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Kovalainen Finishes Season in Style

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Brazilian Grand Prix

Pre-Race

So one last race of the seemingly never-ending sleep-inducing Formula 1 season, and really, nothing was up for grabs anywhere in the pitlane. The only interesting battle was for 7th in the Constructors between Sauber and Toro Rosso, and if I can be unbiased for a moment, isn’t anything to rush to the blogs and write about.

New Teams Championship wise, the only thing to look out for was who would round out the top three, Timo Glock (who finished 3rd in 2010) or rookie Jerome D’Ambrosio.

In 2012 news, HRT surprised a few people by signing Pedro de la Rosa, who just won’t go away, for two whole years. It seems being old is quite ‘in’ at the moment.

Qualifying

Like with most races, Heikki Kovalainen outqualified Jarno Trulli for the 18th time this season. But the big shock of the weekend came at the expense of Marussia Virgin, who locked out the back row while facing the rear wings of Hispania. Vitantonio Liuzzi was ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, while Jerome D’Ambrosio started ahead of Glock.

Race

As is norm these days, Kovalainen flew off the line and shot up to 16th by the end of the first lap, however he struggled to stay their, and the slower starters in Alguersuari and Barrichello soon passed. It had been a bad start for Ricciardo, who had fell to last, while his team mate, for once, was having a half decent race.

Truth be told, apart from the retirements, very little happened for the six cars. On lap 24, Timo Glock was too quick coming out of the pits, and his rear left tyre was quick to dismantle itself from the car. This was crucial in the outcome of who would finish third.

A few laps towards the end, Vitantonio Liuzzi suffered from an alternator failure, forcing him to retire into turn one, even though he was ahead of Ricciardo at the time.

So, for the umpteenth time in a row, Heikki Kovalainen finished in first, in 16th which was also ahead of Bruno Senna, who had horrible luck at his home race. Trulli was 18th, and in second, ahead of D’Ambrosio and Ricciardo.

  Driver Team Pos. Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 16th 10
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 18th 6
3 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 19th 4
4 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 20th 3
R Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania Ret 0
R Timo Glock Marussia Virgin Ret 0

Post-Race Thoughts

Heikki Kovalainen (Team Lotus – 16th): “All year we’ve kept on progressing and we’ve finished on a real high with that tenth place so we’re set us up perfectly for next year where we can take another step forward in the development of this team.”

Jarno Trulli (Team Lotus – 18th): “It was really just about getting the car home in one piece so we could seal our place in the championship. I want to thank the whole team for the work they’ve done this weekend and all year. We keep on progressing and it’s great to be part of something that shows real signs of where it can go.”

Timo Glock (Marussia Virgin – Retired): “A very disappointing way to end the season. It’s a real shame to have had to retire after losing the left-rear tyre after my first pit-stop but unfortunately these things happen. So it wasn’t the way I would have liked to end the season but, anyway, I want to thank the team for all the effort they have put in during the whole year. It has been great to work together.”

Jerome D’Ambrosio (Marussia Virgin – 19th): “We did a good job in qualifying yesterday and today was one of my best races so far. I’m happy this has happened here in Brazil, as I love this track. I’m also glad to finish ahead of HRT- definitely a very positive way to end the season. I want to thank the team for all their hard work. I have really enjoyed working together with them this year.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi (Hispania – Retired): “We wanted to finish the season with a strong result. It’s a shame because we could have achieved it. Now we have to work hard for next year and try to recover from this problem and make up for it in the future because we need to be strong and competitive in every race”

Daniel Ricciardo (Hispania – 20th): “It’s been a really good six months and I’m happy with how the season has gone, you always want a bit more but realistically it has been really good and I have learned a lot. I want to thank HRT and Red Bull for giving me the opportunity to come and do it.”

Standings

Drivers Championship

So that’s a wrap on 2011. Heikki Kovalainen finishes a whole 31 points in front of his team mate Jarno Trulli, who was agonisingly close to reaching triple figures. Kovalainen’s 128 points is a record, ten up on last year. He’s also finished the year with seven back to back wins, yes, seven. Vettel-esque.

For the second year in a row, Timo Glock has been beaten by a rookie team mate. Third goes to Belgian Jerome D’Ambrosio, who’s four points in Brazil provided to be crucial.

The trio of Hispania cars are ordered as expected, Liuzzi ahead of Ricciardo ahead of Karthikeyan, although arguably Ricciardo has looked the most impressive driver. Hardly surprising considering of all the drivers, he is tipped for bigger and better things in 2012.

And dead last is Karun Chandhok, with two solitary points from his pretty poor race in Germany.

  Driver Team Points
C Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 128
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 97
3 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 70
4 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 68
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 36
6 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 27
7 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 16
8 Karun Chandhok Team Lotus 2

Teams Championship

As expected really. Team Lotus and Virgin both improve on their points from last year, but Hispania have fewer, no doubt because of better reliability from the arguably two quicker teams.

  Team Points
C Team Lotus 227
2 Marussia Virgin 138
3 Hispania 79

2012

All but one seat for 2012 has been confirmed. At the former Lotus Racing/Team Lotus and now Caterham team, two time New Team Champion Kovalainen continues alongside two time New Team not quite as good as his team mate, Jarno Trulli.

Former Virgin Racing/Marussia Virgin and now Marussia keep Timo Glock (presuming no bigger team don’t come in and buy him out of his contract (one can hope)), but drop D’Ambrosio, who beat him this year, for Charles Pic. You could say though their line up for 2012 looks pretty as a Pic-ture. Ahem.

Hispania, as previously mentioned, have brought in Pedro de la Rosa, and their second race seat could, frankly, go to anyone who has ever touched a car before. Logic would suggest someone with a bit of cash could get it, or the could keep Liuzzi, or they could bring in a Formula 1 driver who is desperate to stay in the sport at all costs, like Nick Heidfeld, or even Chandhok, just so he can claim to have driven for all three new teams. A unique achievement.

What about the performances, well, I expect Marussia and Hispania to fight with themselves at the back, while Caterham (this will need some getting used to) should be at worst, amongst the weaker midfield cars. Next year is their big test, an improvement is needed, they’ve talked the talk, and a bit more, now the walking of the walk needs to occur.

Final Thoughts

Another year over and I’m rather glad for it. While the first two thirds of the season were something spectacular, the end of the year was an immense disappointment. Once again though, the new teams, or whatever they should be called now, provided some entertainment. Whether its upsetting the odds (Liuzzi’s 13th in Canada), or some insane, crazy decisions (Chandhok in Germany), they do tend to provide most things.

I do think Kovalainen should be racing at a team better than Team Lotus, but with they way they are progressing, soon he might be where he deserves. If Renault fancy forgetting Grosjean and Petrov, they could do a lot worse than bringing the Finn back in. Sadly, it will never happen.

So, once again, a massive thank you to everyone who has commented and read my New Teams updates each race weekend. I’m unsure of its future, part of me is tempted to wait until Australia and see how close Caterham are and if its worth continuing for a third year.

I would like to continue doing something that I can update at the end of each race next year, I’ve had a few ideas for a BBC/Sky Championship, and one or two thoughts that aren’t quite there. If anyone has got an idea, please do leave it in the comments. Or, you could keep it to yourself, do it yourself, and gain international recognition while I struggle on here. Whatever is good for you.

Thank you once again, and I promise, a lot, that I will do more ‘proper’ blog posts soon. I’ve had a little less enthusiasm of late to do any.

Kovalainen Continues Dominance in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Pre-Race

Pretty much any meaningful battle in the Championship is over, with only the battle for third up for grabs. Heikki Kovalainen secured his title back in India, and is in the form of his life, easily the quickest of the six drivers in the new teams and even some in the more established teams.

In the two week gap since India, the only news of note has been name changes. For the third year in a row, Team Lotus will be called something else. Having settled the seemingly never-ending battle between Tony Fernandes and Danny Bahar, Team Lotus will be renamed Caterham F1 from next season, with the Lotus name going solely to the team currently known as Renault. Elsewhere, Virgin Racing will also be changing name, dropping the Virgin branding and now simply to be known as Marussia from 2012.

In the two week gap following the race and Abu Dhabi comes the Young Drivers Test. For Team Lotus, American Alexander Rossi will be driving all three days for them. Dani Clos will be driving for Hispania, while Virgin are opting to choose three different drivers, in Charles Pic, Robert Wickens and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs.

Qualifying

There was little surprise at the front, Kovalainen once again outqualified his team mate for 18th place (with Barrichello not opting to set a lap time). Behind them it was Timo Glock, Daniel Ricciardo, who had set an impressive lap time, Jerome D’Ambrosio and Vitantonio Liuzzi.

Because of the grid penalty handed to Pastor Maldonado, all six moved up on position.

Race

Optimism for a good race was slim, but the race start was enthralling. Kovalainen flew off the line, jumping up to 14th after all the pitstops from the contact on the opening lap. For once, he wasn’t the only driver doing well, with Timo Glock in 16th, notably ahead of Maldonado, who hadn’t stopped. Liuzzi had jumped up to 18th, ahead of Trulli, D’Ambrosio and Ricciardo.

Problems for Kobayashi helped Kovalainen into 13th, ahead of both Williams and on good pace, even within sight of the Toro Rosso ahead of him. However problems for D’Ambrosio forced him to retire with faulty brakes.

Meanwhile further behind, the two Hispania cars were scrapping out with each other, which helped both Sauber cars past them, while D’Ambrosio lurked just behind. Not even pitstops would hinder Kovalainen, coming out in 14th, which was ahead of Barrichello. Glock was running as high as 16th before his only stop of the race, where he emerged back in 18th.

The race began to peter out however, with Kovalainen once again flying. His second stop would be when he was in 13th, however he began to fall back on the medium set of tyres, losing out to Alguersuari eventually and ended up in 17th, ahead of Trulli, Glock, Ricciardo and Liuzzi. However another decent race for Ricciardo was to end six laps from the end, with the car coming to a stop.

But once again it was Kovalainen who recorded his sixth straight victory, Trulli finished behind his team once more, and Glock will benefit massively from his team mates retirement in third. Liuzzi was the last finisher in fourth. Ricciardo was only one lap away from being a classified finisher before his retirement.

  Driver Team Pos. Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 17th 10
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 18th 6
3 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 19th 4
4 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 20th 3
R Daniel Ricciardo Hispania Ret 0
R Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin Ret 0

Post-Race Thoughts

Heikki Kovalainen (Team Lotus – 17th): “What seems to be happening is that in the first couple of stints, as the race sort of settles down, we are able to keep up with the cars ahead, and that’s obviously a sign of how we have progressed, and that’s again what happened here. When we went onto the primes for the last stint the pace obviously dropped a bit but we had another strong push to the end, with Senna losing time on his final set of tyres, and that points to us being able to fight much more closely next year.”

Timo Glock (Marussia Virgin – 19th): “Overall it was quite a good race today. I had a strong start, the speed was not too bad and I was in front of a couple of quicker guys, even though in the end they caught us up. I just drove my race and my engineer kept me updated about the gap to the guys behind, which was quite easy to manage.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi (Hispania – 20th): “The car was suffering from the same balance problems as yesterday. The team worked on the issue all night to try and fix it but, unfortunately, the car wasn’t perfectly balanced today. There was understeer on left turns and oversteer on right turns which meant that it was hard to achieve a good race pace.”

Standings

Drivers Championship

Bad news everyone, Ricciardo simply can’t catch Liuzzi anymore, and that leaves only one battle left in the New Teams Championship, and it looks very exciting. Once again, the two Virgin drivers swap places, and now its Timo Glock who is in prime position to finish third. Two points are in it though, and in Brazil anything could happen.

Amazingly, Kovalainen, with one race to spare, is already on the same number of points he scored during the 2010 New Teams Season. An amazing feat considering he hadn’t led the Championship until Singapore. Timo Glock has also scored more points than last season, which goes to show the mass improvement in reliability from all the three new teams.

  Driver Team Points
C Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 118
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 91
3 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 68
4 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 64
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 36
6 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 24
7 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 16
8 Karun Chandhok Team Lotus 2

Teams Championship

Team Lotus smash their points record from last year. That’s all that is interesting.

  Team Points
C Team Lotus 211
2 Marussia Virgin 134
3 Hispania 76

Next Race

Form

Sad news everyone, one race left, and that is in the fantastic Interlagos circuit in Brazil, which means at least we should see an interesting race, hopefully. Right now it would be insane to bet on anyone but Kovalainen to win in Brazil, his performances at the moment are extraordinary, far better than his team mate, and only bad luck would see him not finish this season on 128 points.

In terms of the inter team battle between Glock and D’Ambrosio, it couldn’t be more difficult to guess who will do better, The form in the last six races sees D’Ambrosio pick up 17 points compared to Glock’s 16, so this one could go all the way down to the wire.

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

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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.

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.

New Leader After Singapore

d11sin1979

Singapore Grand Prix

Pre-Race

The final leg of the Formula 1 season started at the street circuit of Singapore. Hispania though had lost their technical director Geoff Willis, who departed from the team. Team Lotus themselves brought a new floor to the car.

Not too much of note happened in practice, Narain Karthikeyan deputised in place of Vitantonio Liuzzi as he prepares himself for his comeback in India. Heikki Kovalainen once again found his car on fire at Singapore, although this time in a much less dramatic style.

Qualifying

There were very few surprises as the new teams lined up in a Noah’s Ark formation yet again. Kovalainen outqualified Trulli, Glock outqualified D’Ambrosio and Ricciardo comfortably outqualified Liuzzi. Liuzzi’s five place penalty being heavily enforced

Race

It was though a fantastic start from Jarno Trulli as he not only launched himself of Kovalainen, but also Jaime Alguersuari and Vitaly Petrov. Both drivers struggled to overtake Trulli throughout the first portion of the race.

Further back at the start, having lost position to D’Ambrosio, Glock then found himself hit from behind by Ricciardo. The Australian’s damage was more apparent, being forced to complete an entire lap with a broken front wing, but unlike Webber in Italy, he was able to do so. However his problems meant that he was lapped as early as lap four. Without question the earliest lapped car of the season.

However Glock soon retired when his rear went away from him, crashing in the stadium section, the same location Bruno Senna retired a year before.

Various pit stops led to Trulli still comfortably ahead of Kovalainen and D’Ambrosio, who had been driving a solid race and at one point had even been ahead of the Finn.

Trulli however would soon suffer a puncture after Alguersuari drove into the back of his car, which ended his strong performance.

However when Schumacher decided to piggyback on the rear of Perez’s Sauber, the Safety Car was brought out and all of the remaining cars were frankly a nuisance to the leading cars, getting in the way. Again, somewhat of a repeat from last year, where di Grassi’s slow Virgin caused the crash between Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton.

Trulli’s  race though would be ended by a gearbox problem. Which, if you excuse me for this rant, led to a rather odd tweet by Tony Fernandes saying they expected it, and didn’t bother changing it because they would get a penalty. Now if you expect it, then why on earth would you bother sending the car at all, why bother, it’s just a waste at the end of the day isn’t it? Getting a grid penalty for Japan, I’m sure that would mean a nice new one for there and you would certainly finish the race in Singapore, which surely would make a lot of sense.

Kovalainen later on nearly drove into the leader Vettel after the pitstop, an event Team Lotus were fined for. But it was enough and he was able to beat Vitaly Petrov in the race, as well as technically Jaime Alguersuari, although he had crashed in the same place as Glock.

Further down, Liuzzi suffered a broken front wing after contact with the wall, and this allowed Ricciardo to finish ahead of him, despite his troubles. Jerome D’Ambrosio finished a solid second, in what I felt was his best performance to date, and would have even beat Glock had the German finished.

  Driver Team Pos. Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 16th 10
2 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 18th 6
3 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 19th 4
4 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 20th 3
5 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus Ret 0
6 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin Ret 0

Post-Race Thoughts

Tony Fernandes (Team Lotus Owner): “For me that is probably the best race we have had in our short life in Formula One so far. Heikki drove an outstanding race and was able to keep pace with a lot of the cars around him, and pull away from the cars behind, and he made the most of the new package we brought here to finish very well. Jarno again suffered from bad luck and maybe the strategy we gave him was not the best, but we called it as we saw it and I am sure we will learn from how his race worked out.”

Jerome D’Ambrosio (Marussia Virgin Racing, 18th): “It has been quite a good race. I’m satisfied and we need to continue like this. It’s certainly the toughest race I have done, but I managed to go to the end without many problems, so it was good”

Vitantonio Liuzzi (Hispania, 20th): “Today’s race has been quite tough; not only because the car was difficult to drive in such conditions but also because we have been a little unlucky… So it was tough out there but with the positive of having reached the end”

Standings

Drivers Championship

Well then, 2010 Champion Kovalainen shoots to the top of the leaderboard after his win and Trulli’s non-finish. The battle for third is also looking very tasty, D’Ambrosio now within a point of Glock. Elsewhere, Ricciardo finally manages to move ahead of Karthikeyan after a bit of a poor run for the Australian.

  Driver Team Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 78
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 71
3 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 56
4 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 55
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 31
6 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 16
7 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 12
8 Karun Chandhok Team Lotus 2

Teams Championship

It would be fair to say Team Lotus are looking quite good here.

  Team Points
1 Team Lotus 151
2 Marussia Virgin 111
3 Hispania 59

Next Race

Five races to go and the next race is at Japan, and the Suzuka has fairly mixed emotions for the new team drivers.

Jarno Trulli of course finished 2nd in 2009, although this was after his then Toyota team mate Timo Glock was forced to miss the race because of a big crash during qualifying.

This time last year it was the location where Kovalainen was crowned the New Team Drivers Champion, finishing ahead of Trulli and Glock.

High Attrition Helps Team Lotus

Italian Grand Prix

Pre-Race

It was the final European race of the season, and as usual it took place at the famous Monza circuit in northern Italy. Virgin Racing brought in a massive upgrade to the rear of the car, and were anticipating to be closer to Team Lotus. Lotus themselves announced that Jarno Trulli would continue to drive for them in 2012, that makes the Italian the third driver to be confirmed for the new teams next year, alongside his team mate Heikki Kovalainen and Virgin’s Timo Glock.

Qualifying

After the rain in Spa, a sunny qualifying in Italy once again meant all six cars started at the back of the grid. On the back row, Daniel Ricciardo outqualified Vitantonio Lizzui for the first time. A row ahead, Timo Glock was narrowly ahead of his team mate Jerome D’Ambrosio, while only being four tenths off the Team Lotus cars in front. And Jarno Trulli was able to put his new power steering to good use by outqualifying Kovalainen for only the second time this season.

Race

Any hope for a good race from the Hispania cars vanished almost immediately. While Ricciardo didn’t even get off the start line, Liuzzi had a far more dramatic first corner.

Going too quickly in the breaking zone, Liuzzi put a wheel on the grass to avoid contact with a Sauber. This sent his car into a slide across the grass, and slamming his car sideways into Vitaly Petrov and Nico Rosberg, causing all three to retire. Rubens Barrichello and Kamui Kobayashi were also effected by the incident, with Barrichello being held up and Kobayashi losing his front wing.

The Safety Car was brought out and the chaotic start saw a massive change around in positions, Kovalainen was 12th, Trulli 13th and Glock 14th. D’Ambrosio hadn’t lasted much longer than the HRT’s, with gearbox problems ruining his race.

The end of the Safety Car saw the three remaining cars tumble back down the order, but not before Trulli was forced to pit after contact with Felipe Massa. Dropping him all the way down to 18th.

Daniel Ricciardo was able to come back out, but was never able to be in the classified times, Hispania basically using the race as a glorified test session.

The high attrition of the race meant that it was a good chance for a high finish from the new teams, and at the best, Kovalainen was up to 12th, but fell back down after he pitted, allowing Barrichello to jump him.

It took to the second pit stop for Jarno Trulli to be able to jump Timo Glock, and was able to extend a gap from the Virgin car. And it was Heikki Kovalainen who finished up in 13th, the third time Team Lotus have finished there this season. He was 30 seconds ahead of Trulli, who was 20 seconds ahead of Glock, all of whom had finished on the same lap. Daniel Ricciardo finished 14 laps down.

Driver Team Pos. Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 13th 10
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 14th 6
3 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 15th 4
4 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania NC 0
5 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin Ret 0
6 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania Ret 0

Post-Race Thoughts

Heikki Kovalainen – Team Lotus (13th): “I had a great start, passing Jarno and then seeing the HRT coming into T1 in a pretty hardcore style so I avoided that and was then up into a good position early on. I managed to hold that place for a good number of laps and found the tyre degradation pretty easy to manage.”

 

Standings

Drivers Championship

Once again there are no changes, but Trulli’s lead at the top is now just three points. So while Vettel could take the full Drivers Championship by the next race, this one could go down to the wire. Timo Glock is edging his way ahead of his team mate, while no one else scored. Jerome D’Ambrosio’s record of ten races without a retirement sadly has come to an end.

Driver Team Points
1 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 71
2 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 68
3 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 56
4 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 49
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 28
6 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 12
Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 12
8 Karun Chandhok Team Lotus 2

Teams Championship

Oh would you look at that. Team Lotus are  walking away with it.

Team Points
1 Team Lotus 141
2 Marussia Virgin 105
3 Hispania 52

Next Race

And we’re off to Singapore for the final leg of this Formula 1 season. Tonio Liuzzi is badly affected, as he suffers a terrifying five place drop and a reprimand after his role in the first lap crash, which will badly affect his qualifying position.

Last year was of course where Kovalainen began moonlighting as a fire fighter, after his Team Lotus was set spectacularly ablaze towards the end of the race.

Virgin Racing are promising more updates to the car, so with any luck they should be closer to Team Lotus, and start having more decent races with them.

Team Lotus Extend Lead At Belgium

Belgian Grand Prix

Pre-Race

Despite three weeks which tempted the teams to change their drivers, no one decided to alter their driver line up. Belgian Jerome D’Ambrosio would race in his home race. Former New Teams driver for HRT, Bruno Senna, replaced Nick Heidfeld at Renault.

Qualifying 

A wet track at Spa tends to throw up a few surprises, and it was no different this year. Michael Schumacher’s crash allowed all of the six to move up one place, and this meant that Trulli would start 19th, followed by Glock. Home driver D’Ambrosio, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Daniel Ricciardo all finished behind the 107% mark, but were allowed to race based on the conditions.

However for the second Belgian Grand Prix in a row, Heikki Kovalainen made it into Q2. Taking full advantage from a bad call from Force India, he set the 16th fastest time of the session, pipping Paul di Resta into 18th, as well as also beating Kamui Kobayashi.

Kovalainen couldn’t do anything similar in Q2, but the pace of his car held back several other drivers, notably Lewis Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado. Maldonado’s subsequent penalty promoted Kovalainen, Trulli, Glock and D’Ambrosio up one position.

Race

Usually a rare thing for Spa, but it was a sunny day and remained that way for the whole race. The start saw chaos, Timo Glock rammed into the side of one of the Force India’s at La Source, causing him to get a drive through penalty. At the same corner, the two Team Lotus drivers came together, so by the end of the first lap, Ricciardo was leading Liuzzi, D’Ambrosio and Trulli. Both Kovalainen and Glock were forced to make a stop.

It remained this way until the Safety Car period, where Daniel Ricciardo unfortunately pulled over because of unusual vibrations. It was a shame for the young Australian, as the race was very much in his hands.

The Safety Car period bunched the remaining five together, and the lot of them all remained relatively close to each other for the rest of the race. Trulli and Kovalainen were able to jump Liuzzi, as was D’Ambrosio and Glock, in the pits.

Towards the end, the Belgian was forced to save fuel, although it was enough for him to finish in front of his team mate.

Jarno Trulli would win, ahead of Heikki Kovalainen. Their performance would be good enough to finish above Rubens Barrichello, however the Brazilian had been involved in a collision and had lost a significant amount of time.

  Driver Team Pos. Points
1 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 14th 10
2 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 15th 6
3 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 17th 4
4 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 18th 3
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 19th 2
6 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania Ret 0

Post-Race Thoughts

Jarno Trulli (14th) – “I had a great start, passing a few other cars away from the line but then the accident in T1 meant both Heikki and I suffered damage – him to his nosecone, me to the floor and I had to run the whole race with that damage, so to finish 14th after that is just fantastic.”

Jerome D’Ambrosio (17th) – “I’m very pleased how things went in my first home Grand Prix. There were quite a few incidents today so I focused on keep it nice and clean and in the end the team has another good two-car result. It’s been a great way to start part two of the season.”

Colin Kolles (Hispania Team Principle) – “This was a weekend where we needed thick skin to cope with all the problems that we encountered. We knew that Spa would be difficult. We were aiming at a two car finish, but it was not the case. It is a pity that Daniel was forced in to the first retirement of his F1 career and we must now work very hard to solve the issues.”

Standings

Drivers Championship

Just when things started to look exciting… Team Lotus go and spoil it again. Jarno Trulli extends his lead to seven points over his team mate. Both Virgin drivers move out of my newly created ‘win zone’, meaning they need more than a win to take the lead in the Championship. With D’Ambrosio finishing ahead of Glock, he is now only three points behind in that inter-team battle. Liuzzi finds himself in no-mans land, while Ricciardo remains level with Karthikeyan.

  Driver Team Points
1 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 65
2 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 58
3 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 52
4 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 49
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 28
6 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 12
  Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 12
8 Karun Chandhok Team Lotus 2

Teams Championship

Hmm… boring again.

  Team Points
1 Team Lotus 125
2 Marussia Virgin 101
3 Hispania 52


Next Race

The final European race is once again at Monza, before the fly-away races in Asia and Brazil. This time last year, Timo Glock took the spoils ahead of Heikki Kovalainen. It is a race the Finn has previously done well at, scoring a podium at the track in 2008.

The track will feature two DRS zones, so passing will feature if they can stay close enough, and manage to stay in the race.

Virgin Begin To Catch-Up

2011 Hungarian Grand Prix - Sunday
Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary
31st July 2011
World Copyright:Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image _Q0C5432 While I was out sunning myself in Italy, Formula 1 decided it couldn’t stop just for me and in spite of my decision, they decided to make me miss two races. So, this is a sort of special post for you lot, or, just a catch up, but special also sounds quite nice.

German Grand Prix

Pre-Race

As per usual, the German Grand Prix likes to alternate between the sleep-inducing Hockenheim and the fairly action-packed Nurburgring. Thankfully for everyone, it was the turn of the latter in 2011.

There was more driver changes in place for Germany, as mentioned previously on this very blog to my massive dismay, New Teams Championship leader Jarno Trulli was replaced with former Hispania driver Karun Chandhok for one race only.

At Virgin Racing, Timo Glock was confirmed to be continuing on at the team for 2012, and no doubt you don’t need me to tell you that it is a massive waste of talent.

Sadly, my prediction for Karthikeyan replacing Liuzzi proved untrue, as the Italian and Ricciardo remained in the Hispania.

Qualifying 

In a massive shock, Heikki Kovalainen once again was the quickest of the six cars. However his team mate, with Trulli usually a few tenths of a second behind, this time was just under a second slower than Kovalainen, starting behind the Virgin of Timo Glock, who had set a stunning lap time.

Jerome D’Ambrosio was right behind Chandhok, while Ricciardo had closed the gap up to Liuzzi, almost setting identical times. However thanks to a gearbox replacement for Liuzzi, Ricciardo was promoted a position.

Thanks to technical infringements found on the car of Sebastian Buemi, his car was declared illegal and his times deleted, forcing him to start 24th and moving everybody below up a position.

Race

Sadly I’m unable to perform an indepth review of every single detail for the backmarkers, because I couldn’t understand a single word of what the RAI commentators were saying. And when Liuzzi retired on lap 37, he unkindly spoke to the pit reporters in Italian, which, again, didn’t help. How ungrateful.

The cause for this retirement would be an electrical fault, and prove to be the only retirement from the six.

Nothing much of note really happened for the remaining cars. Chandhok struggled in his first race in 2011, spinning off the track at one point and coming a further two laps behind Kovalainen, as well as a lap behind the remaining finishers. A poor showing by the Indian which won’t help his cause for full time employment.

So Heikki Kovalainen would come home in first place, ahead of Glock, D’Ambrosio, Ricciardo and Chandhock.

  Driver Team Race Pos. Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 16th 10
2 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 17th 6
3 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 18th 4
4 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 19th 3
5 Karun Chandhok Team Lotus 2oth 2
6 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania Ret 0

Karun Chandhok (20th): “"Honestly, that probably wasn’t the race I wanted -I had a couple of high speed spins and I think I need more time to get used to the tyres. When they start to go off there’s very little give compared to last year’s rubber, but that’s all part of the learning process and I’m glad I got the car home and did the best job I could.”

Timo Glock (17th): “After a positive start to the day with the announcement about my future with the team, it was quite a difficult race today. I struggled with the braking system from the middle of the race onwards and I wasn’t able to push late on in the race, so we have to look into the problem. Otherwise thanks to the team for a good weekend at my home Grand Prix.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi (Retired): “It was a shame because, even though the penalisation for the gearbox meant we had to start from P23, we had a strong start where we passed a few cars on the first lap and had good pace.  A few laps into the race we started to suffer some problems with the brake balance and we lost quite a bit of pace. After the pit stop, with the tyre change, we recovered our strong pace until an unfortunate electronic issue forced us to retire”

Hungarian Grand Prix

Pre-Race

After an indifferent week in Italy which saw some rain, Formula 1 moved to Hungary where it was greeted probably by that exact same rain. The only noteworthy thing was that Jarno Trulli was back in the Team Lotus car, and delighted with the power steering. That is noted correctly, not unhappy, but delighted. Words you’d never thought I would get the chance to write.

Qualifying 

In a result nobody could predict, Heikki Kovalainen was the quickest of the new teams for just the tenth time this season. He was followed closely by his team mate yet again, with Trulli still not quite at the same speed of the Finn.

It was however a poor showing by Jerome D’Ambrosio, as he found himself dead last and the only driver of the six not to benefit by the five place grid drop handed to Sebastian Buemi.

Race

Changeable conditions in the rain saw some shock movements. A crazy start allowed Kovalainen to end up as high as 15th, holding up four cars who were struggling to overtake him on the wet track. Elsewhere, Timo Glock had managed to get ahead of Trulli and several other cars, before the track began to dry out, while Ricciardo also made a terrific start.

Trulli’s race would not last long, a water leak forcing him out after just 17 laps. Meanwhile his team mate continued to frustrate the cars behind him, driving superbly to stay ahead. However his pitstop would make him unstuck, initially losing positions and then being fooled by a brief shower, coming in for Intermediate tyres when they weren’t required, this in effect ruined his afternoon.

Kovalainen was not the only driver to make this mistake, Jerome D’Ambrosio also coming into the pits for Inters when they weren’t required. However it would be his mistake coming into the pits that would give him the television attention, somehow managing to spin the car at pit lane speeds, wasting time for his mechanics to get him in the box and change tyres.

Daniel Ricciardo was impressive though, driving far better than his team mate and finishing in the end a good 50 seconds ahead of him and D’Ambrosio who never really made up for his mistakes.

Kovalainen’s excellent afternoon would become unstuck with ten laps to go, with his car suffering the same fate as Trulli’s. It was unfortunate, but ultimately fails to come away from the weekend without any points.

All of this ultimately meant that Timo Glock would once again benefit from a Team Lotus double retirement for the second time in three races. The reliability of the Lotus cars could be given as a cause of concern, with eight retirements to Hispania’s four and Virgin’s two.

  Driver Team Race Pos. Points
1 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 17th 10
2 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 18th 6
3 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 19th 4
4 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 20th 3
5 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus Ret 0
6 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus Ret 0

Timo Glock (17th): “A very interesting race today, I have to say, and very good fun. I got a great start and got ahead of Heidfeld and some other guys in faster cars and was able to stay in front of them. They obviously were able to get past me after it started to dry and I just concentrated on my own race, managing to hold the gap behind me. Then when it started to rain, we made the right decision, staying on the slicks. It wasn’t easy to stay on track today as we saw, but we got the right result in the end.”

Daniel Ricciardo (18th): “Overall, I’m satisfied with my race and the best finish in three races. During the race, I wasn’t really sure where I was on track because a lot of cars made quite a few pit stops so in all honesty I didn’t really know how I was doing. Towards the end I felt we had quite a good balance in the car and I was able to do some good times. I’m sure there are things I could have done better so we’ll look into that to keep on improving. But again I feel we are progressing well.”

Heikki Kovalainen (Retired): “Having seen how close we were in race pace to the midfield I’m not disappointed – it’s just another step in the growth of the team and we’ll pick up where we left off in Belgium in a few weeks time.”

Standings

Drivers Championship

Although there has been very little movement, something I didn’t expect to happen has: It’s starting to look very exciting. Timo Glock has managed to edge ahead of his team mate with an impressive 16 point haul from the two races. Heikki Kovalainen has benefitted from the fact Trulli hasn’t scored points in the last three races being just three points behind. Glock is a further three points behind the Finn with D’Ambrosio ten points behind. So the top four drivers are all within ten points, that’s a race win. Hold on while I rub my hands with glee.

Daniel Ricciardo has only been in three races, but already is on the same number of points as the former Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan, while Karun Chandhok is dead last and will remain that way no doubt for the rest of the season.

  Driver Team Points
1 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 55
2 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 52
3 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 49
4 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 45
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 26
6 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 12
7 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 12
8 Karun Chandhok Team Lotus 2

Teams Championship

In even further excitement, Virgin are closing the gap on Team Lotus, now just 15 points from top spot. All they need is a 1-2. Just putting the possibility out there.

    Team Points
1 Team Lotus 109
2   Marussia Virgin 94
3   Hispania 50


Next Race

It is the summer break and we all have to wait until the end of August for the Belgian Grand Prix, traditionally the place where upgrades are tried out and shown to the world. Team Lotus realistically need to up their game and start finishing more races, otherwise they could face a real shock and see the Virgin Racing drivers sail up the leaderboard leaving them behind.

The temperamental conditions at Spa-Francorchamps last year saw both Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock make Q2, something which could happen again this year. Kovalainen would go on to lead a Lotus 1-2 in the race.

And who knows, there will be no doubt some sort of really annoying driver change that ruins this Championship. At least those Javier Villa rumours are dying down now.

Virgin Take Advantage of Team Lotus Woes

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British Grand Prix

Pre-Race

Last time out, Leigh in the comments said that it was about time Hispania would decide to change their driver line-up, I, just wrote it off. Of course, a few days later, it was announced Australian and Red Bull protégée Daniel Ricciardo would replace Narain Karthikeyan for the British Grand Prix onwards.

Qualifying 

Crazy weather saw a huge shock in Q1, as Heikki Kovalainen set the 16th fastest time, ahead of both Toro Rosso cars and Nick Heidfeld. He would eventually start on the grid in 17th, well ahead of his team mate Jarno Trulli. Timo Glock also created a notable surprise, also ahead of the German in 19th. Ricciardo would start his first race in 24th.

Race

It would be a disastrous start for Team Lotus. Despite Kovalainen making up a few places from the start, his gearbox would only last for three laps, before he was forced to come into the pits and retire.

Jarno Trulli failed to last much longer, mechanical problems causing him to stop out on track, which basically allowed Timo Glock to have a clear drive out in front.

Jerome D’Ambrosio was under some pressure from Vitantonio Liuzzi for a while, but was never close enough to make any sort of move. Ricciardo pounded around the back, well behind his team mate.

All that left was that Glock took the 10 points for the first time this season, and for the first time this season, Team Lotus has had a double retirement (something which has not yet happened for Virgin).

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

Daniel Ricciardo (19th): “I guess that was the main aim for this weekend to see that [Chequered flag]. So that was good. it started off quite difficult with the other, started quite close to the others but they pulled away from me.”

Heikki Kovalainen (Retired): “I had a really good start but then lost fourth gear and had to retire the car. The conditions out there were exactly what they should be for real drivers – a mix of two types of circuit, one wet, one dry, exactly what I love racing in and the type of race we could have taken advantage of.”

Standings

Drivers Championship

Although there has been no movement, everything seems to have closed up a little bit. Trulli retains his 13 point lead over his team mate, but Kovalainen must now be weary of both D’Ambrosio and Glock, who are within a race victory of him. Glock also reduces the gap to the Belgian to just four points. In some what similar fashion to Bruno Senna last year, Liuzzi is plodding along safely enough in 5th, while Ricciardo only has to get 10 more points to catch up to Karthikeyan.

  Driver Team Points
1 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 55
2 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 42
3 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 37
4 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 33
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 23
6 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 12
7 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 3

Teams Championship

A perfect weekend for Virgin sees the gap to Team Lotus now only 27 points. I’m not going to lie to you, I could try and make this sound really interesting now, but it will still probably require some sort of miracle for Team Lotus not to win.

    Team Points
1 Team Lotus 97
2   Marussia Virgin 70
3   Hispania 38


Next Races

Because of fantastic timing, one of the few back to back races this season and I will be missing them both because of a scheduled holiday. The fact the FIA don’t organise their F1 calendar around mine is simply outrageous.

Anyways, the next update will be a bit delayed, probably coming in the week starting Monday 8th August.

But, there are still races going on at the Nurburgring in Germany, and Budapest in Hungary.

The last time we visited the Nurburgring, back in 2009, when the new teams were bidding to be involved in F1, Kovalainen would finish 8th, with Timo Glock just behind him.

Of course with Hungary, we can actually have some precedent for a change, with the same layout and the new teams as last year. It was a first as well, as all six cars would go on to finish the race. Typically, it was a Lotus 1-2, with Kovalainen coming out on top.

I’d love to predict but I fear it may be a bit obvious, Kovalainen will shockingly out-qualify Jarno Trulli and assuming both cars work, will win both times. I know, I’m such a risk taker.

And of course, if last year is anything to go by, Karthikeyan will return in place of Liuzzi.

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