VF1blog: Fernando Flies for Ferrari
What a thoroughly thrilling and enjoyable race that was!
Whilst my pre-race prediction was wrong, and my pre-qualifying prediction was wrong… Fernando Alonso overall did a fantastic job all weekend and was always in contention. I actually picked Alonso as my pole position prediction and to be honest he was not far off. I then chose Hamilton for the race and… I was not far off that either!
The Chinese Grand Prix of 2013 was not one full of overtaking, incident, controversy and drama but what it did have was strategy. Granted there was still incident and overtake in abundance but what I really enjoyed during the 1 hour 36 minutes of on track action was the tactics and trying to calculate or call where people would sit when they finished their stints, how different tyre strategies would play out and the constant question of who will win this race?
Of course by the final stint it was pretty obvious that Fernando Alonso was in a league of his own out front. He had a clear and dominant advantage in the closing stages that enabled him to pull out that impressive 10 second gap. It was actually a shame, I think, that his victory was seemingly overshadowed by the battle for second and third place. Raikkonen managed to pull two seconds clear of the vying Hamilton and Vettel by the chequered flag but all attention was on that close battle. Obviously that was where the show was at but we only saw the smallest of glances as Fernando Alonso crossed the line to win on TV, yes he got plenty of credit after the race but not enough to justify just how well he drove in that race.
First off we saw that typical Ferrari start. Clean off the line, limited wheel spin and an almost clear run into turn one after the dire pull away from the line for Raikkonen. The Spaniard also defended brilliantly from his team-mate before making that somewhat easy but dramatic move on Lewis Hamilton for the lead on the pit straight, with a helping hand from DRS of course. His first stint was a short six lap blast on the soft tyre were he pulled away from his team-mate.
He switched to the medium compound tyre and managed to control the field and eek the Pirelli rubber out for two more laps in comparison to his competitors. During this time the leading cars had to battle through traffic, cars who had started on the medium compound. Alonso managed to gain more time on the trailing cars through this and expertly weaved past.
Stint three again saw him nurse his tyres and last longer out front. By this time he had started to pull away and this was where he made most of his eventual advantage as by the time he pitted for the final time he was well clear of his competitors.
I would say I was impressed but not surprised by Alonso’s drive in China. It was a typical “Fernando” drive of taking the lead, controlling out front and eventually pulling away to take a clear victory. He was definitely one of my drivers of the day.
Raikkonen also had a good race despite losing part of his nose and front wing. Whilst the nose cone damage may have given the “Iceman” a welcome breeze through the cockpit, the team estimated that it cost him two tenths per lap. Seeing as the clash with Perez occurred on lap 16 he would have certainly been closer to Alonso by the flag.
My view on the incident was simple. I do not believe either was truly 100% to blame for it because Raikkonen had a clear speed advantage and Perez looked to have misjudged the closing speed and moved over. He should, however, have noticed Raikkonen there when he was effectively alongside and given him room. Kimi too should have backed off when he realised the gap was closing, Perez had obviously chosen his line and was sticking to it. So I agree with the stewards that neither driver was penalised. Perhaps Raikkonen could have taken a leaf from Vettel’s book? He expertly passed at the same corner, turn six, with a classic and witty dummy move on Felipe Massa.
Speaking of Vettel he too did a respectable job after a difficult qualifying. He proved that the Red Bull was still extremely strong but setting the fastest lap of the race was not really representative of whether he was the fastest driver of the race. His best lap of 1m36.808 was set on lap 53, just after the Red Bull driver had pitted for a fresh set of soft tyres. With low fuel and fresh rubber he was easily the fastest car on track at that time, but I think Hamilton or Alonso could have gone faster. It was typical of the current tyre era as those on the medium compound tyre were nursing theirs to the end, no flat out racing like Vettel.
My tip for the win was Lewis Hamilton but again tyre wear became an issue, something perhaps I should have taken into consideration when confidently selecting him as my favourite for the victory. His first stint was good but it was clear that the Mercedes did not have the pace to match Ferrari or outrace Lotus. Still another strong drive from Lewis and one that I felt was both impressive and welcome, because he was certainly proving the doubters wrong.
Now you all probably know why my favourite driver is, Jenson Button. Even though most of my writing is unbiased I will always support “JB”. When I first started tuning in to Formula 1 back in 2004 my father asked me to pick a favourite. I did some research and after the first few races of the season I decided to support Jenson Button. It was not just because he was British, I noticed he was fast and I also felt through watching interviews among other media commitments that he was both funny and seemed a “really nice guy”. Now as a motor sport fanatic I now appreciate how he drivers, I like his smooth, effortless driving style, relaxed approach and, after meeting him twice, down to earth personality.
So I was delighted to see him defy Martin Brundle’s expectations to make a two-stop strategy work. It was a brilliant, controlled and typical “Button” drive in dry conditions to preserve the tyres, do something different and make it work. It was a welcome points haul for him and it was great to see him doing well after a poor Malaysian Grand Prix.
And poor old Mark Webber. I wanted to try and avoid the Malaysia team-orders controversy in this here column but I find it hard not to mention it. After losing out on the win at the previous round you would think he would get some luck in China, it proved to be the complete opposite. A fuel problem in qualifying meant he was disqualified and to make things worse he then retired from the race through no fault of his own. Yes the Vergne collision was his doing and he admitted that and suffered the consequences with the 3-place grid penalty, but Mark is a lovable character who has plenty of fans and it was a shame to see him so downbeat.
I had hoped that he would emulate his 2011 charge to third from 18th on the grid, that was one hell of a drive and I think he could have achieved something similar had he not collided with Vergne, had to take an unscheduled visit to the pits which caused his retirement.
Elsewhere I was positively delighted and impressed with Daniel Ricciardo. I was even more shocked by his stunning seventh place after finding out from Sky Sports F1's roving pit reporter Ted Kravitz that he had to stop for a change of nosecone and had that not happened he would have nabbed sixth from Massa too. As one Aussie falters another one succeeds and what great timing with all the rumours of Webber’s exit for 2014.
That does round-up my Chinese Grand Prix column. I will end on a few topics moving away from the racing as such. Firstly I did tune in and watch some of the Grand Prix build up on BBCF1. As some of you may know if you follow me on Twitter I watch Sky Sports F1 due to the amount of in depth analysis, content and also because I have met the team and they are all lovely, down to earth people. However I wanted to have a check and see how Suzi Perry, the replacement to lovable bloke Jake Humphrey, was doing on her first live show. It was qualifying by the way, and from what I saw she did a reasonable job. However I could tell that she was nervous and it was less fluent in comparison to the former three amigos. However she did a good job and it was a good live debut for her, she did well with MotoGP and on shows like the Gadget Show so she was more or less how I expected her to be.
Also the blog (http://www.jackleslief1.blogspot.co.uk/) surpassed the 225,000 view mark over the course of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend which was crazy amazing. Those kind of milestones are hard to believe, especially because I only started it up because I loved writing, wanted to improve and hopefully entertain people with some good reading material. I enjoy every second of writing articles, wherever they end up being distributed too, so to have so many people checking the blog is amazing so thanks to all you column readers who visit the site!
A news story that also caught my eye was the introduction in Spain of a free set of tyres for a rookie driver to use in Free Practice One. So for example Alexander Rossi looks set to drive the Caterham in place of Giedo van der Garde in Barcelona and the Leafield team will get a free set of tyres for him to use. This is a great idea as it will free up that set of tyres that the driver would have used. It will have a knock on affect as we will see more action in FP1 and with the other set of tyres we will then see more action in the other sessions.
Also a quick note on Stirling Moss’s recent comments that women do not have the “mental aptitude” to drive in Formula 1, I would have to disagree. Whilst I respect Stirling and his opinion I think its quite an archaic view and one that is completely untrue in the current world of Formula 1. Just look at Susie Wolff, she is climbing up the Formula 1 ladder. In the feeder series the likes of Alice Powell, a blogger on my site, has proved she is fast enough to be a champion in the lower formula. However I think we actually do not 100% know for sure how they car actually race until we have seen it, so granted Stirling could be right but currently without complete evidence I would disagree.
Author: Jack Leslie
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