Sunday, June 28, 2009

Vettel cuts Button lead with British GP glory

Sebastian Vettel stole Jenson Button's thunder on the Brawn GP star's home turf to consummately triumph in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend, leading home a crushing Red Bull Racing one-two ahead of team-mate Mark Webber to prove that the energy drinks-backed outfit can win in the dry too – and demonstrating that it is very much game on for the 2009 F1 World Championship crown.

A textbook getaway from pole-sitter Vettel when the lights went out was almost bettered by that of Rubens Barrichello alongside, but the German kept his nose in front into Copse, with Webber slotting into third and Kazuki Nakajima moving up a place into fourth in the leading Williams. The biggest gain was made by Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari, however, as the 2007 title-winner exploited his KERS power boost to maximum effect to storm down the outside – bravely brushing the grass en route – and vault up into fifth.

The Finn was aided along the way by a slow start from Jarno Trulli on the second row that dropped the Pescara native back to seventh and also compromised home hero Button, who found himself tucked up behind the Italian and with nowhere to go, falling back from sixth to ninth in the process, behind Nico Rosberg, Trulli and the second fast-starting Ferrari of Felipe Massa.

Trulli was desperate to find a way back past Rosberg on the first lap but found his efforts swiftly rebuffed, and after Button profited from a mistake by Massa to move back up into eighth, he again found himself frustratingly stuck behind the Toyota. Further back, there was a superbly opportunistic move by an inspired Giancarlo Fisichella into Stowe, as the experienced Italian took advantage of Nick Heidfeld and Fernando Alonso squabbling ahead of him to dive down the inside of both and into eleventh.

That left the tardy Heidfeld – nursing a damaged front wing and defying the advice of his team in not pitting for a replacement – doggedly staving off the earnest and energetic advances of Alonso, the sister BMW of a slow-starting Robert Kubica and defending F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton in an entertaining scrap, with the latter having had his own grassy moment on the entry to Stowe after getting held up by Alonso and complaining of no grip from his underperforming McLaren-Mercedes.

The real focus of the race, however, was up front, where Vettel was busy eking out a commanding advantage of a second a lap, helped by Barrichello's difficulties in warming his tyres up to temperature sufficiently quickly. Fastest lap after fastest lap carried the top flight's youngest-ever grand prix-winner almost 15 seconds clear just 13 laps into the action, with Webber able to make little impression on the Brawn GP right ahead of him and seeing his chances of victory evaporating into thin air.

Nakajima unsurprisingly became the first man to pit on lap 15, releasing the duelling Raikkonen and Rosberg into fourth and fifth respectively, with Trulli, Button, Massa and Timo Glock similarly in attendance at the foot of the top ten. Raikkonen was the next to blink, promoting Rosberg to fourth, and the extra lap completed enabled him to leapfrog Nakajima in the process.

There was tension as Trulli and Button pitted together next time around, but unfortunately for British fans the status quo was maintained, and even worse, whilst Trulli was able to jump Raikkonen, the understeer-plagued Button was not – as the luckless Nakajima slipped behind all three of them following his excellent opening stint.

Barrichello was the next in, followed only a lap later by pursuer Webber, but whilst the latter's stop was longer, the Australian narrowly rejoined ahead – though there was a brief heart-stopping moment as the Red Bull emerged from the pit-lane and the Brawn GP stormed up behind him on the exit of Copse, with Webber just doing enough to stave 'Rubinho' off on his cold tyres. Interestingly, too, the two teams went in different directions on tyre strategy – and this time it was RBR that would prove to hold the winning hand.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Results (British Grand Prix)

Pos No Driver Team Laps Time/Retired Grid Pts
1 15 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 60 1:22:49.328 1 10
2 14 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 60 +15.1 secs 3 8
3 23 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 60 +41.1 secs 2 6
4 3 Felipe Massa Ferrari 60 +45.0 secs 11 5
5 16 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 60 +45.9 secs 7 4
6 22 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 60 +46.2 secs 6 3
7 9 Jarno Trulli Toyota 60 +68.3 secs 4 2
8 4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 60 +69.6 secs 9 1
9 10 Timo Glock Toyota 60 +69.8 secs 8
10 21 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 60 +71.5 secs 16
11 17 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 60 +74.0 secs 5
12 8 Nelsinho Piquet Renault 59 +1 Lap 14
13 5 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 59 +1 Lap 12
14 7 Fernando Alonso Renault 59 +1 Lap 10
15 6 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 59 +1 Lap 15
16 1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 59 +1 Lap 18
17 20 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 59 +1 Lap 20
18 12 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 59 +1 Lap 19
Ret 11 Sebastien Bourdais STR-Ferrari 37 Accident damage 17
Ret 2 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 36 Retired 13

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Turkish Grand Prix – Qualifying times

Button damns F1 statistics for Turkish GP glory

Jenson Button had vowed to re-write the unwritten Formula 1 rule that says the pole-sitter always wins the Turkish Grand Prix – and in dashing Red Bull Racing and Sebastian Vettel's dreams in the 2009 edition, the current world championship leader did just that.

The Brawn GP star took advantage of an opening lap error by Vettel to pounce and dive past into the lead around the undulating, technically challenging and physically demanding, anti-clockwise Istanbul Park Circuit – and he went on to fairly crush the opposition with his searing raw pace and flawless consistency, meaning he will travel to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix in front of his adoring home supporters in a fortnight's time with a 26-point lead in the drivers' title chase, and every inch the 2009 F1 World Champion in-waiting.

A textbook getaway propelled pole-sitter Vettel into the lead when the lights went out, with Button – who had positioned his car aggressively pointing inwards on the grid – slotting into second as a fast-starting Jarno Trulli in the Toyota vaulted up to third, with Rubens Barrichello in the second Brawn entry bogging down and falling back ten places to 13th.

Later around the lap, however, Vettel's costly error as the young German got out-of-shape on the exit of turn nine enabled Button to snatch the lead, and the Briton immediately set about pulling away, lapping as much as a second quicker than his Red Bull pursuer despite carrying two laps' more fuel on-board. Less than a lap into the grand prix, and it was already advantage Brawn – and Vettel would never truly regain his lost momentum.

Behind the lead pair, Mark Webber in the second RBR battled his way past Trulli for third, with Nico Rosberg in the Williams making impressive progress from ninth on the grid in aggressively fighting his way past both Ferraris and up to fifth.

The remainder of the top ten early on was completed by Istanbul specialist Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Robert Kubica, Kimi Raikkonen and Kazuki Nakajima, with Raikkonen slipping back to ninth as a result of tapping the rear of Alonso's Renault and losing part of his front wing. Barrichello, meanwhile, was finding his progress frustrated by the KERS-equipped McLaren-Mercedes of Heikki Kovalainen, finally finding a way by on lap seven only for his Finnish adversary to exploit his power 'boost' button on the following straight to go immediately back past him again.

Indeed, things would soon go from bad to worse for the veteran Brazilian – the most experienced driver in F1 history – as he went for the inside into turn nine and almost collected Kovalainen as he spun his chances away. That left him to rejoin even further back in 17th, behind the second McLaren of Lewis Hamilton – which was carrying an even heavier fuel load than the sister Silver Arrow...

The racy-looking São Paulista – by now missing seventh gear, to add to his woes – made much shorter work of the defending world champion, however, as his team-mate continued to edge clear at the front of the field, holding a 3.7-second advantage over Vettel nine laps in, with Webber five seconds further in arrears in third and Trulli and Rosberg holding on well in fourth and fifth respectively.

Barrichello's next drama came when he lost his front wing endplate as he attempted in vain to wrest 15th place away from Adrian Sutil in the Force India, though the sister VJM02 of Giancarlo Fisichella had long since trundled into retirement in the Silverstone-based squad's pit garage with ongoing braking issues, meaning the Italian has still to complete more than a handful of racing laps in Turkey in the last four years, though on this occasion he did at least get slightly further than his successive first corner exits in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

1. Jenson Button Britain Brawn-Mercedes 58 laps 1hr 26m 24.848s
2. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault +00m 06.7s
3. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault +00m 07.4s
4. Jarno Trulli Italy Toyota-Toyota +00m 27.8s
5. Nico Rosberg Germany Williams-Toyota +00m 31.5s
6. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari +00m 39.9s
7. Robert Kubica Poland BMW Sauber +00m 46.2s
8. Timo Glock Germany Toyota-Toyota +00m 46.9s

9. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Ferrari-Ferrari +00m 50.2s
10. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault +00m 62.4s
11. Nick Heidfeld Germany BMW Sauber +00m 64.3s
12. Kazuki Nakajima Japan Williams-Toyota +00m 66.3s
13. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes +00m 80.4s
14. Heikki Kovalainen Finland McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
15. Sebastien Buemi Switzerland Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
16. Nelson Piquet Jr Brazil Renault-Renault +1 lap
17. Adrian Sutil Germany Force India-Mercedes +1 lap
18. Sebastien Bourdais France Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap


Vettel atones for Monaco error with Istanbul F1 pole

Red Bull Racing star Sebastian Vettel has thrown down the gauntlet to Formula 1 World Championship leader Jenson Button in atoning for his Monaco mistake with a storming run to pole position for this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul – suggesting that after three races of pure Brawn GP domination, the title battle is back on.

It was, indeed, a breathless conclusion to qualifying around the anti-clockwise, technically challenging and physically demanding 14-turn Istanbul Park Circuit close to the Bosphorous, with Mark Webber and then Button stealing the top spot late on in Q3 before Vettel responded with a scintillating final effort to blow all of his competitors out of the water.

Rubens Barrichello in the second Brawn made the best of a bad situation in hauling himself up from seventh place to third on his very last effort, with Webber winding up fourth and Toyota's Jarno Trulli – who had similarly threatened to challenge for P1 after lapping a close second-quickest to Vettel on the first run – fifth.

The Ferraris underwhelmed somewhat with Kimi Raikkonen sixth and Istanbul expert and record man Felipe Massa seventh, with Fernando Alonso recovering well from a spin to take eighth in his Renault and Nico Rosberg for Williams and BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica rounding out the top ten at the close.

A fraught final few minutes to Q2 witnessed the top spot changing hands with alacrity from one moment to the next. With the suspicion that Brawn was keeping its powder dry, Red Bull and Toyota duelled it out for supremacy, though Webber left it late after a mistake on his first run put the Australian under pressure to perform later on – and perform he did. From 15th he leapt up to sixth at the close, with team-mate Vettel leading the way, seeing off a late challenge from Trulli to steal P1 in the 'low-fuel' session.

Toyota team-mate Timo Glock, by contrast – a man who had already struggled in Q1 – failed to produce the same pace, dropping out in a lowly 13th, in company with Nick Heidfeld in the BMW and Kazuki Nakajima in the Williams just ahead of him, with the Japanese ace's strong practice and Q1 form seeming to evaporate when it mattered the most, and a couple of off-track 'adventures' scarcely helping his cause either. McLaren-Mercedes' Heikki Kovalainen and the impressive Adrian Sutil completed the top 15, with the latter handing Force India its second Q2 breakthrough in as many outings.

Less than half a second, meanwhile, covered those who progressed on to the all-important Q3 shoot-out, with Vettel leading the way from Trulli, Button, Ferrari duo Massa and Raikkonen, Webber, Barrichello, Rosberg, Kubica in the improved, double-diffuser equipped BMW F1.09 and Alonso, who left it late to save his skin and ensure that his record of beginning every race of 2009 from inside the top ten remains intact.

Given how tightly-packed the field had been throughout practice – with barely seven tenths of a second blanketing the leading 16 runners on Friday, and a similar margin covering the top 15 in FP3 on Saturday morning – it was anticipated that there might be a number of big-name casualties inQ1. Nobody, though could have anticipated that the session would claim arguably the highest-profile scalp of them all.

As Toyota, Red Bull, Ferrari, Williams and Brawn GP set the leading pace – with Nakajima, Trulli, Vettel, Rosberg and Raikkonen all swapping the top spot between them – there were contrasting fortunes at BMW and McLaren, with Heidfeld and defending F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton looking to be the men most in danger as the clock ticked down, belying the progress the latter believed the Woking-based outfit had made after the opening practice day.

1. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault 1m 28.316s
2. Jenson Button Britain Brawn-Mercedes 1m 28.421s
3. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Brawn-Mercedes 1m 28.579s
4. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault 1m 28.613s
5. Jarno Trulli Italy Toyota-Toyota 1m 28.666s
6. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 28.815s
7. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 28.858s
8. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault 1m 29.075s
9. Nico Rosberg Germany Williams-Toyota 1m 29.191s
10. Robert Kubica Poland BMW Sauber 1m 29.357s

11. Nick Heidfeld Germany BMW Sauber 1m 27.521s
12. Kazuki Nakajima Japan Williams-Toyota 1m 27.629s
13. Timo Glock Germany Toyota-Toyota 1m 27.795s
14. Heikki Kovalainen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 1m 28.207s
15. Adrian Sutil Germany Force India-Mercedes 1m 28.391s

16. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes 1m 28.318s
17. Nelson Piquet Jr Brazil Renault-Renault 1m 28.582s
18. Sebastien Buemi Switzerland Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m 28.706s
19. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Force India-Mercedes 1m 28.717s
20. Sebastien Bourdais France Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m 28.918s