Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Break out the bucket and spade, it's Valencia

Welcome back race fans. After the exceptionally soggy Canada we return to Europe for the next round of races, starting off at Valencia.

Now I don’t really mind the track at Valencia. It has a few interesting touch, a bridge over the dock yard entrance, a fast run between the walls to test the brave. But there in lies the problem with this harbour side track, it's not Monaco. The track is wide enough for three cars pretty much everywhere, so there is no real sense of danger as in Monaco. And because it’s in a dockyard there are no punters for big sections on the track. No punters means no atmosphere what so ever, unless you have a thing for containers and cranes you weirdo.
On the wide shots of the track you can see miles of golden sandy beaches off in the distance, packed full of happy holiday makers who are totally oblivious to the grand prix taking place not more than 200 yards away.

The races over the years have lacked a certain something. Like Turkey and China there are interesting races out there, but very little to get the pulse racing. Last year the only memorable moment was Webber attempting to go for the long jump distance record after trying to roughly mount the back of a lotus.

This year with the tires, KERS, and floppy rear wing we have been getting some pretty exciting races. Even the race in Barcelona kept your attention to the end, so you never know there might be something on here.

Except ....... can you see anyone other than Vettel winning ? Another podium result for the young German here and its going to be all over as a championship by Hungary ! and yet people are already calling this a classic year?

Team wise there is very little grumbling from Redbull these days, as Webber comes to terms with being the far and away number two driver this year despite some of his best driving in years. He's had to drive from way back on the grid numerous times and demonstrated a commendable ability to not hit anyone else in the process. Yet his smug team mate is sticking it on the front of the grid and winning with ease from there.
However, the future isn't looking too rosy as the FIA seem determined to stop the teams for using the engine over run to power the diffuser in and out of corners. They've still not really explained just how they plan on policing this rule, but ban it they will from the British GP. This is going to affect Redbull more than most so they're complaining the most about it. Only that by the time the ban comes in Vettel will have all already cleared a space on the desk for the silverware. Oh well. However from this weekend, teams will not be able to run a “qualifying engine map” which means the likes of Redbull can’t run the engine turned all the way up to 11 on the fuel dial. Then turn it back to nine for the race. McLaren have been making a big song and dance over the Redbull having all this extra power for qualifying and how it’s not fair, so the FIA are banning qualifying engine settings. So far Redbull have locked out the front row in qualifying at every round, could we be about to see a new pole driver ?

In the next door pit, McLaren have one happy driver and one very out of sorts driver. The persistent rumours that Hamilton is going to Redbull next year refuse to go away. Whilst Button has or is about to sign an extension on his contract with McLaren.
The Woking team are the next best thing this year, being the only team other than Redbull to win a race. Yet it’s only been when Redbull have made a mistake that the McLaren driver have been able to capitalise. They can take the fight to Vettel, but they don't have the car to win on merit just yet. This, it would appear is what is frustrating Hamilton the most. He's over driving the car and making mistake after mistake. He did this last year in Monza after the second corner crash with Massa, the next 4 races saw Hamilton just throw caution to the wind and he went all Banzai all over the place. It’s as if he is so desperate to win that second championship that he forgets to win, first you have to finish. What he really needs right now is his father telling him to “calm it down son and stop being an arse”, but I think that bridge may have been burned for too long now.
To be fair though, I though Button chopped him in Canada. It was a touch unnecessary of button to come quite that far across the track after getting the chicane wrong. But, well Button was riding Lady Luck that weekend like she was a $400 hooker, he was having the ride of his life and there was no stopping him what so ever. So Hamilton was unlucky as far as I was concerned, but it is messing with his head.
Anyway, it could be worse, he could be driving for Ferrari where is appears it’s a whole road of wrong down that end of the pits. They don’t even look like getting a sniff of the top step at the moment. Alonso is ragging the arse of the car but it’s just not delivering the results for him. Two podiums in Monaco and Turkey have come as others have cocked it up and are scant reward for all the hard work he’s put in. Whilst Massa still doesn’t look like the driver that won the championship for 30 seconds in 2008, he’s had moment of brilliance but he’s not stringing a weekend together any more. Maybe there is some truth to the rumour that Button is going to Ferrari when Massa moves on, I certainly don’t see Massa getting a ride with the red horse next year.
Alonso has been talking up this weekend, it’s in Spain and he’s Spanish and all. The Ferrari might stand a chance here, especially if the Redbull qualifying engine is turned off. I don’t think a win is on the cards, but a podium is a possibility if Hamilton, button and Webber come unstuck.

As for the rest ? Well Mercedes appear to be getting their act together at last. Mickey has the bit between his teeth and could have bagged himself a podium in Canada, whilst Nico continues to be almost fantastic.
Renault, are having a bit of a moan about the engine over run ban. If you have a look at the footage from Canada you can see the side exit exhaust in front of the side pods blowing the water away. It’s a brilliant idea and in the hands of better drivers that car should be on the podium. Kubica is still making noises about coming back before the end of the year. But I think he’s done too much damage to his body and is just not going to have the flexibility he once had. Heidfeld hasn’t really made the grade and Petrov is just ….well … very Russian.

The rest are rubbish and I can’t be arsed to write anymore.

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