Monday, 29 March 2010

Trouble in paradise


It’s back to the world of Tilke racing on dull circuits. It’s big, it’s wide, it’s flat and we’re going to play spot the spectator again. I might rain, you never know. Monsoon season is upon us and the gods of interesting racing did smile on us last weekend so you never k now. The current prediction is for rain at some point during the weekend. Saturday and Sunday being goods bets as the start times have been moved back so us Europeans don’t have to get up too early.

Last year the heavens opened and dumped the contents of the Indian Ocean all over the circuit. They had to stop the show after 30 odd laps and hide in the pits. Where Kimi took his suit off and raided the ice cream van out the back. Button was given the win, mostly because he was the only one they could see. Heidfeld popped up in second, Glock got lucky with third and then Trulli managed to stay awake long enough to finish in fourth. Apart from Button none of that lot stands a chance this year.

This year it’s only a week since the last race and the buzz will be all about the Hamilton, Button fight. This might just be a press thing. Hamilton was pretty vocal about the team making the wrong call whilst Button was vocal about how he decided that he was changing tire when he wanted to. It’s an interesting view of the drivers where one is leading from the car telling his engineers what the score is, the other needs the team to tell him what to do, not having the confidence to say “no we’ll do it my way”. However, historically, Hamilton has always spanked the tires. If you’d been on the pit wall, would you have staked you job on Hamilton making soft tires last 50 odd laps? I don’t think I’d have done it.

So the press (who, don’t forget, said Button would be dead and buried by now) are saying that Hamilton has been kicked out of the team and toys are being thrown from the pram already. I doubt it. Its race two and people are still finding their path after all. Button got lucky with a pit call and then Vettels luck ran out. Hamilton over took a whole bunch of people and spanked the car all day. Hero to Zero in one race, such is life in the piranha club.

Ferrari also might have a few problems with team harmony. Alonso was clearly faster than Massa who was struggling on used tires, back in the day Mickey would have been ushered past the stricken team mate. These days he’s told to shut up and get on with it. How much does it grate with Alonso that he’s got 2 world championships to his name, but is not the team leader at Ferrari? Meanwhile Massa has quietly got two podium finishes without too much fuss. Could he

Down the road at Brawn things aren’t too rosy either, I’m shortening my odds on Mickey walking before the end of the season if this keeps up. He used to be peerless in the wet. Five seconds a lap faster than anyone else. He was the rain master. Not anymore. He was arsing around with Torro Rossos and Sauber. Not what he’s used too. Have we seen the last of the Brawns glory days? Whatever happens, it looks like Buttons decision to jump ship was inspired, not suicidal.

Things look troubled in the Redbull garage too. Vettel just can’t catch a break, two wins snatched from his happy grasp, Webber also having his share of bad luck. Webber has mostly made his own bad luck, getting all hairy scary when the fancy takes him. They had a reliability expert in the pits in Australia. The only reliable thing about him (or her I have no idea) is that they picked up the cheque reliably enough. They don’t have time to tear the cars apart and check everything, so they have to worried about what else can go wrong.

Renault did better than I expected, well Kubica did. Petrov hasn’t made the transition from GP2 to well, apparently he only has to get 25% of Kubicas’ points to keep his seat. I suspect he’ll struggle with that one if Kubica keeps getting podium finishes. It’ll all fall apart soon enough. They need investment and the boss is only in this for face time, points cost money, more than champagne in the hospitality suit.

Of the New boys, Lotus continue to be reliable, Virgin need to put a bigger fuel tank into the car and HRT got a car home in Australia. It was 3 laps behind the Lotus. But it did finish whilst Vettel and others didn’t.
Virgin are not going to finish unless there is a lengthy safety car or lots and lots of rain. HRT have two drivers that have never raced in the oppressive humidity of a Malaysia afternoon. Fitness could be an issue for them. Lotus will be on “home” soil so might try something stupid in qualifying so I don’t think it’s too cut and dried for Lotus just yet.

I think this is going to as dull as Bahrain. If it rains in qualifying than that might mix it up, if it’s dry then it’ll be the usual suspects up front and you won’t need to watch the middle of the race. Rain will spice things up as long as it doesn’t rain like last year, then there won’t be a middle of the race.

Malaysia is going to be a hard test for all of the new boys.

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