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Archive for October, 2012

Zanardi to test BMW M3 DTM at the Nurburgring next month


By Berthold Bouman

Alessandro Zanardi will test a BMW M3 DTM car at the Nurburgring next month, BMW today confirmed. The Italian racing driver, who lost his legs after a horrific accident in the ChampCar series in 2001 at the German Lauzitzring, and won gold at the 2012 Paralympics in London in the men’s road time trial H4, will test the BMW car on November 18.

Jens Marquardt and Alessandro Zanardi

Zanardi already drove for BMW in the Word Touring Car Championship from 2005 to 2009 in a car modified to allow the use of his prosthetic feet, and in 2006 tested a modified BMW Sauber Formula One car in Valencia, Spain.

Today Zanardi was at the headquarters of the Bavarian BMW company in Munich where, according to a statement issued by BMW, ‘he and the BMW Motorsport engineers went through all the points that need clarifying before this kind of outing — both from a technical point of view and with regard to safety’.

BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt said, “We are delighted to offer Alessandro Zanardi this outing in the BMW M3 DTM, he has been a member of the BMW Motorsport family for many years, so we are very keen to offer him this chance to drive the BMW M3 DTM.”

About the car modifications Marquardt said, “We will obviously have to make a few modifications to the car. A DTM car is considerably more complex than the BMW 320si WTCC, with which Alex won on four occasions for us in the FIA World Touring Car Championship. However, our engineers happily accepted this challenge.”

The man himself is obviously looking forward to November 18, and he commented, “I would like to thank Jens Marquardt and all my friends at BMW Motorsport here and now for this unique opportunity. I always feel like coming back to my family when I’m here at BMW Motorsport.

“When I saw the BMW M3 DTM up close for the first time in Hockenheim, I found myself feeling like a racing driver again after all those months as a handcyclist. It is a great honour for any driver to get behind the wheel of such a fantastic car. I will enjoy every lap!”

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Abu Dhabi GP: Mercedes aiming to improve performance


By Berthold Bouman

Mercedes is hoping for a stronger result this weekend during round 18 of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Nico Rosberg retired from two of the last three races and scored no points at all, while Michael Schumacher, who will retire again at the end of the season, also didn’t score points during the past three races.

Schumacher and Mercedes hoping for better results

Team Principal Ross Brawn said, “Our team has had a challenging time during the season-ending flyaway races so far. However, we are continuing to work hard on improving our performance, while also taking the opportunity to look at developments which will be relevant next season. We would like to end the season on a positive note, and hope to have a stronger result this weekend.”

Schumacher was certainly not happy with last weekend’s race, “Admittedly, ‘fun’ is not exactly the right word to describe the race I had on Sunday in India. However, I hope that what we learned about our car across the weekend can be translated into something positive in Abu Dhabi.“

About the venue itself he was more positive and said, “Abu Dhabi is one of the races I look forward to travelling to. The facilities there are state of the art, very modern and very attractive. The timing of the race makes it even more appealing: it’s something quite special and uniquely fun to race from day into night.”

Rosberg agrees with compatriot, “The Abu Dhabi race is one of the highlights on the calendar and every year it seems to become better and better. I really enjoy driving the track, particularly with the unusual twilight conditions, and the setting around Yas Marina is very special.”

He thinks the tyre strategy will be important, “On the track, tyre work will again be crucial this weekend. We are working hard on it and our goals this weekend will be to score some points and to learn for next year.”

Mercedes Motorsport Director Norbert Haug is looking forward to yet another home Grand Prix, “This will be the fourth visit to Abu Dhabi which is, along with Great Britain, Germany and Malaysia, one of our home races and certainly a season highlight. The facilities in Abu Dhabi are exceptional and the spectacle of the day-night race is unique in the Formula One calendar.”

But he admitted scoring a good result won’t be easy, “Overtaking is difficult in spite of the long straights and many braking zones but the DRS zones significantly improved the situation last year. Overall, the level of competition behind the quickest teams has got ever closer throughout the season and a few tenths of a second in lap time can make a difference of many positions in both qualifying and the race.”


This week’s Formula One videos (Week 44)


Circuit of the Americas ready to rock and roll

The first of a series of video features showcasing in detail the major aspects of the Circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas. International motor racing announcer Jonathan Green brings us up close and personal with all facets of the Circuit of the Americas as we prepare for our first major international event — The 2012 Formula One United States Grand Prix November 16th to 18th.

The great Ferraris of Sergio Pininfarina exhibition official opening at the Ferrari Museum

Present at the opening were Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo, Paolo Pininfarina, president of the eponymous company, Piero  Ferrari and members of the Pininfarina family including the late Sergio’s wife, Giorgia.

Red Bull Racing Seoul, Korea running

Red Bull Junior driver Antonio Felix Da Costa Seoul Running in the RB7 along the Jamsu Bridge in Seoul, South Korea.

Ferrari Azure event in Maranello with 2012 London medal winners

A day to celebrate Italian excellence “bound together by passion for sports, privation and the will to win”, as Montezemolo said.

Caterham: F1 Technical Briefing, Abu Dhabi: How tyre performance affects F1 car set-up

Performance Director John Iley examines the Yas Marina circuit and explains the effect that varying tyre performance can have on car set-up and performance.

Inside Grand Prix: Does Vettel stay at Red Bull Racing? What does Raikkönen?

The topics are: Vettel staying at Red Bull, Raikkönen staying at Lotus, Rumour mill — France to replace New Jersey, Hockenheim not Nürburgring, Nico Rosberg blog, Championship standings, Brembo Brake Facts.


Sauber Formula One team signs Nico Hulkenberg for 2013


By Berthold Bouman

The Sauber team today confirmed Nico Hulkenberg has signed a contract for 2013 with the Swiss outfit. The 25-year old German driver will replace Sergio Perez who will join McLaren next year. Sauber was impressed by Hulkenberg’s achievements in Formula One, thus signing him wasn’t a difficult decision.

Hulkenberg signs with Sauber for 2013

Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn commented, “We’ve been observing Nico for some time now and his performances have been very persuasive. That was the case in GP2 and has continued into Formula One.”

And she further explained, “An obvious highlight was how he scored pole at Interlagos in 2010 despite the most challenging external conditions. He clearly showed that he can seize the chance if it arises. But high spots like that are one thing; systematic teamwork is another — and on that score I have confidence in Nico too. I’m sure he will fit in very well with the Sauber F1 Team. We look forward to working together with him.”

Hulkenberg is looking forward to the new challenge, “I’m really looking forward to working with the Sauber F1 Team. It’s a well-placed team and very competitive. Plus it’s a team in which young drivers have repeatedly delivered exceptional performances. I would like to take up that baton.”

And he added, “The Sauber F1 Team is currently going through a very positive development and I’m certain that together we can achieve a lot. Until that time I will remain fully focused on my job with the Sahara Force India Team. I’d like to thank the management at Sahara Force India for giving me the chance to return to Formula One as a team driver.”

Hulkenberg’s C.V. is impressive indeed, before his Formula One career he won the Formula BMW ADAC series in 2005, he won the A1GP series in the 2006-2007 season, and he won the Masters of Formula Three in 2007. In 2008 he won the Formula Three Euroseries, and in 2009 won the GP2 series.

He started his Formula One career with Williams in 2010, but was dumped in favour of Pastor Maldonado, he was test driver for Force India in 2011 before he became a regular driver for the Indian team in 2012 and Hulkenberg is currently 12th in the Drivers’ Championship.

Sauber has yet to announce their second driver for 2013.


Vettel ends speculations about 2014 Ferrari move, happy at Red Bull


By Berthold Bouman

Current Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel has again denied he has signed a contract to move to Scuderia Ferrari in 2014. Rumours about a move to the Maranello-based team have been very persistent, but this time Vettel hopes to end the speculations.

Vettel happy at Red Bull Racing

“You don’t know every single person in the team and it’s hard to speak to every single one, but if there’s some bullshit in the press obviously there might be some concerns back in the factory,” Vettel said yesterday at the Indian Buddh International Circuit, after he won the race.

“There is nothing to tell, nothing I have signed. It is amusing. I don’t know where it came from. I’m 100 percent behind them [Red Bull] as I feel they’re 100 percent behind me and therefore I want to get this straight. There’s nothing to report and I’m very happy at Red Bull Racing.”

Red Bull’s adviser Helmut Marko already said ahead of the Indian Grand Prix Vettel would certainly not leave Red Bull in 2014, “I have to disappoint Ferrari and all the others. Sebastian has a bullet-proof contract with us through 2014. There are and there have never been any options or opt-outs.”

Team Principal Christian Horner was also keen to end the speculations, “Sebastian and the team have a very strong relationship. We both know exactly where we stand now and for the future. Of course all members read the media, they read the internet, so it was important to dispel any speculation that he may be going elsewhere. I did that on the day the rumours were circulated.

“Sebastian has been with Red Bull since he was 12 or 13 years of age. He has achieved all his Grand Prix victories in Red Bull-designed cars. He is very happy being part of this team and he is an important part of this team and hopefully that will continue for many years to come.”


Raikkonen to stay another year in Formula One with Lotus


By Berthold Bouman

Kimi Raikkonen will stay another year with Lotus, sources today reported. The Iceman as his nickname is, made a comeback to Formula One with Lotus this year after he retired in 2009. Unlike Michael Schumacher’s return, the Finn’s return was successful to say the least, he is currently third in the Drivers’ Championship, ahead of both the McLaren and Mercedes drivers, the only thing still missing this season is a race victory.

Raikkonen to stay another year with Lotus

During his two-year absence Raikkonen was active in the World Rally Championship for Citroen, but he couldn’t say no when Lotus made him an offer at the end of 2011 to return to the sport . The 2007 World Champion, now 33-years old, has been one of the most consistent drivers in 2012, and the Lotus proved to be a very reliable car, which resulted in his third place in the championship.

However, Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier warned it is unlikely Raikkonen would win one of the three remaining races of the season. “Realistically, I would be kidding people if I said we would win a race this year. If we’re in a position to fight until the end, to threaten the third position (in the drivers’ championship), I’ll be happy with that, to be honest.

“Yes, it’s frustrating at not getting this missing, or elusive win, but we had a good start to the season, with a new package and two new drivers. If we make a good start next year it will be a different story.”

In a statement issued by Lotus today Raikkonen said, “I think my return to Formula 1 has gone pretty well and the team has done a very good job all year so far. To be honest, I didn’t expect to be fighting for the Drivers’ Championship this season when you look at where the team was in 2011, so it has been great to be on the podium so many times and to score points on a regular basis.

“I feel very comfortable with Lotus F1 Team and we share the same philosophy of racing. Continuing with the team was an obvious choice for me and I’m looking forward to making another step forward together next year.”

And Boullier added, “Kimi has made an exceptional comeback to Formula 1. From the first time he sat in the car this year it was clear he had lost none of his pace or technical feedback and we have been rewarded by a focused and motivated driver all season.

“For Lotus F1 Team to be fighting for such strong championship positions this year is in no small part attributed to Kimi’s talent and experience of racing. It was a natural conclusion for us to confirm that we will be harnessing his abilities for next season.”

Lotus posted a short video on their YouTube channel which ends with the message, “Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus F1 team in 2013. The story continues.”

Check out this exclusive behind the scenes video as we delve into the life of racing superstar Kimi Raikkonen and unveil the biggest news in the F1 paddock right now…


Indian GP: Webber and the curse of KERS


By Berthold Bouman

Technical issues made life difficult for Mark Webber at the Buddh International Circuit, as his Renault manufactured KERS gave him many problems, from lap 20 onwards his KERS system worked intermittently, which is a problem on the Indian track with its 1.2km long back straight.

“I couldn’t have done much more in the race. I got the maximum out of the car, but you can’t really compete without KERS on a track like this. It’s not Monaco; the straights are long and you need KERS. We had to manage the situation throughout the race,” Webber said.

KERS problems for Mark Webber

Before the problems with his KERS system, Webber was able to keep up with his team mate Sebastian Vettel, but without KERS it was not only difficult to defend his position on the long straights, but as it is charged through the rear wheels under braking, it also affected the balance of his car.

Webber kept Fernando Alonso at bay by gaining as much time as he could in the middle sector, and then had a buffer which prevented Alonso from overtaking him on the back straight. But he did have some problems with the back markers.

“You don’t want back markers in sector two at this track,” Webber said. “There are some quick corners there and if you meet someone in the wrong place, you can lose 1.5s before you know it. When you’ve got a guy like Fernando on your tail, you can’t afford to let up for a minute.”

Despite his problems, Webber was still happy with his third place although Lewis Hamilton came every close near the end of the race. “Lewis was in a nice rhythm and closing me down. I was pleased to see him make a mistake on lap 58 because I needed to keep him out of my DRS zone for as long as possible. That gave me a bit of breathing space; if there had been another two laps, I think he would have got me.”

Tonight Webber will already fly to Dubai to prepare for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next weekend. These back-to-back races are quite intense,” said Webber. “But I like the Middle East, even if Yas Marina isn’t my favourite racetrack. The car has performed well for the past few races, so I hope we’ll be competitive there. I’m looking forward to it!”


Vettel controls Indian GP and cruises to victory, Alonso second


By Berthold Bouman

Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel cruised to victory today at the Buddh International Circuit and won the Indian Grand Prix, strengthening his leading position in the 2012 Formula One Drivers’ Championship. Alonso was second for Ferrari, after beating Mark Webber who had KERS problems during the closing stages of the race.

26th Career victory for Vettel

Winner Vettel said,  “All in all, it was a very good race for us and I’m happy with the result. I had a good start, Mark had a better one and it was close in Turn One, but I had a good exit from Turn Three and got ahead. It was a great day for us and an important step.”

A good start was important, also for pole-sitter Vettel who arrived at the first corner in leading position, but it was Alonso who immediately attacked both McLarens, he passed them at Turn 4 but had to give back one position to Jenson Button at the next turn. Michael Schumacher and Jean-Eric Vergne were the first casualties and had to visit the pits for repairs, meanwhile both Vettel and Webber were already disappearing at the horizon.

When Race Control enabled DRS after the second lap Alonso immediately overtook Button again, and then started to hunt down Webber ahead of him. Behind the Spaniard both McLarens were battling for position, a battle won by Hamilton as he took over Button’s fourth place on the back straight aided by DRS.

Felipe Massa came closer and closer to Button ahead of him, but at the same time Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus was closing in on the Brazilian, and after ten laps both already had lost 12 seconds on leader Vettel. Further down the order Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg were fighting for eighth place, while Nico Rosberg, Pastor Maldonado, Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna were battling for tenth place.

Hulkenberg finally took eighth place from Perez, his Sauber team called the Mexican, who will move to McLaren next season, in for a tyre switch on lap 15. Meanwhile, Grosjean in the Lotus finally wrestled himself free from the Williams sandwich he was in and took tenth place, while Senna made good use of the opportunity and passed his team mate Maldonado to take 11th spot.

Perez was carving his way through the field, but Daniel Ricciardo hit the Mexican’s right rear wheel and destroyed the tyre, Perez had to limp back to the pits, but this time left on a set of hard tyres, obviously trying to finish the race without making another stop. Unfortunately for him there was more damage to his car, and one lap later he parked his car in the Sauber garage, his race was over.

After 23 laps Grosjean made good use of his DRS and overtook Rosberg on the back straight, further ahead Alonso was getting closer to Webber who seemed to suffer from tyre degradation more than Vettel, as the German was a full second per lap faster. By now it had become clear most drivers in the top ten were aiming for a one-stop race, exactly as Pirelli had predicted.

Button was the first to pit and went out on the hard tyres, Senna was next and he also emerged from the pit lane on the hard tyres. Also Raikkonen, Maldonado and Rosberg pitted, all eyes were then on the Red Bull drivers to see how much longer their tyres would last.

Massa also pitted and managed to stay ahead of Raikkonen, and the cat-and-mouse game they had played before commenced again. Alonso also came in and rejoined the race in fourth place, not much later Maldonado was seen in cruise-mode as he also had a flat right rear tyre after a coming together with Kamui Kobayashi in the second Sauber.

Vettel reported on the radio he could stay out a bit longer, it was safe to do so as he had 30 seconds on Webber in second place, who already had made his stop. And indeed, after Vettel made his stop on lap 34, he was still leading the Indian Grand Prix.

Now Alonso was just a few car-lengths behind Webber, but the Australian saw the danger and upped his pace, and even scored the fastest lap at the time. No problems whatsoever for Vettel who had 12 seconds on Webber and was comfortably on his way to yet another race victory.

Massa and Raikkonen were battling for sixth spot, but the Lotus, even with DRS activated, couldn’t match the pace of the Ferrari and the Finn stayed where he was, no matter how hard he tried. Yellow flags were waved at the end of the back straight as Pedro de la Rosa had spun his HRT and had ended up in the gravel, the Spaniard reported he had a brake failure.

His compatriot Alonso was certainly not out of the race, as he had renewed his attack on Webber again, with just 12 laps remaining. Shortly before, Webber had reported he had no KERS, and Alonso overtook the Red Bull without problems on the back straight. Now 12 seconds separated the two leaders in the race, who also happened to be the leaders in the Drivers’ Championship — and both also are fighting to score their third World Championship this season.

Webber’s pace went downhill, and now Hamilton was closing in on the Red Bull driver who still had KERS problems. Perhaps Vettel also had a KERS problem as Alonso was closing in on him, and the Ferrari driver was told by his engineer Andrea Stella to ‘push like hell’, but with a ten-second gap and only five laps to go it was an impossible mission. Not much later Alonso hit the tyre cliff, and even ran wide twice due to a lack of grip, and had to settle for second place.

Alonso was second for Ferrari

And thus it was Vettel who scored his 26th career victory, his fourth consecutive win, Alonso took second place, Webber was third, and was followed by Hamilton, Button and Massa, who was sixth in the second Ferrari.

Alonso was happy with his second place, “We can fight the Red Bulls, but at the moment, we still don’t have a car capable of winning. Once again this year we have seen that, in the race, the situation is much better than in qualifying. A great start, a great first lap, a good top speed and the right tyre management produced, along with me driving at 120 percent for each of the sixty race laps, this second place.”

Webber said about his KERS problems, “We had a KERS issue that we had to manage. It’s maybe hard for people watching to know what it affects on the car, its power on the straight obviously, but also managing brake balances and those sort of things. Overall, I was pretty happy with how I drove; we should have finished further up the road, but it’s the way it was today.”

Alonso again showed his strength, but nevertheless lost points to Vettel, who is now leading the Drivers’ Championship with 240 points, Alonso is second with 227 points, Raikkonen is still third with 173 points, Webber is fourth with 167 points and Hamilton and Button are fifth and sixth with 165 and 141 points respectively.


Indian GP: Ferrari flying the flag for the Italian Navy sparks controversy


By Berthold Bouman

Both Ferrari cars appeared on the Buddh International Circuit with the flag of Italian Navy prominently present on the nose of the F2012, Ferrari denied the flag was a political statement, and yesterday Team Principal Stefano Domenicali said, “No, no, that’s not true. There’s not any political intention or discussion in that.”

Ferrari with navy flag

Before the Indian Grand Prix Ferrari issued a statement on their website, “Scuderia Ferrari will carry the flag of the Italian Navy on the cars driven by Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in this weekend’s Indian Grand Prix. In doing so, Ferrari pays tribute to one of the outstanding entities of our country, also in the hope that the Indian and Italian authorities will soon find a solution to the situation currently involving two sailors from the Italian Navy.”

Ferrari is supporting two marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who were arrested in India in February and were held responsible for the death of two Indian fishermen. The two were granted bail but are not allowed to leave the country.

Italy’s minister for foreign affairs, Giulio Terzi, was pleased with Ferrari’s support and on twitter wrote, “Congratulations to Ferrari for displaying the Navy’s symbol at the India GP. It will show the sailors the whole country is behind them.”

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo also gave his two cents, “We just want to give a small contribution, with great respect to the Indian authorities, toward finding a solution with dialogue. The navy is one of Italy’s best symbols. I have great memories of when I was a young student at the Morosini naval academy.”

Yesterday Ferrari hastily issued another statement again denying the flag is a political statement, “The Italian Navy’s national flag on the Ferrari race cars at the Indian Grand Prix is there as a tribute to one of our country’s outstanding institutions. With all the respect due to the Indian Authorities, Ferrari wishes to make it clear that this initiative does not have, nor should it be seen as having, any political implication.”

FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone said it’s the job of India’s national motorsport association, the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI), to determine whether it’s a political statement or not. “What we’d do, we’d look at the national sporting authority (FMSCI) here to have a look at that,” said Ecclestone and added, “Let’s see what can be done. We’ll keep politics out of it.”

The Indian government had already stated they were not happy with the flag and Syed Akbaruddin, the official spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs, said Ferrari was using ‘sporting events to promote causes which are not of a sporting nature is not in keeping with the spirit of sports’.

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo

Article One of the FIA statutes states, “The FIA shall refrain from manifesting racial, political or religious discrimination in the course of its activities and from taking any action in this respect.”

FMSCI president Vicky Chandhok issued a statement today, saying there are no problems with the navy symbol on the Ferrari, “Stefano Domenicalli, Team Principal Scuderia Ferrari, has confirmed that their initiative of carrying their national navy flag does not have and should not be seen as having any political implication.

“FMSCI firmly believes that carrying their national navy flag will not have any effect on the case pending before the Indian courts. The FMSCI will not permit any attempt to subvert the process of justice by politicising the event.”

I seems Ferrari wins again … because their name is Ferrari … and that’s politics as well.


Indian GP: Red Bull dominates again, Vettel on pole, Webber second


By Berthold Bouman

No big surprises today during qualifying for round 17 of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Indian Grand Prix. Red Bull showed their supremacy again with championship leader Sebastian Vettel taking another pole position, his team mate Australian Mark Webber was second, while Lewis Hamilton was third for McLaren.

Red Bull was unbeatable again

“I made a mistake on my first run so we only had one set of tyres left but I was pretty happy with my [final] lap,” Vettel said. “We need to keep pushing; we have a lot of important races to go but the best chance of doing well is to focus on every single step.”

Paul di Resta was first out in Q1 and the first driver to set a representative time of 1m28.786s, but his time was soon beaten by his team colleague Nico Hulkenberg, all drivers were still on the harder tyre compound at the start of the first session.

But it was Felipe Massa who set the benchmark in his Ferrari with a lap of 1m26.939s, he later gave his team mate Fernando Alonso a tow on the back straight, but it didn’t work and the Spaniard actually lost time and took fifth position at the time.

With ten minutes to go both Red Bull and McLaren drivers were the only ones who hadn’t set a timed lap yet, Lewis Hamilton tried but missed his braking point and ran wide, at the same moment Massa spun as he went too far over the kerbs, he regained control but retreated to the Ferrari garage for a new set of tyres.

Sebastian Vettel not surprisingly took first place on his first run with a lap of 1m26.621s, while Webber was still in 24th place, but after a flying lap climbed to third position. For the drivers in the drop-out zone it was time to go out on the softer tyres to ensure a place in Q2, despite their best efforts Jean-Eric Vergne, Vitaly Petrov, Heikki Kovalainen, Timo Glock, Pedro de la Rosa, Narain Karthikeyan and Charles Pic did not make it into the second session.

In Q2 all 17 remaining drivers went out on the soft tyres, and it was again Vettel who was quickest with a lap of 1m25.435s, Webber was also quick and took second place. Massa was again struggling with his Ferrari, the same could be said about Hamilton, who missed several opportunities to improve his time, as he was visibly struggling to keep his car on track.

With just two minutes to go Kimi Raikkonen was in 12th place, while Romain Grosjean was seventh, but the flying Finn improved his time and took eighth place. Michael Schumacher and Massa were also in the danger zone, only Massa could improve his time and took tenth place, while the seven-times World Champion slid further down the order as others improved their fastest time.

Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Bruno Senna, Schumacher, Daniel Ricciardo, di Resta and Kamui Kobayashi did not make it into the third and final qualifying session.

Thus ten drivers started in Q3 to battle for pole, Alonso was on track first, he was soon followed by Hamilton, who again had problems with the balance of his car and had to abort his first fast lap.

Vettel was also out quick but made a rare mistake and had a massive moment when he ran wide and had to cut a corner, he was clearly under pressure to score pole. Webber was fastest with five minutes to go, while the others stayed in the garage to save tyres.

Two minutes to go and Button had taken second place, time for the other drivers to leave the pits for their final run. Vettel took first place from Webber, and took pole for tomorrow’s Indian Grand Prix. Webber was second and Hamilton took third place on his very last lap. Button took fourth place, while Massa showed he has regained his confidence and speed again after a troublesome season, and finished sixth behind Alonso who was fifth.

About tomorrow’s race Vettel said, “You know that a lot of things can happen in the race. I am very happy to be on pole but there is a hard race coming tomorrow. We had a bit of a surprise on Friday on the long runs, everyone was quite close, so we’ll see what that means with strategy tomorrow.”

Webber, who was just 0.044 seconds slower, said to the BBC, “The lap itself wasn’t too bad. I got onto the astroturf at the last corner so it wasn’t the smoothest run to the finish line, but I’m driving the car. Then I didn’t get to do my final lap, the McLarens were doing very slow out-laps so I didn’t get my second lap. I had no front grip at the start of my lap so it was finished. So I was surprised to end up second — I’ll take that.”

Third place for Hamilton and McLaren

Hamilton was quite happy with his third place, “I’m very satisfied that I’ll be starting tomorrow’s race from the second row. This is one of the best circuits we race on and I definitely think third position gives us a fighting chance to win tomorrow. At the start tomorrow, I feel I have a lot less to lose than Sebastian [Vettel] in front of me, so I’ll certainly be pushing a bit. Seb has more to worry about than I do, and, if I can get up with the two Red Bulls, I’d love to take a win!”

Alonso remained calm as ever and was optimistic ahead of the race, “I think it’s more challenging for us now but I remain 100% confident that we will fight for this championship and we will win it. The first target is to finish in front of them [Red Bull] tomorrow and I think we have chances to do it.”

Raikkonen was the fastest Lotus driver and took seventh place, Sergio Perez who had skipped the first free practice due to a severe cold, was eighth for Sauber, Pastor Maldonado was ninth, and Nico Rosberg, who didn’t even bother to score a fast lap and stayed in the garage during Q3, was tenth.


Indian GP: Red Bull dominate second Friday practice session, Perez back in the car


By Berthold Bouman

Sebastian Vettel was again fastest during the second free practice session for the Indian Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit this afternoon, but he was now closely followed by his Australian team mate Mark Webber, who was 0.118 seconds slower than the German 2010 and 2011 World Champion.

Red Bull fastest during FP2

Red Bull showed their supremacy again as third fastest driver Fernando Alonso was almost six-tenths of a second slower, which is bad news for Alonso’s and Ferrari’s title aspirations, as 0.6 seconds is almost an eternity in Formula One, if Red Bull can maintain the same pace the remaining title contenders will have a hard time keeping up with both Red Bull drivers during Sunday’s race.

Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen were fourth and fifth, but the damage was even worse for McLaren, as Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were sixth and seventh, but nine-tenths of a second slower than Vettel.

This time Nico Hulkenberg was the fastest Force India driver, he was eighth, while Paul di Resta was 11th after completing 32 laps. Difficult times for the Force India team, team owner Vijay Mallya was again prominently absent as his Kingfisher airline is in deep financial problems and he perhaps did not want to face his employees who wanted to confront him during his home Grand Prix.

Romain Grosjean was ninth for Lotus, both Lotus drivers significantly improved their pace compared to this morning’s session, Bruno Senna completed the top ten but was one and a half second off the pace. Pastor Maldonado was just like this morning again way off the pace and was 17th in the second Williams.

A big surprise as Sergio Perez jumped into his Sauber again after he had skipped the morning session due to a severe cold, and was the fastest Sauber driver in 12th place. His team mate Kamui Kobayashi was 0.277 seconds slower and the Japanese driver took 16th place.

Two seconds slower than his compatriot Vettel, Michael Schumacher took 13th place in the second Mercedes, the again-to-retire seven-times World Champion was 1.2 seconds slower than Rosberg.

Except the huge advantage Red Bull seems to have at the Indian track, there were no other surprises this afternoon, except perhaps Felipe Massa who was again very disappointing — and after he had spun twice and complained about the balance of his car, landed 15th spot this afternoon.

Daniel Ricciardo was 13th for Toro Rosso and Jean-Eric Vergne was 18th. Again the same names further down the order, Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen was back in the car after Dutchman Giedo van der Garde had borrowed it this morning, and the Finn took 19th spot, ahead of Russian Vitaly Petrov in the other Caterham.

Pedro de la Rosa made progress compared to the first session, he beat his team mate Narain Karthikeyan who took 23rd place, but also beat both Marussia drivers, as Timo Glock was 22nd and Charles Pic, who was 24th and last this afternoon.

Tomorrow morning all drivers have a last chance to find some more speed during the third and final practice session, and prepare themselves for the qualifying session in the afternoon.


Indian GP: Vettel tops Friday morning practice, Button second


By Berthold Bouman

Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time at the Buddh International Circuit this morning, after completing 22 laps the German set a time of 1m27.619s, beating Jenson Button, who was second for McLaren, with 0,310 seconds. Fernando Alonso was third for Ferrari, but was almost beaten by the second McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, who was fourth, only two-thousandths of a second slower than the Spaniard.

Vettel quickest in first free practice session

Vettel’s team colleague Mark Webber was fifth, Nico Rosberg was sixth, Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari seventh and Michael Schumacher eighth. Australian Daniel Ricciardo was quick this morning as he took ninth place in the Toro Rosso, Kimi Raikkonen completed the top ten, but the Finn was 1.672 seconds slower than leader Vettel.

Another Finn took possession of 11th place, as Valtteri Bottas was quick in the Williams, again beating his team mate Pastor Maldonado who had to be satisfied with 16th place. Paul di Resta was the quickest Force India driver, he was in 12th place, Nico Hulkenberg was 14th in the second Force India.

Kamui Kobayashi led the way for Sauber and was 13th after completing 18 laps. Second Sauber driver Sergio Perez still wasn’t feeling well enough to get behind the wheel, a unique opportunity for reserve driver Mexican Esteban Gutierrez who took over the duties of his compatriot.

He completed 29 laps and took 20th place this morning, it is still unknown whether Perez will be fit enough to drive this afternoon or during tomorrow’s qualifying.

Not a very productive morning for the Lotus team, Frenchman Romain Grosjean was 15th, 2.276 seconds off the pace, and 0.604 seconds slower than Raikkonen. His compatriot Jean-Eric Vergne in the second Toro Rosso was 17th, Vitaly Petrov in the Caterham was 18th.

The second Friday morning driver, Dutchman Giedo van der Garde, took over the wheel from Heikki Kovalainen and was 19th, just 0.266 seconds slower than his Russian team colleague. At the back of the field were the usual suspects, this time Marussia driver Charles Pic was 21st and faster than his team mate Timo Glock who was 23rd.

HRT driver Narain Karthikeyan was 22nd in the first practice session of his home Grand Prix, while Pedro de la Rosa was 24th and last. The Indian track was still green and dusty this morning, and it is expected times will improve during the second free practice session this afternoon.


Gribkowsky case: Bavarian bank wants $400 million from Ecclestone


By Berthold Bouman

The BayernLB bank wants $400 million back from Bernie Ecclestone, German media reported today. The Bavarian state bank sold their Formula One stake to the CVC investment company in 2006, but now want a compensation as they believe they lost money on the transaction.

Ecclestone in a German court earlier this year

Gerhard Gribkowsy, a former risk assessment officer of the BayernLB has recently been jailed for eight and a half years for bribery, embezzlement and tax-evasion, it was one of the biggest bribery cases in German history.

FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone claims he was blackmailed by the German banker, but during the court case in June German State Prosecutor Christoph Rodler already hinted Ecclestone might have to stand trial for his part in the affair and at the time said, “Ecclestone was not a victim of blackmail, but a fellow participant in bribery.”

But Ecclestone is not ready to give up $400 million just like that and is even willing to go to court, but despite the allegations still maintains he was in fact the one who was blackmailed, and said to the Associated Press, “I’ve been blackmailed twice. I don’t want it to be a third time. But there’s nothing to worry about. I’m not worried. I’m aggravated with the nonsense I’m being put through for all this.”

Ecclestone explained what had happened, “They asked our lawyers in Germany. They said could we have 400 million back? I did not respond. There is no point, is there?” And he added, “They will sue. If they win, they get paid. If they lose, it will cost them. That’s all.

“A massive percentage of these actions that take place, people settle. They don’t want the trouble. The very reason I gave Gribkowsky money was to stop the problem and aggravation which would have gone on for years.”

Asked whether he was afraid to end up in a German jail the Formula One boss answered, “I hope not. I really hope not. I wouldn’t complain about German prisons, but I’d rather not be in one anywhere to be honest.”


Indian GP: Championship still open, Alonso and Ferrari still fully committed


By Berthold Bouman

The championship is still open, according to the number two in the Formula One Drivers’ Championship, Fernando Alonso. He admitted the two start crashes he had in Belgium and Japan did hurt his title chances, but the Spaniard is adamant he can still win the 2012 title, as he is only six points behind leader Sebastian Vettel.

Title still possible according to Alonso

“My situation is quite good, you could say it’s the second best situation as we are almost on the same points total as Vettel, with four races to go and there is every possibility open for the championship. We are in the situation that we plan to fight for the championship all the way to the end,” he said today.

When quizzed about the recent progress Red Bull has made he said, “It’s true that in the last few races, Red Bull has been very strong and quick, but we have seen all year that there have been ups and downs for everybody, so we need to improve our situation and our level of competitiveness and try to catch them.”

But Alonso also thinks a good qualifying position is of paramount importance, “It all depends on the position from which you start. If you start from pole, you avoid 99% of the crashes, so we need to improve our Saturday pace and start at the front to avoid these incidents. But there is no specific action one can take to avoid first lap accidents.”

The double World Champion doesn’t think it will be a straight-forward battle, and he believes the battle for the best upgrade packages will also play an important role. “I think it will be a battle of packages: everyone will have his own strong points and weak points,” he said.

And he further explained, “At the moment we have seen that Red Bull maybe has the fastest car, especially on Saturday. They will try and make the most of this strong point and we will try to use our strong points. It is a matter of pushing everything to the limits now; the car development, the strategy and the approach to the weekends.”

And not just Alonso, but everyone at Ferrari wants to reel in the championship, “As for my motivation, it is better than ever and not just me, the whole team is very motivated, everyone in the team wants this championship. We have struggled all year with our car, especially in the first part of the season and now with four races to go, we are going on full attack for the last month with everyone in the team so focused.”


Hamilton and Dennis to have ‘dinner and a good chat’ in Abu Dhabi


By Berthold Bouman

One thing was really bothering Lewis Hamilton after he had signed for Mercedes: he hadn’t spoken to his McLaren mentor Ron Dennis, he tried to contact him but the McLaren Executive Chairman didn’t return his calls.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren

Clearly Hamilton’s decision to leave had been very disappointing for Dennis, who signed Hamilton at the age of 13, but after 14 years at McLaren the 2008 World  Champion was now looking for a new ‘challenge’ in Formula One, hence his decision to move to Mercedes.

British media have now revealed Hamilton and Dennis finally met last week when Hamilton visited the McLaren headquarters in Woking, and the two have agreed to have ‘a good chat’ in Abu Dhabi next week. “I haven’t sat down and spoken to anyone just because we’re still in the motion of the year … it’s not the end yet,” said Hamilton. “It’s important now to try and keep the motivation up high, so when I went back I did the normal things that I do.

“I spoke to Ron, and me and Ron, we’re planning to meet up I think it’s in Abu Dhabi. We’ll go for dinner, have a good chat.”

Asked about this year’s World Championship, Hamilton admitted it was now a two-horse race, as he believes Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are the only two remaining candidates for the 2012 title.

Hamilton commented, “I’m very sad that we’ve not been able to win another World Championship … I feel that we, as a team, are good enough to have done so and I feel that I’m good enough to have done so.

“For the rest of the year now it’s just to try and help the team win the Constructors’ Championship. Realistically we are too far away, I would say, to win the drivers’. If we did through some kind of miracle, then I’ll eat my words!”

Ron Dennis, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button