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Damon Hill has his revenge on Schumacher

May 16th, 2010 No comments

In a race that saw the safety car deployed four times it was the final lap that provided some unexpected controversy.

Mark Webber carried over his winning form from Barcelona to score his second victory of the season over team mate Sebastian Vettel. His perfect qualifying lap was matched by a perfect race and he led from lights to flag.

Robert Kubica had threatened all weekend but he had a poor start from the dusty side of the track and was forced settle for third behind the charging Red Bulls.

Nevertheless, this is a good result for Kubica and the French team. Renault have steadily improved this season and the way Kubica wrestled the black and yellow R30 around Monaco’s twisty streets proved that with the right equipment he is the equal of any on the grid.

After crashing in qualifying Alonso carved his way from starting in the pit lane up to sixth place but when Jarno Trulli parked his Lotus on Karun Chandhok’s head at La Rascasse the safety car was deployed in the dying laps of the race.

As the safety car pulled into the pits on the final lap Michael Schumacher took the opportunity to slip past a slightly sideways Alonso into the final corner and claim 6th. The stewards ruled this was in breach of article 40.13 of the sporting regulations:

If the race ends while the safety car is deployed it will enter the pit lane at the end of the last lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.

Schumacher was penalised 20 seconds which dropped him back to 12th.

Mercedes are appealing the decision. Reading the rules, I guess it could be open to interpretation but I thought it was a typically Schumacheresque piece of opportunism.

You have to smile at the irony, too. In 2006 Schumacher parked his Ferrari at Rascasse in an attempt to hold onto his pole position. The stewards didn’t buy his story then and he had to start the race from the back of the grid.

But that’s not the only interesting little bit of trivia. This year an experienced driver is assigned to the stewards at each race, a scheme that has so far seen much improved decisions. Who happens to have that role at this year’s Monaco Grand Prix? None other than Michael Schumacher’s old rival, Damon Hill.

2010 Monaco Grand Prix Race Results

Pos Driver Team Grid Time Points
1 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1 1:50:13.355 25
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 3 +00:00.448 18
3 Robert Kubica Renault 2 +00:01.675 15
4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 4 +00:02.666 12
5 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 5 +00:04.363 10
6 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 24 +00:06.341 8
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 6 +00:06.651 6
8 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 12 +00:06.970 4
9 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 10 +00:07.305 2
10 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 13 +00:08.199 1
11 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 17 +00:09.135
12 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 7 +00:25.712
13 Vitaly Petrov Renault 14 retired, 73 laps
14 Karun Chandhok Hispania-Cosworth 23 crash, 70 laps
15 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 19 crash, 70 laps
16 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 18 retired, 58 laps
17 Bruno Senna Hispania-Cosworth 22 retired, 58 laps
18 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 9 crash, 30 laps
19 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 16 retired, 26 laps
20 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 21 retired, 25 laps
21 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 20 retired, 22 laps
22 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari 15 retired, 21 laps
23 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 8 retired, 2 laps
24 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 11 crash, 1 laps

Image: Red Bull

Categories: 2010 Season Tags: ,

Who are Ferrari kidding?

May 4th, 2010 No comments

The word Marlboro may not be printed anywhere on the chassis, the but Ferrari F10 still looks like a giant pack of smokes.

Last week a report in the Times claimed Ferrari are using subliminal advertising in the ‘barcode’ design on their Formula One cars and drivers’ overalls.

Despite tobacco advertising being banned from the sport, Philip Morris have a contract with Ferrari until 2011. Ferrari also remain the only team to have a tobacco brand in their official name: Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro.

Today Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo called it all a bunch of nonsense:

Frankly, I find this argument completely pointless and it is verging on the ridiculous to claim that the colour red or a graphic design which shows a bar code could induce people to smoke.

Now I’m not saying that when I look at a Ferrari I feel the sudden urge to light up, but the Marlboro red and white is so synonymous with Ferrari that I honestly almost see the Marlboro logo there.

I’m not saying Ferrari should be forced to paint over the barcode. I can’t see it actually encouraging any impressionable young people to smoke. And let’s not forget tobacco advertising gave us one of the greatest liveries in the history of the sport.

But let’s be honest. A tobacco company is not going to spend millions of dollars on sponsorship unless it thinks it is going to promote it’s brand. Ferrari is not a charity and Philip Morris is not stupid.

Every time someone reads the Scuderia’s official title or sees those oddly spaced white stripes, Marlboro will be getting their money’s worth.

Update: This reminded me of a great animation from Spanish paper, Marca. Watch how the Marlboro logo morphs into a barcode in 2007

Categories: Opinion Tags:

Another racy weekend in China

April 18th, 2010 No comments

Those people who declared Formula One dull and processional after the opening round in Bahrain must be eating their words now.

Today’s rain-splashed Chinese Grand Prix proved to be yet another exciting race with Jenson Button powering to his second victory of the season thanks to another successful tyre strategy. While team mate Lewis Hamilton made a sudden dive into the pits for intermediates, Button stayed out on slicks. Hamilton said:

Jenson made the better choice on the tyres. It wasn’t easy making the call when to change the tyres. I chose very late halfway around the last corner. Clearly it wasn’t the right choice.

But while it may have been the wrong decision, Hamilton again showed what an amazing talent he is by charging back through the field to finish second despite four pit stops.

And is it just me or is the quality of the stewards’ decisions much better this year? There was a mighty battle between Hamilton and Vettel as they both struggled to regain lost places; a battle that continued down the pit exit when Hamilton was released at virtually the same time as Vettel.

Hamilton got exuberantly sideways as he tried to dive in front of Sebastian and the German then proceeded to squeeze Hamilton perilously close to the wheel guns of the other pit crews.

In previous years this probably would have resulted in a post-race 25 second penalty or place drop, potentially altering the very result of the race itself. As it turned out the two drivers only got a stern talking to.

It seems the policy of having an experienced race driver to advise the stewards at each race is a big improvement.

There is now a mini holiday in F1 which is just as well as the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull volcano continues to close European airspace. Until it reopens the teams are stuck in the Far East.

2010 Chinese Grand Prix Race Results

Pos Driver Team Grid Time Points
1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 5 1:46:42.163 25
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 6 +00:01.530 18
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 4 +00:09.484 15
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 3 +00:11.869 12
5 Robert Kubica Renault 8 +00:22.213 10
6 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1 +00:33.310 8
7 Vitaly Petrov Renault 14 +00:47.600 6
8 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 2 +00:52.172 4
9 Felipe Massa Ferrari 7 +00:57.796 2
10 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 9 +01:01.749 1
11 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 10 +01:02.874 0
12 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 11 +01:03.665 0
13 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 12 +01:11.416 0
14 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 21 lapped 0
15 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 16 lapped 0
16 Bruno Senna Hispania-Cosworth 23 lapped 0
17 Karun Chandhok Hispania-Cosworth 24 lapped 0
18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 20 retired, 26 laps 0
19 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 22 retired, 8 laps 0
20 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari 17 retired, 7 laps 0
21 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 13 crash, 1 laps 0
22 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 15 crash, 1 laps 0
23 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 18 crash, 1 laps 0
24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 19 retired, 1 laps 0

Image: Greg Baker/AP

Categories: 2010 Season Tags: ,

Formula One is alive and well

March 28th, 2010 2 comments

The reports of Formula One’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

I said after the Bahrain Grand Prix that judging the entire Formula One season after one race was premature and the thrilling Australian Grand Prix just proves that Formula One is far from dull.

The race was filled with action throughout and one could argue that it was the new rules that added to the excitement. Without having to stop for fuel, drivers had to decide whether to come into the pits for fresh tyres and risk losing places or stay out on worn tyres and hope to maintain their position.

An early gamble on switching to slicks and a smooth driving style meant that Jenson Button only had to stop once and was able to dominate the race from an early stage.

Further back in the field there was all kinds of action. Lewis Hamilton drove spectacularly well and if it wasn’t for a questionable decision to stop for fresh tyres and Mark Webber running into the back of him on lap 56 there would almost certainly have been two McLaren drivers on the podium.

Schumacher had another disappointing race spending most of it fighting with the Toro Rosso of Alguersuari. At one point he was even passed by the newcomer Lotus and Virgin cars.

Lewis’s charging drive also provided a classic bit of Brundle commentary:

It was an invitation to pass and Hamilton RSVP’d immediately.

Kubica’s second place finish is encouraging for both Renault and the talented Pole and Felipe Massa’s refusal to yield to his team mate shows that after only two races there is no number one driver at Ferrari.

The Australian Grand Prix proves that Formula One is still as exciting as ever, perhaps even more so. Let’s hope the excitement continues in Kuala Lumpur next week.

2010 Australian Grand Prix Race Results

Pos Driver Team Grid Time Points
1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 4 1:33:36.531 25
2 Robert Kubica Renault 9 +00:12.034 18
3 Felipe Massa Ferrari 5 +00:14.488 15
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 3 +00:16.304 12
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 6 +00:16.683 10
6 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 11 +00:29.989 8
7 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 13 +00:59.847 6
8 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 8 +01:00.536 4
9 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 2 +01:07.319 2
10 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 7 +01:09.391 1
11 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 17 +01:11.301 0
12 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Cosworth 14 +01:14.084 0
13 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 19 lapped 0
14 Karun Chandhok Hispania-Cosworth 24 lapped 0
15 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 21 retired, 41 laps 0
16 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 22 retired, 26 laps 0
17 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1 retired, 25 laps 0
18 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 10 retired, 9 laps 0
19 Vitaly Petrov Renault 18 retired, 9 laps 0
20 Bruno Senna Hispania-Cosworth 23 retired, 4 laps 0
21 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 12 crash, 1 laps 0
22 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 15 crash, 1 laps 0
23 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Cosworth 16 crash, 1 laps 0
24 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 20 retired, 0 laps 0

Image: Renault F1

Categories: 2010 Season Tags: ,

Bernie talks sense

March 17th, 2010 No comments

So what to make of the Bahrain Grand Prix?

If you believe some of the press, at least in the UK, the race was one long procession, only mildly more interesting than watching paint dry.

I agree it wasn’t the most exciting of races but I don’t think it was that bad. There was some overtaking although admittedly a few of those passes were like taking candy from a baby when Vettel’s engine broke a spark plug.

Perhaps it was because expectations had been pumped up so high: four world champions, three new teams, the second coming of Michael Schumacher.

I think we need to give it a couple of races before passing too much judgment. Bahrain was the first race under the new refueling ban and the teams were obviously being careful with tyres and fuel. I think a lot of the drivers were holding something back and not pushing as much as they could have. Who knows whether Alonso would have mounted a successful attack on Vettel in the closing stages of the race if the German hadn’t had engine trouble?

I hope in the future we will see more agressive driving and race strategy.

Schumacher, obviously disappointed with 6th, questioned the new rules saying

Overtaking was basically impossible unless somebody made a mistake.  That is the action we are going to have with this kind of environment of race strategy.

Even race winner Alonso thinks the refueling ban will encourage processional races.

But let’s not forget one of the reasons the ban was introduced was to take away the option teams had of ‘passing’ in the pits. I don’t think anyone prefers to see positions made or lost in the pits as opposed to out on the track. When you look at the number of actual on track passing moves (rather than ‘passing’ in the pits) in Bahrain was it that much worse than previous races?

I say let’s wait and see. For a change, I agree with Bernie Ecclestone:

The first race with new regulations was always going to be a learning curve for them all. Now they know they can make improvements and be a bit bolder and we will get more action.

I had a meeting with the teams and tried to explain to them what our business is about – racing and entertaining the public. It’s not about playing with computers and going fast over one lap.

Image: Lorenzo Bellanca/LAT Photographic

Categories: 2010 Season Tags: