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So last week’s Bahrain Grand Prix was good, then?

No, of course that sentence is inaccurate. Partly because there isn’t really such a thing as a “good” Bahrain Grand Prix, but mostly because of the distinct lack of Bahrain Grand Prix that took place. And despite the deeply unpleasant reasons behind the race’s cancellation, I can’t help but, from a Formula 1 perspective, be a little happy about it. I didn’t buy into the nonsense that ‘professional’ ‘journalists’ spouted after last years opening event at the wealthy island monarchy. It was by no means the “worst race ever” or “a sign of Formula 1’s continuing decline” as we were told by the same group of predictable sensationalists who told us that the following race in Australia was stunning. It was an unsurprisingly disappointing event after 4 months of build-up, but average by Bahrain standards. What that race did give us though, is a very good indication both of why Bahrain should not be the opening race of the season, and why it shouldn’t really be a race at all. Or at least those are the lessons it should have given us. Instead we had weeks of team managers, drivers and others telling us they would “improve the show”, which damaged the credibility of F1. These people were basically saying “F1 is boring, and to make it more interesting we must make it less of a sport”. Of course the following race in Australia was exciting, as it always is, and the fuss ended. Everyone forgot about Bahrain, the real questions of why that fuss occurred were not answered, and no lessons were learnt. Fast forward a year and F1 is somehow faced with exactly the same situation of Bahrain being the opening Grand Prix, and the inevitable disappointment and damage to F1’s public image that will arise as a result. A repeat of that has been avoided however, and I’m sure Australia will provide the thrilling season opener that it always does.

Of course to suggest the situation Bahrain finds itself in is a good thing because F1 fans won’t be bored for a couple of hours on a Sunday, would be mind numbingly selfish. The Grand Prix is insignificant compared to the situation the country is currently in, and far more important is the issue of human rights that the people of Bahrain have been denied. It does raise an important question though. Is Bahrain the kind of country F1 should be involved with? The actions of the corrupt monarchy (members of which we are used to seeing walking down the grid and telling us how wonderful Bahrain is) and the way in which they have reacted to the incredibly reasonable demands of the protesters with force would suggest no. There is also a very strong argument, however, that politics (real politics, rather than F1 politics) should not interfere with sport. It’s a question that will always spring up for as long as Bernie’s money seeking brings us to more and more countries with questionable leadership. It’s also a question I’m not going to answer, because I don’t have an answer, but it’s one we should continuously ask ourselves. Or we could just not go to Bahrain because the Grand Prix is a bit rubbish and leave it at that.

I still think F1 fans should be happy about the cancellation, however, purely because the race would have been dull, and that dullness would be exaggerated by the fact we have been deprived of F1 for several months. In recent years Melbourne has established itself as the rightful location of the opening race, and we should make the most of it. Especially seeing as it may not be around much longer, a great shame that will deprive Melbourne residents and politicians of the wider economic benefits that the race brings (which they appear to have failed to notice) and deprive Formula 1 of a popular, exciting and successful event. We should also make the most of the season finale returning to it’s rightful place at Interlagos this year, after two strikingly uneventful concluding events at the enthusiasm-crushing Yas Marina circuit. Presumably they failed to pay the extra 700 billion pounds or something. Either way, with a race schedule increasing dominated by money, it’s nice to get the ‘bookends’ right, even if there are still some issues with the ones in the middle.

As far as Bahrain is concerned, with violence and suppression continuing in the country, Bernie’s aim of holding the race this year is increasingly unlikely. The future of F1 and Bahrain is unclear, and if the much criticised 2010 event was the last race we see in the country for a while, I don’t think Formula 1 should be disappointed. There’s increasing demand for a slot on the F1 calendar, and I think everyone agrees Bahrain needs to do a lot more to deserve a place ahead of, say, Spa or Montreal. I also highly doubt the real people of Bahrain would be particularly disappointed either. There are more important things that the Bahraini people need than a Grand Prix.

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Sebastian Vettel drives to the podium after his second race win

Sebastian Vettel drives to the podium in his RB5

Sebastian Vettel has claimed his second career win at the Shanghai International Circuit as rain and standing water made conditions difficult for the entire duration of the third race of 2009. It’s Red Bull’s first win in Formula 1 since their takeover of Jaguar at the end of 2004, and a 1-2 finish, with Mark Webber crossing the line in second. Championship leader Jenson Button finished third.

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Felipe Massa on Podium at Interlagos

Felipe Massa has won his home race, the Brazilian Grand Prix, after a flawless drive. Massa was also on course to win the 2008 F1 championship until Lewis Hamilton passed Timo Glock at the last corner of the race, and beat Massa to the title by one point, leaving emotional scenes on the podium for the local hero. Fernando Alonso finished second, as one of the most dramatic races in F1 history unfolded at Interlagos.

The race began with a sudden unexpected downpour of rain which caught everyone by surprise whilst the drivers were just getting ready to go off on the parade lap. The race start was delayed 10 minutes, and almost every driver switched to the wet tyres. Most of the pack got away cleanly at the start, with the front-runners staying in position (Massa first, Hamilton fourth). David Coulthard’s final F1 race came to an abrupt end after Nico Rosberg spun his Red Bull into the path of Kazuki Nakajima, ending their races. Nelson Piquet made it past the first two corners but also retired by the time his Renault got to turn 3. The safety car was deployed and Giancarlo Fisichella was the first to enter the pits for dry tyres, pushing his Force India right up to fifth place. Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso pitted on lap eight, Massa on lap nine, and Hamilton on lap ten. McLaren were waitng to see what Massa did but it was a bad move as Hamilton found himself seventh at the restart. The positions ahead of him were now occupied by Massa, Vettel, Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Fisichella and Jarno Trulli.

Trulli went wide at turn one and Hamilton got the better of him. The Toyota driver, after his second place start, now found himself in seventh. Hamilton then made a bold move on Fisichella and pulled it off, now back into the fifth place he required to take the championship. Vettel was putting as much pressure on Massa for the race lead as he could, but was forced to pit and Alonso was promoted to second, Raikkonen to third and Hamilton to fourth. Timo Glock was starting to put pressure on Hamilton’s fourth, but also pitted. Massa was next in and Ferrari fuelled him to the end of the race. The rest of the race leaders then pitted for the final fuel stint. Vettel then pitted for the third time and fell to fifth behind Hamilton. The championship looking likely to go Hamilton’s way now. That was until more rain was predicted.

5 laps to go and the first drops of rain begin to fall. Everyone comes in for wet tyres, with Hamilton only just ahead of Vettel but knowing he could let the German past, retain fifth, and win the championship. That was until Timo Glock decided to not pit and stay on the dry tyres. Glock moved up to fourth, and Hamilton left the pits in fifth with Vettel right behind him and lapping faster. The race order now Massa, Alonso, Raikkonen, Glock and Hamilton just hanging on to a championship winning position, with Vettel trying to get past and demote him to sixth, which would give Massa the title.

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Lewis Hamilton has taken a dominant win at the Shanghai International Circuit. It’s his fifth win of the season for McLaren, but not enough to take the championship as his rival, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, finished in second place. Robert Kubica secured sixth place, but it wasn’t enough to keep him in the running for the title in Brazil.

The race started with little drama as Hamilton led from the start, with Kimi Raikkonen unable to take him at the first corner. Heikki Kovalainen took Fernando Alonso for fourth, only to lose the place again down the back straight. Jarno Trulli and Sebastian Bourdais made contact at the first corner and fell to the back of the grid. Trulli eventually retired, as did Adrian Sutil who had gearbox problems. Hamilton pulled away at the front, and despite his speed, Raikkonen was unable to catch him. The Finn gave up second to Massa, so he could take two cruical extra points. Heikki Kovalainen also retired after a puncture ruined his race.

Hamilton’s win puts him seven points ahead going into the championship showdown at Interlagos. Ferrari’s second and third places increased their lead in the constructors battle to 11 points.

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Fernando Alonso has won the Japanese Grand Prix at the Fuji Speedway on a day when the championship closed up for in preparation for an epic conclusion. Alonso was gifted second after the cars in front of him ran wide at the first corner and took race leader, Robert Kubica, at the first round of pit stops to win his second race in a row.

At the race start, Kimi Raikkonen immediately took Lewis Hamilton and started to pull away down the main strait. Hamilton made a desperate attempt to regain the lead at turn one and went strait on, braking heavily, and forcing the Raikkonen wide along with Heikki Kovalainen and Felipe Massa, who were just behind him. This allowed Alonso through, but he was also affected by Hamilton’s manoeuvre and Kubica got past and into the lead. David Coulthard’s rear suspension broke after making contact at the start and he went head-on into a wall. Massa got past Hamilton and on the second lap Hamilton tried to pass his main rival but was spun by the Brazilian, and fell to last place. Hamilton was given a drive-through penalty for his actions at the start whilst Massa was given a drive-through for spinning the McLaren and both championship rivals found themselves at the back.

Raikkonen made his way back through the field and climbed to fourth behind Robert Kubica, who was just managing to keep ahead of Alonso and Kovalainen. Alonso easily got past at the first round of pit stops, though, and took the lead while Kovalainen sufferd an engine failure and retired. After his second stop, Alonso was comfortably leading and a battle emerged for second between Kubica, Raikkonen and Nelson Piquet Jr. Meanwhile, Massa was the fastest man on track and chasing down points, but he spun after contact with Sebastien Bourdais, and when his rivals rejoined, he could only fight his way back to eighth for one point. Kubica hung on to second ahead of Raikkonen, Piquet, Jarno Trulli, Bourdais, Sebastian Vettel and Massa.

This shrinks Hamilton’s lead from Massa in the championship to 6 points, while Kubica catches up with his second place and is now 12 points behind the Brit. Despite third place, this race sees the end of the reigning world champion’s title hopes. Ferrari take back the lead in the constructors’ championship from McLaren.

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Double world champion, Fernando Alonso, has returned to the top spot of podium with Renault at Formula One’s first ever night race in Singapore. His strategy put him to the front of the field after the race order was completely shaken up due to his teammate crashing and bringing out a saftey car, which led to Ferrari making a terrible mistake that almost certainly lost them the race.

The race started mostly cleanly, with pole sitter Felipe Massa pulling away in first and his Ferrari teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, in third and catching up to Lewis Hamilton, looking likely to pass him at the first round of pit stops. That first round came early, though, after Nelson Piquet Jr crashed into a barrier, bringing  out the safety car just as the race was settling down. Robert Kubica and Nico Rosberg were both forced to pit for fuel before the pit lane re-opened and were given 10 second stop-go penalties. Both Ferrari’s came into pit once the pit lane did open, taking advantage of the safety car period. Race leader Massa was given the green light to leave his pit box but the fuel hose was still attached and he drove off with it stuck in his car before stopping at the end of the pit lane with the race now lost. Raikkonen was queuing behind him and his hopes of big points were also gone. Ferrari managed to get Massa going again but he rejoined in last place.

Hamilton had a clean pit stop but was now behind Fernando Alonso, David Coulthard and Mark Webber who had all timed their pit stops perfectly, just before the safety car was released. They were now the top three runners. Jarno Trulli was also in front of him, on a one stopping strategy. Somehow Rosberg managed to come out of his stop-go penalty in second, and Alonso started to pull away from the rest of the pack. Trulli made his stop and fell back whilst Webber retired and Hamilton was now lining up to pass Coulthard for a podium position, which he pulled off. Meanwhile, Raikkonen’s recovery drive had put him in fifth. The safety car came out once again for a stricken Giancarlo Fisichella and Alonso’s 15 second lead was gone. Little changed at the front with the restart, however. A few laps later, Raikkonen made a small mistake at turn 10 that forced him into the barriers for yet another race without points. Alonso fronted the race order ahead of Rosberg, Hamilton, Timo Glock, Sebastian Vettel, Nick Heidfeld, Coulthard and Kazuki Nakajima with Honda’s Jenson Button narrowly missing out on a point.

Lewis Hamilton has increased his championship lead by seven points after Felipe Massa’s disaster pit stop, whilst Kimi Raikkonen falls back into the reach of Nick Heidfeld, now just one point behind the Finn in fifth. McLaren now take the lead in the constructors’ championship after Ferrari’s zero points race and Renault overhaul Toyota for fourth after the former world champions first win since 2006.

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Sebastian Vettel has won the Italian Grand Prix after a brilliant drive from pole in his Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso. Vettel led the race comfortably, only coming under pressure once from Lewis Hamilton, before McLaren went the wrong way with a weather decision in a race that was wet from start for finish. He won the race by 12.5 seconds from McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen and BMW’s Robert Kubica, who both joined him on the podium.

The race started under safety car conditions due to the amount of standing water on the track and likelihood of accidents, meaning there would be no formation lap. Bad news for Sebastien Bourdais, as he stalled on the grid from fourth and would have to start the race a lap down. Vettel immediately pulled away from the rest of the field at the restart and started to lead by quite some distance. After a few laps David Coulthard, Giancarlo Fisichella, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamiltion started to fight for position. Fishichella defended well in his Force India but Coulthard got past and, after a fair while, so did Raikkonen and then Hamilton.

Hamilton had made a few failed attempts to get past Raikkonen, but a few laps later he made his move and made it stick.  Coulthard ended up behind Fisichella again and, when he tried to pass, they made contact, and the Force India found itself in the barriers to become the only retiree. Meanwhile, Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg were having a close fight, but the Ferrari came out on top for fourth place. Hamilton was now pulling away from Raikkonen and began to make his way up the field.

Seemingly on a one-stop strategy, Hamilton made some passes, and helped by the others stopping, found himself in second and catching up to Vettel. He was nearly out of fuel, though, and pitted from second. The team believed more rain was on its way, having stopped not long ago, and kept him on extreme wets. Fernando Alonso came in a few laps later and switched to intermediate tyres, the second to do so after Coulthard. Despite some shaky first laps, after a while, it proved to be the right choice.

Vettel came in for his second scheduled stop and changed to inters too. One-stopping Hamilton had no choice but to do the same and his chances of a race win were gone. The McLaren came out behind his championship rival, Felipe Massa, and looked as if he would catch him, but it wasn’t to be. All eyes were on Sebastian Vettel as he took a dominant win at Toro Rosso’s home race to become the youngest race winner ever in Formula one.

The other points went to Kovalainen, Kubica, Alonso, Nick Heidfeld, Massa, Hamilton and Mark Webber. Kimi Raikkonen and Nelson Piquet Jr rounded out the top ten. Sebastien Bourdias got past Adrain Sutil to finish 18th after starting a lap down, and set the second fastest lap of the race, after Raikkonen.

Hamilton now leads Massa by one point in the championship and with his race win, Vettel goes up to 9th place. Renault are now equal with Toyota on 41 points and Toro Rosso are one point ahead of the Red Bull senior team.

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