Monthly Archives: May 2012
WELCOME to my sixth driver performance scoring chart of the 2012 Formula One season which covers how I thought every driver did in the 2012 Grand Prix de Monaco:
I can’t decide whose stock went down more significantly in the last week; Facebook or Pastor Maldonado. He had a horrible weekend and all of it was self-inflicted. The hero of Barcelona was docked ten grid places for some foolish driving in Saturday morning, when he drove into Sergio Perez. Seeing red mist, he went onto crash on his next lap at Casino Square and only decisive work from his mechanics got the Venezuelan out for qualifying. Ninth place became 19th, then last after a gearbox penalty. His race didn’t even last a lap after whacking Pedro de la Rosa into Ste. Devote. The damage meant he didn’t turn into Loews hairpin and that was that. A dramatic fall from grace. 4/10
Once again, Fernando Alonso showed his skill to maximise his race result. Strong from the outset in practice on Thursday, a slightly cautious approach from Ferrari in qualifying cost them a shot at the pole. Alonso was lucky to not suffer any damage off the startline after some wheel-banging with Romain Grosjean. He survived, managed his super soft tyres brilliantly to close up on Lewis Hamilton, then jump him by staying out a lap longer. Faultless as ever and now, the sole championship leader. 9/10
Kimi Raikkonen’s return to the Principality was fairly lacklustre. He was on the backfoot from the outset, when a steering adjustment ruled him out of FP1. Playing catchup, eighth on the grid wasn’t bad considering he flirted with elimination in the first part of qualifying. Lost out to Sebastian Vettel on the first lap, then held on under pressure from Michael Schumacher as his super soft tyres wilted. Lotus decision to keep him out for as long as possible cost him a higher finish but ninth was probably the right result. No doubt that Kimi still has that sheer pace but Barcelona aside, hasn’t been able to string together a trouble-free weekend so far in 2012. 6/10
A weekend that started out so promisingly but delivered very little. Romain Grosjean’s consistency and confidence on Thursday made him favourite for pole position in qualifying. Lotus had problems with tyre temperatures all weekend and this left the Frenchman in fourth on the grid. His race lasted six seconds, involving three elements of contact with three different drivers and broken rear suspension meant he didn’t even make turn one. Disappointing outcome and some foolishness with this DNF but the speed is definitely there. 7/10
Whenever Monaco arrives on the calendar, Sergio Perez must dread it. An incident packed weekend but for the wrong reasons. Totally blameless in the incident with Pastor Maldonado on Saturday morning and had a near altercation with Nico Hulkenberg too. Perhaps feeling a bit stressed, he crashed heavily at the Swimming Pool in the first few minutes of Q1. Later, a steering problem was blamed for his early demise. Struggled to pass Marussia cars, then collected a drive-through for baulking Kimi Raikkonen in the pitlane entry. Narrowly missed out on points and fastest lap shows it was another case of what might have been for Perez. 6/10
Quiet beginning to the weekend but Nico Rosberg came on form on Saturday and continued his consistent scoring approach as a result. Fastest in FP3, Nico maximised the car’s potential in qualifying and ended up on the front row. Kept Mark Webber on his toes all afternoon in the race but Webber didn’t crack under pressure, so he had to settle for second place. Rosberg has now scored the most points out of anyone since Malaysia and on this evidence, has to be seen as a potential championship contender. 10/10
Bruno Senna kept his Williams pointing in the right direction to score a point, something his team-mate Pastor Maldonado had major problems doing all weekend. Senna was rather oblivious all weekend although he looked all at sea on Thursday in the wet. 13th on the grid was better in comparison to recent events and made his way through the turn one carnage to run ninth in the first stint. Got his point through persistance and Toro Rosso’s failed gamble on intermediates for Jean-Eric Vergne. Williams will expect more though as the season progresses from Senna and they will be disappointed that he was beaten by both slower Force India cars. 6/10
The years rolled back on Saturday when Michael Schumacher produced a special lap to land a surprising pole position. Back in sixth following his Spanish grid penalty, contact with Romain Grosjean before turn one ended the Lotus driver’s race and delayed Schumacher to run behind Kimi Raikkonen for the first stint. Got past Raikkonen by staying out longer but had no chance on improving from seventh until a fuel pickup issue limited his top speed and ultimately cut out the engine. Difficult to pin any blame on Michael this time, just another luckless weekend. 7/10
McLaren look to be losing some of their early season speed and Lewis Hamilton knows it more than anyone. Wrestled his car to third on the grid, as the team struggled to match the Mercedes and Ferrari teams all weekend. Bad start was the trigger to what happened behind between Romain Grosjean and Michael Schumacher although Hamilton kept third. The team kept him out too long on the super soft and he lost track position to Fernando Alonso and later, Sebastian Vettel. Only highlight of a boring race for Lewis was being hit by objects from his pitwall. It was a frustrating day but still scored solid points to stay firmly in the championship hunt. 7/10
Fourth place at the finish was a save for Sebastian Vettel and he can count himself slightly fortunate. Practice pace was poor and even needed super soft tyres to escape Q1. Ran out of the option by Q3 so settled for ninth. Romain Grosjean’s wayward Lotus nearly took him out at the start but Sebastian narrowly missed him to run sixth and wait for the others to pit before exposing his pace on the prime tyre. Spent 12 laps heading the field and there was a time when the race looked to be heading into his grasp. Unfortunately, the tyre lost grip and forced a slightly earlier pitstop than planned. The longer strategy got him ahead of both Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa though so a good job to collect 12 points on a weekend where he was second best throughout to Mark Webber. 7/10
Two points from three races and a very unconvincing performance from Button, who isn’t out of the championship hunt but needs to stop the alarming slide in fortunes. Didn’t seem happy again from Thursday, although he set the fastest time in FP2. Pace flattered to deceive and he exited qualifying before the pole position shootout again, lining up 12th. Unlucky to be hit by the flying Kamui Kobayashi in the Ste. Devote fracas and this dropped him behind Heikki Kovalainen. It is tough to pass around Monaco but the speed differential between the McLaren and the Caterham meant that Button’s performance was dismal. How he spend all afternoon behind the Finn is a mystery. Spun out at the Swimming Pool attempting an ambitious pass on Kovalainen. Needs a big score to regain confidence in Canada. 4/10
Kamui Kobayashi badly underperformed when the car was capable of so much more. Like Jenson Button, disappointing to see the Japanese driver be knocked out in Q2 and his race didn’t last long. If Kobayashi had taken his initial plan of shortcutting the first corner, he would ducked in behind Sebastian Vettel in seventh. Instead, he decided to take the longer route and the result was, flipped airborne by Romain Grosjean’s spun Lotus. Damage to front suspension ended his event after five laps and not much symphony from me on this one. 5/10
I think we have to admit that Jean-Eric Vergne is a better Sunday driver than Saturday driver. Again only escaped Q1 thanks to the misfortune of another driver and his own accident at the start of Q2 meant he couldn’t do any better than 17th. Smart move to change tyres on lap 17 allowed him to leapfrog the midfield that were trapped behind the tyre hungry Kimi Raikkonen. Seventh place was his until the team gambled the lot by pitting for intermediates with six laps to go in a rain shower. It didn’t work and left the rookie in an unlapped 12th. He wasn’t happy but should be encouraged with his consistent race speed. Urgently needs to work on qualifying form now. 7/10
Mark Webber’s twin brother must have been present in Spain because the real Webber turned up in Monaco. In a car that didn’t deserve to win, he showed his might around the streets to record his second Monte Carlo victory in F1. Struggled on Thursday but strung a mega lap together in qualifying which earnt him pole position, once Michael Schumacher was moved back down the grid. Perfect start and made no mistakes throughout on raceday to lead home Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso. His consistent approach makes him another championship contender. 10/10
Perhaps not quite as eye-catching as at Williams but Nico Hulkenberg is looking better since the Grand Prix scene returned to Europe. Missed out on the top ten shootout by just over a tenth of a second and had no problems running in close company with the likes of Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen on Sunday. Jumped by team-mate Paul di Resta in the pits but took full advantage of Raikkonen being unfairly blocked by Sergio Perez to chase di Resta home. Eighth was an excellent result, considering the car is still not at the team’s best liking yet. 7/10
Felipe Massa’s job is safe for now at least after a committed and charging Monaco weekend. Threatened the frontrunners throughout free practice and was fastest in Q2. A couple of mistakes on his qualifying lap left him seventh on the grid, when third was definitely possible. Strong start saw him chasing Fernando Alonso hard and only the late rain shower dropped him off the back of the top five. Still less than seven seconds behind race winner Mark Webber, sixth place is a massive boost for Massa, both in confidence and psychological terms. 8/10
PAUL DI RESTA
Qualifying 14th was a disappointing result for Paul di Resta but his fourth points finish already of the season shows that he is almost the complete racing driver now. Kept it out the barriers with consummate ease and although I’d say he was lucky to beat his faster team-mate Nico Hulkenberg on raceday, you can see why teams such as Mercedes GP are interested in his future services. 6/10
Daniel Ricciardo is turning into another average driver. So far, he hasn’t delivered in a car that looks difficult to drive but probably would achieve better results if either Sebastian Buemi or Jaime Alguersuari had been driving it this season. Beating Vergne in qualifying is a regular achievement now but race pace is not good and was running behind Heikki Kovalainen when he retired with a steering problem. Must do better to prove his worth to the team in the coming races. 5/10
The street fighter that is Heikki Kovalainen threatened to steal a point at the weekend, proving his quality is being masked by the chassis at his disposal. Thursday was a nightmare as an engine failure and a spin meant he had to climb out of his Caterham in both sessions earlier than anticipated. Bounced back on Saturday to only wind up a tenth slower than Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso. Then ran brilliantly on Sunday to keep Jenson Button and Daniel Ricciardo behind him in faster cars and with little trouble too. A messy battle with Sergio Perez cost him a front wing in the closing stages and meant 13th looks like a mundane finish. Has plenty to be pleased though with his race performance. 9/10
Looked fast on Thursday and had potential to shock Toro Rosso in qualifying and make Q2. The Russian underperformed on Saturday and ended nearly a second slower than Heikki Kovalainen. Delayed by Kamui Kobayashi’s flying antics in the first corner chaos and an intermittent electrical problem meant he was a regular pit caller until withdrawing on lap 15. 5/10
Had the measure of Charles Pic throughout the weekend, although on a better day, could have punished Vitaly Petrov for his tame qualifying effort on Saturday. Had little option to shortcut Ste. Devote at the start to avoid the multiple accident and made his car had to pass against the likes of Sergio Perez and Jean-Eric Vergne. When they got past, had a lonely run to 14th. 6/10
PEDRO DE LA ROSA
Claimed his qualifying lap on Saturday to be his best ever around Monaco and by beating Charles Pic, would have pleased the HRT bosses. Unfortunate to be clouted heavily by Pastor Maldonado while attempting to avoid the St. Devote carnage and the resulting rear wing damage meant it was retirement in the pits without completing a lap. 6/10
Done well for most of the season but Monaco seem to overwhelm Charles Pic. Struggled in qualifying and ended up on the back row and half a second behind Pedro de la Rosa’s slower HRT. Promoted up thanks to grid penalties for Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez and evaded the first corner mess well. Made little impact in the race and retired for third successive race with an electrical problem on lap 64. 4/10
Kept it out of the wall this season in Monaco and credit to Karthikeyan to finish the race, only two laps down and in 15th place. It is hard to judge the HRT team’s merits in Formula One but if their drivers finish the race, that’s all that can really be asked. 6/10
Total scores after 6 events: Fernando Alonso 51, Lewis Hamilton 48, Sebastian Vettel 46, Romain Grosjean 46, Kimi Raikkonen 45, Mark Webber 45, Nico Rosberg 45, Pastor Maldonado 42, Sergio Perez 42, Jenson Button 41, Paul di Resta 41, Michael Schumacher 39, Nico Hulkenberg 39, Heikki Kovalainen 39, Kamui Kobayashi 38, Bruno Senna 37, Vitaly Petrov 37, Daniel Ricciardo 36, Jean-Eric Vergne 36, Timo Glock 35, Charles Pic 34, Felipe Massa 31, Pedro de la Rosa 30, Narain Karthikeyan 28
FORMULA ONE’s jewel in the crown is the Monaco Grand Prix and it has staged an event in every single year of the Formula One World Championship. I won’t be covering the whole history, just within the last 20 years but I have to start with one exception.
The closing laps of the 1982 event have gone down in living memory. Longtime race leader Alain Prost crashed his Renault on a slippery circuit with only a few laps remaining. This handed the lead to Riccardo Patrese, who promptly spun his Brabham at Loews and allowed Didier Pironi into the lead. The Frenchman only led for a few hundred metres until his Ferrari spluttered to a halt, out of petrol. Andrea de Cesaris briefly inherited the no.1 position before he did what he did best, crashed! Derek Daly became a challenger before coasting to a halt after terminal damage was caused to his Williams. James Hunt famously said in the BBC commentary box; “Well we’ve got this ridiculous situation where we are waiting for a winner to come past and we don’t seem to be getting one.” Finally, Patrese regained his composure to win his first ever Grand Prix.
Hunt, who never won Monaco gave us another classic moment in 1989 when Murray Walker told the viewers about moody Frenchman Rene Arnoux and the lack of pace he had in the closing days of his career with Ligier. Hunt’s live response on the BBC was; “All I can say to that is b#####it!”
In 1992, Nigel Mansell was aiming to become the first driver to win the first six races of the season since Alberto Ascari in the 1950s. It looked on course in Monaco until a late pitstop to replace a slow puncture. The Brit, another never to win in the Principality came out behind the master of Monaco, Ayrton Senna. What followed was one of the most doggest pursuits in the archives as Mansell tried everything to get past Senna’s slower McLaren Honda. The Brazilian’s remarkable defensive driving earnt him a fifth Monaco victory and in 1993, he made it six. Little did we know that he wouldn’t be back in 1994 to make it seven.
The 1994 event was always going to live in the shadow, especially as it was just two weeks after the painful and tragic weekend at Imola, which accounted for Senna and Roland Ratzenberger. In Thursday free practice, Karl Wendlinger lost control of his Sauber Mercedes and crashed on the approach to the chicane. Wendlinger suffered serious head injuries and fell into a deep coma. Although he made a full recovery, his F1 career was effectively over. A first lap collision between Damon Hill and Mika Hakkinen helped Michael Schumacher cruise to his first Monaco GP success, 40 seconds clear of Martin Brundle in a McLaren Peugeot.
Hill was another Brit to be out of luck in Monte Carlo and was denied a clear victory in a crazy 1996 race which saw just four of the 21 starters make the finish. Schumacher had moved to Ferrari and started on pole position, before making an uncharacteristic mistake and crashing out at the Portier on the first lap. It was the same place where Senna had famously gone off in 1988 and became so distressed, he went home for hours after the race. Hill built up a 30 second lead before a rare Williams Renault V10 engine failure exiting the tunnel on lap 40 forced him into a gut-wrenching retirement. Jean Alesi was the next leader but a wheel bearing problem forced him onto the growing list of retirements. After all that, a masterful decision on tyre choice saw Olivier Panis come through from 14th on the grid to record his first and only victory and the last for the Ligier Formula One team. For the record, only David Coulthard, Johnny Herbert and Heinz-Harald Frentzen also made the finish.
Schumacher showed his skill around Monaco in 1997 on another wet day. He charged into the lead from second on the grid and built up a colossal 22 second lead within five laps, winning in the end by nearly a minute. The Williams team made a bizarre decision to start Frentzen and Jacques Villeneuve on slick tyres and both would crash out. Rubens Barrichello held his nerve to finish an extraordinary second for the brand new Stewart team in just their fifth race, bringing Sir Jackie Stewart, a three-time Monaco winner himself to tears.
One Brit who had success in Monaco was David Coulthard. The Scot won this famous race twice. In 2000, he inherited victory after Schumacher’s Ferrari suffered a suspension failure, having led by 50 seconds at one point. In 2002 DC battled an engine problem and stiff challenges from the Williams and Ferrari teams to record a popular victory for McLaren. It was the only time the Ferrari F2002 was beaten in the 2002 dominant campaign.
Juan Pablo Montoya recorded a super win for Williams in 2003, their first success in Monaco in 20 years and a year later, it was Jarno Trulli’s turn to taste victory. Trulli’s only Grand Prix victory came on a weekend where the Renault team had the fastest car throughout. Schumacher lost his chance of winning the first six races in a season, following a controversial clash with a lapped Montoya in the tunnel behind the Safety Car.
No man has dominated Monaco since Schumacher’s first retirement, with Fernando Alonso coming the closest, recording back-to-back successes in 2006 & 2007 for Renault and McLaren respectively. The 2006 event’s main headline was Schumacher’s parking attempt at Rascasse in qualifying which was a deliberate attempt to stop Alonso, Mark Webber, Kimi Raikkonen and Giancarlo Fisichella beating his fastest time. The stewards sent him to the back of the grid and he was vilified in the entire paddock. Some say it was his antics in Monaco that played a part in him announcing his retirement later in the season.
The honours in the last four seasons have been split between Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel. To win Monaco, you need speed, skill, a bit of luck and total commitment as one mistake and it is an expensive accident against the magnetic attraction of the barriers. Considering the unpredictable start to 2012 so far, a sixth different winner is highly possible, especially on this circuit where form can fluctuate.
MY TOP TEN MONACO MEMORIES
1. The epic battle between Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell for the victory in 1992.
2. Olivier Panis achieving victory against the odds in the crazy 1996 event.
3. Michael Schumacher’s masterclass in the wet in 1997.
4. Red Bull’s amazing celebrations after Mark Webber led Sebastian Vettel home to a 1-2 in 2010.
5. That unforgettable finish in 1982; the race that no-one seemed to want to win!
6. Alexander Wurz taking on Michael Schumacher in a fantastic battle in 1998, the highlight of Wurz’s F1 career.
7. Jenson Button parking in the wrong place and having to rundown the start-finish straight to the crowd’s acclaim, following his dominant performance for Brawn GP in 2009.
8. James Hunt calling Rene Arnoux “b######t” in 1989 live on the BBC. Well you might as well be honest about someone at the end of the day!
9. David Coulthard achieving Red Bull’s first podium in 2006, then going onto the podium dressed in a Superman cape!
10. The first signs Ayrton Senna would become a superstar, in the shortened 1984 race for the underfunded Toleman team.
WELCOME to my fifth driver performance scoring chart of the 2012 Formula One season which covers how I thought every driver did in the 2012 Gran Premio de Espana:
After his Bahrain dominance, Sebastian Vettel had a quiet time in Barcelona, as Red Bull continue to try and understand the tyres behind their 2012 package. Looked ominously fast on Friday and in Saturday practice but the pace disappeared in qualifying and the team elected to do some battery runs rather than competitive laps. Held off Kamui Kobayashi on the first lap, then had to battle a nose change after debris damaged his old front wing and a drive-through penalty for ignoring yellow flags. Gained late positions on Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to recover to sixth and maintain a joint championship lead. 7/10
Looked dangerous on Friday, given the prestigious pace of the Lotus on long runs. Qualifying was slightly lacklustre, which now leaves him behind Romain Grosjean 4-1 in those rankings. Fine start had him challenging for the lead into turn one, then settled into a quiet pattern, keeping a safe distance from the first two, probably too safe. Attacked brilliantly in the final stint and would have passed Fernando Alonso if the race ended a lap later and his general frustration on the podium suggested another case of what might have been. 9/10
Romain Grosjean achieved his third successive points finish, although there still were some nervous moments during the race. A slow start had him side-by-side with Sergio Perez which led to contact on the exit of turn two. Grosjean survived this and another collision with Bruno Senna later, that trimmed the Lotus of some front wing parts. Once past Nico Rosberg, drove into the distance to finish a commanding fourth and this, despite losing the whole of FP3 after being grounded by a fuel pressure problem. Looking like the complete Grand Prix driver now. 8/10
Battled a heavy cold and an oversteery chassis all weekend and Mark Webber carried a long face around the paddock throughout. A trip into the gravel in FP2 highlighted his struggles although it was more the team’s fault than his in failing to make the final part of qualifying. Dismal start left him languishing in 15th and a nose change like his team-mate Sebastian Vettel put him out of the points reckoning. Will want to improve in Monaco. 5/10
The words luck and Lewis Hamilton don’t fit into the same sentence so far in 2012. Hamilton was flying around Barcelona and dominated qualifying to take McLaren’s 150th Formula One pole position. Unfortunately, human error meant the team told Hamilton to stop on the track after his flying lap, as he didn’t enough fuel to both return to the pits and give the FIA a required sample after qualifying. The stewards took a stringent approach and sent the Brit to the back of the grid. On an almost impossible two stop strategy, Hamilton did well to battle back and finish eighth and ahead of team-mate Jenson Button, on a circuit where overtaking is difficult at best. When the luck changes, he will win races in 2012, he just needs to stay cool and positive as he is at the moment. 9/10
PAUL DI RESTA
Force India brought some signficiant upgrades to Spain but struggled to challenge for points, despite the best efforts of both drivers. Paul di Resta started 12th and operated around the points for the majority of the race. Race pace was slightly slower than Nico Hulkenberg for the first time this season and a struggle on the prime tyre allowed the Toro Rosso cars to overtake in the closing laps, leaving the Scot in a disappointing 14th place at the finish. Final result wasn’t justified with his hard working efforts as ever. 7/10
Nico Rosberg had his usual mundane race, staying out of trouble and picking up points on a circuit that seemed to highlight that despite winning in China, Mercedes GP still have work to do, especially in hot track temperatures. Started sixth after one qualifying attempt and benefited from a tangle between Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez to run fourth for the first stint. Tyre wear again played a factor and had nothing in reserve to defend fifth from both Kamui Kobayashi and Sebastian Vettel on the final stint. Seventh was about the maximum possible. 7/10
I’m starting to run out of superlatives to describe Fernando Alonso’s performance in 2012. Alonso is maximising the potential of the F2012 and doing even more, which leaves him joint leader of the championship on 61 points. Another stunning effort in qualifying saw him haul the car onto the front row and a perfect start had him leading into the first corner for the second year running. Ferrari kept him out longer on his second set of tyres, which cost him the lead and a late vibration on his last set cost everyone a grandstand finish. Apart from this, another exemplary performance from the Spaniard. 9/10
No balance, a lack of speed and not at the races. Jenson Button had a poor weekend and left Barcelona with two points but chin down on the ground. Moaning about the lack of rear end grip from FP1 on Friday, his frustrations were clear on the team radio throughout the event. Exited qualifying in the second session thanks to radical track improvements, although his Sunday pace would suggest he would have struggled to make the cut anyways. Spent most of the race fighting Kamui Kobayashi and a poorly balanced car and will be annoyed to be passed by Sebastian Vettel twice and the world champion had a problematical race too. This is one event Button will want to forget in a hurry. 6/10
After improvements in China and Bahrain, Felipe Massa returned to his Australia/Malaysia form in Barcelona. Absolutely hopeless and exposed against team-mate Alonso, suffering the indignity of being lapped by his team-mate in the race too. Blamed traffic for winding up slowest in Q2; the team increased the pressure with a Twitter status suggesting they were unimpressed with his Saturday efforts. Super first lap had him upto 11th before a drive-through ruined the hopes of scraping a point. Claimed his penalty was unfair but the way he responded in the second half of the race was pitiful and dismal. Similar performance in Monaco might see Massa ending up visiting the job centre next Monday. Very poor! 4/10
Pace in practice suggested a fantastic qualifying session and fifth place on the grid was fully deserved. The Mexican looked comfortable on both sets of tyres but his race was effectively over three corners in after an unfortunate touch with Romain Grosjean punctured a tyre. The slow trip back to the pits was damaging and a poor pitstop, contributing to a transmission failure later on ended his day prematurely. His race pace was quick though, so it was a case of what might have been for Sergio in Spain. 8/10
Kamui Kobayashi has been a mixed bag so far in 2012. We’ve seen aggressive moments in Malaysia and more passive driving in Bahrain as an example. He was on form in Barcelona and matched his best ever career result. A hydraulic problem at the end of Q2 left him a frustrated spectactor in Q3 and back in ninth on the grid. Made up for Perez’s scrappy Sunday with some committed attacking passes on Jenson Button and in the later stages, on Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes. A way behind Romain Grosjean at the chequered flag but decisive on his way to fifth place. 9/10
Button, Webber, Massa and Schumacher’s performance were all brutally exposed by their team-mates in Spain. Lucky to make Q3, before team elected not to run him as they felt not much could be achieved apart from the eigth place he would eventually start from following Lewis Hamilton’s penalty. Got upto sixth in the first stint before getting up close and personal with Bruno Senna. Misjudged his braking point into turn one, taking both out of the race. He called Senna an ‘idiot,’ the officials rightfully disagreed and slapped him with a grid penalty for Monaco. Awful performance. 5/10
It wasn’t noticed by many, especially in the light of Pastor Maldonado’s success but Nico Hulkenberg produced a calm and matured performance by himself and it was only to register a solitary point. Hulkenberg had made a rocky start to 2012 but had the edge on Paul di Resta for most of the weekend, even though the Scot edged him out to 12th on the grid. Kept Lewis Hamilton behind in the early stages and the way he dealt with the pressure that Mark Webber put on him throughout the last 30 laps was impressive, considering the Force India just wasn’t fast enough for points this weekend. A great effort and will no doubt help his confidence for future events. 9/10
There was a bit of luck in the way he achieved pole position after Lewis Hamilton’s penalty following qualifying but his performance on Sunday was no fluke. Maldonado was in superb form all weekend and was a contender for a strong result from the moment he went second fastest in FP3. His qualifying lap was stunning and deserved his front row start. A faltering start cost him the lead to Alonso but Pastor didn’t let this fluster him and kept the Ferrari more than honest. Clever strategy placed him ahead of Alonso after the second stops and under pressure, managed his final set of tyres to great precision. Deserved fully all the plaudits for a remarkable performance. 10/10
The Toro Rosso team are in danger of being cut adrift from the tight midfield pack and it is becoming difficult to read the performances of their young drivers apart from against each other. First time this season that Jean-Eric Vergne got the better of Daniel Ricciardo in both qualifying and the race, which will leave the Australian less than amused. Will be pleased to have beaten Paul di Resta and Felipe Massa though and keeps his 100 per cent reliability record up in 2012 too. 6/10
Barcelona has never been a happy hunting ground for Heikki Kovalainen, with painful memories of his horrific crash in 2008 perhaps still lingering in his mind whenever he competes here. Outqualified for the first time in 2012 by Vitaly Petrov. Better in the race and avoided problems to edge out his Russian team-mate, although the Caterham is still approximately 0.5secs off the midfield pack. 6/10
The Frenchman went better this weekend, on a track that he knows well from his testing and Euro Series days. Bruno Senna’s error in Q1 meant he got into Q2 for the first time since Melbourne and used this fortune to beat Ricciardo in qualifying for the first time this season. Perfect start had him upto tenth, ahead of both Force India’s and Mark Webber and only some slower pitstops than Force India and a partial Webber recovery denied Vergne a point. This weekend though will give him a much-needed boost, especially in his battle for supremacy with Ricciardo. 7/10
Pastor Maldonado’s stunning weekend highlights that Bruno Senna had a complete mere in Spain. Traffic ruined his first qualifying effort and then he looked down at his delta on the soft run and spun into the gravel, leaving him high and dry in 17th on the grid following Hamilton’s demotion. His pace in practice hadn’t been that good before this mistake anyways. Williams put him on a two stop strategy but afternoon ruined when Schumacher used him as brake and put Bruno in the gravel. Then his car was wrecked by the garage fire afterwards. Will need an upturn and improvement in fortunes, particularly in qualifying from now on. 5/10
Vitaly Petrov outqualified Heikki Kovalainen in Spain, the first time he achieved this feat in 2012. Struggled in the first stint of the race but matched Kovalainen from mid-distance and a faster race lap than Hulkenberg’s points scoring Force India will give the team a lot of confidence. Reliable and improvements in KERS had aided this upturn and until they can get right in the mix, all Petrov can do is match his team-mate. 7/10
For the second successive race, Pic got the better of Timo Glock in qualifying and by nearly half a second in the process. A spin on the second lap dropped him to the back of the field and ignored blue flags which earnt him Fernando Alonso’s wrath and a drive-through penalty. Mechanical failure ended a sorry Sunday but continues to do a good job all round. 6/10
Timo Glock is a real enigma, as you don’t know which version will show up in the paddock. Will be disappointed to be so far off his team-mate’s pace in qualifying but a more committed race effort that earnt him another finish. Tough to judge race performance, considering Caterham seem to have taken a big step forward following the Mugello test. 6/10
A problematical weekend. Sat out FP1 so test driver Daniel Clos could get some running. An electrical problem lost him Friday afternoon too and another technical problem ended his qualifying early, meaning he missed 107% cut. Done a time significant in FP3 to get the special dispensation but it was all for nothing when he toured around at the back before a loose wheel saw him park up on lap 22 following a faulty pitstop. Luckless all weekend. 6/10
PEDRO DE LA ROSA
New package for his home race and did his maximum efforts throughout but with the team falling further behind Marussia and Karthikeyan’s reliability dramas all weekend, little de la Rosa could compare himself against. 6/10
Total scores after 5 events: Fernando Alonso 42, Lewis Hamilton 41, Sebastian Vettel 39, Romain Grosjean 39, Kimi Raikkonen 39, Pastor Maldonado 38, Jenson Button 37, Sergio Perez 36, Mark Webber 35, Nico Rosberg 35, Paul di Resta 35, Kamui Kobayashi 33, Michael Schumacher 32, Vitaly Petrov 32, Nico Hulkenberg 32, Bruno Senna 31, Daniel Ricciardo 31, Charles Pic 30, Heikki Kovalainen 30, Timo Glock 29, Jean-Eric Vergne 29, Pedro de la Rosa 24, Felipe Massa 23, Narain Karthikeyan 22
THIS weekend sees the hosting of the ultimate jewel in the crown of Formula One, the Monaco Grand Prix. The late team boss Enzo Ferrari once said that ‘winning Monaco is worth half a championship.’ It isn’t quite like that but after the unpredictable start to 2012, with five different winners in the first five races, Monaco could turn out to be a pivotal event when it comes to momentum for the rest of the championship.
Many of the greats have won around here. The late Ayrton Senna won six times between 1987-1993 and was almost unbeatable at his peak. 2001 might have been his last success in the principality but Michael Schumacher didn’t win Monaco by accident on five separate occasions. Graham Hill is another five time winner and the ‘Professor,’ Alain Prost triumphed four times. Out of the current crop, Fernando Alonso, Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen, Mark Webber, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton have all won around the principality.
However with the radical advances in modern day technology, especially in the car industry – have the streets of Monaco outgrown Formula One and is it time to stop racing there for good?
Last season’s race weekend had some lucky and frightening shunts that brought the safety around Monaco argument up into the mould again. Nico Rosberg was incredibly fortunate to escape a nasty connection with the barriers on Saturday morning last year when he crashed his Mercedes on the approach to the Nouvelle chicane. In qualifying, Sergio Perez wasn’t so lucky and missed the race following an even worse shunt at the same corner. Perez was concussed, bruised and admitted later on that it took him at least three races to get over the accident psychologically. In the race, a multiple accident triggered by Adrian Sutil clattering the wall at Tabac saw Vitaly Petrov hospitalised with bruising on his ankles and caused the race to be suspended. It was the busiest weekend for the F1 medical team since the 2001 Australian Grand Prix.
The officials have listened and made some safety changes for the 2012 event. The barriers where Perez crashed last season have been moved back in the hope of restricting a sudden impact should a car lose control at the fastest part of the track. Like in 2011, the use of DRS has been banned from use in the tunnel and more of the corners will have the impact-absorbing barriers that no doubt saved Perez from even more serious injury. The tunnel area has come in for criticism as a hotspot for potential serious shunts. Karl Wendlinger crashed in 1994 and fell into a deep coma from his injuries. Jenson Button was concussed and missed the 2003 event following a similar shunt in practice and Alexander Wurz escaped without injury after a huge smash in the 1998 race. However the only fatality at the Monaco Grand Prix has been Ferrari’s Lorenzo Bandini, way back in 1967.
Michael Schumacher told BBC Sport last week that the risk of racing in Monaco is justifable as it is just once a year; “For so many years we have successfully campaigned for more track safety and then we race in Monaco but in my view this is justifiable once a year – especially as the circuit is so much fun to drive. Every time you go there, you just look forward to finally getting out and driving the track.”
I asked the opinion of some F1 fans through the Planet F1 forum about this subject;
Laura23: “Schumacher says it’s worth the risk because it’s once a year. I’m sure all the other drivers, Petrov excluded perhaps, share the same views. If they don’t go to Monaco because of the risk then I’m afraid F1 won’t be F1 anymore, it’ll be a nanny stated sport. The real reason they should stop going to Monaco, if they ever do, is because it doesn’t exactly provide good racing unless it rains.”
JohnnyGuitar: “Monaco is probably safer now than it’s ever been. The top speeds the cars hit around the circuit has been pretty similar for two or three decades probably but trackside barriers have improved and the safety of the cars themselves has increased immeasurably. If it was safe to race there throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s – I see no reason why there should be any talk of stopping the event on the grounds of safety now.”
Lt. Drebin: “Not safe but safer than before. Still, the possibility of a disastrous crash is enormously high in comparison with any other race track.”
j man: “Personally I love Monaco, precisely because it is a laughably unsuitable setting for an F1 race. It presents a totally unique challenge for the drivers, provides a totally unique setting for the fans and the race’s rich history means that it should never be removed from the calendar.”
slide: “No , it seems dangerous to race there but thats the draw.”
The Monaco Grand Prix is the most prestigious event on the calendar and still king of the street circuits, despite the glamour of night racing in Singapore. If you’d say Monaco is dangerous, what about faster tracks with average speed like Spa, Suzuka and Monza? Fingers crossed that the weekend goes through peacefully without any serious accidents but the risk has always been there. It isn’t a deathtrap and as far as I’m concerned, if the race in Monte Carlo disappeared ever – there wouldn’t be much point of holding a Formula One World Championship.
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 driver on the list is JJ Lehto, who had some natural speed but lacked luck, consistency and has fallen on hard times especially since his F1 career ended.
NAME: JJ Lehto
TEAMS: Onyx (1989-1990), Dallara (1991-1992), Sauber (1993-1994), Benetton (1994)
GP STARTS: 62
BEST FINISH: 3rd (1991 San Marino GP)
THE Finns have produced three Formula One world champions in Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen and Kimi Raikkonen. JJ Lehto was another Scandinavian who seemed to have been born with natural speed but luck and injury seemed to be against him.
Lehto won junior formula titles in Britain and Scandinavia but struggled in the international Formula 3000 series in 1989 racing for Pacific. Fourth place at the event in Pau was the only highlight. However Lehto was in Formula One by the end of the season, competing for the Onyx team. He took over from Bertrand Gachot but failed to pre-qualify for his first event in Portugal and didn’t make much of an impression in the other events. He stayed on for 1990 but by now, the team were in dire financial difficulties. He recorded only one finish, 12th at the San Marino Grand Prix as both he and Gregor Foitek always struggled to get out of pre-qualifying. The team folded shortly after the Hungarian race and it left JJ out of a drive and at this time, a danger he might be quickly forgotten about.
A test for Ferrari though before his Onyx days came back to him when he signed up to drive for the Scuderia Italia or Dallara team as they better known. The close links between the two at the time helping with Lehto being signed up alongside Emanuele Pirro. Once again, finishes were at a premium thanks to poor reliability but out of the five times he got to the chequered flag, there was a memorable result at Imola. In mixed conditions, he kept his cool to record a shock podium finish where others fell off the road.
He stayed on with Dallara for 1992, with Pirro replaced by Pierluigi Martini. Sadly, there were no points but more a more reliable car and some creditable qualifying performances. Seventh at Spa was his best result. Dallara went bust and Lehto was a free agent again. The new Sauber team snapped him up for 1993 and this was his most consistent and best season. He qualified sixth on the team’s debut in Kyalami and finished fifth in wet conditions. Another fourth place followed at Imola although he didn’t get along well with Karl Wendlinger, his team-mate. Crashing into him on the first lap in Monte Carlo didn’t help relations. As the season drifted towards its end, he got involved in more incidents with other drivers and Sauber decided not to renew his contract.
Flavio Briatore noticed something and put him into the Benetton team alongside Michael Schumacher for 1994. Luck deserted him when he sustained a serious neck injury thanks to a testing crash at Silverstone. He was forced to sit out for the first two races and returned at Imola. Still struggling with his neck injury, JJ’s qualifying effort of fifth was excellent. However he was seriously affected by the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger and he had his own lucky escape on raceday when he stalled his car and was ploughed into by Pedro Lamy in the Lotus.
He lost a certain third place in Barcelona thanks to a late engine failure and raced well to a point in Canada but injury and a loss of confidence saw him rested by Briatore in favour of test driver Jos Verstappen. He returned to Benetton for two races when Schumacher was banned by the FIA for the black flag infringement but struggled still and a final shot at Sauber in the final two races didn’t work out. Looking tired and confused after a traumatic campaign, Lehto was finished in F1.
He moved into sportscars afterwards and actually won the Le Mans 24 Hours twice, for McLaren in 1995 and Audi in 2005. He was an expert commentator on Formula One for Finnish Television and there was an unsuccessful season in CART in 1998 and he has fallen on tough times in recent years.
In June 2010, Lehto was involved in a boating accident in Finland, killing a passenger and leaving the Finn with injuries. He faced charges of reckless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. Last December, JJ Lehto was sentenced to two years in jail, found guilty on two charges of homicide and drunk driving of a boat. He denied all the charges and has served intention to appeal.
NEXT TIME ON THE DRIVER FILES: One of the most experienced drivers on the Grand Prix grid, Riccardo Patrese.
THE elder statesman in Formula One, one of the greatest ever is going through another barren period in his failed comeback. If some say Kenny Dalglish’s second return to the Liverpool FC dugout was unsuccessful, as he was sacked this week, what does this say about Michael Schumacher’s return.
Statistics can sometimes make viewpoints ridiculous but these facts don’t lie. Two and a half years into his return and it reads; no wins, no pole positions, only twice in the top three in qualifying, no podiums and a series of desperate crashes which indicate that reactions are getting slower and speed is being lost. True, form is temporary and class is permanent but Schumacher has shown evidently little in his return and after five races in 2012, he sits a dismal 18th in the championship, with three non-finishes and just two points to show for his efforts. This is Schumacher’s worst start to a Formula One season and there will be those in the paddock will be questioning his motivation to continue.
The second Michael Schumacher certainly is a lot more relaxed than the first version and there can be no doubt that there is some enjoyment in him competing. However he isn’t delivering the results expected and no excuses about the car in 2012 should be allowed. The Mercedes was the class of the field in China, as shown by new race winner Nico Rosberg. The team probably aren’t getting the full potential out of the chassis at the moment but whereas Rosberg has finished fifth and seventh in the last two events, Michael has only managed a fortunate tenth and another DNF in Barcelona last weekend.
In their previous two years at Mercedes together, it was notable that Rosberg had been comprehensively outperformed by Schumacher at the Circuit de Catalunya, with Michael achieving fourth and sixth place finishes in that time. The tables were turned last week and his performance was simply forgettable. He only just scraped into Q3, lagged behind Rosberg on raceday and then had a clumsy accident with Bruno Senna which ended his race after just 13 laps.
The incident occured entering turn one, as the Mercedes had a great run on the Brazilian’s tyre-hungry Williams. At the braking zone, Senna moved but only slightly to the inside to protect his line. Despite having not pitted, this was a battle for position. Schumacher completely misjudged his braking point and smashed into him. It was an error you’d expect to see a rookie driver make, not a seven-time world champion. A five place grid penalty for Monaco next weekend is deserved and with Monte Carlo being so difficult to overtake on, his chances can’t be that good to improve on his points score. What made me laugh even more was the way he called Senna an ‘idiot,’ over the radio. Those with small memories should remember Adelaide, Jerez, Hungary 2010 when he tried to put ex-team-mate Rubens Barrichello in the pitwall. You have to admit your mistakes or you don’t improve as a driver and these are testing times for the German, who might have produced some masterstrokes in the Ferrari days but is only tainting his own reputation and status as one of the greats.
While panic stations shouldn’t be alerted now and others like Felipe Massa could be only one race away from the sack, attention must turn to 2013 and what the Mercedes GP board do. Schumacher’s contract expires at the end of the season and I think he has an intention to carry on. Ross Brawn wasn’t present in Barcelona but he won’t want more performances like this from an experienced head. Ross has got a tough decision to make, especially considering the success the pair have had at Benetton and Ferrari together. Loyalty is a big commodity to have but how far can you go? Rosberg has a long-term deal, is now a race winner and looks extremely settled and Mercedes will want a second driver who can deliver the goods on a regular basis. I’m afraid Schumacher isn’t ticking this box at the moment.
Who should Mercedes go for then? Lewis Hamilton is believed to be stalling on a new deal at McLaren, works closely with Mercedes anyways and has a great relationship with Rosberg. There’s Paul di Resta who is producing consistent performances again at Force India and is groomed by Mercedes through his successful DTM days. Although he has struggled initially in 2012, Nico Hulkenberg is German and would fit well into the marketplace, plus he has talent. Jaime Alguersuari is Pirelli test driver and would bring lots of tyre knowledge to the team for next season and although there are grave uncertainties about his full fitness, a Rosberg/Robert Kubica partnership would be dynamic, considering the Pole is out of contract now following his injuries in the past couple of seasons. There are options and Schumacher’s future looks like being an integral part of the 2013 drivers market.
I hope we see more of the best from Michael Schumacher and there have been gradual improvements, particularly in qualifying performance but there are too many troughs and issues to iron out. He might love his racing for sure but I don’t think that is going to be enough to keep him in a drive with Mercedes GP next season, unless he starts scoring points regularly and matches what Rosberg can do. It is time for Michael to step up and answer those doubters and Monaco is the perfect place to begin a fightback in his fortunes, both in the short and long term.
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 driver featured is the Dane who came with big potential and left with relatively little to show for his efforts midway through 1998, Jan Magnussen.
NAME: Jan Magnussen
TEAMS: McLaren (1995), Stewart (1997-1998)
GP STARTS: 25
BEST FINISH: 6th (1998 Canadian GP)
NOW 38 years old, Jan Magnussen was one of Denmark’s highest hopes but in Formula One, it all went badly wrong. This isn’t to say that he wasn’t a bad driver, sometimes things don’t go according to form and plan. A real shame for a driver who threatened great things in his junior career.
Magnussen came into Formula One with a huge reputation, especially after dismantling the competition in the 1994 British Formula 3 Championship. Competing for Paul Stewart Racing, he beat Ayrton Senna’s record of 13 wins in a season. Once he won the second event at Donington Park in April 1994, the title trophy might as well been awarded to him. Jan won six of the first eight races and ended up with a final total of 14 wins from 18 starts. Magnussen ended with a total of 308 points, a massive 125 points clear of his nearest challenger, which was Belgian Vincent Radermacker.
Magnussen did some testing for McLaren in 1995 and when regular driver Mika Hakkinen went down with appendicitis, Magnussen was drafted into the team for the Pacific Grand Prix in 1995. He actually did fairly well, having a good dice with Rubens Barrichello’s Jordan throughout and finished a creditable tenth, just behind team-mate Mark Blundell. After some touring car racing in 1996, Jan got his big break with the new Stewart Grand Prix team. Having raced in Paul Stewart’s F3 team, he was seen the perfect fit to partner the experienced and versatile Barrichello in 1997.
The season was always going to be a learning experience and Magnussen’s confidence took a severe hit. No points in 17 races and not many finishes either, as the Ford engine often tended to blow up rather than survive to the chequered flag. Seventh in the wet Monaco Grand Prix was his best result and ninth at the season finale in Jerez was a solid effort, having raced the Benetton’s and Olivier Panis in the Prost for most of the event. The Dane’s best race came at the A1-Ring, where he qualified an excellent sixth and ran as high as fourth, ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and David Coulthard amongst others. Magnussen slipped to tenth after the team put him on the wrong pit strategy and a broken driveshaft eventually ended his race.
1998 started even worse, when he took himself and Ralf Schumacher off on the third lap in Melbourne. He was miles behind Barrichello in the same car, qualifying slowest in Argentina, 21st at Imola and 20th in Barcelona. Stories about his future continued to put Magnussen under pressure, so crashing into Barrichello at the first corner at Imola didn’t help matters. By the time of the seventh event in 1998, Magnussen had to deliver a brilliant performance and another dismal qualifying effort in Montreal, again in 20th left him fighting against a huge tidalwave. His race was highly impressive, running fourth and keeping a consistent pace throughout. Although he got some luck in the amount of retirements in Canada, he scored a championship point in sixth. Sadly the damage had already been done and Jackie Stewart replaced him with Dutchman Jos Verstappen for the rest of the season.
Since his F1 rejection, Magnussen has turned into an almost complete motorsport competitor. He has raced in CART, Danish Touring Cars and more predominately in sportscars. At Le Mans every year since 1999, his best finish at La Sarthe has been fourth in 2003 and 2006.
Sir Jackie Stewart once said Jan Magnussen was the greatest young talent since the early days of Ayrton Senna. Sadly his Formula One experience turned into a forgettable, rather than a memorable time.
NEXT TIME ON THE DRIVER FILES: Flying Finn JJ Lehto, who has fallen on hard times of late but had spectacular natural speed.
WILLIAMS first Grand Prix victory since 2004 was overshadowed yesterday by a terrifying fire that destroyed their pit garage after the Spanish Grand Prix. Luckily, there were no serious injuries although 31 people had to be treated for smoke inhalation. Seven mechanics remained in hospital overnight, bringing down a dark spell on the first European race of the season.
The fire began in the back of the garage and spread feriously, with black smoke billowing out of the front, sending panic across the faces of team personnel and the worldwide media. It happened around 90 minutes after the race yesterday, with the team basking in the glory of Pastor Maldonado’s amazing win in Barcelona.
A Williams spokesperson said afterwards; “Four team personnel were injured in the incident and subsequently taken to the medical centre. Three are now receiving treatment at local hospitals for their injuries, while the fourth has been released. The team will monitor their condition and ensure they receive the best possible care. The team, the fire services and the police are working together to determine the root cause of the fire.”
The team have confirmed that the blaze started in the fuel area. Spanish police and the fire service are still trying to establish the cause today. This is possibly through an explosion from a KERS unit as fuel leaked out of Bruno Senna’s car that was being dismantled following his early exit from the race on lap 14. The fuel ignited and within seconds, the whole garage was alight. Maldonado’s car was still in parc ferme at the time, having its scruitneering check but Senna’s car was gutted.
At the time, the Williams team had just been having a group photo to celebrate Maldonado’s victory with Sir Frank Williams giving a speech to the team’s joyous mechanics. That joy turned to shock and although the fire was extinguished within 20 minutes, it is very fortunate that there wasn’t anything more serious that occured. Sir Frank was taken to safety quickly, as confirmed by Williams third driver, Valteri Bottas who told BBC Sport; “I was there when Frank Williams was giving his speech to everyone, I felt an explosion from behind, somewhere from the fuel area, and everyone ran out quickly.”
Sky Sports F1 pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz was at the scene when the fire started. Reporting live on the channel, he said “I saw the fire take hold and it just absolutely erupted. We were talking to Alex Wurz at the time and we were just having a look [into the garage] and suddenly I saw this wall of flame erupt from behind the Williams garage divider. It looked to be in the area where they store things like fuel and oil and gearboxes and computers and there will be an immense amount of damage to a lot of equipment.”
The Formula One fraternity came together with rapid help from the nearby Caterham, Toro Rosso, Force India and HRT teams to bring the blaze under control. Some Caterham and Force India members had to have treatment also for smoke inhalation afterwards. The Caterham garage also took damage in the inferno. Teams have already announced that they will give Williams some spare parts should it be required for the Monaco Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time.
In a statement on the team’s website, Caterham said; “Caterham F1 Team was involved in a fire that started in the Williams F1 Team’s garage after the end of the Spanish Grand Prix. All the team’s employees have been accounted for and four people have been taken to the circuit medical centre for examination; one with a minor hand injury and three with respiratory issues.”
This is the second time there has been a fire in the paddock this season, as Lotus hospitality suite was destroyed in Malaysia following a refrigrator fire, which lost a significant amount of Kimi Raikkonen’s race equipment for the weekend. There is likely to be a health and safety investigation into garage procedures and also, there will be question marks about the future of KERS in the sport, especially after an incident like this.
It is a sad and sorry end but fortunately not a tragic one to what had been an amazing result for the Williams Formula One team. F1 today can breath a sigh of relief at one of the biggest escapes of recent times.
A NEW star has been well and truly born in the world of Grand Prix racing tonight after Pastor Maldonado powered to a wonderful victory at the Spanish Grand Prix. It is the first time a Venezuelan driver has won a Grand Prix and sees the iconic Williams team return to the winners circle for the first time since Juan Pablo Montoya’s win in the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix. Second place for the home favourite Fernando Alonso sees him join world champion Sebastian Vettel level on 61 points at the top of the drivers championship.
Great management of the delicate Pirelli tyres and some tactical strategy were the keys to Maldonado’s maiden success in just his 24th Grand Prix. He also had to stay calm under pressure from a charged up Alonso and constant backmarker incidents on his way to the top step of the podium. In the process, 2012 has become a record season. We now have had five different winners from five races, in five separate teams and the last time this happened was back in 1983. Also the top seven in the points standings are now covered by a meagre 20 points.
Maldonado inherited pole position last night when Lewis Hamilton was sent to the back of the grid following McLaren’s costly error in not being able to give the FIA a litre of fuel for a sample after qualifying. However his lead disappeared when Alonso made the better start. The pair went wheel-to-wheel on the rundown to turn one but just like in 2011, Alonso led into the first bend of his home Grand Prix. A clash between Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez punctured a rear tyre on the Sauber and trashed the Mexican’s afternoon. Kimi Raikkonen moved into a third position he would not relinquish, whilst Grosjean’s delay enabled Nico Rosberg to sweep into fourth place.
Alonso kept a solid lead to make sure he wouldn’t be affected by DRS, although he never was able to leave Maldonado standing. Further back, there was trouble for Red Bull with both Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel stuck in heavy traffic and both pitted inside seven laps to get some clear air. Later, the nosecones on the two cars were changed after some issues with tyre rubber and debris ending up in the front assembly of each chassis. A late fightback from Vettel, despite a drive-through penalty for ignoring yellow flags saw him back to sixth. Webber missed out on points for the first time in 2012, finishing half a second outside the scorers in 11th place.
Sharp pitwork from Ferrari kept Alonso ahead in the first round of pitstops and with Raikkonen and Lotus not able to show their prestigious long run pace from Friday’s simulations, the fight for the win turned into a two way scrap. Out of contention though would be Maldonado’s team-mate, Bruno Senna. Senna was struggling behind Heikki Kovalainen’s Caterham in the early laps and was gambling on a two stop strategy, meaning he was mixing it with some of the frontrunners but on older rubber. On lap 12, Grosjean made a late dive up the inside into turn one and contact was made, removing a corner of the Lotus driver’s front endplate. One lap later, Michael Schumacher closed up quickly through the DRS zone but made a complete mess of his braking point. He misjudged Senna’s wherabouts and crashed into the rear of the Williams. Debris and tyre smoke flew into the sky as the two cars headed for the turn one gravel. Schumacher retired on the spot, his third DNF from five races and Senna had to park his car before getting back to the pits due to heavy rear wing damage. On the radio, Schumacher branded his rival an ‘idiot.’ The race stewards disagreed and handed a five place grid penalty to the German for the Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks time.
After his qualifying exclusion, Hamilton had to start from the back and did well to miss a wayward Perez in turn three on the first lap. He battled well with tyre management and had an entertaining dice with his old rival Felipe Massa. Hamilton eventually finished eighth whilst Jenson Button’s struggles continued and he could do no better than ninth. Tyre issues, understeer and a new brake supplier might well have accounted for his lack of speed throughout the last two days.
In the second round of pitstops, Williams pitted Maldonado earlier and got him out infront of Alonso, inheriting control of the race in the process. There was no change after the third round of pitstops either but Alonso cutdown the seven second lead to basically nothing and got close to overhauling Pastor twice without succeeding. A severe vibration with the rear of the Ferrari denied us a grandstand finish for the win, although Raikkonen suddenly closed up in the closing laps, having pitted for his third and final stop later than his rivals. The way was clear for Maldonado to take an emotional win, with all of Sir Frank Williams family here in attendance this weekend; the team principal having celebrated his 70th birthday yesterday. Sir Frank Williams told the BBC afterwards; “All the boys are delighted, and I’m quietly delighted, boy did we need that win as you can well imagine. Most of the season has been thanks to a fresh group of people but it’s been very well balanced. The aero guys have done their stuff, more than their stuff. The Renault engine is very competitive.”
Alonso and Raikkonen completed the podium placings. Raikkonen couldn’t hide his disappointed in the press conference, saying; “I’m a bit disappointed. I expect to be a bit stronger in the race, especially at the beginning. At end of the race, we were good but it was too late. We were too slow at the start which is why we couldn’t fight for the win. We showed we still have the speed. Maybe we took the wrong choice in the first stop.”
Grosjean came through to finish an excellent fourth and Kamui Kobayashi matched his best ever result with fifth for Sauber. Nico Rosberg fell away to seventh place at the chequered flag as his tyres hit ‘the cliff,’ in the last two laps. Nico Hulkenberg took the final point after a solid drive in the Force India. Scotland’s Paul di Resta missed out this time in 14th and a drive-through penalty for ignoring yellow flags added insult to another disappointing performance from Massa, well back in 15th.
After the race, celebrations were muted by a serious fire in the Williams garage. Luckily, there are no serious injuries although four mechanics had to be treated with smoke inhalation afterwards. (see separate story).
A sour and fiery note to end on but take nothing away from Pastor Maldonado, who fully deserves his time in the limelight. It is always nice to see a new winner and who knows, we might get another one when the sport visits the jewel in the crown that is Monte Carlo in two weeks time. Anything is possible in 2012 if this season’s first five races are anything to go by.
2012 FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE ESPANA SANTANDER RACE RESULT
|1||PASTOR MALDONADO||WILLIAMS RENAULT||66||1hr 39min 09secs|
|3||KIMI RAIKKONEN||LOTUS RENAULT||66||+3.8secs|
|4||ROMAIN GROSJEAN||LOTUS RENAULT||66||+14.7secs|
|5||KAMUI KOBAYASHI||SAUBER FERRARI||66||+1min 04.6secs|
|6||SEBASTIAN VETTEL||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||66||+1min 07.5secs|
|7||NICO ROSBERG||MERCEDES GP||66||+1min 17.9secs|
|8||LEWIS HAMILTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||66||+1min 18.1secs|
|9||JENSON BUTTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||66||+1min 25.2secs|
|10||NICO HULKENBERG||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||65||1 LAP|
|11||MARK WEBBER||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||65||1 LAP|
|12||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE||STR FERRARI||65||1 LAP|
|13||DANIEL RICCIARDO||STR FERRARI||65||1 LAP|
|14||PAUL DI RESTA||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||65||1 LAP|
|15||FELIPE MASSA||FERRARI||65||1 LAP|
|16||HEIKKI KOVALAINEN||CATERHAM RENAULT||65||1 LAP|
|17||VITALY PETROV||CATERHAM RENAULT||65||1 LAP|
|18||TIMO GLOCK||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||64||2 LAPS|
|19||PEDRO DE LA ROSA||HRT COSWORTH||63||3 LAPS|
|Retired||SERGIO PEREZ||SAUBER FERRARI||37||TRANSMISSION|
|Retired||CHARLES PIC||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||35||DRIVESHAFT|
|Retired||NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN||HRT COSWORTH||22||TECHINCAL|
|Retired||BRUNO SENNA||WILLIAMS RENAULT||12||DAMAGE FOLLOWING COLLISION WITH SCHUMACHER|
|Retired||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER||MERCEDES GP||12||COLLISION WITH SENNA|
|1||SEBASTIAN VETTEL (RED BULL)||61|
|2||FERNANDO ALONSO (FERRARI)||61|
|3||LEWIS HAMILTON (MCLAREN)||53|
|4||KIMI RAIKKONEN (LOTUS)||49|
|5||MARK WEBBER (RED BULL)||48|
|6||JENSON BUTTON (MCLAREN)||45|
|7||NICO ROSBERG (MERCEDES GP)||41|
|8||ROMAIN GROSJEAN (LOTUS)||35|
|9||PASTOR MALDONADO (WILLIAMS)||29|
|10||SERGIO PEREZ (SAUBER)||22|
|11||KAMUI KOBAYASHI (SAUBER)||19|
|12||PAUL DI RESTA (FORCE INDIA)||15|
|13||BRUNO SENNA (WILLIAMS)||14|
|14||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE (TORO ROSSO)||4|
|15||NICO HULKENBERG (FORCE INDIA)||3|
|16||DANIEL RICCIARDO (TORO ROSSO)||2|
|17||FELIPE MASSA (FERRARI)||2|
|18||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (MERCEDES GP)||2|
|1||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||109|
|8||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||18|
|9||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO FERRARI||6|
BRITAIN’s Jenson Button set the fastest time in second practice for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix, the first European race of the season. The winner of the Australian Grand Prix lapped 0.164secs quicker than Bahrain winner and world champion Sebastian Vettel. Fernando Alonso gave the home fans something to cheer about this morning by setting the pace in the first practice session.
It was a day where it was difficult to judge who has the ultimate pace around the Circuit de Catalunya. Button admitted afterwards that despite a solid day, he was confused about the tyres here, likely to play a significant role in the outcome of the fifth round of the championship. On his team radio this morning, he complained of terrible understeer and couldn’t get a balance on the hard tyres. Team-mate Lewis Hamilton used the radio to moan about his gear ratios on his way to fourth quickest this afternoon. McLaren have brought a raft of updates to this race, like most of the teams. The most obvious change is a higher nosecone section and neither driver seemed to have issues with what was tried out at the Mugello test last weekend, so this will remain for the crucial qualifying session tomorrow.
Red Bull have brought more subtle, if not so obvious updates to their package and it seems like the Milton Keynes team continue to understand what they have underneath them. Vettel had a trouble free day on his way to second place in both sessions and probably carries the small tag of favourite into qualifying tomorrow. Mark Webber had an uneventful day despite take an unscheduled excursion into the turn four gravel trap this afternoon. The Aussie wound up seventh overall and on this evidence, will do well to make it a hat-trick of pole positions at Barcelona.
Having spent the first hour of practice sipping cappuccino and getting a baseline of where Ferrari might end up this weekend, a cautious Alonso went fastest this morning, only to slide to a more modest 14th in the afternoon session. Alonso played down expectations in the press conference yesterday and with the quickest Ferrari in FP2 being Felipe Massa in 12th, he has a point. Once again, these two will be amongst a furious scrap for getting into Q3 alongside the Williams and Toro Rosso cars. One of those midfield teams, Sauber had Kamui Kobayashi up in third place this morning whilst Sergio Perez joined Webber with a gravel visit this afternoon at turn four. This is the first race that Sauber are sporting their new marketing partnership with Champions League football finalists Chelsea. The logo of the Stamford Bridge club appears evidently on Sauber’s nosecone. Despite a shocking spelling error on his airbox, Nico Hulkenberg wound up tenth for Force India today, indicating that the young German seems more comfortable than Paul di Resta today. Force India’s spelling might be questioned but the pace of the car seems to be more consistent.
Talking of consistent, Lotus look in great shape. Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean set superb pace on long runs all day and should they qualify well, defintely have to be considered as a serious threat for the race victory, especially if their race pace in Bahrain is anything to go by. However it was a miserable day for Narain Karthikeyan. He sat out FP1 whilst HRT tried out development driver Daniel Cros and in FP2, an electrical problem through turn three meant the Indian driver was forced to stop on track without completing a single laptime of note.
Red Bull and Lotus have the slender advantage on race pace but McLaren’s qualifying pace has them in the boxseat for tomorrow at least and Mercedes GP shouldn’t be counted out. Plus, there could be a Spanish special from the awesome Alonso. It is quite possible that six, maybe even eight drivers have a realistic chance of starting on pole position for the race on Sunday and this means the Spanish Grand Prix is the perfect Sunday lunchtime starter before all that nail-biting last day drama in the Barclays Premier League.