Kovalainen Continues Dominance in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
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.
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.
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.
|1||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus||17th||10|
|2||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus||18th||6|
|3||Timo Glock||Marussia Virgin||19th||4|
|R||Jerome D’Ambrosio||Marussia Virgin||Ret||0|
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.”
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.
|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|
|8||Karun Chandhok||Team Lotus||2|
Team Lotus smash their points record from last year. That’s all that is interesting.
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.