Nick Gilmartin's Weblog

And he used to be such a nice, quiet boy

Archive for the ‘Motorsport’ Category

Now it’s official: Jenson Button is World F1 Champion

with one comment

Jenson world champion

After a lavish final Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi we can make it official:  Jenson Button is the 2009 F1 World Champion.  This is the high point of a career in F1 stretching back to 2000.  Jenson’s road to glory has been a long and hard one, starting with a year at Williams in 2000.

Several years with Renault followed, slowly gaining vital experience of the world of Formula 1.  In the early 2000’s he moved to what was then the Honda works team.

Jenson joined Honda at a funny time.  The Japanese company were busy experimenting with carbon neutral and earth friendly componants and fuels.  The end result was, unfortunately, a car that moved like a snail.  In spite of that Jenson won his first Grand Prix in 2007 in Hungary.

Apart from that brief break the dark clouds hung over Honda and the team eventually withdrew from Formula 1 at the end of 2008.  It was a shock for all involved in the Honda factory at Brackley, and it would have been all over if it had not been for one man.

Ross Brawn

Ross Brawn was a former Ferrari engineer, and a hugely experienced man.  He had joined Honda as team principle only a few years earlier.  In the middle of a dark recession he took the decision to find new backers and move the team forward.

His idea was not as crazy as it sounded.  He had a car design that he knew could win races, but he had been prevented from using it because of Honda’s fixation on carbon-neutral technology.  He found a few backers, and put a large sum of his own money into the new project.  Ross Brawn was very literally going for broke.

At the time Jenson was considered by many, including me, that he was a driver that was marking time.  He seemed to lack the fire that a winner needs.  But the vital experience he had gained would prove to tip the balance in his favour.  Rubens Barrachello stayed on as the second driver.  Barrachello was a veteran racer, but eternally the second fiddle.  Perhaps he was too easily cowed, or he lacked a certain edge.  But he was physically tough, resolute and he obeyed orders.

Brawn 001

At the start of 2009 a very surprised media reported that a new team would be racing in F1.  Hand-picked from the remains of the Honda team, the Brawn F1 team would race with a pristine white car broken up with flashed of lime green.  Nobody really expected them to be more than back-markers, there to make up numbers in a rapidly dwindling F1 grid.

In the first Grand Prix at Albert Park, to everybody’s amazement, they won.  Two weeks later, in a wet Malaysia, they won again.  In an even wetter Chinese Grand Prix, they came third.  Consecutive first places followed for Jenson in Bahrain, Spain, Monaco and Turkey.

Jenson @ Bahrain

From there they seemed to lose momentum a little bit.  The Red Bull team added new diffuser technology and soon caught up.  Other teams took wins also, Kimi Raikkonen for Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton for McLaren.  Even Rubens Barrachello took a win for Brawn.

Jenson, Helmet

But somehow Jenson managed to hold it together and finished the season with 11 points clear of his nearest rival, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.  He took the championship on a rain-soaked race Brazilian Grand Prix.  The final race of the season was more of an exhibition than a race, and it took place at the futuristic Abu Dhabi raceway.

So in all it is quite a season.  thrills, spills shocks and drama on and off the track.  I will write up a complete 2009 season review when I have a lot more time.  But for now let us be overjoyed that the F1 World Championship title has stayed in England.

Well done Jenson!

Written by Nick Gilmartin

November 2, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Posted in Motorsport

Donnington will not host the British Grand Prix

leave a comment »

Donnington Park

It was announced yesterday that Donnington Park, the racing circuit in Leicestershire, will not be hosting the British Grand Prix from 2010.

This follows nearly a year of delays, budget overruns, confusion and ever-extending deadlines.  These problems were compounded by the world-wide recession which affected every sector of British construction.  Funding went through the site like shit through a goose.

On a visit to Silverstone in June, one of the curators outlined Donnington’s problems.

1.    It has no helipad to evacuate the wounded.

2.    Crucially, it cannot land helicopters because it is in East Midlands airport’s airspace.

3.    It has little in the way of parking space

4.    The entire track is merely half the size of Silverstone F1 track.

With these problems it is hard to see how Donnington ever got the commission in the first place.  Furthermore it had to cancel most of the 2010 events to make way for the construction work necessary to turn DOnnington into a modern F1 track.

Donnington did host the European Grand Prix back in 1993.  But following the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994 a lot of stringent safety measures were put in place that made these changes necessary.

But deadlines came and went and Bernie Ecclestone lost patience with Simon Gillette, the Chief Executive of Donnington Leisure.  Finally Bernie had had enough and closed the book on the project.

So will the British Grand Prix now remain at Silverstone?  More than likely.  If not in 2010 then in 2011 certainly.  Silverstone has a lot of bookings for 2010, the main one being the British MotoGP.  One of the biggest advantages of a Motorbike Grand Prix is that they can host twice as many people.  Why?  Because everybody turns up on motorbikes, so they can fit twice as many in the car park.

So all this has left Silverstone in a win/win position.  It will come out of this a whole lot stronger and much better funded.

Only time will tell what will become of Donnington.

Written by Nick Gilmartin

October 13, 2009 at 11:59 am

Vettel on Pole in Suzuka

leave a comment »

Japanese Qualifiying

Well it was more like a demolition derby on a couple of occasions but we finally have a grid for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel took Pole Position with Jarno Trulli hot on his heels.  Lewis Hamilton qualified third.

But Timo Glock, Heikki Kovaleinen and Sebastian Buemi all have crashes with barriers and spins here and there.  So here are the results in full:

1 germany Sebastian Vettel 15 Red Bull-Renault 1:32.160
2 italy Jarno Trulli 9 Toyota 1:32.220
3 great britain Lewis Hamilton 1 McLaren-Mercedes 1:32.395
4 germany Adrian Sutil 20 Force India-Mercedes 1:32.466
5 brazil Rubens Barrichello 23 Brawn-Mercedes 1:32.660
6 germany Nick Heidfeld 6 BMW Sauber 1:32.945
7 great britain Jenson Button 22 Brawn-Mercedes 1:32.962
8 finland Kimi Raikkonen 4 Ferrari 1:32.980
9 finland Heikki Kovalainen 2 McLaren-Mercedes No time
10 switzerland Sebastien Buemi 12 Toro Rosso-Ferrari No time
11 germany Nico Rosberg 16 Williams-Toyota 1:31.482
12 spain Fernando Alonso 7 Renault 1:31.638
13 poland Robert Kubica 5 BMW Sauber 1:32.341
14 germany Timo Glock 10 Toyota No time
15 spain Jaime Alguersuari 11 Toro Rosso-Ferrari No time
16 italy Giancarlo Fisichella 3 Ferrari 1:31.704
17 japan Kazuki Nakajima 17 Williams-Toyota 1:31.718
18 france Romain Grosjean 8 Renault 1:32.073
19 italy Vitantonio Liuzzi 21 Force India-Mercedes 1:32.087
20 australia Mark Webber 14 Red Bull-Renault

Written by Nick Gilmartin

October 3, 2009 at 7:42 am

Posted in Motorsport

Crashgate: Briatore and Symonds sacked

with one comment

Nelson Piquet Jr

Who ever said revenge was a dish best served cold may well have had Nelson Piquet Jr in mind when he said it.  The son of the Brazilian world champion certainly got his own back in good style.

It all started back year, in at the Singapore Grand Prix.  It was Nelson’s debut season and it was going far from well.  It was clear that the Renault team was built firmly around Fernando Alonso, the two time world champion.  Nelson’s role was at best a walk-on one.  He was, allegedly,  given minimal resources and track time to practise.  His relationship with his flamboyant team manager was frosty and fracious.

Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds

Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds

Flavio Briatore was a former business manager of Luciano Bennetton, the fashion magnate.  When his boss expressed a desire to start a Formula 1 team Briatore was pushed into the team principle’s role.  He knew next to nothing about Motor sports and he had to learn fast.  He left the mechanicals to the mechanics and concentrated on the business deals.

Pat Symonds was an old hand at mechanics, and a long serving member of the Bennetton-Renault team.  He became Executive Director of Engineering shortly after Renault bought out Bennetton’s remaining shares.  In the early 2000s it was this pair that brought Renault back to the front of the grid, racing neck and neck with Ferrari.  They brought in Fernando Alonso from Minardi and cheered him on as he took two F1 Championships.

In 2008 they were reforming a new team line up.  Fernando Alonso had returned from a miserable year at McLaren, and he was promised top-billing.  His team mate was a young hopeful, Nelson Piquet Junior.  This handsome young fellow came from a great racing pedigree.  He had some success in GP2 and he had ended the season in second place.  In 2007 he toiled away as the test driver at Renault.

But in 2008 he was underperforming as a race driver.  Alonso was busy making his drive for the championship and Piquet seemed the forgotton man.

In september it was the turn of Singapore to hold it’s first race.  Not only was this a street circuit, but it was also the first F1 night-race.  Renault was having a difficult season and Alonso had only qualified 15th because of a fuel-pump problem.  Briatore and Symonds hatched a fiendish plan to leap-frog him to the front of the grid.  They told him to go into the pits for a quick stop, and as he entered, they ordered Piquet to crash.

Courtesy of sutton-images.com

Courtesy of sutton-images.com

He gritted his teeth and went for it, probably wondering if he was really being paid enough for all this.

In 2008 the rules stated that the pit lane closes for the first few laps while the safety car is out.  As a result Alonso exited the grid a good few places further up the grid than when he left.  He duly went on to win the race.

Piquet was questioned about the crash but he officially stated that it had been a simple mistake.  He kept his mouth shut about any other motives for over a year.

By August 2009 Piquet’s relationship with his team had soured considerarably.  If fact, it was to get downright nasty.  Piquet had not performed to expectations and by August Briatore had lost patience and abruptly sacked him.  A very public slanging match followed.  But Piquet had one card to play up his sleeve.

Max Mosley

He approached the FIA, and particularly Max Moseley, with testamony that he had been ordered to crash in Singapore.  For Moseley this was manna from heaven.  Earlier in 2009 he had been in a very public war with the heads of the F1 teams over the new rules for 2010.  In the end the only way he could get them to accept a revised version of the rules was to agree to step down as FIA President at the end of his term.  The humiliation, on top of various newspaper alligations about his private life, rankled him.  This would be his payback against Briatore and his cronies.

Moseley ordered the FIA to begin an investigation immediately.  Piquet gave his testamony on the record.  Symonds was offered immunity from prosecution if he testified what really happened.  He declined, out of loyalty to his long time friend, Briatore.

On 4th September Renault were charged with interfereing with the outcome of the race, citing a breach of article 151c of the international sporting code.  They were called to an extrodinary meeting due on 21 September.

But yesterday, 16th September, it was Briatore and Symonds that chose to depart Renault, pleading no contest against the charges.  Piquet and Moseley had their revenge.

Now we just have to wait and see what happens at the extrodinary meeting on the 21st.  Stay tuned.

And who said F1 was boring?

Written by Nick Gilmartin

September 17, 2009 at 11:05 am

It’s a Brawn One-Two at Monza

leave a comment »

Brawn celebrates at Monza

After a hard-fought race Lewis Hamilton crashed out on the final lap.  Under a hot Milanese sun they drove hard down the straights and into the curves, with their tyres melting fast.  Lewis made an unscheduled stop for new tyres early in the race, and luckily the team was ready this time.  However by the time he drove out of the pits the Brawns of Button and Barrichello were just ahead of him.

And so it stayed with Barrachello leading the pack with his friend and rival.  Jenson Button became a permanent fixture in his rear view mirror for the rest of the race, sometimes close up, sometimes far away.

Further back Mark Webber crashed out early, putting a hex on Red Bull’s chances of winning the championship.  But it was on the final lap that Lewis Hamilton, driving hard, felt the car go from under him as he navigated a pair of curves.  It dived, nose first into a barrier wall.  Luckily he was unhurt and remarkably unfazed.  The only thing about him damaged was his chances of defending his title.

The final results are as follows:

Pos No Driver Team Laps Time/Retired Grid Pts
1 23 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 53 1:16:21.706 5 10
2 22 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 53 +2.8 secs 6 8
3 4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 53 +30.6 secs 3 6
4 20 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 53 +31.1 secs 2 5
5 7 Fernando Alonso Renault 53 +59.1 secs 8 4
6 2 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 53 +60.6 secs 4 3
7 6 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 53 +82.4 secs 15 2
8 15 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 53 +85.4 secs 9 1
9 3 Giancarlo Fisichella Ferrari 53 +86.8 secs 14
10 17 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 53 +162.163 secs 17
11 10 Timo Glock Toyota 53 +163.925 secs 16
12 1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 52 Accident 1
13 12 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 52 +1 Lap 19
14 9 Jarno Trulli Toyota 52 +1 Lap 11
15 8 Romain Grosjean Renault 52 +1 Lap 12
16 16 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 51 +2 Laps 18
Ret 21 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 22 Transmission 7
Ret 11 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 19 Gearbox 20
Ret 5 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 15 Engine 13
Ret 14 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 0 Accident 10

Written by Nick Gilmartin

September 14, 2009 at 10:27 am

Hamilton has his second pole of the season

leave a comment »

Lewis and Adrian

He only just managed it but Lewis Hamilton will start the Italian Grand Prix on pole position.  He was pushed hard by an outstanding performance by Force India’s Adrien Sutil of all people.

Behind them are the two Finns, Kimi Rakkonein of Ferrari and Heikke Kovelienen, another McLaren.  The third row is the entire Brawn team, Jenson and Rubens.  There is no love lost between these two this season and they will both fight to the bitter end.

This race will also see the debut of Vitantonio Luizzi who replaces Giancarlo Fisichella at Force India.

So the results in full are as follows:

Pos  Driver       Team                       Q1        Q2        Q3
 1.  Hamilton     McLaren-Mercedes      (B)  1:23.375  1:22.973  1:24.066
 2.  Sutil        Force India-Mercedes  (B)  1:23.576  1:23.070  1:24.261
 3.  Raikkonen    Ferrari               (B)  1:23.349  1:23.426  1:24.523
 4.  Kovalainen   McLaren-Mercedes      (B)  1:23.515  1:23.528  1:24.845
 5.  Barrichello  Brawn-Mercedes        (B)  1:23.483  1:22.976  1:25.015
 6.  Button       Brawn-Mercedes        (B)  1:23.403  1:22.955  1:25.030
 7.  Liuzzi       Force India-Mercedes  (B)  1:23.578  1:23.207  1:25.043
 8.  Alonso       Renault               (B)  1:23.708  1:23.497  1:25.072
 9.  Vettel       Red Bull-Renault      (B)  1:23.558  1:23.545  1:25.180
10.  Webber       Red Bull-Renault      (B)  1:23.755  1:23.273  1:25.314
11.  Trulli       Toyota                (B)  1:24.014  1:23.611
12.  Grosjean     Renault               (B)  1:23.975  1:23.728
13.  Kubica       BMW-Sauber            (B)  1:24.001  1:23.866
14.  Fisichella   Ferrari               (B)  1:23.828  1:23.901
15.  Heidfeld     BMW-Sauber            (B)  1:23.584  1:24.275
16.  Glock        Toyota                (B)  1:24.036
17.  Nakajima     Williams-Toyota       (B)  1:24.074
18.  Rosberg      Williams-Toyota       (B)  1:24.121
19.  Buemi        Toro Rosso-Ferrari    (B)  1:24.220
20.  Alguersuari  Toro Rosso-Ferrari    (B)  1:24.951

Written by Nick Gilmartin

September 12, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Ferrari return to form at Spa

leave a comment »

The Ferraris look to carry less sponsorship these days

The Ferraris look to carry less sponsorship these days

After a season in the doldrums Kimi Raikkonen brought Ferrari their first race victory of 2009 at Spa Franconchamps in Belgium.

But the big story is Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella, who started on pole and managed to mantain second place right through to the end.

Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton met with disaster when a pile up on the first lap ended their chances.  The two tangled with the killer replacements, Luca Badoer and Jaime Alguesuari.  Unfortunately all they killed was their chances of winning.

Rubens Barrachello ran a long hard race and barely made it to the end, on the last lap he was trailing flames and smoke like a crashing Stuka.

So with this latest upset Jenson Button’s lead continues to narrow.  He is now only 16 points ahead of team mate Barrachello.  All it takes is one win and one third place and they will be level.  Also the Red Bull team continue to make advances in pace.  Furthermore their team, the perfect balance of experience and skill, continue to shine.

 1.  Raikkonen     Ferrari               (B)  1h23:50.995
 2.  Fisichella    Force India-Mercedes  (B)  +     0.939
 3.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault      (B)  +     3.875
 4.  Kubica        BMW Sauber            (B)  +     9.966
 5.  Heidfeld      BMW Sauber            (B)  +    11.276
 6.  Kovalainen    McLaren-Mercedes      (B)  +    32.763
 7.  Barrichello   Brawn-Mercedes        (B)  +    35.461
 8.  Rosberg       Williams-Toyota       (B)  +    36.208
 9.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault      (B)  +    36.959
10.  Glock         Toyota                (B)  +    41.490
11.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes  (B)  +    42.636
12.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari    (B)  +    46.106
13.  Nakajima      Williams-Toyota       (B)  +    54.241
14.  Badoer        Ferrari               (B)  +  1:38.177

And  so this is the championship results as they stand

World Championship standings after 12 rounds:                

Drivers:                    Constructors:             
 1.  Button        72        1.  Brawn-Mercedes        128
 2.  Barrichello   56        2.  Red Bull-Renault      104.5
 3.  Vettel        53        3.  Ferrari                56
 4.  Webber        51.5      4.  McLaren-Mercedes       44
 5.  Raikkonen     34        5.  Toyota                 38.5
 6.  Rosberg       30.5      6.  Williams-Toyota        30.5
 7.  Hamilton      27        7.  BMW Sauber             18
 8.  Trulli        22.5      8.  Renault                16
 9.  Massa         22        9.  Force India-Mercedes    8
10.  Kovalainen    17       10.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari      5
11.  Glock         16
12.  Alonso        16
13.  Heidfeld      10
14.  Kubica         8
15.  Fisichella     8
16.  Buemi          3
17.  Bourdais       2

Written by Nick Gilmartin

August 30, 2009 at 3:52 pm