Grid penalty for Hamilton

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton will suffer a five-place grid penalty at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix after he was forced to change his gearbox prior to the race.

Hamilton said:

“It doesn’t alter my approach. I still have to qualify as high as possible.”

The 2008 World Champion has started from pole position in both races so far this season, but will have to settle for a spot lower down the grid this time out. Hamilton said:

“I won from third last year so I’ll try to win from further back. I’ll have to try to start sixth if possible or somewhere close to that.”

Formula One gearboxes have to last a minimum of five race distances before it can be changed (although a change is permitted following a retirement).

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Lotus protest DRS-duct

The Lotus F1 Team has lodged a formal protest with the Chinese Grand Prix stewards against the DRS-activated f-duct run by Mercedes so far this year.

The device, which reduces front wing drag when the DRS is deployed, results in higher straight-line speeds, but other teams have questioned it’s legality.

Article 3.15 of the technical regulations prohibits the driver from influencing the aerodynamics of the car, with the exception of activation the DRS system. Lotus argue that the DRS-duct is driver-activated, while Mercedes counter that it is a secondary effect of the Drag Reduction System.

The debate is crucial because with chassis homologated for the entire season, it may be impossible for some teams to implement their own version of the system – similar to the McLaren F-duct in 2010.

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Williams sign Susie Wolff

Williams have today announced the signing of Susie Wolff (née Stoddart) as the team’s development driver. She will be concentrating on simulator work, with occasional track testing when restrictions permit.

Wolff raced in Formula Renault in 2001, and was shortlisted for the BRDC McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year award in 2003.

A year spent in Formula 3 followed before Wolff made her name in DTM racing for Mercedes squads Mücke Motorsport and Persson Racing, where she has been since.

Sir Frank Williams, Team Principal said:

“Susie is a talented, successful and highly professional racing driver who competes in one of the world’s most fiercely-contested racing series. Susie will join Williams as a Development Driver, in which capacity she will assist us with the development of our simulator and other technical challenges. Susie will also undertake some aerodynamic testing of the FW34 and a full track test in the coming months. Susie will also attend a number of races with us. I should add that, as Susie is married to Toto Wolff, a Director of Williams, her appointment was carefully considered and then approved by the Board, with Toto recusing himself from the process.”

Susie Wolff said:

“I would like to thank Sir Frank for giving me this opportunity both on and off the track. I must also thank Mercedes Benz AMG and HWA for supporting me to take up this new experience with Williams. Formula One is the ultimate challenge for any racing driver and it offers me the chance both to apply and to improve the skills I have developed racing in DTM. In return I shall be offering some of my own technical insight and experience – coming from a different discipline – and helping the team engage with its partners. I hope also to demonstrate that women can play a role at the highest levels of motorsport and I shall be working closely with the team on its social responsibility programme in the areas of education and road safety.”

Wolff is the wife of Williams minority shareholder Tito Wolff, and the extent of the tokenism remains to be seen. Bernie Ecclestone, chief executive of Formula One, was quick to jump on the bandwagon, saying:

“If Susie is as quick in a car as she looks good out of a car then she will be a massive asset to any team and on top of that she is very intelligent. I am really looking forward to having her in Formula One.”

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Photo credits: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic

Bahrain boycott unlikely

Recently there has been a lot of posturing in the media about a possible boycott of the Bahrain Grand Prix, due to take place in less than two weeks, as a result of the violent protests that continue to take place in the Gulf state.

Last year’s Grand Prix was cancelled as a result of the protests that formed the Bahraini wave of the ‘Arab Spring’, but despite a heavily critical independent report being welcomed by the ruling family, the situation has not improved.

Formula One teams are contracted to attend the races in the FIA Formula One World Championship. Suggestions that they can effect a cancellation of this year’s race are mythical. It places some teams in a difficult position – particularly McLaren, who are 40% owned by Bahrain.

However, any possible move the teams dared attempt this year has been undermined by the reports that Lotus have recently sent a delegation to Bahrain to evaluate the situation, and have determined that it will be safe for them to attend.

Update:

From the Lotus F1 team:

“Earlier today, the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) issued a press release attributing quotes to our team showing support for the Bahrain GP. These quotes were part of a full internal and confidential working document, that was also sent on a confidential basis to all F1 team managers last week.

“Lotus F1 Team is one of 12 contestants of the Formula 1 World Championship and we would never try to substitute ourselves for the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), which is the only party entitled to determine if a Grand Prix should go ahead or not, and we endorse the FOTA statement that was issued to this effect.”

Regardless of whether these quotes were confidential or not, the fact remains that the Lotus team shared this information with the Bahraini authorities. It is undoubtedly a foot-in-mouth moment from the team, who will gain nothing from this attempted retraction.

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Trouble for Lotus (and Lotus)

The Lotus F1 team has revealed that it has terminated it’s title sponsorship with Group Lotus, makers of the Lotus cars, due to financial uncertainty.

The team, formerly known as Renault, has had an agreement with the Malaysian company since 2010. It would have allowed them to buy a fifty per cent stake in the team, but that agreement has now been terminated.

Gerard Lopez, owner of the Lotus F1 team said:

“The sponsorship agreement and the obligations of Lotus have been terminated. There is no option from Group Lotus to buy into F1 now – that option was taken over by us. There was one, but we have taken it over now.

“We are happy to carry the Lotus name as we believe it is a good name for F1.”

Group Lotus have been flaunting the cash in recent years, sponsoring everything from GP3 to IndyCar, despite being burdened with debts. Parent company Proton has recently been bought by DRB-Hicom and due diligence is taking place over Group Lotus’ future.

This now means there will be a Lotus team on the grid with no formal link to the car company. This is ironically a similar situation to that of Tony Fernandes when he entered Formula One with his Lotus Racing team, before Group Lotus opted to throw their support behind the former Renault team.

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Picture Credits: Lotus F1 Team

MAL: Race

With rain spitting down as before the start the grid opted to start on the intermediate tyre, with the exception of the HRT pair who chose the full wets, meaning that the drivers do not need to use both the medium and hard tyre during the race. This was bad news for double world champion Sebastian Vettel who had gambled on the slower, but more durable hard tyre during qualifying.

The McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button sped away into the first corner, while Romain Grosjean climbed up to third place. His progress was hampered when he tangled with Michael Schumacher in Turn 4. As the rain started to pour down, Bruno Senna spun his Williams, while Perez made an early stop for the full wet tyre.

Meanwhile, Button was telling his team that his intermediate tyres were “Okay for now”, but di Resta, Massa, and Glock had pitted by the end of lap three.

Grosjean, who had dropped down the pack after the clash with Schumacher ended up in the gravel trap at Turn 8. The Frenchman had impressed in qualifying in both rounds so far, but would remain on zero points.

Button, Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg darted into the pits for wet tyres and it would not be long before the McLaren man overtook Schumacher, who was still on the intermediate tyre, easily.

By lap five Hamilton had built up a lead over Webber of 7.991 seconds. He then pitted, but was held up due to traffic in the pitlane as most of the field changed to wets. Red Bull pitted both of their cars, but Webber was far enough in front to not cost Vettel time.

With warmer tyres, Button closed in on leader Hamilton, nearly crashing into the back of his teammate before the rain turned into a thunderstorm and the safety car was deployed. Hamilton lead Button, Perez, Webber and Alonso, with Vettel down in sixth. Jean-Eric Vergne was running an impressive seventh as the only driver not to pit for wet tyres. The HRTs of Karthikeyan (10th) and de la Rosa (17th) had risen up the grid as a result of starting on the full wet tyre.

Two laps later the red flag came out and the race was stopped and out came the gazebos.

The race would eventually restart under the Safety Car, but it did not take long for the stewards to give Pedro de la Rosa a drive-through penalty for having a mechanic on the grid three minutes prior to the restart.

With all cars on full wet tyres the track started to dry out. When the Safety Car came in at the end of Lap 13, so to did Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen and Kamui Kobayashi –  all switching to the intermediate tyre.

On lap fourteen, the was a Red Bull-fight as Sebastian Vettel pulled off a successful pass on Mark Webber through Turn 4. The German could not hold on to that position as Webber regained it soon after. Hamilton pitted for intermediates, but overshot his markers and suffered a slow stop as a result. Webber and Alonso also pitted leaving young Mexican Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez in the lead.

Shortly afterwards, Button lost half of his front wing attempting an ambitious lunge to overtake Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT. While Button may have been frustrated, it is also possible that he was expecting the HRT to move out of his way –  not realising that he was challenging Karthikeyan for track position. Both cars pitted that lap for intermediates, Button also replacing his damaged front wing. While this was happening down the rear of the pack, Alonso had re-taken  the lead from Perez.

With DRS enabled, Ricciardo and Senna made moves past Kobayashi. Fernando Alonso held a lead of 4.4seconds to Perez, but Button was having trouble getting his tyres working. With no grip the Englishman would soon pit for fresh intermediates, while attention turned to the battle for fourth between Rosberg, Vettel and Raikkonen.

Vettel would pass Rosberg into Turn 1 on lap twenty-three, running wide, but holding onto fourth place into Turn 2. A lap later, Raikkonen would push Rosberg further down the grid at the same corner. Alonso would extend his lead over Perez by setting a new fastest lap of 2:00.416, but with the weather improving, anything could happen.

Rosberg’s day continued to go badly on lap twenty-five as Webber passed in Turn 6, while Senna passed Schumacher in Turn 5 for twelfth place.

The under-pressure Ferrari of Felipe Massa would soon lose out to di Resta and Jean-Eric Vergne. Button set a fastest lap of 1:58.284 on lap twenty-seven, showing that the track was drying out and the intermediate tyre was the preferable option. With a gap of 6.6seconds, the question now would be who would blink first, Alonso or Perez?

With rain predicted on the radar, and tyres wearing out the race hung in the balance. Massa was looking for damp patches to cool his tyres, while Perez set a fastest lap of 1:55.772, soon followed by a 1:55.772. The gap to Alonso is down to 4.9seconds.

Alonso then responds with a 1:54.720, but Perez goes even faster, cutting the gap to 3.2 seconds on lap 37. Another fastest lap and the gap is 2.3 seconds.

Massa, Webber, Ricciardo, Hamilton and Button then pitted for the medium slicks, while Perez had closed the gap to Alonso to 1.3 seconds. Alonso pitted the next lap, again for medium slicks, but Perez stayed out – the Sauber team still unsure whether or not the rain would come.

When Perez darted into the pit lane a lap later, he opted for the harder of the dry compounds – a move that seemed strange at the time. Alonso re-took the lead, largely because he had one lap longer to heat his new tyres up. A flurry of fastest laps from Pastor Maldonado and Mark Webber would set the trend as the track dried, and the rain didn’t quite reach the circuit.

World Champion Sebastian Vettel suffered a left rear puncture when he attempted to lap Narain Karthikeyan. In what has become a customary trait of the young German, he did not leave enough room for the HRT man, and would later stoop to the low level of calling him an ‘idiot’.

In the meantime, Perez had closed the gap to 0.354 seconds on lap forty-nine when he was warned by his team not to throw away eighteen much-needed points in the battle for victory. However, the Mexican’s inexperience showed when he put two wheels on the kerb at Turn 14 and ran wide. Alonso would gain a five second gap as a result.

Although Perez would again close the gap to Alonso, that mistake would cost him the chance of a maiden victory.

Pos Driver Nat Team Position Change Fastest Lap Time Pts
1. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari +7 1:41.680 2:44:51.812 25
2. Sergio Perez MEX Sauber-Ferrari +7 1:41.021 +00:02.263 18
3. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren-Mercedes -2 1:41.539 +00:14.591 15
4. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing-Renault 0 1:41.017 +00:17.688 12
5. Kimi Raikkonen FIN Lotus-Renault +5 1:40.722 +00:29.456 10
6. Bruno Senna BRA Williams-Renault +7 1:41.404 +00:37.667 8
7. Paul di Resta GBR Force India-Mercedes +7 1:41.819 +00:44.412 6
8. Jean-Eric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari +10 1:41.922 +00:46.985 4
9. Nico Hulkenberg GER Force India-Mercedes +7 1:42.173 +00:47.892 2
10. Michael Schumacher GER Mercedes AMG -7 1:41.760 +00:49.996 1
11. Sebastian Vettel GER Red Bull Racing-Renault -6 1:41.342 +01:15.527
12. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari +3 1:41.756 +01:16.828
13. Nico Rosberg GER Mercedes AMG -6 1:41.863 +01:18.593
14. Jenson Button GBR McLaren-Mercedes -12 1:42.100 +01:19.719
15. Felipe Massa BRA Ferrari -3 1:42.051 +01:37.319
16. Vitaly Petrov RUS Caterham-Renault +3 1:43.513 + 1 lap
17. Timo Glock GER Marussia-Cosworth +3 1:44.757 + 1 lap
18. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Caterham-Renault +6 1:43.803 + 1 lap
19. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams-Renault -8 1:42.237 DNF, lap 54
20. Charles Pic FRA Marussia-Cosworth +1 1:44.813 + 2 laps
21. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRT-Cosworth +2 1:45.909 + 2 laps
22. Pedro de la Rosa ESP HRT-Cosworth 0 1:46.244 + 2 laps
DNF Kamui Kobayashi JAP Sauber-Ferrari -6 1:44.202 DNF, lap 46
DNF Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus-Renault -18 2:08.464 DNF, lap 3

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Picture Credits: Sauber Motorsport AG

MAL: Qualifying

Pos Driver Nat Constructor Q1 Q2 Q3
1. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.813 1:37.106 1:36.219
2. Jenson Button GBR McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.575 1:36.928 1:36.368
3. Michael Schumacher GER Mercedes AMG 1:37.517 1:37.017 1:36.391
4. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:37.172 1:37.375 1:36.461
5. Kimi Raikkonen FIN Lotus-Renault 1:37.961 1:36.715 1:36.461
6. Sebastian Vettel GER Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:38.102 1:37.419 1:36.634
7. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus-Renault 1:38.058 1:37.338 1:36.658
8. Nico Rosberg GER Mercedes AMG 1:37.696 1:36.996 1:36.664
9. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari 1:38.151 1:37.379 1:37.566
10. Sergio Perez MEX Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.933 1:37.477 1:37.698
11. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams-Renault 1:37.789 1:37.589
12. Felipe Massa BRA Ferrari 1:38.381 1:37.731
13. Bruno Senna BRA Williams-Renault 1:38.437 1:37.841
14. Paul di Resta GBR Force India-Mercedes 1:38.325 1:37.877
15. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:38.419 1:37.883
16. Nico Hulkenberg GER Force India-Mercedes 1:38.303 1:37.890
17. Kamui Kobayashi JAP Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.371 1:38.069
18. Jean-Eric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:39.077
19. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Caterham-Renault 1:39.306
20. Vitaly Petrov RUS Caterham-Renault 1:39.567
21. Timo Glock GER Marussia-Cosworth 1:40.903
22. Charles Pic FRA Marussia-Cosworth 1:41.250
23. Pedro de la Rosa ESP HRT-Cosworth 1:42.914
24. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRT-Cosworth 1:43.655

107% time: 1:43.974

Heikki Kovalainen will take a 5 place grid penalty after incident in Round 1.

Kimi Raikkonen will take a 5 place grid penalty after changing gearbox on Friday.

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