Spanish 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:
Well played young man. Maldonado has had many critics in his short Formula One career – one of them not a million miles from here… ahem… – but I will happily eat humble pie in this case. What was most impressive about Maldonado was the way he seemingly drove with the absence of any pressure whatsoever. Saturdays qualifying session was impressive to say the least – leading Martin Brundle to say his lap in Q3 was technically better than Lewis Hamiltons. His performance in the race was confident, assured and one that any driver with multiple wins and championships under his belt would have been proud of. Maldonado did not put a wheel wrong, and even when being hunted down by the big, scary red machine, he did not change his driving style one bit and just believed in his car and his own ability to drive the car home. Lead the applause.
And in turn, what a weekend for Williams. Their first win for nearly 8 years, everyone from the driver to the pit crew to the mechanics to the tea boy did a wonderful job. It is hard not to get sentimental when talking about a long awaited WIlliams win, such is their standing in Formula One history, and this feeling is exacerbated by the recent celebration of Sir Frank Williams’ 70th birthday. This sport truly does write scripts that its fans wouldn’t dare to dream of. Lets be completely honest though, this is not as much of a shock as it would have been in previous seasons. Williams have looked good in 2012, and have been threatening to challenge the top teams. Wonder what Rubens Barrichello makes of it all?
Surely I will get to the point where nothing Alonso does will leave me speechless? Ok, so Ferrari had brought some updates to Spain, and it looked like they worked well, but to qualify on the front row and to then translate that to a 2nd place finish after challenging for the victory? I’m running out of words to describe this man. The bravery he showed by keeping his foot firmly down into Turn 1 on Lap 1 to pass Maldonado was breathtaking, especialy where you see the driver-camera view. I am well aware that not everyone will agree with me, but I truly feel he is the best all round driver on the grid at the moment, and has been for some time. If I was running a team and had my pick of drivers, he would be top of my list by a mile.
After the horrific bump down to earth for Lewis after qualifying, he came out and did a mature interview, despite the pain he must have been feeling. He then produced a stunning driving display of controlled aggression that we have not seen often enough. When you see races like this, and you see what Hamilton is capable of when he is focused, you see why people get frustrated with him. The skill, racecraft and opportunism he showed when passing the two Toro Rossos was brilliant. He started from the back of the grid, drove a hard race, but still controlled enough to make a two stop strategy work, and managed to land the car in 8th, one place ahead of his teammate who started 14 places ahead of him. Bravo, and more of the same please Lewis.
Phrase of the season? Stand up and take a bow, Martin Brundle. ‘You know when you’ve been KK’d’. The great thing about that is it does describe Kobayashi so well when he is on form. Here in Spain, the move on Button that provoked Brundles comment was a masterclass. Bumping wheel to wheel to allow him to make the corner is a skill that we see so many drivers afraid to try nowadays, but one that Kobayashi seems to be perfecting. His late braking move on Rosberg towards the end of the race was also an example of how to make the best use of better tyres. Kobayashi is a driver that confuses and delights in equal measure, and you would struggle to find a Formula One fan who doesn’t smile at the mention of his name. I want to see that it’s always nice to see him do well, but is that patronising for a driver of his obvious talent?
The Formula One World Championship
To borrow a phrase from last weeks edition – Five races, five different winners from five different teams. And a sixth team that finished this race on the podium again, and are widely predicted to win more than just one race this year. Wow. Just wow. The Bad:
Nothing seemed to go right for Mark in this race, and it all started when Red Bull decided not to send him out again in Q2, and he sat and watched both Mercedes, both Saubers and Maldonado set faster laps and push him out of the top 10. Still, we fully expected to see at least a small charge from the Australian during the race, but it never seemed to materialise. Things were made worse on lap 17, when cars started rounding him rather easily and he pitted for a new front wing. He came out in 15th place, and from then on, we barely heard from him. He managed to finish the race in 11th, picking up no points, having been lapped by the eventual winner and a long way behind his teammate. He will be lookingt o put this race behind him rather quickly.
These are some of the things I wrote about Button after the Bahrain Grand Prix – ‘Button was openly unhappy with the setup and balance of the car for the whole weekend. It clearly affected him, and his state of mind was so poor that even when presented with chances, he just couldn’t maximise the performance of an admittedly underwhelming vehicle. Both McLaren drivers were heard on the radio saying that they were struggling with their rear tyres, but Button was unable to cope whereas his teammate made the best of a bad lot… and it’s not often that’s been said.’ Sound familiar? Button appears to have lost a special something at the moment, and with so many drivers vying for victory this season, he will need to find it again pretty quickly if he is to remain a championship challenger.
Not a great weekend for the Silver Arrows. What happened with Schumacher, I will deal with separately, but Rosberg did not have a great time of it either. He made up a couple of places at the start, but after then, he struggled to make any impression on the race at all. Mercedes will want to be picking up more than 6 points in a race when they have a car which has proved it can win races.
This may seem a tad harsh seeing as Lotus finished 3rd and 4th, but I can’t help wondering whether their strategy in the first part of the race cost them a shot of finishing higher. Everyone started on softs and then at the first pit stop came in for the harder tyre, which was generally considered to be the best race tyre. Lotus however, decided to switch to another set of soft tyres, and the pace was just not there. It also meant that as the stint was shorter, the first stint on the harder tyre had to be longer than they would have liked. This resulted in Raikkonen holding up Alonso before Alonso got past him on lap 48. Raikkonen came in for a new set of hard tyres just after that, and the pace of both Lotuses towards the end of the race was mighty. Fair enough for trying something a bit different, but on this occasion it did not pay off for Boullier and co. Seeing as they qualified 3rd and 4th anyway, I would have liked to have seen them have the confidence that they could match others strategy and still beat them for pace. The Ugly:
Oh Michael. It WAS your fault. Had Schumacher just lost a front wing or clipped the Williams, his argument may have held water, but the fact that he absolutely creamed into the back of Senna gives us no other conclusion that Schumacher was guilty of a complete misjudgement. Ok so Senna was a tad twitchy coming up to the corner, but wouldn’t you be if you had a Mercedes screaming up behind you far too fast to stop in time? Was Senna just supposed to get out of the way or something? Schumachers inauspicious start to the season continues, and it is particularly worrying as he has finally been given a car with which he should be able to show off his talents.
After qualifying, I tweeted the following: ‘Whether you believe the penalty is harsh or not, McLaren need to sort themselves out. Title winning teams do not make this many mistakes.’ I pretty much think this says it all. Much has been written about McLarens errors this season, and to not put enough fuel in Hamiltons car for qualifying when the rules are quite clear, is unforgivable. And what was that tyre doing near enough to Hamiltons car for him to run into it? For goodness sake. I will always be a McLaren fan, but they do make it difficult for me to have faith at times.
Once again, Massa set the slowest time of Q2 and therefore started the race 16th. He then plodded his way around the Circuit de Catalunya before having the shame of being lapped by his teammate on lap 53. Massa eventually finished 15th, ahead of only 2 Caterhams, a Murussia and an HRT. Say no more.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Mobile chicanes have no place in Formula One. Webber was nearly caught out by the ‘pace’ of the HRT and nearly ran into him, and Maldonado also lost time behind Karthikeyan as he wasn’t quick enough to get out of the way. I think the 107% qualifying time needs to be more strictly adhered to. Pointlessly dangerous. Want to be a guest writer on VitalF1.com?
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