Tag Archives: Jenson Button

German Grand Prix – Hockenheim – Race

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso yesterday became the first driver to win three times this season.

It was an incident filled day, which began even a couple of hours before the race got underway, when Red Bull were reported to the Stewards following FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer’s report surrounding the legality of the teams’ engine maps.

Bauer was of the opinion that the engine torque maps of the RB8’s were in breach of Article 5.5.3 of the Technical Regulations, the thought being that the engines were able to deliver more torque at a given engine speed in the mid RPM range, thus potentially altering the aerodynamic characteristics of both cars, in direct contravention of Technical Directive 036-11.

Horner, being chased by a pack of journalists through the paddock area into the pit-lane, was clearly annoyed by the interest the investigation was generating, taking the unusual stance of challenging the media’s ability to be in the pit-lane whilst a support race was underway. A clear indication, in your author’s eyes, that there was something amiss.

Following meetings with representatives of both Red Bull and Renault however, examinations of ECU (Engine Control Unit) data, stewards said that “while they did not accept all the arguments of the team, they concluded that as the regulation is written, the map presented does not breach the text of Article 5.5.3.”

In effect, the stewards say the rules are as clear as mud. It is widely expected that clarification will be issued by the FIA in the near future.

Horner’s McLaren counterpart, Martin Whitmarsh refused to be drawn to make a comment in the run up to the decision, but said that he hoped “the FIA would take advantage of a meeting of the sport’s Technical Working Group on Monday to issue a clarification that banned what Red Bull were doing.” He went on to state “It’s an advantage. You don’t do things like that which are challengeable unless there is a performance advantage.”

With the decision being delivered close to the start of the race, the Red Bull’s were allowed to start from their qualifying positions, Webber however being relegated to eighth on the grid, following a gearbox change on Saturday.

It was an eventful first lap, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, starting in a very disappointing 13th, collided with the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo. Massa’s front wing was seen to fly through the air and debris was all over the track at turn one. We have seen Safety Cars deployed for less, but unusually Charlie Whiting decided against sending out the Mercedes SLS AMG.

Grosjean and Senna would suffer front wing damage, Senna also suffering a puncture to his front left tyre. Another victim of a puncture on lap 3 was Lewis Hamilton; he struggled to get the car round to the pits, even reporting to the team on his way round that he should retire. The team changed the tyres and sent him on his way, despite being way down the field, ultimately his pace was reasonable.

Jenson Button in the sister McLaren was proving that the upgrades they had bought this weekend were working well, overtaking both Hulkenberg and Schumacher, promoting himself to third by the 11th lap.

With Vettel stopping one lap later than Button, he was able to come out in front of the McLaren driver, but the pace of the MP4-27 finally proved to be good and he closed in on the German and second place during their second stints.

As the halfway stage of the race approached, Vettel began to catch Alonso with just under a second between them. But the out of position McLaren of Hamilton was on fresher tyres and he was determined to unlap himself into the inside of the hairpin, which he was well within his rights to do, much to the annoyance of the German.

Button would then take the race to Vettel, pitting on Lap 41 to what would seem to have been the quickest pit-stop of the season so far at 2.31 seconds. With Vettel’s tyres ‘falling off’, he would pit for tyres on lap 42 at the same time as Alonso.

Approaching the pit exit as the Red Bull of Vettel was still building speed, Button made the pass stick and moved into second place behind Alonso. Button’s race engineer heard saying over the radio ‘that was perfect Jenson, let’s have Alonso’.

Button continued to catch Alonso in the closing laps, while behind him, Vettel seemed to be nursing his tyres. With ten laps remaining, Button had closed the gap to Alonso to just half a second. Meanwhile, teammate Hamilton had retired with what is thought to have been a gearbox issue, the only retirement of the race.

In the final five laps however, Vettel seemed to have benefited from nursing the tyres and by this time was around 0.2 of a second faster than that of Button, who appeared to be struggling for grip, Alonso increasing his lead at the front.

On lap 66 however, Vettel was able to benefit from using DRS into the hairpin and managed to make the pass, but Button and his engineer were quick to complain that the pass was made outside the circuit, his engineer confirming they had already made a complaint to Race Director, Charlie Whiting.

Annoyingly, Vettel said after the race in several interviews that Button didn’t tell him that he thought he would be handed second place back, despite us clearly hearing that conversation take place before the podium celebrations began.

A stewards inquiry ensued, and some time after the race was over, the stewards agreed that Vettel had indeed made his pass outside the limits of the circuit and he was handed a 20 second penalty, demoting him back to fifth and handing Button back his rightful second place. Raikkonen and Kobayashi also benefiting from the German being penalised.

With the McLarens showing an improvement in pace, despite Hamilton’s difficult outing, the upcoming weekend in Hungary; a track where the team are not only competitive, but with 10 wins they are the most successful Constructors. The McLaren pair are also multiple winners at the Hugaroring; Hamilton winning in 2007 & 2009, Button in 2006 & 2011.

2011 Australian Grand Prix – Race

The curtain-opener to the 2011 Formula One World Championship finally got underway early this morning. The testing, speculation and hype was put to one side as the Class of 2011 went head to head in Melbourne’s Albert Park.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel dominated the race throughout, and took the win from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, the surprise package of the day being Lotus Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who commendably finished in third place.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day though was Christian Horner’s revelation that neither of the Red Bull’s had been running KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) for the entire weekend. “We felt Kers was a potential risk, and we made a decision not to run it. It didn’t look like we needed it.” And he was right, Vettel had built a lead of 2.6 seconds over Hamilton by the end of the first lap, and Hamilton WAS running KERS.

Hamilton was able to match Vettel’s pace for a period however, the McLaren driver was also better on his tyres than Vettel, who was heard on the radio to be complaining of a loss of grip on several occasions. Both drivers ran two-stop strategies in a race where the hype was that as many as four stops could be expected from the front-runners.

Lotus-Renault’s Vitaly Petrov had an astounding start to the race, he was the beneficiary of Jenson Button in the other McLaren hanging out Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso into turn one at the start of the lap. Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber, driving in his home Grand Prix, had managed to maintain third off the grid, but he was first to blink and change tyres, Petrov then moved into third and maintained that to the finish.

“I’m very happy to be alongside Sebastian and Lewis on the podium, but from first practice the car has looked very strong, we focused on the race, and the team did everything perfectly,” said Petrov.

With the race developing, Jenson Button was having a battle of his very own with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. He was heard over the radio asking “How’s he getting away from me?”, despite Button using the new DRS (Drag Reduction System). But the nightmares did not end there, in trying to pass Massa, Button had used a run-off area and was adjudged to have gained an advantage, a move that was penalised by a drive-through penalty.

After emerging from the pit-lane in twelfth, Button drove well and managed to bring his MP4-26 home in sixth. The McLaren team will be happy that the hard work they had put in back at the MTC in Woking has paid off. It was abundantly clear that the MP4-26 was not all that had been expected of it, testing showed it was way off the pace, but the updates they bought to Melbourne, a new floor and exhaust system, seemed to have done the trick.

There were losers in the race too. Michael Schumacher suffered a puncture at the start, and was eventually retired from the race as a precaution. His teammate Nico Rosberg had a coming together with Rubens Barrichello, for which Barrichello was punished with a drive through penalty. Unfortunately for Rosberg, it proved fatal and neither Mercedes finished. For me, Barrichello had a terrible weekend, spinning out of control during Qualifying, and driving terribly during the race, to me, someone who has driven in 307 Grands Prix, should know better.

Sauber were the other talking point of the day. Having only made one stop throughout the race, Sergio Perez managed to raise a few eyebrows. However, it was shortlived. Scrutineering highlighted some technical infringements with both Sauber cars, unfortunately they were stripped of seventh and eighth places, which promoted Felipe Massa into seventh, Adrian Sutil in to eighth, Sebastian Buemi into ninth and debutant Paul di Resta into tenth and a final points paying position.

With Perez and Kobayashi disqualified, Timo Glock not classified, Barichello, Rossberg, Kovalainen, Schumacher and Maldonado made up the long list of retirees from todays race. Next stop Sepang in Malaysia.

Malaysian Grand Prix – Race

Malaysia’s Sepang circuit was host to Round Three of the Formula One 2010 World Championship; an exciting race in prospect with the threat of the rain that saw both McLaren’s and both Ferrari’s making catastrophic errors with regard to their Qualifying strategies, all four cars not making the Q2 session of Qualifying on Saturday.

That aside, Hamilton had a dream start to the race, flying down the inside of the track leaving most of the pack in his wake, catapulting himself from a starting position of 20th to 12th before the end of the first lap. He pitted for tyres on lap 31, changing from the Prime to the Option tyre (harder to softer), but struggled to pass Sutil.

“I had a great start, went down the inside and got past a lot of cars on the first lap. I was able to keep going for much of the race on my first set of tyres, and even nearly got past Vettel after his pitstop. After my stop, I tried my best to get past Sutil, but he was very smart at getting clean exits and was simply too fast down the straights. He drove a fantastic race, actually; faultless, in fact.

“From 20th on the grid, I think sixth was a brilliant result. I reckon we showed today that we were fast enough to compete with the guys at the very front – and, that being the case, if we’d started farther up we could’ve had an even better result this afternoon.”

Reigning World Champion Jenson Button’s approach however was very different. Beginning the race on the Option tyre; from the start he decided to take the direct opposite approach to Hamilton by taking the outside route through the pack; the dirtier side.

Button had decided that his Option tyres had gone off sufficiently to force him to pit on Lap 9, changing to the Prime tyres. This again seemed an inspired choice, as he began to hunt down his rivals with a string of fastest laps. Into Lap 55, Button was being hounded by Alonso and was briefly overtaken by the Spaniard. But Alonso had been struggling with downshifts; his Ferrari was sounding very ill indeed. Alonso late-braked into Turn One and slid wide, allowing Button to retake the place. Immediately Alonso’s engine let go, demoting the Spaniard to a 13th position finish; just.

Button’s view: “My first stint was very tough. I went for the outside at the first corner – and as things turned out it wasn’t the right place to be. So I fell back, and was then stuck behind Fernando, who I just couldn’t overtake. I found the Option tyres quite difficult in the early laps – I had no rear grip in the high-speed stuff. I couldn’t overtake, and lost lots of time, so I took the gamble to pit early and drop back into a clear track.

I made up a lot of ground, but I was on the Primes for so long that it became difficult to hold back cars that were two seconds a lap quicker than me. Massa eventually got past. Alonso tried a couple of times – the last time he went really deep into Turn One, but I managed to repass him on the exit – and then suddenly his engine was gone. I don’t know what happened to him, but we had a good fight.”

With Webber’s poor start from pole allowing teammate Vettel to take P1 from the Australian, one eye was on the weather, the other on Red Bull’s reliability. Apart from a brief challenge from Hamilton before his pitstop, the Red Bull’s remained out front, relatively unchallenged, and it ‘seems’ they have rid themselves of the reliability issues that has affected their title challenge thus far. The rain never showed it’s hand.

Of the other notable drives of the day, Nico Hulkenberg scored a point finishing tenth; Lucas di Grassi finished the best of the newcomers in 14th, and Karun Chandhok; a driver who has impressed many so far; brought the HRT car home in 15th. But I think my driver of the day award goes to Alguersuari, finishing ninth and scoring two World Championship points as a reward; a solid performance.

So far this season; three races in, we have had three different winners, from three different teams. That result leaves the top eight in the Drivers Championship covered by just fifteen points; the same difference covering the top three Constructors’. Who said Formula One in 2010 was going to be boring?

Photgraphs courtesy www.mclaren.com with thanks to the McLaren Media Centre

Australian Grand Prix – Race

McLaren Media Centre

Jenson Button bought his MP4-25 home to win in Australia,  moving within six points of the Championship leader Fernando Alonso. With the media and fans bemoaning the boring race in Bahrain, Melbourne’s Albert Park had much to live up to. And we were not disappointed.

The elements had their say at the start of the race, and the whole grid started on intermediate tyres. Alonso had a poor start falling from third on the grid and managed to tag Button into the first corner and found himself pointing the wrong way. Kamui Kobayashi, Sebastian Buemi and Nico Hulkenberg had a heavy crash, and inevitably, the safety car was deployed.

Lap five saw the safety car come in, and a lap later Button made an inspired choice to pit for slicks. His decision seemed premature as he had an off after rejoining the race, but just two laps later the whole field seemed to think it a good idea to join Button on dry-weather tyres, by now running a second behind race leader Sebastian Vettel.

But on lap 20, Vettel’s Red Bull went off into the gravel at turn 13 with a ‘wheel related failure’, after looking as though he was comfortably going to win the race. So two races, two pole positions and, unfortunately a failure to win both times for Red Bull’s Vettel; hardly the start he would have wanted to his season.

Lewis Hamilton was being held off in fourth by Kubica’s Renault, but Hamilton would have to stop again for tyres and would need to fight through the field again, catching Massa and Alonso. But it was Webber that was pushing behind Hamilton, so much so that he ran into Hamilton and took them both off into the gravel. Webber later apologised to Hamilton for the ‘racing incident’.

Jenson Button’s call to change to slicks before anyone else, had clearly won him the race, a gamble that had paid off. Robert Kubica’s Renault eventually came in second, with Massa third and Alonso in fourth. Nico Rosberg finished fifth, with Hamilton recovering from his off with Webber to finish sixth.

Australia - Jenson and Team

Lewis Hamilton was publicly critical of the team’s choice of strategy, bringing him in a second time for tyres; but Whitmarsh defended the action, saying that Lewis’ tyres were graining and he would not make it to the end of the race. Would his tyres have lasted? Who knows. Had he stayed out on the tyres, with his pace he would have probably caught Kubica’s Renault and secured a McLaren one-two, but again, we will never know.

I was impressed with McLaren’s performance in Australia. Jenson Button proved that he could win with McLaren and, despite suffering a forced crash from Webber, and the team’s decision to two stop him clearly stopped him from taking a step on the podium, Lewis Hamilton drove the race of his life, making him my driver of the day.

So the World Championship, after a thrilling race, is lead by Fernando Alonso on 37, Massa on 33, Button on 31, Hamilton 23 and Rosberg on 20. In the constructors’, Ferrari lead with 70 from McLaren on 54, Mercedes 29 and Renault and Red Bull on 18.

And so the Formula One circus moves on to Malaysia this week. Early reports suggest that we may well see more of the wet stuff come race day on Sunday. That will surely make for an interesting race. Some big questions for me this weekend; will Vettel be able to finish a race? Can McLaren win again? Will Lewis recover from the situation in Australia?

Pictures courtesy www.mclaren.com with thanks to the McLaren Media Centre

Keep the Faith

The 2010 Formula One World Championship was probably the most anticipated season of all to date. There are several reasons for this; the main one that most will quote is the change in FIA Regulations. A change in the way points are awarded to drivers finishing in the top ten; a ban on in-race re-fuelling, tyres, the list goes on.

The other reason for the hype, in my opinion, is the eruption of social networking. I myself am party to this; after all, had it not been for Twitter, I would not be writing this blog right now. I have had more conversations via Twitter about F1 than any other single topic, the weather included!

Social Networking mediums, like Twitter, bring people like us, together. People who are passionate about their sport; their beliefs hopes and dreams; the support for their chosen team and/or driver. This was pretty well unheard of a decade ago. This is where some of the hype has come from.

Many say, if it aint broke, don’t fix it. 2009 was a fairytale season for Brawn, one of the greatest stories in F1 for a long time. There were some fantastic events on and off the field, and despite recent changes to proceedings; I am sure 2010 will be no exception.

We must remember, F1 is a global phenomenon; the pinnacle of all motorsport, a multi-billion pound circus that sweeps around the world in an effort to not only entertain the most avid motorsport fans like us, but to entertain some of the biggest of global corporate names.

Let’s not forget; it is these big corporate organisations that fund the sport we are all so very passionate about. If it wasn’t for the likes of Vodafone, Red Bull, and all the other big names involved in our great sport; we perhaps would not have anything to argue, or be passionate about, discuss and vent our anger at.

David Coulthard has this week poked his head above the parapet blaming ex-FIA chief Max Mosley as the culprit for the detrimental things that have been said since the chequered flag was waved in Sakhir on Sunday.

Max was definitely instrumental in bringing in to force the limitations the sport is now experiencing. Now I am absolutely not one of Max or Bernie’s biggest fans, far from it; but I am a realist and understand the corporate way to some extent; so I can see where they were coming from.

Those that pay the way for the likes of Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso et al, FOUR World Champions, to participate in this fine sport are, unfortunately, those that are being paid lip-service to; the corporates.

That said; I absolutely do not agree with some decisions from a sporting point of view. And there lies the problem. If this sport is to maintain it’s position at the forefront, then it needs someone who can see the sport from the Driver’s, Team’s and Fan’s viewpoint; but they need to also have the ability and foresight to see the corporate side, and marry them together successfully.

In a perfect world, we would have a happy medium between Constructor, Driver, fan and corporate sponsor. Alas, we do not live in a perfect world, we have what we have and we should be grateful for that. We are after all, only one race into the season. As I said earlier, keep the faith, it will come good.

Bahrain Grand Prix – Race

With a ban on in-race re-fuelling and all the promises of a change in the point system making for better racing, expectations of a thrilling race were high.

The lights went out and the 2010 Formula One World Championship was under way at Bahrain’s Sakhir circuit. Barring Mark Webber’s Red Bull Renault letting out a huge plume of white smoke all over those following him, Turn One was relatively uneventful.

Of the two McLaren’s, Button managed a reasonable performance in the Number 1 McLaren; finishing in P7, one place up on his mediocre P8 in qualifying . With his only pitstop of the afternoon, he managed to jump one place; but coming out behind Schumacher he struggled for pace for the remainder of the race. “I caught up with Michael, but didn’t have enough pace through the middle sector to stay with him and have a go at him in the last sector, which was disappointing. But it was fun all the same.”

Hamilton faired better. Starting out fourth on the grid, he lost some ground at Turn Four and Rosberg’s Mercedes passed him. He managed to maintain pace behind Rosberg, and at one point before the pit-stop he even complained over the radio that he was being held up.

With his Pitstop out of the way, Hamilton was able to leapfrog Rosberg and was able to show some pace. “After the pitstop , the guys were able to get me out ahead of Nico; I had some clear air and was able to make up quite a bit of ground on Felipe. If I hadn’t been sitting behind Nico, then I think I could have challenged Felipe for second.”

Vettel showed amazing pace in the early stages, but reliability was his downfall; Alonso, Massa and Hamilton all passing him into the closing stages of the race. Initial reports claimed it was an exhaust failure, but on full investigation it was found to be a faulty spark plug.

Alonso’s pace continued, and finished the race sixteen seconds ahead of teammate Massa, securing a one-two finish for Ferrari.”It’s a special day for me,” said Alonso. “Coming back to the top of the podium is always special and it’s even more special with Ferrari, with all the history behind the team and the expectations a driver has driving for Ferrari.

It would be remiss of me  not to mention the race of the newcomers at the rear of the grid; with both Virgin’s and both HRT’s suffering mechanical failures, that race was won by Lotus. Both cars finished the race with Kovalainen in 15th and Jarno Trulli bringing up the rear in 17th; that, for me was the performance of the weekend . An amazing job by the Norfolk based outfit.

All in all, a pretty uneventful race. A lot of people bemoaning the regulation changes, myself included. But having a little time to reflect now, I think we have been a little quick to criticise; it is after all, only the first race of the season. Bahrain is historically a fairly dull affair. Hopefully, things should start to improve when we finally get to Australia and Malaysia, and I’m prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt until then.