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Talking Points from Bahrain PART 2

Could Mclaren still win this championship?

It’s not impossible that Mclaren could fight back and win a championship this season. The amount of progress that they have made since pre-season testing has been staggering. In the test in Spain they were over two seconds of the pace of Brawn GP. However Mclaren have immense resources and personnel. If anyone can quickly cure their problems and close the gap then it’s Mclaren. Remember 2004 when Mclaren came back to win at Spa after a dreadfully slow and unreliable start to the season.

Each weekend so far this season they have made strides forward. Hamilton did a great qualifying lap and was 5thon the grid on merit rather the result of a lighter fuel load. He qualified ahead of Barrichello with more fuel on board.

In the race he was able to keep up with the front runners, but fell back a bit in the last stint. 4th was still a stunning result for the team. This a result which many would have regarded as impossible before the season began.

Perhaps the most impressive fact was Lewis’s position in the fastest laps of the race chart. His lap was less than 0.4 seconds slower than Trulli’s quickest lap. Both their fastest laps were set towards the end of the first stint. That is now the gap Mclaren have between themselves and the front three of Red Bull, Toyota and Brawn (who incidentally are now much more closely matched than at the start of 2009).

In Spain Mclaren will be bringing a substantial upgrade. A few weeks ago there were predictions from people inside the team, saying that the car would fly in Spain. That suggestion sounded crazy back then, but after seeing the progress the car is making, then maybe it’s not impossible.

Mclaren will have keep control of their expectations as other teams including Ferrari and BMW Sauber are planning massive upgrades are. Brawn GP are also introducing their first major season upgrade in Spain. Therefore they can’t be too cocky.

Nobody is going to be standing still between now and Spain. Lewis admitted that there is even a chance of Mclaren falling backwards in Spain. It all depends on how good everyone else’s major upgrades. The order could look completely different in Spain as the field is so tight. A few tenth’s worth of development will shuffle teams around.

Catalunya is a circuit where it’s important to have really good aerodynamic efficiency, and good tyre management. This is a very demanding circuit where cars with shortcomings are found out. If Mclaren can show a good performance there, then signs could be very promising for the rest of the season.

I think McLaren will end up winning races this season but I feel they will have to wait a bit longer. I can see them returning as regular front runners in the second half of the season.

In terms of the championship it could be too late by then. The gap could be too big to close down. Of course the other factor is what punishment Mclaren receive from the WMSC on Wednesday.

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April 27, 2009 Posted by | Race reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Talking Points from Bahrain PART 1

The Bahrain GP weekend was another intriguing F1 race weekend with plenty more thinking points. Let’s look at the main talking points of this weekend’s action.

Button’s pass on Hamilton sets him up to win against the odds. Was it his best performance of the season so far?

Going into the race it wasn’t looking brilliant for Jenson. He had qualified 4th and was surrounded by KERs cars. To make matters worse the Brawn GP was struggling badly with overheating. The temperature was three or four degrees higher than they could realistically cope with. The Brawn GP car wouldn’t be able to cope with staying in another car’s turbulent air.

The first couple of laps were going to be crucial if Jenson was going to have any chance to challenge for this victory. Button got a decent start and was able to get ahead of Sebastien Vettel. Unfortunately Hamilton pressed his KERs button halfway down the straight and was able to get ahead. Button was also heavily challenged by the Ferraris but he managed to hold them off. That was critical.

Button was currently 4th behind Hamilton, and the two Toyotas running away ahead. Button had to pass Hamilton. At the end of the first lap Hamilton made an error at turn 14. This allowed Button to get up right close. Button then nailed Hamilton in a very brave out-braking move into turn 1. Had Button not made this move, he would have been stuck behind Hamilton for a long time. He would have then had to hang back so his car didn’t overheat.

However now he had some clear track, and importantly clean air. He managed to keep the gap to the Toyotas stable. He was running longer and was able to leapfrog the pair of them at the pit stops.

As the Trulli train formed Button was able to get away and build a gap of around thirteen seconds, which he then maintained for the rest of the race.

It was a fantastic performance by Jenson Button. This was his best drive of the season. The car didn’t have the advantage it had at previous events. There was the overheating issue too, which Ross Brawn described before the race as “trouble”. He had a lot of work to do at the start to make a victory challenge even possible. He pulled it off brilliantly.

He has now extended his championship lead to 12 points, and is looking in brilliant shape.

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April 27, 2009 Posted by | Race reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking back at the Chinese GP

Apologies for the lack of articles recently. I have been spending holiday time with family.

China produced another extremely exciting race with Red Bull winning their first ever race in Formula One. The rain, which was worse than predicted gave the drivers a real challenge. They really had to work for their money, which is what everyone wants to see.

We saw a few stunning performances, along with some error strewn races, too.

So let’s have a look at the main stories to take away from the Chinese GP weekend.

 

Exceptional performance from Red Bull and both their drivers.

This one-two finish for Red Bull was more than deserved. In the first two races, Red Bull threatened to deliver a great result but it just didn’t happen. The potential was there for all to see though.

Vettel was second in Melbourne, until the tangle with Robert Kubica. In Malaysia Webber said he could have won had the heavy rain and red flag not arrived when it did.

In China it all came together for the team. The team opted to go light in qualifying and Vettel grabbed pole position with Mark Webber third. In the race the car was in a class of its own, and both Vettel and Webber drove brilliantly. The Red Bull seems to work really well in the wet conditions.

The car was very well balanced, and kept its heat in the tyres more efficiently than anyone else. They were so fast that their light fuel load didn’t put them at a disadvantage at all.

Vettel’s move on Jenson Button for the lead after his final pit stop (and before Jenson’s last stop) demonstrated how much quicker Red Bull was.

At times Sebastien Vettel was over two seconds a lap quicker than his nearest opponents. Unlike most other drivers in the race he didn’t make a single error all afternoon. He made it look so simple, which the sign of a great driver.

He has a great feel for tricky conditions, just as he showed at Monza last season. This race has shown us that the victory in Monza wasn’t just a one-off. If anything this performance was even more impressive

He really is the real deal and surely a future world champion. The added pressure on him this season doesn’t seem to be getting to him at all. He also isn’t getting carried away with his success. He still has the same charming personality and has his feet firmly on the ground. He has the maturity of a driver well beyond his years.

Mark Webber will be disappointed not to have won the first race for the team. However, he still finished a very strong second, and is right up there with Vettel in the championship standings. Considering the tough winter that Mark Webber has had, he can still feel very proud.

If someone had told him after his accident (when he broke his leg) that he would get a second place within the first three races of 2009 he probably wouldn’t have believed them. Apparently he is still limping slightly when he isn’t in the car.

Red Bull will now be hoping they can get their new diffuser sorted out as soon as possible. Once they have got that sorted they will be a real force to be reckoned with.

 

Brawn GP still have the fastest car but China demonstrated their only major flaw

Red Bull may have dominated this week, but Brawn GP are still the quickest team on the grid. Fuel corrected Barrichello was actually the real star of qualifying. Button was second quickest when you took fuel loads into account, whereas the Red Bulls would only have been fourth and fifth.

In dry conditions Brawn GP’s race pace is also still stronger. The car is easy on it’s tyres so therefore is quick at the end of a race stint. Had the race have been dry Brawn GP ought to have cruised to another one-two, once the race strategies had played out.

However the race was wet and this changed things completely for Brawn GP. Brawn GP have hardly done any running with this car in the wet. This race shows that the car doesn’t work brilliantly in these conditions. The car had trouble keeping heat into it’s tyres, and that’s why it struggled to keep the Red Bull cars in sight.

Brawn GP won in Malaysia mainly because Button had the race won before the storm arrived. In the wet they were then able to hold onto their position. Button had commented back then that the car was badly balanced in the wet.

Brawn GP will have to work on making sure the car works more effectively in the wet conditions in the future.

Finishing third and fourth, though is still a very useful result. Button has scored 26 points out of the first 30 available. Brawn GP are also still comfortably ahead in the Constructors championship. That is great championship form. If you had told Jenson last season that he would score 26 points in the first three races of 2009 he probably would have fainted.

Again he beat Rubens Barrichello comfortably. He is now starting to establish a clear gap over Rubens. Rubens needs respond to his team mate or risk ending up in the same situation as he did at Ferrari.

Overall losing this race hasn’t done Brawn that much harm, especially as Red Bull had only scored one point before this race.

If it is hot and dry in Bahrain as you would expect then Brawn GP should be victorious again. However Red Bull are closing in.

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April 20, 2009 Posted by | Race reviews | Leave a comment

What we learnt in Melbourne

Last weekend was one of the most highly anticipated opening races in F1 history. With so many rule changes, and the old pecking order being ripped up there were so many questions coming into this race.

So what have we learnt from the Round 1 of the F1 season?

Brawn GP’s pace is real

Throughout winter testing many held the view that Brawn GP were running underweight, and refused to believe how quick the car was. This weekend confirmed that this is a very quick car, and Brawn GP have to be considered serious contenders for the 2009 world championship. Their one lap pace was particularly impressive. Jenson Button’s pole position lap was 0.6 tenths quicker than the first non-Brawn GP car, and Button was on a fairly heavy fuel load.

In the race I don’t think Brawn GP showed their true pace. The safety car made the race closer, and gave the advantage to the cars that started on the unfavourable super soft tyre. Also a fumbled second pit stop lost Jenson at least 4 or 5 seconds.

Despite these difficult moments Button was calm, and had the race perfectly under control. He dealt with the last stint on the super soft tyres with superb ease. I think he could have gone quicker if he needed to.

Rubens Barrichello also did very well to fight back to 2nd after a very poor getaway.

This 1-2 result for Brawn GP is an absolute fairytale, and shows that anything is possible when you put your mind to it.  It’s amazing that a team that was all but dead a few months ago, has come back to deliver this incredible result.

Mclaren’s woes are also real

Mclaren’s poor pace over winter testing was another story, which fans were very sceptical about. Some suggested they were sandbagging and playing games. As a Mclaren fan I was hoping the people who held these views would be proved right.

As it turned out in Australia Mclaren do have a lot of work to do, if they want to be challenging for race victories later this season. The Mclaren at the moment is around 1.5 seconds off the pace of the Brawn GP cars. That is a huge chunk of time to make up, even for a team with the huge resources and brains of Mclaren.

Looking at the onboard shots of the Mclaren it didn’t seem like too bad a car to drive. It seemed quite well balanced. The handling wasn’t as dreadful as a lot of other cars I have witnessed in F1. The drivers were able to hit the apexes on each corner. The problem is that the car is lacking the downforce and the speed. The car isn’t nailed to the track.

In a way the fact that the car doesn’t handle too badly is a nightmare situation. If the car handles badly then it’s something the team can quickly rectify, and immediately gain a healthy chunk of time by doing so. However the handling isn’t the car’s biggest issue issue. The car is just slow, and lacking downforce. It won’t be easy for Mclaren to find the time they need to gain on the frontrunners.

Some insiders at Mclaren say they have a huge upgrade planned for Spain (the 5th Round of the season), and that the car will fly there. I have my doubts whether that will happen. Let’s wait and see.

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April 2, 2009 Posted by | Race reviews | 1 Comment

The Vettel/Kubica incident – Who was at fault?

This was an unfortunate incident. Both drivers were on a for a brilliant result today. A podium for both of these drivers would have been a brilliant result. Kubica even had a chance of challenging Jenson Button for the win is he was on the prime tyre at the time.

These are two very keen young guns who didn’t want to yield their position, and therefore collided.

I have watched the replay alot of times now, and I would say Kubica was more at fault. He simply didn’t give Vettel enough room. Vettel has nowhere else to go other than to hit Kubica. The only other place Vettel could have gone to was onto the grass.

Vettel’s 10 place penalty for the Malaysian GP next weekend is extremely harsh. Losing 3rd place today I feel is already a big enough punishment.

The race stewards shouldn’t give a penalty every time two cars make contact with each other. These guys are racing each other very hard, and sometimes they will collide with each other.

That is racing!!

March 29, 2009 Posted by | Race reviews | Leave a comment

My Driver of the day

There were alot of great drives throughout the field today.

Jenson Button obviously did a great job. He got the pole position, got a great start and controlled the race from there. There were a couple of dodgy moments including the restart after the safety car, and the second pit stop but he held it altogether and won the race. There is no doubt that he deserved this victory. I am sure he could have gone quicker if he needed to. He did a great job at looking after those softer tyres, which no doubt is down to his very smooth style of driving.

Sebastien Buemi really caught my eye today. Many questioned the decision to put him into the seat. However he comfortably beat Bourdais in qualifying and the race. He drove a very mature race, made no errors, and showed no fear whatsoever. He happily battled with the Ferraris, and took no prisoners. For quite a long time he also had a very quick Nico Rosberg behind him, and soaked up the pressure with ease. To finish 8th on his debut in a car that has had its problems for far was a fantastic job. I was one of the ones who questioned Toro Rosso’s decision but Buemi has proved me and alot of people wrong.

Lewis Hamilton  however was my man of the race today. Throughout the weekend he has stayed very positive and kept his team’s spirits high. He hasn’t walked around with his head down at all. He has been used to racing at the front in a great car. This weekend was the start of a new challenge for him, and he adapted to it brilliantly. He managed to get through to Q2, and if it hadn’t been for that gearbox failure then who knows how much furthur he may have got.

As it was he started from the back of the grid, and battled gallantly through the field pulling off some great moves on drivers who were ment to have a much quicker car than the Mclaren. The likes of Nelson Piquet and Nico Rosberg for example. Getting third place may have been a little bit lucky but clearly he kept his head whilst a few others lost theirs. Australia is often a place where we get a race of attrition, and Hamilton made the most of that. He pulled off a great drive in a poor car. It could be one of the best drives of his career.

Lets see what he can acheive in Sepang and Bahrain. It will be very hard to repeat today’s result I feel, but if he can pick up the odd point here and there then he still has an outside chance of the title if Mclaren get the car sorted.

So there you go. Lewis Hamilton is my driver of the day.

Thumbs up for Jarno Trulli as well who came back from the pit lane to third. Unfortunately he got a 25 second penalty for overtaking Lewis under SC conditions. Without this incident Trulli may well have got my driver of the day award.

March 29, 2009 Posted by | Race reviews | 1 Comment