Saturday, September 12, 2009
Formula 1: A Brief History Of Jordan & Force India, Including Results From Today's Qualifying
Some people are unclear as to why Fisichella's performance at the last race was so damn surprising. The team started out in 1991 as Jordan Racing - even employing a young Michel Schumacher for his first F1 race ever (He crashed out). They were back-runners until Barrichello took the seat and in 1994 every race he finished except 1 was in the points - granted, he only finished half of the races. In 1999, Former F1 World Champion Damon Hill (Son of Graham Hill) and Heinz-Harald Frentzen took the team to a third place finish at the end of the season. Hill had a terrible season and retired at the end of it, but he was still able to score enough points to get Jordan on the podium. 1994 to 1999 were the good years though. After only getting points in two races in 2004, Eddie Jordan decided to sell, commenting that the era of privateer teams was over. He is now a pundit for BBC's F1 coverage. After the 2005 season Midland F1 racing picked the team up and failed to score a single point in 2006. Their highest finish was 9th. In 2007 the team switched to the control of Spyker, who managed to get Adrian Sutil (Above) into an 8th place spot for a single point in the 2007 season. Then Spyker sold the name to Force India. I think it really was because Spyker was just using F1 to gain a little bit of pedigree and experience for their fantastic street cars. They're still GT racing to this day.
Force India didn't score a single point in 2008 - the highest finish was a 10th for Fisichella. However, Sutil was running 4th in Monaco before being speared by Raikkonen with 6 laps left - and the whole situation became a cluster-fuck, as it usually does in the politics-heavy F1 - and Sutil didn't score. In 2009 he was running 6th in China with, you guessed it, 6 laps left when he aquaplaned and didn't score again. Then, in the lead-up to the 2009 European GP - the first race after the traditional summer break - they looked good, but choked, finishing a typical 10th and 11th after qualifying a typical 12th and 16th. Then the weekend after it Fisichella showed the fuck up! He put Force India on pole and held the lead for a few laps before taking his race to a 2nd place finish. Those 8 points are the most scored by this team since 2005 - and the only reason they got points there was because of the farce the US GP became that year - only six cars raced. So, excluding the fake 2005 US GP, last weekend Force India scored more points than they had since 2003, when Fisichella took the top step of the podium for Jordan during the rain-drenched, politics-infested, odd 700th GP in Brazil. So because the winner was decided in a boardroom we can exclude that race too and that means that since 2000 the team has never done as well as they did last weekend - it was uncontested, clean, and a huge surprise. That is why seeing Sutil go on to qualify 2nd, merely .2 seconds behind the leader, for Sunday's race is so incredible. I don't know what the team did over the summer break, but it bloody worked!
Qualifying is over, and the race begins on Sunday. Of course, the big shift is that Fisichella, who performed so well last race weekend for Force India, has switched to Ferrari and qualified 14th - good luck getting used to that new car. Kimi came 3rd in the other Ferrari on the track. Last year's champion, Lewis Hamilton, put himself on pole while Fisichella's old teammate, Adrian Sutil (above), qualified 2nd. Way to go Force India! Kovalainen took forth for McLaren-Mercedes and Brawn-Mercedes qualified 5th and 6th - Barrichello and Button respectively. In 7th on the grid is the other Force India car with Vitantonio Liuzzi at the wheel - test driver for the team for the past two years, and in his past he has beat Michel Shumacher. We'll see how he does on the track Sunday - good luck! Alonso put Renault in 8th. The sensation, Vettel, took 9th in his Red-Bull-Renault, followed .1 second back by his teammate. That's got to be a good feeling for a team boss - both my drivers are consistent, good, and the cars are at their tip-top shape.
We will see how things go at the fabled turns of Monza this weekend.
The Race: Sutil opened the day with the statement, "I will have to defend myself from the KERS cars quite vigorously - my strategy will be ruined if they all get past me." This made me laugh quite hard right before the race opened.
In the first lap (above is the 1st chicane on the 1st lap) Hamilton was barely able to hold off Raikkonen, who took Sutil at the start. Barrichello moved from 6th to 4th immediately while his teammate Button took Kovalainen to get to fifth. On lap two (below is the 1st chicane on the 2nd lap) Vitantonio Liuzzi gets up to sixth. By lap five Hamilton has a 3.5 second lead - is he running a light gas load or is he as fast as he was last year again? On lap seven it's out to 4.2. On lap 10 Hamilton has a 14 second lead over the pair of Brawns while Sutil is trying to overtake Raikkonen for second. Fisichella meanwhile, at his home race in a Ferrari - has to be a dream come true for him, Italian driver in the Italian GP in the Italian car in front of Italian fans - has only managed to move up to 11th by lap 12. By lap 14 Hamilton's dominating performance has netted him 6.8 seconds over the second place Raikkonen, who still has Sutil up his tailpipe, and 17 seconds of Barrichello. On lap 15 Hamilton pits from lead, emerging fifth, right in front of Liuzzi. Sutil has taken Raikkonen only to pit on lap 17. Race lead is Raikkonene, Barrichello, Button. Both Barrichello and Button are on a one-stop strategy and it's starting to pay off for them - they are ten seconds up on Hamilton. On lap 22 Liuzzi retires with a clutch issue. Damn. I was hoping Force India would put two drivers in the points - and Liuzzi is at his home track; poor guy. Vettel has slowly moved himself up to eighth place and is staying there after Liuzzi retires. On lap 28 Button comes in. Barrichello comes in on 29. Hamilton is now in the lead but he still has a stop to make while the Brawn teammates are free-and-clear to the end of the race. At this stage, it looks like Barricello could win this, putting Brawn further ahead in the championships. And Hamilton pits at lap 33, coming out behind the Brawns. In second, right behind Raikkonen, Sutil posts the race's fastest lap on lap 35 at 1:24.739. WOW! Way to go Sutil! Still can't pass Raikkonen.
Okay, here we go, the Raikkonen-Sutil showdown (below) happening all day is coming to a head in pit lane. Sutil is still up Raikkonen's tailpipe as they come into the pits on lap 36. Conceivably, as the Brawn teammates fly past, whoever gets out of the pits first should get 4th place. Oh no! Sutil brakes too late and knocks over some of his pit crew. Bad form Sutil, bad form! Wait! Raikkonen stalls and also knocks down a crew-member! Wow. It's a sucky day to be changing tyres. After all that drama, they emerge lockstep and in the same order as before. Meanwhile, Hamilton is closing on second-placed Jenson Button while Barrichello starts to pull away at the front. Got to love team tactics - Hamilton is faster, but if Button can hold him off, Barrichello has a shot at a win and Brawn earns valuable points. By lap 42 Sutil is desperate - both to pass Raikkonen and to not crash. On lap 42 Vettel slides off track and Red Bull misses out on some more points. On lap 47 Button, in second, is just 1.5 seconds ahead of Hamilton, but the two Brit's appear to be lapping the same times. Raikkonen and Sutil are 14 seconds off the battle for second. Barrichello is less than six seconds ahead of Hamilton. Damn! This is a race! On lap 48 a frustrated Timo Glock accidentally spins his team-mate Jarno Trulli. Good work back there boys.
It is coming down to it now. At the start of lap 50 we have two laps left. We are running Barricello with a pretty safe lead of 4 seconds; a second place battle for British pride between Jensen Button, former world champion and Brawn driver in second, and Lewis Hamilton, current champion and McLaren driver in third; the battle for fourth is still captivating as Sutil is probing Raikkonen every chance he gets. Nobody is making any time. At the start of lap 51 we are in the same order before there's a crash on course and IT'S LEWIS HAMILTON! He spins out of the race from third place with half a fucking lap to go! Oh man that has got to be a sucky feeling! As the safety car comes out due to Lewis' debris all over the track the time to pass has ended and it's final as they finally cross the line under yellow: Barrichello took the win - his third at Monza since begining in Formula 1 back in 1993 - in a brilliant Brawn 1-2 (below) with Button on the second step. Raikkonen took a well-deserved third ahead of Adrian Sutil who, I think, posted the fastest lap of the day and scored some valuable points for Force India. Great work Sutil!
Anthony Davidson on BBC Radio Five Live: "I think Lewis will have learned a lesson here today - even Michael Schumacher never stopped learning this - sometimes you have to just relax take it easy to bank the points. You really shouldn't be crashing out on the last lap - that sort of thing can make you look like a little bit of a fool." So true. Because of the crash Vettel got back up to eight and scored some points for Red Bull! Fernando Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen, and Nick Heidfeld were 5th, 6th, and 7th respectively. Because at the end of the season we may look back at this and realize this was the most important race of the season - has Brawn really dominated so strongly this year? - here are a plethora of quotes from the BBC after a picture explaining how a Brazilian, a Brit, and a Finn celebrate their podium:
Lewis Hamilton: "Every lap I was pushing like a qualifying lap. It's to be expected. We didn't have the pace so we were pushing hard - I did all I could to catch the Brawns and win it. The car was still good today, just not good enough. I can only apologise to my team and all my fans. But we have some upgrades coming and hopefully they will help us have a little bit more."
Martin Whitmarsh: "Lewis was pushing to the end. That's how he is. Obviously there's great disappointment at losing third spot, but he was pushing to the end. He had a purple sector in the first score of that last lap and he was trying to catch Jenson - we can criticise him, that's what makes him the great racing driver that he is."
Adrian Sutil: "I feel really good it was a great race for me and I really enjoyed it - even though it was a bit disappointing to be stuck behind the red car with kers for the whole race. I had a great start and we have got five points so we should all be happy."
Rubens Barrichello: "It is a winning year whatever happens. It's not long ago that we had no jobs, so we have to remember that. - the team have done a fantastic job. The strategy was great - the work on Friday was really good and that all helped us to get this result. I am going to give my very best, it's going to be a good and a healthy fight - I'm looking forward to it."
Kimi Raikkonen: "Third place was a little bit of a gift for us here but we need the points so it is great - it's nice to be on the podium it's much better than finishing fourth. It is frustrating to do everything you can do during the race and still finish so far back, but we need to keep going and get as many points as we can."
Jenson Button: "My lap times were good and I always felt I had good pace at the ends of my stints. Lewis started pushing at the end and the team were getting excited, but I think I had him covered - it's hard to pass here even with Kers. I don't know what happened to Lewis, if he made a mistake or had a failure. Obviously I'd rather be sat where Rubens is, but I have extended my lead over the Red Bulls. The man sat next to me here (Barrichello) is obviously my big rival for the title now. That's good, we get on great, but obviously we are both super competitive and want to win. It's just nice to be back on the podium."
Rubens Barrichello: "It feels great, I have no words. I had a tough night because we didn't know about the gearbox and there were some concerns. But we came though and I had a great first lap - that's what made my race. It felt great, amazing."
Ross Brawn: "I think you could see Jenson Button was very tidy and it was Lewis Hamilton who was looking ragged. It's difficult to hold your nerve, but we had to keep at it and do what we normally do. As for the championship race, all I ask from my drivers now is they compete fairly and openly - everything has got to be on top of the table, they have got to work together fairly - they are old enough to deal with it!"
The next race is the night race through the streets of Singapore. Such a sexy looking race last year. One of those pictures was the backdrop to my laptop for months. Looking forward to it on September 27th.
But next weekend, of course, is the tie-breaker. The final showdown of the year between Peugeot and Audi at the 10 hour Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. So excited!