F1 - Brazil Qualifying

Brazil... Samba, sun, carnival.... Wrong!

With a soundtrack by Wet Wet Wet and even the weatherman struck by lightning, Saturday Qualifying in Sao Paolo was a 3 hr marathon of torrential rain, huge accidents and, for, very nearly 2009 Champion, Jenson Button, massive disappointment.

With Red Bull rival Sebastian Vettel failing to reach Q2 all seemed in favour of an all Brawn front row, but seamingly with the wrong tyres at the wrong time, Jenson slumped to 14th.

But worse was still to come for Jenson... Team mate and rival Rubens Barrichello got through to Q3 and as the weather improved, so did Barrichello, the local crowd going wild as the Brasilian took pole in the frenetic closing seconds.

The title could still be settled tomorrow with Button too far back to see much of the action... Or, as we suspect Bernie would prefer, it will go down to the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi?

It is tomorrow's weather that may decide the 2009 champion...

An unmissable race is in prospect!

Graham Benge

Japanese Grand Prix Report

Red Bull and Vettell arrived at Suzuka ready to go for broke. They knew that the constructors' and drivers' titles were just still within their reach but only if they scored a big haul of points.

Unfortunately “go for broke” also applied to Mark Webber who did just that in a big way in final practise, so did not even take part in qualifying.

But Vettel was peerless all weekend, his pole was by a huge margin and his early race laps were more like qualifying laps as he built a very substantial margin over the rest of the field to take a very impressive race win on this most tricky of circuits.
The double Championship leaders Brawn had a rather more torrid weekend, team boss Ross Brawn admitting the cars were simply not at their best. They lacked speed, downforce and favourable tyres. They also suffered from the safety car period after Alguersuari’s massive accident – his second car destroying crash in 48 hours! – and were lucky to bring the cars home with Barrichello 7th and Button 8th, Button’s drivers' championship lead cut to just 14 points from his team mate, Vettel in with a slim chance to win the driver’s title if he scores heavily in the final two races.

In front of their home crowd Toyota’s second with Trulli was very welcome, especially at a circuit owned by Honda, and Lewis Hamilton’s third could so easily have been second but for the first KERS failure.
Worthy of a mention is Heikki Kovalainen’s cheeky move on Fizzy in the Ferrari as both exited the pits. He caught the old timer napping and undertook him, best move of the race by far and one of the best of the season!
The Brawn points might have been improved as the Stewards investigated Nico Rosberg’s pace into the pits under the safety car but they, after several hours’ consideration, allowed the results to stand.
So, onwards to Brazil where the championship might well be decided although conspiracy theorists will explain the title will go down to the last race, it being the first race at Abu Dhabi. Only time will tell....

Graham Benge - 4th October 2009

Singapore GP Report

Perhaps "lighten our darkness" was an apposite phrase for Button and Barrichello for the Singapore GP....

A disastrous start to the weekend for Brawn GP with Barrichello in the wall in qualifying and Button in a lowly 13th place among the mid-field runners was turned (using a mix of luck and strategy) into a championship saving haul of points that looked very unlikely on Saturday night.

In the other championship challenging camp, Red Bull started the weekend well with what looked likely to be a championship rescuing night under the lights. However this soon turned to utter disaster with Mark Webber the victim of a very nasty 180 mph rearward shunt caused by brake failure.

But the ill fortune was not over with possible brake failure also hanging over Sebastien Vettel as his probable second place, and possibly even first place, was taken away by a drive through penalty for pit lane speeding which he served immediately after a car damaging beaching on the huge new humps of the Singaporean track.

Vettel's double Asian adventure has probably cost him the championship and has certainly made Button's first world championship much more likely as he increases his lead over his team mate - and anyone else - to 15 points with 3 races to go, at least 2 of which seem likely to suit the characteristics of the Brawn car. It is still a bit early to celebrate but the odds are now hugely in his favour!

But for all the rivalry between the two teams none of their drivers got onto the podium after 61 incident filled laps. It was Lewis Hamilton who stood on the top step following a faultless pole to flag victory demonstrating that McLaren are back. He was followed by Timo Glock in the Toyota and Alonso in the Renault. A podium of surprises!

Onwards to Suzuka next week.

Graham Benge - 28th September 2009

Renault vs FIA 21st September 2009

So the FIA deliberated and, in possibly one of his last acts of vengeance, Max got exactly the result he wanted.

A non-penalty for Renault - in my book a two year suspended sentence does not count as a penalty, there is not even a fine - Renault saved themselves by throwing Flav and Pat to the wolves, in the one case possibly deserved but now we shall never know, in the other case a man of undoubted integrity took " took a hit for the team " as a well known US racer described it to me at Goodwood using American football parlance.

Relations between Max and Flav could not have got worse than they were, Flav was far too voluble in his support for FOTA and now Max has completely isolated Flav, effectively for ever, the sentence being non-involvement in FIA sanctioned events for "an unspecified time".

Pat Symonds is possibly one of the most genuine men in F1. Whether he knew or acquiesced to the Picquet jr crash we shall never know now but banning him from F1 for 5 years probably exiles him to Indy cars.

For Renault, struggling as are all other European car makers, the verdict makes their possible decision to quit F1 less likely in the short term, exactly the result Max and Bernie wanted, they were not keen on another major desertion, but did they dispense with corporate morality with just a gallic shrug or was their prime concern to protect the jobs of over 500 Renault F1 employees.

And what of Alonso, we shall never know how much if any he knew, how much he was involved in the decision, he will simply go off to the FIA's preferred team - the red one - with a clean license but will his conscience be as spotless?

But, if one is to believe the rumours, the bloodletting is not yet over, other very highly placed F1 personnel will yet be required to "fall on their swords" to appease Max's desire for vengeance over the rise of FOTA, be afraid, be very afraid, no-one is safe.

Graham Benge - 21st September 2009

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