Tag Archives: World Driver’s Championship

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.

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Grand Prix Legends – Ayrton Senna

Many in the world of Formula One regard Ayrton Senna as possibly the greatest racing driver of all time. His legacy was sealed after his untimely death in 1994 at the San Marino Grand Prix. He remains the most recent Formula One racing driver to have lost their life at the wheel.

Senna was encouraged from a very young age by his father, entering the karting scene from the age of four. However he was too young to compete as local regulations stipulated a minimum age of 13, so he was encouraged to race on made up tracks in streets and car parks.

From there he progressed through several disciplines, culminating in the 1983 British Formula 3 Championship. After his Formula 3 success, it wasn’t long before he grabbed the attention of several Formula One teams, and after some negotiations he was signed by the British Toleman team (later to become Benetton, then Renault).

With six wins and several podiums in his first four years at the top, the majority with Lotus; Senna was soon making an impact on the world of Formula One. The turning point in his career however, was when he joined the McLaren team in readiness for the 1988 season.

Senna’s arrival at the team was blessed by the then double World Champion Alain Prost however; it would be the beginning of a bitter rivalry between the two drivers. It seemed that Senna had indeed made the right decision in joining McLaren; eight wins in his first season secured him the elusive World Driver’s Championship.

Astoundingly, McLaren won fifteen of the sixteen races in 1988, a feat that has yet to be equalled by any constructor. Ironically, Senna was actually leading the race at Monza, but collided with a back marker and failed to finish.

He would be pipped at the post for the Championship in 1989 by teammate Prost, but the relationship had deteriorated to the point where Prost had decided to leave McLaren for Ferrari. In 1990 and 1991 Senna secured back to back titles and was proving to be a formidable force in Formula One.

Famously, McLaren suffered a decline in performance from then on and in 1994 Senna made the move to Williams, something he had set his sights upon. But his season began poorly with two starts and two retirements, hardly ideal.

Senna arrived at Imola still positive however, and declared that his season would start there, confident enough of his ability to secure the title, despite only having fourteen races with which to achieve his goal.

San Marino 1994 was perhaps one of the worst races in Formula One history, in terms of safety. On the Friday afternoon, Senna’s protégé Rubens Barrichello suffered a violent crash into the tyres at Variante Bassa, causing him to swallow his tongue, and breaking his arm and nose in the process, ruling him out of the race.

Things did not improve on the Saturday. During Qualifying, Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger was killed after the front wing of his Simtek-Ford failed as he was going flat out at the Villeneuve left-hander, ending up in the concrete wall.

Senna was concerned about the safety at the track and at other Grands Prix, and spent his final morning talking with fellow drivers about how their safety could be improved. Senna took it upon himself to instigate the setting up of the Grand Prix Driver’s Association, proffering himself as leader.

Despite their concerns with regard to safety, the drivers all agreed to start the race on the Sunday. But their concerns were vilified it seems. There was a huge accident on the start line, JJ Lehto’s Benetton-Ford stalled at the lights, and an unsighted Pedro Lamy in his Lotus-Mugen Honda collided with Lehto’s car at full speed.

Disturbingly, a wheel from Lamy’s car was propelled into the grandstand, causing injury to eight spectators and a Police officer. The race was not stopped, but was run under the control of a Safety Car.

As the Safety Car peeled off, the race re-started and Senna was showing fantastic pace, setting the third fastest lap of the race, closely followed by Schumacher. On the next lap, Senna went into the high-speed Tamburello corner and his car left the track, colliding with the concrete retaining wall at around 135 mph.

The medical team managed to remove Senna from the wreckage, and began to treat him next to the wreck before an airlift could be arranged. Unfortunately, Ayrton Senna was declared dead a little later at the Bologna hospital he had been taken to.

The right front wheel of Senna’s car catapulted up and entered the cockpit of the car, the debris impacting the right frontal area of Senna’s helmet above his right eye, killing him almost instantly.

Upon further investigation of the wreckage, Senna was concealing an Austrian flag in the cockpit of the car that he had planned to unfurl on the podium after winning the race, paying homage to his fellow racer Ratzenberger.

I suppose that was the true measure of the man, the legend that he already was, thinking of someone else before himself. Who would know what he could have achieved, had he continued racing. Unfortunately, we will never know.

A true legend was taken from us on that day, someone who would more than likely have shaped the world of Formula One as we know it today, had he still been here. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to have shed a tear watching that race on that fateful day.