix after a thrilling race in challenging, uncertain conditions. The Grand Prix had been stopped for 40 minutes after a deluge of rain, and provided drivers with immense difficulty upon the restart, with poor visibility and a still soaked circuit. 

Sergio Perez claimed a fabulous second place, and will be disappointed that he didn’t get a maiden victory after proving to be much faster than Alonso in the closing laps, before making a costly mistake. Lewis Hamilton was solid in third, whilst last week’s winner, Jenson Button, collided with an HRT and spent the rest of his race scrabbling around in the midfield.

Red Bull were once again short of the top contenders, with Vettel also colliding with an HRT and eventually finishing outside of the points whilst Webber came home fourth. 

There was another great showing by a resurgent Williams team, with Bruno Senna racing strongly to claim 6th. Pastor Maldonado was also destined for a points finish before an engine problem retired him. Mercedes drifted badly and were classified in the midfield, Michael Schumacher gaining a solitary point thanks to Maldonado and Vettel’s problems. 

A flash in the pan it may be, but Ferrari will be overjoyed with this result. After taking a hammering from the Italian media and being written off in all quarters after their comparably horrendous start to the season, they have gained themselves some much-needed favour and time. 

 

Thoughts on Malaysia

March 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Quick turnaround, this F1 business. No sooner do we swap predictions for a leafy Albert Park than we find ourselves in the jungle. Naturally, heat will play its part this weekend which’ll ensure that Pirelli’s rubber offerings will take a battering.

I really expect to see McLaren pull away over the next 3 days. Whilst predictions with conviction are always dangerous, all the signs point to the Silver Arrows being dominant. Last year, they closed up by almost a second to the Red Bull in qualifying, and had a car follow Vettel home in the form of last weekend’s race winner. They were also very clearly strong through the fastest corners on the Circuit de Catalunya during the winter tests.

Good tyre management aside, we were also held back from seeing the true race pace of the Woking-built machinery due to a fuel saving exercise in Melbourne. Whilst being a commendable drive, Vettel’s performance was also the result of a series of fortunate events; Webber’s poor start, Schumacher’s retirement, Grosjean’s retirement and the luck of the draw with the safety car. Red Bull are strong, without a doubt. But not capable of leading the field, I feel.

The real surprise should come in the form of Lotus. Last weekend they were hampered by a poor qualifying and a Venezuelan liability behind the wheel. They showed fantastic pace across all three tests (two, if you discount their chassis-busting problem of the second test) and good tyre life on their race simulations. Lotus have produced a really strong car this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them fight and potentially beat Red Bull for a podium.

As it were then; Mercedes should find themselves challenging for pole with their Super DRS and Sepang’s long straights, but the real action will come on Sunday when Grosjean and Raikkonen will mix it with the top four of last week.

Here’s to hoping…

McLaren hiding even more pace…

March 18, 2012 Leave a comment

It transpires that both McLaren’s were forced to save fuel from as early as Lap 8 during today’s Australian Grand Prix.  This would explain a message from Jenson Button’s engineer where the Frome-born driver was reassured that their engine was not turned up to its highest level, and he would therefore be in a strong position to defend from Sebastian Vettel.

This admission from Martin Whitmarsh will send groans throughout all at Milton Keynes, in the Red Bull factory, as despite this ‘slower’ pace set by the Silver Arrows, the fastest lap was set by Jenson Button towards the end of the race when fuel levels would have been critical. Lewis Hamilton was also comfortable in racing the Red Bulls.

As we head to Malaysia for next weekend’s Grand Prix, this nugget of information may well have just given us a good indicator of the result, weather and reliability withstanding. Bluffing or even more competitive than we thought?

Button cruises to opening victory in Australia

March 18, 2012 Leave a comment

As the sun set on a glorious Melbourne afternoon, Jenson Button joined his contingent in celebrating a fantastic victory at the season opening Australian Grand Prix.

He made a better start than his pole-sitting team mate, Lewis Hamilton, and never looked back. Infact, Hamilton was unlucky as he emerged from his first stop behind the one-stopping Sergio Perez, which lost him a chunk of time. He was then leapfrogged by Sebastian Vettel when the world champion took advantage of a safety car to pit, whilst Hamilton had to obey the delta time behind the pace car and held off Webber to claim the last podium place.

Mercedes’ promise faded as Michael Schumacher retired with a gearbox problem after running a strong third. Nico Rosberg fared no better, running at a pace slower than the leaders and eventually limping home with a puncture after a last lap collision with Perez.

On a brighter note, Fernando Alonso once again hustled the much-criticised Ferrari to an excellent 5th place. He was hounded by Pastor Maldonado, who twice made contact with other cars, until the Venezuelan dropped it with a couple of laps to go and collided heavily with a concrete barrier. 

Dark horses Lotus will be relatively pleased, if a little disappointed at what could have been. Romain Grosjean was involved in an incident with the Williams of Maldonado which put him out of the race on the spot, whilst Kimi Raikkonen drove solidly and achieved a commendable 7th place. This, after starting 18th and then taking advantage of Rosberg and Perez’s coming together to overtake 4 cars in the last two corners.

Before jumping to conclusions, it would be worth waiting until a purpose built race circuit for a clearer picture of how the field is shaping up. McLaren have without a doubt closed the gap to Red Bull, and it seems as if the main protagonists from last year will provide us with a thrilling fight for both championships this year.

Onto Sepang for the Malaysian Grand Prix. 5 days and counting…

Australian GP Qualifying

March 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Lewis Hamilton scored a brilliant pole position today in Melbourne, edging out team mate Jenson Button. Romain Grosjean confirmed the promise that Lotus have threatened to show by scooping up 3rd on the grid, ahead of a resurgent Michael Schumacher and the two Red Bulls, who appear to be suffering with poor traction at low speed.

With strategies promising to be more mixed up this season, calling the race result is still almost impossible. One thing to look out for over the next few races, however, is this sparkly new Mercedes. Both drivers admitted to mistakes on their fastest runs, and they’re easily fastest through the speed traps.

With Malaysia and China both full of long straights, could we see a clear frontrunner (at least in qualifying) in the form of  the German manufacturer? What price a long-awaited pole/podium for Michael Schumacher in a week’s time…

Here we go!

March 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Well, it’s less than 24 hours until the first practice session of 2012 Formula One season gets underway. Thursday saw steady rainfall for most of the day, which is expected to continue on Friday before clearing away, leaving a dry and sunny Sunday. 

With the Albert Park circuit providing a low-grip surface, it really appears to be a lottery as to who will be where come  practice, qualifying and the race. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that during the Barcelona tests where it was cool and sunny (ergo, a low-grip track surface), both Lotus and Sauber posted very quick times. Not a 100% indicator of form, naturally. But keep an eye on the midfield triumvirate of the aforementioned and a resurgent Mercedes. I predict a strong showing. 

Mercedes hiding something?

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Reports in German media today suggest that the Mercedes W03, piloted by Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, will infact prove to be the class of the field come Sunday. A pretty bold statement, considering the murky picture that testing threw up.

Not so for the likes of Bild, who suggest that upon analysis of long-run testing times, the Silver Arrows were faster than Red Bull and were followed by Sauber. This, despite complaints that the car was heavy on its tyres (perhaps a sign of an exhaust system that isn’t entirely optimised yet). The Mercedes certainly has improved, as evidenced by consistent, if not spectacular pace, as the German hacks have reported.

As usual, we won’t find out until Q3 on Saturday afternoon Down Under. That said, don’t be shocked to see a few minor surprises…

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