Force India skip free practice – should we be in Bahrain?

F1
Practice One saw limited running due to the sandy conditions. As per usual, Lewis Hamilton came out fastest with Vettel close behind. Force India were busiest, and even put their cars on softs in the first session. Paul di Resta was third fastest, Hulkenberg sixth. As the session closed, it emerged that the Silverstone-based team planned to only run a part-session in FP2, or maybe even miss it, due to safety fears. What is most confusing is that qualifying is at the same time as FP2, and the race tomorrow will be later. So why miss FP2 but not the other sessions?

Force India did indeed miss Q2, while the Caterhams moved closer to the midfield – their drivers split Senna and Maldonado. Nico Rosberg was fastest, though he has concerns about the heat with the tyres. Button was not happy with the McLaren, but the Red Bulls were doing well. Webber was second, outpacing his teammate who was third. Then it was Hamilton, Schumacher, Button. Kobayashi got the Sauber into seventh ahead of Alonso, Grosjean and Perez.

Some Sauber team members were also involved in an incident last night, but escaped without harm.

Protests have been escalating in Bahrain for the last while, and there have been serious clashes with the police. We can only hope that nobody is seriously injured – Bahraini or F1. With more protests planned for the next two days, surely things will only get worse?

GP2
In practice Davide Valsecchi easily went fastest, 0.67 ahead of Max Chilton in second. Johnny Cecotto was third-fastest, 0.87 off Valsecchi.
Qualifying saw the Italian repeat his effort, going fastest on options on his third lap. Esteban Gutierrez will start second, with Felipe Nasr third to continue his spectacular rookie season. Racing Engineering’s Fabio Leimer took fourth, ahead of Johnny Cecotto – the Venezuelan having a good weekend so far. Ericsson took the sixth-fastest time but his 10-place grid penalty from Malaysia sent him down to sixteenth, promoting Stephane Richelmi. James Calado was seventh, Luiz Razia eighth. Chilton and Haryanto shared the fifth row for Carlin.
Brendon Hartley was given a five-place grid penalty for an incident with Giedo van der Garde, knocking him down to last behind Ricardo Teixeira. Slow Serenelli beat Teixeira by nearly two tenths of a second, but both were way off the pace.

NEC
Kevin Kleveros was Manor MP’s unannounced driver in car 31 for the opening round of the Formula Renault NEC. In Q1, Stoffel Vandoorne took pole with Pierre Gasly second and Jordan King third. The session had been held up for a few minutes because of hail!
Q2 was also red flagged due to rain and a huge number of crashes. In the end, Vandoorne took pole again. Reigning Intersteps champion Jake Dennis took second, while an impressive run from Shahaan Engineer saw him go third.

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.

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.

Summer day 21 – Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg – 7
Now entering his sixth season of Formula One, 2005’s GP2 champion is yet to win his first Formula One race. Hopes were high when he joined Mercedes GP for the 2010 season, but aside from a few podiums he hasn’t got that elusive win yet. Very recently, he has exceeded Nick Heidfeld’s record for the most points without a win. But he hasn’t been helped by the car, which is not so good this year – last year the Massa/Kubica/Rosberg trio were scrapping over sixth, but this year there’s very little chance.
Though Nico is the only driver outside Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari to get into Q3 for every race, he’s not done so well on track. In Australia, he took his only retirement of the season as both Mercs went out – Nico’s was taken out by Rubens Barrichello. Since then he has picked up points in seven races – this time last year he had three podiums and points in all but one race. I can only think that it must be the car.
His best race this season came in Turkey, when he managed to qualify third. He got into second straight away, which wasn’t so good for everyone else as it allowed Sebastian Vettel to shoot into the lead. Eventually Nico finished fifth – his best this season. In almost every race, Nico has finished lower than where he started, only avoiding this in Spain, Valencia (no difference) and Britain (up three). The Merc has okay qualifying pace, and does worse in the race. Recently, Nico has been something for Massa to overtake, rather than a challenger.
There’s no doubt that Nico is a great driver, and he is doing much much better than his teammate this season. But it would take a miracle for him to get out of the no-man’s land between the Renaults and the Ferraris, and really start challenging the leaders.

Points: 48
Worst qualifying: 9
Best qualifying: 3
Worst finish: 12 (Malaysia)
Best finish: 5 (China, Turkey)
Average difference: -2.27
Laps completed: 639/681 (94%)
Average race position: 8.04 (Best: 3.4 China; Worst: 13.0 Malaysia)

F1 Birthdays: 27/6/2011

Mercedes GP’s very own Nico Rosberg celebrates his 26th birthday today. The German racing driver is yet to win a Grand Prix, but is second only to Nick Heidfeld in points scored without a win with 249.5 career points.

Nico is the son of world champion Keke Rosberg. While Keke is Finnish, Nico has dual nationality and chooses to drive under a German license. Starting his career in Formula BMW ADAD (the German cup) in 2002 under a Finnish license, he won the cup with 264 points to his nearest rival’s 183. He won 9 of the 20 races, taking podiums in four more and never retiring.
The next year he began driving for his father’s Team Rosberg in F3 Euroseries, still under a Finnish license. He was competing against drivers like Timo Glock and Robert Kubica, and managed a respectable 8th place finish in his first season. He continued in the series for 2004, this time under a German license, finishing fourth ahead of Lewis Hamilton. He also came second in the Bahrain Super Prix.
In 2005, the GP2 series began. Though Nico was behind Heikki Kovalainen for the majority of the year, he managed to break into the lead in the final few races. It was at the last GP2 race at Bahrain (there was no Asia series) that he won his last two races.
His victory saw him snapped up by Williams – who have taken three of the six GP2 champions so far – to drive for them in F1. In his first year he got the fastest lap at the Bahrain Grand Prix, becoming the youngest driver ever to score a fastest lap at 20 years 258 days. He beat Fernando Alonso’s previous record by over a year. Despite this he only finished 19th.
The next two years he didn’t get any fastest laps. He finished 9th in 2007, and 13th in 2008 despite two podiums. In 2009 he managed another fastest lap and finished 7th. For 2010, Nico changed teams. Brawn had changed hands to Mercedes, and he joined the returning Michael Schumacher at the side. He did very well, not managing to win but doing much better than the seven-times world champion. He again finished 7th with 142 points.
This year, Nico is still 7th in the championship, ahead of the two Renault drivers and his teammate Schumacher. The Mercedes hasn’t managed to score any podiums yet, but came close in Canada with Schumacher. Nico is a great driver, and he has a lot of great fans. Surely it can only be a matter of time before he wins again?

Wall of Wannabes?

Not only did Sebastian Vettel make friends with the Wall of Champions this weekend, but Sergio Perez is not as well as he thought. He has been replaced by 2010 Sauber driver and current McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa for the remainder of the weekend, as Sauber test driver Esteban Gutierrez is in Mexico this weekend. Perhaps a bit stupid of Sauber not to bring their test driver with their first choice driver still recovering from a bad accident. All the same, Canada might not be the best place to make your debut though Timo Glock did make his debut at the track for Jordan in 2004.
More bad luck for Sauber came in the second practice session, when Kamui Kobayashi shoved his Sauber into a different – so-far unnamed – wall. The session was red flagged. It resumed but was red flagged again minutes later when Jerome d’Ambrosio put his Virgin in the same wall. Perhaps it needs a name too. The Wall of Wannabes ‘cos Kobayashi and d’Ambrosio aren’t champions just yet. Sauber had spent the first half of the session getting the car ready for De La Rosa, and he went out in McLaren overalls in the Sauber (his helmet, however, had Sauber sponsor stickers on) when the session resumed after Kobayashi’s accident.
The Sauber has been looking good this season. I wonder how well the Spanish driver can do in it? Better than Mercedes’ drivers, it seems. Schumacher and Rosberg were both slower than the Team Lotus cars in FP2. This is strange because they were some of the fastest cars in FP1. Only d’Ambrosio in the Wall of Wannabes was outside the 107% time, and the Hispanias were fighting with the Virgins for pace.
Fastest in FP1 was Rosberg, then Alonso and Schumacher. Fastest in FP2 was Alonso, then Vettel and Massa. Is this Ferrari’s weekend at last? Despite that, it would be funny to see three drivers in McLaren overalls on the podium (though I’m not sure the Sauber has that much pace). De La Rosa being McLaren’s tester, he doesn’t have Sauber overalls.

Morning practices

First up today was Formula Renault 3.5, and Daniel Ricciardo set the fastest time. He won at Monaco last year, though the race has been won by rookies three years running. It was a fairly standard session.

Today’s Formula One FP1 was not standard at all. Narain Karthikeyan was the first man to set times on the track, first at almost 1:40, but quickly bringing the times down. Then the other cars got on track and went even faster. Felipe Massa set a 1:18.582. Then there was a red flag, caused by a water leak on the start/finish straight. It was quickly fixed (yeah, I know!) and the session began again.
After that, they got faster. Karthikeyan ran 37 laps – almost half race distance – in the session, but still ended up botttom. Webber didn’t set a time due to a gearbox problem. Liuzzi and Schumacher both crashed out – Liuzzi at the chicane coming out of the tunnel, and Schumacher at Ste Devote. Watching the drivers tear around Monaco almost daring themselves to hit the walls is a very scary experience. The fastest lap was set by Vettel, with Alonso and Rosberg just behind. Hamilton got caught up in traffic and was unable to join them.

Schumacher’s crash delayed the start of GP2 practice by 10 minutes, as repairs were needed. It seems like the whole track is falling apart! The session was filled with a smattering of yellow flags and a red flag, caused by an accident not a water leak. Monaco is a dangerous, smashy track that only the best drivers can survive. That’s why Nick Heidfeld has a 90% finish record here. Romain Grosjean went fastest in the GP2 session.