Vettel finally gets pole between the walls. Hamilton demoted, Perez has a lucky escape

A tight qualifying session was interupted by a huge crash by Sergio Perez in the Sauber at the swimming pool chicane. The crash brought out the full medical team and extraction process, however he is reported to be okay and undergoing tests.

The crash red flagged the session and deprived us of the end of qualifying leaving us with an unusual grid. Furthermore Hamilton has been demoted to 9th after cutting a corner on his hot lap (im not too sure how thats possible apart from the two very obvious places. It leaves the grid as:

1. Vettel
2. Button
3. Webber
4. Alonso
5. Schumacher
6. Massa
7. Maldonardo
8. Rosberg
9. Hamilton
10. Perez

I think its unlikely that Perez will race tommorow given the size of his impact and the damage to the car (the thing is a write off chassis and all). Michael Schumacher also puts in a impressive qualifying over Rosberg who lost out after Perez’s crash (he also had a very similar crash in FP3 but missed the barriers) and sets up a very interesting grand prix with lots of cars out of position.

Can someone get the jump on vettel who looks under a lot of pressure here?
Can Hamilton come through the field?
Can williams score some points?
Will we finally see the Safety car??

Tires save the day but no tunnel DRS

So the grand prix at the weekend turned out to be a interesting race mostly down to the tires. There was on track overtaking and overtaking in the pits (im someone who enjoys a mixture of the two) and the FIA even allowed the cars to go two abreast down the pit lane as its so wide at Catalyuna!!

Sebastian Vettel won but was hounded to the line by Lewis Hamilton with Jenson Button recovering from a poor start (he dropped down to 10th place) with a different strategy (3 stops) to take the final place. All 3 men ended up on the podium by overtaking on the track as well as great work by the pit crews. As expected however the DRS was not very succesful at this track, and it comes with the announcement that in Canada and Valencia there will be 2 DRS straights, which in Canada especially could be nothing short of mental. DRS however has this morning been banned in the tunnel for practice and qualifying at Monaco, which I personally think is wise for the first year of the system. If the FIA decides that its fine to use then we can ammend that next year, better than someone having a Hulkenberg esque crash.

Despite his incredible start Fernando Alonso finished 5th at a circuit which is regarded as the most car dependant on the calendar and by that I mean the difference the driver can make is smaller due to the aerodynamic dependance in the corners. He drove a spectacular home race taking the lead from the start, reminding everyone (if they needed it) that he is world world class in any team. But it highlighted how far behind Ferrari really are as Massa really struggled on the hard tire and Fernando dropped from the lead to finish a lap down.

McLaren and Red Bull seemed very equally matched in race trim despite the rediculous qualifying advantage however Mark Webber looks resigned to playing number 2, completly dejected after last years title upset by his young team mate. Despite gaining pole he finished 4th and 47 seconds off his team mate. With the two title contending teams way out in front its essentially a best of the rest competition with only Alonso attempting the odd upset. Ferrari are 3rd quickest (they did try and bring a cheeky new wing design that was turned down by the FIA), Mercedes seem to have overtaken Renault who have lost their way a little. Schumacher also out-raced Nico Rosberg (although he had DRS issues) which will be some tonic.

At the back of the grid HRT are now evenly matched with Virgin which is a major dissapointment for the all-digital squad (although that moniker is in doubt after rumours that the car last year saw a wind tunnel and this year they could well be heading the same way). Team Lotus however continue their march towards the mid-field with another impressive displaying with Kovalainen getting into Q2 and the team have still yet to extract maximum performance from their new upgrade.

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Circuit de Cat”ch up on sleep”alunya

In recent times the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya has been something of a snore fest. The tracks main overtaking oppurtunity has been ruined by modern aero dependance as the cars can’t follow closely through the last corner and go wheel to wheel (a la Mansell and Senna circa 1991) down the main straight. The addition of a chicane before the corner has done little to help the problem (other than spoil a good series of corners)

To me it makes more sense to tighten up turn 10 to make that straight into a real on the brakes overtaking shot. Would love to hear your thoughts on what ammendments could be made!

But to highlight the problem the race has been won from pole for the last 10 years, so many are saying this will be a real acid test of the new tires, KERS and DRS 2011 rules as the track is so aerodependant due to the fast corners. Charlie Whiting has picked the main straight and all of the main straight as the DRS zone, which is even longer than Turkeys which produced 112 overtakes during the race, 40 of which were DRS (thanks to James Allen and Merecedes F1 for that!) so it should produce some overtaking. How exciting it will be however I dont know, the reason ovals never took off in Europe is the constant meaningless changes of position.

But finally on the subject of DRS the teams have yet again failed to tackle the real problem head on. The move to ground effect and a massive increase in aero efficiency (IE reducing drag and the turbulence issues) has been thwarted by FOTA as they basically dont want to risk it. DRS only exists because the cars are creating massive wakes, which create turbulence for the cars trying to follow. Its a real shame as it could see a huge amount of downforce for very little wake, which really now has to be the challenge for the sport to come up with aero efficient rules.

Simoncelli’s moto madness closes up the standings

Turning our attention to the two wheeled action over the weekend from LeMans and it was an attention grabber indeed. The race at LeMans is a difficult ride which normally produces poor racing even on Moto GP bikes (2003 being a notable exception). But the Bugatti circuit at LeMans provided a stunner of a race that really livens up the championship with Casey Stoner converting his pole into a win.

The 4 factory Honda riders (Stoner, Dovi, Pedrosa and Simoncelli – despite him being on a San Carlo bike, it is a factory spec Honda as thats who his contract is with) made the first 4 places with the others seemingly following in their wake. But as Stoner shot off into the distance Simoncelli and Pedrosa battled it out with Lorenzo, Rossi and Dovizioso giving chase. However Simoncelli sent one round the outside and Pedrosa couldn’t stop in time earning Simoncelli a harsh drive through but Pedrosa with a broken collar bone – again!!

Dovizioso picked up a useful second place but his performances are still shy of the other 3 Honda boys and his days in repsol colours could be short lived if Simoncelli can finish a race without incident! Valentino Rossi ended the Ducati drought and got the final place on the podium bringing the championship a lot closer together.

It was a poor showing from the home connection with Frenchman Randy de Puniet sticking his bike in the gravel after one lap and both off the French based Tech III riders having offs as well.

Full results after the break.

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The Schumacher Problem

Despite Mark Webber and Felippe Massa’s respective returns to form as of late the talk has been about a great man’s form elluding him. The Turkish grand prix saw some of the old Schumacher magic return in free practice as Mercedes are finally dialling in the car, with his DRS problems fixed expectation was high. Although it all fell apart from Q3 onwards, he’d matched Rosberg in Q1 and marched into Q3 (Nico was a little faster in Q2 but the point is to get into Q3 there so its not a big issue) but ended up only 8th to Rosbergs season best of 3rd – just behind the mighty red bulls.

The race was no better with a bizzare crash with Petrov in the opening stages binned the chance of a good result. The crash with the Renault cost Schumi his front wing and around 30 seconds, which would of put him well up into the points but as it stands it left him 12th and with nil. Despite all the hoo-ha there is signs of competitiveness there, just Michael seems unable to hook it all up into a performance as of yet.

We did find out over the winter than he suffers from simulator sickness so the testing ban does hurt the 7 time former champion and furthermore the mission for the comeback was to establish Mercedes in much the same way Timo Glock, Heikki Kovalienen and Jarno Trulli are doing. The problem has been that as Merecedes took over Brawn GP people expected success from the off, the team are now looking competitive in the hands of the younger German and this has damaged Schumi’s return. If they had started a new team and slowly built their way forward Michael could of written off the whole thing as development work as there is no testing and reaped the praise if the other driver scored the points!

With the situation as it stands somethings got to give either Michael ups his game and beats Rosberg or he struggles out the year and hangs up the helmet. Although we said this last year and he still came charging back again.

Vettels bird brings it home again in Turkey

Hey everyone hope you all enjoyed the race at the weekend, I’ve been pretty busy so I havent got around to updating the blog. Vettel lead home the first red bull 1-2 of the season with Alonso picking up the scuderia’s first podium of the season (a relief for everyone at Marenello). The McLarens had a dissapointing weekend with few updates showing up, a split strategy yeilded a 4th and 6th place.

The DRS this weekend was possibly set a touch high for Istanbul Park, with drivers clean driving around others with the DRS. Istandbul Park is very hard on tires so it may of simply been a case of tire deg being wildy different but it didn’t produce the kind of battles we’ve seen in recent weeks. The McLarens however did reprise their fight from last year in the opening stages of the race with some beautiful on track fighting. Many overtaking moves however did last a number of corners oweing to the great layout of Tilke’s best track.

Its a shame that the race never really took off, the attendance figures seem ambitious (they always are for GPs) and by all accounts only around 40,000 showed up max for race day. We talk about china having poor attendance but they still pile more than a lot of races through the turnstyles just there is space for 200,000!! The circuit proved again to provide an exciting race (which really doesn’t have a lot to do with turn 8, although it challenges the cars and is a great great corner) and it really can be regarded as a modern classic.

Farewell dear new friend?

This weekend see’s the F1 circus roll into Europe (even though Istalbull Park is in Asia) for the main meat of the season. With the exception of the little trip to Canada, this will see the teams in the motor homes and trucking across the continent until the Autumn. This will be the first major upgrade package that the teams bring, as its the first non flyaway race.

However this weekends action at Istanbull Park could be the last for F1, the Turkish simply dont turn out of the race and the country doesn’t want to pay the high fee’s. Its a shame, the track is already regarded as a vintage track and certainly Tilke’s best. Even the Germans harshest critics have to conceed that the undulating, fast circuit is a classic track including the awesome turn 8. Tilke has made some awful tracks but this is certainly his finest hour and worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as Monaco, Silverstone, Monza, Spa etc.

With this years new rules (which I’ve said far too much about in this blog) it could be a thriller and definatly a tire killer with Pirreli bringing the same compounds as the previous 3 races despite the high tire wear at Turkey. Read on for some catch up and preview stuff.

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