F1 report – Abu Dhabi

Sunday was a bad day for Sebastian Vettel. First he had trouble with his hire car when entering the circuit – specifically, locking it! And when he began the race, he made it less than two corners before getting a puncture. Lewis Hamilton cannot have believed his luck as he saw the Red Bull spin off. Though Vettel made it back to the pits, he had damaged his suspension too much to continue.
Hamilton took his chance as his teammate was overtaken by Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard pushed hard all race, and at one point he came close to the Brit, but was unable to get there in the end. Behind, Jenson Button could not keep up due to a KERS failure in the first half of the race. He took the third spot on the podium.
One driver down, Red Bull botched Webber’s first stop and ended up moving him to a three-stop strategy. He went onto soft tyres for the first three stints, then did the final lap on hard tyres. This strategy allowed him to beat Felipe Massa, but I am sure the Aussie would much rather not have been racing the Brazilian, who as usual was in a race of his own.
Rosberg came home first in the Mercedes, with Sutil eighth and di Resta ninth on a failed one-stop strategy. Unfortunately, the Force India was just too hard on its tyres.
First of the lapped drivers was Kobayashi, scoring a rare point for Sauber, and Perez was eleventh. Barrichello finished 12th having started last, and behind him was Petrov. In fourteenth and fifteenth were Maldonado and Alguersuari. Maldonado was penalised twice for ignoring blue flags, the second time resulting in a stop-and-go penalty that became 30s of added time. Alguersuari had a drive-through for the same reason. Sixteenth was Senna, who also had a drive-through for ignoring blue flags and finished three seconds ahead of Kovalainen. Just as in Singapore, the Lotus was closing on the Renault in the final lap.
Trulli, who was ill this weekend, finished over a minute behind his teammate. Glock and Liuzzi followed the Italian home. Aside from Vettel, the retirements were Jerome d’Ambrosio, Sebastien Buemi and Daniel Ricciardo. All suffered mechanical failures.

In the news, reliable journalist Joe Saward has reported that Charles Pic will be driving for Marussia next season alongside Timo Glock. The French driver had a great season in GP2, driving for team champions Addax. He won twice, also finishing second on three occasions. He took pole in Valencia, at the Nurburgring and at Monza, and had only two points less than runner-up Luca Filippi at the end of the season. The French press have also reported this, and the driver will not be testing with Team Lotus as he was initially going to. Instead, Rodolfo Gonzalez will be in the car.
Meanwhile, with Renault confirming that Robert Kubica almost certainly not going to be driving at the start of the season, it seems most likely that Vitaly Petrov and Romain Grosjean will be driving for Lotus next year. (Renault, of course, will become Lotus after the end of this season)

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Vettel and Bortolotti dominate in India and Spain

What a day! Formula One completed the inaugural running of the Indian Grand Prix (won, as expected, in a dominant fashion by Sebastian Vettel) and the F2 championship was completed.

F1
The sun was shining through the haze as twenty-four cars set off for the first corner. But only 23 made it through as Kamui Kobayashi got into an incident with a few other drivers including Barrichello and Glock. Barrichello pitted for a new front wing, and despite attempting to continue, Glock retired on lap two.
There was a second incident at the next corner, and Jarno Trulli received a puncture from one of the HRTs. He drove slowly back to the pits, but ended up finishing the race two laps behind Daniel Ricciardo. Trulli’s teammate Kovalainen, howver, had a good race. For the first half he scrapped with the back of the midfield, but after changing to hard tyres he could not keep in touch with Petrov, Perez and di Resta. The trio had got their hard tyre stint done in the first lap, which paid off in the form of a point for Perez.
The Toro Rossos had plenty of wings, and though Sebastien Buemi had a failure which forced him to retire, Jaime Alguersuari finished eighth. This puts the team level with Sauber on points, though Sauber are ahead due to a fifth-place finish for Kobayashi. Renault weren’t so lucky. Senna was running well but needed to use the hard tyre. He had to pit in the final few laps, losing him the chance of a point, while Petrov was unable to overtake Perez.
Schumacher had a brilliant start and finished fifth with teammate Rosberg unable to keep up. Rosberg was sixth. Behind them came Lewis Hamilton, who once again came off badly after an incident with Felipe Massa. It is astonishing how regularly they have collided this year. Massa was penalised with a drive-through, but later retired after breaking his suspension on one of the kerbs. The other driver who retired was Pastor Maldonado, who has been having problems all weekend. He also had a mechanical failure.
Sharing the podium with Vettel were Jenson Button – who had a relatively quiet race after being troubled by Webber – and Fernando Alonso who undercut Webber in the pits. If Red Bull are going to get Mark into second in the championship, it is going to be hard work; he is 19 points behind Button and 6 behind Alonso. The way Button has been running recently, he is most likely not to lose out to the Aussie or the Spaniard. As for Hamilton, he is 38 points behind Button. This is very likely to be the first season he is beaten by his teammate.
Elsewhere, the Renaults finished 11th and 12th, di Resta came home 13th ahead of Kovalainen, and the two HRTs finished behind d’Ambrosio in 17th and 18th for Karthikeyan and Ricciardo respectively. The Indian should consider this to be a good race.

F2
Two spectacular dominating races for Mirko Bortolotti saw him top the podium in Barcelona on Saturday and Sunday, starting each from pole. Second on Saturday was Miki Monras, who found himself in a no-man’s land between Bortolotti and his fellow-countryman Ramon Pineiro who came third. Pineiro was in a similar state. On Sunday, Pineiro came second, once again running a lonely race. Behind him, however, Mihai Marinescu fended off Monras for third. It was not enough for Pineiro to take second in the championship, but he did take a well-deserved third and will soon get to test a GP2 car along with Christopher Zanella. Bortolotti, however, will be packing for Abu Dhabi where he will participare in the young drivers’ test with Williams.
There was not a huge amount of overtaking in the race, but Mikkel Mac managed a spectacular pass on Jack Clarke. Alex Brundle finishes the season top Brit after a tough year. He has only two points more than Jack Clarke, and ten more than Will Bratt who probably would have been a championship challenger if he had been able to continue. Full championship listings will be found on this website in a few days’ time.

Title deciding weekend – F2 and Auto GP

F2
The morning’s qualifying session saw Mihai Marinescu take pole for the first time this season, with Alex Brundle next door on the front row. Behind, Ramon Pineiro and championship leader Mirko Bortolotti shared the second row. The only remaining championship contender, Christopher Zanella, was on the third row ahead of Tobias Hegewald.
When the lights went out, Brundle took the lead from Marinescu, while Pineiro headed Bortolotti and Hegewald got ahead of Zanella. Marinescu got his position back after the first lap, but it remained tight between the pair while the Pineiro-Bortolotti and Hegewald-Zanella battles continued behind them.
About a third of the way into the race, Bortolotti got the better of Pineiro and prepared for his next goal – Brundle, who was slowly falling behind Marinescu. And Zanella behind knew he had to overtake Hegewald, to prevent the Austro-Italian from taking the title today should Bortolotti get Brundle.
Bortolotti soon closed on Brundle, and it was a tight battle between the pair for the remainder of the race. The Brit held on to second for all but the final lap, as he refused to give in to the pressure. But on the final lap, Bortolotti had his way as he got past Brundle and took a close second. Brundle took the final podium spot, while a trailing Pineiro came fourth. Zanella, who had overtaken Hegewald, had tried to fight with Pineiro but ended up fifth. Hegewald came sixth, with Thiemo Storz seventh, Jack Clarke eighth, Mikkel Mac ninth and Luciano Bacheta picking up the point for tenth after struggling all weekend.
If Zanella is to take the title, he will need Bortolotti to DNF all the remaining races, whilst winning them all himself. Not quite as hard as Jenson Button’s task in F1, but about as unlikely!

Auto GP
The penultimate race of a closely-fought championship took place today. Polesitter Adrien Tambay (son of Patrick Tambay) took the win, just ahead of GP2 runner-up Luca Filippi who had fought hard. Tambay is now fourth in the championship, and needs the win at least (he could also do with fastest lap) – plus disaster for his opponents – if he’s to take the title.
More likely to win are the top three. Leading the championship is Kevin Ceccon. Already the under-21 champion, he’s already taken part in the GP2 test he won. Ceccon came fourth in today’s race and will start fifth tomorrow with the reversed grid. Luca Filippi is in second – nine points behind Ceccon – and will start seventh tomorrow. In third is Sergei Afanasiev of Russia, who finished sixth today and starts third tomorrow. He is 11 points behind Ceccon.
Third-placed in today’s race was Fabio Onidi, who also took part in this week’s GP2 test. Eighth was Adam Carroll, who stalled on the grid but came back to take reversed pole tomorrow and also set the fastest lap.

The weekend is over (phew)!

It was a good weekend for racing. It began on a wet morning in German with the GP3 boys taking to the track, and culminated in a quiet F2 race at Brands Hatch. I didn’t watch much of the F2 today, however, as the F1 race was tense right to the end.

GP3 Rain. But the FIA didn’t start the race under the safety car. Everyone was on full wets as they made their way around. Yesterday’s podium sitter Valtteri Bottas was able to make the most of the conditions as Tom Dillmann and Alex Sims both made excellent gains. Williams reserve Bottas took the win – the tenth winner we’ve had this season in a tight field. Sims managed to get onto the podium for his first points of the weekend, and to become the first driver in 2011 to score over 30 points. He still leads the championship. Third was Nigel Melker, who has been through a points drought since the first two races when he led the championship. He also got the fastest lap, having pushed through the rain to make incredible gains on Sims.
The other points scorers were Pal Kiss, Dillmann (who started 22nd) and Calado.

GP2 It began wet but dried out. AirAsia tried a risky strategy of staying out on the wet tyres for longer than everyone else, but it failed them as they were losing 9s per lap by the time they switched. Valsecchi collided with Palmer on his pit exit, which means he has a penalty in Hungary of five places on the grid.
By the end it was a dramatic battle for the win with Grosjean, Bianchi and Filippi in the top three. Grosjean won that battle, with his fellow Frenchman in second and Filippi third in his 101st race.
Behind them, Vietoris came from 23rd to 4th after some good calls from Racing Engineering – who only had one driver to worry about after Clos went off the track at turn 5 after contact with van der Garde (who also retired). Adam Carroll managed to finish 5th from 15th, picking up two points on his return to GP2. In sixth, Carlin managed to get the final point with Max Chilton after Bird and Ericsson’s scrap made them lose out.

F2 Bortolotti was on pole with Pineiro in second and Clarke third. Pineiro pushed his way into the lead and stayed there, though the other two were close behind. There were several battles down the field, and Brundle and Monras both ended up at the back after spins.
Mihai Marinescu enjoyed battling with Tobias Hegewald, and they finished fourth and fifth. Armaan Ebrahim magnificently held off Zanella for sixth. Ebrahim had also had a battle with Russian Max Snegirev, who ended up retiring after crashing off the track.
Eighth was Benjamin Lariche, who has really been shining this weekend. Monras managed to come back to 9th in the final lap after a battle with Jordan King. King in his final F2 race this season came 10th.

F1 Vettel got stuck behind the Hamilton, Webber, Alonso trio and from there his race was over. Meanwhile the front three spent most of the time in close competition, showing just how even it is between the top three teams at this stage of the season. Any of them could have won, and Webber led his first laps of the race. But in the end Hamilton pulled ahead. The Ferrari came second, and the Red Bull came third. In fourth, jumping Massa in a last-lap pit stop, was Vettel. Massa had held off Vettel for fourth all the way up to that point, the Brazilian doing an excellent job.
Further back, Adrian Sutil started 8th and finished 6th. He was helped by Button retiring with hydraulics issues, but it was still a good race for the German. He’s helped Force India to retake 7th in the constructors’ championship. Seventh and eighth were the two Mercedes drivers, with Schumacher behind Rosberg. In ninth was Kobayashi, who had started 17th – boosted one place after Buemi was relegated to the back with irregular fuel. Tenth was Vitaly Petrov.
Heidfeld was another retiree, having been shunted off the track by Buemi on the ninth lap just as he was due to receive a drive-through for hitting Di Resta on the first lap. The final retirees were Liuzzi with an electrical issue, and Barrichello with fuel supply issues.

Next race, Buemi has a 5-place grid penalty for causing Heidfeld’s crash. That’s in just a week’s time at the Hungaroring. Meanwhile, F2 takes its summer break but will return at the Red Bull Ring at the end of August.

Saturday Summary

It was a good day for Russian racing drivers today. In Formula Two, Max Snegirev – who’s done a bit of driving at Brands Hatch – got his second points finish with a strong qualifying and race to finish 7th. He’s now 16th in the championship. In Formula One, Vitaly Petrov got into Q3 at the expense of his teammate. And in GP3, Ivan Lukashevich didn’t get points but finished 11th – his best finish of the season.

GP3
There was a threat of rain at the start of the race, and a couple of drivers took the risk of wet tyres. But that was a mistake as the rain held off for the moment. They were forced to pit and change tyres. Mitch Evans maintained his lead from pole, while Lewis Williamson became second. But Evans – along da Costa – had a bit of a problem caused by their teams. Their cars had had their tyres fitted too late on the grid. They were given 10 second stop-and-go penalties.
Conor Daly had a fantastic start and moved into the points with Evans’ penalty. Other drivers also benefited and managed to move up the field, including Ivan Lukashevich and Nico Muller. Rio Haryanto on his best race weekend ever was battling with Williamson for the lead.
Then, in the last four laps, it began to rain. A few drivers pitted for tyres – giving Conor Daly even more points – and the frontrunners were struggling on slicks in conditions remeniscent of the Formula One race in 2007. Haryanto, Williamson and James Calado struggled against each other, but it was the Indonesian driver who took the win. There aren’t a lot of racing drivers from his country, but he’s shown that Indonesians have talent. Well done Rio!

GP2
Caterham Team AirAsia provided a lot of the entertainment but failed to score points after Fabio Leimer pushed Luiz Razia off the track while they were battling for 9th. Auto GP championship leader Luca Filippi in his 100th GP2 race moved from second to first in the pits, then pushed and pushed to gain a small lead and take the win. Charles Pic and Romain Grosjean took the remaining podium places.
Marcus Ericsson overtook van der Garde at the end to take fifth behind Jules Bianchi, and in seventh was Dani Clos. On pole tomorrow will be Sam Bird. Clos was gifted seventh place after Parente recieved a drive-through penalty.
Fabio Leimer got into trouble twice in the race – he almost took out Adam Carroll on his charge before he pushed off Razia. He has been excluded from the race results. Meanwhile Pal Varhaug has a 10-place grid penalty for tomorrow after colliding with Kevin Mirocha on the first lap and causing a safety car period while the marshals rescued the two cars from the track.

F2
A brilliant cheeky move by Jack Clarke between the polesitter and Ramon Pineiro got him into first place. Pineiro got into second. An unlucky accident on the first lap saw Jordan King go off along with Lariche, Snoeks and Marinescu. Alex Brundle retired shortly after with a broken suspension, and Thiemo Storz beached himself in the Brands Hatch gravel.
But apart from that, it was a good race with Jose Luiz Abadin battling Mikkel Mac for 10th. Abadin got the point in the end – his first. Armaan Ebrahim also scored two points.
Jack Clarke took the win and fastest lap. Pineiro came second. Further back, a battle for third had polesitter Hegewald in the lead all the way, with Silver Lining’s Miki Monras fourth and Mirko Bortolotti fifth. Bortolotti still extends his lead over Zanella as the Swiss driver came sixth. James Cole also broke his points duck by coming eighth.

F1
Qualifying almost went as normal. The expected drivers went out in Q1 along with a less expected Kamui Kobayashi. But he’s done well starting from the back before. The Toro Rossos, Perez, Heidfeld, the Williams and di Resta went out in Q2, leaving Sutil and Petrov in Q3 along with the Mercs, Ferraris, Red Bulls and McLarens.
It was close. In the end, Hamilton split the Red Bulls. But the Red Bulls were not in their typical order. Webber took his second consecutive pole, while Vettel is off the front row for the first time since Monza last year. Alonso is next to him. It will be an interesting race.
Liuzzi was relegated five places and will start from the back of the grid. But as it turns out, that is 23rd. Sebastien Buemi has had his qualifying results excluded because of irregularities in his fuel. He will probably start from the back of the grid or the pit lane.

Bortolotti gets win number three

Jolyon Palmer did not qualify for, and Parthiva Sureshwaren didn’t participate in today’s F2 race. Mihai Marinescu and Alex Brundle were early casualties, but otherwise the race ran smoothly. Well, except for Ramon Pineiro destroying his chances by lining up in the wrong place on the grid. Oops. He was given a drive-through penalty, then began to push his way back through the field. He got into an incredible battle for 12th in the final laps with two other drivers, but ended up 14th by 0.012s.
Pole man Bortolotti pulled a small lead, while Zanella got up to second straight away. Jack Clarke managed to get himself into third and stayed there, fighting off Miki Monras right to the end. A mistake by Will Bratt meant Jordan King moved into fifth – crazy to think he’s not even been racing for a full year yet – with Kelvin Snoeks behind him. Johannes Theobald at his home track got his first ever Formula Two point, finishing 10th.
Rookie Fabio Gamberini brought the number 88 car home 20 seconds behind Sung-Hak Mun. A good effort though from the Brazilian.

Three drivers have had points finishes in every race of the season so far: Mirko Bortolotti, Miki Monras and Christopher Zanella. Even more impressively, Zanella and Bortolotti have each missed out on only one podium. Zanella’s was at round one (Silverstone 1), and Bortolotti’s was at round three (Magny-Cours 1).

Valencia snores, but King scores at Spa

I watched the start and the end of the race today. With the excitement we’ve had recently in F1, you’d think that means I’d miss crazy overtakes galore and a smash or two. But no. No smashes and few overtakes. This suggests to me that what you need for an exciting F1 race is not DRS or Pirelli. What you need is everyone driving a similar car. This was the case in the exciting GP2 and GP3 races this morning. Instead, we had Vettel winning from pole and setting the fastest lap along the way. Boring! Although Alonso did manage to get on the podium ahead of Webber.
I hear the F2 race at Spa was more exciting. Jordan King managed to get up to third at the start, but a mistake slid him down to seventh and he was eventually overtaken by Brundle in the final laps. But for a rookie F2 driver coming from Formula Renault, it’s a brilliant start! The winner was Mirko Bortolotti who led from pole. Second was Zanella and third yesterday’s winner Will Bratt after Hegewald went off the track at Les Combes.

In better news, although Jon Lancaster didn’t make it to race in Spa, he is alive and well. At least, he tweeted about the F1 race and posted a picture of the inside of a car. I’m not sure why he didn’t race but hopefully I’ll find out shortly. I was very worried when he disappeared and nobody said anything.

My brother and his family are visiting today so I haven’t got time to update all the tables until tomorrow. Hope you’re having a good weekend!