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