Race Review: A1GP Kyalami

A1GP World Cup
A1GP Gauteng

Kyalami, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
Held: 22 Feb 09
Watched: 6 Dec 09
Coverage: Sky Sports 2
Commentary: Ben Edwards and John Watson
Pits: Diana Binks and James Hinchcliffe (@Hinchtown)

This is the first visit of A1GP to Kyalami, replacing the crashfest that was the Durban street race of previous years – it was a great location on the coast but a poor layout.

Sky have Georgie Thompson, Tony Jardine (racing pundit and insider) and Olly Jarvis (former driver for A1 GBR, now in DTM) in the studio in London.

Points coming into this event:
Ireland 65, Switzerland 52, Portugal 49, France 41, Netherlands 38, NZ 35, Malaysia 31, Australia 30, South Africa 17, Britain 16

Germany have been absent for the season to date and they finally join in this weekend. Sky show a recap of their last involvement the previous year where Ammermueller picked up a reputation for crashing into people – oh dear!

*Sprint Race

Grid (top ten):

Bleekemolen (Netherlands) Albuquerque (Portugal)
Jani (Switzerland) Piccione (Monaco)
Karthikeyan (India) Carroll (Ireland)
Prost (France) Zaugg (South Africa)
Fauzy (Malaysia) Piscopo (Italy)

Bleekemolen took pole for the Dutch team. Interesting to see India are up there, Karthikeyan can be a good driver on his day.

Diana is with Alan Jones, seatholder for A1Team Australia. Alan tells us about the black armband he is wearing for the people who lost their lives in the Australian bushfires, and the car is also bearing the logo of a ribbon.

Hinch has Bleekemolen on the grid:
“Our last pole was at Zandvoort and we didn’t win it, so we have to win it now.” He’s talking about low grip so the cars are getting sideways.

14 lap race, standing start.. didn’t they used to have rolling starts for this one?

START
Jani takes 2nd immediately, Bleekemolen has a big lead straight away. Karthikeyan is up to 4th at the expense of Piccione.

13 to go – Piccione repasses Karthikeyan, great pass!
Carroll also passes the India car using PowerBoost.
12 – Netherlands are running 2sec per lap faster than the field. Ho-Pin Tung makes a move on Bamber, he dives inside but runs too wide and the NZ car repasses him.
10 – China now makes a mistake, Germany gets alongside but has to back off. Lebanon are in the garage with a problem of some kind. Ben says the pit window is now open.
9 – Bleekemolen and Jani pit from 1st and 2nd, many cars further down follow them in. Jani is held up by the Malaysian car which is blocking his exit, parked at an angle. Commentary talking about a narrow pitlane but it is wide, the problem is there isn’t enough length between pit stalls and these cars have a very wide turning circle.
8 – Portugal in, Ireland in, Monaco stays out. Netherlands retakes the lead among those who have stopped.
7 – Piccione pits the Monaco car. Germany made up places through the stops.
6 – Order after stops: Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, Monaco, Ireland, India, South Africa, New Zealand
5 – GB in the gravel at turn one, after fighting with Brazil. Replay: Contact! The two collide and Watts runs off course. Yellows at turn one.
3 – Bleekemolen has a 4.3sec lead now although Portugal just set Fastest Lap. There’s not much actual racing anywhere in the field.
1 – All sorts of different onboard and offboard TV shots are being used to fill the time while nothing is happening on track..

Jeroen Bleekemolen wins the sprint race for Netherlands. Somehow Ireland took 4th ahead of Monaco? Not shown on TV.

RESULT (top ten)

Here is the result of this race, keep reading for the Feature race.

Driver Team Gap Pts
1 Bleekemolen Netherlands 14 laps 10
2 Albuquerque Portugal 4.407s 8
3 Jani Switzerland 10.600s 6
4 Carroll Ireland 12.925s 5
5 Piccione Monaco 14.363s 4
6 Karthikeyan India 18.474s 3
7 Zaugg South Africa 21.178s 2
8 Bamber New Zealand 26.539s 1
9 Fauzy Malaysia 26.925s
10 Prost France 28.101s
FL Albuquerque Portugal 01:29.072 1

I’ll recap the points after the main race.

*Feature Race

Nicolas Prost (son of Alain) starts 11th and is with Diana: “The atmosphere is fantastic, beautiful event. 11th is disappointing but a lot of people are in my situation after the red flag. It will be a long, hot race, very physical. Anything can happen.”

John Martin of Australia start 4th and is with Hinch: “Sprint race quali didn’t go our way but Q3 went okay, and we have a fast car so let’s hope it goes our way.”

Grid (top ten):

Piccione (Monaco) Fauzy (Malaysia)
Bamber (New Zealand) Martin (Australia)
Jani (Switzerland) Carroll (Ireland)
Albuquerque (Portugal) Guimaraes (Brazil)
Bleekemolen (Netherlands) Watts (GBR)

Monaco on pole! Qualifying was red-flagged so a fairly jumbled order.

South African national anthem

A1GP command from the premier of the Gauteng region: ‘Gentlemen, for the pride of your nations, start your engines’

40 lap race, standing start..

START

Monaco away well, terrible for Portugal who drop back to last.
Andretti going outside of Prost! It sticks, good move.
Adam Carroll spins! He tried to pass Malaysia and he’s thrown it into the gravel – he’s out of the race.
Netherlands and USA are making rapid progress up the order. NZ and Malaysia battling. Brazil v Australia.

39 to go – Australia passes Brazil over the line for 5th.
38 – Malaysia really pushing NZ hard over the last couple of laps. Fauzy and Bamber. Australia has now caught both.
Start replay: Australia was pushed partially on to the grass and lost several positions.

37 – Malaysia punts New Zealand off the track! Fauzy braked too late and now Bamber is out of the race. Someone else has gone off.. could be France. Fauzy continues having lost a couple of places.
Just in the replay you could briefly see Mexico push France and Duran went off track, Prost pitted.

35 – Malaysia pits with probably damage. The official pit window isn’t open yet. China is off course and Malaysia rejoins, but will still have to take 2 stops later. Replay of India running off course too.

Proper replay of France/Mexico: Prost was tipped into a spin and stopped on track to rejoin, Mexico kept running but only into the gravel.

Diana with Adam Carroll: “Got a good start, Malaysia were slow on the back straight so I used push-to-pass and I knew I was ahead, I even gave him some room and he hit me in the back corner. I’m pretty angry to tell you the truth.”

33 – Great battle between GB, Netherlands, USA and Germany, as Fauzy spins off to cheers from the crowd! Caught his rear wheel on the dust and 360s.

32 – The first pit window is open.
Order: Monaco, Swiss, Australia, Brazil, GB, Ned, USA, Ger, SA, Por, Leb, Indonesia, China, etc.

31 – Monaco pits. Very slow stop, 15.9 seconds! Australia stalls leaving the pits, Germany is in their way, now Australia has an exhaust fire! They are trying to push-start it.. it isn’t going anywhere.

30 – Jani is in. Watson tips Portugal as one to watch as he’s running fastest of all. Swiss pitstop was about 10 seconds. Portugal’s stop is about 11 seconds.

Andretti now running faster than before, Ben suggests he may have been caught behind the GB/Ned fight.

29 – South Africa pits, USA stay out. Quick 9sec stop for RSA and he is out alongside Portugal, but they have momentum and take the place.
Jani is right up behind Andretti, despite Jani having pitted. Marco stays out for another lap.

28 – Jani uses powerboost to pass Andretti on the front straight. Lebanon is running close to Andretti, haven’t pitted either.

27 – Lebanon pits but USA does not. A couple of laps of the pit window remain. Diana is in the Malaysia pit where the car is in the garage, ‘Fauzy reported a puncture – there was no puncture and he went back out and came in again, something is broken on the back of the car’.
Heheh, you could hear an echo as Diana’s voice was also on the circuit tannoy for the spectators, and as she said there was no puncture Fairuz looked rather sheepish…

26 – Andretti pits, 11 second stop, he’s out ahead of a train of cars but Zaugg gets him and so does Ammermueller as he gets up to speed.

Morad (Lebanon) passes Andretti, now Indonesia takes him. What’s Marco doing out there? Bad tyres perhaps, or struggling to get heat and grip into them.

25 – Order after the first stops:
Switzerland, Monaco, Brazil, Netherlands, Britain, Portugal, South Africa, Germany, Lebanon, Indonesia, USA, China, Italy, India, Australia

Where did Brazil come from?? Zaugg slows and pulls to the side of the track, problem..
Radio: he says he has a problem downshifting.
He’s made it to the pits.

23 – Lebanon passes Germany! Morad is on form today, I’m very impressed with him.

22 – Brazil is in 3rd and running 1sec/lap faster than Monaco in 2nd. Andretti has lost a position to China. His grandfather won at this track in its original configuration when it was an F1 circuit. Watson says “this is not what I’d expect of an Andretti”. Perhaps he hasn’t been watching IndyCar..

19 – Brazil has now caught Monaco. Replay of Ammermueller running wide into the gravel, and his tyres are caked in dust and dirt.

18 – China now running very slowly just as South Africa’s was.

17 – The second pit window is now open. Monaco runs wide at turn four and Brazil passes him! Slip-up from Piccione, he was low on grip and the pit window opened a little too late for him. Thumbs-up from Emerson Fittipaldi on the pit wall.

16 – Brazil, GB and Netherlands pit. Very slow stop for Britain.

15 – Switzerland pits from the lead. Good stop, he’s out in clear air. China seems to have fixed their issue as they leave the pits and get up to speed. Many others stopping.

14 – Monaco pits from what should be a temporary lead. Second stop better than the first stop. Danny Watts sets fastest lap of 1m30 or so. Now Marco Andretti goes quicker, he’s finally found some pace, I’m not sure if he’s pitted again. Spin for China at the chicane.

13 – Ho-Pin Tung has brought his car into the garage to retire. Lebanon are pitting late and he’s running at a good pace.

12 – Lebanon pits now. Malaysia rejoins after a long time in the pits, many laps down.

Hinch is with Earl Bamber of NZ: “We came down into turn 12 and he just hit us up the arse and that was it, we were in the gravel trap.”

11 – Order after the second stops:
Switzerland, Brazil, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, Britain, Lebanon, USA, Indonesia, Italy, India, Germany, Australia, China (7 laps), South Africa (14 laps), Malaysia (19 laps)
Malaysia are back out and could be trying to get the point for fastest lap.

7 – Italy and India having a fight.. Karthikeyan slides the car, runs wide and now has Ammermueller on his tail.

6 – John says Malaysia just set the fastest first sector of the last lap. Australia currently holds the fastest lap. Fauzy now takes it, 1:28.306.

4 – India has caught Italy again and he does the same, slides, runs wide!

2 – Replay: Lebanon passes Britain on the front straight.

Last lap

Neel Jani wins for Switzerland!

Ammermueller passed Karthikeyan on the last lap for 11th. That was a really entertaining race, I enjoyed that.

Emmerson Fittipaldi on Felipe Guimaraes: “Very proud, for the last ten laps we had a fuel pressure problem and were losing 1 second per lap, very proud. He’s a talent, he’s going a long way.”
Ben says Guimaraes is only 17! I have to admit I’ve never heard of him before.

RESULT (top ten)

Driver Team Gap Pts
1 Jani Switzerland 40 laps 15
2 Guimaraes Brazil 13.176s 12
3 Piccione Monaco 14.193s 10
4 Bleekemolen Netherlands 17.024s 8
5 Albuquerque Portugal 17.995s 6
6 Morad Lebanon 31.210s 5
7 Watts Britain 34.328s 4
8 Andretti United States 59.000s 3
9 Ali Indonesia 63.995s 2
10 Piscopo Italy 64.856s 1
FL Fauzy Malaysia 01:28.306 1

Another win for Jani, well done to the Swiss team. Impressive performances from Guimaraes and Morad, and Piccione scored the first podium for Monaco!

POINTS (top ten)

A1.Team Prior Sprint Feature Closing
1 Switzerland 52 6 15 73
2 Ireland 65 5 70
3 Portugal 49 8 6 64
4 Netherlands 38 10 8 56
5 France 41 41
6 New Zealand 35 1 36
7 Malaysia 31 1 32
8 Australia 30 30
9 Monaco 9 4 10 23
10 Britain 16 4 20

Good points hauls for Switzerland, Netherlands, Portugal and Monaco.
Terrible weekend for France, NZ, Malaysia and Australia who all lose ground.
Monaco’s scoring was good enough to bring them into the top ten.

Summary

I really enjoyed the feature race, lots of action all the way through and cars could pass even on this difficult circuit. The battle for the lead wasn’t much, with the action in the rest of the field it didn’t need to be. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the sprint race, which has long been a problem of A1GP racing.

Olly Jarvis seems to be becoming a clone of Tony Jardine with his sayings and mannerisms, the same way of finishing the sentences with a slightly higher intonation.. should we be worried?

It is quite bittersweet to be watching these races after the fact with the knowledge we have now of all A1GP’s financial problems. It was bad in the ’08/’09 series, it is much worse this time – the cars haven’t even turned a wheel. Such a shame.

The next event was a mammoth seven weeks after this one, at the new Portimao circuit on the Algarve in Portugal. I plan to do reviews of that race and the Brands Hatch finale although I appreciate this is probably for my own benefit rather than anyone else’s.

Race Review: NASCAR Daytona 500

NASCAR Sprint Cup
Daytona 500

Daytona International Speedway, Daytona, Florida, USA
(1/36)
Held: 15 Feb 09
Watched: 1 Nov 09
Coverage: FOX 1hr edit*, aired on Five

* I watched the 1-hour highlights edition which is obviously heavily edited from the original race coverage. I’m not sure who does the editing, if it is from NASCAR, FOX or Five.

200 laps scheduled

Green flag. These cars may not be impressive but their speeds and car control required are, look how much they move around! Takes some doing to keep them off the wall, I should think.

Kyle Busch leads the early running, Harvick is also quick but some way back.

Spin on lap 8. Almirola. Replay: He had to lift in traffic and the car behind tagged him gently. Yellow flag.
L11 – Restart.

[jump]
L40 – Kyle Busch and Dale Jr side by side for the lead. Busch pulls ahead. Two lines of traffic all the way back, typical restrictor plate stuff, exciting for a while if you are new to it like I am… but then very boring when nothing changes.

[jump]
L60 – Restart, my highlights don’t show why it was yellow in the first place. Man in the pits shows us a tyre, VERY worn right down to the cords. Dangerous stuff.

L65 – All the cars are bunched up still. Commentary saying 33 cars covered by 3 seconds… while that is quite impressive, it really is just an accident looking for somewhere to happen. You’re watching through your fingers because a big crash is inevitible, that’s not what this should be about.

[jump]
L86 – Something of a bad edit and we’re on another restart, not told why, not our business. This is a need-to-know operation and we don’t need to know.

Chat with Joey Logano, apparently he was in an accident.

L90 – The weather has changed, teams are racing to halfway in case of rain. If rain arrives any time after half distance (lap 100) the race will be declared as finished with full points awarded. Rain is due soon so no more waiting until lap 180 to then race to the end, got to go now..

L93 – Earnhardt Jr missed his pit stall last time, had to go around and came out last but he’s working his way up the order again, he’s into the top 15.

[jump]
L111 (89 to go) – Single file most of the way back, four car break up front: Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Edwards, McMurray. Finally someone breaks away!

86 to go – Jeff Gordon pits after a long green flag run, commentary says people will now follow him in. Jeff goes a lap down with a green flag stop.
Indeed they do start pitting.. most of the leaders stay out.
During the pit sequence a tyre blows on the track, yellow for debris.

[jump]
L124 (77 to go) – Restart but no, here’s the big one straight away.
Earnhardt Jr turns someone into the field who try to avoid the car, but many fail.. Kyle Busch, dominant all day, is taken out of the race along with about ten other cars.

Dale was pushed to the inside below the line, coming back in he caught the back end of Vickers’ car when he ought to have lifted slightly to get more space. Okay so he shouldn’t have been blocked, but once he was he shouldn’t have moved up until he was clear.

[jump]
L163 RED FLAG
The rain has arrived. Replay of Kenseth taking the lead from Sadler.

Official – the race is over due to rain.

Result (top 10):
1. Kenseth (Ford)
2. Harvick (Chevy)
3. Allmendinger (Dodge)
4. Bowyer (C)
5. E.Sadler (D)
6. Ragan (F)
7. Waltrip (Toyota)
8. Stewart (C)
9. Sorenson (D)
10. Ku.Busch (D)

Not necessarily representative of the pace of the race. Harvick did pull himself to the front but Kyle Busch ought to have been up there. That’s just how this style of racing goes.

Points (top 12):
1. Kenseth 190
2. Harvick -20
3. Allmendinger -25
4. Bowyer -30
5. E.Sadler -30
6. Ragan -40
7. Stewart -43
8. Waltrip -44
9. Sorenson -52
10. Truex Jr -55
11. Ku.Busch -56
12. J.Gordon -61

I do not understand this points system, I assume points were accrued through bonuses.

Summary:
Interesting stuff from my perspective, the style of racing is completely different to anything I’m used to. I couldn’t watch it for three hours or more although I did try to do so live at the time, but this highlights form really works for me. The editing could be better – we need to know why things like restarts are happening, not just that they are.

I’ll continue this series of race reviews over the off-season, although I’ll only promise to cover IRL, GP2 and MotoGP races, there will be a lot more but the coverage will be patchy.

Race Review: GP2 Asia Qatar ’09

GP2 Asia Series (08/09)
Losail, Doha, Qatar
7&8 of 12
Held: 14-15 February 2009
Watched: 3 October 2009
Coverage: Eurosport / Martin Haven & Gareth Rees

This is the first ever GP2 night race but Qatar has hosted night events for MotoGP and World Superbikes before so this should be no problem for them.

Feature Race (34 laps)

Grid:

1. Hülkenberg (ART) 2. Perez (Campos)
3. Petrov (Campos) 4. Kobayashi (DAMS)
5. Rodriguez (Piquet) 6. Yamamoto (ART)
7. Villa (Super Nova) 8. Valsecchi (Durango)
9. Mortara (Arden) 10. D’Ambrosio (DAMS)
11. Jakes (Super Nova) 12. Bonanomi (Meritus)
13. Parente (Meritus) 14. Nunes (Piquet)
15. Crestani (Ocean) 16. van der Garde (iSport)
17. Herck (DPR) 18. Ricci (DPR)
19. Razia (Arden) 20. Rigon (Trident)
21. Al Fardan (iSport) 22. Gonzalez (FMS)
23. Buurman (Ocean) 24. Porvenzano (Trident)
25. M.Dalle Stelle (Durango) 26. Nai Chia Chen (FMS)

[all Dallara-Renault-Bridgestone]

Kevin Chen was SEVEN seconds per lap slower than Hulkenberg in qualifying. Stunningly bad.

Formation Lap

Medium compound tyre this weekend. Like F1 there is a range of tyres, unlike F1 they use the same one for the whole weekend at the choice of Bridgestone.

Parente is new in at Ocean so he’ll take this race to acclimatise, he hasn’t raced since October.

Grid.. GO!

BIG CRASH on the start. Commentary says Yamamoto had stalled and he was hit. Huge impact as the back of the grid gets up to speed.

Safety Car

Yamamoto is ok. 3 or 4 others involved and those guys seem okay too. Buurman is one of them. Gonzalez another.

Safety Car is stopped at the beginning of the main straight to wait for the leaders, who reach it… and it doesn’t move. Front straight blocked with debris.

Replay: Buurman jinked right to avoid a slower car and rams Yamamoto, there’s no way he could have seen that car, he was unsighted due to the wing of the other car he was avoiding.

The field is now being led through the pit lane.

Very slow clear up. They don’t have a road sweeper, and they only have one man with a brush! They also only seem to have one Caterpillar lifter to move the cars..

32 to go – Perez leads. Al Fardan has stalled on pit entry. Eventually he gets in to the pits and is refired.
31 – Chen does the same. Gareth says it’ll be no loss if he’s not restarted.. Ah, they’ve found some more brooms.
29 – Main straight is now clear and the SC lights are off. Order: Perez, Hulkenberg, Petrov, Kobayashi, Valsecchi, Villa.
28 – RESTART
27 – D’Ambrosio pits from 8th or so. Rigon is in from a long way down. Tyre temps will be very low after this 20 minute yellow period, in which the SC was driving very slowly even for a Safety Car.

25 – Parente passes Mortara at turn one.
Kobayashi in trouble, Valsecchi and Villa pass him.
Petrov pits. Villa takes Valsecchi with the momentum from the other move. Good stuff.
24 – Rodriquez spins it at turn one, stuck in the gravel, he’s out.
21 – Villa passes Hülkenberg for 2nd, though they do need to pit. Petrov is fastest man on track.
20 – Perez pits from the lead. Kobayashi is dropping back again.
19 – Villa leads for one lap and then pits.

Petrov leads Perez after their stops, potential lead change between team-mates when it shakes out after Petrov put in solid laps – but Perez is now all over him.

16 – Perez passes Petrov, who’s shot his tyres with those fast laps. Hülkenberg has still to pit, he was pulling a gap on these two.

13 – Ahh, Villa has been given a drive-thru for pitlane speeding. He was driving well for a podium, too. Shame.
Della Stella is crawling around with a loose rear wheel. Hm.

Good racing between Valsecchi and the chasing d’Ambrosio, who makes a nice move on the main straight, the last of several clean attempts. No blocking or swerving here.

Bit of a stalemate for a while (that’s code for BORING).

6 – Provenzano spins at turn one, recovers through the gravel. I have never heard of him.
5 – Hülkenberg makes his pit stop from a huuuge lead. Slightly held up by a DPR car also pitting, from almost a lap down.
Nico H. rejoins the track still with a big lead! The entire length of the pit straight (and Losail has a long straight).
3 – Provenzano is off again, looks like a wheel hub breaking..
2 – Hülkenberg has a 16sec lead and Kobayashi’s tyres have come alive! He’s chasing Petrov for 3rd now, I didn’t notice that earlier. Tyres are an oddity here it seems.
1 – Last lap.

FLAG – Hülkenberg wins!

Top Ten Margin Pts
1 Hülkenberg 34 laps 10+1
2 Perez 13.295 sec 8
3 Petrov 14.343 sec 6
4 Kobayashi 14.746 sec 5
5 D’Ambrosio 23.419 sec 4
6 Valsecchi 33.919 sec 3
7 Mortara 35.214 sec 2
8 Razia 35.341 sec 1
9 Jakes 41.162 sec
10 Crestani 43.774 sec

Hülkenberg picks up the point for Fastest Lap. True FL-setter Parente was outside the top ten, this rule prevents backmarkers pitting for new tyres every few laps and doing qualifying runs to get the point. Keep scrolling down for Sunday’s race.

* * *
Sprint Race (23 laps)

Yelmer Buurman does not take the start after yesterday’s crash, it seems because they haven’t been able to repair the car in time rather than for medical reasons but I’m not completely sure.

Grid is the finishing positions from the Feature with the top 8 reversed.

1. Razia 2. Mortara
3. Valsecchi 4. D’Ambrosio
5. Kobayashi 6. Petrov
7. Perez 8. Hülkenberg
9. Jakes 10. Crestani

Pastor Maldonado’s seat has been taken by Nico Hulkenberg for a few races and this will be Nico’s last event of the GP2 Asia season.

Grid..GO!

Front row slow away, Campos guys [Petrov and Perez] away fast from row 3 and jump into 1st and 2nd by the first turn!
Kobayashi and d’Ambrosio dropped from 4th/5th to 7th/8th on the start.

22 to go – Perez leads Petrov, only just.
21 – Hülkenberg and Razia run wide into the dust!
19 – Jakes re-passes Crestani at turn one (didn’t realise he’d gone back..).
18 – Now he takes someone else.. can’t identify.

Parente is off-track, through the gravel, rejoins bringing lots of dust and crap on to the circuit. A few drivers have done this now, it doesn’t help the grip which is pretty bad as it is.

Perez, Petrov, Mortara, Hülkenberg, Valsecchi, Razia, D’Ambrosio, van der Garde.

16 – Top 3 well clear of the rest of the field which is still running in close proximity to each other. Bonanomi in the Qi Meritus Mahara car passes Rigon for 14th.

Meritus race in the GP2 Asia Series in place of Racing Engineering who only race in the European series, all the other teams race in both.

14 – Bonamomi racing closely with Nunes and takes the place, some close hard and fair racing!

12 – Perez and Petrov have cleared off in to the distance but Mortara has dropped into the clutches of Hülkenberg. Nico has been looking after his tyres much more effectively than his rivals who have all slowed down somewhat compared to earlier.

11 – Hülkenberg now racing Mortara, can’t quite make it work. Rear-facing onboard! We can see Valsecchi and Razia coming up behind them.

Kobayashi is dropping down the field, he’s 14th.

8 – Hulkenberg passes Mortara for 3rd just as we go to a commercial break! Now, can Valsecchi and the three guys behind him capitalise? Only a quick break, wow, Nico hit the warp drive, he’s suddenly 3sec up the road one lap after the pass!

6 – Parente gets really crossed-up in the dust and loses a bundle of positions. The Hulk is 1sec/lap faster than the two leaders, but may not have enough laps to catch up.

4 – Provencano spins into the gravel, elsewhere so does Chen. Replay: Crestani runs wide and Provencano loses control into the gravel trap! Avoidence or coincidence, hard to say.. Frankie Provencano has graduated from Formula Master.

2 – Mortara in 4th is bottling up a lot of cars behind him, big train has caught him up all the way down to 11th! And now they are all catching Chen, who did a 2 minute lap last time compared to 1m41 for the leaders…

Perez suddenly jumps forward in lap time, a clear 2sec faster than before.

Sergio Perez wins!

Top Ten Margin Pts
1 Perez 23 laps 6+1
2 Petrov 2.355 sec 5
3 Hülkenberg 11.929 sec 4
4 Mortara 19.454 sec 3
5 Valsecchi 21.735 sec 2
6 Razia 22.618 sec 1
7 D’Ambrosio 24.029 sec
8 van der Garde 24.346 sec
9 Jakes 25.253 sec
10 Villa 26.074 sec

Perez gets the point for Fastest Lap. A great result for the Barwa Campos Team, 2nd and 3rd in the Feature race and a 1-2 in the Sprint!

Points:

Kobayashi 39
Valsecchi 29
Hülkenberg 27
Perez 25
Rodriguez 22
D’Ambrosio 21
Petrov 19
Villa 12
Mortara 11
Bamber 8

The next race was at Sepang seven weeks later supporting the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Now that we’re in the off-season I will catch up with those rounds soon – I hope!

Race Notes: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2009

Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Date: 1 November 2009
Circuit: Yas Marina Circuit
Location: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Distance: 55 laps
Tyre choices (red): SS / S / M / H

Coverage: BBC One
Anchor: Jake Humphrey
Analysts: David Coulthard (DC) and Eddie Jordan (EJ)
Interviewers: Ted Kravitz and Lee McKenzie

For this race I did not have the 5Live audio option on Freeview and the BBC’s streaming version made each of my browsers crash (I tried FF and IE).

Does anyone know why this isn’t called the UAE Grand Prix? Seems strange that after years of naming GPs after countries or territories we’re naming this one after a city. Maybe the locals are trying to promote the place and get one up on their neighbouring Emirates.

Coverage begins at 12pm UK time.

A quick review of Brazil with new World Champion Jenson Button, Muse as backing music, works well. He says the last 3 laps were the longest laps he’s ever driven. Very pleased to get it after 21 years of working for it, 21 years since his Dad put him in a kart.

Live in the paddock. Brawn garage. JB has a ‘World Champion’ sticker on his lid. Coulthard says for them this race is a celebration of a championship-winning year but he doesn’t think they have the pace here to win.

A look of the points: The interest this weekend is that one point gap between McLaren and Ferrari.

Chatting with Richard Cregan, ex-Toyota F1 and has spent the last year or two overseeing the Yas Marina construction project. He says he likes the ‘can do’ attitude of the people in this part of the world.

Quali recap with Lee McKenzie, she points out:
Q1. Grosjean and Kovalainen spun. Alonso was very slow but he seemed to be expecting it.
Q2. Kovalainen then had transmission failure. Raikkonen slow.
Q3 in darkness. Hamilton very fast, Vettel tried hard but Hamilton lowered the bar considerably at the flag. Webber 3rd. Button had vibrations on the brakes.

Grid
Hamilton, Vettel
Webber, Barrichello
Button, Trulli
Kubica, Heidfeld
Rosberg, Buemi
Raikkonen, Kobayashi
Nakajima, Alguersuari
Alonso, Liuzzi
Sutil, Kovalainen*
Grosjean, Fisichella

*Kovalainen had a 5-place drop for a gearbox change.

We go to a review of Renault’s year. A very fast review. Lots of ups and downs with the whole Piquet thing, Grosjean coming in, car sometimes fast and sometimes slow and now Alonso is off to Ferrari.

Review of BMW. Less of a review, more a 20sec montage to music and maybe two sentences after it. This is their 70th and final race and they only had one podium all year.

McLaren. Started with a terrible car and turned it around to become winners. The guys say Kovalainen is expected to leave the team (most of us expect Raikkonen to come in). DC says Heikki is capable of winning, given the chance – he just hasn’t had the chance. (DC has been in the exact same situation against Mika.)

Ferrari. Worst ever start to a season, and the first season without a pole position since 1993. Massa injured, Badoer and then Fisichella in. Both they and we are looking forward to Alonso alongside Massa in 2010, it’ll be a great partnership.

Seems that’s it for the recapping the teams, apparently nobody cares about the rest.
We jump into a skit with Humphrey taking part in his first ever race in a Lotus Elise championship at Silverstone. This is show how hard it is to race, and also to promote GoMotorsport, getting more people involved in racing. (They cleverly used only a .net domain so I had to Google it to find it.) This piece is badly edited – he damaged the front of the car but it has mysteriously repaired itself..

Gridwalk
Martin Brundle and Eddie Jordan on the grid.

Boris Becker: “Amazing, they all say a lot before races how its gonna be but its all true what they say, amazing place.”

350 British marshals are helping here, here’s one of them: “Really good, fantastic experience, thanks to BARC for the opportunity and the ATC for accomodating us. I’ve been doing this 30 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes, its in my blood so I’ll carry on. We’re all a team.”

Lewis Hamilton: “Great job all week, incredible feeling to be up front at the last race. We’ve got the pace and a good strategy to win. We never anticipated we’d be so fast at the end of the season though that was our goal.”

Mark Webber: “Went pretty well yesterday in quali. Sensational circuit. Predict a good fight with JB, Lewis pretty strong and Seb and I, all three of us. For sure I’m not gonna do anything to hurt Seb’s chances, totally in the team’s interest not to lost too many points on that front.”

Quick chat with cricketer Andrew Flintoff.. but I don’t care. He says this is his first experience at a GP but I swear Brundle has talked to him elsewhere..

Richard Branson, arm in a sling. Says he turned a quad bike over and he just had an operation on the shoulder. EJ thanks him for swearing on TV before when everyone said Eddie would be the first (at the first race, no less).

Jay Kay. Says compared to this race, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do at home. One of the finest tracks in the world. Looking for a Ferrari podium.

Crown Prince of Bahrain: “It is spectacular, it does so much for the sport in the Gulf region.” EJ layers on platitude after platitude on the Prince and Bahrain for introducing the sport to the region. The first race of 2010 will be held in Bahrain on March 14th.

Anthem of the UAE

Shots of the King Carlos of Spain walking on the grid with Bernie. Martin Brundle walks up and chats to him casually, as you do.. Not on mike this time.

Flypast by an Etihad jet. Jake calls it an Emirates jet despite the race being named after Etihad and there being giant Etihad banners all over the place. Sponsorship fail.

Replay of yesterday’s piece with Martin and David racing two-seater F1 cars around the track a few weeks ago when it had just opened.. dust everywhere. Showing us the racing lines.

Ted Kravitz tell us who has improved the most since March. Ferrari are 2.8sec faster, Force India 2.6, Red Bull 2.0, BMW 1.8, Toyota 1.6, Brawn 1.0, with Renault and Ferrari much smaller gains. I recognise the music but I’m not sure what it is..
He also tells us about the fuel weights but it doesn’t interest me.

Lee has found Ron Dennis. He’s in an overview role at McLaren now. He says the team are doing a great job, quick interview because it is time to race.

Hah, the lead-in music is the KLF! 90s classic.
We’re into the FOM intro.

Engines fired.

FORMATION LAP

55 lap race

1.2.3.4.5.hold.GO!

Hamilton leads immediately. Everyone clear and through lap one.

Replay: Webber cuts across Barrichello’s nose and little pieces of Brawn go flying.

BMW and Toyota fighting.. I am having big trouble getting Firefox to stay open without crashing as it loads the 5Live audio feed, so I’m trying to fix that while following the busiest part of the race..

Hamilton building a big lead already!

L5 – Great helicopter shots.
L7 – CGI of the first corner showing everyone’s positions! Not sure it was all that useful in this instance but it will be in future when existing camera angles aren’t enough.

Heikki is told if he can’t pass Kimi, he should save fuel instead. Millions of fans suddenly gather around their TVs to watch the amazing spectacle of guys saving fuel.

L10 – Not that good of a race at the moment, though Webber is fast and catching his teammate.

L13 – Lewis is told he has to pick up the pace, or fall into the clutches of the 1-stoppers.

F1 journalist @WillBuxton via Twitter:
“Apparently the Yas Hotel will be lit up in the colours of the flag of the winning driver at the end of the race.”
That’s crazy!!

L17 Barrichello and Kubica are the first to pit. They succesfully negotiate the tricky pit exit.
Hamilton sets the Fastest Lap.

L18 – Hamilton pits, so does Button. Button beats Kobayashi… no, side by side.. hairpin, and again along the straight, Button brakes too late and Kamui takes the position! He’s a feisty one this new guy, isn’t he?

L19 – Webber, Trulli, Rosberg, and Buemi pit. Hamilton is told he may have a brake problem.

L20 – Vettel pits and comes out in the lead!!

Ted Kravitz says McLaren are clearing a space in the garage!

Hamilton pits. Wow, he pulls into the garage and gets out of the car. We can hear Martin Whitmarsh telling Lewis that ‘the data shows a problem, they might take it off and find nothing but they can’t risk it.’ With that long straight I concur, very big shame though, this basically kills the race stone dead.

L23 – It has all gone quiet again. Rosberg has been told to take risks because Trulli is slow.

Order:
Vettel, Webber, Kobayashi*, Button, Barrichello, Raikkonen*, Kovalainen*, Heidfeld, Trulli, Kubica, Rosberg, Nakajima*, Buemi, Fisichella*, Alonso*, Grosjean*, Sutil*
* yet to make their first (or only) stop

Kobayashi flying!

Hamilton with Lee: “Problem with the right rear brakes, it was too dangerous to continue. Struggling to stop the car.”

Getting dark in Abu Dhabi now.

Brundle is talking about how Kobayashi had a poor GP2 season and Grosjean had a good one, yet F1 is all about absorbing pressure and Kobayashi is doing well with it, Grosjean isn’t.

L28 Gaps opening between cars.. not much going on..

L30 Raikkonen pits.
L31 Kobayashi also in.
L32 Now for Kovalainen, can he beat Raikkonen? Yes, by some margin!

Wow, Sutil and Grosjean are side by side *without crashing*!

It got dark very quickly..

This is one of the most boring races of the season. The images coming through the TV look fantastic but that’s not really enough – we could use some racing.

Kobayashi and Nakajima started next to each other… Kob is now 8th, Nak still where he started.

L42 Kubica vs Buemi, contact, spin! Kubica spins trying to get around Buemi, loses a place to Rosberg while he recovers.

L43 Vettel and Button pit. Seb has a clear lead and Button beats Barrichello!

All done bar the shouting. The only entertainment is watching the decorative lights on the hotel as they change colour. Blue. Orange. Purple. Different every lap, how can you get bored? Umm..

L45, 10 to go.

L49 Button is catching Webber at half a second per lap, but we are running out of laps.

L51 Vettel is only now putting laps on the back end of the field, strong pace from everyone yet still a boring race.. I wonder if that means lapping the backmarkers helps racing?

L52 Fisichella on Grosjean! Grosjean goes across the run-off and will have to give up the place for cutting the corner.
Brundle: “Its hardly going to change our day is it?”
Hah. Snark factor 50.

Button has caught Webber! Mark is all over the place, will he hold on?

LAST LAP

Great fight between Button and Webber, nice and clean, no weaving and Mark manages to hold him off. This is how it should be done. No hard blocking a la Kobayashi in Brazil.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS!
Webber 2nd, Button 3rd.

Vettel screaming on the radio: “Bitte! Bitte! Kate’s dirty sister did it again!”
A reference to the name he gave his car..

Donuts from Vettel but we can’t see it because the director is showing us the crowd, and the hotel again.. it was showing a chequered flag! Not as good as a donut though..

About now @WillBuxton corrects himself when he realises it was a flag they were showing rather than the winner’s colours..

Parc Ferme.

Replay of the donuts. FIA likes to penalise them. Brundle says donuts should be mandatory.

Drivers head upstairs.. Button talking to Webber, swears live on worldwide TV! Despite us being able to hear them all season, the drivers still haven’t cottoned on to that fact..
Legard apologises on behalf of the BBC. I just realised I haven’t mentioned Legard at all in these notes, did I mentally tune him out? Did I still listen and take in the info? I have no idea.

Podium

Anthems for Germany (Seb) and Austria (RBR). Sorry Austria, your anthem is way too long.

Trophies

Back to the guys. 19 weeks, or 133 days until we do it again. DC says, “it was a great bit of action on the last lap. Great spectacle in Abu Dhabi, incredible season.”

Ross Brawn: “It was a great race. There are some things we could learn from the circuit, fabulous place. We haven’t quite got the pace of Red Bull at the moment but we made the best of what we had. Our reliability record is stunning.”

Pit board being held up behind the BBC guys, by a BrawnGP man: “Will you marry me Fatna?”
Hopefully she is race-mad and thinks this is romantic!
Boris Becker is around again.. Get James Corden off my TV screen, he’s not funny.

Conference

Vettel, P1: “Had a very good start, not enough to beat Lewis but it was good, I was surprised. I was able to stay close enough, we were a little heavier. In the last sector the car was a dream today. Nearly went wide at pit entrance, unfortunately then he had to retire but up to that point it was a fantastic race, then we had a cushion to Mark and I could pace myself.”

He’s been drinking his sponsor’s product, I can’t keep up with his fast talking.

Webber, P2: “Made a pretty good launch (start), tried to get back on the inside, got hit quite hard on the left rear and was worried about a puncture, relieved it wasn’t. Seb was just quicker today, especially the last stint. At the end, thought this is gonna be quite tight, we had a slight top speed advantage, we had a good clean fight. Want to thank the team for their patience with what happened (broken leg), my best season, 16 podiums together, very good.”

Button, P3: “Fun race. Lot of understeer on the Prime tyre. Outbraked myself against Kobayashi but he was faster at the point anyway. The last couple of laps were a lot of fun, I was very excited about that battle, Mark is always difficult to overtake and it was clean but on the edge, it was perfect, I really enjoyed the fight. Today was a bonus after the championship in Brazil. Thanks to everyone at Brawn and Mercedes. Congratulations to Seb, sterling pace today and we didn’t have the legs and we couldn’t challenge them. I’m looking forward to coming back to Abu Dhabi.”

Vettel again, what’s next? “We’ll face a long winter with no testing. The guys in the factory are pushing hard. No refuelling next year. This was a special season all round, hopefully next season will be just as exciting.”

And so say we all!

Race Result

Driver Gap Pts
1 Vettel 55 laps 10
2 Webber 17.8sec 8
3 Button 18.4sec 6
4 Barrichello 22.7sec 5
5 Heidfeld 26.2sec 4
6 Kobayashi 28.3sec 3
7 Trulli 34.3sec 2
8 Buemi 41.2sec 1
9 Rosberg 45.9sec
10 Kubica 48.1sec
11 Kovalainen 52.7sec
12 Räikkönen 54.3sec
13 Nakajima 59.8sec
14 Alonso 69.6sec
15 Liuzzi 94.4sec
16 Fisichella 1 lap
17 Sutil 1 lap
18 Grosjean 1 lap
DNF Hamilton Brakes
DNF Alguersuari Gearbox

Another win for Vettel and a deserved one. Even without Lewis’ problems he could well have still won this race, he was fast enough and was catching Hamilton before the retirement.. of course we don’t know how much of that was down to the brake issues.
I like the symmetry of the best four drivers and two teams of the season taking the top four positions in the final race, despite the resurgance of McLaren and Ferrari in the second half of the year.

Drivers’ Championship

Driver Prev AD Total
1 Button 89 6 95 C
2 Vettel 74 10 84
3 Barrichello 72 5 77
4 Webber 61.5 8 69.5
5 Hamilton 49 49
6 Räikkönen 48 48
7 Rosberg 34.5 34.5
8 Trulli 30.5 2 32.5
9 Alonso 26 26
10 Glock 24 24
11 Massa 22 22
12 Kovalainen 22 22
13 Heidfeld 15 4 19
14 Kubica 17 17
15 Fisichella 8 8
16 Buemi 5 1 6
17 Sutil 5 5
18 Kobayashi 0 3 3
19 Bourdais 2 2

The top four drivers hammer home their advantage, yet it is the Red Bull drivers who made the most of this race with a maximum score for them. Surprisingly given recent form neither Raikkonen or Hamilton scored.
Heidfeld asserted himself over Kubica at the last gasp.
Buemi scored a decent haul this year for a rookie and a Toro Rosso driver.
Good to see Kobayashi get on the board, he’s a hot prospect for the future.

Constructors’ Championship

Constructor Prev AD Total
1 Brawn 161 11 172 C
2 Red Bull 135.5 18 153.5
3 McLaren 71 71
4 Ferrari 70 70
5 Toyota 54.5 5 59.5
6 BMW 32 4 36
7 Williams 34.5 34.5
8 Renault 26 26
9 Force India 13 13
10 Toro Rosso 7 1 8

Brawn and Red Bull cemented their significant advantage over the field, with RBR fighting to the last even though the titles had already been wrapped up.
McLaren and Ferrari are unchanged as the ‘best of the rest’.
Toyota are a clear 5th with Williams just losing out to BMW at the final hurdle.
Toro Rosso prove that the last-placed team doesn’t always have to score a flat zero.

Next Event

That’s it for the season! Thanks to the BBC for their coverage, better than ITV’s but still room for improvement in many areas. Thanks also to everyone for reading these and for bearing with the delays in these posts this season due to my studies. The next race is the 2010 Bahrain GP in March.

In the meantime I’ll continue to blog through the winter as it takes my fancy, you may have noticed I don’t really keep to a schedule! Watch out in particular for the F1 car launches in Jan/Feb, but before then I am going to try and catch up on the IRL and GP2 seasons. I’ll also be active on the Twitter account and at Sidepodcast and in blog comments here, there and everywhere.

If you are the type to stop reading blogs during the offseason have a good break and I’ll see you in March, I hope. If you are as obsessed with this stuff as I am, I’ll be back very soon..

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