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
It has been a great start of the season for Lotus, Kimi Raikkonen won the Australian Grand Prix, and was second in China and Bahrain, while Romain Grosjean was also on the podium in Bahrain three weeks ago. But there is no time for complacency, and the black and gold team are aiming for a win this weekend in Spain.
Eric Boullier: It’s such a finely balanced and competitive season
Lotus team Principal Eric Boullier is of course satisfied with the results so far, but now the Formula One circus returns to Europe, there is no time to rest on their laurels. “Achieving a one-off result is one thing, but keeping momentum is a far bigger challenge and I’m pleased to say we’re doing a great job of that so far this year. It’s such a finely balanced and competitive season,” Boullier said.
Quizzed about his star driver Raikkonen, Boullier remarked, “Kimi is a fantastic driver and you can never rule him out in any race. In Bahrain, he drove a strong race to manage the tyres and was comfortable in second by the chequered flag. In Australia he won the race and said it was one of his easiest wins.”
Lotus celebrating in Bahrain – Photo: Lotus F1
Asked about the development race in Formula One the Frenchman commented, “We have a strong development programme for the E21 and I’m confident we can continue to improve it through the year, just as we did with the E20 before it. Most teams tend to bring a fairly major upgrade package to the first European race of the season and we’ll be no exception.”
Kimi Raikkonen: Let’s hope I’m happier in Spain
Raikkonen is a man who is never satisfied, he is always hungry for more, and a win at the Circuit de Catalunya is on top of his list. “You’re never really happy if you don’t win, but I suppose second place is as close as you can get,” he said about the race in Bahrain. “Let’s hope I’m happier in Spain,” the flying Finn added.
Raikkonen’s main rival is triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel, and Raikkonen commented, “It’s going to be hard to catch Sebastian [Vettel] if he keeps taking good results so we need to start taking more points from him, but you never know what can happen. We’ll keep pushing to improve the car and see where we end up.”
Asked what is required to catch up with Vettel he said, “Some more wins! To catch the leaders, we have to work twice as hard as they are. It’s no secret that we want more speed from the car in qualifying; it’s so tight up there at the front and we really need to be on the first two rows to fight for victories every time.”
Eric Boullier and Gerard Lopez – Photo: Lotus F1
Romain Grosjean: It will be important to qualify well
It’s no secret Grosjean has been struggling with the Lotus E21 the first three races of the season,, but third place in Bahrain has lifted his spirits. “It wasn’t the chassis, the aero or anything like that, but we took a while to get everything to my liking and that’s been frustrating. We managed to put our finger on the issue and I feel much more comfortable now,” said the Frenchman.
Asked about the key to a great weekend in Spain he commented, “It will be important to qualify well as it will be much harder to overtake than in Bahrain. As a team, this is an area where we can still improve a little bit, but we have some ideas of how to do that and hopefully we’ll be able to make the front row.”
• Red Bull Spanish GP Preview
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• Lotus Spanish GP Preview
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• Marussia Spanish GP Preview
By Berthold Bouman
Triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel cruised to the victory on a blazing hot Bahrain International Circuit this afternoon during round four of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Bahrain Grand Prix. Although the German didn’t start from pole, he was fast enough to take over the lead from pole sitter Nico Rosberg.
“I knew it was crucial to get into the lead and look after the tyres, the pace was phenomenal, the car was great. I could push every single lap and look after the tyres,” said the victor. “I lost out to Fernando at the first corner, but I could get him back. I saved some KERS and could out-accelerate him into Turn 6. Out of Turn 4 I did the same on Nico, a little bit of KERS and got him into Turn 5.”
“It was an impeccable performance from Sebastian,” said Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner. “He was absolutely supreme. He had so much in hand and then he has to do the fastest lap at the end just to show he has plenty left in the tyres.”
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen – Photo: Red Bull Racing
Although Raikkonen had said the Lotus just wasn’t fast enough on the Bahrain circuit, the Finn, after numerous fights, moved up the ranks to finally finish in second place. Lotus had given Grosjean a new chassis after the problems he had experienced during the first three races of the season, it was the right move and the Frenchman immediately was considerably quicker than in the old car, and he finished third after a long battle with Paul di Resta in the Force India.
But the Iceman repeated what he had said earlier on, “I don’t think we had the speed this week against Red Bull. We could have finished a few places higher in qualifying but in the end we were still not close enough to Red Bull. I guess it would have helped, but it didn’t happen for many reasons and second was the best we could achieve today.”
Initially, Fernando Alonso took second place from Vettel during the start, but Vettel took his second place back at the end of the first lap. Rosberg, who led the race early on, was a sitting duck when DRS was activated after three laps, he lost the lead to Vettel, then lost more positions to Alonso, di Resta, and Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari.
A tough day for Rosberg, and the disappointed German said, “As nice as it was to start from pole this afternoon, it was just as hard to finish in ninth place. I didn’t feel comfortable in the car today and it wasn’t much fun out there really.” And he added, “We switched to a four-stop strategy at the end of my third stint but it wasn’t enough. We were using the rear tyres too much and at the end, I was really struggling and wasn’t able to push hard enough.”
Bad day for Ferrari – Photo: Ferrari
It certainly wasn’t Ferrari’s day, the DRS flap on Alonso’s rear wing got jammed, he had to visit the pits, a good old whack from a Ferrari mechanic seemed to have cured the problem, but when the Spaniard used the downforce reduction device again, it got stuck for the second time, forcing the double World Champion to visit the pits for a second time, and he couldn’t use his DRS anymore for the rest of the race. Nevertheless, it was still an impressive performance by Alonso, who fought his way back from 17th to eighth position.
Also a bad day for Massa, his front wing was damaged after he had hit the rear of the Force India of Adrian Sutil during the start of the race, then after 17 laps got a right-rear puncture, and another puncture after 37 laps, which effectively robbed the Brazilian of a good points finish, he finished the race in 15th place.
Most drivers were on a three or four-stop strategy, but di Resta was on a two-stop strategy, the Scot showed what the Force India is capable of as he even led the race, but his last set of tyres started to wear out quickly during the closing stages of the race, both Lotus drivers easily overtook him, and he finished in fourth place. Sutil was less lucky and had to be satisfied with 13th place after a very early unscheduled pit stop due to the puncture he got during his fight with Massa.
Fourth place for Paul di Resta – Photo: Sahara Force India
Di Resta was pleased with the result today and commented, “It’s great to round off the fly-away races with a fourth place and a race that was probably my strongest Grand Prix. The podium was very close, but with our strategy we were always going to be vulnerable at the end of the race — especially to Grosjean who had two new sets of medium tyres. I had a good start to the race, a strong opening stint and we showed our true speed today, but ultimately fourth place was the maximum that was possible.”
McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were involved in several hair-raising wheel-to-wheel battles, the Mexican driver hit the 2009 World Champion several times, and after several other thrilling fights, he wheel-banged his way to sixth place. Button complained about his team colleague over the radio, and it was indeed a bit silly to watch Perez almost taking out Button.
Perez was on a rampage today – Photo: McLaren F1
Perez was aware of the fact he put McLaren in a tricky situation, “I guess I was a little aggressive on track today; banging wheels with Jenson was perhaps a little too risky, a little too hard, but the team never came on the radio to tell us to stop racing. There were no team orders. There was a lot of adrenaline from both of us, and Jenson is always a very strong racer, but hopefully we’ll help each other a little more in the future.”
It was also a difficult race for Lewis Hamilton, the Mercedes driver was also involved in various fights with Perez, Button, Rosberg and Mark Webber in the second Red Bull. During the closing stages of the race, Hamilton and Webber fought for position, but Hamilton emerged as the winner and finally took fifth place.
“It’s been a tough weekend for us but we got through it and finishing in fifth place was some good damage limitation,” said Hamilton. “My race didn’t start well at all. I was looking after the tyres but I really struggled on the first two stints and was falling back.” About his battle with Webber he commented, “I had so much fun fighting with Mark at the end. We really needed that point and I was so determined to get by. It was good, clean wheel-to-wheel racing.”
Vettel is now leading the Drivers’ Championship with 77 points, followed by Raikkonen (67), Hamilton (50), Alonso (47), Webber (32) and Massa is sixth with 30 points. Red Bull is also leading the Constructors Championship with 109 points, followed by Lotus (93), and Ferrari this with 77 points.
By Berthold Bouman
Kimi Raikkonen was fastest for Lotus after the second free practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix this afternoon, the flying Fin set a time of 1m34.154s, 0,333s faster than the fastest time set this morning by Felipe Massa.
Both Red Bull drivers Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel took second and third place this afternoon, Webber was just 0,030s slower than Raikkonen after completing 26 laps. Fernando Alonso was this time the fastest Ferrari driver, he took fourth place, while Massa had to be satisfied with sixth place.
Force India again very fast in Bahrain – Photo: Sahara Force India
Paul di Resta was sandwiched between the two Ferraris, again a strong performance by Force India, the Scot was almost four-tenths behind the leading Lotus of Raikkonen. His team colleague Adrian Sutil was ninth this afternoon.
Further back in seventh place was Raikkonen’s team colleague Romain Grosjean, the Frenchman was almost half-a-second behind the Iceman. Nico Rosberg was eighth for Mercedes, while Lewis Hamilton completed the top ten with a time of 1m34.976s.
Jenson Button was just outside the top ten in 11th place, Sergio Perez was 13th this afternoon after the Mexican completed 36 laps in the troubled McLaren MP4-28.
Jean-Eric Vergne was again the fastest Toro Rosso driver and took 12th place, while Australian Daniel Ricciardo was 14th in the second Toro Rosso, 0.255s adrift of his French team colleague.
Nico Hulkenberg managed to take 15th place, just ahead of both Williams drivers Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas, who were 16th and 17th. But Esteban Gutierrez, who has a five-place grid penalty for crashing into the Force India of Sutil during the Chinese Grand Prix, this time collided with Charles Pic in the Caterham when he tried to overtake him.
Charles Pic not happy with Esteban Gutierrez – Photo: Caterham F1
Pic wasn’t happy with the Mexican’s actions, but at least his car was not damaged and he finished in 19th spot, while Gutierrez was 18th.
Further down the list are the usual suspects, Max Chilton was 20th in the Marussia, and was followed by Jules Bianchi, who was back at the wheel after Heikki Kovalainen has taken his place in FP1. Dutchman Giedo van der Garde was 22nd and last after completing 34 laps in the Caterham.
By Berthold Bouman
Lotus made a great start this season: Kimi Raikkonen won the first race of the season in Australia, and scored a podium place last weekend in China. But according to Lotus, ‘nothings stand still in Formula One and the challenge is ongoing’.
Eric Boullier: We’ve seen some great racing this year
Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier is adamant tyre supplier Pirelli is partially responsible for the great racing that fans so far have seen this season. All teams and drivers are talking about the new tyres, what does Boullier think? “As a sport we asked our tyre supplier, Pirelli, to provide us with tyres which encourage different strategies and adapting to this is part of the competition.”
“We’ve seen some great racing so far this year and Pirelli can take some of the credit for this. We are all allocated the same tyres so it’s up to us as teams and the drivers in the cars to make the most of them.”
Asked whether another win is imminent the Frenchman said, “Once again, we’ve shown that we can fight for podiums, but nothing stands still in Formula One and the challenge is ongoing. Maintaining momentum is what we need to do, and we’ll leave no stone unturned in our quest to do this. Our competition is strong and they have a lot of resources at their disposal. We have to maintain the relentless pace over the course of all 19 races this season. Everyone at Enstone is up for this challenge and celebrate every success we see on track. We hope to celebrate many more.
Second place for Raikkonen in China – Photo: Lotus F1
Kimi Raikkonen: I’ve never won in Bahrain before
Also the Iceman was asked for his opinion regarding the fast degrading Pirelli tyres, and the Finn said, “I think you can push on these tyres, but it’s never perfect. You cannot always push 100%. I think they are very good in qualifying and have good grip, so it’s up to you and you have to look after them a bit more in the race. It’s not really any different from last year — at least for us anyway — so I don’t really understand why people are complaining.”
About his chances this weekend the Finn commented, “I’ve had some nice races there and picked up some good points although I’ve never won. It’s a little bit different from others we visit and it’s quite nice to be out there in the sand! Wherever you look around the track you can just see sand in the distance and you notice it in the paddock too. It’s a circuit where I’ve never won before, so maybe this year I’ll change that!”
And he added, “We have to try and do the best we can in every race and try to score some points to keep us in the fight. If everything goes our way, it will be a good result again. However, it is useless to promise anything beforehand. This is motor racing and whatever can happen, will happen.”
Grosjean still struggling to understand the car – Photo: Lotus F1
Romain Grosjean: I’m spending a lot of time with my engineers
Frenchman Romain Grosjean is still struggling with the Lotus E21, and he explained, “I would be lying if I said the car is exactly where I want it and we are having quite an adventure to get the setup and feeling from the car how we want it.”
“This is very frustrating for a driver, as you want your car to be obedient — to do what you want it to do — and to do it in a consistent manner. Certainly, we’re not the only team who are having a difficult time early in the season, but it’s something we really want to get on top of as quickly as possible. I’m spending a lot of time with my engineers and we’re all working hard to make improvements.”
Asked about his target this weekend he replied, “The priority is to find that connection with the car. I want to be right up there fighting for podiums and showing the speed I showed last year. Hopefully we’ll get there soon, and I think Bahrain would be the ideal place to really start getting some good points or even a return to the podium. We’ve been quick there before, so there’s no reason why we can’t do it again.”
Lotus is currently third in the Constructors’ Championship, while Raikkonen is second in the Drivers’ Championship, three points behind rival Fernando Alonso. Grosjean is currently ninth in the Drivers’ Championship.
• Red Bull 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
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 fantastic start of the season, Kimi Raikkonen won the first race, the Australian Grand Prix, the second race in Malaysia was a bit of a disappointment for the team. But according to Team Principal Eric Boullier, Lotus will keep pushing to improve their performance.
Eric Boullier: Rain exposed one of our weaknesses
About the Malaysian Grand Prix Boullier commented, “As a team we faced a tough event which exposed one of our weaknesses; namely our performance when the conditions are wet. That said, when you take into account our qualifying positions and the difficult start for both drivers I think the points we took for sixth and seventh is a solid result.”
But despite the successes Boullier remains cautious about the rest of the season, “It’s still early days; as usual we’ll wait to see how the first four races go before we can predict anything and when we’re back to Europe we’ll have a better idea of where we are and what we can achieve.”
Asked about the third race of the season in Shanghai he said, “We’ve made a step forward with the car in terms of single lap pace, but still the race pace looks strong as well. 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.”
Kimi Raikkonen – Photo: Lotus F1
Kimi Raikkonen: It’s always difficult to predict what will happen
The Iceman agrees with Boullier about Malaysia, the Lotus E21 doesn’t like the rain very much, “The start was not good and then I lost part of my front wing on the first lap. The car didn’t handle too well after that and with the wet conditions it was pretty tricky. The pace wasn’t too bad, but it could have been much better when you look at our times on Friday.”
Raikkonen likes the Shanghai International Circuit and remarked, “It’s always difficult to predict what will happen in the next race as we haven’t been there yet with this car, and every car reacts differently to each circuit. I won there in 2007 and that was a good feeling as it was the year I won the World Championship. I celebrated those wins pretty well at the time. It’s a proper race track and there are good opportunities for overtaking. Our car looks good so far, so let’s see what happens when we get out on track.”
Last year Lotus didn’t score any points in Shanghai, and also ran out of fresh rubber. But Raikkonen hopes to do better this year, “Hopefully we’ll be a little bit more lucky with the tyre performance this time and well prepared from a strategy point of view. We had the race pace in 2012, that’s true, but we tried to carry on with our tyres for too long. They dropped off, and that was it.”
Romain Grosjean – Photo: Lotus F1
Romain Grosjean: I don’t think I’ve shown my full potential yet
The first two races of the year were difficult for Romain Grosjean, and the Frenchman said, “It’s been a little frustrating as I don’t think I’ve shown my full potential yet. The first two races were quite difficult for me and I would really like a weekend where I can show what myself and the team can do this season. We’ve got great potential, I just need to unlock it. Hopefully we’ll find the key in China.”
Despite the difficulties, Grosjean remains optimistic, and aims to score points in China, “I would like to score strong points. I finished in tenth in Australia, then sixth in Malaysia so I’d be quite happy if I finish in second place in Shanghai. That or a win would make me very happy! Let’s see how the car is once we arrive on track and hope there won’t be rain again as we know our car does struggle a little in wet conditions.”
Lotus is currently second in the Constructors’ Championship, 26 points behind leader Red Bull. Raikkonen is second in the Drivers’ Championship, nine points shy of leader Sebastian Vettel, while Grosjean is eighth with nine points.
• Red Bull Chinese GP Preview
• Ferrari Chinese GP Preview
• McLaren Chinese GP Preview
• Lotus Chinese GP Preview
• Mercedes Chinese GP Preview
• Sauber Chinese GP Preview
• Force India Chinese GP Preview
• Williams Chinese GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Chinese GP Preview
• Caterham Chinese GP Preview
• Marussia Chinese GP Preview
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
Mark Webber took the honours for Red Bull this morning during the first free practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit. The Australian set a time of 1m36.935s, and was followed by Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus who was just 0.068s slower than the Red Bull driver.
A few reliability concerns for Lotus, as Raikkonen spent almost an hour in the garage while his mechanics replaced the KERS battery. Sebastian Vettel was third in the other Red Bull RB9 and after completing 21 laps on the Malaysian circuit the triple World Champion was just 0.169s off the pace set by his team colleague.
Fernando Alonso was the fastest Ferrari driver, as he landed fourth spot, Brazilian Felipe Massa was seventh this morning, just 0.183s slower than the Spaniard. Nico Rosberg was the fastest of the Mercedes drivers and took fifth place, while Lewis Hamilton complained that his set of hard tyres had been completely destroyed. He finished the morning in ninth place.
Sutil again fastest Force India driver – Photo: Sahara Force India
Again an impressive practice run for Adrian Sutil, who once again showed that his team boss Vijay Mallya was right to hire him again, the German was sixth, but 0.834s behind pace setter Webber. Paul di Resta was also quick in the second Force India, he was eighth after completing 15 laps.
Romain Grosjean completed the top ten at Sepang, but again bad news for McLaren as Jenson Button didn’t get further than 11th place in the McLaren MP4-28, Sergio Perez was 13th. McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh had already predicted it would be a tough weekend, and by the looks of it he could be right.
Twelfth place was for Williams driver Pastor Maldonado, but he was 1.738s off the pace, also Williams needs a quick fix for the FW35, as rookie Valtteri Bottas was 16th in the second Williams.
Valtteri Bottas was 16th this morning – Photo: Williams F1
The two Sauber drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez took possession of 14th and 15th place respectively, also Sauber seems to be off the pace compared to the start of the 2012 season.
Further down the order were Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo, they took 17th and 18th place for Toro Rosso. Giedo van der Garde was this time faster than his team colleague Charles Pic, the Dutchman was 19th, albeit 3.793s slower than Webber, while Pic was 21st this morning.
The last two on this morning’s list are both Marussia drivers, Jules Bianchi was 20th and half-a-second faster than Max Chilton, who was 22nd and last.
By Berthold Bouman
To win the first race of the year is always the best way to start the season, and Lotus are confident they can keep up with the best now. In Melbourne they beat Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren, as Kimi Raikkonen took the easiest win in his career.
Eric Boullier: Lotus a real top team now
Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier was proud to have won the Australian Grand Prix, and he reckons Lotus has acquired the status of ‘top team’ now. “I think Lotus F1 Team is truly a top team now. If we can be in the position where we can compete for wins, then that is where we wanted to be. From what we’ve achieved in the first race we can build on that nice momentum to one day become World Champions again,” Boullier proudly said.
Having the fastest car at Melbourne had everything to do with the tyres, Boullier explained, “We worked very hard to make sure that we kept the strengths of last year’s E20, and it’s true that with the 2013 tyres and the fact that they degrade a little more, has put us in a better position. This said, Melbourne is such a special track that we should wait a bit more before knowing our potential better.”
Quizzed about the progress star driver Raikkonen has made, the Lotus team boss jokingly said, “Well he’s smiling more! Kimi is Kimi, he builds himself up — he had a strong season last year, and he ended it even more strongly than he started. He’s starting this season as he finished last year, so he will keep building. I don’t think there is anyone on earth who can tell Kimi what to do, so I’m not going to start!”
First victory of the season for the Iceman – Photo: Lotus F1
Kimi Raikkonen: Melbourne victory is a good sign
Asked whether winning the first race of the season is really that important, Raikkonen said, “A win’s a win, it doesn’t really matter when in the season you get it. Of course I’m happy that we didn’t really have to go full speed all the time so it’s kind of a good sign, a good race for us, but it might be a completely different story in Malaysia.”
Sepang is a special place for the Iceman, as he won his first Grand Prix in Malaysia in 2003, while driving for McLaren. But it doesn’t really mean much to the Iceman, and he commented, “I would not say that circuit is more important for me — it’s not that special for me — but it’s quite a nice place to race at. I like it and the challenge is always at the highest level in the beginning of the year in the heat. It’s also one of those circuits where it usually rains sometime during the weekend.”
Asked whether Lotus can keep the momentum he said, “There was a big question mark last year over whether our team could keep up with the development of the bigger teams and I don’t think we did a bad job. Of course it’s not going to be easy for us. I’m sure we have the people and all the tools to make it happen. Budget is always a factor and it’s no secret that we don’t have the same money as Ferrari, Red Bull or Mercedes.”
And finally, asked about his chances for this weekend he replied, “Our car worked well in Australia and usually — at least last year — in hot conditions it’s been good for us so hopefully it will turn out to be a good weekend.”
Grosjean confident car problems have been solved – Photo: Lotus F1
Romain Grosjean: We’ll work hard to achieve the maximum
Frenchman Romain Grosjean experienced problems during the race in Melbourne, but he has sat down with his engineers to analyse the problem, and he’s confident his problems have been solved. “The car felt so good at times over the weekend, but then at other times it wasn’t where I wanted it to be. It meant that the race felt long and pretty difficult for me,” said the former GP2 champion.
The Lotus E21 looks strong, and Grosjean is adamant that things will turn out better in Malaysia, he’s, therefore, confident of a good performance this weekend, “Clearly Kimi’s car worked very well in Australia and the fact that mine felt good at times over the weekend gives us a clear target for where we want to get the set-up and a guide of what the car is capable of. I want to be scoring 25 points in a Grand Prix for the team!”
• 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
Kimi Raikkonen celebrated his 20th career win this afternoon, as he won the Australian Grand Prix, the first race of the 2013 season. Clearly, the pit stop strategy of the Lotus team gave him the advantage, he stayed out very long on the super softs, and only made two stops, while his rivals needed three stops to finish the race.
“Our plan was to do two-stop and it’s always difficult, especially the first races, to really know when to stop, and not doing it too early and not too late. We got it, like he said, exactly right. The team worked very well and we had a good plan, and we follow the plan and it worked out perfectly for us,” the Iceman said during the post race press conference.
And he added, “I could save the tyres and I could go fast if I needed and I could really drive very easily. One of the easiest races I’ve done to win the race. Hopefully we can have many more of this kind of races.”
Asked about the fastest race lap he set on the penultimate lap, he said, “Fernando [Alonso] was catching me at some point, when I was taking it a bit more easy and there was some traffic, so I just wanted to make sure that if the rain comes or something happens we have a bit more [of a] gap. I was still taking it pretty easy. Like I said, the car has been very good all weekend and it was a pretty nice race, not so difficult.”
First win of the season for Kimi Raikkonen – Photo: Lotus F1
A great way to start the season, isn’t it? “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,” Raikkonen said.
“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 setup how we wanted. I had a good feeling that we would be ok with the tyres after practice and the team got the strategy perfect.”
Also very pleased with today’s result was Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier, “I’m very happy. After Kimi’s great start we were hoping that we could achieve a podium finish, then as the race unfolded and we saw the other teams pitting — showing that they were on three-stop strategies — our position became stronger and stronger. It’s a fantastic feeling to open the season in this way!”
And the Frenchman added, “This win is a further testament to all the hard work which goes on at Enstone and we owe tremendous thanks to each and every employee. We head to Malaysia in the best position we could be.”
Romain Grosjean makes a pit stop – Photo: Lotus F1
Asked about what happened with Romain Grosjean, who finished in tenth place and scored only one point, he said, “Romain had a difficult race and we have to analyse what went wrong for him.”
Grosjean himself also agreed there was something wrong with his car, “Something felt wrong with my car, so I have to sit down with the team and analyse where the issue came from. It felt so good all weekend until the race itself, but in the end the race was long and quite difficult for me.”
But, there’s another chance next weekend he reckoned, “We know that Albert Park can be a tricky circuit and the weather has certainly not helped today. It’s been a great weekend for the team with Kimi’s win so it’s clear there’s pace in the car. Let’s hope I can unlock that pace too next weekend in Sepang.”
Also Technical Director James Allison was elated with the first win of the season, “It was a splendid thing we saw today. It’s a day like this which make everything about this job worthwhile and that will be true for everyone involved with the team. It’s great!”
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)