Archive for August, 2009

Europe: Fuel adjusted qualifying times

August 22nd, 2009 No comments

Heikki Kovalainen, Europe, 2009The FIA now publishes the weights of each car after qualifying on Saturday.  Those cars that make it through to the final qualifying session must use the fuel they qualified with while the rest of the field may refuel before the race.

Below is a graph showing the actual top ten qualifying times as well as those times adjusted for the weight of fuel each car is carrying.  The graph assumes a standard lap time cost of 0.3 seconds per 10kg of fuel.

From these weights we can see that, adjusted for fuel, Rubens Barrichello was actually quickest round the Valencia circuit. This won’t do him much good from the second row behind two KERS-equipped McLarens, though.  If Rubens can’t overtake Hamilton or Kovalainen in the first lap (and I seriously doubt he can), Barrichello will need to make sure he at least keeps up with them until they make their first stop and then really put the hammer down.

Vettel is a little out of position with 7.5 kg less fuel than Button behind him.  Similarly, Webber has more fuel on board than Alonso but while the Aussie may find his way past Alonso, his chances of a podium look pretty slim.

McLaren are well and truly back.  It will be interesting to see if Barrichello can match them in the race.

2009 European GP Q3 (weight-adjusted)

2009 European Grand Prix car weights

Image: McLaren

Categories: 2009 Season Tags: , ,

Silver Arrows lock out front row in Valencia

August 22nd, 2009 No comments

Lewis Hamilton, Europe, 2009Lewis Hamilton scored his first pole position since China last year in qualifying for Sunday’s European Grand Prix in Valencia.Team mate Heikki Kovalainen will line up alongside him to make it an all-McLaren front row.

Hamilton had looked good all weekend and despite limited running time in practice managed to secure pole on his first flying lap in Q3. Kovalainen also showed good pace and looked like he could have been fast enough to take pole away from Hamilton but an error on his final lap meant he had to settle for second; Lewis didn’t even bother finishing his final lap and pulled straight in to Parc Ferme.

Hamilton said:

We stand in the best position going into tomorrow for a podium, but it all depends on strategy and the start and how the rest of the race goes.

Rubens Barrichello will start from third next to Sebastian Vettel, who suffered an engine failure in practice, while Championship Leader Jenson Button will start from fifth ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Of the new faces on the grid, Romain Grosjean, who replaced Nelson Piquet Jr at Renault, made it as far as Q2 and 14th while Luca Badoer seemed faster in the pit lane than on the track. The Ferrari test driver was fined four times for speeding in the pit lane but qualified last, nearly two seconds behind rookie Jaime Alguersuari.

With both the KERS equipped McLarens on the front row this looks like the start of a return to form for the Woking squad and a McLaren 1-2 finish on Sunday is a real possibility.

2009 Formula One European Grand Prix Qualifying Results

Pos Driver Team Time
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 01:39.498
2 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 01:39.532
3 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 01:39.563
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 01:39.789
5 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 01:39.821
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 01:40.144
7 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 01:40.185
8 Fernando Alonso Renault 01:40.236
9 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 01:40.239
10 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 01:40.512
11 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 01:38.826
12 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 01:38.846
13 Timo Glock Toyota 01:38.991
14 Romain Grosjean Renault 01:39.040
15 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 01:39.514
16 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 01:39.531
17 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 01:39.795
18 Jarno Trulli Toyota 01:39.807
19 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 01:39.925
20 Luca Badoer Ferrari 01:41.413

Image: McLaren

Categories: 2009 Season Tags: ,

Prediction game: Round 11 – Europe

August 19th, 2009 7 comments

Mark Webber, Valencia, 2008Formula One returns from a four week break for the European Grand Prix at Valencia this weekend and there will be a couple of new faces on the grid.  Unfortunately, Michael Schumacher’s won’t be one of them.

Michael had planned to take over from Felipe Massa until the Brazilian was fit to race again but later had to announce that, due to an earlier motorcycling accident, his neck wouldn’t be up to the G-forces of Formula One. Instead, Ferrari’s test driver, Luca Badoer, will drive the other Red Car in Valencia — ten years after his last Formula One Grand Prix.  Needless to say, expectations aren’t too high, even from Badoer himself:

It will effectively be a test session for me, but I will be trying my best to secure a good result.

After successfully converting their one-race ban into a $50,000 fine for sending Fernando Alonso out on three wheels in Hungary, Renault have announced that Romain Grosjean will replace Nelson Piquet Jr for the rest of the season. Grosjean has won two races in GP2 this year but has also been involved in a number of incidents — I was sitting in the grandstand at Tabac in Monaco this year when he launched his car halfway over the barrier a few metres away. It will be interesting to see if he does any better with the R29 than Piquet.

McLaren will be looking to take a second straight victory in Valencia, something which looks perfectly possible now that they seem to have sorted out their aerodynamic problems. McLaren boss, Martin Whitmarsh, believes their KERS now gives them a formidible advantage:

Now there is no doubt that KERS is an advantage. We have potentially a small lap time advantage, we have an overtake or defend advantage and certainly, if we can get near the front of the grid, then we have a launch advantage.

But while McLaren may be challenging for the win, the real competition is between Red Bull and Brawn GP. Will the work Brawn have put in at the factory be enough to recover from their recent poor performances or will Red Bull continue their charge?

To make your predictions in round 11 of the F1 Buzz prediction game (and be in with a chance to win some nice prizes), just leave a comment on this post with your driver predictions for the race in the following format:

Fastest lap:

Remember, the deadline for entries is start of qualifying on Saturday, that’s 12:00 GMT.

Good luck!

Image: Red Bull Racing

Categories: Prediction Game Tags:

Piquet’s out

August 4th, 2009 No comments

Nelson Piquet Jr, Germany, 2009“Flavio is a business man, but he doesn’t understand shit about F1.”

When Nelson Piquet Jr said that, we knew he wasn’t much longer for Renault and on Monday he confirmed that he had been told his services would no longer be required.

All season there has been a question mark over the young Brazilian and his future in Renault and Formula One.

At the Hungarian Grand Prix Flavio Briatore was seen leaving the circuit after Alonso had retired but Piquet was still running.

There has been no official comment from the team but Piquet posted a lengthy statement on his website:

I have received notice from the Renault F1 team of its intention to stop me from driving for them in the current F1 season. I want to say thanks to the small group who supported me and that I worked together at Renault F1, although it is obviously with great disappointment that I receive such news. But, at the same time, I feel a sense of relief for the end of the worst period of my career, and the possibility that I can now move on and put my career back on the right track and try to recover my reputation of a fast, winning driver. I am a team player and there are dozens of people I have worked with in my career who would vouch for my character and talent, except unfortunately the person that has had the most influence on my career in Formula 1.

Piquet confirmed that he had signed a contract requiring him to score 40% of Alonso’s points by mid-season but said that the development of his car was always one race behind the double World Champion’s:

For the 2009 season Briatore, again acting both as my manager and team boss of Renault F1, promised me everything would be different, that I would get the attention I deserved but had never received, and that I would get ‘at least equal treatment’ inside the team. He made me sign a performance-based contract, requiring me to score 40% of Fernando Alonso’s points by mid-way through the season. Despite driving with Fernando, two-time world champion and a really excellent driver, I was confident that, if I had the same conditions, I would easily attain the 40% of points required by the contract.

Unfortunately, the promises didn’t turn into reality again. With the new car I completed 2002km of testing compared to Fernando’s 3839km. Only three days of my testing was in dry weather – only one of Fernando’s was wet. I was only testing with a heavy car, hard tyres, mostly on the first day (when the track is slow and reliability is poor), or when the weather was bad. Fernando was driving a light car with soft tyres in the dry, fine conditions. I never had a chance to be prepared for the qualifying system we use. In Formula 1 today, the difference between 1st and 15th position is sometimes less than a second. It means that 0.2 or 0.3s can make you gain eight positions.

In addition to that, car development is now happening on a race-to-race basis due to the in season testing ban. Of the first nine races that I ran this year, in four of them Fernando had a significant car upgrade that I did not have. I was informed by the engineers at Renault that in those races I had a car that was between 0.5 and 0.8s a lap slower than my teammate. If I look at Germany (where I out-qualified my teammate despite that), if I had that advantage in qualifying I would be fifth and not tenth. If we had that difference in the race, I would have finished ahead of my teammate, which I did in Silverstone, despite him having upgrades that I did not have.

It has been suggested that Piquet’s three-time World Champion father could take over the BMW Sauber team when BMW withdraw from Formula One at the end of the year.  He has had experience running the Piquet Sports team with which Piquet Jr raced in F3 and GP2.  In 2006, Piquet Jr came second in the GP2 Championship, just 12 points behind Lewis Hamilton.

I feel sorry for Nelsinho.  In fact, I feel sorry for anyone who has to work for Flavio Briatore and I hope he gets another shot at Formula One next year.  His performances in other racing series suggest he is a talented driver and with 56,000 twitter followers he is clearly quite popular.

But then again, how many other talented drivers are out there?  With only 26 seats available people are always going to miss out.

Categories: Drivers Tags: ,