Archive for March, 2009

Where is the stewards’ report?

March 31st, 2009 2 comments

Sebastian Vettel after crashing with Kubica, Australia 2009It just wouldn’t be Formula One without race stewards applying controversial penalties and last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix started the season in fine form.

Hanging over the whole weekend was the question of the legality of the Brawn, Williams and Toyota diffusers.  While Rubens Barrichello thinks his car would be quick even without the fancy diffuser and the race stewards declared it legal, Ferrari, Renault and Red Bull are taking their appeal to court on 14 April.  Williams made a point by lodging a counter-protest against Ferrari and Red Bull only to withdraw it “in the interests of the sport.”  I really hope the case is rejected but until then the results of the Australian Grand Prix and possibly Malaysia will be provisional.

The race itself was subject to some controversial decisions, too.  In the final laps, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel put his car where Robert Kubica’s BMW was and a promising race ended badly for them both.

Vettel was quick to offer his appologies to Kubica and team boss Mario Theissen and was duly handed a 10 place penalty for causing the accident.  But was it really his fault?  It looked like a racing incident to me.  Michael Schumacher seems to think so too, telling Germany’s Bild newspaper:

He (Vettel) was on the inside – he couldn’t make his car dissolve into thin air.

And Kubica himself isn’t too sure either:

It’s difficult to say who is at fault. I think he was a bit optimistic. If that was the last corner of the last lap it’s OK, but in the first race it’s important to score the points. It’s important you understand what position you are in.

Could it be that Vettel was penalised for being too honest?  If he had just kept his mouth shut and not been so apologetic perhaps the stewards would have let the incident pass.

Jarno Trulli was another disappointed driver.  Before the race even started, Toyota had been found guilty of having a flexible rear wing but after some hasty modifications they were allowed to start from the pits. After a great drive from Trulli we again had the situation where one of the drivers on the podium later has his trophy taken away by the stewards.  Ironically it was all caused by the Vettel – Kubica shenanigans.  Trulli’s Toyota slipped off the track under the safety car and Lewis Hamilton had no choice but to pass him.  According to the rules, overtaking under the safety car is permitted “if any car slows with an obvious problem”, like running off the track.

The problem seems to be that McLaren, understandably nervous about illegal passing manouvers after the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix where Hamilton was deemed to have passed Räikkönen illegally, thought they should hand third place back to Trulli so Lewis slowed and allowed him to pass.  Here is a video showing Trulli slipping off the track and Hamilton (legally) going past:

Unfortunately I haven’t found any video of Trulli taking the place back but Jarno clearly felt he had little choice:

I thought he had a problem so I overtook him as there was nothing else I could do.

The 25 second penalty handed down destroyed a great drive by Trulli and Toyota announced their intentions to appeal the decision:

There are circumstances surrounding the incident that we feel have not been taken into consideration. On Sunday, we announced our intention to appeal the ruling to the International Sporting Court of Appeals. We are currently undertaking procedures to formally appeal the ruling within 48 hours, collecting data to be used as proof of our position.

It’s all very confusing. Last year the stewards came in for some criticism over their decisions and according to an FIA meeting back in November of 2008, a number of new stewarding arrangements were to be put in place in 2009, in particular the following:

Following the race, a short written explanation of steward’s decisions will be published on the FIA website. This will supplement the formal steward’s decision which largely defines the breach of the rules.

The FIA have an awful lot of documentation on their website about lap times and scrutineering checks but the Stewards’ Report is conspicuously absent.

I do hope this information is posted soon as it is important to see how the race stewards arrived at their decisions. At least a Ferrari wasn’t involved so there are no conspiracy theories. Yet.

Photograph: Darren McNamara/AP

Prediction game: Round 2 – Malaysia

March 30th, 2009 9 comments

Timo Glock, Malaysia, 2008The 2009 Formula One World Championship got off to a cracking start in Melbourne last weekend and now the teams are on their way to Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit for round 2.

From a dusty, unpredictable, temporary street circuit we now go to a modern, Hermann Tilke designed track with long straights and sweeping curves.  Australia may be hot but Malaysia is really hot.  And humid.  The drivers will be hoping the late start of 5pm will make things a bit more comfortable but with the new aero regulations banning many of the cooling vents of 2008 the cars will suffer a serious test of reliability.

Can Brawn GP carry the speed they showed in Melbourne to Sepang?  Reliability is still a question mark for the team but Jenson Button reckons he didn’t have to push too hard and the cars have more to give.

Lewis Hamilton showed why he is the World Champion by driving his McLaren from the back of the grid to third place but he is under no illusions about the ability of his car to compete on raw pace:

Sepang is one of the tougher tracks on the calendar, one where we will probably be further from the frontrunners than we were in Albert Park. The track is both fast and technical so requires good mechanical and aero grip. It’s much more aero-dependent and rear-limited than Melbourne so it may highlight some of the shortcomings in MP4-24.

Rain is forecast for the weekend, and Hamilton is a master in the wet so that could help him but Jenson Button won his first podium in Hungary in wet conditions and Rubens Barrichello scored Honda’s only podium of 2008 at Silverstone in the rain so Brawn GP won’t make it easy for Lewis.

Then there’s KERS.  Alonso said it didn’t help him at all in Melbourne but it certainly made it hard for anyone without KERS to pass a McLaren or Ferrari.  The long straights of Sepang should be more suited to running KERS so perhaps we will see it play a bigger part.

So many questions, so little time to get your predictions in for round 2 of the f1buzz prediction game!

Just leave a comment on this post with your driver predictions for the race in the following format:

Fastest lap:

Points will be awarded like this:

  • Predict pole position: 5 points
  • Predict 1st: 10 points
  • Predict 2nd: 8 points
  • Predict 3rd: 6 points
  • Predict correct driver on podium but not in correct position: 3 points for each driver
  • Predict fastest lap: 5 points

Remember, you can enter up until the start of qualifying on Saturday and even if you missed the first round there are still plenty of races left to claw your way to the top of the standings to win the grand prize!

You can find the full list of drivers here.

Categories: Prediction Game Tags:

Jenson wins in Melbourne

March 29th, 2009 No comments

button_barrichello_aus_2009Brawn GP continued their fairytale first race weekend with a 1-2 finish in the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.  Jenson Button took the chequered flag after leading from the start while team mate Rubens Barrichello finished second despite a poor start and trading paint several times during the race.

Button had driven away to a 47.7s lead only for it to be reduced to nothing when Kazuki Nakajima spun into the wall, drawing out the safety car, but the Brit managed to keep his lead under the restart.  Rubens’s chances of a podium looked unlikely until the final laps when Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica found themselves in the same place at the same time.  Their crash took both cars out of the race and Vettel was later handed a 10-place grid penalty for Malaysia for causing the accident.  The Red Bull driver was also fined $50,000 for continuing to drive a damaged car.  Although Vettel appologised for the accident, BMW’s Mario Theissen thinks that without the crash Kubica could have reeled in Button and won the race.  Whether that is true, we’ll never know, but the BMW was certainly quick.

Toyota’s Jarno Trulli was originally awarded third but continuing the theme of penalties and protests he was later handed a stop-go penalty for passing under the safety car.  As this occurred in the final laps of the race this was translated into a 25 second penalty, promoting reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton to an unexpected third place finish.  After going from starting in the pit lane to finishing third, Trulli wasn’t happy:

I can’t say how disappointed I am to finish third but have the result questioned. When the safety car came out towards the end of the race Lewis passed me but soon after he suddenly slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road. I thought he had a problem so I overtook him as there was nothing else I could do.

Neither of the Ferraris finished the race and Aussie Mark Webber continued his tradition of bad luck, especially in his home Grand Prix, by finishing last.

The BBC’s coverage was pretty good; no ads and it was good to hear more radio traffic, especially from Ferrari and McLaren but what is with all the Bernie love?  I know the BBC must be happy to have taken F1 from ITV but does their contract include a clause where Eddie Jordan has to praise Ecclestone every chance he gets?

Overall, though, It was a great start to the new season.  The racing was close and there were some fantastic drives.  Jenson drove a perfect race from lights to flag, rookie Sebastien Buemi scored two points for Toro Rosso on his debut, the Toyotas started from the pit lane but (almost) finished third and fourth and Barichello gave Brawn GP a perfect 1-2 finish despite driving into everyone he could see.  The BGP 001 is a tough car and seems to be fast even with bits of its front wing on the track.

But almost as amazing as the first 1-2 finish from a new team for fifty years was Hamilton’s third place.  Lewis wrung all he could from the struggling MP4-24 and his drive reminded me of Schumacher who could always somehow salvage a good finish from what seemed an impossible position.  Lewis was lucky, though, and his 6 points will only give him and the McLaren engineers a little breathing room until they can find the downforce they are lacking.

2009 Australian Grand Prix Race Results

Pos Driver Team Grid Pos Time Points
1 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 1 01:34:15.784 10
2 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 2 01:34:16.591 8
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 18 01:34:18.698 6
4 Timo Glock Toyota 20 01:34:20.219 5
5 Fernando Alonso Renault 10 01:34:20.663 4
6 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 5 01:34:21.506 3
7 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 13 01:34:21.788 2
8 Sebastien Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 17 01:34:22.082 1
9 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 16 01:34:22.119 0
10 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 9 01:34:22.869 0
11 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 15 01:34:23.158 0
12 Jarno Trulli Toyota 19 01:34:42.388 0
13 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 8 lapped 0
RET Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 3 retired, 56 laps 0
RET Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 4 crash, 55 laps 0
RET Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 7 retired, 55 laps 0
RET Felipe Massa Ferrari 6 retired, 45 laps 0
RET Nelson Piquet Jr Renault 14 crash, 24 laps 0
RET Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 11 crash, 17 laps 0
RET Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 12 retired, 0 laps 0

Photograph: Mick Tsikas/Reuters

Weight adjusted qualifying times

March 28th, 2009 No comments

tf109_australia_2009The FIA now publish the starting weights of the cars after qualifying.  This has both an upside and a downside.  You can now tell the fuel level of each car and therefore get a better idea of overall pace but, conversely, this removes some of the speculation and uncertainty over when a car will have to pit.  Sometimes not knowing whether a car has enough fuel to stay out longer than another is part of the fun.

Either way, the data is now published and so there’s not much point in avoiding it.  I figure we may as well take the good points and see if we can use it to get a better picture of how the cars will perform on race day.

By looking at the weights published we can tell how many kilograms of fuel each car is carrying.  The minimum weight for a Formula One car is 605kg including the driver.  The cars themselves are in fact lighter than this and so ballast is used to add weight to the car in the most advantageous way.  This is where heavier drivers like Robert Kubica are disadvantaged; add in the extra 35kg for a KERS device and there is not much left for ballast.  This is why Kubica is not running KERS in Melbourne like his smaller, lighter team mate.  Every 10kg of fuel is worth on average about 0.3 seconds per lap.

So with that in mind I have put my nerd cap on and plugged the numbers into Excel.  Below is a graph showing the actual lap times of the cars compared to fuel-adjusted lap times.

2009 Australian GP Q3 (weight-adjusted)

The cars that made it to Q3 are weighed after qualifying whereas those that were eliminated earlier may refuel before the race.  We can see from the graph above that the Brawn cars were not running light and their weight-adjusted times are still faster than everyone else. Timo Glock is the quickest of the rest but he will have his work cut out for him starting at the back of the grid.

Categories: 2009 Season Tags: , ,

Button on pole after dramatic qualifying

March 28th, 2009 No comments

Jenson Button, AustraliaJenson Button has put his Brawn GP BGP 001 on pole position for tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. In a thrilling qualifying session that saw drivers constantly exchanging positions on the timesheet the two Brawn GP cars locked out the front row of the grid, something a new team has not done since Jackie Stewart claimed pole for Tyrrell at the 1970 Canadian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton failed to take part in the second qualifying session due to “drive problems” which later turned out to require a change of gearbox, dropping him down to eighteenth.  The Toyotas of Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli had qualified in sixth and eighth but will now start from the back of the grid as the race stewards declared their rear wing contravened the technical regulations by being too flexible.  A flexible rear wing can provide an advantage by flattening at high speeds, and so reducing drag, but still providing downforce in slower corners.  Toyota have promised to strengthen the wing and will race on Sunday as long as officials approve the modifications.

And if flexible rear wings and dodgy diffusers weren’t enough, Williams also lodged a protest against Ferrari and Red Bull, believed to be about their cars’ sidepods.  After hours of deliberation by the stewards, Williams then decided to withdraw its protest just before midnight which seemed to annoy the journalists who had had to stay around the paddock to wait for the result.

It’s great to see Jenson at the front of the grid and the car weights that are now published show the Brawn cars weren’t running on fumes.  Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel did well to get the ‘non-diffuser’ RB5 up to third and Robert Kubica defied BMW’s performance in practice to get his car on the second row of the grid.  Interestingly, Nico Rosberg, who’s Williams had set the fastest time in all three practice sessions, could only manage fifth.

The teams running KERS didn’t seem to have an advantage over the non-KERS equiped cars.  The first of the KERS drivers, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, qualified in seventh and Nick Heidfeld ended up behind his non-KERS team mate.  We also had a brief glimpse of the new on-screen graphics that show when KERS is being used.  This is really interesting to see and I hope we get more of it in the race on Sunday.  From what we saw of Kimi Raikkonen’s on-board shots it seems to take quite a few corners to fully charge the KERS device.

It’s amazing how close the whole field is and the new regulations have really turned the timesheet upside down.  Now if only the teams would stop whinging about regulations and just get on with the racing!

2009 Australian Grand Prix Qualifying Results

Pos Driver Team Time
1 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 1:26.202
2 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 1:26.505
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:26.830
4 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1:26.914
5 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:26.973
6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:27.033
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:27.163
8 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:27.246
9 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:25.504
10 Fernando Alonso Renault 1:25.605
11 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:25.607
12 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.726
13 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:26.503
14 Nelson Piquet Jr Renault 1:26.598
15 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 1:26.677
16 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:26.742
17 Sebastien Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:26.964
18 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
19 Timo Glock Toyota
20 Jarno Trulli Toyota