2012′s big stories: Lotus’s brave driver gamble
Lotus was nothing if not bold in its 2012 driver selection, eschewing any hint of a ‘safe pair of hands’ approach and signing two men who hadn’t raced in Formula 1 since 2009.
On paper, the combination of a former world champion with 157 grand prix starts to his name and a man with five feeder series titles on his CV plus a smattering of F1 experience shouldn’t have prompted any frowns.
But this was Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.
Raikkonen whose penchant for off-track high-jinks and periods of disinterest in his day job threatened to overshadow his blistering speed, and whose sabbatical from F1 had featured a lot of dabbling in other categories with little to show for it bar some bent rally cars and memorable NASCAR Truck Series radio transmissions.
And Grosjean, who had to return to the junior categories with his tail between his legs after mixing on-track inconsistency with off-track unpopularity when he last tried F1.
It seemed a recipe for excitement and intrigue – and so it proved, as Lotus’s returnee duo generated more headlines than almost any other driver pairing in 2012…
Raikkonen: As if he’d never been away
When a qualifying mistake left Raikkonen outside the cut in Q1 for his grand prix comeback in Australia, there might have been some doubts about the wisdom of his return.
That was the only time all year those doubts were heard.
Admittedly he was still slightly rusty early on, but it was rarely evident as Raikkonen became a relentless podium finisher, shock outside title contender, and eventually a grand prix winner again.
His character was as big a hit as his speed. His insistence that if he couldn’t be champion, he’d prefer to be fourth in the standings so he didn’t have to bother with the FIA prizegiving ceremony… The unforgettable "leave me alone, I know what I’m doing" radio rant on the way to his Abu Dhabi win… getting lost off-track in Brazil… All Kimi moments that the fans lapped up.
And he’ll probably be even faster, and even more insouciant, in 2013…
Räikkönen: “La nuova regola sul DRS un cambiamento sensato”
"Prima o poi ci sarebbe stato un brutto incidente"
La limitazione dell’utilizzo del sistema DRS in F1 al venerdì e al sabato è una decisione sensata secondo Kimi Raikkonen. Il sistema che riduce il carico aerodinamico dell’ala posteriore in rettilineo è stato introdotto nel 2011 per aumentare i sorpassi nella categoria regina. Il suo uso è sempre stato concesso in tutte le zone del circuito durante le prove libere e le qualifiche mentre in gara era limitato alle sole zone DRS. Dal 2013 anche nei primi due giorni del weekend i piloti potranno usare il sistema solo nelle zone designate dalla FIA.
“E’ un cambiamento sensato” ha dichiarato Raikkonen. “Si stava andando nella direzione di sfruttare al massimo, e il prima possibile, il DRS ovunque. Prima o poi ci sarebbe stato un brutto incidente. I piloti volevano questo cambiamento”.
“In passato le Red Bull erano in grado di percorrere alcune curve con il DRS aperto, gli altri team no” ha aggiunto Raikkonen.
Il finlandese ha anche dichiarato che a suo parere difficilmente un top driver come Lewis Hamilton può fare la differenza per migliorare le prestazioni di un team: “Se fosse vero, non avremmo più bisogno di ingegneri. Sono solo sciocchezze. Di sicuro come piloti diamo la nostra opinione e gli ingegneri ascoltano. Proviamo quello che ci danno e vediamo se funziona o meno. Ma non è giusto chiedere ai piloti di realizzare la vettura”.
The feeling will decide Räikkönen’s F1-continuance
Kimi Räikkönen’s F1-career will continue for at least one more season. His will to continue will be based upon how good it feels to drive with next season’s big regulation changes.
Räikkönen has raced with 10-cylinder engines in 2001-05 and with 8-cylinder engines in 2006-09 and in 2012. They are now changing engines into 1,6 liter V6 -turbo engines.
Kimi shrugs his shoulders when asking for his opinion about the significance of the engine change.
– Nobody simply can’t know anything about them yet. Anybody can have the best engine or it can be that they are all equal. We can’t even ever be 100 % certain about which team is the best team next season.
– That’s how it has always been in F1. This year’s strong car can be bad already next year. You never get any guarantees.
Lotus won one GP and Räikkönen was 3rd in the WDC-serie. What has the team most to catch up with when compared to the lead?
– They never lacked anything big anywhere. I guess we were slightly behind in each area. There could probably had been more downforce in the car and of course the car could have worked better in certain temperatures, Räikkönen estimated in an interview with Turun Sanomat.
– I guess the biggest change in the beginning of next season is that, now we know each other in the team and have all the routines during the weekend better under control. As long as we get better qualifications than last spring our chances to get better results in races grow significantly.
DRS-limitation a sensible change
Rules in qualification will next season change so that it’s not allowed to drive the whole lap with an open DRS. They will follow the same procedure they have in the race with only one DRS-area.
– It’s a totally reasonable change. Now it was more or less so that everyone tried to use the DRS earlier and earlier in qualification. That way a big crash is bound to happen at some point. It was the drivers who wanted this to change. The risk sort of grows smaller when not trying to open the DRS too early in some places.
– I think that the situation will also get more even when earlier some Red Bull could drive on some tracks with an open DRS all the time while other cars weren’t capable of the same, Räikkönen thinks.
James Allison got offers from bigger teams last season, but he will still continue with the Enstone crew.
No driver can build a car
Now they are developing the E21-car being aware of what Räikkönen and Romain want from it. However Kimi trashes the claims that experienced drivers could in some teams be actively involved in the car’s development work.
– Not one single F1-driver designs these cars. If that would be the case then we wouldn’t have any engineers or designers here left. Those claims are pure bull shit. Of course we get to say our opinions as drivers and the engineers listen, but after that it’s the team who will then do their best.
– Engineers invent first and after that we try how it works, if it’s good or not. It’s just an urban legend that some driver would sit there designing how the car is built.
– Of course everybody believes at this stage that their car will be good, but there are no guarantees of the competitiveness until it is put on the track. But no team says at this point that they have a totally bad car coming up, even if they would know it would happen. It goes without saying that everybody is praising their car until the end. Räikkönen assures.
Strong faith in Räikkönen’s striking ability
What does the international F1-media expect from Kimi Räikkönen’s season 2013? Here is the German, British and Italian opinion.
– If Kimi has an even slightly better car than he had last season, then he will be driving in the top group. If Lotus doesn’t achieve the same level, then even a driver of Kimi’s caliber can’t do miracles, says Michael Schmidt from Auto, Motor und Sport.
– I expect a stronger season from Kimi. Lotus made a fantastic car and although the new E21 doesn’t perhaps offer all the same advantages as the E20 it should still be quite strong – and Kimi at least is as a driver tougher than before after driving his comeback-season, says Jonathan Noble from Autosport.
– If Lotus has enough money to build and develop new parts to their car, then why wouldn’t Kimi do top results with that car also. In the final games the previous season was a learning year for Kimi and he was immediately good enough to drive in the lead, says Andrea Cremonesi from La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Da Autosprint n.51 del 18 dicembre 2012:
Kimi review season 2012
It was the longest ever season I have had in Formula One. We did 20 races and I would say we could have had some better results, but generally taken it was a good year for us.
Im happy with it, and I think the team is happy with it, as well.
Obviously we would have preferred to get third place in the constructors championship, too. We fought for that almost the whole season, but at the end of the day, the speed to fight with the top three teams was not there in a every single race. So to finish 4th in the concstructors championship is what we deserved.
Being third in the drivers championship is not a big deal for me. Obviously, Im interested only in winning. We won one race and got six other podiums. Its good achievement, but, for sure, there could have been some more.
The Brazilian Grand Prix was one of the toughest races I have ever done. I had to go out in the first few corners to avoid hitting Vettel, so it started badly, then it went worse in the drizzling rain, and I couldnt see anything because of the vizor being wet and steamy. Finally I spun out, but managed to come back with some extra driving behind the barriers.
Well, we finished the race, got one point and ended the season without a single DNF. That shows we had the most reliable car although the last weekend was a real struggle with it, from FP1 to the end of race.
Once again that proved how much a good result depends on having a clean weekend. If you are not able to get enough laps testing in practice, forget the podium! The grid is so competitive that you need all the tenths and hundreds for you, not against you.
Now its time for a holiday.
Its almost Christmas time, so there is not that much waiting to do for the next year and a new season.
The team works hard to get even better results. I know the team now very well, I enjoy working with them and if the new car is competitive again, we should be heading for a better season.
I wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy new year to all my fans. Thanks for the support!
Alan Jones says Raikkonen’s comeback one of the most successful
Former world champion Alan Jones rates Kimi Raikkonen’s comeback season as "one of the most successful" the sport has seen.
1980 champion Jones said the Finn’s performances were on a similar level to Niki Lauda, who won the title in the third year of his comeback.
The Austrian had quit grand prix racing before the end of the 1979 season but returned with McLaren in 1982, winning his third and final championship in 1984.
Speaking on the official podcast for the Australian Grand Prix, Jones – whose own return to the series in 1985/86 with the newly-created Team Haas was unsuccessful – said: "I think he surprised a lot of people, me included.
"He’s come back to Formula 1 and he’s done extremely well. It’s probably one of the most successful comebacks, next to Lauda and so forth, so good on him."
Jones also reserved praise for Michael Schumacher, who retired for the second time following Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, after a less-than-successful three-year return with Mercedes.
"I think Michael probably didn’t get the car that he thought he was going to get," he added, as the German leaves the sport to make way for Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.
"People say to me he shouldn’t have come back, well at the end of the day there’s only one person that decides whether he should back or not and that’s Michael. You do it for yourself, for nobody else."
Brazilian GP: Vettel is champion as Button wins thrilling race
Sebastian Vettel hung on to win his third Formula 1 world title by finishing sixth in an astounding Brazilian Grand Prix won by Jenson Button.
Vettel’s title rival Fernando Alonso battled to second in the wet/dry event, which was led for a long time by Nico Hulkenberg until the Force India clashed with Lewis Hamilton.
Despite Vettel getting involved in a first-lap crash and suffering a pit delay, he still managed to recover sufficiently to ensure that even Alonso’s runner-up finish could not deny the Red Bull driver the title at the end of an epic season. Alonso’s Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa took third.
Vettel’s afternoon had immediately become more complicated as a tentative start and first corner in drizzly conditions dropped him to seventh, while Alonso swept around the outside to move up to fifth.
Then as the pack jostled into the Descida do Lago, Vettel made heavy contact with Bruno Senna, spinning the Red Bull and also collecting Sergio Perez.
While the Sauber and Williams were both out, Vettel was amazingly able to continue despite several wounds to his Red Bull. He then tore through the field and was up to seventh place from 22nd by lap eight.
Meanwhile Alonso charged into a potentially title-clinching third by diving past Felipe Massa and Mark Webber in a single move as they battled into the Senna S.
But an error at the same point two laps later meant Alonso lost a place to Hulkenberg, who had quickly dismissed Webber and Massa in a blistering early charge.
The McLarens still led at this stage, with Button all over Hamilton as the rain steadily increased.
The worsening conditions prompted everyone bar Button and Hulkenberg to dive to the pits for intermediates.
That initially put Alonso and Vettel down to 12th and 17th respectively, although they were both back in the top five within five laps via a mix of bold passes and others pitting.
Up front, Force India’s incredible performance continued as Hulkenberg edged up behind Button before passing down the outside into the Senna S on lap 19.
By that time the pair were in a class of their own. They had been left 45s clear once the rest of the field went for intermediates, and with the shower passing, their rivals were all now having to stop.
Hulkenberg began to pull away, but debris was littering various corners from earlier incidents, and when Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes picked up a puncture the decision was taken to call out the safety car.
At the restart on lap 29, Hulkenberg led Button, Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel, Kobayashi and Webber. Kobayashi and Webber immediately pounced on Vettel, although Webber ran out of space at the Senna S and shot over the run-off.
Kobayashi’s charge soon took him past Alonso to fourth, although the Ferrari did not take long to regain the place, whereas Vettel had no answer to the Sauber.
Massa, who lost a lot of ground by staying on slicks too long and going to intermediates far too late, completed a recovery charge by passing both Vettel and Kobayashi to slot into fifth behind team-mate Alonso, who could not stay with the top three.
Hamilton overtook Button for second shortly after the restart, but Hulkenberg appeared comfortable in the lead until lap 49, when a half-spin at the Bico do Pato let the McLaren through.
Hulkenberg did not let the McLaren escape, and as they jostled through traffic on lap 54, the Force India slipped ahead into the Senna S, only to slide into a spin and hit Hamilton.
Despite bouncing onto two wheels, Hulkenberg was able to continue in second behind Button, although he did pick up a drive-through penalty for causing the clash. Hamilton had to retire from his McLaren farewell.
The return of the rain was a factor in the incident, and as the track became slippery again, everyone opted for intermediates. Vettel was among the first to pit, but Red Bull was not ready, leading to a long delay.
He was rapidly able to get back up to sixth, which was sufficient even with Alonso getting up to second thanks to the Hulkenberg/Hamilton tangle and some assistance from Massa, whose well-timed intermediate switch had got him ahead of his team-mate.
The race then came to a slightly underwhelming conclusion as Paul di Resta crashed heavily on the pits straight kink and brought out the safety car with a lap to go.
That clinched the win for Button, and meant that despite Ferrari’s double podium finish, Vettel’s sixth place gave him championship number three by a three-point margin.
Webber recovered from a variety of adventures, including an early clash with Kobayashi, to take fourth ahead of Hulkenberg and Vettel.
Michael Schumacher claimed seventh in the final race of his F1 career, despite a late brush of wheels with Kobayashi, who consequently spun to ninth behind Jean-Eric Vergne.
Superb underdog performances in the treacherous early laps led to Caterhams, Marussias and HRTs all appearing in the top 10, with Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock as high as sixth and seventh.
The battle ultimately came down to Charles Pic versus Vitaly Petrov for 12th place, with the Russian battling past the Frenchman to give Caterham 10th in the championship in what became 11th place when di Resta crashed.
But for that incident, Daniel Ricciardo was set to pass both Pic and Petrov, which would have given Marussia 10th place back again.
Raikkonen had a wild afternoon, starting when he nearly wiped out Vettel moments before the Senna tangle, and also including a long excursion at Juncao where the Lotus driver tried to use an access road to rejoin only to encounter a closed gate. He finished 10th.
Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado’s eventful years came to messy ends with both crashing in the opening laps.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS The Brazilian Grand Prix Interlagos, Brazil; 71 laps; 305.909km; Weather: Mixed conditions. Classified: Pos Driver Team Time 1. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1h45:22.656 2. Alonso Ferrari + 2.754 3. Massa Ferrari + 3.615 4. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 4.936 5. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 5.708 6. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 9.453 7. Schumacher Mercedes + 11.900 8. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 28.600 9. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 31.200 10. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 1 lap 11. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1 lap 12. Pic Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap 13. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap 14. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 1 lap 15. Rosberg Mercedes + 1 lap 16. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps 17. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps 18. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps 19. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 3 laps Fastest lap: Hamilton, 1:18.069 Not classified/retirements: Driver Team On lap Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 55 Grosjean Lotus-Renault 6 Maldonado Williams-Renault 2 Senna Williams-Renault 1 Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1 World Championship standings, round 20: Drivers: Constructors: 1. Vettel 281 1. Red Bull-Renault 460 2. Alonso 278 2. Ferrari 400 3. Raikkonen 207 3. McLaren-Mercedes 378 4. Hamilton 190 4. Lotus-Renault 303 5. Button 188 5. Mercedes 142 6. Webber 179 6. Sauber-Ferrari 126 7. Massa 122 7. Force India-Mercedes 109 8. Grosjean 96 8. Williams-Renault 76 9. Rosberg 93 9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 26 10. Perez 66 11. Hulkenberg 63 12. Kobayashi 60 13. Schumacher 49 14. Di Resta 46 15. Maldonado 45 16. Senna 31 17. Vergne 16 18. Ricciardo 10
Brazilian GP: Lewis Hamilton pips Vettel in second practice
Lewis Hamilton continued his strong start to his McLaren swansong weekend as he went fastest again in second practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Formula 1 championship leader Sebastian Vettel was second, three places ahead of title rival Fernando Alonso.
Both Vettel and Alonso had spells on top during the afternoon, but Hamilton moved comfortably clear in the closing stages when the field switched to the softer tyres.
It was Alonso’s Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa who held sway at first, before being usurped by Vettel’s Red Bull after 12 minutes.
Vettel’s 1m15.226s was good enough to keep him on top for nearly half an hour, although Jenson Button came within a few fractions of displacing him.
It was Alonso who eventually did push the champion off the top, putting in a 1m15.150s.
That was the last benchmark time of the hard-tyre period, with Romain Grosjean becoming the first frontrunner to try the medium compound shortly afterwards. The Lotus did not need long to beat Alonso.
There followed a frantic spell in which Nico Rosberg, Massa and then Hamilton held the top spot within two minutes.
But once back in front, Hamilton would stay there. His 1m14.026s lap was half a second clear of the field at that stage, and the closest anyone could get was Vettel’s 1m14.300s.
Mark Webber completed the top three in the second Red Bull, ahead of the Ferraris of Massa and Alonso.
Mercedes was near the leaders throughout the session, with Michael Schumacher and Rosberg ending up sixth and seventh, followed by Button and Grosjean.
Paul di Resta pipped Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg by just 0.002s to grab the final top-10 spot.
At the back, HRT again completed significantly less mileage than its rivals, while Charles Pic had to park his Marussia with what the team believes was an alternator problem.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m14.026s 35 2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m14.300s + 0.274 40 3. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m14.523s + 0.497 37 4. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m14.553s + 0.527 37 5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m14.592s + 0.566 37 6. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m14.654s + 0.628 36 7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m14.669s + 0.643 40 8. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m14.863s + 0.837 40 9. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m14.994s + 0.968 37 10. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m15.129s + 1.103 39 11. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m15.131s + 1.105 40 12. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m15.371s + 1.345 39 13. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m15.432s + 1.406 45 14. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m15.542s + 1.516 35 15. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m15.839s + 1.813 43 16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m15.902s + 1.876 39 17. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m15.953s + 1.927 47 18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m16.048s + 2.022 40 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m16.126s + 2.100 39 20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m16.655s + 2.629 42 21. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m17.244s + 3.218 15 22. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m17.675s + 3.649 42 23. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m18.127s + 4.101 31 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m18.139s + 4.113 15 Da Autosport.com
Brazilian GP: Lewis Hamilton tops opening practice from Vettel
Lewis Hamilton picked up from where he left off in the USA by posting the quickest time in opening practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who is competing in his last race for McLaren before moving to Mercedes, posted the quickest time of the session early on, taking advantage of a set of 2013-spec Pirelli tyres, which all teams worked with in the opening 90 minutes of running.
Hamilton's time of 1m14.131s was only 0.009s better than that of Sebastian Vettel, the Red Bull driver's mark set on this year's rubber. Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber was third, also less than a tenth off a second behind Hamilton.
McLaren's Jenson Button was fourth, while championship contender Fernando Alonso finished in fifth position in the Ferrari, albeit over two tenths of a second off the best time.
Felipe Massa was sixth in the second Italian car, with Romain Grosjean, Paul di Resta, Pastor Maldonado and Nico Hulkenberg completing the top 10.
Williams tester Valtteri Bottas was the first man to post a time in the opening minutes of the session, the Finn completing a lap of 1m21.218s that kept him on top until Sergio Perez went over 4s quicker 12 minutes into the session.
The Mexican then found another 2s to post a 1m15.869s.
Fifteen minutes in, Hamilton jumped to the top of the timesheets with a 1m14.374s lap.
Moments later, the 2008 world champion improved to a 1m14.131s that put him nearly 2s clear of the rest of the field and proved enough to keep him on top until the session's end.
Vettel moved up to second place 27 minutes in, posting a time just 0.3s off Hamilton's best while also on the prototype Pirelli rubber. The double world champion improved his time later in the session when running with this year's hard tyres, but he still fell short of Hamilton's time.
With the teams not using the medium tyres at their disposal, the top times stayed mostly unchanged during the remainder of the session.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix winner Kimi Raikkonen missed most of the running as his mechanics worked on his Lotus, the Finn only posting a time with 10 minutes to go after being hit with apparent engine problems.
The struggling HRT team also restricted its running, with Pedro da la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan each managing just an installation lap early on and not returning to the track until there were 35 minutes left on the clock.
The 90 minutes of action were mostly incident-free except for a spin by Massa with nine minutes to go, the Brazilian losing control of his car at Pinheirinho.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m14.131s 33 2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m14.140s + 0.009 35 3. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m14.198s + 0.067 34 4. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m14.217s + 0.086 31 5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m14.392s + 0.261 28 6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m14.716s + 0.585 29 7. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m14.719s + 0.588 33 8. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m14.738s + 0.607 34 9. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m15.015s + 0.884 37 10. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m15.050s + 0.919 32 11. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m15.114s + 0.983 36 12. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m15.255s + 1.124 31 13. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m15.396s + 1.265 32 14. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m15.413s + 1.282 23 15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m15.587s + 1.456 35 16. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m15.701s + 1.570 16 17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m16.048s + 1.917 35 18. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m16.315s + 2.184 36 19. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m16.460s + 2.329 32 20. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m16.506s + 2.375 31 21. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m16.617s + 2.486 30 22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m17.234s + 3.103 26 23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m17.678s + 3.547 15 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m17.895s + 3.764 13
US GP: Vettel quickest again in second practice despite problems
Sebastian Vettel blitzed the field once again in second practice for Formula 1′s United States return at Austin, despite sitting out the majority of the session with a water leak on his Red Bull.
The world champion had to park in the garage after just three laps at the start of the afternoon when the team detected the water system fault.
Vettel would not reappear for almost an hour, but when he did, he left his rivals in no doubt whatsoever about his pace this weekend as a 1m37.718s lap on his second medium-tyre run put him 0.757 seconds clear of the pack.
Even during Vettel’s absence, Red Bull had been in front for most of the session thanks to Mark Webber.
The Australian had produced a 1m39.485s on hard tyres just after the half-hour mark to depose early pacesetter Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes, and then found another two tenths next time round.
Felipe Massa enjoyed a seven-minute spell in first place when he delivered a 1m39.106s, but soon after Webber switched to the softer Pirellis and regained the top spot.
Webber’s first medium-tyre effort was a 1m38.958s, and he swiftly improved to 1m38.475s – although that was firmly eclipsed by Vettel’s pace when the German was back in action.
There was some cause for optimism for Vettel’s title rival Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari team. Alonso took third, just 0.008s down on Webber, and Massa had at least ended up quickest in the ‘hard tyre’ segment of the session.
The McLarens completed the top five, Lewis Hamilton escaping a Turn 13 spin to pip team-mate Jenson Button.
Sometime pacesetters Massa and Rosberg ended up sixth and seventh.
Bruno Senna was top Williams driver in eighth, while his team-mate Pastor Maldonado suffered an apparent engine problem in the closing seconds.
Kamui Kobayashi lost a lot of track time to an exhaust problem before taking his Sauber to ninth ahead of Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes.
The Lotus duo were just outside the top 10. Romain Grosjean tested the limits of the dramatic Turn 1 with a quick spin late on, emulating an earlier error by Caterham driver Vitaly Petrov.
The other Caterham also had an incident. Heikki Kovalainen had to nurse his car around a full lap with a puncture following a light brush with Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso, which sustained front wing damage in the tangle.
At the tail of the field, the troubled HRT team did not leave the garage for the first half of the session and completed significantly less mileage than most of the pack.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m37.718s 17 2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m38.475s + 0.757 36 3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m38.483s + 0.765 35 4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.748s + 1.030 31 5. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.786s + 1.068 32 6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m39.029s + 1.311 33 7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m39.448s + 1.730 32 8. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m39.531s + 1.813 38 9. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.653s + 1.935 36 10. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m40.115s + 2.397 30 11. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m40.166s + 2.448 32 12. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m40.230s + 2.512 35 13. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m40.286s + 2.568 32 14. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m40.326s + 2.608 35 15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m40.435s + 2.717 30 16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m40.516s + 2.798 32 17. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m40.700s + 2.982 34 18. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m41.430s + 3.712 35 19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m42.476s + 4.758 38 20. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m42.652s + 4.934 33 21. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m42.846s + 5.128 38 22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m43.538s + 5.820 38 23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m44.453s + 6.735 16 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m45.114s + 7.396 20
US GP: Sebastian Vettel puts Red Bull on top in Austin practice
Sebastian Vettel led the way for Red Bull in the opening practice session for the United States Grand Prix at the brand new Austin circuit on Friday.
Lewis Hamilton ended up second for McLaren, over a second down on Vettel, with Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Mark Webber rounding out the top five.
Positions and times are likely to prove irrelevant however as the very green circuit continues to rubber-in - and teams and drivers continue to acclimatise - as the weekend progresses.
The honour of christening the circuit fell to Abu Dhabi Grand Prix winner Kimi Raikkonen, who led a host of drivers out on early, and very tentative, exploratory laps.
Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi meanwhile completed the first flying lap, a very modest 1m54.846s.
That benchmark fell rapidly: next time around he was already more than six seconds faster, while within a quarter of an hour Webber had moved it on by a full 11 seconds, dropping down to a 1m43.672s.
Still though the track was treacherous, with a litany of small offs and rear wheel drifts punctuating the action.
The trend continued even when championship rivals Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso and the two McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button entered the fray in earnest around the one hour mark.
Of the quartet it was Alonso who was up to speed fastest, the Ferrari man lowering the benchmark to a 1m42.538s.
Hamilton was quickly up to speed however, becoming the first man to drop into the 1m40s at the session's halfway mark.
At the same time Nico Hulkenberg enjoyed the dubious honour of becoming the first man to spin at Austin, losing the rear of his Force India as he crested the blind Turn 1 apex. Sergio Perez also had a wild moment as his rear broke traction coming into the pits, although he was able to save the slide.
Alonso and Hamilton swapped top spot again as the session wore on, with the Briton pushing hard enough to run wide at Turn 19. He was not alone however: Vettel, Felipe Massa and a litany of other drivers fell foul of the quick left-hander across the session.
Heading into the final 15 minutes Hamilton suddenly surged clear, a blistering 1m39.687s - from which he then shaved a further 0.1s - moving him over half a second clear of the field.
It appeared that would be enough to keep him top, but with three minutes to go championship leader Vettel celebrated the opening of his 100th grand prix by seizing control.
The German had already proved mighty in the first sector, but was able to improve massively in the second and third splits as he blitzed the field with a 1m38.125s set as the flag fell.
No one else had either the time to muster an answer, leaving Vettel comfortably clear of the chasing pack.
Felipe Massa claimed sixth as the flag fell, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Rosberg, running a non-coanda effect exhaust layout for comparative purposes.
Perez rounded out the top 10 ahead of the second Force India of Paul di Resta, Toro Rosso pair Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne and Raikkonen, who had to be wheeled down the pitlane as the session finished.
Pastor Maldonado finished as the fastest Williams in 16th, while Marussia's Charles Pic claimed the 'best of the rest' tag in 18th ahead of Caterham's Heikki Kovalainen.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m38.125s 30 2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m39.543s + 1.418s 28 3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m40.337s + 2.212s 29 4. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m40.528s + 2.403s 29 5. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m40.650s + 2.525s 30 6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m40.966s + 2.841s 26 7. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m41.023s + 2.898s 29 8. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m41.036s + 2.911s 28 9. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m41.159s + 3.034s 32 10. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m41.473s + 3.348s 29 11. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m41.783s + 3.658s 29 12. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m41.825s + 3.700s 28 13. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m41.833s + 3.708s 29 14. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m41.880s + 3.755s 23 15. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m41.998s + 3.873s 27 16. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m42.539s + 4.414s 30 17. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m42.588s + 4.463s 25 18. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m43.288s + 5.163s 23 19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m43.443s + 5.318s 28 20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m43.522s + 5.397s 23 21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m44.464s + 6.339s 24 22. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m44.548s + 6.423s 29 23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m46.917s + 8.792s 13 24. Ma Qing Hua HRT-Cosworth 1m48.559s + 10.434s 19 Da Autosport.com
The Comeback King – United States GP Preview with Kimi Räikkönen
Firstly, what are your thoughts after taking the win in Abu Dhabi?
We did it ! It took us a while, but we did it. All the work by the team came good and we were able to show what we knew all along; we have a car that can compete at the front. And more than that, we can win.
Why do you think the win finally came?
We didn’t give up. We had a period where new developments for the car weren’t working exactly as wanted straight away and when you have to test new parts during practice sessions it’s very difficult to make progress, but we kept pushing. We continued with the exhaust developments we made during practice in Korea and India and the pace was promising all weekend in Abu Dhabi. I was never out of the top ten all weekend and with that in mind I think we had a good idea that we could be competitive if we could just get qualifying right, which has been the big issue all season long. This time though, we got it right.
Is it good that you’ve answered that ‘when’s the win coming’ question?
I’ve never cared really what people think – if I don’t finish the next race, then they’ll think that I’m as bad as that race. I’ll just do my thing, and if I’m happy with what I’m doing and it’s the best it can be for the team, then that’s that. So it doesn’t really bother me if people are thinking differently of me now, than what they did three hours before the race.
How are you looking forward to racing at the Circuit of the Americas?
It will be the third new circuit for me this year and most of all, a brand new place for every team and every driver as well. Korea and India were both new to me, but I had seen the previous races on TV. I don’t know anything about Austin, just the name Circuit of the Americas. I have always liked to go to new places as it adds a bit of additional excitement. I’m particularly looking forward to this one. I like the American atmosphere, it’s just a relaxed environment ; they know how to have fun and, most of all, they love racing.
What’s your previous experience of racing in the US?
I competed in seven Grands Prix at Indianapolis. Unfortunately the one time I felt I had a really strong car there was in 2005 when only six cars raced and I wasn’t one of them. I did get pole position in 2003, but none of the races are ones I remember well. Last year I tried NASCAR. I did two races on the Charlotte oval and I really liked it a lot. That was probably the experience I needed to open my eyes for racing again. After that I really wanted to come back to Formula 1, while it was a tempting idea to do more NASCAR, too. After seeing the excitement of the American NASCAR fans I hope Formula 1 gets people as eager to enjoy our racing in Texas, too.
You made some comments about radio messages from the pit wall in Abu Dhabi – can we expect something like this in Austin?
Yes, apparently there were a few of our radio messages broadcast on TV and I think in those moments you could hear how much I just wanted to keep my head down, do my job and win the race. All I needed to know was the gap to the guy behind me. I think you can probably find other messages from me in the car if you search YouTube; even from my short time in NASCAR.
The win came just after you’d been confirmed for 2013; it’s a good endorsement?
It’s a pretty good way to show that everyone’s made the right choice. We’ve shown all season how good we can be, and in Abu Dhabi we showed we can win. There is more to come. I promise.
Da Raisport del 28/10/2012:
Da Raisport del 04/11/2012:
Q. Kimi – your first victory since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix. Tell us about your emotions at this time.
Kimi RAIKKONEN: Not much really.
Q. People want to know how amazing it is to win a grand prix. Tell us.
KR: Last time you guys was giving me shit because I didn’t really smile enough, so maybe this time again but I mean I’m very happy for the team – and myself – but mainly for the team. It’s really a hard season for the team and not an easy time. Hopefully this gives them more belief, not just for the guys making all the work but also for the guys who run the team. I hope this can turn around the tables and give us many more good races and wins. If not this year then next year.
Q. Kimi, you’ve won before, you’ve won the title before and standing here you sent a message to the team about how you hope this will motivate future success, but when it is moment going to sink in? That you’ve won a grand prix in your comeback year.
KR: I mean like I said, I’m happy, but there’s nothing to jump around about. Really we still have a few races to go, I’ll try to do the same again, and for sure we’re going to have a good party today and hopefully tomorrow, when we are feeling bad after a long night, we will remember how we feel so… I’m just happy for everybody in the team.
Q. Kimi, well done, congratulations. Fantastic win for you, you’ve really been waiting for this win, I think, all season and now it’s happened. What are your feelings?
KR: Like I said before, I’m very happy for the team. We have had hard times lately and hopefully it gives some belief for the people, even more that… I mean they’ve been working very hard the whole year but with the hard times there’s a bit unknown in the whole situation and hopefully for the people who runs the team, who owns the team, the people who works for… for everybody, hopefully it gives a bit more support and hope that things will turn around and be even better than it’s been this year. So, great thing for the team itself, for the guys and, I mean of course I’m happy myself, but if I win it’s great, if I don’t I will try again and it’s not the end of the life. We’ve been close few times but now I said that even the last race I think we had the speed to even win the race but if you don’t start in the front we see what can happen. We knew the start would be a really big key and I got a really good start so I think with the McLaren we didn’t have the speed, at least in the beginning of the race – but then we have to finish the race to win so… I mean after that we were pretty good. Just the safety cars made us a little bit more tricky today.
Q. The start really was… gave you the second place straight away, it was a really excellent start.
KR: Like I said yesterday, this going to be key, to get behind the faster car and not start behind the cars that cannot go as fast as us. And I mean we have a fast car for lap time in the race but if we stuck behind there’s no way we’re going to get past so, that’s what we could do this weekend: put yesterday in a good position and then made a good start and then just go from there.
Q. And how much is the development that has been taking place on the car with the exhaust etc, how much has that been bringing pace to the car?
KR: It brings some pace, helps our straight line speed. So in average we gain some advantage but it’s exactly the same car we have in Korea. So we see how much even this year in all the races some circuits suits better for one team and the next one is not so good for you. We had good speed last race as I’ve already said. We made some mistakes in qualifying and paid the price in the race. So now we put all together like we should have done quite a few times this year but for one reason or another we haven’t. But at least we’ve got one win so we’ll keep try to push still and see what we can do in the next race.
Q. (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Kimi, was that your best start in a Lotus and after that, which one was the hardest competitor, the second safety car or Fernando?
KR: I think we’ve had some very good starts before, but compared to the others, today was a pretty normal start on our scale. I managed to pass Mark and Maldonado before I changed into second gear. I’d had a very good start on the warm-up lap so I knew this was going to be good. That was our aim, to try to make a good start and we managed to do it, so it was key for our win today.
For sure, the safety car hurt us much more than the others. We had a good lead and then nothing, and then twice. The first time was when Hamilton was in front of us but it definitely didn’t help us today.
Q. (Leonid Novozhilov – F1 Live) Kimi Raikkonen, how and with whom and how many days will you celebrate this win?
KR: I have almost two weeks. As long as I manage to get myself to the next race I think the team is happy. I try to get home at some point.
Q. (Kate Walker – Girl Racer) Kimi, one of the highlights of the race was your radio messages, the ones that you were giving to the team. How distracting is it when you’re fighting behind the safety car or whatever, to have them reminding you to warm-up your wheels?
KR: It’s a normal thing. It’s the same with all the teams. For sure, they are just trying to help but if you keep saying the same things two times a minute, I’m not so stupid that I cannot remember what I’m doing. It’s a normal thing, they are just trying to help. I know what I’m doing. I will ask for help if I need it. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time. It’s been many times with other teams also but they are all there to help you and try to put you in the best position. Different people like different things.
Q. (Khodr Rawi – F1 Arab) Kimi, how special is it to be the first driver to win for Lotus since Ayrton Senna in 1987
KR: It’s a long time for them, I guess. I don’t think there are any (of the same) people in the team any more. It’s a name. It’s the same team and it has been since Fernando was there, just a different name. It’s a great name for us, good past but you know I race for the team whatever the name is, I don’t really care so it’s just for the guys who do all the work. Maybe it looks good in somebody’s eyes but for me it really makes no difference.
Q. (Mark Fogarty – Auto Action) To each of you: who is going to win the World Championship?
KR: I wouldn’t put money on me! They are quite close; I don’t know what the points difference is. Ten? One bad race could decide the championship if they keep doing what they’ve been doing. It’s hard for Fernando but we saw yesterday and in races before that anything can happen. If it’s a normal situation I don’t think much can happen but one small mistake can decide everything.
Q. (Heikki Kulta -Turun Sanomat) Kimi, does it take anything from your joy that when you win you kill your last hope of the championship?
KR: No, I think we knew already, a few races ago, that we didn’t have the speed to challenge at the front. We always said that we would keep fighting and trying to do the best that we can. We got the win, we might have lost the championship on the same day but I don’t really care. We didn’t really expect to be fighting with them anyhow. We’ve always been a bit behind and not really had the speed to challenge them in normal races and now in the last few races we’ve had very good speed and finally we put all the things together and won. We will try again next year.
Abu Dhabi GP: Raikkonen hopes win boosts Lotus’s confidence
Kimi Raikkonen hopes his Abu Dhabi Grand Prix victory will give the Lotus team more belief in what it can achieve.
The result not only marked Raikkonen’s first Formula 1 win since his 2009 Belgian GP triumph, but his team’s return to the top step of the podium for the first time since Fernando Alonso won the ’08 Japanese GP for the then-Renault branded squad.
The team was later rocked by the 2008 Singapore GP ‘crashgate’ scandal and sold by Renault, then lost its lead driver Robert Kubica following his horrendous pre-season rallying accident in 2011.
Lotus has shown strong signs of recovery this year with a string of podium finishes, and Raikkonen believes delivering a breakthrough victory will hugely boost morale.
"I am happy mainly for the team," said Raikkonen. "It has been a hard season for the team.
"Hopefully this gives a bit more belief, not just for the guys doing all the work but also the guys who own it.
"I hope it can turn the tables and we can win more this year and next year as well."
Raikkonen remained calm about his own achievement in winning in F1 again after a two-season break in the World Rally Championship.
"There is nothing to jump around about, we still have a few races to go," he said.
"We’ll try to do the same again and sure we’ll have a good party today and tomorrow when we feel bad after a long night we will remember what we felt like now."
The Finn had long insisted that Lotus had the speed to win races if he could qualify better. He started fourth in Abu Dhabi but jumped to second at the start behind Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren, which later retired.
"We have been close a few times," Raikkonen said. "Even in the last race we had speed to win but if you do not start in front you see what happens.
"So the start was key. I think compared with McLaren we didn’t have speed at the beginning of the race, but you have to finish the race."
Kimi’s Grand Prix [Q&A]
Kimi cements his position as Formula 1’s comeback king by taking victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix; the 19th win of his Formula 1 career and the 48th for an Enstone team
So… How are you feeling?
I’m very happy for the team, and for myself also. You never know what’s going to happen during the race; the safety cars made it quite tricky, but I’ve done similar races many, many times this year. Today we had a clear circuit to be able to use our speed. Perhaps we were not the fastest at the end of the race, but we were fast enough and consistent enough to win. So it’s great for the team; we’ve had some difficult races in the second half of the season so it’s fantastic come back with a win.
How difficult was it getting everything coming together this weekend?
I’ve been saying already that we have the speed in the race but if we keep messing it up on the Saturdays and putting ourselves in that position then we cannot use the lap time speed and then the result will be like what happened in the last race. This weekend we knew that the race start would make all the difference, and make or break it, so the aim was to make a good start and follow Lewis. McLaren were a bit faster but you have to finish to win, and they had some issues.
How does it feel to be on the top step again? Pretty special to have that 19th win?
To be honest it’s just another win in the list of them. It’s great of course, because it’s been a few years, but the wins prior to this one were very similar, we didn’t have the best car, but we fought and still won. It’s great to win now, so people will stop asking me if I can win or not, and at least it makes it a bit clearer!
Is it good that you’ve answered that ‘when’s the win coming’ question?
I never cared really what people think – if I don’t finish the next race, then they’ll think that I’m as bad as that race. I’ll just do my thing, and if I’m happy with what I’m doing and it’s the best it can be for the team, then that’s that. So then I really don’t care if people are thinking differently of me now, than what they did three hours before the race.
Are you going to have a legendary Kimi party tonight?
Well, to be honest it’s usually the same, it doesn’t matter if I lose or win, it doesn’t change the parties!
Abu Dhabi GP: Lotus says Kimi Raikkonen’s win was a relief
Lotus boss Eric Boullier admitted Kimi Raikkonen’s win in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix came as a relief for the team.
Raikkonen, who returned to Formula 1 this season after a two-year absence, had been close to taking victory on a few occasions during the campaign.
Despite having been on the podium six times before Abu Dhabi, the elusive win had not come until the antepenultimate round.
Boullier said it had been frustrating to not have been on the top step of the podium yet.
"We had a better first half of the season and we nearly came close to the win and you could have felt frustration without this win, so it is relief for everybody," said Boullier.
He denied, however, that winning its first race of the year meant getting the monkey off its back, as he feels the 2012 season has already been successful for Lotus.
"I think we had already [got the monkey off our backs] this year. It is just a little bit of extra motivation and belief in what we are doing and capable of doing," Boullier added.
The team boss conceded Raikkonen had benefited from some of the circumstances, but feels the Finn delivered a great performance nonetheless.
"Obviously we benefited from Lewis [Hamilton]‘s retirement and other circumstances," he said. "But I think Kimi put on a great drive to do it and he had two good restarts after the safety cars and the team had a good strategy to protect him. So I’m very happy."
Raikkonen was the protagonist of one of the highlights of the race when his race engineer informed him of the gap between himself and second-placed Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso in the latter part of the event.
"Leave me alone, I know what to do," the former world champion told his engineer.
Boullier said the Finn was simply focusing on pushing to the limit on every lap.
"I think Kimi wanted to focus on the driving as you can understand and he asked to only have the information on the pitboard so I think he knew what Alonso was doing and that he was closing," he said.
"This is Kimi, but also he knew that there was a chance to score the win and that he had to do qualifying lap after qualifying lap."
Friday in Abu Dhabi – Catch Up With Kimi
How was your first day in Abu Dhabi?
We were good in India on Friday and we’re strong here in Abu Dhabi today. We tried a few things on the car in both sessions and we have some things to go through before tomorrow. Our lap times seem to be pretty okay so far, and hopefully we can find a little bit more pace for tomorrow in practice and then again for the qualifying session.
What was today’s programme?
We tried the new exhaust and spent most of our time on comparisons between the new and older system, so we didn’t spend a lot of time on set-up. The car didn’t actually feel that nice, but the lap times were good.
Do you think there’s more to come from the car?
Hopefully there’s some improvement to come with the car being nicer to drive and faster, but of the two I’d settle for it being faster. For sure there are more tenths to come from the car, and the track will probably improve further too. Hopefully we can improve more than the other teams.
How were the two tyre compounds?
Both felt okay with everything we did today so we have no concerns there.
Why did you finish the first session early?
I got a puncture on my right rear tyre. It was almost the end of the session anyway so there was no need to go out again.
You spent quite a bit of time in the garage in the second session. Any problems?
We were just changing the exhaust so we could run comparisons and it takes a bit of time to do. We still completed a good number of laps and we have lots of data to decide if the latest exhaust gives us a lap time advantage.
Abu Dhabi GP: Kimi Raikkonen says Lotus can unlock four tenths
Kimi Raikkonen thinks he will should be able to find four tenths of a second if he can get his car sorted for the rest of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend.
The Lotus driver struggled with the handling of his car during practice on Friday, but admitted he was surprised by how quick he was given his problems.
Raikkonen, running the new Coanda-style exhausts, finished the second session in sixth position, some seven tenths of a second behind pace-setter Sebastian Vettel.
The Finn is hopeful he will get closer to the front if he can solve the issues that hindered him today.
"We tried the new exhausts and didn’t really change the car a lot apart from those parts, and it didn’t feel very nice," he said.
"But the laptime seems pretty OK still. I am a bit surprised how good the time was when it wasn’t very nice to drive.
"Hopefully we can improve and it should mean that we can get a bit closer even than where we are today.
"I think for sure there should be four tenths, I would say, if you get the things right, but unfortunately it is not often you get those things right.
"It is usually a bit compromised here and there, but last race we had a very nice car until we changed the set-up and it was not exactly like we wanted. But if we have a similar feeling with the car it should be good."
Despite being the last driver to set a time with the softer Pirelli tyres, Raikkonen said he had no issues with the rubber, although he did not complete any long runs.
"They were OK, but I think the car overall was not maybe as good as we wanted and it always makes it a bit more tricky then," he said.
"But I think the tyres seem to be fine so far – they were working fine and we didn’t see any issues.
"We didn’t have time to do a long run, we just wanted to make sure that we could compare [tyres]."
Kimi Raikkonen sure Lotus can end 2012 on a high
Kimi Raikkonen says he has already seen enough of Lotus’s latest updates to feel the team can take a step forward in performance for the rest of the season.
The Enstone-based outfit began the second half of the campaign with high hopes that a development push could take its Finnish driver to the title success.
But a failure to match the development spend of rival teams Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari has left the team to endure a few tough races during the Autumn and dropped its lead driver out of the hunt for the title.
However, a change in exhaust philosophy towards the Coanda-effect concept has helped. A second iteration of that design, aimed at recouping some of the lost horsepower appears to be working well.
Raikkonen reckons his Friday performance in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice offered only a glimpse of what is possible for the rest of the weekend once the car is properly set-up.
"We have improved," he said. "But while you gain some downforce, you give away some horsepower, so we’ll try to get it back.
"But it is not a very easy thing, and with time we will come back with normal horsepower and still have the downforce.
"It is a good thing that we at least bring parts to the car this year and we learn things, so we are much better with the new car with those things.
"We have improved, but everyone else makes improvements too. We are closer than we were at Monza or Spa for example with the laptime."
Abu Dhabi GP: Vettel takes control in second Friday practice
Sebastian Vettel redressed the balance in the second free practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as he used his early laps on Pirelli’s soft tyre to set the pace ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton has only ever started on the front row in Abu Dhabi and also won last year’s race and started on pole for the inaugural event in 2009.
But in the end it was the world champion, on a mighty roll at the moment and seeking his fifth consecutive win, who came out on top of a mini duel in the second 90 minutes of running on Friday.
Jenson Button was third, confirming that McLaren could be a problematic threat to Ferrari’s championship challenge this weekend, while Mark Webber was fourth amid more reliability issues.
Vettel’s chief championship rival Fernando Alonso was only seventh fastest, some 0.8s away from the ultimate pace.
The two Saubers were the first cars on the significantly cooler track – temperatures having dropped noticeably since the first session – and while Sergio Perez set an early marker of 1m45.819s, it didn’t stand for long as first Kimi Raikkonen posted a 1m44.503s and then Vettel a 1m43.323s.
The Red Bull then immediately posted a 1m43.067s on the next lap.
With only 10 minutes gone, most of the field had already ventured on track, and all of them on Pirelli’s mediums – this weekend’s prime selection.
Vettel kept improving too as he then posted a 1m42.730s. He needed to, as Button emerged from the pits on all cylinders and fired in a 1m42.804s in the McLaren.
That duo then pitted and out came Hamilton, who also could not match Vettel, but got within 0.06s of the Red Bull. He got even closer on the second lap (0.047s).
Hamilton persevered, in spite of suggestions from his team that he should pop in for a set-up change, and kept banging in the laps. On his tenth attempt he finally moved to the front with a 1m42.095s as McLaren, just as it did in P1, looked a match for Red Bull.
That lap changed the game a bit, and while Button and then Vettel both improved again, neither was within half a second of the 2008 world champion.
Around half distance most switched to the soft tyres, but that didn’t change the order much.
Once he did get heat into the tyres though, Vettel suddenly found a bunch of time and went fastest on a 1m42.056s lap. And that wasn’t all as he went faster still when the tyres zeroed in, this time setting a 1m41.751s.
Hamilton though was still in play, and he lobbed in a 1m41.919s as if to remind Vettel to stay on his toes, but in the end he ran out of time before the soft-tyre long runs became a priority. After that, Vettel’s time was safe.
Vettel worked down from the low-49s into the mid-48s during his long runs, while McLaren and Alonso’s Ferrari were quicker, though as ever, fuel levels made it impossible to evaluate.
During this period Hamilton radioed in to inform McLaren that he was suffering a recurrence of the steering wheel issues he had in the Indian race last weekend. He was told to stay out and later was informed that he was the quickest of all through the long runs.
Ferrari’s world championship aspirations must have fluttered with concern after its drivers Alonso and Felipe Massa could manage only seventh and eighth. Pastor Maldonado was ninth and Perez tenth.
There were several spins and incidents, most notable of which were those of Vitaly Petrov, who rotated at Turn 8 on an in-lap and Narain Karthikeyan at the Turn 17 chicane.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m41.751 33 2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m41.919s + 0.168 33 3. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m42.412s + 0.661 35 4. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m42.466s + 0.715 21 5. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m42.500s + 0.749 33 6. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m42.532s + 0.781 27 7. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m42.587s + 0.836 30 8. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m42.823s + 1.072 32 9. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m42.998s + 1.247 36 10. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m43.106s + 1.355 35 11. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m43.191s + 1.440 33 12. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m43.200s + 1.449 35 13. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m43.255s + 1.504 33 14. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m43.267s + 1.516 31 15. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m43.578s + 1.827 33 16. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m43.689s + 1.938 31 17. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m44.260s + 2.509 26 18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m45.073s + 3.322 18 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m45.245s + 3.494 35 20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m45.782s + 4.031 32 21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m46.589s + 4.838 34 22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m46.671s + 4.920 30 23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m46.707s + 4.956 25 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m47.406s + 5.655 34
Abu Dhabi GP: Lewis Hamilton leads opening practice session
Lewis Hamilton headed Jenson Button as McLaren dominated the first free practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday morning.
Hamilton set his table-topping 1m43.285s lap with 25 of the 90 minutes remaining, and beat his countryman and team-mate by 0.333s, with title protagonists Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso third and fourth.
More than 35 minutes had elapsed when most of the drivers took to the track, surface temperatures having exceeded 45 degrees Celsius by that point.
Jean-Eric Vergne set the initial pace, and brought his marker down from 1m48.9s to 1m46.6s before Valtteri Bottas, Michael Schumacher and Alonso took turns at the top, the latter in 1m45.1s with 50 minutes gone.
Championship leader Vettel was the first driver to break into the 1m44s shortly afterwards, but his spell at the top lasted less than a minute as Hamilton took a lead he would not relinquish.
Button improved his time before the end of the session as Hamilton experimented with a number of different fuel settings during the final half-hour.
Vettel ended up third, despite the double world champion running wide at Turn 16 after getting his Red Bull crossed up on the kerb at the corner's entry.
Ferrari driver Alonso, who had dropped to sixth, set his best time in the final minute of the session to climb back up to fourth, ahead of Mark Webber in the second Red Bull and Michael Schumacher's Mercedes.
Pastor Maldonado and Nico Rosberg completed the top eight while Bottas was the best of the test drivers in action in his Williams. He was ninth overall, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus.
Sauber driver Sergio Perez had a scary moment at the pit entrance with 12 minutes to go. Attempting to simulate a full-speed, race entry, the Mexican ran wide as he turned right and was forced to drive over the run-off area and back onto the race track to avoid contact with the barrier.
Heikki Kovalainen was the only one of the Caterham drivers to set a time as Giedo van der Garde spent the session in the garage as his team tried to rectify an engine installation issue.
Marussia's Max Chilton did get out though, to undertake a series of aero tests in his maiden F1 practice outing.
His team-mate Timo Glock, 20th, suffered a series of lock-ups and wide moments. He lost a potentially strong laptime with 25 minutes left when he was impeded by Schumacher's Mercedes under braking for the left-hander at the end of the main straight.
He communicated his annoyance with a waved hand, but immediately saw Schumacher pull off the track and gesturing a wave of his own in the Marussia's direction by way of apology.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m43.285 20 2. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m43.618s + 0.333 18 3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m44.050s + 0.765 21 4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m44.366s + 1.081 20 5. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m44.542s + 1.257 21 6. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m44.694s + 1.409 21 7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m45.194s + 1.909 19 8. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m45.347s + 2.062 24 9. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m45.347s + 2.062 23 10. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m45.422s + 2.137 15 11. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m45.567s + 2.282 23 12. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m45.587s + 2.302 18 13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m45.722s + 2.437 19 14. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m45.743s + 2.458 19 15. Jules Bianchi Force India-Mercedes 1m45.769s + 2.484 21 16. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m45.811s + 2.526 21 17. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m46.649s + 3.364 22 18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m46.708s + 3.423 24 19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m47.418s + 4.133 22 20. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m47.891s + 4.606 19 21. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m48.354s + 5.069 21 22. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m48.887s + 5.602 21 23. Ma Qing Hua HRT-Cosworth 1m50.487s + 7.202 20 24. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault no time 3
Indian GP: Sebastian Vettel leads all-Red Bull front row
Sebastian Vettel translated his domination of Indian Grand Prix practice into another pole position as Red Bull again filled the front row in qualifying at Buddh.
An error at Turn 7 on his first Q3 run gave Vettel’s rivals a tiny hint of potential vulnerability. But the world champion responded with a 1m25.283s at the second attempt to beat team-mate Mark Webber to the top spot. Webber’s retaliation was then compromised by a mistake at Turn 3.
Vettel stayed out in case he had to defend his position, before abandoning the lap once it became clear he was out of reach.
His championship rival Fernando Alonso starts back in fifth. The McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button filled row two, pushing the Ferraris of Alonso and Felipe Massa down to row three.
Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus and Sergio Perez’s Sauber will share row four.
Despite fearing that Williams lacked qualifying pace this weekend, Pastor Maldonado still made it into Q3 again and took ninth. Nico Rosberg also reached the pole shoot-out but did not set a time.
Several teams saw one of their drivers reach the top 10 while the other ended up in the midfield.
The second Lotus of Romain Grosjean was pushed outside the Q3 cut late on, leaving him 11th. Bruno Senna’s promising start to Q2 did not translate into a top-10 appearance and his Williams fell to 13th, and Michael Schumacher was 0.6s off Mercedes team-mate Rosberg as he qualified 14th.
There were big intra-teams gaps for Force India and Sauber too, with 0.7s splitting Nico Hulkenberg in 12th and Paul di Resta in 16th, and Kamui Kobayashi a long way off emulating Perez’s Q3 form in 17th.
Jean-Eric Vergne was again eliminated in Q1. Heikki Kovalainen spun into the gravel at the end of the opening segment, leaving his Caterham team-mate Vitaly Petrov free to lead the tail-end pack.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m25.283
2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m25.327 + 0.044
3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m25.544 + 0.261
4. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m25.659 + 0.376
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m25.773 + 0.490
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m25.857 + 0.574
7. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m26.236 + 0.953
8. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m26.360 + 1.077
9. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m26.713 + 1.430
10. Nico Rosberg Mercedes no time Q2 cut-off time: 1m26.939s Gap ** 11. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m26.136s + 0.701 12. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercede 1m26.241s + 0.806 13. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m26.331s + 0.896 14. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m26.574s + 1.139 15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m26.777s + 1.342 16. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercede 1m26.989s + 1.554 17. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m27.219s + 1.784 Q1 cut-off time: 1m27.517s Gap * 18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m27.525s + 1.477 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m28.756s + 2.708 20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m29.500s + 3.452 21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m29.613s + 3.565 22. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m30.592s + 4.544 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m30.593s + 4.545 24. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m30.662s + 4.614
Indian GP: Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull complete practice sweep
Sebastian Vettel continued his and Red Bull's perfect start to the Indian Grand Prix weekend by once again setting the pace in the final practice session.
The German hit the front 25 minutes into the session and was never then displaced, despite being one of the last to switch onto soft rubber.
Having struggled for one-lap pace, McLaren did at least have the comfort of getting closer than it was able to in second practice, when Vettel enjoyed a commanding gap of more than six tenths of a second over the field.
Jenson Button got to within 0.192s of the German at the top of the timesheets, while Lewis Hamilton was fractions down the road in fourth.
The two silver arrows were split by the second Red Bull of Mark Webber, who captured third late on on his soft tyre run.
Kimi Raikkonen sealed fifth in the final minutes, while the impressive Bruno Senna - who had run third before the field switched to softs – ended sixth fastest.
In contrast to McLaren, Ferrari struggled more, although it also stuck to its own individual programme, waiting until the session's halfway mark to post its first times and then playing with drafting shortly afterward.
Fernando Alonso, looking to respond to Vettel's run of three straight wins, could only finish seventh fastest, six tenths down on Vettel.
Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, Mercedes' Michael Schumacher and the second Lotus of Romain Grosjean rounded out the top 10.
The session has begun slowly, with the first laptimes only being set a quarter of the way into the hour.
Raikkonen was the first to post a time, immediately going fastest with a 1m27.686s that kept him top until Webber and then Vettel went out.
Nico Rosberg was also out early, but quickly hit problems as he ran through the gravel while shadowing the second Lotus of Romain Grosjean.
Even as he did, Grosjean was on his radio complaining of a lack of balance and grip, a problem echoed down the pitlane.
Sergio Perez was also struggling with a nervous Sauber and could only manage 13th fastest at the flag, five places up the road from team-mate Kamui Kobayashi.
That put him behind Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado in the second Ferrari and Williams respectively.
Paul di Resta was seventh before the field switched to soft rubber, but found himself dropping down the order and eventually wound up 14th, just ahead of Nico Rosberg and the two Toro Rossos.
Daniel Ricciardo had the edge in the STR intra-team battle, ending the session three tenths faster than Jean-Eric Vergne.
Heikki Kovailainen and Caterham were meanwhile best of the rest.
Rosberg's trip across the gravel and Webber's spin at the final turn were the only moments in a realtively-incident free session.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap Laps 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m25.842s 20 2. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m26.034s + 0.192s 17 3. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m26.108s + 0.266s 18 4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m26.151s + 0.309s 21 5. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m26.209s + 0.367s 22 6. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m26.214s + 0.372s 24 7. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m26.521s + 0.679s 15 8. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m26.531s + 0.689s 21 9. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m26.652s + 0.810s 21 10. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m26.664s + 0.822s 21 11. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m26.691s + 0.849s 13 12. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m27.140s + 1.298s 18 13. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m27.162s + 1.320s 21 14. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m27.193s + 1.351s 22 15. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m27.229s + 1.387s 21 16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m27.374s + 1.532s 21 17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m27.711s + 1.869s 20 18. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m27.983s + 2.141s 19 19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m29.035s + 3.193s 20 20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m29.237s + 3.395s 20 21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m29.617s + 3.775s 20 22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m30.298s + 4.456s 20 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m30.824s + 4.982s 22 24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m30.873s + 5.031s 22
Indian GP: Sebastian Vettel stays on top in second practice
Red Bull dominated the second practice session even more emphatically than it did the first in India, with world championship leader Sebastian Vettel ahead of Mark Webber by 0.118s.
The German’s best time of 1m26.221s was 0.6s faster than his world championship rival Fernando Alonso could manage in the third-placed Ferrari, though the Spaniard would have taken heart from the F12012′s apparently strong race-pace late in the 90-minute run.
The track lost some of the adhesion the field worked so hard to build in through the first session, so the early minutes of FP2 were marked by several names jumping to the front as the track improved all over again.
All the usual suspects, including Jenson Button, Vettel, Alonso and Lewis Hamilton had spells at the top of times in the first 20 minutes before things settled down.
When they did, it was Alonso who emerged as the fastest initial hard tyre runner with a lap of 1m27.402s, some 0.246s faster than Vettel, with Hamilton third. Intriguingly though, Alonso would ultimately end up quickest with the silver-painted tyres.
Massa spun at Turn 11, 20 minutes in, after taking liberties with the Astroturf on the inside. That damaged his hard set and prompted him to become the first of the frontrunners to switch to the yellow-walled soft option tyre.
Lotus’s Romain Grosjean suffered a similar mishap.
Half an hour in and Vettel was back in front, having set a 1m27.256s lap, ahead of Alonso and Hamilton. Bruno Senna, having also spun at Turn 4, was an impressive fourth at the time given his lack of running in the morning.
Kimi Raikkonen was next to switch on to options, along with team-mate Grosjean and the Toro Rossos, so it was perhaps no surprise that the Finn found himself at the top of the pile halfway through the session with a time of 1m27.030s.
Meanwhile, Massa spun again at Turn 9, complaining of ‘a very strange balance’ in the car. That pretty much curtailed his running for the day as Ferrari reported damage to both his sets of tyres and set about discovering the source of the Brazilian’s misery.
As Massa was rotating, Nico Rosberg, also on options, shot to the top in the Mercedes with a 1m27.022s. But that didn’t last long as first Vettel, on soft, and then Alonso, still on hards, moved ahead.
At the turn of the hour Webber finally made it out on track after a lengthy period in the pits and immediately went to the top of the times himself with a 1m26.399s. But only for mere moments until Vettel responded again with a 1m26.221s.
With only 30 minutes of Friday’s practice left, Red Bull had a laptime advantage of 0.4s over Alonso and the chasing pack. The Spaniard, however, was consistently quick in his soft-tyre longs runs too.
Red Bull was also strong, delivering low 1m33s similar to that of Lotus. But Alonso’s Ferrari and Hamilton’s McLaren were in the 1m32s, although fuel loads were apparent.
Behind Alonso in the times, separated by 0.008s were Rosberg and Raikkonen, while the fastest McLaren was that of Hamilton, who was nearly a second down on Vettel.
Button was seventh fastest ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, with Grosjean and Senna completing the top ten.
Paul di Resta was 11th fastest ahead of Sergio Perez, who was back in his Sauber for the second session, having handed it over to Esteban Gutierrez for FP1.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m26.221 35 2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m26.339s + 0.118 33 3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m26.820s + 0.599 34 4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m27.022s + 0.801 38 5. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m27.030s + 0.809 40 6. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m27.131s + 0.910 38 7. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m27.182s + 0.961 24 8. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m27.233s + 1.012 37 9. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m27.397s + 1.176 36 10. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m27.738s + 1.517 36 11. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m28.004s + 1.783 32 12. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m28.178s + 1.957 39 13. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m28.222s + 2.001 37 14. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m28.239s + 2.018 37 15. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m28.296s + 2.075 23 16. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m28.455s + 2.234 40 17. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m28.596s + 2.375 38 18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m29.167s + 2.946 35 19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m29.320s + 3.099 43 20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m29.606s + 3.385 22 21. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m30.950s + 4.729 37 22. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m31.113s + 4.892 35 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m31.372s + 5.151 20 24. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m31.493s + 5.272 31
Indian GP: Sebastian Vettel goes quickest in first practice
Sebastian Vettel picked up in India where he left off in Korea, as he ended up more than 0.3s faster than the opposition in the first free practice session at the Buddh International Circuit.
In an absorbing session, that for the most part promised a closely fought out weekend, Vettel's best lap, posted in the final five minutes, gave him a clear edge over Jenson Button and the German's chief championship rival Fernando Alonso.
Lewis Hamilton was fourth fastest ahead of Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher. Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen completed the top ten.
Sickly Sergio Perez's stand-in Esteban Gutierrez was the first to set a time, just before the half-hour mark, though his 1m46.071s time was not very representative. The Sauber man wasn't the only man on track however, and quickly the two McLarens of first Hamilton, and then Button, began hammering in times in the 1m33s/32s.
The two chrome machines, and Pastor Maldonado's Williams, engaged in a game of swap the top spot for a little while as the Indian track cleaned up.
Indeed such was the rapid improvement of the circuit's adhesion that whole seconds were lopped off the standard each time one of them crossed the line. Hamilton finally ended his run on a 1m32.074s, while Button stayed out to set a 1m29.684 on the next lap - more than two seconds down the road.
Splitting the Britons by the end of this phase were Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna's stand-in Valtteri Bottas.
Rosberg emerged from the Mercedes pits near the halfway point, and his first effort put him second fastest, though his 1m30.918s was still not even within a second of Button's best.
The German's second attempt was closer, but not as much as Massa's, who closed to within 0.325s of Button, the Briton all the while watching proceedings on the McLaren monitor with a cheeky smile.
Rosberg got closer still to Button, using the impressive straightline talents of the Mercedes to set one fastest first sector after another during his stint, before giving up a tenth away from the McLaren.
Just as he pitted though, as if to rub it in, first his team-mate Schumacher and then Mark Webber bumped Button to third, the Australian Red Bull driver setting a new target of 1m28.963s as the RB8 ominously began to stretch its legs.
With half an hour to go, man of the moment Vettel made his first appearance in the top ten, lining up 0.288s behind Webber, while Alonso, went third moments later, though his best was nearly six tenths off the quickest Red Bull.
The Spaniard matched Webber's time to the thousandth before the Australian went quicker still on a 1m28.229s.
Vettel then posted a lap 0.3s away from Webber, moving back to second, now ahead of Hamilton, Alonso, Rosberg and Massa.
Into the last 20 minutes and things changed again as first Alonso rocked up on the top spot with a 1m28.210s, and then was almost instantly replaced by Hamilton, who set a 1m28.046s.
As the session entered the last ten minutes, Vettel began banging in some pacey laps. The first of those was good enough to go top, by a hundredth ahead of Hamilton, and the second would have been much faster but for a sideways moment in sector three.
Alonso, sporting aero tweaks on his Ferrari, emerged from the pits for a final throw of the dice and got within 0.08s of Vettel's best until the world champion tired of the fight and fired in a 1m27.619s - ending all arguments.
Button then moved up to second again, bumping Alonso to third ahead of Hamilton and Webber.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m27.619 22 2. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m27.929s + 0.310 22 3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m28.044s + 0.425 24 4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m28.046s + 0.427 25 5. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m28.175s + 0.556 22 6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m28.447s + 0.828 25 7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m28.542s + 0.923 24 8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m28.993s + 1.374 23 9. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m29.204s + 1.585 24 10. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m29.291s + 1.672 24 11. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m29.691s + 2.072 26 12. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m29.760s + 2.141 23 13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m29.802s + 2.183 1$ 14. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m29.850s + 2.231 19 15. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m29.895s + 2.276 19 16. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m30.041s + 2.422 26 17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m30.401s + 2.782 23 18. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m30.630s + 3.011 24 19. Giedo Van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m30.896s + 3.277 20 20. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m31.212s + 3.593 29 21. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m31.903s + 4.284 22 22. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m32.125s + 4.506 24 23. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m32.369s + 4.750 19 24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m32.859s + 5.240 13
It Ain’t Over ’Til It’s Over – Indian GP Preview with Kimi Räikkönen
You gained another solid haul of points last time out; are you satisfied with the result in Korea?
I think fifth was about where we should have been. There were a couple of times where we were in a position to make up some places and – for different reasons – were not able to, but even so we didn’t quite have the speed to match the Red Bulls and Ferraris. I was pretty much on my own at the end of the race but we had to keep pushing to maintain position and it wasn’t so easy. I wouldn’t say it was a fantastic race but at the end of the day we still picked up points for the championship so it wasn’t too bad.
Just four races to go now ; what can you hope to achieve before the end of the season?
There’s no point setting targets ; we just need to keep working as hard as we can to score strong points and see what happens from there. In terms of the championship, the gap to Sebastian [Vettel] is quite big now so it will be very difficult to catch him, but we’ll keep pushing all the way.
How is your motivation as the goal of the Championship becomes harder to attain?
We have to keep working hard and keep a high level of motivation. Personally I feel my own motivation is very high – like it has always been. I’m keen to get the best results I can. Of course, in 2007 the championship wasn’t decided until the last race so anything is possible. Let’s see what happens.
What have you heard about India as a Formula 1 destination?
India is a brand new place for me. Like with Korea, I’ve never been to the country before which means I’ve never seen the circuit properly. I’m not like other drivers, so I haven’t driven the simulator to learn it, but all in all it’s not that much of a tricky situation. I like to go to different places and the challenge of driving a new circuit is always interesting. So far I’ve learnt tracks after a few laps in FP1 on Fridays. I didn’t have any problems learning the Yeongam circuit that way, and I don’t expect to have any issues here either. As for India, I have never visited the country before… I have certainly enjoyed Indian restaurants in almost every country I’ve been to though!
Any special considerations for the weekend?
We know this circuit is likely to be very dusty at the start of the weekend so that will make things interesting for the first practice sessions. We’ll have some new things on the car and it will be our second time with the new exhaust system so hopefully we can make more gains with our pace. India should also be pretty hot which should suit us. I’m looking forward to it.
Kimi Räikkönen only cares about title, not final standing positions
Kimi Raikkonen is not bothered about where he finishes in the standings this year if he is not world champion.
The Finn, who returned to Formula 1 with Lotus at the start of the year, is third in the drivers’ table 37 points behind leader Fernando Alonso, having finished on the podium six times so far in the campaign.
"It doesn’t matter if I’m second or tenth," he said. "It makes no difference if you don’t win.
"We will see. If you had said this [third in the championship] at the beginning of the year we would have taken it but once you do a little bit well, you expect to do better and you want to do a lot better also. We will keep on trying and hopefully can improve."
He then joked: "I would rather be out of second or third place so I don’t have to go to the prize-giving."
Lotus is bringing a raft of updates to Korea, including a new ‘Coanda-effect’ exhaust, but Raikkonen said that the team would only know how much benefit they had brought after free practice.
Asked if the team was optimistic he said: "Yeah but then you have to be don’t you, otherwise you wouldn’t bring the new stuff. But we will see tomorrow.
"We know the numbers from the windtunnel and the other calculations but until we run anything we can’t really know what it is going to bring us," he added. "Hopefully it will work as we expect and it will improve our position in the order but we should know after practice tomorrow."
Japanese GP: Raikkonen claims contact with Alonso unavoidable
Contact with Fernando Alonso was unavoidable at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix, reckoned Kimi Raikkonen, who claimed he was left with no room to manouvre by the world championship leader.
The Finn touched Alonso’s left rear wheel as the Spaniard braked for the first corner.
The Ferrari driver suffered a puncture that sent him into a spin and out of the race.
Alonso’s retirement meant the Spaniard is now just four points ahead of race winner Sebastian Vettel with five races to go.
"I was on the left hand side all the way since the very beginning of the start," said Raikkonen. "He kept coming left more and more. I tried to go further left but I had nowhere to go.
"They all came over on my side and touched my front wing so I couldn’t go anywhere else."
Raikkonen went on to finish in sixth position, and while he admitted the result was not great, he at least found consolation in having reduced the gap to Alonso in the standings.
The Finn is now 37 points behind.
"We lost some time there and our second pitstop wasn’t the best, so overall it was quite a difficult race," he said. "The good thing is we still managed to score points to stay in touch in the championship.
"Sixth wasn’t the result we were hoping for but unfortunately we didn’t have the speed to do better today."
Japanese Grand Prix: Mark Webber goes quickest in second practice
The stage is set for another Red Bull/McLaren showdown in Japan, as Mark Webber beat Lewis Hamilton to the fastest time in the second free practice session at Suzuka on Friday.
Webber’s best time of 1m32.493s lap was 0.214s faster than Hamilton could manage, with the Mercedes-bound Briton sandwiched between the two Red Bulls. Sebastian Vettel was third, a further tenth back.
Nico Hulkenberg impressed once again for Force India, going fourth fastest, ahead of world championship leader Fernando Alonso and Romain Grosjean.
Last year’s winner and this morning’s pace-setter Jenson Button was seventh quickest, in front of Williams man Bruno Senna, Felipe Massa (who sparingly used the asphalt at Degner through the session) and Michael Schumacher – who crashed, but was unharmed, late on.
Grosjean was the first man to set down a marker, almost as soon as the green lights illuminated, with a 1m34.514s lap in the Lotus.
But with only six minutes in the books, the session was stopped as Paul di Resta put his Force India’s two right wheels on the dirt on the entry to Spoon. The car then snapped around rapidly and he spun sideways into the barriers. The Scot was undamaged, the Force India less so.
"Completely down to me," he explained. "A bit ambitious a bit too early.
"Frustrating because I was six tenths up and Kimi [Raikkonen] was in my way, but the responsibility was mine."
Once the cars were back on track it was Alonso who shot to the top of the times with a 1m34.287s, which lowered the benchmark for the weekend so far.
That was never likely to last long though and Hamilton might have improved on it momentarily had he not locked up on the entry to the chicane.
While those two were squabbling, it was Button that whizzed to the front with a 1m34.150s, with Webber suddenly second on a 1m34.188s. Grosjean then had another crack at it and would have easily gone fastest but for one of his now customary entertainingly lairy moments – this time at the chicane.
As the session moved past the half-hour mark Vettel emerged on track, and impressively moved the hard tyre benchmark on with two laps that were faster than anyone had gone thus far, his best a 1m33.961s.
It was about that time that people started trying out Pirelli’s softs.
Kobayashi was first to give them a go and went second quickest, within a hundredth of Vettel. But as more people switched to the soft tyre that duo rapidly dropped down the order, as first Button moved ahead, and then again Grosjean proved quick on a 1m33.107s.
Then it was Vettel’s turn to give the yellow-monikered rubber a try and the world champion instantly went quicker still with a 1m32.826s. Hamilton’s attempt was even better, but none were as fast as Webber, whose 1m32.493s would remain uncontested to the end.
It was an eventful session for several of the drivers.
Kimi Raikkonen spent much of the afternoon in the pits after his KERS battery overheated, began leaking and forced all the Lotus personnel in to rubber gear for safety reasons.
Rosberg required an engine change over the break after his car had ground to halt in the morning session, and Mercedes team-mate Schumacher was subject to a significant suspension change as the squad analysed some potential future tweaks.
The retiring legend then binned it at Spoon in a carbon copy of di Resta’s previous indiscretion, though this time the race direction decided against a red flag.
The last 10 minutes of the session were devoted to long runs on the soft tyre, and unsurprisingly it was the McLarens and the Red Bulls that most consistently ran in the 1m39s.
The final twist in the session was the sight of Vitaly Petrov’s Caterham parked in the Turn 1 gravel having apparently shed its rear wing on the straight, moments before the flag fell.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m32.493 34 2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m32.707s + 0.214 32 3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m32.836s + 0.343 37 4. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m32.987s + 0.494 30 5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m33.093s + 0.600 28 6. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m33.107s + 0.614 35 7. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m33.349s + 0.856 22 8. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m33.499s + 1.006 35 9. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m33.614s + 1.121 32 10. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m33.750s + 1.257 13 11. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m33.866s + 1.373 19 12. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m33.903s + 1.410 36 13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m33.9$3s + 1.490 33 14. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m34.291s + 1.798 12 15. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m34.300s + 1.807 33 16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m34.863s + 2.370 32 17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m35.080s + 2.587 34 18. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m35.711s + 3.218 41 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m35.870s + 3.377 37 20. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m36.194s + 3.701 32 21. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m36.636s + 4.143 28 22. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m37.342s + 4.849 30 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m37.701s + 5.208 35 24. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes No time 2
Japanese GP: Jenson Button fastest in first practice at Suzuka
Jenson Button led a McLaren one-two as he set the pace in the opening practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
Under bright sunshine on a dry track, albeit one that was slow to grip up, the Woking team dominated proceedings in the first 90 minutes. Only Red Bull's Mark Webber looked anywhere near close to the two British drivers in terms of pace.
Webber ended the morning session third fastest, ahead of the two Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher - embarking on his final grand prix at Suzuka.
Rosberg's W03 actually ground to halt out of Turn 4 in the final minutes of the session which effectively brought running to a premature end.
Kamui Kobayashi, who had predicted impressive performance from Sauber this weekend, was sixth fastest on the resurfaced lay-out (new asphalt is down between Turn 7 and the chicane) ahead of Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Paul di Resta in the Force India.
Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado completed the top 10.
The McLarens looked fast from the outset, or at least as soon as cars started posting serious laptimes, which was from about half an hour in.
Hamilton was the first to go top with a 1m37.008s lap, and it was a while before anyone got close to that, partly it seemed due to the apparent low grip conditions.
Indeed several cars had lairy moments, not least Schumacher who ran wide at Degner and Grosjean who had a similar escapade at Spoon.
Halfway through the session and Webber, on the hard tyre, moved to the front in the Red Bull with a 1m34.740s. That after his own scary DRS-open moment through 130R.
The Australian remained fastest until the turn of the hour when Button, last of the front-runners to put in a proper run, set his 1m34.507s. Shortly after that Hamilton re-emerged from the pits to go 0.233s slower, making it a McLaren one-two ahead of Webber.
With most drivers then staying on the worn hard primes for their second runs, there was little further activity on the timesheets short of Schumacher's improvement to fifth.
Kimi Raikkonen was 13th in the fastest Lotus, two places behind world championship leader Fernando Alonso, while the reigning champion Sebastian Vettel was 17th. The the wry smile from the German as he removed his helmet post session suggested he was unconcerned that he was nearly 2s off the pace though.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m34.507s 20 2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m34.740s + 0.233 26 3. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m34.856s + 0.349 24 4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m35.059s + 0.552 18 5. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m35.112s + 0.615 20 6. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m35.199s + 0.692 27 7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m35.283s + 0.776 24 8. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m35.299s + 0.792 18 9. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m35.474s + 0.967 22 10. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m35.478s + 0.971 24 11. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m35.484s + 0.977 26 12. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m35.584s + 1.077 24 13. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m35.691s + 1.184 22 14. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m35.724s + 1.217 21 15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m36.123s + 1.616 19 16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m36.222s + 1.715 25 17. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m36.366s + 1.859 23 18. Valterri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m36.389s + 1.882 24 19. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m37.716s + 3.209 17 20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m38.295s + 3.788 23 21. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m38.616s + 4.109 25 22. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m39.043s + 4.536 25 23. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m39.374s + 4.867 22 24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m39.688s + 5.181 19 Da Autosport.com
Kimi Räikkönen not expecting big upturn in form at Suzuka
Kimi Raikkonen is not expecting a dramatic upturn in Lotus’ form before a major update package arrives at the Korean Grand Prix.
Although the Finn is still gunning for the world championship, Raikkonen is cautious about what he can achieve in Japan this weekend judging by the recent form of his team.
"We have not been even close in the last races, so hopefully we can stronger but I’m not really hoping that we are suddenly going to be fastest," explained Raikkonen.
"We saw what happened in the last races, but maybe I am wrong. I hope so…"
As AUTOSPORT revealed last week, Lotus is planning to introduce a raft of aerodynamic developments to its E20 for next week’s event in Korea.
Raikkonen hopes that those new parts lift the pace of the car at a time when he needs to start closing the 45-point gap deficit to Fernando Alonso.
"I think we are falling off a little bit from the others, who have improved a bit," explained Raikkonen. "So we have some small parts, new parts here, and hopefully it will get us back more where we have been before.
"But we have to do the best we can here, and hopefully in Korea we should get some bigger improvements. If they work that should improve things even more."
Raikkonen will test the Lotus double-DRS in Friday practice at Suzuka, with his team hoping it can get it to work effectively enough to be raced for the first time.
And although Raikkonen’s season-long consistency means he remains in with a shout of winning the title without actually winning a race, he says he does not care about anything other than the championship.
"If we could win it [the title], I don’t care how it comes," he said. "If we win it, we win it and that is it.
"But at the moment it doesn’t look very good. We have been in a worse situation, but we keep trying. As long as we have a small chance we keep trying and hopefully we can improve our position."
Bored to Buzzing
After – in his words – a “boring” Singapore Grand Prix, Kimi Räikkönen looks to the rest of the season, telling us how he’s always aiming for the top and why Suzuka suits him so well…
Hot, humid and not exactly straightforward; talk us through your weekend in Singapore
I think we had the chance to do a bit better as the car felt good on Sunday. Not being able to qualify higher on Saturday hurt our chances, then it was a boring race in the car as it’s very difficult to overtake there. The first safety car was not very good for us, but the second one was better for our strategy. I followed Michael [Schumacher] for most of the race, and it was quite frustrating as our car was faster. It’s not very good when you’re stuck behind people as it degrades your tyres and reduces the grip, but it’s a case of just doing the best you can and then trying to jump others during a pitstop or hoping they make a mistake.
You’re still third in the Drivers’ Championship; can you go higher?
You try to do the best you can. This year has been good for the team and we’re doing well in the Championship so I’m happy with where we are and think that we have a good chance to improve. Of course the objective is always to try to win races and to bring home as many points as possible.
People are asking if you could take the Driver Championship title without winning a race; do you think that’s possible?
I think it’s very difficult to say. There are too many things that could happen over the next few races. I guess if you look at it mathematically then yes, I could, but personally I feel you have to win at least one race to make sure you are World Champion. There would have to be some big dramas if I were to take it from Fernando [Alonso] or Sebastian [Vettel] without winning a race, so all I can do is keep moving forward and trying to win. That’s all I set out to do anyway, every time I step into the car.
Tell us about Suzuka? You famously won there in 2005; is it a circuit you enjoy?
It’s a good circuit, one that’s quite fast and there are some nice opportunities for overtaking. The best tracks for me are ones with long straights and sharp corners with lots of space for racing on, and Suzuka has that. In 2005 I had one of my best wins there after starting the race near the back of the grid and then taking the lead on the last lap. Winning in that way, you never forget the feeling it gives you while crossing the finish line.
Kimi Raikkonen says Lotus must raise game in Japanese Grand Prix
Kimi Raikkonen is aware that his Lotus team needs to take a step forward in performance if it wants to fight near the top in the Japanese Grand Prix.
Raikkonen finished in sixth position in the previous race in Singapore, where the Finn said his team "was nowhere" after struggling with its car’s set-up from the start of the weekend.
The Lotus driver reckons it will be crucial to set the car up properly in order to be competitive in Japan, and concedes making strides towards the front will be hard in the remaining races.
"We should get some new parts and setting up the car the way I like it to be depends on the weather and on the circuit," said Raikkonen. "We know the speed is there in our car, we just have to find the right set-up to maximise it every time.
"We give it our best shot to be on the podium, but the races are going to get more and more difficult with other teams constantly pushing with new development parts.
"Obviously, we have to make a step forward from Singapore – where we were nowhere – to be fighting for top places.
"It’s impossible to predict how our car will go in the next races. We have to wait until Friday practice to decide how to approach the race."
Raikkonen is third in the championship despite being the only driver in the top seven who is yet to win a race.
The 2007 world champion, 45 points behind Fernando Alonso in the standings, reckons it will be very hard for him to clinch the title without a victory.
"I think it’s very difficult to say. There are too many things that could happen over the next few races. I guess if you look at it mathematically then yes, I could, but personally I feel you have to win at least one race to make sure you are world champion.
"There would have to be some big dramas if I were to take it from Fernando or Sebastian [Vettel] without winning a race, so all I can do is keep moving forward and trying to win. That’s all I set out to do anyway, every time I step into the car."
Singapore GP: Kimi Raikkonen says top five would’ve been Lotus’s best possible result
Kimi Raikkonen believes he had the pace to finish in fifth position in the Singapore Grand Prix, although he admitted sixth was a good result given Lotus’s form.
"After the result in qualifying today’s race was not too bad, but I think we had a chance to do a bit better," said Raikkonen, who had qualified in 12th position.
"We weren’t quick enough to be fighting for the podium but the first safety car didn’t help us and maybe we could have gained an extra place without that.
"We were definitely faster than Michael [Schumacher] and Nico [Rosberg] but we ended up stuck behind them for most of the race which was frustrating. It’s so hard to overtake here that you have to rely on passing people in the pitstops or on someone making a mistake."
The Finn kept third position in the championship thanks to Lewis Hamilton’s retirement, but he is aware that his team will have to get more performance out of its car in order to stay in the fight.
"I’m still third in the drivers’ championship but we’ve got some improvements to make for the next races to be fighting with the cars in front," Raikkonen said. "Hopefully we can make a step forward in Japan and take it from there."
Team-mate Romain Grosjean marked his return to action after his one-race ban with another points finish, crossing the chequered flag right behind Raikkonen.
"It was a tough race but not a bad result in the end," Grosjean said. "Our performance was much better than what we would have expected at the start of the weekend.
"Of course, I dropped a position to Kimi as well; he was quicker than me towards the end of the race and there was no sense in holding him up."
Kimi, another battling performance; how was for you out there?
After the result in qualifying today’s race was not too bad. We couldn’t get the new tyres working properly yesterday which meant we were well off the pace, but it was much better in the race. We lost a bit of time with a few things today but then had some good luck with other cars not finishing the race so I guess it balances out.
Is P6 the best the car was capable of today, or do you think more could potentially have been achieved?
I think we had a chance to do a bit better. We weren’t quick enough to be fighting for the podium but the first safety car didn’t help us and maybe we could have gained an extra place without that. We were definitely faster than Michael [Schumacher] and Nico [Rosberg] but we ended up stuck behind them for most of the race which was frustrating as you can’t get the best out of the car when you’re so close to the back of someone. It’s so hard to overtake here that you have to rely on passing people in the pit stops or on someone making a mistake..
Suzuka is up next; what are your thoughts heading to the next round?
We’re still third in the Championship but we’ve got some improvements to make for the next races to be fighting with the cars in front. Hopefully we can make a step forward in Japan and take it from there.
Singapore GP: Lewis Hamilton beats Maldonado to pole at Marina Bay
Lewis Hamilton secured pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix with a brilliant lap of 1m46.362s, ahead of Williams driver Pastor Maldonado.
It was the 24th pole of the McLaren driver’s Formula 1 career, and the third in four races, as he put down the rising challenge of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull, who had set the pace throughout the weekend until qualifying.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Briton, who brushed the wall on his quick lap – though apparently without damage.
But it won’t be the world champion Vettel that starts the grand prix at Marina Bay on the front row, as perhaps was expected, but Spanish Grand Prix winner Maldonado, who delivered a stunning (and surprising) lap to go second fastest ahead of Vettel.
Jenson Button was fourth fastest ahead of points’ leader Fernando Alonso and Paul di Resta in the rapid Force India. Mark Webber was seventh fastest for the moment, but that may change as the Australian is under investigation for allegedly impeding Timo Glock during Q1.
Romain Grosjean, with what might have constituted the scruffiest lap of the season, was eighth fastest ahead of the two Mercedes of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, who both declined to set a laptime in Q3.
Grosjean, having set the fastest time of all in Q1, also tapped the wall with the rear of the car at Turn 14 at the beginning of Q2. The Lotus driver bounced back from his shunt though to go fourth fastest in Q2, behind Hamilton, Vettel and Webber.
He wasn’t the only one in the wall in that session. Bruno Senna hit the retainers at the penultimate corner, the same place he’d brushed in Q1, but this time he damaged his suspension and, unlike the Frenchman, would take no further part.
It was the third time the Brazilian had been in the barrier over the weekend – and he starts Sunday’s race 17th.
Joining Senna on the Q2 fail list, but obviously starting ahead of him, were Nico Hulkenberg, Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Hulkenberg, Raikkonen and Massa in particular might have expected to progress further, but late laps from the Mercedes duo put paid to their hopes.
With speculation surrounding Vitaly Petrov’s future at Caterham, he put in a tremendous effort in Q1. For most of it he looked like he might outqualify Toro Rosso’s Vergne and Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi on merit to move into the second session.
But both of those drivers would eventually move ahead of the Russian, who lines up 20th for the race ahead of his team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, as the Toro Rossos injected some super-soft pace at the crucial moment (Ricciardo was seventh fastest overall in Q1!).
Kobayashi however was the star scalp dropped early as he was already in the pits when the Toro Rossos fired up the afterburners. The Japanese, let us not forget, was on the front row at Spa.
Also worth mentioning was the fact that Narain Karthikeyan outqualified HRT team-mate Pedro de la Rosa for the second time in a row, and by nearly a second, as the pair occupied the last row of the grid.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m46.362s
2. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m46.804s + 0.442
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m46.905s + 0.543
4. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m46.939s + 0.577
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m47.216s + 0.854
6. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m47.241s + 0.879
7. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m47.475s + 1.113
8. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m47.788s + 1.426
9. Michael Schumacher Mercedes no time
10. Nico Rosberg Mercedes no time
Q2 cut-off time: 1m47.943s Gap ** 11. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m47.975s + 1.310 12. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m48.261s + 1.596 13. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m48.344s + 1.679 14. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m48.505s + 1.840 15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m48.774s + 2.109 16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m48.849s + 2.184 17. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault no time Q1 cut-off time: 1m49.809s Gap * 18. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m49.933s + 2.245 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m50.846s + 3.158 20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m51.137s + 3.449 21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m51.370s + 3.682 22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m51.762s + 4.074 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m52.372s + 4.684 24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m53.355s + 5.667 107% time: 1m55.226s
Singapore GP: Sebastian Vettel fastest again in final practice
Sebastian Vettel maintained his advantage over the field in Singapore, setting the fastest time again in an eventful final free practice session on the Marina Bay circuit.
The German, who was quickest in both Friday sessions - having won from pole here last year - ended the hour more than three tenths faster than Lewis Hamilton's McLaren.
Fernando Alonso was third fastest ahead of the continually impressive Nico Hulkenberg. Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa were next up.
Paul di Resta was seventh in the second Force India ahead of Nico Rosberg, Bruno Senna and Michael Schumacher.
Initially it was the McLarens that had the pace in the 60-minute session, while the teams were still using prime tyres with first Hamilton, and then Button setting an early pace in the low 1m50s.
Then halfway through the session, with Red Bull's Mark Webber having given a hint of the RB8's pace by splitting the two McLarens, Vettel went out and was seven tenths up on Hamilton when he was forced to back off for the yellows in sector three.
Those yellows were out for Timo Glock's stricken Marussia, the German having stamped on the brakes and dipped the clutch after his throttle stuck open.
The obstacle cleared, Vettel got straight back on it and became the first man to dip below the 1m50s barrier with a 1m49.614s.
Alonso, having up to this point completed merely an install lap, then went second quickest joining Vettel in the 49s.
Two thirds of the way through and Senna became the first man to try the supersofts, his flying lap putting him momentarily second on the board.
With just over ten minutes to go, teams then began thinking about their qualifying session simulation fliers, and it was just then that Webber replicated Sergio Perez's earlier error and clouted the Armco under the tunnel at the entry left-hander.
Both the Sauber - which spent most of the session in the pits - and the Red Bull needed attention as Webber also picked up a puncture.
With the last of the final yellow flags gone, Vettel emerged from the pits, having previously scattered photographers on the pitlane entry and seemingly suffering some KERS issues.
This time the German pulled out a stunning time of 1m47.947s, and that was that. No one got near it. Hamilton was closest, 0.325s behind the world champion.
But if anyone else had thoughts of a crack at Vettel's time, Vitaly Petrov denied them all by smacking the outside barrier at the penultimate corner in his Caterham, bringing out the red flags.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m47.947 15 2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m48.272s + 0.325 15 3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m48.623s + 0.676 11 4. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m48.859s + 0.912 16 5. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m48.865s + 0.918 17 6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m49.458s + 1.511 13 7. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m49.684s + 1.737 15 8. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m49.699s + 1.752 16 9. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m49.715s + 1.768 14 10. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m49.981s + 2.034 14 11. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m50.110s + 2.163 12 12. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m50.524s + 2.577 10 13. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m50.664s + 2.717 16 14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m50.777s + 2.830 15 15. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m50.840s + 2.893 15 16. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m51.012s + 3.065 15 17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m51.059s + 3.112 17 18. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m51.272s + 3.325 10 19. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m52.290s + 4.343 16 20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m53.781s + 5.834 12 21. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m54.326s + 6.379 14 22. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m54.421s + 6.474 14 23. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m54.630s + 6.683 9 24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m54.875s + 6.928 14