Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Is Lotus about to surprise us all ?

hmmmm Ice cream ........... i need and ice cream ... mmmmmh

Are we about to see a championship fight between two big old grandees of the sport ?

Many hacks far too long in the tooth are starting to talk of this year being one of a Ferrari v Lotus slugfest. Redbull are being quietly written off in a “lets hope those terrible oiks have learnt their lesson and just go away” type muttering into a very stiff pink gin. I’m not sure why, they had a bit of a rough ride in China, but that was only the third race. There’s plenty of racing yet to be done and Redbull don’t particularly look like they’ve given up just yet.

But people who apparently know a thing or two are talking up Lotus as the new (well “new” this century) kid on the block. But I think they’re just confused by Kimi being a bit more focus than the last time he was racing. Grosjean has had two pretty unspectacular races where he just sort of tooled around not getting in the way and avoided any sort of controversy. The Lotus car might be reliable and in the hands of Kimi quick, but this year isn’t really about being quick is it? It’s about making sure you’ve got the tyres to take you to the finish line, if the driver chews the tyres up getting to the front, he’ll be a sitting duck for the cars behind that have some meat left to race with.

As Vettel demonstrated in China a car on new rubber can close a 10 second lap down in five laps at the end of a race. All those midfield also ran’s are going to look at that and think, “With a 20 second lead of the guy behind, it’ll be worth rolling the dice at the end of the race and seeing how far we can get with some new tyres”

So then, are Lotus (or more realistically here, Kimi) the new power house of the grid ?

Well, I don’t think so I’m afraid. I think Redbull dropped the ball, tried to recover the fumble and fell on their face last weekend. Vettel almost made it work, but a mistake at the end and he missed out on the podium. All Kimi, like Alonso, did was to get his car dialled into the track and then stroked it home to a podium.
Mercedes had a car that was initially quick but couldn’t maintain the tyres or pace for a full stint. Also, apparently, the wing on Hamilton’s car got clogged up with bits of rubber as the race went on and that caused the front end to lose grip and blah blah blah high tyre ware.

So Kimi (Lotus) and Alonso (Ferrari) were the only two driver to not suffer any sort of problem and unsurprisingly they were the ones at the front. Not because they were any better than the Merc or the Redbull, they just didn’t need to push the car and make mistakes.
And that’s going to be the story of the season, like so many seasons before it. If the driver tools round like a nutter he’s not going to get any points and will get fired at the end of the year …. Maldonado for instance, is a prime example of this.

So then, it’s another quick turn around and the circus is already in Bahrain for this weekend’s GP.

Do you remember a year ago, there was an awful hullabaloo about Bahrain and whether the F1 circus should even be there?
 The evil government were oppressing the saintly population who were demanding free speech and liberty in all the media around the world.
There was a huge stink about it all for ooooh a good three days whilst the world’s media was in Bahrain. Most of whom you will note, where sitting around the swimming pool and making up stories of nightly riots and kids being clubbed to death on street corners.

Yeah, that’s the one. Now have a think about how much those self righteous media types have written about Bahrain since. Go on, have a good hard think and recall how many column inches there have been about the government or the people and the situation in Bahrain in the last year. I can’t think of any. Do you not think that’s a bit odd?

And the thing is the situation has changed. There are talks about more democracy and more freedoms. Not the sort of talks that end with rich people getting more rich either. Proper actual, “let’s make things better” type talks.
Oh there’s still a certain level of simmering resentment you always get when one group has power and another doesn’t. But the really trouble makers are allegedly Iranians looking to destabilise the place so Hezbollah can walk on in a set up camp.
And can you recall seeing anything recently about the fact the F1 circus is heading back to Bahrain when apparently nothing has changed? No, me neither.
So my point is, there was a lot made of the fact F1 was there last year. And most of it was from hacks that don’t normally travel with or even cover sporting event. They were there because there was a story to be had and a nice trip to a warm swimming pool to boot. And when the story turned out to be a lot of very peaceful people talking to a government that actually listen ... they had to go and find the story they wanted in the back streets down the dodgier end of town. I’m pretty sure if you travel in the darker areas of Manchester, London and Liverpool you’d find people willing to give you a similar tale. The dirt poor of any country always know they’re the ones with the most to gain from talking to the media.
Anyway ... there’s another race this weekend.
Webber has been given a grid penalty for crashing into Vergne last week. So he won’t be on pole.

Ferrari are playing their cards close to their sharp suits, with a, “It’s difficult to tell who’s going well at the moment” which is tantamount to holding up a big sign in Italian that says, “hurrrh at least we’ve got a better car than McLaren this year”. Alonso has got the bit between his teeth and I think he believes he’s got the car to take him all the way this time.

Mercedes have been talking about a quite year still, but every time the camera cuts away you can see Ross high fiving the lads on the pit wall and opening bottles of champagne. If Rosberg is going to remind everyone he is actually a racing driver and not the tea boy, then this weekend will be crucial. He’s either going to blow Lewis away or over drive the car off into the desert.

So, well Vettel, Alonso and Kimi for the podium, Lewis or Rosberg to follow them up and maybe grab a bottle of fizz if the other three fumble the ball. I think Force India might do quite well here; it’s about time they got their act together. McLaren and button might make it to the top 5 with a stiff wind and a bit of luck; he might even give Massa a run for his money. Webber with a poor qualifying slot will have to work his way back up the order, let’s be honest it’s not something he’s particularly good at. Then it’s between the Torro Rosso’s and Hulkenberg for the bottom of the top ten.

It’s worth noting that Pirelli are bringing harder tyres than they originally planned to this weekend, with mediums and hards for the teams rather than mediums and softs. I think the sight of cars pitting after just 5 laps might have swayed them, and the teams endlessly complaining about how rubbish the soft tyres are. So the joker strategy will be a one stop attempt by those starting around the bottom of the top ten. If Webber misses the Q3 cut he’ll try the long game with, I suspect, Button and Perez.

Right that’s enough rambling, get you predictions together before tomorrow night and good luck.

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