Great racing under a shadow

GP2
It was almost a perfect weekend for Davide Valsecchi, coming from eighth to first to win the Bahrain sprint race in the closing laps. Calado had made a good start, getting in the lead ahead of Leimer and Gutierrez. Gutierrez and Leimer scrapped, and the Racing Engineering driver eventually won. Leimer also took the Brit, who had a bit of wear of his tyres and also lost out to his teammate Esteban Gutierrez. In the lead, Leimer was judged to have gone too fast under yellow flags and had to take a drive through penalty. Gutierrez was back but not in charge as Valsecchi was right behind him. The Italian took the win in the penultimate lap.
Felipe Nasr, despite his penalty and having to start from the pitlane after stalling on the way to the grid, finished 6th. It was an excellent drive from the young Brazilian. Simon Trummer also did well and took the final point in eighth – his first in GP2. Razia finished fourth, Chilton fifth, and Jolyon Palmer also had a great race to finish seventh. For a sprint race, there were a lot of drivers coming from the back into the points. Even Ricardo Teixeira had a good race to finish 13th, van der Garde finished 9th and also took fastest lap to make sure Valsecchi didn’t have a perfect weekend. Grid staller Tom Dillmann finished 10th.

F1
Usually when Vettel starts in the lead, he’ll get miles down the road and nobody will be able to catch him. Today, however, Lotus were flying. Grosjean and Raikkonen soon found themselves second and third, and after pit stops it was the Finn in second. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to quite get close enough to Vettel, but they put pressure on the Red Bull. The team were delighted with their double podium – the first for the Enstone team since 2006. It was also the first double podium for a team called Lotus since the 1970s!
Behind, things weren’t quite so simple. McLaren were struggling with pit stops especially for Hamilton. The Brit was released late after wheel nut trouble, putting him in the path of Nico Rosberg. Rosberg squeezed Hamilton as he overtook, in an incident that was put under investigation by the stewards. He later had another, similar, incident with Alonso. Button was doing well until he had problems in the final laps, and was forced to retire two laps from the end. Senna also had to end his race early.
A two-stop strategy paid off for Force India’s Paul di Resta, and he took sixth behind Rosberg. Webber was well off Vettel’s pace, but managed his traditional fourth. In seventh was Alonso, doing well for Ferrari, and then Hamilton behind. Massa was racing well and took ninth, at times faster than his teammate during the race. Button’s retirement saw Schumacher promoted to the final points position.

Frankly, the race was fantastic and if it weren’t for the circumstances in Bahrain, I’d be delighted. I’m happy for all the guys, but I hope they stay safe as they celebrate and prepare to leave Bahrain. I also hope the GP2 boys stay safe as they remain in the country for another week. James Calado reported seeing “A lot of black smoke around the villages on way back from track. Police with stun grenades at the ready.” (@JamesCalado)

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KERS, confusion and GP2

F1
Team Lotus and Red Bull, Virgin and McLaren, HRT and Williams. Each of the three ‘baby teams’ has a collaboration with one of the more experienced teams on track. HRT have renewed their deal with Williams for 2012, which includes the use of Williams KERS. Now that the British outfit have had a year to work on their KERS, it should be much more reliable. Hopefully it will help the Spanish outfit to boost their performance next year. Virgin/Marussia might have more trouble than the other two teams, as unlike Team Lotus/Caterham and HRT it does not share the same engine supplier as its partner. They will have to get KERS from somewhere if they are to be competitive, otherwise they will once again finish 12th overall.
Speaking of ‘Finnish’, Williams are rumoured to be announcing at Abu Dhabi that they have signed Kimi Raikkonen for 2012. The Finn quit F1 after 2009 in order to pursue rallying. He has also had a go at NASCAR. At the start of this year, it seemed unlikely he would ever return. Now, however, the Iceman could be back. A great racer, he will be an additional boost for the struggling team. It could provide a good challenge for him in a less competitive car.
After a meeting of the Formula One Committee today, it has been confirmed that from 2012 Team Lotus will be known as ‘Caterham’, Renault will be known as ‘Lotus’, and Virgin will become ‘Marussia’. It remains to be seen what team names they will adopt.

GP2
Meanwhile, Stefano Coletti returns to racing in Abu Dhabi alongside Kevin Ceccon at Scuderia Coloni for the GP2 final. Afterwards, he will be taking part in the F1 young driver test for Toro Rosso. Stefano injured his back in the Spa-Francorchamps GP2 feature race. He won two races this season – the Turkey and Hungary sprints – despite being a rookie. He has a lot of potential, and should do well.
Another driver taking part is, unsurprisingly, Alexander Rossi. The young American will be driving for Team AirAsia, as well as taking part in the young drivers’ test for Team Lotus.

Raikkonen to Williams – opinion

Kimi Raikkonen has had an interesting year. Being removed from the WRC championship for not competing in the two required overseas rounds, and having a rather troubled attempt at NASCAR, perhaps he’s regretting his move away from F1.
Interest in the championship-winning Finn has been shown from Williams, who also had Adrian Sutil looking around. But will Kimi race his whole heart in F1? And is it right to bring a veteran back into the sport when there are so many youngsters looking for a seat?
Williams could take a look at Sauber, whose drivers have both done spectacular jobs in the first half of the season though the car’s poor development – and gearbox problems – have lost them points more recently. Though Kobayashi and Perez have limited time in F1, they can drive well. Could Williams go with two junior drivers?
It is unlikely. After their disasterous 2011, they’ll want an experienced driver to help with the car’s development (though Barrichello should have been able to do that). And having a champion on their side could give another boost. But Adrian Sutil is an experienced driver too. He has spent all his career at the same team – albeit with a name change – and could do with a new team although he says he is happy at Force India. Well I would be too – sixth in the championship! But I am biased and want to see Nico Hulkenberg return to F1, which a Sutil move would do.

I think Barrichello retiring would be good for F1 after 19 seasons of the Brazilian in the series. Once you have been around for such a long time, even if you love driving, it’s time to give youngsters a chance. As it is, it is hard to see anywhere for even GP2 champion Romain Grosjean to fit in. Therefore I do not think it is right for ex-drivers to return, no matter how prematurely they left the sport.
So if you want my thoughts, it would be Sutil to Williams, Hulkenberg up to second driver at Force India. Valtteri Bottas will remain Williams test driver with a hope of coming to F1 in a season or two, and meanwhile make Max Chilton or Luca Filippi the Force India tester.

Driver points comparison

Thanks to his third place at Spa, Fernando Alonso became the second driver in Formula One history to reach 1000 points. But unlike Michael Schumacher, he only achieved this because of the 25-18-15… points system which began last season. With the big discrepancy between the current system and the old systems, it’s hard to compare between drivers. In fact, it was less than ten years ago that points became available for 7th and 8th, so some of the older drivers missed out on quite a few points compared to today’s drivers.
In order to really see how drivers stack up against one another, I had a look at some of the top points scorers in F1, especially those in the top ten points finishes as well as those with top ten career points. It quickly became clear that the new points system has massively inflated some drivers’ career points. Converting their results to the current system, here are the top ten F1 points scorers. No prizes for guessing number one.

10 – Jenson Button 1332 points
The Brit began his career when points were only available for the top six finishes. While he has done well in the current system, his long career has helped with the tally. As has his incredible 2009 season with Brawn, of course. In fact, in his actual career points total, pre-2010 is still greater than 2010 and 2011.

9 – Gerhard Berger 1420 points
Austrian Gerhard had a relatively low tally of career points because of the time when he was racing, never picking up points for 7th-10th. Yet he had a good proportion of points finishes anyway, so the new system was only going to massively inflate his total – as well as adding on those top ten finishes he didn’t get points for before.

8 – Kimi Raikkonen 1494 points
The Finn had a medium-length F1 career, and in the few seasons he raced, he picked up a world championship and lots of wins, but even more second and third place finishes. He did not finishes off the podium very often.

7 – Nelson Piquet 1680 points
World champion and brilliant Brazilian driver Nelson Piquet had a great career tally even though he could only pick up points down to sixth. And on top of that, he sometimes lost championship points due only a certain number of his results being allowed. He also picked up two second places in non-championship races, which have not been included in the score.

6 – David Coulthard 1726 points
Scot David Coulthard was a great F1 driver, and despite not picking up any world championships he has a great career points tally thanks to his long time in the series. He started in 1994 after the death of Ayrton Senna, and only retired in 2008. It’s the length of his time racing more than his results that have given him this tally.

5 – Fernando Alonso 1844 points
Fernando Alonso was the youngest world champion in 2005, and he’s only 30 now. Despite that, he has an incredible points tally and is on the verge of beating the man in fourth place. Considered one of the best drivers on the track, he is definitely one of the best all-time drivers as well.

4 – Ayrton Senna 1859.5 points
If Ayrton Senna had lived, he probably would have a much greater points tally than the one he left us with, perhaps even being able to challenge Prost or Schumacher’s numbers. An incredible driver with 41 wins under his belt, he usually finished on the podium. Out of 104 top-ten finishes, 80 were on the podium.

3 – Rubens Barrichello 1892 points
By contrast, Rubens Barrichello has only won 11 races, usually finding himself second-best to Schumacher. He has picked up 29 seconds and 28 thirds, coming fourth 20 times as well. He has plenty of off-podium finishes as well to boost his tally, and since he’s been in F1 longer than anyone else, it’s no surprise that he is ahead of Senna.

2 – Alain Prost 2452.5 points
Four-times world champion Alain Prost has an incredible career points tally, with 51 wins to his name. Like Senna, he more often than not finished on the podium. One of the greatest drivers of all time, the ‘professor’s’ driving style helped him avoid unnecessary accidents.

1 – Michael Schumacher – 3780 points
Seven world championships, 90 wins, 43 second places, 20 third places. Schumacher dominated the early 2000s. He’s still picking up points today! He has over 1000 points more than Prost, and nearly 3000 more than Sebastian Vettel (who has 855). But Sebastian is young and has many years ahead of him. All the same, it’s a huge gap.

I hope you found that interesting. The next five drivers, by the way, are Carlos Reutemann (1131), Ricardo Patrese (1105), Ralf Schumacher (1095), Felipe Massa (1061) and Lewis Hamilton (1029).