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2013 Team Reviews: Red Bull

The Team Review series draws to a close, but not before the World Champions, Infiniti Red Bull Racing are placed under the microscope. 2013 was an incredible year for the Milton Keynes based team, as the now four time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, notched up 13 victories, wrapping up the title in India and claiming an unprecedented nine consecutive wins. With long-time servant of the team Mark Webber announcing his retirement and a dramatic team orders fiasco, 2013 was a year to remember for the Red Bull juggernaut.

The Unstoppable Sebastian 

Even by Vettel’s immensely high expectations, 2013 was an unbelievable campaign. The RB9 was a strong package from the outset and as the paddock arrived in Australia, flashbacks of 2011 left many people anticipating a year of Red Bull domination. However, Vettel and Webber struggled in Australia and despite locking out the front row on Saturday, Sunday was most certainly a different scenario, as Vettel could only manage P3, while Webber fell to P6.
However, Sebastian’s consistency was key in the first half of the campaign. The German never finished outside of the top four in the first seven races, with this streak only broken when Vettel suffered a gearbox failure at Silverstone when he was on course for a victory. Post Silverstone, the German was impeccable, winning each and every race bar the Hungarian Grand Prix. His form was immaculate and he exuded confidence at every event – He never looked like relinquishing his stranglehold of the championship and was able to manage each race from the front. Even Mark Webber, in equally sublime machinery, was unable to halt his teammate’s charge. The post race doughnuts became a formality once the championship was wrapped up in India, with three races remaining.
Meanwhile, Qualifying performances were just as extraordinary. Each time Sebastian competed on option tyres in Q3, he qualified within the top three, (which he achieved in 18 of the 19 rounds.) The one exception came in China, where Red Bull opted to qualify on the prime compound to optimise race strategy. When Vettel hit the track in anger on Saturday’s, he was a potent and consistent competitor.

“Multi-21 Seb, Multi-21?”

One of the most memorable quotes of the season. An exasperated Mark Webber could do little to hide his anguish after a Malaysian Grand Prix which threatened to tear Red Bull apart.
Mark Webber was driving a magnificent race, leading his teammate after jumping him in the first phase of pit-stops. His lead was small, yet as the duo entered their final stint, Webber led the charge. Then came the infamous call of “Multi-21” – Red Bull code identifying the team’s desire for Webber to finish ahead of Vettel, and in this case, telling the drivers to hold station. What came next stunned the pit-wall. Sebastian ignored team-orders and mounted an attack on a defenceless Webber, who had already turned his power output down in the knowledge that he had no threat from behind. After a fierce tussle, Vettel claimed the initiative and went on to take the win.
The situation was dire for Red Bull. Mark Webber felt cheated and Christian Horner’s authority as Team Principal had been undermined. In typical undiplomatic fashion, a furious Webber stated his belief that his teammate would “receive protection as always” when being interviewed live on the podium, making matters worse for his team. The situation was so volatile, initial speculation suggested that Webber may not arrive in China for the next race and instead call time on his career, there and then.      
Of course, the Aussie did respect his contract at Red Bull, but the gloves were off, between him and Vettel – To be honest, the gloves were off since Turkey 2010 quite frankly. This mutual distaste was evident from Sebastian’s press conference on Thursday in Shanghi, when Vettel claimed that he would do the same thing again, should the situation arise. Fortunately for Red Bull senior personnel, the pair never met each other on the circuit for the remainder of the year.

The Aussie’s Departure

After driving for Red Bull since 2007, Mark Webber has been a key feature of the team’s road to success. He was crucial to their development and after claiming an impressive nine race wins, he leaves the sport with fond memories. However, 2013 was unfortunately a season without a victory, (including a bitter day in Malaysia,) yet with five second place finishes, two fires, two poles and a scandalous dispute, 2013 optimises Webber’s dramatic career of highs and lows.
Undoubtedly the best moments of Mark’s season came in Brazil. His final race was a truly memorable one, even before he arrived on the grid. Webber was greeted with an Australian favoured garage, fitted with rugby balls, cricket bats, Australian flags and ‘Waltzing Matilda’ blaring out from the frequently used Red Bull stereo. The race was just as special, as the Aussie met Fernando Alonso on track for another titanic battle to add to their collection. After beating the Ferrari, Mark completed the another Red Bull one-two finish. In a rare display of emotion, Webber removed his helmet on his in-lap, looking to soak up the atmosphere while completing his final miles in an F1 car. It was a beautiful moment which will live long in the memory.

2013 for Red Bull was filled with these special moments. Whether it was Vettel’s crowd-pleasing doughnuts or Webber’s removal of his helmet, Red Bull will have fond memories of the season. After enjoying so many moments throughout the year, the sour events in Malaysia were somewhat forgotten by the end of the campaign. Even Vettel’s boo-brigade had softened to a team who were beginning to resemble the fun-loving, not-too-serious operation that they were before they found success. Lets hope that attitude continues in 2014.      

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Brazilian Grand Prix: Race Anaysis

The 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix was never set to live up to the thrilling climax from 2012, yet the final race of this season was undoubtedly a special occasion for many reasons. Sebastian Vettel claimed his ninth consecutive win and his thirteenth of the season; equalling the respective records set by Ascari and Schumacher. It was an impressive drive once again, but it was teammate Mark Webber who stole the show. His final race ended with a well deserved podium in P2 making it yet another Red Bull 1-2, capping off another magical season for them.

Despite his army of critics who lament his success, it cannot be denied that a win in the final round of 2013 is a true reflection of Sebastian Vettel’s season. The German did not get a brilliant start, having to retake a vulnerable Nico Rosberg at the end of the first lap. However, Vettel controlled the race from the front and while at times his rivals had superior pace, he managed to capitalise on their squabbles to take a relatively simple victory – a minor scare of a safety car forced Vettel into an earlier than scheduled second stop which threatened to derail his race as his mechanics were unprepared. A swift recovery from the Red Bull mechanics meant that the only time lost was aesthetic. Issues such as this were what Sebastian’s twelve second lead was built for.
“My start wasn’t so good today,” Vettel acknowledged, “but I was able to get past Rosberg. It was hard to know what was going to happen in today’s race. When we came for the second pit stop, it was a late call and then we had to wait for the tyres. We managed to recover with some laps to go. Today was of course 
Mark’s last race. We didn’t have the best relationship, but nevertheless we always had respect for each other on a professional level and whatever was going on off-track, didn’t make a difference to us on track and we both pushed each other very hard. I certainly learned a lot from Mark.” Sebastian’s sentiments were reflected on the podium, as he directed the interviewer to start with Mark. I doubt Webber will accept his sentiments – it is a little late in the day for Vettel and Webber to paper over the cracks, yet it was a fitting gesture from Sebastian on what was widely regarded as ‘Mark’s day’.
Webber’s race was a fantastic one. After heading through Turn two on lap one side by side with Felipe Massa, David Coulthard’s final race disaster must have been at the forefront of Webber’s thoughts. However, he managed to maintain the position before fighting his way past Hamilton – a fantastic overtake on the outside of Turn 6. He then dispatched a struggling Nico Rosberg before engaging in combat with his old friend Fernando Alonso. Their battle raged throughout the rest of the race and was a thoroughly entertaining affair. The two have shared some great moments in the past. The infamous Eau Rouge overtake by Mark Webber on Fernando Alonso is a classic moment and one which will live long in the memory.
It was a magnificent drive from Mark to take P2. Once the race was complete, Webber performed a unique send-off, by removing his helmet during the in-lap. Whether the FIA throw the book at him or not, (a grid penalty for Melbourne will be difficult to enforce), it was a fantastic moment and a great way to end his single-seater career. 
“It was nice to take the helmet off for the final lap,” Webber stated. “In this sport it’s not always possible to give things a personal touch. We have the helmets on all the time, so they fans don’t always see a Formula One driver in a car without a helmet. It was nice to get it off and see the marshals and the fans; it was just a really nice thing to experience. I heard a lot of noises that I don’t normally hear. The difficult part for me today was actually getting in to the car for the final time. I was overcome with some emotion then to be honest. That moment of the helmet going on and stepping into the car was actually the strongest emotion I’ve had all day. Then crossing the line and seeing all the guys was great. Christian radioed me and said enjoy the last lap, which I did. I did it as slow as I could; it was a very special day. Seb and I have had our challenges over time and it’s easier to have a relationship with Fernando, as he’s in another team, but to finish on the podium with those two guys – well, they have been the best of this generation.” The sport will undoubtedly miss Mark Webber and I will post an article celebrating his career in the coming weeks. 
Meanwhile, the battle for P2 in the constructors championship took a number of twists throughout the race. As the Mercedes struggled in the dry conditions, Ferrari looked to seize the opportunity as Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa ran P3 and P4 for much of the first half of the race. Massa was entangled in a battle with Hamilton at the time, yet this tussle was ended prematurely when Felipe crossed the hatched area of the pit entry with all four wheels on more than one occasion. Prior to the event, the FIA had announced to the drivers that this would be considered track extending and consequently, Massa was handed a drive-through penalty, much to the distaste of Ferrari. This proved to be even more costly when later in the race, Lewis Hamilton received a drive-through himself for contact with Valtteri Bottas while the Finn was looking to un-lap himself. This was pivotal for the constructors – if Massa was not given a drive-through penalty, then Ferrari would have beaten Mercedes to P2. 
“My race began perfectly,” Massa stated. “A great start and then a strong pace that allowed me to immediately pull of some nice passing moves and I was having a really great race up until the moment I was given a penalty for crossing the white line. I don’t think I deserved a drive-through and I believe it was very unfair. I am very disappointed because today I could have finished fourth or third. I am sure that if I had found myself behind Fernando, he’d have let me pass. However, I don’t want this incident to ruin such a special weekend for me and all my team. In their eyes, I am a world champion and I will never forget them, nor anything about my time with Ferrari.” 
Meanwhile, further down the order, McLaren’s gamble on a dry weather set-up paid dividend, as Jenson Button recorded the team’s best finish of the season in P4, while Sergio Perez climbed to P6. The result will give the team a huge boost heading into the winter, yet the illusive podium evaded McLaren this season – the first time the team have not appeared on the podium all year since 1980. “This is a great way to end the year, and now our focus turns squarely to 2014,” Button said. “McLaren is an incredibly strong and powerful organisation – and, believe me, we will fight back.”
Elsewhere, Marussia won the all-important battle for P10 in the constructors championship, as they beat Caterham for the first time in their four year history. It is a fantastic boost for the team as they head into what will be a difficult 2014 for them considering their low budget. While his future is unclear, Max Chilton has written his name into the history books, as he has become the first driver in history to complete every race of his rookie season. “I would like to thank the whole Team for a brilliant season,” Max announced, “with particular credit to my car crew. I am really proud of my record-breaking 19 finishes in 19 races and this is the result of a fantastic Team effort.” Meanwhile, 2014 returnee Jules Bianchi is predicting an even stronger year next season. “This has been a very important and rewarding year for me personally and I can’t wait for us to take that to the next level together in 2014,” he said.
So, the 2013 season has come and gone. Sebastian Vettel has dominated proceedings and fully deserves hs records. However, the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2013 will always be remembered for a certain Aussie who made a graceful exit from a fantastic single-seater career.

Japanese Grand Prix: Qualifying Analysis

Suzuka always provides red hot action, with today’s qualifying session being no exception to the rule, in more ways than one. Sebastian Vettel was the overwhelming favourite to claim another Pole Position, however, a fundamental KERS issue derailed his FP3 session and returned to haunt him in qualifying. With the German faltering, his rivals tried to capitalize, with Mark Webber snatching Pole away from his teammate – The first time that Mark has outperformed Sebastian on a Saturday all season. All is not lost for Vettel though, as a P2 starting position could well prove prosperous tomorrow.

Qualifying Analysis

Mark Webber’S opportunistic Pole Position did not come as a total surprise. The Aussie had displayed impressive pace yesterday and confirmed his speed in FP3. Webber is undoubtedly determined to make this weekend a successful one, suggesting that this is his best chance to claim his final victory before his departure to the WEC. Judging by his past performances on the modern Tilke tracks, this may well be the case, especially following today’s display.
While history will acknowledge Japan 2013 as Webber’s 12th career Pole, the Aussie admitted that the result could have been different, had his teammate not battled a KERS gremlin. “Sebastian had a problem so it’s a bit of a hollow pole position and he still did a phenomenal lap. But you’ve got to take them when you can and it’s not like they hand them out,” said a subdued Webber. “It was a bit of a mixed session in terms of predicting who was showing their hand but we did the laps when they counted and it’s very nice for me to have pole on my last attempt at Suzuka. It’s a real highlight.”
The threat of a poor launch is always a concern for Webber, irrespective of his position on the grid. With the usually fast-starting Sebastian alongside, the battle into turn one could still go either way. It is essential that Webber disrupts Vettel’s opening stint tomorrow if he is to mount a challenge. Sebastian’s long run performance was sublime on Friday – If the KERS issues can be resolved overnight, Vettel must still be considered as the favourite for the victory.
In regards to the mysterious KERS gremlin, Christian Horner explained; “It was unlucky for Sebastian. We had an issue with the KERS this morning, we changed as much as we could. The first session it failed in Q1, it came back in Q2, and then in Q3 it failed immediately. So both Sebastian’s laps in Q3 were without the KERS, so a great performance from him to get on the car on to the front-row.”
Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton recorded a solid 1:31.235 to snatch P3 on the grid. Hamilton appeared to improve performance throughout the session as he gathered more confidence, culminating in a strong Q3. While he was unable to split the Red Bull duo as he did last weekend, Hamilton was pleased overall. “I’m really happy,” he insisted. “The team did a great job so far this weekend and realistically it was difficult, or almost impossible to finish ahead of these Red Bull guys. They’ve had a much better package generally for a long, long time but we’ve come a long way and to be as close as we are I think is a huge compliment to the team. My car felt awesome so I can’t imagine how it felt for them. Congratulations to Mark, I’m looking forward to racing them tomorrow.” Lewis’ optimism for a positive Sunday may well be difficult to live up to. Both Mercedes have struggled significantly with degradation, with Lewis in particular only completing 8 laps on the medium compound tyre in FP1. This stint length will of course be extended tomorrow, as the green track and fuel loads will have contributed to the severity of the drop-off on Friday, yet the Silver Arrows will struggle to even match Red Bull’s stint length, let alone lap faster than them.
Further down the top ten, Romain Grosjean once again demonstrated his leadership credentials, out-qualifying teammate Kimi Raikkonen into P4. The Finn suffered another dismal Saturday, managing only P9. Meanwhile, Felipe Massa also attracted the attention of potential employers today, as he placed his Ferrari in a highly respectable P5.
However, in the adjacent garage, the mood was far from buoyant, as Fernando Alonso once again failed to extract the one lap potential from the F138, as he struggled to P8. The Spaniard was fortunate to even make it to the shoot-out after being just a tenth away from elimination in a close Q2 session. Alonso will certainly require another sublime start if he is to find himself back on the podium tomorrow. An uncharacteristically downbeat Alonso admitted; “The top five is maybe something realistic for us,” he said when asked to comment on his race aspirations. “We need to overtake a few cars. But we need to also race a little bit thinking in the Constructors’ Championship. We have Mercedes only one point behind, they are both in front of me so I need to finish at least in front of one of them.”
Sauber were another team who endured an action packed afternoon. Nico Hulkenberg qualified well to finish in P7, while Esteban Gutierrez did well to even make it into Q2. This was due to a terrifying vapour leak in the garage, which led to an isolated fire on the car. Esteban quickly jumped out of the cockpit while the team effectively dealt with the fire, which meant that the incident did not cost the team too much time. Esteban soon returned to the track without so much as a blemish to the paintwork on his car. While he proceeded into Q2, the pace evaded him in the second session as P14 was the best he could manage. “We put a good lap together and now I have to stay optimistic for tomorrow, as I think we have a good pace in the long runs. Points are not easy, but we will do our best,” the Mexican evaluated.
Also feeling the heat in Q1 was Jean Eric Vergne. The Frenchman suffered severe overheating over the rear brakes, similar to Daniel Ricciardo in Korea. However, communication complications meant that the problem escalated beyond control, as Vergne’s brakes caught fire. It was a dramatic incident and one which will concern the team. Moreover, due to the time at which the fire lasted, the engineers will be concerned about the condition of major components such as the engine and gearbox, which are positioned towards the rear of the car.
However, one of the stand-out performances of the day came courtesy of Max Chilton. The Marussia youngster exclaimed his confidence heading into the session, as the team had identified a good balance throughout Friday. This confidence was well placed, as the Brit managed to beat both Caterham’s as well as his teammate Jules Bianchi. “I’m so happy to have put us ahead of both Caterham’s in qualifying for the first time since China. One would have been a result, but to beat both Pic and Van Der Garde is really incredible and shows just how much fight there is in all of us at this crucial stage in the season,” he stated. “I gave it all I had and my lap was as good as I could have asked of myself. I’m just really looking forward to my first Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka and I hope we can carry the momentum through into the race tomorrow. Well done to all of us in the team.” Caterham’s day was not improved after the session, as Charles Pic received an unprecedented drive-through penalty for crossing the pit exit line whilst the red light was on. This is the first time in recent memory that a drive-through penalty has been awarded before a race has even begun.

Qualifying Result
1 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:30.915
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:31.089
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:31.253
4 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:31.365
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:31.378
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:31.397
7 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:31.644
8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:31.665
9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:31.684
10 Jenson Button McLaren 1:31.827
11 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:31.989
12 Paul di Resta Force India 1:31.992
13 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:32.013
14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:32.063
15 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:32.093
16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:32.485
17 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:32.890
18 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:33.357
19 Max Chilton Marussia 1:34.320
20 Charles Pic Caterham 1:34.556
21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:34.879
22 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:34.958

Red Bull Decline Raikkonen

After weeks of speculation, Red Bull appear to have drawn a step closer to deciding Mark Webber’s replacement for 2014 and beyond. Since the Aussie announced his pending retirement prior to the British Grand Prix, the team have been frantically calculating who would be the best partner to Sebastian Vettel in the years to come. While many drivers had been suggested as possible candidates, the team stated that either Daniel Ricciardo or Kimi Raikkonen would claim the precious seat. However, a recent statement from Kimi Raikkonen’s management suggested that Red Bull talks broke down three weeks ago; The Finn is no longer in the running for the seat. Consequently, it now looks as though Daniel Ricciardo is about to gain his big break, however, it is not quite that straightforward.

It was of course widely believed that Kimi Raikkonen was almost guaranteed the Red Bull seat. Everything suggested that this appointment would take place – The Finn’s contract at Lotus expires at the end of this season; Suggestions had been made that the team had failed to pay Kimi during their period of financial struggles and Raikkonen already possesses ties with Red Bull personnel following his stint in the WRC. However, talks have inexplicably been unsuccessful.
While Lotus have suggested that they will strive to keep hold of the Iceman for at least another season, it seems to be an impossible task. Kimi has supposedly requested more money from the team, while his current wages have proved to be a strain on the team’s resources. Meanwhile, the failed payment fiasco which was disputed around the time of the British Grand Prix, could have caused a suspected breakdown of the relationship between Kimi and Lotus. With a move to Red Bull now seemingly inoperative, the Finn will now consider his options and if recent reports are correct, Ferrari may well be on his road map.
Raikkonen left the Scuderia in 2009 as he headed for a change of scenery in the form of the WRC, yet his relationship with the Tifosi is certainly a positive one following Raikkonen’s 2007 Championship triumph at the wheel of the scarlet red machine. Undoubtedly, the team will be able to meet Raikkonen’s sizable wage demands, due to their lucrative position with the commercial rights holder, CVC. However, would the Raikkonen – Alonso dynamic work, or will this issue be averted even if the Finn arrives at Maranello.
It cannot be dismissed – Fernando Alonso’s relationship with Ferrari is at breaking point and while suggesting an imminent divorce is currently extreme, it is certainly not an impossibility. If Raikkonen was to arrive at Ferrari, Fernando may seek pastures new, in the knowledge that Kimi would not share Felipe Massa’s standing within the team as undisputed number two. If Daniel Ricciardo’s fast track to Red Bull is to be threatened, Fernando Alonso could be the man to threaten it.
Before conclusions are made, I do firmly believe that Ricciardo will drive for Red Bull in 2014. However, the team have today announced that they are to delay the announcement of their 2014 driver line-up, which was initially expected to be made during this weekend. Could this be a deliberate ploy be Red Bull to tease journalists? Or, are they considering Fernando Alonso’s availability? Undoubtedly, a driver line-up of Vettel and Alonso would surly spell fireworks – and a monumental implosion at Red Bull!      

Hungarian Grand Prix: Friday Analysis

The tenth round of the season got underway in scintillating style this morning, with teams embarking on packed schedules as they looked to examine the latest incarnations of Pirelli tyres. Consequently, teams and fans learnt a lot from both FP1 and FP2, with the most poignant discovery being the sheer dominance of the RB9. While the Hungaroring is a circuit which typically plays to Red Bull’s strengths, both Vettel and Webber showed outstanding long and short run performance, sending out an ominous message to their rivals. Lotus appear to be the only team who can hold a candle to Red Bull this weekend. 

FP1

As with most Friday mornings, all eyes were firmly fixed on the latest updates brought by teams to the venue. Following the Young Drivers Test, the majority of teams had made significant additions to their packages and were keen to evaluate them. Moreover, gathering crucial knowledge regarding the new construction tyres was important, especially for Mercedes, who looked to recover the mileage lost due to their YDT exclusion.

Despite a prolonged stay in the garage at the start of the session, Red Bull have started the weekend at the head of the field, as Sebastian Vettel topped the timesheet with Mark Webber just two tenths behind him in P2. Sebastian’s schedule was far less frantic compared to his teammate, as the German had the benefit of his YDT session where he experienced Pirelli’s latest incarnation of tyre. However, his work this morning primarily focused on the RB9’s latest upgrades, as several alterations have been made to the front wing including the addition of vortex generators on the first element. These have been added in order to prevent marbles becoming lodged in between element one and two, which would significantly affect downforce and unsettle the car. As well as this, the new front wing features a curved upper element, which conceals the ‘secret parts’ which the team are reluctant to describe. 
Also near the top of the timesheet were McLaren. Their morning consisted of two constant speed runs early on, followed by several short and long runs evaluating the medium compound tyres. Like Red Bull, McLaren also have significant modifications for this weekend, including an alteration to the scoop on the front wing cascade element, as well at the addition of an extra turning vein on the top of the sidepod. Following the team’s strong showing this morning, where both Jenson Button and Sergio Perez briefly topped the timesheet, it would be easy to overestimate the value of these changes. However, Sam Micheal has downplayed the influence of the changes, stating that the new regulations restricting pressure and camber settings have brought the field closer to them. Micheal claimed that the team have always followed Pirelli’s guidelines, meaning that the latest changes have no negative effect on their pace. The Hungaroring is historically a McLaren circuit and while a podium finish is unlikely, the team seem to have made great gains if FP1 is anything to go by.
Another team who had a positive morning were Williams. The team appear to have benefited from their YDT running, where they trialed a baseline version of their car in order to examine the source of their balance issues. Both Maldonado and Bottas survived off track excursions to finish a pleasing P10 and P12 respectively.  
While Rodolfo Gonzalez kept Max Chilton’s seat warm this morning at Marussia, Jules Bianchi suffered a disjointed start to the session as the team repaired a KERS malfunction. His time in the garage did not restrict his running too much, as the Frenchman still completed 20 laps. Elsewhere, Mercedes completed the most mileage of the day, with both Hamilton and Rosberg clocking up 28 laps each as they look to recover from their YDT exclusion. They will look to build on their FP1 efforts this afternoon.
FP1 Timesheet
01 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:22.723 19 laps
02 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:22.982 +0.259 24 laps
03 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:23.010 +0.287 20 laps
04 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:23.099 +0.376 22 laps
05 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:23.111 +0.388 20 laps
06 Jenson Button McLaren 1:23.370 +0.647 26 laps
07 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:23.390 +0.667 20 laps
08 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.531 +0.808 28 laps
09 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:23.591 +0.868 26 laps
10 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:23.911 +1.188 21 laps
11 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:24.119 +1.396 21 laps
12 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:24.150 +1.427 27 laps
13 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.157 +1.434 28 laps
14 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:24.204 +1.481 15 laps
15 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:24.299 +1.576 19 laps
16 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:24.314 +1.591 23 laps
17 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:24.383 +1.660 24 laps
18 Paul di Resta Force India 1:24.608 +1.885 21 laps
19 Charles Pic Caterham 1:25.827 +3.104 24 laps
20 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:26.808 +4.085 25 laps
21 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:27.617 +4.894 20 laps
22 Rodolfo Gonzalez Marussia 1:28.927 +6.204 25 laps 

FP2

Sebastian Vettel picked up from where he left off in FP1, finishing the second session of the day at the top of the timesheet with Mark Webber once again finishing just behind. It is a rare occurrence for Red Bull to show their hand during Friday running, (they have not achieved a double 1-2 on Friday since the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2010), however, this shows how critical today was for team’s to establish their true pace on the new tyres. During both long and short runs, the Red Bull’s seemed invincible.
FP2 followed the typical second session format. Prime compound runs at the start, followed by qualifying simulation runs on the option tyre, before teams settle down for longer stints to finish the day. What became apparent from these long runs is that the anticipated thermal degradation on the soft tyres is not to the extent which was initially suggested. Mark Webber for instance, managed to maintain consistent pace on the soft compound well into the stint. The lack of thermal degradation was also evident during the qualifying simulation, as Romain Grosjean managed to go P3 on his second timed lap on the soft compound. On a circuit which is historically tough on tyres, these results were surprising and may prompt all ten Q3 qualifiers to set times on the soft rubber. 
Meanwhile, Mercedes suffered a poor Friday in general. In FP2, it became noticeable that during long runs the car was leaning heavily on the rear tyres and with around six major traction events around the lap, this will significantly hinder their tyre preservation efforts. Even their usually foolproof short run performance was lacking and a forlorn Hamilton admitted that they seem to have lost ground in terms of the development race. “We don’t seem to have the pace that we had at the last race,” he said. Such a sudden change of fortunes could be linked to their YDT exclusion, which became a more significant penalty with the introduction of the new tyres. Not only Sunday but Saturday could also prove problematic this weekend. “Red Bull seem particularly quick this weekend,” conceded Hamilton. “Fuel loads play a huge part and when we get to qualifying we are generally able to pull out a little bit more. I was told that on the same laps on the long runs that Mark Webber was eight-tenths faster at some stages, so that’s interesting.”
Another team who experienced a difficult FP2 were Toro Rosso. Despite showing impressive pace at the last two races, they seem to have slipped back in the pack, while bringing a new front and rear wing this weekend. According to Team Principal Franz Tost, both drivers have struggled with the balance through the medium speed corners which has led to their excursions as they search for much needed grip. The team will surly now have to reevaluate the upgrades and their overall value. 
Finally, do not be deceived by Kimi Raikkonen’s P8 placement on the timesheet. The Finn decided to complete an extended medium tyre run, which delayed his qualifying simulation. This meant that he was out of sync with the rest of the field; as they were completing the opening stages of their long runs, Kimi was lapping around six seconds a lap faster on a short run. The Finn experienced several hair raising skirmishes with Jenson Button, as he kept catching the Brit in the final sector on three timed laps in succession due to the speed differential. Kimi is still Red Bull’s closest challenger this weekend, proving why he is widely tipped to take his second victory of the season in Hungary.

FP2 Timesheet         
01 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:21.264 34 laps
02 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:21.308 0.044 42
03 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:21.417 0.153 40
04 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:21.426 0.162 34
05 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:21.544 0.280 37
06 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:21.802 0.538 42
07 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:21.991 0.727 40
08 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus 1:22.011 0.747 32
09 Jenson Button McLaren 1:22.180 0.916 41
10 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:22.304 1.040 41
11 Paul di Resta Force India 1:22.526 1.262 39
12 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:22.529 1.265 37
13 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:22.781 1.517 36
14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:22.837 1.573 42
15 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:22.841 1.577 39
16 Jean-Eric Vergne STR 1:23.369 2.105 34
17 Daniel Ricciardo STR 1:23.411 2.147 41
18 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:23.646 2.382 34
19 Charles Pic Caterham 1:24.325 3.061 38
20 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:25.065 3.801 36
21 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:25.143 3.879 39
22 Max Chilton Marussia 1:26.647 5.383 33

Webber Confirms F1 Retirement

Following months of rumour and speculation, Mark Webber has today confirmed that he will be turning his back on Formula One at the end of the season to team up with Porsche’s new sports-car programme. While much of the speculation was triggered by the controversial Malaysian Grand Prix, Webber has maintained that this was not a motive for his final decision.

The thirty-six year old leaves the sport with an impressive CV. While the World Championship title which he dearly craved has all but alluded him, Webber managed to claim nine victories, thirty-six podium’s and eleven Pole Position’s. Many of these highlights came during his awe-inspiring 2010 campaign where he was pipped to the title by teammate Sebastian Vettel. He eventually finished P3 in the standings. In terms of his future in motorsport, Mark will be entering Porsche’s exciting new programme, which will see the German giants enter the World Endurance Series with LMP1 specification cars. Webber will be challenging the likes of Audi and Toyota in the Le Mans 24 hours next season. The Aussie has experience in the endurance scene, after competing a Le Mans in 1998 and 1999, before entering Formula One in 2002.
“Porsche has written racing history as a manufacturer and stands for outstanding performance and technology at the highest level,” he said. “I’m very much looking forward to this new challenge after my time in Formula One. I can hardly wait to pilot one of the fastest sports cars in the world.”
While spending just 12 years in Formula One, Mark Webber has made an array of friends while building a strong fan-base. He entered the sport in explosive style with Minadi in 2002, claiming a memorable P5 in front of his home support. Brief stints at Jaguar and Williams followed, which were significantly hindered by unreliability. He joined Red Bull in 2007, initially partnering veteran David Coulthard and was a fundamental part of the team’s development process. It was in 2009, that Webber achieved his maiden victory in style at the Nurburgring. The Aussie battled back from a drive through penalty to snatch a well deserved victory.
While his talent was rarely doubted, Webber can only be described as one of the bridesmaid’s of Formula One. Frequently approached by Ferrari, he was never short of options, yet failed to capitalize fully on the opportunities he had. Meanwhile, his teammate claimed the glory. However, Webber can hold his head high following a successful, if not complete, career. Now attention will inevitably turn to his successor, while Red Bull maintain that they will spend time deliberating the best candidate. Kimi Raikkonen seems the favourite to partner Sebastian in the coming years, yet will Ricciardo or Vergne step up to the plate at the critical time? Silly season has well and truly begun!

Canadian Grand Prix: Saturday Analysis

Following a heavily disrupted FP3, Qualifying was a relentless tale of intermediate runs, as teams failed to predict the unpredictable Montreal weather patterns. The circuit was damp throughout, which favored Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel, who put an end to Mercedes’ dominant string of Pole Positions. However, Lewis Hamilton proved just how strong he is around Canada, lining up P2 and overcoming his persistent brake issues. Performance of the day goes to Valtteri Bottas, who not only made it into Q3, but qualified an awe inspiring P3.

FP3

After yesterday’s tricky practice sessions, the teams did not receive the reprieve they desired. The session was significantly shortened to just 30 minutes following lengthy repair work to the armco barrier on the exit of turn nine after a support race accident. To compound the issues, another morning downpour had left the track damp, meaning that the slick tyres were not used until the final few minutes. 
The session began at 10:30am, (local time) which meant that schedules had to be adjusted to complete a full programme. However, as McLaren Sporting Director, Sam Micheal alluded to, the top teams only run a 40 minute schedule in FP3 sessions anyway. The fundamental issue faced was the damp track. This left many teams with a dilemma, as some considered saving the intermediate tyres. Some teams opted to either wait for the track to dry out or complete practice starts on the  extreme wet compound. Concequently, only 14 drivers had set a lap time after 15 minutes. Fernando Alonso was a notable absence from the timesheet, as he opted to run the extreme wet option. Meanwhile, Felipe Massa was setting blistering times on the intermediate compound. 
With 7 minutes remaining, Sergio Perez became the first man to head out on slick tyres, while his initial lap was merely an installation run on the medium compound. The majority left the pit lane on the super soft tyre, as the dry line was clearly visible. This drying track meant that the end of FP3 closely resembled the end of FP1, as times began to tumble. It was a case of the last driver to set a time would be towards the top of the timesheet. Hamilton, Vettel, Sutil, and Di Resta all hit the front before Mark Webber topped them all with a 1:17.895. However, Qualifying is likely to be a very different scenario.
FP3 Timesheet
01. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m17.895 7 laps
02. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m18.248 +0.353 8 laps
03. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m18.732 +0.837 7 laps
04. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m18.977 +1.082 10 laps
05. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m19.131 +1.236 6 laps
06. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m19.457 +1.562 7 laps
07. Paul di Resta Force India 1m19.496 +1.601 6 laps
08. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m19.750 +1.855 9 laps
09. Jenson Button McLaren 1m19.790 +1.895 9 laps
10. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m20.316 +2.421 8 laps
11. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m20.596 +2.701 9 laps
12. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m21.035 +3.140 12 laps
13. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m21.364 +3.469 7 laps
14. Max Chilton Marussia 1m21.652 +3.757 9 laps
15. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1m22.021 +4.126 14 laps
16. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m22.720 +4.825 15 laps
17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m23.058 +5.163 7 laps
18. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m23.132 +5.237 14 laps
19. Sergio Perez McLaren 1m23.309 +5.414 8 laps
20. Charles Pic Caterham 1m23.620 +5.725 12 laps
21. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m24.317 +6.422 12 laps
22. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m26.195 +8.300 9 laps