European GP – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Pure opinion. None of this is said with any malice, although I’m sure there are some who will take it as such! Enjoy it for what it is, and by all means, let me know your thoughts and opinions as to why I am right or wrong. The Good:
And the machine has done it again. Fernando Alonso gave us all another lesson in how to win Formula One races come what may. His overtaking during the race was superb, and refreshingly not just in the DRS zone of the track. A disappointing qualifying session saw Alonso line up in 11th place, but a typically fantastic start saw him move up to 8th by the first corner. After that, Alonso once again found the perfect balance between raw pace and tyre management – a balance that others have struggled to get close to. Whilst other drivers get to the end of a race and bemoan their tyres falling off, or wonder whether they could have pushed further, the mercurial Spaniard reaches the end of every race (Canada being the exception that proves the rule) knowing that he has got 100% out of the tools and strategy available to him. He is the only driver left to have scored points in every race this season, looking further back he has scored points in each of the last 20 races, and only finished outside of the top 5 twice during this time. Even further back than that, Alonso has scored points in 32 out of the last 33 races and finished in the top 5 in 27 of those. The man is an absolute machine, but it is also a massive tribute to Ferrari and the car they have provided to him, that they can both reach these quite incredible levels of consistency.
Despite an excellent second place finish for the charismatic Finn, there will no doubt be thoughts of what might have been. Raikkonens start was blistering, and had he made it past Maldonado into Turn 1, would have been in third place. However, the Venezualan set the tone for his race by blocking Raikkonen off which saw him end up in 6th. A big difference, and one that Raikkonen found insurmountable when it came to challenging for the win that Lotus felt they could have achieved in Valencia. He struggled to get past Hamilton near the end, and once he did, there was just not enough laps left for him to chase down Alonso. He did take 2 seconds out of Alonsos 6 second lead though, which flies in the face of Raikkonens protestation that he ‘did not have the pace to win today’. Still, he equalled his best result since his comeback, and once again the Lotus proves that it is capable of giving us winners number 8 and 9 this season. I’m sure somewhere, deep down, Kimi is pleased.
I don’t think there is a man, woman, child, beast or any other form of living specimen that would begrudge Michael Schumacher the fortune that gave him his first podium finish in his 2nd Formula One career. The horrendous luck that has befallen Schumacher this season appears to have abated at least for one race, although that doesn’t tell the full story. Schumacher drove extremely well, as he has done without reward for the vast majority of the season. I do wonder how he would have celebrated had he known where he had finished as he crossed the line, but for now seeing him mouth the words to the Italian national anthem whilst standing on the podium evoked memories that had gradually been fading over time.
Taking Rosbergs win in China as a one off, this was the best points return for the Mercedes team since their return to the Formula One fold as a team in their own right. 3rd and 6th was an excellent result, and was helped in no small part by Rosbergs amazing end to the race, where he consistently set fastest lap times and moved his way past Di Resta, Perez, Button and Maldonado. Fantastic stuff.
Mark Webber had a horrible qualifying session, where due to a brake problem in morning practice he could only manage 19th on the grid despite attempting his lap on the softer tyres. He somehow finished the race in 4th place for the 5th time in 8 races and is Alonsos closest challenger in the Championship. I truly don’t know where to begin with that.
5th and 7th gave Force India their highest ever points haul in Formula One, and the 5th place was Nico Hulkenbergs best ever finish. For a team that were starting to have questions asked about whether they had hit their peak, this was the perfect riposte.
The driver that won the race started in 11th. The two other drivers on the podium started 5th and 12th. The driver who finished 4th started the race in 19th. We had a Caterham in the points on merit at one stage. But Valencia is dull. There’s never any overtaking, and the race is just a procession. Well, that told us. The Bad:
It’s fair to say that that was a spot of bad luck for the reigning World Champion. It would appear that the alternator on the Renault engine simply overheated behind the safety car. Whether or not this would have happened had the race continued as normal, we will never know for certain, but the suspicion is that it would not, and that Vettel would have pulled out a race from his box of 2011 dominance. Up until the moment that he pulled to the side of the track, Vettel had been completely imperious, and this is a fact that will not be lost on him, or his Championship rivals.
Clearly, what’s good enough for a reigning World Champion, is good enough for Romain Grosjean. Once Vettel had retired, Grosjean had just Alonso ahead of him… and it would have been a brave man to suggest that the Lotus wouldn’t have been able to catch and pass the Ferrari. As it was, fate and Jean-Eric Vergne intervened, and poor old Romain wouldn’t be given the opportunity to take his maiden Formula One victory. Although, it surely won’t be long in coming. Grosjeans manoeuvre on Hamilton was masterful, and he once again demonstrated that if he can negotiate his way around the first few laps without incident, he is a serious player in any race – the difference between the Grosjean of 2009 and the Grosjean of 2012 is a joy to behold. Very few gave him a chance of pushing his more illustrious teammate throughout the season, but not many would bet against it now.
No-one could blame Hamilton for his reaction once he was staring at the barriers from a stationary position. What he must have been thinking will doubt have been unrepeatable – which makes his attitude after the race all the more impressive. His refusal to blame Maldonado – who I will deal with separately – was extremely refreshing, and embodies the recent maturity that Lewis has shown since his strop in Australia. Plus there was the usual McLaren mess in the pitlane which must have frustrated Hamilton even more. He deserved more from this race than just a DNF to his name, but there were errors made. Team McLaren (Hamilton included) erred on the tyre strategy, which put Hamilton in a position he did not want to be in with just a few laps left of the race. And this is the point where questions have been asked as to whether Hamilton should have ceded his position earlier as he clearly did not have the grip to battle. I do see the logic in this argument, but do you really expect Lewis to just move aside? And to Maldonado??? Hamilton did nothing wrong, he had every right to make Maldonado work for the pass, and had every right to expect not to be rammed off the track.
Even HRT would muster someone up if one of their drivers fell ill. For Marussia to only be able to run one car as their test driver does not have a Super Licence is odd, but somehow unsurprising.
Shame for Felipe, as he started off well, and looked like rectifying his poor qualifying position. Indeed, by the end of the first lap, he had got himself up into the points. But then he had a disagreement with Kamikaze Kamui. Which you’d think he’d know not to do. After that, there was never any hope for Massa. He ended up lapped by his teammate again, and finished ahead of only the two HRTs. And behind both Caterhams and the one participating Marussia.
Button did actually say he was slightly more pleased after this race, and certainly seemed in a more positive mode. True enough, things didn’t go his way, he had to get out of the throttle into the first corner which lost him places, and then his strategy was punctured by the appearance of the safety car. 8th place is definitely an improvement, but he and his team need more. The Ugly:
You do have to wonder what goes through the mind of Pastor Maldonado at times. Clearly a talented driver, but sometimes makes such utterly stupid decisions which make you wonder if he is a racing driver at all. His driving at Turn 1 left something to be desired, but of course the big incident came on Lap 55. Just what was he thinking. There was absolutely no need for him to force his way past a car whose tyres had given up and that he could have effortlessly slid past just a few corners later. When you look at Hamiltons patience in Canada when it came to him chasing Vettel and Alonso on better tyres, you saw the polar opposite in Maldonado in Valencia. Another thuggish manoeuvre, and what made it worse was his unbelievable attempt to deflect the blame onto Hamilton after the race. On another point, I reckon that a number of drivers could have completed the move without incident, but it was Maldonado’s own deficiencies that caused him to be off the track, and from there on, the red mist took over.
There are times where Jean-Eric Vergne has looked out of his depth in Formula One. Like in qualifying sessions. However he normally pulls back some respect with his race driving… until Valencia. What Heikki Kovaleinen had done to deserve such a wallop from the Toro Rosso driver was baffling, but on a serious note, it was a curious piece of driving from Vergne. Although, it did shake up the race somewhat…
Bad old Kamui turned up in Valencia. After a really decent qualifying performance as well. The problem with Kobayashi’s driving style is that there are literally millimetres between the sublime and the ridiculous. The moves he attempts, and the ways in which he attempts them, have no grey areas. He was fortunate to escape with no blame for the Senna incident early on, but there was never any getting away with his tagging of Massa. Maybe Kobayashi has a dislike of Brazilians?
And so what started the season as an audition for Mark Webbers race seat, has turned into a mere footnote of little importance. Vergne I have spoken about, and sometimes I forget that Ricciardo is even taking part. Want to be a guest writer on VitalF1.com?
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