Raikkonen makes Formula One return with Lotus Renault

Kimi Raikkonen will return to Formula One racing next season following the news announcement at Lotus Renault.

The Iceman, who left the sport at the end of 2009 season after being dropped by Scuderia Ferrari, had been in talks with the Williams team about a possible return next year, but the deal fell through.

From that a speculation of a Renault tie-up was push forward, with team principal Eric Boullier confirming in Brazil last weekend that the Finn was on the shortlist of candidates for 2012 – when his outfit will be renamed Lotus.

Speaking about his return, Raikkonen said: “I’m delighted to be coming back to Formula 1 after a two-year break, and I’m grateful to Lotus Renault GP for offering me this opportunity. My time in the World Rally Championship has been a useful stage in my career as a driver, but I can’t deny the fact that my hunger for F1 has recently become overwhelming.

“It was an easy choice to return with Lotus Renault GP as I have been impressed by the scope of the team’s ambition. Now I’m looking forward to playing an important role in pushing the team to the very front of the grid.”

Team owner Gerard Lopez added: “All year long, we kept saying that our team was at the start of a brand new cycle. Backstage we’ve been working hard to build the foundations of a successful structure and to ensure that we would soon be able to fight at the highest level.

“Kimi’s decision to come back to Formula 1 with us is the first step of several announcements which should turn us into an even more serious contender in the future. Of course, we are all looking forward to working with a world champion. On behalf of our staff, I’d like to welcome Kimi to Enstone, a setting that has always been known for its human approach to Formula 1.”

Raikkonen, 32, moved from Formula 1 to the World Rally Championship in 2010, where he spent the last two seasons while also competing in one race of the NASCAR Truck series and one Nationwide event.

The Finn won the Formula 1 world championship in 2007 with Ferrari, having scored a total of 18 wins since he made his Grand Prix debut in 2001 with Sauber.

Renault was forced to search for another driver after Robert Kubica confirmed last week that he would not be ready to start the 2012 season following his dramatic accident in February.

Raikkonen’s return means a record six world champions will compete alongside each other. He joins Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher.

It will be fascinating to see how the Iceman will cope with the new Pirelli tyres, KERS and DRS since he last left the sport.

Video interview with Kimi Raikkonen:

Webber victorious in season finale

Mark Webber ended the perfect season for Red Bull Racing with victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

It has been a long time coming for the Australian considering the ultra success of his team-mate Sebastian Vettel. To take his first win in the season finale is much of a relief and a good way to sign off the year.

For Sebastian Vettel, the double world champion had to nurse his car following a gearbox issue. The young German did a great job in making it to the chequered flag and taking second position is quite impressive considering the circumstance.

As for Jenson Button, the McLaren driver secured the runner-up spot in the championship with third.

The pace of the Red Bulls at Interlagos was immense, with Vettel holding the lead at the start. Team-mate Webber was able to fend off the others for P2 despite a slightly slower getaway off the grid.

Vettel soon opened up a stable three-second gap to Webber, as the Red Bull duo left the rest in their wake at a rate of around a second per lap.

But from the early laps Vettel was receiving radio messages warning him to short-shift second and third gear to nurse a developing gearbox problem, and as the warnings became more urgent, his pace slowed enough for Webber to sweep past and into the lead on lap 29.

With Webber as the new leader, the Australian took advantage and went on to take his first win since last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix. As for Vettel, he had enough pace to hang on for second position.

He was helped by McLaren’s Jenson Button and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso battling over third spot. Alonso passed Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren at the start, and then claimed P3 from Button with a spectacular move around the outside at Ferradura on lap 11.

Alonso then pulled away, only to lose pace on the harder Prime tyre in his final stint, allowing Button to catch and re-pass him nine laps from the flag with an easy DRS manoeuvre.

Hamilton was set to battle with Felipe Massa for fifth – with the Brazilian pitting twice while the others adopted the three pit-stop strategy – until a gearbox failure halted the McLaren, ensuring the Ferrari could keep the track position.

Adrian Sutil claimed sixth place after an entertaining battle with Nico Rosberg. He passed the Mercedes driver heading into the Senna S only to be out-done on the brakes by Rosberg and fall back behind.

Sutil tried again on the next lap and this time squeezed Rosberg towards the inside of the corner to be sure of taking the place.

Behind them came Paul di Resta, coping with KERS and gearbox problems, cementing Force India’s sixth place in the championship. They ended the year just four points behind Renault with Vitaly Petrov taking tenth at the flag.

His Renault team-mate Bruno Senna clashed with Michael Schumacher at the Senna S early on, giving the Mercedes a left-rear puncture. The race stewards handed out Senna a drive-through penalty for the collision and with gearbox troubles also developing, he fell to P17, while Schumacher got back to P15.

Rubens Barrichello was unable to score in what could be his final Grand Prix appearance. A poor start dropped the Williams to P21 but he was able to recover to P14.

So a great season finale in Brazil. The threat of rain never made an appearance despite different weather forecasts but after waiting all year, Mark Webber took the dominant RB7 to his seventh career victory.

The Australian recorded the fastest lap on the final lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix. The closest non-Red Bull finisher was almost half a minute behind.

Despite his gearbox problem, Sebastian Vettel ended up almost 17 seconds behind his team-mate, and over ten clear of Jenson Button.

It served only to underline the dominance of Red Bull throughout the season, and particularly in the second half. Their rivals have much to do in the next two months before testing for the 2012 season resumes.

Brazilian Grand Prix race results, 71 laps:

1.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           1h32:17.434
2.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +16.983
3.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +27.638
4.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +35.048
5.  Massa         Ferrari                    +1:06.733
6.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +1 lap
7.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +1 lap
8.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +1 lap
9.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +1 lap
10.  Petrov        Renault                    +1 lap
11.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
12.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
13.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +1 lap
14.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +1 lap
15.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +1 lap
16.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault              +2 laps
17.  Senna         Renault                    +2 laps
18.  Trulli        Lotus-Renault              +2 laps
19.  D’Ambrosio    Virgin-Cosworth            +3 laps
20.  Ricciardo     HRT-Cosworth               +3 laps

Fastest lap: Webber, 1:15.324

Not classified/retirements:

Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth                 62 laps
Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes             37 laps
Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth            27 laps
Glock         Virgin-Cosworth              22 laps

World Championship standings, round 19:

1.  Vettel       392
2.  Button       270
3.  Webber       258
4.  Alonso       257
5.  Hamilton     227
6.  Massa        118
7.  Rosberg       89
8.  Schumacher    76
9.  Sutil         42
10.  Petrov        37
11.  Heidfeld      34
12.  Kobayashi     30
13.  Di Resta      27
14.  Alguersuari   26
15.  Buemi         15
16.  Perez         14
17.  Barrichello    4
18.  Senna          2
19.  Maldonado      1

1.  Red Bull-Renault          650
2.  McLaren-Mercedes          497
3.  Ferrari                   375
4.  Mercedes                  165
5.  Renault                    73
6.  Force India-Mercedes       69
7.  Sauber-Ferrari             44
8.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari         41
9.  Williams-Cosworth           5

Vettel sets new qualifying record in Brazil

After becoming the youngest double world champion in Japan and leading every lap in the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel continues to set new records with his fifteenth pole position at Interlagos.

To equal Nigel Mansell’s 1992 record with 14 poles is impressive but what Sebastian Vettel has achieved this season is nothing short of remarkable.

The Red Bull Racing driver was quickest in Q2 and in the all-important top ten shootout, Vettel went even faster setting the initial lap time of one minute, 12.268 seconds. On his second run in Q3, the world champion improved with one minute, 11.918 seconds.

Mark Webber made it an all-Red Bull front row, winning a battle over McLaren’s Q1 pacesetter Jenson Button, who overcame his Interlagos qualifying disasters to take third position.

It seemed that Button would be starting the Brazilian Grand Prix on the front row, but in the final few moments of Q3, Webber came through with a time of one minute, 12.099 seconds to snatch the position.

Sporting a Senna-style helmet, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was only fourth with a lap time of one minute, 12.480 seconds.

The Scuderias took fifth and seventh with Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes in between Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. Rosberg had earlier set a superb time in Q2 with second fastest. His Mercedes team-mate Michael Schumacher didn’t even bother setting a lap in Q3 in order to save a set of Pirellis and will start the race in tenth.

Force India’s Adrian Sutil took eighth ahead of Bruno Senna, who impressed on home ground to deliver a now rare Q3 appearance for Renault.

Outside the top ten, Rubens Barrichello produced a strong performance to get his Williams up to P12 for what may be his last Grand Prix start.

Paul di Resta and Vitaly Petrov could not match their respective team-mates and will line up in P11 and P16. While the Toro Rossos will share row seven, followed by the Saubers.

Pastor Maldonado was half a second down on his Williams team-mate Rubens Barrichello and was unfortunately knocked out in Q1. He will start in P18.

The new rear wing on the Lotus did not bring the hoped-for Q2 progress, however the team did move a step closer to those ahead with Heikki Kovalainen within half a second of Toro Rosso, Sauber and Williams pace.

HRT managed to get both its cars ahead of Virgin Racing, while Jerome D’Ambrosio outqualified Timo Glock in what could well be his final Virgin outing before being replaced by Charles Pic.

Qualifying positions from Interlagos:

1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m11.918s
2.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m12.099s
3.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m12.283s
4.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m12.480s
5.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m12.591s
6.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m13.050s
7.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m13.068s
8.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1m13.298s
9.  Bruno Senna           Renault              1m13.761s
10.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes    No time
11.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m13.584s
12.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1m13.801s
13.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m13.804s
14.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m13.919s
15.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              1m14.053s
16.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m14.129s
17.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m14.182s
18.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    1m14.625s
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m15.068s
20.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault        1m15.358s
21.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth         1m16.631s
22.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth         1m16.890s
23.  Jerome D’Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m17.019s
24.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m17.060s

107 per cent time: 1m18.410s

The iPhone 4S – one month on

So how is it? Was it worth the upgrade? How is Siri? How’s the battery life? Camera any good? Phone fast enough? iOS 5 any good? Do I miss jailbreaking? Hopefully in the next few (or more) words, I’ll be able to explain my thoughts on Apple’s new phone, the iPhone 4S.

The major reason for me upgrading was that my contract with O2 was at an end and I wanted a change. 3G coverage with O2 is terrible (in my area at least). At work, 3 was the only one with a 3G signal and their all you can eat data plan with the ‘One Plan’ is the only plan on any network for non business users. Deal. So far they have been exceptional with the ability to stream content at work (useful for lunchtime entertainment) and great coverage and speeds. I get 4-5mb at work with a mate’s iPhone 4 getting at least 2mb less, so at least the HSDPA+ abilities of the 4s are a great bonus. In stronger areas I get 6-8mb, which is great for iTunes downloads on the fly. Not close to it’s max rated speeds, but that’s not Apple’s fault and we’re even less likely to reach those than the US.

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Hamilton benefits from Vettel’s puncture to win

Lewis Hamilton took his third victory of the season at the Yas Marina circuit following the retirement of Sebastian Vettel who suffered a puncture on the opening lap.

It had been a tough couple of months for the McLaren driver, following his public break-up from his Pussycat Doll girlfriend and his collisions with Felipe Massa, so this victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a much welcome relief.

Fernando Alonso was a close second for Ferrari, with Jenson Button completing the podium despite KERS issues on his McLaren.

Vettel made a good start from pole position but approaching the second corner, his Red Bull went into a wild spin due to a result of a deflated right-rear tyre.

The world champion tried to nurse his car back to the pits, but the flailing rubber had already done too much damage to the rear suspension, so Vettel posted his first retirement since last year’s Korean Grand Prix.

That put Hamilton into the lead, with Alonso in second having passed Mark Webber’s Red Bull at the start and then gone around the outside of Button at the end of the back straight to secure second.

There was little to choose between the McLaren and Ferrari for most of the rest of the race – with the gap never more than a second. The Scuderia tried to gain an advantage by running longer before Alonso’s second pit-stop, but to no avail, and in the final stint Hamilton’s lead grew to more comfortable levels as the 2008 world champion headed towards his third victory in an often-troubled 2011 season.

After losing time with a stubborn wheel at his first pit-stop, Webber tried to regain lost ground with a three-stop strategy that saw the Australian only change to the harder Pirellis on the very last lap.

That did not allow him to beat Button – with whom he had battled fiercely for much of the Grand Prix – but Webber did take fourth, helped by Felipe Massa’s challenge fading when the Ferrari had a spin with six laps to the chequered flag. The Brazilian quickly rejoined to take fifth position.

The Silver Arrows of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher had a spectacular early battle, won by the younger German, who went on to take sixth. Schumacher narrowly beat Force India’s Adrian Sutil to seventh place. Sutil’s team-mate Paul di Resta and Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber completed the points scorers, the former pulling off a one-stop strategy.

Just outside the top ten, Rubens Barrichello ended the Williams team’s awful weekend on a slightly brighter note by charging from the back of the grid to P12, right on the back of Sauber’s Sergio Perez and ahead of Vitaly Petrov’s Renault.

As for Pastor Maldonado, the Williams driver received a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags but managed to finish the race in P14.

Jaime Alguersuari took P15 for Toro Rosso ahead of the Renault-powered cars of Bruno Senna, Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli. With Timo Glock finished in P19 for Virgin Racing followed by the Hispania of Vitantonio Liuzzi.

So a great result for Lewis Hamilton and McLaren. It shows Sebastian Vettel is fallible despite his record-breaking success in his championship year. The Brazilian Grand Prix is the final race of the season and it will be fascinating who will take the runner-up spot between Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber.

Race results from Yas Marina, 55 laps:

1.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           1h37:11.886
2.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +8.457
3.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +25.881
4.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +35.784
5.  Massa         Ferrari                    +50.578
6.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +52.317
7.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +1:15.900
8.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +1:17.100
9.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +1:40.000
10.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +1 lap
11.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +1 lap
12.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +1 lap
13.  Petrov        Renault                    +1 lap
14.  Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth          +1 lap
15.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
16.  Senna         Renault                    +1 lap
17.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault              +1 lap
18.  Trulli        Lotus-Renault              +2 laps
19.  Glock         Virgin-Cosworth            +2 laps
20.  Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth               +2 laps

Fastest lap: Webber, 1:42.612

Not classified/retirements:

Ricciardo     HRT-Cosworth                 49 laps
Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari           19 laps
D’Ambrosio    Virgin-Cosworth              18 laps
Vettel        Red Bull-Renault             1 lap

World Championship standings, round 18:

1. Vettel       374
2. Button       255
3. Alonso       245
4. Webber       233
5. Hamilton     227
6. Massa        108
7. Rosberg       83
8. Schumacher    76
9. Petrov        36
10. Sutil         34
11. Heidfeld      34
12. Kobayashi     28
13. Alguersuari   26
14. Di Resta      23
15. Buemi         15
16. Perez         14
17. Barrichello    4
18. Senna          2
19. Maldonado      1

1. Red Bull-Renault          607
2. McLaren-Mercedes          482
3. Ferrari                   353
4. Mercedes                  159
5. Renault                    72
6. Force India-Mercedes       57
7. Sauber-Ferrari             42
8. Toro Rosso-Ferrari         41
9. Williams-Cosworth           5

Next race: Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo. November 25-27.

Vettel equals Mansell’s qualifying record with pole in Abu Dhabi

Sebastian Vettel achieved his fourteenth pole position of the season, equalling the qualifying record set by Nigel Mansell, by snatching the important grid slot from the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

After setting the pace in all three practice sessions in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton and Button had to settle for second and third behind the world champion’s flying Red Bull.

Mark Webber lines up fourth ahead of the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.

Hamilton looked the favourite for pole following an impressive practice form and being the quickest in Q1 and Q2. The 2008 world champion held provisional pole on his first flying lap in Q3 with one minute, 38.704 seconds – which was 0.042 seconds quicker than the current world champion could manage at that stage.

Button was only fourth fastest after the first runs, but went straight to the top with his second attempt.

Immediately, the 2009 world champion’s pole time was beaten by his McLaren team-mate with a margin of 0.009 seconds to reclaim the top spot.

And yet Vettel was still on his final flying lap and as he crossed the finishing line – the double world champion not only beat Hamilton by 0.141 seconds with a lap time of one minute, 38.481 seconds – he equalled Nigel Mansell’s 1992 record of fourteen poles in a season. A superb achievement for the 24-year-old German.

Behind Button and Webber, the Scuderias filled row three, having never looked likely to threaten for the leading positions. Fernando Alonso was 0.6 seconds off pole and a similar margin ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa, who caused a brief delay to the session when he demolishing a chicane marker post in Q2 and left debris on the track.

Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher were seventh and eighth for Mercedes, with Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta completing the top ten for Force India. This time di Resta was the only driver who did not attempt a run in Q3.

As for Williams, this was the worst qualifying result in a truly awful season of racing. Both Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello will start on the back row of the grid, with the former receiving a ten-place grid penalty for exceeding the eight-engine limit, while the latter had further engine issues meant he did not set a time at all.

As practice had hinted, Force India had a comfortable margin over its usual rivals Toro Rosso and Sauber, with Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari only P13 and P15, with Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi P11 and P16 for Sauber. Renault’s suspicion that it would struggle at the Yas Marina circuit proved true as Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna took P12 and P14.

Heikki Kovalainen beat his tail-end rivals by a comfortable 0.9 seconds, with his Lotus team-mate Jarno Trulli next up.

Hispania’s Daniel Ricciardo produced a sensational first qualifying lap, which put him close to Kovalainen, and ahead of the rest of the backmarker pack, but he would ultimately slip behind Trulli and Virgin Racing’s Timo Glock.

So an exciting qualifying session with Vettel setting a new record. Can the McLarens fight back in the race? And will we see overtaking thanks to the two DRS zones on the Yas Marina circuit? All this and more will be answered on Sunday.

Qualifying positions from Yas Marina:

1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m38.481s
2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m38.622s
3.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m38.631s
4.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m38.858s
5.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m39.058s
6.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m39.695s
7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m39.773s
8.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m40.662s
9.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1m40.768s
10.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes No time
11.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m40.874s
12.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              1m40.919s
13.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m41.009s
14.  Bruno Senna           Renault              1m41.079s
15.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m41.162s
16.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m41.240s
17.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m42.979s
18.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault        1m43.884s
19.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m44.515s
20.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth         1m44.641s
21.  Jerome D’Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m44.699s
22.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth         1m45.159s
23.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosoworth   No time
24.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    1m41.760s*

*Ten-place grid penalty for exceeding engine limit

107 per cent time: 1m46.766s