Sunday, 17 March 2013

Kimi starts the season on a high

Right, well that was all a bit odd wasn’t it!
Qualifying on Saturday, which I’d got up especially early for, was a lot of sitting around watching marshals pushing brooms around trying to clear water from the track as the heavens opened. They ran Q1 then though that a bunch of highly paid drivers shouldn’t go round the track whilst it was still raining and cancelled the rest of qualifying till Sunday morning.
Heaving learnt my lesson once; I didn’t bother sitting up to watch that. This was probably the right thing to do, as the Redbulls locked the front row out and suggested another season of watching Vettel drive off into the distance.
A heavy day of drinking in London had left me passed out on the sofa on Sunday morning and quite by luck the dog chose to wake me up as the race was about to start. I have to admit I didn’t give it my full attention and even watching the replay later didn’t really help me figure out what the story of the weekend was or is.
I think we can safely say that McLaren and Williams have both screwed up, with the Woking mob even going as far as to suggest they might dust off the 2012 car and try their luck with that instead. Such was poor show for the McLaren. Perez bounced around the middle of the pack getting in everyone’s way, whilst Button made a bit of a fist of it at the back end of the top ten. There are going to be some long days ahead for the McLaren tech crews. Williams, who had promised so much in pre season testing, have as Maldonado didn’t hold back from saying to the media every chance he got. “An undrivable car right now” Bottas showed commendable character and got on with things, whilst Maldonado faffed around, failed to get out of Q1 and then stuck it in the kitty litter after 24 laps of the race.  He didn’t look a happy bunny as he trudged back to the pits.

As for the sharp end of the grid ?
Well Lotus have given Kimi, if not Grosjean, a genuinely quick car that’s kind to its tyres and is going to give him a real shot at the title. Redbull have a fast qualifying car but it’s hard on the tyres and not that fast when the tanks are brimmed for the race also their KRES system still doesn’t work. Webber still can’t get off the line cleanly. Ferrari look to have a fast car in race trim that both Alonso and Massa like the feel of it. Mercedes have a few gremlins still to fix, it’s fast in qualifying but lacks speed in the race.
The surprise package of the day was Sutil in the force India, who looked after his types at the start of the race and even led Vettel for a considerable time. The suggestion that he was holding up the Redbull appeared wide of the mark to me, I thought looked like he had the measure of Vettel and made Webber properly work to pass him later on. Obviously spending a year kicking his heals on the side lines was just the motivation he needed.

So then, Kimi wins and was comfortably ahead of the Ferrari at the end. He looked after his tyres and made the two stop strategy work for him. He wasn’t particularly faster than the other cars, but Lotus played the better chess game and had Kimi sitting at the front of the pack when it mattered. I think they’ve learnt from last year when too often they got the pit calls wrong and lost points. Now they have a car to challenge for the championship. Just to show off, Kimi got the fastest lap of the race with a handful of laps left.

Alonso was second and pretty much picked up where he left off last year. This time around the car isn’t trying to kill him and that has to make the Ferrari team happy.

Vettel in a slow car was still third and that’s how you win championships. For the last three years he’s not won the first race on the way to the title. So I think the news that the king is dead might be a bit premature. Let’s see how they go in Malaysia where it’s warmer.

Massa was fourth and could have been on the podium with a bit of luck. He spent a handful of laps at the front as others pitted for tyres. He too looked much more comfortable in the car than last year. Proper tail gunner duties it is then.

Hamilton in fifth didn’t quite blow Rosberg away as some predicted, Nico was easily faster in the changeable conditions in qualifying, well until Q3 when Hamilton blew him away. Lewis planned a race with two stops but the “thrash the car up the grid” instinct kicked in and he eventually had to make an extra stop after flat spotting the tyres defending sixth front Alonso. But all in all it was a good weekend result for the new Mercedes driver. The car looks handy if a little slow with full tanks. Lewis has brought his fast race suit with his McLaren and must be extremely happy to have moved when he looks over his should at his old team.  A happy Lewis is always a fast Lewis.

Webber in sixth had yet another Australian race to forget. He was behind Vettel after qualifying and after the start of the race he went from second to behind a further five cars, before the first corner. Apparently his KERS unit failed to charge on the parade lap and it took 5 laps to reset it. By which time he was too far back to have any realistic chance of a podium. He worked hard though and got back onto the points with some cracking over taking moves. And he avoided hitting anyone, always worth noting that one.

Sutil finished in seventh after a fine drive from twelfth. He completely blew Di Resta off the track and the pit call at the end made it quite clear that glassing someone in a Chinese night club doesn’t necessarily lead one to be viewed as a number two driver or anything. Obviously brining a whole shed load of cash does help in that respect.

Di Resta in eighth obviously hasn’t got as much sponsorship cash as his team mate. He pretty much played second fiddle all weekend long. As Sutil was pushing the front runners and making play for a podium, Paul was kicking around the midfield. Then to cap it all when he caught up with Sutil, he was told not to over take him. That might be a little disheartening, don’t you think.

Button was eventually ninth and lucky to get that. The car was slow, very slow and didn’t look like taking any sort of fight to the front runners. They are going to hard to burn a lot of midnight oil to make this car into a winner. After the race, Button said the car was worse than last years race winner, which was pretty obvious. I give it three more races before they give up and  start working on next years car.

And Grosjean was tenth, Well at least he didn’t hit anyone.

Last place this week went to Van De Garde as the Caterham driver had a bit of nightmare weekend.

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