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Monaco GP: Rosberg storms to victory for Mercedes in incident-packed race


By Berthold Bouman

Monaco GP: Rosberg storms to victory for Mercedes in incident-packed raceNico Rosberg stormed to victory in Monaco during round six of the FIA Formula One World Championship, exactly 30 years ago after his father Keke Rosberg won the race for Williams in 1983.

A great win for Mercedes, Rosberg kept his cool and remained in control during an incident-packed race on the streets of Monaco, with two Safety Car interventions, and one red flag period. Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber took second and third place respectively.

It’s amazing,” Rosberg said to the BBC. “This is my home, I’ve grown up here all my life and it’s really special. The whole weekend went perfectly. I had a terrible start and I was close with Sebastian and Lewis but after that I controlled the pace. The car was really good, the tyres held on OK and that was really the key, so a massive thanks to the team. I’m ecstatic!”

After the start the whole field of 22 cars made it through Saint Devote without damage, but Dutchman Giedo van der Garde hit the Williams of Pastor Maldonado at the end of the first lap, and he had to pit for a new front wing. His team colleague Charles Pic also had a bad day, his Caterham caught fire and after nine laps and he had to stop his car near the pit lane entry.

Sebastian Vettel finished second - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Sebastian Vettel finished in second place – Photo: Red Bull Racing

After 25 laps were completed, almost the whole top ten rushed into the pit lane for the first tyre stop, but Rosberg remained in first place, and was followed by Lewis Hamilton in the other Mercedes, Vettel, Webber and Fernando Alonso.

Just a few laps later Felipe Massa crashed heavily at the same place where he had crashed on Saturday morning, he first hit the guard rail ahead of Saint Devote and then crashed into the barriers. Massa was okay, but was seen wearing a neck brace. The Safety Car came out and Rosberg and Hamilton decided to pit, but Hamilton emerged from the pit lane in fourth position, while Rosberg remained in the lead.

After the Safety Car had returned to the pits, Hamilton was chasing Webber for third place, but the Australian closed the door and kept the Mercedes behind him. At the same time Alonso had to fend off Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus, and Perez was pushing his team colleague Jenson Button.

Perez was on a rampage today - Photo: McLaren

Perez was on a rampage today – Photo: McLaren

The Mexican got past Button outbraking him at the exit of the tunnel, but he ran wide, cut the chicane and was told by his team to give the place back to Button, who had complained about his team colleague over the radio, and thus the rivalry between the two McLaren drivers re-ignited this afternoon in Monaco.

On lap 45 Max Chilton in the Marussia hit the Williams of Maldonado, the latter crashed hard at Tabac, and the race was red-flagged. Fortunately, Maldonado could get out of his battered Williams unscathed, but Marshals had to repair the guard rail and barriers. Chilton’s actions were rewarded with a drive-through penalty. Maldonado said, “It was an unfortunate incident today with the Marussia car and the impact was quite big. Fortunately I am ok and the stewards took immediate action.”

While waiting for the restart of the race, most drivers used the opportunity to change the tyres, which is allowed according to the FIA regulations.

After some 30 minutes the race was restarted behind the Safety Car, again no problems for Rosberg and he remained in the lead. But Alonso had to hand his place back to Perez, as the Spaniard cut the chicane after Perez attempted to overtake him and forced him off the track just before the red flags came out. Perez, who was on a true rampage today, then tried to overtake Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus, but the Finn somehow managed to stay ahead of the Mexican.

More drama unfolded after Raikkonen’s team colleague Romain Grosjean crashed into the back of Daniel Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso after he tried to outbrake him at the exit of the tunnel. Both cars ended up on the escape road, Grosjean limped back to the pits for a new front wing, went out again but had to retire with front suspension damage. It was Grosjean’s third crash of the weekend, and he received a ten-place grid penalty for the Canadian Grand Prix.

The Safety Car came out again and when the track was cleaned Rosberg again kept his cool and stayed in the lead, but further down the order Perez again did his little trick at the chicane after the tunnel, this time collided with Raikkonen, who just kept his racing line.

The Finn had to pit as his left rear tyre was punctured, meanwhile Perez again cut the chicane to fend off Adrian Sutil in the Force India, but not much later had to give up his race as he had sustained even more damage to his car.

Great race for Adrian Sutil - Photo: Sahara Force India

Great race for Adrian Sutil – Photo: Sahara Force India

Hamilton finished in fourth place, while Sutil was fifth for Force India, Button was sixth and Alonso seventh. Raikkonen finished in tenth place and thus added one point to his tally.

Vettel said after the race, “Overall I’m happy and pleased with the result, we know that it’s very difficult to overtake here. Congratulations to Nico, he did a very good job and had a very controlled race; I think he had the pace and the tyres to respond whenever we tried to get a little bit closer to him.” And the triple World Champion added, “It was hard with the restarts, but we can be happy with the result.”

Also a good day for Sutil, who finished in fifth place and the German said, “Fifth place feels fantastic. It’s just the result we needed and I’m very happy right now. The car felt very good and we made the most of the chances that came our way.” About the race itself he said, “It was difficult to move forward in the first half of the race when I was stuck in the train of cars, but the red flag opened up some more opportunities.”

Vettel is still leading the Drivers’ Championship, followed by Raikkonen and Alonso. Red Bull is still leading the race for the Constructors’ title, while Ferrari and Lotus are second and third. Next race is the Canadian Grand Prix, on June 9.


Monaco GP: Rosberg on pole for Mercedes after rainy qualifying session


By Berthold Bouman

Monaco GP: Rosberg on pole for Mercedes after rainy qualifying sessionNico Rosberg took pole position for round six of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Monaco Grand Prix. The German set the fastest time on a rainy Monte Carlo circuit on the super soft Pirelli tyres, his team colleague Lewis Hamilton was second fastest, and triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel was third for Red Bull.

It was the third consecutive pole for the German and he said in a BBC interview, “The conditions were [changing] all over the place. Then it started drizzling again so the lap times got a lot slower. It was changing so much — you have to be on the right tyres at the right time. Everything when to plan and the last lap went OK.” Also Hamilton was pleased with his second place and said, “I’ve been struggling all weekend. The first time I have had that in Monaco. Very happy to be here and lock out the front row.”

Nico Rosberg on pole again - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Nico Rosberg on pole again – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Vettel made a mistake on his last lap and said, “I was a bit annoyed with my flying lap in Q3; I think I maybe pushed a bit too hard here and there. The start of the lap wasn’t bad, but also it wasn’t great; with hindsight I should have gone for two flying laps at the start of Q3 and not one, but I decided for that.” About his third place he said, “We have a good race car and should be able to do well from there tomorrow.”

The first qualifying session was struck by rain, all drivers went out on the intermediates, except Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean, who were still waiting in the garage until their cars were fixed. First casualty was Jules Bianchi, he went out in his Marussia but stopped at the top of Beau Rivage with smoke emerging from the back of his car.

It soon became a lottery on the wet streets of the gambling capital of Europe, Pastor Maldonado was quickest in the Williams after the chequered flag was waved to signal the end of the first session. Romain Grosjean went out with three minutes remaining, he performed a true miracle, stayed away from the barriers, and scored second place.

Giedo van der Garde - Photo: Caterham F1

Giedo van der Garde – Photo: Caterham F1

Another miracle, as Giedo van der Garde qualified for Q2 in the underpowered Caterham, the Dutchman felt at home on the wet circuit and he was of course elated about his performance today. He finally finished in 15th place and van der Garde said, “I’m obviously very pleased to put my name into the Q2 timesheets for the first time this year and I want to thank Tony [Fernandez], Cyril [Abiteboul] and the whole team for the jobs everyone did today. Honestly, it’s a great feeling.”

And he added, “Sunday could be very interesting. I start between the two Williams cars of Bottas and Maldonado and I’ve had good starts all year, so hopefully I can have another good launch, avoid anything like the GP2 mess on Friday, and from there anything’s possible. I finished on the podium here last year in GP2 and, while that’s not going to happen this year, we will definitely be racing quite a few cars all afternoon!”

Paul di Resta, Charles Pic, Esteban Gutierrez, Max Chilton, Bianchi and Massa were not so lucky, and didn’t make it into Q2. Massa’s Ferrari still wasn’t fixed and the Brazilian will start from 22nd and last position on the grid tomorrow.

During the second session the circuit started to dry out, but most drivers initially went out on the intermediates, but later switched to the super soft Pirellis. Again van der Garde showed how quick he was in the rain, halfway Q2 he was even in third place, but unfortunately for him, in the last minutes  Q2 everyone tried the super soft tyres and the Dutchman tumbled down the order quickly.

Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Grosjean, Valtteri Bottas, van der Garde and Maldonado did not make it into the third and final qualifying session.

All drivers went out on the super softs for Q3, and lap times were dropping quickly. With three minutes to go, Vettel was the fastest man on track, but again Mercedes did what they have done the whole weekend, and Rosberg landed his third pole of the season.

Sergio Perez - Photo: McLaren

Sergio Perez – Photo: McLaren

Mark Webber, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso completed the top six. Webber was optimistic about the race tomorrow and said,  “The conditions are changing and the tyres are tricky, so starting on the second row here is not bad. It’s a long race and a lot of strategy can unfold, so we’ll see what we can do from there.”

The McLaren team did benefit from the rainy circumstances, Sergio Perez was seventh while Jenson Button was ninth. “It’s not great to cross the finish line, feel like you’ve just done a mega lap, and find that you’re only seventh. Still, I put in a really strong performance here today, and I felt like I’d really maximised the full potential of the car,” Perez said.

Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh, however, remained optimistic, “Looking forward tomorrow’s race will be long and hard — and, although overtaking will be as difficult as ever, mistakes will inevitably play a part in the race’s unfolding drama, and both Jenson and Checo will be trying their hardest to drive faultlessly again in an effort to score as many world championship points as they possibly can.”

The qualifying results can be found here.


Monaco GP: Rosberg again fastest for Mercedes after final free practice session


By Berthold Bouman

Monaco GP: Rosberg again fastest for Mercedes after final free practice sessionNico Rosberg was fastest again after the final free practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix. The German set a time of 1m14.378s, the fastest time so far recorded on the streets of Monaco this weekend, where the barriers are close and one little mistake can mean disaster, as Felipe Massa, Adrian Sutil and Romain Grosjean found out.

Massa’s crash was a nasty one, he hit the barriers just before Saint Devote, and then helplessly slid into the second barrier, his car sustained a lot of damage and his engineers will have to work hard to get the car ready for qualifying this afternoon.

Adrian Sutil crashed his Force India at Beau Rivage, while Grosjean paid an unscheduled visit to the barriers of Saint Devote for the second time this weekend, his mechanics will also have to work hard to get his car ready in time for qualifying.

Rosberg again fastest this morning - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Rosberg again fastest this morning – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

But the French Lotus driver had already set his time, which gave him the right to second place, while Sebastian Vettel was third this morning. Fernando Alonso was fourth, followed by Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen who were fifth and sixth respectively.

Mark Webber was seventh in the second Red Bull while Paul di Resta was the fastest Force India driver as he took eighth place, while team colleague Sutil couldn’t improve his time due to his crash and the German finished the morning in 15th place. Pastor Maldonado and Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten.

Another crash for Romain Grosjean - Photo: Lotus F1

Another crash for Romain Grosjean – Photo: Lotus F1

No McLarens in the top ten as Sergio Perez and Jenson Button were 11th and 12th, they were followed by both Toro Rosso drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo. Further down the list were Massa, Esteban Gutierrez and Valtteri Bottas.

Caterham were faster than their arch rival Marussia this morning, as Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde were 19th and 20th, while Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton took 21st and 22nd place.

The result of the third free practice session can be found here.


Spanish GP: Rosberg storms to pole for Mercedes, Hamilton second


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Rosberg storms to pole for Mercedes, Hamilton secondAnother surprise from Mercedes this afternoon at the Circuit de Catalunya, during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix Nico Rosberg convincingly took pole position, while his team colleague Lewis Hamilton will start from second spot on tomorrow’s start grid. Rosberg took pole with a lap of 1m20.718s, the fastest time recorded so far this weekend.

Rosberg, who scored his second consecutive pole, and the team’s third pole in a row, commented, ”It’s a great feeling to be on pole again. So far this weekend has been very positive and it’s a pleasure to see that the team is improving and fighting through the problems together.”

“However,” Rosberg said, “We know that this is only half of the job completed and have the painful memory of what happened in Bahrain to prove that. So it will be a big challenge tomorrow and our goal is to make the most of the opportunity we have from starting at the front and get a strong result for the team.”

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Sebastian Vettel took third place for Red Bull, while his Australian team colleague was eighth. Vettel was 0,336s off the pace set by Rosberg, and remarked, “We had a pretty smooth qualifying session, we took a slightly different approach to some others using option tyres only — whether that helps us tomorrow we‘ll have to wait and see, but it will be an interesting race and a lot will be about tyre degradation.”

Fourth place was for Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus, the gap to Vettel was just 0,123s, while Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari, who was fifth this afternoon, was just 0,041s behind the Finn. Felipe Massa, in his turn, was just 0,001s slower than Alonso, and it indeed seems, compared to last year, that the Brazilian feels at home in the Ferrari F318.

Romain Grosjean was also on the right pace and the Frenchman took seventh place, he was just 0,131s behind his Finnish team colleague, again showing how competitive Formula One is this season.

Sergio Perez and Paul di Resta completed the top ten, Perez was the only McLaren driver to finish in the top ten, as Jenson Button was only 14th in the second McLaren. Thus it was another very disappointing result for McLaren and Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh said, “Jenson had a difficult qualifying — and, although we haven’t yet had a chance to examine his data thoroughly, it would appear that perhaps his tyre pressures may have been set a little too high.”

Fernando Alonso - Photo: Ferrari

Fernando Alonso – Photo: Ferrari

Not a very good excuse Whitmarsh admitted, “Having said that, McLaren Mercedes’ ambitions extend to a great deal more than merely going through to Q3, and it’s clear that our MP4-28 still requires a lot of development before it becomes as competitive as we need it to be.”

A great afternoon for Toro Rosso, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne finished in 11th and 12th place, but there was some disappointment for the Force India team as Adrian Sutil could not match the pace of his Scottish team colleague and finished the day in 13th place.

Sutil said, “Q2 was a bit disappointing because my position on the track for the final run was not ideal. Vergne pulled out of the pits just as I was leaving and I had Nico [Hulkenberg] pushing from behind. Also Webber was on a flying lap and it was difficult to find a gap. I think that’s the main reason why I missed out on Q3 because we had the pace to be in the top ten.”

Further down the list are the two Saubers of Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez, who were 15th and 16th respectively. Hulkenberg commented, “Qualifying went according to plan today. It is disappointing, as we are simply too slow. The updates this weekend were a step in the right direction, and the set up of the car during qualifying was good, but not good enough as the other teams might have improved even more. I am very satisfied with my lap in Q2. It was the perfect lap.”

Not much luck for Williams during qualifying - Photo: Williams F1

Not much luck for Williams during qualifying – Photo: Williams F1

They were followed by Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado, they were 17th and 18th for Williams, and it seems the Williams team is heading for another disastrous result, last year Maldonado won the Spanish Grand Prix, and the Venezuelan admitted things are not going well at Williams, “We’re having a difficult time with the car at the moment, but we have been working very hard to improve things. We were missing a lot of grip which made it difficult to get a good time today. In terms of performance, we’re not there but we will keep focussing on the work needed to move us up the grid.”

Giedo van der Grade outpaced not only his team colleague Charles Pic, but also Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton in the Marussia. Of course van der Garde was pleased with his best qualifying result of the season and said, “We made a few changes to the car overnight to try and find a balance with the new parts and it’s worked out really well. I’m not running the same package as my team mate here — I have most of the new package except the front wing so we went a slightly different way than Charles.

And he added, “This is the sort of performance I’d targeted for when we had new parts on the car so I’m really pleased for me, the whole team and everyone who’s backed me that we can deliver like we did today.”

The qualifying result can be found here


Spanish GP: Vettel sets fastest time during second free practice session


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Vettel sets fastest time during second free practice sessionSebastian Vettel beat Fernando Alonso this afternoon during the second free practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix and recorded the fastest time for Red Bull with a lap of 1m22.808s, the difference with the Spaniard was just 0,017s.

Mark Webber was third fastest, but was very close to his German team colleague as the difference between the two Red Bull drivers was only 0,083s. Kimi Raikkonen was fourth fastest this afternoon, he set a time of 1m23.030s in the Lotus, his French team colleague Romain Grosjean was 18th, over three seconds slower than pace-setter Vettel.

Felipe Massa took fifth place in the second Ferrari, he was followed by the two Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were sixth and seventh respectively.

Adrian Sutil, Jean-Eric Vergne and Paul di Resta completed the top ten. Not a good afternoon for di Resta, he had to park his Force India after a rear wing failure.

Kimi Raikkonen and his fans - Photo: Lotus F1

Kimi Raikkonen and his fans – Photo: Lotus F1

Daniel Ricciardo was 11th in the second Toro Rosso, and although they had a new upgrade package, the problems are still not over for McLaren, as Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were 12th and 13th for McLaren.

Valtteri Bottas was the fastest Williams driver this afternoon, he took 14th spot, while Pastor Maldonado was 16th. Nico Hulkenberg took 15th place for Sauber, while Esteban Gutierrez was 17th.

A good second session for Dutch Caterham driver Giedo van der Garde, who was 19th, a full second faster than his team colleague Charles Pic, who ended the afternoon in 21st place.

The last two on the list were Marussia drivers Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton, they were 20th and 22nd.

Results of the second free practice session can be found here.


Spanish GP: Red Bull drivers Vettel and Webber looking forward to race at Barcelona


By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Red Bull drivers Vettel and Webber looking forward to race at BarcelonaAfter a hectic first four races of the season, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel have settled their differences and are looking forward to round five of the FIA Formula One Championship, the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Mark Webber: It’s good to go there and get a nice result

Mark Webber is pleased Formula One returns to Europe and said, “It’s a little bit easier; obviously the travel is very convenient and everything is within a striking distance of two hours. We all know the hotels well and the drill of how to get around. It’s much more straightforward than some of the new venues; it’s a nice time to be racing in Europe with the weather generally and it’s a good atmosphere.”

Mark Webber - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Mark Webber – Photo: Red Bull Racing

The Australian has fond memories of the Barcelona circuit and asked about his favourite race in Spain he said, “My win in 2010, I qualified on pole and it was a race which I controlled from the front. I pulled a gap from Sebastian [Vettel], then Lewis [Hamilton] was behind me and put a little bit of pressure on me in the middle of the race, but he had a mechanical failure towards the end. It’s rewarding because we do so much testing there, so it’s good to go there and get a nice result.”

And what is his favourite part of the circuit? “The first sector, I like the exit of Turn 2 into Turn 3. I also like Turn 13, which is a weird little right-hander, downhill, blind corner, but I think it’s quite a nice little corner to get right.”

Sebastian Vettel: The win in 2011 was very special

Vettel too, is ready for the first race on European soil, and the German commented, “It’s good to be back in Europe, and in Spain in particular. The atmosphere is always very special at the European races and the weather is usually good too. It helps that the travelling time to and from events is shorter and there’s no need to adapt to a time difference.”

Sebastian Vettel - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Sebastian Vettel – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Asked about his best memories of the Circuit de Catalunya he said without hesitation, “The win in 2011 was very special. It was a long race and for the last 20 or 30 laps I had a lot of pressure from behind from Lewis [Hamilton]. I had no KERS to defend, so it was good to come out on top at the end.”

And his favourite part of the circuit? “The whole Barcelona circuit is interesting as it includes all types of corners and offers a really good mix, but my favourite part is still the first sector, because it has really quick corners.”

Red Bull Racing is currently leading the Constructors’ Championship with 109 points, but Lotus is catching up and are second, just 16 points behind the Austrian outfit. Vettel is leading the race for the 2013 Drivers’ Championship with 77 points, followed by Kimi Raikkonen who is ten points behind the triple World Champion. Webber is fifth with 32 points, sandwiched between both Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, who are fourth and sixth.

Also read:

Red Bull Spanish GP Preview
Ferrari Spanish GP Preview
McLaren Spanish GP Preview
Lotus Spanish GP Preview
Mercedes Spanish GP Preview
Sauber Spanish GP Preview
Force India Spanish GP Preview
Williams Spanish GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Spanish GP Preview
Caterham Spanish GP Preview
Marussia Spanish GP Preview


Mateschitz: Webber free to race Vettel this season, Pirelli tyres too dominant


By Berthold Bouman

Mateschitz:: Webber free to race Vettel this season, Pirelli tyres too dominantRed Bull team owner and billionaire Dieter Mateschitz has admitted he was enraged about the Multi 21 affair during the Malaysian Grand Prix. Triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders and passed his team mate Mark Webber although he was ordered to stay in second position and let Webber win the race.

The affair re-ignited the feud between the two Red Bull drivers, as Webber still refuses to play second fiddle at the Austrian team. Apparently, Mateschitz has ordered Team Principal Christian Horner not to issue any team orders for the rest of the 2013 season.

“Vettel and Webber can race freely to the end of the season. The motto is ‘Go ahead of me if you can’,” Mateschitz told an Austrian newspaper. Asked whether Webber will stay next year he said, “It all depends on Webber himself, how fast he is and what other offers he has.”

Vettel and Webber on the podium in Malaysia - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Vettel and Webber on the podium in Malaysia – Photo: Red Bull Racing

In the same interview the Austrian entrepreneur also said that he is frustrated by the role the Pirelli tyres play nowadays. “Formula One no longer has anything to do with ‘classic’ racing. Today, it’s not the fastest driver in the fastest car winning, but the one with the optimum tyre management,” Mateschitz said.

“We’ve even had to scale down our car, because the tyres were not lasting. If we really went as fast as we can, we would need 10 to 15 pit stops!” And indeed, even the Multi 21 affair had everything to do with the tyres, both drivers were told to hold the same position as Horner feared the tyres would go off very quickly if they would start a fight for the victory.

Pirelli tyres too dominant - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Pirelli tyres too dominant – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Although many drivers also have questioned the fast degrading Pirelli tyres, the Italian manufacturer has always maintained that the tyre game is the same for all drivers, and is good for ‘the show’, but by now Formula One has become the Pirelli show.

Meanwhile, ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, Pirelli have revealed they will alter the rubber compound of the hard tyre. “The ‘hard’ will be slightly harder as a result and should perform better in a wider temperature range for the start of the European season,” said Pirelli’s Motorsport director Paul Hembery.

And he added, “This latest version of the hard compound is much closer to the 2012 tyre, with the aim of giving the teams more opportunity to run a wider range of strategies in combination with the other compounds, which remain unchanged.”


Bahrain GP: Vettel cruises to victory and extends championship lead


By Berthold Bouman

Bahrain GP: Vettel cruises to victory and extends championship leadTriple 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

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

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

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 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.


Bahrain GP: Rosberg takes second pole of the season for Mercedes


By Berthold Bouman

Bahrain GP: Rosberg takes second pole of the season for MercedesNico Rosberg took the second pole of the season for Mercedes this afternoon during qualifying for round four of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit. The German recorded a time of 1m32.330s, 0.354s faster than the number two, Sebastian Vettel, while Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso will start from third spot on the grid tomorrow.

Asked whether the German was surprised to score pole he said, “A little bit, yes. It wasn’t really clear before who was the quickest car over one lap. I was a little bit closer this morning already so I was a bit happier than yesterday for sure.”

And he added, “We worked really well as a team overnight to improve the car because yesterday we were really struggling, so that’s gone well. That’s fantastic result and great for tomorrow. But tomorrow’s going to be a tough race for sure with rear-tyre degradation, so a lot can still happen.’

During the first qualifying session most drivers went out on the hard (option) tyre compound, but as the session progressed more and more drivers switched to the medium (prime) rubber compound.

Second pole for Mercedes this season - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Second pole for Mercedes this season – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Alonso was the first to put a serious time on the board with a lap of 1m32.878s, and his time proved to be unbeatable during Q1. Pastor Maldonado, Esteban Gutierrez, Charles Pic, Jules Bianchi, Giedo van der Garde and Max Chilton were the six drivers who didn’t make it into the next session.

Initially drivers stayed in the garage at the start of the second session, but with 10 minutes to go both Red Bull drivers Vettel and Mark Webber were leading, but not for long as Paul di Resta in the Force India took first place, again showing how strong the VJM06 is.

Unfortunately Force India’s joy was short-lived as not much later Rosberg put the fastest time on the board with a lap of 1m32.867s. Meanwhile both McLaren drivers were in the drop-out zone and were visibly struggling to keep the McLaren MP4-28 on track, both went out in a last attempt to make it into the final qualifying session, but only Jenson Button managed to get a ticket to Q3, as the 2009 World Champion improved his time and made it into the top ten.

Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas and Jean-Eric Vergne did not make it into Q3.

In Q3 Rosberg was first out on the track and recorded the fastest time, but with only three minutes left on the clock the usual poker game for pole position unfolded at the Sakhir circuit. But both Vettel and Alonso made small mistakes on their final lap, while Rosberg even improved his time and took a well-deserved pole position for Mercedes.

A very strong performance from Force India - Photo: Sahara Force India

A very strong performance from Force India – Photo: Sahara Force India

Second place man Vettel was pleased with the result, “I’m not disappointed with that [second place]. Well done to Nico, it was a strong lap and it was all his today. When I crossed the line I saw I was second on the screen and didn’t know how much I was missing to pole as the lap was fine.”

About the race tomorrow the triple Word Champion said, “We managed to save some tyres throughout qualifying and it will be about tyre degradation tomorrow, so we’ll see what happens. It’s good to start from the front.”

Alonso in third place is also confident ahead of tomorrow’s race, he aborted his last flying lap and said, “We tried to complete the second lap, it was very similar until the last corner and then I saw it was half a tenth slower and we decided to save one lap on the tyres. The car was very competitive in qualifying so this puts us in a strong position to start tomorrow’s race and to fight with the leaders with more of a margin.”

All Formula One results can be found in the menu of the F1 2013 Season > Bahrain GP, together with links to the practice, qualifying and race reports.

Bahrain GP Qualifying Results


Bahrain GP: Alonso beats Vettel in final free practice session in Sakhir


By Berthold Bouman

Bahrain GP: Alonso beats Vettel in final free practice session in SakhirFernando Alonso was fastest this morning after the third and final practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix this morning. The Ferrari driver was followed by his rivals Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber who were second and third respectively for Red Bull at the Bahrain International Circuit.

The Bahrain circuit becomes less and less green, as this morning’s fastest time was also the fastest time overall so far this weekend. Kimi Raikkonen took fifth spot for Lotus, while his team colleague Romain Grosjean was sixth.

Alonso already had made an off-track excursion, while Vettel wasn’t happy with the moves of Charles Pic in the Caterham, when more drama unfolded as Lewis Hamilton, who finished in fifth place, had a rear-wheel puncture. Although the 2008 World Champion drove his Mercedes slowly back to the pit lane, not only the suspension, but also the gearbox was damaged and had to be replaced, which means Hamilton gets a five-place grid penalty for tomorrow’s race.

Sebastian Vettel - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Sebastian Vettel – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Again a strong showing by Force India: Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta were seventh and eight, while both German Nicos, Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg, completed the top ten.

Felipe Massa took 11th spot this morning, but the Brazilian Ferrari driver was faster than both McLarens, as Jenson Button and Sergio Perez didn’t get any further than 12th and 13th place at the Sakhir circuit.

Next on the list are Toro Rosso and Williams, Daniel Ricciardo was this time faster than his team colleague Jean Eric Vergne, they finished in 14th and 16th place. Valtteri Bottas was the fastest Williams driver as he took 15th place, while Pastor Maldonado was 17th.

Five-place grid penalty for Hamilton - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Five-place grid penalty for Hamilton – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Further down the order was Charles Pic, he was 18th, while Dutchman Giedo van de Garde in the second Caterham was 20th.

Marussia driver Jules Bianchi once again beat his team colleague Max Chilton, as the Frenchman was 19th, while Chilton was 21. Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez was 22nd and last this morning.

All Formula One results can be found in the menu of the F1 2013 Season > Bahrain GP, together with links to the practice, qualifying and race reports.

Bahrain GP FP3 Results


Bahrain GP: Raikkonen fastest for Lotus after second free practice session at Sakhir


By Berthold Bouman

Bahrain GP: Raikkonen fastest for Lotus after second free practice session at SakhirKimi 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

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

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.

All Formula One results can be found in the menu of the F1 2013 Season > Bahrain GP, together with links to the practice, qualifying and race reports.

Bahrain GP FP2 Results


Bahrain GP: Red Bull drivers – It’s easier to keep the rhythm with back to back races


By Berthold Bouman

Bahrain GP: Red Bull drivers - It’s easier to keep the rhythm with back to back racesNot much love is lost between Red Bull drivers Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, that is a fact. In Malaysia Vettel surprised friend and foe when he ignored the, by now famous, team order ‘multi 21’, which means car 2 (Webber) should finish ahead of car 1 (Vettel).

Vettel initially said he didn’t know what it meant, but footage the BBC showed last weekend, proves he does know what it means, as he said over the team radio during the Belgian Grand Prix, “I need a multi 1-2, I need a multi 1-2”, whereupon his team assured him there was nothing to be worried about. And he got what he wanted.

But back to 2013, the Bahrain Grand Prix will be Webber’s 200th Formula One race, and the Australian will become member of an exclusive club in Grand Prix racing this weekend.

200th Grand Prix for Webber this weekend - Photo: Red Bull Racing

200th Grand Prix for Webber this weekend – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Mark Webber: You need to make sure you’re ready for the next event

Asked about his opinion regarding back-to-back races Webber commented, “We like racing and it’s another opportunity to go racing again soon, so that’s a positive. We’re already roughly in the same part of the world, so back to back races can be an efficient way for us to go racing; as an industry it’s good organisation.”

And how does he prepare for such a race? “It’s important to make sure you get ready for the next race off the back of the first one, so travelling as soon as you can is important. If you have a very big result at the first race then you’re not going to stay in the night club too long that evening celebrating, as you need to make sure you’re ready for the next event. It’s a short turnaround; you want to make sure that the training is sensible and you’re keeping yourself healthy,” said Webber.

Quizzed about the best corner at the Sakhir circuit he was adamant, “I quite like the last sector, Turns 12 and 13, up over the crest, that’s a nice part of the lap. It’s a little bit quicker, because the rest of the track is quite slow and not super exhilarating. There are some quick-ish corners, which are quite rewarding.”

Sebastian Vettel - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Sebastian Vettel – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Sebastian Vettel: You get into the rhythm quickly

Also Vettel was asked about his feelings concerning back-to-back races, but the German doesn’t have any problems with it, “The positive is that on the Friday of the second race, you get into the rhythm quickly. You save time by travelling direct from one race to the next and can adapt to the time zone a bit quicker, as you don‘t have to travel so far. The only thing is that there‘s not much time for physical and mental recovery after the first race.”

And how does Vettel prepare for such a race? “I make the most of the Monday after the first race, in terms of relaxing and recovery. On the Tuesday, I do some easy training in the gym or some badminton, to keep the body and mind in correct mode.”

“But,” he said, “It‘s important that the race calendar is well-balanced so that drivers can get proper rest periods in order to be able to push 100 percent at each event. This means that sometimes it is good to have back to back races and then some longer breaks.”

Red Bull is currently leading the Constructors’ Championship with 78 points, just five points ahead of Ferrari. Vettel is leading the Drivers’ Championship with 52 points, while Webber is sixth with 26 points.

Webber’s 200th Grand Prix – Video by Red Bull Racing

Also read:

Red Bull Bahrain GP Preview
Ferrari Bahrain GP Preview
McLaren Bahrain GP Preview
Lotus Bahrain GP Preview
Mercedes Bahrain GP Preview
Sauber Bahrain GP Preview
Force India Bahrain GP Preview
Williams Bahrain GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Bahrain GP Preview
Caterham Bahrain GP Preview
Marussia Bahrain GP Preview


Chinese GP Preview: Teams aiming for major improvements at Shanghai


By Berthold Bouman

Chinese GP Preview: Teams aiming for major improvements at ShanghaiAfter a three-week break all Formula One teams have arrived at the Shanghai International Circuit for round three of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Chinese Grand Prix. It will be the tenth time the race is held on the 5.451 km long Shanghai circuit, which is similar to the Malaysian Sepang circuit, but the weather conditions are expected to be much cooler this weekend.

Pirelli has nominated the Medium (prime, white marked) and Soft (option, yellow marked) tyres for China: the first time that this combination makes an appearance this year. According to Pirelli, the flexibility of the new 2013 tyres means ‘that several strategies are open to the teams’.

Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery explained, “China has often produced some of the best races of the year, where strategy has been at the forefront of the action. With all our compounds having got softer this year the degradation is deliberately more extreme leading to increased performance, but history has shown that it never takes too long for the teams and drivers to get on top of the tyres.”

Webber not happy with Vettel's actions in Malaysia - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Webber not happy with Vettel’s actions in Malaysia – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Unfortunately, the fast degrading tyres are the reason why teams opt to save tyres during qualifying in order to have more fresh sets during the race. Drivers stay in the garage for most of the time, which of course does not contribute to the show on Saturday afternoon. Tyre degradation also played an important role in the hottest story of the season so far.

The team that made the headlines in the past three weeks was of course Red Bull, the rivalry between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel has been re-ignited after Vettel ignored team orders to let Webber win the race at Sepang. Red Bull was afraid both drivers could ruin their tyres and therefore the decision was made to let Webber finish the race ahead of Vettel. Better safe than sorry was the motto.

But according to Red Bull Advisor Helmut Marko, the feud is over. “They don’t have to be completely on the same page but it must be a solid working partnership,” he said. “Sebastian apologised in the press conference and I think that was the first correct step to make. There was a debrief afterwards with the relevant discussions about the race and then there was a handshake between the two drivers. For us now the issue is settled.”

Kimi Raikkonen won the first race of the season - Photo: Lotus F1

Kimi Raikkonen won the first race of the season – Photo: Lotus F1

A pleasant surprise at the start of the season, this time Lotus won the 2013 opener at Albert Park in Australia, but the second race in Malaysia was a bit of a let down for the Lotus fans, as Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen finished the race in sixth and seventh place respectively.

Nevertheless, Lotus’ Team Principal Eric Boullier was happy with the result of the Malaysian Grand Prix and said, “I think we can take some positives from Malaysia. We’ve made a step forward with the car in terms of single lap pace, but still the race pace looks strong as well.”

Lotus will have some significant updates ready for China and Boullier said, “For China, Romain will have the upgraded exhaust and bodywork package which Kimi ran in Malaysia, plus there will be a few additional parts arriving so it’s going to be quite interesting.”

According to Lotus’ Technical Director James Allison, the tyres will again be the deciding factor at the Shanghai circuit, “Some of the lower speed corners are also extended in their radius, even with tightening arcs. This provides quite a stern test for the tyres, as you have a significant excess of torque over grip making it very easy to wreck a set of rear tyres rather quickly.”

Fernando Alonso - Photo: Ferrari

Fernando Alonso – Photo: Ferrari

Ferrari is currently third in the Constructors’ Championship, in Australia Fernando Alonso was second, but at Sepang he hit the rear of Vettel’s Red Bull and when his damaged front wing got wedged under the car, he crashed and his race was over after just one lap.

Alonso has spent some time in the simulator during the break, but he’s worried about the very fast degrading tyres. “Shanghai is a very nice track with a variety of corner types and fast straights, so you definitely need a car that works well in the fast sections, but you also need it to have plenty of downforce to deal with the tighter turns. We can expect to see quite high tyre degradation, especially on the fronts,” the Spaniard said.

Also Felipe Massa is upbeat ahead of the race on Sunday. “I know we have only done two races, but I have a good feeling so far this season. The work we did with the F138 over the winter has taken us in the right direction and the car has much more potential,” the Brazilian said.

Lewis Hamilton on the podium - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Lewis Hamilton on the podium – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Lewis Hamilton moved from McLaren to Mercedes, and already scored his first podium place for the German team in Malaysia. Nico Rosberg scored his maiden win, and so far the only victory for Mercedes, during the Chinese Grand Prix in 2012, but it will be difficult to repeat that according to Mercedes Motorsport Director Toto Wolff.

“Like they say, yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games, and that’s definitely true for us. We start again from zero this year and need to work hard to adapt the car to suit the circuit and the tyre compounds we have available, in the conditions that we find on track this weekend. Then we will see where we stand relative to the competition,” the Austrian said.

Team Principal Ross Brawn is confident ahead of the race, but there is still a lot do, and he commented, “Our season has started well, perhaps better than we expected, however we’re fully aware that there is still a gap to close and that we must keep up the pace of development. A lot of hard work has taken place at our factories over the last two weeks to do just that and I look forward to seeing how that translates to track performance.”

Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil - Photo: Sahara Force India

Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil – Photo: Sahara Force India

Force India is fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, and the return of Adrian Sutil was the best decision they’ve made this season, as he led the Australian Grand Prix for almost 30 laps. But in Malaysia everything went pear-shaped, and both Sutil and Paul di Resta had to retire as there were problems with the wheel nuts.

But team owner Vijay Mallya is adamant the wheel nut issues have been solved, “We’ve had three weeks to understand what went wrong and have worked hard fix the root cause of the problem.” Sutil is confident of a good performance this weekend and the German said, “The layout is not too different to Sepang, so it should suit us again and I hope we can be strong there.”

And he added, “Also, we know there are lots of areas where we can improve because we have learned a lot from the first couple of races. The other teams will not stand still so we need to keep pushing hard and keep up this momentum.”

Sauber had their ups and downs, in Australia Nico Hulkenberg couldn’t start the race due to problems with the fuel system, but he hopes to do better in China. “I have a better feeling now I have driven my first race in the C32, especially because we were able to collect a lot of information. In Malaysia we scored points and that is also my goal for China,” Hulkenberg said.

Sauber will also bring some new parts to China, and they will be tested during the free practice sessions. Tom McCullough, Sauber’s Head of Track Engineering said, “We analysed the data that we collected in Malaysia and found interesting directions for the development of the car, therefore we will bring several test parts to Shanghai. Having secured our first points of the season in Malaysia, we are eager to add to them as soon as possible.”

Jenson Button - Photo: McLaren F1

Jenson Button – Photo: McLaren F1

While Ferrari is now up to pace compared to the start of the 2012 season, it seems that McLaren now is the top team that has fallen behind, as they are only seventh in the Constructors’ Championship with just four points. Both drivers have struggled with the new Pirellis, and Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh is certainly not happy with seventh place.

“Clearly, our performance in Australia and Malaysia fell below the high standards we’ve come to expect at McLaren,” said Whitmarsh. McLaren made good use of the break and are aiming to improve their performance this weekend, and Whitmarsh added, “We have been fully engaged in further developing our understanding of the MP4-28 and are confident of being able to implement a number of changes this weekend that will widen its operating window and, potentially, improve its performance.”

Scuderia Toro Rosso managed to score one point in two races, courtesy to Jean-Eric Vergne, who finished tenth in Malaysia. Plenty of rivalry at Toro Rosso as well, Daniel Ricciardo promised to ‘trash’ his team colleague this season, but Frenchman Vergne has so far beaten the Australian driver, who is also aiming to replace Mark Webber at sister team Red Bull in 2014.

Two retirements for Maldonado - Photo: Williams F1

Two retirements for Maldonado – Photo: Williams F1

Also a very difficult start of the season for Williams, last year they were very quick and even won the Spanish Grand Prix, this season Pastor Maldonado retired from both races, while Valtteri Bottas finished just outside the top ten.

Like other drivers, Bottas reckons managing the Pirelli tyres will be the key to success, and he remarked, “Getting the tyres to work will be the biggest challenge facing all of the teams, as the temperatures are often low and the smooth track surface is quite different to what we saw in the first two races.”

Surprisingly, Marussia has beaten Caterham during the first two races, and the Anglo-Russian outfit has even managed to produce a few car updates during the break. Team Principal John Booth explained, “The cars were freighted directly to China, so while we would not call the upgrades we have for this race comprehensive, they are still significant. We will be running some new suspension parts that we proved out in testing but delayed until we had some further race distance experience with the MR02. We also have some new front and rear brake ducts.”

Caterham has been struggling due to massive understeer. “On Friday and Saturday morning we’ll also be working on several performance areas that the team has been looking at since Malaysia, particularly around dialling out the understeer issues I had in Australia and Malaysia,” said Charles Pic.

Dutchman Giedo van der Garde is confident his team will solve the problems and said, “We had oversteer issues on entry into the corners in Malaysia and Australia and that definitely hit my race pace, particularly as it was impacting on tyre degradation levels, so we’ve done a bit of work on that with Pirelli in Milan and back at Leafield since Malaysia so we’ll see what we’ve achieved when we get to Shanghai.”

Qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix will start at 15:00 hrs local time and the race on Sunday starts at 14:00 hrs local time.


Chinese GP: Red Bull says driver feud is over, looking forward to Shanghai


By Berthold Bouman

Chinese GP: Red Bull says driver feud is over, looking forward to ShanghaiRed Bull Racing has been in the spotlight since the Malaysian Grand Prix, after star driver Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders to let his team colleague Mark Webber win the race. Webber was furious and threatened to leave the team, Red Bull advisor ex-Formula One driver Helmut Marko, however, insists the row is over.

“They don’t have to be completely on the same page but it must be a solid working partnership,” Marko said. “Sebastian apologised in the press conference and I think that was the first correct step to make. There was a debrief afterwards with the relevant discussions about the race and then there was a handshake between the two drivers. For us now the issue is settled.”

Plenty of media attention for Vettel after the Malaysian GP - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Plenty of media attention for Vettel after the Malaysian GP – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Sebastian Vettel: Took his first win for Red Bull in 2009 in Shanghai

The Shanghai International circuit was the scene of Vettel’s first win for Red Bull, and he has fond memories of the Chinese track, “My first win with Red Bull Racing in 2009. We had a good qualifying, followed by an amazing race. There was a lot of rain, but we held it together and got our first team win and one-two.”

Asked what he likes about Shanghai he said, “Every time I go to Shanghai I like to explore a bit more, but I really like Pudong, near the river.” And the circuit, what is his favourite part? “The circuit has lots of corners, making it hard for the tyres and tricky for the drivers. I really like the middle sector. Turns 12 and 13 are difficult to get right, as they demand a lot of technique, especially Turn 13 which leads into a really long straight.”

Webber not a happy camper after Vettel took the win in Malaysia - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Webber not a happy camper after Vettel took the win in Malaysia – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Mark Webber: Likes Shanghai’s soup dumplings

Asked about his best memories of the circuit Webber said, “Coming from the back of the grid to finish on the podium in third place in 2011.” But his favourite place in Shanghai is actually a restaurant, “I went to a really nice restaurant with some of the boys from the team, Din Tai Fung Shanghai. They do great soup dumplings, a Shanghai specialty!”

And his favourite part of the circuit? “The middle sector, Turns 5 and 6, it’s a nice and flowing section and it’s very important to get the technique right there.”

Also read:

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


Vettel apologises to Red Bull staff, row over Marko insists


By Berthold Bouman

Vettel apologises to Red Bull staff, row over Marko insists - Photo: Red Bull RacingSebastian Vettel has apologised in person to Red Bull Racing’s staff members for ignoring team orders during the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend. The triple World Champion has also spoken with his team colleague Australian Mark Webber, who was visibly upset during the podium ceremony at Sepang International Circuit.

Team Principal Christian Horner said, “He’s apologised to the team and to every single member of staff for his actions, because he recognises the team is vitally important and being part of the team is a crucial aspect to being able to challenge for those championships.”

Vettel celebrates after winning the Malaysian GP - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Vettel celebrates after winning the Malaysian GP – Photo: Red Bull Racing

And he added, “He’s said he can’t turn back the clock but he’s accepted what he did was wrong.” Webber was leading the Malaysian Grand Prix when his team told both drivers to stay in the same position, take it easy and finish the race in the same order, as there were concerns about fuel consumption and tyre wear. Vettel ignored the team order, overtook Webber after a sensational battle for the lead, but Horner told Sky TV Webber should have won the race.

“It was the intent of the team that Mark should win that race,” Horner admitted. About Webber, who after the race hinted he would ‘reconsider’ his position at Red Bull, Horner commented, “He’s big enough to know that there was no malice, no intent from the team to create any situation like that. He’s in a car that’s capable of winning Grands Prix and hopefully going for a championship so I’ve got no doubt that Mark will see out the season with us.”

Today stories emerged that Vettel indeed might have missed the message, a code named ‘Multi-map 21’, which actually means car 2 (Webber)  has to finish ahead of car 1 (Vettel). But Red Bull Team Advisor Helmut Marko rubbished the idea he might have missed it . “We have this certain code — the ’21’ — which was told by the race engineer on two occasions. There was no response,” the Austrian said.

Helmut Marko and Sebastian Vettel - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Helmut Marko and Sebastian Vettel – Photo: Red Bull Racing

He further commented, “We told Sebastian to hold his position because we didn’t know what the tyre situation was and both drivers need to bring home a good finish for the team. But then came the attack against that strategy and it got out of control. You couldn’t control it over radio or anything like that. Sebastian the racer came out and took the lead.”

Also Horner could be heard on the team radio saying, “This is silly Seb, come on,” but there was no answer. And last but not least, saying Vettel accidentally ignored the order to stay behind Webber, cannot be true, as he would never have apologized when he hadn’t been aware of the radio messages. You simply don’t apologise for something you didn’t do.

Marko insists the issue has been settled now, “They don’t have to be completely on the same page but it must be a solid working partnership,” he said. “Sebastian apologised in the press conference and I think that was the first correct step to make. There was a debrief afterwards with the relevant discussions about the race and then there was a handshake between the two drivers. For us now the issue is settled.”