Friday, 31 July 2009

BTCC Snetterton - Eaves Out, Flash Back

We're off to Snetterton for this weekend's rounds of the BTCC.

Top runners Colin Turkington, Matt Neal and Fabrizio Giovanardi are all hotly tipping Jason Plato to take the honours in his Chevrolet having won at Snetterton seven times before.

I would say keep an eye out for his team mate Mat Jackson as well. He could also go well.

At Cartridge World, Dan Eaves has been replaced by Gordon Shedden for the remainder of the season. Eaves has had a poor season so far and pairing Flash with Jones will make for a stronger team.

I will be posting up some pictures of the action on my return next week so please watch this space! - or even better, subscribe to this blog.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

BMW to Pull Out of F1

German car manfufacturer BMW has announced that it will leave Formula 1 at the end of the current season during a press conference in Munich this morning. This just three years after taking over the Sauber team.

BMW claim they are leaving Formula 1 to concentrate more on projects which promote environmental sustainability.

Hmm. I think more likely the fact that they are languishing in eighth place in the constructors Championship this year (when they thought they would be title challengers) coupled with the failure of their KERS system, could possibly have something to do with it!

In the current economic climate BMW it seems clear do not have the stomach to plough even more cash into developing a new car for 2010 following this year's dismal failure.

The fate of Mario Theissen and the F1 staff at Munich and Hinwil in Switzerland is still in the balance as BMW has not yet decided whether to try and sell the team outright or disband it.

The departure of BMW, which was not entirely unexpected according to the FIA, follows that of Honda earlier this year. It is now feared other F1 teams including Toyota and Renault may be reviewing their position.

BMW has said it will remain "actively involved" in other categories including touring cars and world superbikes as well as the Formula BMW championship for young drivers.

In my view it seems strange that BMW would want to continue to support an open wheel championship when they are no longer involved in F1, but hey, lots of things don't make sense nowadays!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Lewis Hamilton Takes Hungarian GP Victory

Pic by Eugene Flores

Lewis Hamilton returned to winning ways in style at the Hungaroring taking his first victory of the season.

Hamilton started from fourth on the grid but quickly managed to overhaul the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel off the line and Mark Webber a few laps later thanks partly to the KERS fitted to his McLaren.

Fernando Alonso scampered off from pole but had to make an earlypit stop as his car had been fuelled much lighter than Hamilton and the Red Bulls.

At the pit stop, Renault failed to secure the right front wheel of Alonso's car which subsequently detached bouncing down the track. Fortunately no repeat of the Henry Surtess tragedy at Brands Hatch the week before.

Alonso crawled back to the pits on three wheels andlater into retirement. Hamilton took over the lead and from that point on controlled the race to the chequered flag.

Sebastian Vettel also retired from the race following suspension damage caused to his car off the start by Raikkonen.

Kimi Raikkonen got off to a flyer, again thanks to KERS, and maintained good pace throughout the race. The Ferrari like the McLaren is steadily improving race by race putting further pressure on Jenson Button and the Brawn team.

Raikkonen was able to work his way to a second place finish in front of Mark Webber who has now leap frogged Vettel into second place in the driver's Championship.

Nico Rosberg continued his good form and finished in fourth. Unlike earlier in the season, Rosberg's Williams is able to remain consistent throughout a whole weekend and not just during Friday free practice.

Hamilton's team mate Kovalainen took fifth place giving McLaren a welcome double points finish. They are optimistic this form will continue at the next race in Valencia.

The two Toyotas of Glock and Trulli finished sixth and eighth respectively.

Jenson Button's grip on the driver's Championship continues to slip. He could only manage a seventh place finish and two points. Fortunately for him, due to Vettel's earlier retirement the damage to his lead was limited.

On the current trend I can see Brawn failing to win both the constructors and the driver's Championships.

Following the incident with Alonso's wheel, Renault have received a one race suspension from the stewards and will therefore not be able to compete in Valencia. Renault have already lodged an appeal.
Massa's condition is said to be no longer life threatening and he is conscious and talking to members of his family.
It is almost certain he will not be able to compete for the rest of the season and there is even a suggestion that he has a problem with his left eye that could permanently curtail his F1 career.
Let's hope it is not that serious and he is back in the Ferrari next year.
Speculation is rife as to who will replace Massa at Ferrari until the end of the season.
One name being touted is 40 year old Michael Schumacher who still has an advisory role at Ferrari.
Although not a fan of Michael Schumacher's antics on track during the course of his F1 career (e.g. parking on the corner at Monaco), if he were to come back Mansellesque style it would certainly bring some welcome added spice to the remainder of the season.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

F1 Hungarian GP Alonso Takes Pole - Massa Injured in Crash

Photo by Ph-Stop

There was high drama at today's qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso eventually took pole from the two Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in a very hard fought session.

Lewis Hamilton qualified a season's best fourth on the grid continuing his good form from Friday ahead of Nico Rosberg (Williams) and his fellow team mate Heikki Kovalainen.

Kimi Raikkonen qualified his Ferrari in seventh. Jenson Button has work to do from eighth on the grid - it does seem that the Brawn GP march has been halted. Nakajima in the second Williams took ninth spot on the grid.

Felipe Massa had an accident in turn 4 during Q2 in circumstances reminiscent of the one at Brands Hatch last weekend in which Henry Surtees tragically lost his life.

It appears that a rear suspension spring may have fallen from the back of Rubens Barrichello's Brawn and struck Massa on the head causing concussion. Massa subsequently speared into a tyre wall at high speed.
He was stabilised at the track and then flown to hospital for emergency surgery to a head wound. It is reported that the surgery went well and further news on his condition is expected to be released by Ferrari in the morning.

It is unclear at this stage which of Ferraris reserve drivers will take Massa'a tenth place on the grid in the race tomorrow.

The qualifying sessions today have been extremely tight. In Q1 the top nineteen cars were separated by around 1.1 seconds. Both BMW's dropped out continuing their abysmal form this season together with both Force Indias.

As expected, Toro Rosso new boy Alguersuari will be propping up the grid in twentieth position although to be fair he did bail out with a mechanical failure so it was not possible to judge his real pace today.

In Q2 the top fifteen cars were separated by only one second and the top ten by only 0.5 secs. Apart from Massa crashing out, the session saw both Toyotas, Buemi and Nelson Piquet drop out. The rumours continue that Piquet's F1 career with Renault is hanging on a slim thread and today's outing will not help his cause.

Normally the highlight of a Hungarian GP is the qualifying and today did not disappoint.

The action that takes place on track on the Sunday of a Hungarian GP can generally be inscribed on the back of a postage stamp (unless there is rain...).
In my opinion it vies with Valencia as one of the dullest races on the F1 calendar. Like watching paint dry.
This year, with Hamilton in P4 and able to benefit from KERS and old enemy Alonso on pole there could be some fireworks off the line.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this Hungarian GP will be the exception to the rule!

F1 Hungarian Grand Prix - Hamilton Fastest in Second Practice

The McLaren revival appears to be continuing. Green shoots of recovery or a false dawn? Only time will tell but hopefully the former.

Lewis Hamilton clocked the fastest lap time in second practice today at the Hungaroring closely shading his team mate Heikki Kovalainen who had been fastest in the morning session.

Williams were also having a good day. Nico Rosberg was third fastest and Nakajima fifth. German Grand Prix winner Mark Webber was fastest of the Championship front runners in fourth with Vettel sixth.

What about the Brawns? Barrichello was seventh fastest whilst Button appears to be on the back foot so far in (unlucky?) thirteenth. The Ferraris were also having an off day with Raikkonen in eleventh and Massa languishing a lowly eighteenth fastest.

As expected, the new nineteen year old Spanish "wonder kid" Jaime Alguersuari of Toro Rosso (STR) was slowest approximately two seconds off Hamilton's pace and about .7 seconds slower than his team mate Buemi.

According to reports in the British press today, a number of the leading drivers have expressed concerns about Alguersuari's lack of experience in an F1 car due to the current testing ban and worry that he could impede the leading runners or even cause an accident.

It is too early to judge. The step up from F3 or another junior series to F1 is enormous and many have tried and failed in the past. On the other hand there have been several occasions when rookie's have scored points in their first Grand Prix - e.g. Vettel (the real wonder kid!) or Buemi.

STR are definitely taking a risk putting him behind the wheel in favour of Sebastian Bourdais who was recently fired from the team.

Do they seriously expect that a nineteen year old rookie with no F1 testing under his belt will perform any better than a former US champ car Champion?

My gut feeling is that Alguersuari has been appointed for his marketing potential. Unfortunately for him, Bourdais has the look of a school teacher or librarian rather than a pretty boy!

Several other names have been touted round as long(er) term replacements for Bourdais including Jacques Villeneuve and Sebastian Loeb.

I think the chances of Villeneuve landing a seat with STR are minimal but Loeb behind the wheel... now that would be interesting to see!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Henry Surtees Killed in Tragic Accident at Brands Hatch

I had been planning to write a post about the enjoyable time I'd had with the family at Brands Hatch this weekend until I heard the news this morning that Henry Surtees had died from the head injuries he sustained in an accident on Sunday afternoon (19th July) at only eighteen years of age.

Surtees was struck on the head and immediately rendered unconscious by a wheel which had broken loose from Jack Clarke's car a few seconds earlier between Westfield and Sheene corners causing him to plough into a crash barrier at around 120 mph.

Although the emergency services were very quickly on the scene and Surtees was evacuated by air ambulance to the Royal London Hospital it was tragically to no avail and he did not survive his injuries.

Jonathan Palmer head of Motor Sports Vision who own the Brands Hatch Circuit and also run the Formula Two series issued a statement earlier today.

According to the statement a full investigation will be carried out into the circumstances of the accident to see if any lessons can be learned for the future.

The cars which are designed and built to FIA standards by Williams have similar safety features to F1 cars such as wheel tethers, raised cockpit sides etc.
It seems that Surtees sadly just had the complete misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He had been having one of his best in the series weekends having gained his first Formula Two podium, finishing in P3 on Saturday.

I would like to take this opportunity to profer my sincere condolences to his father John and family.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

WTCC Brands Hatch - Menu on pole

Alain Menu has qualified on pole for the first WTCC race at Brands Hatch. His Chevrolet team mate Rob Huff was only seven thousandths of a second behind. It would be good to see Huff get a result at his home race although Menu went very well at Brands last year.

Former WTCC champion Andy Priaulx lines up third on the grid.

Current championship leader Yvan Muller, another Brands Hatch specialist, is just outside the top ten in eleventh whilst James Thompson is way back in 25th in the Lada Priora.

The weather forecast is for intermittant light rain showers throughout the day which could lead to some interesting racing. Maybe a Muller charge from the mid field?

Friday, 17 July 2009

FIA WTCC heads to Brands Hatch this weekend

The FIA WTCC heads to Brands Hatch this weekend (17th/18th/19th July).

Swine flu permitting (yes - junior appears to be down with it at the moment!), we will be in attendence again this year.

I will post some pictures of the action one day next week so keep watching this space.....

Going into Brands Hatch, the current driver's championship standings are as follows -

1. Yvan Muller - 80 points
2. Gabriele Tarquini - 66 points
3. Augusto Farfus - 65 points
4. Rickard Rydell - 46 points
5. Robert Huff - 43 points
6. Jörg Müller - 42 points
7. Andy Priaulx - 38 points
8. Jordi Gené - 32 points
9. Tiago Monteiro - 31 points
10. Sergio Hernández - 29 points
Here are a few more pictures taken last year to whet your appetite.....

Monday, 13 July 2009

German Grand Prix - Webber takes first F1 career victory

Mark Webber completed a perfect weekend at the Nurburgring this afternoon with a stunning drive to victory - the first of his F1 career - despite being handed a harsh drive through penalty after a slight coming together with Rubens Barrichello off the start.

When the penalty was handed out I honestly thought that would be it for Webber's chances and the end of what could have been potentially an exciting race. Once again the hierrarchy would have conspired to remove any ounce of entertainment from the proceedings.

Fortunately Webber was so focused he was able to outclass the whole field today including his much lauded team mate (even by me in previous posts!) Sebastian Vettel who finished second completing another Red Bull Racing one-two.

Felipe Massa finished third his best result of the season. Rosberg of Williams drove a solid race to fourth despite qualifying poorly on Saturday.

The two Brawn's of Button and Barrichello finished fifth and sixth respectively due to tyre issues and, in the case of Barrichello, issues in the pits (fuel rig problem).

Barrichello who qualified second on the grid had managed to get the jump on Mark Webber at the start but later got held up behind Kovaleinen and later Massa.

Alonso had a good run towards the end of the race clocking up fastest laps and managed to take seventh place. The top eight was rounded out by Kovaleinen.

Lewis Hamilton had rocketed off the grid from P5 into the lead (making full use of the KERS) but managed to clip Mark Webber causing a puncture which effectively ended his afternoon. Hamilton ended taking the wooden spoon.

The Red Bull Racing star definitely seems to be in the ascendant this half of the season.

The same cannot be said from Brawn GP. Following their blistering start a few cracks (or should that be chasms?) are starting to appear. As mentioned in our post yesterday, Button's body language at the press conference was all telling. The Brawn car was totally outclassed by Red Bull this weekend.

Following the race, Barrichello spat the dummy (once again) in an angry TV interview shown on the BBC coverage implying that the team lost the race and that he had done all that was necessary to win it.

To compound matters, Barrichello once again found himself finishing behind Button after the final round of pitstops when he had been in front beforehand. No doubt he has in mind the situation at Ferrari where he played Patsy to Schumacher.

He was probably unaware of the fuel rig issue at the time of the interview and will no doubt get slapped down by Ross Brawn and told his fortune!

To rub salt in the wounds, there is a strong rumour that Virgin will not be sponsoring the team next season and instead will be supporting newcomers Manor F1.

New parts are expected for the Brawn car at the next race in Hungary but will it be enough to hold off the resurgent Red Bulls?

Sunday, 12 July 2009

German Grand Prix - Mark Webber Takes First F1 Career Pole

Aussie Mark Webber took his first F1 career pole position at a rain affected qualifying session at the Nurburgring yesterday afternoon with a blistering lap in difficult conditions.

It transpires that this pole position was fully merited as his car is fueled heavier than his nearest rivals on the grid.

Rubens Barrichello made a good tactical choice of tyre and was able to take second slot on the grid behind Webber but in front of his team mate and Championship leader Jenson Button in third.

At the press conference, Webber (obviously) and Barrichello seemed very pleased with their performance whilst Button's body language told a different story. It doesn't look like he will have an easy ride during the race today.

The Red Bulls appear to have the edge over the Brawns this weekend. On top of that, with more changeable weather forecast for the race, Barrichello and Vettel are ones to watch out for.

Talking of Vettel, he qualified fourth to the disappointment of the German crowd, but when fuel load is taken into account he would have been only 0.25 seconds behind Webber in P2.

The McLaren team appear to have pulled out all the stops to make some major improvements to their performance this weekend. New aero parts have been fitted to Lewis Hamilton's car giving around 0.7 seconds per lap improvement.

Hamilton qualified fifth and could be on for a podium finish especially if the weather comes into play. Heikki Kovalainen qualified sixth despite the new parts only being fitted to Hamilton's car but will probably drop back during the race.

The other star of qualifying (apart from Mark Webber) was Adrian Sutil who guided his Force India into P7. The highest ever qualifying slot for the team. Again the position was fully merited when fuel adjusted. Could Force India be on for their first points of the season?

The two Ferraris of Massa and Rakkonen qualified eighth and ninth respectively whilst Nelson Piquet rounded out the top ten outqualifying his team mate Alonso.

Hopefully Webber and Barrichello can both outscore their respective team mates this weekend to add some well needed spice to this season's Championship.

All will be revealed later today.