Tag: Bahrain GP

Processions or races: why Sergio Perez should keep it up

It’s impossible to overtake at Monaco.

That was the general consensus going into last weekend’s Monaco GP. It’s the same every year. Yes, there is the occasional overtake – it’s not like it just never happens – but due to the tight and twisty nature of the track, it’s not as common as it might be on other tracks. On Sunday we saw many drivers driving a strategic race, with maintaining the tyres being the main goal. This led to a somewhat processional ‘race’ around the streets of Monte Carlo. But a couple of drivers didn’t seem to get the memo and instead Sergio Perez and Adrian Sutil made brazen overtakes. McLaren driver Perez found himself under fire after the race and not for the first time this season – but is the criticism just?

During the race on Sunday the 23 year-old went wheel-to-wheel with team-mate Jenson Button. It was Bahrain all over again, where the pair banged wheels and ran each other off the track. In Monaco Button once again got onto his radio, telling the team that Perez needed to stop turning in on him. When Perez eventually got past, he cut the chicane and was advised to give the place back. But that wasn’t the end. On the run down to the Nouvelle chicane, Perez dove down the inside and made a clean overtaking move, one that was later praised. It was a move that made some hold their breath but for the right reasons. With Button cleanly disposed of, Perez continued on his way and tried the same move on Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen.

These times were different, however. Alonso was forced to take avoiding action by running across the chicane, leading to radio communications between both drivers and their respective teams. Ferrari argued that Alonso had avoided a collision by taking the escape route while McLaren deemed him to have gained an advantage, like Perez himself had earlier in the race. In the end, Alonso had to hand the place to Perez and did so at the restart after a red flag period. Räikkönen was Perez’s last target.  The Mexican once again went for the inside but this time there was contact as Räikkönen pulled across onto the racing line. Perez’s front wing was damaged and Räikkönen pitted with a rear puncture. After the race, it was very clear that Räikkönen felt Perez was 100% to blame for their clash, suggesting “maybe someone should punch him in the face”.

But why? One could argue that it was a racing incident and that Räikkönen was as much to blame. There was still a gap when Perez made the move, and as Martin Brundle pointed out, it probably wasn’t just a spur of the moment occurrence, he would have committed from the exit of the tunnel. In the end Perez retired with brake failure from a solid points paying position – some might consider it to be karma. Despite having to pit, Räikkönen fought his way through to finish tenth, and if anyone knows how crucial one point can be it is him – in 2007 he won the championship by just that, a single point.

Fans of Formula One are particularly harsh critics on the sport – there are complaints if races are processional, but there are also complaints when a driver actually attempts to add some excitement by overtaking. Overtaking is a risk – drivers have to trust that the other driver won’t turn in on them or shut the door completely. Sometimes passes go wrong and drivers can end up missing an end-plate on their front wing, with a puncture, or in the worst case scenario, retiring from the race.  Remember back in 2009 when Kamui Kobayashi stepped in for an injured Timo Glock? He won over thousands of fans with his banzai driving, going wheel-to-wheel with championship contender Button in Brazil. As spectators, we enjoy the ‘ooh and ahh’ moments when we wonder if drivers are going to survive a battle. Some moves are just plain stupid, there’s no denying that, but would you rather a driver tried instead of holding back, maintaining position and not wanting to fight with someone because they’re in the championship battle? Even the best have their off-moments – in 2011 Lewis Hamilton couldn’t seem to stop getting mixed up in incidents with Felipe Massa.

At the start of the year, Perez was publically urged by McLaren to get his elbows out and not be so passive in the races, and he’s done that. He’s proven to be a match for Button, out-qualifying him on two occasions this season and racing with him. In Bahrain, as mentioned earlier, the pair of them were gung-ho as they fought to get ahead of each other.  However, while Perez took most of the flack, Button was just as bad at times.

Perez should be applauded for taking the initiative and not settling. Hopefully the constant media scrutiny and tough words from his fellow competitors will not lead to him losing his flare, as unfortunately sometimes happens. At the start of the season, Perez was subdued and seemed to hold back with his driving. You have to give him the benefit of the doubt though – he was plucked from a small mid-field team, where he impressed, and put in one of Formula One’s most iconic and successful teams. Perez has proven he’s fast and, if he can reign in his aggression just a bit, he could really go far. He shouldn’t stop going for the gaps, though. Because when he pulls it off, as he demonstrated with his move on Button, he can be pretty darn impressive. I’d rather see the Perez we’re seeing now, than start-of-the season Perez. Give him a car that is capable of doing so, and he could join the elite in becoming a race-winner in Formula One.

Given Formula One’s current state, in terms of tyres and drivers having to drive conservatively, could the sport not do with people who are willing to take the risk and actually race?


The Bahrain GP in Numbers

Statistics from the Bahrain GP weekend

Total number of laps completed (by driver)

Esteban Gutierrez 149
Nico Rosberg 149
Sergio Perez 144
Nico Hulkenberg 144
Adrian Sutil 142
Daniel Ricciardo 139
Jenson Button 139
Kimi Raikkonen 139
Paul di Resta 139
Felipe Massa 135
Mark Webber 134
Lewis Hamilton 134
Sebastian Vettel 133
Charles Pic 131
Valtteri Bottas 131
Pastor Maldonado 130
Romain Grosjean 130
Fernando Alonso 128
Max Chilton 114
Giedo van der Garde 112
Jules Bianchi 108
Jean-Eric Vergne 100
Heikki Kovalainen 20
Rodolfo Gonzalez 7

Total number of laps completed (by team)

Sauber 293
Mercedes 283
McLaren 283
Force India 280
Lotus 269
Red Bull 267
Ferrari 263
Caterham 263
Williams 261
Toro Rosso 239
Marussia 229

Number of race laps: 57
Number of safety cars: 0
Number of race starters: 22
Number of times race lead changed hands (includes pole sitter): 4
Number of different race leaders: 4
Number of classified drivers: 21
Number of retirements: 1
Number of drivers on lead lap at chequered flag: 15
Number of teams scoring points: 6
Most places gained: 6 (Pastor Maldonado 17th-11th, Sergio Perez 12th-6th)
Number of visits to pit-lane: 72
…of which were pit-stops: 71

Fastest lap of the race: 1:36.961 (Sebastian Vettel on lap 55)

How to win a Formula One race in 2012

The 2012 Formula One season is proving to be unpredictable and incredibly difficult to call with six different winners from the first six races, not to mention ten different drivers on the podium from seven different teams. Considering only five drivers won in the whole of 2011 with Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari dominating the podium (apart from two secured by Renault) the two seasons are already incredibly contrasting even though there has only been just over a quarter of 2012. Already a number of pundits are stressing that “consistency” in a year like this is key, and that it is – Fernando Alonso has consistently scored points in every race so far and leads the championship. Lewis Hamilton is the only other driver to score at every round, but a couple of eighth place finishes and no wins, mean that he sits in fourth place and lags behind Alonso in the championship by thirteen points at this stage. But, how do you go about winning a race in this crazy season? The answer is simple: keep a low profile. Don’t believe me? The evidence is all there.

Race winner: Jenson Button

Pre-season testing as usual presented the F1 world with a number of questions about the form of the teams. Who would come out on top? Who would struggle? McLaren certainly seemed like the team to beat going into round one and they started the season with a front row lock-out in qualifying with Lewis Hamilton on pole position. All eyes were on Hamilton to take the first win of the season but it was his team-mate who availed with Sebastian Vettel rising from sixth on the grid to take second while Hamilton slipped to third. It was the right team that won, but not necessarily the expected driver.

Race winner: Fernando Alonso

After a strong showing in Australia, McLaren were definitely the favourites going into the Malaysian GP. The Ferrari on the other hand looked to be a real handful, despite the fact Fernando Alonso finished the Australian GP in fifth. If anyone predicted the race result for this race, well they should be playing the lottery, because that is exactly what it was.    Alonso won with Sergio Perez in second. A Ferrari and a Sauber on the top two steps of the podium, with Lewis Hamilton (who was once again the lead driver in a McLaren front row lock-out) in third. No-one saw that coming!

Race winner: Nico Rosberg

For the first two rounds Mercedes looked fast in qualifying, but their race pace seemed to disappear. Fernando Alonso had won last time out, and despite the fact that Ferrari felt the damp conditions had flattered their car, there was still talk of whether or not they could do it again. McLaren were still there or there abouts with Lotus threatening to be quick, but it was Nico Rosberg who snatched pole position and lined up beside his team-mate (because of a Lewis Hamilton gearbox penalty). Rosberg went on to win the race, despite rumblings of dismissal from people who thought that once again Mercedes’ form would fade.

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel

With three different race winners from three races, predicting the next winner became increasingly difficult. After a win for Nico Rosberg in China he was the prime candidate to make it two wins. 2010 and 2011 world champion Sebastian Vettel was languishing a bit further down the order than he was used to and had been beaten by his team-mate in qualifying. He took a surprising pole and went on to win the race to make it four different winners from four races – not an entirely unexpected win, but not exactly the driver that had been touted for Bahrain.

Race winner: Pastor Maldonado

Lotus secured a double podium in Bahrain, with Kimi Räikkönen coming close to a race win, but not quite close enough. During free practice for the Spanish GP, Sky commentators David Croft and Anthony Davidson confidently stated that Lotus were the fastest car in terms of race pace and would be the team to beat, for sure. What happened? Pastor Maldonado took pole (after Lewis Hamilton was sent to the back of the grid) and he won the race – despite assumptions that Fernando Alonso would easily jump him and win. Räikkönen  was on the podium but it wasn’t a win.

Race winner: Mark Webber

After his win in Spain and because he stated that Monaco was his favourite race, people were touting Pastor Maldonado for a second win of the season. Other names in the frame included Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Räikkönen, and Romain Grosjean. Red Bull had won the last two Monaco GPs but it was generally reckoned that it would probably be a Lotus or McLaren victory. Who won? Mark Webber. Grosjean and Maldonado failed to complete a lap, Hamilton slipped to fifth, and Räikkönen finished a disappointing ninth. Once again the victor was not who everyone expected.

Race winner: ???

Not long after the chequered flag fell in Monaco I saw a headline stating Jaime Alguersuari had said Lotus were the team to beat in Canada – that’s them out then. Lewis Hamilton has won twice here before (including his first ever F1 win) so he probably won’t win. Michael Schumacher has won in Canada seven times, drives car number seven, has seven world championships and this is round seven – yeah, he probably won’t win either. Red Bull’s floor was deemed to be illegal so they’re changing it – they’ll probably win amidst the controversy. Or not now that I’ve said it. Who knows?

So there you go – don’t become a ‘favourite’ for the win and it seems that you then win. Don’t get me wrong, I am not taking anything away from the six drivers who have won already. All of their wins were great in their own ways. This is just a general observation, and really a little bit of fun. The season has been thrilling so far and it would be great to see more drivers win!

The Bahrain GP in numbers

Statistics from the Bahrain GP weekend

Total number of laps completed (by driver)

Sergio Perez 147
Kamui Kobayashi 142
Nico Rosberg 141
Sebastian Vettel 138
Romain Grosjean 138
Mark Webber 137
Daniel Ricciardo 136
Felipe Massa 135
Heikki Kovalainen 131
Vitaly Petrov 131
Timo Glock 131
Fernando Alonso 131
Kimi Räikkönen 128
Michael Schumacher 127
Lewis Hamilton 123
Jenson Button 123
Jean-Eric Vergne 123
Narain Karthikeyan 121
Paul di Resta 120
Pedro de la Rosa 119
Nico Hulkenberg 116
Bruno Senna 114
Pastor Maldonado 108
Charles Pic 101
Valtteri Bottas 24

Total number of laps completed (by team)

Sauber 289
Red Bull 275
Mercedes 268
Ferrari 266
Lotus 266
Caterham 262
Toro Rosso 259
McLaren 289
Williams 246
HRT 240
Force India 236
Marussia 232

Number of race laps: 57
Number of safety cars: 0
Number of race starters: 24
Number of classified drivers: 22
Number of retirements: 4
Number of drivers on lead lap at chequered flag: 14
Number of teams scoring points: 6
Number of times lead changed hands: 4
Most places gained: 12 (Michael Schumacher)
Number of visits to pit-lane: 74

2012: Bahrain GP: Review

Sebastian Vettel has won the Bahrain GP ahead of Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean. Vettel converted his first pole position of the season into his first win making it four different race winners at the first four races from four different teams. Räikkönen and Grosjean fulfilled what Lotus have been threatening for the first three races when everything came together for both of them during the race, allowing them to finish on the podium. It was a race to forget for McLaren, who had been leading both championships as they came to Bahrain, but will leave second to Vettel and Red Bull. Jenson Button retired from the race with just three laps remaining while his team-mate Lewis Hamilton suffered two botched pit-stops which cost him a lot of time, and he finished the race in eighth place – still picking up three points. Paul di Resta made a two stop strategy work to finish in a solid sixth place, just ahead of Fernando Alonso as they crossed the line. Felipe Massa picked up his first points finish of the season while Michael Schumacher, who had started 21st due to a poor qualifying and gear-box change, fought through the field to score a point. Fourteen of the 22 classified drivers were on the lead lap, with Jean-Eric Vergne in fourteenth. There was plenty of overtaking up and down the field, with the usual drama and excitement thrown in.

Kamui Kobayashi chose to start the race on the medium compound tyres while everyone else started on the soft tyres. There had been a few spots of rain before the race but it never amounted to anything, meaning the race was run in completely dry conditions as expected. As the lights went out there were a number of movers off the grid with Grosjean moving from seventh to fourth, Alonso from ninth to fifth, Button dropped from fourth to sixth, Räikkönen moved from 11th to seventh while Felipe Massa gained five places from his grid position. Daniel Ricciardo, who had qualified in sixth place, dropped right down the order to 16th place and reported that he suspected there was a problem with his front wing – suggesting that he had made contact with someone. Pastor Maldonado also moved significantly from 21st to 15th while Nico Rosberg was squeezed out at Turn 1 and dropped to ninth. Heikki Kovalainen, who had got his car into Q2 during qualifying, was unlucky to pick up a puncture and had to pit after only a lap.

Both Lotus drivers made good starts which allowed themselves to get into the position to be challenging for the race win with Sebastian Vettel. They certainly had the pace and this was demonstrated as both Räikkönen and Grosjean picked their way through the field early on, making easy work of passing the likes of Mark Webber, Alonso and Hamilton. Räikkönen then spent a lot of time behind his team-mate, losing time to race leader Vettel. When he did eventually get past Grosjean he pitted but after the pit-stops he reeled in Vettel. He had an opportunity to pass him when he used DRS to close up to him on the pit straight, however, as he dived up the inside he was forced to back out of the move and after that there were no real opportunities, leaving Vettel to go on and lead the race. Vettel’s team-mate Webber had a fairly quiet race and finished in fourth again. McLaren had no such luck in their race, with Hamilton salvaging a few points in the end. Hamilton had started the race in second but two botched pit-stops, which saw his pit-crew struggle with the left rear tyre, dropped him right down the order and also struggling with pace. After only eight laps both McLaren drivers were complaining about tyre wear and Button seemed to struggle for pace the entire race. He had to pit with four laps remaining due to a puncture and he retired from the race with only three laps to go with a car which really did not sound well at all.

Last week’s race winner Nico Rosberg found himself getting into bother with two separate incidents involving both Hamilton and Alonso being investigated by the stewards after the race. In the first one, Rosberg forced Hamilton wide onto the dust and close to a barrier. Hamilton, however, kept his foot on the throttle and overtook the Mercedes driver into the next corner. Rosberg radioed his team to inform them that Hamilton had overtaken him off track, but it looked like Rosberg had left Hamilton no-where else to go. A similar incident then happened with Alonso with the Ferrari driver clearly angry with Rosberg as he radioed his team telling them that he had been left no room. Rosberg’s team-mate Schumacher fought through the field to finish in the points after a disappointing qualifying. Di Resta’s two stop strategy was strong while team-mate Nico Hulkenberg couldn’t pick up any points. Pastor Maldonado’s race ended prematurely on lap 26 when a puncture caused him to spin and then retire. His team-mate Bruno Senna finished right down the order – a disappointing result for Williams after their strong showing last time out.

In the end it was Sebastian Vettel who won ahead of Räikkönen and Grosjean. Webber, Rosberg, di Resta, Alonso, Hamilton, Massa, and Schumacher finished in the points. There have been four different race winners from four different teams so far this year – you can follow the season statistics here.

Championship Standings

1. Sebastian Vettel 53 (↑)
2. Lewis Hamilton 49 (↓)
3. Mark Webber 48 (↑)
4. Jenson Button 43 (↓)
5. Fernando Alonso 43 (↓)
6. Nico Rosberg 35 (↔)
7. Kimi Räikkönen 34 (↑)
8. Romain Grosjean 23 (↑)
9. Sergio Perez 22 (↓)
10. Paul di Resta 15 (↑)

1. Red Bull 101 (↑)
2. McLaren 92 (↓)
3. Lotus 57 (↑)
4. Ferrari 45 (↓)
5. Mercedes 37 (↔)
6. Sauber 31 (↓)
7. Williams 18 (↔)
8. Force India 17 (↔)
9. Toro Rosso 9 (↔)

The racing continues in three weeks time with the Spanish GP – the start of the European season.