Hamilton in explosive BBC interview

Lewis Hamilton has given an explosive interview to the BBC in the aftermath of a difficult Monaco Grand Prix for the Englishman.

In an incident-filled race, Hamilton came together with a number of drivers in the race, crossing the line a provisional sixth.

But it was post-race where Hamilton drew the most attention, giving an interview to the BBC’s Lee McKenzie in which he:

– accused Felipe Massa of turning into him in their coming-together, an incident for which most onlookers would have blamed Hamilton himself

– slammed his team for not being ready when he came in for his first stop

– blamed Pastor Maldonado for their contact, another incident for which blame could go to Hamilton

– questioned why he is summoned to the stewards so often, and joked that it was because of the colour of his skin

“Out of six races, I’ve been to the stewards five times. It’s a joke,” Hamilton told the BBC. “It’s an absolute frickin’ joke.”

“Maybe it’s because I’m black. That’s what Ali G says. I don’t know,” he added, tongue-in-cheek.

As for the lap 34 Massa coming-together, Hamilton denied he had been at fault.

“I was quite a lot quicker than Massa,” he added. “I went up the inside, and the guy turned so early and just turned into me. So I tried to go over the kerb to avoid him and we were stuck together.

“And of course I get the penalty, which is usual. He [Massa] held me up in qualifying and I got the penalty. He turned into me, and I got the penalty.”

Hamilton also appeared to blame Pastor Maldonado for the crash three laps before the chequered flag.

“I went up the inside of Maldonado and you can see on the [TV] screen that he turned in a good car length too early to stop me overtaking him and he crashed into me.

“It’s just ridiculous. These drivers are absolutely frickin’ ridiculous. Just stupid.”

Fortunate Vettel wins Monaco Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel today took a win best described as fortunate in today’s 2011 Monaco Grand Prix.

In what was by far his least convincing performance of the season so far, the German benefited strongly from a Safety Car and a red flag following a multi-car incident at the Swimming Pool on lap 72.

Vettel’s tyres were on their last legs at that time and he was being harried by both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, both on fresher tyres, and spectators were denied a grandstand finish by the ensuing red flag and permitted tyre change.

He had also been lucky that an early, chaotic stop did not further adversely affect his afternoon, when the Red Bull team did not appear to be ready for him.

Alonso went on to finish second with Button third, the Englishman’s strategy less than perfect in a race he too could easily have won.

Mark Webber was hurt by that early pit stop confusion for Vettel, which meant the Australian had to wait behind his team mate for the services of the team. He nevertheless recovered to finish fourth, with a valiant Kamui Kobayashi fifth on a challenging weekend for Sauber.

Lewis Hamilton capped his eventful afternoon by crossing the line sixth, although he is subject to investigation and may yet lose those points because of his final contretemps with Pastor Maldonado. He had begun by being rear-ended by a hot-headed Michael Schumacher at Sainte Devote on the very first lap, enjoyed a very entertaining battle with Felipe Massa half-way through the race and also been involved at the epicentre of that lap 72 crash that caused the red flag.

Another involved in that incident, Adrian Sutil, took an excellent seventh, with Heidfeld, Barrichello and Buemi rounding out the top ten.

Nico Rosberg endured a torrid afternoon as half of a Mercedes team whose car was very hard on its tyres round the streets of the Principality. He recovered to take 11th, just outside the points, with di Resta 12th for Force India and the two Lotuses of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen a very creditable 13th and 14th. D’Ambrosio, Liuzzi and Karthikeyan were the other finishers respectively.

The biggest victim of the multi-car crash in the closing stages was Vitaly Petrov, who had been running very competitively up to that point. He found himself immediately behind Jaime Alguersuari who was busy riding up on Lewis Hamilton, had nowhere to go, and speared into the barrier. Reports from eyewitnesses suggested Petrov might have been knocked unconscious, which could have been the reason for the red flag. He was medically extracted from the car.

Vettel must be given credit for keeping the cars of Alonso and Button behind him and for making no mistakes, but it can be in no doubt that this was one of his more fortuitous wins. He marches on, though, with the championship looking more and more like a foregone conclusion every race.

Monaco GP 2011: as it happened

12.45pm BST Good afternoon and welcome to forumula1.com’s minute by minute coverage of the Monaco Grand Prix.

Sergio Perez will not be participating in today’s race after his big crash yesterday, and the news came through this morning that as a precautionary measure he will stay in hospital tonight. Everyone at forumula1.com sends their best wishes to the Mexican and his family.

Otherwise, Lewis Hamilton’s bad afternoon yesterday got worse this morning with the news that his best Q3 time would be deleted. Apparently, he jumped a chicane during the fraught two minutes following Perez’s crash yesterday. As a result he will start ninth.

The weather is glorious in Monte Carlo and it looks as though it will be the setting for a fantastic motor race.

There seems to be an issue with Michael Schumacher’s car – there is a hive of activity around the Mercedes which is sitting in fifth slot on the grid. A man dressed in silver overalls hanging onto the rear wing, however, assured Martin Brundle on the BBC’s gridwalk that everything was fine and dandy. Do we believe him, boys and girls?

The other big question is how many stops to do today. The optimum strategy would appear to be one and one only; the super soft tyres don’t seem to degrade as quickly as they were expected to. The other tyre is the soft, which now becomes the hard. Of the two. If that makes sense.

The tension and the sense of expectation is building now as the spectators take their places and the engines are fired up. What a spectacle this truly is, at this magnificent anachronism of a racetrack.

They are off on the parade lap around the streets of the Principality, displaying their wares to the great and the good who line the track, craning out of the hotel windows to catch a glimpse of the cars’ blur of colour. And warming their tyres up.

“The steering is REALLY heavy,” says Jenson Button, coming up to line up second on the grid. Issue there, perhaps.

Lap 1 And they’re off! A quick squirt down to the first corner is led by Vettel! Alonso is up to third ahead of Webber! Schumacher has taken Hamilton for ninth down at Loews and Vettel has sprinted away with Button lagging in second. Hamilton says he has been hit by Schumacher on his way through.

Lap 2 They go across the line and Vettel has a lead of at least two seconds by the look of it. Alonso is all over the back of a lethargic looking Button.

Lap 3 We are hearing that Hamilton and Schumacher came together at Ste Devote, the first corner. Way before Schumacher eventually made it past the Englishman at Loews. A ferocious pace is being set by Vettel, here, and no-one has an answer. It’s Vettel, Button, Alonso, Webber, Rosberg, Massa, Maldonado, Petrov, Schumacher, Hamilton, Barrichello, di Resta, Kobayashi, Sutil, Heidfeld.

Lap 4 Alonso made a blinding start there and could have had Button as well.

Lap 5 Massa is harrying Rosberg for fifth, but passing opportunities are few and far between, even though DRS has now been enabled.

Lap 6 Hamilton is now all over the back of Schumacher. Where, oh where, will he get past? If at all, that is? “It’s a big ask,” says David Coulthard on the BBC.

Lap 7 We’re getting a replay of Schumacher’s dreadful start which resulted in him clattering into the back of Hamilton at the first corner. The man looks as though he has forgotten how to drive an F1 car.

Lap 8 Schumacher seems to get good traction out of Portier which means that he has an advantage into the tunnel and thus down to the overtaking hotspot at the chicane. He can’t get past anywhere else, realistically.

Lap 9 Schumacher and Hamilton nose-to-tail is where the attention is because not much is happening elsewhere. Schumacher radioes in to tell his pit that his rear tyres are graining.

Lap 10 Hamilton is past into Ste Devote! What a move. On the replay we can see that it was mighty close between the two…they nearly came together. Brave driving from both of them to avoid an accident. Lewis lifts his hand to complain, but Schumacher was a reformed character by comparison to recent races in his behaviour.

Lap 12 Rosberg seems to be suffering from degradation too. Vettel seems to be slowing his frenetic pace – Button is catching him. Barrichello passes Schumacher at Loews! Great stuff.

Lap 13 Schumacher pits in response. They replace the nose, too – it must have been damaged in that first lap contact. Massa is really pushing Rosberg for fifth and Maldonado, Petrov and Hamilton are also in close attendance.

Lap 14 Felipe Massa clips Rosberg going up the hill! What was that about? And now Massa’s past into Tabac, and Maldonado follows suit past Rosberg. These Mercs are really struggling.

Lap 15 There’s a yellow flag out, presumably for the bit of Ferrari wing endplate going up the hill.

Lap 16 Button pits from second, he takes some more super-softs.

Lap 17 Vettel pits! That looked to be a very late call! And Webber is in too, he has to wait…this is bad from Red Bull. Are they even Vettel’s tyres? Chaos.

Lap 18 And Button should be leading when Alonso pits, then.

Lap 19 Alonso pits, from what is the lead…Button takes over the lead and Vettel slots into second.

Lap 20 Alonso has a very slow out lap…what’s going on there? He’s five seconds off the pace. Weird.

Lap 21 Webber is now 14th. But they are his tyres, and Vettel is on his own too. Narrowly-avoided disaster for Red Bull there, then. Hamilton is swarming all over the back of Petrov.

Lap 22 The Mercedes cars, line astern, are fighting with Timo Glock for track position. A terrible race so far from them.

Lap 23 Hamilton pits! And the team aren’t ready! What is going on today? Madness! A big delay.

Lap 25 Maldonado pits from his very competitive race so far. Paul di Resta gets a bit muscly with a Toro Rosso at Loews. Not really cricket, that, from the Scot.

Lap 27 Massa is in too, and all the pitstops this afternoon seem to be taking ages. He emerges in front of Hamilton. di Resta gets a penalty for that move last lap.

Lap 28 So it’s Button, Vettel, Alonso, Petrov, Barrichello, Kobayashi, Sutil, Heidfeld, Buemi, Webber, Massa, Hamilton.

Lap 29 Petrov pits and appears to suffer a mini-stall as he gets away. This lot will have to practise their pit stops.

Lap 30 Schumacher passes Rosberg at Loews. A beautiful move, even if Rosberg could have made it more difficult.

Lap 31 Barrichello and Kobayashi, in fourth and fifth, have yet to pit.

Lap 32 Hamilton is chasing Massa hard. He is in a queue behind Buemi, basically, with Webber in between the Toro Rosso and the Ferrari. They are all slower than Hamilton, it looks like.

Lap 33 Timo Glock is out of the race with what looks like suspension issues. Rubens Barrichello and the leader Button pit!

Lap 34 Button emerges into fresh air! Great decision from McLaren. Hamilton clumsily tries to get past Massa at Loews. It’s ugly, like an Asda car park prang.

Lap 34 Safety Car out. Massa has had a crash three corners later.

Lap 35 Schumacher retires at the entry to the pit lane. He appears to have lost drive. Alonso dives into the pits.

Lap 36 We are under the safety car after Massa’s accident. Following his contact with Hamilton at the hairpin, they made their way down to Portier and Hamilton got by in the tunnel, pushing Massa wide onto the marbles, where he smacked the outer retaining wall.

“That was deliberate!” says Hamilton on the radio, viz the initial contact. It wasn’t Massa’s fault, let’s be clear about that. Hamilton himself may get a penalty, is the received wisdom.

Lap 37 Still the Safety Car is out. Schumacher’s retirement was bizarre – he just stopped right at the entry to the pitlane.

Lap 38 Button has, as a result of the Safety Car coming out, lost his advantage and is now stuck in quite a lot of traffic. Vettel is now the leader, although he has to pit. Safety Car in this lap.

Lap 39 We’re racing again. Fortunate for Vettel, that. Button is going to have to do some overtaking.

Lap 40 Vettel leads by four seconds from Button. Hamilton and Massa’s coming-together is going to be investigated. It was optimistic at best, but the stewards are going to make a call, and probably Lewis is going to catch it. Webber, ahead of Massa, was also sort of involved in that event, though not heavily. He was clipped by Massa, I think, who was thinking of making a move himself.

Lap 41 Button is now in clear air behind Vettel and a lot quicker than him, because he is on fresher rubber.

Lap 42 Button is harrying Vettel.

Lap 43 He needs to pit again though, because he hasn’t used the other compound. Hamilton gets a drive through penalty for his part in that contact with Massa.

Lap 44 Hamilton takes his penalty.

Lap 45 Paul di Resta has some more contact at Loews.

Lap 47 Button gets told he needs to pass Vettel on track.

Lap 49 Button pits. A wise strategy, to get him out of the wing of Vettel. Will Red Bull respond?

Lap 51 Alonso is now looking like a threat to Vettel for second, as the Red Bull team haven’t responded.

Lap 52 Button is now a mere sixteen seconds behind Vettel – not enough time for German to pit and get out. The order is Vettel, Alonso, Button, Sutil, Kobayashi, Webber, Maldonado, Petrov, Hamilton, Heidfeld, Buemi, Barrichello.

Lap 53 This is looking bad for Vettel.

Lap 54 The word now is that Vettel might not pit at all. He has used both compounds, so that is all right, but can he stay ahead of the chasing Ferrari and McLaren? Tense stuff.

Lap 55 Di Resta is harrying Rosberg for 14th.

Lap 56 Webber is into the pits from sixth. He has driven well considering his disadvantage at the first stop. Alonso might not pit either! Button will have to pass them both on track! “We’re not sure!” say McLaren, regarding the strategy of Vettel in first and Alonso in second.

Lap 58 Hamilton is harrying Maldonado there. He hasn’t given up, despite being down in the last few of the points paying positions.

Lap 59 Alonso is catching Vettel hand over fist, and this could be the race if neither pit.

Lap 60 Button will arrive on the back of that leading fight in about three laps’ time, if he continues at his current pace.

Lap 61 Don’t forget that Button still will need to pit again, in theory. They are in the same camera shot now.

Lap 62 Vettel’s tyres must be shot to pieces and he still has to get to lap 78 to win the race. They are one-two-three now, just like that. Great entertainment.

Lap 63 They are so so close now, these three. It is fantastic stuff.

Lap 64 Alonso’s nose is basically in Vettel’s diffuser as they go through the last few turns. Wow. Button is in close attendance.

Lap 65 Button seems to fall off the back of the leading pair through the last sector though he is right with them in the first two sectors. Vettel’s tyres are basically canvas, and they are approaching traffic. Although he does get fantastic traction out of the slow corners.

Lap 66 Sutil and Kobayashi come together at Mirabeau for fourth! Kobayashi has made it stick, he’s past.

Lap 67 Alonso is so close into Ste Devote. Webber gets past Petrov somewhere for sixth, although all eyes are on this front battle.

Lap 68 And Webber is up to fifth, past Sutil at the Swimming Pool. Alonso misses the chicane! He didn’t gain or lose anything there, but this is a sign Alonso’s tyres are not at their best anymore.

Lap 69 There are seven or eight cars, traffic-wise, about to be hit by the leaders. Now it’s carnage! A Force India, a Renault and a Toro Rosso all go off at the Swimming Pool, in the midst of that big group. Safety Car.

Lap 70 The SC plays into the hands of Vettel and Alonso, giving their tyres a break. In that melee, Alguersuari rode up the back of Hamilton and damaged the Englishman’s rear wing. Hamilton had backed off to avoid Adrian Sutil who had had an accident of his own at the corner just prior to the Swimming Pool.

Lap 71 Hamilton will surely have to retire with that damaged rear wing. It’s hanging off.

Lap 72 There’s a medical car down at the crash site, and as yet everyone is unsure why exactly. It could be Petrov, although his looked like an innocuous accident. He had nowhere to go after Alguersuari and Hamilton’s accident, and nudged the outer retaining wall.

Lap 72 The race has been red-flagged. It is Petrov in the barrier and with the medical assistance, but no one knows what the situation is at the moment. It didn’t look like a terrible accident.

That will be it, you’d have thought. Full points will probably be awarded, but now there is some idea that the race may yet be restarted. They are lining up on the grid, and fast-thinking McLaren are changing Lewis Hamilton’s rear wing.

Eyewitnesses are saying they think Petrov was knocked unconscious. That will have been why the race was red-flagged; that, or the barrier having been irrevocably damaged.

The discussion now is whether tyres can be changed on the grid. If they can, this race is Vettel’s. Button’s afternoon ruined by events, really.

They have changed the tyres, and the race will restart at four minutes past the hour. “Just legs, bruising,” Renault boss Eric Boullier tells the BBC of Petrov’s condition. That’s good then.

It’s looking as though McLaren won’t be able to repair Lewis Hamilton’s rear wing in the time left. It’s less than a minute til the race restarts. The running order is Vettel, Alonso, Button, Kobayashi, Webber, Maldonado, Sutil (!), di Resta, Heidfeld, Barrichello, Buemi at the moment as they sit on the grid.

Lap 73 And they are off behind the Safety Car, which will probably come into the pits at the end of the first lap. Yes it will.

Lap 74 And they are racing. Button “caught napping”, in David Coulthard’s apt phrase. Alonso is close enough to Vettel, he could pass…

Lap 74 Hamilton, who is racing it turns out, hits poor Pastor Maldonado at Ste Devote. Maldonado is out of the race and surely that is another penalty for Lewis.

Lap 75 Yes, Hamilton is being investigated again. Sigh. Not the Englishman’s best afternoon. Kobayashi-Webber-Hamilton is the best fight on track at the moment, though.

Lap 76 Alonso has fallen off the back of Vettel – this is looking like the German’s afternoon. Again. But in a different way. Kobayashi is defending for his life in fourth.

Lap 77 Webber makes the move down at the chicane! And Kobayashi has to take to the run-off to avoid the accident…he will have to give it to Webber. And he does.

Lap 78 SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS THE MONACO GRAND PRIX

Alonso takes second with Button third, and Webber fourth. Kobayashi is fifth and Hamilton sixth provisionally after that clash with Maldonado, with Sutil seventh and Heidfeld eighth. Barrichello was ninth with Buemi tenth. Rosberg was 11th, di Resta 12th, Trulli 13th, Kovalainen 14th, d’Ambrosio 15th, Liuzzi 16th, and Karthikeyan the last of the finishers.

Lady Luck definitely smiling on Vettel at the moment, then. Things really fell into his lap, because you wouldn’t really have given two figs for his chances on those shot tyres before the race was red-flagged.

Well that’s it from me, exhausting as it has been today at Monaco. Thanks for following.

Exit of tunnel is more dangerous with blown diffusers – Button

Jenson Button has said that the exit of the tunnel section at Monaco – where Sergio Perez today sustained a massive accident – is more dangerous this year with the cars’ blown diffusers.

Button, who had a very similar accident to that of Perez in 2003 at the same place, appeared to suggest that the car’s 2011 rear structure had a deleterious effect on stability emerging from the tunnel.

“It is when you first hit the brakes [that you feel it],” the McLaren man told the press after qualifying today.

“The rear goes very light for some reason, and it seems to be more of an issue this year because of the blown diffuser systems that a lot [of the cars] have. The rear goes very light and at that point you become a passenger, it pitches you into [the] right hand side and you lose braking ability as you lose two wheels.”

The 2009 champion nevertheless praised the organisers and marshals, as well as the FIA for the improvements in safety at that part of the street circuit.

“I think the cars have improved dramatically with safety since Karl Wendlinger’s accident and the barrier has been moved back since my accident,” he added.

“I am happy [FIA technical delegate] Charlie [Whiting] made the right call in taking speed humps out [of the run-off area next to the chicane] after Nico’s accident, because if [they were] there, it would have been even worse.”

Sauber: Perez is ok, has concussion and thigh injury

The Sauber team have confirmed that Sergio Perez suffered no serious injury in his sizeable crash during qualifying for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix.

The Mexican was seen to emerge from the tunnel section inexplicably far to the left hand side of the track, well off the racing line. It appeared as though when he touched the brakes the car had not settled, and he speared into the Armco barrier on the right hand side, causing considerable damage to the car.

At unabated speed the Sauber careered into the barrier at the bottom of the hill side-on, with Perez appearing to raise his hand to protect his head just prior to impact.

Immediate concerns were that something had entered the cockpit during the accident and emergency services rushed to Perez’s aid as the session was red-flagged.

Soon after came confirmation that the rookie was conscious and able to respond to questioning by FIA doctor Gary Hartstein, in tests that are commonplace for drivers suspected to have head injuries.

Sauber were able to issue a statement later this afternoon to confirm that the Mexican was out of the woods, although he had sustained concussion and a damaged thigh.

“It was with great relief the Sauber F1 Team received the news that Sergio Perez has no serious injuries after his heavy accident in the closing minutes of the final part of qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix,” the team said.

“Shortly before 15:00 hrs he had crashed into the barrier after the fast tunnel section of the circuit.

“The 21-year-old Mexican was taken to the Hospital Princess Grace in Monaco from where the team received further information at 16:25 hrs: The doctors said Perez had suffered concussion and a sprained thigh, but no broken bones and, following a scan, they could find no further injuries.

“The reason for the accident will be investigated and the team will update the media as soon as it has any further information.”

The accident was an uncanny echo of Nico Rosberg’s one this morning in morning practice, David Coulthard’s in 2008 and Jenson Button’s in 2003. Early hypotheses will focus on the nature of the track surface at that critical point just outside the tunnel where F1 cars are at or very near maximum speed.

Monaco GP: Vettel top dog in session marred by Perez crash

Sebastian Vettel this afternoon took pole position for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix in a session marred by a big crash for Sauber’s Sergio Perez.

With two and a half minutes remaining of the Q3 session, Perez lost control on the exit of the tunnel and crashed into the barrier at the bottom of the hill after clouting the Armco barrier on the right hand side of the track.

Concerns immediately afterwards were for the motionless Mexican’s health, but the practical effects were that a number of drivers had their fast laps affected, including Lewis Hamilton, the driver who had looked most likely to challenge Vettel for pole.

The German, who had set his time prior to Perez’s crash, was sitting pretty at the top of the timesheets as the session was restarted, and Hamilton was unable to get anywhere near the Red Bull man’s time, ending the session with only the seventh fastest time.

Jenson Button, in the other McLaren, will start second – as he too set a fast time before Perez’s accident – with Mark Webber third and Fernando Alonso in fourth spot for Ferrari. Michael Schumacher will be pleased with fifth on the grid despite having used all his allocation of super-soft tyres.

A couple of offs for Felipe Massa in Q2 did not unduly affect his Q3 performance and he will start sixth tomorrow. Schumacher’s team mate Nico Rosberg had a massive accident in morning practice today in an uncannily similar manner to Perez, and although initially impressing with his return to the car in Q1 and Q2, could only manage eighth on the grid.

Pastor Maldonado, whose Monaco experience is considerable for one so young, takes ninth slot on the grid, while Perez will sit tenth if he is capable of starting the race, an eventuality in considerable doubt at the current time.

The Renaults of Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld disappointed today, as they could only manage 11th and 16th on the grid respectively. Rubens Barrichello will leave from 12th slot with Perez’s Sauber team mate Kamui Kobayashi surviving a rear-ending from Jaime Alguersuari in Q1 at la Rascasse to take 13th. Both were summoned to the stewards following qualifying and it remains to be seen whether a penalty for either will be dished out.

Force India’s Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil line up line astern 14th and 15th tomorrow, with Sebastian Buemi the last of the men from Q2.

Heikki Kovalainen was once again the best of the rest in a Lotus team rejuvenated by the courts’ decision to allow them to continue using their famous name, with Jarno Trulli following him in 19th. Alguersuari did not impress and he will start 20th, with the Virgins of Glock and d’Ambrosio in 21st and 22nd respectively.

Neither of the HRTs were able to participate in qualifying, although it looks as though they will be allowed to race.

Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m13.556s
2. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m13.997s + 0.441
3. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m14.019s + 0.463
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m14.483s + 0.927
5. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m14.682s + 1.126
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m14.877s + 1.321
7. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m15.280s + 1.724
8. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m15.766s + 2.210
9. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m16.528s + 2.972
10. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari No time
Q3 cut-off time: 1m15.545s Gap **
11. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m15.815s + 1.540
12. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m15.826s + 1.551
13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m15.973s + 1.698
14. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m16.118s + 1.843
15. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m16.121s + 1.846
16. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m16.214s + 1.939
17. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m16.300s + 2.025
Q3 cut-off time: 1m16.813s Gap *
18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m17.343s + 2.136
19. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m17.381s + 2.174
20. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m17.820s + 2.613
21. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m17.914s + 2.707
22. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m18.736s + 3.529
23. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth No time
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth No time

Monaco GP 2011: Vettel opens scoring but Alonso ends FP2 on top

Fernando Alonso today finished the second practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix at the top of the timesheets, after Sebastian Vettel had just pipped the Spaniard in the first practice session.

Taking place a day earlier than usual because tomorrow is a public holiday in the Principality, the sessions both enjoyed a close battle for the bragging rights going into the weekend.

In the first session, interrupted briefly after a water leak across the track, Vettel finished a tenth faster than a rejuvenated Alonso, who in turn was four-tenths ahead of Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes.

Felipe Massa was fourth fastest in the other F150th Italia, whilst the McLarens were fifth and sixth quickest in their first outing of the weekend. Pastor Maldonado was an impressive seventh in the Williams, giving notice of his intent to continue his good lower-formulae form on the streets of Monaco, and Sutil, Petrov and Schumacher rounded out the top ten. This was despite an off for the elder statesman of the sport at Sainte Devote.

Mark Webber was the fall guy from the top teams, a suspected transmission issue affecting his afternoon.

In the second session, Alonso was a similar margin ahead of Lewis Hamilton as he had been behind Vettel in FP1, around a tenth. The third fastest time was again clocked by Nico Rosberg with Jenson Button in the other McLaren fourth quickest.

Vettel and Webber in the Red Bulls were fifth and eighth fastest respectively, with Massa and Schumacher providing the filling for the Red Bull sandwich. Adrian Sutil was ninth – a springboard the German must be happy with – and Nick Heidfeld tenth.

FP1 times:
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m16.619s 25
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m16.732s + 0.113 24
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m17.139s + 0.520 20
4. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m17.316s + 0.697 24
5. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m17.350s + 0.731 23
6. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m17.534s + 0.915 24
7. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m18.527s + 1.908 30
8. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m18.578s + 1.959 24
9. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m18.733s + 2.114 16
10. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m18.805s + 2.186 14
11. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m18.928s + 2.309 19
12. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m19.234s + 2.615 24
13. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m19.395s + 2.776 24
14. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m19.463s + 2.844 25
15. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m19.768s + 3.149 25
16. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m19.792s + 3.173 26
17. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m20.083s + 3.464 23
18. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m21.116s + 4.497 27
19. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m21.548s + 4.929 32
20. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m21.758s + 5.139 31
21. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m21.815s + 5.196 17
22. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m22.840s + 6.221 13
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m23.885s + 7.266 37
24. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault No time 3

FP2 times:
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m15.123s 42
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m15.228s + 0.105 33
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m15.321s + 0.198 44
4. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m15.448s + 0.325 38
5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m15.667s + 0.544 46
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m15.781s + 0.658 45
7. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m16.356s + 1.233 33
8. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m16.642s + 1.519 42
9. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m17.101s + 1.978 46
10. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m17.126s + 2.003 38
11. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m17.337s + 2.214 35
12. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m17.541s + 2.418 47
13. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m17.570s + 2.447 39
14. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m17.581s + 2.458 32
15. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m17.633s + 2.510 49
16. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m17.706s + 2.583 37
17. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m17.789s + 2.666 43
18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m18.266s + 3.143 50
19. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m18.490s + 3.367 39
20. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m19.053s + 3.930 15
21. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m19.185s + 4.062 40
22. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m19.338s + 4.215 35
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m22.066s + 6.943 33

All Timing Unofficial

Trulli, Barrichello: tyres have killed qualifying

Jarno Trulli has said that he thinks the tyre situation in the sport in 2011 has killed the importance of qualifying.

Writing in Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the Lotus driver alludes to the potential advantage gained by conserving a set of tyres during qualifying and not going out.

“Now I can confirm it,” he wrote.

“The drivers are focusing more on saving a set of tyres than doing the fastest lap, and in the race the reason becomes clear. Who[ever] has more tyres, wins.”

At last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, Nick Heidfeld managed to go from the back of the grid to finish eighth, partially because he did not go out at all during qualifying because of an unrelated mechanical problem.

Michael Schumacher also scored good points, having got into the top ten Q3 shootout but electing not to run and starting tenth.

Rubens Barrichello today agreed with Trulli.

“Some big teams will be thinking seriously about using only hard tyres in qualifying, dropping to 16th or 17th, and having three sets of new soft tyres for the race,” he is quoted as saying by ESPN. “Depending on the track, that could be the best way.”

The debate is likely to continue as the season progresses.

F1 2011-spec: a May view on the new rules

The F1 2011 season is five races old and teams, drivers, the media and fans have had just about enough time to pass at least a modicum of judgement on the new rules and regulations for this season.

Prior to the season’s start, there was a distinct impression amongst many fans that the powers-that-be had gone too far – that tyres made of tissue paper, moveable wings and KERS was just overkill. Yes, 2010 had been processional at times, but had it not been exciting? Had the label “best season ever” not been bandied about? And was anyone in any doubt that Sebastian Vettel was a deserving world champion? The answer to all of these was no. It had been wonderfully entertaining – it was arguably the best ever – and Vettel was a wonderful champion after some great drives. So, no thanks Mr Todt and the Overtaking Working Group, we don’t need you, go and fiddle with IndyCars if you want something contrived.

Or so we thought. Now, arguably, we have reached new levels of rapture. This F1 season engages one’s interest and concentration in a way it never had before. No longer can you watch this sport on a Sunday morn through bloodshot, hungover eyes. Not any more can minute-by-minute journos rest on their laurels, or even go to the goddamned bog. Not these days can F1 dabblers drop in and instantly absorb the events of the last ten laps.

If you were being contrary, you could argue all that was bad. We liked the sport dull, say the purists. We loved it when you had to delve into the minutiae of set-up and driver politics to derive full enjoyment from the sport. We quite enjoyed being anorak-y about it all – it was a niche interest, an acquired taste.

But I don’t believe most F1 aficionados feel that way, nor most up and down the paddock. The new rules have brought rampant, riveting entertainment to our screens that requires a modicum of intellectual commitment and in return gives ample reward in the form of wheel-to-wheel dicing and more strategy than you could shake a stick at.

Let’s start with the DRS. With the exception of last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, the qualifying and free practice use of the DRS – it is permitted anywhere on track – will reap benefits for the drivers most deft with their control of an unbalanced car. There, it rewards skill and car control. In the race, in the set area(s) it is allowed it provides a perfect antidote to the wake that these aerodynamically-sophisticated machines leave. While, of course, spicing up the racing perfectly. And no, since you ask, it doesn’t artificially create overtaking. It’s still as hard as ever to make a move stick; harder, perhaps, especially when the chap behind you has the same advantage on the next lap. What wonderful battles we have seen this season as a result.

Then there’s the KERS. If it weren’t for McLaren’s great KERS, honed during the troubled ’09 season, we might have seen the Red Bulls run away even further so far this year. The Woking team have managed to build a car that’s not shabby in terms of speed, yet it also has a functional KERS installed and operational. That is more than Red Bull have ever done, although their downforce advantage still pays dividends. My point is that Adrian Newey’s stubborn refusal to adapt the RB7’s shapely rear to accommodate KERS means that we have a battle on our hands for the title, which can only be a good thing. What’s more – how could I forget – it goes and adds piquancy to the start-finish straight just like the DRS.

Then finally there’s the Pirelli tyres. What fun those have been! The softer versions seem to lose their usefulness quicker than a superinjunction these days, as well as leading to a host of pit stops, which, with their slapdash skill and nailbiting reintroductions to the racetrack, are doubly value for money. Strategy is important in a way it hasn’t been since refuelling and even before. It may yet throw up some surprises – Red Bull will get it massively wrong at some point, which will be lovely for those of us necessarily impartial and perpetually favouring towards the underdog.

These new rules are great fun, basically. It’s not to say that they don’t need fine-tuning: the DRS activation point is a work-in-progress but should be fine by mid-season, and you also can’t see an organisation the size of Pirelli continuing to preside over what occasionally appears to be chaos. But meanwhile, sit back, put your thinking cap on and enjoy the wonderful spectacle.

Pirelli say new super-soft compound will wear quickly

Pirelli have said that their new super-soft tyre – set to make its debut in Monaco next weekend – will degrade rapidly in the manner of a qualifying tyre.

“The peak of performance is definitely one lap. It will have that characteristic of a qualifying tyre so you will want to put in your best lap straight away and it will be a fast-wearing tyre,” said Paul Hembery, head of Pirelli’s F1 department.

“That is part of the plan, but I have to wait and see what it does in Monaco as I don’t want to make a prediction because we have never been there with it. It is not going to be a 15-20 lap tyre for sure.”

Hembery’s comments come in the wake of a Spanish Grand Prix characterised by soft tyres with rapid degradation, which led to a number of strategies being deployed and an entertaining race.

Drivers will again be forced to choose between the slower, harder compound or the faster but quick to fall-off-“the cliff” rubber, as well as what to use in qualifying to optimise their chances in the race.

When asked whether the spectre of drivers deliberately missing Q3 – in order to save themselves a set of tyres for the race and much in the manner Michael Schumacher did in Spain – would again raise its head, Hembery said it was unlikely.

“I think that won’t happen because they will be qualifying on the tyre they have [fewer] sets on, so that changes around. The faster tyre has been the soft one so they want to preserve as many as possible as they have one set left. Now with the advent of the new hard tyre that we see here, the new PZero, initial indications are it degrades less and it gives more laps than soft tyre so it takes away that disadvantage where hard didn’t give big difference in terms of wear. So you can consider one pitstop left.”

Laying himself open to the distinct charge that he had no idea what was going to happen, Hembery insisted that the drivers and their engineers would work everything out in spite of the tyres in free practice.

“In FP, that is where they will working out permutations, it is in the hands of the engineers, they all have the same opportunity and if that enables us to see Monaco having a bit more interest and dramas that will be great, as Monaco is the most glamorous but one of the most boring from that point of view,” he added.