F1Weekly podcast # 537

 

 

Formula One – Young Driver Test

Wickens, Vergne, Rossi, Korjus, Berthon and Charouz shine in F1 testing

Six of the drivers who contested the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Series had the opportunity to make their mark at the Formula One Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi this week. And upon taking the wheel of the world championship-winning Red Bull Renault RB7, it was this year’s FR 3.5 Series runner-up Jean-Eric Vergne who dominated each session. Also impressing was the man who pipped him to the 2011 title, Robert Wickens, who was invited to the event by Renault Sport Technologies and Lotus Renault GP as reward for his championship success, while Kevin Korjus, Alexander Rossi, Jan Charouz and Nathanaël Berthon were also turning heads.

Over the course of the three-day event, which concluded today, the six drivers once again showed why the FR 3.5 Series is one of the most important stepping stones into the motorsport elite.

Wickens and Vergne were the first in action on Tuesday, having taken part in last Friday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix free practice session with Marussia Virgin and Toro Rosso respectively. This time around the Carlin team-mates took to the track on board Renault-powered F1 cars, with Wickens at the wheel of the Lotus Renault R31 and Vergne putting the Red Bull RB7 through its paces.

The 2011 FR 3.5 Series champion chalked up 78 laps in what his first full day’s testing in Formula One, setting the third-fastest time in the process. “I’ve learned so many things in just one day,” said the Canadian. “I’m extremely grateful to Renault Sport Technologies and Lotus Renault GP for giving me this opportunity. My aim today was to get some experience under my belt, though we also had a specific programme of work to get through. I’ve had the chance to compare the 2011 and 2012 tyres and there’s a big difference. I put together about 20 laps at the end of the day and set some pretty consistent times. Physically I feel pretty good, and I’ve been working hard for many years to get this far. I want to push myself even harder and do whatever I need to do to get an F1 drive as quickly as I can.”

Vergne picked up the pace in the Red Bull Renault on day two of the test, when he was joined on the track by Korjus, who was getting his first taste of F1 action with Lotus Renault GP, and Charouz and Berthon, both of whom were in an HRT. Speaking after his 70-lap stint, Korjus, the 18-year-old Estonian who won the 2010 Eurocup Formula Renault title and three FR 3.5 Series races this year, was understandably thrilled: “This is my first time in Formula One and I’ve come here to learn. I grew in confidence throughout the day and by lunchtime I was feeling really at ease in the car. It’s a real physical test and it’s shown me that I’ve got an awful lot to do to become a top F1 driver and that I’ve got to work very hard on my physique.”

The quartet of Vergne (Red Bull Renault), Rossi (Team Lotus), Charouz (Lotus Renault GP) and Wickens (Marussia Virgin Racing) were all in action on Thursday, the third and final day of the test, with Vergne setting the seal on a brilliant display with a fastest lap of 1:38.917, just four-tenths of a second off Sebastian Vettel’s quickest time in last Saturday’s qualifying session. The Frenchman, who will be lining up in a Toro Rosso STR6 for next Friday’s free practice at the Brazilian Grand Prix, could barely conceal his delight after topping the timesheets on all three days. “I’ve had three fantastic days,” said the 2011 FR 3.5 Series runner-up. “Driving the world championship car has been an incredible experience. I savoured each and every lap and I’ve learned an awful lot working with Red Bull Racing.”

After a profitable few days in Abu Dhabi, Vergne, Wickens, Korjus, Rossi, Charouz and Berthon will all be hoping they can now kick on and emulate the likes of Vettel, Robert Kubica, Jaime Alguersuari and Daniel Ricciardo, all whom have successfully made the transition from FR 3.5 Series to Formula One.

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Motorsports Mondial

Robert Wickens testing with Lotus Renault GP

Robert: “I’m pleased with what we achieved today. I learned so much with everything, and Lotus Renault GP did an amazing job. The car really feels fantastic to drive. It has been fun and I can’t thank Lotus Renault GP enough for the opportunity they gave me to drive for the team. I’m glad I was able to drive in a car that put me towards the top of the grid. I was hoping to be in the top three today and to be third is really good. Obviously you can always find ways to improve but I’m sure that will come. I was surprised how different the Pirelli Prototype 2012 was compared to the normal 2011 tyre – I did a long run at the end with heavy fuel and I was able to do a very consistent 20 lap run towards the end of the day on the soft tyre, which is a good sign for next year I think. It’s the first time I’ve been able to do consistent, long runs and to really start understanding the tyres. I trained very hard all season, prepared for this young drivers test and I’m very proud of myself. I just wish I could stay a couple more days.”

 

Motorsports Mondial

ABU DHABI YOUNG DRIVER TEST – DAY ONE

Driver: Jean-Eric Vergne (Best Time: 1:40.011)

Fastest lap: Jean-Eric Vergne

Just two days after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing was back in action today at

the Yas Marina Circuit for the 2011 Young Driver Test. Red Bull Junior driver Jean-Eric Vergne

was at the wheel of an RB7 for day one of the three-day test.

Air and track temperatures were hotter than during the grand prix, hitting 32¢ªC and 45¢ªC

respectively, as testing takes place during the day, rather than in the afternoon and evening.

As soon as Jean-Eric was up to speed with the RB7, the team concentrated on some

aerodynamic testing for 2012, before beginning a tyre test for Pirelli in the afternoon to

evaluate some prototypes for 2012.

At the end of the session, Jean-Eric said: “That was a fantastic day for me. Driving the World

Championship-winning car is just great and I liked every lap I did out there. Knowing there

are two more days still to do, just makes me smile more. It’s a great opportunity from Red Bull

Racing; I’m trying to learn as much as possible and get as much as possible out of it.”

Jean-Eric will be driving again tomorrow for day two.

Motorsports Mondial

Photo: Renaultsportf1

Key race weekend points:

Red Bull Racing
Sebastian Vettel equalled the all-time record of pole positions in one season in Saturday’s qualifying, with his 14th pole of the year*. The German made a good start off the line and was leading the field into the first series of corners, but his right rear tyre appeared to deflate. He was pitched into a spin and, despite making it back to the pits on three wheels, could not rejoin the race. It was his first retirement this season and his first since Korea 2010. Hamilton inherited the lead from Sebastian, with Alonso second after taking Mark Webber off the line and then moving ahead of Button. Mark found himself battling with Button in the early stages when the latter lost some time with a KERS issue. Mark stayed out a lap longer when the top three pitted, but any advantage was lost with a stubborn wheel change that dropped him back down to fifth behind Massa. The team changed strategy to try to regain track position, with Mark making a last lap stop for hard tyres to try to get ahead of Button – Massa having spun with six laps to go and fallen back. Some qualifying-style laps in the final stint got Mark close but he eventually finished in fourth, ten seconds adrift of Button.

*The record has been held by Nigel Mansell since 1992.

Lotus Renault GP
After a tough qualifying, Vitaly Petrov started in 12th position and Bruno Senna in 14th. Bruno pitted on the first lap for new soft tyres to try a creative tyre strategy, but his race was hampered with blue flags and only intermittent use of KERS. He was also handed a drivethrough penalty for not respecting the blue flags on lap 20, which further impeded his progress, and he eventually came home in 16th. Vitaly battled with Paul di Resta and Sebastien Buemi for ninth position in the opening stages of the race, but with the DRS failing, it was hard to make up positions. Being unable to overtake anyone else, Vitaly tried to do a one stop race but the hard tyre couldn’t last long enough and he had to stop again. He crossed the line in P13.

Team Lotus
Heikki Kovalainen again made an impressive start and was able to run in the top 13 for his first stint. Jarno Trulli lost a couple of positions at the start with a clutch slip but soon regained position. The team used the same pit stop strategy on both cars, running the first two stints on the soft tyres and switching to the mediums for the final part of the race. The pair hunted down the LRGP of Bruno Senna, but blue flags meant they could not find a way past and Heikki finished in 17th, just ahead of Jarno.

Rémi Taffin, head of Renault Sport F1 track operations, gives his views on the race weekend:
The Yas Marina circuit sits in the middle of the table for the demands it places on the RS27 engine. With only 55% of the lap spent at full throttle and a low average speed, the main challenges are the change in temperature and grip levels during the race. We introduced new units this weekend across all drivers, which gives us a bit more flexibility and, hopefully, greater reliability at this late stage in the season. Additionally our partners should have an advantage at the final race in Brazil where power is reduced due to the high altitude.

Nevertheless, it’s not the ideal result we hoped for here and not representative of the performance of the teams. Sebastian was very unfortunate to score his first DNF of the year, due to no fault of his own. Mark had a good race and a gamble on the strategy with the last lap stop was worth a go, although he ultimately finished where he started, in fourth position.

LRGP’s qualifying positions were always going to compromise race performance on this hard to overtake track, and the problems on both cars made it even harder. All the same there’s still one race left and it would be good to achieve a strong result to book-end the season.

Team Lotus’ race pace continues to improve with another good showing from both drivers that gets the team closer to that all important tenth position, which we’ll try our best to secure at the final race in Brazil.

 

Motorsports Mondial

Photo: bobaliciouslondon

Lewis Hamilton wins the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel out in the first lap with a rear puncture.

Fernando with a great pass on Button happy with second.

Lewis Hamilton: “We have another great race ahead of us in Brazil, so we will focus on that and try to keep the momentum. You know how it goes, anything can happen. I have to keep my focus on it.”

I think it’s very rare for us and me to get the opportunity to maintain a gap and control a race, But today I had the pace and was able to put in the laps when Fernando went quicker. And then I was able to pull out when he came in.

There was a stage where he would close the gap. It seemed as if he would start the stint slower than me but get quicker at the end, but I am very, very happy with how it went.

I think it was one of my best races, I said that as I slowed down: being able to hold off one of the best drivers in the world is tough to do. Looking after the tyres, managing the gap… I am ecstatic, really very happy to be back up here. This is great and I can get on the flight tonight and smile.”

Fernando Alonso: “I tried hard all race, It was an individual race against time. I was doing qualifying laps every lap trying to close the gap but it was one tenth up or down for the whole stint and we dominated.

About the people we were catching, when he had some problems I closed the gap to two seconds and when I had problems I lost two seconds – it depended on which parts of track you caught them.

I am looking forward, To be honest I want to have the last race and think of 2012 as soon as possible – not to forget this year because the year has been quite good for the team and in general we made good improvements from last year, but we were not able to fight for the championship.

Definitely next year is a good challenge for us – and a big motivation for next year is to do better than 2011.”

 

Pos Driver Team Time
 1.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           1h37:11.886
 2.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +     8.457
 3.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +    25.881
 4.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +    35.784
 5.  Massa         Ferrari                    +    50.578
 6.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +    52.317
 7.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +  1:15.900
 8.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +  1:17.100
 9.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +  1:40.000
10.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +     1 lap
11.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +     1 lap
12.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +     1 lap
13.  Petrov        Renault                    +     1 lap
14.  Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth          +     1 lap
15.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +     1 lap
16.  Senna         Renault                    +     1 lap
17.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault              +     1 lap
18.  Trulli        Lotus-Renault              +    2 laps
19.  Glock         Virgin-Cosworth            +    2 laps
20.  Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth               +    2 laps

Fastest lap: Webber, 1:42.612

Photo: gp2media

James Calado wins on first GP2 Series weekend

GP3 graduate makes strong first impression after winning 2011 GP2 Final Sprint Race

James Calado proved Lotus ART was right to sign him for the 2012 season: on his GP2 Series debut at Yas Marina Circuit, the Brit scored his first win at the 2011 GP2 Final sprint race in Abu Dhabi. Calado kept the lead at the start from reverse pole and never surrendered despite huge pressure first from GP3 graduate Antonio Felix Da Costa and then from the experienced Marcus Ericsson. The Swede had to settle for second place ahead of teammate and GP3 graduate Tom Dillmann. Calado and Dillmann will both receive prize money from Pirelli for finishing as the two highest-placed GP3 graduates.

When the light went out, Calado kept his nearest rivals at bay and was still in the lead after the first corner. Ericsson was already up to third from P5 and all over Felix Da Costa, but the young Portuguese driver defended his position well. The Swede had to wait until Lap 8 before he could get past. The Ocean driver was then under the threat of a charging Luiz Razia whilst Ericsson set his sights on Calado.

The battle between Razia and Felix Da Costa intensified on the following lap, and the Brazilian eventually overtook the Portuguese. Felix Da Costa fought back but cut the corner and in doing so received a drive thru penalty which he observed immediately dropping him down to the middle of the field. Razia looked set for another podium finish this weekend but he was also handed a drive thru for ignoring yellow flags. This promoted Dillmann to third.

Behind the top three, Jolyon Palmer cruised to fourth place. But the battle for the remaining points-paying positions was a GP2 classic between Alexander Rossi, Stefano Coletti, Fabio Leimer, Kevin Ceccon and Esteban Gutierrez. The final laps saw a fierce fight with Coletti under constant attack from Leimer. Yesterday’s race winner was all over the Scuderia Coloni man and the battle ended in tears in the last lap after a contact between the two cars sent Coletti into the barriers. The fight continued with Rossi and Ceccon, but it was eventually Gutierrez who took fifth place – an impressive comeback from P21 on the grid. Ceccon took sixth.

At the chequered flag, Calado punched the air in celebration of his first GP2 success ahead of the iSport duo, Ericsson and Dillmann respectively. Although both drivers ended with seven points, it is Calado who is crowned best GP3 graduate thanks to his win and will receive 15,000 Euros from Pirelli while Dillmann will receive 10,000 Euros.

Motorsports mondial

Vettel takes his 14 th pole of the season matching Nigel Mansell

Sebastian Vettel: “I don’t know, there is no box in the car that I open and get it from, To be honest I would not say I’m surprised, but we expected to be closer than in practice, much closer.

McLaren were very quick straightaway yesterday in particular and I wasn’t happy with car. I wasn’t happy with myself. Overnight we tried to find out where the problem was. I think this afternoon it was already quite a bit better, but this is a tricky place with different conditions.

In Q2 we were quite close to reaching Lewis and we thought in Q3 we would have a chance. In the first run in Q3 I pushed a bit too hard, but in the last run I was able to have a good start in the lap.

When I crossed the line I looked up to the monitor and I couldn’t read the laptime, but the green was good so I was very pleased.

It is going to be a long race, a fun race, as we have seen all weekend,” he said. McLaren are very competitive on the long runs as well, and they will be very quick in the race.

Also we need to see from some people behind. We have to focus on ourselves, try to get a good start. It will be a long fight to the chequered flag. I am confident and ready.”

Pos Driver Team Time Gap 
 1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m38.481s
 2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m38.622s  + 0.141
 3.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m38.631s  + 0.150
 4.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m38.858s  + 0.377
 5.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m39.058s  + 0.577
 6.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m39.695s  + 1.214
 7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m39.773s  + 1.292
 8.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m40.662s  + 2.181
 9.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1m40.768s  + 2.287
10.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes
Q2 cut-off time: 1m40.554s Gap **
11.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m40.874s  + 2.440
12.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              1m40.919s  + 2.485
13.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m41.009s  + 2.575
14.  Bruno Senna           Renault              1m41.079s  + 2.645
15.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m41.162s  + 2.728
16.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m41.240s  + 2.806
17.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    1m41.760s  + 3.326
Q1 cut-off time: 1m42.605s Gap *
18.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m42.979s  + 3.197
19.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault        1m43.884s  + 4.102
20.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m44.515s  + 4.733
21.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth         1m44.641s  + 4.859
22.  Jerome D'Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m44.699s  + 4.917
23.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth         1m45.159s  + 5.377
24.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosoworth   no time

Photo: gp2media

Fabio Leimer claimed his maiden GP2 Feature Race win today at Yas Marina Circuit.

The Swiss racer took a lights-to-flag victory with a dominant drive, and in spite of his closest rival Luiz Razia’s best efforts to try and reduce the gap, Leimer remained in perfect control of his Racing Engineering machine all race long and was never in danger. Jolyon Palmer in third pocketed his first GP2 podium finish.

When the lights went off, Leimer launched from pole position perfectly. Behind him, Dani Clos made a slower start from P2 and then found himself caught in between Josef Kral and Razia. With no space to go to at Turn 1, Clos and Kral came together ending the Rapax man’s race prematurely and sending the Czech into a spin. The incident allowed Razia and Palmer to get past and free to chase Leimer. But the Swiss drivers pace proved to be difficult to match for Palmer who in turn had to look into his mirrors to try and keep a charging Esteban Gutierrez at bay. The Lotus ART man made a blazing start from P8 and looked hungry for more after a disappointing qualifying result. But the poor Mexican’s hopes for a podium today were crushed when he had to re-enter the pits in order to repair a damaged rear wing sustained when he was hit by Stefano Coletti at Turn 1 on the first lap.

With Leimer maintaining a good gap at the front, Razia’s only hopes of stealing the lead was during the mandatory pitstops, but the Swiss man pitted two laps after the Brazilian. He re-emerged second ahead of Razia and behind Palmer who pitted a lap later and handed the lead back over to the Racing Engineering driver.

Behind the Leimer/Razia duo, Palmer who had had a rather lonely first stint, then had to hold off pressure from Marcus Ericsson. The iSport ace started from thirteenth on the grid and made a perfect start that put him in P8. His pace enabled him to move up to P4 after his pitstop on Lap 13 and he kept on pushing until the last lap. However, that was not enough and Palmer retained his first podium finish.

At the chequered flag, Leimer who had clocked in the fastest laptime for good measure savoured his victory ahead of Razia and Palmer, and pocketed a perfect thirteen points. Ericsson finished fourth ahead of Kevin Ceccon. The final three points-paying places were claimed by GP3 graduates Tom Dillmann, Antonio Felix da Costa (who recovered from P15 on the grid) and James Calado. The Lotus ART man will start from tomorrow’s reverse pole.

 

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