Sunday, 25 March 2012

Alonso is faster than you .. do you understand.

Once again the old adage that, one should never count ones chickens until all the eggs have hatched is proved by a single Formula One race. Seven days ago everyone had Ferrari dead and buried, an impossible car to drive and no idea what to do with it, the media were calling for Domenicali’s head and Massa to be shot out of a cannon into the face of the sun.
This evening, okay the Italian press is still calling for Massa to be fired out of a cannon, but the car is perfect and their driver Alonso is the greatest driver ever to wear the red overalls. A brilliant win of a race that started in the rain, was delayed for an hour as the HSE threw a red flag, then a superb drive to hold off a hard charging Sauber to claim a very unexpected win at the a second event of the season
 And you can’t take anything away from that win either. It was a true old school Alonso victory, against the odds and with his back to the wall. When the moment presented itself, he nailed Perez into turn one and never looked back.

Unfortunately that isn’t the story of the weekend though. The tin foil hat brigade is incensed by a simple radio message seven laps from the end. This was sent, from the pit wall, to the Sauber of Perez who found himself in the unusual position of chasing Alonso down for the first win of his F1 career.
It said simply "Checo, be careful, we need this position, we need this position"
Which to any normal person means ....
“Look lad, you’re in a comfortable position, a guaranteed second place. We have no sponsors and we need the points. We would rather see you bring it home for the money than make a do or die move on a Ferrari driven by a man who is not going to give this one up ... do you understand”.
Now you may think that because the engine in the back of the Sauber is supplied by Ferrari, that maybe Ferrari had a word with its satellite team and maybe said, “Right lads, don’t louse this up or the engines you get next month might not be quite so pukka, know what I mean Guv’ner”
Or perhaps maybe, just maybe the fact that Perez is being linked to Ferrari as a replacement for Massa as soon as the start of the European leg of the championship. That Perez might think twice about stealing the win from a team he wishes to join and a team mate who would be his number one.

It all depends on how tight that tin foil hat is really. Oh I know in the past Ferrari have played fast and loose with their own team orders and threatened to throw their toys out of the pram for the most minor of reasons. But ordering another team, an engine customer team, to stop racing to keep that engine supply? I don’t think they would and Peter Sauber the owner of Sauber F1 is a straight up dyed in the wool racer. He’s been knocking around motor sport since the 80’s in sports cars. So he’s not some push over, some new boy with no history. He has integrity and a sense of honour. He rescued the Sauber team when BMW flounced off the DTM last year, the team has his name on it and I really don’t think he would throw a win away to keep an engine deal. When asked if there had been any talks with Ferrari during the race, Mr Sauber said "One hundred per cent nothing. We had no discussion about Checo and we had no discussion about the position."

It is all a moot point anyway as Perez managed to throw it away all on his own. Ahhh but the tin foil hat nay Sayers point to that and say “but look he was told to stop racing and he went off the road deliberately, look we are right look ... look, and that Bernie is a lizard that feeds on the blood of new born deer, he went off under Ferrari orders ” etc etc etc.

Now every racing driver I’ve ever met, and that is a few, would have rather cut their left foot off than throw a race. Remember Barrichello giving Schumacher the race in Austria all those years ago? If you recall Ferrari told its own driver to move over and let the team number one through after Barrichello had completely dominated the whole race. The Brazilian did as he was told 100 metres from the line and with a whole shed load of bad grace.
Then there’s Ferraris current whipping boy Massa being told to move over in Germany, who do so with real undisguised disgust, it was the start of the end for him, and he never challenged Alonso again. The bad PR was endless.

Racing drivers do not throw races to keep engines, even the ones about to be signed for the team ahead of them. Perez pushed and pushed and then made a mistake that took the momentum out of the attack. With rain forecast for the end of the race it was better to get the points on a day when the big boys had dropped the ball and he was about to deliver a hat full of points. You can’t get a Ferrari P45 slip between the midfield and if he had thrown away a second place, it would be him facing the cannon shot into the sun now.

  It may well have crossed his mind that he was about to challenge a Ferrari for the win and maybe he has already got his signature on a contract with prancing horse logo. So he may have thought “Good opportunity to show them I can race for every point” or he may have though, “better to show them I can do as I'm told”. Or how about “Best not take a car out I could potentially be driving next month”. Equally “I’ll show them I'm willing to fight for every point I’ll stick up the inside next time we reach the end of the pit straight”.
There are hundreds of thoughts he could have had. But the one first and foremost would have been “Don’t screw this up now”

Anyway there were some other drivers and teams.

McLaren had a bit of a nightmare after Hamilton nailed pole again on Saturday and failed again to turn it into a win. Whilst Jenson normally imperious in a changeable conditions race, clipped the back of the mobile chicane Karthikeyan and spent most of the afternoon complaining about his tires not gripping. No smug father and ditzy girlfriend flapping around the media this time around. Team Button was conspicuous by its absence post race.
Also a bit lost at sea was Mercedes. The car can obviously nail a single qualifying lap when its trick rear wing do dar can optimise the balance and deliver the silver car to the sharp end of the grid. But come Sunday and its literally chewing the tires up. Rosberg and Schumacher went south the moment the life was gone from the tires and no amount of weaving around can save them. Why anyone would want to protest that rear wing when it’s clearly not delivering any race performance what so ever, is beyond me. Let then go for pole and over take them on lap 15 like normal.

Anyway, rain made it a bit of a lottery, hence;

1st Alonso, I doubt many people went for that. It was a combination of luck and good old smarts. He passed Perez when he had the chance and used KERS to just about stay ahead. And like Last week the driver chasing him was the one that made the mistake.
This win now means he’s leading the championship, no I don’t believe it either!

2nd Perez. His stock has rocketed through the roof with this. I still don’t like him; one good result does not make for a world Champion after all. Petrov was third in Australia last year and the next big thing, now he’s tooling round in a Caterham.  So I'm going to hold judgement for now.  I will say that he drove a barn stormer of a race and really showed that given the right conditions he has what it takes to be a race winner. But then, Trulli was technically a race winner too.
He did a great job and could have won the race, if just finishing hadn’t been so important to Sauber. Was blindingly fast on used rubber and traded fastest laps with Alonso as they fought it out.
Let’s just see what he can do on a dry track when the big boys are there to play too.

3rd Hamilton. Bit of a smile this week, but poor pit work again and a lack of race pace left the boy wonder to run a quite race. Vettel and Webber tried to catch him at the end but Vettel clipped the HRT mobile chicane and punctured his rear tire.  The points are ticking over, just not enough of them. Bringing his mum to the races is obviously working, not so much the trophy girlfriend, who looks less and less comfortable whenever Mr Hamilton senior is there.  Still it’s a long old championship this year; there will be plenty of time for that relationship to thaw out.

4th Webber, did alright, didn’t hit anyone and did about all he can with a car that isn’t as good as last years. It’s suffering from a lack of rear grip as it goes into and through the apex of a corner ... what they need is some sort of way to energise the rear wing as the driver lifts off into a corner. Maybe with exhaust gasses too and the diffuser or something .. I don’t know, something like that.

5th Kimi. Changed the gearbox and got a 5 place penalty on Friday. Started 10th ended up here in 5th. Then he got the fastest lap just like the good old days. Missed a massive PR opportunity by not having Walls ice cream delivered to him as the teams sat under the gazebos waiting for the rain to stop.

6th Senna. The B spec Senna charged around like a thing possessed. Punted his team mate at the start and fought back from dead last to claim a hat full of points. Whisper it VERY quietly ... Williams might just have a handy little car this year, imagine what do proper drivers could do with it.

7th Di Resta. More luck and more points. The car still didn’t look all that fast and will need a lot of wind tunnel time for the next two weeks.   

8th Vergne. This was a pretty special drive from the Torro Rosso Rookie. Before the red flag came out he was tooling around in the top ten on inters as the rest of the rest of the grid slithered around on full on storm wets. That takes balls and a lot of skill. During the winter season the Torro Rosso would pop up now and then and deliver these great laps. It’s obviously a well sorted car and Vergne is proving to be quite a skilled driver.  Ricciardo was also driving like a man on a mission for a lot of the race, so I'm starting to think these boys might soon be regulars in the top ten.

9th Hulkenberg. Not bad, not brilliant but better than more notable names in red cars with far more experience.

10th Schumacher.  Salvaged some pride for Mercedes, but mostly looked to be holding up the pack. They need to figure out why it’s chewing the tires up so fast and do it before the rest of the midfield get a real handle on their own cars.  BMW and Toyota upped sticks and quite when they couldn’t show the board of directors the results ... will they soon do the same at Mercedes?

Finally our last placed driver would have been De La Rosa, but the FIA got so annoyed with Karthikeyan getting to tenth and then wondering around like he was a racing driver or something and trying to use his car to stop people over taking him. That then slapped him with a 20 second penalty at the end for hitting Vettel, which means he gets demoted to 22 and dead last.  Well done to him. In further HRT news Luis PĂ©rez-Sala, Team Principal writes: "Yesterday after qualifying we were satisfied and today, thankfully, we are again. We met another target which was to finish the race with both cars” Well done to them, crossing their fingers and hoping not one but both cars will finish just shows you they’re not here to make up the number at all.

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