Alonso fumes as Ferrari call for change to safety car rules

Fernando Alonso has launched a scathing attack on the European Grand Prix race stewards, following their failure to punish Lewis Hamilton in sufficient time.

The Spaniard had been right behind the McLaren when Mark Webber’s accident with Heikki Kovalainen prompted a safety car period. While Alonso and his Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa lined up behind the safety car, Hamilton carried on managed to maintain his place following his tyre stop.

Although Hamilton was later penalised for the incident, Alonso was left incensed as the British driver did not lose a position – while he had been relegated to ninth during the caution period.

Alonso’s comments were echoed by team principal Stefano Domenicali, who called on the sport’s rule makers to seriously consider overhauling the safety car regulations to ensure that there is never a repeat of such events.

Fernando Alonso – (Finished 9th on track, but was promoted to 8th following the stewards’ decision to penalise a number of the field):“The race was ruined by the Safety Car and everything that followed on from that. I am disappointed most of all for the thousands of spectators who were here today and saw how the situation was handled. I am very bitter about what happened today. I was in third place, a metre behind Hamilton at the moment the Safety Car came out on track and, at the chequered flag, he was second and I was ninth, even though we had made the same choice of strategy. The penalty he was given came when it could no longer have any real influence on his finishing position. From then on, my race was compromised. I was always in traffic and I did not get the performance I had expected from the hard tyres: this also explains the difficulty I had in passing first Sutil and then Buemi. This is definitely a bad result for us, but I still hang onto the idea that we will do the maths at the end, in Abu Dhabi: incidents we have no control over will be made up for. We must continue to work and push on the car development front to try and be the quickest on the track.”

Felipe Massa – (Finished 14th on track, but was promoted to 11th for reasons asforementioned): “Another horrible race on the back of the one in Canada. We were lying third and fourth with cars capable of getting a great result and instead, everyone has seen how it ended. On the lap when the accident happened, we were coming into the final corner and there was nothing, then suddenly, the Safety Car came out on track and I saw in the mirrors that the cars behind us were pitting: our chance of fighting for the podium went up in smoke at that moment. The difference between us and Hamilton is that he committed an infraction and we did not, but his penalty had no effect on his result. I think that errors were made in the way this situation was managed. From then on, our race was practically one long procession in traffic with no chance of changing anything. A real shame because today we could have done really well.”

Stefano Domenicali:“The outcome of this Grand Prix leaves us with a very bitter taste. We had everything we needed to clinch a good result and we have ended up with a handful of points which is even less than we brought home from our worst race, a month ago in Turkey. It is a real shame because over this weekend we have shown that we have made a good step forward in terms of performance and the opening stage of the race looked promising. Then came the unfortunate blow linked to the safety car period, which arrived at the very worst moment for us in that both our cars had just gone past the pit lane entry and therefore were forced to do a full lap behind the Safety Car. And that definitely compromised our race. I think that the incidents linked to the neutralisation put some questions on the table regarding how to manage situations like this and the eventual penalties linked to them. We have to ensure that our sport remains credible in the eyes of those involved and those who follow it, at the track and in front of their TV screens.”

Chris Dyer: “We are very disappointed with the outcome of this race. The arrival of the Safety Car on track ruined what should have been a very good race for us, given the potential at our disposal. It is very, very difficult to overtake at this track therefore our race was totally compromised by an innocuous occurrence like a Safety Car period. In performance terms, this weekend has shown that we have made a step forward, but at the same time, we still have a lot of work to do to be where we want to be.”

Vettel: It’s good to be back to winning ways

Sebastian Vettel was relieved to return to winning ways in the 2010 European Grand Prix, but also stated his relief that his team-mate was not injured in his collision with Heikki Kovalainen.

Following Lewis Hamilton’s drive-thru penalty, the German’s drive was largely untroubled as he recorded his second win of the season around the Valencia Street Circuit.

However, Red Bull’s did not experience a trouble-free day, as Mark Webber was involved in a high-flying accident with Heikki Kovalainen. The Australian’s car was thrown into the air as it climbed over the back of the stricken Lotus – before spearing off into the crash barriers.

Thankfully Webber remained unharmed, but fell further behind in the title race.

Sebastian Vettel – 1st: “It’s good to be back winning and on a circuit where we didn’t expect to be that strong. But we were quick enough at all times in the race to pull away, find the gap and then guide the car home, but it wasn’t as easy as expected. It’s good to get a lot of Championship points and the guys can be extremely proud, so a good weekend for them. Most important of all today is the fact that Mark had quite a big shunt but he’s fine – it shows that the cars get safer and safer but still there is a lot of risk so it’s good that he’s OK.”

Mark Webber – DNF:“I was going a lot faster than Heikki and then a long, long way before the braking point he braked – about 8m before – and at that point I’m a passenger. The car, thank God, was very safe. I am OK, I lost some points, but in the end when you’re up there, you’re not worried about points, I was worried that I was OK and ready for Silverstone. You cannot control where you are going and how hard the hits are going to be. Of course, the hits were pretty hard but it’s good that I am OK. It was my Monte Carlo and Barcelona winning chassis and one which has secured a lot of pole positions, so the chassis has been good to me, and it has been good to me today as it saved me from some injures. I remain incredibly positive, we go on, it’s half way through the Championship. Bloody hell, let’s get on with it.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal:“The most important thing today is that Mark Webber is safe and OK. After a very nasty accident, he’s fine. Sebastian drove a very mature race and controlled his pace perfectly. After some bad luck recently, this result will be a boost for his confidence. Finally, congratulations to all members of the team for the relentless hard work that is getting performance to the car at each race. We now look forward to Silverstone in two weeks time.”

Fabrice Lom, Renault, Principal Engineer Track Support: “Very mixed feelings, we are very happy for Seb, he won the race, from the beginning to the end with no trouble and the engine worked very well – it was the perfect weekend for one side of the garage. Unfortunately we had a bit accident with Mark and we are very, very happy that he is safe, he is OK. Overall it was a good weekend for the car, the performance was very good. We lose some points against McLaren but not that much.”

European GP: race report

  • Vettel takes win in Valencia sunshine
  • Hamilton a strong second despite drive-through penalty for Safety Car infringement
  • Webber in massive accident after colliding with the back of Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus
  • Nine other drivers penalised with five second penalties after race for yellow-flag speeding

Today’s European Grand Prix was won by Sebastian Vettel in dominant fashion after an incident-filled afternoon on the Valencia seaside. The German could not be faulted and was able to reply to periodic threats from a quick-looking Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton was hampered by a drive through penalty though, which he incurred while dithering behind the safety car coming out of the pits and eventually opting to race past it, a move which made Ferrari incandescent with rage.

The Safety Car had come out in response to a massive accident involving Mark Webber and Heikki Kovalainen. The Australian, having suffered a terrible start, was attempting to pass Kovalainen and misjudged the Finn’s defensive manoeuvres. This led to the extraordinary sight of Webber flipping up into the air, to come down on his airbox and thus into the tyre wall. Mercifully, it was immediately evident that Webber was intact, but the incident raises all sorts of questions about a) closing speeds between ‘class A’ and ‘class B’ cars, b) whether all the F1 cars on the track are in the same race and c) the proposed advent of movable rear wings in 2011.

Prior to the race, Christian Horner had attempted to play down Red Bull’s advantage. “We were really surprised at our pace [during qualifying],” said the Milton Keynes team’s principal. “We really thought the track would suit their [McLaren’s] car.” This mirrored Lewis Hamilton’s comments of the day earlier, which also alluded to how lucky he was to be fighting the Red Bulls. The two teams are locked in a battle for PR and race supremacy, and it was to be clear right from the off today.

As soon as the red lights went out, Hamilton jumped forward and was immediately threatening second-placed Mark Webber. Webber squeezed him towards the pit wall but Hamilton was already too far up on the Australian. So far up, indeed, that he could legitimately consider challenging Sebastian Vettel in the lead, and as he tentatively placed his McLaren up the inside into the first proper corner, he and Vettel touched. It was neither’s fault. The contact whacked the left endplate off the Englishman’s front wing, arguably finishing his chances of victory there and then.

Hamilton was immediately then menaced by the red Ferrari of the home-advantage Fernando Alonso, whose own start had been none too shabby. Despite a new rear arrangement and a blown diffuser, Ferrari’s pace is not yet at the level of McLaren or Red Bull’s, and this was shown as even the limping Hamilton did not look vulnerable for long. He pulled out a breathing space of a second or so over Alonso and the chasing Massa.

Webber, meanwhile, had followed Jenson Button’s example of the year before at this very track and was plummeting down the field. He finished the first tour in a woeful 9th. Michael Schumacher, despite a terrible grid position, was already up to 11th, not too far away from smelling Bull’s blood. But Webber soon became conscious of the performance advantage he had over those in his immediate vicinity, and set about tackling the competitive Hulkenberg in eighth.

With five laps gone the order was Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso, Massa, Kubica, Button, Barrichello, Hulkenberg, Webber and Buemi. Vettel was asserting authority, setting a fastest lap of 1m43.055 and thrashing that by four tenths on lap 6. He was taking three or four tenths a lap out of Hamilton in second, and it was looking as though the McLaren man did not have an answer with the reduced downforce he was suffering. Alonso was beginning to rein him in too, at the rate of two tenths a lap.

On the Red Bull pitwall, strategic action was required to rectify the position Mark Webber had found himself in. He was duly called in, to get the other tyre compound legally required, but his afternoon went from bad to worse as the front left refused to come off. He lost about three seconds. Rosberg was another having a miserable time, rejoining the race from the pits in 19th.

It was shortly after that that Webber and Kovalainen had their coming-together. Tributes were justly being paid to the strength of the Red Bull monocoque as the Safety Car came out. It was also over this section of the race that contoversy would rage, although no-one knew it yet. Hamilton had come round to find the Safety Car emerging from the pits, and he was momentarily unsure what the rules required of him. He accelerated past it, rushing round to get to the pits and change his broken front wing. It was a clear contravention of the rules, for which he would later serve a drive-through penalty.

Nine other drivers, Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello, Nico Hulkenberg, Robert Kubica, Vitaly Petrov, Adrian Sutil, Sebastien Buemi, Pedro de la Rosa and Vitantonio Liuzzi, would also fail to stay above the time dictated by the FIA as ‘safe’ when the Safety Car is out.

The immediate loser of Hamilton’s indecision had been Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard had obeyed the rules to the letter, unlike Hamilton who had wavered. And Alonso now found himself behind the Safety Car, trawling round, unable to pit until the next time round, when he and Massa had to queue for the attentions of the Ferrari pit crew. A fuming Alonso was a highlight of the radio transmissions for the rest of the race, down in tenth as things sorted themselves out.

The Safety Car came in at the end of lap 14, Vettel sliding his Red Bull into the final turn of the lap as he touched his cold brakes. He would not suffer unduly, because although Hamilton had changed his front wing during the caution period, he was not close enough to capitalise. Thereafter, the race settled. The drama had happened, and now the stamina came into play.

Although there was little drama to be had, the much-maligned Kamui Kobayashi had found himself in third place with all those in front having pitted. The Japanese hadn’t. He would of course have to, but at this glorious moment he was ahead of Jenson Button.

With 22 laps gone, the order was Vettel, Hamilton, Kobayashi, Button, Barrichello, Kubica, Buemi, Sutil, Alonso, Hulkenberg, de la Rosa, Petrov, Rosberg, Liuzzi, Massa, Alguersuari and Schumacher. On lap 25 Lewis Hamilton served his drive-through, but the Englishman had carved enough of a gap out to be able to emerge ahead of Kobayashi, something that would cheer his fans immensely and anger Ferrari even more. They felt that the nine minutes between the stewards’ fingering of Hamilton and the serving of the penalty was deeply unjust, as it enabled Hamilton to run in clear air, unlike poor Alonso and Massa.

The Spanish spectators’ feelings were much the same as Ferrari’s, we assumed. How did we know this? From a beer bottle that now lay perilously on the track. Thankfully, the Spanish marshals were as brave as those fans were moronic; they ran and retrieved the offending object.

There was now little in the way of entertainment. The only (distant) prospect of fun was Hamilton chasing Vettel; the McLaren man having chopped the gap from fourteen seconds to a mere twelve, setting fastest laps aplenty on the way. By lap 35 he was taking half a second a lap out of Vettel, with a fastest lap of 1m40.670.

Further down the field, Sutil was hounding Buemi, and got past him for seventh on lap 40. Senna and Glock were also having a right set-to over some insignificant lower place, but they sure as hell weren’t concentrating on what was happening behind them, as some lappers found. The two eventually touched, giving Senna a broken front wing and Glock a rear puncture. It must have been frustrating, but they can’t have been traumatised. It was only 38th place, after all.

By lap 45 Hamilton had got the gap to Vettel down to just over ten seconds. On lap 49 it was 6.621seconds. It looked like a royal chase might be in order, but a chap on the Red Bull pitwall got on the blower to Vettel and told him to get a chuff on. And that was it, basically; with the caveat of unreliability, the winner being determined as soon as Vettel showed himself capable of responding to the charging Hamilton.

On lap 50 the race was to lose the brave Hulkenberg, told by his own pitwall that his Williams was probably on fire. It was a shame for the Grove crew, who had turned up with a fantastic racing car this weekend, and were to be inadequately rewarded by Barrichello’s eventual fourth placed finish.

Before the end we were treated to the sight of Kamui Kobayashi finally pitting. Not that that in particular was a treat, but he came out just behind the still furious Alonso, who had been chasing Buemi for a good number of laps now. On the penultimate lap Kobayashi, with fresh rubber on, slid past Alonso with a great move, and then set about Buemi. The fantastic performance that his career needed was compounded at the last corner of the last lap, when he nicked seventh from Buemi.

Serenely at the front, Vettel took the thoroughly deserved win. Hamilton was second, with Button third, although all results were provisional until the stewards had figured out how to punish the offenders correctly. It was not a classic, but definitely more fun than other Valencia outings have been. Debate will rage over the Safety Car issues, but there can be no doubt that Vettel was a deserved winner, and he will be spurred on by today’s events. He might just have that cocky assurance back, now, too. Beware, Webber and McLarens.

Updated results and standings:


Pos Driver Team
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
3. Button McLaren-Mercedes
4. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth
5. Kubica Renault
6. Sutil Force India-Mercedes
7. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari
8. Alonso Ferrari
9. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari
10. Rosberg Mercedes
11. Massa Ferrari
12. De la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari
13. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari
14. Petrov Renault
15. Schumacher Mercedes
16. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes
17. Di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth
18. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth
19. Glock Virgin-Cosworth
20. Senna HRT-Cosworth
21. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth

Schumacher: Safety car mix up cost us

Michael Schumacher believes that Formula One’s safety car rules must be addressed, after the German’s race was handicapped.

The seven-times champion had made good progress as a result of the safety car, only to lose time when a red light forced him to wait in the pitlane.

Meanwhile Nico Rosberg was elevated into the final points position after stewards penalised a number of drivers for committing infringements during the safety car period.

Nico Rosberg – (Finished 12th but was promoted to 10th as a result of the penalties given to other driver): “It wasn’t a great race for me today and not much fun out there. I struggled for grip throughout and had to work really hard to save my brakes which completely took away the ability to challenge and try to make up positions. But we tried to look for the positives and learn something because you can always learn from any situation and use the experiences later. It’s been a poor weekend from us all round and we have to try to resolve our issues and improve from here.”

Michael Schumacher – 16th: “What a race. We would like to have clarification about the safety car situation as the red light on the exit from my first pit stop destroyed a race which otherwise would have offered us very good possibilities. Our point of view is that as the safety car had passed the pits without having the cars lined up behind it, there should not have been a red light. There was a green light for a moment and then suddenly it went red again. We believe that this was not correct. Our strategy was right in that context as we took the opportunity which could have given us a finish even close to the podium.”

Ross Brawn:“Today’s race was a disappointing outcome to our weekend in Valencia. The car was reasonable today but again we suffered from our qualifying performance which is an issue that we need to get on top of quickly. Nico got caught up at the start therefore we made an early pit stop which was unfortunately compromised when the safety car came out and we lost any benefit. From there, Nico’s race was about consolidating his position as we had some concerns over brake wear which he did an excellent job to manage. With Michael, we were looking to benefit strongly from the safety car. As the leaders had not been picked up, Michael was waved through and that gave us a golden opportunity to make his pit stop as our predictions were that the option tyre would hold up for the remainder of the race. However, when Michael came to exit the pits, the red light was showing which cost him a significant amount of time. In our view, the regulations are clear that the exit light should not go red until the line of cars has formed behind the safety car, and we would like the FIA to look into this. There was no line formed and over 18 seconds between Hamilton and Kobayashi when Michael came in. It was a good effort from Michael to try and recover from there but ultimately a very frustrating afternoon.”

Norbert Haug: “Michael could have finished quite high today if the red light at the pit exit had not been switched on. This happened contrary to our understanding of the rules which say the pit exit remains open until a line has formed behind the safety car. That clearly was not the case as there was a gap of over 18 seconds behind Lewis Hamilton whilst Michael was in the pits. He would have fitted in this gap if the red light had not have made this impossible. So Michael’s race was ruined even though he posted quick lap times throughout the afternoon. Despite three pit stops and a long wait at the pit exit, he finished 6.5 seconds outside of the points. Nico had to look after his brakes throughout and was therefore handicapped. It’s been a weekend to forget for our team but we will be stronger soon.”

Sauber hails Kobayashi

Peter Sauber has heaped praise on Kamui Kobayashi, after the Japanese driver drove a magnificant race to finished seventh.

The 23-year-old had ran as high as third for most of the race before he was forced to pit for tyres – after taking full advantage of the safety car.

Subsequently, after his tyre change, the Sauber driver managed to light up the final part of the race, by passed the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso and then the Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi.

However, Pedro de la Rosa could not repeat his team-mates performance after encountering traffic.

Kamui Kobayashi – 7th: “Before the race we had decided to use separate tyre strategies for Pedro and me. I started on the harder ones and didn’t pit when everybody else did. It was great racing there at the front, but it was not easy either because I had Jenson Button close behind me all the time, and also I had to look after my tyres. I was careful not to overdrive them. After my pitstop I had only four laps to make use of my fresh tyres. At this moment I had better grip than anybody else, and I felt I had to make the most out of it. Of course it was a risk to overtake Alonso and Buemi. If it hadn’t worked out and I had crashed I would have been in trouble.”

Pedro de la Rosa – (Finished 10th on track, but was demoted to 12th after being given a 5 second penalty): “It was a great race from the team. The strategy paid off and the car was really good under race conditions. For most of the race I was stuck in traffic. The last 12 laps were very difficult for me because I had a big flat spot on my front right tyre, and the vibrations in the car were quite bad. I didn’t say this over the radio to the team, as I wanted to save them from bad news during the race because we have had enough of that. I am very, very happy for the entire team that we scored these points today. It is a great team and they deserve to be happy.”

Peter Sauber, Team Principal: “What a fantastic race, particularly considering where we were on the grid. The team and the drivers did everything right today. Pedro delivered a very solid performance and scored one point, and Kamui was absolutely amazing. The lap times which he put in while he was in third were stunning. They prove how much potential there is in this car. Congratulations to the whole team and the drivers!”

James Key, Technical Director: “It was a very good result for the team and an excellent race from both drivers who managed to bring the cars home in the points, which we needed and the team deserved. Given our qualifying performance yesterday, we decided to split our strategy, and the plan was to go as far as possible for Kamui on the harder compound. For Pedro we chose a more standard approach. He started on the option tyres and stopped during the safety car period at exactly the right time. He was able to complete the race on the prime tyres, which lasted very well. With Kamui we decided to leave him out and keep a very close eye on his lap times and also the traffic behind him. His performance in the race when he was holding third was absolutely outstanding. He was putting in some very quick lap times, and holding Button behind him without coming under much pressure. We should be very happy with this result. It was a great effort from the team and the drivers.”

Hamilton: Safety car rules confusing

Lewis Hamilton has called for clarification of the safety car rules after a drive-thru penalty ruined his chance of victory in the European Grand Prix.

The British driver was on the tail on race leader Sebastian Vettel only to find himself punished by the stewards for being deemed to have overtaken the pace car after it had passed the second safety car line.

Despite this, the 25-year-old managed to maintain his second position, with team-mate Jenson Button in third.

Lewis Hamilton – 2nd: “Into Turn One, I was very close to Seb [Vettel], I went for the gap, I out-braked him and we went into the corner side-by-side. He gave me room, but we touched and the contact damaged my front wing.

“When the Safety Car came out, the team did a great job to change the nosebox and tyres. After that my pace was much better and I was able to push Seb, but it’s impossible to pass around here when the cars are so closely matched.

“Whenever a Safety Car comes out, it’s difficult to compute all the information. There are all these beeps in your ear, and lights flashing on your dashboard too. There’s got to be a certain time between the ‘Safety Car 1′ line and the Safety Car 2’ line, and between those two lines you can go fast. So it’s all a bit complicated.

“So I pushed past the last Safety Car line, and was obviously then trying to close the gap to Seb. But as I came out of the first corner, all of a sudden I saw the Safety Car coming out, so I backed off and went across the line as I did that, so I thought I was okay.

“When the team told me I had a drive-through penalty, I made time by pushing as hard as I could, and was able to increase the gap a bit to the guys behind. I took my penalty – it’s quite a long time to spend at 60km/h in the pitlane and I came out second. I don’t see how that’s unfair it’s racing, and those are the rules, and we all have to accept them.”

Jenson Button – (Finished 3rd and maintained position, despite being given a 5 second penalty): “The first lap was great I loved it! I was alongside Robert [Kubica] for 10 corners, then we both went around Mark [Webber] in Turn Eight, one on the inside and one on the outside! We continued fighting until Turn 10, but I couldn’t get around the outside of him there it was just too tight.

“I was very close to the pit entry when the Safety Car was triggered. I was warned by the team beforehand, who said, There might be a Safety Car, in this lap,’ so I dived into the pits. There was no room to lift off or hit the brakes, so to be honest I can’t really see why I was called to the stewards.

“Later in the race, when I was behind Kamui [Kobayashi], I knew he’d have to pit again. His pace was reasonable, so I knew he wasn’t going to pit early, but you just can’t overtake around here. I was running pretty low downforce today, which gave me good straightline speed, but I couldn’t get out of the corners quick enough to get really tucked in behind him on the straights. As soon as he went into the pits, though, I had three or four laps when I could push and have some fun with the car. I got the fastest lap at that point, which was nice; the car was feeling very good, and I just wish I’d had more laps to play with!”

Martin Whitmarsh – Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: “Speaking before the stewards have finished their deliberations, I suppose I have to say I’m reasonably pleased with this afternoon’s events. Short of a win, second and third is pretty good especially so when you bear in mind that we’d brought only a modest set of modifications here whereas some of the other top teams had introduced substantial upgrades.

“We’ve accepted Lewis’s penalty, but in truth we reckon it was a pretty marginal call. Okay, it didn’t deprive him of his second place on the road, but it did prevent him from being able to take the race to Seb, which had been our intention. And I think Lewis’s strong pace in the last few laps showed that, having saved his fuel and tyres early on in preparation for mounting an attack on Seb, he would probably have been in a position to have a fair old crack at it had he not been given a drive-through. So, yes, his penalty was frustrating for Lewis, frustrating for us, and ultimately I suppose you’d have to say it was frustrating for the spectators, at the track and in front of their TV screens, too. But, as I say, you have to accept these things and move on.

“Jenson drove a very solid race although it was of course irritating for him to be stuck behind Kamui for so long. Having said that, in the chaos that always ensues with an early Safety Car, our engineers called the situation really well, with the result that we were able to change the nosebox on Lewis’s car [following contact with Vettel’s car on lap one] and send our cars back out in second place and fourth place. Actually, of course, Jenson’s fourth place was in effect third place, because Kamui was always going to have to make a pitstop for new tyres at some stage in the race. So it was a shame for Jenson to be stuck behind Kamui for so long too but, again, racing can be frustrating and sometimes there’s simply nothing you can do about it.

“Assuming Jenson retains his third place in today’s race, he’ll remain in second place in the drivers’ world championship not far behind Lewis, whose name still tops the list. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes leads the constructors’ world championship too, which is particularly satisfying for all our employees who work so hard back at our HQ in Woking [Surrey, UK] as they prepare for our home grand prix, at Silverstone, the home of British motor sport, in two weeks’ time.”

Barrichello: European Grand Prix was ‘great fun’

Rubens Barrichello hailed the updates on his FW32, after the veteran Brazilian scored an impressive fourth place for Williams.

The Grove-based team may well have celebrated a double points finish, had it not been for a late exhaust failure for Nico Hulkenberg which forced the German to retire.

Despite this, the team and its drivers are encouraged by the pace of the 2010 challenger and approach the second half of the season with renewed confidence.

Rubens Barrichello – (Finished 4th on track and maintained position, despite 5 second penalty): It was great fun out there today and the car was behaving well throughout the race. We really seem to be heading in the right direction with the development of the car and I hope that this improved performance continues for the rest of the season.

Nico Hulkenberg – DNF: It was going really well and points were definitely possible today. I was running in tenth before the safety car came out. It wasn’t good timing for me because I had called in a flat spot on my tyre half a lap earlier and wanted to pit but by then it was too late. Combined with having to stack, I really lost all my places there. When the safety car came in I couldn’t keep Alonso behind me, but after that it was quite a processional race up until something caught fire on my car. That obviously ended it for me.

Sam Michael, Technical Director: That was a good performance today by both cars, and definitely a step forward. Unfortunately, an exhaust failure cost Nico a possible point today and we will be investigating the cause back at the factory. The team is now looking forward to its home race at Silverstone and consolidating the step in performance we’ve made with further upgrades for the FW32.

Kubica scores points once more for Renault

Robert Kubica continued his points scoring streak for Renault, after finishing fifth in the 2010 European Grand Prix.

Although the Polish driver was one of a number of entrants to have five seconds added to their time after the race, he still managed to maintain his fifth position.

However, team-mate Vitaly Petrov found himself demoted from eleventh to fourteenth on the final classification, after he too was judged to have committed an offence while under safety car conditions.

Robert Kubica – (Finished 5th on track and maintained this position, despite 5 second penalty):I got a pretty good start today and I managed to keep my position, then had a really nice clean fight with Jenson – I think we spent about half a lap side by side. In fact, we both managed to overtake Webber going into turn eight: I was on the inside, Jenson was on the outside and we both squeezed Mark to get past. And then, Jenson and I went through the next two corners side by side as well, so it was a pretty fun first lap and I came out on top of the battle. After that, we got lucky when the Safety Car came out: I was already braking for the last corner when the message came on the steering wheel, so I decided to head straight to the pits. Unfortunately, though, we didn’t manage to take maximum advantage of the opportunity: I was the first car into the pits but the third car to leave. If everything had gone smoothly, we could have finished on the podium this afternoon, but unfortunately we didn’t manage to do so.

Vitaly Petrov – (Finished 11th on track, but was demoted to 14th after penalty): I’m disappointed with my result today. When you start the race in tenth, the minimum you expect is to keep your position. My problems began at the start because I got big wheel spin and lost a lot of places. After that I tried to keep up good pace and tried to attack De la Rosa, but he had very good speed on the straight it’s very difficult to overtake here so I couldn’t get by. As a rookie it’s good experience for me to finish the race and we know what we need to do for the coming races.

Eric Boullier, Team Principal:To finish fifth with Robert is a good result and we’ve made up some ground on Mercedes in the championship. We managed to react quickly to the Safety Car and adapt the strategy, but I still feel we could have come away with a better result. It’s disappointing to see Vitaly miss out on points, especially after his good performance in qualifying. When you are in P15 after the first lap it’s very difficult to get back into the points, but at least he had pretty strong pace today.

Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer:Robert’s fifth place today is a reasonable result considering that we started sixth. We reacted very quickly to the Safety Car to stop Robert, but unfortunately we had already planned to stop Vitaly on that lap and the mechanics were waiting in the pit lane with his tyres. So there was a dash into the garage to swap the tyres over, which cost us some time and meant we lost a couple of places to Button and Barrichello. However, because we reacted so quickly, we managed get ahead of both Ferraris so we stayed fifth overall. Robert then spent the rest of the race behind Barrichello and, although we turned up the engine towards the end of the race, it’s so difficult to overtake here and we had to settle for fifth. As for Vitaly, he lost places on the first lap which made for a tough race. He recovered a couple of places at the pit stop, but just missed out on points today.

Rémi Taffin, Head of Engine Operations:For this race Vitaly had a fresh engine, while Robert’s V8 was on its second race. Despite it being a very hot afternoon, there were no issues with the engine and we were able to get the full performance from them for the whole race. In terms of the result today, the points we have scored over Mercedes are important and we have taken 10 points out of their lead. The only disappointment is that we could have come away with a better result because some of competitors did a better job during the pit stops under the Safety Car. Looking ahead, we will continue pushing hard to develop the car for the next race, as we have done all season.

Sutil pleased with points

Adrian Sutil was happy to secure back-to-back points finishes for Force India, after the German driver made full use of the safety car to move up the order.

Although the 27-year-old was later penalised by stewards for “failing to stay above the minimum time set by the FIA ECU when the Safety Car was deployed”, he managed to hold on to his hard fought sixth.

However team-mate Tonio Liuzzi, who was also given a five second penalty, was demoted from thirteenth to sixteenth and had been forced to stack behind his team-mate during the caution period.

Adrian Sutil – (Finished 6th on track and stayed in this position, despite 5 second penalty): It was an interesting race for me and a very good result in the end: from 13th to sixth, it’s pretty amazing for us, one of the best races so far this season. We made the call to come into the pits at the right time – when the safety car went out I was in the last sector and could go in the pits straight away and then moved up the order when the front guys came in. Then I could pass Buemi on track and in the end it was sixth position. I think we did everything right today and it’s a very positive result for the team to keep the points coming in.

Tonio Liuzzi – (Finished 13th on track but demoted to 16th after 5 second penalty): It was a reasonable race considering we knew it would be difficult to score points because of the starting position and there aren’t many overtaking spots. It was a shame we couldn’t make more of the safety car as Adrian did but basically we came in at the same time and as he was ahead on the road he was stopped in front of me and I had to wait for him to finish and then I got blocked by Petrov in the pitlane. That basically compromised my race. It’s quite disappointing as yesterday we had good pace and we just couldn’t get the most out of it in qualifying. From this perspective we showed points were possible and we can look forward to getting some more in Silverstone.

Dr Vijay Mallya, chairman and team principal: With street racing anything can happen and that’s what we saw today. We took advantage of the safety car period for Adrian, which moved him up into the points and then he did a great job to bring the car home sixth. Tonio was unlucky not to be able to benefit in the same way, however he still drove a very gutsy race and again demonstrated that in race trim the car is very competitive. We’ve come away from the weekend with some more points and I think sixth is a good reflection on where we are right now in the field.

Lotus: We will not lie down to anyone

Mike Gascoyne has defended Heikki Kovalainen for his involvement in the accident with Mark Webber – which sent the latter somersaulting and into the barrier.

Following a poor start and an early pitstop, Webber’s Red Bull found itself stuck behind Kovalainen’s Lotus and although the former attempted to pass, the Australian appeared to mistime his move and career into the back of the stricking T127.

Although Kovalainen was relieved that nobody had been hurt by the incident, the Finn stood by his decision to defend his place – a stance supported by Lotus’s chief technical officer who reaffirmed the team’s commitment to racing anyone for position.

Unfortunately the celebrations for Team Lotus’s 500th Grand Prix were further soured, as Jarno Trulli was also forced to retire from the race with a gearbox problem.

Jarno Trulli – 21st: I don’t know exactly what happened at the beginning as I managed to get away from the mess at the front but I was hit from the back and at the same time lost my front wing. It all happened during the first lap, so I thought it was the end of the race for me, but I managed to get back to the pits, and the mechanics did a great job to fix the car. I went out but had a gearbox problem, so more good work from the boys got me back out and I was then able to run to the end. I did the whole race with one set of tyres, and I felt that the pace throughout was very good. The handling was great, so I’m happy about the performance and when I pushed I was able to put in some really good lap times.

Heikki Kovalainen – DNF:First of all it’s good news that both of us are ok. Mark had a hardcore flight, and it could have ended up much worse, so it’s good we’re both fine. It’s such a shame the race ended that early – I was going really well, pulling away from the guys behind by about half a second a lap, and with Mark we were racing for position so I was always going to defend. I didn’t do anything wrong and he just ran into me. I think he missed his braking point and he ran into me at a very bad angle his front tyre hit my right rear and he tookoff. I had to make a mandatory visit to the medical centre, and shook hands with Mark there, but I’m absolutely fine, and glad Mark is too.

Mike Gascoyne, Chief Technical Officer:Obviously it was a very disappointing end to our 500th race. Jarno got hit at the start, and we had to change the nose. He also took a hit at the back, and that caused a gearbox problem. We were able to fix that and send him out again, although he was three laps down. He was held up by some of the other slower cars, but at the end of the race he was able to push and really show the car’s pace.

Heikki had an accident with Webber – he was defending his line and racing for position, and that’s what we will always do in that situation. It’s just a great shame, and we’re very glad that neither driver was hurt.

Tony Fernandes, Team Principal:Heikki’saccident is part of racing. It’s a shame as both cars are coming on really well, but there is some good to take out of this. Despite being hit, Jarno managed to finish the race, and at the end it was great to hear him say ‘the car is bloody good!’

Overall it’s been a very positive weekend, with a good Qualifying session and lots of very positive meetings and good decisions made for next year. It’s also been a pleasure having the Chapman family here, and now we’re all looking forward to bringing Lotus Racing back to the UK and racing in front of the British fans.