Tag Archive | Maldonado

Spain – Qualifying – Maldonado on pole, Hamilton penalised

A dramatic qualifying session for tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix has resulted in Pastor Maldonado taking his first pole position. It is the first pole for the Williams team since Brazil 2010, and the first for the Williams-Renault partnership since 1997.

The surprises started in Q1 when Bruno Senna spun off while trying to progress to Q2. The Brazilian will be ruing his poor performance after team-mate Maldonado showed what the car can do.

Q2 saw the unexpected elimination of Jenson Button and Mark Webber. Button has struggled with the set-up of his McLaren all weekend, complaining of understeer throughout the practice sessions. Neither Red Bull seemed to have the pace to challenge at the front, and although Vettel managed to squeak into Q3, Webber was not so lucky, despite being only a tenth slower than his team-mate in Q2. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa seemed to re-discover his poor form, languishing down in 17th, while Alonso easily progressed to Q3. Maldonado topped the session, confirming indications from earlier in the weekend that the Williams FW34 works well around the Circuit de Catalunya.

The final session started with Sebastian Vettel going out on hard tyres for a very slow run, returning to the pits without completing a flying lap. The motivation for this strange tactic became clear when Vettel did not set a time in the session. He had simply been ensuring that he could save a new set of soft tyres for the race and also start first of the drivers who chose not to set a time in Q3. Michael Schumacher also chose not to set a time in Q3 in order to save a new set of soft tyres, and Kamui Kobayashi did not participate in the session, a hydraulics issue having forced him to stop on track at the end of Q2.

At the end of the session, Hamilton put in a last-minute stellar lap to beat Maldonado to pole by just over half a second. Fernando Alonso outperformed his car to qualify third, followed by the Lotus pair of Grosjean and Raikkonen, with Perez and Rosberg sixth and seventh respectively. And then the drama started.

On his in lap after taking pole, Hamilton was told by his team to stop the car on track. The immediate impression was that he must have been low on fuel. His car certainly wasn’t displaying any technical issues, having just set the fastest lap of the weekend. After the session was concluded, there was an announcement that Hamilton was under investigation by the stewards.

Article 6.6.2 of the Technical Regulations states:

“Competitors must ensure that a one litre sample of fuel may be taken from the car at any time during the Event.

“Except in cases of force majeure (accepted as such by the stewards of the meeting), if a sample of fuel is required after a practice session the car concerned must have first been driven back to the pits under its own power.”

The stewards found that Hamilton’s car had been under-fuelled due to an error by a member of the pit crew. There was no acceptable proof of force majeure, and so Hamilton was excluded from qualifying and will start the race 24th. That rather dramatic turn of events gives Maldonado his first pole position, the first in history for a Venezuelan driver. Hamilton’s penalty also means that Fernando Alonso will start second on the grid in front of his home crowd.

While Hamilton will be bitterly disappointed to start last after such a stunning performance in qualifying, his loss is the viewers’ gain, as we now get to watch him work his way up through the field. At the sharp end of the grid, it remains to be seen whether Maldonado can stay in front for an historic win, or if he will be beaten by a resurgent Alonso, or if a Lotus will top the podium for the first time this season. With both Red Bulls and both Mercedes cars a little further back than expected, there is likely to be a lot of action on the track. A thrilling race beckons.

The provisional starting grid is:

  1. Maldonado –  Williams
  2. Alonso – Ferrari
  3. Grosjean – Lotus
  4. Raikkonen – Lotus
  5. Perez – Sauber
  6. Rosberg – Mercedes
  7. Vettel – Red  Bull
  8. Schumacher – Mercedes
  9. Kobayashi – Sauber
  10. Button – McLaren
  11. Webber – Red Bull
  12. di Resta – Force India
  13. Hulkenberg – Force India
  14. Vergne – Toro Rosso
  15. Ricciardo – Toro Rosso
  16. Massa – Ferrari
  17. Senna – Williams
  18. Petrov – Caterham
  19. Kovalainen – Caterham
  20. Pic – Marussia
  21. Glock – Marussia
  22. de la Rosa – HRT
  23. Karthikeyan – HRT
  24. Hamilton – McLaren

Fit for Formula 1

The G-forces involved in driving an F1 car are far beyond anything an average person will ever experience. Under braking, drivers can be subjected to as much as 5G. Lateral forces in high-speed corners commonly exceed 3G. As a way of translating these numbers, the maximum braking force of a road car is around 1G. So if you’ve been braking as hard as possible on a good surface on a warm day with tyres in good shape and ABS fitted to your car, you might have felt about a fifth (at most) of the braking force of a Formula One car. If you brake as hard as possible in an F1 car, your lungs will be pressed up against your ribs by the G-forces, and the tears will be pulled out of your eyes.

If an average person were to drive a Formula One car – assuming the necessary skill, which is unlikely – the G-forces involved would probably overcome the body’s ability to cope within no more than a few laps. The toll on neck, shoulders, arms, etc. would make turning the steering wheel impossible. The forces involved in accelerating and braking would literally hinder breathing. It doesn’t look physically taxing on TV, but it’s just about the most demanding exercise possible, short of flying a fighter jet or a space-craft.

So Formula One drivers keep fit. And not just reasonably fit. They all spend a good part of each day in the gym, doing exercises that make it possible to withstand enormous G-forces for extended periods of time. Grand prix regulations specify a maximum race time of 2 hours. A practice session is no more than 90 minutes. So you might expect drivers to train to be able to drive for up to 2 hours, which really does sound long enough.

Today, Kamui Kobayashi drove his Sauber C31 for 145 laps of the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain during testing for the 2012 season. Each lap of the track is 4.655km. That’s a total of approximately 675km. If he had driven that far from Barcelona on the road, instead of the race track, he could have ended up in Lausanne, Switzerland. Starting in Cape Town, South Africa, he could have made it to within 100km of the Namibian border. In a Formula One car. A grand prix distance is approximately 305km. Kobayashi did that twice, and another 65km, in one day. The fitness required to do such a thing is almost beyond imagination.

Kobayashi is not the only driver able to cover such distances. Nico Rosberg of Mercedes covered 139 laps today. Pastor Maldonado of Williams drove for 134 laps. Three other drivers were on track for more than 100 laps. At the age of 43, Michael Schumacher drove his Mercedes yesterday for 127 laps. Any one of the 24 drivers contracted to race in 2012 would do the same mileage again tomorrow if required.

It often looks on television like driving an F1 car is easy, boring even. The casual viewer sees speed, glamour, wealth and fame, but often misses the gruelling and constant physical assault a Formula One car unleashes on a racing driver. They may seem like rich playboys who like to mess around on a race track on Sunday afternoons, but F1 drivers are probably the fittest sportsmen on Earth.

Williams driver schedule for Barcelona

Williams have announced their driver schedule for the two tests in Barcelona. The second pre-season test runs from 21 to 24 February and the third test takes place from 1-4 March.

Williams test and reserve driver Valtteri Bottas will haves his first taste of the FW34 on Wednesday. The rest of the testing will be completed by regular race drivers Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado.

The Williams schedule is as follows:

Pre-season test 2 – Barcelona – 21-24 February 2012:

Tuesday 21 February: Bruno Senna
Wednesday 22 February: Valtteri Bottas
Thursday 23 February: Pastor Maldonado
Friday 24 February: Pastor Maldonado

Pre-season test 3 – Barcelona – 1-4 March 2012:

Thursday 1 March: Pastor Maldonado
Friday 2 March: Bruno Senna / Pastor Maldonado
Saturday 3 March: Pastor Maldonado / Bruno Senna
Sunday 4 March: Bruno Senna

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