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Archive for November, 2012

Montezemolo wants a total revamp for 2013, Vettel overtaking case is closed

By Berthold Bouman

Montezemolo wants a winning car right from the start of the season

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo - Photo: FerrariA few days ago Ferrari President Luca Cordera di Montezemolo told his Ferrari team that he was proud to have been a contender for the 2012 Drivers’ Championship until the very last race, the flamboyant Italian has now called upon his team to produce a car that is capable of winning right from the start.

Last weekend Fernando Alonso lost the championship to Sebastian Vettel, the difference was just three points, and earlier this week Montezemolo said, “Certainly not winning the title is the cause for great sorrow and great regret, because we always want to win and we came close.”

This morning Montezemolo spoke to his team at their Maranello headquarters and said, “You should be proud of what you have done, because you managed to be contenders right to the very end, even if we did not have the quickest car.”

And he added, “There were at least two cars, the McLaren and the Red Bull, that were better than ours. Therefore having managed to get ahead of at least one of them in the Constructors’ and keeping Fernando in the fight right to the end, was very significant and I wish to thank you for that.”

But although he’s proud of his team, he wants a better car next year and he said, “However, now is the time to look ahead to next year. I want us to start with a car that is immediately capable of fighting for the win and it has to be our first task.”

Montezemolo wants to see changes for next season, “In order to achieve that, each one of us must improve in our own roles by at least a millimeter. We must revamp our organization and our working methods to try and be at the same level as the best, right from the first race, which for too many years now we have failed to do.”

Vettel overtaking case is closed

Alonso and Massa on the podium in Brazil - Photo: Ferrari

Alonso and Massa on the podium at Interlagos

Montezemolo talked a lot about pride this week, the word he seemingly forgot when Ferrari asked the FIA in a letter for clarification about Vettel’s overtaking manoeuvre on Jean-Eric Vergne during the title deciding race in Brazil, hoping the German would get a 20-second post-race penalty and thus could retrospectively lose the Formula One crown to Alonso.

Even Bernie Ecclestone called this move ‘unbecoming’ of Ferrari, the FIA wiped Ferrari’s arguments from the table and said there was ‘no case to answer’ and deemed Vettel had done nothing wrong.

In a statement today Ferrari said, “The letter to the FIA was in no way intended to undermine the legality of the race result. We received tens of thousands of queries relating to this matter from all over the world and it was incumbent on us to take the matter further, asking the Federation to look into an incident that could have cast a shadow over the championship in the eyes of all Formula One enthusiasts, not just Ferrari fans.”

The case is now closed according to the statement, “Ferrari duly takes note of the reply sent by the FIA this morning and therefore considers the matter now closed.”

Ecclestone: Ferrari complaint about illegal pass is a complete joke

By Berthold Bouman

FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone has labelled Ferrari’s complaint about Sebastian Vettel’s alleged passing under yellow a ‘complete joke’. Ferrari has asked the FIA, Formula One’s governing body, for clarification, after video footage of the incident surfaced on the internet. On the footage Vettel overtakes the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne between Turns 3 and 4, while yellow lights are flashing.

Ferrari complaint is a ‘complete joke’

The FIA has already responded to the letter Ferrari sent them and has told them that ‘there is no case to answer’. According to the FIA Vettel overtook Vergne after he had passed a marshal post where a green flag was waved, and regulations say that the first green ‘counts’, which in this case was the green flag, and not the green light.

The Formula One boss was not happy with the fact that the championship has been tainted by Ferrari’s claim that Vettel made an illegal pass during the last and title-deciding race of the year. Ecclestone told the UK Telegraph, “It’s a shame because everything had gone so well. It was a super race, a super championship. Now everyone is talking about this. The problem is that no one knows what is going on.”

He further explained, “In the rules and regs normally you have to protest. They [Ferrari] missed that time [deadline]. Then there is the fact that a green flag was shown, which nobody seems to dispute.”

And he added, “It’s a complete joke. What they [Ferrari] are saying in that letter is wrong. I don’t think there needs to be any action taken. It’s completely and utterly wrong.”

Ecclestone also thinks the whole situation is unbecoming of Ferrari, “Personally I think it’s not really like Ferrari to do this. I think they badly wanted to win. But if you want to go back and see what Ferrari have done down the years … ”

He was also confident that no action will be taken against Vettel, “But nothing will happen. What can they do? Take civil action? Maybe. But the case is flawed before it starts. Nothing is going to happen.”

FIA insists Vettel’s overtaking manoeuvres at Interlagos were legal

By Berthold Bouman

According to reports from Autosport and the German Auto, Motor und Sport magazine the FIA has deemed Vettel’s overtaking manoeuvres during the Brazilian Grand Prix were legal. On Tuesday videos surfaced in which Vettel apparently overtakes Kamui Kobayashi and later Jean-Eric Vergne under yellow.

The first video of the incident with Kobayashi shows Vettel overtaking the Sauber under yellow, but after a thorough analysis of the footage it is clearly visible the yellow light is not flashing, which means overtaking is allowed. When yellow flags are waved, or a yellow light is flashing, overtaking is not allowed.

It is also clear a track marshal is waving a red-yellow striped flag, with means, “caution, slippery surface,” just metres  ahead of the yellow light. The FIA concluded Vettel had not done anything wrong overtaking Kobayashi as the yellow light and the red-yellow striped flag were just a warning for the slippery conditions.

The second video (see below) that surfaced is a bit more difficult to interpret, as in the rain it is more difficult to see whether the lights were green or yellow. The first flashing yellow light can be seen on the left, some 2 seconds after the start of the video.

The second light on the right (0:10) is further away from the track as it is positioned behind the run-off area, while the first one is next to the track, in a higher position and more visible. Vettel apparently overtakes Vergne under yellow, however, the FIA has told several media outlets there was a green flag waving at a marshal post before Vettel overtook Vergne — which makes the move legitimate.

Earlier today Ferrari were considering filing an official appeal and Luca Colajanni said, “We’re looking at the video. We have until tomorrow to file an appeal.” But later today Ferrari said on their official Twitter account, “Ferrari asked, by means of a letter, for a clarification from FIA regarding VET’s overtaking move on VER during lap 4 of the Brazilian GP.” Which means Ferrari has only asked for clarification, and did not file an appeal after all.

Valtteri Bottas excited about new Williams role, aims to score points in 2013

By Berthold Bouman

Valtteri Bottas, Williams - Photo: Williams F1Valtteri Bottas will replace Bruno Senna in 2013, Williams announced this morning, and for the young Finn it is a dream come true. The 23-year old driver had already joined Williams in 2010 and became the official test and reserve driver for the Grove-based outfit, and has participated in 15 Friday morning practice sessions this season, and Bottas is now ready for his new role as race driver.

The talented Finn has an impressive race C.V., he won the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and NEC series with team Motopark Academy in 2008, won the Masters of Formula Three in 2009 and 2010, and won the GP3 series in 2011 for Lotus ART.

Bottas already has shown he is fast in the Williams, as he several times out-paced regular drivers Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado. Asked how participating in the free practice sessions has helped him to prepare for his new job as race driver he said, “This will be a big help as it means there are only a handful of circuits on the 2013 calendar that I have never driven, in Australia, Monaco, Valencia, Austin and Singapore. There will still be a lot of work to do but it means that I do have some knowledge to work from heading to most races next season.”

However, being a test driver, Bottas missed racing this year, “Obviously I’ve missed racing a great deal so can’t wait to get back onto a starting grid, but I’ve been racing constantly since a very young age so when the lights go out in Australia It will be business as usual.”

Now his dream has finally come true, how does he feel about his new role at Williams? “It feels incredible to be driving in Formula One next season and to be with a team like Williams, with all its pedigree, is even more special. I’ve worked hard to get here ever since I started karting at six years old, but the real work starts now as I prepare myself for the biggest challenge of my career.”

Valtteri Bottas, Williams - Photo: Williams F1

Bottas aims to score points for Williams in 2013

Of course he now knows all the Williams engineers, and he thinks this will be a benefit next year, “I’ve been part of the Williams family since the start of 2010 and feel very at home both at Grove and at the track. I know my engineers very well so we already know how to get the best performance from each other.”

And he added, “I also live in the UK and last year moved just down the road from the factory so I am there quite a lot and know everyone well. Because of that we can focus immediately on the 2013 season and what we can achieve together.”

Asked about his objectives for 2012 he said, “It’s difficult to set objectives before the season starts, so I’m just trying to make the most of this opportunity to prove the team has been right to promote me to a race seat. I want to look back on 2013 and feel that I’ve improved as a driver and helped the team improve its performance on the track.”

And the young driver is even aiming to score some points in 2013, “As a team I think we should be aiming to score more points than this year and really get the most out of the car. Personally I hope to look back and feel that I have learnt a lot and developed as a driver over the course of the season, having scored a lot of points for the team!”

Bottas aims to score points in 2013

Williams confirm Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas for 2013

By Berthold Bouman

Pastor Maldonado, Williams - Photo: Williams F1The Williams Formula One team announced this morning they have signed Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas for 2013, which means another piece in the 2013 driver line-up puzzle has fallen into its place. It will be the third season for Venezuelan Maldonado, while Bottas, until now test and reserve driver, has been promoted to race driver.

Maldonado, who won the Spanish Grand Prix this season and gave the Williams team a victory eight years after Juan Pablo Montoya won the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix, commented on his contract renewal, “I’m really enjoying my time with Williams and I was obviously very happy when I was told that I would be continuing with the team in 2013.”

Looking back at the 2012 season he said, “2012 was a memorable year for me with the win in Barcelona and we made a big step forward in terms of performance. I have a lot of confidence in the team and hopefully next year will see us move even further up the grid and taste more success.”

Asked about his objectives for 2013 he said, “The goal is to be more competitive next year and have a car that is consistently in the points and challenging for podiums. This year we showed excellent pace at a number of tracks such as Barcelona, Monaco and Abu Dhabi, but we didn’t have the consistency to maintain that at every Grand Prix. We have all the tools needed to push the top teams, and hopefully we can learn from this year and move further up the field.”

Valtteri Bottas replaces Bruno Senna at Williams

Bottas, who has done a more than average job during this year’s Friday’s first free practice sessions as he regularly beat Bruno Senna and Maldonado, is of course looking forward to the 2013 season. “It has always been my life-long dream to compete in the Formula One World Championship,” the Finn said.

For him, the Williams team is a great place to start his Formula One career, “To do so with one of the most legendary teams in the sport is incredibly special. I’ve really enjoyed my three years with Williams so far and feel very at home here so my goal was always to stay for 2013 and progress to a race seat. I’m looking forward to getting my Formula One career started and enjoying a lot of success with Williams.”

Team owner Sir Frank Williams is happy with his driver line-up for 2013 and said, “In Pastor and Valtteri we have two of the most exciting talents in motor racing and I am especially excited about what 2013 can bring for Williams.” And he added, “Pastor has always demonstrated remarkable pace and this year has seen him mature as a racing driver. Valtteri is quite simply one of the most talented young racing drivers I have come across and we expect great things from him in the future.”

The announcement is bad news for Bruno Senna, but Williams wished him the best of luck, “I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our departing driver Bruno Senna for his hard work over the past year and wish him the best of luck going forward.’’

Brazilian GP: Kimi Raikkonen – I wasn’t lost, I knew where I was going!

By Berthold Bouman

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus - Photo: Lotus F1The above title could be the new text on yet another Kimi Raikkonen T-shirt, as the Finn seemingly couldn’t find his way back to the track after he had gone off the Interlagos circuit and then had to use the escape road. Unfortunately it was a dead-end road, and Raikkonen had to turn his car around and take the same road back, then practised his rally skills a bit and rally crossed over the grass back onto the circuit.

What the heck happened there? Raikkonen explained after the race, “I went off at the last corner on lap fifty-two as I couldn’t see well with my visor being dirty and fogged up. Where I went off you can get back on the track by going through the support race pit lane, but you have to go through a gate. I know this as I did the same thing in 2001 and the gate was open that year. Somebody closed it this time. Next year I’ll make sure it’s open again!”

It wasn’t really a good race for the Iceman, he had started the race from eighth on the grid, and finished in tenth place, adding just one point to his tally. He was actually lucky Lewis Hamilton crashed out of the race, or he would have lost his third place in the Drivers’ Championship to the McLaren driver.

But he couldn’t care less about his position in the race, as Raikkonen already had said ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix, “I don’t care if I am second, fourth, or 10th,” he said. “We are here to try to win, and it really doesn’t give me anything if I am third or fourth.”

And the championship? “If I finish third or fourth it doesn’t matter. If you ask someone after five years in Formula One and who was second or third, it would be the same. It makes no difference. It looks maybe better on paper but in reality it doesn’t mean anything.”

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus - Photo: Lotus F1

Kimi Raikkonen: I wasn’t lost!

As said, not a good race, the weekend started with engine problems during the first free practice session, Renault thought they had fixed the problem but on Saturday morning during the final free practice session the engine blew up. He then got the engine he already had used during the United States Grand Prix, which didn’t blew up, but had a bit less power which on a high-altitude circuit is a disadvantage as the engine already loses some 40bhp due to the reduced air-density.

Raikkonen started on the medium tyres, after five laps switched to the intermediates, on lap 19 he pitted for mediums, and on lap 53 he pitted for another set of intermediates. Just before he changed for the last time to the intermediates, he lost control at the last corner, managed to avoid the barriers, but lost his bearings and took the wrong road. Maybe he needs a co-pilot to show him the way, like in rally?

Brazilian GP: No regrets for Ferrari, Alonso hails perfect season

By Berthold Bouman

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari - Photo: FerrariFerrari came close to winning this year’s Formula One Drivers’ Championship at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace in Brazil yesterday. When Sebastian Vettel was forced into a spin by Bruno Senna during the first lap, Ferrari, of course, saw an opportunity and when Felipe Massa helped Alonso to third place, things were looking good for Ferrari.

Although Alonso never gives up, Vettel didn’t give up either yesterday, and finished in sixth place, enough to take the title. Alonso did what he could, but it just wasn’t enough. But the Spaniard feels he wouldn’t have done it any other way, for him it was a perfect season.

“I score this season a 10! If we had to repeat these twenty races I would change nothing done by the team or yours truly: no mistakes, no mechanical problems, zero problems at the pit stops, zero strategic mistakes,” he said. He also thinks he didn’t lose the title at Interlagos, “We definitely did not lose the title today, as that happened in Spa or Suzuka.”

Overall, Alonso is satisfied with the 2012 season, “We might not have finished the season with the most points, but we won many other things, like everyone’s respect and fans and colleagues agree on who was the best this year. I am proud of the job I did and that was also the case last year when I finished fourth and again this time when I fought right to the very end.”

And he is also proud of his Ferrari team, who did everything they could, “I feel happy inside: I worked day after day with the team, which pays me at the end of every month and today, they can be proud of what they’ve done. Once again today we did an impeccable job, finishing on the podium after starting from the fourth row, producing yet another little Sunday miracle.”

Asked what he expects from his team in 2013 he was clear, “That’s easy, a quicker car; but most of all I’d like to see the same effort and professionalism the team displayed when it reacted to our initial difficulties. Even if maybe we didn’t manage to reach the performance level of the best, everyone demonstrated total dedication. I am happy and proud and now’s the time to drink a caipirinha!”

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari - Photo: Ferrari

Alonso hails perfect Ferrari season

Hamilton: I’ll miss my friends at McLaren, but I’m excited about the future

By Berthold Bouman

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren - Photo: McLarenMixed emotions for Lewis Hamilton in Brazil yesterday, after taking the pole the 2008 World Champion he had set his sights on winning the race as a farewell present for his McLaren team. But it wasn’t to be, after taking the lead from Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, he was in a good position to win the race.

But Hulkenberg decided he wanted his first place back and the German dived into the inside of Turn One, but he was a little late on the brakes, his car started to slide and he collided with Hamilton, the front suspension broke and it was game over for the McLaren driver.

About the incident that cost him a victory he commented, “He came to see me after the race, which was nice. Now that the 2012 season is done and dusted, I feel a bit numb. It’s been a day of mixed emotions. I’m sad that I didn’t finish the race, but I’m excited about the future.”

Leaving McLaren was difficult for Hamilton, “I’ll miss my friends and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, but I’m optimistic about what lies ahead for me. I feel comfortable going into this winter because I feel I did a good job this year. I gave 2012 everything I had. I couldn’t have done anything more.”

And he added, “It’s been a brilliant experience to be a part of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team over the past six years. I want to thank everyone and sincerely wish everyone the very best for the future. They’ve been fantastic, so supportive, and they continue to do an amazing job. So, to all of you at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, I’ll miss each and every one of you!”

Brazilian GP: Button wins chaotic race, Vettel triple World Champion

By Berthold Bouman

Jenson Button, McLaren - Photo: McLarenDuring a chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Jenson Button won the race for McLaren, and Sebastian Vettel won the 2012 World Championship by finishing fifth and became the youngest triple-champion ever in Formula One. His rival Fernando Alonso finished on the podium in second place, but it wasn’t enough to grab the title.

Race winner Button said, “I want to congratulate the whole team. This is the perfect way to end the season. We have had ups and downs and to end on a high bodes well for 2013.”

Rain was expected, and there was a light drizzle just before the race started, but nothing to worry about and all drivers started on the slicks. The first corner at Interlagos is always tricky, but this time all cars came through unscathed. But at the end of the long straight, it all went wrong for Vettel. He was hit by Bruno Senna, who really didn’t do anything wrong, the German spun and was 24th and last — while Hamilton and Button were leading the race.

Alonso made good use of the opportunity and took third place with a little help of Felipe Massa. But the track became wetter, and this time it was Alonso who made a mistake and he missed the first corner, he ran wide and fell back to fourth place, just behind a flying Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India.

Alonso then also had a charging Mark Webber in his rear view mirrors, but on the seventh lap Webber was forced into a spin by Kamui Kobayashi, at the same time Romain Grosjean crashed out of the race after he had lost control of his Lotus in the difficult wet conditions. Meanwhile, at the front Hamilton and Button were dicing for first place, a battle at the time won by Hamilton.

Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel

Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel

But while the rain came down harder, Vettel did the impossible, and was already back in sixth place after nine laps. Webber was the first to pit, and he left the pit lane on the intermediates, the rest of the field soon followed and also left the pit lane on intermediates, Vettel rejoined in 18th place, Alonso in 12th.

Button, now in the lead as he hadn’t pitted like the others, reported the rain had stopped, and he stayed out on the slicks, Hulkenberg did the same. Webber wisely decided to let his team mate Vettel pass him instead of fighting him, and got a big thank you from his team for doing so. Vettel carved his way through the field again, and by lap 16 he was fifth again.

At the front Hulkenberg was now dicing with Button for the lead, both were still on the slicks. Not much later Hulkenberg wrestled his way past Button, and the talented German was leading the race. Hamilton was the first to pit for a second time as the intermediates soon were completely worn out on the now dry circuit. He left on the hard tyres, Alonso also pitted, but he went out on the medium tyres.

Also Vettel and Webber had to pit to change to the slicks again, Vettel rejoined the race right behind his rival Alonso. But because there was a lot of debris on the track, left by Senna, Perez, Maldonado and Grosjean, the safety car came out as Rosberg had run over some carbon fibre parts and had damaged his rear tyre — the German had to limp back to the pits for a new set of tyres.

The Safety Car intervention was not ideal for leaders Hulkenberg and Button, who lost their 45-second lead they had built up by not pitting for rain tyres. When the Safety Car disappeared into the pit lane again, Hulkenberg was able to keep his leading position, but Vettel was napping and Kobayashi took his fifth place. Webber ran wide at the first turn, and fell back to 14th place, at the same time Hamilton got past Button and took second place.

But Vettel still had problems, Massa was able to overtake him and the German was then seventh, Alonso was fourth. Still treacherous on-track conditions and after 40 laps most drivers were still slipping and sliding around the Interlagos circuit. Vettel was still trying to get past Kobayashi, but his tyres were going off very fast and he could barely keep his car on track. At the front, Hamilton got closer and closer to Hulkenberg, the latter made a small mistake, spun and Hamilton was leading the Brazilian Grand Prix again.

With 20 laps to go Vettel was called in for a tyre change, and rejoined the race in tenth place on the medium slick tyres. But the game changed again, Hulkenberg decided to overtake Hamilton, the German was a bit too eager, missed his braking point, hit Hamilton and the Briton was out of the race with a broken front suspension.

Race winner Jenson Button

Race winner Jenson Button

An interesting development, as Alonso was now third, Red Bull saw the danger and called Vettel in again, this time he left the pits on the intermediates, but his pit stop was a disaster as his mechanics were not prepared for the unscheduled stop and he lost a lot of time and places as well. Alonso, meanwhile, also had problems and to be on the safe side he also pitted for the intermediates, he rejoined in fourth place, while Vettel was eighth, still right on course to take the 2012 title.

But the situation changed again, Hulkenberg was given a drive-through penalty, which meant Alonso was third again, and Vettel was seventh, again just enough to win the title. But Massa was ahead of Alonso, and he could, of course, just move over to let his team mate pass. And indeed, whether it was Massa who was slowing down, or Alonso who was going faster, with nine laps to go Alonso passed the Brazilian and was second.

But also Vettel got some help, Schumacher moved to the side and Vettel was sixth. But it wasn’t over yet, Paul di Resta spun his Force India at the last corner ahead of the start-finish straight, hit the barriers hard and the Safety Car came out again, as di Resta had left a trail of debris on the track.

The Safety Car effectively ended the race for the 2012 Drivers’ Championship, as there were only two laps remaining, and overtaking was not allowed when the Safety Car went into the pits again. Thus Button cruised to the finish line and won the race, Alonso was second, a very brave Massa was third, but Vettel took his third successive World Championship’s title.

Vettel was elated after the race and said, “It is difficult to imagine what goes through my head now even for myself. I am full of adrenaline and if you poke me now I wouldn’t feel it. It was an incredible race.” About his crash with Senna he said, “When you get turned around for no reason and it becomes like heading the wrong way down the M25 — it is not the most comfortable feeling.”

And he added, “I was lucky no one hit me but the car was damaged and we lost a lot of speed, especially when it dried up. Fortunately it started to rain again and I felt so much happier.” Asked about the course of the 2012 season he said, “A lot of people tried to play dirty tricks, but we did not get distracted by that and kept going, and all the guys [his rivals] gave a big push right to the end.”

Alonso said after the race, “I’m very proud of the team. We lost the championship before today, not in Brazil, this is a sport after all. When you do something with your heart and do it 100% you have to be proud of yourself and your team and we’ll try again next year.”

Brazilian GP: Race Result
Pos Driver              Team                 Laps  Time        Grid
 1  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes     71    1:45:22.656   2
 2  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari              71    +2.7          7
 3  Felipe Massa        Ferrari              71    +3.6          5
 4  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault     71    +4.9          3
 5  Nico Hulkenberg     Force India-Mercedes 71    +5.7          6
 6  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault     71    +9.4          4
 7  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes             71    +11.9        13
 8  Jean-Eric Vergne    STR-Ferrari          71    +28.6        17
 9  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari       71    +31.2        14
10  Kimi Raikkonen      Lotus-Renault        70    +1 Lap        8
11  Vitaly Petrov       Caterham-Renault     70    +1 Lap       19
12  Charles Pic         Marussia-Cosworth    70    +1 Lap       22
13  Daniel Ricciardo    STR-Ferrari          70    +1 Lap       15
14  Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham-Renault     70    +1 Lap       20
15  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes             70    +1 Lap        9
16  Timo Glock          Marussia-Cosworth    70    +1 Lap       21
17  Pedro de la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth         69    +2 Laps      24
18  Narain Karthikeyan  HRT-Cosworth         69    +2 Laps      23
19  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes 68    +3 Laps      10
Ret Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes     54    Accident      1
Ret Romain Grosjean     Lotus-Renault         5    Accident     18
Ret Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Renault      1    Spin         16
Ret Bruno Senna         Williams-Renault      0    Accident     11
Ret Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        0    Accident     12

Brazilian GP: Ferrari – Interlagos 2008 is not going to happen again

By Berthold Bouman

The whole Formula One fraternity is looking forward to the title deciding race today, the 20th and last race of the season at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace. A circuit where many titles were won, but also lost, most notably the race in 2008 was a race Formula One fans will never forget.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Interlagos 2008

Felipe Massa won the race on a wet Interlagos track in front of his home crowd after he had left from pole, his family in the Ferrari garage was already celebrating his title, but unfortunately for the Brazilian Lewis Hamilton overtook Timo Glock in the Toyota in the last corner of the last lap of the last race of the season. It doesn’t get any tighter than that, it was a heck of a season finale.

By doing so, Hamilton had scored one point more than Massa, and in the Ferrari garage everyone turned their head to the TV screens, as Hamilton was shown as winner of the 2008 World Championship. Massa famously was the 2008 World Champion for 20 seconds, his family looked in disbelief at the TV screens, and so did the Ferrari personnel.

Glock had run wide at the last corner on a wet and slippery circuit, and Hamilton was able to pass him and although he almost went off himself, he made it to the finish line in fifth place and became the 2008 World Champion. Massa, who was cruising to the pits after he had crossed the finish line, had already waved to the Brazilian crowd to thank them for their support, but he too saw on the big spectator screens positioned along the circuit something was going on, and at last he understood what had happened.

Michael Schumacher had left the Reds at the end of 2006, and his successor Kimi Raikkonen who won the championship in 2007, was already out of contention for the 2008 title, and Massa finally had been given the chance to win the championship for his beloved Ferrari team, but saw his title slip away in those 20 seconds.

There was not much Massa could do, he duly parked his car in the parc fermé in front of the sign that says “P1”, sat in his car with his helmet still on and cried his heart out while all TV cameras were pointed at him.

Massa after he lost the championship in 2008

But that was in 2008 and Ferrari has vowed this will never happen again. But of course for the fans and spectators 2008 had been a very interesting season to say the least, with the then 23-year old, Hamilton taking the championship in only his second year in Formula One. He has never won the championship again, in fact, after 2008 he has never finished in the top-three of the Drivers’ Championship again.

One thing is certain, Hamilton will not win the title this year, and therefore has set his sights on taking pole, and then the victory during his last race for McLaren. He already took pole yesterday and is in a great position to win the Brazilian Grand Prix.

As for Ferrari, Alonso has shown he can perform miracles with a car that is not fast enough, but he has to make up a 13-point deficit, and to add to his problems, he will start from eighth place on the grid, while his rival Vettel will start the race from fourth place. And there is rain expected, which could further complicate things for the Spaniard.

There have been reports Alonso was only eighth because he opted for a different car set-up compared to Vettel, which would make him the favourite in the rain, but there is no point in guessing, it’s even not sure it will rain during the race.

A few things are clear ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix, if Alonso crashes or has a mechanical failure and is out of the race, Vettel will win the 2012 Drivers’ Championship, when that happens he doesn’t even have to finish the race himself. If Vettel crashes out of the race or his alternator, for instance, would fail again, Alonso still has to finish on the podium to take the 2012 crown. Another, but not entirely unlikely scenario, is that the two could collide and take each other out, then Vettel would also win the title.

Hamilton could in fact help Alonso, as the difference between first and second place is seven points, and Hamilton can take away seven points from Vettel by winning the race, this would certainly help Alonso. There are of course more permutations:

Vettel will also win the title if
• He finishes in the top four
• He finishes fifth, sixth or seventh and Alonso is second or lower
• He finishes eighth or ninth and Alonso is third or lower
• He finishes 10th or lower and Alonso fails to make it onto the podium

And Fernando Alonso will win the title if
• He wins the race and Vettel is fifth or lower
• He finishes second and Vettel is eighth or lower
• He finishes third and Vettel is 10th or lower

Vettel vs Alonso – Copyright: Deviant Art – Atatashechke

Brazilian GP: Hamilton takes pole for McLaren, Vettel in fourth place

By Berthold Bouman

Lewis Hamilton did what he had vowed to do during his last race for McLaren, and took pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix, round 20 of the FIA Formula One World Championship. Jenson Button made it an all-McLaren front row as he took second place, but all eyes were of course on the two remaining title contenders Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, who were very disappointing as they took fourth and eighth position respectively on tomorrow’s start grid.

Pole for Hamilton at Interlagos

Hamilton said after qualifying, “Pole! What a great feeling! It’s been a fantastic weekend so far. We don’t yet know for certain what the weather conditions will be like tomorrow, but I hope that both Jenson and I will be able to push for victory. I’ve usually started from fourth grid position at Interlagos, and it hasn’t always given me much success. All in all, I’m very proud and happy that I got pole.”

Just ahead of qualifying the rain that was expected did indeed fall down on the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, which made qualifying even more unpredictable. But it wasn’t raining hard and by the time qualifying started, the circuit had already dried out at certain parts, but was also still slippery at other parts.

At the start of the first session a number of drivers went out for a ‘banker’ lap, in case it would start to rain again. The track was still wet at certain parts and caught many drivers by surprise, especially in the tight corners there was not much grip. With 15 minutes to go, Kamui Kobayashi was leading the pack with a lap of 1m22.415s, a time considerably slower than this morning.

Others were waiting in the garage until there was a dry line on the circuit, Nico Hulkenberg tried the intermediates, but was called in again after he ran wide at the Reta Oposta corner. Finally, with ten minutes remaining, the big guns decided to make their first run.

Hamilton’s first timed lap was good for first place, as the Briton lapped the circuit in 1m17.772s, but he soon improved his own time, while Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were second and third. Good news for Kimi Raikkonen, no penalty for him after his team had to change his engine after a failure in FP3, the Finn now has the same engine he has used during the United States Grand Prix last weekend.

Vettel, meanwhile, took it relatively easy and was 14th with just four minutes to go, but one lap later he was tenth, but as the track was still drying, soon slipped down the order again. At the same time Romain Grosjean had to pit for a new front wing, as Pedro de la Rosa had almost squeezed him into the wall on the start-finish straight, the Frenchman lost his front wing in the process. The FIA Stewards reported that the incident would be investigated after qualifying.

Vettel improved his time and he was out of the danger zone again, but Daniel Ricciardo pushed Grosjean out of the top seventeen again, and the Frenchman did not make it into the next session. Neither did Vitaly Petrov, Heikki Kovalainen, Timo Glock, Charles Pic, Narain Karthikeyan and Pedro de la Rosa.

Again drivers were quickly out for the next 15 minutes of qualifying, there was now clearly a dry line at the Interlagos circuit, and it was Alonso who scored the fastest lap at the time. Vettel and Webber and both McLaren drivers took the risk to stay in the garage, but with six minutes remaining they went out for their one and only run in Q2.

Set-back for Alonso as he qualified in 8th place

Hamilton was very fast and took first place on the medium tyres without a problem, but soon Vettel, also on the medium tyres, took first place from the 2008 World Champion. With two minutes to go, Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa were in the drop-out zone, Massa took tenth place after completing another lap on his home circuit, but Schumacher didn’t make it into the top ten.

Paul di Resta, Bruno Senna, Sergio Perez, Schumacher, Kobayashi, Ricciardo and his
team mate Jean-Eric Vergne did not make it
into the finial qualifying session.

Ten drivers lined up for Q3 to determine who would leave from pole position tomorrow. Nico Rosberg in the remaining Mercedes was out first, the rest soon followed him. Hamilton was again very fast and took first place with a lap of 1m12.850s and set the benchmark.

Vettel was obviously a bit nervous, as he made a mistake and ran wide on his first lap, and was sixth, a full second off Hamilton’s time. Button was also fast and took second place, while Vettel went back into the pits again for a new set of tyres with only two minutes remaining.

Webber showed what Red Bull was capable of, and he took first place, he was two-tenths faster than Hamilton, but not for long, as the Briton took back his first place with a lap of 1m12.458s, and he was followed by his team mate Button, Webber stayed third and Vettel was fourth, but he was at least ahead of Alonso, who was eighth.

About the race tomorrow Hamilton said, “Jenson and I are in the best possible starting positions for tomorrow. However, if it’s wet, the lead car is the always the first to aquaplane or hit the puddles, so, even if we both get good starts, we’ll still need to be cautious. Equally, however, I don’t want to drop back at the start because it would then be very difficult to see in all the spray.”

And Button agreed and added, “I’m happy with qualifying. From the front row, you always hope you’re going to drive a calm and orderly race — but it looks like it’s going to rain tomorrow, so that may make things rather less predictable.”

Webber said he would concentrate on his own, race, and not on Vettel’s. “I think we focus on ourselves tomorrow and do the cleanest race I can. We know there is some tricky weather today. I will be focusing entirely on my own cockpit.”

Of course Hamilton is in a very good position to fulfil the second part of the promise he made to his team, and that is to win the Brazilian Grand Prix during his last race for McLaren. But of course all eyes will be on the two title contenders Vettel and  Alonso, as they will be battling to win the 2012 Drivers’ Championship.

No pole position today for Vettel

Brazilian GP: Qualifying Results

Pos Driver             Team        Q1          Q2          Q3
 1  Lewis Hamilton     McLaren     1:15.075    1:13.398    1:12.458
 2  Jenson Button      McLaren     1:15.456    1:13.515    1:12.513
 3  Mark Webber        Red Bull    1:16.180    1:13.667    1:12.581
 4  Sebastian Vettel   Red Bull    1:15.644    1:13.209    1:12.760
 5  Felipe Massa       Ferrari     1:16.263    1:14.048    1:12.987
 6  Pastor Maldonado   Williams    1:16.266    1:13.698    1:13.174
 7  Nico Hulkenberg    Force India 1:15.536    1:13.704    1:13.206
 8  Fernando Alonso    Ferrari     1:16.097    1:13.856    1:13.253
 9  Kimi Raikkonen     Lotus       1:16.432    1:13.698    1:13.298
10  Nico Rosberg       Mercedes    1:15.929    1:13.848    1:13.489
11  Paul di Resta      Force India 1:15.901    1:14.121
12  Bruno Senna        Williams    1:15.333    1:14.219
13  Sergio Perez       Sauber      1:15.974    1:14.234
14  Michael Schumacher Mercedes    1:16.005    1:14.334
15  Kamui Kobayashi    Sauber      1:16.400    1:14.380
16  Daniel Ricciardo   Toro Rosso  1:16.744    1:14.574
17  Jean-Eric Vergne   Toro Rosso  1:16.722    1:14.619
18  Romain Grosjean    Lotus       1:16.967
19  Vitaly Petrov      Caterham    1:17.073
20  Heikki Kovalainen  Caterham    1:17.086
21  Timo Glock         Marussia    1:17.508
22  Charles Pic        Marussia    1:18.104
23  Narain Karthikeyan HRT         1:19.576
24  Pedro de la Rosa   HRT         1:19.699

Q1 107% Time           1:20.330

Brazilian GP: Button on top of final practice, Vettel second

By Berthold Bouman

Jenson Button was quickest during the final free practice session for the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos this morning. The McLaren driver recorded a time of 1m13.188s, which was also the fastest time of the weekend so far. Both Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were second and third, Vettel was only 0.057s off Button’s pace.

Button fastest for McLaren

Lewis Hamilton took the second McLaren to fourth place, while Romain Grosjean once again showed he is a very fast driver, and the Frenchman took fifth place for Lotus.

Bad luck for Kimi Raikkonen, he had engine problems yesterday, Renault thought the problems were solved, but apparently not, as the engine blew up in spectacular style at the back straight. He had to park his Lotus and it was game over for the Finn, hopefully his mechanics can change the engine in time for qualifying.

Force India found some more speed, and Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg took sixth and seventh place, Hulkenberg was about one tenth of a second slower than his Scottish team mate.

While Vettel was still at the top of the time sheets, Fernando Alonso landed a disappointing eighth place, almost half a second slower than Vettel, while Felipe Massa was tenth.

Both Williams drivers did well this morning, Pastor Maldonado was ninth and Bruno Senna took 11th place during the final practice session for his home Grand Prix. Nico Rosberg was the fastest Mercedes driver at Interlagos, he took 12th spot, while Michael Schumacher was 15th after he avoided a collision with Senna who had spun across the straight during the closing stages of practice.

The Sauber duo Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi were 13th and 14th, but one second slower than pace-setter Button. Toro Rosso drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne were 16th and 17th respectively.

Further down the order and already more than two seconds behind the leader were Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen who put the Caterham team on 18th and 19th place, behind them were both Marussia and HRT drivers.

But the unluckiest of all was of course Raikkonen who was in 24th and last place as he hadn’t been able to set a time. Renault claimed the oil pressure in the engine suddenly went down, which ultimately led to the demise of the engine itself.

Eighth place for Fernando Alonso

Brazilian GP: Free Practice Session 3

Pos  Driver                Team                  Time       Gap
 1.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1:13.188 
 2.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1:13.245   + 0.057
 3.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1:13.385   + 0.197
 4.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1:13.389   + 0.201
 5.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault         1:13.420   + 0.232
 6.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1:13.486   + 0.298
 7.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes  1:13.602   + 0.414
 8.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1:13.691   + 0.503
 9.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault      1:13.700   + 0.512
10.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1:13.712   + 0.524
11.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault      1:13.948   + 0.760
12.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1:14.126   + 0.938
13.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        1:14.190   + 1.002
14.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1:14.192   + 1.004
15.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1:14.347   + 1.159
16.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:14.687   + 1.499
17.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:14.972   + 1.784
18.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault      1:15.159   + 1.971
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault      1:15.707   + 2.519
20.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth     1:15.763   + 2.575
21.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth     1:16.059   + 2.871
22.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth          1:16.198   + 3.010
23.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth          1:16.793   + 3.605
24.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault         no time

Brazilian GP: Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali – We have nothing to lose

By Berthold Bouman

A very important weekend for both Ferrari and Red Bull, after 19 races Sebastian Vettel is leading the Formula One Drivers’ Championship, 13 points ahead of Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, both teams will do the utmost to clinch the title on Sunday at the Brazilian Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, named after Brazilian driver Carlos Pace who was active in Formula One during the 1970’s but, unfortunately, the rising star was killed during an aircraft accident in 1977.

Domenicali: Ferrari has nothing to lose

It will be a ‘do or die’ weekend for Ferrari, is the opinion of Team Principal Stefano Domenicali. The Italian was asked about Ferrari’s approach for this weekend during the usual FIA Friday press conference, “We have nothing to lose. We are already behind. We need to go there with a rational approach, as I said, to try to be there, if some situation will arise, we need to be prepared to take them. This is really the spirit that is around the team at the moment.”

Asked about what plans Ferrari has made for this weekend he said, “We have done the job we were supposed to do today. We know that this weekend for us is a challenging weekend. We have to do the maximum on our side and that will not be enough if we want to win the Drivers’ Championship.”

Rain has been forecasted for Saturday and Sunday, asked whether this would be an advantage for Ferrari or not, the Italian replied, “I’ll tell you later. Before [the race], it’s always difficult [to tell]. It can be good in terms of mixing the cars but it depends on how intense the rain is, when it will come. It is another thing on the table that has to be used in the best way we can.”

Domenicali was very satisfied with Alonso’s achievements this season, “Fernando, in my view, up to now, did one of the best seasons of his career.” Alonso didn’t really have the fastest car, but said Domenicali, “He was able to extract from that the maximum out of it. He was able to get great victories in a moment where the car has improved, he drove really well in wet conditions when he was in that situation. He was always at the maximum.”

So, what does he expect from the Spaniard this weekend? “I’m sure Fernando will do the maximum of his capability to make sure … to do the best with the car that he has with a team that is working hard under a lot of pressure. I’m happy for that, because the team was able to do sometimes incredible work.”

One reporter reminded the Italian team boss about the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, Felipe Massa won the race, but nevertheless lost the title to Lewis Hamilton during a wet race, at the finish line the difference was forty seconds, but Hamilton’s fifth place was enough to take the 2008 crown. Could this happen again this weekend?

“In 2008 we were able to win the Constructors’ title, to have Felipe as World Champion of Drivers for 20 seconds, but after Hamilton won the [title] race, in a championship where I would say we lost, if I remember well, mainly because the car was not reliable enough, because we had some races where unfortunately we had severe DNF that caused us to lose that championship,” said Domenicali.

“On Sunday, I think that, as I said, we are in a different spirit. We cannot look back; we need to see whatever will be the outcome we need to accept it. So therefore I would say our mindset is closer to what we had in 2007 at the moment.”

Brazilian GP: Hamilton almost in tears about McLaren exit

By Berthold Bouman

Lewis Hamilton almost burst out in tears when he was quizzed about his McLaren exit by BBC reporter Lee McKenzie. The interview will be aired during the BBC preview of the Brazilian Grand Prix ahead of today’s qualifying at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace.

Hamilton’s ‘goodbye’ helmet

Asked how the 2008 World Champion will feel after the chequered flag has been waved to signal the end of the last race of the season, he said, “I might have to keep my helmet on. It’s going to be tough. It’s my family and I’ll be going elsewhere. It’s best I don’t talk about it too much.”

When McKenzie remarked, “You get choked up thinking about it,” Hamilton couldn’t really speak and just said, “Mmm.” About his hectic last few months with McLaren Hamilton commented, “Every weekend and then the last month or so was horrible. I had that pressure on and in my personal life when I’m stressed I don’t know how to get it out of me, and I was very stressed and then I had to do my job.”

When Hamilton was on a short holiday in Thailand he made the decision to leave McLaren and join Mercedes. “It became clear that I wanted to try something new and I was going to go for it. And then I called Martin [Whitmarsh]. It was the most difficult call I’ve ever had to make because we’d grown so close and he had been so supportive and I didn’t want to let people down.”

And he added, “But at the end of the day you have to let people down sometimes to make decisions.” But he is nevertheless adamant it was the right move, “I have to trust my decision. It is what it is. I made it; I stick to it.”

About next season Hamilton said, “I’ve got to be realistic. Scoring points and getting podiums will be the first target. If we were to get a win in our first year, great. If lots more were to come, great. If not, then we just have to keep working. It’s definitely going to be a different year in which I’m not going to be fighting at the front with Red Bull and McLaren, but I’m optimistic about 2014.”

Hamilton wants to end his career with McLaren on a high, and is aiming for a pole position and a win. He already showed he is very fast in Brazil, as he scored the fastest times during the first two free practice sessions on Friday.

Although Hamilton signed a three-year contract with Mercedes, McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh would welcome him back, “We’d have him back, yes. So let’s hope it’s just a gap year.”

Brazilian GP: Hamilton ahead of Vettel again at Interlagos

By Berthold Bouman

Lewis Hamilton was again the fastest driver during the second practice session for the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos this afternoon. Sebastian Vettel was second for Red Bull, however, on this occasion Hamilton had a 0.274s advantage on the German double World Champion, who couldn’t improve on the time he had set in the first practice session; earlier today the difference between the two was only 0.009s.

Hamilton again fastest at Interlagos

Mark Webber was again third for Red Bull, and Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso were fourth and fifth respectively for Ferrari. Alonso was 0.566s off Hamilton’s pace, and 0.292s slower than his championship rival Vettel. Michael Schumacher was again fast, faster than he had been during the morning, as he now took possession of sixth place after completing 36 laps on the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace.

Nico Rosberg also improved his pace, he was seventh in the second Mercedes, while Jenson Button, Romain Grosjean and Paul di Resta completed the top ten this afternoon.

During the morning session most drivers had experimented with the new 2013 Pirelli tyres, but this afternoon it was business as usual, both the medium and hard compound tyres Pirelli has allocated for the Brazilian Grand Prix were extensively tested, and most teams did a long run with the fuel tanks topped off to check their race-pace.

Nico Hulkenberg was 11th in the second Force India. It is the young German’s last race for The Indian team this weekend, as he will move to Sauber next year to drive alongside Mexican Esteban Gutierrez and Dutch test driver Robin Frijns.

Kimi Raikkonen’s engine gremlins were gone and this time the Finn was 12th, followed by Bruno Senna, who was back behind the wheel of the Williams. The next two on this afternoon’s list are Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi, who took 14th and 15th for Sauber.

Daniel Ricciardo was again the fastest Toro Rosso driver on 16th place, his team mate Jean-Eric Vergne was 18th, but almost two seconds off the pace. Not a great afternoon for Pastor Maldonado in the Williams, as he was 17th, in the morning Maldonado finished in ninth place.

Further down the order were the usual suspects, Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen were 19th and 20th for Caterham, while HRT driver Pedro de la Rosa surprisingly left both Marussia drivers behind him as he was four-tenths of a second faster than Timo Glock and Charles Pic who took 22nd and 23rd place, while Narain Karthikeyan was 24th and last.

The third and final free practice session for the Brazilian Grand Prix is tomorrow morning, rain and lower temperatures have been forecasted for Saturday and Sunday, and certainly during qualifying tomorrow afternoon, rain could become a major factor when 24 drivers line up to decide who will start the race from pole position on Sunday.

Hamilton’s last race for McLaren

Brazilian GP: Free Practice Session 2

Pos  Driver               Team                  Time       Gap
 1.  Lewis Hamilton       McLaren-Mercedes      1:14.026
 2.  Sebastian Vettel     Red Bull-Renault      1:14.300   + 0.274
 3.  Mark Webber          Red Bull-Renault      1:14.523   + 0.497
 4.  Felipe Massa         Ferrari               1:14.553   + 0.527
 5.  Fernando Alonso      Ferrari               1:14.592   + 0.566
 6.  Michael Schumacher   Mercedes              1:14.654   + 0.628
 7.  Nico Rosberg         Mercedes              1:14.669   + 0.643
 8.  Jenson Button        McLaren-Mercedes      1:14.863   + 0.837
 9.  Romain Grosjean      Lotus-Renault         1:14.994   + 0.968
10.  Paul di Resta        Force India-Mercedes  1:15.129   + 1.103
11.  Nico Hulkenberg      Force India-Mercedes  1:15.131   + 1.105
12.  Kimi Raikkonen       Lotus-Renault         1:15.371   + 1.345
13.  Bruno Senna          Williams-Renault      1:15.432   + 1.406
14.  Sergio Perez         Sauber-Ferrari        1:15.542   + 1.516
15.  Kamui Kobayashi      Sauber-Ferrari        1:15.839   + 1.813
16.  Daniel Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:15.902   + 1.876
17.  Pastor Maldonado     Williams-Renault      1:15.953   + 1.927
18.  Jean-Eric Vergne     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:16.048   + 2.022
19.  Vitaly Petrov        Caterham-Renault      1:16.126   + 2.100
20.  Heikki Kovalainen    Caterham-Renault      1:16.655   + 2.629
21.  Pedro de la Rosa     HRT-Cosworth          1:17.244   + 3.218
22.  Timo Glock           Marussia-Cosworth     1:17.675   + 3.649
23.  Charles Pic          Marussia-Cosworth     1:18.127   + 4.101
24.  Narain Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth          1:18.139   + 4.113

Brazilian GP: Hamilton beats Vettel during first practice session at Interlagos

By Berthold Bouman

Lewis Hamilton was fastest during the first free practice session for the Brazilian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace this morning. The 2008 World Champion beat Sebastian Vettel, but only just, as the difference was nine thousandths of a second. Each team was handed two extra sets of the 2013 prototype Pirelli tyres today, Hamilton set his time on the new 2013 tyres, while Vettel set his fastest time on the regular 2012-spec tyres.

Hamilton fastest this morning in Brazil

Mark Webber and Jenson Button were also fast and took third and fourth place, the difference between the pair was just 0.019s, and both were only a few hundredths of a second off Hamilton’s time. While the top four drivers were close together, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who will be fighting with Vettel for the 2012 crown this weekend, was in fifth place, however, he was 0.261s slower than pace-setter Hamilton.

Felipe Massa was sixth for Ferrari on his home circuit, the Brazilian was followed by Romain Grosjean who was the fastest Lotus driver this morning, as his team mate Kimi Raikkonen posted the 16th quickest time. The Finn spent the major part of the morning session in the garage with an engine problem, thus he had a valid excuse to be that far down the order.

Paul di Resta took eighth place for Force India, and Pastor Maldonado and second Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten. Most drivers tried the 2013 prototypes, according to Pirelli, these are similar to the 2012 hard tyre compound, but should warm up more quickly.

Michael Schumacher, who will retire from the sport after the Brazilian Grand Prix, was 11th for Mercedes, his team mate Nico Rosberg was further back in 18th place. Both Sauber drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez were fast this morning and took 12th and 13th spot respectively.

Friday morning driver Valtteri Bottas was a bit disappointing, as he is usually in the top ten, but today he had to be satisfied with 14th place, the Finn was followed by the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo, Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne was 17th in the other Toro Rosso.

Test driver Dutchman Giedo van der Garde was the fastest Caterham driver this morning, he was 19th, his Russian team mate who lost his 2013 seat at Caterham to Charles Pic, was 21st. Marussia driver Timo Glock was 20th, Pic was 22nd.

As usual the financially stricken HRT team were the slowest team on track, Pedro de la Rosa was 23rd and Narain Karthikeyan 24th.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

Brazilian GP: Free Practice 1

Pos  Driver               Team                   Time       Gap
 1.  Lewis Hamilton       McLaren-Mercedes       1:14.131
 2.  Sebastian Vettel     Red Bull-Renault       1:14.140   + 0.009
 3.  Mark Webber          Red Bull-Renault       1:14.198   + 0.067
 4.  Jenson Button        McLaren-Mercedes       1:14.217   + 0.086
 5.  Fernando Alonso      Ferrari                1:14.392   + 0.261
 6.  Felipe Massa         Ferrari                1:14.716   + 0.585
 7.  Romain Grosjean      Lotus-Renault          1:14.719   + 0.588
 8.  Paul di Resta        Force India-Mercedes   1:14.738   + 0.607
 9.  Pastor Maldonado     Williams-Renault       1:15.015   + 0.884
10.  Nico Hulkenberg      Force India-Mercedes   1:15.050   + 0.919
11.  Michael Schumacher   Mercedes               1:15.114   + 0.983
12.  Kamui Kobayashi      Sauber-Ferrari         1:15.255   + 1.124
13.  Sergio Perez         Sauber-Ferrari         1:15.396   + 1.265
14.  Valtteri Bottas      Williams-Renault       1:15.413   + 1.282
15.  Daniel Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:15.587   + 1.456
16.  Kimi Raikkonen       Lotus-Renault          1:15.701   + 1.570
17.  Jean-Eric Vergne     Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:16.048   + 1.917
18.  Nico Rosberg         Mercedes               1:16.315   + 2.184
19.  Giedo van der Garde  Caterham-Renault       1:16.460   + 2.329
20.  Timo Glock           Marussia-Cosworth      1:16.506   + 2.375
21.  Vitaly Petrov        Caterham-Renault       1:16.617   + 2.486
22.  Charles Pic          Marussia-Cosworth      1:17.234   + 3.103
23.  Pedro de la Rosa     HRT-Cosworth           1:17.678   + 3.547
24.  Narain Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth           1:17.895   + 3.764

Charles Pic signs multi-year contract with Caterham F1

By Berthold Bouman

Caterham F1 today announced they have signed a multi-year contract with Charles Pic, the Frenchman who currently drives for Marussia, will be the team’s race driver in 2013 and beyond. Caterham were impressed with Pic’s first season in Formula One, and decided to sign the 22-year old driver from Montélimar, France.

Caterham F1 signed Charles Pic

Caterham Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul was happy with his new driver and commented, “We are all looking forward to working with a young driver who has clearly shown in his first season in F1 that he has the pace, race craft and demeanour to help us achieve our goals.”

And Abiteboul added, “We have been monitoring the progress that Charles has made, challenging us on several occasions in qualifying, and it is clear that he is a special talent. As the year has progressed he has performed extremely well against a very experienced team mate and we are looking forward to seeing him develop further within the environment we will provide in 2013 and beyond.”

Pic was proud that he was given the opportunity to race for the Anglo-Malaysian team, “I am very proud to be able to confirm that I am joining Caterham F1 Team next year and I’m looking forward to many seasons of successful racing co-operation. I’m enthusiastic to have the opportunity to continue to grow in a team that has a technical relationship with a number of French global companies, including Renault and Total, plus an official partnership with EADS.”

Caterham is still growing as a Formula One team and Pic added, “It is clear that the team has great ambitions for the future: the investments already made and the decisions taken in the last few months show how committed the shareholders are to succeed and demonstrates their willingness to keep going forward.”

Jean-François Caubet, Managing Director of Renault Sport F1 said, “We are always motivated to see promising drivers in our partner teams and Charles is no exception. Additionally, France remains the largest Renault market and having another young, dynamic French driver join the Renault stable will give us further branding, marketing and PR opportunities. We look forward to working with him closely over the coming years.”

Sauber signs Gutierrez as race driver, Frijns test and reserve driver

By Berthold Bouman

Sauber has signed Mexican Esteban Gutierrez as their 2013 race driver, and he will be racing alongside Nico Hulkenberg who will leave the Force India team at the end of the season. The 21-year old Mexican will succeed his compatriot Sergio Perez who will move to McLaren in 2013.

Gutierrez will drive for Sauber in 2013

Gutierrez was already test and reserve driver for the Swiss outfit, and Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn summed up his career, “Esteban has already been part of the team for a long time and we have followed his career very closely. In 2010 we signed him up as an affiliated driver, and in 2011 and 2012 he was our test and reserve driver. We mapped out his path to Formula One step by step. Esteban has great talent and now he’s ready to take the leap.” And she added, “We are in no doubt we have a strong driver pairing in place for the 2013 season with Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez.”

Gutierrez thanked Sauber for giving him the opportunity to become a Formula One driver, “After three years working with Sauber I feel very grateful for all the attention I have received from everyone in the team and for all their input, which has allowed me to develop into a Formula One driver in a very progressive way.”

“Now, after experiencing other categories of racing as an introduction to Formula One, this is the start of the real challenge to succeed at the pinnacle of motor sport,” he added. About his team mate Hulkenberg he commented, “It will be a great pleasure to be racing in the same team as an experienced driver like Nico Hulkenberg. He will be a good reference point for me and will push me to adapt quickly to F1 competition so we can develop the car together with the team in the best way.”

Gutierrez last drove the Sauber C31 during the Young Driver Days at Abu Dhabi, and so did Dutchman Robin Frijns, who has now been promoted to test and reserve driver. Frijns is actually just a few days younger than Gutierrez, and also has an impressive race C.V.

“Monitoring Robin’s racing career“, said Frijns’ team boss Kaltenborn, “makes it easy to spot his potential. This was the reason we gave him the chance to drive the Sauber C31-Ferrari at the Young Driver Days in Abu Dhabi. He managed this very well. We will now carefully guide him to Formula One. This is a long way, but Robin has got the skills to do that successfully.”

Frijns, who also tested for Red Bull at Abu Dhabi, said, “I’m very happy the Sauber F1 Team has given me this opportunity. I would like to thank Monisha Kaltenborn and Peter Sauber for their belief and trust in me by signing me to join their team as a test and reserve driver.”

Of course the young Dutchman is already looking forward to the 2013 season, “With this opportunity I will try to help the team as much as possible and get the chance to learn how Formula 1 works in an extremely professional environment. I am already very much looking forward to getting the 2013 season started and working together with the team.”

Unfortunately this announcement also means Kamui Kobayashi will have to find a new race seat for 2013, and Kaltenborn thanked the Japanese driver for his time with the Swiss team, “This has not been an easy decision for us to take, but we have committed ourselves to a new beginning and our time with Kamui will come to an end after the final race of the season. We wish Kamui all the best for the future.”

Robin Frijns, Sauber’s new test and reserve driver

Brazilian GP: Alonso and Vettel ready for final showdown at Interlagos

By Berthold Bouman

After 19 races the FIA Formula One World Championship will be decided at the Sao Paulo Interlagos circuit, the two remaining contenders for the 2012 title are separated by 13 points; both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are ready for the final showdown in Brazil. Both drivers won two World Championships, and they are equally eager to add another one to their tally this weekend.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull

Both drivers had their ups and downs this year, Alonso was strong at the start of the season and even won three races before the summer break, while Vettel had a slow start, won the Bahrain Grand Prix, but couldn’t impress nor dominate as he did during the 2011 season. After the summer break the roles were reversed; Vettel came back and won another four races, while Alonso was struggling with the Ferrari F2012 and also retired twice due to accidents.

But the past doesn’t matter anymore, both drivers arrived at the Interlagos circuit today, and both want to win the 2012 title, on a circuit that has been the scene of many triumphant, but also dramatic races. Both Red Bull and Ferrari are well-prepared, but Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner confirmed Red Bull will go about their business as usual.

“We just have to approach the race as we have the previous 19,” he said. “We have to go there, attack the weekend, and get the best out of ourselves; the car, the strategy, the drivers, and reliability. Anything can happen, as we have seen this season. But it is good to be going there with a lead, and we go there determined to close the job off.”

But there must be at least one thing Red Bull must be worried about: the infamous alternator, the one that cost Vettel the victory when it failed during the European Grand Prix. At first it seemed Renault had fixed it, but the problem was back in Italy, and the alternator failed again on Webber’s car last weekend.

“Unfortunately it is the third alternator [failure] we’ve had and there have been others in other cars. The new version has raced on other engine cycles and hopefully that’s what we’ll have for Brazil,” said Horner. But technical wizard Adrian Newey still has his concerns, described the alternator as ‘a ticking time-bomb’ and said, “You never know when that one is going to strike.”

Despite the alternator worries, Vettel is looking forward to the race, “At Interlagos you have a combination of passionate fans, driving anti-clockwise, bad bumps and extreme altitude. The thin air makes it tough for the engine, because Sao Paulo is located 1000m above sea level, so it costs us about 40hp. The long left turns put an extreme burden on our neck muscles, because of the centrifugal forces that are created from driving anti-clockwise.”

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

Alonso is of course hoping for another Red Bull alternator failure, and he commented after the United States Grand Prix, “Today we saw Webber’s retirement: sometimes it is the water, sometimes the KERS, sometimes the alternator but always in that car, so maybe one day it happens in the other car [Vettel’s] and we need to be ready.”

Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali said about Alonso’s chances to win the title, “I know it will be very tough, but I and all of us believe we can do it.” And the Italian added, “We know that it’s not easy because Sebastian is driving very well and he has a very quick car. But that doesn’t change what we have to do. We have to focus on our job and see what’s the outcome of the race.”

But he admitted qualifying is the key to a good race, “We always say it, but we need to improve our qualifying pace. We had one of the worst qualifying sessions in Austin and we need to make sure that will not happen in Brazil.”

But … there is also the unpredictable weather in Sao Paulo, Lewis Hamilton won his 2008 title in the rain at the Brazilian circuit, while Felipe Massa lost the title on that same day as a result of the rain. Although a master in the rain, Alonso had his biggest crash ever in Formula One at Interlagos in the rain in 2003 while driving for Renault. Theoretically Ferrari would stand a better chance in the rain, while Red Bull would be faster on a dry circuit.

But not only rain, also low temperatures have been forecasted for Saturday and Sunday, and that could be a problem for Ferrari. One of their headaches is how to get the tyres working in low ambient temperatures, and low temperatures could seriously hamper their qualifying pace. To make things worse, Pirelli has allocated the medium and hard rubber compounds for this race, the same tyres that gave Ferrari so many problems last weekend.

But although he is 13 points ahead, Vettel can’t take anything for granted, as he knows Alonso will never give up before the chequered flag is waved to signal the end of the race, and in this case, the end of the season as well. “Maybe on paper that chance is not so big, maybe 25 percent,” said Vettel, adding, “But deep down, I feel it’s much more than that.”

Also 1996 World Champion Damon Hill warned Alonso still is a formidable opponent. “If he had any other opponent, I would say that Sebastian would definitely win with his 13 points advantage,” said Hill. “But you can’t write off someone like Alonso. He is such a clever and tough driver and he always seems to pull off something extraordinary. If I had to put a percentage on it, I would say the odds at 65 per cent in favour of Vettel. If Vettel wins in Brazil, then you can certainly imagine him winning two more championships — at least.”

Brazilian GP: Schumacher wants to savour farewell at Interlagos

By Berthold Bouman

Michael Schumacher is another driver who will say farewell to his team as he will retire from the sport for the second time after the last race of the season at Interlagos, but this time his farewell will be for good. The German seven-times World Champion reckons his second retirement will this time not be as emotional as it was in 2006.

Schumacher will step into his car for the last time this weekend

“My departure from Formula One will probably be less emotional for me this time than in 2006, when we were still fighting for the championship and everything was much more intense. This time round, I will be able to pay more attention to my farewell and hopefully savour it too,” said Schumacher.

About his three years with Mercedes he said, “I have had fantastic years in Formula One and a lot of support from fans around the world, and I wish to particularly thank them for that. Of course, I would be happiest if I could say goodbye with a strong race, and I am sure we will be doing everything we can to make it happen.”

Interlagos is one of his favourite circuits and he is actually looking forward to the last race of his Formula One career, “Interlagos is the right place to round off my career because so much of the fascination of Formula One is rooted there. I always enjoy the enthusiasm of the fans, and it’s simply a great circuit which has seen many memorable events and always produces spectacular races as the unique layout guarantees plenty of action.”

Team Principal Ross Brawn expects it will be an emotional weekend for his Mercedes team, “With the last race of the season in Brazil also bringing Michael’s second and final retirement from Formula One, it will be an emotional weekend for everyone in the team. We have both greatly enjoyed and benefited from working with Michael over the past three years, and I would like to pay tribute to his enduring commitment, passion and team spirit.”

Of course, Brawn knows Schumacher like no other and has worked with him at Benetton, Ferrari and Mercedes, and witnessed the German win an incredible seven World Championships, and he said, “Having worked with Michael for the majority of the 21 seasons of his career, I feel that he is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Formula One driver of all time, and we wish him the very best with his future plans.”

Mercedes Motorsport Director Norbert Haug agreed with Brawn and said, “This weekend will also mark the final Formula One race of Michael Schumacher’s career and we must thank him both for his committed contribution to the building-up process of our team and also his performances on track.” And he added, “Michael isn’t just the most successful racing driver in the world but also the best known; his ability and character are admired around the globe.”

And indeed, Schumacher still has a huge fan base, and although some wouldn’t classify him as ‘the greatest’ Formula One driver ever, the now 43-year old driver won seven Drivers’ Championships and 91 races, scored 68 pole positions, 155 podium places and after the Brazilian Grand Prix will have participated in 308 Grands Prix.

Unfortunately his return to the sport with Mercedes turned out to be the toughest three years of his career, as Mercedes wasn’t fast enough to win races, his only highlight was a third place this season during the European Grand Prix at Valencia, and his team mate Nico Rosberg has outperformed him at many occasions, nevertheless, Schumacher truly enjoyed his return, but after three years it’s time to say goodbye.

Ciao Michael Schumacher!

Pirelli: The Brazilian Grand Prix from a tyre point of view

By Berthold Bouman

Pirelli will bring the Hard (Prime, silver marked) and Medium (Option, white marked) tyre compounds to the final race of the season, the Brazilian Grand Prix at the very fast Interlagos circuit. The 4.309km circuit is a mix of fast sweeping corners, long straights, hairpin bends and elevation changes, and the Brazilian Grand Prix is an excellent venue for the 2012 title showdown.

Pirelli has new prototype tyres

According to the Italian tyre supplier, Turn 14 — the slowest corner of the track — is a good example of some of the technical challenges that Interlagos poses for the tyres: the drivers brake hard while heading uphill and then turning into the corner, before managing wheel spin carefully as they exit the turn.

Teams will also have two extra sets of Pirelli’s 2013 prototype tyres at their disposal for Friday’s free practice sessions. It is the only chance teams will have to try out the new generation of tyres, the next opportunity will be at the end of February next year during the pre-season testing days. The compound and construction of the 2013 slick tyres will be different compared to this year’s slick tyres.

Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s Head of Motorsport explained, “Both the compounds and construction will be different, which means that the characteristics of the new tyres will be altered, with a wider working range and some compounds that are slightly more aggressive. We’ve yet to finalise where exactly all the compounds will sit in relation to each other, which is why we are calling the tyre to be used in Brazil a ‘prototype’ rather than giving it a specific nomination, but it will be very representative of our general design philosophy next year.”

Pirelli technical tyre notes:

• The track surface in Brazil is notably bumpy, which makes it hard for the tyres to find traction and increases the physical demands on the drivers. The race lasts for 71 laps and last year’s winner, Mark Webber (Red Bull), adopted a three-stop strategy to win by 17 seconds.

• There is a big emphasis on combined traction: the transition when drivers go from braking to putting the power down. Interlagos tends to be light on brakes, so conserving momentum is important.

• The wide variety of high and low-speed corners, along with the big elevation changes and high altitude above sea level, mean that it is quite difficult to find the correct aerodynamic set-up and, once more, a good medium-low downforce compromise is needed. The last sector of the lap is one of the most important when it comes to the eventual lap time, so this tends to get prioritised in terms of set-up.

Brazil 3D Track Experience

Interlagos from a tyre point of view – Video by Pirelli

This week’s Formula One videos (week 47)

Ferrari charity auction for areas affected by hurricane Sandy

Over 1.5 million Dollars have been collected by Ferrari to help the areas most affected by the hurricane Sandy super storm, with the first F12 Berlinetta delivered in the US, won at a charity auction in Austin, on the occasion of the US GP, for 1.125 million Dollars.

The McLaren Manufacturing Challenge

The McLaren Manufacturing Challenge is an annual competition designed to raise the profile and help improve the image of high-tech manufacturing and engineering. Finalists teams are invited to spend an afternoon at the McLaren Technology Centre, where they get to see how a Formula One team operates and how McLaren designs its world leading super cars, before the big race begins. Business Secretary Vince Cable was there to help present the 2012 McLaren Manufacturing Challenge trophy to this year’s winning school.

Williams in 60 seconds: Race Bay

Williams in 60 seconds is a collection of videos aimed at giving an insight into Williams F1 as a whole. The group of 13 videos will focus on what the team does, how it’s done and the personnel behind the work. This week: Race Bay.

McLaren Tooned Episode 11 Side Tracked

Episode 11 – Side Tracked. Starring Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

Brazilian GP: Hamilton wants to give McLaren perfect farewell present

By Berthold Bouman

After his amazing win at the Circuit of the Americas, Lewis Hamilton has set his sights on winning his final race for the McLaren team. Hamilton recently signed a three-year deal with Mercedes, but he wants to say goodbye to his team in style, and there’s no better place to do that than at the Brazilian Interlagos circuit.

Hamilton wants to win his last race for McLaren

“As my final race behind the wheel of a McLaren, I vow to the whole team that I’ll give it my all on every single lap. My win in Austin last week was one of the races of my life, and I’d love to take victory in Brazil this weekend to give the team the perfect farewell present,” Hamilton said.

The 2009 World Champion has never won the Brazilian Grand Prix and said, “Brazil has been the scene of some epic races for me during my time at McLaren and, for many reasons, this weekend will be a very big race for me. I nearly won the title here in 2007, clinched it on the final turn in 2008 and drove like crazy to finish on the podium in 2009. But I’ve never won: and that’s what I’ll be aiming to do this time around.”

Jenson Button also has fond memories of the Brazilian track, “I’ve had some great experiences racing in Brazil — I won the World Championship here in 2009, of course, but I can also remember having strong races here, especially in 2006 when I finished on the podium.”

But the Briton is also aiming for a better qualifying result as he qualified in 12th place last weekend due to a throttle problem — but he nevertheless finished the race in fifth place. “I think we showed in Austin that we have an incredibly quick car, particularly in race-trim, and I’d love to have a clean weekend, a trouble-free qualifying and then have a good run at scoring some strong points on Sunday,” said Button.

When asked who is his favourite for this year’s title he said, “I’m not putting my money on anybody, but I hope we have a fantastic contest and may the best man win. Brazil will be the backdrop for the championship showdown — and it’s a great track upon which to end the season on a high.”

Hamilton said about the final showdown between Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, “It’s a very finely poised battle, and neither Sebastian nor Fernando can afford to relax for a moment. They are both fantastic drivers, and both have driven superbly all season. Now, we’ll see who takes the final honours — I hope it’s an epic contest!”

McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh agreed with his drivers and commented, “The Formula One World Championship couldn’t ask for a more epic backdrop to the title decider than the sweeps and valleys of Interlagos. There’s little to choose between the performances of Sebastian and Fernando this season, and all I hope for is a fair and true contest on Sunday.”

Daimler now fully owns Mercedes Formula One team

By Berthold Bouman

The German Daimler company now fully owns the Mercedes Formula One team, as the German carmaker has bought the remaining 40 percent stake in the team, previously owned by the Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investments company.

Aabar sold its stake to Daimler

Aabar recently cut its ties with Daimler and sold their 3 percent stake in the Daimler company, and selling their stake in the Mercedes Formula One team was a logical step, Reuters reported. The sale is still subject to regulatory approval.

Mercedes have recently signed the new Concorde Agreement which means they have committed to Formula One until 2020. At the start of this season there were rumours the Daimler Board of Directors still had to decide about the future of the Mercedes team, as due to the economic recession the German company wasn’t sure they would be able to continue supporting the team.

The Mercedes team is led by Ross Brawn and Mercedes Motorsport Director Norbert Haug. Brawn bought the team from Honda at the end of 2008 when the Japanese carmaker decided to withdraw from the sport due to the economic recession and a chronic lack of results.

Brawn had to fire half of his staff, turned the team in Brawn GP and against all odds became a winning team. Mostly due to the nifty double diffuser, of course a design from the man himself, Brawn GP dominated the 2009 season and won the Constructors’ Championship, and driver Jenson Button won the Drivers’ Championship.

At the end of 2009, Brawn sold the team to Daimler and Aabar, and they recruited Nico Rosberg and seven-times World Champion Michael Schumacher, the latter will retire after the Brazilian Grand Prix next weekend.

Last month Lewis Hamilton signed a three-year contract with the Mercedes team, which was already a sign the Mercedes Formula One team’s future had been secured. Mercedes also supplies engines to the McLaren and Force India Formula One teams.