The Formula One Teams' Association, or FOTA, hosts a Fans' Forum in select Grand Prix host cities. It's a unique opportunity for fans to hear from their favorite F1 Drivers, Team Principals and F1 personalities, meet other F1 fans and engage in a Q&A session with panelists. Last year's event was well attended with about 500 fans in attendance, proving F1 is welcome in the United States.
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Another race, another shake up on the championship leaderboard. However, as unpredictable as the races have been, a pattern is emerging - Alonso on podium. Alonso may not win the number one spot, but he somehow always manages to get on to the podium.
How did it go down at the Singapore GP? It started with qualifying: Hamilton, after a perfect flying lap, landed the pole position. Trailing behind Hamilton in qualifying was Maldonado the Dangerous, then Vettel. Notice that Alonso is not even top 3 in Qualifying; he was P5.
With Maldonado's record, I was expecting a good battle at the front part of the grid at the start of the race. Hamilton defended his pole from Maldonado and got a clean getaway, while Vettel's slick maneuver got him ahead of Maldonado, and then Button also took a run on Maldonado and passed the Williams driver to take the 3rd position. It is as if a different Maldonado was in the Williams car altogether; where is his usual aggressive drive?
The Marina Bay Street circuit is notoriously difficult track to overtake - a car needs to be a few seconds ahead to overtake, which means tyres and pit stop strategy were paramount in giving a driver the advantage to get ahead. With 61 laps in the race, the most sensible way to manage is a two-stop strategy, which most cars opted for. In terms of tyres, the soft was more durable than the supersoft so most teams were trying to get the drivers to squeeze as much drive as possible from the soft tyres.
Hamilton's pit stop at lap 13 was incredibly fast at 2.9 sec, paired with his quick pace throughout the laps, he looked unbeatable in winning the race. However, it was not his day. In an unlikely turn of events, Hamilton's McLaren had a gearbox failure at lap 23, leaving him with a car but no drive. I would have thrown a hissy fit, but Hamilton handled it with unusual calmness, perhaps he was thinking this is a sign for him to leave McLaren and move to Mercedes.
Shortly after Hamilton's gutting moment, Maldonado's car also suffered an untimely end at lap 35. It's most unfortunate to see two cars that were on front rows on the grid that would likely battle out to the bitter end both retire early.
As most anticipated, the safety car made not one, but two, appearances at the Singapore GP. The safety car came out at Lap 34 when Karthikeyan crashed out, and at Lap 40 when Schumacher crashed into Vergne. The safety car rounds took quite a while, such that the race timed out and concluded at the 2-hour mark rather than completion of 61 laps.
Without a truly heated battle up at the front with Hamilton and Maldonado out, we end the race with Vettel, Button, and Alonso moving into podium for top 3. Alonso still leads the championship with Vettel now trailing in 2nd and Raikkonen in 3rd place. Who did you think will have the best drive at the Japanese GP on October 7th?
I had high hopes for the British Grand Prix. I even brewed some good tea for the occasion, and practiced my British accents. I wanted rain on race day, plenty of overtaking, dark horse race car that comes from behind. I think I may have set the bar too high since we've been treated with so many unbelievably thrilling races so far. The British Grand Prix seemed to have paled by a lightest of shade.
That's not to say the race was not exciting. The Silverstone race certainly had its great moments - great defensive start by Alonso who was on pole, massive duel between Alonso and Hamilton on Lap 19 with Alonso making a pass on Hamilton only to have Hamilton come back in the next corner and then Alonso taking one more pass on Hamilton, and then of course, the winning pass that Webber did over Alonso at Lap 46 of the 52-Lap race to clench the very sweet victory.
Webber is the silent and stealthy driver of the season. He's been quietly scoring good points (currently 2nd in Championship standing), out qualifying more than his double-World Champion team mate Vettel, winning the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix and now taking home the trophy for another iconic Grand Prix. Webber also managed to be a double winner of the Silverstone track as well as the 2nd double winner of this season. Tyres strategy played a key role in Webber's win over Alonso near the end of the race, but that should not take away from the beautiful yet aggressive way that Webber has driven in this race. Immense respect for Webber!
None of the British drivers were able to fulfill the home crowds' dream of a British driver on the top of the podium - Hamilton had no pace overall, Button was stuck way behind after qualifying 16th, and di Resta was taken out in Lap 1 since he made contact and received a puncture.
One thing to note is that McLaren's pit stops have FINALLY improved for this race. Their pit stop times have been quick and, more importantly, error-free. Hope they keep this up, every action counts in a tight race like this season.
There was also a bit of track drama that was caused by the incident between Maldonado and Perez in Lap 12 after they came out from the pit. Maldonado claimed another victim by nudging Perez off, causing both cars to spin around and ultimately an early retire for Perez. Perez had some harsh words to say to Maldonado, including juicy bits about all the drivers think Maldonado is reckless and have no respect for other drivers and for the sport. It's definitely easy to be on Perez's side when this is not the first time Maldonado brought troubles to another driver.
During the race broadcast, I spotted the Grid girl outfit. I had to do a double take because at first I thought flight attendance in red uniforms were hanging about in the grid, then I realize they are Grid girls instead. Can we get some more sass into those Grid girls outfits? I'm not looking for couture fashion, just more interesting and/or more stylish will do. What about the Best Post-race hair? This race was a tough one to call, all the podium winners' hair were pretty decent but no one stands out. I suppose if I really had to pick, Webber would be the Best post-race hair winner. I know, seems unfair for one person to win both the Grand Prix AND Best Post-race hair, but I had to keep the award as unpredictable as the race itself, it's tough work and someone has to do it!
Catch you in 2 weeks' time for the German Grand Prix 7/20 - 7/22!
// Introducing Benedict Wong, Guest Contributor
The Chinese GP preview is the first guest post from Benedict Wong, an F1 fan I befriended a couple years back. Benedict got hooked on F1 from 2008's Monaco race and still watches it because "there's no other sport that provides more thrilling entertainment than an F1 race!"
// Ready to Race
Finally, the three-week wait is over. The Chinese Grand Prix is upon us. I’m not sure about you, but weekends without races always feel a little empty to me. That emptiness may or may not have to do with my race weekend habits – gobbling down homemade Nutella pancakes with chocolate croissant while I glue myself to the qualifying and the race.
The last race in Malaysia was made ever more exciting with rain that I hope for some rain in Shanghai this weekend. I can never quite get over how the drivers can drive so fast with practically zero visibility in rain, except the blurry blinky light from the car in front. My natural instinct would be to pull over … and that’s why I’ll never be an F1 driver.
The season has been much more entertaining to watch compared to last season - no clear front runner, half the cars are competing on the tiniest margin on lap time, massive egos from six world champions. Personally, I’m hoping to see any or all of these this weekend:
- Maldonado actually finish a race
- Perez to kick some more a$$
- Webber making to the podium
- Crazy track antics from Schumacher
What are you hoping to see in the Chinese Grand Prix?
// Visual Preview
What does the Chinese GP look like? Check out our Pinterest board.
In the wee hours of the morning (in Austin, at least), Williams F1 Team revealed their car for the 2012 Formula One season: the Williams Renault FW34. Check it out:
// The Car
The 2012 F1 season marks the team's 35th year competing in the sport, but it's far from "business as usual." Williams has rejoined forces with Renault for the first time since 1997 and is hoping to add to their previous partnership's 63 race wins, 4 Drivers' and 5 Constructors' titles. The Renault engine is a V8 power unit "renowned for its drivability, flexibility and durability." As a result of revised FIA technical regulations, this year's contender uses less than 5% of the parts from last year's FW33 and features the dropped nose at the front of the car.
A new Technical Director, Mike Coughlan, is behind the design and development direction of the FW34 and is excited to race:
“We are really looking forward to this season and from a personal perspective I can't wait to get the FW34 on to the race track. The factory has worked extremely hard over the winter to ensure that the car met its design, build and rig test targets and we start testing with the car prepared to a high standard. We’ve worked in close co-operation with all of our partners to achieve that, including Renault Sport F1. In the run-up to Australia, we will be working hard with our exciting new driver line-up to ensure that we maximise and unlock the full potential of the FW34. It is imperative that we demonstrate a continuous improvement in our performance and deliver results throughout the season.”
// The Drivers
Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas return to the line up, as Driver and Official Reserve Driver, respectively, and they are joined by Driver Bruno Senna after a consideredable winter evaluation process. All three competitors are excited about the FW34, team synergy and opportunities for the 2012 season. Maldonado is excited for his home country of Venezuela and hopes to give them good results as a thank you for their continued support. Vottas is looking forward to driving one practice session at 15 races in order to give him a better understanding of the car outside of the factory. And Senna added:
“I’m very excited to be back in action with the Williams F1 Team in Jerez. This is my ever first pre-season testing programme since I started in Formula One two years ago. I’m really motivated and looking forward to working hard and with everyone in the team. I hope we have a successful month testing and developing the car so we arrive in Melbourne as well prepared as possible.”
Williams F1 Team will join their competitors during winter testing in Jerez, Spain this week. Maldonado will drive Tuesday and Wednesday and Senna will be behind the wheel Thursday and Friday.
// The Partners
In addition to new car, new engine, new driver and new technical direction, Williams is also excited to expand their partnerships with some names even Americans will recognize, including Gillette and Head & Shoulders. Will we will see any commercials of Bruno stepping out of the shower and shaking a full head of hair? I can picture it now...
Hitting even closer to home, Williams continues to develop their partnership with native Texan Michael Johnson. Johnson is a retired American sprinter who still holds Olympic records in sprinting in addition to four Olympic gold metals and eight world championship gold medals. Last month, Williams F1 Team announced their partnership with Johnson's company, Michael Johnson Performance, which focuses on training top athletes in all sports. His performance center is located about 250 miles north of Circuit of The Americas (outside Dallas, Texas) but he has been spending time with the Williams team gearing up for a promising 2012 season.
When Matt Jones, Head of Williams F1 Team's Marketing Services, visited Austin last month, it was evident that Williams is aligning a winning attitude with a dedication to excellence. You can sense Sir Frank Williams' excitement from today's launch:
“One could say that looking at the Williams F1 Team today we are off to a truly fresh start. We have a new car, new driver line up, new engine and new senior personnel. We also have a number of new partners who have joined the team in the past few months. I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome them formally and sincerely wish that they have an enjoyable and, most importantly, a valuable experience with us. The team has had a good winter at the factory and we feel ready and strong for the fight.”
But that's not it. Williams just activated a new application on Facebook that allows YOU to discover in-depth info on the FW34, technical videos, un-released stats and facts, driver interviews and more. Via this app, they'll reveal exclusive content and give you a chance to win a personalized signed image and framed print from Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna:
- Feb. 7 - Tech changes
- Feb. 10 - Engine & exhaust
- Feb. 14 - Chassis & aerodynamic parts
- Feb. 18 - Tires/tyres
- Feb. 23 - Transmission & suspension
- Feb. 27 - Cockpit & drivers
- Mar. 1 - DRS & KERS
- Mar. 5 - Pitstops
- Mar. 9 - Final Reveal
Kudos to Williams for creatively keeping fans engaged; it will have us coming back for more. Go check it out on their Williams F1 Team Facebook page.