Wednesday, 9 May 2012

It's back to Europe and racing at a sensible time

Hello race fans, welcome back to the start of the European season and the dull as dish water Grand Prix of Spain at Barcelona. If you have something else to do this weekend … I suggest you do that, rather than watch this. I’m off to the Middlesex rugby sevens at Twickenham this weekend so the results might be delayed a bit.

So what’s been happening these last few weeks then ?

The teams were testing in season last week for the first time in years. It was all very low key with teams testing new bits of kit and giving nothing away. Redbull and Lotus have called it a waste of time, Ferrari crashed a car and Schumacher grumped about the tires. McLaren tried out a new higher nose which might well turn up this weekend in Spain.

Schumacher has continued his unprovoked attack on Pirelli and their tires. He is now claiming that after a handful of laps as the tires go off, it’s like driving on raw eggs! Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I watched a motor racing event where a half ton of raw eggs were spread over the track with hilarious results. So I’m not too sure where Mr Schumacher is coming from on this one.

There are a lot of people pointing out that Kimi made the podium after four races whilst the seven times world champion Mercedes driver is yet to get a sniff of the champagne spray since his return. And whilst Kimi looks like he’s not lost any of that raw speed and ruthless will to win, Mickey is sort of messing around the middle of the pack. Okay he has a wheel fall off in china, when Nico won, but he’s not dominated a weekend like the good old days.
Added to this the rumour mill has the board of directors at Mercedes HQ, getting rather hot and bothered about signing off on another year. Okay Nico won .. but he’s not really German enough to justify the gazillions of Euros it’s costing the car manufacturer to tool around the midfield. Especially as it appears that Lotus has a couple of handy drivers and a good car under them.

Of course they’ve denied they’re about to up sticks and head to DTM just like BMW did. But the pressure for more results is falling firmly on Mickey’s shoulders, and I think the Pirelli attack maybe an attempt to justify the lack of wins.

Another week goes by and another driver is being linked to Massa’s seat at Ferrari. After flavour of the moment Perez forgot to read page two of the script where he won the next race, he has been dismissed by the media who have now decided that Ferrari needs to sign Webber as soon as physically possible, if not before. The report earlier this week was that Webber has a contract in place for 2013, a report strenuously denied by pretty much everyone. Ferrari, Redbull and Webber himself have all said it’s a load of rubbish and I pretty much believe them.

If Alonso is going to see out his career in red, then they need a good solid number two that will understand the phase, “Teflonso is fast than you buddy”. Something Webber singularly failed to understand when Horner told him that “Seb is faster than you mate”. Webber, for all his faults, does go out with the intention of winning races, and will driver through other cars to do that. When told to get out of the way, he’s grumbled about it to the press for weeks afterwards and made the life of the PR department very hard indeed.
Why would Ferrari want that ? No, they’ll pick up Perez or someone like Senna who car get a car home, do as he’s told and not kick up a fuss.
McLaren have fitted a new higher nose to try and claw back the advantage they seemed to have at the start of the season. Thankfully it’s not one of these stepped ones, but it’s not as pretty as the original version. After starting the season looking like it was going to be a cake walk for the Woking lads, it’s all gone a bit tits up. Rubbish pit work and poor strategy calls have lost points and wins for the normally super slick McLaren. Meanwhile down the pit lane as Redbull looked a bit lost they got a win and are now leading the drivers’ championship.
It’s not time to panic just yet. But the rear left wheel gun man has asked to be relieved of the responsibility (apparently McLaren operate a volunteers only selection for the pit stop team, no one does it unless they really want to). The design of the wheel nut has been modified to captured rather than loose. So as long as they have six calm and slick pit stops during the race everyone will be happy.

So then Barcelona, it’s a pretty dull track, old school a mix of pretty much every type of corner. It’s why they test here in the off season, if you go well here you’ll go well everywhere. With this year’s tire management racing, it’s going to be a toss up between a two stopper and driving miss daisy to the line or three stopper and nail it like you stole it.

There is a lot of talk of Lotus and Grosjean getting a win here, I’m not convinced he’s the second coming just yet, but he certainly backed Kimi up and fully deserved the 3rd he got in Bahrain. Lotus is going well and the team look to have a renewed confidence about them. The money issues might not have gone away, but there is a clearer picture there now. It’s been a lottery for the win so far this year so I wouldn’t bet against it just yet.

But Redbull had their game face back on in Bahrain and showed that they’re not beaten by any stretch of the imagination. Webber is having a good solid season whilst his (admittedly current leader of the drivers’ championship) looks like he hasn’t got a handle on the car yet.
This might just be the same problem as everyone else, no idea what the tire ware is going to be from one lap to the other.  But he doesn’t look as happy as he did last year .... well until he won in Bahrain obviously.

So then New bits for the big boys, McLaren looking to get a win the championship back on track, whilst Ferrari look to get some sort of Championship going. Redbull want to keep the ball rolling and Lotus desperately need some win bonus money. Mercedes ... well you never know.

Pick a winner from that lot.

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