Monthly Archives: September 2011

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.

Sixth Sense

kobispa

Sebastian Vettel has won the Championship. Lets face it, whilst it isn’t mathematically assured, only a miracle will see anyone else lift the trophy.

The racing has at least, been enthralling. And if you want an exciting battle there are two very tight ones going on. But while Mark Webber, Jenson Button and the rest of them fight it out over second in the Drivers Championship. An intriguing battle can be found over sixth place in the Constructors.

A few months ago Sauber were flying. Points were frequent, the performances were spectacular and memorable and everyone was happy. I may have even said that they might as well paint 11 and 12 on the C31 because 6th looked guaranteed.

Sometimes I wonder why I open my mouth.

In the last three races, zero points have been scored. That includes three retirements and Kobayashi and Perez hitting too many of the opposition. The 6th place that looked nailed on is now no longer theirs, with Force India leading the Swiss by a point. And there’s also Toro Rosso lurking in the background, being there mainly on the basis that their qualifying is bad enough the tyres are nice and fresh for the race.

Where has it all gone so wrong?

Of course, the Italian Grand Prix was a cruel piece of luck. Kobayashi was fighting for the last few points when his Ferrari gear box decided it didn’t want to function anymore. Then later on in the race, while Perez still hadn’t pitted and was looking good for a 7th or an 8th, his Ferrari gear box decided to pack up as well. It would have put to an end the horrible run that the team we’re going on but it only prolonged the issue to a track Sauber have never performed spectacularly well at in the past, Singapore. Last year, Michael Schumacher was seemingly attracted to the shiny white a little too much, being a major part of the retirements of both cars.

The bad run can be traced back to Hungary, both cars were sent out too long on the medium tyres, which culminated in the somewhat humiliating moment where Kobayashi was overtaken by four cars on the straight near to the end of the race. Belgium was just a crash-fest in reality, both Perez and Kobayashi being involved with Sebastian Buemi, and then most notably, where Lewis Hamilton cut off Kobayashi and found himself heading for the Armco. Although Kobayashi could continue (Perez would later retire), no points were to be scored.

And this bad run came at the same time Force India came to the fore. In Hungary, Paul di Resta finished in a career best 7th. This was followed by a 7th in Belgium by Adrian Sutil, and a further four points being scored for the Scot in Italy. In three races, Force India have scored sixteen points, which is just less than half of their entire total for the season.

Without doubt the impressive ability of Paul di Resta has been a crucial factor in their improvements. While Perez is struggling at times in the Sauber, di Resta has taken to Formula 1 like a duck to water, with a clear ability and the fact he is getting some really impressive results. It isn’t to say Perez has been poor, his 7th in Britain was fantastic, and a similar performance could have been on the cards in Italy. But his core performance isn’t at the same level as the Scot.

The key battle could though come down to how it fares between the supposed team leaders. While Kobayashi has put in performances which have shown him to be more than a crazy kid who has balls, Sutil has shown himself to be the average driver that he is. He’s been outqualified by di Resta, and he’s also only higher in the standings because of his ability to finish high. But in my eyes he isn’t performing brilliantly, and generally, isn’t the best option available to them. Granted he has got them the majority of the points, but I don’t think they have been enough for Sutil.

While Toro Rosso look unlikely to catch up to them, they have been in the points frequently of late. Most notably being the team that I like to put money on qualifying in 18th and shockingly getting in the points. At the weekend, the BBC gave Jaime Alguersuari his second Driver of the Day, both of those drives came from him when he started 18th and he got into the points. Granted it does require some race craft and ability, but it does feel like a loophole. So far this season, the drivers who have been knocked out in Q1, have improved in races in China (Mark Webber, qualified 18th, finished 3rd), Turkey (Kobayashi, 24th to 10th), Spain (Heidfeld, 24th to 8th), Canada (Alguersuari, pitlane to 8th), Europe (Alguersuari, 18th to 8th), Britain (Alguersuari, 18th to 10th), Germany (Kobayashi, 17th to 10th), Hungary (Buemi, 23rd to 9th), Belgium (Schumacher, 23rd to 5th) and Italy (Alguersuari, 18th to 8th). I think it might be more than a coincidence.

At the end of the day though, Toro Rosso are taking full advantage and are scoring points because of it. And that’s why they have an outside hope of finishing 6th.

The battle though could go down to the wire, both Sauber and Force India have positives and negatives. Assuming Sauber can get out of the slump and put pressure on Force India, it could be an intriguing battle, and it could be interesting to see how Toro Rosso fit themselves into the jigsaw.

Sebastian who?

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.

Living With No Hope

Africa, Asia, North America and Oceania all make their weaker opposition face a number of preliminary rounds before they are even allowed to come and think about playing the big boys. You never see Cambodia play Australia in an Asian qualifier for the World Cup, likewise São Tomé and Príncipe playing Ivory Coast, or even the Turks and Caicos Islands facing off against the USA.

Yet Europe thinks differently, countries with a population smaller than Wembley Stadium are forced to play off against the biggest and best teams on the continent. Recently, the Netherlands, the runner-up in the 2010 World Cup, went out and tanked San Marino 11-0. And its a common theme for the Sammarinese, Finland and Hungary have beat them 8-0 and Sweden 6-0. All in all, their eight games have seen them concede 44 goals, an average of 5.5 a game.

And they aren’t the only ones struggling, Malta and Andorra have 0 points, Luxembourg and Iceland have 1. Although the Malta and Iceland situation is potentially misguided because of them being in a five team group.

Why should this be allowed? At what should be the highest competitive level of football, teams are being forced to play weaker opposition, which doesn’t help anybody. The bigger teams walk over them and a couple of players get a nice boost to their national team goals tally, the smaller teams except to be walked over and don’t gain any decent experience from it.

There’s only one real solution for this, and its to follow a similar route used by the CAF, AFC, CONCACAF and OFC and use some preliminary rounds. For the record I will be using the seeding which determined the qualifying draw for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The big teams, and when I say big, I’m even including Pot 3 nations like Ireland, Belarus and Hungary. So I’m saying there are 27 countries capable of realistically qualifying for say, the 2014 World Cup. That leaves a further 26 who I think are unable to do it. Half and half.

Those 26 will then be placed into several preliminary stages which will help whittle down the number. And it doesn’t have to be anything complex, group stages which are used in North America and Asia don’t have to apply. It’s simple, a knockout stage draw, top 13 in the World Rankings in one pot, bottom 13 in the other. Even Scotland should be able to see off the likes of Malta. And if Malta do go on and beat Scotland, well they have gone out and proved they have deserved to be in contention to qualify.

From this there will be 40 nations left, which leaves for a nice round number, 8 groups of 5. Less matches for everyone, which keeps the clubs happy, and no difficult situations for some, when there are groups of 6 and 5, which means more games and more pressure for those in the bigger groups. The clubs will be fortunate and mean their players will have less international games for them to get injured in.

So the group winners qualify and then the five best runners up as well, and then everyone will have their 13 nations off to Brazil, without any hassle of having to play in front of a man and a dog in Andorra. Everyone wins.