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
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• Lotus Monaco GP Preview
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• 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
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
Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso is determined to score during his home Grand Prix this weekend, the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya. Driving a home race is always a special feeling, and racing in front of a home crowd gives you another 10 percent extra, according to the Spaniard.
Fernando Alonso: We need to have a normal weekend
Double World Champion Alonso explained why this race is important, “This year, we have seen that race pace and tyres are the key factors, more so than previously. Obviously it’s good to start from the front, because you know your chances are high and you can almost touch the podium if you qualify on the front row. We need to have a normal weekend, finding the right balance between qualifying and the race.”
Fernando Alonso and his race engineer Andrea Stella – Photo: Ferrari
Alonso is confident he will perform well, “We finished second in Australia and we won in China, because we have a very different package. This gives us optimism and confidence that we can have a good championship, if we deliver consistent results.”
And he added, “This year is the first time I have arrived here with a competitive car but we still need to do everything right and put together a good weekend if we want to fight for the top places. We will also need to see how the car responds to some new parts we have here. But we can say we are approaching this weekend with a positive mentality, not a defensive one like we did in my first years with Ferrari.”
About the gap with his rivals Alonso commented, “We are some points behind at the moment, but it’s a long championship and we have seen many examples of people fighting back: last year, Sebastian [Vettel] was 43 points behind us after the summer break and arrived in Austin leading the classification, so in five or six races you can recover 45 to 50 points if you get some consistent results.”
Felipe Massa – Photo: Ferrari
Felipe Massa: I also hope we will be competitive in qualifying
Brazilian Felipe Massa is also confident ahead of the weekend, “This could be a good track for us and it’s one where we went well in the winter. It’s a track I like too and I also feel very positive about this race, thinking about our race pace, but I also hope we will be competitive in qualifying.”
Ferrari will also be testing new parts on Friday and Massa remarked, “We have new parts yes, and of course we are always hoping for a car with more downforce, that degrades it’s tyres less, but gives more grip and hopefully we end up with a car that helps the tyres work better, not just in qualifying but also in the race.”
Pirelli have changed the hard compound, much to the delight of the Brazilian, as he had criticized the old version of the hardest rubber compound. Massa said, “The new tyre is a positive change, because the difference between the hard and the medium was that the hard this year was always slower but also wore out more than the medium. Now I think the hard should be a little bit quicker than before with slightly better wear than the medium. But it’s hard to say until we’ve used it and also we need to see how the other teams get on with it.”
Ferrari are currently third in the race for the Constructors’ Championship with 77 points, 16 points behind the number two, Lotus, and 32 points behind leader Red Bull. Alonso is fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, while his team colleague Massa is sixth.
• Red Bull Spanish GP Preview
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• Lotus Spanish GP Preview
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• Force India Spanish GP Preview
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• Toro Rosso Spanish GP Preview
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• Marussia Spanish GP Preview
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
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• Marussia Bahrain GP Preview
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
Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel stormed to his second pole of the season at the Sepang International Circuit, while both Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso took second and third place respectively during qualifying, which was again disrupted by rain. But the weather conditions were not as bad as in Australia, and the final qualifying session Q3 continued in the rain.
“It was very difficult as the circuit was half dry and half wet today — so it was difficult to find the right compromise between pushing hard and also saving the tyres,” said Vettel, adding, “It was a good session in Q3 and it was clear what we had to do, so I’m pleased with the result. It’s a long race tomorrow and whoever wins will have done the best job.”
Second pole of the season for Vettel – Photo: Red Bull Racing
Clear blue skies this afternoon at the start of qualifying for round two of the FIA Formula One World Championship: the Malaysian Grand Prix. The hard tyres were the first choice at the start of Q1, but soon drivers in the drop-out zone switched to the quicker medium compound Pirellis to try to conquer a place in Q2.
Again the high degradation level of the Pirellis was the reason most top teams stayed in and waited in the garage to make just one run and thus save tyres, which of course does not contribute to the ‘show’. Leading the pack with just eight minutes to go was Force India driver Adrian Sutil, who made a very impressive return to the sport last weekend in Australia.
No one was able to improve on the German’s time, while Jean-Eric Vergne, Valtteri Bottas, Jules Bianchi, Charles Pic, Max Chilton and Giedo van der Garde did not make it into the second qualifying session.
Q2 was not much different, drivers stayed in to save tyres, and it was Sutil again who recorded the fastest time with just ten minutes to go, meanwhile several teams warned their drivers rain was on its way to the Sepang circuit. That was the wake-up call for those who had been waiting in the pits, and soon all drivers came out for a quick run.
Massa again faster than Alonso – Photo: Ferrari
Paul di Resta was the first to find out the track had become slippery, as he ran very wide in the Force India, but he was able to continue his run. But one lap later the Scot spun at the same place, which also meant improving lap times was impossible as the track became more slippery by the minute.
Soon Nico Rosberg beat his compatriot Sutil and he was fastest in Q2, Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Esteban Gutierrez and di Resta did not make it into Q3.
In Q3 the remaining ten drivers came out very quickly to set a timed lap, but the rain intensified and this time Lewis Hamilton was the first to go off, he could continue his run but the weather conditions deteriorated even further and it was difficult to keep the car on track on the slicks.
The Mercedes was quick in the rain, and despite his earlier outing, Hamilton took first place with just three minutes to go. But Vettel was quicker and also both Ferrari drivers Massa and Alonso qualified ahead of Hamilton, meaning the 2008 World Champion will start from fourth place on the grid tomorrow.
Grid penalty for the Iceman – Photo: Lotus F1
Massa again out-qualified his team colleague Alonso and said, “In Q3, we decided to stop towards the end of the session to fit a new set of intermediates and this allowed me to do a lap good enough to take second place on the grid. I am very happy with this team result, which is down to the great job done over the winter months.”
Alonso was pleased with his result and commented, “Maybe the rain helped us a bit as we were not the quickest in the dry, but starting in the top three gives us a realistic chance of a podium finish and we can even dream about winning. Now we must see how tomorrow will turn out, because it’s always a lottery if it rains.”
Kimi Raikkonen had qualified in seventh place for Lotus, but he was penalised for blocking Rosberg in Q3, and was handed a three-place grid penalty and he will start from tenth spot on the grid tomorrow.
Before his penalty the Iceman already said the Lotus wasn’t really quick in the rain, and commented, “We weren’t quick enough on the intermediates so I don’t think we could have found much more time in the wet today. For sure I wanted more but it is what it is and I hope we’ll do better on Sunday.”
Jenson Button, Sergio Perez and Adrian Sutil will therefore move up one place on tomorrow’s start grid.
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
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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
Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit has been postponed until Sunday morning, as rain storms caused havoc on the Melbourne track, the start of the first session was already postponed due to the rain, after several accidents the FIA decided to continue qualifying on Sunday morning.
During Q1 several drivers crashed, yellow flags came out several times and in the end FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting decided to postpone qualifying as the conditions on track became too dangerous. When qualifying was stopped, Nico Rosberg was leading Q1 for Mercedes.
Both Caterham drivers Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde lost their front wing, Pic’s crash was worst as his car sustained a lot of damage when it hit the barrier at high speed. Miraculously, both drivers made it back to the pits with their damaged car.
Pic commented, “We made the call to switch to inters with about five minutes left of the session and for the first lap it was very tricky — there was a lot of standing water and it was hard to keep the car on track, but it improved pretty quickly and I was starting to push before I touched the white line which caused me to spin and I made contact with the barrier which meant I had to pit.”
Hamilton crashed during his first qualifying for Mercedes – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Felipe Massa was the next driver to crash, he lost it at Turn 11 and the Ferrari F138 smashed into the barrier twice, despite the damage, the Brazilian was able to limp back to the garage for repairs.
Not much later Lewis Hamilton lost it at Turn 2 and hit the barrier backwards. He was able to get his beached Mercedes on track again, and later said, “It was pretty straightforward really, I just lost the back end and was in the wall.” And he added, “Fortunately I got going again — I was beached actually, I was stuck and luckily I put it in reverse and reversed half way up the bloody track! I can dust those kind of things off and keep looking forward to tomorrow.”
Esteban Gutierrez crashed hard at the same spot Massa had earlier crashed, Turn 11, he touched the white line, and spun into the barrier, causing a lot of damage to his brand new Sauber C32. Gutierrez said about the crash, “Unfortunately I made a mistake and feel sorry for the whole team. I feel very comfortable with the car and this is something that is a step forward for me. Now, of course, I need to avoid this kind of mistake and try to make the most of my potential.”
Esteban Gutierrez crashed hard at the end of Q1 – Photo: Sauber Motorsport
Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado made a trip through the grass, but were able to bring their cars back to the garage. Perez said, “I think the FIA stewards made the right call to postpone Q2 and Q3. The conditions were becoming too dangerous — in terms of low visibility as well as low grip.”
Jenson Button agreed and added, “I believe the FIA had no choice. It was the right call to postpone Q2 and Q3 until tomorrow, for safety reasons.”
Q2 will start at 11am local time tomorrow, hopefully, under more favourable conditions, the local weather forecast says it should be dry tomorrow morning at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne.
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)