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.