2011 F1 Season Review

Formula1

The year of the flying Bull and the infamous forefinger. 

 

Another year, another season in the life of F1, another world champion; it was all concluded at Interlagos last week. As usual, there are lots of things to talk about 2011. It was one of the longest seasons in F1 and had the longest race in the 60 year history of the sport – the 2011 Canadian GP.

Its often hard to imagine a season post the Schumacher era where one driver dominated the field the way Sebastian Vettel did this year. Jenson Button started the 2009 season in a similar fashion but it didn’t take long for others to catch up. But this year, not only did anyone hardly manage to catch Vettel, he annihilated the rest of the field almost every single race weekend this year. What happened, how it happened and what’s the secret behind the Vettel steamroller? Read on..

Grab a big mug of coffee and let’s begin where it all began! 

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Bahrain.

The 2011 season started off on a rather sour and controversial note. What went on in Bahrain and how F1 dabbled its name in the fiasco has been discussed in length all over the world. I did a lengthy one myself here. After much controversy, it was finally called off and almost everyone except the race organizers and Bernie breathed a sigh of relief. In all these years of following F1, if there’s one thing I’ve accepted as a rule of thumb, it’s Bernie’s greed. He is a human currency converter. Just like a currency converter cannot be related to anything other than money, Bernie, too, cannot be related to anything other than money. Whatever he says, whatever he does, whatever he bases his “judgment” & “decisions” on equates directly to money and money only. So, it was little wonder when he was acting like he did during the Bahrain controversy. He still maintains the same attitude that “things are okay there” and “we’ll return to Bahrain, there’s no problem” while the truth is far from it.

Anyway, let’s wait and watch if F1 rolls into Sakhir next year.

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Australia.

So, the season effectively stated two weeks later in Melbourne and as is usual at Albert Park, the race was great. What was the mystery was the new Pirelli rubber and I can guarantee that almost everyone was pretty pleased with what Pirelli had done. It was such a departure from the Bridgestones and provided for much of the excitement with its unpredictability and wear patterns. And no, the Pirelli’s didn’t fall apart in 5 laps as many were suggesting pre-season, in fact, rookie Sergio Perez, who finished a fine seventh until both Saubers were excluded post-race, completed the Australian GP with just one pit stop, driving the last 34 laps on a single set of soft tyres.

Another guy to make a debut was the Drag Reduction Rear Wing System (DRS). Although it provided for easier (almost cartoonish) overtakes, the opinion was rather divided about it. Some thought it was great and helped racing, while some, including me, thought it was too fake. If not the system itself, at least the usage regulations were broken. Two DRS zones that cancel each other out, like we saw at Yas Marina, were totally useless. Those regulations have to be tweaked if DRS had to actually make serious sense.

Anyway, Vettel took pole and finished what he was denied last year. Hamilton took second and Vitaly Petrov, with a fantastic drive, took his maiden podium in 3rd on the back of a disappointing debut season. The sheer superiority of the RB7 shone out when it was discovered that neither of the two cars had the KERS working and yet there was no one who had an answer to their pace for the entire weekend. Webber though, finished 5th, which is the highest he’s finished at his home race, equaling his best Australian GP finish on several occasions in the past.

Few of the highlights of the weekend were; the HRT cars were disqualified from taking part in the race after they failed to post laptimes within 107% of the fastest qualifying laptime set on Saturday and both the Saubers were stripped off their finishing results after they failed a post-race technical scrutiny. Shame for the debutant Sergio Perez who’d picked up points in his first race.

Another rookie in the form of Force India’s Paul Di Resta, scored his maiden F1 points on debut having been promoted to 10th as a result of the scratching off of the Saubers from the timesheets.

 

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Vettel Red Bull
2 Hamilton McLaren
3 Petrov Renault
4 Alonso Ferrari
5 Webber Red Bull
6 Button McLaren
7 Massa Ferrari
8 Buemi STR
9 Sutil Force India
10 Di Resta Force India

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Malaysia.

Over at Sepang, Vettel grabbed pole again and beat Hamilton to it by a tenth. Webber took 3rd followed by Button in 4th.

Sepang, unusually, was dry this year but it didn’t affect the race much because the Pirelli tyres were doing it for everybody! The high temperature nature of Sepang posed a new challenge to the teams and drivers in terms of tyre management.

Sunday saw Vettel taking the lead from the start but an unexpectedly fast-starting Renault with Heidfeld at the steering came up behind him in 2nd. This held up Hamilton quite a bit and provided Vettel with a buffer to fly 10 seconds into the lead. Hamilton pitted early in hope of undercutting Heidfeld but had to put on the harder compound as he was short of a set after flatspotting a a set of softs during qualifying. Massa lost almost 7 seconds in the pits with a stuck wheel and that cost him any chance of a podium. Jenson drove a well judged race as ever and took past everybody except Vettel who was too far ahead in the lead. Eventually, Vettel took his second win while Button and Heidfeld rounded off the podium. Alonso and Hamilton got involved and lost out on podium chances as a result. Di Resta scored again in his second race and maintained his 100% point-scoring record.

It was becoming evident that Pirelli had a done something no one had expected. They’d made tyres that made the racing fantastic and got them a lot of praise. Although there was the factor of everyone learning the new rubber, there was no denying that they were a lot better than the Bridgestones in terms of providing a challenge to the drivers and the teams which in turn made it exciting for those watching.

 

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Vettel Red Bull
2 Button McLaren
3 Heidfeld Renault
4 Webber Red Bull
5 Massa Ferrari
6 Alonso Ferrari
7 Kobayashi Sauber
8 Hamilton McLaren
9 Schumacher Mercedes
10 Di Resta Force India

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China.

A third successive pole position for Vettel established the RB7 and him as an ominous, almost unbeatable combination when it came to setting one-lap times on Saturdays. His team-mate on the other hand, following electrical issues in free practice and a questionable tyre choice, had one of his worst qualifying sessions in recent times and was knocked out in Q3. Webber had to start the race in a dismal 18th place on the grid.

Sunday, though, was not as clear-cut as the Saturday. An unusual poor start from Vettel cost him the lead and the McLarens of Hamilton and Button took past him in the opening lap at Shanghai. While the McLarens looked strong for a 1-2 finish for a while, an embarrassing mistake from Jenson saw him drive to the Red Bull pit for a tyre change. The RB mechanics were as miffed as everybody else and that mistake cost him a lot of time and a possible podium. In subsequent stops, the lead changed hands several times and with four laps to go Vettel was passed by Hamilton for the lead and victory. While all this lead-poker was being played among the three, Webber had driven a “true-to-Twitter-handle” race and was up to 3rd from 18th. Button was left ruing that rather bizarre mistake while Hamilton took the top step followed by Vettel and a heroic third place finish by Webber.

 

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Hamilton McLaren
2 Vettel RBR
3 Webber RBR
4 Button McLaren
5 Rosberg Mercedes
6 Massa Ferrari
7 Alonso Ferrari
8 Schumacher Mercedes
9 Petrov Renault
10 Kobayashi Sauber

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Turkey.

One of the best tracks on the calendar, unfortunately, happens to be one of the worst promoted and has one of the worst records in spectator numbers. Nevertheless, Istanbul had never failed to provide a good race and it was no different this year. While the immediate memories upon setting sight on the track were those of two Red Bulls driving into each other and then two McLarens showing them later how it’s done last year. I’ll leave it at that, it was 2010!

Turkey marked the start of the European leg of the calendar and as expected, most teams had updated cars. But none of those updates could put a blink into Vettel’s eyes as he took his 4th consecutive pole of the season, much to the dismay of everybody else. The first practice session was the first wet session of the season. Among the anticipation and speculation, the qualifying and race turned out to be completely dry. The qualifying highlight turned out to be Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg who beat the McLarens and the Ferraris to take 3rd on the grid.

The following Sunday marked Vettel’s most dominant win of the season yet as he finished almost 9 seconds ahead of team-mate Mark Webber who took 2nd on the podium followed by Alonso in 3rd, his (and Ferrari’s) first podium of the season. Apart from the race results, there were some other rather impressive stats to come out of Turkey. First being, both Red Bulls finishing 1-2 without driving into each other (sorry, I had to get that in!); most pit stops in a race ever (more than 80) and the highest number of overtakes since 1983!

And after all that, there’s no Turkish GP on the 2012 calendar.

 

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Vettel Red Bull
2 Webber Red Bull
3 Alonso Ferrari
4 Hamilton McLaren
5 Rosberg Mercedes
6 Button McLaren
7 Heidfeld Renault
8 Petrov Renault
9 Buemi STR
10 Kobayashi Sauber

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Spain.

Barcelona saw the first time Vettel was denied pole position on Saturday. Webber took pole followed by Vettel in 2nd and Hamilton in 3rd. Alonso put in a stunning lap to split the McLarens with a few thousandths of a second to spare on each side. It was especially brilliant considering the Ferrari was almost a second down on the McLarens up until the final lap by Alonso. He admitted that he couldn’t repeat that lap if he tried another 20 times. Button, as a result, was pushed to 5th on the grid. The Spanish Saturday also saw both Force Indias being beaten by the Lotus of Heikki Kovalainen who qualified 15th. It marked the first time Team Lotus entered Q2 in the dry.

On Sunday, home hero Alonso made a blistering start from 4th and took past both Red Bulls and Hamilton’s McLaren by Turn 1. He led the race from there till lap 18 when the used tyres played their role in slowing the Ferrari down. Eleven laps later, with his three sets of used softs gone, he bolted on his first set of new primes, and by lap 63, three seconds a lap off the pace, he was lapped! It eventually left the Spaniard in 5th at the end of the race. The fact that Ferraris struggle on hard compound tyres, be they Pirellis or Bridgestones, is not nothing new. But here, with the debut of an even harder compound from Pirelli, Ferrari was in a lot of trouble.

After getting the lead during the first round of pitstops, Vettel maintained P1 and finished just 6 tenths ahead of a hard-trying Hamilton. Button finished 3rd using a 3 stop strategy but was over 30 seconds behind his team-mate. Webber, after losing out in the pit-stop poker, came home in 4th.

Sergio Perez, deservedly, scored his maiden F1 points, this time successfully, by finishing 9th.

 

Results:

Driver Constructor
1 Webber Red Bull
2 Hamilton McLaren
3 Button McLaren
4 Massa Ferrari
5 Webber Red Bull
6 Alonso Ferrari
7 Schumacher Mercedes
8 Rosberg Mercedes
9 Heidfeld Renault
10 Perez Sauber

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Monaco.

The glamour capital of the Formula 1 world also happens to be one of the most challenging, respected and important races on the calendar. This year, Monte Carlo gave us some great racing and some rather disappointing results due to a ridiculous hole in the regulations. It all began with the DRS related safety concerns. After considering the nature of the narrow streets of Monaco, it was initially suggested that DRS be entirely banned for the weekend. But, following protests from some teams, it was finally allowed on the front straight for a little over 300 metres length that was marked as the DRS zone. However, under pressure from certain teams and the FOTA, DRS was banned in the tunnel during practice and qualifying. The EBD had also been deemed illegal following the weekend in Spain and thus was set to be banned for the rest of the season. That decision was overturned by the time everyone arrived in Monte Carlo. One of those incompetent things that the FIA do from time to time.

Anyway, Vettel took pole yet again after a violent crash at the tunnel exit for Sauber’s Sergio Perez left him with a concussion and a sprained thigh and the session red flagged with 02:26 left on the clock. This meant that at the restart, almost everyone had cold tyres and the time left wasn’t enough to post competitive times. Vettel took pole with the time he’d set earlier during the session before the red flags were dropped. He was later deemed unfit for Sunday.

Sunday was another pole to victory story for Vettel although it wasn’t one that many people agreed with.  It was business as usual with Vettel leading and a few incidents involving various drivers. One yellow flag and a safety car (for the Hamilton/Massa incident) later, Vettel was holding back Alonso and Button with degrading tyres. It was starting to look like he wouldn’t be able to keep the lead for long on the dying tyres but then a major incident involving Sutil, Hamilton, Alguersuari and Petrov forced a red flag on lap 72. Sutil incurred a rear-right puncture after clipping one of the barriers and Hamilton had to brake hard to avoid running into the back of him. Alguersuari, who was behind Hamilton could not react quick enough and ran into the back of Hamilton and then into the barrier which caused Petrov behind him to hug the barrier too. This mess needed the race to be stopped to clear the damaged cars. With 6 laps to go, Vettel was at the front with almost dead tyres and Hamilton was on the grid with a broken rear wing. What happened now caused a massive uproar. During the red flag period, while the cars were waiting on the grid for a restart, Vettel and Alonso changed to new tyres and Hamilton had his rear wing repaired. The change of tyres took an almost certain victory away from Button who had been pressuring Vettel for a long time and was looking good to pass him for victory. At the restart, Vettel took off and stayed in front for the remaining 6 laps giving him his first Monaco winner’s trophy. Alonso followed in 2nd, with Button finishing 3rd.

Why were the drivers allowed to change tyres on the grid? Why was Hamilton allowed to have his rear wing repaired?  Ask the sometimes clueless FIA!

This weekend also “officially” marked the beginning of the Hamilton/Massa tussle that went on till India. Talk about terrible luck!


Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Vettel Red Bull
2 Alonso Ferrari
3 Button McLaren
4 Webber Red Bull
5 Kobayashi Sauber
6 Hamilton McLaren
7 Sutil Force India
8 Heidfeld Renault
9 Barrichello Williams
10 Buemi STR

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Canada.

Montreal has been one of the most loved & well-regarded circuits on the calendar, and this year was one that many will remember for the longest time. It was packed with stuff that only happens once in, well, decades!

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has seen it all, from tangles to fantastic overtakes to crashes and has a barrier named “Wall of Champions” after several world champions crashed into the same spot year after year, (Vettel made it a point to add his name to it, albeit in free practice.) but, what was to happen on Sunday was of a different kind!

The FIA decided to introduce a double DRS zone for Montreal.

Qualifying saw Vettel take away pole yet again followed by Alonso and Massa in 2nd and 3rd respectively. It was the first time in 2011 that the Ferraris had broken into the top 3 in qualifying (shocking fact by Ferrari standards). It was also the first time in Hamilton’s career that he was not on pole in Montreal!

On Sunday, following heavy rains, the race was marked as wet and was started behind the safety car. After 4 laps, It was deemed safe enough for the race to run and the SC was called in. On the first racing lap (Lap 5), Hamilton and Webber got too close and Webber spun out. This left Hamilton in 7th and Webber in 15th. After running in fairly unchanged positions, Hamilton tried to pass Button on lap 8 but drove into the side of him instead. Although the incident wasn’t either’s fault, it left Hamilton with a broken suspension and out of the race. Button continued after a damage-check in the pits but soon had to return to serve a drive-through penalty for speeding under the safety car. That left him in 18th place. After the restart, Vettel began building a gap to the following Ferraris immediately and the Ferraris began pulling a gap to the 4th and 5th running Mercedes of Rosberg and Schumacher. Button started lapping considerably faster on Inters and soon Alonso and Schumacher took on Inters. But a second shower slapped the circuit and soon it was too wet and dangerous and the safety car was called out but soon after, the race had to red flagged on lap 25.

Now, the red flags stayed in place for almost 2 hours and there was nothing but wait on everybody’s mind. It was the strangest telecasts I’d seen in more than 12 years of my F1 following. When the race restarted, it was under the safety car for 8 laps and Button was 10th in the parade. In a couple laps time, everybody started going for Inters and Alonso and Petrov lost positions after having to wait in queue behind their teammates in the pits. Soon after, there was mild contact between Alonso and Button which spun Alonso out and punctured Button’s front left. The safety car was out yet again for allowing the clearance of Alonso’s car and Button had to limp into the pits for new tyres. Upon the restart (are you counting?), Vettel started to pull away pretty quickly from 2nd running Kobayashi who was too busy keeping Massa behind. Paul Di Resta was running as high as 5th at this stage but an overtaking move gone bad on 4th running Heidfeld caused damage to his front wing and he had to pit for repairs and later received a drive-through for it. Schumacher, Webber and Button had pitted early for slicks and were charging up the field with much faster lap times. Webber was lapping 3 seconds quicker than leader Vettel. Button put on a number of brave passes and was upto 4th by lap 52. Massa was running 3rd and was looking good for his first podium of 2011 when a silly error while lapping an HRT caused him to spin out and visit the walls. Now, it was Vettel from Schumacher from Webber from Button. Behind these four, Heidfeld drove into Kobayashi’s rear, broke his front wing and created himself a launch-pad and took off once the broken front wing went under his car. Out came the safety car and Vettel’s lead was reduced to none. Upon the restart, Webber tried desperately to pass Schumacher but ended up cutting chicanes and losing time. After two attempts, he made a small error and Button passed him for 3rd. Button then passed Schumacher immediately after and started breathing down Vettel’s neck. He got the gap down to less than a second with 1 lap to go and was in perfect position to take the lead when Vettel made a mistake under pressure and ran wide at Turn 6. It was a race win that will go down history books as one of the most dramatic, spirited and entertaining ones ever.

By the end, the race had run for more than 4 hours and thus had officially become the longest F1 race in history. It also broke the record for the most number of safety car deployments (6 if you were counting) in a race!

A race worth watching several times over and worth keeping in you your F1 collection!

 

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Button McLaren
2 Vettel Red Bull
3 Webber Red Bull
4 Schumacher Mercedes
5 Petrov Renault
6 Massa Ferrari
7 Kobayashi Sauber
8 Alguersuari STR
9 Barrichello Williams
10 Rosberg Mercedes

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Europe.

Valencia, one of the most unexciting, mundane and quite simply, terrible tracks on the calendar.

The double DRS zone was repeated here after Montreal and Pirelli introduced their medium compound for the first time.

The EBD drama and the decided ban on extreme engine maps was supposed to be put into effect after Valencia but there were certain limitations already in place for Valencia.

Vettel steamrolled his way to pole yet again and was followed by Webber in 2nd and Hamilton in 3rd.

On Sunday, Vettel pretty much led from start to finish to take his 6th win of the season. The battle for 2nd between Webber and Alonso was pretty much only thing worth watching at the head of the field as they exchanged positions twice with on-track moves as well as pit strategy. Alonso eventually emerged in front and took 2nd and Webber finished 3rd.

Also, Vettel scored a hat-trick of pole, fastest lap and victory for the first time.

A special mention here should go to Jamie Alguersuari, who started 18th and finished 8th with a fantastic drive. This was a follow up performance after he started from the pit lane in Canada and finished 8th.

All in all, Valencia pretty much lived up to it’s history of being one of the most unexciting races on the calendar. This was the first time in the history 24 cars had been classified as finishers and only the 4th time that there were no retirements at all. Facts that no one really cares about!

Personally, I’d be more than happy to see it go after 2014 or even sooner if possible.

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Vettel Red Bull
2 Alonso Ferrari
3 Webber Red Bull
4 McLaren Brawn
5 Massa Ferrari
6 Button McLaren
7 Rosberg Mercedes
8 Alguersuari STR
9 Sutil Force India
10 Heidfeld Renault

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Great Britain.

Back to where it all started 63 years ago! Silverstone is one of the oldest, most celebrated circuits on the calendar and is counted among the greatest racetracks around the world. And this time, it had undergone a massive upgrade in facilities and a key change to the half a century old track layout. More details can be found in my Silverstone article here.

The interesting new pit lane entry with a 5 degree bank, the new start finish line now situated between Club and the new Abbey and the departure of the much-loved Bridge with the new Arena layout meant that this was kind of a new race.

One of the early highlights of the weekend was Red Bull managed STR reserve driver, Daniel Ricciardo making his F1 debut with HRT. The Australian is considered to be one of the hottest new talents around and a possible replacement for Mark Webber at Red Bull when he leaves.

Practice sessions started on a wet track and Webber, Vettel and Alonso traded quickest laptimes. Qualifying was run on a part dry, part wet track and all drivers used different tyres and ideas to post quick laptimes.

Mark webber took his second pole of the season followed by Vettel in 2nd and Alonso in 3rd.

Sunday saw everyone start on Inters as the track was half wet and half dry. It was a strange situation and coupled with the new layout, promised an exciting race.

At the race start, Webber was dogged (again) by a poor start that allowed Vettel to get past into the lead. He held the lead until after the first round of pit stops.  Hamilton had already worked his way up and was running 4th having made 4 places on the first lap.

The second round of pitstops saw a bungle from both the Red Bull and McLaren mechanics. While the Red Bull crew’s error let Alonso get out ahead of Vettel from the pits, the McLaren crew missed a wheel nut on Button’s front right wheel, which caused him to retire right at the pit lane exit.

Vettel rejoined behind Hamilton who was running 2nd behind Alonso. Right about then, Hamilton was informed that he had to go into fuel-saver mode in order to finish the race which allowed both Vettel and Webber to pass him for 2nd and 3rd and allowed Massa to come right up behind him. After having met unpleasantly in Monaco, there was no love lost between the two as Massa tried to pass as he was clearly faster but Hamilton defending with all he had. The two made contact just before the finish line which forced off the track and let Hamilton finish 4th and Massa stayed 5th. Ahead of this, Webber had tried hard to get past Vettel despite an order from the team not to. A move that was cheered by many I’d say. He couldn’t though and stayed 3rd.

Alonso gave himself and Ferrari, what would be, their only win of the season. He finished a whopping 16 seconds ahead of 2nd place man, Vettel.

Force India had their share of bungles when a radio miscommunication left Di Resta waiting in the pits as the crew were expecting Sutil and had his tyres out. He lost a lot of time and a number of places as a result. On rejoining, he made contact with STR’s Buemi which caused a puncture on the STR and Buemi had to retire.

The race weekend also marred by the EBD controversy, one that most people on the outside just couldn’t understand and why should they. It’s the racing that matters, not hot exhaust gases flowing over the rear diffuser with additional off-throttle blowing or not. Not everyone is a boffin!

I will not go over technical details here but if anyone wishes to know more, please do feel free to ask me in the comments.

The controversy basically stemmed from the FIA deciding to ban off-throttle blowing Silverstone onwards – a decision that made neither sense nor was allowed. The regulations state that no technical alterations can be made to existing rules within a season unless it’s on grounds of safety. The FIA stated that teams were using extreme mapping to attain off-throttle blowing and that it was not safe. The teams argued that it had nothing to do with safety. FIA’s technical delegate Charlie Whiting then observed that teams were using movable parts inside the engine to attain aerodynamic performance and as movable aerodynamics parts were banned, the off-throttle blowing was illegal. The final ruling was that the teams were allowed to use only 10% of full throttle during braking when the driver lifts off of the gas pedal for off-throttle blowing and that the engine mappings would remain unchanged from qualifying to race. During the week of the British GP, the Renault powered teams led by Red Bull applied for concessions in the ban stating that the reliability of the Renault engines would be affected if the off-throttle limit was restricted to 10%. After a meeting, it was decided that a concession would be granted to the Renault powered teams to use upto 50% of full throttle under braking. As soon the other teams found out about this, there was natural opposition and uproar over it. The Mercedes powered teams vehemently opposed this move and eventually the concessions granted to the Renault powered teams were revoked.

An extraordinary technical meeting was called to resolve the dispute and it was proposed to return to what was the spec in Valencia. Ferrari and Sauber initially refused to sign the agreement to return to pre-Silverstone spec diffusers as they stood to gain from the ban but later agreed to sign the agreement in revoking the ban for 2011 and bringing it into effect in 2012.

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Alonso Ferrari
2 Vettel Red Bull
3 Webber Red Bull
4 Hamilton McLaren
5 Massa Ferrari
6 Rosberg Mercedes
7 Perez Sauber
8 Heidfeld Renault
9 Schumacher Mercedes
10 Alguersuari STR

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Germany.

Since 2007 (not considering the fact that a naming dispute casued the ’07 German GP at Nurburgring to be called the European GP), the German GP has alternated between Hockenheim and Nurburgring. And it was Nurburgring’s turn this year. The iconic circuit needs little introduction and is famous for its technical nature and challenging high-speed corners. With as many as six German drivers on the field, it was a unique race in certain ways.

What seemed like another Red Bull wipeout wasn’t as clear as it seemed. The Ferraris, especially that of Alonso, looked quite strong and it seemed like they’d taken a step forward since the win at Silverstone and were now close to Red Bull. Alonso posted many fastest laps during practice and carried it on to qualifying, until Red Bull opened their hand that is.

Mark Webber beat Alonso’s top time by four tenths and Vettel came in 2nd after Webber. And as everyone started to think that’s how it was going to be for Sunday, Hamilton posted a blinding lap time that was just a tenth off of Webber’s time and put him in 2nd pushing Vettel down to 3rd and Alonso out of the top 3. It was Webber’s second successive pole position and 3rd of the season.

This was the first time this year that Vettel would start a race behind the first row!

Sunday saw Mark Webber making yet another poor start, something that stayed unsolved till almost the end of the season. I’m still not sure if it was a clutch release issue coupled with low revs rooting from the engine mapping for the off-throttle blowing that he couldn’t get around or if it was the Pirelli rubber that didn’t like him. Anyway, Hamilton took the early lead from Webber and the Ferraris sandwiched Vettel. Sutil had made a good start and was upto 7th while Massa kept going backwards. Heidfeld and Di Resta had made contact which left them well down the field. After a couple laps Alonso ran wide and Vettel passed him for 3rd but he took the place back a few laps later. Up front, Hamilton ran wide which allowed Webber to get through but Hamilton put on a neat move on the inside of Turn 1 to pass Webber and get back in the lead.

At the next round of pit stops, Webber pitted early successfully undercut Hamilton for the lead and this would be the first time Webber led a race in 2011, as impossible as it may sound!

Sutil and Button were running two stop strategies and it seemed to have worked well until Button had to suffer his 2nd successive mechanical failure and retirement. Sutil went on to finish 6th, a great result in front of his home crowd!

Meanwhile, after the second round of pit stops, Webber struggled with cold tyres and Hamilton passed him for second. Alonso pitted last and came out in the lead, but, Hamilton put another nice move on the outside of Turn 2 and got past Alonso to take the lead and stayed there until the last round of pit stops for the option tyres. He was the first to pit and came out in the lead and held it until the chequered flag to take his second win of the season followed by Alonso in 2nd and Webber in 3rd. This would the first non-Vettel podium of the season.

The end of the race saw Alonso hitching a ride on Webber’s sidepod after he had to stop his Ferrari by the trackside for low fuel. Nice memory of Senna riding on Mansell’s sidepod back in the day!

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Hamilton McLaren
2 Alonso Ferrari
3 Webber Red Bull
4 Vettel Red Bull
5 Massa Ferrari
6 Sutil Force India
7 Rosberg Mercedes
8 Schumacher Mercedes
9 Kobayashi Sauber
10 Petrov Renault

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Hungary.

Hungaroring saw Vettel doing what he does best on Saturday. Hamilton looked strong all through Friday and Saturday until the Vettel’s last lap in Q3 which got him his 8th pole of the season. The two Mclarens lined up 2nd and 3rd on the grid. Massa had out-qualified Alonso for the first time in the season to take 4th while Webber lined up a disappointing 6th. A little further down, Sutil was enjoying his renewed qualifying form after a somewhat disappointing first half of the season. He lined up a strong 8th on the grid.

The race start was semi-wet and everyone started on the Inters. The top 3 got away fine and the order remained unchanged after the first few corners. Meanwhile, Webber had another poor start and so did the Ferraris which allowed the two Mercedes’ of Rosberg and Schumacher to get up to 4th and 5th. On the 5th lap, under pressure from a charging Hamilton, Vettel made a mistake and ran wide at Turn 3 which put Hamilton in the lead and Button right on Vettel’s gearbox.

As the track started to dry, Webber pitted for slicks and was followed by Button a lap later. Alonso had made progress in the meanwhile and as a result of Button’s pit, was now running 3rd. The top three, Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso were still running on the Inters while Webber and Button were lapping significantly quicker on the slicks. A lap later, when the three pitted for slicks, Hamilton was able to keep his lead due to the gap he’d built in the lead with super quick laps posted earlier, but, Vettel and Alonso lost places to Button and Webber.

At the second round of pit stops, Hamilton kept the lead in front of Button and Vettel. Webber and Alonso kept fighting for 4th.

At the third round of stops, Alonso pitted early and took on super-softs in hope of undercutting Webber, but Webber took on soft tyres at his pit stop later. Hamilton followed a similar strategy to Alonso and took on super-softs. This meant that he and Alonso had to make another stop in order to get to the end while Button & Vettel, like Webber, took on softs. Button and Hamilton had a good fight for the lead.

As a mild shower ran across the track a few laps later, Hamilton spun off at Turn 8, almost collecting Di Resta with him (who recovered with a spirited drive & finished a career-best 7th) while trying to rejoin the track. That move earned him a drive-through and his stop for Inters later and then another to get back on slicks when the track started drying, meant that Button had taken the lead. Vettel was running 2nd and Alonso 3rd. Alonso tried hard to get past Vettel but a spin towards the end meant that he had to settle for 3rd.

Button took his 2nd win of the season and it was pretty special as it was his 200th GP and the same place where he tasted his first F1 victory back in 2006.

McLaren took their second consecutive win and 4th of the season.

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Button McLaren
2 Vettel Red Bull
3 Alonso Ferrari
4 Hamilton McLaren
5 Webber Red Bull
6 Massa Ferrari
7 Di Resta Force India
8 Buemi STR
9 Rosberg Mercedes
10 Alguersuari STR

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This marked the mid-point of the 2011 F1 season. At this point, the championship table stood as follows:

 

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Belgium.

The world famous piece of tarmac in midst of the Ardenne mountains, better known as Spa-Francorchamps, has been considered the Mecca of motorsport for almost as long as motorsport has existed. It’s been time and again credited to separate the men from the boys. The classic, medium-downforce circuit is a favourite among drivers and fans alike. For a detailed view into this incredible circuit, you could refer to my dedicated article here.

When the F1 circus returned from the month-long summer break, Spa was waiting to welcome everybody into it’s challenging arms.

One curious question among fans was whether DRS would be allowed through the breathtaking Eau Rouge. The answer turned out to be NO. The FIA banned the use of DRS from La Source to Eau Rouge stating that it was too risky. The DRS zone was marked along the Kemmel straight starting from Raidillon.

The driver highlight of the weekend was Bruno Senna who was promoted to a race seat for the rest of the season at Lotus Renault GP. He’d replace Nick Heidfeld after having driven in one of the free practice sessions at Hungary.

After a wet start to the weekend followed by several spins and crashes during free practice, Schumacher, bizarrely, lost a wheel at Rivage during the warm-up lap at the start of Q1. That left him unable to set a lap time and as a result 24th on the grid. This was Schumacher’s worst starting position in his entire career.

A shower just before the start of Q2 left the track wet and saw Adrian Sutil crash at the top of Eau Rouge which forced the session to be red flagged with 7 minutes remaining. His time was only good enough for 15th at the end of Q2. The other shock exit was Button who could only manage 13th. The infamous Hamilton/Maldonado incident happened when Hamilton passed Maldonado with a shove-like move to get ahead into the clear. This prompted Maldonado to stupidly take a swipe at Hamilton the next time round at the approach to Eau Rouge. Hamilton’s car suffered a damaged front wing and sidepod. The McLaren mechanics had to change the front wing and fix the sidepod with duct tape to have it ready in time for Q3. The stupidity cost Maldonado 5 grid positions and earned Hamilton yet another visit to the stewards and a reprimand.

Q3 saw a dry racing line emerge and drivers put on slicks for the first time during the weekend. After a few fast times by various drivers, the Vettel steamroller rolled in and grabbed pole for the ninth time in 2011. Hamilton had to settle for 2nd and Webber took 3rd. Massa out-qualified Alonso for the second time and secured 4th while Alonso had to settle for 8th behind Rosberg, Alguersuari and 7th placed Senna. Senna was hailed for a fantastic qualifying on his debut with LRGP.

After the qualifying, a few teams including Red Bull raised a stink about not having enough tyres for the race due to severe blistering and thus use of extra sets of tyres during qualifying. Pirelli dismissed the request for extra sets of tyres saying that the teams in question were running extreme camber angles outside of the recommendations of Pirelli & the technical regulations that caused the excessive blistering. The FIA denied to accommodate the request and as a result, several of the cars in the top 10 had to use blistered Q3 tyres to start the race.

At the start Rosberg took the lead despite a strong start from Vettel. Webber had his anti-stall kick in and suffered another poor start. Behind them, Senna over-braked at the entry to La Source and rammed into the back of Jamie Alguersuari and aunched him into Alonso’s Ferrari. Although Alonso made it pretty much unscathed out of this, Jamie suffered a broken front suspension and had to retire. Debris from Senna’s car hit Button’s car and damaged his front wing. Also, a sharp piece flying at high speed, scarily, cut his right rear-view mirror off the car. Button had to pit early for a new nose and, as a plus, took on the option tyres sooner. Once DRS was activated on lap 3, Vettel made an easy job of Rosberg and took the lead. After the first round of pit stops, which saw Rosberg leading for a short while again, Alonso came out in front of Webber and the fight for 2nd was quite interesting to watch. Webber put an excellent move (arguably one of the best of the entire season) to get past Alonso.

On lap 13, Hamilton passed Kobayashi on the DRS enabled Kemmel straight leading to Les Combes and stuck a bit to the left on the racing line. However, he didn’t realise that Kobayashi had taken his tow and was on his outside. That error ended in a high speed crash which left Hamilton in the wall and unconscious for a moment. Although Hamilton criticized Kobayashi for the crash immediately after, he later apologised having realised it was his mistake. The crash brought out the safety car and in all this while, Schumacher had made it across from 24th to the middle of the field and Button was already up to 5th from 13th. Once the safety car was went in, Vettel started pulling away rapidly and Button started charging to the front. He almost looked like he was on his way to a win but could not hold up to the pace of the RB7. He made another pit stop to take on fresh tyres having made his first stop very early in the race. Alonso, in the meanwhile, was going backwards as Webber and then Button passed him to take 2nd and 3rd. He finally finished 4th with Schumacher behind him. Schumacher had come from 24th to finish 5th – pretty much the drive of the day! Rosberg had to settle for 6th, while Sutil took another strong result home in 7th. Massa finished 8th after picking up a puncture and having to do an extra stop in quick succession as he’d just taken on new rubber when the puncture happened. Petrov suffered a brake issue and finished 9th after losing 8th to Massa. The final scorer was Maldonado who put in a solid drive to finish 10th after starting 21st due to the earlier mishap and the resultant grid penalty.

It was Vettel’s 7th win of the season and a perfect 1-2 for Red Bull.

A fantastic race as ever at Spa.

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Vettel Red Bull
2 Webber Red Bull
3 Button McLaren
4 Alonso Ferrari
5 Schumacher Mercedes
6 Rosberg Mercedes
7 Sutil Force India
8 Massa Ferrari
9 Petrov Renault
10 Maldonado Williams

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Italy.

Monza. What is there that hasn’t been said about this circuit. It has accumulated every superlative known to man in the 90 years of its existence. The old banked oval, that even the daredevil bows to, still lies around here as a gift from Monza’s racing history. The whole place just screams of passion and pride for motor racing.

No other track on the calendar demands sheer horsepower like Monza does. The fantastic Curva Grande which sees modern F1 cars go flat out, is a treat to watch. This is, by far, the toughest race on the engines. Also, many teams create a special aerodynamic package due to the unique low-grip, low-downforce nature of the track which causes a lot of understeer and oversteer at different sections of the track.

Double DRS zones returned for Monza, but, this time, each zone had its own activation point and thus were independent. While the 1st zone was on the main straight, the 2nd was marked between Lesmo 2 and Ascari. This posed an interesting challenge to the teams as they could either choose to run high downforce wings for higher grip at the corners and use the DRS zones to minimise drag during qualifying or run a more conservative, race-suited, low downforce package. Most teams tried both packages during practice.

Red Bull were believed to have a weakness at low downforce and top horsepower circuits and were thus the second or even third favourite for Monza honours. But all of that theory went with the wind as Vettel topped the timesheets almost every session.

Qualifying sessions seemed like the usual business as Vettel took pole followed by Hamilton and Button in 2nd and 3rd respectively, separated by 5 hundredths of a second. What was the glaring fact was that Vettel was half a second quicker than Hamilton! So much for Red Bull’s weakness..

On another high, Vettel’s tenth pole of the season put him equal with the great Ayrton Senna as the only the second driver to have had 10 poles in 2 different seasons. Pretty mindblowing that!

2010 winner, Alonso, took 4th on the grid followed by Webber in 5th, who did only a single run in Q3. Massa lined up 6th followed by Petrov, Schumacher, Rosberg and Senna, who made it into Q3 for the second successive time in his second race for LRGP.

Sunday was no different for Vettel and Red Bull as they put a full stop to the belief that low downforce tracks didn’t suit them as Vettel successfully overcame a charge from a fast-starting Alonso who took the lead into the first chicane from 4th on the grid, much to the delight of the Tifosi. But, Red Bull’s 100% finishing record suffered a setback when Webber crashed out after 4 laps when his front wing went under the car after contact with Massa’s Ferrari and put him in the wall.

The scene behind the front runners wasn’t so nice as Liuzzi lost control of his HRT while trying to avoid Kobayashi and Kovalainen. He got onto the grass sideways and was a passenger as the HRT shot across the chicane and into Petrov and Rosbergwho were in the middle of the chicane at the time. That put all three out of the race and caused Barrichello his front wing when Rosberg got shoved into his path. Although pretty much immaterial, Liuzzi was handed a 5-place grid penalty for Singapore. Safety car was out and bunched up behind it were Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton, Schumacher, Massa, Webber, Di Resta, Maldonado, Perez and Alguersuari.

At the restart, Hamilton was caught concentrating on the wrong side of him, as he was too involved in keeping Schumacher behind. This meant, Vettel was already flying and in position to pass Alonso. Vettel put in a stellar move with two wheels on the grass on the outside of Curva Grande at high speed to take Alonso. Job done.

Meanwhile, Schumacher made full use of the higher straight line speed of his Mercedes to leave Hamilton in his mirrors and get up to 3rd. Webber too, managed to get past Button and tried to do the same to Massa. Unfortunately, Massa wasn’t as generous and it ended up in a tangle and Webber crashed out of the race. Safety car was out again.

Adrian Sutil and Force India suffered their first mechanical retirement of the year with a hydraulics failure.

Senna, behind all this, had mirrored Rosberg’s trye strategy as he started on the primes like Rosberg, knowing the straight-line pace of the Mercedes was way more than his Renault and there was no way he could pass him on sheer pace. He went straight into the pits as soon as the safety car was out, to put on the harder-compound options in order to be able to get to the end with less stops on options. The plan paid off as he collected his first F1 points and put the “Senna” back in the points after Ayrton did that for the last time in 1993.

Now Hamilton, rather unusually, was stuck behind Schumacher for almost 30 laps and was unable to pass him after several attempts. While Schumacher was clearly being over-defensive and made a few moves too many, I still think it was Hamilton’s ragged season and various crashes and mistakes that played a part in him taking it with too much caution. Schumacher received several radio messages from Ross Brawn about blocking Hamilton more times than allowed. All this allowed Button to get close and pass Hamilton for 4th. Button then managed to get past Schumacher in a single attempt by putting a pretty brave move on the outside towards Ascari – one of the best passes of the season. Hamilton eventually got to 4th when Schumacher pitted.

Vettel comfortably won the race with 9.5 seconds between him and Button. Alonso was able to keep his 3rd place by just 0.5 seconds as, after being freed from behind Schumacher, Hamilton had charged up to almost passing him but only just missed out. Di Resta finished a strong 8th and collected 4 points for Force India and STR celebrated a double points finish at their home race with Alguersuari putting in yet another brilliant drive from 18th to 7th and Buemi finishing 10th.

This 8th win for Vettel put him a massive 112 points ahead of Alonso, who had now moved to second as a result of Webber’s non-scoring weekend. It was, practically, pretty much impossible for anyone to catch Vettel in the championship run now.

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Vettel Red Bull
2 Button McLaren
3 Alonso Ferrari
4 Hamilton McLaren
5 Schumacher Mercedes
6 Massa Ferrari
7 Alguersuari STR
8 di Resta Force India
9 Senna Renault
10 Buemi STR

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Singapore:

On to the second set of fly-away races, the F1 circus arrived back in Asia at the floodlit streets of Singapore for the only night race on the calendar. This GP has a love-hate relationship with the drivers and fans. While the bright street circuit against a glittering Central Business District of Singapore makes for a breathtaking view, the layout of the track itself is uninteresting. Unlike Monaco, the excessive number of kinks and tight, slow-speed chicanes in Singapore provide few overtaking opportunities and result in rather dull racing.

As everyone had pretty much expected, Vettel clinched his 11th pole of the season beating Webber by 3 tenths to it. Button put in a good lap to take 3rd on the grid, just seven hundredths of a second slower than Webber. Hamilton had to settle for 4th by a margin of five thousandths of a second to Button. Alonso was in his usual super-human element and took the Ferrari round Marina Bay almost a second quicker than teammate Massa. For the entirety of the season, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Alonso as he had been driving way above the capability of the Ferrari but still unable to achieve the desired results. The guy truly is the best of his generation.

The top 10 was rounded off by the two Mercedes and the two Force Indias that had established themselves as pretty much the best of the mid-field by now. Rosberg took 7th while Schumacher, Sutil and Di Resta chose to stay in for Q3 and save a set of tyres for the race.

At the race start, Vettel pulled away neatly from pole and led into the first corner while Webber was dogged by his (now customary) poor start. This saw Button move up to 2nd and Alonso move up to 3rd after Webber moved to block Hamilton from getting past. Hamilton had to lift-off to avoid running into Webber and that left him in a lowly 8th.

Vettel was putting in jet-paced lap after lap and had opened up 2.5 seconds to Button just after the first lap. By the 10th lap, that gap was more than 10 seconds. While Alonso could not keep up with Button’s pace, he went backwards as Webber passed him for 3rd. He pitted immediately after to take on primes but that was that. The top 3 remained unchanged for the rest of the evening.

Behind these four, Hamilton and Massa pitted at the same time and Massa came out in front. Hamilton had taken on supersofts as opposed to Massa’s softs and was eager to get past the Ferrari before its tyres got up to temperature. Turn 7, which hosted last year’s tangle between Hamilton and Webber, hosted another tangle this time. Hamilton tried to put a move on Massa when he shouldn’t have and ended up clipping the Ferrari’s rear wheel with his front wing. Massa had to stop again to change his punctured rear while Hamilton had to stop for a new wing and was later handed a drive-through for his efforts.

On lap 29, Schumacher, acting against his experience, tried to lay a manoeuvre on Perez but ended up tapping him and ending up into the tyre barrier at Turn 8. That brought out the safety car and levelled the gap that Vettel had built. To his advantage, there were a few backmarkers between him and Button that allowed him to pull away at the restart. Button was held up behind a lapped Kobayashi for more than a lap and that lost him any chance of catching Vettel in spite of putting the hammer down and closing in on Vettel at almost a second a lap.  Vettel had a scare in the pits when Kovalainen’s Lotus almost collected him on the way out. Team Lotus were $10,000 poorer as a result of that unsafe release.

Behind them, after having done 4 stops and a drive-through, Hamilton passed Sutil, Rosberg and Di Resta in 4 laps time to take 5th at the chequered flag. Di Resta finished a career-best 6th followed by Rosberg in 7th and Sutil in 8th. Massa came home in a disgruntled 9th with Perez managing to salvage the last point in 10th after falling victim to Schumacher earlier.

Vettel’s 9th win of the season put him in a place where he needed just a single point to be crowned double world champion, something that was all but guaranteed. Button overhauled Alonso to take second in the standings.

Force India’s double points finish following a string of strong performances put them firmly in 6th in the Constructors’ standings ahead of Sauber and Toro Rosso and just 22 points behind Renault with 5 races to go. Over the last 5 races, they’d collected 36 points against Renault’s 5. So, a 5th place in the Constructor’s wasn’t impossible.

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Vettel Red Bull
2 Button McLaren
3 Webber Red Bull
4 Alonso Ferrari
5 Hamilton McLaren
6 Di Resta Force India
7 Rosberg Mercedes
8 Sutil Force India
9 Massa Ferrari
10 Perez Sauber

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Japan:

The legendary Suzuka was the next stop. It was a special occasion after what had happened in Japan earlier this year.

Suzuka, known for its “figure-8” layout as the back straight passes over the front section of the track creating an 8 like shape, houses some of the most famous and challenging corners of any F1 track. The high-speed 130R is one that many regard with great respect. It’s one of the oldest tracks that remain on the F1 calendar and many championships have been decided here as it used to be the season ending GP.

Free practice made the McLarens look stronger than ever and just when it was looking like one of the McLarens would break Red Bull’s 100% pole record in 2011, Vettel took it away by 9 thousandths of a second from Button. Hamilton, who was confident that pole was gettable, was stuck waiting behind Button and then Webber and Schumacher almost ran into him which resulted in him not making across the start line in time to do his final run. He took 3rd on the grid. Webber could only manage 6th after losing time in the second sector on his final run and then hitting the DRS button too early which made it fail to activate. Massa out-qualified Alonso for the third time in the season and lined up 4th, alongside his contact-buddy Hamilton.

The rest of the top 10, Schumacher, Senna, Petrov & Kobayashi, chose to stay in the pits for Q3, although, Kobayashi did come out at the end just to do a lap which put him in 7th.

Sunday provided one of the most closely fought races of the season between the top 3 teams as only 2 seconds covered the top 3 cars at the chequered flag.

At the start, Vettel pushed Button off the track on to the grass and kept the lead through Turn 1, Button had to lift off and Hamilton ran past him into 2nd. Hamilton was able to hang on to Vettel for about 5 laps but then his lap times started to fall. He had a slow puncture. Button passed him into 2nd on lap 8 and Hamilton headed to the pits. Alonso had got past Massa on lap 5 with DRS and was running 3rd, just a few seconds behind Button. His lap times showed that Ferrari had good race pace. Webber got past Massa and was running 4th, a couple seconds behind Alonso.

By lap 18, Button was just 1.6 seconds behind Vettel and when the Red Bull pitted, he took the lead. Red Bull lost some time in the pits and as a result Button carved out a gap large enough for him to pit on the next lap and rejoin in the lead. He stayed there through the next rounds of pit stops and till the end. Vettel lost time behind Rosberg and Sutil and Alonso came out in second from his last pit stop. Alonso almost caught Button in closing stages and got within DRS distance but in the end Button was quick enough to get him first across the line. Vettel crossed the line in 3rd. The three were covered by just 2 seconds while Webber made it in 4th 6 seconds later.

Hamilton came in 5th after having made contact with Massa yet again on lap 21 when Massa got up the inside of him at 130R and Hamilton turned in on the Ferrari. Hamilton pitted while Massa was forced to continue with a damaged front wing and floor. The Brazilian was visibly unimpressed and did not buy into Hamilton’s explanation that he could not see Massa on the inside due to heavy vibrations in the mirror.

Button took his 3rd victory of the season and Vettel was the 2011 World Champion. It was a pretty special day indeed.

 

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Button McLaren
2 Alonso Ferrari
3 Vettel Red Bull
4 Webber Red Bull
5 Hamilton McLaren
6 Schumacher Mercedes
7 Massa Ferrari
8 Perez Sauber
9 Petrov Renault
10 Rosberg Mercedes

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Korea:

After making it in the nick of time for the first ever Korean GP last year, Yeongam hosted its second F1 race in 2011. The track, which was only just completed and licensed at the very last moment in 2010, had a lot of work incomplete with regards to facilities and such. Even the run-off areas were spray painted instead of real grass. With no funding support from the Korean government, the venue has struggled to keep up and now faces a serious threat of losing F1.

Anyway, the inaugural Korean GP was a success and the crowd turnout was decent. And it was a similar report from Yeongam this year. The track itself is one of Herman TIlke’s better designs and is unique in the sense that it’s part permanent, part temporary. The pit lane is used for shops and cafes during the year and converted back into the paddock complex for the F1 weekend. It was reported that the venue could possibly hold a night race in the future once they had enough experience of organising GPs.

Friday saw a collision at the pit lane exit between Rosberg and Alguersuari which prompted teh installation of a new system of warning light before Turn 1. There were also calls made for the reconfiguration of the pit lane exit for the future to avoid the repeat of such an incident.

Qualifying was particularly satisfying for a lot of people as Lewis Hamilton broke Red Bull’s 100% pole record and took his (and anyone other than a Red Bull Driver’s) first pole of the season. Hamilton beat Vettel to pole by a comfortable 2 tenths and it certainly relieved him to a certain degree after the nightmare of a season he’d had so far. Button was a further 2 tenths down in 3rd.

The occasion was fitting for McLaren as it was their 700th GP. They had been on the up since Japan and looked pretty good to bring it home first across the line in Korea. Button’s tyre management genius had won him several GPs, including Japan a week ago, and Pirelli’s aggressive tyre choice for Korea meant that a lot of money was on Button for the victory.

Red Bull had both their cars lined up on the dirty side (2nd and 4th) of the track and in Korea, the dirty side was particularly dirty as the track saw almost no action for a year. Behind the top 4, Massa out-qualified Alonso for the second successive Saturday which took the face-off to a 12 – 4, where, Massa had out-qualified Alonso 4 times in the last 6 outings.

Petrov had a better Saturday and secured 8th on the grid, behind the Mercedes of Rosberg and the two Force Indias completed the top 10. Adrian Sutil’s qualifying mojo had returned in the second half of the season but he was out-qualified by Di Resta yet again.

The race started relatively without incident except for contact at the rear between a Sauber and a STR. At the approach to Turn 4, Hamilton left a gap that was good enough for Vettel to slip through and take the lead. Then on, it was pretty much your story of the season – no catching Vettel.

Into turn 3, Massa managed to shoot two birds with a pellet and got past Webber and Button in one move. But, as Button and Massa were too involved with each other, Webber managed to sneak past and got ahead into 3rd.  With a slight loss of momentum, Button lost a place to the second Ferrari of Alonso.

On lap 13, Button pitted from 6th planning to undercut the Ferraris and Rosberg followed him into the pits from 7th. Rosberg had a quicker stop and on the exit, the two were side by side and almost came together. Jenson dived into the inside and took the lead but Rosberg immediately got ahead with DRS. The move was reciprocated by Button the next lap round.

Massa and Webber pitted on lap 14 and both opted for the prime tyre. Alonso and Hamilton went in after 15 laps, Lewis taking on supersofts and Alonso the softs.

Vettel was last of the leaders to pit. He’d done his second Q3 run and the first 16 laps of the race on a single set of supersofts, which was quite contrary to what everyone had expected. So, quite naturally, he went for another set of the primes.

On the pit exit, Alonso came out just behind Schumacher and almost fell over him while Petrov behind, flicked the DRS button and swooped past Alonso. Alonso fought back as his tyres got up to temperature but they both got carried away and braked too late at Turn 3. While Alonso got away using the run-off, Petrov torpedoed Schumacher’s Mercedes and put both out of the race. His hesitance to brake on time earned Petrov a 5-place grid drop for India.

That brought out the safety car and Vettel was a worried man. He tried hard to keep Hamilton out of his DRS zone and Hamilton, while pushing to keep at Vettel’s heels, was being chased by a fast charging Webber, who’d found sudden stability on the primes. When most of us thought Red Bull would pit Webber earlier to undercut Hamilton, they, surprisingly, pitted him with Hamilton but could not pass him in the pits. He came out behind Hamilton and there was a fair and nice on track battle between the two. But their race-craft exhibition meant Vettel, in the lead, was pulling away at over 3 seconds a lap faster than either of them.

Both McLarens reported understeer and even after putting higher angles on the front wings, the problem refused to go. It was later discovered that Hamilton’s front wing had an air slot blocked by rubber and Button’s front wing had suffered damage by running over a rock.

Alonso led the race for a short while Vettel went for his second stop on lap 34. Fernando later went in for his stop after Massa had done his and managed to get ahead of Massa as Massa was stuck in traffic on his out-lap. He suddenly found pace in clean air and was setting purple laps. Unfortunately, he didn’t have enough time to get closer to the bunch ahead and had to settle for 5th.

Alguersuari had another fine race and got past Rosberg on the last lap to take 7th. Buemi made it a double for STR by coming home in 9th while Di Resta put in a good drive to get into the points for the sixth time in the season.

Vettel took his 10th victory of the season and with Webber coming in 3rd, Red Bull had sealed the 2011 Constructors’ title too. The only thing that was left for most people to see was, if Vettel could break Nigel Mansell’s ’92 record of most poles (14) in a season and whether he could match Schumacher’s 13 wins in a season record. He already had 12 poles and 11 wins. So, with 3 races to go, he could achieve both records, and given the kind of season he’d had, it was foolish to bet against him.

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Vettel Red Bull
2 Hamilton McLaren
3 Webber Red Bull
4 Button McLaren
5 Alonso Ferrari
6 Massa Ferrari
7 Alguersuari STR
8 Rosberg Mercedes
9 Buemi STR
10 di Resta Force India



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India:

It’s hard to decide where to begin about this one. There’s a whole sea of thoughts and feelings running through my head as I try to write this. A new place for Formula 1, a very important race, a really interesting track, a long-time dream come true, a milestone in Indian motorsport, a proud moment for every Indian race fan, there are just too many bells for this particular event.

After several failed attempts, several blockades and a bunch of naysaying politicians, the Indian GP finally came to life. Just outside the capital New Delhi, this purpose-built, 5.14 km long circuit is one of the fastest on the F1 calendar, with average speeds of over 210 km/h and a possible top speed of 320 km/h (which was beaten by STR’s Jamie Alguersuari when he posted a speed trap figure of 324.2 km/h).

In the build up to the weekend, there were several roadblocks in the form of tax issues, custom issues and visa issues that threatened to derail the event. The Indian government, living up to its reputation, caused several headaches by being as uncooperative as ever but the organisers, Jaypee Group, deserve a huge thumbs up for not letting any of that affect the event. Thankfully, it was all sorted and out of the way in time and the crown jewel of Indian motorsport, the Buddh International Circuit (BIC), was opened for business!

With about 600 tonnes of air cargo aboard five Boeing 747-400F freighters and another 900 tonnes of sea freight, it was probably the largest logistics drill ever conducted in the country.

There were niggly issues that are normal for any first time event and for a venue that was readied in a short time, but, those were issues that can easily be rectified by the next Indian GP.

The organisers have also bagged a Moto GP contract for 2012 and there is every possibility of the prestigious Australian V8 Supercar championship to hold a round at BIC in 2012 too.

The main straight, at 1.06 km, is one of the longest straights in F1 and similarly, the pitlane, at over 600 metres, is one of the longest in F1. The undulating nature of the track, coupled with wide hairpins and a sweeping triple-apex right hand curve make the track unique, flowing and very challenging. No surprise, it has been hailed as Hermann Tilke’s best work to date. The track was well received by every single driver and the motorsport community, for the most part, agreed.

The double-DRS zones made a return for the Indian GP. The first zone was marked on the main straight while the second zone was marked on the long back straight after Turn 3.

There were initial concerns about too much dust on the track and that outside of the racing line, the track was too dirty. This would pose problems when anyone went off the racing line, either to overtake or to let a car by in a blue flag situation. Pirelli chose to take a safe & conservative approach and brought in the hard and soft compounds. Some of us were a bit disappointed by that as it meant lesser stops and lesser excitement in the race. But, their choice was understandable considering it was an unknown surface and quite green and dusty. I’m hopeful that next year will see them bring the softer compounds as the track would have a much better surface by then and we’ll most certainly see a much more exciting race than this year.

One thing that I still don’t have an answer to is, why did the organisers not use Trackjets prior to Friday running to clean the track? For those of you who do not know what a Trackjet is, it a cleaning vehicle that is used to clean runways and racetracks. It employs water sprayed at very high pressure onto the tarmac to clear any dust and debris without affecting the tarmac. It’s fast, efficient and the surface is ready to use in as little as 15 mins after the cleaning. Maybe they could not acquire the machines in time, maybe they thought it wasn’t necessary, but I’m sure they know about it. Of course, the growth of landscaping and vegetation around the circuit will help a lot to curb the dust by next year and I hope they do employ Trackjets to ensure a clean tarmac.

The amount of dust was clearly visible during the weekend and it had a considerable effect on the racing, as expected.

Although Friday practice got off to a start pretty smoothly, a stray dog somehow walked onto the circuit and the session had to be red flagged until the lost animal was led out!

Once the session restarted, the two Force India cars, the Lotus of Karun Chandhok and the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan lined up at the head of the pit lane to be the first cars to lap the circuit and Chandhok stayed out to set a timed lap. He, thus, officially became the first driver to set an official timed lap of the BIC.

Most drivers struggled for grip due to the dust and a few ran wide at different parts of the track. Alguersuari ran wide and went into the barriers, Maldonado suffered a blown engine and Alsonso suffered a loss of power. Hamilton and Perez received 3 place grid penalties for ignoring the yellow flags that were out due to Maldonado’s dead Williams on the track.

In the second session, Turns 6 & 7 proved quite tricky as a lot of drivers went off there. Jerome D’Ambrosio crashed after running wide at Turn 11 and clipping the kerbs at Turn 12. The session had to be red flagged until D’Ambrosio’s car could be recovered.

The third session on Saturday morning saw laptimes tumble as the track had gotten cleaner and rubber had been laid down from Friday’s running. Vettel was in his usual element and set the fastest time. One noticeable thing during this session was the front wing on the Ferraris. They were visibly vibrating too much and attracted the FIA’s attention. But the problem seemed to have subsided when Massa’s front wing was replaced.

For qualifying, most teams observed that tyre warm-up was an issue as the first sector consisted of three long straights and thus it was difficult to get the tyres up to temperature in one lap. Many teams chose to run a 2 or 3 lap stint for optimum performance.

Vettel took pole from Hamilton by 4 tenths who was ahead of Webber by a tenth. But Hamilton’s penalty from Friday meant he’d have to start from 5th. This promoted Webber to 2rd, Alonso to 3rd and Button to 4th. Alonso’s time was just a hundredth short of Webber’s and faster than Button’s which surprised Alonso and everybody else. Massa, on the other hand, had a bizarre incident when he clipped a kerb on Turn 10 and the front suspension of the Ferrari went to peices!

Behind the top 5, Massa lined up in 6th, followed by Rosberg in 7th, Sutil in 8th and the two Torro Rossos of Buemi and Alguersuari in 9th and 10th. Schumacher had a dismal session and had to line up 12th followed by the second Force India of Di Resta in 13th.

It was also a major first for HRT when they out-qualified both the Marussia Virgin cars.

Sunday started with a rather heart-warming tribute to deceased racers Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli in the weeks prior to the Indian GP. It was a very difficult time for everyone involved in motorsport and a minute’s silence was observed at the venue in honour of the departed.

As the cars lined up for the first ever Indian GP start, the excitement was immense and anticipation levels high.

The five red lights went out and Vettel was off to a clean start. Webber tried to take a look down Vettel’s inside but soon had to move to the outside to fend off Alonso who was trying to get round the outside of Webber. Alonso had to back off and that allowed Button to get past into 3rd. Button then took Webber on the long straight without DRS. Back down the field, the two Williams’ had met and Barichello had a broken nose, while Kobayashi and Glock took each other out.

Vettel at the front was doing nothing new and pulling away from Button so quick that Button never had a chance to get into his DRS zone. Meanwhile, Webber behind was unable to pass Button even with DRS. Most of the drivers were maintaining a safe line and weren’t taking too many chances outside the racing line due to the dust and low grip.

After having a bad start and dropping out of the top 10, Alguersuari was enjoying the updated and faster STR and passed Senna and then Sutil to move back into 8th. Buemi, looking similarly strong, had to retire due to an engine failure, the first time this season for the Ferrari unit.

Webber, Alonso and Hamilton pitted together on lap 17. Alonso rejoined just behind Schumacher. Massa and Rosberg came in on lap 18, with Felipe rejoining just behind Alonso. Button and Schumacher came in the lap after, while Vettel stayed out until lap 20.

Against expectation, the sift tyre proved to be quite durable without showing signs of any severe degradation and thus the chances of pitting earlier to achieve an undercut were looking slim.

After the first round of stops, Vettel was leading Button by 3.5 seconds with Webber following Button 5 seconds away. Alonso was 2 seconds away from Webber and was closely followed by Massa and Hamilton (Oh no!). It had to happen, hadn’t it? For the sixth time this year there was contact between the pair on lap 24 as Hamilton tried to go inside the Ferrari on the run to Turn 5. Massa kept the racing line and Hamilton went for it. For some reason beyond my wit, Massa was handed a drive-through penalty, when he only did what he was supposed to do. Johnny Herbert was the drivers’ representative on the stewards’ panel on the day and he thought that was the right thing to do. I couldn’t see the fun in it!

Massa’s troubles did not end there. After his drive-through and a second stop 2 laps later, where Ferrari replaced his front wing as it had started vibrating again, he had a downshift issue but still maintained pace behind Schumacher. But, like on Saturday, Massa clouted a kerb later and broke his left front suspension which spelled the end of his race.

Webber pitted from 3rd on lap 38 and put on the hard tyres. Although his pace looked okay, it was looking tough for him to do the rest of the 22 laps on that set of hards. Alonso could put in a few more laps on the softs and came out ahead of Webber from his pit stop later to take 3rd. Hamilton, meanwhile, had been trying hard to make good of what was left of the afternoon for him. He managed to get past Alguersuari to take 8th and then moved up to 7th after Massa’s retirement. The two Mercedes cars in front of him were battling it out for 5th and 6th with Michael being able to stay out an extra 6 laps when Rosberg stopped on lap 45 for hard tyres. As a result, he came out in front of Rosberg after his stop and took 5th across the line.

Adrian Sutil drove a strong race yet again to bring the Force India home in 9th. He was followed by Perez in 10th.

Button, after his final stop on lap 47 showed great pace and got within 3 seconds of Vettel but that was all he could do. Vettel kept it under control and took the chequered flag which was waved by the Cricket maestro Sachin Tendulkar.

At the end of the Indian GP, Vettel had passed Nigel Mansell’s 1992 record of ‘most laps led in a season’, although Nigel had taken only 16 races to achieve the feat back in the day.

He also did a “Grand Chelem” for the first time in his short but illustrious F1 career by taking pole, leading every lap of the race, posting the fastest lap of the race and winning it. No mean feat!

Local hero, Narain Karthikeyan pleased the crowd by coming in at 17th after managing several blue flags. It was a good drive in what was one of the worst cars on the grid.

The verdict on the inaugural Indian GP was hugely positive and it was common belief that things would only get better in the coming years.

It’s safe to say that the weekend was a resounding success.

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Vettel Red Bull
2 Button McLaren
3 Alonso Ferrari
4 Webber Red Bull
5 Schumacher Mercedes
6 Rosberg Mercedes
7 Hamilton McLaren
8 Alguersuari STR
9 Sutil Force India
10 Perez Sauber

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Abu Dhabi:

Yas Marina is one of those circuits which you don’t know whether to like or reject. The facilities, the infrastructure and the beautiful Yas Hotel make for one of the most beautiful circuits on the calendar. But the boring layout of the track along with an overdose of run-offs, meant that the racing was never quite up to scratch. Fans and drivers spoke about the race in a tone that often induced a snooze.

With that kind of reputation, everyone was wondering if the Pirelli rubber along with the KERS and DRS systems could change something for the better.

Pirelli brought in new compounds that were being developed for 2012, into the Friday sessions for the teams to test and provide feedback.

There were three new faces (or two if you consider Grosjean’s 2009 outing) in the paddock. Formula Renault champion Jean-Eric Vergne and runner up Robert Wickens drove for STR and Virgin, respectively, during the first practice session. Grosjean, who was a serious candidate for a 2012 seat at the team, drove for Lotus Renault in the session.

The double–DRS zones continued from India and were marked on the back straight activated just after the Turn 7 hairpin and on the semi-straight after Turn 9 through Turn 10.

McLaren looked strong through the weekend and looked like they could challenge Red Bull for pole. Hamilton was the quickest in Q2 but there was no joy at the end of Q3 as Vettel took it away by just over a tenth to equal Mansell’s 1992 record of 14 poles in a season. While Nigel had achieved it in 16 races, Vettel had taken 18. But nevertheless, a staggering achievement for a 24 year old!

Button lined up 3rd after setting  time that was nine thousandths of a second slower then Hamilton’s (yes this is Formula 1,  we measure time in thousandths of a tick!). Webber was a further 3 tenths down in 4th followed by Alonso and Massa in 5th and 6th. Massa was a massive 6 tenths slower than Alonso. Rosberg was a further tenth down in 7th while Schumacher was almost a second slower in 8th. The final two slots in Q3 were taken by the two Force Indias with Sutil in 9th and Di Resta in 10th who didn’t go out in Q3 in order to save a set of options for the race.

This was the second time in 5 races that all the Mercedes powered cars were in the Top 10.

Williams, by the way, were having a season they wouldn’t want to remember. With just 5 points on the board, it was already the worst season in the long and hugely successful history of the team, but, it wasn’t over yet. Rubens was unable to get out for qualifying after a last minute engine issue and thus had to start from 24th (last) on the grid. Team mate Maldonado managed to qualify in 17th but had to take a 10-place grid penalty for having exceeded the allowed 8 engines per season. He had to take the second last slot on the grid as a result. This was, if I’m not missing any facts, Williams’ worst starting position on the grid in over three decades of their existence.

Sunday started with no real surprises as Vettel got off to a clean start and kept the lead until Turn 1. And then something happened, something that was almost non-existent in Vettel’s 2011 dictionary, retirement. Immediately after Turn 1, Vettel suffered a mystery puncture and spun off the track. Although he limped his way back into the pits, his suspension had undergone enough damage to put him out of the race and hand him his first non-finish of the season.

Hamilton managed to avoid the spinning red Bull and took the lead. By the end of the first lap, he’d pulled out a 2.5 seconds lead over Alonso. For those of you who’re wondering how it was Alonso behind Hamilton, Alonso had made a great start as usual and had managed to go round the outside of Webber into turn 1. And as unbelievable as it may seem considering the fact that he lost the 2010 championship being stuck behind the yellow submarine of Vitaly Petrov on this very track, he managed to get past Button on the back straight without the aid of DRS (DRS is not activated until the 3rd lap of a race) to take 2nd.

Webber passed Button into 3rd once DRS was activated on the 3rd lap but Button took the place back immediately after at the second DRS zone. Whoever in the FIA came up with the idea of having two DRS zones should’ve slapped themselves in the face after watching that. Webber was then stuck 4th behind the slower McLaren. Button then suffered from a misbehaving KERS system that would not let him get any closer to Alonso. Behind him, Massa was maintaining good pace and was running just over a second apart from Webber. The two Mercedes of Rosberg and Schumacher were next, followed by the two Force Indias of Sutil and Di Resta. Di Resta was the only one among the top 10 to have started on the medium compound as the team had split the strategies between the two drivers. But, the prime tyre being slower, allowed Buemi to get past Di Resta into 9th.

At the first round of pit stops, Massa was the first to come in from 5th for a set of soft tyres. The leading three came in on the following lap and all took a second set of soft tyres on. Webber came in a lap later, but an out-of-place wheelnut delayed his pit stop and that dropped him behind Massa. Red Bull had to take a gamble and put Webber onto a three stopper to be able to undercut Massa which worked. But the gap was a bit too much to Jenson in front which meant that Webber had to settle for 4th.

Hamilton had been in charge for most of the race and was looking good for his third 2011 victory, one that he badly needed for a whole host of reasons. Alonso was a few seconds behind but could never manage to catch him. Alonso tried to out-race Hamilton and ran two extra laps on the soft tyres when Hamilton pitted for the medium tyres on lap 40, but got stuck behind an HRT on his way in and had a rather slow stop which put him out behind Hamilton. By his admittance though, even if he’d managed to come out in front, he’d still be passed by Hamilton as the McLaren was definitely faster on the harder compound than the Ferrari.

Hamilton took the chequered flag almost 8 seconds ahead of Alonso. Button nursed his KERS-less McLaren into 3rd and Webber fought his way into 4th. Massa came in 5th followed by the silver cars of Rosberg and Schumacher. Force India cemented their claim on 6th in the constructors’ with a double points finish as Sutil came home 8th followed by Di Resta in 9th. While Buemi had looked good for a points finish, he suffered a hydraulics leak which lost him the power steering and gears and caused him to retire on lap 19. Kobayashi managed to land his Sauber in 10th for the final point of the race.

Barichello drove a strong race to finish 12th after starting dead last on the grid. He did something bizarre towards the last stages of the race though when he deployed KERS to go past race leader Hamilton while getting lapped! Team mate Maldonado was handed a 30 second time penalty for impeding several leading cars while getting lapped but it didn’t affect his finishing position of 14th.

All in all, a race that was better than what had been witnessed at Abu Dhabi in the previous years. Hamilton looked like he had a huge weight off his shoulders and Button was content with his podium finish despite the broken KERS. Alonso put in yet another stupendous drive in a car that, otherwise, wouldn’t have finished 2nd and added the only missing trophy to complete his collection with at least one from every GP on the calendar. A collection that very few can boast of!

 

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Hamilton McLaren
2 Alonso Ferrari
3 Button McLaren
4 Webber Red Bull
5 Massa Ferrari
6 Rosberg Mercedes
7 Schumacher Mercedes
8 Sutil Force India
9 Di Resta Force India
10 Kobayashi Sauber

______________________________________________________

Brazil:

The season ending weekend at Interlagos, a track that has seen numerous championships been decided on its tarmac in the past, didn’t have anything left for it in terms of the championship other than who’d finish second in the drivers’ and a close fight between Sauber and Toro Rosso for 7th in the constructors’. As ever though, it was expected to be a really good race along with a possibility of Mark Webber finally winning a race in 2011.

The Friday practice sessions saw a number of reserve and young drivers take part for various teams. Pirelli had announced that one of the new soft compounds that had been tested at Abu Dhabi would be used for the weekend. The FIA, thankfully, declared a single DRS zone for Interlagos. It was marked along the Reta Oposta straight activated just after Turn 3 exit.

Qualifying gave us nothing new except a new record. Vettel broke Mansell’s 19 year old record, of most pole positions in a season, by claiming his 15th pole. He beat team mate Webber by just under two tenths to it. Webber, wryly, exclaimed that he tried his best to “look after Nige” but that it wasn’t enough..

Button out-paced Hamilton by two tenths to take 3rd on the grid, his best qualifying effort at Interlagos. Alonso could only manage 5th despite being almost half a second faster than team mate Massa in 7th. Rosberg split the two scarlets with a time 2 hundredths quicker than Massa. Adrian Sutil landed another fantastic lap to secure 8th on the grid while Bruno Senna took 9th much to the delight of the home crowd. It was pretty special to see the Senna name back in the top 10, 17 years after the great Ayrton left a void in the hearts of the Brazilian people. Schumacher took the 10th grid slot for Interlagos.

With a possibility of a shower on Sunday, the race was quite nicely poised. At the start, the Red Bulls pulled away neatly from Button in 3rd. Alonso jumped Hamilton to take 4th while Di Resta jumped Schumacher to take 10th. Schumacher soon took that place back from Di Resta.

On lap 10, Schumacher and Senna got side by side into Turn 1. Schumacher tried to turn in round the outside while Senna tried to defend and there was contact. It left Senna with a broken front wing endplate and Schumacher with a puncture. Schumacher limped into the pits for new tyres while Senna was haded a drive-through for causing an avoidable collision.

On the next lap around, Button had to back off to avoid running over debris left off of Schumacher’s ripped tyre as Alonso was already on the outside of him. This allowed Alonso to pull off an almost impossible overtake round the outside of Turn 6 to get himself up to 3rd.

At the front, Vettel was on the gas like he’d been all year and was running 2.5 seconds ahead of Webber. But on lap 14, he was radioed by his engineer ‘Rocky’ to inform him of a gearbox issue. He was asked to short-shift to save it till the end of the race.

The order remained fairly unchanged after the first round of pit stops, but there was more trouble in store for Vettel as he was told that the gearbox was now in serious trouble. With having to short-shift all through the lap, it was worthless to try and defend against Webber and Webber took the lead from Vettel on lap 29.

The gearbox issue had sparked some thoughts into Vettel and he came on the radio to say “he felt like Senna in ‘91”, to which most of us went “sure son!” If you didn’t get that; Vettel was referring to the Brazilian GP of 1991 when Senna was stuck in 6th gear for the second half of the race and won it in a super-human effort which saw him cramped and almost unconscious at the end of the race.

Anyway, after taking the lead, Webber started to pull a big gap to Vettel. Alonso followed close in third followed by Button in 4th.

On lap 31, Button went in for his second stop as did Sutil from 7th. Hamilton made his stop 2 laps later from 4th. By lap 35, the order was Webber, Vettel, Alonso, Massa, Button, Hamilton, Rosberg, Di Resta, Sutil and Kobayashi.

A few laps later, Hamilton was told that he had a gearbox issue. He eventually had to retire from 6th on lap 48 after getting stuck in neutral.

After the second round of pit stops and Hamilton’s retirement, the order was Webber, Vettel, Alonso, Button, Massa, Sutil, Rosberg, di Resta, Kobayashi and Petrov. Sutil had got past Rosberg twice to take 6th. After the final round of pit stops, Button started to eat away into the gap between him and 3rd running Alonso pretty rapidly. With 10 laps to go, he saved his KERS while running close to Alonso and used it at the perfect moment down the outside at Turn 4 to take past Alonso for 3rd.

At the chequered flag, Webber had set multiple purple laps and finished 17 seconds ahead of Vettel who just about managed to get across the line in 2nd. Button took another well-deserved podium and Alonso crossed the line in 4th. Massa came in 5th and did a nice couple of donuts to cheering grandstands.

Sutil put in yet another solid drive to finish a fantastic 6th that put him into the top 10 in the drivers’ championship for the first time in his career, at 9th. Di Resta finished a strong 8th which sealed 6th place for Force India in the constructors’ standings and brought them as close as just 3 points away from 5th placed Renault. A stellar effort by all means!

Kobayashi’s successive points finish in 9th secured 7th in the constructors’ for Sauber who were seriously at threat from a fast-improving Toro Rosso towards the end of the season.

A great race and a nice way to finish the year seeing Mark Webber take to the top step of the podium.

Results:

  Driver                Constructor 
1 Webber Red Bull
2 Vettel Red Bull
3 Button McLaren
4 Alonso Ferrari
5 Massa Ferrari
6 Sutil Force India
7 Rosberg Mercedes
8 di Resta Force India
9 Kobayashi Sauber
10 Petrov Renault

______________________________________________________

The final standings:

 

______________________________________________________

Final thoughts:

Was the season as good as 2010? Championship wise, perhaps not.

Were the races as exciting? Perhaps better than 2010 in certain ways.

I have mixed feelings about the DRS while KERS has proven to be somewhat redundant. Pirelli did a great job, although, much of the excitement arising from the rubber settled down once the teams learnt enough about it.

Overall, it was a great season with some fantastic races that will go down as classics and with India being added to the mix, things are looking rather good for next season.

In my follow up article, I’ll discuss about the new regulations for 2012, both technical and sporting, the driver market and the current scenario of the teams along with their 2011 performance & 2012 prospects.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

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2 thoughts on “2011 F1 Season Review

  1. Bouke Sb says:

    Very comprehensive and interesting post. You helped me relive the season bit by bit as it unfolded. And did you add snowflakes or was that my graphics card getting old ;) nice touch!

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