Monthly Archives: April 2012
MY SPECIAL weekly series of Remembering Imola starts with a tribute to the career of Roland Ratzenberger: The forgotten soul of that ghastly weekend. Whilst everyone understandably remembers the accident of Ayrton Senna and his legacy on the sport, it is difficult not to forget the impact Ratzenberger’s death had a day earlier – the first death in a Formula One racing car since Elio de Angelis perished in a testing accident at Paul Ricard, France in 1986.
Roland Ratzenberger was born in Salzburg, Austria on July 4, 1960. Although the official records show this was his date of birth, Roland claimed that he was born in 1962 – in an attempt to help further his opportunities into motorsport. From an early age his dream was to be successful in Formula One. He began racing in 1983 in the German Formula Ford series and finished second in the 1985 Formula Ford festival at Brands Hatch. A year later, his presence on the car racing scene first came to serious attention as he returned to Brands Hatch to win the prestigious festival. It was clear that although he never looked like one of those racing drivers who would take your breath away, Ratzenberger had some quality and it is no accident for anyone to win these kinds of junior events.
Two campaigns in the British Formula 3 Championship followed but they bought little reward. The Austrian’s career had suddenly got bogged down. He spent time racing for BMW in the World Touring Car Championship and the British Touring Car Championship – but as the 90s dawned, Roland Ratzenberger’s dream of reaching his ultimate goal – Formula One, were all but over.
Ratzenberger was a very popular guy in any championship he contested and was friendly with most drivers, developing close friendships with JJ Lehto and Heinz-Harald Frentzen in his junior days. Ratzenberger seemed to have settled on a successful career in sportscar racing. He had five cracks at the famous Le Mans 24 Hours race, finishing fifth for Toyota in 1993 alongside Naoki Nagasaka and Mauro Martini. Toyota had signed him for the 1994 assault on the event too. Sadly he would never make that destination and the car he was meant to take part in finished second in the hands of Martini, the late Jeff Krosnoff and Eddie Irvine. Ratzenberger’s name was left on the car as a tribute. He also worked out a successful career on the Japanese scene. He competed in touring car events and in F3000, racing against the likes of Irvine and former Indy 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve. Again Roland’s results were mixed, but that also was down to some of the equipment he had rather than lack of driver skill. A victory in the Suzuka round of the F3000 series in 1992 certainly caught the eye of some on the European circuit, especially as he still insisted that Austrian journalists should cover events that didn’t appeal to them.
In 1994, Ratzenberger signed up with Nick Wirth’s fledgling new Simtek team. The inital deal was to run for five races, with a potential extension depending on performance and sponsorship. This was despite the team’s link-up with music channel MTV. He would join the Australian David Brabham, who had one season of F1 experience and was son of three-time world champion in the 50s and 60s, Sir Jack Brabham. Things didn’t get off to a great start for Roland, as perhaps struggling through nerves and an old-spec Ford engine; he failed to qualify for the season opener in Brazil. Three weeks later, he went to the TI Aida circuit in Japan which would stage the Pacific Grand Prix. Ratzenberger was the only driver to have raced on the circuit before, a real help with his Formula Nippon experience. Although he qualified slowest, he made it onto the grid and also finished the race, albeit in 11th place and five laps adrift of the race winner Michael Schumacher.
At Imola he looked set to qualify again, especially as Rubens Barrichello was out of the event after his shocking crash on Friday and Paul Belmondo’s lack of capability in performance for fellow newcomers Pacific Ilmor. It even actually looked like he might be edging closer to his team-mate Brabham on genuine pace. On Saturday 30 April 1994, Roland Ratzenberger went off the road at the Acque Minerali chicane. Rather than choose the safer option of pitting to get the front wing checked, Ratzenberger went immediately for another qualifying attempt. As he flew through the flat-out Tamburello kink, the aerodynamic forces weakened the front wing and it broke on the approach to the flat-out Villeneuve curve. With no brakes and no front downforce, he had no chance. Ratzenberger ploughed into the concrete wall flat-out at nearly 200mph. The wreck of his Simtek Ford came to a halt in the middle of the Tosa hairpin and from the lack of flailing movement in the cockpit; Ratzenberger was clearly in big trouble. The Italian marshals crowded around his car instantly, which highlighted the general concern, especially when the wreckage was surveyed. Roland was taken to the Maggiore Hospital in Bologna, but was pronounced deal on arrival at the hospital. His death was the first demise at a Grand Prix meeting for twelve years; Riccardo Paletti the last man to die in Canada in 1982.
Formula One was sent into shock. Ratzenberger’s death bought about the reformation of the GDPA (Grand Prix Drivers Association). Brabham and the Simtek team bravely decided to continue with the remainder of the weekend and the season, running a ‘For Roland’ tribute on their airbox for the remaining races. For many it will be the death of Ayrton Senna that is remembered and rightly so, for his impact and genius on the sport. However Roland Ratzenberger is the forgotten man on F1’s nightmare weekend of all-time. He was full of determination, humour and desire to achieve his dream. At least he got the chance to make the grid and race before his tragic accident. His death was a grave loss to Formula One, Austria and of course, his loving family.
Eighteen years on, he will never be forgotten.
ROLAND RATZENBERGER (July 4 1960 – April 30 1994)
WELCOME to my fourth driver performance scoring chart of the 2012 Formula One season which covers how I thought every driver did in the 2012 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir:
Buoyant by his Shanghai weekend, Nico Rosberg had a feisty weekend in Bahrain. He looked very strong in Friday practice before a tiny error on his Q3 lap left him back in fifth. A poor start left him fighting it out for ninth on the first circuit and what followed was some robust and dangerous defensive driving against the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Got the most out of the Mercedes and fifth at the end might have been an even better result but fortunate to escape penalty for these manoeuvres. 6/10
Complacency from both Raikkonen and Lotus in qualifying left him high and dry and out in Q2. Starting from 11th, the Finn had more choice in tyres for raceday and his pace left him a contender to win. Only a missed gear that cost him an early position to Felipe Massa and some reluctance in attacking Sebastian Vettel when he had his chance meant he lost out to the world champion. He looked rueful on the podium but he shouldn’t be like that, second shows he means business for the remainder of the season. 9/10
Some were beginning to doubt the world champion? Those who did, flush your heads down a toilet seat! Red Bull seemed to understand their new chassis in Bahrain and Sebastian was back to his flawless best. Strong on Friday, he produced a metronomic pole position lap to deny Lewis Hamilton and then produced a great first lap to put himself out of danger from the DRS zone early on. When Raikkonen reeled him in, brilliant defensive work kept Sebastian infront and then controlled the final stint to take a deserving and brilliant win, his first success since India last October. 10/10
McLaren had a very difficult weekend in Bahrain and Button looked off-colour throughout. Fourth on the grid, he bogged down at the start and lost places to both Fernando Alonso and Romain Grosjean. Had to battle with oversteer throughout but drove consistently and fifth place was a possibility. Unfortunately a puncture blew the chance of a run at Paul di Resta and then an exhaust problem forced him to park the car in the garage shortly before the end. 6/10
Hamilton had a luckless afternoon and wound up back in eighth position through little, if any fault of his own. He produced the maximum in qualifying to line up on the front row on a weekend where McLaren were not the fastest car for the first time this season. Had no chance against Grosjean and two blunders at stops involving the right rear wheel cost him time. Lucky to stay in the race following Rosberg’s dangerous chop and did well to keep his head, where last year’s version probably won’t have. Fifth was likely had it not been for the pitstop problems. 7/10
Another typical Alonso charging start had him upto fifth from ninth on the grid. It would be the highlight of his afternoon. The F2012 is lacking straightline speed and grip into the corners, leaving him a sitting target against the likes of Raikkonen and Button. Had a close call with Nico Rosberg and his anger at this exchange was evident from both reaction on the team radio and through Twitter. Another solid weekend and he can’t complain being just ten points behind the championship leader after four events, considering the car he has underneath him. 8/10
Four races in and four fourth places in a row, Mark Webber is turning into Mr. Consistency in 2012. He was a couple of tenths shy of Vettel’s pace in qualifying and some issues with aerodynamic floor meant his pace in the race was limited. Did well to finish as high as he did, considering the damage he had. 7/10
Michael Schumacher had a lot of work to do from the back of the grid after a qualifying nightmare. The conserative approach from Mercedes saw him knocked out in Q1. His race was bogged down in traffic and tenth place wasn’t a bad result in the circumstances. No contact too will have helped his reputation in battle, although his post-race comments about Pirelli were uncalled for. A frustrating weekend. 6/10
The potential of the Williams was restricted in Bahrain, as they fell away from Lotus and Sauber and into the clutches of Force India, who they had comprehensively outpaced in the first three events of the season. Senna’s qualifying left him in 15th but unlike Malaysia and China, his race performance wasn’t spectacular. Running near the back of the midfield when an issue with his brake forced a late DNF. 5/10
Romain Grosjean finally put it altogether in Bahrain and charged his way to a stunning podium finish, the first for a French driver since Jean Alesi back in 1998. Qualified seventh and had a cracking start to move upto fourth. Passed Webber and Hamilton easily using DRS and ran a comfortable second to a distancing Vettel. Asked by the team to let Raikkonen through, perhaps a lap later than what is should have been but then ran untroubled to record his maiden podium effort. It won’t be the last either in 2012 if this race is anything to go by. 9/10
The Sauber’s handling looked dodgy all weekend but Perez achieved more than expected to make Q3 again and lined up in eigth. Fought well against a losing cause but just lost out to Schumacher towards the end in the fight for the final point. Since his Malaysia heroics, it has a been a tough baptism of returning to reality of midfield scraps for Perez. 6/10
Reliability problems destroyed Pastor Maldonado’s weekend in Bahrain and he chalked up his third retirement from four races. Luck doesn’t seem to be shining on the Veneuzuelan so far in 2012. A five place grid penalty for changing his gearbox left him languishing in 21st on the grid. This followed a KERS problem that forced him not to run in Q2. Ran with the likes of Paul di Resta and Sergio Perez until a puncture forced a spectacular spin out of turn three, wrecked his suspension and ended his hopes of minor points. 6/10
Narrowly missed out on Q3 and spent his race as part of a bunched up midfield involving his team-mate, Maldonado and Hulkenberg amongst others. Tried an ambitious two stopper but the Sauber was heavier on its tyres than Force India were and this is largely why Kobayashi ended 13th, seven places shy of di Resta’s similar strategy attempt. 6/10
A much better and consistent job from Felipe Massa all weekend and his first points of 2012 will be a massive boost to his shattered confidence. Qualifying didn’t go his way, with traffic on his best lap restricting him to 14th but matched Alonso’s race pace and set a quicker race lap overall. A magnificent start to reach as high as seventh set the tone for a strong afternoon, despite having to drop back towards the end due to fuel consumption issues. A long way to go but a step in the right direction. 7/10
PAUL DI RESTA
Absolutely stunning effort from the Scot who produced a remarkable effort to make Q3. He ran out of soft tyres and settled for tenth on the grid. Tried a risky two stop strategy which at times didn’t look like it was going to work. His smooth driving style helped him nurse the tyres when at their most critical and did well to keep Alonso and Hamilton back towards the finish to record a fine sixth place, equalling his best ever career result. 9/10
Matched Paul di Resta throughout practice and qualifying but couldn’t quite hook it together when it mattered in the battle to make Q3. 13th place became 20th when a dragging clutch cost him time at the start. Force India’s strong Sunday race pace helped him back to 12th but its the third time in four races where he has lost a bundle of time and positions. Another case of losing the race on the first lap in an attempt to make positions up. 7/10
Vergne’s lack of qualifying pace must surely be a worry to the Toro Rosso team as he was eliminated again in Q1 and finished behind Kovalainen too. Missing the weighbridge just added to the gloom but incredibly, the Frenchman avoided penalty for this misdemeanour. Settled down in the race to finish ahead of Ricciardo in 14th place, racing Kobayashi in the closing stages. Yet to string together a polished weekend so far in his short career. 6/10
If Vettel wasn’t the star of qualifying on Saturday afternoon, Daniel Ricciardo certainly was. The second Australian in the field ended up a magnificient sixth on the grid, easily his best ever and a country mile ahead of team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne. His start was pathetic and left him consigned into the midfield. A touch with Heikki Kovalainen left him with front wing damage for the first stint and was beaten by Vergne in the race. A dismal Sunday took the gloss off a special Saturday. 7/10
Heikki Kovalainen achieved the maximum and even more in qualifying and to knock Michael Schumacher out was one of the best achievement the Caterham team have achieved since making their debut here in 2010. Sadly a first lap collision with Daniel Ricciardo left him with a puncture, a lengthy stop to replace it and a lost cause in the race. Finished ten seconds behind his team-mate but qualifying effort was one of the best of the season so far. 8/10
Still struggling to match Heikki Kovalainen in qualifying and the Russian couldn’t seem to decide what tyre was his preferred option until raceday. Raced well again and kept the Toro Rosso cars honest. It won’t be long before he beats them on merit soon if he keeps up his satisfying Sunday form up. 6/10
Timo had one of those weekends where he simply didn’t look very interested. Trounced by rookie team-mate Pic all weekend, something both Lucas di Grassi and Jerome d’Ambrosio did in the past on an occasional basis. Brake problems ruined his race but at least did beat both the Hispania cars to the finish. 4/10
For the first time in his career, Charles Pic outqualified Timo Glock, although de la Rosa qualifying just 0.2secs behind suggested either a mega effort from the Spaniard or an unseen error on the Frenchman’s best lap. Ran infront of Glock in the race until engine failure on lap 24 ended his afternoon prematurely. 7/10
PEDRO DE LA ROSA
To start 20th in an HRT chassis for a race is some achievement. Penalties to Michael Schumacher and Pastor Maldonado did help with this but Pedro de la Rosa beat Timo Glock in qualifying on merit and ran solidly in the race, lapping just slightly slower than the Marussia team. De La Rosa is getting the most out of his time with the Spanish team so far this season. 8/10
Half a second behind Pedro de la Rosa in qualifying, Karthikeyan’s aim is just to beat the 107 per cent cut-off on a Saturday afternoon. Made the decision to go with a radical strategy and a four stopper left him just shy of his team-mate at the chequered flag. More mileage for the HRT team and his strongest race since the early Jordan days in 2005. 7/10
Total scores after 4 events: Fernando Alonso 33, Lewis Hamilton 32, Sebastian Vettel 32, Jenson Button 31, Romain Grosjean 31, Mark Webber 30, Kimi Raikkonen 30, Sergio Perez 28, Pastor Maldonado 28, Nico Rosberg 28, Paul di Resta 28, Michael Schumacher 27, Bruno Senna 26, Vitaly Petrov 25, Daniel Ricciardo 25, Kamui Kobayashi 24, Charles Pic 24, Heikki Kovalainen 24, Timo Glock 23, Nico Hulkenberg 23, Jean-Eric Vergne 22, Felipe Massa 19, Pedro de la Rosa 18, Narain Karthikeyan 16
IN A NEW regular series, I will be profiling the careers of those drivers who won races and championships and those who either didn’t get the luck, or just failed at the top level of motorsport. All drivers featured will have competed between the years 1991-2011.
Next to be profiled is one of the first Spaniards to reach the Grand Prix grid before the Fernando Alonso era, Marc Gene.
NAME: Marc Gene
TEAMS: Minardi (1999-2000), Williams (2003-2004)
GP STARTS: 36
BEST FINISH: 5th (2003 Italian GP)
IT SEEMS odd to think of a time when Spain really had no interest in Formula One. Before Fernando Alonso burst onto the scene, motorbikes dominanted the landscape of the country. The race in Barcelona was sparesly populated and that didn’t really change when Marc Gene entered the sport. Gene was a fighter and has proven to be successful in other formulas, notably in sportscars. Like so many others before and after him though, Formula One wasn’t a great success.
Gene came into F1 with the underfunded Minardi team in 1999, replacing hopeless Argentine Esteban Tuero. Before his Grand Prix break, Gene’s highlight of his junior career was winning the Open Fortuna of Nissan championship in 1998. Marc was paired in Formula One alongside Luca Badoer and actually needed special dispensation to start his first event in Australia. The season was a real struggle but Marc kept his nose clean and was a regular finisher to the chequered flag. He qualified 15th in Germany, ahead of both Saubers and Johnny Herbert’s Stewart and beat Alessandro Zanardi’s Williams fair and square to ninth place in Malaysia.
Minardi’s moment of fortune came at the unpredictable 1999 European Grand Prix. Badoer looked set for fourth place before mechanical gremlins struck. Gene made some smart strategy calls and held off Eddie Irvine’s Ferrari to finish sixth and take the team’s first championship point since 1995. More importantly for Minardi, it meant they beat BAR in the constructors championship and earned extra bonuses in travel money and prize rewards which were badly needed.
Gene continued with Minardi into 2000 with another Argentine no-hoper Gaston Mazzacane alongside. Again he got the most out of a difficult car and embarrassed some big names in qualifying during the season. This time there were no points but solid eighth placed results in Australia and Austria; the latter saw him beat Pedro Diniz’s Sauber and the Benetton of Alexander Wurz.
With Paul Stoddart buying the team in 2001, Gene moved onto a testing role with the BMW Williams team. He drove in place of a concussed Ralf Schumacher at the 2003 Italian Grand Prix, qualifying a phenonemal fifth at short notice. He even led the race for a lap and finished a solid fifth to keep the team ahead at the time in the cosntructors championship. In 2004 Schumacher Jnr was sidelined for several races by a back injury sustained in a heavy crash at Indianapolis. Once again Gene deputised but this time, with less success. He qualified eighth and finished a distant tenth in France, despite setting a quicker lap than Juan Pablo Montoya in the race. Silverstone was more of a struggle, starting 11th and finishing 12th. Gene was replaced by Antonio Pizzonia for the German Grand Prix and has not raced in Formula One since.
At the beginning of 2005, Gene signed a testing contract with Ferrari but his racing career in F1 was over. Today he is a pundit on the Spanish broadcaster LaSexta for Grand Prix. His Ferrari testing contract expired at the end of 2010, but Marc has had a successful time at the Le Mans 24 Hours for Peugeot. He finished second in 2008 alongside Jacques Villeneuve and Nicolas Minassian. A year later he drove the final stint and together with Wurz and David Brabham, won the classic event to end Audi’s domination at Le Sarthe.
Marc Gene is another example of getting the best out of some poor car equipment and little out of a better car in Formula One. Nevertheless his technical feedback and honest approach to racing made him a worthy addition to any backmarker team or leading constructor in a testing capacity in F1.
NEXT TIME ON THE DRIVER FILES: The mercurial and grumpy Frenchman who offered glimpses of form but infuriated many, Jean Alesi
SEBASTIAN Vettel send out a reminder to everyone today; ‘try and stop me if you can!’ The world champion dominanted the Bahrain Grand Prix to claim his first win of the 2012 season after a trying start. Having started from pole position, Vettel battled high fuel consumption and constant tyre management throughout to lead almost from the start. Cooler track temperatures helped in Red Bull’s return to the front of the field and Vettel is now reunited with the top of the drivers championship leaderboard.
The Lotus pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean completed the rostrum. It was the first time a Lotus driver has stood on the podium since Nelson Piquet finished third in the 1988 Australian Grand Prix. It was a nightmare day for the British duo at McLaren as pitstop blunders, poor pace and reliability issues left the team leaving tonight with just four points to show for their hard efforts this weekend.
As in many situations last year, Vettel led into the first corner and pulled out a massive early advantage to clear him of any attack from the DRS zone. He stormed into a seven second lead as from early on, the McLaren attack, led by Lewis Hamilton was already looking blunt. Grosjean had made an unbelievable start to move upto fourth from seventh on the grid. The Frenchman quickly found a way past Mark Webber and then easily used the DRS to drive clean past Hamilton on the seventh lap and into second place. Button was complaining of poor traction and he was overwhelmed by a feisty Raikkonen, before pitting to ditch the option tyres after only eight laps.
Nico Rosberg and Felipe Massa were in similar trouble as the race quickly turned into a battle managing the Pirelli tyres. After the race Michael Schumacher, who came tenth after starting on the penultimate row of the grid launched a scatching attack at the Italian manufacturer. He said to BBC Sport; “The main thing I feel unhappy about is everyone has to drive well below a driver’s, and in particular, the car’s limits to maintain the tyres. I just question whether the tyres should play such a big importance, or whether they should last a bit longer, and that you can drive at normal racing car speed and not cruise around like we have a safety car.” Pirelli boss Paul Hembrey defended his company, telling Autosport magazine tonight; “I’m disappointed to hear those comments from someone of Michael’s experience. Others were getting on with the job and getting their tyres to work. His comments during winter testing were that he was very happy with the tyres, and now he seems to have changed his tune.”
On lap nine, Hamilton had fallen into the clutches of Webber and both pitted for fresh rubber. For the second successive race, a troublesome wheel rim affected the race of a McLaren driver and a frustrated Lewis was left shaking his head as he was held for 12 seconds. He slipped behind Webber, Button and Fernando Alonso and when he returned to the track, he had a near-miss with Rosberg following a vicious defensive move by the Mercedes driver. Hamilton had to use extra concrete to miss his rival and actually got past. The race stewards with driver reprsentative Emanuele Pirro, investigated the incident after the race but took no further action. Rosberg was later involved in a similar and more dangerous incident with Alonso, which left the Spaniard driver furious, using the team radio to channel his frustrations. Again, Rosberg was cleared of any wrongdoing. Tonight, Alonso sarcastically put this on his Twitter webpage; “I think you are going to have fun in future races! You can defend position as you want and you can overtake outside the track! Enjoy!”
Vettel briefly handed the lead to two stopping Paul di Resta when he pitted, but quickly overtook the Scot on lap 13 to reassume control. On the same lap, Raikkonen powered past Webber into turn 11 and started closing in on Grosjean, who was falling back into his team-mate’s grasp. Raikkonen got past on lap 22 with consummate ease and through the second stops, was on a mission. Vettel’s six second gap evaporated and by lap 35, the pair were together with the Lotus looking fundamentally faster. Meanwhile, another horrific pitstop for Hamilton pushed him behind Massa and out of the points positions by half-distance. Pastor Maldonado retired when the Williams suffered a tyre failure and spun exiting turn three. He crawled back to the pits and retirement with shattered rear suspension.
Raikkonen had one brief opportunity to pass Vettel, but was blocked resolutely by the champion. Both came in together on lap 40 and a quicker Red Bull pitstop enabled the German to build up a three second lead. Aware of the tyre issues that saw his alarming fallback through the field in China last Sunday, Raikkonen and Lotus applied a more cautious approach to the chequered flag and bag the useful points on offer.
Whilst Hamilton spent a frustrating afternoon chasing the Ferrari’s, Button had a lonely race circulating between fifth and seventh places. He was catching di Resta when he made a sudden pitstop with four laps to go. The 2009 winner in Bahrain had detected a left-rear puncture. He slid out of contention into 13th and a broken exhuast a lap later saw him retire in the garage. Bruno Senna retired late on too with mechanical gremlins to compound a miserable day for Williams with a double retirement.
Vettel was able to cruise across the line to take the victory, although he was instructed by his race engineer Rocky to stop on the pitlane exit, presuminably with minimal fuel levels. It meant we were denied the ‘that’s what’s I’m talking about,’ message on the team radio. Raikkonen was a fantastic and committed second and considering he started 11th, this underlined severe underperformance in qualifying. Grosjean’s third place is the first podium for a French driver in F1 since Jean Alesi at Spa in 1998. The way he is driving at the moment, it won’t be the last in 2012. Webber cemented his consistent approach to record fourth for the fourth successive start. After a terrible first lap that saw him slip to ninth, Rosberg battled back aggressively to fifth. Paul di Resta held off Alonso and Hamilton in the closing laps to match his best ever result in F1 with sixth. Massa achieved his first points of the season, despite breaking down on the slowing down lap back to the pits and Button’s late demise enabled Schumacher into the points. Sergio Perez missed out in 11th, whilst Daniel Ricciardo’s chances of a great result were ruined by a shambolic start, then contact with Heikki Kovalainen on the first lap that left the Australian with a damaged front wing.
The four flyaway races are complete and only ten points cover the top five in the drivers championship. Six different teams have already stood on the podium and we have four different winners in the first four races for the first time since 2003. Formula One 2012 is proving to be a very unpredictable and challenging season to even guess, let alone predict. Luckily the racing did the talking today and Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt can breath a huge sigh of relief tonight that there was no significant trouble in the unstable area today.
There is a test at the Italian circuit Mugello next week, before the start of the European season at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona on May 13. It is advantage Red Bull and Vettel after Bahrain, but 2012 has plenty more twists and turns in store to come.
2012 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX RACE RESULT
|1||SEBASTIAN VETTEL||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||57||1hr 35min 10secs|
|2||KIMI RAIKKONEN||LOTUS RENAULT||57||+3.3secs|
|3||ROMAIN GROSJEAN||LOTUS RENAULT||57||+10.1secs|
|4||MARK WEBBER||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||57||+38.7secs|
|5||NICO ROSBERG||MERCEDES GP||57||+55.4secs|
|6||PAUL DI RESTA||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||57||+57.5secs|
|8||LEWIS HAMILTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||57||+58.9secs|
|9||FELIPE MASSA||FERRARI||57||+1min 04.9secs|
|10||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER||MERCEDES GP||57||+1min 11.4secs|
|11||SERGIO PEREZ||SAUBER FERRARI||57||+1min 12.7secs|
|12||NICO HULKENBERG||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||57||+1min 16.5secs|
|13||KAMUI KOBAYASHI||SAUBER FERRARI||57||+1min 30.3secs|
|14||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE||TORO ROSSO FERRARI||57||+1min 33.7secs|
|15||DANIEL RICCIARDO||TORO ROSSO FERRARI||56||1 LAP|
|16||VITALY PETROV||CATERHAM RENAULT||56||1 LAP|
|17||HEIKKI KOVALAINEN||CATERHAM RENAULT||56||1 LAP|
|18 (Ret)||JENSON BUTTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||55||BROKEN EXHAUST|
|19||TIMO GLOCK||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||55||2 LAPS|
|20||PEDRO DE LA ROSA||HRT COSWORTH||55||2 LAPS|
|21||NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN||HRT COSWORTH||55||2 LAPS|
|22 (Ret)||BRUNO SENNA||WILLIAMS RENAULT||54||TECHNICAL|
|Retired||PASTOR MALDONADO||WILLIAMS RENAULT||25||PUNCTURE|
|Retired||CHARLES PIC||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||24||ENGINE|
2012 FIA FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVER STANDINGS AFTER FOUR RACES
|1||SEBASTIAN VETTEL (RED BULL)||53|
|2||LEWIS HAMILTON (MCLAREN)||49|
|3||MARK WEBBER (RED BULL)||48|
|4||JENSON BUTTON (MCLAREN)||43|
|5||FERNANDO ALONSO (FERRARI)||43|
|6||NICO ROSBERG (MERCEDES GP)||35|
|7||KIMI RAIKKONEN (LOTUS)||34|
|8||ROMAIN GROSJEAN (LOTUS)||23|
|9||SERGIO PEREZ (SAUBER)||22|
|10||PAUL DI RESTA (FORCE INDIA)||15|
|11||BRUNO SENNA (WILLIAMS)||14|
|12||KAMUI KOBAYASHI (SAUBER)||9|
|13||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE (TORO ROSSO)||4|
|14||PASTOR MALDONADO (WILLIAMS)||4|
|15||DANIEL RICCIARDO (TORO ROSSO)||2|
|16||NICO HULKENBERG (FORCE INDIA)||2|
|17||FELIPE MASSA (FERRARI)||2|
|18||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (MERCEDES GP)||2|
2012 FIA FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CONSTRUCTOR STANDINGS AFTER FOUR RACES
|1||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||101|
|8||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||17|
|9||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO FERRARI||6|
NICO Rosberg is on cloud nine following his maiden success in Shanghai last weekend and momentum is a key word in Formula One. So the German picked up where he left off in Sakhir to end up quickest driver today in the opening two practice sessions for Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
As the sport is forced to deal with a very unstable environment, Rosberg and Mercedes GP did their talking on the track. His fastest time of 1.32.816 was nearly half a second quicker than Mark Webber in the afternoon session. Consistent pace on a long race simulation towards the end of FP2 suggests that the team’s tyre wear issues don’t seem to be such a nightmare issue as it was in the first two races.
Red Bull have gone for a standard exahust configuration setup after different variations for both Webber and Sebastian Vettel. The Australian was marginally faster today, although the 0.3secs difference at the end of the session flattered the closeness between the pair. Vettel was second quickest this morning and third fastest in the afternoon. Championship leaders McLaren have never won the Bahrain Grand Prix, but will still probably be marginal favourites going into tomorrow’s important qualifying session. Lewis Hamilton was the pacesetter this morning and content to work on race setup this afternoon, ending fourth fastest. Team-mate Jenson Button didn’t seem as settled with the balance of his car today, but was still amongst the top six in both sessions.
Once again, Ferrari lacked the ultimate pace as Fernando Alonso managed eighth and Felipe Massa twelfth in the afternoon session. Sauber ran excellent race simulations and both Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi ended up in the top ten.
However off-track politics continued to be the dominant landscape today. In midweek, clashes between Bahrani police and protesters over the running of the country almost led to a tragic incident involving the Force India team. Four of their team mechanics had petrol bombs thrown at them and two of them have flown back to the UK. With other team members expressing concern over their safety of leaving the circuit at dusk, the team elected to pull out of the second practice session on safety grounds. Personnel from the Sauber team also were caught up in flare ups in the Manama region last night and it is reported that Mercedes GP have requested moving to a hotel closer to the circuit to be further away from the protest.
With Amnesty International and Labour leader Ed Miliband among those today who added their voices to the demand in calling the Grand Prix off, the king of F1 Bernie Ecclestone and the Crown Prince of Bahrain had to face some akward questions from a hungry worldwide media circus. Both have said that the race will go ahead as scheduled on Sunday, although you get the sense that the racing will disappear into obsecurity all weekend.
Mercedes GP and McLaren look set to lead the way in qualifying tomorrow again, but the region’s issues might have more severe implications as the weekend progresses.
2012 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX FREE PRACTICE 1
|1||LEWIS HAMILTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||11||1.33.572|
|2||SEBASTIAN VETTEL||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||21||1.33.877|
|3||PAUL DI RESTA||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||26||1.34.150|
|4||NICO ROSBERG||MERCEDES GP||23||1.34.249|
|5||JENSON BUTTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||14||1.34.277|
|6||NICO HULKENBERG||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||26||1.34.344|
|7||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER||MERCEDES GP||17||1.34.483|
|8||MARK WEBBER||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||22||1.34.552|
|9||KIMI RAIKKONEN||LOTUS RENAULT||18||1.34.609|
|10||ROMAIN GROSJEAN||LOTUS RENAULT||20||1.34.817|
|11||SERGIO PEREZ||SAUBER FERRARI||22||1.35.024|
|12||PASTOR MALDONADO||WILLIAMS RENAULT||25||1.35.268|
|14||VALTERI BOTTAS||WILLIAMS RENAULT||24||1.35.497|
|16||KAMUI KOBAYASHI||SAUBER FERRARI||24||1.35.929|
|17||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE||TORO ROSSO FERRARI||20||1.36.195|
|18||HEIKKI KOVALAINEN||CATERHAM RENAULT||11||1.36.330|
|19||VITALY PETROV||CATERHAM RENAULT||18||1.36.484|
|20||DANIEL RICCIARDO||TORO ROSSO FERRARI||20||1.36.591|
|21||CHARLES PIC||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||18||1.37.467|
|22||TIMO GLOCK||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||18||1.38.006|
|23||PEDRO DE LA ROSA||HRT COSWORTH||19||1.38.877|
|24||NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN||HRT COSWORTH||23||1.39.996|
2012 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX FREE PRACTICE 2
|1||NICO ROSBERG||MERCEDES GP||35||1.32.816|
|2||MARK WEBBER||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||26||1.33.262|
|3||SEBASTIAN VETTEL||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||28||1.33.525|
|4||LEWIS HAMILTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||26||1.33.747|
|5||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER||MERCEDES GP||32||1.33.862|
|6||JENSON BUTTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||28||1.34.246|
|7||KAMUI KOBAYASHI||SAUBER FERRARI||34||1.34.411|
|9||ROMAIN GROSJEAN||LOTUS RENAULT||32||1.34.615|
|10||SERGIO PEREZ||SAUBER FERRARI||34||1.34.893|
|11||DANIEL RICCIARDO||TORO ROSSO FERRARI||29||1.34.895|
|13||KIMI RAIKKONEN||LOTUS RENAULT||33||1.35.183|
|14||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE||TORO ROSSO FERRARI||26||1.35.229|
|15||PASTOR MALDONADO||WILLIAMS RENAULT||38||1.35.459|
|16||VITALY PETROV||CATERHAM RENAULT||33||1.35.913|
|17||HEIKKI KOVALAINEN||CATERHAM RENAULT||35||1.35.968|
|18||BRUNO SENNA||WILLIAMS RENAULT||30||1.36.169|
|19||TIMO GLOCK||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||33||1.36.587|
|20||CHARLES PIC||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||33||1.37.803|
|21||PEDRO DE LA ROSA||HRT COSWORTH||28||1.37.812|
|22||NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN||HRT COSWORTH||27||1.39.649|
|23||PAUL DI RESTA||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||0||NO TIME|
|24||NICO HULKENBERG||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||0||NO TIME|
WELCOME to my third driver performance scoring chart of the 2012 Formula One season which covers how I thought every driver did in the 2012 UBS Chinese Grand Prix from Shanghai:
The surprise winner of the Malaysian Grand Prix performed admirably again in Shanghai but for little reward. He produced the maximum to scrape into Q3 by just one hundreth of a second. In the race, he raced well and was matching the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber throughout but a poor final stop and a moment running wide whilst fighting Sergio Perez meant he finished only ninth behind the Williams drivers. Nevertheless, still in the thick of the championship battle. 8/10
It was always going to be difficult for Perez to match his Malaysian performance and he seemed to struggle against the higher expectations in China. Made the third part of qualifying again but was left back in eighth, some way behind team-mate Kamui Kobayashi. He raced better, though his pace disappeared when Sauber moved onto the medium tyres. Out of luck this time in points, losing out to Kobayashi despite a vicious attempt by the Japanese in having him off the road. Sauber’s race pace meant the Mexican always was fighting a losing battle. 6/10
If a sticky wheelnut hadn’t held him up in the third and final round of pitstops, Jenson Button might well have won in China. Until that point, it was always going to be a tight one to call between him and Nico Rosberg. Struggled with the balance on Friday, Jenson elected to look more at race setup, meaning he wasn’t a factor in the pole battle. A great start upto third from fifth on the grid was the setting stone and an aggressive pass on Sebastian Vettel towards the end set him up for a deserved second place. 8/10
Hamilton’s victory ambitions took a nosedive from the beginning of the weekend, as he carried a grid penalty from damaging his gearbox in Malaysia. Qualified an excellent second before the drop to seventh and made it upto fifth from the start. Only a stint behind Felipe Massa cost him a potential shot at the victory but stayed cool in the heat of battle and a rostrum place was a great effort. Only a bit more luck required before he starts winning again. 9/10
Vettel’s exit from the second part of qualifying was a huge surprise, his first departure from before Q3 since Brazil 2009. Not happy with the car, he took an older exhaust set-up to team-mate Mark Webber and looked lost in the midfield after a horrific start relegated him to 15th. Stuck behind the Williams cars, he elected to pit earlier and almost made the tyres last on a two stop. Ran out of grip in the closing stages to fall to fifth but good effort considering his troubles all weekend. 7/10
Mark Webber has managed to adapt to the RB8 this year and is performing consistently well, although his ultimate pace might still be missing. Was strong in defence against Kimi Raikkonen and was in the mix for a podium. Pleased to have outpsyched Vettel on the penultimate lap to record his third successive fourth place finish. Only a poor start cost him a chance at beating the McLarens. 8/10
PAUL DI RESTA
Scored points in the first two events but strong reliability from the top teams meant di Resta’s opportunities to score in China were limited. Beat Nico Hulkenberg in qualifying by nearly half a second and raced solidly but this time, had to settle for 12th – probably the maximum the chassis had this week. 6/10
The first two races of Rosberg’s season were disappointing to say the least but Nico was absolutely faultless in China. At a track when he has always gone well at in the past, his performance makes you think why has it taken him 111 attempts to register his first Grand Prix win. His flying lap to secure pole position was flawless and one of the best you will see this season. A perfect start and a race performance that was full of dominance, control and assurance. Even without his poor pitstop, Button would have struggled to beat Rosberg. World class. 10/10
Senna still needs to get things upto speed in qualifying but he is producing some strong race efforts. Backed up his sixth place finish in Sepang with seventh place in Shanghai. He was 14th on the grid, although closer to Pastor Maldonado on pace. A bruising first lap saw him have contact with both Felipe Massa and Maldonado, leaving him slightly less efficient on aerodynamic parts. Worked hard to stay in contention and got as high as sixth before overwhelmed by Romain Grosjean in the closing stages. 8/10
Kimi Raikkonen looked all at sea in China at times and other occasions, looked very aggressive and up for the fight. Qualified a surprising fourth considering his lack of pace on Friday. Ran second until the closing stages but was on a strategy that never even looked likely to come off. His alarming drop through the field wasn’t his fault due to the state of his tyres but losing out so quickly would have disappointed the Finn. Lessons should be learned by Lotus for this experience. 6/10
There were no points for Felipe Massa in China but it was a much better performance after a miserable first two events. 12th was probably the best he could achieve in qualifying and was only 0.2secs slower than team-mate Alonso in qualifying. A two-stop strategy was the wrong one for a points scoring performance but consistent race pace and even led the race for a lap. A step in the right direction. 6/10
The Frenchman is on a real learning curve and Grand Prix racing is a tough business. His second successive exit in the first part of qualifying will have concerned the Toro Rosso bosses. He decided to start from the pitlane and in a car that is at the moment, back of a congested midfield, performed ok to beat his team-mate in the race and finished 16th. A car improvement required before regular points happen. 3/10
The only retirement in the race and he was blameless here in that regard thanks to a loose wheel at his first stop. However, he was put in the shade by his team-mate all weekend and will be disappointed with natural speed. A front row start thanks to Hamilton’s penalty but half a second off Rosberg in qualifying and was nowhere near him in the race. Want an improvement in Bahrain on his speed across a race stint. 7/10
A weekend to forget for Hulkenberg as he was completely put in the shade by team-mate di Resta in a car that is struggling against the likes of the improving Sauber and Williams teams. Made a poor start from 16th and contact on the first lap with Heikki Kovalainen didn’t help matters. Did well to fightback and beat the Toro Rosso’s but lack of impact on the weekend’s activities. 4/10
Excellent qualifying pace in the first two races but poor errors had hindered Grosjean’s progress so far. Got it right in China to finish a competitive sixth and another lap longer, might have got the better of Sebastian Vettel too. Made Q3 but ran out of option tyres and elected not to run in Q3. Dropped behind fast starting Massa at the start and was part of the congested midfield group throughout. Feisty in combat against both Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado paved the way for him to score his first ever championship points. 9/10
13th on the grid was disappointing for Maldonado, having made a couple of mistakes on his best lap. Hit team-mate Senna in the first corner and dropped behind him and Paul di Resta. Came out second best to his team-mate and Grosjean in a robust tussle for position later on but held off Fernando Alonso to record an impressive eighth, his best ever result. 7/10
The best ever performance from a Japanese driver in qualifying since the days of Takuma Sato at BAR, Kobayashi had a tough Sunday with a struggle to show his Saturday speed. Struggled to make decisive moves in the traffic after a poor start saw him lose four spots, including one to his team-mate. Only the tyre troubles of Raikkonen got Kamui into the points. 7/10
Looked competitive in his backyard and strong race pace in Malaysia but looked very fallible in China. Outpaced team-mate Vergne in qualifying but beaten by the rookie in the race. Not a weekend he will remember fondly when looking back at his season so far. 4/10
Petrov is in a position where he can’t quite get onto the midfield but is installing some form of consistency that was always missing in the Renault days. Still slightly off Heikki Kovalainen’s qualifying pace but matching the Finn’s race pace and when he ran into mechanical problems and raced creditably to finish, although still shy of the struggling Toro Rosso’s. 7/10
Another tough weekend for Kovalainen, hampered by reliability concerns throughout. Got the maximum out of the Caterham in qualifying and ran ahead of Petrov in the race before issues with a wheel nut forced him into the pits for two successive laps. Kept going which in the tough circumstances wasn’t bad. 6/10
PEDRO DE LA ROSA
Started 22nd and finished 21st, produced his usual efficient performance and keeping Marussia within sight is creditable considering HRT’s financial struggles at the back of the grid. 5/10
Pushed Petrov hard in qualifying but an unbalanced race setup left him trailing around with finishing the only target, which was achieved with the minimum of fuss. 6/10
Often seen as a roadblock and when the HRT looks a handful in the corners, there’s little he could do but get some more race mileage under his belt. Target achieved but very mediocre and unobtrusive as ever. 3/10
Charles Pic is doing a similar job to Jerome D’Ambrosio was last season. Not far off Glock’s pace on a Saturday and set a faster race lap on Sunday – plus another race distance under his belt. 6/10
Total scores after 3 events: Fernando Alonso 25, Jenson Button 25, Lewis Hamilton 25, Mark Webber 23, Romain Grosjean 23, Sergio Perez 22, Pastor Maldonado 22, Sebastian Vettel 22, Nico Rosberg 22, Kimi Raikkonen 21, Michael Schumacher 21, Bruno Senna 21, Timo Glock 19, Paul di Resta 19, Vitaly Petrov 19, Daniel Ricciardo 18, Kamui Kobayashi 18, Charles Pic 17, Jean-Eric Vergne 16, Nico Hulkenberg 16, Heikki Kovalainen 16, Felipe Massa 12, Pedro de la Rosa 10, Narain Karthikeyan 9
IN A NEW regular series, I will be profiling the careers of those drivers who won races and championships and those who either didn’t get the luck, or just failed at the top level of motorsport. All drivers featured will have competed between the years 1991-2011.
The next entry was a breakthrough driver and gave Japan its first sight of the sport, which has continued to grow ever since. A pioneer for Japanese motorsport; Satoru Nakajima.
NAME: Satoru Nakajima
TEAMS: Lotus (1987-1989), Tyrrell (1990-1991)
GP STARTS: 74
BEST FINISH: 4th (1987 British GP)
BORN from a farming family, Satoru Nakajima had a passion for motorsport from an early age. His success in Formula One was largely modest but he set the path for a flux of Japanese drivers like Ukyo Katayama, Takuma Sato and his son Kazuki to have all appeared in the sport.
Nakajima dominanted the Japanese Formula Two series but was a very late entrant into F1 at the age of 34. He debuted for the famous Lotus team in 1987, part of a new package which included Honda engines and Camel tobacco sponsorship. Nakajima drove alongside Ayrton Senna in his first season and was determined to be known for his own qualities rather than just a pay driver. Of course, he couldn’t compete with Senna but he showed flashes of natural speed. Scoring a point in only his second event at the 1987 San Marino Grand Prix was a good start and Satoru was part of a Honda grand slam at Silverstone, finishing fourth behind Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet and Senna. A further point in the inaugural Japanese event at Suzuka sent his home supporters mad and he finished a creditable 12th in the championship, having scored seven points in total.
As Senna moved onto McLaren and the bitter rivalry with Alain Prost began, Nakajima stayed with Lotus for 1988 and was partnered by the defending champion Piquet. The season started prominsingly with a point in Brazil but Nakajima’s shock failure to qualify for Monaco was the beginning of the end for the Lotus Honda partnership, compounded when Piquet crashed in the race on the first lap. Satoru was never a fan of street circuits and he repeated his Monaco abscence on raceday by failing to make the cut on the temporary and dreadful Detroit circuit for the United States round. A spate of retirements and mistakes followed in the remainder of the season and it was a case of second season syndrome. Nakajima scored just one point all season and that was in the first race.
As Honda focused on their dominance with McLaren, Lotus decline had begun. The team had to take the heavyweight Judd engine for 1989 and the failure of Nakajima and Piquet to qualify for the 1989 Belgian Grand Prix was the first time that the British make had no car on the grid in 30 years. He failed to qualify in Monaco again and Canada but it came good at the season finale in Australia. Watched by a massive Japanese audience, Satoru benefited from the filthy conditions in Adelaide to finish fourth from 23rd on the grid. In a race where staying on the circuit was a notable achievement, he set the fastest lap on lap 64 too.
Two lacklustre years at Tyrrell followed for Nakajima. He paired up with Jean Alesi for 1990 and scored three sixth place finishes in the USA, Italy and once more on his Japanese homeland at Suzuka. There was a brief link-up with Honda again in 1991 as Stefano Modena joined Satoru. Fifth in Phoenix was his only highlight of 1991 although a mechanical problem robbed him of fourth in another wet race at Imola. He announced his retirement from Formula One at Hockenheim and bowed out with the minimum of fuss.
His F1 career ended but involvement with motorsport didn’t end there. Satoru worked closely with Honda and helped develop their engines for use in the CART and IRL series over in America. He managed the brief career in F1 of Tora Takagi in 1998/1999 and he owns the Nakajima Racing entry in Japanese Formula Nippon. He helped Tom Coronel and Ralph Firman to titles in this competition. His son Kazuki raced for two seasons with Williams in 2008 and 2009 and today, Satoru still owns his own team in Formula Nippon with both of his two sons competing in the series.
Success in Formula One was limited for Satoru Nakajima but his impact put Japan firmly on the Grand Prix map for good.
NEXT TIME ON THE DRIVER FILES: Moments of glory at the Nurburgring and Monza in a largely unspectacular career and a Spaniard on the grid before the Alonso days, Marc Gene.
IN A NEW regular series, I will be profiling the careers of those drivers who won races and championships and those who either didn’t get the luck, or just failed at the top level of motorsport. All drivers featured will have competed between the years 1991-2011.
Next to receive treatment in the Driver Files was a dynamic Colombian who always spoke his mind and gave Michael Schumacher more than a headache on one occasion. This is the career in Formula One of Juan Pablo Montoya.
NAME: Juan Pablo Montoya
TEAMS: Williams (2001-2004), McLaren (2005-2006)
GP STARTS: 94
BEST FINISH: WINNER (7) (2001 Italian Grand Prix, 2003 Monaco Grand Prix, 2003 German Grand Prix, 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix, 2005 British Grand Prix, 2005 Italian Grand Prix, 2005 Brazilian Grand Prix)
THE motorsport career of Juan Pablo Montoya has been an unrivalled success. He has adapted to many forms of racing and is one of the leading stars competing in America today. His experiences in Formula One were frustrating at times to witness. On his day, Montoya would be almost untouchable and he certainly rattled Michael Schumacher more than once in the dominant Ferrari days. There were other days where a daft error saw him get deservedly punished or he just didn’t seem to bother. There was a lot that happened during JPM’s six years in Formula One.
Before the F1 chance came Montoya proved himself through karting and junior series competitions in Britain, finishing fifth in the 1996 British Formula 3 championship. In 1997, Juan Pablo made the step upto international competition by contesting the F3000 championship for the RSM Marko team. He won his second event on the Pau circuit and finished second in the championship at his first attempt, missing out on the title to Ricardo Zonta. He came back the following year and despite some silly basic errors, won the title for Super Nova against Nick Heidfeld. Montoya also enjoyed some testing for the Williams Formula One team in the same campaign.
With Williams desperate to attract more sponsors, Sir Frank Williams placed Montoya in the competitive CART series for 1999. He would race for Chip Ganassi whilst Alex Zanardi made the nightmare move in the opposite direction. Seven wins in his debut season, but some criticised his aggressive approach and he never got the hang of street circuits. Going into the finale on the Fontana Speedway in California, Montoya trailed Dario Franchitti but got the result he needed to win the title on countback of wins and become the youngest driver at 24 to win the championship. The celebrations were marred by the tragic death in the race of one of Montoya’s close friends on the CART scene, Greg Moore. JPM stayed in CART for 2000 but with a switch of chassis and engine combination, he wasn’t a factor for the championship due to unreliability. He did win in Milwaukee though and dominanted the Indianapolis 500 to win the prestigious race at his first attempt. With all the boxes ticked in America, Formula One beckoned.
Jenson Button was loaned out to Benetton to make space for Montoya in the BMW Williams team. 2001 was similar to 2000 as his car was unreliable and a few rookie errors such as crashes in Monaco and Canada meant the Colombian only saw the chequered flag on six occasions. There were plenty of highlights in his debut season though.
He passed Schumacher for the lead in stunning fashion in just his third event in Brazil and made his mark from an early stage. Had it not been for a piece of idiotic driving from Jos Verstappen in taking him out of the race, Montoya would have won. His first finish was second place in Barcelona having started a distant 12th. As the season progressed, Juan Pablo began to get a measure on Ralf Schumacher and should have won at Hockenheim where he took his maiden pole position. A refuelling rig problem and subsequent engine failure denied him glory in Germany. There were no mistakes at Monza though, as he held off a stiff challenge from fellow South American Rubens Barrichello to win his first race. Again, celebrations were at a premium as the Monza race was held only days after the 9/11 atoricities. Another technical problem robbed him of victory in Indianapolis where Schumacher was stylishly passed again. He finished sixth in the drivers championship with 31 points.
That tally improved to 50 points and third place in the 2002 drivers championship but it was a distant position as Ferrari romped to the title. The BMW Williams combination was a match for the F2002 on Saturdays and gave Montoya seven pole positions. In fact, he set the fastest ever average speed for a lap at Monza. However the Ferrari tended to have the edge on raceday and Montoya couldn’t compete with Schumacher and Barrichello. There were run-ins with the German in Malaysia, becoming the first ever recipient of a drive-through penalty in the process and in Brazil. There were no wins, second in Australia, Spain and Germany were his best finishes.
Williams came out with a worse package at the beginning of 2003 and Montoya struggled with chronic oversteer and early reliability issues. He threw away victory in the season opener in Melbourne with a clumsy spin and crashed out in Brazil. A rotten engine failure in Austria lost him another victory chance and left JPM a distant seventh in the championship. His season turned around with a decisive win around the streets of Monte Carlo. After this, Montoya strung together a run of seven successive podiums which included thrashing the opposition at Hockenheim to win by nearly a minute.
By now the Williams was the fastest package and the championship was potentially his. Unfortunately he blew his chances at Indianapolis. A poor start was followed by an amibtious attempt at passing Barrichello on the third lap. The contact left Rubens in the gravel and the race stewards gave Montoya a drive through penalty for the incident. He couldn’t recover and sixth place that day ended his hopes. Schumacher took his sixth title and with the likes of Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso on the scene, Montoya’s place as Michael’s successor began to look under threat. A radical design of a ‘walrus’ nose backfired in 2004. Montoya’s relationship with the team was strained and he had already agreed to move to McLaren before the championship even begun. Juan Pablo could only manage fifth in the championship but signed off his career with Williams in style by winning the team’s last race upto now; the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix.
The partnership with McLaren in 2005 got off to a nightmare start. He fractured his shoulder during an incident whilst playing ‘tennis’ in Spain and it forced him out for two races. Other misdemeanours followed on his return. He brake tested Ralf Schumacher and caused a four car practice shunt in Monaco, sending him to the back of the grid. The chance of winning in Canada disappeared when he stupidly missed the pitlane red light and was promptly disqualified. Montoya’s form improved in the second half of the season as he won brilliantly at Silverstone, Monza and in Brazil. He finished fourth in the championship with 60 points.
By the start of 2006, it soon became clear that Montoya was growing tired of Formula One. Fernando Alonso had already been signed by McLaren for 2007 and his performances started to decline. He spun out in Spain, made several errors in Australia and was hopelessly uncompetitive at the Nurburgring. Third at Imola and second place at Monte Carlo were plus points but his relationship with Ron Dennis was now beyond repair. At Indianapolis, he triggered a pile-up at the second corner by hitting his team-mate Raikkonen and spinning the pair out. The incident also ended the races of Jenson Button, Nick Heidfeld and Scott Speed. A week later, Montoya announced his was moving to the NASCAR series for 2007 and on July 11 2006, McLaren Mercedes confirmed his shock departure from the sport with immediate effect.
The NASCAR journey began with third on his debut at the Talladega Superspeedway. He has won two races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and finished eighth in the series overall in 2009 and he won the 24 Hours of Daytona in both 2007 and 2008. He is happily married to Connie and has three kids. Today he still competes in NASCAR for the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team.
Juan Pablo Montoya had a lot of talent in Formula One but he wasted his best opportunity to win the title and he didn’t have the required qualities to win the ultimate prize in motorsport. However, by winning the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and 24 Hours of Daytona, Montoya is a born winner and he did provide plenty of excitement in his time in Formula One.
NEXT IN THE DRIVER FILES: The first Japanese driver to ever compete in Formula One, Satoru Nakajima.
THE sport’s governing body the FIA confirmed in the early hours of the morning that next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix on the Sakhir circuit will take place as scheduled. FOM boss Bernie Ecclestone met the team principals from all 12 Formula One teams in Shanghai this morning where the Chinese Grand Prix takes place this weekend. No concerns were raised from the meeting and all agreed that the race should take place. The FIA insisted that assurances had been made about general security following regular disputes in the country over the past year during the Arab Uprisings. It is these protests that led to the cancellation of the 2011 race.
These are the key points in the statement released to the world by the sport’s governing body from the FIA website;
“The FIA is the governing body of motor sport and therefore of Formula One. As such, it sets the season’s calendars following the proposal of the Commercial Rights Holder (CRH) in accordance with the local national authorities in all matters relating to safety. Within that context, the FIA ensures that any event forming part of an FIA World Championship is organised in compliance with the FIA Statutes and the relevant Sporting and Technical Regulations and that the safety of the public, officials, drivers and teams is secured at all times during an event. The FIA must make rational decisions based on the information provided to us by the Bahraini authorities and by the Commercial Rights Holder. In addition we have endeavoured to assess the ongoing situation in Bahrain. Based on the current information the FIA has at this stage, it is satisfied that all the proper security measures are in place for the running of a Formula One World Championship event in Bahrain. Therefore, the FIA confirms that the 2012 Gulf Air F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain will go ahead as scheduled.”
The drivers haven’t said much in recent weeks, but some have expressed their views over the weekend in China. In his official column he does with BBC Formula One, Red Bull’s Mark Webber said; “If we have a choice…I want to race, and I would like to go there and do that. But you cannot ignore the fact there are a lot of good people in our sport and all of them have in the back of their minds that we want it to go down smoothly and we don’t want to be involved with the situation that’s out there.”
Earlier in the week, Sir Jackie Stewart had insisted the sport should visit the Gulf State, which before last year had held an annual event since 2004. 1996 world champion and Sky Sports F1 pundit Damon Hill disagreed, raising severe safety concerns over the region. Since the protests began on the government last year, upto 50 protestors have died and although not on the scale of the uprisings in Egypt, Libya and more recently Syria, the trouble has not left the Manama region.
Bernie Ecclestone has been under severe pressure all week from media outlets and this afternoon, he sat down for an exclusive interview with BBC F1 anchor Jake Humphrey. Ecclestone insisted that he was confident there would be no trouble at the event next week. The interview can be seen below;
The decision has been made and it will have driven various opinion from many sources. However the race does go ahead now and let’s hope it proceeds without any serious implications for the sport, the drivers, spectators going to Sakhir and of course the Bahrani people.
MICHAEL Schumacher went quickest in the second practice session on a quiet opening day for track action in China. The German followed up a second fastest slot in the first session which was led by Lewis Hamilton. It was a day where racing on the Shanghai International Circuit was at a premium, as matters off the track dominated the headlines. This was because the FIA released a statement in the early hours of the morning to confirm the Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead as scheduled next week (see later story tonight for further details).
The first session was punctuated by mixed conditions, with smog and drizzle meaning there was a lack of clear indication in who looks the fastest pacesetters in China. Only in the last ten minutes did meaningful times get set; Hamilton leading the way ahead of Nico Rosberg, Schumacher and the star of Malaysia, Sergio Perez. Hamilton’s fastest lap was a full second quicker than anyone else but he does carry a grid penalty for changing a gearbox between Malaysia and this weekend. McLaren managing director Martin Whitmarsh confirmed to BBC Radio 5 Live this morning that Lewis was using the cracked gearbox today and the change will happen overnight. Test drivers Jules Bianchi, Valeri Bottas and Giedo Van der Garde got minor running in for their teams as Paul di Resta, Bruno Senna and Heikki Kovalainen sat out FP1 respectively.
A dry second session promoted more decisive running. The cooler track conditions mean that it will be a gamble to guess how the Pirelli tyres will handle in what is likely to be a warmer race circuit come Sunday afternoon. There was more action in FP2, as drivers attempted to make up for the lack of running in FP1. di Resta spun on the pit straight and Timo Glock had a late off into the barriers at the first corner, minus his Marussia Cosworth’s nosecone. A late effort from Schumacher was enough to deny Hamilton a clean sweep of the fastest times. World champion Sebastian Vettel was an encouraging third and Mark Webber backed up a radical Red Bull improvement with fourth. Championship leader Fernando Alonso had a quiet day and was a meagre tenth fastest in FP2, as Ferrari were brought back to reality after their shock Sepang success. Lotus also had a bad day, Kimi Raikkonen propped up the timesheets in FP1 after technical problems intervened.
On a day when politics ruled the sport again, Mercedes and McLaren again looked fast out of the blocks but little has been given away ahead of qualifying tomorrow morning at 7am UK time.
CHINESE GRAND PRIX FREE PRACTICE 1 TIMES
|1||LEWIS HAMILTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||7||1.37.106|
|2||NICO ROSBERG||MERCEDES GP||14||1.38.116|
|3||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER||MERCEDES GP||14||1.38.316|
|4||SERGIO PEREZ||SAUBER FERRARI||13||1.38.584|
|5||KAMUI KOBAYASHI||SAUBER FERRARI||12||1.38.911|
|6||MARK WEBBER||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||15||1.38.977|
|7||SEBASTIAN VETTEL||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||12||1.39.198|
|8||JENSON BUTTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||6||1.39.199|
|9||DANIEL RICCIARDO||STR FERRARI||16||1.39.748|
|10||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE||STR FERRARI||14||1.39.768|
|13||VALTERI BOTTAS||WILLIAMS RENAULT||8||1.40.298|
|14||NICO HULKENBERG||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||13||1.40.328|
|15||PASTOR MALDONADO||WILLIAMS RENAULT||12||1.40.540|
|16||HEIKKI KOVALAINEN||CATERHAM RENAULT||14||1.41.071|
|17||ROMAIN GROSJEAN||LOTUS RENAULT||14||1.41.204|
|18||TIMO GLOCK||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||14||1.42.330|
|19||GIEDO VAN DER GARDE||CATERHAM RENAULT||11||1.42.521|
|20||JULES BIANCHI||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||8||1.44.118|
|21||PEDRO DE LA ROSA||HRT COSWORTH||10||1.44.227|
|22||CHARLES PIC||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||15||1.44.500|
|23||NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN||HRT COSWORTH||12||1.47.264|
|24||KIMI RAIKKONEN||LOTUS RENAULT||11||1.50.465|
CHINESE GRAND PRIX FREE PRACTICE 2 TIMES
|1||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER||MERCEDES GP||32||1.35.973|
|2||LEWIS HAMILTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||29||1.36.145|
|3||SEBASTIAN VETTEL||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||27||1.36.160|
|4||MARK WEBBER||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||24||1.36.433|
|5||NICO ROSBERG||MERCEDES GP||31||1.36.617|
|6||JENSON BUTTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||28||1.36.711|
|7||KAMUI KOBAYASHI||SAUBER FERRARI||28||1.36.956|
|8||PAUL DI RESTA||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||31||1.36.966|
|9||NICO HULKENBERG||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||31||1.37.191|
|11||SERGIO PEREZ||SAUBER FERRARI||22||1.37.417|
|12||DANIEL RICCIARDO||STR FERRARI||33||1.37.616|
|13||KIMI RAIKKONEN||LOTUS RENAULT||30||1.37.836|
|14||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE||STR FERRARI||32||1.37.930|
|15||ROMAIN GROSJEAN||LOTUS RENAULT||26||1.37.972|
|16||PASTOR MALDONADO||WILLIAMS RENAULT||35||1.38.176|
|18||BRUNO SENNA||WILLIAMS RENAULT||37||1.38.783|
|19||HEIKKI KOVALAINEN||CATERHAM RENAULT||36||1.38.990|
|20||VITALY PETROV||CATERHAM RENAULT||20||1.39.346|
|21||TIMO GLOCK||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||15||1.39.651|
|22||PEDRO DE LA ROSA||HRT COSWORTH||25||1.40.343|
|23||CHARLES PIC||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||30||1.40.753|
|24||NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN||HRT COSWORTH||26||1.41.125|
THE Lotus Formula One team has had a protest about Mercedes GP’s innovative rear wing thrown out by stewards at the Chinese Grand Prix. Murmurings from rival teams including world champions Red Bull Racing relate to a system which combines the front wing with the rear wing DRS overtaking device.
Before the protest was made by Lotus today, the boss of Mercedes GP spoke out and protested the legality of the system. Ross Brawn told BBC Sport; “It’s a very simple, cheap system, but not so easy to implement if you haven’t integrated it into your car. This is at the heart of some of the frustration of some of our opponents. If someone could put it on their car easily, I promise you we wouldn’t be having these discussions. But they can’t do it very easily which is why they’re getting so vexed about it.”
Some teams claim the system gives Mercedes GP half a second advantage and it might play a role in the team’s improved qualifying performances. However the DRS system is only allowed to be used in one zone during a race and with just one point from two events so far, there don’t seem to be a great deal of benefits to the system. It certainly doesn’t carry the similar benefits the double diffuser did in 2009, which Brawn innovated and gave his team a massive early and legal advantage over the chasing pack.
With this latest protest having been rejected, Lotus need to focus on their own efforts of moving their cars up the grid rather than complain bitterly about a system that barring a sudden u-turn from technical delegates at the FIA, is legal.
For those who want to understand more about the complex Mercedes GP rear wing, watch this video from Sky Sports F1 pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz during The F1 Show last week;