Tag Archives: Hamilton

Will We Finally See a Repeat Winner in Valencia?

Qualifying in Valencia saw Sebastian Vettel soar to the top of the time sheets, creating a gap of over three tenths of a second to Lewis Hamilton, who will start the race alongside Vettel. By 2012 standards, three tenths of a second is quite a large gap, and F1 fans were reminded of Vettel’s dominance over qualifying in 2011.

Vettel dominated qualifying in Valencia, putting himself three tenths ahead of Hamilton

Now that the grid is set, fans are left to wonder whether or not we will see the first ‘repeat-winner’ of 2012. So far, we’ve seen seven different drivers win the first seven races, and it seems more likely than ever that we will see the first driver to notch two victories to his name this weekend. The first three drivers on the grid have already won races. The other winners, however, are further back on the grid. Nico Rosberg qualified in sixth place, Jenson Button in ninth, Fernando Alonso in eleventh, and Mark Webber all the way back in 19th position due to a DRS failure. The most ‘likely’ drivers to claim their second victory are Vettel, Hamilton, and Maldonado in first, second, and third positions respectively. I use the word ‘likely’ with caution, because as always in F1, race results are determined by much more complex factors than the qualifying results.

A DRS issue left Mark Webber in 19th position on the grid

 

Red Bull have been somewhat disappointed with their race pace, highlighted by Mark Webber’s comments after Friday practice. They have run well in the heat before, such as in Bahrain, but they seem to be lacking a little bit of long-distance pace. If this truly is a problem, Vettel must pull out an early lead in the first stint, and may want to use the soft tires for as long as possible. Spending too much time on the harder tires could create problems for Red Bull.

 

 

Lewis Hamilton should be a strong contender this race, given his relatively strong pace during practice sessions. McLaren seemed more confident than the Red Bull concerning their long-distance pace. However, during the post-qualifying press conference he clearly stated that he was aware of the pace capable of both Lotus and Ferrari. With two Lotus cars in the top 5 positions on the grid, they must be considered contenders for victory. If we look at the performance of Lotus in Bahrain, we see that Raikkonen started the race in eleventh place and eventually found his way up to second, in front of the second Lotus car, which Romain Grosjean drove from seventh on the grid to third place.

Hamilton seemed especially wary of the two Lotus cars in fourth and fifth positions

During the past month, Lotus have been trying to improve their qualifying performances. They’ve achieved their best result in Valencia since the Spanish Grand Prix three races ago. With a strong qualifying performance and the very hot track temperature playing into their favor, Lotus are in a very strong position from which they can challenge for victory. Personally, my money is on Grosjean for the race win. If Grosjean is able to stick with the leaders at the beginning of the race, he has the potential to put on a very strong late-race charge, as Raikkonen did in Bahrain.

 

Given Red Bull’s possible race pace issues, the race could possibly come down to a battle between Hamilton and Grosjean, and possibly Kimi Raikkonen as well. Given Lotus’ consistent pace throughout the weekend, and Hamilton’s wariness of their speed, I believe that a Lotus driver will be standing on the top step of the podium tomorrow. Then again, this is 2012. Heikki Kovalainen could win tomorrow, for all I know.

 

Hell, maybe even Kovalainen could win one this season!

 

 

 

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Do Tires Play Too Much of a Role in F1?

Could Sauber win a Grand Prix this year? To answer simply: Yes, they could. However, the question this year should be something along the lines of: Can Sauber hit the Pirelli sweet spot? This year in F1 is so unique in the way that it revolves mostly around the tires. As always in F1, the chassis development does play a massive role in determining the championship. But for the 2012 season, it is more critical than ever to be able to manage tires in their optimum temperature zone.

 

Pirelli tires have arguably become the most critical factor in 2012

 

Take McLaren for example. The 2012 Canadian Grand Prix demonstrated exactly the ‘issue’ of tires playing a dominant role in F1. Lewis Hamilton was setting blistering lap times throughout the whole Grand Prix from start to finish. Jenson Button on the other hand struggled to get any pace at all in his McLaren. Button did miss out on practice on Friday, but this would not cause him to be overlapped by his team mate while running in 16th position in the lower midfield. The problem was the tires; Button was unable to work the tires into their correct operational window, and therefore had no pace at all.

 

Button seems to have lost the edge he had in 2011

The Canadian Grand Prix provides us with an interesting perspective from which we can either criticize or praise the role of tires in F1. In 2011, Jenson Button won the race in what many fans claimed was the best drive of the year. He was in last place at over half-distance, and came through the pack to overtake Sebastian Vettel in the final sector of the race. Some fans were expecting a similar performance from Button in 2012; they expected him to bounce back after wasting away behind the Caterham of Heikki Kovalainen in Monaco. The tires squelched what could have been another strong performance from Button in Canada.

 

Should Button be fighting with Kovalainen if he can’t get his tires to work?

 

Should tires have such a commanding role in F1? Of course, they should determine race results to an extent; drivers such as Sergio Perez, who manages his tires exceptionally, should be rewarded. In my opinion, the tires this year have gone too far in determining which drivers are winning races. People have referred to this season as a ‘lottery,’ and it seems to me that tires have somewhat negated driving talent. This year, drivers who are able to keep their tires in their optimum temperature window are the ones who win races. We know how skilled Jenson Button is, we saw it in 2011. Now we are seeing him being punished terribly for being unable to find maintain the operational window for his tires.

Drivers such as Perez should be awarded for their tire management skills, but by how much?

Then again, one could argue that tires in F1 are fair as long as each driver has identical tires available to him. It should be the driver’s job to adapt to the tires. Some fans claim that it is a driver’s job to optimize their tire use and strategy in order to be as quick as possible. But in my opinion, the role of tires in F1 has grown too large. Stellar drivers are being relegated to the midfield by failing to work the tires up to temperature, and drivers who happen to be able to turn their tires on are winning races. When one team mate is overlapping the other, the dominance of tires over a Grand Prix has gone too far.

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Why is Hamilton’s Future Hanging in the Balance?

Believe it or not, 2012 is Lewis Hamilton’s sixth season with the McLaren team. It feels like yesterday when Hamilton made his outstanding debut season, and shocked the motorsport world by nearly winning the driver’s title as a rookie. His first two seasons with the team were incredibly successful, and he created a bond between he and the team that looked unbreakable. Now, however, Hamilton seems quite fed up with the simple errors being made by his team. The bond created by Hamilton in his first two seasons, and even prior, when he was in the McLaren Young Driver Program, seems to be weakening by the Grand Prix these days.

Hamilton is visibly frustrated with McLaren as well as with his own career in the past two seasons.

Look at it from Hamilton’s point of view; he has every reason to complain. The combination of a high-quality team such as McLaren and a driver like Lewis Hamilton should not be hampered by tedious errors. Hamilton should be winning races, chasing after the title. Instead, he loses several positions due to slow pit stops, or starts a race from the back of the grid due to a fueling miscalculation in qualifying. The Hamilton-McLaren duo isn’t enjoying the  nearly flawless success that it did in the early days of its birth.

Slow pit stops have cost Hamilton points several times already in 2012

When asked about his future with McLaren, Hamilton has been very cautious to make any definite statements. He does not skirt around the question, but leaves us with vague answers concerning his future. When asked whether he might wait until the end of the season to decide on a new contract, he answered with a simple, “Possibly. Possibly.” He claims that winning  most important to him now, and he can deal with another contract later. This behavior, combined with speculation and connections to several other teams, leads many to believe that his future with the McLaren team may not extend much further.

Hamilton has left us with vague answers concerning his future

This begs the question of whether a possible separation is mutual, or if it comes from either Hamilton or McLaren. Both Hamilton and McLaren would have excuses as to why they may wish to separate. In my opinion, Hamilton has reason more so than McLaren. This reason is simple. As stated before, Hamilton has a winning car in a top-notch team, and should therefore be fighting for victories. The team has let him down and somewhat restricted his title chase so far this season.

Could the famous pairing of Hamilton and McLaren disappear next season?

McLaren on the other hand, have a reason in that Hamilton has been the target of the media for quite a long time, and sometimes he reflects negatively on the team. He has criticized the team’s form, and their overall campaign. Jenson Button, on the other hand, reflects positively on the team, and is quieter about the way he expresses frustration. McLaren could be seeking another Button in their team. After all, several people said that after the 2011 season, Jenson Button was the number 1 driver in McLaren.

Many fans view Button as the current lead driver in McLaren

It is possible that the separation could be caused by an external force, meaning that Hamilton has been offered a seat at another team. The most likely vacancies for Hamilton would be Mark Webber’s Red Bull seat, Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes seat, and less likely but still possible, Felipe Massa’s Ferrari seat. There has been much speculation and several connections from Hamilton to other teams on the grid, which could mean that Hamilton has been offered a tempting contract from another top team, causing a weakening of the tie between he and McLaren.

These could be the last races we see with Hamilton in a silver car. Unless…

The delay in the decision for a new contract is most likely due to Hamilton’s side of the equation. Although Hamilton can be outwardly critical of the team, or even of his own driving, he is a world class driver, and McLaren don’t really have enough of a reason to drop of him. In fact, they are rumored to have made an offer for another 5-year contract with Hamilton, showing their interest in keeping him. Hamilton does not seem to hold the same interest, unfortunately. He is not as enthusiastic about staying on with McLaren, and the ending of the current contract, combined with possible offers from other teams, has provided Hamilton with a window through which he can shift the path of his career. When commenting on Mark Webber’s speculated move to Ferrari, Alan Jones stated that a move to a new team can breathe a “fresh air” into a driver’s career, which could be exactly what Hamilton is seeking.

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Hungarian Grand Prix -Button Wins in 200th Race

What a fantastic way for Jenson Button to compete in his 200th F1 race. In a race with mixed conditions, Jenson Button was able to be consistent and make all of the right choices. Strategy was critical in this Hungarian Grand Prix, and Button didn’t put a foot wrong in his decisions.

Button shows great consistency to take 25 points in Hungary

Here is the order:

1. Jenson Button

2. Sebastian Vettel

3. Fernando Alonso

4. Lewis Hamilton

5. Mark Webber

6. Felipe Massa

7. Paul di Resta

8. Sebastian Buemi

9. Nico Rosberg

10. Jaime Alguersauri

11. Kamui Kobayashi

12. Vitaly Petrov

13. Rubens Barrichello

14. Adrian Sutil

15. Sergio Perez

16. Pastor Maldonado

17. Timo Glock

18. Daniel Ricciard0

19. Jerome d’Ambrosio

20. Tonio Liuzzi

Retirements included Schumacher with gearbox problems, the Lotuses of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, and Nick Heidfeld. Heidfeld’s Lotus Renault caught fire once again coming out of the pit lane, and a component within the car exploded dramatically, sending debris onto the track. One marshall was limping after the explosion, but thankfully nobody was seriously injured.

A dramatic fire puts Nick Heidfelt out of the race

Arguably, Hamilton should have won the race. He overtook Vettel soon after the start of the race, and built a large gap immediately. During the second half of the race, Hamilton spun at the chicane, and as he spun back around, he nearly collided with Paul di Resta and was given a drive-through penalty. Hamilton also went onto intermediate tires after “miscommunication on the radio.” A glitch meant that he could hear the pit, but the pit could not hear him. Soon after he went onto the intermediate tires, the rain stopped, meaning he had to come back into the pits once again. This left him in fifth position behind Webber, although he was ultimately able to regain fourth.

Hamilton could not convert his great pace into a victory

Webber also made the same decision to go onto intermediate tires, and had to do an unnecessary pit stop. This combined with a bad start meant that Webber could only manage 5th position at a track where he won last year.

Webber could not repeat his 2010 Hungary victory

What does this mean for the championship? Even though Vettel did not win, his championship lead is now larger than it has ever been this year. This is because his closest competitor in the championship is Mark Webber, who finished down in fifth position. It seems that no matter what the competitors do, Vettel seems to pull out a greater lead. His lead has only gone backwards twice in the championship, even though three other drivers have won races. Unfortunately for the other teams, Webber is acting almost as a buffer for Vettel. Webber is scoring solid results, and Vettel has finished in front of Webber at all races but one, but Webber is still second in the championship. This means that even when competitors beat Vettel, Vettel’s championship lead still extends.

Vettel opened up his championship lead to 85 points

However, we are about to reach a point when wins from drivers like Hamilton and Alonso will allow them to overtake Webber in the standings, and chew down on Vettel’s lead. Alonso has scored more points in the past four races than any other driver, and one can expect him to do so. His ability to perform strongly in every car he drives will be important as Ferrari try to match Red Bull’s performance.

Alonso has been scoring great points recently. A challenger for Vettel?

Hamilton is also looking strong, after running through the field in Silverstone to finish third, winning the German Grand Prix, and missing a victory that should have been his today in Hungary. They should now be confident and motivated to work hard over the break to keep their momentum. McLaren have won the last two races, so both Ferrari and Red Bull will be desperate to increase their pace over the break.

With 2 wins to his name, Hamilton could put a late-season charge on Vettel

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Hungarian Grand Prix Qualifying

Many thought that the Hungarian Grand Prix would be the race when Red Bull did not secure pole position, but Sebastian Vettel has once again claimed the top spot with a time of 1:19.815. Vettel was one of two drivers to get into the 1:19’s, the other being Lewis Hamilton. Jenson Button finished third behind his team mate.

Behind the two Mclarens came the Ferraris of Massa and Alonso. Massa must be satisfied as he out qualified his team mate for the first time this year, even by a miniscule margin of 0.015 seconds. Massa has shown a recent increase in pace, and competitiveness. Both he and Ferrari must be pleased to see that he is able to keep up with Alonso. This increase in pace has many wondering if Massa never fully returned to his pre- 2009 incident in Hungary, and is now finally beginning to return to that 2007-2008 Massa form.

Massa will start one spot ahead of Alonso tomorrow.

Webber finished in 6th position, sandwiching the McLarens and Ferraris between the two Red Bulls. Webber had DRS issues in qualifying. He also complained of cold tires, which could be the reason for his lack of pace. He should not be in a position to challenge for the victory tomorrow.

Difficult session leaves Webber 6th

Behind Webber is Nico Rosberg, and Adrian Sutil will start next to him on the fourth row. Force India have made a major step forward and are looking like they will secure themselves at the front of the midfield, ahead of Sauber, Williams, and Toro Rosso.

Force India have made clear improvements

Schumacher qualified ninth in the second Mercedes, ahead of Sergio Perez. The Mexican driver did a good job of getting into Q3, but decided to not set a flying lap and save himself a set of tires. He is in a great position to score solid points tomorrow. Behind Perez was di Resta, who was 2.5 tenths slower than his team mate Sutil. Behind di Resta is Petrov in 12th, Heidfeld in 14th, with Kamui Kobayashi splitting them in the second Sauber. Kobayashi will surely be looking to overtake a few cars in front to land himself in the points.

Perez managed to make Q3, but did not run to save tires

Williams had an unsuccessful day with Rubens Barrichello 15th and Maldonado 17th, both with technical difficulties during the day. The first Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguesauri split them. Sebastian Buemi did not make it into Q2, and will start 17th on the grid. He also faces a 5-place grid penalty for his collision with Nick Heidfeld last week, moving him back to 23rd on the grid.

Collision with Heidfeld will cost Buemi 5 grid spots

Behind him are the Lotuses of Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli. Lotus has just fixed the power steering in their car, and Trulli says it is now “much better,” complaining that he “could not feel the car” without it. If Lotus had a KERS system, I could see them making it into Q2. They are clearly the strongest of the “new” teams, and next season will be hoping to climb up to the “midfield” group.

Jarno Trulli improved in his updated car

Timo Glock is in the first Marussia Virgin, followed by Tonio Liuzzi and Daniel Ricciardo in the HRT cars, with Jerome d’Ambrosio taking up the rear in the second Marussia Virgin racer. There should be an interesting scrap between these four during the race tomorrow.

Daniel Ricciardo will be happy to have qualified close to his team mate

Who’s looking good for the race tomorrow? Vettel, as always, will be competitive. However, Hamilton looks like he is in a great position to challenge for victory. He did not go on the super soft compound in Q2, meaning that he has one set of brand new option tires, while the rest of the top 10 only have the set that they qualified on. This fresh set of tires gives Hamilton a great advantage in terms of strategy, but anything can happen during the race tomorrow.

Can a fresh set of Super Softs help Hamilton challenge for victory?

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German Grand Prix Analysis

We’ve just passed the halfway point of the 2011 F1 season, with Lewis Hamilton being the latest driver to stand on the top step at the German Grand Prix. So far this season we’ve seen domination of the field both in qualifying and often in race pace as well by the Red Bull Racing RB7. Sebastian Vettel in particular has had a commanding run, winning 6 out of 10 races so far. However, there has been a recent shift in momentum between the constructors.

Vettel will most likely come out on top this season

Sebastian Vettel is still miles ahead of the competition, with the closest competitor being his own team mate -Mark Webber. This is a comfortable position to be in, especially when drivers like Webber, Hamilton, and Alonso are very evenly matched at the moment. We’ve seen three different race winners aside from Vettel, which means that no one is consistently winning like Vettel does, allowing the Red Bull racer to widen the gap. When Alonso won at Silverstone, the gap still widened because Sebastian Vettel beat Webber who was his closest team mate. It seems that no matter what the result is, his advantage increases. The only times that his lead has decreased was in China when Hamilton won, and in Germany when Hamilton won again. That said, Sebastian seems to have trouble when racing wheel to wheel. Many have said he is unable to overtake, and is only a great driver when out in front. There is some evidence to show; Button forced a mistake from Vettel in Canada, Vettel made many errors while running in 5th position in Germany. I’m not entirely sure I believe it, but it could be true. With an increase in pace from Ferrari recently, we may be able to evaluate how he drives wheel to wheel more certainly.

A rare error from Vettel gives Button a victory

Webber is also looking reasonably strong. He secured pole position in the past two grand prix, but was unable to convert them into victories, securing third in both Britain and Germany. His starts this year haven’t been brilliant; he has lost positions at the start more than he has gained. His race pace, however, has been quite good. He must be pleased with the fact that he is matching his team mate in both qualifying and race pace, especially in Germany when Vettel finished behind Webber for the first time this season. It is almost certain according to both Webber and team boss Christian Horner that Webber will be racing for Red Bull in 2012. Hopefully he will be able to put up more of a fight next season.

Webber has shown impressive pace recently

Ferrari have had a great run in the past few Grand Prix. They have scored more points than any other team in the past two races, and Fernando Alonso has scored more points than any other driver in the last three. Fernando Alonso is still in the title race, but he says he will “need the help of McLaren” to try to tame the Red Bull team. The chances of Ferrari winning either the driver’s or constructor’s championship is quite slim. If I were at Ferrari, I would accept the fact that Red Bull have the best car this year, and start work on the 2012 machine, which Ferrari have promised will be “aggressive.” Time will tell.

Great victory from Alonso in Silverstone

McLaren have also had spots of success; Hamilton won the third race in China, Button in Canada, and Hamilton again in Germany. They have the most wins after Red Bull, but it seems that they cannot convert great performances into great team results. Although they had victories in Germany and Canada, in both races only one of their cars crossed the line. A team like McLaren cannot afford to be only “running” one car, because they have two great drivers both capable of podium positions and victories. Button claimed he is “not fighting” for the championship anymore, and will just “do the best he can” at each upcoming venue. If McLaren doesn’t raise their consistency, Hamilton could be the next to follow Button’s path.

An error from Mclaren means Button leaves the pits with an insecure wheel

Renault have had problems recently. Their season should have been great, and has gone downhill since the start. Ace driver Kubica suffered a horrible rally crash before the season, and was lucky to escape with his life. Whether he’ll be back in 2012 or not is not clear, let alone returning to his previous performance levels. With Petrov and Heidfeld scoring podiums in the first two races, one could imagine that Kubica could have been much stronger. Renault have not had great results since those two podiums; the most points they’ve scored in a race since the first two was ten points in Canada and Turkey. If they want to have any chance at beating Mercedes this year, they have to step up their game, bring both cars across the line, and increase their qualifying performance.

Kubica should be on the podium in 2011, but suffered a heavy rally crash meaning he probably will not race this year

All in all, I think this is Red Bull’s year. Other teams have too much ground to cover to catch up to Red Bull. The chances of Red Bull winning both titles this year is very high, so one should not risk next year’s car in an attempt to catch up RBR this year -they will most likely fail. Ferrari have promised an “aggressive” car for 2012, they should get working on that and accept that Red Bull have it in the bag.

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German Grand Prix Results

What a fantastic way to kick off the second half of the 2011 F1 season. The German Grand Prix was a thrilling race with many battles, of which Lewis Hamilton eventually came out on top. After sub-par performances in Canada, Monaco, and Valencia, Hamilton must be absolutely stoked to be at the top step of the podium again. This is his 16th Grand Prix victory, bringing him back on page with Sebastian Vettel. He claimed after the race that his performance was “in his top 5” of his greatest races.

Hamilton enjoys the top step of the podium

Hamilton took Webber at the start of the race into the first corner. He then was being caught by Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber. Mark was able to pass Hamilton through an undercut at the first round of pit stops. However, during the second round of pit stops, Webber lost out to both Hamilton and Alonso in another failed undercut. After the first round of pit stops, Hamilton was able to pass Alonso in the second corner which was deemed “essential,” because he was able to dictate the race pace from there, and eventually finish on top with Alonso and Webber trailing several seconds behind.

Podium at the Nurburgring

Vettel had a challenging day; he was blocked out and passed by Alonso at the start, and had a high-speed spin later in the race. He would eventually finish fourth after passing Massa in the pits. It was the first time he hasn’t been on the podium since Korea of the 2010 season. Massa backed off of Vettel toward the end of the race, but was still able to bring home 5th in his Ferrari.

Massa was not able to challenge Vettel for 4th

Adrian Sutil had a great drive to finish 6th in the race. He didn’t make any mistakes and was consistent throughout the whole race. He was the last car not to be overlapped by the front-runners.

Solid race from Sutil in his VJM04

Mercedes brought their cars home 7th and 8th, with Rosberg heading Schumacher. Rosberg was up into 5th at the start, but could not hold the position and eventually fell back to seventh. Schumacher had a solid race, climbing up a couple of positions to claim 8th place.

Rosberg Heads Schumacher in Germany

Kamui Kobayashi, as usual, put on an overtaking show. He started down in 17th position and was able to climb all the way to 9th. It was a spectacular performance; he never fails to entertain during a race. Rounding out the top ten was Vitaly Petrov, who also moved up a couple of notches.

Kobayashi puts on fireworks display at the Nurburgring

Next came Perez, Alguersauri, di Resta, Maldonado, Buemi, Kovalainen, Glock, d’Ambrosio, Ricciardo, and Chandok. Paul di Resta made a reasonable comeback after being spun on the first lap. It was Karun Chandok’s first race since he was taken out of the HRT race seat mid-season in 2010, and he said the German Grand Prix was a “learning experience” for him. He agreed that his performance was far from perfect, but he said he learned about the Pirelli tires, and Lotus was glad that he “brought home the second car.”

Chandok replaced Trulli at the German Grand Prix

Retirements included Barrichello, Heidfeld, Button, and Liuzzi. Heidfeld had quite a spectacular collision with Buemi, sending him a couple feet into the air. Buemi will suffer a 5 place grid penalty for the collision. Button has claimed that he is not fighting for the championship anymore after his two consecutive retirements, but he will “do the best he can in each race.” It is unfortunate that he has had such bad luck, especially when he was in a position to challenge for podium finishes.

Heidfeld gets airborne after hitting a Toro Rosso

The constructor’s championship remains the same. Mercedes seems to be pulling out a gap over Renault, and Red Bull are still far ahead of the competition. The way things are going currently, Ferrari should be able to pass McLaren before the end of the season. Ferrari have scored more points than any other team in the past two races.

The top 3 in the Constructer's Championship

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