Monthly Archives: October 2011

First Lap Chaos Hands Kovalainen Second Championship

Indian Grand Prix

Pre-Race

Formula 1 headed to a new race in India, for the inaugural race at the Buddh International Circuit. Much of the discussion for the new teams prior to the race was whether Karun Chandhok and Narain Karthikeyan would race at their home event. Karthikeyan had already been confirmed, but to the surprise of some (basically me), HRT decided to replace Vitantonio Liuzzi for this weekend.

Karun Chandhok was not so lucky, with Team Lotus believing that the combination of Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli would be the best to secure 10th place in the Constructor Championship, to follow up on their victory in the New Teams Team Championship (I need to work on the name a bit more). Chandhok’s only duty was to drive in the first practice session, where he promptly spun in the pitlane.

Thankfully Virgin Racing didn’t pluck some random Indian driver with no ability, and got on with their duties as usual.

Qualifying

Timo Glock’s qualifying though wouldn’t be defined as ‘usual’ (although it could depend on how you see things), a gearbox problem forced him to sit out the first session. But thanks to a time he set in one of the practice sessions, he was allowed to qualify within the 107% rule.

His non-lap caused a load of issues later. Daniel Ricciardo already had a five place penalty for changing his gearbox, but set the 21st quickest time, ahead of his team mate Karthikeyan and both Virgin’s. At the front as usual were Kovalainen and Trulli.

But penalties made things awkward. A three place grid penalty for Sergio Perez for ignoring yellow flags promoted the two Team Lotus cars up a position. Then, Narain Karthikeyan was given a five place penalty for impeding Michael Schumacher during his qualifying run. Confusion ensued.

On the grid though, it was Kovalainen and Trulli in 18th and 19th, D’Ambrosio, despite setting the slowest time, was in 21st, ahead of Glock (who had initially been given 24th), with Ricciardo in 23rd and Karthikeyan 24th. Despite what was arguably their best qualifying performance of the year, HRT would still start the race on the back row.

Race

The race could see Kovalainen be crowned Champion for the second year in a row, and as usual, he managed to avoid the carnage at the start. Rubens Barrichello ran into his team mate Pastor Maldonado, who also forced Kamui Kobayashi wide. Koabayshi’s return onto the track though was questionable, and hit Timo Glock. Further around the lap and into turn 4, Narain Karthikeyan hit the rear of Jarno Trulli and sent him into a spin.

Glock and Trulli pitted, but despite both coming out, Glock was forced to return and retire the car. Trulli never really recovered as well, his spin putting him last and well out of contention with the other drivers.

The carnage had seen the order, from 14th, as Kovalainen, Ricciardo, Karthikeyan and D’Ambrosio, all ahead of drivers who had pitted on hard tyres, Sergio Perez, Paul di Resta and Vitaly Petrov. The trio blitzed through the pack, but only got ahead of Kovalainen through the pits.

Kovalainen as usual was flying, keeping a good gap to Bruno Senna and at one point was in 10th, although that was down to not pitting. D’Ambrosio was also having a strong weekend, and managed to get himself ahead of both Hispania cars.

Hispania were not doing to bad either, keeping a good gap and it was a respectable performance for the home driver, who managed to get ahead of Ricciardo and keep position (although, being cynical, it could well be down to certain team orders). Saying that though, Karthikeyan’s race was a lot better than what has been seen by Liuzzi in recent races.

But it was Heikki Kovalainen who recorded yet another win, and because of Trulli’s 5th place, his second consecutive New Team Driver Championship victory. Jerome D’Ambrosio finished second, benefitting a lot by his team mates retirement. Karthikeyan rounded out the top three well ahead of Ricciardo.

  Driver Team Pos. Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 14th 10
2 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 16th 6
3 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 17th 4
4 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 18th 3
5 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 19th 2
R Timo Glock Marussia Virgin Ret 0

Post-Race Thoughts

Standings

Drivers Championship

Benefitting a lot from Trulli’s spin, Kovalainen finished first and Trulli was only fifth, which was enough for Kovalainen to retain the title. Kovalainen is now 23 points ahead of his team mate with 20 points to play with, and unless the car is highly illegal and has to be disqualified, then I don’t see that being caught.

There has also been a position change as well! Glock’s retirement, along with D’Ambrosio’s fine finish, shoots the Belgian up into third, two points ahead of his team mate.

At the back, Karthikeyan is one point closer to Ricciardo, while Liuzzi is only eleven points ahead of the Australian. Two races left, he can’t catch him… can he?

  Driver Team Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 108
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 85
3 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 66
4 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 64
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 33
6 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 24
7 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 16
8 Karun Chandhok Team Lotus 2

Teams Championship

All done and dusted.

  Team Points
C Team Lotus 195
2 Marussia Virgin 130
3 Hispania 73

Next Race

Form

Five wins in a row for Kovalainen, he’s trouncing the rest of them at the end of the day. Even if Chandhok had been in the car instead of Trulli, I doubt he could have done much better. I don’t see how he is going to stop and can easily see him dominating the next two races as well.

Last years Abu Dhabi race saw Kovalainen win, ahead of Lucas di Grassi (remember him?). Glock and Trulli were both forced to retire with car related issues.

Two main battles to look out for, the battle of the Virgins and the battle of me being highly optimistic and hoping Liuzzi can be caught. Only one, I feel, will be worth watching.

Team Lotus Secure Gold in Korea

tlkorea 

Korean Grand Prix

Pre-Race

Team Lotus came into the race knowing they could take the Teams Championship. Practice saw heavy rain, and mistakes by many of the new cars happened in the soaking track.

Qualifying

Qualifying is getting quite boring now. As expected, Heikki Kovalainen qualified in 19th ahead of his team mate Jarno Trulli. Behind them was Timo Glock and Jerome D’Ambrosio, while Vitantonio Liuzzi managed to outqualify Daniel Ricciardo, purely on the basis that a technical issue meant that the Australian didn’t set a lap time.

Race

In this week’s ‘not really a surprise anymore’ Kovalainen made a fine start, managing to overtake a few cars from the start once again, but this time, it wasn’t to last long and was quickly passed again. But in more surprising starts, Ricciardo jumped from 24th to 21st, ahead of Glock, D’Ambrosio and Liuzzi. Glock found his way past, but the other two struggled behind him. Liuzzi soon had contact with the Belgian, and was forced to pit on the first lap for repairs.

All of this resulted in a damaged front wing for D’Ambrosio later in the race, and was forced into making an unscheduled pitstop. The other pitstops mainly went without a hitch, but Daniel Ricciardo ended up with a fine at the end of the race for an unsafe release.

Kovalainen though was doing well, and managed to, along with Trulli, stay close to Kobayashi and Senna after contact between the two slowed the Sauber down, and was eventually forced to stop. The Safety Car came, and no one was really able to challenge.

It was a far better race for Timo Glock however, who managed to be a lot closer to the Team Lotus cars after Japan. At one point an actual overtake between two different cars occurred, when Jarno Trulli used DRS down the long straight. I was actually quite excited when that happened.

Ricciardo was showing up Liuzzi too, while D’Ambrosio spun off and struggled behind him, in a poor weekend for the Belgian. But it was Kovalainen who took the spotlight, finishing ahead of both Saubers (who lacked pace and made one extra stop than most drivers), and only two seconds down on Bruno Senna, who had similar problems. Jarno Trulli’s second place saw Team Lotus become Team Champions.

  Driver Team Pos. Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 14th 10
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 17th 6
3 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 18th 4
4 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 19th 3
5 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 20th 2
6 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 21st 1

Post-Race Thoughts

Heikki Kovalainen (14th – Team Lotus) : “As it was we finished ahead of both Saubers on pace and strategy and that’s a very good feeling. We’ve been strong all weekend and it’s great for the whole team that we’re heading towards the end of the season with a car that is giving us a chance to really show what we can do. Honestly, I’d like to get straight back in now and do it all over again – now I can’t wait for India!”

Vitantonio Liuzzi (21st – Hispania) : “We had pretty good pace during the first stint but the safety car came out at the worst time possible, just as the leaders had lapped me, so I was a lap down with respect to my main rivals. The race was very difficult after that and the balance was all over the place, it was really hard to drive. But with all those problems we endured, we still made it to the checkered flag which is a positive thing”

Standings

Drivers Championship

It’s now four in a row for Kovalainen who is starting to walk away with it, now a rather large 15 points ahead with three races left. The gap between Glock and D’Ambrosio extends to four points, while it will be interesting to see if Ricciardo can close the gap further to Liuzzi.

  Driver Team Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 98
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 83
3 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 64
4 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 60
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 33
6 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 21
7 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 12
8 Karun Chandhok Team Lotus 2

Teams Championship

One year after taking the 2010 Teams Championship in Korea, they win the 2011 version at the same venue. They are 64 points ahead, with the maximum Virgin can take being 48. Virgin have also secured second place, being 58 points ahead of Hispania, basically meaning this is pretty much pointless for the rest of the season.

  Team Points
C Team Lotus 188
2 Marussia Virgin 124
3 Hispania 66

Next Race

Form

There is technically no ‘form’ to be applied to India’s new track, the first time Formula 1 will visit the circuit near to New Dehli. Based on recent races, it’s Kovalainen’s to throw away, four wins in a row is a joint record with himself, after he won the last four races of the 2010 season as well.

Liuzzi really needs to up his game, he hasn’t beaten Ricciardo since Belgium, when the Australian retired, and has actually only out raced him twice. He isn’t showing anyone why he should be in the Hispania next year, especially as he barely brings any money to the team.

It is important to remember that because we are heading to India, Narain Karthikeyan, and presumably Karun Chandhok, will return to the cockpits for Hispania and Team Lotus respectively. As of now it isn’t clear who they will replace, but I am hoping its Liuzzi and Kovalainen, although no doubt it will be more like Ricciardo and Trulli.

Permutations

This time out its the Driver Championship which is up for grabs. Kovalainen can win the title in India should he score more than five points than his team mate, Trulli. So he can win by:

  • Kovalainen finishing 1st, Trulli finishing 3rd
  • Kovalainen finishing 2nd, Trulli finishing 6th, because of Kovalainen’s far superior win ratio, winning 8 times to Trulli’s 4, which can not be caught by the Italian with three rounds to go

All of this does depend on who Chandhok, if he does, replaces. Should it be Kovalainen, then the title fight goes to Abu Dhabi, should it be Trulli, all Kovalainen has to do is finish in the top two, which would secure him the title without an opponent to fight in the final round. The recent form of Kovalainen suggests it could be easy ride for him.

Revisiting the South

The last time the biggest speedway event was held in the southern hemisphere, it was a massive disaster. The promoters lost £100,000 for hosting the event at Australia’s Sydney Olympic Stadium, and although the event went well, being won by Greg Hancock, it was the one and only time the Grand Prix would head to Australia.

With the release of the 2012 Speedway Grand Prix calendar however, the riders and their teams would once again be going to the southern hemisphere, this time to Auckland in New Zealand, a less well renowned location for speedway.

But it isn’t to say that is a bad thing. And in a year when speedway has seen more bad headlines than it needs, this is the one bit of news which has got me excited about the potential prospects of not only the Speedway Grand Prix, but the sport itself.

Reaching out to the masses is a must for the sport. The Grand Prix is only held within six countries in Europe, with three events in Poland, and two in Denmark and Sweden. It’s hardly a productive set up, and shows a stay-safe standard by the FIM. Let’s stay where we know its going to work, the fans will pack the stadiums, especially in Poland. But at least, going out to places like New Zealand, where there is some support, albeit (very) limited. But get the promotion right, there’s no doubt that there will be some interest from new supporters.

And New Zealand is a new venue, there is the chance to give the sport a massive boost in the area. It is of course a massive rugby country, but the popularity of speedway in the nearby Australia could help. In 2012 there will be three Australians on the track, three time world champion Jason Crump, as well as race winner Chris Holder and one of the hottest prospects for the future, Darcy Ward. More fans from Australia, where there is a reasonable following, can make for a packed Western Springs, for the first time since 2002 they can get to a Grand Prix without a ridiculous cross-planet flight to the other side of the world. More fans there will get more New Zealanders interested, it’s a promising prospect.

But most importantly it allows for the chance to gain a foothold into New Zealand and push the good word of speedway to new locations around the world. While Formula 1 is going to Korea, India and the UAE, whilst every year reportedly losing the Australian Grand Prix, speedway is going for the grounds that Bernie doesn’t want or feel necessary. And with a good TV contract, there’s a small chance speedway can become a competitor to the biggest motorsport event in the world.

Obviously going all the way down to New Zealand isn’t perfect right now. The March 31st date coincided with the start of the main speedway seasons in Europe. Many of these seasons have now been delayed to accommodate the new race, and with the Easter weekend now being missed, many of the top teams will miss out on revenue. The long haul will take its toll out on the riders, and with a tight turnaround, it may have a long term effect.

But that shouldn’t stop the race, I love the prospect of the Speedway Grand Prix going to new venues, especially that on the other side of the world. The sport shouldn’t just be limited to the small cluster of countries that give a damn about the sport and are in a nice transportation link between them. Be brave, it’s how the sport gets to grow.

Team Lotus Edge Closer to Glory in Japan

Japanese Grand Prix

Pre-Race

The second Asian leg of the Formula 1 season continued at the world renowned Suzuka Circuit in Japan.

Practice saw little happen, although Liuzzi struggled, completing only ten laps. Water pressure problems in FP2 and engine problems in FP3 limited his testing.

Qualifying

Liuzzi’s bad weekend continued as his engine forced him to sit out of qualifying, however was given dispensation from the stewards to race, despite never really being within the 107% required in practice. Similar car problems for Nico Rosberg meant he would start in 23rd, allowing for the other five new team drivers to move up on position than normal.

Apart from that it was the traditional formation. Heikki Kovalainen from Jarno Trulli. Jerome D’Ambrosio surprisingly was quicker than Timo Glock, who all finished ahead of Daniel Ricciardo.

Race

It was a fine start by both Team Lotus drivers, as Kovalainen managed to get themselves ahead of the slow starting Rubens Barrichello, Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez, with Trulli behind the trio. The Williams cars got by the Finn easily, but it was another story for Perez, who was overtaken by Trulli on lap 5.

Rosberg made his way up the field easily, passing a struggling Jaime Alguersuari, and along with Perez, managed to overtake Trulli three laps later. Kovalainen was the next to be dispatched in easy fashion.

It was though a massive weekend to forget for Liuzzi, who made a mistake early on, making a trip through the gravel at the S-Curves.

There was a good battle between the two Virgins and Daniel Ricciardo as well. Ricciardo driving well and was at one point beating both cars on merit. The pitstops though allowed D’Ambrosio to move ahead of the Australian.

A weak Safety Car bunched the cars up again. Kovalainen was ahead of Maldonado, who easily dispatched him on the restart.

The rest of the race was a bit of a procession for the new teams, Glock eventually got past Ricciardo and his team mate. The race finished off with two of the cars having problems being lapped. World Champion Vettel was unhappy with D’Ambrosio, while Liuzzi nearly swiped the front wing off the race winner Button on the last lap.

All in all, Kovalainen recorded his third win in a row, in yet another 1-2 with Trulli. The Team Lotus cars finished on the lead lap, the first time it has happened, although arguably helped by the Safety Car period. Still, it is a big step forward for the team, and far better than what Virgin and Hispania have so far achieved. Glock finished in third ahead of D’Ambrosio and Ricciardo, while Liuzzi’s disastrous weekend finished one lap down on his team mate.

  Driver Team Pos. Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 18th 10
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 19th 6
3 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 20th 4
4 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 21th 3
5 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 22nd 2
6 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 23rd 1

Post-Race Thoughts

Heikki Kovalainen (18th – Team Lotus) : “The fact that this is the first time this season we didn’t see any blue flags is very satisfying. Every time you have to let someone pass you are artificially slowing up your own race, and it shows our car keeps improving, as does the whole team. Ok, the safety car helped us, but then you have to be in the right place to take advantage of whatever happens on track, and today we did just that.”

Daniel Ricciardo (22nd – Hispania) : “The race went quite well considering yesterday’s pace, we’ve got to be happy about being only a few tenths behind the Virgins. At one stage I was in front but the safety car didn’t help. It came out at times that didn’t suit us. But I’m happy with the performance and, personally, I’m pleased with the way I drove and I don’t think I could have done much more.”

Standings

Drivers Championship

Kovalainen’s three in a row has shot him up to an eleven point lead, a full race win ahead of the man who has led most of the way, Trulli. The battle for third is still tight, Glock only two points in front of his team mate.

  Driver Team Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 88
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 77
3 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 60
4 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 58
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 32
6 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 18
7 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 12
8 Karun Chandhok Team Lotus 2

Teams Championship

Still quite predictable.

  Team Points
1 Team Lotus 167
2 Marussia Virgin 118
3 Hispania 62

Next Race

Form

The first race in Korea last year was cruel for Virgin. Timo Glock was in a great position but a mistake by Sebastian Buemi saw the end of his race. The rain in the end allowed for Heikki Kovalainen to power through ahead of his team mate, and allowed for the team to become the Teams Champions, a team that could be replicated in Korea next weekend.

The on form driver is certainly Kovalainen, who has won three in a row. On the other hand, Liuzzi is struggling with a R-4-6 record in the last three.

Permutations

Unsurprisingly, the Teams Championship can be wrapped up in South Korea next weekend. Virgin are 49 points behind with 64 to play. Now I may get this totally wrong here (likely), but should Team Lotus score a 1-2 in the next race, then they will become the Teams Champions for the second year in a row. Realistically, if Virgin don’t score two more points than Team Lotus next weekend, then it’s all over.

The Driver Championship is still up for grabs, but again, it’s looking likely which way that will be going, although it could depend on who Karun Chandhok replaces in India, if anyone.

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