By Berthold Bouman
There was heavy rain again during the second free practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps this afternoon, and again drivers stayed in the garage, pretty much everyone stayed there for the rest of the session, and no driver can really claim first place this afternoon.
After 45 minutes Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was the first to venture out onto the soaking wet track, soon followed by team colleague Michael Schumacher, but both drivers returned without completing a lap. Pastor Maldonado (Williams), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) and Bruno Senna (Williams) also tried their luck but came back in without a timed lap. Heikki Kovalainen spun his Caterham at Les Combes and decided to call it a day as well.
Felipe Massa got a new Ferrari engine this afternoon, his fifth of the season and with eight engines allowed for one season he will not receive a penalty. He completed two laps without recording a time, it was just to see if his new engine worked properly.
Times were meaningless this afternoon, but it was Charles Pic in the Marussia who set the fastest time of 2m49.354s, hardy a representative lap, even in the rain. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was the busiest driver this afternoon, he completed five laps and was probably admiring the Ardennes landscape as he recorded a fastest lap of 2m59.125s.
Vitaly Petrov (Caterham), Mark Webber (Red Bull), Pedro de la Rosa (HRT), Narain Karthikeyan (HRT), Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean (both Lotus) didn’t even bother to go out and practised their Twitter skills instead.
By Berthold Bouman
Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi was fastest this morning at the first free practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. The Japanese driver recorded a time of 2m11.389s after having completed 20 laps. Kobayashi was the first to record a timed lap in difficult conditions and he gradually improved his time this morning to ultimately take first place. His team mate Sergio Perez was sixth this morning
Williams driver Pastor Maldonado was second fastest after the chequered flag was waved, while Daniel Ricciardo was third for Toro Rosso as he made good use of the cold and wet conditions. So did his team colleague Jean-Eric Vergne who was fourth. Most drivers stayed in the garage at the start of the session, but after an hour they finally emerged from the pit lane to score a timed lap.
Mark Webber was the fastest Red Bull Racing driver and took fifth place, while current World Champion Sebastian Vettel was ninth, 3.471s slower than Kobayashi. Nico Rosberg was seventh, and Valtteri Bottas, who took over the wheel from Bruno Senna, was eighth in the second Williams.
Michael Schumacher who will celebrate his 300th Grand Prix at Spa, was tenth with a time of 2m15.402 after he completed 13 laps. The German will wear a specially designed platinum helmet this weekend to mark the occasion, and was also one of the first to check out the wet circuit this morning.
The famous Eau Rouge corner already claimed a few victims as many drivers, including Schumacher, ran very wide and could barely keep their car on track. Further down the order we find Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg in 11th and 13th spot for Force India, while Timo Glock (Marussia) and Vitaly Petrov (Caterham) surprisingly took 12th and 14th place.
Lewis Hamilton didn’t really fancy the rain and stayed in the McLaren garage until the very last moment, he scored 15th position after completing only five laps. His team colleague Jenson Button was 16th, Charles Pic (Marussia) 17th, Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham) 18th, and HRT drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Dani Clos 19th and 20th.
Both Lotus drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean were perhaps afraid to damage their new double DRS system and didn’t even bother to put in a representative time.
Fernando Alonso said he wanted rain this weekend, got it today but also didn’t score a representative time, while Felipe Massa didn’t bother at all this morning, and finished the first practice session in 24th place, as he had stopped at the chicane with a smoking engine and did not even complete a timed lap.
Rain is also expected for the second free practice session this afternoon at the Belgian Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
By Berthold Bouman
Pirelli has allocated the medium (Prime, white marked) and the Hard (Option, silver marked) tyre compounds for one of the most demanding circuits on the 2012 calendar: Spa-Francorchamps. Also a lap of 7.004km is the longest lap on any circuit, while the quickly changing weather conditions in the Ardennes can also play a role during this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Pirelli opted for the two hardest compounds, as Spa with its high speeds, fast long and sweeping corners is very demanding for the tyres, and the most fearsome corner of all: Eau Rouge, a corner that according to Pirelli, gives drivers the ‘ultimate roller coaster ride’.
He is not a driver, but Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery is nevertheless a fan of the Belgian circuit, and he remarked, “I recently visited the 24-hour race there: the configuration of the track and the variety of the weather always seems to produce some great racing.”
About Pirelli’s tyre choice he said, “From a tyre perspective, it’s certainly one of the most demanding circuits that we face all year, because of the high speeds and extreme forces involved, which are often acting on the tyres in more than one dimension. The nomination of the hard and the medium tyres will allow drivers to push hard from start to finish, which is what Spa was designed for!”
Hembery also enjoyed a well-deserved vacation, but he is also looking forward to the second half of the season. “The first half of the season began with the most close and competitive start to a year ever seen in Formula One’s history, so I am looking forward to seeing how the rest of 2012 pans out, and which teams have made which steps forward over the summer break.”
He didn’t want to make any prediction about the battle for the 2012 championship, “Currently the grid is so closely matched — particularly in the midfield — that it’s impossible to predict.”
Spa 3D Track Experience:
Technical parameters that influence tyres’ behaviour:
By Berthold Bouman
After a 33-day summer break, it is also back to business as usual for Ferrari . The next two Grands Prix are at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza, both typical high-speed circuits and thus require some extra careful engine treatment. The man at Ferrari who knows everything about engines, is Luca Marmorini, and he explains why engines will play an important role during the next two races.
“Monza for example is the circuit where drivers use full throttle for a greater percentage of the lap than at any other track. Spa-Francorchamps also throws up some specific problems, such as the fact the circuit is at quite high altitude, the weather is very changeable and often wet, but these are elements that affect the whole car package, not just the engine management,” said Marmorini.
Ferrari is always looking at ways to improve their engine, one problem the Maranello-based team is addressing is the drop in engine performance, explains Marmorini. “We are always trying to reduce the inevitable performance drop that can affect engines as they are used, because some engines having to complete two or three races, therefore it’s important to try and maintain the same performance level throughout.
“If you consider that an engine can lose 5 horsepower per race, then by the third race it can have lost a total of 15 horsepower, which is a significant figure. With our partner Shell, we work on development on new fuels and oils that can aid performance”
With nine rounds of the FIA Formula One World Championship remaining, Marmorini was asked to give a verdict on the engine front, “Even if we can say that so far, in terms of performance and reliability of the engine, electronics and KERS, we are on target, we still want to do even better in the second half of the season when the championship will be decided, as well as meeting our major objective of getting through right to the end without the car ever breaking down on track.”
Teams are free to develop the engine electronics and KERS system during the season, and this is an area where Ferrari expects to find some improvements. “We have not revolutionised our work in this area,” said Marmorini. “Instead, we have concentrated on making the components better suited to the new car, lighter and less bulky, while improving efficiency. But we have been conscious of keeping the cost down on KERS to enable us to provide a competitive and economic package to our customer teams,” said the Italian engine technician.
Currently Ferrari are fourth in the Constructors’ Championship with 189 points, Fernando Alonso is leading the Drivers’ Championship with 164 points, while Felipe Mass is 14th with 25 points.
In the video below, Marmorini explains more about Formula One engines, and engineer Andrea Beneventi, explains the 29 functions on the 2012 single-seater’s wheel. In the section of the Formula 1 alphabet the Scuderia Ferrari explain HANS, qualifying, understeering and oversteering as well as uniball.
Video by Ferrari
By Berthold Bouman
If there’s one modern Grand Prix driver who wrote history at the Belgian Spa-Francorchamps circuit, it must be Michael Schumacher. Eddie Jordan had a problem just ahead of the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix, as his driver Belgium Bertrand Gachot had been jailed after he had assaulted a London cab driver, and the Irishman decided to replace him with an at the time 22-year old German driver: Michael Schumacher, who became an ‘overnight sensation’ at Spa.
Little did Jordan know that his new driver would become a seven-times Formula One World Champion in the years to come, and would be regarded as one of the greatest Formula One driver of all times. Schumacher wrote history after he had qualified in seventh place in a relatively slow car, while his team mate for one race Italian Andrea de Cesaris, qualified in 11th place in the second Jordan.
But the race became a disappointment for young Schumacher, he was away quick at the start but just after the famous uphill Eau Rouge corner the clutch of his Jordan failed, and he had to retire from his first ever Formula One race. But Schumacher had made his name, the media and the fans loved him and so did the team bosses, who tried everything to contract the German for the next race, as Schumi as his nickname soon became, only had a contract for one race, a contract paid for by Mercedes — who paid $150,000 to get the German in the Jordan seat, at the time a huge sum of money for just one race.
Flavio Briatore, team boss of the Benetton team, immediately recognized the German’s talents and contracted him for the rest of the year. Jordan went to court to prevent Schumacher from racing for the Italian team owned by fashion tycoon Luciano Benetton, but he lost his case and the rest became history.
Schumacher’s first race was at Spa, and at the same legendary circuit he also scored his maiden win, exactly one year after he had made his Formula One début, Schumacher won the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix, and he finished over 36 seconds ahead of the number two, Nigel Mansell in the Williams.
On that day Schumacher also beat Riccardo Patrese (Williams), team colleague Martin Brundle (Benetton) and another Formula One legend: Ayrton Senna (McLaren). After the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix, Schumacher was on an incredible third place in the Drivers’ Championship, and he was together with Senna and Mansell one of the most popular Formula One drivers of the season.
Schumacher went on to win the Drivers’ Championship in 1994 and 1995, and also in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. But in 1995, 1996 and 1997 Schumacher also won the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. In 1998 Spa was the scene of the biggest crash in Formula One ever, after David Coulthard on a very wet track hit the wall after the La Source hairpin and spun across the track, in total 13 cars were involved and the race was red-flagged.
Schumacher, driving for Ferrari since 1996, was lucky as he and his car emerged from the crash unscathed, and was able to continue the race at the restart an hour later. After 20 laps Schumacher was leading the race in atrocious conditions — heavy rain and visibility was almost zero. By then he wanted to lap Coulthard who had spun after the restart and was in last position, he hit the McLaren from behind as the Scott had lifted to let Schumacher past at Pouhon.
Schumacher lost his right front wheel and the pair made their way to the pits. In fact, Schumacher was so fast on three wheels, that he had already climbed out of his Ferrari when Coulthard entered the garage. Schumacher was furious and made history by running to the McLaren garage, shaking his fist at a very surprised Coulthard shouting, “Are you trying to f*cking kill me?”
Next time we meet Schumacher and Spa again, but then in harmony, is in 2001. The German won the race once more, but the event became famous due the horrific crash of Luciano Burti, who got a small notch from Eddie Irvine in the Jaguar and the poor Brazilian in his Prost went straight into the tyre barrier at Blanchimont with 240km/h, a crash that almost killed him and was in fact the end of his Formula One career.
Schumacher however, broke another record at Spa on that day, this time he broke Alain Prost’s record of 51 Grand Prix victories. In 2002 Schumacher was on pole and won the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa for the sixth, but also last time.
This weekend Schumacher will start his 300th Grand Prix, yet another milestone in his career, and something to celebrate. About his special relation with Spa the now 43-year old driver said, “Spa is like my living room; for me, it’s clearly the number one race track in the world. It’s uncanny how I always seem to have special moments there — my debut, my first win, a world championship victory and many great races.
“The fact that I will also take part in my 300th Grand Prix at Spa was somehow almost inevitable and we will have to celebrate it in the right way. I’m proud to be just the second driver in the history of the sport (Rubens Barrichello holds the record with 326 races) to reach this milestone and there’s no question that we are looking to have a particularly nice weekend. We delivered a good performance in Spa last year; I’ll be doing everything possible to drive a strong race.”
By Berthold Bouman
Red Bull’s Mark Webber has enjoyed the summer break and is now ready to attack the second half of the season that starts this weekend in Belgium. Asked about the four-week break the Australian said, “The break has been good. It’s longer than it used to be, but it meant I managed to get to see the Olympics. I thought the coverage was awesome and it was great to see stories unfold and for athletes to achieve the results they wanted.”
But he also can’t wait to get in the car again, “However I missed driving the car and I can’t wait to get back racing. It will be an intense end to the season, so it is important that the team is in good spirits.”
Webber explains why all drivers just love the magic of Spa-Francorchamps, “Spa is the best track to have after a break and it’s extremely rewarding for drivers at that venue. It’s obviously remained pretty much unchanged for some time and it has a lot of character.”
About the most famous corner in Grand Prix racing he said, “Eau Rouge is a very special part of the track, the spectators love going to watch the cars there and I would encourage anyone to see it live once in their lives — it’s mind blowing. It’s one of the classic tracks where you feel like a Formula One car belongs on the circuit. We’re looking forward to going there and challenging for the victory.”
Most fans remember his daring overtaking manoeuvre on Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in 2010 at the uphill Eau Rouge corner, and Webber commented, “I have great memories of this corner from that pass,” he says. “It was a big moment for us in terms of pit stops. Therefore it was important for me to keep the momentum going. Luckily I managed to get the move done at the bottom of the hill.”
It will be a difficult second part of the season, but Webber is ready for it, “It will be an intense finish. There will be lots of travel and the flights are always draining. That is what is most tiring, rather than the driving itself. Everything will still be tight. Lotus has one of the best cars so they will win a race at some point, and then there is McLaren and ourselves. It will be a very busy period.”
Webber is currently second in the Drivers’ Championship with 124 points, 40 points behind leader Alonso, but he is closely followed by his team colleague Sebastian Vettel, who is third with 122 points.
Lotus star-driver and 2007 Formula One World Champion Kimi Raikkonen has won the Belgian Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in 2004, 2005, 2007 and in 2009, and he is poised to win the venue again, thus hoping to give Lotus their first win since Ayrton Senna in 1985 won the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril.
Asked about his chances in Belgium the flying Finn said, “Usually I’ve achieved good results at the Belgian Grand Prix, but what’s happened before doesn’t help me right now. Saying that though it doesn’t do any harm either. Obviously it would be great to win at Spa for a fifth time. I haven’t won during the first part of the season and the extra points are always good.”
Raikkonen has fond memories of the Ardennes circuit, “For me there have only been good memories from Spa and it’s great to go racing there. You can’t get the same kind of a feeling anywhere else. It’s great to race with a modern racing car at a proper circuit that has such a great tradition.” And he added, “For me it is the greatest racing circuit in the world. It is my favourite place. I’ve liked it since my first ever visit there in 2000 with Formula Renault.”
Raikkonen is currently fifth in the Drivers’ Championship, albeit 48 points behind leader Fernando Alonso, but as we have seen during the first half of the season, Formula One is full of surprises, and Raikkonen is certainly still a title contender.
Asked about the championship Raikkonen commented, “I am now fifth in the championship and obviously aiming at getting more points than the guys in front of me. The smaller the gap to the leaders is the better for me and for the team. Every race from here on is very important. The whole team is pushing 100% and we need to beat our rivals and take more points than they do every time.”
He also reckons Lotus should improve their qualifying pace to increase their chances for victory, “We always try to win; some days you get close to it and it’s a bit disappointing that we haven’t quite made that final step. We know the reason though; we’ve not been so strong in qualifying as we have in the race which makes life harder for ourselves on Sundays.
“Of course we would rather win than come second or third but it’s a long season and I think we’re improving all the time. If it comes then great, if not we’ll keep trying. I’ve been in the business long enough that I don’t really worry about things too much. We’ve been improving our position in the championships – both for myself and for the team – so as long as we keep doing that hopefully the win will come.”
By Berthold Bouman
Former Formula One driver Jos Verstappen escaped imprisonment yesterday after a court error. According to Dutch law, Verstappen should have been offered a financial transaction first before bringing him to court, thus his case was dismissed, a spokeswoman of the Roermond Court of Justice admitted.
Verstappen was accused of destroying two cell phones, jewellery and the handbag of his girlfriend, and he faced two weeks of imprisonment and 20 hours of community work service. Verstappen’s lawyer Geert Jan Knoops said his client was relieved and he hopes this will be the definitive end of the court case. According to Dutch sources, Verstappen and his girlfriend are back together again.
In January Verstappen was jailed after assaulting the same girlfriend with his car after she had ended their relationship. Verstappen allegedly deliberately ran his car into her, the 24-year old woman was wounded and hospitalised and Verstappen faced an attempted murder charge. Two weeks later the Dutch driver was released from prison and the murder charge was dropped due to lack of evidence.
Verstappen has had more problems with the law in the past, in 2008 the now 40-year old Dutchman had to appear in court after he had harassed and assaulted his 34-year old ex-wife Sofie Kumpen in 2007.
In January 2009 Verstappen again had to appear in court and was convicted to a three months suspended prison sentence and a 1650 Euro fine for sending his ex-wife threatening text messages and visiting her house despite a restraining order.
Verstappen, a veteran of 107 Grands Prix, teamed up with Michael Schumacher in 1994 at Benetton, and later drove for Simtek, Footwork, Tyrrell, Stewart, Arrows and Minardi.
By Berthold Bouman
Like all the other teams, Force India enjoyed their summer break, but it is time to get back to the action, Team Principal Vijay Mallya is still aiming for sixth place in the Constructor’s Championship.
Asked about what to focus on for the second part of the season Mallya was adamant, “It’s a complete package. It’s the car on the track, and whether it’s the set-up, whether it’s the downforce, whether it’s the tyres, at the end of the day the whole thing has to come together as a package. Fundamentally it’s a good car. We just need to put a few more points in our pocket, that’s what’s important.”
Like all others, the Force India owner is also looking forward to Spa, “Spa and Monza are among our favourite races and we’ve done well there in the past. We look forward to doing better in both of them, before the flyaway races start. But yes, the car has to be competitive on every track.”
Paul di Resta spent the summer break at home, and he feels refreshed. “I spent the time at home, seeing friends, watching the Olympics and keeping up with my training. We’re only half way through the season and the next few months are probably the busiest of the year with lots of fly-away races so it was important to relax and come back fresh,” he said.
Asked about his targets for the second half of the season he said, “There’s still a long way to go in the championship and we need to get back to scoring regular points. Last year we ended the season strongly and we need to do the same this year.
“Williams are not too far ahead of us but Sauber have a big points advantage and it’s going to be a big task to overcome that. But we won’t give up; we’ll keep pushing and see what we can do. We definitely have the potential to get some big results before the end of the year.”
Nico Hulkenberg loves the Spa circuit and said, “Spa is a great track. There’s just such a great flow to the circuit with some mighty corners that are incredible. It’s definitely one of the best places to drive a Formula One car to feel the performance through the high-speed corners. It is one of my favourite tracks.”
In the video below, Nico Hulkenberg tells more about the challenge of one of the most spectacular circuits on the calendar, the legendary Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. Video by Force India.
By Berthold Bouman
HRT has like all other teams enjoyed a well-deserved summer break this month, and the Spanish outfit is ready for the 12th round of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Belgian Grand Prix at the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit, the favourite track of many drivers.
“We’ve all returned full of energy from the holidays and I personally arrive in my best physical condition of the season and really looking forward to taking on the second half of the championship,” said Spanish driver Pedro de la Rosa.
De la Rosa also likes the track, “Spa is one of the drivers’ favourite tracks; it’s spectacular and difficult, not only because of the type of corners but also because of the weather, since one part of the track can be dry whilst another is wet, so you have to be able to adapt quickly. We’re going to use the same medium downforce that worked so well in Canada so we hope to perform well despite the large amount of high-speed corners.”
Narain Karthikeyan also has good memories of the track and he loves it as well. “Even though a lot of run-off has been added over the years, it still has some of the most challenging corners on the calendar,” said the Indian driver.
And he added, “And then there’s the classic Spa weather which nearly always plays a part in the final result. We’ll be using the same medium rear wing which worked well in Canada so we hope it goes well in Spa and aim to maintain our progress throughout the second part of the championship.”
Dani Clos will be behind the wheel again on Friday morning, and the Spaniard is looking forward to another outing in the F112, “Once again I have a chance to step into the car and work for the team and that fills me with satisfaction. For me it is really important to stay active and be able to continue growing alongside my team mates Pedro and Narain.”
Team Principal Luis Perez-Sala also enjoyed his holiday and is ready to roll again. “After the summer we head into the Belgian Grand Prix with a lot of hunger and desire. We’re starting the second part of the championship and we will try to continue in the same manner as the first part and improve,” said the Spaniard.
About the circuit he commented, “It is a medium-downforce circuit and the temperatures aren’t extreme so we shouldn’t have any reliability issues. The weather is always unpredictable in Spa so we have to be ready to take on any situation”.
By Berthold Bouman
Reports have emerged FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone has secretly married Fabiana Flosi at his ski chalet Le Lion in Gstaad, Switzerland. According to reports in the UK Daily Mail, Ecclestone’s daughters Petra (24) and Tamara (28), failed to attend the ceremony at the 23-million-pound chalet.
In May of this year Ecclestone already announced he would marry the third love of his life, Brazilian Miss Flosi, age 35 and 46 years his junior, the pair met through their work on the Brazilian Grand Prix where Miss Flosi is Formula One’s vice-president of marketing.
“We are officially engaged — and it is not going to be a long engagement either,” Ecclestone said at the time. “We are so happy and it’s just a case of when we get married, not if, though we haven’t fixed a time or place yet. We have been together for two years and what makes it work is that Fabiana has a really good sense of humour — and when you live with me you need to have a sense of humour!”
Ecclestone has previously been married to Slavica Radic, a former Armani model from Croatia, a marriage that lasted almost 25 years but came to an end in 2009. After the official divorce on March 11, 2009, which cost the now 81-year old Formula One boss an estimated one billion English pounds, Ecclestone vowed he would ‘remain single for the rest of life’, but now it seems he made the trip to the aisle for the third time.
By Berthold Bouman
Again a very wet day at the Dutch Zandvoort circuit, host of the seventh round of the German DTM Championship. Dark clouds surrounded the circuit, and it started to rain just ahead of the start, but all drivers started the race on the Hankook slicks.
Pole-sitter Timo Scheider (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline) was happy to be back at the very front of the start grid, but certainly not happy with his start as the poor German’s Audi didn’t move one inch when the lights turned to green, he was 19th after the first lap. He was in fact lucky no one slammed into the back of his stationary Audi.
More casualties on the first lap, as Christian Vietoris (Mercedes Team HWA) collided with Robert Wickens (Mercedes Team Mucke Motorsport) and the race was over for the German because his rear suspension was badly damaged. Rahel Frey (Audi Sport Team Abt) hit the stricken car of Wickens and she was also out of the race. Miguel Molina’s car (Audi Sport Team Phoenix Racing) was also towed away as he had hit Wickens during the start, ran wide at the Tarzan corner and got stuck in the gravel trap. The Safety Car came out and the race was neutralized.
When the Safety Car went in again after three laps, Mike Rockenfeller (Audi Sport Team Phoenix Racing) was leading the race, followed by Edoardo Mortara (Audi Sport Team Rosberg), Mattias Ekstrom (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline), Jamie Green (Mercedes Team HWA) and Filipe Albuquerque (Audi Sport Team Rosberg), while Gary Paffett (Mercedes Team HWA) was already in sixth place. More bad luck for Scheider, he almost lost his damaged engine cover and had to pit to fix the problem.
A bit further down the field Adrien Tambay (Audi Sport Team Abt) and Martin Tomczyk (BMW Team RMG) were fighting for seventh place, the pair made contact several times but the Frenchman kept his foot down and managed to keep the experienced DTM champion behind him. Bruno Spengler’s (BMW Team Schnitzer) mission was simple: he had to grab as many points as he could to keep in touch with championship leader Paffett, and the Canadian was at that time already in 11th place.
More bad luck for Scheider, on the start finish straight his new engine cover literally disintegrated and carbon parts littered the track, and the Safety Car came out again. Scheider was out of the race, and had to walk back to the Audi garage. “Sh*t happens,” was all the very disappointed Audi driver could say.
Thus there were only 17 cars left when the Safety Car pulled into the pit lane again on lap ten, Paffett immediately tried to pass Albuquerque, they collided but the Portuguese driver stayed in fifth position.
More surprises, Tomczyk, Tambay, Paffett, Ekstrom and Mortara already pitted on lap 11, Tomczyk had hoped he could pass Tambay during his stop, but his pit crew made a mess of his stop and he was again behind Tambay when he rejoined the race.
Next to stop was Green, his crew also made a mess of his stop, and he lost seven places, and was now even behind Tomczyk and Tambay, while Paffett emerged as the winner as he was now behind Ekstrom in a virtual fourth place. Paffett then showed he was serious about winning this race, and outbraked the Swede on the run down to the Tarzan corner and got ahead of him.
Dirk Werner (BMW Team Schnitzer) and David Coulthard (Mercedes Team Mucke Motorsport) hadn’t made their first stop yet and were in first and second position, followed by Rockenfeller, Mortara, Paffett, Ekstrom, Albuquerque, Tomczyk, Tambay and Green, while Spengler was still in 11th place.
Coulthard made his first stop, but his crew forgot to properly secure the right rear wheel, he was sent off but he stopped in time while still in the pit lane, was pushed back to his pit area where mechanics finally were able to fix the problem. Of course his race was over as he now occupied 17th and last place.
After 20 laps Ekstrom, Tomczyk and Ralf Schumacher (Mercedes Team HWA) were the first to make their second and last obligatory pit stop, one lap later they were followed by Spengler, Mortara and Tambay. The number two in the championship, Spengler, rejoined in 15th place, while championship leader Paffett was in second position.
Paffett and Ekstrom were next to pit, but Ekstrom was faster and Paffett was again stuck behind the Audi. Meanwhile, Coulthard threw in the towel and slowly made his way to the pits to end his race.
Ekstrom, Paffett and Tomczyk were dicing for the virtual third position, Paffett tried again to overtake Ekstrom on the run-down to the Tarzan corner, but he didn’t get past. One lap later he tried again, this time he took the outside of the Tarzan corner, but they made contact, Paffett lost his right rear-view mirror and again was stuck behind the Swede.
After 26 laps all drivers had made their last stop, Rockenfeller was still leading followed by Mortara, Ekstrom, Paffett, Tomczyk, and Albuquerque. But it started to rain again, Paffett was hit from behind by Tomczyk who missed his braking point at the Tarzan corner, spun and fell back to 12th place.
Others made good use of the confusion, Spengler moved up to sixth place, while Green moved up to fifth place. Tomczyk had damaged his car when he hit Paffett, and for him the race was also over.
And thus, with 14 laps to go, there were 15 cars left on track, and Rockenfeller, Mortara and Ekstrom were leading. Mortara was faster than Rockenfeller and shouted over the radio he wanted to get past the German in the other Audi. Rockenfeller received a similar message over the radio as Felipe Massa in Formula One: “Mortara is much faster, he is really quick!”
Despite his team’s ‘advice’, Rockenfeller didn’t want to give up the lead, but Mortara was indeed very fast and overtook him on the outside of the Tarzan corner. With now 10 laps to go, Mortara was leading, followed by Rockenfeller who again came closer, Ekstrom, Green, Tambay and Spengler, while Paffett was tenth.
The track again dried out as the rain had stopped, Albuquerque was next to leave the race and he duly parked his car in the garage. Rockenfeller, now on a dry track, came closer and closer to Mortara again, who now had to defend his leading position.
Paffett meanwhile was fighting with Augusto Farfus (BMW Team RBM), he passed him but Farfus was not happy and complained he was pushed by the Briton. The battle at the front continued, but it was Mortara who crossed the finish line first, Rockenfeller was second and Ekstrom third.
Mortara scored his second DTM win and was very happy, and commented, “It was incredible. I was so motivated and wanted to squeeze out the maximum at all cost. I had a good start and took a few risks on the first laps and when rain was setting in. The outcome could also have been different, though. But the risk paid off and we stayed on track. A one-two-three victory for Audi and my second success for Audi Sport Team Rosberg – for me, a dream has come true today.”
His marque colleague Rockenfeller had to admit defeat, “I had a good start. It was a difficult race but in most conditions I was able to control the race. When it started raining again I was a bit too cautious and ‘Edo’ [Mortara] took advantage of that. In second place, he was able to take a little more of a risk. Afterwards, in dry conditions, I was a bit faster but it wasn’t enough to overtake him again.”
Green was fourth, Spengler sixth and Paffett seventh. Spengler finished ahead of Paffett but nevertheless lost his second place in the championship. Paffett is leading the DTM championship with 109 points, Green is second with 93 points and Spengler is third with 91 points. Mortara moved up to fourth place with 74 points, Tomczyk and Rockenfeller are fifth and sixth with 69 and 67 points.
Spengler was pleased to have limited the damage after his 18th qualifying place yesterday, “After the difficult qualifying, the race could hardly have gone better for me. Sixth feels like a podium. My good start was key to this. I made up a lot of positions in the first few corners. Overall it was a tough race for me. The rain did not make it any easier. I had to take big risks. Before the race I would have been happy to somehow finish in the points. To come away with sixth place is fantastic!”
Championship leader Paffett commented after the race, “Seventh place is not the outcome I had planned for this weekend at Zandvoort. I was extremely disappointed after the contact with Martin Tomczyk and the subsequent incident when I spun, but at least we did a little catching up in the closing stages to limit the damage. Finishing ahead of Jamie in the drivers’ standings was one of the weekend’s more positive aspects, as was our good race pace.”
Next race, the eighth in the DTM championship, is on September 9, at the German Oschersleben circuit.
By Berthold Bouman
Round seven of the German DTM Championship takes place at the Dutch sea-side Zandvoort circuit, literally just a few hundred metres of dunes separate the track from the sea. The 4.307km long track is very popular with the Mercedes, Audi and BMW drivers, but contrary to last season, drivers only had a few days to prepare for the race on Dutch soil after last weekend’s race at a blazing hot German Nurburgring.
Rain had already hit the circuit this morning during the second free practice session, and qualifying this afternoon was also hampered by rain. A wet and slippery track was awaiting 22 drivers at the start of the first qualifying session, all were on slicks to set their first timed lap. After five minutes three Audi drivers occupied the top-three places, Mattias Ekstrom (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline) was fastest with a time of 1m33.684s, he was followed by Mike Rockenfeller (Audi Sport Team Phoenix Racing) and Timo Scheider (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline).
A number of drivers, including Bruno Spengler (BMW Team Schnitzer), Martin Tomczyk (BMW Team RMG) and Gary Paffett (Mercedes Team HWA), took a huge risk and stayed in the garage to save tyres. With just five minutes left, Spengler took fourth place, Paffett surprised friend and foe and took first place with a time of 1m33.001s, but not much later Tomczyk took first place from him with a lap of 1m32.928s.
The circuit was clearly drying out, and the times quickly improved lap after lap, and Spengler and his BMW team made a major mistake by staying in, and thus the Canadian surprisingly did not make it into the second qualifying session.
Obviously, Spengler was disappointed, “We took a gamble today and assumed my time would be good enough to progress. However, the track then dried out far quicker than expected and the rest of the field moved above me. Obviously I am disappointed, but these things happen. I must now try to pick my way through the field from the back in tomorrow’s race.”
Also Joey Hand (BMW Team RMG), Susie Wolff (Mercedes Team Persson Motorsport), Augusto Farfus (BMW Team RBM), Rahel Frey (Audi Sport Team Abt) and David Coulthard (Mercedes Team Mucke Motorsport) did not make into the next qualifying session.
Tomczyk, Rockenfeller, Paffett and Green were out first in the second session, and the rest soon followed as it started to rain again. Initially Rockenfeller was fastest, while Green and Christian Vietoris (Mercedes Team HWA) were second and third.
The second session soon became a lottery, Paffett became the main victim as he slid down the order to tenth place, while Green was fourth. Drivers were still on the slicks and Adrien Tambay (Audi Sport Team Abt) was leading the pack, but Scheider, with only one minute to go, took over first place from the Frenchman.
The track became more and more slippery, and Paffett was 13th and had to go out to improve his position, he did so and finished in eighth place. Another surprise, as it was this time current DTM Champion Tomczyk who didn’t make it into the next qualifying session, neither did Robert Wickens (Mercedes Team Mucke Motorsport), Miguel Molina (Audi Sport Team Phoenix Racing), Robert Merhi (Mercedes Team Persson Motorsport), Ralf Schumacher (Mercedes Team HWA) and Andy Priaulx (BMW Team RBM).
But the weather changed once more, it was dry again at the start of the third session, and it was Rockenfeller who set the first timed lap of 1m31.355s. With just four minutes left, Green and Paffett finally left the garage for their one and only run in the third qualifying session.
Scheider was just one-thousandth of a second faster than Rockenfeller and took over his first place, while at the same time Green ran wide and had to abort his fast lap. Surprisingly, Paffett wasn’t very fast either, he was seventh with just 50 seconds to go. Both Britons had one more lap to go before the chequered flag, Green improved his time and finished in sixth place, while Paffett couldn’t improve his time and had to settle for eighth place.
Audi now had four cars in the shoot-out for pole position: Scheider, Rockenfeller, Ekstrom and Filipe Albuquerque (Audi Sport Team Rosberg). The latter was the first to record his final qualifying lap, he made no mistakes and set a time of 1m32.936s, not really a fast time, the Portuguese driver complained about massive understeer.
Ekstrom was next but in the first section he was just 0.001s faster, in the second section he was 0.029s faster, but crossed the finish line 0.158s slower than Albuquerque, and the Swede reported over the radio he had no grip. But Rockenfeller had no problems at all, he put together a flawless lap and took first place with a time of 1m32.615s.
All Scheider could do was to drive at the very limit, he was 0.065s faster in the first section, 0.270s in the second and took pole position with a time of 1m32.365s. Audi has six cars in the top ten at Zandvoort, unfortunately non of them are in position to pose a threat to current championship leader Paffett.
A relieved Scheider commented, “A big load has come off my chest. The past few weeks were hard for me and my surroundings. When you ask yourself if there’s something that you may be doing wrong and you’re trying to put simply everything on track it’s very difficult. Sometimes you’re heading in the right and sometimes in the wrong direction. Today, thanks to the team spirit and thanks to the people who believed in me, simply everything worked out. Clinching the fourth pole position at Zandvoort was a very good feeling and was very important.”
A very disappointing day for Spengler, he will start the race from 18th position on the grid tomorrow, while Green will start from sixth place, and Paffett still has a chance to win the race and extend his championship lead as he will start from eighth place.
Paffett hasn’t given up yet, “Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to progress through to Q4, but I’m satisfied considering the circumstances. Sadly, I was unable to utilise the car’s full potential over a complete lap. Our C-Coupé is normally very strong in the race, and, given Sunday’s weather forecast, all things should be possible.”
Paffett is currently leading the DTM Championship with 103 points, followed by Spengler with 83 points, and Green is third with 81 points. An important race tomorrow, as Spengler or Green could take over the lead from Paffett, and with the rain forecasted for tomorrow, anything is possible.
By Berthold Bouman
Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps secured its Formula One future today by signing a three-year deal for 2013 to 2015, Walloon Minister of Economy Jean-Claude Marcourt today announced the good news. The circuit, situated in the Belgian Ardennes, according to many (including yours truly) the most beautiful and most challenging Grand Prix track on the planet, had encountered financial problems the past few years and the Walloon Government decided to support the circuit for another three years.
Marcourt said one of the conditions for the state support was that the costs for the Walloon Government should be substantially lower than before, and although he refused to reveal any details, it is understood the circuit paid a reduced fee.
“We have managed to negotiate an extension of the contract for the years 2013, 2014 and 2015 for the Grand Prix in Wallonia at Spa-Francorchamps, the Belgian Grand Prix”, Marcourt told L’Avenir magazine today.
“I wanted to reduce the amount of expenditure in the Walloon Region budget, and when we compare the obligations undertaken in the preceding contract and this new one, I’d say we’ve accomplished our mission. Of course, there is still an outlay involved but it’s smaller. What we’re doing is reinforcing the attractiveness of Belgium.”
Walloon Minister of Tourism Paul Furlan said the new contract is also good for the local economy, according to a study conducted by Ciriec (International Centre of Research and Information on the Public, Social and Cooperative Economy), the financial benefits could add up to 43 million Euro.
Circuit officials also announced they found a solution for the 5,600 tickets ordered via Dutch online ticket vendor ‘The Ticket Enterprise’, who ran into financial problems two weeks ago and are now effectively out of business.
People who ordered a ticket but didn’t receive one, can rest assured and travel to Spa-Francorchamps next weekend, if they can prove they paid for a ticket, they can collect one at the circuit entrance. The circuit will then later try to get the money back from the Dutch company.