Sunday, 22 April 2012

It's Vettels turn to win this week.

Right then, after all the ho har and not a little emotion, we finally get down to what F1 does best. Have a race and a pretty good race it was too.
The expected attack from McLaren never materialised as yet again poor pit stops put paid to Hamilton’s ambitions.  Mercedes ran into tyre problems yet again whilst Lotus delivered a double podium and Vettel finally got his mojo back and dominated a weekend like we’re used to.

Vettel nailed his car to the front on the grid with a great run in Q3. Up to that point the Redbulls had looked there or there abouts but not blindingly fast. Certainly no faster than the McLaren of Hamilton or the Merc of Nico you had to say.  But as the clock counted down Vettel pulled out one of those special laps we used to see last year where he just hooks the car up to the circuit and delivers a stunning pole time.  Hamilton was a hairs length behind him, then Webber and Button suggesting we were going to get a Redbull v McLaren battle of old. Nico had fluffed his lines after last week’s stellar drive as Schumacher had “issues” to be dropped in Q1.
The most interesting thing, though you might have missed it, was Di Resta getting into Q3 and eventually 10th place after the Force India team had packed up early on Friday to calm some shattered nerves. The team bus had got caught up in the demonstrations outside the circuit on the way back to the hotel Wednesday night and didn’t want the same thing to happen on Friday. So they set the car up in first practice and walked out half way through practice two despite first Bernie then the circuit owner going down to the pits and demanding they stay or else.  
In “alleged” retribution FOM the F1 owned and run Television service saw fit to not show either of the Force India cars all afternoon. Bernie denied there were any hard feeling, but a great bit of qualifying from Di Resta to make it into Q3 was completely missed by the TV camera ... odd that.

So race day dawned as bright and sunny as you would expect any desert too, except it didn’t. As the start of the race drew nearer, the wind picked up and the clouds get darker, the temperature dropped and the odd spot of rain could be seen on the shirts of the commentators.
 What this meant was that those team that had been worried the soft tyres would last about 30 seconds in the bright hot sunlight, felt they would last considerably longer in the cool cloudy shade.  This year is turning into a season of tyre management. Burning a layer off the tyre as the car sprints off the line, just destroys the life and grip available to the driver.
Hamilton and Button soon found that their McLarens that had been so fast in the hot weather just couldn’t get the tyres to work as the race started. The Lotus’s of Kimi and Grosjean had made lightening starts and were soon up at the front of the grid as first Button had to dive in to the pits followed by Rosberg and Hamilton.  As Vettel scampered off to a five second lead for much of the first half of the race the only challenge he had was from Kimi who looked like a man on a mission.

Hamilton who had made it away in second had two stops where the left rear wheel nut refused to help. First jamming then cross threading so that, what had looked like a win at long last turned into a scrap with his old friend Rosberg who drove him off the road then Alonso and Massa in ninth place.

Kimi eventually caught up with Vettel as they came up to their final stops, but catching a car is one thing, passing another. Some narrow minded nitwits have complained that DRS and KERS are terrible ideas and take something away from the racing. But as Kimi popped his DRS along the main straight and  mashed the KERS button, Vettel flicked his “push to pass” maximum reves button and just about kept enough distance between the two cars int he braking zone. The Redbull had enough KERS charge left to punch out of turn one and that was enough to give the German his first win of the year. Kimi’s last set of medium tires weren’t quite as gripping as the previous soft tires and he couldn’t drag the lotus into one more fight for the win.
So there you are, is this the start of another Redbull and Vettel dominated championship? I don’t think so, certainly the blue cars are now back up there. But we can just add them to the list of cars that could win a race. McLaren and Mercedes are joined by Lotus and Redbull as the team with the cars to take the crown this year. Only Ferrari looks like they’ve still not fixed their car and the race for the top four teams is going to be about development. They can work with what they have, Ferrari still need a base to work from.

So its a win for Vettel and the triple crown; Pole, fastest lap and the win. It’s just like 2011 all over again isn’t it. Kimi made him work towards the end, but he’s a sharper boy now and didn’t fluff his lines when he needed to defend the corner. I was almost starting to like him until he got out of the car and started waving that finger of his around.  Horner said they hadn’t expected Bahrain to be a circuit they’d do well on, which should make everyone worried.

Kimi gets second with a great drive from 11th on the grid. he doesn’t look rusty after his gap years and even managed several sentences’ in the press conference after the race. I might start liking him again at this rate. Will he win this year ? you’d be brave to bet against it.

Grosjean the SI standard of driving gets a very creditable third. He led the race at one stage and eventually got out of the way of Kimi when told to. Two races in a row where he’s picked up good points, the car is working well and the only person unhappy with this tonight must be Kubica.  I think Lotus are starting to deliver that pre season testing promise at last

Webber is once again in his customary fourth spot. Last week he was the best Redbull driver, this week he’s back to being a disappointment. How cruel F1 can be.

Rosberg keeps his fifth spot after a trip to the stewards for unsporting behaviour.  The reality is that he drove a ragged race after losing pole with a greedy qualifying performance.  Last week he could do no wrong, this week he got it all wrong. When Hamilton and Alonso came to over take him he was more than a little aggressive in his defence of the racing line, with bother drivers taking to the run off area to avoid ploughing in to the back of him.
The stewards called this perfectly fine and dandy in the end as the cars weren’t alongside him and “chose” to leave the circuit. Nico had started the move as he came out of the corner and not as a direct result of the drivers behind him. Personally i think he was lucky to get away with it, still I'm not a steward so what do I know.

Di Resta gets a jolly good sixth considering they didn’t touch the cars after first practice and didn’t know how the cars would work in full tanks.  It’s also two fingers up to Bernie and that’s always a good thing.

Alonso seventh in the end, they were looking for sixth and must be very unhappy.

But not as unhappy as the boys from Woking! Button pulled up with a broken something before the end and Lewis only just made it to eighth in the end. Friday they were al over this track and they by Sunday afternoon they’re struggling to get passed the mess that is the Ferrari. 1.5 seconds off the pace the car eat the tyres and the left rear wheel nut again refused to work correctly. Whitmarsh did not look a happy team manager post race. The thing is, Lewis drove his heart out again and still didn’t get his just reward.

Massa wasn’t quite so rubbish this week in ninth, he’ll probably keep his seat for the year now.

Schumacher rounds out the top ten and whinged about the tyres after the race. Who cares ?

Last place this week goes to Karthikeyan in the HRT who is rapidly becoming the only thing you can comfortably predict these days.

Right lets get out of Bahrain and never come back .. sport and politics should never be mixed.

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