The ups and downs of Arden

GP3 tests got underway today in Hungary. In the morning session, the fastest driver was GP3’s youngest ever race winner Mitch Evans. He’s really shining for Arden, who after several years struggling in GP2 are making a comeback. Arden were the kings of Formula 3000 before it became GP2, with Tonio Liuzzi taking the title for them, and in 2005 when boss Christian Horner began moving his focus towards his new job with Red Bull, Heikki Kovalainen came second for them in the first GP2 season.
Heikki Kovalainen won five races for Arden in 2005, taking four pole positions. He also took one of the team’s two fastest laps. His teammate took the other, along with a pole position. Since then they have struggled in GP2. Last year they finished eighth. Here’s a quick summary.

Year

Wins

Poles

Podiums

F. laps

Pts

C’ship

2005

5

5

13

2

126

2nd

2006

1

0

6

1

57

4th

2007

1

0

2

0

44

7th

2008

2

0

6

0

56

6th

2009

1

0

3

3

41

8th

2010

1

1

2

0

32

7th

So far this year, Arden have no wins, no poles, no fastest laps and one podium, with second-placed Josef Kral finishing P2 in the Monaco sprint race. With nine points, the team stands eighth in the championship.
GP3 is looking better, with Mitch Evans the stand out driver. The rookie is currently third in the championship, just five points behind leader Nigel Melker. He, Andrea Caldarelli (who is being replaced) and Nigel Melker are far ahead of the other drivers. Neither of Arden’s other drivers have scored points just yet, but the team stands third in the championship.

Arden is named after the Forest of Arden, an area close to my home in England.You might also recognise the name if you know about Shakespeare. His mother was Mary Arden, and you can visit Mary Arden’s House near Stratford (Warwickshire, not London). Mary Arden’s family owned the forest. So I’m a bit of a fan, and will be supporting them. Their GP3 ability is shining through. On the GP2 record, a lot of Arden’s drivers have gone on to finish well in the series for other teams. Bruno Senna came second with iSport, Sergio Perez finished second with Addax, and Charles Pic is currently third with Addax. Sebastien Buemi moved straight from Arden to driving for Toro Rosso.

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No race for okay Perez

HRT are racing tomorrow. Perez is not. This means that Karthikeyan has the rare pleasure of starting ahead of his quicker teammate. Perez ‘only’ has concussion, but with his car so smashed up and the doctors saying he can’t race, he will not be on the grid. The Mexican will return for Canada. This means everyone below him moves up a place.
Hamilton had his lap disqualified for cutting the chicane, so starts in P9, while Petrov is now P10. He has started in the top 10 for every race. Alonso, Button, Hamilton, Massa, Rosberg and Vettel are the other drivers to have done this, but Petrov is the only one of these seven to have not made it into Q3 each time.
It was Perez’s first time into Q3, as he has previously qualified 13th, 16th, 12th, 15th and 12th. Apart from the first two races, he has always qualified ahead of Kobayashi.
Vettel earned his 20th pole position today. He got 5 of them this year, 10 of them last year, four of them in 2009, and one of them at the Italian Grand Prix in 2008 for Toro Rosso. This equals the number of poles that Fernando Alonso and Damon Hill have achieved, but less than Schumacher (68), Senna (65), Clark and Prost (33 each), Mansell (32), Fangio (29), Hakkinen (26), Lauda and Piquet (24 each). Vettel is likely to beat most of these guys by the end of the season, let along the end of his career! In terms of the percentage of pole positions he has earned, that is 29.4%. Only Senna, Clark and Fangio have a better percentage of career poles (though Senna’s 40.1% is a long way off yet). At the start of this season he had 24.2%, while Schumacher had 25.3% pole positions. Now they have swapped places. Hamilton had 25.4% pole positions, but now is down at 23.4%.
Vettel will start from the front row for the 29th time, totalling 42.6%. At the start of the season it was 34.8%, and Hamilton had 40.8% while Schumacher had 42.8%. Now Schumi has 41.8% and Hamilton has 40.3%. Vettel has only overtaken Hamilton in this record for this Monaco Grand Prix. It would take a lot to beat Fangio’s record 92.3% front row starts!

There will probably be more to talk about tomorrow after the race, so see you then!

Scary crash for Checo Perez

The events of today have been heavily overshadowed by the dramatic incident of Sergio Perez in Q3. He did amazingly well to get to Q3, but lost control and hit the barrier between the escape road and the track. Earlier in the day, Nico Rosberg had a similar accident in the Mercedes but missed the barrier. David Coulthard had also been through a similar accident in 2008 and also missed the barrier. The session of course was immediately red flagged, and marshalls and ambulance men rushed to the scene. It of course took time to sort out. The side of the car was smashed in, but it didn’t look like the part of the chassis holding the driver was damaged. According to the BBC, it was reported that Checo was conscious and talking, and possibly that he hurt his legs.

A typical Monaco practice session saw two red flags from Nico Rosberg’s crash and Tonio Liuzzi losing control in the Hispania at Ste. Devote. The back end of his car completely fell to pieces, and there was no way the team were going to make it to qualifying. It was his second crash of the weekend, and he has already missed FP2 because of the FP1 crash.
Renault were not showing a great turn of speed, with Kovalainen’s Lotus close on their tails. This is unlike last year when Robert Kubica – who is around Monaco but staying away from the press – was P2 in qualifying and fastest in FP3, and challenged well for pole.
Fastest of all in the session was Fernando Alonso, a good distance ahead of his challengers.

But Perez’s crash meant that Q3 didn’t go the way it could have gone, and it was another Red Bull pole. Schumacher beat his teammate for the first time. Neither HRT went on track, meaning if they do get to race then Karthikeyan will be ahead of Liuzzi. Alguersuari failed to get into Q2 and qualified behind both Lotuses.
In Q2, Pastor Maldonado scraped into the top ten as did Sergio Perez. His teammate Kobayashi qualified further down the grid. For the first time, neither Renault made it to Q3. Paul di Resta once again beat his teammate.
The drivers who set times before Perez’s accident were best placed, and Vettel took pole position. Next to him will be Jenson Button, then Webber and Alonso on row 2. A good qualifying for Ferrari.
But Monaco is proving once again to be a deadly track, and drivers will need 100% concentration to make it around all 78 laps safely. The most dangerous areas of the track seem to be coming out of the tunnel and Ste. Devote. We’ve seen two crashes at each of those places this weekend. If Perez is able to start tomorrow, it will be from P10. If he cannot, Sauber may choose not to run or they may let their reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez drive. But since Perez – a rookie who won at Monaco last year – had this accident, it might not be such a wise decision.

The GP2 race has been delayed by 20 minutes and will start at 4:30pm local time, 3:30pm GMT.

F1 Race Review: Spain 2011

I’ve delayed my F1 race review for a while because I haven’t been feeling so good. Now that I’ve had time to rest and think back on the race, here’s what I think:

It was a great race. The action at the front wasn’t so hectic that we couldn’t see what was going on further down in the field, although Liuzzi’s retirement got missed completely by everyone and Heikki Kovalainen’s accident came out of nowhere.
We had multiple race leaders, with Alonso coming out of nowhere to take the lead from the start. Then Vettel came back after a well-crafted pit stop that put him on fresh tyres, so he could carve through the others and got ahead when the leaders pitted. But he was never miles in the lead, as he has usually been. Hamilton was able to stick close, with McLaren showing more speed than most thought it had, and they battled all the way to the line. Despite KERS problems and not having DRS most of the time, Vettel was able to defend because the Spanish DRS zone was less useful than the Turkish one.
Perez finally got his first points, and we saw our first retirement of a Ferrari with gearbox troubles. Maldonado raced well, finishing ahead of his teammate though still lacking points. Heidfeld managed even better than Kobayashi had done, finishing ahead of Petrov and in the points. Schumacher beat Rosberg despite being slower, proving he can still hold back an opponent. Two McLarens finished on the podium.

Stats
Vettel has lost 7 points in total in 2011, from his second-place finish in China. That means he has 94% of all possible points so far this season. He has seven consecutive podium positions: one more and he will match Ayrton Senna’s total (but still a long way from Schumacher’s 19). He also has 5 consecutive from the start of the season: the same as Alonso in 2005 and Schumacher in 2004. One more and he will match Fittipaldi in 1973 and Mansell in 1992.
Lewis Hamilton has taken his 39th podium finish, totalling 51.32% of his race finishes – almost as many as Alberto Ascari, and creeping up as Schumacher’s percentage goes down. He has also finished 3/4 of the races he has entered in the points.
Sergio Perez has squeaked into the top 10 youngest drivers to score points – finally! He is older than Massa was when he came sixth at the 2002 Malaysian Grand Prix, but younger than Kimi Raikkonen was when he came sixth at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso has now led at least one lap of a race 62 times: the same number as BBC commentator and Red Bull man David Coulthard. He has now led 1,366 laps.

Alonso, Kovalainen, Liuzzi and Rosberg have outqualified their teammate in every race. Buemi and Vettel are the only drivers to finish ahead of their teammates in every race.
Alonso, Button, Hamilton, Massa, Petrov, Rosberg and Vettel have qualified in the top 10 for every race, and Alonso, Button, Hamilton, Kobayashi (excluding Australia), Vettel and Webber have finished in the top 10 for every race.
Thanks to bad qualification in Melbourne and his car fire in Spain, Nick Heidfeld has an average improvement of 6.2 positions per race. By contrast, Maldonado has an average fall of 4.2 positions per race despite qualifying badly everywhere except Spain. These are the best and worst of the drivers. Buemi, Button, Schumacher and Vettel each have an average different of 0 positions.
The craziest stat of all is that everyone was lapped by Vettel except Hamilton, Button and Webber, but Button and Webber were 30s behind the leaders. Even Alonso in fifth was lapped. This means that only the Red Bull and McLaren drivers have completed every race lap of 2011 so far.

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.

Barcelona day seven 2011

The day’s testing is over. After struggles with the car in the morning, only getting six laps with Trulli, Lotus managed to get it fixed for Kovalainen to do some better runs in the afternoon. Williams’ problems continued, with Barrichello causing two red flags and the KERS system not being used. I almost wonder if they might as well drop it.
The shock of the day was Perez’s super-fast time of 1:21.761, a whole 0.3s faster than Massa’s Ferrari and not resulting from cutting the chicane as his last one did. Red Bull only managed the third-fastest time in a change from the usual routine, with a potentially-comparable run to the Ferrari but not matching the Italian car’s speed.
Toro Rosso spent most of the day – to Autosport Live’s consternation – doing pit stop practice, which meant that Alguersuari had the 10th-fastest time. He was still only 3s off Perez’s time, however – the field is close.

Position

Driver

Time

1

Sergio Perez

1:21.761

2

Felipe Massa

1:22.092

3

Mark Webber

1:22.466

4

Rubens Barrichello

1:22.637

5

Michael Schumacher

1:22.892

6

Nick Heidfeld

1:23.541

7

Heikki Kovalainen

1:23.990

8

Vitaly Petrov

1:24.233

9

Adrian Sutil

1:24.334

10

Jaime Alguersuari

1:24.779

11

Jerome d’Ambrosio

1:27.336

12

Jarno Trulli

1:34.485