Saturday qualifying and race report

It’s ‘as you were’ in today’s qualifying session dominated by the Red Bulls. Pole for Vettel gave him his tenth of the season, and fourteenth consecutive for Red Bull who haven’t lost a single one since Brazil 2010. Vettel has taken at least ten pole positions in multiple seasons, making him the first driver to achieve this since Ayrton Senna – Senna achieved this in three seasons, so Vettel still has something to aim for!
The two McLarens took second and third, with Alonso in fourth. Vettel’s teammate took fifth with Massa – who had given Alonso a ‘tow’ around the track – in sixth. The two Renaults surrounded a Mercedes sandwich – Petrov starts seventh with Schumacher ahead of Rosberg for the second time this season. Bruno Senna did not attempt a time after squeaking into Q3 by six thousandths of a second.
It was Paul di Resta whom Senna narrowly beat, and next to the Scot on row six is his teammate Adrian Sutil. Both Williams share row seven, with Barrichello ahead of Maldonado. Behind them, Perez in the Sauber is next to Buemi in the Toro Rosso, and Kobayashi in his Sauber is seventeenth. The fall guy was Jaime Alguersuari, who lines up behind his teammate.
No surprises in to the final three rows – Lotus on row ten with Trulli beating Kovalainen for a change. Trulli has always been dominant at Monza qualifying, with only former Renault teammate Alonso ever beating him. Glock narrowly beat out d’Ambrosio, while Ricciardo’s Italian ancestry helped him outqualifying full Italian Tonio Liuzzi.

Damage and a drive through saw Giedo van der Garde demoted to fifth in the championship, but only three points behind teammate Charles Pic who is in second after coming second in the race. Luca Filippi won and took the fastest lap by a few hundredths from Jules Bianchi, which means he is one point behind Pic. Bianchi’s point is enough for him to be fourth in the championship on equal points with van der Garde and take reversed pole for race two. Reversed pole could be critical, but so could Filippi’s point for fastest lap. Anyone could come second, which would almost guarantee them a place in Formula One in either 2012 or 2013.

No pole for Valtteri Bottas, but in a hard fought race he took the win from his teammate by 0.3 seconds and claimed the championship. The Finn is the second GP3 champion, and will no doubt be heading to GP2 next season. He is likely to be joined by his afforementioned teammate James Calado, who is guaranteed second. Conor Daly also had a good race, finishing sixth having started seventeenth. His teammates also had good races, finishing 11th for Callum MacLeod and 13th for Leonardo Cordeiro.

Rain makes great racing

After two tame races yesterday, GP2 and GP3 needed some added spice today. GP3’s came in the form of a wet race, and GP2’s was in a race with mixed conditions where one strategy proved better – though it was a close thing.

Nigel Melker was given pole for this morning’s earlier-than-usual GP3 race after Sims was excluded from the feature race for technical infringements. It was a wet track and raining lightly; GP3 has been afflicted by wet races this season. Immediately there were spins, and Williamson was taken off in an ambulance though it didn’t appear to be serious. Evans also registered another DNF.
There were spins all over the place, with cars regularly having to cut the chicane. Those who did manage to avoid spinning managed to get good finishes, and particularly Maxim Zimin registering his best-ever finish of 9th.
After a safety car towards the end of the race, Rio Haryanto managed to overtake a struggling Melker, as did the ART cars of Valtteri Bottas and James Calado – Calado in particular impressing as he had started 25th on the grid. Bottas leads the championship with 40 points, but just 12 points behind is seventh place: Antonio Felix da Costa has 28 points, equal with Mitch Evans in 6th. This is still anyone’s to call with two rounds left.

At the start it wasn’t raining but the track was damp. A few drivers started on slicks, including Coletti, Gutierrez and Luca Filippi. Filippi was the strangest choice, as he was starting from near the front of the grid. And immediately he slid down to the back of the field. He ended up having to retire from the race.
Wets seemed the way to go until the track began to dry, and as drivers started to pit for slicks the safety car came out as Max Chilton’s stricken Carlin car needed moving off the track. Coletti, not needing to pit, found himself at the front, and once the safety car came in he was battling against Romain Grosjean.
The DAMS and Trident cars scrapped until the rain began to fall again. Some teams pitted, but Charles Pic stayed out as a second safety car period began. This was not the way to go, with Stefano Coletti, Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez all up at the front on wet tyres. They soon got past Pic, and Gutierrez hounded a more-cautious Grosjean as Coletti zoomed into the lead. The Monagesque driver won, and as they rounded the final corner Grosjean went wide and Gutierrez took second by 0.2s.

Saturday summary

The winner in the race for pole in F1 today was Sebastian Vettel, but he was barely one tenth faster than Lewis Hamilton. In third was Jenson Button. Fourth, and qualifying for the first time ahead of his teammate by 0.015s was Felipe Massa. A disappointing session for Mark Webber put him sixth, over half a second off Vettel.
Rosberg made it into seventh for Mercedes, and was followed by Adrian Sutil, qualifying eighth for Force India for the second race in a row. Behind him came Michael Schumacher. The final driver in Q3 was Sergio Perez, though he did not set a time to save tyres.
Force India’s Paul di Resta barely missed out on Q3, and qualified 11th. Behind him was the faster of the two Renaults, belonging to Vitaly Petrov. Then Kobayashi, Heidfeld, Barrichello, Alguersuari and Maldonado – the Venezuelan failed to set any time in Q2.
In Q1, Sebastian Buemi was the fall guy, qualifying 18th but dropping to 23rd after his five-place penalty for the Heidfeld incident in Germany. Heikki Kovalainen was struggling against Jarno Trulli, but a last minute push on option tyres saw him beat the Italian by a narrow margin. Over a second slower than the Lotuses was Timo Glock. Tonio Liuzzi was three hundredths behind the Virgin, and Ricciardo was just over a tenth and a half slower. Jerome d’Ambrosio was only a few hundredths slower than the second HRT. The two back teams are incredibly close.

The first GP2 race began with a safety car as Fairuz Fauzy crashed out. It ran to time rather than distance. Luiz Razia began badly by spinning his tyres off the line, and moved into second. Grosjean went third. Luca Filippi also had a strong start.
The pit stops began, and leader Marcus Ericsson went in at the same time as Razia. But iSport bungled their release and let Ericsson into the AirAsia driver’s path. It was close. While the Swede had come out in the lead, Razia was behind Grosjean, Filippi and Pic.
Ericsson was given a drive-through penalty, which allowed Grosjean into the lead. Meanwhile, Filippi’s tyres faded and he was overtaken – finishing the race in sixth though he set the fastest lap. Pic and Razia completed the podium. Behind them came Giedo van der Garde, Ericsson, Filippi, Bianchi and Vietoris.

In GP3, it was a quiet race. Mitch Evans created the only retirement, pushing into James Calado on the first lap. The ART driver continued but finished at the back, while Evans was forced to retire. Valtteri Bottas had taken pole earlier, and managed to maintain his lead over Michael Christensen, though it was a close thing. He became the first driver to win two GP3 races this season. Alex Sims finished 3rd having managed an impressive start, and has improved his lead in the championship over second-placed Lewis Williamson.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

GP2 and GP3 races report

Watching the GP2 and GP3 races was hard this afternoon. Not because of the races, which were very exciting, but because of the Portuguese commentators who did their best to make them sound as boring as possible.

Lots of drivers did well today. Starting in the rain behind the safety car, the drivers changed to slicks as soon as the pit lane opened. But Bianchi delayed and cut his advantage to Christian Vietoris. The ART and Racing Engineering drivers battled in the second-half of the race, but Bianchi took the win with Vietoris taking his first GP2 points in second. Swede Marcus Ericsson finished 3rd with iSport. Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean finished 4th from 13th, Stefano Coletti finished 7th from 21st, and Van der Garde finished 8th from 19th. Dani Clos took 6th to give Racing Engineering a double points finish, and Bird did the same for iSport by finishing 5th.

The grid was dry, but as they pulled away for the formation lap it began to rain. Many drivers were on slicks and pulled in to change tyres. But a few smart drivers from the back of the grid had the right tyres on. Swiss driver Nico Muller found himself in the lead with pointless Nick Yelloly and Luciano Bacheta behind him. Behind them, the front half of the grid were trying desperately to make up for their mistake.
It was Alex Sims and Adrian Quaiffe-Hobbs who made up the most. Sims overtook Yelloly right at the end, and Quaiffe-Hobbs finished 4th. Bacheta scored his first points, meaning every single Mucke Motorsport driver has scored points in the season and promoting the team to 2nd in the championship. Behind Bacheta came James Calado for ART, Lewis Williamson for Arden, and Dean Smith for Addax. Not only does this mean that all seven British drivers finished in the points – and will take pole to P7 in tomorrow’s sprint race – but every team except for Carlin and Tech 1 scored points. A fantastic and unusual result. Thomas Hylkema managed his first race finish.

Mitch Evans still leads the GP3 championship on 26 points, but he is only one point ahead of Alex Sims and four ahead of the struggling Nigel Melker, who had another DNF today. James Calado is fifth with 19 points, and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs is 6th with 19 points. Watch out Mitch, the British are coming!
In GP2, Romain Grosjean now has 40 points. Giedo van der Garde is second on 34 points, while Sam Bird is now third with 31. 10 points behind his Davide Valsecchi, who had a bad race. Jules Bianchi has closed the gap to his compatriot – he has 20 points and is 7th behind Charles Pic with 24.

Double win for Lotus ART!

In both GP2 and GP3, drivers were given 10-place grid penalties at the sprint race for causing collisions. This worst affected GP2 driver Pal Varhaug, demoted from 13th to 23rd. Jules Bianchi, Luca Filippi and Fabio Leimer were also given penalties in GP2, but this doesn’t really affect their starting position as the were already retired at the back of the grid. For GP3, Pedro Nunes and Maxim Zimin also start from the back of the grid. In a race of high attrition, they had both retired. This affects Nunes more as he goes from 23rd to 30th. Zimin only loses a single position to start 29th.

So the GP3 race began with Lotus ART’s James Calado on reversed pole with teammate Valtteri Bottas alongside him. Fellow Brits Alexander Sims and Dean Smith took up the second row, with Gabby Chaves alongside Mitch Evans on the third row. There was another all-British fourth row with Lewis Williamson and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs. This gave a brilliant chance of a British driver finishing on the podium or even winning the race.
And so it was. Calado dominated, while Sims managed to get into second. Williams reserve Bottas finished third to get his first GP3 podium. Some skillful overtaking saw Mitch Evans cement his championship lead by finishing fourth, and Gabby Chaves took fifth. A wild scrap at the end saw Daly barely lose out on sixth against Williamson. Dean Smith was running well but recieved a drive-through penalty to finish 11th. There were plenty of crashes, but British-Indian-Italian driver Luciano Bacheta avoided them and did some good overtaking for his best GP3 finish so far in 10th.

The GP2 reversed grid saw Josef Kral on pole with ART man Esteban Gutierrez second. Luiz Razia and title contender Sam Bird shared row two, then Dani Clos and Davide Valsecchi on row three. Romain Grosjean and Giedo van der Garde took the final row. Grosjean didn’t make it past the first lap, however, getting involved with Gonzalez and unlucky Charles Pic. Jules Bianchi had a great push from the back and finished seventh overtaking Mirocha right at the end of the final lap.
Gutierrez managed to get into the lead right away with Razia second. The Mexican pulled several seconds in the lead to take his first GP2 win and Lotus ART’s second of the day after their GP3 victory! AirAsia got their second podium. Third was Giedo van der Garde, taking his second podium of the weekend but failing to make an impression on Razia. Davide Valsecchi managed some great moves to finish fourth ahead of Dani Clos and Michael Herck.
This moves Caterham Team AirAsia up to 2nd in the championship, though Addax still lead by a decent margin. Romain Grosjean only leads by a single point from Giedo van der Garde, with Davide Valsecchi three points behind the Dutchman.