Sunday, 15 April 2012

Nico pops his cherry at long last

Well wasn’t that all jolly exciting and unexpected. I mean who would have though the Merc could get a pole and then convert that into an actual win! and not the highly expensive seven times world champion, no Nico finally delivers after 111 attempts and pops his winning cherry.
No one saw that coming and certainly not you lot judging by the scores, with less than a third of you making it to double figures.

I missed qualifying, after a prior engagement with several fine bottles of Cote Du Rhone and I couldn’t face yet another 6am start. So it was a somewhat bleary double take when I heard the news that not only had Nico aced the pole but Vettel was down in 11th and Kobayashi would start 3rd after Lewis got a penalty for changing his gearbox. It’s always nice to see a once very smug German get beaten but a different person. Okay so Nico is still technically a German but his father was Swedish so he’s alright in my book.

I managed to drag my sorry carcass out of bed for Sundays race to be greeted by the sight of no rain what so ever. All my lovely plans for watching Alonso and Button fight it out through the spray had disappeared and I was faced with a race with a difference. Still there was going to be lots of overtaking as the Merc’s went backwards and the Redbulls, Ferrari and McLarens came back through the field.

Except no one seemed to have told Nico the plan, when the lights went out off he scampered into the smog filled distance and the rest of the drivers spent 40 laps in a long procession. There were a couple of moves but nothing worthy of a pass as the DRS failed to deliver much in the way of an opportunity for overtaking. Big long straights into hairpins are fine in principle, but stick the DRS zone half way down it and the cars are bouncing off the rev limiter way before they get to the end of the straight.  So it was more a case of cars almost getting into a passing place, but not quite making it.  The Mercedes engine cars seemed to have a better top speed than the Renault and Ferrari engines, but they needed the car in front to make a mistake or get told to get out of the way, for there to be much of a chance.

Mercedes made an uncharacteristic mistake at Schumacher’s first stop and released the car before the front right had been bolted into place.  He made it round four corners before pulling off to be the only retirement of the day.

Meanwhile Nico continued to look after his tires and lead the race. He was so far ahead that the TV stopped watching him and instead began to look at the train of cars forming up behind Kimi. He was on a two stopper and this race was rapidly turning into one where the last man into the pits was going to have the best tires at the end.
Kimi was struggling on in second with the two Redbulls, Alonso, the McLarens and Grosjean all within spitting distance. For lap after lap they sat behind each other popping out now and again to try and spook the driver ahead, but none of them had the grunt to make it past. Then Alonso tried to go past Grosjean and ran out onto the marbles to discover that there was bugger all grip out there. He ran off the track back to 9th.  Then within the space of a lap Kimi lost all grip on his warn out tires and went from 2nd to 14th before he had time to order two cornettos and a Vodka chaser.
Button was past into 2nd, Hamilton nipped passed a slippery Vettel for third and at the end of the race Webber sneaked past the struggling German for 4th, my how the mighty have fallen.
Grosjean and the Williams of Senna and Maldonardo scrapped it out for the rest of the points and Alonso only had memories of Malaysia to keep him company in 9th
Kobayashi who had told all and sundry that he had his name all over the winner’s trophy, got a fastest lap and the last point. His name is not being linked with the Ferrari drive this week.  

So then Nico gets his first win and about time too. On cold days the Merc is going to be the car to beat, when it can look after its tires and make them last more than 15 minutes their now fully legal tricksy rear wing is going to deliver them to the front of the grid and then it’s down to the tires. He didn’t really have much to deal with all race as the big guns struggled to get past each other.  Button might have had a shot at it, but a sticky real wheel on his last of three stops robbed him of the chance. So Nico showed he can do it when it’s all there for him. Well done him

Button in 2nd once again must do better in qualifying. He’s got a car and the speed to deliver a championship, if he’s at the front on Saturday. Still he made the passes when he needed to and but for the problem on the last stop he could have given Nico a run for his money.

Hamilton in 3rd must be wondering what he has to do this year. The team found a problem with the gearbox when they unpacked the car on Thursday, so had to change it and got a 5 place grid penalty. So Lewis was always on the back foot. He managed to qualify 2nd but was dropped to 7th from where he was always going to struggle to get a win. So yet another 3rd isn’t so bad and it was a much more philosophical Lewis in the post race press scrum. As he said, with three different winners already, consistency is going to be the key; hence he now leads the championship.

Webber did enough to get to 4th and must have felt very smug when he mugged Vettel with 2 laps to go. No team orders this time round.

Vettel complained all weekend long about the car not working for him and looked to be short a few horses on the long straight. The handling was better but the straight line speed just isn’t there right now. 5th place wasn’t bad considering he started in 11th though.

Grosjean finally makes it to the finish in 6th, which is about where Lotus should be with the Redbulls and McLarens ahead and either of the Mercs.

Senna has another good weekend for Williams in 7th.

As Maldonado puts both Williams it he top 10. Finally, a good solid reliable top ten car for the Didcot boys, it’s good to see them back up there as Sir Frank turns 70 this week. Anyone who watched the F1 racing in the 80’s and 90’s will remember the Williams cars showing the likes of Ferrari and Renault how it should be done.  They always gave the impression of a little garage team taking on the faceless greyness of McLaren and highly strung Italians, to give the Brits something to cheer for. Like warm beer and roast beef they were our lads and they were great and it’s good to see the team back where it belongs.  How all they need are two top draw drivers again.

Alonso is a sad and lonely 9th. Massa is all the way back in 13th and was told to get on with the race more than once. Alonso tried to drive the wheels off that car and very nearly got a good result. But I suspect Malaysia is going to be the high point of the season for a long time.

Finally Kobayashi 10th, got the fastest lap but he should have taken home more than one point from a 3rd place start. The car didn’t seem to work as the tires got older.  Still he was ahead of Perez who didn’t look quite so wonderful on a dry track with the big boys playing for real. Not quite a Ferrari driver just yet lad.

Kovalainen was dead last after a faulty something stopped him for a lap or two. Sparing the blushes of the HRT team who were as rubbish as ever.

So then, here are the scores and it’s a pitifully low scoring round.  Predicting the results this year is going to be harder than ever now there are at least 3 teams that can win races.

Next Bahrain ..... 


  1. Minor point Sideways, keke is Finnish and Nico has dual Finnish / German nationality. Sorry to be a Pedant ......oh and I HAVE met Ron Dennis, it was the post season party with Senna and Prost in a Paris nightclub a long time ago.

    I'm racing at Silverstone VSCC on Saturday, looks like a wet one.
    Tootle Pip, Count Grimshaw

  2. To be fair Keke was born in Sweden...