Sunday, 17 April 2011

I want to have Hamiltons babies. i really do....

In the future if anyone ever tells you that Formula One is boring, you’ll be able to show them this race, the third race of 2011, in China and then laugh in their faces.

I though last week was a cracking race, but this week the only thing we had missing was a flying Russian. We didn’t know who was going to be on the Podium until the last lap, there was overtaking, Button went in to the wrong pit, Webber drove his heart out almost could have won and best of all Vettel couldn’t wave his finger around in a smug manner as the end of the race ... Just everything you could ever want from a Grand Prix.

I have seen some drives in the 30 years I’ve been watching F1, but that has to rank as one of the best i’ve ever seen. Hamilton, yes i am biased but i like my racers to be gutsy and bold and adventurous and willing to rag the thing on the limit to win. Not arse around looking after tires and picking up points, bin it or win it. That’s what i want and that’s what Hamilton delivered in China.
He realised after Sepang that having fresh rubber for the race is more important than being on pole, so whilst Vettel went out and claimed his 3rd pole of the season, Hamilton kept his cards close to his chest and let Button try to unseat the current qualifying king. Button ended up 2nd, but Hamilton in third had an extra set of fresh soft tires to go for glory.
Not so happy yet again was Webber who had an electrical issue in the car on Saturday morning and had to make a very hasty exit from the car in the garage, as smoke poured from the vents in the car. Come qualifying and he failed to make it out of Q1 ending up in a very troublesome 18th position normally reserved for the likes of Virgin and Lotus.
Talking of unhappy, the Ferraris continue to underperform in qualifying and the race. There were lots of very rich and powerful Ferrari types flying back and forth to China this week, with both Alonso and Massa saying they need more qualifying pace to stand any sort of chance.

So the race day dawns bright and sunny with plenty of big names peppered throughout the grid. The midfield had the likes of Schumacher, Petrov and Heidfeld in it and Webber was all the way at the back. All of this was the last thing on Hamilton’s mind however as there was a big problem with the car.

As the cars were being started in the garage to take to the grid before the race, Hamilton’s car had given a bit of a cough and a half hearted splutter then refused to start. Added to that there was a very strong and very worrying smell of petrol coming from somewhere inside the engine bay. With minuets to spare the crew started taking Hamilton's engine cover and air box off. With the seconds ticking down until the pit lane closed and Hamilton’s would have to start in the pits. The Boys from Woking repaired a loose fuel hose, rebuilt the engine airbox and got the cover back on. As fire extinguishers were made ready they tried the car again, it gave a little splutter then fired up with a strong hard note of readiness. The lads cleared the exit and had Hamilton out onto the track with 30 seconds to spare. This left them five minutes until the grid cleared and the cars started the parade lap, for them to get the engine cover off again, make sure everything was okay and reconnect the telemetry wiring harness, which had been missed in the rush to get Lewis out.

That is not how a racing driver likes to prepare for his afternoon.

There were a few nervous looks as the McLaren left behind the sister car and Vettel on pole, but away Hamilton went. When the red light went out for the start of the race, Vettel made a terrible start, Button and Hamilton got a flyer and beat Vettel to the first corner. At last we had a race on our hands.
The McLarens edged away from Vettel as Rosberg had a run at the Redbull and for the first stint the top three cars were covered by just 2 seconds. Button eked out a small led only for Hamilton and Vettel to chase him down, Rosberg pitted early as the others tried to make the soft tires last a few extra laps. But when the softs go off they really go. Button dived into the pits closely followed by Vettel leaving Hamilton to struggle on when he should have been in that lap. As Button and Vettel got new Pirelli rubber Hamilton fought to keep the car on the road as the Ferrari cruised up behind him and Massa claimed first spot before Hamilton could get round to the pit.

Crucially Vettel had gone for a two stop strategy so had to make his tires last longer for this and the next stint. The rest went for a 3 stop race meaning they had to cover Vettel by at least 15 seconds to give themselves enough time to get in and out and chase Vettel down. After the first round of stop Rosberg was leading, but couldn’t put any distance between him and the pack as the brakes started overheating. Further down the race and it was difficult to keep track of who was fighting who on what tires. Schumacher and Webber were fighting tooth and nail, Di Resta was doing a sterling job and Kobayshi was making a name for himself. Perez meanwhile was colliding with anything in that got in his way. Alguersuari lost a wheel after a bungled pit stop and was the only driver to retire all race. Hamilton, Button Rosberg and Vettel battled through the crowd using KERS and flappy wings to make pass after pass and driver the nuts of their cars. It was tremendous stuff with drivers trying to build gaps and stop other from getting too far ahead though the middle of the race.

As the Race came to the closing laps, Hamilton with his fresh set of soft tires was 5 seconds behind Vettel with Button, Massa, Rosberg and Webber behind them. Webber was having a storming run, from all the way back in 18th remember. And he too like Rosberg had fresh soft tires, Button had used softs and Massa had very old hard tires.
As it wound down Hamilton drove the arse of his car to catch and pass Vettel, whose old tires gave up the ghost with just three laps to go. Massa’s tires also gave up as first Rosberg then Webber went past him. But Webber wasn’t finished, taking the Mercedes of Rosberg and then like shooting fish in a barrel Button got jumped on the second to last lap.

So Hamilton gets his first race win of the season and it was a beautiful thing. To have a car almost miss the start, drive the nuts off it and win is brilliant. He didn’t settle for the points he was aggressive and kept his game head on rather than binning it and losing it all. If you missed the race, you have to watch it. After last week where it all went wrong this week it almost all went right. The McLaren is defiantly up there with the Redbull so we are going to have a championship this year.

Vettel, gets 2nd which could have been 3rd if his tires had gone off a lap earlier. He still drove a great race but the strategy let him down, on any other day he would have won, but Lady Luck has had enough of his finger and fancied and change. Is the Redbull the best car still ... maybe, but the McLaren isn’t too far behind.

Webber might very well have had the drive of the day to 3rd. He was a long way back and had to pass a lot of other cars on the track to get this result. If Vettel had been back there do you think he’d have done the business, no me neither. So that’s a great result for the grumpy Australian and this time i think he deserved it. He also got the fastest lap so that should cheer him up.

Button in 4th could well have won this, but the dice didn’t fall his way. Things started to go wrong when he stayed out an extra lap and then drove into Vettels pit slot when he did come in. Whilst his usual smooth style would normally have worked for him, this time Hamilton’s aggressive drive with new tires did the job. Let’s see just how matey those two can be if they’re both fighting for the silverware at the end of the year. Because i think they will be.

Rosberg, started 4th and finished 5th, in a race like this that’s no bad thing. He rolled the dice with an early pit stop but it didn’t work out for him as the faster cars came through. But he beat Schumacher and that’s always worth celebrating.

Massa Finally beats Alonso for the first time since Germany last year (I think, it’s late so I’m not going to check that) and on merit too. 6th place with a car that doesn’t like the tires is not to be sniffed at and it’s nice to see him stick it to Alonso.

Alonso raced his little heart out to 7th but is struggling to beat anyone at the moment.

Schumacher started 14th so to make it to 8th would normally be a good thing. But Webber started in 18th and made it to the podium. So it looks less impressive this time out hardy har har.

9th for Petrov, who didn’t try and clear the tower this week, well done and he beats Heidfeld again.

Finally Kobayashi gets 10th beating Di Resta in 11th.

Hurrah for HRT to finally finished a race, both of them were dead last, but you know what. They got there and Liuzzi was only 17 seconds behind the Virgin of Glock at the end. The tail and Charlie though was Karthikeyan who was only 1.17 second behind his team mate at the flag. Well done lads.

Once again i think Racing was the winner. The FIA didn’t need to wade in with any stupid penalties. The drivers scrapped for every point and no one cruised off into the distance, all that on a track that doesn’t always throw up the most interesting of races.

Is it the tires or the flappy rear wings? maybe, yes, no. I don’t care really. There’s over taking all the way through the field and a car can come from the back to get a podium if the driver doesn’t arse it up. You have to like that. If anyone thinks it’s too complicated go to the BBC driver tracker and watch Trulli all afternoon, it’s what you deserve. The rest of us will glory in a truly golden season of F1 because that’s what it is going to be.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

China, don't mention the disidents

So then, with barely enough time to draw breath and wash the champagne out of the race suits. The team have upped sticks and moved to the Shanghai International Circuit in China for the 3rd race of the year.

With such a tight turn around between races there is very little change the teams can make to the cars for this race. Obviously Renault will be flying a new car out for Petrov, but for the teams at the back of the grid such as HRT and Virgin, just getting a car to the race is an effort.

So there are unlikely to be any new aero bits or mechanical updates from any of the teams here, which in reality, means that the cars are going to be in the same spec as they were in Malaysia. That’s not to say the big boys won’t be sending the odd drawing office assistant out with a new rear wing element or exhaust manifold as hand luggage, but new floors and engine covers will have to wait for the return to Europe and the Turkish GP.

China can throw up the odd interesting race, especially if it rains. Last year Buttons smooth style on a slippery track helped him to his second win and the first McLaren 1-2 of the season. Vettel got the pole in the dry, but rain on race day left the Redbulls struggling.

Based on Malaysia which is a similar sort of circuit to China, the long fast straight and between sweeping corners is going to suit the Redbulls and McLarens. Button looks like he could be the one to take the challenge to Vettel on circuits where conserving tires is going to be at a premium, whilst Alonso and Hamilton will race the back sides off their cars.

I think the Redbull have the stronger long run pace, where the McLaren can’t stay as fast for as long on the harder tires. Meanwhile the Ferrari seems to have a problem with tire management full stop, they can’t seem to get the hard tires to work in qualifying which means they’re using up soft sets to make it into Q3. This leaves them with less option in the race and they’ve having to come back from further down the grid which in turn works the tires harder.

Renault look like their whizzy little start software has lost none of its zip with Heidfeld in the car. A blinding start last week from both of the Renaults set them up for two top ten finished until Petrov forgot where he was and though he was at Aintree not Sepang

Petrov takes the chair comfortable.

Can Renault do it again and get another podium? I don’t see why not, as long as they can get into Q3 they should be able to move up the order when the red lights go out.

Of course Renaults gain is Mercedes loss. They got both cars home in Malaysia, but they were an awfully long way back when you think how much money has been thrown at the team so far. There has been a lot of discussion of late over Schumacher and “What in the name of Stirling Mosses underpants is he doing coming back. The mans a fool !” Personally I didn’t think he’s a fool for coming back. Yeah he’s in a midfield dog of a car that doesn’t look like it’s going to go any faster any time soon. But he’s still out there giving it the beans and trying to drive other cars off the road. He’s lost none of that vim and vigour of old. Sure he’s missing the endless testing and win whatever the cost from the Ferrari days. And I can’t see an 8th world championship anytime soon. But He’s still got a smile when he gets out of the car, he doesn’t bad mouth the team or other drivers. So I guess he’s just doing it because it’s an enjoyable thing to do. Also it’s not like the old days when there was a 40% chance that someone would die during the race. It’s far far safer than it was 30 years ago when Lauda and Prost came back after a break.

As I said, I respect Schumacher for what he’s done, I still don’t like him as a person but I have no problem at all with him being there.

Williams still need to get their act together. What was a promising design and direction looks like it’s turned into an utter failure. That and the fact the firing of Hulkenburg for Malder what’s name is looking more and more like the stupid move everyone said it was.

Force India, two races two points from the rookie. Good stuff.

Torro Rosso, looked fast, then didn’t, rubbish drivers still.

Lotus are making noises about a new diffuser, when they should be talking about firing Trulli.

Virgin are being very quite

And Liuzzi is saying the HRT is still going to blow Virgin away at the next race.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Vettels smelly finger of win,

Now that was a cracking race.

There was overtaking, there was drama there was a flying Russian, in fact everything that’s good about Formula One was right there. We might have lost refuelling but we’ve got tires that keep the teams guessing and a flappy wing that can actually make a difference. Top stuff.

Well okay, there is the fact that Vettel got to wave his finger round once again. If you’re not a fan of Germans waving their finger at you in an overly smug way, then, well i suppose it wasn’t all that ace.
But apart from that bit, i think we can say F1 is in rude health at the moment with three different teams represented on the podium. Then to top it all off the FIA got to throw its weight around and hand out a few penalties at the end. I think Racing was the winner today.

So, yeah Vettel, wasn’t quite at the front as much as he was in Australia. But when it came to the important stuff on Saturday afternoon, he assumed his customary position at the front of the grid much to the annoyance of masers Hamilton, Button and especially Webber. All had had a shout at the pole but Vettel stepped up and calmly took it by a tenth of a second from Hamilton. Webber who had been the fastest Redbull up to the point wasn’t happy, but he was less bemused then Alonso who sat looking at the timing screens wondering just where all the winter testing speed had gone. He’d made it to 5th on the grid but was over a second back from the fast boys.

Importantly Heidfeld had got things right this time around and made it to 6th for the race, hoping to put the first race of the season behind him and show why he’d been picked to replace Kubica. With Petrov just behind in 8th I think we can assume that the Renault is in fact this year’s fourth car to beat. As Rosberg was behind him and Mickey was way back in 11th. Kobayashi rounded out the top 10 showing that when others drop the ball (Schumacher) he is more than capable of picking it up.

Amazingly the HRT made it into qualifying one and succeeded in beating the 107% rule! This meant they got to take part in their first race of 2011 hurrah for the plucky rubbish team at the back, who weren’t quite so rubbish this time.

So to Sunday and would you believe it, it looked like rain was coming for the race. There was much muttering and scratching of heads as teams looked at the radar to try to guess if and when it would come. As no one had tried out Pirellis wet weather tires up to the point there were a lot of teams who hoped it wasn’t going to rain, they could mostly be found at the front of the grid.
As it turned out there was a light smattering for the first 10 laps or so, but it never amounted to much and as the race went on the chance of rain dropped and the teams got on with trying to guess how long their tires would last.

Off the line Vettel had engaged first gear and driven off up the road closely followed by the two McLarens and amazingly two Renaults, who have a suspiciously good start system it would appear. Webber had tried to start in second gear and got swallowed up by the pack which was all using KERS unlike the Redbulls, who don’t need it according to Newey.

Once all the hoo harr was over Vettel lead from Heidfeld and Hamilton. The German started to slowly pull away from the Renault, whilst Hamilton tried to keep in touch with the Heidfeld and look after his tires at the same time. Not something he’s used to doing or even noted as being especially good at. And so it proved again as he had to come in to change his tires earlier than he hoped for and spent the rest of the race recovering from.

Vettel didn’t seem fazed by having a Heidfeld behind him and just did enough to stay comfortable ahead of the Renault. Once again, give Vettel a clear track and the best car on pole and, as long as the car stays together, he’ll deliver you a comfortable win. There was a bit where Button tried to chase him down towards the end of the race. But really he didn’t even have to break a sweat today, even when his KERS broke down half way, he was still comfortable faster than anyone challenging him. As long as he’s got blue flags waving for him he’s unstoppable. Mores the pity, that finger he waves around at the end is still annoying me. I’ll give him the credit he’s due but i still think the likes of Hamilton and Alonso are better races.

Button made it home in 2nd this time. This is a track he likes to race on and he did a good job of looking after his tires in the second half of the race. He wasn’t the fastest driver of the day, but he kept his head and didn’t rag the tires when he was behind other drivers. Rather than racing Hamilton he dropped back and waited for his team mate to pit, leaving the track free for him to try and take the fight to Vettel. By the end he was only three and bit seconds behind Vettel, due mostly to the finger waving and showing off from the Redbull driver. But the point is he didn’t arse around and was fast all weekend.

Heidfeld managed to pick up 3rd place after Hamilton and Alonso had a bit of argy bargy and burnt their tires out. Hamilton who spent most of the afternoon trying to stop different drivers from over taking him was unable to stop Heidfeld who used his flappy rear wing to good effect and showed better paid drivers how it should be done. He did well to hold Webber off at the end as his tires finally went off and he defended like a Trojan to get a well deserved podium spot. Kubica must have been crying silent tear of frustration as he watched his car pick up its second podium of the season.

Webber managed not to hit anyone for the second race in succession and collected 4th still well behind Vettel, he’s starting to wonder if this is going to be a repeat of last year all over again. He messed up the start and then lost places over the first lap. Then when Hamilton came out ahead of him on hard tires he couldn’t find a way past with his flappy wing. The Redbull is fast as long as it has a German driving it and it’s at the front. Put it in the midfield and it desperately needs a working KERS unit. Still Webber did all right, profiting mostly from other drivers not being kind to their tires. He got the fastest lap as the race drew to a close trying to chase Heidfeld down, but cooked his tires and had to settle for 4th in the end.

Massa picks up 5th and the “did he take part in the race” award, with an uneventful and uninspiring run.

6th for Alonso who had an outrageous time of it ! He got jumped by the Renaults off the line and tried hard to stay in contention all day. Battling his way back to the front he managed to look after his tires but got stuck behind Hamilton who was struggling on the hard tires. Struggling so much in fact that as he came out of turn 7 the Ferrari had to swerve out of his way and Alonso clipped the McLaren’s rear tire and lost most of his front wing as he went past. The pass lasted the length of the straight as he tried to brake for the next corner he discovered that half his wing had gone. There was nothing Hamilton could have done, he was just slower than the Ferrari and apparently Alonso should have been paying more attention as the FIA slapped him with a 20 second penalty after the race for avoidable contact. I think it’s a bit harsh that, Alonso lost out and had to pit for a new nose anyway, it was just a racing incident. As it was it makes any difference to the result but still, the FIA was being a bit heavy handed there.

7th for reasons that will become clear in a minute was Kobayashi with another strong race from the likable Japanese fellow. He put the moves on Schumacher numerous times which is always pleasant to see.

8th for Hamilton who had a race to forget really. He got jumped at the start by Heidfeld, couldn’t look after his tires when it mattered. Couldn’t get the hard tires to work for him and had to make an extra stop at the end losing 3rd spot. Then to top it all the FIA get the random ban hammer out, pinged him for making too many swervey moves in the braking zone and give him a 20 second penalty. What was an okay ish 7th ends up as a race not for the autobiography 8th. He battled hard with Alonso for a handful of laps until the Ferrari punted him up the arse ragging his tires and driving at the edge of reason and gets nothing for it. Still I’d rather watch Hamilton battle to 8th than Vettel cruise to yet another first.

Schumacher looked boring in 9th getting over taken by pretty much anyone who fancied a go. But he did beat Rosberg who had a terrible race to 12th. They’ll be working a lot of overtime to get this car sorted. Perhaps they can go for a third version.

The final points go to Di Resta who has now finished two races and got two points. Jolly well done to him. He blew Sutil away once again and looks to be settling in nicely. Whilst the Likes of Perez get fated for driving carefully and not destroying their tires, Di Resta picks up the points and gets on with being a rookie.

This weeks tail end Charlie is Glock, a late bid by Petrov to launch his car into orbit fails as though he had done enough to classified, he wasn’t actually moving as the flag fell. Glock was 2 laps behind Vettel and the Virgins don’t look like closing that gap any time soon. The HRT of Liuzzi tried very very hard to be last and was doing a sterling job of it, but with 10 laps to go, he somehow damaged the rear wing and that was that. I’m starting too really like the chaps at HRT who are absolutely overjoyed at completing 82% of a race. That sort of enthusiasm is what gets you to 96% of the race and then it’s only a short hop to the world championship.

You can read more of their positivity at

So that’s that then. Vettel looks like he’s on for the hatrick. Mclaren have a fast car and two fast drivers. Ferrari are close but Renault have a shot at the big time and are taking every chance they get.