Button takes victory in action-packed race at Melbourne

Jenson Button took his first victory for McLaren with a fantastic drive and an inspired tyre strategy in an action-packed Australian Grand Prix.

After many critics complained about the lack of on-track entertainment in the previous event in Bahrain, the race in Albert Park delivered in terms of intense battles and overtaking, all thanks to the rain!

The reigning world champion’s bold early switch from intermediates to slicks paid off, with the race that began in damp conditions. Even though Jenson tapped the former champion Fernando Alonso into a spin at the first corner which also damaged Michael Schumacher’s front wing, he was able to recover from this and benefitted Sebastian Vettel’s brake failure to take the chequered flag in style.

Renault’s Robert Kubica finished in a superb second position, holding off the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. While Nico Rosberg grabbing fifth for Mercedes after a late tangle between Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren and Mark Webber’s Red Bull.

In a direct contrast to the processional race in Sakhir, Melbourne provided thrills and spills, with the race commencing on a damp track.

As the 22-car the field approached Turn 1 for the first time, contact between the slow-starting Alonso and Button sent the Ferrari spinning into Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes, breaking the front wing, with Hamilton taking avoiding action with a trip across the grass.

But a far bigger accident occurred at Turn 6. Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi arrived at the corner missing a front wing and lacking downforce, speared into the wall before sledging back across the track and violently collecting both Sebastien Buemi’s Toro Rosso and Nico Hulkenberg’s Williams mid-corner. That shunt promoted a safety car.

Even though Red Bull Racing took the front row slot, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa made a superb getaway from fifth to split Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber on the opening lap. But the normal formation was resumed two laps after the restart. As the home favourite slipped pass the Brazilian into Turn 6.

The McLarens had ended up sixth and seventh once the first corner chaos unfolded, with Button in front until Hamilton dived past him into Turn 3 on lap six. Jenson then took a risk to pit for dry Bridgestone which initially looked like it was the wrong decision as he skittered over the gravel at Turn 3 on his out lap – but fastest sector times around the rest of the lap proved Button’s gamble was wise.

Soon the whole field took notice of Button’s purple sector times and although the two Red Bulls stayed out longer expecting more rain, both Vettel and Webber pitted for a fresh set of Bridgestone.

That pit-stop went well for Vettel as he rejoined the circuit in front of the all-form Button, who had vaulted to second position thanks to his inspired early tyre switch, but for Webber who pitted until lap ten, it was too late… As Kubica and Rosberg went passed followed by Massa as the Australian exited the pits.

Sebastian soon started to edge away from his rival Jenson, while Kubica and Rosberg dropping back from the two leaders. Behind them, we had an epic racing scenario, mostly involving drivers trying to get around Massa.

Webber surged down the inside of the Ferrari into Turn 1 on lap 15, with Hamilton immediately following the Red Bull through and then attacking Webber into Turn 3 – where both went wide, with the Australian going right over the gravel. That allowed Felipe back ahead of Lewis, while by the time Mark regained the asphalt the charging Fernando had also gone through, the Bahrain winner making an aggressive fightback following his first lap spin.

Six laps later Hamilton successfully passed Massa for fifth into Turn 1, despite the Ferrari’s best defensive efforts, with Alonso trying to do likewise into Turn 3, only to run wide on the still-damp extremes of the track and lose a place to Webber again!

Once free of Massa, Hamilton charged straight onto the gearbox of Rosberg’s Silver Arrows and took fourth with an incredible pass around the outside into the sixth gear Turn 11. That cost the McLaren momentum onto the next straight and Rosberg looked set to repass him into Turn 13 – but had to back off due to yellow flags as moments earlier race leader Vettel had slid into the gravel as his Red Bull suffered a brake failure.

Poor Sebastian. Yet again, he was driving well but to record another DNF is a major disappointment. Better reliability is needed if Red Bull Racing wants to win the championship.

With Vettel out of the race, Button found himself in the lead by six seconds over Kubica with Hamilton determined to get by.

By half-distance many drivers were struggling with tyre degradation on the soft compound once the track dried and for Hamilton, Rosberg and Webber, the trio made the decision to pit for a fresh set rubber.

Webber pitted on lap 31, and managed to get around Rosberg through Turns 2 and 3 as the Mercedes rejoined after its stop a lap later. Hamilton waited two laps longer and stayed ahead of the now-flying Webber, despite a scare at Turn 13 when he took to the grass but was able to muscle back in front of the Red Bull at Turn 14 as it too slid wide.

Button had no concerns about tyre wear and continued to pull away from the Sauber of Kubica, who now had both Ferraris hounding him, while half a minute behind Button, Hamilton, Webber and Rosberg made the most of their fresher tyres to take time advantage out of the leaders.

With eight laps left, Kubica, Massa, Alonso, Hamilton and Webber were running close together holding second to sixth positions, with Rosberg gaining on this train of cars as well. Hamilton’s tyres went off again in the Ferraris’ dirty air, but he still got alongside Alonso into Turn 13 two laps from the end. As Alonso kept Hamilton to the outside, Webber hit the back of the McLaren under braking, smashing the Red Bull’s front wing and spinning Hamilton through the gravel. The latter rejoined in sixth, with Webber falling to ninth spot.

This was a frustrating end for Lewis Hamilton’s trouble weekend and it was no surprise to hear the McLaren driver voicing his strong opinions after the chequered flag.

As for his team-mate Jenson Button, he stayed out of the mayhem – maintaining his tyres in perfect shape – to score his dream victory for the team. His margin over Kubica was a comfortable 12 seconds.

Although Adrian Sutil was an early retirement for Force India, team-mate Tonio Liuzzi managed to score again with seventh – passing Sauber’s Pedro de la Rosa earlier and then gaining another position when Rubens Barrichello decided to pit for new tyres and dropped from eighth to tenth. He then inherited seventh thanks to the Hamilton/Webber tangle.

As for Michael Schumacher, it was another sub-par performance for the seven-time world champion. It didn’t help that he was delayed in the first corner incident and he spent most of the other laps stuck behind Jaime Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso. Eventually he passed the young Spaniard and both were able to get pass the struggling de la Rosa, allowing Michael to at least salvage a point for Mercedes GP.

Heikki Kovalainen got to the finish for Lotus in P13, with Karun Chandhok also going the distance for Hispania in P14. A great achievement for the team considering the lack of testing. As for the other new team cars, Jarno Trulli didn’t make the start for Lotus due to hydraulic problems. Renault’s Vitaly Petrov was the other retirement, spinning into the gravel on lap nine.

So a fantastic result for Jenson Button and McLaren, but an even greater one for the sport’s reputation. After the heavy criticism following the season-opener Bahrain Grand Prix, the race in Melbourne provided many on-track action and incidents to entertain the fans. Perhaps the FIA should organise more racing events in the changeable weather conditions from now on?

Race results from Albert Park, 58 laps:

1.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           1h33:36.531
2.  Kubica        Renault                    +12.034
3.  Massa         Ferrari                    +14.488
4.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +16.304
5.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +16.683
6.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +29.898
7.  Liuzzi        Force India-Mercedes       +59.847
8.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +1:00.536
9.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +1:07.319
10. Schumacher    Mercedes                   +1:09.391
11. Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1:11.301
12. De la Rosa    Sauber-Ferrari             +1:14.084
13. Kovalainen    Lotus-Cosworth             +2 laps
14. Chandhok      HRT-Cosworth               +4 laps

Not classified/retirements:

Glock         Virgin-Cosworth              41 laps
Vettel        Red Bull-Renault             26 laps
Di Grassi     Virgin-Cosworth              25 laps
Sutil         Force India-Mercedes         12 laps
Petrov        Renault                      10 laps
Senna         HRT-Cosworth                 5 laps
Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari           1 lap
Hulkenberg    Williams-Cosworth            1 lap
Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari               1 lap
Trulli        Lotus-Cosworth               1 lap

World Championship standings, round 2:

1.  Alonso        37
2.  Massa         33
3.  Button        31
4.  Hamilton      23
5.  Rosberg       20
6.  Kubica        18
7.  Vettel        12
8.  Schumacher     9
9.  Liuzzi         8
10. Webber         6
11. Barrichello    5

1.  Ferrari                    70
2.  McLaren-Mercedes           54
3.  Mercedes                   29
4.  Red Bull-Renault           18
5.  Renault                    18
6.  Force India-Mercedes        8
7.  Williams-Cosworth           5

NEXT RACE: Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang. April 2-4.

Jack Bauer’s time is up as 24 ends

American television network Fox has confirmed that after eight seasons, 24 will air its series finale this year.

Emmy-award winning actor Kiefer Sutherland has commented that even though the news that 24 will not continue into Day 9, a movie version of the popular real-time drama is the next step to continue the franchise.

Still, it is very sad to hear that one of my favourite television drama is coming to an end. The acting and story-telling in the last eight years have been hit and miss to be honest, but the concept of real-time and split-screen action was a masterstroke in setting the overall feel of this show. We shall see the fate of CTU and Jack Bauer at the end of the current season and I look forward to the movie with great enthusiasm.

Anyway, read the full extract of the story in full below, as taken from Hollywood Insider:

Kiefer Sutherland told EW.com that producing a ninth season for another network like NBC was not an option because he and executive producer Howard Gordon were ready to call it quits.

“The writers are producing the equivalent of 12 films a year, which is unheard of, and Howard felt to do a ninth would be potentially damaging,” said Sutherland. “We both felt strongly that there has been a demand and an interest in a 24 film, which would be a two-hour representation of a 24-hour day, so we felt it was time to move in that direction.”

Sutherland promised the series finale would tee up the 24 movie that’s in the works at 20th Century Fox. Billy Ray (State of Play) is writing the screenplay. “We wanted to create a definitive end for Jack Bauer,” explains Sutherland. “Since we do have the intention to make the feature film, it would lead into that and certainly set that up.

“Something we’ve dealt with in the series is how the crisis always has to come to us because we don’t have time to move anywhere in a real time world,” he continued. “In a two-hour (movie) representation of the 24 world, planes, trains, and automobiles all of a sudden become a factor because you are not required to go scene by scene in real time. That’s something I can say I am very excited about.”

As for the actual series finale, Gordon told EW.com that he and Sutherland considered everything from a happy to a tragic ending for Jack Bauer and ended up with episodes that take some risks: “We go to a very definitive, very complex place.”

Source: The Hollywood Insider

Red Bull Racing front row in Melbourne

Sebastian Vetted and Mark Webber will start Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix from the front row after dominating the qualifying session in Melbourne.

The Adrian Newey designed RB6 was the class of the Formula One field around the 3.295-mile street circuit and both drivers were able to extract the extra performance to turn the session into a battle royale.

Vettel edged out his team-mate by just over a tenth of a second with a sensational lap. The young German recorded a time of one minute, 23.919 seconds (the only lap below the one minute, 24 seconds and in doing so, smashes the old lap record set by fellow countryman Michael Schumacher back in 2004).

Even that wild moment in the last timed sector – in which Sebastian kept his foot down on the throttle as the car snapped into oversteer – was unable to affect his lap time in taking that all-important pole position.

As for home crowd favourite Webber, he had the opportunity to take the top spot but lost crucial time in the middle sector of his best lap, having been fastest of all in sectors one and three. The Australian will start his home race in second.

Bahrain Grand Prix winner Fernando Alonso was the only contender to challenge the Red Bulls in qualifying. The Ferrari driver best time was one minute, 24.111 seconds, just under two tenths shy of pole position.

World champion Jenson Button was only fourth quickest but the gap between his McLaren and the leading Red Bull was a surprise. Just six tenths of a second! That difference in performance is a worry for Jenson, as he seeks to defend his drivers’ title from his rivals. McLaren will need to step up in order to challenge Red Bull for championship honours.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa lines up in sixth ahead of the Mercedes GP duo of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher – with the young German again out-qualifying his more experienced colleague – although the pair did struggle to get the best from the soft set of Bridgestone during the session.

Rubens Barrichello will start the race in eighth for Williams with Renault’s Robert Kubica in ninth while the fastest Force India of Adrian Sutil completed the top ten.

The surprise of Q2 was Lewis Hamilton’s failure to get through to Q3. The McLaren driver seemed to be struggling with his car balance (possibly caused by the tyre pressure) and missed out on the top-ten shootout by 0.064 seconds. He will start the Australian Grand Prix in a disappointing P11.

Behind the 2008 world champion, Sebastien Buemi lines up P12 for Toro Rosso ahead of Force India’s Vitantonio Liuzzi, BMW Sauber’s Pedro de la Rosa, Williams’ Nico Hulkenberg, BMW Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari and Renault’s Vitaly Petrov.

As expected, the six drivers at the three new teams were all eliminated in Q1. The HRT again propped up at the rear end of the grid – Bruno Senna taking P23 ahead of Karun Chandhok – but encouragingly got within six seconds of the outright pace in Q1 and within a second of Timo Glock’s faster Virgin Racing in P21. Team-mate Lucas di Grass will start the race in P22.

The Lotus Racing drivers finished up fastest of the new teams, with Heikki Kovalainen just over three tenths clear of team-mate Jarno Trulli.

Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix should be a better spectacle compared to the dull season opener in Bahrain. Many critics have complained about the lack of on-track action in particular overtaking. Hopefully the nature of this street circuit in Melbourne, with the concrete walls and the use of the safety car if there are accidents, will provide better entertainment.

Qualifying times from Albert Park:

1.  Vettel         Red Bull-Renault      1:23.919
2.  Webber         Red Bull-Renault      1:24.035
3.  Alonso         Ferrari               1:24.111
4.  Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1:24.675
5.  Massa          Ferrari               1:24.837
6.  Rosberg        Mercedes              1:24.884
7.  Schumacher     Mercedes              1:24.927
8.  Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth     1:25.217
9.  Kubica         Renault               1:25.372
10.  Sutil          Force India-Mercedes  1:26.036
11.  Hamilton       McLaren-Mercedes       1:25.184
12.  Buemi          Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:25.638
13.  Liuzzi         Force India-Mercedes  1:25.743
14.  de la Rosa     Sauber-Ferrari       1:25.747
15.  Hulkenberg     Williams-Cosworth     1:25.748
16.  Kobayashi      Sauber-Ferrari        1:25.777
17.  Alguersuari    Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1:26.089
18.  Petrov         Renault               1:26.471
19.  Kovalainen     Lotus-Cosworth        1:28.797
20.  Trulli         Lotus-Cosworth        1:29.111
21.  Glock          Virgin-Cosworth       1:29.592
22.  di Grassi      Virgin-Cosworth       1:30.185
23.  Senna          HRT-Cosworth          1:30.526
24.  Chandhok       HRT-Cosworth          1:30.613

Alonso heads Ferrari one-two

Fernando Alonso takes the first win of the new 2010 season leading a Ferrari one-two at the Bahrain International Circuit. Felipe Massa finishes in second with McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton in third.

This race victory is a dream scenario for Alonso. After a frustrating season with Renault, it’s fantastic to see the Spaniard winning on his debut at the Scuderia. That first corner move on his Ferrari team-mate was crucial. For Massa, to finish in second position following his horrifying accident last year is a great achievement.

As for Sebastian Vettel, who led from the opening lap in the Red Bull, his Luscious Liz suffered a technical failure (not the exhaust as reported earlier but in fact the engine) meaning a loss of power. A real shame as the German was driving faultlessly. To finish fourth was a small reward but at least the pace of the RB6 is good despite the reliability problem. Without that issue, it would have been a straightforward lights-to-flag win for Vettel and Red Bull Racing.

The Silver Arrows finished in fifth and sixth, with Nico Rosberg out-performing his more experience team-mate Michael Schumacher all weekend. The young German has certainly put his world champion colleague in the shade with consistent and impressive performances. In Michael’s case, he really needs to step up his game in order to stay competitive after three years out of the sport.

It was a difficult race for the current world champion Jenson Button. The McLaren driver spent most of the Grand Prix stuck behind slower cars including his old former team now rebranded as Mercedes. To finish seventh is not the ideal result to defend his title but better performance from McLaren will come.

Mark Webber had a trouble-free run to eighth despite his Red Bull emitting huge plumes of white smoke on the opening lap. Unsighted in the smoke, Renault’s Robert Kubica and Force India’s Adrian Sutil made contact and spun, although they recovered to finish the 49-lap race in eleventh and twelfth respectively.

Finishing in between the Renault-powered cars is Vitantonio Liuzzi in the Force India with Rubens Barrichello taking the final point-scoring position for Williams.

As for the Formula One rookies, this was a tough race for Nico Hulkenberg and Vitaly Petrov. For Hulkenberg, he lost control of his Williams around the tricky and twisting section of the Bahrain track. As for Petrov, he was forced to retire in the pits with a suspension problem. The Renault driver felt he may have caused this by hitting a kerb too hard but prior to this, he was making a steady progress.

Lotus F1 Racing should be extremely satisfied to get both cars to the chequered flag, with Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli within three seconds of the pace at times on their way to P15 and P16, although the Italian had to nurse a mechanical problem in the final laps.

The same cannot be said to Hispania and Virgin Racing sadly. With limited running in the build-up to the Bahrain Grand Prix, Karun Chandhok lost control of his car as early as lap two. While his team-mate Bruno Senna had a suspected hydraulic problem 16 laps later. Virgin Racing was also forced to retire both cars. Hydraulic issues stopping Lucas di Grassi after two laps with team-mate Timo Glock hitting gearbox trouble.

After setting some impressive lap times during testing, Sauber’s pace was very disappointing. Both Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi was forced to quit with hydraulic issues mid-race.

So a great result for Fernando Alonso, his first victory since the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix. It wasn’t the most exciting race after all the hype leading up to the Bahrain Grand Prix but in terms of competition between the top four teams, it is really close. Hopefully a better show in the following Australian Grand Prix will provide more entertainment and overtaking.

Race results, Bahrain Grand Prix. 49 laps:

1.  Alonso        Ferrari                    1h39:20.396
2.  Massa         Ferrari                    +16.099
3.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +23.182
4.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +38.713
5.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +40.263
6.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +44.180
7.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +45.260
8.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +46.308
9.  Liuzzi        Force India-Mercedes       +53.089
10.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth         +1:02.400
11.  Kubica        Renault                   +1:09.093
12.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes      +1:22.958
13.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari        +1:32.656
14.  Hulkenberg    Williams-Cosworth         +1 lap
15.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Cosworth            +1 lap
16.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari        +3 laps
17.  Trulli        Lotus-Cosworth            +3 laps

Fastest lap: Alonso, 1:58.287

Not classified/retirements:

De la Rosa    Sauber-Ferrari               30 laps
Senna         HRT-Cosworth                 18 laps
Glock         Virgin-Cosworth              17 laps
Petrov        Renault                      14 laps
Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari               12 laps
Di Grassi     Virgin-Cosworth              3 laps
Chandhok      HRT-Cosworth                 2 laps

World Championship standings, round 1:

1.  Alonso        25
2.  Massa         18
3.  Hamilton      15
4.  Vettel        12
5.  Rosberg       10
6.  Schumacher     8
7.  Button         6
8.  Webber         4
9.  Liuzzi         2
10.  Barrichello    1

1.  Ferrari                    43
2.  McLaren-Mercedes           21
3.  Mercedes                   18
4.  Red Bull-Renault           16
5.  Force India-Mercedes        2
6.  Williams-Cosworth           1

Next race: Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne. March 26-28.

Vettel takes pole position in Bahrain

Sebastian Vettel kicked off his 2010 campaign with a fine pole position for Red Bull Racing, holding off a strong challenge from the Scuderia at the Bahrain International Circuit.

The German needed just one single run at the end of qualifying three to displace the Ferrari of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso at the front of the expanded 24-car field. His time around the extended Bahrain track was one minute, 54.101 seconds, earning his sixth career pole.

As for the seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, making his Grand Prix comeback after three years away from the sport, the Mercedes driver could only manage seventh – one position ahead of the current world champion Jenson Button in the McLaren.

Fernando Alonso had held provisional pole early in Q3, as Ferrari opted to go for two qualifying runs in the final part of the session. But Vettel’s impressive lap time in his ‘Luscious Liz’ was 0.9 seconds quicker than the Spaniard’s initial best, and proved unbeatable as the others recorded their best time.

The Ferrari pair improved on their second attempt with Massa edging out his new team-mate by a margin of 0.366 seconds but it wasn’t enough to displace Vettel in the Red Bull RB6.

As for Lewis Hamilton, his first Q3 lap was a shock. He was nearly two seconds off the pace compared to the Ferraris and yet he was still a second down to Sebastian after improving to take fourth spot. Much focus has been on that controversial and yet clever snorkel/rear wing aero device fitted on the MP4-25, but the raw pace is somewhat lacking when compared to the Red Bull and Ferrari.

Even though all attention is on Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP team-mate Nico Rosberg is setting the better lap times in the other Silver Arrows. In fact, the young German has been consistently out-performing his more experienced colleague in all the sessions leading up to qualifying (as much as 0.5 seconds). The end result means Rosberg in P5 with M. Schumacher in seventh behind Mark Webber’s Red Bull.

What about the current world champion? Well, the new McLaren driver had a scare in Q2 when his first attempt was only the eleventh quickest time (not good enough to make into the top-ten shootout). Jenson improved slightly on his second run and just squeezed in – edging out his old Brawn GP colleague Rubens Barrichello – which eventually became eighth in Q3. Although Rubens will have the last laugh, as the Williams driver will start the Bahrain race with a fresh set of Bridgestone compared to Jenson’s used tyres.

Barrichello takes eleventh, with Force India’s Tonio Liuzzi between the Brazilian and Williams team-mate Nico Hulkenberg – who was the highest qualifying rookie as Renault’s Vitaly Petrov took P17 behind the Saubers (Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi) and Sebastien Buemi in the Toro Rosso.

As for the new teams, it was unlikely to see Lotus, Virgin Racing and Hispania making pass Q1 due to a lack of preparation.

In the defence of Virgin Racing, Timo Glock did a solid job in taking P19, just one place behind the Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari. The Lotus of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen took P20 and P21 respectively with newcomer Lucas di Grassi in P22 for Virgin.

As for the HRT team, Indian driver Karun Chandhon treated the qualifying session as a shakedown test due to hydraulic problems with the new car. With limited mileage, it was not a surprise to see Chandhon running ten seconds off the pace but at least he completed seven laps and was within 1.7 seconds to team-mate Bruno Senna, who had the extra time to drive the car during Friday’s practice sessions. The race will be a different matter as reliability will be a key issue.

Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix is going to be fascinating. Can Vettel translate this pole position into race victory? The race pace seems good though there might be an issue with tyre wear. As for the Ferraris, their performance has been excellent, lapping consistently and the F10 is handling well. Will we see Massa taking the chequered flag or a dream victory for Alonso? What about the Mercedes-powered cars? Can Rosberg and Hamilton spring a surprise? All this plus no refuelling will make the opening race of the 2010 Formula One season that bit more special.

Qualifying results, Bahrain:

1.  Vettel         Red Bull-Renault       1:54.101
2.  Massa          Ferrari                1:54.242
3.  Alonso         Ferrari                1:54.608
4.  Hamilton       McLaren-Mercedes       1:55.217
5.  Rosberg        Mercedes               1:55.241
6.  Webber         Red Bull-Renault       1:55.284
7.  Schumacher     Mercedes               1:55.524
8.  Button         McLaren-Mercedes       1:55.672
9.  Kubica         Renault                1:55.885
10.  Sutil          Force India-Mercedes   1:56.309
11.  Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth      1:55.330
12.  Liuzzi         Force India-Mercedes   1:55.653
13.  Hulkenberg     Williams-Cosworth      1:55.857
14.  de la Rosa     Sauber-Ferrari         1:56.237
15.  Buemi          Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:56.265
16.  Kobayashi      Sauber-Ferrari         1:56.270
17.  Petrov         Renault                1:56.619
18.  Alguersuari    Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:57.071
19.  Glock          Virgin-Cosworth        1:59.728
20.  Trulli         Lotus-Cosworth         1:59.852
21.  Kovalainen     Lotus-Cosworth         2:00.313
22.  di Grassi      Virgin-Cosworth        2:00.587
23.  Senna          HRT-Cosworth           2:03.240
24.  Chandhok       HRT-Cosworth           2:04.904

Plastic Beach and Stylo from Gorillaz

The highly anticipated third album from cartoon band Gorillaz is nearly upon us and thanks to the Guardian website and YouTube, we have the unique opportunity to listen to Plastic Beach and watch the official music video to Stylo.

With Plastic Beach, the album features guest performances by Snoop Dogg, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Kano, Bashy, Bobby Womack, Mos Def, Gruff Rhys, De La Soul, Little Dragon, Mark E. Smith, Lou Reed, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, sinfonia ViVA and The Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music. A large collaboration of artists working alongside the pioneers of the band – Blur’s frontman Damon Albarn and co-creator of the comic book Tank Girl, Jamie Hewlett.

After listening to the complete track listing on Guardian Music, I have to say it’s certainly different. Very cool and funky in fact. Best track so far is Empire Ants.

As for the music video Stylo, we follow our hero Murdoc Niccals on a dangerous trip to the mainland from his new home on Plastic Beach. Something goes badly wrong and Murdoc, Cyborg Noodle and 2D end up in a high-speed car chase with a local cop and an unknown assailant (clue: Yippie-kai-yay motherf*****!).

Looking forward to the new album which is out on March 8th.

Formula One 2010 Preview

A new Formula One season is upon us once again and with new drivers joining an expanded grid featuring new teams, this year’s world championship is likely to be the most unpredictable and exciting in the past six decades of the sport.

Entertaining the fans has become the number one priority as outlined by the sport’s governing body (the FIA) and the teams (FOTA) for 2010. With the KERS system dropped due to poor uptake (not to mention added weight), a new approach to racing has been introduced with significant changes to the Formula One rulebook.

Refuelling is now banned for the first time since 1993. This radical move to abolish fuel stops should improve on-track action, encouraging the drivers to overtake one other instead of relying on pit-stop strategies to gain track position. It will be intriguing to see the differences in performance due to the fuel levels. The cars will start off heavy (around 160kg of fuel) but as the race progress, the cars will go faster and faster as the fuel levels goes down. As for pit-stops, expect to see lighting-fast tye changing. The Williams team in particular have been practising and can change all four sets of tyres in three seconds!

A new points system has also been ratified for this season, in response to the increased grid and encouraging the drivers to overtake. Since 2003, points had been awarded to the top eight finishers with ten points for the winner, eight for second, six for third and all the way down to one for eighth place. For 2010 the winner will be awarded 25 points, 18 for second, with third receiving 15, 12 for fourth and then ten, eight, six, four, two, and one for tenth place.

As for qualifying, yet another change has been added to the three-part session due to more cars taking part. Qualifying one and two will see eight drivers eliminated in each with the remaining ten going for pole position in session three. However in qualifying three, the cars will run in low-fuel configuration but the drivers must use the same tyres into the race. This particular rule change will play a significant part in race strategies. Will the drivers conserve their tyres in the top-ten shootout by pacing themselves in order to have better grip at the start of the race but risking the penalty of a low grid position? Or should they just go for glory by claiming the best spots but be handicap at the beginning of the Grand Prix without any decent tyre performance?

Slick tyres supplied by Bridgestone remain but the drivers will now have just eleven sets of tyres over the Grand Prix weekend, down from fourteen in 2009. One set is to be returned before second practice and two before third practice. The top ten qualifiers must start the race on the partially used set with which they set their best lap time in Q3.

Time penalties added to a driver’s elapsed race time have been modified. A drive-through imposed in the last five laps will now incur a penalty of 20 seconds, while ten-second penalty will see 30 seconds added. Previously, both were penalised by an additional 25 seconds. As for serving these penalties during the race, previously the drivers could complete up to three laps before serving a drive-through or ten-second penalty. The rules have now changed to reduce this to just two laps, which minimises any advantage a driver can obtain before taking his punishment.

As for the aesthetics, the larger fuel tank has made the 2010-spec Formula One racing cars into limousines! With the weight of the car increased from 605kg to 620kg. Not to mention a narrower front tyre (from 270mm to 245mm in width – shifting the ideal weight distribution rearwards relative to 2009) has given the overall appearance of these cars a unique look when compared to last season, but at least those ugly wheel-rim covers have been banned! As for the controversial double diffuser, these sophisticated aero devices remain but it might harm the close racing aspect due to the ‘dirty air’ turbulence…

In terms of the drivers and teams taking part this season, it’s great to see the most successful driver of the modern generation – Michael Schumacher – back in Formula One. His neck injury that prevented him in taking part mid-season in 2009 is now gone and despite being the oldest driver on the grid (Schumacher turned 41 last January), his level of fitness and desire is as strong as ever. It will be fascinating to see the seven-time world champion racing against young pretenders with the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel. In fact, it’s fantastic to see four world champions (Schumacher, Alonso, Hamilton and Button) racing on the same piece of race track. As for the teams, four new outfits have join the establishment with the famous Lotus name making a re-appearance alongside Virgin Racing, Campos Meta 1 and USF1 although the latter is facing an uphill struggle in taking part in the very first race due to financial difficulties. Stefan GP could step-in if the American-based squad drops out.

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