Stop the clocks, silence the bells, bring out your dead but we just had an exciting race in Valencia. No i don’t actually believe it happened either, but we got a belting 57 laps around the old fish port of Spain for a change. We had drama, almost an eighth winner and heartbreak for the fancied runner.
And you have to thank Pirelli for that, tyres that give up the ghost with no warning at all, one lap they’re all fine and dandy the next Maldonado is cruising all over the back of you and unceremoniously punting you off the track in his hast to get by. All the while the home town boy drivers a simply superb race, for the most famous team in town and wins with style and panache. You can’t write this sort of stuff.
There were lots of big losers today; Vettel looked to be off into the distance like the days of old with a car that was untouchable for a change. He nailed pole half a second faster than Hamilton with ease, and come the race was off up the road before you could say “tyre wear” to him. He looked like he had the race in his pocket until a safety car, caused by Vergne getting a touch of sun stroke and trying to punt Kovalainen into the wall. As the Safety car pulled off Vettel managed one more lap before the alternator packed up and stranded man and car half way round the circuit.
I didn’t even now F1 cars still had alternators!!, I though they used dylithium crystals and the tears of new born children to power them, but no, it’s still a good old alternator which packed up on the Renault engine.
Which left Alonso in the lead after a bit of nifty pit stop action and a couple of lightning fast laps.. behind him though was Grosjean who is rapidly turning into the next F1 driver most likely to win his first GP. He kept Alonso honest for a handful of laps before his alternator on the Renault engine suddenly went pop and he too rolled to a stop on the circuit.
So this left Hamilton to take it to Alonso after yet another,“incredibly awful McLaren Pit stop moment”TM during the safety car nonsense had lost him position. But the McLaren hadn’t really looked all that fast during the race and didn’t make much impression on Alonso’s lead now. All the while Kimi was sitting behind the McLaren waiting to make his move.
With a handful of laps left to run the tyres on Hamilton’s car suddenly started to give up the grip. First Kimi breezed on past for second place then Maldonado who had started third and dropped to the back of the grid before climbing back through the field started to catch Lewis with his much fresher tyres. With two laps to go and canvas on Hamiltons rims it looked like Maldonado was going to breeze past too, and maybe Schumacher and Webber who were also on much newer rubber. Into the DRS zone Lewis had a big slide onto the straight which allowed Maldonardo to get alongside as they braked for the hairpin at the end. Lewis gave the Williams room to make the first right hand corner but squeezed the Venezuelan off the circuit as they tuned left for the exit.
Maldonado, faced with a weave around the run off “baguettes” designed to stop drivers short cutting the corner, headed back towards the track and the section of track Hamilton was currently on. The white car T-boned the silver car and sent it spinning into the wall along with his front wing.
Lewis was understandably extremely annoyed to be out of the race whilst Maldonado tooled round minus his wing for the last few laps and an eventual 10th spot. Some called it a 50/50 move, others a racing incident. I think Maldonado is a tool and ought to be banned to the back of the grid for the rest of the year. He only had to wait a few more corners before both he and Hamilton would have got the points they deserved. He was going to pass Hamilton with ease but he decided to t-bone the car off the road instead. Not the first time he’s felt direct action was the correct course either. Post race and the Stewards felt that Maldonardo’s move was too much as well and gave him a 20 second penalty dropping him to 12th
So that left Alonso to take his second win of the year and a very emotional win it was in front of his adoring Spanish fans. It’s not often you hear a crowd roaring above the sound F1 cars, but at Valencia when Alonso crossed the line first, you heard an almighty cheer from the stands. No bad thing given the previous two days had lacked any sort of spectator crowd. It wasn’t an easy win for him once Vettel had dropped out he still need to drive the back side off the Ferrari to make it work for him. Qualifying back down in 11th Ferrari weren’t even looking at the Podium let alone a win, you can’t pass at Valencia remember.
But give Alonso a sniff of the win and he will deliver it for you, its especially nice when the likes of Hamilton and Vettel fail to score points in what is turning into a tight championship. There are still 12 races to go, but you have to have Alonso top of the list now, the Ferrari and him are on song and will be difficult to stop now.
Kimi Second and back where he belongs, he wasn’t as fast as his team mate all weekend, the steering still not quite to his liking. But he stuck to the task and got the points when Hamilton and the others failed.
Rubb your eyes and take a step back, yes Micheal Schumacher was 3rd. Mickey looked well out of it at half distance, but the safety car came in at the right moment and he stayed out whilst the front runner all pitted. He stopped later and was able to pick off the cars in front as their tyres dropped off. Then Maldonado took out Hamilton and suddenly he was third.
Webber was fourth and drove the wheels off the car from the back of the grid in 19th, which is pretty good, good enough in fact to move him to second in the championship. As his team mate suffered from mechanical woes he got on with dragging his car through the field to pick up the points. Like Mickey, he’d made his second stop late and picked off the cars ahead at the end.
Hulkenberg finally beats his team mate to fifth. Not the most stunning of drivers, he was lucky not to be caught by Rosberg at the end, but points are money and Force India could do with the readies.
Rosberg, makes it to sixth making it a good day for Mercedes.
Di Resta finishes seventh but should have got more out of this if his team had been a bit more on the ball. One stops work if you can make the tyres work consistently for the whole stint. Once they go off they need to be changed and Force India missed the change over by a lap or two, You lose far too much time trying to make worn tyres grip whilst the likes of Rosberg steam up behind you. Still he finished, that’s to be applauded.
Button was eighth, not good, not nearly good enough. Either Hamilton is driving the backside off a poor car or Button isn’t working a good car enough. He looked lost all weekend with never a sniff of the top of the grid. Given his quality you have to expect him to be back fighting for the wins soon, but Lewis looks the better McLaren driver at the moment, once again team Button was conspicuous by its absence. No red nosed John Button to gurn at the camera this time out.
Perez, who some people think is fantastic, was ninth. I did see him make several over taking moves during the race, But i don’t think the Sauber really worked here, I think he was on his usual one stopper and lost out at the end as the late changing two stoppers Webber and Schumacher zipped past him. Neither bad nor good, like Force India is was a day to pick up the points as others dropped the ball.
Finally Senna gets promoted to tenth as Maldonado incurs the wrath of the stewards for being a tool.
Rosberg got the fastest lap and our friend Karthikeyan was the last man standing again.
I’ll leave you with this though, the last time we had this podium was in France 2005, All ex world champions and all Ferrari driver at one time or another. Will Alonso also join Kimi and Schumacher as a Ferrari world champion this year? I think today puts him firmly in the driving seat.
Now and then.