Super-DRS leads to Super Pole for Super German!

With such a mixed-up grid, and so many strong teams and drivers, the question of who will win is unknown. Perhaps Kobayashi could get his first podium, and maybe Rosberg will get that long-awaited first win.

F2
It was a fascinating F2 race. I was unable to make it out to Silverstone, but I was watching the live timing and can’t wait for it to be shown on Motors TV. Tuscher fell back quickly from pole, and Zanella took the lead with Marinescu and Bacheta behind. As the race went on, these three pulled a small gap over the drivers behind, including Dino Zamparelli who was fifth for all but the final lap when his car got a problem. In the closing laps, Marinescu began to struggle but Bacheta picked up the pace. First he took the Romanian, and on the penultimate lap he overtook Zanella for the lead. It was close, but he maintained his position for the win. So far, the Brit has a 100% record of scoring points in F2, and he also leads the championship.
Marinescu took fastest lap but fell to fourth, with Alex Fontana third making it two Swiss drivers on the podium. Daniel McKenzie did excellently and finished fifth after Zamparelli fell back. Tuscher ended up sixth with rookie Hector Hurst seventh. Zamparelli finished ninth, with Iranian Kourosh Khani taking the final point.

Auto GP
Sergey Sirotkin took his debut pole position at Marrakech, but stalled briefly on the line to lose position. Pal Varhaug took the lead, and maintained it until his pit stop when he stalled the car. The team got it going again, but he was only able to finish third. Championship leader Adrian Quaife-Hobbs didn’t make the best start and struggled on his tyres. As soon as possible, he pitted for fresh tyres and then he improved. He managed several slick overtakes, before getting behind Sergio Campana – then running second. After Varhaug’s muddled stop, this became the race for the win. Quaife-Hobbs had many opportunities, but he wasn’t taking any risks and I’m sure he was satisfied with second. Campana took his first win.
Adrian Quaife-Hobbs still leads the championship with 95 points, while Varhaug is now 24 points behind in second. Sirotkin came home sixth and has 60 points, while Chris van der Drift has 49 in fourth. Both Manor MP boys are about equal, and de Jong is fifth with 43 points. Race winner Campana is sixth with 39.

Tomorrow, the same series will be on track once again. Can Rosberg win his first race? Will it be a double for Bacheta on home turf? And what adventures await in the reversed-grid Auto GP? There’s also BTCC and WTCC action.

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And the fastest team is… someone

Both free practice sessions in Melbourne today were marred by rain, and as if that wasn’t bad enough for HRT, their cars had massive reliability issues – when they could get them on track. Narain Karthikeyan’s car was available straight away in FP1, but broke down on its third lap of the circuit. Pedro de la Rosa had to wait until FP2 for his turn, though this is still a massive improvement on previous years for the Spanish outfit. Pedro’s car also only managed one lap in that session, though Narain Karthikeyan managed 16.
Wets, inters then finally slicks were the order of the day, with the fastest times coming at the close of the sessions. McLaren set a Button-Hamilton 1-2 in FP1, while Schumacher pipped Nico Hulkenberg to the top in FP2. Schumi was also third in FP1, and looks set to be a strong contender, but Hulkenberg was 12th. It seems we won’t know the likely order until FP3 or qualifying.

It will probably be dry on Sunday, so none of this wet running is very helpful for the teams. Who will be on pole? Nobody knows. Who will win? Nobody knows.

I’m off to the Scottish Highlands for the weekend, and while I will catch the F1, I won’t be able to write about it. See you all on Monday!

Germany, Ogier win ROC; Alguersuari wins in Brazil

It was the Race of Champions this weekend, with the Nations Cup on Saturday before the individual event on Sunday. The eight teams were split into two groups, and held football-style playoffs to determine who would go through to the semi finals. For each ‘match’, the first members of each team would drive against each other for two laps, and then the second members. At the end, the two teams who won the most races go through to the semis. If there’s a tie, the team with the fastest total time goes through.
The most surprising result of the group stages came when Vitaly Petrov beat Michael Schumacher by hundredths of a second. David Coulthard, driving for Team All-Stars, did not have a good time, being beaten by Button before false starting against Schumacher. The Scot got a five-second time penalty.
The semi final for group A came down to France (Sebastien Ogier and Romain Grosjean) versus the Nordic team (Tom Kristensen and Juho Hanninen), while for group B it was Britain (Jenson Button and Andy Priaulx) versus Germany (Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel). The Nordic team beat France with two wins, but Britain came down to a tie break after Button beat Schumacher but Vettel beat Priaulx. It was close after the first lap, then Jenson spun his car and it was all over. The final came down to Nordic vs Germany.
In the end, Germany easily beat Team Nordic as the organisers decided Hanninen knew the Skoda S2000 too well to drive it against Vettel. The change of car meant that the German easily dominated and secured the country’s fifth consecutive win.
In the competition to find the champion of champions, four groups of four – mostly drivers from the nations cup but with the two Timos replaced by Ekstrom and Tomczyk – followed the same elimination pattern. Grosjean narrowly beat Petrov, but despite losing to Tom Kristensen, Vettel had done enough to knock the Frenchman out. Others who made it through were Schumacher, Button, Ogier, Kristensen, Tomczyk and Priaulx and Coulthard.
The quarter-finals saw Schumacher beat Vettel, Kristensen beat Button, Tomczyk beat Coulthard and Ogier beat Priaulx. Schumacher was the only F1 driver left, and going up against Kristensen. Ogier was up against DTM champion Tomczyk. The winners were Kristensen and ROC rookie Ogier, who went through to the finals for two head-to-head races.
Kristensen fought hard, but Ogier’s speed and talent was too much and the rally driver – recently signed by VW – became the 2011 Champion of Champions.

Meanwhile in Brazil, Felipe Massa’s Desafio Internacional des Estralias – a kart race with international drivers from various disciplines – was taking place. Former world karting champion Tonio Liuzzi was on pole, but Jules Bianchi went into the lead from the start. Liuzzi spun, but fought his way back to 11th by the flag. Massa was in second, and at first had a decent gap as Pizzonia, Piquet jr and Alguersuari fought over third. The Spaniard got through, however, and quickly closed on Massa as the wet track dried. The two drivers had a mighty scrap, with Alguersuari eventually getting into second. He could not get any gap on Massa, and they were incredibly close on the line. The Toro Rosso driver edged it by about a tenth of a second. But Bianchi led all the way, winning by almost eight seconds in a dominating performance by the Ferrari reserve.
The second race saw Bianchi fight his way up the field from 8th – as with GP2 and GP3, the top eight are reversed – and soon dominate again after a scrap between di Grassi and d’Ambrosio that saw the Belgian lose out. Alguersuari fell back to tenth at the start, but battled past Massa and Barrichello before getting on the tail of di Grassi. They swapped positions a couple of times before Alguersuari pulled away for second. After the race, Bianchi was disqualified for having a too-light kart, which means Alguersuari was given the win.
The Spaniard won the weekend overall with Massa second. It’s an impressive job from the Toro Rosso driver, who looks likely to continue in F1 next season.

In the news, Scottish driver Lewis Williamson – who recently was accepted to join the FIA Young Drivers Academy – will be continuing his racing career with Arden. He has signed a contract to race for them in Formula Renault 3.5, having done two races in place of Daniel Ricciardo last year. This year, he managed one win and two seconds in GP3 to finish the best of the Arden drivers. As a Red Bull junior driver, he was always unlikely to go to GP2, and it will be interesting to see what 2012 has in store for him.

Title deciders – Formula Renault UK and F1

It was a weekend of championship deciders as the British Touring Car Championship and support races had their final weekend of 2011. This included Formula Renault UK, and with 10 wins under his belt Alex Lynn was always likely to confirm his victory today.
He did so in style, winning the first of the races and taking fastest lap. But the second race did not go so well. Though starting from pole, he had a battle with teammate Oliver Rowland which left Lynn spinning. He came back into the race further down the field. He began his comeback, but a recurring problem for all the support races came back to bite him. In almost every race, the drivers had been running wide and putting all four wheels over the white line. Race control took a hard line: three offences were okay, fourth got a warning, and the fifth got a drive-through penalty. Lynn, Alice Powell, Oscar King and Felix Serrales all had to suffer this indignity. A few others, including Jordan King, came very close.
Winner of the race was Rowland, who secured second in the championship as Tio Ellinas chose to fight for third in the race (and hence second in the championship) rather than retire. Retiring would have seen him come second under the dropped points system.
Lynn will probably be in British F3 next year, and I expect several other drivers will be looking around at their options. Alice Powell even mentioned GP3 when she was doing commentary for the Formula Renault BARC race. Some of the graduates will hopefully return to Formula Renault, and compete for the championship next season.

Another championship decided today was the Formula One constructors’ championship. Vettel was behind Hamilton at the start, but got ahead and stayed there for the rest of the race. But Hamilton had a great show of form, and his faster McLaren defended well against the Red Bull of Webber to secure second. Though Webber tried and tried, the car’s straight-line speed with DRS and KERS was not enough. At one point he overtook Hamilton just before the DRS detection point, but the McLaren had the advantage and took the place back.
In fourth was Jenson Button, who had a quiet race as Massa had held Alonso up for too long in the first half. Though Alonso had caught up to Button in the final two laps, it was too late to have a go as he was running low on fuel. Massa was sixth.
Jaime Alguersuari had a good race. Able to pit later than the other frontrunners, he was behind Nico Rosberg after his second stop. The Mercedes held on for a long time, but on the final lap his tyres fell away and the Toro Rosso driver overtook on the final corner to come home for a great seventh-place finish. This matches his best all-time finish. Rosberg took eighth. Behind, Buemi was battling with the Force Indias and won to take ninth, while Di Resta was tenth. Just outside the points, Sutil came 11th, Barrichello 12th. Senna was the first of the lapped drivers as his tyres had gone two laps before the end. A rapidly-closing Kovalainen was not quite able to beat the Renault, but took a decent fourteenth. In a strange turn of fortune, both Saubers did three stops and finished behind Kovalainen but ahead of seventeenth-placed Trulli. Ricciardo split Glock and D’Ambrosio, while Liuzzi had another torrid race.
The retirees were Maldonado (with technical problems), Petrov and Schumacher. Petrov hit Schumacher just after he had overtaken Alonso, destroying the Merc’s rear wing and causing a safety car. The Russian has a five-place grid penalty for India. HRT had a 5000 Euro fine for an unsafe release of Daniel Ricciardo.

Friday practice in Korea

In free practice today, it rained. A lot.

Oh, and Nico Rosberg hit Jaime Alguersuari – just a little tap thank goodness. He wasn’t penalised for that, but he was given a fine for being late to the steward’s office. It totalled 10,000 Euros, with half of that suspended. Schumacher was fastest in the completely unrepresentative, full-wet tyres only, FP1. Both McLarens set good times on inters in FP2 with Hamilton very slightly faster. But what they will do in the dry is anyone’s guess. FP3 is going to be worth getting up for.

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).

Friday morning practices

First up today, GP3, who have only one practice session this weekend. Instead of two 30 minute sessions, they had one 45 minute session. It was dry and wet, but the session was topped by championship leader Valtteri Bottas. Second was currently-struggling Mitch Evans, with James Calado in third. Most surprising are Simon Trummer 8th and Ivan Lukashevich 10th. Neither driver has yet scored points this season.
Matias Laine was 11th, which is also a surprise. However, the Manor driver went out from the pits after they had closed at the end of the session and did a lap of the track. He will receive a 15-place grid penalty for the race tomorrow.

In F2, we’ve got a slightly bigger field than Brands Hatch. Jordan King of course is not racing in the series for the rest of the season, and Jose Luis Abadin is also unable to drive this weekend. However, Luciano Bacheta and Rene Binder add to the numbers, as does the return of Johannes and Julian Theobald.
It was a good debut for Bacheta, who took eighth in the practice session. Championship leader Mirko Bortolotti came first, with Zanella second. Miki Monras didn’t make the top ten. But Julian Theobald (that’s right, Julian!) made tenth. Julian has usually been behind his brother this season.

F1 practice began dry, and the Mercedes drivers (perhaps doing some laps to celebrate 20 years of Michael Schumacher in F1) were doing multiple installation laps. Thus they had the two fastest times just before it started to rain. It was bad enough that for a long while there was no running on the track. The rain died down a bit, and the teams began to test the track again. First Vettel on inters, and then some others. As the track began to dry, the drivers were giving it a bit more. Bruno Senna lost control of his Renault and hit the back end into the wall, writing off the rest of his session. Later, while Bruno’s car was on the way back to the pits, Paul di Resta managed to put his car off at the same spot. The damage wasn’t so bad for the Force India. However, due to the crane being busy, they had to red flag the session as they couldn’t retrieve the car. Nobody could go faster than Schumacher on the drying track, but really the time was meaningless.

The rain affected the GP2 session towards the end. No surprise for Grosjean being fastest, but a big surprise for Romainian Michael Herck taking second just a thousandth ahead of Marcus Ericsson. Jolyon Palmer, who caused a red flag just as the session was starting, didn’t set a time and came last. Fortunately this is only practice.