BBC BLOGS - Andrew Benson

Archives for March 2012

Vettel collision: A champion under pressure?

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Andrew Benson | 12:47 UK time, Thursday, 29 March 2012

Sebastian Vettel's behaviour during and after the Malaysian Grand Prix has been causing a bit of a fuss in Germany over the past few days.

The media have lapped up his response to his collision with backmarker Narain Karthikeyan, in much the same way as their British counterparts would have done with a similar incident involving Lewis Hamilton, and Vettel has come in for a fair bit of criticism.

On the BBC after the race, Vettel called Karthikeyan an "idiot" for his role in the collision that cost the world champion fourth place.

Speaking in German, the word he chose was "cucumber" - a common insult in that country for bad drivers on the road.

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How McLaren got back to the top

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Andrew Benson | 18:46 UK time, Monday, 26 March 2012

Amid the widespread astonishment at how Fernando Alonso has found himself leading the world championship after two races despite driving the worst car Ferrari have produced for nearly 20 years, it has been somewhat overlooked that McLaren are topping the constructors' championship.

Victory for Jenson Button in Australia, two third places for Lewis Hamilton and two front row lock-outs have demonstrated that the MP4-27 is not only the best-looking car on the grid, it is also the fastest.

This is quite a turnaround from the last three years, when McLaren have been off the pace at the start of the season, putting their title challenge on the back foot before it had started.

The man responsible for this turnaround is McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe, who is in charge of the team's design and engineering.

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Alonso sets the standard

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Andrew Benson | 14:59 UK time, Sunday, 25 March 2012

Fernando Alonso's face as he stood on the top step of the podium said it all - a mixture of extreme satisfaction, delight and disbelief.

"Incredible, incredible," he said in Spanish in his television interviews immediately afterwards, and that seemed as good a summing up as any of one of the most remarkable and thrilling grands prix for some time.

Alonso's victory was the 28th of his career and it moved him ahead of Sir Jackie Stewart in the all-time list of winners - he is now behind only Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell, whose 31 wins are his next target.

The Ferrari team leader's presence in such celebrated company is a reminder, as if one was needed, of what a great grand prix driver Alonso is and it was appropriate that his drive on Sunday was one that befitted such a landmark.

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The two Kimi Raikkonens

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Andrew Benson | 13:00 UK time, Monday, 19 March 2012

There are, it turns out, two Kimi Raikkonens.

The public face of the 2007 world champion, who has returned to Formula 1 this season after two years in rallying, is of a monosyllabic, monotone, unsmiling figure, energised only the moment he steps into a racing car.

The one who emerges in private is very different - a talkative, jocular man, who can happily sit and shoot the breeze like anyone else.

As Lotus trackside operations director, Alan Permane has worked closely with Raikkonen since he joined the team last November.

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Button gets 2012 season off to a flier

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Andrew Benson | 10:06 UK time, Sunday, 18 March 2012

Albert Park, Melbourne
Statements of intent do not come much more emphatic than the one Jenson Button made with a dominant victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Crushingly superior in a straight fight with McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton, Button got off to the perfect start in a season that promises to be very different from Sebastian Vettel's one-sided championship win last year.

There were fears after McLaren's one-two in qualifying that they would run away in the race - and they proved to be half right.

Button left Hamilton behind and never looked like losing the race. It was a win as comfortable as any of the six in seven races he took at the start of 2009 to lay the foundations for his championship year with the Brawn team.

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New F1 season could prove unpredictable

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Andrew Benson | 09:47 UK time, Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Formula 1 teams arrived in Melbourne's Albert Park to be greeted by grey skies, intermittent rain and blustery wind. But not even the weather could dampen the palpable excitement and nervous tension.

The start of the new season is just a few hours away and everyone from world champions Red Bull to lowly HRT is desperate to find the answer to the question they have been asking all winter. Where will they be come Saturday and Sunday afternoons?

The F1 teams like to keep outsiders guessing before the first race by saying they don't know where they are in terms of competitiveness, but usually this is little more than kidology.

Such is their capacity to analyse data with massive super-computers that usually they have a very good idea of their position in relation to their rivals, despite the well-known difficulty of predicting form from pre-season testing.

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Ferrari's fate the foremost of many unknowns

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Andrew Benson | 13:44 UK time, Sunday, 4 March 2012

Kimi Raikkonen was to the point, as ever.

As pre-season testing wound to a close at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, the man who returns to Formula 1 this season after two years in rallying was asked how he felt the teams compared.

"In two weeks we know," the Lotus driver said. "There is no point to guess here. I don't know who's going to be fastest. Nobody knows."

Up and down the pit lane, drivers from other teams were expressing more or less the same view.

"McLaren look very strong," said Red Bull's Mark Webber. "And some of the other times done by other teams were pretty handy, too."

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