2011 Reliability – Part 2/2

In general, the 2011 cars in F1 have been more reliable than those in 2010. This year each team could complete up to 2266 laps compared to 2258 last year, and while in 2010 the worst team (Sauber) only completed 67% of laps, this year the worst team have completed 80%.

Yesterday we looked at the top six teams, and today we cover the bottom six.

7 – Mercedes (1963/2266 laps; 86%) A shaky start to 2011 saw both Mercedes fail to complete the first race in Melbourne. Rosberg lost a lot of laps in Italy as he was taken out by Tonio Liuzzi at the start of the race. Schumacher, however, has had more problems. The German retired from five races – three times due to mechanical issues, once when he tripped up over Perez in Singapore, and once when he was crashed into by Petrov in Korea. Last season, they were the third-most reliable team, but they have not been so lucky this year. They have also lost laps due to Schumacher getting into trouble with Renaults and other cars, and being sent to the back of the field.

8 – Toro Rosso (1957/2266 laps; 86%) In Belgium, the two Toro Rossos combined completed six laps. This was the Italian team’s worst race of the season, coming as they were finding their feet as regular points scorers. Aside from that, they were the only retirement in China as Jaime Alguersuari lost a wheel, and Sebastien Buemi had four retirements due to mechanical issues.

9 – Williams (1923/2266 laps; 84%) In Williams’ worst-ever season, the team completed four more laps than Team Lotus. They had two double-DNFs in the first two races of the season, and have been plagued by mechanical issues and Pastor Maldonado’s destructive streak (he was responsible for his retirements in Canada and Brazil). It’s a sad state of affairs for the British team, but hopefully they will be able to improve with the new exhaust regulations and Renault engines for 2012. They will need a good driver to partner Maldonado if they are to be successful. They only dropped two percentage points of reliability from 2010, but with the improvements shown in other teams it’s cost them a lot.

10 – Team Lotus (1919/2266 laps; 84%) Plagued by reliability issues in the first half of the season, the Malaysian team suffered from double-DNFs at Britain and Hungary. But in the second half of the season, they only had one DNF – for Jarno Trulli in Singapore – and thanks to good safety car timing managed to get both cars to finish on the lead lap in Japan. Now that they seem to have got their issues under control, their reliability should be improved for 2012 as Team Caterham.

11 – HRT (1844/2266 laps; 81%) Neither HRT nor Virgin managed to get a handle on their unreliability this season, but despite Liuzzi’s crash in Italy they still managed to complete more laps than their championship rivals. This is because they had fewer retirements than Team Lotus, and unlike Virgin had no non-classified finishes. They have improved their reliability on 2010 dramatically.

12 – Virgin (1824/2266 laps; 80%) They might be at the bottom of the list, but Virgin have improved since last season. Unfortunately they have struggled to get a hold of their mechanical issues, which particularly plagued Timo Glock. The German failed to even start the race in Turkey, and was not classified in Australia.

F1 report – Abu Dhabi

Sunday was a bad day for Sebastian Vettel. First he had trouble with his hire car when entering the circuit – specifically, locking it! And when he began the race, he made it less than two corners before getting a puncture. Lewis Hamilton cannot have believed his luck as he saw the Red Bull spin off. Though Vettel made it back to the pits, he had damaged his suspension too much to continue.
Hamilton took his chance as his teammate was overtaken by Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard pushed hard all race, and at one point he came close to the Brit, but was unable to get there in the end. Behind, Jenson Button could not keep up due to a KERS failure in the first half of the race. He took the third spot on the podium.
One driver down, Red Bull botched Webber’s first stop and ended up moving him to a three-stop strategy. He went onto soft tyres for the first three stints, then did the final lap on hard tyres. This strategy allowed him to beat Felipe Massa, but I am sure the Aussie would much rather not have been racing the Brazilian, who as usual was in a race of his own.
Rosberg came home first in the Mercedes, with Sutil eighth and di Resta ninth on a failed one-stop strategy. Unfortunately, the Force India was just too hard on its tyres.
First of the lapped drivers was Kobayashi, scoring a rare point for Sauber, and Perez was eleventh. Barrichello finished 12th having started last, and behind him was Petrov. In fourteenth and fifteenth were Maldonado and Alguersuari. Maldonado was penalised twice for ignoring blue flags, the second time resulting in a stop-and-go penalty that became 30s of added time. Alguersuari had a drive-through for the same reason. Sixteenth was Senna, who also had a drive-through for ignoring blue flags and finished three seconds ahead of Kovalainen. Just as in Singapore, the Lotus was closing on the Renault in the final lap.
Trulli, who was ill this weekend, finished over a minute behind his teammate. Glock and Liuzzi followed the Italian home. Aside from Vettel, the retirements were Jerome d’Ambrosio, Sebastien Buemi and Daniel Ricciardo. All suffered mechanical failures.

In the news, reliable journalist Joe Saward has reported that Charles Pic will be driving for Marussia next season alongside Timo Glock. The French driver had a great season in GP2, driving for team champions Addax. He won twice, also finishing second on three occasions. He took pole in Valencia, at the Nurburgring and at Monza, and had only two points less than runner-up Luca Filippi at the end of the season. The French press have also reported this, and the driver will not be testing with Team Lotus as he was initially going to. Instead, Rodolfo Gonzalez will be in the car.
Meanwhile, with Renault confirming that Robert Kubica almost certainly not going to be driving at the start of the season, it seems most likely that Vitaly Petrov and Romain Grosjean will be driving for Lotus next year. (Renault, of course, will become Lotus after the end of this season)

Razia, Chilton and Charouz in Abu Dhabi final

F1
Formula Renault 3.5’s 2011 champion Robert Wickens takes to the track for Marussia Virgin in the first practice session at Abu Dhabi next Friday. He will replace Jerome d’Ambrosio. The Canadian has shown great form over the past three years of racing, finishing second in GP3 and F2 before this year’s victory. It is unlikely that he will be an F1 driver next year, with GP2 being the most likely option, but he has the backing of Marussia. As the FR3.5 champion, he will also be taking part in the young drivers’ test at Abu Dhabi for Renault.

GP2
Kevin Ceccon will be taking part in the test as well, and like teammate Stefano Coletti will be in the Toro Rosso STR06. It’s a big step up for Ceccon, who only turned 18 this year and was moved into a GP2 seat after Davide Rigon’s accident. Though he wasn’t able to shine in GP2, he fought well in Auto GP to emerge victor in the final race of the season.
Carlin have announced that their full-time driver Max Chilton will be driving alongside Jan Charouz the Renault reserve and FR3.5 driver in the GP2 final. AirAsia have their driver Luiz Razia alongside Alexander Rossi for the final, and Razia will also be taking part in the F1 young drivers’ test for Team Lotus. Razia also took part last year for Virgin when he was their test driver.

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.

New for 2012: Lotus, Caterham and Marussia

The start of 2010 was very confusing for me, as Mercedes came into F1 as a constructor as opposed to just an engine supplier. Before that time, McLaren was the de facto Mercedes team, as evidenced by, for example, the 2007 Alonso v Hamilton advert. So it was a little confusing for me. There was also the confusing ‘BMW Sauber’ situation, fortunately resolved for 2011.
2012, however, looks set to be even more confusing. Renault will become Lotus, Lotus will become Caterham, and Virgin will become Marussia. Marussia are the title sponsors and majority owners of Virgin, and as a Russian car company it makes sense for them to be the constructors, especially with the Russian license. Richard Branson will still be a title sponsor. This also improves the ties to the Marussia Manor teams in the junior series.
We all know the Lotus Renault GP vs Team Lotus has caused many headaches over the past year, and it will be good to have a resolution even if it means the Lotus name changes hands. Hopefully, this will not cause too many problems in the future. The change will not leave Team Lotus/Caterham out of pocket, however, since it will be agreed by at least 2/3 majority of the Formula One Commission (18 of the 26 members). They will still have the money that comes from finishing tenth in 2010 and 2011 unless something crazy happens in the next two races.

In other news, Jean-Eric Vergne will be driving the RB7 in the young drivers’ test at Abu Dhabi after the race weekend wheree he will be in a Toro Rosso. Fabio Leimer and Esteban Gutierrez of GP2 will be driving Sauber’s car the C30 (that’s old news, but I hadn’t mentioned it before). It also appears that Stefano Coletti will be driving for Toro Rosso, Kevin Korjus and Christian Vietoris will be driving for Renault, and Charles Pic will be in Force India’s VJM04, though these are yet to be confirmed.

Pic attempts to break into F1

Charles Pic, one of the major contenders for GP2’s runner-up spot going into the final races of the season (along with teammate Giedo van der Garde, Jules Bianchi, and Luca Filippi), doesn’t want to be in the series any more. French and Belgian media have been reporting that he is in negotiations with three teams: Virgin, Lotus and Toro Rosso.
He won two races last season: the feature at Barcelona, and the sprint at Monaco where he started from reversed pole position. At Valencia he suffered the traditional GP2 pole position curse, when he retired from both races. He also had pole at the Nurburgring and Monza, each time finishing the feature race second, but he was disqualified from the sprint in Germany, and retired in Italy. That retirement left the battle for GP2 runner-up to Filippi and Bianchi, which the Italian eventually won.
The Frenchman has only completed two years of the series, but he had an impressive first season with Arden after winning his first race (the Spanish feature). He also had a pole at Hockenheim, which he converted into third place. Looking further back, he also has a good record from Formula Renault 3.5: four wins, seven podiums and three poles. In his debut season he finished 6th, and came third in 2009. He came third in his only season of Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup as well.

Getting into F1 is tough, but Pic has a good record. On the other hand, Virgin have interest in Robert Wickens, Lotus have Alex Rossi and Karun Chandhok as well as their GP2 team, and Toro Rosso have four drivers to decide between.

Summer day 6 – Jerome d’Ambrosio

Jerome d’Ambrosio – 22
Belgian newcomer Jerome got the hang of the MVR-02 fairly swiftly, and beat his teammate in qualifying in the third race of the season – China. Since then, however, he’s strugled and has often qualified behind Hispanias as well as his teammate. In Canada, he was the only driver to fall outside the 107% rule, though this was due to problems with the car in practice. In Hungary, however, he also qualified 24th.
Race-wise, Jerome has had two 14th-place finishes. In Australia the technical difficulties and disqualifications got him his first good result, and in Canada the rain helped him to finish behind Narain Karthikeyan – who was then demoted due to cutting the chicane. Monaco was his other best result, and he finished 15th behind Kovalainen. However, these have all been at races with particularly high attrition. If Kovalainen had another 14th-place finish, he would overtake the Belgian. Jerome has not typically been brilliant. His recent finishes have usually been only ahead of struggling drivers – Chandhok and Ricciardo in Germany, and Liuzzi with a broken front wing in Hungary. And he has definitely not been able to meet the pace of his teammate. The rookie will need to improve his performance if he’s to stay in F1 next year.
The good news for Jerome, however, is that his car is reliable. Virgin have have one DNS, two retirements and one non-classified finish. He’s only had one of those retirements. This reliability could see him get some more good results in the remainder of the season. He is also the fifth-best driver in terms of race laps completed, or fourth-best if De La Rosa is excluded.

Worst qualifying: 24
Best qualifying: 11
Worst finish: 22 (Valencia)
Best finish: 14 (Australia, Canada)
Average difference: 4.36
Laps completed: 642/681 (96%)
Average race position: 19.99 (Best: 18.0 Australia; Worst: 22.2 Valencia)