Vettel and Wickens win titles

Two titles were decided today, as the inter-team battle of Vergne vs Wickens was decided in Formula Renault 3.5, while Sebastian Vettel finished in the points at Suzuka to take the world championship and become the youngest-ever double world champion.

Robert Wickens only needed to finish nine points or less behind Jean-Eric Vergne to take the title, but his hopes were almost dashed at the start of the race as he took himself out in an altercation with Vergne. The Virgin driver had to watch the race from the pits, and hope Vergne didn’t finish in the top five. The Red Bull driver struggled himself, and eventually retired on lap nine when he clashed with Fairuz Fauzy.
It was a race of high attrition, with only fourteen drivers surviving till the finish. Six of those drivers (including Wickens) didn’t even complete the first lap. Albert Costa won, with Nick Yelloly second and Brendon Hartley third. But it was Robert Wickens who celebrated winning the title after two years being runner-up.
Alex Rossi took third in the drivers’ championship after finishing seventh in the race, with Albert Costa’s win taking him to fourth. Daniel Ricciardo’s F1 career meant he missed the race and was demoted to fifth.

In Formula One, Vettel naturally took the lead from pole, with Lewis Hamilton getting into second. But Button was on the pace, and overtook Hamilton when his tyres were fading. After the first round of pit stops he was right on the tail of the Red Bull, and came out ahead after the second stops. From then on, Jenson dominated, though Alonso (who got out ahead of Vettel as well) was closing on him at the finish. Vettel took his first third-place of the season, which was enough to secure him the championship.
It was a good race for Team Lotus, who finished for the first time on the lead lap. They were helped by a safety car mid-way through the race, which pulled the field back together. Both Virgins and Daniel Ricciardo finished two laps down, while Tonio Liuzzi was lapped three times. The only non-finisher was Sebastien Buemi, whose tyre hadn’t been fitted properly. It was a similar problem to Alguersuari’s in China.
Hamilton and Massa had their regulation collision, though for once Lewis wasn’t penalised. It did cause Massa to lose a small part of his car, which was the cause of the safety car. But these two seem to be coming together far too often. Massa ended up seventh as Schumacher’s tyre strategy paid off. The German led a race for the first time today since the Japanese GP five years ago. Hamilton finished fifth, with Webber fourth. In eight was Perez, not letting his illness get him down. Perez set the second-fastest lap of the day by 0.001 seconds – fastest was Button, whose previous lap had been 0.005s slower than Perez. Ninth was Petrov, and Rosberg came 10th from 23rd.

Final race showdown for Carlin

The fight between Robert Wickens and Jean-Eric Vergne continues to the final race of the Formula Renault season, as today’s race failed to find a victor. Wickens led the race from pole, while Vergne fought his way up the order and onto the podium. There are only nine points between them, but Wickens holds the advantage. Having been runner-up in Formula Two in 2009, and GP3 last year, he’ll want to win tomorrow. Even if he doesn’t, the support from Marussia Virgin Racing should see him get a GP2 seat next year. As for Jean-Eric Vergne, he’s a Red Bull driver so will probably stick in the series as he begins to test drive in a Toro Rosso from the next Grand Prix.

There are nine points difference between the drivers, and both are on an equal number of wins following today’s race, but it is Wickens who has taken more second-places. Therefore Vergne needs to finish at least 10 points ahead of Wickens (if he wins the race, the Canadian cannot score exactly nine points less) in order to win the championship.

  • Vergne wins – Wickens must be 3rd or lower
  • Vergne 2nd – Wickens must be 6th or lower
  • Vergne 3rd – Wickens must be 8th or lower
  • Vergne 4th – Wickens must be 9th or lower
  • Vergne 5th – Wickens must not score
  • Vergne 6th or lower – Wickens is champion

Got that? Tomorrow, the F1 championship will probably be decided. Vettel is on pole. Race begins at 7am British time, with BBC coverage beginning from 6am. See you then!

Wickens vs Vergne down to the wire!

The penultimate round of the Formula Renault 3.5 championship is over, and with Jean-Eric Vergne finishing 3rd after a problematic pit stop for Carlin and Robert Wickens failing to score after a puncture dropped him well back in the race, there are only two points between the teammates. Wickens is ahead, but only just.
The race was won by Alex Rossi, who had a dramatic change of fortunes from yesterday. A swift and late pit stop saw the AirAsia-sponsored Fortec driver emerge ahead of Daniel Ricciardo who was fending off Vergne. Australian Ricciardo will be missing the final round of the series to compete in Japan with Hispania, so this was his last chance to drive competitively for a while.
American Jake Rosenzweig, who has really improved in the second half of the season, came home fourth just as he did yesterday. Meanwhile, GP3’s Nick Yelloly – who is the first Pons driver in car 18 to compete in more than one race – finished fifth. This time, he was not disqualified. Andre Negrao also had a good race, matching his best result after storming through the field to sixth. Spain’s Albert Costa came seventh to boost him above Kevin Korjus in the championship. In eighth was Italian Daniel Zampieri, ninth Cesar Ramos and tenth Oliver Webb.
In the second weekend of October, the Circuit de Catalunya hosts this series for its final two races. They should be tense, especially in the Carlin camp. Well worth a watch!

Formula Renault UK was back at Rockingham to support the BTCC. Twelve drivers were on track for the series, which saw wins from Oliver Rowland and Alex Lynn. Lynn has dominated the series and with his win today matches the record for most in a season – 11. Not even Lewis Hamilton or Kimi Raikkonen who previously won this series managed as many.
Aussie driver Mitchell Gilbert came second in the first race, with Cypriot Tio Ellinas third. Lynn only came tenth, spinning off track while running in fifth. In the second race, Rowland came second, with Ellinas again third.
Formula Renault UK continues to support the BTCC for the remaining two rounds of the season at Brands Hatch and Silverstone. Whilst previously the series used the entire Silverstone circuit to support Formula Renault, this will only use the ‘national’ layout and the old pit straight.

FR3.5 Championship Down to Carlin

Today was a bit crazy for Jean-Eric Vergne. Qualifying on pole at Paul Ricard, he also won a race that happened quite a bit earlier in the season – the second round at Monza. He had originally been demoted to third with a ten-second penalty, but the penalty was removed on appeal by the team. This gave him ten extra points, but Ricciardo lost seven and Rossi lost three. The French driver now only had 24 points less than teammate Wickens.
With 100 points up for grabs, today’s race turned out to be a decider for Daniel Ricciardo, who was mathematically in contention. Held up by a very slow Alex Rossi for a good part of the race, he was unable to contend for a podium position. The win was taken from pole by Vergne, and in second was Albert Costa. Costa was disqualified, however, after his car was ruled underweight in post-race scrutineering. Crossing the line third and promoted to second was Robert Wickens. He now has 216 points to Vergne’s 199 – 17 points apart. In third was Brendon Hartley, and fourth was Jake Rosenzweig who crossed the line sixth, but was promoted due to Costa’s disqualification and also a ten-second penalty to Riccidardo for breaking track limits. Sergio Canamasas took fifth, with the Aussie demoted to sixth. The Aussie is now out of contention, with only 126 points. That’s 90 less than Wickens with three races to go. Ricciardo might be able to get third in the championship, but his F1 career might just get in the way. The two drivers behind him – Korjus and Costa – both have 120 points, and Rossi has 113.
So it’s down to new Toro Rosso reserve Verge and Virgin reserve Wickens. If Carlin keep Max Chilton on for next year, they’ll only be able to put one of them in their GP2 team. That is, if they don’t get snapped up by one of the other teams first, or if their respective F1 teams don’t take a punt on them next year.

Exhausting Monaco GP with overtakes

That was… incredible! Vettel gets yet another victory in the bag. No pole to flag this time, especially after his crew messed up the pit stop. But the team’s decision to run a 1-stop strategy served him well. Vettel, Kobayashi and Liuzzi all did 1-stop races, and Petrov had only done one before his crash.
Petrov was hurt but not seriously when the front runners of Vettel, Alonso and Button got tangled up with his group of runners. Unlike last year, five of the drivers from the three youngest teams finished, with Trulli ahead of Kovalainen in his second P13 of 2011.
Williams got points for the first time, breaking their duck despite Hamilton taking out Pastor Maldonado. The McLaren driver had a scrappy race causing Massa and Maldonado’s crashes. Sutil was the driver who caused the mega crash at the end that took Petrov and Alguersuari out and resulted in the red flag. Thanks to the red flag, Vettel was able to put on fresh tyres and easily maintained his lead in the final laps. However, Webber managed to set another fastest lap: his fourth of the season with a 1:16.234. It’s still 1.8s off Schumacher’s 2004 record.
Kobayashi got up from 12th to 4th before having to give a place up to Webber in the final stages when he cut the chicane. However he stayed ahead of Hamilton. Sutil finished P7, a lap behind but ahead of Heidfeld, Barrichello and Buemi.
The other race retirees were Schumacher, whose car died on him just outside the pits, and Glock. There were two safety car periods. This race weekend has seen five red flags, two injured drivers and a lot of crashes. But it has also seen overtakes, a fierce battle for the lead, and fairly durable Pirellis.

There are bound to be penalties, with Hamilton expected to recieve one for the Maldonado incident (the Williams driver was classified as he had completed enough of the race laps), and D’Ambrosio also for not allowing the Lotuses through in the final laps despite blue flags. So we shall see…

There was a FR 3.5 race this morning. Ricciardo won. Nothing exciting though. They use fairly durable Michelin tyres, so there was less of the unpredictability. Championship table will also be updated for that series.