Welcome to the Hooniverse Motorsport News. Last weekend, we had a combination of series running exceptional races. After a weekend like that, it’s hard to top. I’m not sure that this weekend has done so, but it has certainly come close. Anger and unrest in the Middle East have taken their toll on the Formula 1 grid and paddock. The show went on, but not for a lack of trying. The race itself was every bit as good as the last one in China. However, official numbers state that less than 40,000 people were there to see it go down, and the grandstands looked even emptier than that. Elsewhere, NASCAR was running at Kansas, none the wiser, and “upside down NASCAR”, the V8 Supercar Series was holding a double header in Hamilton. The excitement was never ending this weekend, and the action proved unstoppable, even molotov cocktails can’t keep the collective engine of motorsport chugging along. This report is aimed at telling you what you missed, and what you will miss in the near future. This round of Motorsport News will be filled with huge Mercedes-style “Double DRS” Spoilers.
- It never Bahrains, but it pours.
- V8 Supercars on the streets of Hamilton
- NASCAR spins their way through Tornado Alley.
- A few for the road…
Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix
With all of the civil unrest outside of the track, I was somehow expecting more of the same within the walls of the Sakhir circuit. The only thing upset at the circuit this week was the points order, and the balance of performance. F1 has seen its fourth different winner from a fourth constructor in only the first four races of the season.
Sebastian Vettel made the Bahrain Grand Prix look easy as he did exactly what he did in many Grand Prix last season, in that he pipped the pole away from everyone else by a narrow margin, and then drove away from the pack in the first corner, and proceeded to open up an acceptable lead. Once that lead was open, he just maintained for the next 57 laps to take his first victory of the 2012 Formula 1 season. With the win, Sebastian Vettel has moved into the championship lead in the process. There was some pressure from the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen, but similar to Pagenaud’s run at Long Beach last week, Kimi simply ran out of laps in which to make it happen.
Joining his Lotus-Renault teammate on the podium was an ecstatic Romain Grosjean, the 8th podium placed driver this season. The 3rd place was “Big John’s” first podium in Formula 1, and he was clearly happy about it. For every bit of happy that Romain was, Kimi was not. Kimi voiced his displeasure on the podium, as he looked longingly for the top step. While this podium was Raikkonen’s first since 2009, the want of a racing driver never dies.
Mark Webber took the fourth position (his fourth fourth of the season…all of them), locking out the top four positions by Renault powered engines. Where Mercedes engines dominated the last race, Renault did equally well this week.
So where were those Mercedes powered cars that did so well? Well, late in the race, a deep in the points Jenson Button was forced to come in to replace a deflated left rear Pirelli. Only a few laps later, he retired with what sounded like a failed exhaust. Lewis Hamilton gained a few points, but was held back in the order by two consecutive botched pitstops, and a third that was mediocre, costing him several seconds. Michael Schumacher did not make it out of Q1 in qualifying, and on top of that was given a gearbox penalty, forcing him to start from the 22nd position. All of that not-withstanding, Schumacher managed to score a single point by driving from 22nd to tenth. Last week’s victor, Nico Rosberg, had a poor start, slipping to 9th on the first lap. He later recovered to finish 5th, even after slowing to save fuel.
Felipe Massa scored his first two championship points of the season with a 9th place finish.
Race 1 –
Will Davison stretched his V8 Supercars points lead by taking his third victory of the 2012 season on the streets of Hamilton in New Zealand.
The FPR driver came through from a sixth place starting position, all the way to the win, as Jamie Whincup beat polesitter Garth Tander (HRT) to second, and Craig Lowndes chased them home.
On lap 27, Davison executed the pass at the entry to turn one, and outdragged down the straight for the position. Once in the lead, he held it.
Race 2 –
Mark Winterbottom resisted a fast-closing Jamie Whincup to take his first points-paying victory of the 2012 V8 Supercars season in the series’ final Hamilton street race.
Whincup had crashed in qualifying, and executed a poor start. He was forced to overcome this, and hunted down Winterbottom with a renewed vigor. In the final few laps, Whincup was all over Frosty’s rear bumper, but Winterbottom prevailed. His Ford crossed the line only 0.7 seconds ahead, giving the Hamilton crowd a thrilling finish.
Although Winterbottom has come home victorious four times this season, this is the first of his victories that will count toward his points total, as the other three were non-championship exhibition races.
STP 400 in Kansas
Denny Hamlin took his second NASCAR Sprint Cup win of the season by beating a front-running Martin Truex Jr to a Kansas Speedway victory upset.
Truex seemed in position to give Michael Waltrip Racing their first win of the season as he led the vast majority of the laps in this event. As the clouds cleared, however, Truex was forced to deal with loose conditions during the final run to the flag after the last round of pitstops.
Hamlin made the pass for the lead on the inside at Turn 3 with 31 laps remaining and was able to remain up front despite Truex charging back to put the pressure on him in the last few laps. The MWR racer eventually tried to dive down the inside of Hamlin twice in desperate attempts to reclaim the lead, but it was not enough to keep Hamlin out of victory lane.
“When we came out from that final green-flag pitstop and we were side-by-side, I knew that that was pretty much the race for the win,” said Hamlin. “When he cleared me I though it was over and we just kind of got in a rhythm there, he continued to fight with the car and we were able to make the pass.”
Tony Stewart was the final car to finish on the lead lap, in 13th.
A few for the road…
As we reported last Monday, there was a bit of…contretemps between two youthful American IndyCar drivers. Because of the incident, an insuing Twitter rage battle hurt the feelings of some (and made me laugh my ass off), while a 6 race probation was placed on the head of Graham Rahal for “blocking”. I can say that I don’t agree with the infraction, and place more blame on the rear-ending driver. No matter your opinion, it certainly isn’t the outcome anyone hopes for.
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