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
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.
FRENCHMAN Romain Grosjean continued his solid return to Grand Prix racing yesterday, by nicking the quickest time in the second day of the Mugello Test.
In much better and consistent conditions than were seen on Tuesday, the Lotus Renault driver lapped around the Italian circuit in 1.21.603 to join the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi at the top of the timesheets. The two Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel were third and fourth fastest as Red Bull look to understand their new car more after Vettel’s recent success in Bahrain.
The test is seen as a major opportunity for many teams to test significant upgrades in packages before next week’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson explained on their website a little bit more about the advanced changes to Ferrari’s package. “Ferrari have tried two different positions of exhaust exit here – the one they have been racing with and the one they had to abandon during pre-season testing because it was overheating the rear tyres. They believe the pre-season testing one is the best, and they have been doing more work on that here.”
Grosjean’s fastest lap came early on in the day and on a harder tyre than the one used by Kobayashi to set his quickest effort. This, along with previous testing form does suggest that some of Lotus’s race performances so far have flattered to deceive in 2012. Michael Schumacher did the most duration, completing 144 laps yesterday for Mercedes GP before departing for a break before Barcelona. Nico Rosberg is expected to be back at the wheel today.
It was a quiet and calmer day after the storms of Tuesday but hydraulic problems for most of the day left Force India in the pits and Paul di Resta largely on the sidelines. Day three has already begun and it will be interesting to see if Lotus can continue their good form today.
DAY 2 TESTING TIMES FROM MUGELLO – TOP TEN
1. Romain Grosjean (Lotus Renault) 1.21.603 – 97 laps
2. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber Ferrari) 1.21.603 – 87 laps
3. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.21.825 – 64 laps
4. Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.21.997 – 54 laps
5. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1.22.257 – 106 laps
6. Jean-Eric Vergne (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.22.424 – 65 laps
7. Daniel Ricciardo (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.22.759 – 22 laps
8. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes GP) 1.23.404 – 144 laps
9. Charles Pic (Marussia Cosworth) 1.23.982 – 46 laps
10. Vitaly Petrov (Caterham Renault) 1.24.312 – 112 laps
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|
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;
THE DARK HORSES IN THE PACK
THIS season, German car manufacturer Mercedes GP begin their third season in Formula One, since they bought the Brawn GP team at the end of 2009. Currently, no pole positions, no wins and only three podiums to show for their efforts, with the last rostrum coming from Nico Rosberg at the 2010 British Grand Prix. It is time for the team to start threatening the frontrunners, or there could be severe drawbacks from the board in Stuttgart. In this generation of economic uncertainty, performance in Formula One is crucial or a manufacturer will walkaway. Just ask Honda, BMW and Toyota.
This year, Ross Brawn’s team look to be in a far better position than they ever have been. They delayed the launch of the 2012 car, which seemed a surprising move. However when the car turned up in Barcelona, they collected some excellent data with a model that looks consistent and reliable at worst. It looks like the issues that made heavy rear tyre wear a chronic issue last season have been dealt with. It is some team that Brawn now has, full of experience in technical and winning teams from the past. Nick Fry and Andrew Shovlin remain members of the team when Brawn GP was in existance, whilst Mark Slade was part of the Ferrari team behind Kimi Raikkonen’s 2007 championship success. Former Williams and Red Bull technical director Geoff Willis returns to the team he worked for in a former guise as BAR. Willis comes from two wasted years at Hispania. Bob Bell and Aldo Costa, formerly of Renault and Ferrari respectively complete a technical dream team.
The drivers remain unchanged, with Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher remaining together for the third sucessive season. Rosberg has performed exceptionally well, considering the equipment he has had at his disposal in the past two seasons. Often best of the rest in 2011, Nico is about to enter his seventh season in F1, hoping to break his elusive duck and win a Grand Prix. Since his sensational comeback, Schumacher has largely failed to deliver, especially in qualifying. However, he began to become a stronger match for Rosberg in the closing stages of last season, still with the racecraft, starts and strategy that made him such a legend. Form is temporary but class is permanent and Canada last year was an example that Schumacher still has that in abundance. After all, you don’t win seven world championships by accident.
Mercedes GP look like the dark horses in 2012. Few know their true pace heading to Melbourne, but they must be in a position to challenge for podiums on a regular basis and if possible, return to the winners circle after a lengthy drought. The glory days of Brawn in 2009 seem like a century ago.