Posts Tagged ‘toyota’

Hamilton loses Oz points, Trulli gets his podium back!

April 2nd, 2009 No comments

Trulli leads Hamilton, Australia, 2009The Formula One circus continued today with the FIA stripping Lewis Hamilton of all the points he earned in Australia because he “acted in a manner prejudicial to the conduct of the event by providing evidence deliberately misleading to the Stewards.”  Toyota’s Jarno Trulli has had his third place finish reinstated.

Confusion has surrounded the result of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix when Lewis Hamilton passed Jarno Trull under the safety car after Trulli ran off the track.  Trulli later passed Hamilton to reclaim third place but was later penalised 25 seconds for passing under the safety car and so dropped to 12th place.

The stewards original ruling suggested that while Hamilton’s pass was legal, Trulli’s was not but the Toyota driver has always claimed that Lewis Hamilton slowed to let him retake third position.  Toyota had planned to appeal the decision but later decided the appeal was unlikely to succeed.

A recording of the Toyota radio communications shows how confusing the situation was for trulli:

The statement from the stewards reads:

The Stewards having considered the new elements presented to them from the 2009 Australian Formula One Grand Prix, consider that driver No 1 Lewis Hamilton and the competitor Vodafone McLaren Mercedes acted in a manner prejudicial to the conduct of the event by providing evidence deliberately misleading to the Stewards at the hearing on Sunday 29th March 2009, a breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code. Under Article 158 of the International Sporting Code the driver No 1 Lewis Hamilton and the competitor Vodafone McLaren Mercedes are excluded from the race classification for the 2009 Australian Grand Prix and the classification is amended accordingly.

This is a bad start to the season and is only going to encourage the conspiracy theorists who think the FIA have it in for McLaren. Thank god Ferrari aren’t involved.

As I said before, what we need to see now are the “new elements presented” to the stewards. It has been nearly a week and we haven’t seen a post-race report from the stewards explaining their decisions. We have seen video of Hamilton passing Trulli and now we have Toyota’s radio transmissions but what we still haven’t seen is Trulli’s pass of Hamilton and, perhaps most importantly, McLaren’s radio transmissions.

I really hope we get to see all the evidence the stewards had when making their decisions. What is needed is openness and clarity regarding the rules and the stewards interpretation. Is it any wonder that McLaren were worried about Hamilton’s pass on Trulli after being so harshly dealt with at Spa last year?

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

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

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

Teams’ fancy diffusers are legal (for now)

March 26th, 2009 No comments

Toyota's diffuser after an engine failureThe controversial diffusers on the Brawn GP, Williams and Toyota cars have been declared legal by race stewards after a formal protest was lodged by Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault.  BMW had also planned to join the protest but didn’t get their complaint submitted in time.

This means there will be 20 cars on the grid for Sunday’s race in Melbourne but it is not the end of the story.  As soon as the verdict was announced the protesting teams said they would lodge an appeal against the stewards’ decision and the way these things work means this will not be heard at the FIA International Court of Appeal until after the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Frank Williams, whose car is one of those under complaint, thinks the Brawn BGP 001 could win the Australian Grand Prix:

It is no accident that their new car is absurdly superior – they are making the rest of us look like amateurs. In Australia they will disappear on the basis of what we have seen in testing. I just hope we can be up there, too.

Ross Brawn has always said his car was legal and thinks those who are protesting are just mad because they didn’t spot the loophole themselves:

The accusations are coming from teams who did not come up with the idea and now they are getting angry.  For anyone who has read the rules it was quite obvious. Ferrari have only woken up because someone has driven faster than them.

I think it’s a shame that the teams have chosen to appeal the decision as it means that should Brawn GP score points or even a podium on Sunday the result will be uncertain until the teams’ complaint is heard in court. We don’t need another situation like Spa last year when Lewis Hamilton’s win was taken away after the race had finished.

Formula One has a long history of teams finding and exploiting loopholes in the rulebook and I don’t think these three teams should be punished for doing just that.  The other thing to bear in mind is that Ross Brawn is the chairman of the FOTA Technical Working Group so you would assume he has a pretty good understanding of the rules.

It will be interesting to see, now that the stewards have declared it legal, if McLaren or any other teams fit a new diffuser to their car for Saturday.  McLaren might feel that if they don’t have a chance at points anyway they won’t have much to lose.