Tag Archives: Formula 1

Interview with Fernando Alonso


by Jake McMillan

I visited Maranello yesterday and caught up with Ferrari F1 driver Fernando Alonso in a quiet cafe to chat to him about the upcoming 2012 F1 season and life in general.

JM: Mr Alonso, always good to see you. How are you feeling about the upcoming season?

FA: Jake, you can call me Ferdie, you know this [touches my leg]

JM: I told you! [removes hand] Not whilst we are working.

FA: But Jake baby, you know you make my inner bull crazy [tries to touch leg again but JM smacks it] okay, I am looking forward to this season as much as I am looking to forward to our sexy time.

JM: Fernando!!

FA: I love it when my little torito gets all angry … okay, Jake baby, I tell you, then we do boom boom. I was pleased how things went at the test in Jerez, we got through all our testing programme and understand better how to set up the car.

JM: A lot of people say the stepped platypus nose of this year’s Ferrari is rather unnattractive.

FA: Well, some say this, but then my nose is not that pretty and I am super quick and I know you think I am beautiful, don’t you? My little torito baby.

JM: Fernando! Do you think this year’s championship will be closer than last year’s?

FA: Absolutely. Red Bull will be quick of course, but because we don’t have blown diffusers I expect McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes all to be very close. Even some other teams may be up there. Lotus looked quick straight out of the box.

JM: With the return of Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus, there will be 6 World Champions on the grid. Does this make it more exciting?

FA: Not quite as exciting as your cheeky face, my little torito, but yes very much. We are in a golden era of Formula 1 with many top level drivers. It will make it difficult to win, but then you get the greatest satisfaction from achieving a great result against the greatest competition.

JM: Will Ferrari win at the first Grand Prix at Australia?

FA: I hope so, we will try very hard. … Can we finish now? Me have horn of giant bull.

JM: Sure, get your pants off.

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2012 F1 Testing Begins!


by Jake McMillan


Hoorah, with the 2012 Formula 1 testing beginning at Jerez tomorrow we will finally get a little bit of F1 action! However, as I have warned before, we all need to be very careful about over-analysing the relative performance of the teams. Testing is exactly what it says with teams testing and fine-tuning the performance of the cars. Some things will work and some won’t.

Unless one team is significantly much faster throughout a test session, or is significantly off the pace, we will not know which team is really quickest until we get to Melbourne next month. Despite knowing this, we all get sucked in every year, trying to guess which team will be the fastest. This is okay as long as we  remember that it is just a guess:

  • Teams will be running different fuel loads from each other
  • Teams seeking sponsorship will inevitably want to appear quick by doing more low fuel runs
  • The cars will be developed further between the tests and the first race so until we get to Melbourne we really don’t know
  • All teams ‘sandbag’ to varying degrees

F1 2012 – Time to Start Getting Excited


by Jake McMillan

It seems like it’s been forever since we had the last F1 race, but with the first F1 Pre-Season Test only two weeks away, it is time to start getting excited. In fact, there are a number of reasons to get excited about the upcoming 2012 Formula 1 Season:

  • Teams more closely matched: As the rules have not changed massively for 2012 everyone expects the teams, especially at the top, to be more closely matched than in 2011. It’s very unlikely we will see the dominance of one driver or one team like we did with Vettel and Red Bull last year. Ferrari and Mercedes are both expected to do better this year. But will they?
  • The return of Kimi Raikkonen: He’s unlikely to be quick from the get go, but it will be fascinating to see how he gets on in his first season back in F1. Will he have the hunger? Will he smile?
  • A Senna back in a Williams: Although it is a time for rebuilding at Williams, it will be great to see Bruno Senna in a more competitive car and with a very professional team to see what kind of potential he really has?
  • Rivalries: So many of them up and down the pack – Can Webber be more on pace with Vettel this year? If Massa doesn’t run Alonso closer this year then he will likely be out of Ferrari at the end of the year; Will Massa and Hamilton manage to avoid touching each other? Button Vs Hamilton, who will come out on top this year? Schumacher Vs Rosberg; Paul di Resta Vs Hulkenberg … the list goes on.
  • How will Caterham do? Caterham (formerly Team Lotus) were floating between the teams at the back and the mid-runners last year. They expect, as do most of us, that they will be closer to, if not part of, the middle of the pack in 2012. Would be good to see.

Plus there is the Malaysian Grand Prix to be excited about. Well, for me, anyway, as I am going to Malaysia to watch it for the first time and I cannot wait!

Button’s Amazing Journey to Victory – Canadian GP 2011


Jenson Button’s amazing victory in Canada involved going into the pits 6 times as well as being last as he entered lap 41 before making a remarkable come back and taking the lead from Vettel on the very last lap of the race.

Let’s go through in detail Button’s rollercoaster ride:

Qualified 7th

Lap 5 – After safety car comes in Button is up to 5th as Hamilton and Webber collide at first corner. However, he is struggling on full wet tyres and on goes wide in turn 6 and loses two places to Schumacher and Hamilton and is back in 7th place again.

Lap 6 – Button up to 6th as Hamilton forced wide by Schumacher at the hairpin.

Lap 7 – Button makes a mistake at the last chicane and he and Hamilton collide on the pit straight. Hamilton is out and causes the Safety Car to come out.

Lap 8 – Button comes into the pits for intermediate tyres and rejoins in 12th place, still under the safety car. The team tell him there is no visible damage to his car.

Lap 11 – Race Control investigating Button for speeding under Safety Car conditions.

Lap 13 – the Safety Car is in and Button makes up two places in less than a lap to 10th position but Race Control announce he has a drive through penalty which he takes immediately and rejoins in 15th place.

Lap 14 – Button passes Buemi and is up to 14th place.

Lap 15 – Button passes Barrichello, Sutil and Maldonado and is now in 11th place.

Lap 18 – Button passes di Resta and is in 9th place as Rosberg pits.

Lap 19 – Button passes Petrov and is up to 7th place as Schumacher pits, but it starts to really pour down with rain. Safety Car is deployed and Button pits for full wet tyres and rejoins in 11th.

Lap 22 – Schumacher pits and Button is now 10th.

Lap 25 – The race is red-flagged and suspended.

Laps 26-34 Restart behind safety car – Button is 10th. As the safety car comes in at the end of lap 34, Button has passed Pedro de la Rosa before the Start/Finish line and is 9th.

Lap 35 – Button comes into the pits to change to intermediate tyres and rejoins the track in 15th place.

Lap 36 – Button passes the Virgin of d’Ambrosio and then takes Trulli and Sutil at the hairpin and later on passes Karthikeyan and is up to 11th.

Lap 37 – Button and Alonso (who’s just come out of the pits) collide at the turn 3 chicane. Alonso is beached causing a Safety Car and Button has a left front puncture. By the time he gets back to the pits he is running last in 21st place.

End of lap 40 – Safety car comes in and Jenson is a couple of secs off the back of the pack as he has been limited on speed under the safety car to catch up the rest of the field.

Lap 41 – Button passes Liuzzi and Karthikeyan and is now in 19th place.

Lap 42 – Button passes Trulli and d’Ambrosio and is now in 17th place.

Lap 43 – Button passes Glock and DiResta (pits) and is now in 15th place.

Lap 44 – Button passes de la Rosa and is now in 14th place.

Lap 45 – Button passes Buemi and is now in 13th place and 21 secs behind Vettel.

Lap 46 – Button is ahead of Sutil (who pits) and is now in 12th place.

Lap 49 – Button passes Maldonado and Alguersuari into 10th place, 27 secs behind the leader.

Lap 51 – Webber  and Barrichello pit for super soft dry tyres and Button is 8th.

Lap 52 – Button pits (6th time) and rejoins in 10th place. 18 laps to go and 50secs behind the leader.

Lap 53 – Other drivers come in for dry tyres and Button is now 8th (Massa comes in for new front wing) and does the fastest lap of the race (at that point) with 1min 22.759secs.

Lap 54 – Button is now in 6th place as others drop back due to pitting later and 19.657 secs behind Vettel the leader (who pitted the lap before for super soft dry tyres).

Lap 55 – Button passes Heidfeld and Kobayashi and is up to 4th.

Start of Lap 56, Button is now 15 secs behind Vettel and 6secs behind the fight for 2nd place between Schumacher and Webber. Heidfeld runs over his front wing after damaging it bumping into Kobayashi.

Start of Lap 57, Button is now only 2 seconds behind Webber with a Virgin backmarker inbetween. He is 13 secs behind Vettel with 13 laps to go. However, Race Control put out the safety car to enable the debris from Heidfeld to be picked up. Button is 4th but has Glock in front of him.

Start of Lap 61 and the Safety car has gone in and there are 10 laps to go. Button clears Glock by the Start/Finish line and is 3.5secs behind Vettel. Halfway through the lap, Button is right on the back of Webber who is right behind Schumacher. DRS not enabled yet.

Lap 63 – DRS is enabled and Webber overtakes Schumacher but misses the last chicane and gives place back to Schumacher before turn 3 of lap 64 making sure to not let Button through.

Lap 64 – Webber misses the last chicane again and Button passes him on the start/finish line but has to go onto the wet part of the track on slicks.

Lap 65 – Button passes Schumacher on the back straight and is 3 secs behind Vettel with 5 laps to go and sets a new fastest lap of the race with 1min 18.866secs.

Lap 66 – Button sets another fastest lap (1min 17.967) and has closed the gap to Vettel to 1.5 secs. 4 laps to go.

Lap 67 – Button sets another fastest lap, but Vettel is responding and the gap is 1.3 secs with 3 laps to go.

Lap 68 – Button closes the gap to 1.1secs. 2 laps to go.

Lap 69 (Penultimate Lap) – Button closes to within a second and uses DRS on the back straight. The gap is 0.7secs as we enter the final lap.

Lap 70 (Final Lap) – Vettel under pressure makes a mistake at turn 6 and goes wide and Button is through and takes the victory.

What was Webber supposed to have done?


The coming together of the Red Bull’s of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber at the Turkish Grand Prix last weekend has become a massive talking point, a somewhat controversial incident that has multiplied in size due to the poor handling of the situation by Red Bull management.

Today Vettel and Webber met with each other and senior Red Bull Racing management to talk through what happened and ‘draw a line under the incident’. Both drivers made positive comments and talked about moving on. Webber stated ‘Seb and I will make sure it doesn’t happen again’. However, for this to realistically happen, they must have agreed on how and why the incident happened.

Like many other F1 fans, I watched the incident live on TV and then have seen it again and again on replay from every angle (UK users only) and I keep coming back to the same conclusion: Mark Webber did nothing wrong. I really find it hard to understand any criticism of his part in the incident.

I must also stress that I am not a particular Mark Webber fan and admire both him and Vettel equally. In fact, ignoring my tongue-in-cheek post about Vettel’s heritage, I really quite like Sebastian Vettel, both his driving and the way he conducts himself as a person. He seems like a really nice and uber-talented guy. However, last Sunday he got it wrong.

There are two ways of looking at the incident, firstly, you can analyse what did happen and secondly, you can make the assumption that Webber was at fault and then assess what he should have done instead.

As we all have seen now too many times, Vettel made a pass to Webber’s left as they came towards turn 12 on lap 40 of the Turkish Grand Prix. Webber had spotted Vettel’s run at him and had stayed to the left, giving him just enough room on the left to make a pass but left lots of room to the right. Basically he was covering the inside line and if Vettel was going to pass, he wanted him to do it from the outside.

Once it was clear to Webber that Vettel was trying to pass on the left he stayed straight, his car did not deviate. Watch the footage and see how twitchy Vettel is in his car compared to Webber who maintains his line. Before they get to the 150m marker Vettel , who is not yet passed Webber completely, moves sharply to the right and they collide and have their accident.

Some have been critical that Webber was at fault because he ‘squeezed’ Vettel on the left hand side. Vettel chose the tight left hand side to pass Webber (he could have gone right where there was lots of space) and Mark simply held his course.

In Webber’s mind, if Vettel had to take the corner on a tighter line then he had a chance of braking later than him and overtaking him back. It is important to remember, the accident occurred because Vettel turned right quickly and Webber had no time to react to that. They had not yet reached their braking points so Vettel could have waited a little longer, until he was fully passed Webber, before moving over to the right to take a better line through turn 12.

So, from analysing what happened, it is clear to me that Vettel was at fault for the accident. Webber was hard but fair; something a racing driver should be with his teammate.

If we make the assumption that Webber was to blame, then we must have an answer as to what he was supposed to have done instead. It is argued he should have given Vettel more room. As soon as Vettel came up the inside he should have moved over to the right. This would have absolutely gifted the corner to Vettel as he could also move right and take a more normal line into turn 12. If Webber had done this, he would have been severely criticised for being a weak racing driver. He is leading the Championship and there is no reason why he should make it easy for his closest rival to overtake him.

Some have said that when Vettel moved right he should moved right too. However, Vettel moves across so quickly he did not have time to react and you can see him tying to move right when he realises Vettel is going to hit him.

Sebastian had made a good pass on Mark Webber, but he hadn’t actually finished the pass when he moved to the right, that’s why the accident happened. Mark Webber did not do anything wrong and if I was him I would be quite angry that he has been given any blame whatsoever for the incident. What else was he supposed to have done?

The Barcelona car updates, have the cars really improved?


After the first 4 ‘fly away races’ (Bahrain, Australia, Malaysia & China), the teams have been adding new bits and pieces to their cars to improve performance for the 2010 Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona (circuit de catalunya). But how much have they improved, if at all?

This is rather hard to judge as there is no real baseline to compare. However, the teams all visited the Barcelona track at the final pre-season test at the end of February.

Comparing the fastest lap times from that 4-day test with their qualifying lap times at the Grand Prix shows some rather interesting results. Obviously the track conditions were not exactly the same in February, but their relative performance differences between the two times are somewhat revealing and also quite confusing.

You would expect that the times at the Grand Prix with dry and warm conditions when the drivers are really pushing it as much as they can in the new improved cars that their times would be a lot faster?

Driver Team Spanish GP Qualifying Time Pre-Season Best Time Change
Mark Webber Red Bull 1m19.995s 1m20.479s -0.484s
Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m20.101s 1m20.667s -0.566s
Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m20.829s 1m20.472s +0.357s
Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m20.937s 1m20.637s +0.300s
Jenson Button McLaren 1m20.991s 1m21.450s -0.459s
Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m21.294s 1m20.745s +0.549s
Robert Kubica Renault 1m21.353s 1m23.175s -1.822s
Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m21.408s 1m20.686s +0.722s
Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m21.585s 1m20.539s +1.046s
Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m21.725s 1m20.911s +0.814s
Adrian Sutil Force India 1m21.985s 1m20.611s +1.374s
Pedro de la Rosa Sauber 1m22.026s 1m20.973s +1.053s
Nico Hulkenberg Williams 1m22.131s 1m20.614s +1.517s
Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m22.139s 1m22.523s -0.384s
Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m22.191s 1m21.413s +0.778s
Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m22.207s 1m21.571s +0.636s
Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India 1m22.854s 1m21.056s +1.798s
Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m23.125s 1m20.870s +2.255s
Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m24.674s 1m25.059s -0.385s
Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m24.748s 1m25.251s -0.503s
Timo Glock Virgin 1m25.475s 1m25.942s -0.467s
Lucas di Grassi Virgin 1m25.556s 1m26.160s -0.604s
Karun Chandhok Hispania 1m26.750s DNA N/A
Bruno Senna Hispania 1m27.122s DNA N/A

Surprisingly only 4 teams (Redbull, Renault, Lotus and Virgin) had improved times at Barcelona this weekend. All other teams had slower times (Jenson Button being the only exception).

Redbull’s improvement is very impressive, with both drivers able to deliver times half a second quicker than they went at the end of February. Lotus and Virgin both show half a second improvement which suggests that Lotus’s new changes are not as advanced as they hoped for.

The biggest change is Robert Kubica’s Renualt with a nearly 2 second improvement, whereas his teammate Petrov was only able to achieve a 0.4secs improvement.

Williams have a lot to be concerned about as Hulkenberg was a massive 1.5secs slower and Barrichello a horrendous 2.255secs slower. The Force India cars were 1.5secs slower on average, Sauber about one second slower , Toro Rosso 0.7secs slower and Mercedes just over half a second slower. The Ferrari of Alonso and Hamilton’s McLaren were at least three tenths slower.

So does this mean the team’s improvements have actually made their cars worse? Well, track conditions have to be factored in, but certainly don’t explain all the difference. It could also be speculated that during the pre-season test some teams ran low fuel using a lower ride height (i.e. not also being set up for a full tank of fuel as they do in qualifying).

Whatever the reason, one thing is very clear, Red Bull are simply doing a better job at developing their car than anyone else.

Button and Hamilton, McLaren’s Dream Team?


McLaren’s one-two in China was quite impressive as although they don’t seem to quite have the fastest car, both drivers got the maximum out of their equipment using different strategies and made the rest of the field look quite average. It’s still very early days, but could the pairing of Button and Hamilton be McLaren’s dream team?

Some of the fans of Hamilton, in particular, seem to not think this judging by the comments made on discussion boards. These views were vocalised before the start the season and most recently I read a lot of silly comments on Andrew Benson’s recent blog on the BBC where a lot of Hamilton fans seem to completely refuse the fact that Button, despite winning two of the four races this year, might be as quick as their favourite driver sometimes.

Thankfully the drivers themselves are being very professional and seem to be getting on well, so far(!), and have given each other a lot of respect whilst at the same time pushing each other and the team very hard. This is exactly the way it should be and can really drive a team to the front of the pack.

Earlier in the year I wrote about the similarity of their differing driving styles with the great battle between Senna and Prost at McLaren in 1988-1989. That battle became one of the most acrimonious and intense rivalries in Formula 1 history. The reasons for this were complex, but a big part of it was Senna being unable to accept that Prost, who had such an opposite approach to him, could be as quick he was.

I wrote that I believed, and still do, that the rivalry between Button and Hamilton will not be anywhere near as acrimonious as the Senna versus Prost battle. There seems to be a great potential that Lewis and Jenson could prove to be a most dynamic and fruitful partnership that could bring great success to them both and the team.

The evidence is clear that both Hamilton and Button are quick drivers and seem evenly matched, but their driving skills are different. There will be days when Hamilton is quicker and there will be days when Button is faster. Crucially, both drivers seem to have accepted this and this can only be good for them and the team.

McLaren Team Principal, Martin Whitmarsh, will be delighted with how the partnership is working out at the moment. The drivers are pushing each other hard, but are working together where it counts to develop the car into a consistent race winner.

Their supportive demeanour for each other has been clear to see and this could be the beginnings of a McLaren dream team. I hope that fans of both Hamilton and Button will start to see it this way too.