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Ted Kravitz - the Singapore Grand Prix from the pit lane

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F1 Mole | 08:00 UK time, Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Mole welcomes back BBC F1 pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz to the blog to give his inside line on the Singapore Grand Prix.

Brawn

The last few laps of the Singapore Grand Prix were agony for Ross Brawn and his engineers on the pit wall. As Lewis Hamilton crossed the finish line, they sat, expressionless, for a full 30 seconds until Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello crossed the line fifth and sixth, with next-to-no brakes. Only then did anyone say a word.

Strangely enough, telemetry sensors were reporting that the wear was acceptable, but the amount of carbon dust coming out of the front wheel spinners told a different story.

The Brawn team knew from first practice that their Brembo brakes were an issue. They were running very hot, so much so that the rear wheel fairings had to be removed to aid cooling.

It was a mark of how seldom Brawn feels the need to talk to Button during the race that he had to identify himself on the radio before telling his driver to bring the car home.

Button would have understood the subtext of that soothing voice: Brawn would be issuing the same instruction to Barrichello behind him, so Button knew he could back off and would not be challenged by his team-mate.

Barrichello may look back on Singapore as the race where his championship challenge ended. When he came in for his second stop, he couldn't engage neutral on the gearbox.

So Barrichello kept it in first while on the clutch in the pit box, and tried to exit without over-torquing the gearbox. Possibly too cautious, he stalled, and lost just under five seconds while the mechanics restarted the engine.

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Button beat him out of the pits by a little more than that five seconds, so while it might not turn out to be crucial in the championship, the stalled pit stop did hand back one place (and crucially some momentum) to Button as they go to Suzuka.

Observing Ross Brawn through the second half of the season, one gets the impression there is much more pressure on him now it is his name above the door.

During his time at Ferrari he always spoke about how he felt protected by the organisation headed by Jean Todt and Luca di Montezemolo, which left him to get on with his job of technically directing the team. Now he has to do both jobs, and while you'll never be able to tell it from our interviews, Brawn is feeling just as much pressure as his drivers.

McLaren

We wrote about the idea of Kimi Raikkonen moving back to McLaren on this website at the European Grand Prix, and I examined the likelihood in this column back after Belgium a week later. So remember where you read it first!

The rumour was Ferrari lawyer Henry Peter was in Singapore to hammer out a contract settlement with Raikkonen's management team, but I didn't see him in the paddock, so I can't confirm that. Not that he'd be so obvious as to do that deal in the paddock, of course.

There are a couple of things that I'd expect might be problematic if Raikkonen does 'go home' to McLaren.

First, he would be back under the command of their massive marketing company, and will be obliged to do all the appearances expected of a McLaren driver. The same ones he couldn't wait to get away from when he joined Ferrari.

And second, I wouldn't expect Lewis Hamilton would like having Raikkonen as a team-mate one bit.

Since Raikkonen left, McLaren has become Hamilton's team. But McLaren still hold Kimi in such high regard, that there could be a natural re-focusing on Raikkonen.

The problem comes if both win races. If this year's impressive development is anything to go by, McLaren should have the fastest car in F1 next year.

Could we see a repeat of 2007 with both McLaren drivers going for the title, both winning races but then losing the championship to someone else? To Fernando Alonso in a Ferrari, perhaps?

Red Bull

Mark Webber has a point when he argues that the rules about driving off the track and gaining an advantage are not being applied consistently.

Webber was forced wide by Alonso, so the Australian drove over the kerb and outside the circuit white line to avoid a collision.

I understand race director Charlie Whiting tells the drivers that if they put all four wheels off the circuit to gain or maintain a position, they have to give that place back or expect a penalty.

Webber highlighted Kimi Raikkonen's trip off the circuit on the first lap of the Belgian Grand Prix, which undoubtedly maintained him second place, but went unpunished.

Whiting will doubtless listen to Webber's viewpoint, but it's largely academic for Mark, whose race - and championship challenge - was ended by a brake disc failure.

BMW

I asked BMW team boss Mario Theissen if his engineers had run Nick Heidfeld underweight in qualifying deliberately to gain an advantage. His reply was: "If we'd done it deliberately, we wouldn't have told anyone about it."

To explain what happened: When Heidfeld's car came back from post qualifying scrutineering, BMW engineers weighed it and found it lighter than they expected.

Robert Kubica in his BMW during the Singapore Grand PrixKubica can claim one of Singapore's stellar drives for his battle to eighth place

They knew how much fuel they had put in and how much Nick had consumed, so BMW worked out that their zero fuel weight was less than the regulation 605kg.

On closer examination, they found that mechanics had mistakenly fitted ballast blocks that were too light.

What BMW could have done was to knowingly do the race with a car that was capable of being underweight at a certain time - namely at the end of a stint when the fuel was low.

At the final pit stop they would then put more fuel in than was necessary to do the last stint, but was enough to keep them over the weight limit.

Or Heidfeld could have drunk a few kilos of water, or worn heavy boots, that sort of thing.

Instead they very honestly pulled the car out of parc fermé, replaced the ballast to make the zero fuel weight and took the opportunity to use a ninth engine, becoming first team to do so this season.

In the other car, Robert Kubica drove his socks off for, as he described it, the most difficult point he has ever earned in his life. It was a massively impressive drive, right up there with Alonso's run to the podium.

Renault

Renault's new ING-free team clothes and race suits arrive in Japan this week. The only benefit of the orange title sponsor pulling out is that the car should end up looking much more colour-co-ordinated.

From the intense shockwaves that ran through the team all weekend, Alonso emerged to drive a fantastic race to score Renault's first podium of the season.

I got the feeling Alonso actually fed off the negativity that was directed Renault's way and he responded by picking up the team, putting it on his shoulders and driving the wheels off the car all weekend.

It now looks all but certain that Kubica will replace Alonso, which is a massive result for the beleaguered company. In Kubica, Renault have someone of Alonso's quality who is capable of winning races and scoring consistent points right from the start. He is someone around whom they can re-build their team.

Comments

  • 1. At 07:47am on 30 Sep 2009, lostin50 wrote:

    It's great to see Kimi going to a team where he is and will be appreciated. So will it be Rosberg to Brawn? I hope so, Nico deserves a car that can race for wins, not just potential podiums and he can definitely push Jenson. We can only feel sorry for Rubens, he is still a very class act and I hope he gets a drive for a top team though it seems places will be very limited, Williams maybe?

    Line up 2010

    Red Bull - Webber / Vettel
    Mclaren - Raikkonen / Hamilton
    Ferrari - Massa / Alonso
    Brawn - Button / Rosberg
    Renault - Kubica / Grosjean
    Williams - Barrichello / Hulkenberg
    Force I - Sutil / Liuzzi
    Toro R - Algesuari / Buemi

    I think that Toyota will pull out, Williams no longer want their engines, Jarno isn't getting any quicker and despite a good show in Singapour their 8 year investment has come to nothing, Jarno will retire which leaves Glock to find a new drive, possibly at Sauber with Heidfeld.
    The new teams will sctratch around with the remaining drivers for their first season at least.

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  • 2. At 08:05am on 30 Sep 2009, GreyHairedMickey wrote:

    Ted,

    Insightful as ever. However, I don't see Kimi's return to McLaren as a problem. I see drama, I see toys being thrown from prams, I see hard racing, I see unpredictable races . . . .I can't wait!

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  • 3. At 09:33am on 30 Sep 2009, Salvador_Limones wrote:

    How many safety cars, Ted??? :)

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  • 4. At 10:23am on 30 Sep 2009, cordas wrote:

    @2 - I don't even see that much of a problem.... I don't think Kimi cares who his team mate is, he just wants a fast (reliable) car that he can drive fast and then to go home. Hamilton seems to be the same, from what I saw as a fan it was mostly Alonso who did the dummy spitting at McLaren, every time the media tried to bait Lewis into having a go at Alonso he just laughed them off.

    I think Ferrari will have more problems if Massa returns in fighting form and determined to win himself a DWC, because I can see that making Alonso unhappy, and I think he is who Ferrari are wanting to build their team about to try and re-create the Schumi era. I think that Massa might well be out of Ferrari at the end of the next season as a very unhappy ex-driver.

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  • 5. At 10:40am on 30 Sep 2009, lostin50 wrote:

    Cordas

    I agree, Kimi gives the impression of not caring about his team mate, who he is what he is or where he is. Alonso on the other hand seems to hate any kind of competition in his own camp which is a pity because he is a very talented driver.

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  • 6. At 11:22am on 30 Sep 2009, FreddyOfGreggs wrote:

    I think the Kimi/Lewis partnership could be fantastic.

    We'll see 2 fast, aggressive drivers going at it - just what the sport always craves. Kimi won't care too much about who's on the other side of the garage, and will enjoy being in an oversteering car - perfect for Lewis, too. Hamilton shouldn't be bothered too much since Kimi's only going to be there a maximum of around 2 years at best.

    The one to look out for in terms of trouble will be Massa/Alonso - two fiery Latinos pitted against each other.

    Next year we'll have some very strong lineups.

    Button/Rosberg
    Raikkonen/Hamilton
    Webber/Vettel
    Massa/Alonso

    Could be a cracker.

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  • 7. At 11:29am on 30 Sep 2009, seisteve wrote:

    Two world Champions in any team is bound to cause problems, if the team have challenges like in this year and one car has new effective parts and the other doesn't which driver gets the new parts? If one driver needs the support of the other at a race.. who will decide which driver takes which role?

    Everything being equal... then this might be an interesting move, but it is very really equal in F1, Brawn is full of rumours of the two drivers engineers not sharing information for the good of the team if it gives them an advantage for one driver...

    I can only say... Martin, make sure you understand the risks!!!

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  • 8. At 11:33am on 30 Sep 2009, megajc2222 wrote:

    the big question is will massa and alonso get on remember what happened at the european gp in 2007. i hope raikkonen beats hamilton but it is going to be a fascinating battle

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  • 9. At 1:47pm on 30 Sep 2009, TobiasStuyts wrote:

    Ted,

    You are the best pit reporter out there! Well done. And with best, I mean the best! You take your job very seriously, and indeed, you knew 'all along' about Kimi.

    Can't wait for that move to be announced.

    Could you tell us when that is expected?

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  • 10. At 1:57pm on 30 Sep 2009, alcoholicmonkey wrote:

    I wonder what's going to happen to Kovalainen, on one hand McLaren are telling him he needs to prove himself yet they're not going to turn Kimi away?

    It's a shame for Kovalainen as he hasn't always had an equal car, understandably when a new part comes out it goes on Lewis' car but then it seems wrong to compare the two McLarens if they're not identical.

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  • 11. At 2:19pm on 30 Sep 2009, Carlonso wrote:

    Ted
    Can you confirm Kovalainen and Nelson Piquet Jnr driving the safety car for next year?

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  • 12. At 2:28pm on 30 Sep 2009, Amanbro wrote:

    Should be fantastic to see Kimi and Lewis in the same car to see who is the 'fastest' driver in F1. I don't think that there will be any animosity in their rivalry as Kimi seems to just enjoy driving an F1 car fast and not care about anything else.

    We should see the best of Alonso at Ferrari aswell since I'm sure the team will make him their number 1 driver. Alonso himeself admitted that he may not be the out-and-out fastest in F1 but he is very consistent. He will certainly make other drivers earn their victories. I hope that these three drivers will have cars competitive enough to challenge for the title. It will be a fantastic 2010 season if they do.

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  • 13. At 7:06pm on 30 Sep 2009, F1-mole wrote:

    I think raikkonen is a great driver but is a bit 2 full of himself. Okay thats his nature but teams want a driver who is enthusiastic about the car aand racing when all raikkonen wants is a quick car so he can race then its home time there is just no dedication by him

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  • 14. At 7:28pm on 30 Sep 2009, Gerrard_and_Torres wrote:

    I think Kimi'll end up at McLaren as well unfortunately. I don't like his attitude (and don't think Lewis will either) so I'd rather have Rosberg and let Kimi go off rallying.

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  • 15. At 7:33pm on 30 Sep 2009, cordas wrote:

    7. At 11:29am on 30 Sep 2009, seisteve wrote:

    Everything being equal... then this might be an interesting move, but it is very really equal in F1, Brawn is full of rumours of the two drivers engineers not sharing information for the good of the team if it gives them an advantage for one driver...

    What rumours? I have heard the press asking lots of questions about this, and everyone at Brawn saying its poppycock. Personally I take everything the media says with a pinch of salt at the best of times, and when they are trying to find a juicy story in the dream team... that pinch can be measured in tons!

    McLaren have developed 2 cars evenly in the past and I don't see why they can't do so again, they might decide to do it by limiting parts availability until they have enough for both cars (as Brawn are doing currently) or they might try something else. The question is will the drivers live with this, or will they try and tilt things in their own favour... as Alonso did, which saw him leaving the team at the end of his 1st season with McLaren (with what I imagine would have been a big McLaren shaped boot print on his rear end).

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  • 16. At 8:16pm on 30 Sep 2009, felipebaby wrote:

    Ted, thanks for great insight, as always. I have just a little comment: isn't the car after the race weighted without fuel? So either heavy boots for Nick and no advantage, or underweight, dsq.

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  • 17. At 4:55pm on 01 Oct 2009, Ben Jones wrote:

    I'm not so sure Lewis wouldn't like to see Raikkonen at Mclaren. Remember, the problem in 2007 was fernando's not lewis'. Lewis wants what's best for the team, and he wants to be challenging for drivers, AND constructors titles. Raikkonen certainly offers that.

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  • 18. At 00:42am on 02 Oct 2009, Welsh84 wrote:

    Great blog Ted,

    I'm so glad you picked up on the possible impact on Mclaren if kimi goes there. There is far too much hope in the UK that Alonso will have a repeat of 2007 at Ferrari with Massa but it seems that it would be a problem and it is all a know quantity before he joins.

    Since the Kimi/Mclaren rumors started I have been interested in the impact on Hamilton as I see this as the most potential for trouble. In the UK it is often washed over but Hamilton was as much to blame for the fall out and team collapse in 2007 as Alonso and he has enjoyed sudo number 1 status since.

    We all know Hamilton says he wants to race the best and doesn't mind who his teammate is but in reality hes not had anyone to unsettle him. As you mention Kimi back at 'home' in Mclaren and on form will beat or at least match Lewis and this will be when we see how he reacts.

    As they say its easier being the underdog like Lewis was in 2007 and what Kimi would be in 2010 as you have nothing to lose.

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  • 19. At 05:38am on 02 Oct 2009, smilingSpongeMuffin wrote:

    Look at this scenario.

    Japan. Barrichello comes 4th. Button finishes 8th. (74 -85)

    Brazil. Barrichello wins. Button 5th. (84 - 89)

    Abu Dhabi. Barrichello comes 3rd. Button finishes 9th. (90 - 89)

    Those are my predictions. This will make Barrichello the champion. This really reflects the recent form, and can't be considered to be a shock.

    So, this means that we are really very close to a situation where the world champion will be looking for a drive next year, as the teams are looking elsewhere.

    Does anyone agree with me that there seems to be a little bit of age discrimination here? He is very overlooked.

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  • 20. At 05:43am on 02 Oct 2009, smilingSpongeMuffin wrote:

    Does anyone think Webber will get to keep his drive? Since winning, he seems to have accepted it as the pinnacle of his career, and taken his foot off the gas. Maybe.

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  • 21. At 08:18am on 02 Oct 2009, smilingSpongeMuffin wrote:

    Another point about Alonso's expectations.

    Testing and financial restrictions have leveled the playing field, and Ferrari have been nose diving recently. Ross Brawn is not only no longer there, but racing against them. Ferrari is just a name, but the personnel are the important factor, and I don't think they have it. Alonso will be very disappointed.

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  • 22. At 12:50pm on 02 Oct 2009, jarversprocket wrote:

    What I cannot see is - what is the challenge for Kimi, if he returns to McLaren. I do not think he would have # 1 status , because the team is built around LH, and it does not seem likely that Kimi just wants to make up the numbers, therefore I am not convinced this is going to work for Kimi's motivation and morale??

    I suspect Kimi may end up at Toyota, where there could be a greater challenge, although whether he would see it that way might be the question. Does Kimi have the motivation and drive to try to drag Toyota up to the top flight ??

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  • 23. At 12:53pm on 02 Oct 2009, jarversprocket wrote:

    Re : 21,

    It seems that the F60 is a very difficult car to get the best out of, as seems to be demonstrated by Fisi's difficulties to get to grips with it.. I agree that the team is made up of the brains of the people in it.. and I hope that Ferrari have the wits to make a more driveable car for 2010..

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  • 24. At 2:05pm on 02 Oct 2009, doctorspike666 wrote:

    greetings fellow f1 fans,i watched the free practice sessions this morning from suzuka,wet,wet,wet,no running from the brawns,which is worrying,as we all know they need hot temps for the tyres to work and get the most from ross brawns fantastic car,it looks like its going to be a cool race,so i don't think the title will be won this wkend,both titles i think will go to brasil,rubens home circit,its going to be fun what ever happens,,lets hope mr webber will be less excited and not run into the back of the car in front of him,unless its young vittell.

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  • 25. At 4:11pm on 02 Oct 2009, Msheader wrote:

    Ted - Loved the little telling off you got interviewing Kimi "Ted its not a one to one" - always pushing for the fans cheers Ted

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  • 26. At 11:23pm on 02 Oct 2009, torinho69 wrote:

    Ted, Raikonnen going to Mclaren is the best move for the team as both him and Hamilton need to be pushed to the limits by a competitive team-mate.
    I would love Rubinho to do well, but it is not possible that he can find as a competitive drive as he has had this season.

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  • 27. At 11:37pm on 02 Oct 2009, torinho69 wrote:

    Ted, you are doing a sterling job for the fans in the pits!!! Keep it up!!!

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  • 28. At 05:02am on 04 Oct 2009, Party_Man wrote:

    Hamilton has picked up his phase with his Singapore win, but unfortunately it's too late for him to bag the championship title. Well, at least he is the current World Driver's Champion anyway. http://www.partypeepz.org/guything/2008/11/05/hamilton-2008-f1-world-drivers-champion/

    Better do good on 2010 Grand Prix. It seems Jenson Button will nail it for 2009.

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