Eleven to watch – Spain 2011

A mixture of good and bad for the eleven drivers this week. Some had fantastic drives, and others just faded away.

11 – Jerome d’Ambrosio A poorer weekend than usual for the Virgin rookie. Could not compete with his teammate although he got ahead of Karthikeyan early on.

10 – Jaime Alguersuari Nothing spectacular. Started behind Buemi and finished behind him.

9 – Felipe Massa An unlucky weekend and the Ferrari man had gearbox problems to put him out of the race. Again he failed to come anywhere close to his teammate’s performance. More talk about his future at the team, as ever.

8 – Vitaly Petrov Started in the top 10, but couldn’t stay there. At the end he was overtaken by his teammate who had started from P24 and had more new tyres available to him.

7 – Pastor Maldonado He made it into Q3, but the Williams couldn’t stay there and he went backwards from the start. But he was ahead of a frustrated Barrichello for all but one lap – though they finished much closer than they started.

6 – Paul di Resta Unlike his teammate, he got ahead of Kovalainen (and a fast Trulli) from the start. Stayed ahead of Sutil for every lap, but didn’t manage to get any points out of it.

5 – Jarno Trulli Got ahead of a Force India and his teammate from the start despite being back in 19th. Stayed ahead of Kovalainen though his team ran a poor pit stop strategy which caused him to fall backwards. His best race of 2011 so far.

4 – Mark Webber Started the weekend on pole, just like Mitch Evans in his GP3 team. While Evans managed to get a win and a sixth place out of the weekend, Webber managed fourth just behind Button. No podium, but he wasn’t lapped.

3 – Michael Schumacher Got ahead of Rosberg and stayed there. Beating his teammate is a definite improvement from Schumacher, whose performance has been driving journalists crazy for over a year.

2 – Kamui Kobayashi Had a puncture on lap 1 but went on to finish in P10 – last to tenth just like in Turkey. Brilliant!

1 – Lewis Hamilton – Qualified third, and after being stuck behind the Red Bulls and Alonso got ahead of them. Battled with Vettel for the win, and would have got it on a different track.

Advertisements

Four races in: Season So Far

Hello everyone! How’s it going? Four grands prix into the season, and it looks like Adrian Newey is dominating again. Throughout recent F1 history, his uncompromising standards have built championship-winning cars time after time, and the 2011 Red Bull is already far in advance of the others. So long as he gets a good start, Vettel looks like he will win every race. Of course, no race yet has been affected by rain or a serious crash or a safety car. The cars this year in most teams seem incredibly reliable on race day even if they suffer in practice, with only two DNFs and one DNS in the last two races. It is looking more and more likely that we will see a car finish more than 18 races this year, and overtake Heidfeld, Massa and Tiago Monteiro’s record.

Meanwhile, at Toro Rosso it’s beginning to look like Jaime Alguersuari’s surge at the end of 2010 was a fluke, as he has not impressed so far this season. Yes, he qualified ahead of Sebastien Buemi in China, and it wasn’t his fault that he had to retire, but only Buemi has scored points for the team so far – four in Melbourne (he finished 10th then got a boost from the Saubers’ DSQ) and two in Istanbul. In Malaysia he also finished ahead of Alguersuari. After a struggle in Shanghai and finishing five positions back from where he started, he gained seven in Istanbul. Only Kobayashi managed a better improvement.

Speaking of Kobayashi, he really has done very well this year. From a dismal start for Sauber thanks to their DSQ, he’s gained them points in every race since and pushed them back up to 6th place. His skill at overtaking shows in that he’s gained at least one place on his start in every race: just one in Melbourne, though qualifying ninth meant his Sauber had to compete with really good cars; three each in Sepang and Shanghai; and of course the magnificent charge from 24th to 10th in Istanbul. That’s only one less place than Webber gained in Shanghai. Today’s birthday boy Nick Heidfeld is also proving good at overtaking, with an average of just under four places gained per race.

Only seven drivers have qualified in the top 10 for every race: Alonso (5th every time), Button (4th, 4th, 2nd, 6th), Hamilton (2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 4th), Massa (8th, 7th, 6th, 10th), Petrov (6th, 8th, 10th, 7th), Rosberg (7th, 9th, 4th, 3rd) and Vettel (1st every time). However, only five drivers have finished in the points in every race: Alonso (4th, 6th, 7th, 3rd), Button (6th, 2nd, 4th, 6th), Hamilton (2nd, 8th, 1st, 4th), Vettel (1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st) and Webber (5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd). If Kobayashi had not had the DSQ, it would have been six.
The seven drivers who have completed every single lap of every race are: Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, Button, Alonso, Massa and Kobayashi. Heidfeld has completed one less, Buemi two less, Sutil three less, Petrov four less.

Finally, there’s been a lot of joking about the ‘Lotus position’ (somewhere between the backmarkers and the midfield). Taking a look at the numbers, it does seem that cars do fall into one of five positions on the track:

  1. The front – Sebastian Vettel, out on his own ahead of the rest (P1)
  2. Almost the front – McLarens, Ferraris, Renaults, Webber, Rosberg and Kobayashi (P2-P10 typically)
  3. The middle – Force Indias, Toro Rossos, Perez, Barrichello, Schumacher (P11-P17)
  4. The ‘Lotus position’ – Lotus and Maldonado (P18-P20)
  5. The back – Virgin and Hispania (P21-P24)

Agree, disagree? Please comment!

Eleven to watch – Turkey 2011

Only a couple of the eleven drivers I am following through the year had a great performance today. Most were okay. One was terrible.

11 – Pastor Maldonado Went backwards and was lucky Kovalainen had problems. The GP2 champion is not doing anything to impress me. Turkey is a familiar track to him. He needs to start driving better soon.

10 – Jaime Alguersuari A race in which he didn’t do anything to get noticed. He made it to the end one place higher than he finished, but could not compare to his teammate at all. Watch out Jaime, your position’s in danger!

9 – Jarno Trulli To be honest, he only beat Kovalainen because the Finn had hydraulic problems. He is still struggling with the car, and didn’t get anywhere near Maldonado to challenge him – which should have been possible.

8 – Jerome d’Ambrosio Coming back from his grid penalty he soon overtook the HRTs, who were running slower than their practice and qualifying pace suggested. An okay race, but no teammate to compare against.

7 – Paul di Resta Never really got anywhere in the race, then stopped the car because of worries from the team. He lost to his teammate in qualifying for the first time. But the rookie should get back into it at Barcelona.

6 – Michael Schumacher He made it to Q3 for the first time, but after colliding with Petrov he needed a wing change. He never really got back into it, and finished out of the points.

5 – Vitaly Petrov A spectacular start saw him beat a reluctant Schumacher, then he had an unnecessary clash with his teammate. He eventually ended up behind Heidfeld, but both brought home points for the first time.

4 – Felipe Massa Though he finished out of the points, Massa began well with a battle against Rosberg that he eventually won. However, he lost touch towards the end of the race and finished out of the points. At least Alonso’s 15 points made up for it.

3 – Lewis Hamilton Not as stellar as usual, Hamilton suffered from pit stop problems. He battled it out with Button and finished where he started in fourth. Needed a better start really.

2 – Mark Webber He didn’t win, and he was way off his teammate. But he was second, and had a great battle with Alonso that he eventually won. Good work from Red Bull.

1 – Kamui Kobayashi The super Japanese driver started 24th and finished in the points. He probably could have finished higher still. However, he brings another point home for Sauber.

Malaysia 2011 race summary

So two races in and we’ve already seen everything but a DNS: Hispania failed to qualify in Melbourne but proved themselves not to be a Forti yesterday; Sauber were disqualified in Mebourne though they managed six points today to recover their lost fifth place in the championship; Timo Glock finished but wasn’t classified in Melbourne, and was classified today; and Petrov failed to finish today but was still classified 17th. Everyone has made it to the grid, and nobody has started in the pit lane, which is of course a good thing. We’ve also had no spectacular accidents, and no wet races despite being in Malaysia today. Considering on Thursday the track had experienced a horrific rainstorm, the resulting dry spell was outside of everyone’s expectations.
The DRS seems to be allowing for more overtaking, but we’ve also seen it fail (for Alonso) and still had some great overtaking. Kobayashi was in fine form, and with Hamilton’s 20s penalty he was gifted seventh place. Neither this nor Alonso’s penalty really seem deserved, especially since the Spaniard’s only really caused a problem for himself.
Good news for Team Lotus with their being able to match the speed of the Toro Rossos towards the end of the race, and finishing a long way ahead of Glock’s Virgin. They can almost call themselves members of the midfield, and if they can get those last few tenths of pace in the next few races, it will be a deserved title. Hopefully we will see points for them, especially at Monaco.
Although we’ve only had two races, here are some interesting statistics:

Adrian Sutil is so far the most improved driver thanks to poor qualifying but good races. His average improvement is 6.5 places.
Nico Rosberg has had the worst experience, after his Barrichello-caused retirement in Melbourne and a poor race today.
Seven drivers have completed all 114 laps so far: the six from Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, and Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi.
Jenson Button has driven further than any other driver over the season so far: 1537.5km (961 miles). On 1535.1km, Kobayashi is very close behind! Of drivers who have participated in every session, Maldonado has gone the least far at 927.1km.

More to come!

Rookie analysis

Australia saw four drivers come to F1 for the first time: Pastor Maldonado, Sergio Perez, Paul di Resta and Jerome d’Ambrosio. So how did they do? I’m a biased reporter, so I’m going to compare them more fairly with statistics:

Driver

P1 time

P2 time

P3 time

Q1 time

Race

Rubens Barrichello

1:28.430 (5th)

1:27.280 (9th)

1:28.068 (16th)

1:26.270 (qual 17th)

Ret lap 48

Pastor Maldonado

1:29.403 (15th)

1:29.386 (18th)

1:30.496 (21st)

1:26.298 (qual 15th)

Ret lap 9

Difference

0.967s (10)

2.106s (9)

2.428s (5)

0.028s

N/A

Pastor Maldonado crashed out of P3, but the P2 times didn’t have the same problems and should have been closer. The qualifying times were much more respectable, and the race itself had both Williams losing out to mechanical problems. While Maldonado started ahead of Barrichello, he fell behind by lap three despite the Brazilian driver going off the track. However, it was a bad race for Williams in general. I think it will take a few more races before we can start blasting Maldonado too much.

Driver

P1 time

P2 time

P3 time

Q1 time

Race

Adrian Sutil

1:29.314 (13th)

1:28.583 (17th)

1:27.180 (15th)

1:26.245 (qual 16th)

9 (finish 11)

Paul di Resta

N/A

1:28.376 (16th)

1:27.087 (14th)

1:27.222 (qual 14th)

10 (finish 12)

Difference

N/A

0.207s (1)

0.093s (1)

0.977s

1

In every practice session for which the two competed, they finished next to each other, with di Resta only slightly ahead. Sutil didn’t get to set a really competitive lap thanks to a mishap with the DRS just before the line, which is why his time was so far behind di Resta’s. Despite this, they both drove well and finished in the points after the Sauber disqualification. So not too bad for the pair, and a very good start for di Resta, though no more than I expected from him.

Driver

P1 time

P2 time

P3 time

Q1 time

Race

Kamui Kobayashi

1:28.725 (9th)

1:28.095 (17th)

1:26.417 (7th)

1:25.717 (qual 9th)

8 (DSQ)

Sergio Perez

1:29.643 (17th)

1:27.101 (8th)

1:28.077 (17th)

1:25.812 (qual 13th)

7 (DSQ)

Difference

0.918s (8)

0.994s (9)

1.660s (10)

0.095

1

Kobayashi and Perez set dramatically different times in practice, but both took turns at being the much faster driver. It all paid off for qualifying, when their Q1 times differed by less than a tenth. Perez of course finished ahead of Kobayashi after managing the tyres exceptionally well, and should have scored points on his debut. Fantastic from the second-youngest driver on the grid.

Driver

P1 time

P2 time

P3 time

Q1 time

Race

Timo Glock

1:35.289 (21st)

1:32.106 (21st)

1:30.261 (20th)

1:29.858 (qual 21st)

17 (NC, finish 15)

Jerome d’Ambrosio

1:25.282 (20th)

1:32.135 (22nd)

1:30.704 (22nd)

1:30.978 (qual 22nd)

16 (finish 14)

Difference

0.007s

0.029s (1)

0.443s (2)

1.120s

1

Just getting into the race was a miracle for the Virgins who had been outside the 107% mark for the three practice sessions. Incredibly, d’Ambrosio even managed to be a few thousandths off Glock’s time for P1 and P2, so he can compete on the same level as his fellow driver. His finish ahead was not only caused by problems with the German’s car, since he overtook Glock for the first 7 laps (though it was an exceptionally close thing).

In conclusion: all four rookies did well, and normally Maldonado’s performance would be acceptable. But di Resta, Perez and d’Ambrosio are exceptional as rookies, so he’s going to look bad in comparison with them. I’ll do this again for the next few races. Right now, I’d rate the rookies 1 – Perez, 2 – di resta, 3 – d’Ambrosio, 4 – Maldonado.

Sauber not to appeal

After some thought and two days away from the track, Sauber have resolved not to appeal their disqualification from the first race. Though they have lost the 10 points that would have placed them fifth in the championship (behind Ferrari who would have had 14), they can be confident that later races will also impress since the part that broke regulations would not have affected their performance.

Melbourne qualifying

A complete surprise for who was knocked out of Q1: Nick Heidfeld. Followed less-surprisingly by Lotus and Virgin, with HRT out of the 107%. Massa was also close, but set a fast enough lap to push Heidfeld out. It’s more surprising because Petrov had the third-fastest time. Both Saubers shone and set similar times.
Q2 and Rubens Barrichello failed to set a time after going into the gravel. Michael Schumacher missed out on Q3 being SLOWER than Sebastien Buemi! Kobayashi also made it through, proving the brilliance of Sauber and Toro Rosso. The seven out were Schumacher, Alguersuari, Perez, Di Resta, Maldonado, Sutil (who spun) and Barrichello. Bad news for Williams, who would have been in Q1 if Barrichello hadn’t gone off. So Q1: Two Red Bulls, McLarens, Ferraris; one Mercedes, Toro Rosso, Sauber and Renault.
In Q3 the Toro Rosso and Sauber stayed at the back, with McLaren and Red Bull fighting for the front while Alonso and Massa weren’t able to get it together (Massa spun). Petrov only set one lap, and Rosberg was also further back than he might like. But Sebastian Vettel took pole by a fair margin with Hamilton second, then Webber and Button on the next row. McLaren have definitely improved since testing. The rest were Alonso, Petrov, Rosberg, Massa, Kobayashi and Buemi.