Pit timings prove undoing
AFTER qualifying on the front row of the grid at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia last Sunday, Lewis Hamilton (Mclaren Mercedes) and his teammate Jensen Button looked set to replicate their recent “one-two” AGP win in Melbourne.
However, Mother Nature took control with intermittent showers greeting the field at the green. It was Fernando Alonso and his Ferrari Team who mastered the changing conditions and controlled the race. Following a 51-minute stoppage due to the rain, Alonso, who qualified ninth and had already climbed to fifth, skillfully drove into the lead which he held to the chequered flag.
The almost-unknown Sergio Perez (Sauber-ferrari) finished second and was closing on Alonso. Team owner Peter Sauber was in tears after the race. After qualifying fourth Mark Webber drove skillfully and stayed on the “black stuff” to claim his second fourth placing of the season.
He lost track position in ill-timed pit stops to change to intermediate tyres and then “slicks” as the track dried. Daniel Ricciardo ( Red Bull Ferrari), after qualifying 15th, fell back to 18th before repeating his sterling drive in Melbourne to finish ninth again.
Alonso now leads the championship with Webber fourth and Ricciardo 15th. Defending champion Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Renault) did not manage the changing conditions, finishing 11th.
WHELDON REMEMBERED IN OPENER
THE opening round of the Indy Racing League Championship at St Petersburg in Florida was tinged with sadness, being the first race since Dan Wheldon lost his life in the final round at Las Vegas last year.
Drivers and teams were uneasy and sadness was apparent. Dan’s sister Holly Wheldon waved the green flag for the start of the race (pictured inset).
However three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Brazil’s Helio Castroneves controlled his emotions to drive through the field to a lead which he held until the end. Ironically, on his victory lap, the car ran out of fuel near the sign marking a stretch of the circuit named the Dan Wheldon Way in his good friend’s honour. Wheldon lost his life in a fiery 350km/h, 14-car crash in the last round of 2011. Castroneves (above) climbed the fence, touched the sign several times and choked back tears. Once down, he knelt and said a prayer.
Former Toowoomba Formula Ford racer Will Power, after qualifying on the pole, looked to have the race in his grasp. However, an ill-timed pit stop prior to a “yellow” (the caution flag where cars could pit and not lose touch with the slow-moving field) saw him back in 15th place. Despite this, Power drove skillfully to finish seventh. Reigning IRL Champion Dario Franchitti also had a less than ideal day, finishing 13th.
F1 convert Rubens Barichello finished his first IRL race in 17th place.
Round two is on a road course in Birmingham, Alabama, this weekend where Power is expected to make up for his dismal start to the season.
Geoff Brabham’s son Matthew finished second in both races in the USF2000 Series, a support event at St Petersburg, and sits in second in the championship.
It goes without saying that incessant heavy rain has damaged many roads and caused washouts and landslides. While the road repair teams are doing a stellar job in difficult conditions, motorists are advised to expect less tyre grip, less control, causing potential crash situations, especially until repairs are completed after the
SUSUPERCARS TAKE TO TASSIE
R ROUND two of the V8 Supercar C Championship will be raced at Symmons Plains in Tasmania this weekend. Will D Davison (FPR Falcon) leads from defending c champion Jamie Whincup (888 Commodore) with w Garth Tander (HRT Commodore) and Davison’s Dav teammate, Mark Winterbotton, fourth. For the first time in a long time, the Fords have taken it up to the Holdens. The tight layout of Symmons Plains P will no doubt ensure “cut and thrust” racing this weekend.
As Ford and Holden are looking to secure engines from America for the new “Car of the Future” which will debut next year, the Kelly Racing Team’s Nissan V8 Supercars are beginning to take shape. To be sold in Australia next year, the all-new Nissan Altima will be the car contesting the championship.
The Altima was previously only sold in North America and Japan, however it will be sold in Australia from next year. The engine will be based on the 5.6-litre V8 upon which the Nissan GT-R GT1’S motor is based. >>Read about the new Nissan GT-R coupe on P9.