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.

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Posted on October 30, 2011, in New Teams Championship and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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