Tag Archives: McLaren

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.


European Grand Prix – Valencia – Race

Where do I start? Historically, race fans are sceptical about the validity of the European Grand Prix; not of it’s entry in the F1 calendar, but of the chosen venue since 2008.

Controversially, Bernie [Ecclestone] was accused of trying to influence elections in the region by withholding the signing of the seven year contract until elections were completed after 27th May 2007. He later clarified his comments saying that he “wouldn’t formalise a contract until after the elections [that year] because I didn’t know who I would be signing the contract with”.

Later, he said that his comments were taken out of context, but he had previously commented that no European country should hold more than one race each year; poignant because, of course, the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona hosts the Spanish Grand Prix each year. Your author cannot help but think he yet again made a ‘Bernieism’ and opened himself up to criticism.

Enough of the politics, more of the racing. Despite expectations from the fans, (who’s opinions really should count in not only this, but all sports) Valencia has historically been a ‘procession’ and a boring race. It clearly wasn’t this year and it was possibly the most exciting race the circuit has produced thus far.

It seems that the trend of the 2012 season; namely a different winner each race, has finally abated with Alonso being not only the second repeat winner of a race this season so far, but only the third Constructor to win more than one race this season.

Initially, Vettel controlled the start of the race by building a comfortable lead over Hamilton in P2; one suspects that Hamilton’s strategy was to look after the tyres and to ‘out-strategise’ the German, as his lead in the first three laps increased to over five seconds.

The eventual race winner, Alonso, was building well from his very poor eleventh place qualifying position meanwhile, by taking seventh place from Force India’s Nico Hulkenburg on Lap 12. Before his pitstop, he managed to promote himself to a ‘de facto’ fourth behind Vettel, Grosjean and Hamilton.

Once again, Hamilton had a nightmare in the pits. He had been losing time to Alonso at least half a second a lap to that point and Hamilton’s demise was confirmed when his pit-crew seemed to have multiple issues with the front jack. This sealed the fate of Hamilton and Alonso took the place with much gratitude.

At the restart, Alonso managed to pass Grosjean around the outside of turn one – capitalising on a move he had previously executed to pass [Mark] Webber’s Red Bull earlier in proceedings. He then further capitalised on his good progress by being in the right place when [Sebastien] Vettel’s engine stalled due to, what is expected to be later confirmed as an alternator failure.

It seems that the combination of DRS and the supreme composition(s) of the Pirelli tyres finally made an impact on what has been previously referred to as ‘the most boring race of the year’. Overtaking clearly had finally been added into the vocabulary of the Valencia circuit.

The finalé of the race however, was to be marred by the incident involving Britain’s Lewis Hamilton and Venezuelan Pastor Maldonaldo. The Brit appeared to be under pressure from the Venezuelan in the closing laps; they ran side-by-side for several corners as the laps ticked down. The eventual outcome being Hamilton’s McLaren being pitched into the wall.

Both are being investigated by Race Stewards [at the time of writing] and one can only hope that they [The Stewards] are less complacent than they clearly were in the incident involving Bruno Senna, where a Drive-Through penalty was imposed, incorrectly in your author’s opinion.

Maldonaldo was clearly off the racing line when he turned into and T-boned Hamilton, forcing him into the wall and thus ending his race. Hamilton could have, some say, decided to yield to the Venezuelan’s improving late pace in the race, but he had track position and was on the racing line, giving him the upper hand. One hopes that the Stewards see it in the same light.

Those events set the scene for veterans Schumacher and Webber to be elevated to third and fourth respectively after late tyre stops saw them both sweep past Rosberg, Button, Perez, di Resta and Hulkenberg.

Schumacher would eventually secure the first podium of his comeback in Formula One; only the second time a 43 year-old has done so since the legendary Jack Brabham did so in 1970 at Brands Hatch.

Back to matters in hand though; the Championship continues to be one that does not offer up any clues, as yet, as to who might be crowned Number One. Whilst Alonso, with 111 points so far, has managed to open up a twenty point lead over Webber, with Hamilton only three points behind the Australian; Vettel follows three further points behind, Rosberg is up to fifth with 75 and Raikkonen heads up the top six with 73 points.

In summation, with twelve races remaining on the calendar; and given the unpredictability of the 2012 season thus far, it is still [thankfully] so far unclear as to who will be crowned World Champion. One hopes that the season will continue to deliver the erratic form of results it has so far and that excitement, entertainment and racing [filled with incident, I might add] is the overall winner.

Canadian Grand Prix – Race

The 2012 Canadian Grand Prix was eagerly anticipated. Of the six races so far this season, each has seen a different winner. There have been five different constructors winning races up until Monaco, with only Red Bull scoring more than one win.

Of those six drivers to have each won a race so far, perhaps the surprises have come from Nico Rosberg and Pastor Maldonaldo in China and Spain respectively; Button, Alonso, Vettel and Webber make up the remainder.

The hype surrounding the build up to the race was that we might see a seventh winner, we were not to be disappointed. What is being referred to as the most unpredictable season in years lined up in Montreal with Vettel on Pole after a 1:13.784 beat Hamilton in to second with a 1:14.087 around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Alonso, Webber and Rosberg made up the rest of the top five, but it was Button that would be the biggest loser on the day. Having started his Q3 session on the Prime (or harder of the two compound tyres available), he opted to sit out the remainder of the session and settle for 10th on the grid.

Hamilton commented, as did Webber, that they had struggled through Qualifying and were surprised to have finished so high up on the grid; Webber citing problems with the car, Hamilton struggling to ‘switch the tyres on’.

As the race got underway, Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso went into a three way battle. Vettel led the way for the first 16 laps until the tyres started to fall off the proverbial cliff and he was forced to pit for a fresh set.

Hamilton was next to blink a lap later with Alonso managing to last one still further. Alonso rejoined in front of Hamilton and Vettel, but the Brit managed a pass which allowed him to create a three second gap before he was forced to stop again on lap 50.

Still struggling with pit stops, Hamilton later attributed the mistakes as his own, exonerating the team of any blame. Whilst not as detrimental as the stops in Bahrain, he rejoined after his second stop in third place.

Red Bull and Ferrari gambled on one stop strategies for the race, their pace was good, but with 20 laps still remaining in the race, the gamble appeared not to have paid off and their pace quickly diminished. Hamilton seized the opportunity of closing in on Vettel for second, whilst the German was also closing in on Alonso, who was also struggling with tyre degradation.

After passing Vettel with relative ease on lap 62, Alonso would give Hamilton more of a fight however, managing to hold him off until the inevitable happened on lap 65 allowing the Brit to push on in the final laps to secure his first victory of the season. He later said that this was “a phenomenal sensation to come back to Canada and put on a performance like we did today. This win feels as good as my first Formula One victory back in 2007. In fact I’d say it was one of the best races I have had for a very long time.”

Whilst Hamilton was pushing for the finish line however, Alonso and Vettel were falling further off the pace. Behind them, also one-stopping was Grosjean in the Lotus. Perez was also pushing hard, both he and Grosjean had managed their tyres well and were closing on the flailing Ferrari and Red Bull respectively.

Hamilton’s victory hands him back the lead in the Championship by a mere two points from Alonso. Hamilton was later quoted as saying “Every win is different. Every victory is new, special and fresh. And to see the team all wearing their Vodafone ‘rocket red’ victory T-shirts, knowing the guys back at the factory are doing the same, makes everything feel even more special. Finally, the support from the fans has been amazing – this victory is dedicated to them. I’m so grateful to be here today.”

Teammate Button however had a miserable day on the circuit. Being one of the first to stop on the harder compound tyres, he ended up being lapped and left totally mystified as to the poor performance of his own McLaren; surely questions will be being asked at the McLaren Technology Centre as to why there should be such a gulf of difference between the two cars.

Title sponsors Mobil 1, Mercedes Benz and Enkei celebrated their 300th Grand Prix with the marque from Woking, which also saw Hamilton near equal his hero Ayrton Senna’s number of drives in Formula One for the team and further solidifies his standing as a key player in the team going forward.

It remains to be seen what will happen in the remaining outings this season. Whilst it is refreshing to see Hamilton returning to winning ways, your author is keen to see the revival of not just one, but both of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes drivers and I hope they can both be competitive in the remaining races.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if we will see yet another driver atop the podium throughout the rest of the season, but one thing is certain; 2012 so far appears to be one of the most entertaining and unpredictable seasons for many a year. Long may it continue!

2011 Season Preview – Part One

With a week to go before the long awaited curtain opener to the 2011 season in Melbourne, this article takes a look at the title contenders, runners and riders, and their prospects for the season.

Red Bull – 1 Sebastian Vettel – 2 Mark Webber

The Milton Keynes outfit have invested heavily in development of the car since Dietrich Mateschitz bought the old Jaguar team in 2004. Mateschitz made it abundantly clear last season that he expected repayment in the form of a World Championship. Despite making things as difficult for themselves as possible, they not only delivered the Constructors’ Championship secured in Brazil, but doubled up with Sebastian Vettel securing the Drivers’ Championship in Abu Dhabi.

But can they do it again? Well, little can be taken from Winter Testing, granted, however the new RB7 looks to be quick in both Qualifying and Race trim. Add in a dose of reliability, and the Adrian Newey designed RB7 may just have the elements required to retain one or both titles. [As much as it pains me to say]

McLaren – 3 Lewis Hamilton – 4 Jenson Button

Taking the unusual decision to leave the launch of the MP4-26 until as late as possible, seems to have not been the ideal decision for the team. Aesthetically, the car looks great, but both Lewis and Jenson have hinted that the set-up still isn’t quite there. Added to this, the MP4-26 only covered about half the testing mileage of its competitors Ferrari and Red Bull. Problems with the Woking outfit? I for one certainly hope not.

More positively however, after an upgrade was put on the car before the final Barcelona test, Button reported that the balance was better, whilst Hamilton alluded to the fact that they just haven’t been able to ‘put all the factors together at once’. If this were a pre-season School Report, the verdict surely would be ‘must try harder’.

Ferrari – 5 Fernando Alonso – 6 Felipe Massa

The launch of the new Scuderia contender this year was overshadowed by a legal battle with the Ford Motor Company, after initially choosing to call their car the F150. This was retracted after a threatening letter was sent to Ferrari, and they have decided to change the name to the F150 Italia.

After the embarrassment of throwing away their championship hopes in Abu Dhabi last year, the F150 Italia looks to be a competitive machine, and if anything CAN be taken from pre-season testing, which of course it can’t, it does look like it may just give the Red Bull a run for its money.

Mercedes GP – 7 Michael Schumacher – 8 Nico Rosberg

Having lacked any of the performance of its predecessor, the then Brawn GP, Mercedes really disappointed last season. Michael Schumacher emerged from retirement hoping to make an impact again on the world of Formula One, this he did, but unfortunately in the negative sense.

The team has now been bought in its entirety from the former Brawn principals, and early indications during pre-season tests show the car running pretty quick in short runs. Quite how that transfers once in race trim remains to be seen. Whilst Schumacher doubts the car will be in a position to challenege for the world championship, he believes podiums are a definite possibility. Meanwhile, the spotlight surely must be on Rosberg to prove that his outperformance of Schumacher last season was more than just a chance occurence.

Renault – 9 Nick Heidfeld – 10 Vitaly Petrov

With Robert Kubica’s horrendous crash during a Rally excursion in the off-season, it is unlikely he will return to Formula One in the foreseeable future. His replacement, Nick Heidfeld seems to be a safe bet for the Renault team. Whilst he has performed well since his debut in 2000, scoring a couple of podiums, he has yet to win a race. This means that, of the current drivers on the grid, he has the most GP starts of all, without getting stand on the top step of the podium.

His teammate, Vitaly Petrov had a checkered first season in Formula One. His debut race in Bahrain ended prematurely after his right-front suspension was damaged, attributed to him hitting a kerb too hard. He scored his first points in China, finishing seventh. But in Turkey he collided with Alonso and suffered a puncture, only managing to finish fifteenth. His crashes continued, a first session crash in qualifying in Belgium was followed by a collision with Nico Hulkenberg in Japan, and once again he crashed in Korea. However, the highlight of his season surely must have been at Abu Dhabi, when he finished ahead of both Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso, thus ensuring that Alonso would not win the championship.

It remains to be seen whether Petrov will lose his habit of crashing this season, and whether the pairing with Heidfeld will work, and with testing being inconclusive in Renault’s case, it seems difficult to quantify at this stage, but expect Renault to challenge for points and possibly podiums.

Look out for another post in the next couple of days that will look at the remaining teams, the fortunes of the midfielders, and a look at the new teams battling it out in their own mini-championship.

Grand Prix Legends – James Hunt

James Simon Wallis Hunt was born on 29th August 1947, the son of a very successful Stockbroker. Educated to a high level, Hunt was originally due to study as a Doctor. However, a friend took him to see a motor race on his 18th Birthday, and there the obsession began.

Starting off racing Mini’s, Hunt progressed through the ranks to Formula 3, where he was noticed for his agressive driving style by Lord Hesketh, who later recruited him to his own Formula 3 team. Hesketh Racing however, were no ordinary team, their objective was simply to have ‘as much fun as possible’.

Despite his reputation, ‘Hunt the Shunt’ as he was affectionately known, mainly for his penchant for writing off cars, made his debut in Formula One at the 1973 Monaco Grand Prix. However, both Hunt himself, and the Hesketh team were not taken seriously by their rivals, mainly due to their Playboy lifestyle. The team would all arrive at races in Rolls Royces, stay in Five Star hotels wherever they went, and drink copius amounts of champagne.

Hunt was running 6th in his debut race at Monaco, before having to retire due to engine failure. The rest of that season remained unsuccessful for both Hunt and the team, their first success not materialising until a non-championship BRDC International Trophy race at Silverstone, where the majority of the F1 field were represented.

It was in 1975 that Hunt secured his first Formula One win, at the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. A smattering of points finishes throughout the season saw Hunt finish fourth in the Championship. Sadly, it seems that two seasons of opulent flamboyancy by Hunt, Hesketh and the team, had stretched the budget sufficiently, forcing Lord Hesketh to call an end to his involvement in Formula One, after failing to find a sponsor for his team.

Hunt was without a seat in Formula One in the build up to the 1976 season, until Emerson Fittipaldi decided to leave McLaren. With no other top drivers available, McLaren conceeded that Hunt was ‘their best option’, and signed him to the team.

It proved to be a shrewd move on the Woking based team’s part, Hunt took the McLaren M23 to six Grands Prix victories that season, but it was a season frought with problems. Hunt won the 1976 Spanish Grand Prix, but was disqualified due to a car that was 1.8cm too wide, a decision that was later overturned.

Hunt was once again steeped in contoversy at the British Grand Prix in the same season, being disqualified from winning the race after an accident in the first corner which was attributed to him. Once again, Hunt suffered at the Italian Grand Prix, following a problem with octane levels in the fuel, Hunt was forced to start from the rear of the grid.

The season progressed to the Nurburgring for the German Grand Prix, another race, unfortunately, where there was controversy and incident. Niki Lauda suffered a horrendous crash, his Ferrari 312T2 snapped to the right, spun through the fence into an earth mound, rebounding out onto the track. Sadly, two drivers were unable to avoid the flame engulfed Ferrari, Harald Ertl and Brett Lunger both collided with Lauda’s stricken car. Joined by Merzario, who had stopped after seeing the wreck, the three drivers fought to get Lauda out of the flaming car.

Lauda had suffered serious burns, and was left fighting for his life in a German specialist burns unit; meanwhile after a restart, Hunt secured victory at the Nurburgring, closing the lead Lauda had developed in the Drivers’ Championship. Lauda’s exclusion from the following two races due to his injuries, allowed Hunt to close the gap further still, and the title was all down to the final round in Japan, with Hunt just three points behind Lauda.

The Japanese Grand Prix was a horribly wet affair, Lauda had returned to drive the Ferrari, but was forced to retire early in the race, citing that he was unable to blink due the facial burns that he was still suffering.

Hunt led most of the race, but suffered a puncture and had to pit. The stop was delayed, and having received unclear instructions from his crew, Hunt dropped down to third. But a finish in third with four points, was sufficient for Hunt to be crowned World Drivers Champion by a margin of just one point.

The 1977 season saw the beginning of the decline in Hunt’s career. An underperforming McLaren M26 caused Hunt to fall considerably behind rivals Lauda and Andretti, but developments throughout the season saw Hunt being dominant towards the latter part of the season. Unfortunately, it was all too litle too late, Hunt only managed to finish in fifth in the title race.

The 1978 season was no better, Hunt only managed to score 8 World Championship points, mainly due to the fact that Lotus had managed to develop their innovative ‘Ground Effect Aerodynamics’ with the Lotus 79. McLaren were slow to respond, only bringing in their ground effect developments halfway through the season. Unfortunately, it did not work as expected. This caused Hunt to suffer a serious decline in motivation, only compounded by teammate Patrick Tambay outqualifying him in one race.

The 1978 Italian Grand Prix appeared to be the turning point for Hunt. Ronnie Peterson’s Lotus was pushed into the Barriers in turn one, subsequently bursting into flames. Hunt, Patrick Depailler and Clay Regazzoni managed to rescue Peterson from his stricken car. Sadly, Peterson died a day later.

Hunt was particularly good friends with Peterson, and his death had a massive impact on him, he never forgave Riccardo Patrese, who Hunt blamed for causing the accident (it was later proven that Patrese had no part in the accident).

In 1979, with Peterson’s death hanging over him, Hunt moved to the Walter Wolf Racing Team, the car however, was uncompetitive. Six years after his debut in Formula One in Monaco, the 1979 Monaco race would be his last. Hunt failed to finish, and decided to make a statement to the baying press, announcing that he was walking away from the sport.

Hunt was as flamboyant on the track as he was off it. His reputation as a Playboy preceded him, embroiled in speculation regarding beautiful women, alchohol, cocaine and marijuana, he was regularly spotted at nightclubs and discos the world over.

It was during retirement though that Hunt found a real niche as sidekick to Murray Walker, in the commentary box for the BBC F1 coverage. His knowledge and insight into the sport bought Formula One to life for those watching, your author was captivated by his commentary, and quickly became a fan of the sport.

In 1993, Hunt suffered a heart attack, and died prematurely at the age of 45. A sad loss to the sport without question. Had he still been alive today, I am certain he would still have been involved, in whatever guise. In my opinion, a true gent, thoroughly deserving of the title of Grand Prix Legend.

Grand Prix Legends – Alain Prost

Prost followed the usual trend, and entered Motorsport via Karting, he progressed through the ranks winning both the French and European Formula Three Championships, joining the McLaren F1 team aged 25 (1980).

On his debut in Argentina, Prost scored a point, finishing in sixth. He remains only one of a very small number of driver’s to score in their first race. Despite a promising start to his career, and having two years left to run on his McLaren contract, he decided to leave for a drive with Renault in 1981.

Prost was joined by compatriot Rene Arnoux to produce an all French line up. But Prost would retire from six of the first seven races. It would be at his home Grand Prix, fittingly, that Prost would score his first victory with Renault. Two more retirements would follow in Britain and Austria; he would finally place fifth in the Driver’s Championship in his first season with the French marque.

His second season with Renault began well with wins in both South Africa and Brazil, but that was as good as it got. He did however improve on his previous attempt by finishing fourth.

During their time together at Renault, Prost and Arnoux’s relationship was not the greatest to say the least, but after the French Grand Prix that year it would decline further. Prost, who finished second to Arnoux, believed that he had reneged on a previous agreement where Arnoux would support him in the race.

Arnoux left Renault in 1983 to be replaced by Eddie Cheever. Prost secured a further four wins that season, but his relationship with the team and fans worsened. Prost believed the team were too conservative in the development of the car, and conversely, Renault blamed Prost for not winning the Championship for them. He was fired from the team just two days after the South African race, from which he retired.

He would return to the McLaren fold for the 1984 season to partner double World Champion Niki Lauda. Prost won his first race in Brazil on rejoining McLaren; and would go on to win six further races that season. Despite only winning five races, teammate Lauda would pip him to the Championship by just half a point.

The culmination of the 1984 Championship would be down to the foreshortening of the Monaco Grand Prix. Due to heavy rain, the race was stopped at the end of lap 32. Prost led the grid from Pole, and went on to win the shortened race. Because 75% of the scheduled laps had not been completed, only half points were awarded. If only the decision to Red Flag had been left a little later, Prost would probably have gone on to win the Championship that year.

Prost became the first Frenchman to win the Driver’s Championship in 1985; driving the McLaren MP4/2B TAG Porsche V6 (pictured above). Winning five of sixteen races that season; despite a Disqualification at San Marino for a car that was 2Kg underweight after scrutineering. Prost won by a huge margin of 20 points.

In 1986, Prost would be joined at McLaren by Keke Rosberg, replacing Niki Lauda, who had decided to retire from the sport at the end of the ’85 season. Prost would go on to successfully defend his Title, although the challenge from the Honda powered Williams cars was significant.

The 1986 season wasn’t without difficulties for Prost, he almost managed to run out of fuel at San Marino, but managed to coax the car over the line to victory. It was however, his actions at the German Grand Prix that would be noteworthy. Running in fourth, Prost had again managed to run out of fuel in the finishing straight on the final lap. To the delight of the crowd, Prost hopped out of the cockpit and tried to push the car over the line, but it was too far and he ended up finishing sixth.

The 1987 season would see Prost win three races, but more importantly, he would overtake Jackie Stewart’s record for the most Grand Prix victories, with 28 wins. Despite this, he would finish the season in fourth place, thirty points behind Champion Nelson Piquet.

In 1988, Prost convinced Team Principal Ron Dennis to sign Ayrton Senna to McLaren. This helped in persuading Honda to move engine supply from rivals Williams to McLaren, and would see the pair have the most successful season in recent history. Between them, Prost and Senna dominated and won fifteen out of the seasons sixteen Grands Prix; a record which remains unequalled to this day.

Prost scored 105 points in 1988, but only the eleven best results counted towards the Championship, so only 87 points were counted. Senna would score 94 points, with 90 points counting towards the Championship and became Champion despite not scoring the most points that year.

The McLaren dominance would continue into 1989, and would see the relationship between the two drivers deteriorate to out and out hatred. Prost had accused Senna of “Dangerous Driving” and even accused the team of favouring Senna with set-up and the resources he was offered.

The embittered pair literally came together at the Japanese Grand Prix. Prost had turned into Senna’s path as he went to pass him for the lead, and the team mates collided into the final chicane on lap 46. The Frenchman got out of the car, and the marshals separated the two, but had inadvertently put Senna’s car in a dangerous position. In pushing Senna forward to move him from danger, Senna managed to bump start the car and continue the race to win. But he was disqualified for missing the chicane, and later fined $100,000 and given a suspended six-month ban.

Prost’s accusations of favouritism towards Senna within the team would compound his exit, and he resigned in July 1989. He was promptly snapped up by the Scuderia, joining Nigel Mansell for the 1990 seas0n.

Alain would finish his first season with Ferrari in second place in the Championship, and took the place of lead driver as reigning World Champion, much to the disgust of Mansell. But Prost had seen Mansell as a threat to his superiority, and had convinced the Ferrari engineers to switch their cars (as detailed here).

The Prost/Mansell relationship had deteriorated significantly for Mansell to leave the team in 1990 to rejoin former employer Williams, and Prost was joined at Ferrari by compatriot Jean Alesi. Prost had failed to win a race in 1991 and blamed the team for their inferiority, publicly criticising the team by describing the car as “handling worse than a truck”.

He was fired prior to the end of 1991, and would go on to take a sabbatical in 1992. But he would return in 1993 to the Williams team, where he won his fourth and final title. But he was regularly challenged by Damon Hill, and ex-team mate Senna. Prior to the Portuguese race that year, he announced he would retire as the World’s most successful driver in the sport’s history.

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