By Berthold Bouman
Mercedes dominated the second free practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix this afternoon, as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton took first and second place. Rosberg lapped the Monte Carlo street circuit in 1m14.759s on the super soft tyres, he was 1.436s faster than this morning.
Again a strong showing by Ferrari, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa took third and fourth place respectively. Mark Webber was the fastest Red Bull driver this afternoon, the Australian took fifth place, while Sebastian Vettel was ninth in the second Toro Rosso.
Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean landed sixth and seventh spot, but Grosjean crashed his Lotus into the wall at Saint Devote after he had run wide, the red flag came out as track marshals used the opportunity to inspect a loose kerb at the swimming pool before the session was restarted.
Second place for Hamilton – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Jenson Button was again faster than his team colleague Sergio Perez, he was eighth while Perez was 12th. Paul di Resta completed the top ten, but he was closely followed by Adrian Sutil in the second Force India, the German was 11th fastest this afternoon.
Nico Hulkenberg was again quick in the Sauber, he took 13th place, while Esteban Gutierrez was 15th, just 0,112s slower than Hulkenberg. Pastor Maldonado was not as quick as he had been this morning, he took 14th spot for Williams while Valtteri Bottas was 18th.
Paul di Resta – Photo: Sahara Force India
Toro Rosso drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne were 16th and 17th respectively, and at the bottom of the list are the usual suspects, as usual Marussia driver Jules Bianchi was faster than Max Chilton, while tis time Charles Pic outpaced his Dutch team colleague, he was 19th while Giedo van der Garde was 22nd and last.
Results of the second free practice session can be found here.
By Berthold Bouman
Nico Rosberg topped the time sheets this morning during the first free practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix, round six of the FIA Formula One World Championship. The Mercedes driver set a time of 1m16.195s, however, the difference with the number two, Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, was minimal as the Spaniard was only 0.087s slower than Rosberg.
Lotus likes surprises and this time Romain Grosjean was third this morning, while his Finnish team colleague Kimi Raikkonen was 11th. Felipe Massa was fourth for Ferrari, while Lewis Hamilton took fifth place in the second Mercedes.
Alonso second for Ferrari this morning – Photo: Ferrari F1
Pastor Maldonado surprised friend and foe as he took sixth place for the troubled Williams team, Valtteri Bottas in the second Williams was 17th, the Finn was 1,837s slower than his team colleague.
Mark Webber was the fastest Red Bull driver this morning, as he took seventh place, while triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel was tenth. McLaren apparently found some speed as Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were eighth and ninth respectively.
Just outside the top ten were both Force India drivers Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil, the difference between the two was just 0.116s. Sauber tested a few parts and Nico Hulkenberg and his Mexican team colleague Esteban Gutierrez scored 14th and 16th place for the Swiss outfit.
Webber talks with the media – Photo: Red Bull Racing
Jean-Eric Vergne was the fastest Toro Rosso driver and took 15th place, while Daniel Ricciardo was 18th. No ‘guest drivers’ this morning, and thus Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic were 19th and 20th for Caterham, while Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton completed the list as they took 21st and 22nd respectively.
The results of the first free practice session can be found here.
By Berthold Bouman
Scuderia Ferrari has won many times on the most iconic circuit of all times: the Monte Carlo street circuit in the Principality of Monaco. Many great drivers have won the race for Ferrari; Niki Lauda (1975, 1976), Jody Scheckter (1979), Gilles Villeneuve (1981) and Michael Schumacher (1997, 1999, 2001). But 2001 was the last time Ferrari won the classic event, and the Maranello-based team is hungry for more.
Fernando Alonso: We have had two podiums here
Ferrari star driver Fernando Alonso is confident he will score a good result at the Monte Carlo track this weekend, “The feeling is good, the team is confident, as we saw we had a competitive package, getting both our cars onto the podium in Barcelona. However, Monaco is a unique track where you need a special set-up and confidence in your driving.”
Alonso doesn’t expect any tyre problems – Photo: Ferrari F1
And the Spaniard added, “We have had two podiums here in the last couple of years, so we should be competitive again and I hope to get a good result.” Asked about his main rivals he commented, “We can expect Mercedes, who have been on pole for the last three races, to be very strong again and remember they were on pole position here last year with Michael (Schumacher) although he lost that place with a penalty. We know how difficult it is to overtake here, so maybe that makes them [Mercedes] favourite here.”
There has been a lot of talk about the Pirelli tyres, Pirelli promised to make changes, how does Alonso feel about that? “I have not formed an opinion on what effect that might have, because we are still waiting to find out what will be the final changes to the tyres,” he explained. “When we know exactly what their characteristics will be and probably we must wait until we have raced on them first, then we will be able to form an idea,” Alonso added.
“From the Ferrari side, we are not taking too much notice of the tyres, as we have an important race to deal with this weekend and we know that the tyres are the same for everyone.”
Felipe Massa – Photo: Ferrari F1
Felipe Massa: Monaco is a very special track
Asked about the circuit Felipe Massa said, “Monaco is a very special track, completely different to all the other venues we race on. Everywhere, you are really close to the edge of the track to the guard rails and you have to drive on the limit but not the slightest bit over it, because the smallest mistake is severely punished in Monaco.”
In Spain the Brazilian finished on the podium in third place, but he wants more and commented, “I was not happy with losing three places on the grid after qualifying, but I had a really great race, during which I managed to overtake many cars on track. We have to make it our target to fight for the podium at every race and of course, what I really want is to get a win soon!”
Felipe Massa talks about the Monaco Grand Prix – Video by Ferrari
Ferrari are currently second in the Constructors’ Championship, just 14 points shy of leader Red Bull. Alonso is third in the Drivers’ Championship with 72 points, and Massa is fifth with 45 points.
• Red Bull Monaco GP Preview
• Ferrari Monaco GP Preview
• McLaren Monaco GP Preview
• Lotus Monaco GP Preview
• Mercedes Monaco GP Preview
• Sauber Monaco GP Preview
• Force India Monaco GP Preview
• Williams Monaco GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Monaco GP Preview
• Caterham Monaco GP Preview
• Marussia Monaco GP Preview
By Berthold Bouman
Fernando Alonso took the victory for Ferrari during round five of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya this afternoon, a great day for Ferrari as Felipe Massa took third place. Alonso reduced the gap to rival Sebastian Vettel, who finished fourth and still leads the championship, but Alonso’s win at his home Grand Prix reduced the gap to just four points.
Alonso was of course happy, but also cautious about his championship chances, as he said, “Nothing really changes, we’ve only had five races and we’ve had ups and downs. Some races we have had a good race with no problems, and we more or less finished all of them on the podium. At some races we have had mistakes and mechanical problems that we don’t want to repeat, but we know we have the car to fight with the top and we can fight for the championship.”
Ferrari celebrating Alonso’s win – Photo: Ferrari
Second place was for Kimi Raikkonen, who once again showed how fast the Lotus E21 is, as he was actually the only driver who could keep up with the Ferraris. Raikkonen needed one set of tyres less than his rivals, but the Finn was not pleased with the result, “Unfortunately it’s second place again so it’s not time to celebrate too much.”
“The car felt good and we did pretty much all we could today, but we didn’t have the pace to challenge Fernando [Alonso]. I drove to the maximum and it’s good for the championship that Sebastian finished behind us. It’s nice to be on the podium for me and the team; let’s see what we can do in Monaco.” Massa tried to catch Raikkonen during the closing stages of the race, but after concerns about the tyres Ferrari told the Brazilian to take it easy.
Raikkonen not happy with second place … he wants to win! – Lotus F1
Not a great day for Red Bull, Vettel finished in fourth, and Mark Webber finished in fifth place, but at least they still scored a decent amount of points. Vettel could not get closer to the Ferrari of Alonso, as he was struggling to keep his tyres alive for almost the entire race.
The triple World Champion was nevertheless satisfied with the result. “I think we can be happy with fourth today. The first three cars were a little bit too fast for us and regarding looking after the tyres, they did a better job,” Vettel said. He was certainly not happy with the fast degrading tyres, “We need to catch up; we’re not going the pace of the car, we’re going the pace of the tyres and obviously we do something to make the tyres wear more.”
Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton started from first and second place on the grid, but it didn’t take Alonso, who made one of his famous rocket starts, very long before he first passed Hamilton, and after the first round of pit stops also overtook pole sitter Rosberg. The Silver Arrows are fast during qualifying, but are sitting ducks during the race, and the German team still has a lot of work to do.
Rosberg defends, but the Mercedes is a sitting duck – Photo Mercedes-Benz
While Alonso was leading, Rosberg did a great job keeping the Red Bull of Vettel behind him, but it didn’t take long before Vettel got past the Mercedes, and Massa and Raikkonen also didn’t have any problems passing the Silver Arrows, a car that is hard on the tyres and causes massive tyre degradation. At one point Hamilton reported he ‘just had been overtaken by a Williams’, and when his team told him to spare the tyres, the Briton remarked he ‘couldn’t drive any slower’.
Rosberg and Hamilton finished in sixth and 12th place, and both drivers were obviously not happy with the poor result. Rosberg was puzzled by the lack of pace, “I didn’t expect it to be that tough, I thought we’d be in a better position. It was very difficult, it’s so difficult to explain it, you know? Why? Why on one lap so fast and then on a long run it’s so slow? It’s not just rear tyres, it’s front and rear both, both just struggling. No explanation.”
Hamilton, who was even lapped by winner Alonso, was also lost as to why his car was so slow. In an interview after the race he said, “It was an experience I don’t want to go through again. I don’t know why it happened. I did absolutely everything I did in Bahrain but the tyres just didn’t come in and give me any grip. If I pushed, they went off immediately. I’m absolutely lost, I don’t know what went wrong.”
McLaren managed to make some progress during the race, and Jenson Button and Sergio Perez came home in eighth and ninth place respectively. Button said, “We took the same approach as in China, adopting a different strategy from the others. To finish eighth shows what a good job the team did with the strategy. I don’t know whether we’ve improved our package or not, but we certainly beat some cars that we possibly shouldn’t have beaten. There’s still a lot of work to do. It’s tough at the moment, but I’m pleased that we’re making the best of what we have.”
Problems for Sutil during his pit stop – Photo: Sahara Force India
Paul di Resta finished the race for Force India in seventh place, but his team colleague Adrian Sutil wasn’t so lucky, he lost valuable time during a pit stop, and finished in 13th place. Di Resta said, “We said before the race that seventh would be a good result and towards the end I was even fighting for sixth. The result shows the consistency that we have had since the start of the year and that we can perform each weekend.”
Sutil was obviously disappointed and commented, “It’s extremely disappointing to come away empty-handed from this race because we were so quick today. It was all going to plan until the first pit stop when there was an issue and I lost so much time. The team told me to switch the engine off while they sorted the problem, but it cost me the chance of points.”
It was also an eventful race for Toro Rosso, Daniel Ricciardo finished in tenth place, but Jean-Eric Vergne was hit by the Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg during his pit stop, and not much later his rear tyre suddenly delaminated and although the Frenchman made it back to the pits, he had to give up his race.
Vergne commented after the race, “The strategy we adopted was the right one and even with a damaged floor and wing I was able to do good lap times. Yet again I was unlucky and I hope that stops soon, because as I was coming into the pits, Sauber did an unsafe release with Hulkenberg who drove into me and then I had a problem with a tyre, so it was one problem after another today.”
Also massive tyre wear for the Williams team – Photo: Williams F1
Williams also had problems with the tyres and Technical Director Mike Coughlan said, “We were suffering with high tyre degradation and so made the decision to switch Pastor [Maldonado] onto a four-stop strategy. We committed to a three-stop with Valtteri, but we then lost a lot of time. We need to check the data as the degradation on his car was unusual compared to the pace we had on Friday.”
For Dutchman Giedo van der Garde, the race was over quickly as his pit crew sent him out while the left rear tyre wasn’t properly secured, “When I came in for my second stop I could feel that there was a problem with the left rear as soon as I rejoined the track. At some point the wheel came off so I tried to make it back to the garage to see if I could continue, but once the team had taken a close look it was clear I had to retire the car.”
The race in Spain was really all about the tyres, Pirelli now rules Formula One, and drivers cannot attack or even defend their position, afraid to damage the tyres. From a ‘green’ point of view, it is also ridiculous one car needs five(!) sets of tyres to finish a race. Pirelli have gone too far by producing tyres that last only ten laps, it is time for Formula One to think about the future, using so many tyres during one race is not acceptable.
Pirelli has responded after the race, and admitted 82 stops in one race is too much. Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery said on Twitter, “We aim for 2-3 pit stops. Today was too many, we got it wrong, too aggressive. We will make changes, probably from Silverstone. We were asked to replicate Canada 2010, and aim for 2-3 stops.”
By Berthold Bouman
Felipe Massa was fastest for Ferrari after the final free practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya this morning. The Brazilian set a time of 1m21.901s on the medium compound tyres, almost a second quicker than the fastest time set on Friday by Sebastian Vettel. Fernando Alonso was sixth, but 0,353s slower than the Brazilian.
Kimi Raikkonen was also quick, he took second place in the Lotus, just six-thousandths of a second behind pace-setter Massa. Romain Grosjean in the second Lotus secured fourth place, again confirming the Lotus E21 is very quick at the Barcelona circuit.
Fourth place for Romain Grosjean – Photo: Lotus F1
Mark Webber was the fastest Red Bull driver, he took third place, while triple World Champion Vettel was fifth. Force India was also quick this morning, Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil took seventh and eighth place respectively, the difference between the two was just 0,155s.
Lewis Hamilton and Jean-Eric Vergne completed the top ten, Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes was 11th after the German completed 26 laps, and Daniel Ricciardo in the second Toro Rosso was 18th.
The McLaren drivers were again disappointing to say the least, they never made it into the top ten during all three practice session, this morning Jenson Button was 12th, while Sergio Perez, who had problems with the power steering, was 14th.
Nico Rosberg – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Surprisingly, Esteban Gutierrez was the fastest Sauber driver as the young Mexican outpaced Nico Hulkenberg as he took 13th spot, while his team colleague was 16th.
Further down the order were both Williams drivers, Pastor Maldonado was 15th, and Valtteri Bottas was 17th, thus it seems Williams are certainly no contenders for the victory tomorrow.
The last four places were occupied by Charles Pic, Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton and Giedo van der Garde.
Results of the third and final free practice session can be found here.
By Berthold Bouman
Sebastian Vettel beat Fernando Alonso this afternoon during the second free practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix and recorded the fastest time for Red Bull with a lap of 1m22.808s, the difference with the Spaniard was just 0,017s.
Mark Webber was third fastest, but was very close to his German team colleague as the difference between the two Red Bull drivers was only 0,083s. Kimi Raikkonen was fourth fastest this afternoon, he set a time of 1m23.030s in the Lotus, his French team colleague Romain Grosjean was 18th, over three seconds slower than pace-setter Vettel.
Felipe Massa took fifth place in the second Ferrari, he was followed by the two Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were sixth and seventh respectively.
Adrian Sutil, Jean-Eric Vergne and Paul di Resta completed the top ten. Not a good afternoon for di Resta, he had to park his Force India after a rear wing failure.
Kimi Raikkonen and his fans – Photo: Lotus F1
Daniel Ricciardo was 11th in the second Toro Rosso, and although they had a new upgrade package, the problems are still not over for McLaren, as Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were 12th and 13th for McLaren.
Valtteri Bottas was the fastest Williams driver this afternoon, he took 14th spot, while Pastor Maldonado was 16th. Nico Hulkenberg took 15th place for Sauber, while Esteban Gutierrez was 17th.
A good second session for Dutch Caterham driver Giedo van der Garde, who was 19th, a full second faster than his team colleague Charles Pic, who ended the afternoon in 21st place.
The last two on the list were Marussia drivers Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton, they were 20th and 22nd.
Results of the second free practice session can be found here.
By Berthold Bouman
Fernando Alonso recorded the fastest time during the first free practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya this morning. Alonso set a time of 1m25.252 after completing 20 laps on a damp circuit, Felipe Massa made it an all Ferrari front row as he was second fastest this morning.
The rain and the damp circuit made it difficult for teams to test the new parts they developed for this race, it took an hour before drivers went out on the slick tyres.
Jean-Eric Vergne was the surprise of the morning as he took third place for Toro Rosso, but the Frenchman was almost half a second slower than Alonso. His team colleague Daniel Ricciardo was 11th after completing 26 laps.
Felipe Massa was second this morning – Photo: Ferrari
Plenty of off-track excursions this morning, one of the victims was Romain Grosjean, but the Frenchman could continue and scored fourth fastest time for Lotus. Kimi Raikkonen was eighth in the second Lotus, but it must be said: times were meaningless on the damp track.
Adrian Sutil was the fastest Force India driver, he took fifth place while Paul di Resta was tenth. Lewis Hamilton was sixth in the Mercedes, Nico Rosberg was ninth. Valtteri Bottas was seventh for Williams, while his Venezuelan team colleague Pastor Maldonado finished the morning outside the top ten in 15th place.
Nico Hulkenberg took 12th spot, followed by both Mexican drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez who were 13th and 14th respectively. Dutchman Giedo van der Garde outpaced Heikki Kovalainen, who was doing some test work for Caterham in the car of Charles Pic, the Finn finished in 18th place.
Only one McLaren on track: Sergio Perez – Photo: McLaren F1
Jules Bianchi was 17th for Marussia, while his team colleague for this morning, Rodolfo Gonzalez, who took over from Max Chilton this morning, was 21st, five seconds slower than Alonso.
The big guns didn’t even bother to set a representative time, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were 19th and 20th, and Jenson Button was 22nd and last as he didn’t complete one single lap.
Results of the first free practice session can be found here.
By Berthold Bouman
Nico Rosberg took the second pole of the season for Mercedes this afternoon during qualifying for round four of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit. The German recorded a time of 1m32.330s, 0.354s faster than the number two, Sebastian Vettel, while Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso will start from third spot on the grid tomorrow.
Asked whether the German was surprised to score pole he said, “A little bit, yes. It wasn’t really clear before who was the quickest car over one lap. I was a little bit closer this morning already so I was a bit happier than yesterday for sure.”
And he added, “We worked really well as a team overnight to improve the car because yesterday we were really struggling, so that’s gone well. That’s fantastic result and great for tomorrow. But tomorrow’s going to be a tough race for sure with rear-tyre degradation, so a lot can still happen.’
During the first qualifying session most drivers went out on the hard (option) tyre compound, but as the session progressed more and more drivers switched to the medium (prime) rubber compound.
Second pole for Mercedes this season – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Alonso was the first to put a serious time on the board with a lap of 1m32.878s, and his time proved to be unbeatable during Q1. Pastor Maldonado, Esteban Gutierrez, Charles Pic, Jules Bianchi, Giedo van der Garde and Max Chilton were the six drivers who didn’t make it into the next session.
Initially drivers stayed in the garage at the start of the second session, but with 10 minutes to go both Red Bull drivers Vettel and Mark Webber were leading, but not for long as Paul di Resta in the Force India took first place, again showing how strong the VJM06 is.
Unfortunately Force India’s joy was short-lived as not much later Rosberg put the fastest time on the board with a lap of 1m32.867s. Meanwhile both McLaren drivers were in the drop-out zone and were visibly struggling to keep the McLaren MP4-28 on track, both went out in a last attempt to make it into the final qualifying session, but only Jenson Button managed to get a ticket to Q3, as the 2009 World Champion improved his time and made it into the top ten.
Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas and Jean-Eric Vergne did not make it into Q3.
In Q3 Rosberg was first out on the track and recorded the fastest time, but with only three minutes left on the clock the usual poker game for pole position unfolded at the Sakhir circuit. But both Vettel and Alonso made small mistakes on their final lap, while Rosberg even improved his time and took a well-deserved pole position for Mercedes.
A very strong performance from Force India – Photo: Sahara Force India
Second place man Vettel was pleased with the result, “I’m not disappointed with that [second place]. Well done to Nico, it was a strong lap and it was all his today. When I crossed the line I saw I was second on the screen and didn’t know how much I was missing to pole as the lap was fine.”
About the race tomorrow the triple Word Champion said, “We managed to save some tyres throughout qualifying and it will be about tyre degradation tomorrow, so we’ll see what happens. It’s good to start from the front.”
Alonso in third place is also confident ahead of tomorrow’s race, he aborted his last flying lap and said, “We tried to complete the second lap, it was very similar until the last corner and then I saw it was half a tenth slower and we decided to save one lap on the tyres. The car was very competitive in qualifying so this puts us in a strong position to start tomorrow’s race and to fight with the leaders with more of a margin.”
By Berthold Bouman
Fernando Alonso was fastest this morning after the third and final practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix this morning. The Ferrari driver was followed by his rivals Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber who were second and third respectively for Red Bull at the Bahrain International Circuit.
The Bahrain circuit becomes less and less green, as this morning’s fastest time was also the fastest time overall so far this weekend. Kimi Raikkonen took fifth spot for Lotus, while his team colleague Romain Grosjean was sixth.
Alonso already had made an off-track excursion, while Vettel wasn’t happy with the moves of Charles Pic in the Caterham, when more drama unfolded as Lewis Hamilton, who finished in fifth place, had a rear-wheel puncture. Although the 2008 World Champion drove his Mercedes slowly back to the pit lane, not only the suspension, but also the gearbox was damaged and had to be replaced, which means Hamilton gets a five-place grid penalty for tomorrow’s race.
Sebastian Vettel – Photo: Red Bull Racing
Again a strong showing by Force India: Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta were seventh and eight, while both German Nicos, Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg, completed the top ten.
Felipe Massa took 11th spot this morning, but the Brazilian Ferrari driver was faster than both McLarens, as Jenson Button and Sergio Perez didn’t get any further than 12th and 13th place at the Sakhir circuit.
Next on the list are Toro Rosso and Williams, Daniel Ricciardo was this time faster than his team colleague Jean Eric Vergne, they finished in 14th and 16th place. Valtteri Bottas was the fastest Williams driver as he took 15th place, while Pastor Maldonado was 17th.
Five-place grid penalty for Hamilton – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Further down the order was Charles Pic, he was 18th, while Dutchman Giedo van de Garde in the second Caterham was 20th.
Marussia driver Jules Bianchi once again beat his team colleague Max Chilton, as the Frenchman was 19th, while Chilton was 21. Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez was 22nd and last this morning.
By Berthold Bouman
Felipe Massa was fastest after the first free practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix, the Brazilian set a time of 1m34.487, and he was closely followed by his team colleague Fernando Alonso, who was just 0.077s slower at the Bahrain International Circuit this morning.
As seen before this season, drivers were reluctant to take to the track as they were in tyre-saving mode, meaning there was not much action for the first half hour. Nico Rosberg grabbed third place for Mercedes, after completing 22 laps, while his team colleague Lewis Hamilton was 13th this morning, he was apparently executing another test programme than the German.
Triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel was fourth, while Mark Webber in the other Red Bull was seventh. Again Force India showed the VJ06 is a very competitive car, Paul di Resta was fifth, less than half-a-second off the pace set by Massa. Adrian Sutil was eighth in the second Force India, just 0.170s slower than his Scottish team colleague.
Always plenty media attention for Raikkonen – Photo: Lotus F1
McLaren announced they had a few car updates for this weekend’s race. They seem to work as Jenson Button took possession of sixth place, only half-a-second off the pace. Again, Sergio Perez was considerably slower than the 2009 World Champion, McLaren told him to up his pace but the Mexican didn’t get any further than 11th place this morning.
Even further down the order was the Lotus piloted by Kimi Raikkonen, he was ninth, and he was closely followed by Romain Grosjean in the second Lotus, the Frenchman completed the top ten and was only two-tenths slower than Iceman Raikkonen.
Valtteri Bottas was the fastest Williams driver, he was 12th, while Pastor Maldonado was 16th. Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo were 14th and 15th respectively for Red Bull’s Italian sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Both Sauber drivers clearly experienced problems, the Sauber C32 is not really fast and Nico Hulkenberg finished in 17th, and Esteban Gutierrez in 18th position.
Bahrain is heavy on the brakes: Pastor Maldonado – Williams F1
Also Caterham has problems to get their car up to speed this season, reason for the Anglo-Malaysian team to hire their ex-driver Heikki Kovalainen to figure out what is wrong with the car, the Finn did what he could, but he didn’t get further than 20th place, while Charles Pic in the other Caterham finished ahead of him in 19th place.
Marussia driver Rodolfo Gonzalez took over Jules Bianchi’s car this morning, but the youngster encountered gearbox problems and he was 22nd and last, while Max Chilton took 21st place.
By Berthold Bouman
Ferrari are on the right pace this season, but like all other teams, they want to go even faster. The FIA Formula One World Championship is dominated by four World Champions: Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, the latter performed miracles for his new team, Mercedes.
Fernando Alonso: It was eleven or twelve races that we had not won
Alonso looks back at the Chinese Grand Prix and said about his victory, “I was very happy, as not winning for a while is a very difficult matter to deal with,” he said. “It was eleven or twelve races that we had not won, even if we were consistently on the podium. However, [this season] we need to be consistently on the podium if we want to fight for the championship.”
Like many other drivers, the Spaniard reckons it’s all about the new Pirelli tyres in 2013, “Last year, we saw many surprises in the early part of the season and this is the time when we look at everyone’s potential and increase our own learning of the new rules and other new elements: this year the tyres are probably the main learning process we are all tackling right now.”
Fernando Alonso – Photo: Ferrari
About the race for the 2013 crown the double World Champion said, “Not having Sebastian on the podium in China is good news at the moment only because he is currently leading the championship and I would feel the same if it was Lewis or Webber for example in the lead. It’s not because it’s Sebastian the person, it’s because he’s leading!”
But he insisted it is way too early to think about winning the championship, “I don’t think we are the car to beat at the moment, just because we have this one victory. We need to keep improving and to be a little bit faster. There are some new pieces for this race and new components coming to Barcelona and Monaco. So hopefully in the next month and a half, we can be at the level of the best cars.”
Felipe Massa: I have always liked driving this circuit
Felipe Massa has won the Bahrain Grand Prix twice (2007 and 2008), asked about the secret to win this race he answered, “I have always liked driving this circuit, since the first time I came here with Sauber in 2004. It’s a nice track, with long straights and hard braking, where traction is also important.”
Quizzed about his current and former team colleagues at Ferrari he said, “I have always had strong team-mates and many people have said that’s not a good thing, but for me it’s a positive. It motivates you to always do the best you can, because if you don’t do a perfect job, it shows, as your team-mate is always there. I have learned a lot from partnering what people all over the world have usually considered the best drivers of all. You are always under pressure to be perfect every day and I like that!”
Massa won the Bahrain GP twice – Photo: Ferrari
For this weekend’s race, the Brazilian is a little worried about the tyres, Pirelli has allocated the Medium and Hard tyre compounds. “I had a big problem with graining on the Medium tyres at the last race, already in Friday practice,” Massa revealed. “I am not concerned about having the Hard tyres here, because I had no problem with them in Malaysia: there was graining but it was the same for everyone.”
It’s all about the strategy Massa said, “I think here the time difference will be big between the two tyre types, which means most people will try and use the Medium as much as possible in the race. Therefore, once again, it will be vital to work out a good strategy.”
Ferrari is second in the Constructors’ Championship, just five points behind leader Red Bull, and 13 points ahead of Lotus. Alonso is third in the Drivers’ Championship, while Massa is fifth.
• Red Bull Bahrain GP Preview
• Ferrari Bahrain GP Preview
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By Berthold Bouman
Fernando Alonso was in total control this afternoon as he convincingly won round three of the FIA Formula One World Championship at the Shanghai International Circuit. Thanks to a spot on strategy, the Spaniard was able to beat Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel who were not fast enough to catch the Ferrari.
“It was a fantastic race for us from the start to the end without any big problems from the car,” said the winner. “The tyre degradation was better than expected so we managed the pace. It feels great after the retirement in Malaysia because we had some pressure to finish the race.”
It was a somewhat chaotic race in Shanghai, as drivers were on different strategies, but it was Alonso who ultimately cruised to victory. At the start of the race it was this time Raikkonen who had a bad start, and both Ferraris went right past the Lotus, while Hamilton in the Mercedes stayed in the lead.
Ferrari celebrating victory at Shanghai – Photo: Ferrari
But after the DRS was enabled, Hamilton didn’t stand a chance and the 2008 World Champion had to watch how both Ferraris passed him. Hamilton immediately made his first pit stop and changed to the medium Pirellis, but he tumbled down the order.
At the same time Esteban Gutierrez misjudged his braking point at the end of the straight and hit the Force India of Adrian Sutil. The Mexican retired on the spot, Sutil made it back to the pits with heavy damage, but had to end his race.
Gutierrez admitted it had been his fault and said, “Right before going into the long straight I had Checo [Sergio Perez] fighting behind me, and I approached the corner too fast. I was braking at the same place where I usually brake, however, didn’t anticipate the loss of downforce and the amount of speed I had. I tried my best to stop, but didn’t succeed.”
Gutierrez crashed into Sutil’s Force India – Photo: Sauber Motorsport
Sutil was obviously very disappointed and commented, “My rear wing was broken and there was no option but to stop. It’s always a shame not to finish a race and I had a good chance of scoring more points today. I was on the soft tyre and the strategy looked to be shaping up well.”
At that point Nico Hulkenberg was leading the race, but when he pitted he lost the lead. Not much later there was a second incident, Mark Webber, who had started the race from the back of the grid, was a bit too eager and tangled with Jean-Eric Vergne, the Australian damaged his front wing and had to pit for repairs.
Unfortunately for him, his right rear wheel wasn’t secured properly when he left the pits, and while he was cruising to get back to the pit lane, the wheel came loose and that was the end of Webber’s race. Webber said about the incident, “It was a couple of laps before our pit stop window, so I had to come in early. The guys thought the tyre was fixed when we left the stop, but it came off on the out lap.”
More chaos as Raikkonen ran into the back of Sergio Perez, the Finn damaged his front wing but elected to not change it, and despite the damage he was still fast enough to record the fastest lap at that stage of the race.
Jenson Button in the McLaren was leading the race as he was on a different strategy, but he was passed by Alonso who was much quicker on his new tyres. But more importantly, Raikkonen and Hamilton were still behind the Ferrari, and they still had to pit.
Due to the different strategies, Hamilton was now closing in on Button, and Button was advised over the radio to engage the battle with the Mercedes driver, while at the same time Vettel was told not to fight Alonso who had showed up in his rear-view mirrors, and not much later Alonso passed the triple World Champion without a problem.
Second place for the Iceman today – Photo: Lotus F1
Button was still on his second set of tyres, but his tyres went deterioated very quickly, and both Hamilton and Vettel passed the 2009 World Champion, who then dashed into the pit lane for his last tyre change.
On lap 39 Alonso was still leading, and was followed by Vettel and Button, the Spaniard made his last pit stop on lap 41, Vettel was now right behind him but still had to make a stop to change to the soft tyres, which he hadn’t used yet.
When Vettel pitted and rejoined the race on the soft tyres, he was almost three seconds per lap faster, but it was too little, too late, and Alonso was able to cruise to the finish line. Vettel made a last-minute attempt to overtake Hamilton in third place, but he made two mistakes and ultimately finished in fourth place.
Raikkonen apparently had aimed to win the race, as he later said, “Second wasn’t quite what we wanted, but in the circumstances it was the best that we could manage today. I’m not 100% happy because we didn’t win, but it is what it is and second place is a good result after a bad start and the incident with Sergio [Perez].”
About the loss of downforce due to the damaged front wing he commented, “It was quite difficult out there; obviously the car is not designed like that otherwise we would use it all the time, but I was surprised how good it was still!”
Second podium place for Mercedes and Hamilton – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Hamilton, who had started from pole and finished in third place, was nevertheless happy with the result, “It was a good race for me today and whilst I would have loved the win, I’m really happy with third place and being on the podium for the second race in a row.”
And he added, “Fernando and Kimi were just a little bit too fast for us during the race and my tyres were shot at the end trying to keep ahead of Sebastian. I could see his car getting bigger and bigger in my mirrors so it was nice to be able to hang on for the third place.”
Vettel earned 12 points today, and he commented, “Our strategy seemed to work today. We knew it would be difficult and that it was crucial to get clean laps, but we didn’t in the first stint.”
The last few laps were very exciting, and the German said, “When I came on to the long straight and saw Lewis at the other end turning into the hair pin I thought ‘well, that’s a bit too far’, but obviously we had much more speed on the fresher tyres. It was a little bit disappointing to lose out by such a tiny bit; a few corners more and we could have tried something.”
Vettel wasn’t fast enough today in China – Photo: Red Bull Racing
Also Button was happy with his fifth place, the best result of the season so far for McLaren. ” The race was always going to be tricky: we weren’t quick enough to adopt the same strategy as the others, so we had to run longer than the rest and make two pit stops, rather than three.” And he added, “We know we still have a lot of work to do to challenge at the front, but we can take a lot of positives away from this weekend.”
Vettel is currently leading the Drivers’ Championship with 52 points, he is followed by Raikkonen (49), Alonso (43), Hamilton (40) Felipe Massa (30), and Webber is sixth with 26 points. Next race is the Bahrain Grand Prix on the Bahrain International Circuit on April 21.
By Berthold Bouman
Lewis Hamilton secured his first pole position with Mercedes today during qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix, round three of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship. The 2008 World Champion took pole as others like Red Bull, Lotus and McLaren were struggling to come to terms with the tyres on the Shanghai International Circuit.
Hamilton, who set his time on the soft Pirellis, was elated with his first pole with the Mercedes team. “Pole position is a great result for us today and to achieve it in my third race for the team is such a good feeling. I had to make sure the radio was off after my engineer told me I had pole because I was so excited,” Hamilton said.
Lewis Hamilton and Niki Lauda – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
About tomorrow’s race the Briton said, “It would be great to convert the position in the race tomorrow but it’s going to be a challenge and we’re realistic about how tough the race will be. The soft tyres don’t last for very long, and with a couple of quick guys starting on the mediums, it’ll be interesting to see how the race plays out.”
Kimi Raikkonen was this time fast during qualifying, he landed second spot on the grid and Fernando Alonso completed the top three for Ferrari.
Again, the focus was on preserving tyres for the race, therefore most teams stayed in the garage in Q1, aiming to qualify for Q2 in just one run. One of the early victims was Valtteri Bottas, who made a mistake in Turn 1 and did not make it into the next session. Also Esteban Gutierrez, Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton, Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde did not make it into Q2.
Webber has to start from the back of the grid – Photo: Red Bull Racing
In Q2, things went completely wrong for Mark Webber, he had a fuel pressure problem and had to park his car. Webber commented, “In Q2 we lost fuel pressure so I had to turn the car off and couldn’t get it back to the pits. I had to stop on the circuit, so qualifying was over before it started really.” Unfortunately for the Australian, the FIA stewards decided to exclude Webber from qualifying as Red Bull failed to provide enough fuel for the mandatory one litre fuel sample. The Australian will have to start the race from the back of the grid tomorrow.
A FIA statement read, “It was checked whether car number two had enough fuel on board in order to be driven back to the pits under its own power and in addition to this that a one litre fuel sample could be taken. The car had 150ml fuel on board which is not enough for the required one litre fuel sample and to drive the car back to the pits under its own power.”
Paul di Resta was quicker than his team colleague Adrian Sutil in Q2, but both failed to make it into the third and final qualifying session, as did Sergio Perez, Webber (14th before disqualification), Pastor Maldonado and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Then the heat was one for the final run for pole position. Nico Hulkenberg in the second Sauber didn’t even bother to go out in Q3, he finished the day in 10th place, but will have an extra set of fresh Pirellis for tomorrow’s race.
Vettel also stayed in the garage and he was ultimately ranked ninth fastest, but said he was on a different strategy. “We’re obviously on a different strategy to the cars in front, whether that works or not we will see tomorrow, but I’m confident we did the right thing based on the facts we have,” said the triple World Champion. And he added, “We have the advantage of choosing the tyres for tomorrow, so we’ll see.”
Jenson Button – Photo: McLaren F1
Jenson Button was the sole McLaren driver to make it into the top ten, he will start from eighth place on the grid. He had the same excuse as Vettel, Button also set his time on the primes (medium rubber compound), and he said, “Our aim was to be the first prime-tyre runner on the grid — even if it meant qualifying 10th — and we did that. This was the best we could do with what we have.”
Daniel Ricciardo must have been the happiest man at the Toro Rosso team, after a great run in Q3 he ended the day in seventh place. Also fast, but not as fast as his team colleague, was Romain Grosjean, he finished in sixth place.
Next on the list are Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg, who took fifth and fourth position respectively, Rosberg reckoned he lost a few places when he made a small mistake. “I made a small mistake at the last corner on my lap in Q3 which cost maybe a tenth and a couple of places. But I’m in a good position for the race and we’ve worked a lot on the race performance this weekend so I hope we can gain some places tomorrow,” said the German.
Alonso was third for Ferrari and he was happy with the result, “The weekend has been very good for us. The car felt competitive from Friday. The car is responding well and I think we have a good set-up for the race and if everything goes well we should be able to fight for the podium with both cars which is good for the team.”
Second place for Kimi Raikkoen – Photo: Lotus F1
Lotus indeed improved their qualifying pace, which was the Achilles heel of the Lotus E21, the gap to pole was just three-tenths of a second today, but the Iceman was not completely satisfied. “I think the gap is quite big still and we don’t have that speed right now. We were second, it’s not too bad,” he said about his best qualifying result ever for Lotus.
And he added, “Of course you’d rather be in first place. But like I said we don’t have the speed; I think we’re missing the downforce in the middle sector a bit, so we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”
And last, but not least, the opinion of Mercedes Team Principal Ross Brawn, and Mercedes Motorsport Director Toto Wolff. Brawn commented, “It’s a nice reward for all the hard work both here at the track and back at our factories in Brackley and Brixworth. However, there are no points gained on a Saturday as they say and there is a tough job ahead of us tomorrow to convert our qualifying positions. It’s going to be a fascinating race from a strategy and tyre perspective so we will wait and see how it plays out.”
Mercedes Team Principal Ross Brawn – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Also Wolff warned the race is tomorrow, and not today, and he remarked, “We will not get ahead of ourselves with this result as we expect an interesting race which will be decided by the different tyre strategies. A few competitors have chosen to qualify on prime tyres to run a longer first stint instead of the options which we and most of the runners used in Q3.”
By Berthold Bouman
Ferrari dominated the final free practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit this morning; Fernando Alonso topped the time sheets with a lap of 1m35.391, just 0.056s off the fastest time set this weekend by Felipe Massa on Friday afternoon.
Alonso was followed by his Brazilian team colleague who took second spot, while Lewis Hamilton showed what the Mercedes is capable of as he took third place. The 2008 World Champion was followed by both Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, who took fourth and fifth place respectively, but Webber was a little over one second off the fastest time set by Alonso.
Again a welcome surprise from Force India, as returnee Adrian Sutil took sixth spot, just ahead Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus E21, the Finn set a time of 1m36.605, and thus was 1.158s off the pace.
Fourth place for Vettel in FP3 – Photo: Red Bull Racing
Next were the two McLaren drivers, Jenson Button took eighth place, while his Mexican team colleague Sergio Perez was ninth, he was just 0.084s slower than 2009 World Champion Button. Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten, while his team colleague rookie Esteban Gutierrez was 17th after completing 20 laps on the Shanghai circuit.
Just outside the top ten were both Toro Rosso drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo who took possession of 11th and 12th place. Further down the list was Williams, Pastor Maldonado was 13th, and Valtteri Bottas was 15th, almost two seconds off the pace set by Alonso.
Technical problems for Nico Rosberg – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Nico Rosberg’s morning was ruined by a hydraulic issue, the German had to be satisfied with 14th place. Also problems for Paul di Resta, his attempts were hampered by set-up issues, the Scott took 16th spot this morning.
Romain Grosjean in the second Lotus complained about lack of grip, and was 18th. The last four places were again for Marussia and Caterham, Jules Bianchi was 19th in the Marussia, again outperforming his British team colleague Max Chilton, who was 21st.
Charles Pic was 20th for Caterham, while Dutchman Giedo van der Garde was 22nd and last this morning.
By Berthold Bouman
Felipe Massa was fastest for Ferrari this afternoon during the second free practice session for round three of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Chinese Grand Prix. The Brazilian set a time of 1m35.340 on the soft Pirellis, 1.377s faster than the fastest time set in the morning by Nico Rosberg. Fernando Alonso in the second Ferrari was third, almost half-a-second slower than Massa.
Kimi Raikkonen claimed second place for Lotus this afternoon, while his team colleague Romain Grosjean was twelfth. Rosberg was again fast as he took fourth place, while Lewis Hamilton in the other Mercedes was seventh, 1.156s off Massa’s time.
Mark Webber was again the fastest Red Bull driver, he took fifth place while triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel took it a bit easier and landed 10th spot.
McLaren found some more speed today In Shanghai – Photo: McLaren F1
It seems McLaren have found the leak, like this morning Jenson Button was sixth, while Sergio Perez was 11th. Also Adrian Sutil claimed the same position as this morning, he was eighth again with a lap of 1m36.415s, and was followed by his Scottish team colleague Paul di Resta who took ninth place.
Further down the order we find the first Sauber, Esteban Gutierrez was 13th, this time the Mexican was faster than Nico Hulkenberg, who was 17th after completing 32 laps on the Shanghai circuit.
Both Toro Rosso drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne were in 14th and 15th place, this afternoon Valtteri Bottas was faster than Pastor Maldonado, the Finn was 16th, while the Venezuelan drivers was 18th.
Daniel Ricciardo – Photo: Scuderia Toro Rosso
At the bottom of the list are the usual suspects, again Jules Bianchi was faster than Max Chilton, Bianchi was 19th, Chilton 22nd and last.
Giedo van der Garde was 20th, half-a-second faster than Charles Pic, who was back in the car after Ma Qing Hua had been in the car this morning.
By Berthold Bouman
After a three-week break all Formula One teams have arrived at the Shanghai International Circuit for round three of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Chinese Grand Prix. It will be the tenth time the race is held on the 5.451 km long Shanghai circuit, which is similar to the Malaysian Sepang circuit, but the weather conditions are expected to be much cooler this weekend.
Pirelli has nominated the Medium (prime, white marked) and Soft (option, yellow marked) tyres for China: the first time that this combination makes an appearance this year. According to Pirelli, the flexibility of the new 2013 tyres means ‘that several strategies are open to the teams’.
Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery explained, “China has often produced some of the best races of the year, where strategy has been at the forefront of the action. With all our compounds having got softer this year the degradation is deliberately more extreme leading to increased performance, but history has shown that it never takes too long for the teams and drivers to get on top of the tyres.”
Webber not happy with Vettel’s actions in Malaysia – Photo: Red Bull Racing
Unfortunately, the fast degrading tyres are the reason why teams opt to save tyres during qualifying in order to have more fresh sets during the race. Drivers stay in the garage for most of the time, which of course does not contribute to the show on Saturday afternoon. Tyre degradation also played an important role in the hottest story of the season so far.
The team that made the headlines in the past three weeks was of course Red Bull, the rivalry between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel has been re-ignited after Vettel ignored team orders to let Webber win the race at Sepang. Red Bull was afraid both drivers could ruin their tyres and therefore the decision was made to let Webber finish the race ahead of Vettel. Better safe than sorry was the motto.
But according to Red Bull Advisor Helmut Marko, the feud is over. “They don’t have to be completely on the same page but it must be a solid working partnership,” he said. “Sebastian apologised in the press conference and I think that was the first correct step to make. There was a debrief afterwards with the relevant discussions about the race and then there was a handshake between the two drivers. For us now the issue is settled.”
Kimi Raikkonen won the first race of the season – Photo: Lotus F1
A pleasant surprise at the start of the season, this time Lotus won the 2013 opener at Albert Park in Australia, but the second race in Malaysia was a bit of a let down for the Lotus fans, as Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen finished the race in sixth and seventh place respectively.
Nevertheless, Lotus’ Team Principal Eric Boullier was happy with the result of the Malaysian Grand Prix and said, “I think we can take some positives from Malaysia. We’ve made a step forward with the car in terms of single lap pace, but still the race pace looks strong as well.”
Lotus will have some significant updates ready for China and Boullier said, “For China, Romain will have the upgraded exhaust and bodywork package which Kimi ran in Malaysia, plus there will be a few additional parts arriving so it’s going to be quite interesting.”
According to Lotus’ Technical Director James Allison, the tyres will again be the deciding factor at the Shanghai circuit, “Some of the lower speed corners are also extended in their radius, even with tightening arcs. This provides quite a stern test for the tyres, as you have a significant excess of torque over grip making it very easy to wreck a set of rear tyres rather quickly.”
Fernando Alonso – Photo: Ferrari
Ferrari is currently third in the Constructors’ Championship, in Australia Fernando Alonso was second, but at Sepang he hit the rear of Vettel’s Red Bull and when his damaged front wing got wedged under the car, he crashed and his race was over after just one lap.
Alonso has spent some time in the simulator during the break, but he’s worried about the very fast degrading tyres. “Shanghai is a very nice track with a variety of corner types and fast straights, so you definitely need a car that works well in the fast sections, but you also need it to have plenty of downforce to deal with the tighter turns. We can expect to see quite high tyre degradation, especially on the fronts,” the Spaniard said.
Also Felipe Massa is upbeat ahead of the race on Sunday. “I know we have only done two races, but I have a good feeling so far this season. The work we did with the F138 over the winter has taken us in the right direction and the car has much more potential,” the Brazilian said.
Lewis Hamilton on the podium – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Lewis Hamilton moved from McLaren to Mercedes, and already scored his first podium place for the German team in Malaysia. Nico Rosberg scored his maiden win, and so far the only victory for Mercedes, during the Chinese Grand Prix in 2012, but it will be difficult to repeat that according to Mercedes Motorsport Director Toto Wolff.
“Like they say, yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games, and that’s definitely true for us. We start again from zero this year and need to work hard to adapt the car to suit the circuit and the tyre compounds we have available, in the conditions that we find on track this weekend. Then we will see where we stand relative to the competition,” the Austrian said.
Team Principal Ross Brawn is confident ahead of the race, but there is still a lot do, and he commented, “Our season has started well, perhaps better than we expected, however we’re fully aware that there is still a gap to close and that we must keep up the pace of development. A lot of hard work has taken place at our factories over the last two weeks to do just that and I look forward to seeing how that translates to track performance.”
Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil – Photo: Sahara Force India
Force India is fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, and the return of Adrian Sutil was the best decision they’ve made this season, as he led the Australian Grand Prix for almost 30 laps. But in Malaysia everything went pear-shaped, and both Sutil and Paul di Resta had to retire as there were problems with the wheel nuts.
But team owner Vijay Mallya is adamant the wheel nut issues have been solved, “We’ve had three weeks to understand what went wrong and have worked hard fix the root cause of the problem.” Sutil is confident of a good performance this weekend and the German said, “The layout is not too different to Sepang, so it should suit us again and I hope we can be strong there.”
And he added, “Also, we know there are lots of areas where we can improve because we have learned a lot from the first couple of races. The other teams will not stand still so we need to keep pushing hard and keep up this momentum.”
Sauber had their ups and downs, in Australia Nico Hulkenberg couldn’t start the race due to problems with the fuel system, but he hopes to do better in China. “I have a better feeling now I have driven my first race in the C32, especially because we were able to collect a lot of information. In Malaysia we scored points and that is also my goal for China,” Hulkenberg said.
Sauber will also bring some new parts to China, and they will be tested during the free practice sessions. Tom McCullough, Sauber’s Head of Track Engineering said, “We analysed the data that we collected in Malaysia and found interesting directions for the development of the car, therefore we will bring several test parts to Shanghai. Having secured our first points of the season in Malaysia, we are eager to add to them as soon as possible.”
Jenson Button – Photo: McLaren F1
While Ferrari is now up to pace compared to the start of the 2012 season, it seems that McLaren now is the top team that has fallen behind, as they are only seventh in the Constructors’ Championship with just four points. Both drivers have struggled with the new Pirellis, and Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh is certainly not happy with seventh place.
“Clearly, our performance in Australia and Malaysia fell below the high standards we’ve come to expect at McLaren,” said Whitmarsh. McLaren made good use of the break and are aiming to improve their performance this weekend, and Whitmarsh added, “We have been fully engaged in further developing our understanding of the MP4-28 and are confident of being able to implement a number of changes this weekend that will widen its operating window and, potentially, improve its performance.”
Scuderia Toro Rosso managed to score one point in two races, courtesy to Jean-Eric Vergne, who finished tenth in Malaysia. Plenty of rivalry at Toro Rosso as well, Daniel Ricciardo promised to ‘trash’ his team colleague this season, but Frenchman Vergne has so far beaten the Australian driver, who is also aiming to replace Mark Webber at sister team Red Bull in 2014.
Two retirements for Maldonado – Photo: Williams F1
Also a very difficult start of the season for Williams, last year they were very quick and even won the Spanish Grand Prix, this season Pastor Maldonado retired from both races, while Valtteri Bottas finished just outside the top ten.
Like other drivers, Bottas reckons managing the Pirelli tyres will be the key to success, and he remarked, “Getting the tyres to work will be the biggest challenge facing all of the teams, as the temperatures are often low and the smooth track surface is quite different to what we saw in the first two races.”
Surprisingly, Marussia has beaten Caterham during the first two races, and the Anglo-Russian outfit has even managed to produce a few car updates during the break. Team Principal John Booth explained, “The cars were freighted directly to China, so while we would not call the upgrades we have for this race comprehensive, they are still significant. We will be running some new suspension parts that we proved out in testing but delayed until we had some further race distance experience with the MR02. We also have some new front and rear brake ducts.”
Caterham has been struggling due to massive understeer. “On Friday and Saturday morning we’ll also be working on several performance areas that the team has been looking at since Malaysia, particularly around dialling out the understeer issues I had in Australia and Malaysia,” said Charles Pic.
Dutchman Giedo van der Garde is confident his team will solve the problems and said, “We had oversteer issues on entry into the corners in Malaysia and Australia and that definitely hit my race pace, particularly as it was impacting on tyre degradation levels, so we’ve done a bit of work on that with Pirelli in Milan and back at Leafield since Malaysia so we’ll see what we’ve achieved when we get to Shanghai.”
Qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix will start at 15:00 hrs local time and the race on Sunday starts at 14:00 hrs local time.
By Berthold Bouman
Kimi Raikkonen was fastest for Lotus after the chequered flag was waved to signal the end of the second practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix this afternoon. The Finn set his time on the medium Pirelli tyre compound, and lapped the Sepang International Circuit in 1m36.569s. His team colleague Romain Grosjean was sixth in the second Lotus.
After Raikkonen had set his fastest lap, the rain came down and this was, of course, an excellent opportunity to test the Pirelli intermediate wet tyres, as rain is also expected during qualifying and the race. Sebastian Vettel was second, but only by the smallest of margins, as the German was just 0.019s slower than Raikkonen.
Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso were third and fourth respectively, again proving Ferrari has this time a car that is fast right out of the box. Mark Webber, who was fastest in the morning, had to be satisfied with fifth place after completing 29 laps.
Nico Rosberg was seventh quickest this afternoon – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Nico Rosberg was again the fastest Mercedes driver, while Lewis Hamilton was ninth, just over a second off the pace. Force India driver Paul di Resta took eighth spot, 1.002s slower than pace-setter Raikkonen. Adrian Sutil completed the top ten this afternoon.
Things looked just a little bit brighter for McLaren, as Sergio Perez and Jenson Button were 11th and 12th respectively, both drivers were primarily gathering data for the McLaren engineers, who are working around the clock to get some speed in the MP4-28.
Next on the list are both Sauber drivers, Nico Hulkenberg was 13th, while his Mexican team colleague was half-a-second slower but nevertheless took 14th place. A little improvement compared to this morning for both Toro Rosso drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo, they were 15th and 17th in the STR8.
Jean-Eric Vergne – Photo: Toro Rosso
Pastor Maldonado was actually slower than in FP1, and was sixteenth in the Williams, his Finnish team colleague Valtteri Bottas was even a little over three seconds off the pace, and finished in 19th place.
Jules Bianchi was again much faster than Max Chilton, Bianchi was 18th, and Chilton 22nd and last in the second Marussia. Frenchman Charles Pic was 20th for Caterham, while Dutchman Giedo van der Garde was 21st.
The third and final practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix will take place tomorrow morning, while in the afternoon drivers will be battling for pole position.
By Berthold Bouman
A second place for Fernando Alonso and a fourth place for Felipe Massa during the Australian Grand Prix has put Ferrari in the lead of the 2013 FIA Formula One Constructors’ Championship, a good start of the season, and the Scuderia are hoping to confirm at Sepang that they are a title contender for this year’s Formula One crown.
Stefano Domenicali: Melbourne was first step in a very long season
Ferrari Team Principal Stefano was relieved Ferrari were able to score a podium place at Melbourne, but also warned there is no room for complacency. “It was important to see both our drivers deliver strong performances, as it provides a great basis on which we can build a competitive season and I’m pleased for both of them. But it’s only the first step in a very long season and now is the time to analyse and evaluate all the data from Melbourne,” Domenicali said in a Ferrari statement.
About the next race in Malaysia he said, “We need to wait and see how our car will behave in what is a totally different environment: the track will make different demands on the cars to the ones we experienced in Australia, with a change in track surface and the unique weather conditions, very hot and humid, will also impact on everyone’s performance this weekend.”
“We know what is required here and we will need the usual compromise in terms of downforce levels to deal with both the tighter section and the two long fast straights.”
Fernando Alonso arrived at Sepang – Photo: Ferrari
Fernando Alonso: This weekend is a very real test for us
This weekend Alonso will be driving his 200th Grand Prix, and he certainly seems to feel at home at Sepang, as he won the race last year, in a car that was two seconds off the pace, this year Ferrari is back at the top, and hungry for more. “I think there is no comparison with last year, as at the time we couldn’t even get into Q3 and we were nowhere near where we wanted to be,” said Alonso when he arrived at the Sepang International Circuit.
“In Australia, everything went fine for us and we showed we have a good potential. However, it’s true that the Australian circuit is strange and unusual. That means that this weekend we will be looking for a little bit of confirmation that the car is performing well,” the Spaniard added.
He’s also confident Ferrari can keep up with their rivals this season. “The pace of the Lotus was very good, but it was not something we could not do, it was not out of our reach,” Alonso resolutely said. “Red Bull had a big difference in their pace between qualifying and the race and so for them too, this will be a very important weekend to understand what is happening. But that is not our problem: we will just try to do our best and then see what the others do.”
Asked about the goal for this weekend he replied, “We want a clean weekend and hopefully a podium will again be a very good target for us and if we manage it, we can be very happy.”
Felipe Massa hoping for another great weekend – Photo: Ferrari
Felipe Massa: The car is ten times better
Also Massa is convinced Ferrari has a very competitive car for this season. “The car is ten times better and I feel happy and more comfortable than I did at this time last year, when I struggled to understand the car. This year I can be much more consistent and the car is easier to drive, which is pretty good for the team and also for me,” the Brazilian said.
He too thinks that Malaysia is another test to confirm that Ferrari are competitive this season, “Overall, Australia went well for us and we need to make sure we progress race by race now. The situation could be completely different at this track and we need to wait and see. Maybe we will have a clearer picture of what is really the gap between us and the others in qualifying, either negative or positive.”
• Red Bull Malaysian GP Preview
• Ferrari Malaysian GP Preview
• McLaren Malaysian GP Preview
• Lotus Malaysian GP Preview
• Mercedes Malaysian GP Preview
• Sauber Malaysian GP Preview
• Force India Malaysian GP Preview
• Williams Malaysian GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Malaysian GP Preview
• Caterham Malaysian GP Preview
• Marussia Malaysian GP Preview
By Berthold Bouman
Although Kimi Raikkonen won the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne today, Ferrari are in the lead of the 2013 FIA Formula One Constructors’ Championship, as Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were second and fourth respectively, which means the Scuderia have bagged 30 points at the Albert Park Circuit.
Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo must be pleased with the result, last year the Maranello-based team scored only 10 points during the first race of the year, and were playing catch-up for almost the entire season. But Ferrari is back at the top and Team Principal Stefano Domenicali is also happy with today’s result.
“After winter testing, we had said we were aiming for a podium in Australia and I am pleased we have reached this first objective. This is only the first of nineteen races and we are happy to see Scuderia Ferrari at the top of the constructors’ classification: it is an encouraging start on which we must continue to build our championship,” Domenicali said in a team statement.
Alonso gets in his car, he finished second today – Photo: Ferrari
Alonso agrees with his team boss, and is also pleased to see Ferrari has returned to the top. “We can claim to have started this season on the right foot, immediately in the fight with the best. Along with the results from winter testing, it is a very encouraging sign that we managed to get the most out of a weekend that was full of unknown factors, both in qualifying and the race,” said the Spanish double World Champion.
Alonso was adamant the three-stop strategy was the right one, “With the degradation we had, it would have been impossible to manage on one less and bringing forward the second one by a few laps meant I was able to pass Vettel and Sutil.”
But he still thinks Red Bull is very quick, and remarked, “Finishing ahead of the Red Bull tastes like a win, even if we know that despite today’s race result, they are still the quickest.”
He’s already looking forward to the next race in Malaysia, “We can expect another weekend with very changeable weather and one that also puts a lot of stress on the cars from a mechanical point of view and on the drivers, from a physical one. But we can tackle it calmly on the back of this good result.”
Massa can relax a bit, he was fourth today – Photo: Ferrari
Massa was also happy, he even led the race today and he is also upbeat ahead of the next race, “This is definitely a very positive start to the season, especially because this is a track where I have always suffered. We have shown that our car is competitive, with a good race pace and that is down to all the hard work done during winter testing.”
The Brazilian reckoned he could have been on the podium as well, “I had an attacking start to my race, in which I was immediately fighting for the top places. Maybe if we had brought forward the second stop, as Fernando did, the podium would have been within my grasp, but I am still very happy with my result.”
And of course, the man who designed the Ferrari F138, Technical Director Pat Fry, was also pleased with the progress Ferrari has made. “This afternoon, we had a good race pace and both drivers performed well without making any mistakes.”
But there’s still work to be done and the Briton said, “We are aware that we still have a lot of work to do if we want to continue to improve. Maybe we could have risked a two stop strategy, but given the unknowns linked to tyre degradation, we preferred not to do that. In the next races, it will be vital to understand the tyre behaviour, in order to choose the best strategies.”
By Berthold Bouman
Kimi Raikkonen won the first race of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship, the Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne. The Finn won the race thanks to a two-stop strategy, while his rivals Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, who were on a three-stop schedule, took second and third place respectively.
The Iceman, who secured his 20th Grand Prix win today, was this time a bit more talkative and said after the race, ‘I’m happy for the team and for myself also. We’ve had a quick car all weekend and there were no issues with it either, so we could just focus on trying different things and getting the set-up how we wanted.”
According to the Finn, it was his easiest win in his career, “I made a few places at the start and then had a good battle with Lewis [Hamilton] but after that it was quite simple; probably one of my easiest wins. You can’t start the season much better than winning the first race and of course we hope we can be fighting at the front of the Championship, but there’s a long way to go still and we need to keep pushing hard all the way.”
Ferrari relieved to be on the right pace – Photo: Ferrari
Not a bad start of the season either for Ferrari, the Scuderia were on the right pace all weekend and were able to follow leader Vettel during the first stage of the race, and when Vettel pitted for the first time, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso were briefly leading the race.
“We can claim to have started this season on the right foot, immediately in the fight with the best. Along with the results from winter testing, it is a very encouraging sign that we managed to get the most out of a weekend that was full of unknown factors, both in qualifying and the race,” a relieved Alonso stated after the podium ceremony.
After the start of the race, Vettel was leading, but Mark Webber in the second Red Bull had another of his disastrous starts, he was seventh after completing the first lap at Albert Park. Vettel, who was a bit disappointed not to win the race after he had claimed pole position in the morning, commented, “We had a good day today with a pole and a podium — but in the race we were a little too aggressive with the tyres and lost the front and the rears, while others did a little better.”
Fifth place for Hamilton at Albert Park – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Lewis Hamilton was fifth for Mercedes, while Nico Rosberg retired due to electrical problems. Hamilton started from third on the grid, and was pleased with today’s result. “It’s much better than we expected for the first race of the season. The car felt really good out there; I had a strong first stint and was able to make the super softs last longer than most of the others. We’d planned for two stops but converted to a three-stop strategy during the race,” he explained.
And he added, “The important thing is that we have a car that we can really work with and the team have done a fantastic job to get us to this position.”
Star of the race was without a doubt returnee Adrian Sutil, who after 20 laps led the race for Force India, thanks to an alternative pit stop schedule. On his medium tyres the German could easily keep the Red Bulls and Ferraris behind him, but later on the super soft tyres slid down the order, and finished in seventh spot.
“What a fantastic race and a great feeling,” Sutil said, adding, “The pace was quick and the car felt very good on the medium tyres so I was able to keep up with the guys in front of me, who I knew were going to pit early.
A perfect comeback for Sutil who further commented, “My final stint on the super softs was much more difficult because the tyres started graining and I lost a few places. I was thinking I might need to pit again, but fortunately the tyres came back to me for the final few laps so I could save the seventh place.”
Bad day for McLaren, Perez making a pit stop – Photo: McLaren
Ferrari were of course relieved to be on the pace, while McLaren found out they were slow, very slow, and Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were hardly able to defend their initial positions in the top ten. However, Button was satisfied with the result. “I think we should be pretty satisfied with what we achieved here in Melbourne today. It was a tricky race, and our car isn’t yet quick enough, so I think the team did a great job to achieve even as much as we did,” said the 2009 World Champion.
It was also a difficult race for Perez, who made his debut for McLaren and finished in 11th place. “I got a good start, which is always a bonus, but, after that, even though the team did a great job with the strategy, we just didn’t have enough pace to make significant further progress,” the Mexican said. And he duly added, “Our engineers are aware that our car isn’t yet as quick as it needs to be, but I know I’m now part of the best team in Formula One so I’m certain they’ll improve it fast.”
Mixed results for Toro Rosso, Daniel Ricciardo had to retire with an exhaust-related problem, but Jean-Eric Vergne finished the race in 12th spot, just a few tenths of a second behind Perez.
“It was a hot start, I was pushed to the outside and I ended up going through a gravel trap at one point,” Vergne said, and he added, ”After that, the first stint on the Option [super softs] was only average, but the last two sections on the Prime tyre were very good and competitive and I was even in the points for a couple of corners right at the end.” But he thinks the STR8 is basically a good car, “Overall, I think the weekend showed we have a good car with which we ought to be able to go hunting for points in every race.”
Esteban Gutierrez made his F1 debut – Photo: Sauber Motorsport
Also not a good day for Nico Hulkenberg, who could not start the race due to a fuel system problem, he was already on his way to the airport when the race started. For rookie Esteban Gutierrez, however, it was a good Formula One debut, as he finished in 13th place.
“My main goal was to finish the race, and to achieve that is really enjoyable,” said the young Mexican. “I want to thank the whole team, because yesterday in qualifying we had a good chance and today we were able to recover some of what we lost yesterday. We have a good base and in the future we will try and push forward.”
Further down the order in 14th place was Valtteri Bottas, the only Williams driver to finish the race, as Pastor Maldonado made a mistake at Turn 1 and ended up in the gravel trap after completing only 24 laps in the ‘undriveable’ Williams.
Bottas, however, was pleased with his Formula One debut. “We got the maximum performance we could from the car today and although the pace isn’t there yet, there are still some positives to take away. The next race is only a week away, so we will work very hard to prepare as best we can and try to score our first points of the season,” the Finn commented.
The last four places were for Marussia and Caterham, Jules Bianchi in the Marussia was 15th, again showing he’s much faster than his team colleague Max Chilton, who was 17th, one lap behind Bianchi.
“I am very happy with my race today and really can’t imagine a better start to my first season of Formula One,” Bianchi said. “Generally everything went very smoothly in the race and we worked our way through the tyre management issues as well as we could in order to maximise the possibilities.”
Charles Pic was 16th for Caterham, and told his story. “We started on the super softs and our pace was ok for the first stint but the tyres dropped off very quickly.” And he further explained, “In contrast, when we went onto the mediums the degradation levels were very good so we were able to push the second stint much longer than we’d planned and that gave us a chance to fight. Unfortunately towards the end of the race we had a KERS failure which obviously cut our outright pace and prevented us from taking full advantage of the good tyre wear we saw on the primes.”
Also Giedo van der Garde was pleased with his Grand Prix debut, “For me that was a reasonable start to my Formula One career. It was really important to finish my first race and that’s exactly what I did so I’m pretty happy with how it ended up.”
For round two of the 2013 championship, the Formula One circus will move to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit next weekend.
Australian GP Results (Opens in new window)
By Berthold Bouman
Romain Grosjean was fastest for Lotus this morning during the final free practice session for the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, the Frenchman set his time in the rain, just before the rain came down even harder, others were not able to go quicker on the soaking wet Melbourne track.
Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari F 138 was just 0.071s slower than the Lotus driver, the Spaniard was followed by his team colleague Felipe Massa who finished the morning in third place, confirming Ferrari are on the right pace from day one this season.
Paul di Resta was fourth for Force India, six-tenths of a second behind Grosjean, while Adrian Sutil was this time eighth, after completing 18 laps on a wet circuit. The second Lotus piloted by Kimi Raikkonen was in fifth place, he was followed by the Toro Rosso’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, the Toro Rosso STR8 certainly looks quick in the rain.
Eric Boullier and Romain Grosjean – Photo: Lotus F1
Nico Hulkenberg was the fastest Sauber driver, he took ninth place after completing 18 laps, while his team colleague Mexican Esteban Gutierrez was tenth, both set exactly the same time and lapped the circuit in 1m28.253s.
Nico Rosberg was 11th for Mercedes, while Friday pace-setter Sebastian Vettel took 12th place, followed by his team colleague Mark Webber, who was 13th during the third and final practice session for his home Grand Prix.
The rain was an advantage for the slower teams, a point proved by Jules Bianchi, who was 14th in the Marussia, right behind the Red Bull duo. Also Caterham did well in the wet, as Dutchman Giedo van der Garde was 15th, and his French team mate Charles Pic took 16th position.
Not a good start for McLaren, also in the wet they were quite off the pace, Jenson Button was 17th, while Sergio Perez was 18th. The last four drivers on the board were not really able to set a representative time in the wet, as both Williams drivers Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas were 19th and 20th respectively, both were 12 seconds off the pace.
Pastor Maldonado struggling in the wet – Photo: Williams
Max Chilton was again slower than his French colleague Bianchi, and was 21st, and Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes didn’t really bother to set a decent time, and was 22nd and last, 20 seconds behind Grosjean, Hamilton only completed 9 laps this morning.
Australian GP Results (Opens in new window)
By Berthold Bouman
It already had been predicted: Red Bull was sandbagging during pre-season testing and unsurprisingly was the fastest this morning during the first free practice session for the Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne.
Vettel set a fastest time of 1m27.211s, beating Felipe Massa in the Ferrari with just 0.078s. Ferrari looked strong as Fernando Alonso claimed third place in the new Ferrari F138. Lewis Hamilton was surprisingly fast and took fourth place in the Mercedes, he was 0.341s off the pace set by Vettel, but it was an encouraging first practice session for the Silver Arrows team, as Nico Rosberg was seventh after completing 17 laps on the Melbourne circuit.
On a still green track many drivers opted to save tyres, but Mark Webber was fifth in the second Red Bull, half-a-second behind his German team mate.
Kimi Raikkonen was sixth this morning – Photo: Lotus F1
Kimi Raikkonen took the honours for Lotus, the Finn was sixth in the new E21. His French team mate Romain Grosjean was tenth, 0.643s slower than Raikkonen. A great result for Adrian Sutil who made his Formula One comeback for Force India, he was eighth. His team mate Paul di Resta spun after he had put his wheels on the grass, and finished the morning in 13th place.
Not a good start for McLaren, Jenson Button was correct in his prediction that McLaren still has a lot of work to do, as he didn’t get further than ninth place in the McLaren MP4-28. Sergio Perez, who made his debut for McLaren, didn’t do much better and took 13th place this morning.
Much was expected of Sauber, but Nico Hulkenberg took a disappointing 12th spot, while his team mate Esteban Gutierrez, who made his Formula One debut today, was 16th, the young Mexican was almost three seconds slower than pace-setter Vettel.
Sergio Perez was clearly off the pace – Photo: McLaren
Further down the order were the two Williams drivers Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas, they took 14th and 15th place respectively, Bottas was half-a-second slower than the Venezuelan driver.
The next two on the list are both Toro Rosso drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo, they claimed 17th and 18th place, the bad news was that they were both over three seconds off the pace.
Jules Bianchi beat his team mate Max Chilton, and both drivers, who will also make their Grand Prix debut this weekend, scored 19th and 20th position in the Marussia, Chilton was one second slower than his French colleague.
It already had been predicted, Caterham have lost their advantage to Marussia, and Charles Pic, who drove for Marussia in 2012, was 21st, while also rookie Dutchman Giedo van der Garde took 22nd and last place, but he was only one-tenth slower than Pic.
Australian GP Results (Opens in new window)
By Berthold Bouman
Also the most famous team in Formula One, Scuderia Ferrari, are on their way to Australia for round one of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship, which will take place at the semi-permanent Albert Park circuit, near Melbourne. After testing Ferrari reckons they are in a better shape than at the start of the 2012 season.
Team Principal Stefano Domenicali: Australia an important test bench
For Ferrari’s Team Principal Stefano Domenicali, the Australian Grand Prix will be an important test bench, “To think of drawing conclusions after the first qualifying session in Australia would be premature because it represents only the beginning of a long voyage that ends in November. For many reasons, however, it can be considered an important test bench to establish the state of play.”
Ferrari also spent the winter reorganising their design and race teams, and Domenicali is confident the Scuderia is ready for 2013, “The new business structure, the working methods, the modifications to the equipment that we have used to work on this car, the consistency of the results compared with our targets and what we saw in the recent tests — these all seem to tell us that we are on the right path at last compared to the past.”
And he added, “A podium in Australia would be a good base on which to build the kind of successes we need.”
Felipe Massa is also ready for Melbourne – Photo: Ferrari
Fernando Alonso: Understanding Pirelli tyres will be essential
Star driver Fernando Alonso also thinks the Scuderia is on the right path, “I think we are more or less ready for Melbourne,” said the Spaniard. “I feel confident in the car, while knowing Australia will not be easy. As usual, our aero development will be the key to having a good season, while getting a good understanding of the new, more complicated Pirelli tyres, will also be essential.”
Asked about what he expects this season he commented, “I don’t think we will see one team dominate, but also I don’t expect seven winners in the first races, like last year. And he added, “It will be very close and from our point of view, a good result this weekend would remove some of the stress. I enjoy the Albert Park circuit, it is technical and difficult and the track, being a street circuit, evolves throughout the weekend.”
Felipe Massa: We start the season with a better car
Felipe Massa was given another chance by Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo, and the Brazilian is ready to roar again. “I plan to start the 2013 season the way I went during the second half of 2012 and then build on that,” he said.
“I expect the drivers from two or three teams to do most of the winning,” Massa predicted. “As for ourselves, we start the season with a better car than we did last year, so I am happy and positive with the way testing went, when I felt the car evolved from the first day to the last, when I was happy with the balance of the F138 and felt comfortable at the wheel.”
Quizzed about his expectations for the first race of the season he said, “I can’t say Albert Park is my favourite track, but I love coming to Australia, which is a great country with very nice people who really like their racing. The track here is demanding, but I expect the F138 will be well adapted to it and that we can have a good first weekend.”
• Red Bull Australian GP Preview
• Ferrari Australian GP Preview
• McLaren Australian GP Preview
• Lotus Australian GP Preview
• Mercedes Australian GP Preview
• Sauber Australian GP Preview
• Force India Australian GP Preview
• Williams Australian GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Australian GP Preview
• Caterham Australian GP Preview
• Marussia Australian GP Preview
By Berthold Bouman
Teams, drivers and fans are looking forward to the first race of the year: the Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne. After 12 days of pre-season testing the status quo of the 11 teams is still somewhat nebulous to say the least, some teams, like Red Bull Racing, haven’t shown their trump cards yet, and thus it’s impossible to predict who stands the best chance to win the Australian Grand Prix. In today’s preview: Red Bull Racing, Ferrari, Force India, Williams, Caterham and Marussia.
Red Bull Racing
1. Sebastian Vettel
2. Mark Webber
It’s no secret Red Bull haven’t shown their true pace yet, for the fifth successive season Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber will fight for the honours of the Austrian team, Red Bull certainly didn’t want to take any chances by changing their driver line-up. The eternal question raised when hearing the name Webber, is whether he can keep up with his team mate Vettel, the Australian must have heard it dozens of times, for now, we’ll leave this question unanswered and let Webber’s racing do the talking.
Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel – Photo: Red Bull Racing
Red Bull’s test results were certainly not something to write home about, they also encountered some reliability issues, but Vettel wasn’t too concerned after his last test day in Barcelona. “We’re in good enough shape I think. Overall testing has been good for us and we didn’t have too many problems,” Vettel said.
And he added, “If you sum up all three tests I think all the teams were linked in to what the tyres could do and at times it was extremely difficult to read the set-up changes and find a direction because the tyres were always pretty challenging.”
Webber is of course looking forward to his home Grand Prix, “I think we’ve done well and we have made a step forward. As I’ve said before it’s very difficult to see a real pecking order. We’ve just always been focused on what we have to do and not really looked too hard at anyone else.”
But there are some technical issues which have to be addressed, and Webber added, “We have some work to do, for sure, and we have a few things we need to iron out, but that’s the same for everybody.” And indeed, it must be said, last year Red Bull had a slow start, but as soon as designer Adrian Newey got to grips with the problems, Vettel was unstoppable and after the Italian Grand Prix won four successive races, which in the end, opened the door to winning his third successive World Championship.
3. Fernando Alonso
4. Felipe Massa
Again clemency for Felipe Massa after a disastrous 2012 campaign, Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo signed the Brazilian for yet another year with the Reds, as he didn’t want to disturb the balance within the team by hiring another driver.
Ferrari were poised to not make the same mistake as last year, when they were playing catch-up almost all season long. Despite the many problems, magician Alonso managed to win three races last year, but he feels this season the car will be better than ever. “I’m confident I can start the season with a better car than the one we had in the first few months of last year,” Alonso said.
Felipe Massa testing the F138 at Barcelona – Photo: Ferrari
“It was actually in the early races that we lost decisive points, when we had a car that was only good enough for seventh,” he explained. “Last year was the best year of my career and I was very happy with the performance but I think we will do better because I have prepared better and I am more motivated than last year.”
Asked what he expects from Massa he said, “He and I have always helped one another, day by day and I expect him to always be very close to me in terms of performance: what was not normal was the difference between us over the past two years, but now I don’t think that will be the case. That will be a very positive factor for me and especially for the team.”
Team Principal Stefano Domenicali is adamant Ferrari will be fighting for the title until the very last race. He expects to be on the podium in Melbourne, “Unless someone else has done an exceptional job I’m convinced that Ferrari will be in the battle to the end,” said the Italian. “A podium in Australia would be a good base on which to build the kind of successes we need.”
And he added, “For many reasons, however, Melbourne can be considered an important test bench to establish the state of play. I expect that the teams who finished in the top positions in Sao Paulo will repeat that in Melbourne, probably with a reduced advantage — that’s what we are all hoping for, anyway.”
14. Paul di Resta
15. Adrian Sutil
Adrian Sutil must be the happiest driver on the start grid of the Australian Grand Prix, he returned to his former team after his legal problems with Genii CEO Eric Lux after a bar fight in Shanghai, China. “I’m delighted to be back in Formula One, especially with a team I know so well,” said the German.
Paul di Resta, overlooked by the big teams – Photo: Force India
“Having been away from the sport, I’m even more determined to achieve my goals in Formula One. Things went really well at the Barcelona test last week and it almost feels as though I’ve never been away.”
Paul di Resta’s job was never in doubt, and he is aiming for a podium position this season. He strongly feels he has been ‘overlooked’ by the big teams, and is determined to show what he’s worth. “I certainly want a podium and then I want to be on it again. That’s the target.”
“But”, he said, “I don’t want to luck-in to a podium. For me it has to be a well-earned top-three finish, one which we can build on. We need to do it on merit, and I certainly believe it’s achievable.” And he added, “If we can do that, then we can push for podiums and, hopefully, move from seventh in the constructors’ championship to fifth. That’s the team goal, and it’s one I believe we can achieve together.”
16. Pastor Maldonado
17. Valtteri Bottas
Williams were the surprise of 2012, after years of misery and mishaps, the team led by Sir Frank Williams, won the Spanish Grand Prix after Pastor Maldonado qualified in second place and outsmarted Alonso during the race. A victory after eight lean years, and Sir Frank was of course happy with his Venezuelan driver, but he was less happy with the performance of Bruno Senna, who was dumped in favour of Valtteri Bottas.
Valtteri Bottas – Photo: Williams
But Maldonado has no doubts he can win another race for Williams. In an interview with ESPN he said, “We are fighting with mega teams and maybe we don’t have everything to be winning the championships, but I think we are going to win some races and we can be very competitive. I don’t know if we can be at a very high level all through the year, but we are doing our best with the tools we have in the factory to do a good car.”
Rookie Bottas is ready for the first Formula One race of his career, “It feels incredible to be driving in Formula One 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.”
After the final test day he said, “Overall, it has been a productive winter test and I’ve achieved what I wanted to from it. The car has been really reliable and now I feel fully prepared for the start of the season.”
20. Charles Pic
21. Giedo van der Garde
Caterham took a gamble this season by signing rookie Giedo van der Garde, while the experienced Heikki Kovalainen was ousted in favour of Charles Pic, who will start his second full Formula One season after his rookie season with Marussia. Both drivers were successful in the GP2 feeder series, but Formula One is of course something quite different.
Rookie Giedo van der Garde – Photo: Caterham F1
Pic said after the recent test days at Jerez and Barcelona, “It was also important to use the tests to familiarise myself with the whole team. I’ve really enjoyed working with everyone — there’s a good atmosphere inside the team and we’re realistic about what we can achieve this year so we’ll go into the season with a good spirit and aim to take advantage of anything that comes our way when the races start.”
Dutchman van der Garde saw his dream finally come true, “I know I am ready to take the step up to Formula One and all the work I have done throughout my career, and particularly in the last year with this team, has brought me to my ultimate goal.”
Team principal Cyril Abiteboul, who took over from Tony Fernandes, will no longer be satisfied with tenth place in the Constructors’ Championship, “We can’t satisfy ourselves anymore by being the best of the new teams,” he said. “I think we need to be doing better than that and we need to demonstrate that we can be doing better than that.”
22. Jules Bianchi
23. Max Chilton
Marussia originally signed Brazilian Luiz Razia, but his contract was shredded after his Brazilian sponsors let him down, and Marussia signed Jules Bianchi instead. Marussia was clear about the 2013 season: they had to hire to pay drivers to survive, and that was the reason why Timo Glock suddenly left the team.
Max Chilton – Photo: Marussia F
Team Principal John Booth said about the 2013 season, “We embark on the first real test of 2013 feeling very positive about our new car — the MR02 — and what lies ahead in this next important chapter in the development of the Marussia F1 Team.”
“The incremental steps we were taking in the latter half of last season gave us the confidence to not only fight hard for 10th place in the Constructors’ Championship, but to feel encouraged by our overall design direction.” And Marussia have already made progress during testing, it seems they are faster than Caterham this year, much to the delight of Booth.
“Overall I think we have achieved as much preparation as possible to take us into the opening race in Melbourne. Max [Chilton] has a bit of everything under his belt after so much time in the car across a variety of conditions and set-ups. Jules [Bianchi] has done a good job in the limited amount of time he has had in the MR02. I’m not sure we could have asked any more of either of them.”
Tomorrow part 2: McLaren, Mercedes, Lotus, Sauber and Toro Rosso