Sunday, 24 June 2012

Itally wins, England goes home in a huff.

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.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Who cares about Valencia ?

Oh yeah .. right okay damn it ... yes .. Valencia.

Who cares, it’ll be boring, in fact it's this boring;

Here’s a picture from Le Mans instead;

Update predictions and stuff before friday .. okay.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Go out there and Spank its arse off Lewis.

I don’t know about you but I thought that was one of the most exciting races I’ve seen in a long time and now it’s seven races and seven winners. I think that’s just about it now.

I love it when drivers have to rag the backside off the car to get the win. Whilst Alonso and Vettel gambled on old rubber, Lewis went with a two stopper and then thrashed the car back to the top of the pile.
Imagine Button or Perez being told they had ten laps to make up 13 seconds? It would be painful to watch.  Okay so Hamilton came out on fresh tires and had DRS to help him. But he still had to make that time up and not stick it into the wall or lose a nose on the back of Vettel or Alonso. There were still back markers to get in the way before the chequered flag waved.
People complain that DRS and KERS makes it too easy, yet I don’t see Button climbing back through the field, or Webber taking it to the front. No, you still have to have the car and the balls to win a race, exactly the same as it’s always been.

1st. So then Hamilton finally gets his win this year, and he deserved it. With McLaren finally getting the pit stops just about right he was told to keep pushing by the team and push he did, with fastest lap after fastest lap he drove it like he stole it. And Hamilton on the edge is just a thing of beauty, it really is. When the car is there for him he just nails it and doesn’t tool round looking after tyres and being safe and cagey.  It’s now his turn to lead the world championship, by two points and with any luck he can build on this in Valencia and Britain.  I like the happy smiley Lewis, he’s far more fun.

2nd. Grosjean showed Ferrari and Alonso how a one stopper should work, 20 laps on the soft tyre and then 50 on the prime. And still able to take Alonso with a lap to spare, on tires that wern’t much younger than the red cars. That was a cracking drive for the French man, he had to manage the tyres and not burn them out, and it’s kind of a dull way to win in my book. But you have to give the man the credit.  I believe that Grosjean is now being linked to the Massa seat at Ferrari.

3rd. Perez, well this is his speciality isn’t it. Drive carefully and get the thing to the line on a one stopper. He is very good at it, but again it’s not the most exciting way of going racing.  He popped it past Rosberg and Massa towards the end in a nice opportunist move, so he can race when he has to. But its all a bit ‘wait for the others to move out of the way racing’. Still as Alonso, Vettel and Kimi showed there is an art to making it work for you. Still it must have been nice to stick it past Alonso this time without being told to hold position behind the engine supplier.

4th. Vettel got the pole and must have though the hard work was done on Saturday afternoon. But the Redbull still doesn’t have that outright straight line speed that you need here with its massive back straight and he paid the price. A late race stop for new boots bagged him the fastest lap at the end of the race, but that must be scant consolation after getting the pole with ease.

5th. Alonso must have though he was going to cruise to an easy win as he popped out ahead of the McLaren after the first stop, but Lewis mugged him into the final chicane the next lap then drove away from him. Only to see him peel back into the pits with 15 laps to go! Rather than pit too and make the fight a fair one, the team kept him out and he was a sitting duck form there. First Hamilton then Grosjean and Perez sneaked past him, but to add insult to injury Vettel pitted and still beat him.
It was all looking so good coming into this race leading the championship, and suddenly it all goes wrong. But it’s a long season and there’s plenty of time for the boys from Italy.

6th. Rosberg ... my tip for the top and he completely failed to live up to any of my expectation. Someone said that China was going to be his only race win, given the way this went i have a horrible feeling he may be right.

7th. Webber didn’t really trouble the front runners all day, got stuck behind Kimi for a long time and couldn’t make the strategy work for him. Back to earth with a bump after the highs of Monaco.

8th. Kimi tried to make it work on a one stopper as he team mate did, but never really looked like being at one with the car all weekend. I think we’re starting to see the bad old Kimi that couldn’t care less and didn’t bother trying when the car wasn’t working for him. After the blistering start to the season he’s slipping back and being over shadowed by Grosjean,  a situation that Kimi has never thrived in.  Needs to buck his ideas up and stop whinging about power steering and just thrash the car to the podium.

9th. Kobayashi I was too busy watching the race at the front to notice him.

10th.  Massa who looked almost like he cared for a bit at the start, then he spun and that was the end of the fun. Counting down the days now till the P45 lands on the door mat.

Finally Charles Pic is the last man standing, 3 laps back from Lewis and a whole world of talent away.

Right its a break for 2 weeks with Le Mans next week, with proper cars and by the sounds of it rain. Qualifying starts on Wednesday and carries on, on Thursday.  The race kicks off 3pm French time on Eurosport.  I shall be the again this year, so keep an eye on the blog the usual rubbish.  

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Canada and Schumacher .. maybe ?

Here is a question for you;

Is Alonso dragging a terrible car to the podium, or is Massa underperforming in a great car ?

Because Alonso is now leading the world championship in what is assumed to be a terrible car, whilst his team mate is looking at getting fired any day now. But if the car is so terrible ? Why should he be facing the dole queue ?
You can’t have two brilliant drivers in a team. It NEVER works out, Senna and Prost didn’t speak for over half a season at McLaren whilst Mansell and Piquet accused each other of favouritism at Williams.
So the reality is if you want team harmony you have one driver who is brilliant and one driver who is safe and steady and picks up the points.  One is there to drive the backside off the car and the other is there to make sure when the star sticks it in the Armco the team gets some points. Hamilton and Button would be the perfect example of this ethos.  You always want to watch Lewis on a hot lap because it’s a thing of beauty, a car being spanked to places it shouldn’t go, where the angles smoke ciggies and flicks the Vs at the journey men.  Whilst Button will drive the same damn line lap after lap and never rag it or throw it around. If it is wet you just know he’s going to be up the sharp end.

This year those that should know are pointing at Alonso and saying; what a cracking job he’s doing with a terrible car that doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near the podium what so ever. So far he’s been 5th, 1st, 9th, 7th, 2nd and 3rd whilst the hapless Massa retired in Australia and was then 15th, 13th, 9th, 15th, and 6th. Therefore he must be utterly rubbish and Alonso utterly brilliant.

But that’s not really the story of this year and I think the Ferrari PR machine, or more specifically the Alonso PR Machine is feeding this myth that the car is terrible. Because no one is dominating this year as the tyres are still a total mystery to all of the teams. So this year isn’t about the how good the car is as a whole it’s about how the driver uses the tyres and Alonso would rather people thought the car was rubbish and he was doing a sterling job rather than the car is pretty much on a par with the McLarens, Redbulls and Merc. Which are prone to bad days and good days as the track and the tyres change. And he has just been lucky a couple of times when the tyres and track come to him.

Right so yeah, the point is; I don’t think Massa is going to get fired anytime soon. Yeah he is a bit rubbish but the top ten in Monaco is going to keep his backside in red for a while yet. Alonso is good and he’s got a car that when it all comes together is good enough to win. But so has Webber and Button and even Hamilton, if Lady Luck stopped being in a huff with him.

Six races and six different drivers and I think anyone could win the next one. Even Massa if it all comes together at the right moment for him. Well alright maybe not Massa, but how about Schumacher ... the talk this week has been about the Mercs and how good they are in a straight line, now they seem to have a bit of a handle on the tyres, a dry track could see the once mighty old world champion get his act together an deliver Mercedes the win they’ve paid for.

Why not ? it’s just as likely as Webber winning in Monaco and Maldonado winning in Spain after all.