Alonso Saves, Sergio Arrives and Parr Exits

Well then kids what an exciting weekend of motorsport! Alonso’s win for Ferrari is a god send for the Scuderia (in fact I think second would still of been sweet relief) who have been under a lot of pressue after showing up in Australia and being over a second off the pace in qualifying. Although the fact that Sergio Perez announced himself with an even more shocking second place should tell you everything that the rain in Malaysia really shook up the form book. The real key was the tires this weekend and getting them to work in the rain, it would appear that McLaren struggle in very cold and damp conditions to turn the tire on along with Red Bull whereas Ferrari and Sauber have less on an issue.

Bruno Senna also had a great race after the break with a drive through the field in the wet befitting of his surname. He drove from last on the grid at the restart (after 7 laps the race was stopped due to the extreme amount of rain that fell) and cut through the field to finish in 6th place and collect a hatful of points for Williams. Paul Di Resta also used his wise head on young shoulders to pick up a 7th place in the chaos which will be relieft indeed as the Force India is currently lacking a little bit of pace. Elsewhere it was a good race for HRT who qualified on merit, quite comfortably in the case of Pedro De La Rosa and this was after Mark Webber went out for a second run (in fact Pedro De La Rosa was within 107% of the pole time) and in the race Karthikeyan was running 8th at one point before getting tangled with Button and Vettel (neither of them his fault in my opinion).

It wasn’t a great weekend for Mercedes who managed to get a car starting 3rd on the grid and then only brought a solitary point, which at the very least gets them off the mark. There was more heartbreak for Pastor Maldonado as a last lap engine failure robbed him of points.

But the big news was how close the teams are, Nico Rosberg had a scrappy lap and was 4 tenths off pole. Last year that would of most certainly of meant that he would of been 2nd or 3rd. However he qualified 8th (started 7th after Kimi’s penalty) and there was one second between 1st and 12th in Q2.

Not content with the crazy weekends race Williams dropped a bombshell yesterday announcing that heir apparent to the team, Adam Parr has resigned and will leave the team this Friday. Parr has been controversial and was known to have a rocky relationship with Patrick Head, but was the man being lined up to take over from Frank Williams who is in his 70s. He definatly leaves the team in good shape with strong finances and a car this year capable of scoring some decent points all year long.


Jenson Roars as the Paddock Rumbles

Applogies for the delay on this, I did watch the race on Sunday but just haven’t had time to post.

Jenson Button opened his 2012 account with an emphatic win in Australia, making it his 3rd win around albert park in 4 years. The McLaren looked sharp all weekend with Lewis Hamilton taking pole on Saturday ahead of the race winner. The vital overtake was Jenson’s dive into the first corner and then opened up a gap to keep him out of the DRS zone. Lewis lost out to the saftey car and finished 3rd while defending champion Vettel took 2nd after a good recovery drive from 6th on the grid. This year is lining up to be the vintage year that was promised as many cars look to have good qualifying pace but are a little shakey in the race and vice versa. However there are still many questions left to be answered this coming weekend in Malaysia:

1. Do Lotus have the second fastest car?
Romain Grosjean put the Lotus in 3rd place around Albert Park and unfortunatly couldn’t convert it into solid points. However Kimi Raikkonen made his way through the field and ended up finishing 7th showing that the E20 (the 20th car from the Enstone team that has been Benetton/Renault/Lotus) has got the whole package. Kimi looks race sharp and that quali lap from Grosjean was a beaut. Contenders?

2. Merecedes pace and their front wing?
Mercedes said they were dissapointed with qualifying 4th and 7th and in the race further dissapointment beckoned with Schumacher’s car pitching him into the gravel due to a lack of 3rd gear and Rosberg struggling with tyre deg. The team have admitted that they haven’t got the best out of the car in race trim and that the do have a slight issue with tyre wear. However next weekend at a full blown permenant race circuit should see whether they have pace or not. Also in Malaysia it will be interesting to see how much of a difference their rumoured F-Duct front wing will give them.

3. Can Sauber and Williams upset the front?
Sauber showed that not a lot has changed from last year, a pretty ordinary qualifying along with stunning race pace. The only difference being that Sergio Perez was running on par with the leaders times for most of the race but he tried to push his tyre’s one lap too far and lost out at the end. The Williams in the hands of Pastor Maldonado looks like it means serious buisness, which is good news for all those concerned. Its a shame he crashed out on the last lap leaving questions about Williams rookie duo and Senna had a poor weekend getting to only lap 52 before the wrecking ball of Massa’s prancing horse took him out.

4. What about Force India?
We REALLY dont know where Force India are, the top Independant constructor from last year said they were gunning for 4th place in the constructors and after last weekend you’d have to say they are dreaming. However Paul Di Resta got blocked in qualifying and failed to get into Q3 while his new team mate did. Hulkenberg however managed the same amount of laps as the last time he raced at Albert Park, 0. Di Resta salvaged something from the weekend with taking a point in the chaos in the last lap but next weekend could be telling for the Silverstone based team.

5. Ferrari?
The Scuderia appear to be in dire straights or are they? On Saturday everyone was shocked with how bad the prancing horse looked to drive and with both drivers out in Q2 it was certainly a shock. Fernando Alonso true to form squeezed everything out of the car on Sunday and managed to race his way to 5th which made everyone in the Scuderia happy. However come this weekend they could really be in trouble with McLaren, Red Bull, Lotus and Mercedes all looking faster along with Williams snapping at their heels. The could well be outside the top 10 on merit come Saturday.

6. Whos signed what?
Rumblings in the paddock based on a document leaked to Sky Sports are that Ferrari and Red Bull have already signed/agreed to a new concord deal for next year that will see them get a percentage of the sports commercial rights and allow them to place a person on the board. Worrying indeed for the remaining FOTA teams as Ferrari are the big fish that FOM needed to catch and seperating the teams has always been the method of trying to get the best deal for themselves. Although no-one expects Red Bull to still be racing in 20 years the team are the defending World Champions, the only other teams of real value are the traditional British duo of McLaren and Williams, along with possibly Sauber. If you don’t believe me go look at the entry list for the 2002 Championship and you will only spy those teams (excluding Red Bull). Renault and Merecedes will need to be won round as they supply enginges which could be quite damaging to 2013 if they walk off but the other teams need to really look at what they can do together to try and get a better deal.


The Big 2012 Preview

As the cars pound round for the final time at the Circuit de Catalyuna for pre-season testing (they will of course be back for the Spanish GP) it marks the end of pre-season and the start of the season proper. Its now only two weeks until the first race in Australia, however its tight semi-permenant nature means its unlikely to be until Malaysia that we will know the true pecking order of the cars. Now picking up hints from pre-sesaon testing is always riskey, McLaren last year had a torrid time but they went away and came back with something a lot better for the first race of the season and were bang on the pace. The big question this year is will Red Bull still have their qualifying speed advantage (last season the team claimed 18 of the 19 poles in the RB7 – only Lewis Hamilton upsetting the status quo in Korea) and will Ferrari, Mercedes or Lotus be challengers for the title this year. With no less than a record breaking 6 world champions on the grid and the teams saying its tight at the top its lining up to be another vintage F1 year. Heres a team by team breakdown of what we’re expecting:

Marussia Cosworth – 2011: 12th
Drivers: Timo Glock & Charles Pic

Marussia (formerly Virgin) haven’t had the best starts to their first season under the leadership of Pat Symmonds in the technical department. However the team failed one of their crash tests and have now had to miss the final pre-sesaon test leaving Charles Pic with so little F1 mileage before the season. Its a big unknown, Pat Symmonds is a world championship winning designer but the team operate on a very small budget and having no pre-season mileage are huge disadvantages.

HRT Cosworth – 2011: 11th
Drivers: Pedro De La Rosa & Narain Karthikeyan

The HRT team have somehow beaten Virgin to the 11th place spot two years in a row despite having no in-season development in 2010 and a slow start to 2011. The team are now locating to somewhere in Spain (Madrid I think currently) and have dispensed with Colin Kolles and the German office (although apparently the car has been designed in Germany – who knows!). Adding to the bizzare twists and turns that the HRT tail continues to take the team signed Pedro De La Rosa who at age 41 makes another F1 return, then the team finally announced that Narain Karthikeyan would return to the team leaving Antonio Luizzi without a drive. It leaves the team with a combined driver age of 76! Like their main rivals Marussia they struggled past the crash tests and have now failed to make pre-season for the 3rd year running. Furthermore the team have finally got realistic and stated that they wont be runing KERS straight away but the car is designed around the system. They have completed a filming day to put some miles on the car but it doesn’t look like a massive step forward here.

Caterham Renault – 2011: 10th
Drivers: Heikki Kovalainen & Vitaly Petrov

The Caterham (formerly Team Lotus) team were the first car to “launch” with a large spread in F1 racing magazine. However this was mostly renders rather than real photos but it was true to form for the most fan friendly team on the grid. The car is the first one they call aggressive with 2010’s car being designed in record time and the switch to Renault / Red Bull rear end last year taking up much of the development time. The team have added KERS and appear to have a very nice package with the Red Bull rear end being a significant boost alongside good looking Aero. Whether its enough remains to be seen but there is nowhere to hide for the team and Jarno Trulli has been dropped after a lackluster 2011 for well funded Russian Vitaly Petrov, if they do catch the midfield then we can expect Q1 to really be worth watching this year.

Williams Renault – 2011: 9th
Drivers: Pastor Maldonado & Bruno Senna

Enough has been said about Williams 2011 season that I wont repeat it here but its all change at Grove with new technical team and a young driver lineup. While I am a fan of Bruno Senna it does have a nice bookend that he’ll drive a Williams Renault – theres a lot here for the romantics – Pastor Maldonado will lead the drivers lineup which is a scarey thought. Both drivers have come with serious fiscal backing to secure the drives as Williams need investment to recover and charge up the grid. They have looked very reliable if not eye wateringly quick in pre-season although they have topped the time sheets on a few days doing qualifying runs. Its a big year for the team as they try and bounce back. But I reckon that Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Merecedes and Lotus will all be out of range along with possibly Force India so it could be another lean year at Grove.

Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari – 2011: 8th
Drivers: Daniel Ricciardo & Jean Eric-Vergne

While the main Red Bull teams remains stable the junior team continue to grow with their 3rd year of making their own car after not having developed their own machinery since the Minardi days. The team will field the most inexperienced driver line up on the grid but as they said themselves – thats what they’re here for. The team have looked rather fast during pre-season and by all accounts look very handey. The Italian squad were very quick in the latter part of last season and all eyes will be on the inter-team battle for the next Red Bull susperstar.

Sauber Ferrari – 2011: 7th
Drivers: Kamui Kobayashi & Sergio Perez

Continuity is the key this year for the Swiss squad as they keep the same driver line-up on for another year after edging out Toro Rosso to take 7th place. At least that was the plan until James Key handed in his notice before pre-season testing began. This doesn’t seem to have hampered the team that much and they have looked in good form, with a lot of time spend on correcting their qualifying pace from last year which obviously has had them appearing at the top of the time sheets a lot. There are rumours that the whole budget isn’t in place for the year but its a dynamic driver line up and there are a lot of technical people saying it could be a car to watch. The team last year didn’t run a EBD and still managed to do as well as they did which highlights their underlying performance in the car.

Force India Mercedes – 2011: 6th
Drivers: Paul Di Resta & Nico Hulkenberg

The winners of the mid-field battle last year and so nearly caused an upset by beating the Lotus Renault team (the black lotus) into 5th place, which is precisly their aim this year. The two drivers are young and hungry and mirror the McLaren pairing of Button and Hamilton. With Di Resta being more race wise and Hulkenberg having blistering 1 lap pace, its one of the most exciting line ups on the grid for 2012 and should be a cracking battle. Their pre-season pace looks solid and the car has taken a step forward, the only questions remain are about how much cash Vijay will have as his airline is tanking in India.

Lotus Renault – 2011: 5th
Drivers: Kimi Raikkonen & Romain Grosjean

Its all change at Enstone as the team have yet another new name (in fact they’ve given up and called the new car the E20 as its the 20th car from the Enstone team) and now are the only Lotus on the grid. All 3 drivers who raced last year have been dumped with GP2 champion Romain Grosjean getting promoted to a race seat along side 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen. The team last year took a wrong turn with their clever exhaust system and found it couldn’t really be developed and nearly lost 5th place to Force India. I expect they will be straight back on the pace and Kimi looks in good shape after two years of throwing rally cars at trees. People have been writing them off due to the relative strengths of the other teams but if Kimi finds some spark he will really rack up the points

Mercedes – 2011:4th
Drivers: Nico Rosberg & Michael Schumacher

The silver arrows enter their 3rd year with the same overall lineup as before, the car looks to have taken a decent step in the right direction after being in no-mans land last year. The team cruised to 4th but failed to pick up any podiums along the way, however Schumacher seemed more with it than before and big things are expected this year with big name re-enforcements in the technical department (Bob Bell, Aldo Costa & Geoff Willis have all joined for this season). Assuming there are no upsets the team really need a few podiums to keep the money masters in Germany happy.

Ferrari – 2011: 3rd
Drivers: Fernando Alonso & Felippe Massa

Now for me the biggest surprise here is the fact that Massa has been given another year in the prancing horse after another lackluster year in 2011. Fernando Alonso however was in vintage form as he out drove the car to places it really shouldn’t of been including that victory at the British Grand Prix, while¬† his team mate failed to make the podium. The car was the real issue last year and Ferrari’s problems with the windtunnel and blown exhausts, lead the team to hire Pat Fry to lead to the technical charge for 2012 with a bold new direction. Furthermore the team has hired ex-bridgestone employees to help them with their tyre warm up issues. Has it worked? time will tell but the signs from testing are that the ugliest car of them all is a difficult beast with a small operating window that devours tyres. Soothsayers have been predicting doom and gloom for the grand old team, but nobody including Ferrari really know.

McLaren Mercedes – 2011: 2nd
Drivers: Jenson Button & Lewis Hamilton

McLaren have been the only team over the last few years to consistantly challenge Red Bull, with their double world champion lineup the all British team head into 2012 with a much better start than previous years. The Woking team have had real problems in recent seasons in pre-season but it has all gone rather well with a pretty looking car that appears to be fast and a rather clever exhaust system that could seem them take the fight to Red Bull from day one. Lewis Hamilton will be under pressure to perform in the last year of his contract after a poor 2011 attacking Massa’s front wing, Jenson however has taken the number 3 car after being the first ever team mate to Lewis Hamilton to beat him in a sesaon. Strong stuff indeed

Red Bull Renault – 2011: 1st
Drivers: Sebastian Vettel & Mark Webber

There are only a few questions about Red Bull this year, How far in front are they? Will Mark Webber regain his 2010 form? and how will they cope with a tight title battle again? They will win races, the question is simply how many. There are also questions again this year about the teams reliability with their B-Spec car that arrived for the last two days of testing really running into problems and using an exhaust system that Ferrari failed to get to work at all.

Answers start this weekend! Excited? I am!

Marussia break cover while HRT will run

Marussia break cover while HRT will run

Marussia have finally broken cover after failing their crash tests at a promotional day at Silverstone, while HRT confimred (but have yet to have photo confirmation) that they will be doing a filming day today at Barcelona. Under the FIA rules teams are allowed for 100km at a limited amount of events for filming and promotional reasons, however they are only allowed to run on special Pirelli demo rubber. But it allows the teams to check the cars over.

The Marussia car features a similar livery to last year with still the same colour scheme and Virgin sponsorship. The car doesn’t feature a stepped nose or a droopy McLaren nose. It looks quite nice from this angle, it will be interesting if its any faster than last years challenger?