Monday, 26 May 2014

Monaco in a nutshell

One corner of one lap and the title might have been decided...

Okay.... 66 practice laps, 26 qualifying laps and 78 racing laps; a grand total of 170 laps in three days.  In all that time except for one lap, the most important lap of the entire weekend, when nothing else really matters, when Nico Rosberg couldn’t get his car slowed down enough to make the turn into the Mirabeau corner.
It’s a tricky little corner no doubt. Over the crest of the hill at Casino, the car dancing around the lumps and bumps, the track falling away left and right as it plunges downhill into the right hander and the slowest corner of the whole championship. It’s not a particular important corner either without any championships, up to this point, being won or lost on this short piece of smooth black tarmac.
But as Nico attempted just one more lap in the dying seconds of final qualifying he got it all crossed up out of Casino and just missed the braking point for Mirabeau. Not particularly dramatic, a snatched brake, a wobbly drive up the narrow escape road, no harm done.  Except at Monaco that sort of mistake brings out lots of waved yellow cloth and screws up the next few cars that whizz past you, on what was also their last chance at moving up the qualifying grid. And who do you think was right behind the Mercedes driver? Buy wait who is this? Isn’t that our plucky friend Mr Hamilton and what do you know.. He’s on one of his famous pole stealing “hot laps” that would secure pole and beat his team mate, Mr Rosberg.
No chance of that now, the waved yellows mean “slow down there lads, we have a driver in trouble” You can’t go getting your fastest lap of the weekend with a yellow flag being waved in your face, no sire bob!
Then just to make sure he wasn’t in anyone else’s way, Nico reversed back onto the circuit and carried on the chequered flag and the end of qualifying. Well what do you know ... he was on pole because no one had gone faster than him on their last lap ... gosh!

There wasn’t even muttering from the hacks on the pit wall and wits in the garages. Pretty much to a man or lady they all came out and said straight to camera. “Yeah, that was pretty cynical of Nico”.
As the two Merc drivers climbed from their cars to face the flash bulbs and cheers from the crowd, Nico looked like he’d just won the world championship there and then. Lewis looked like he was biting back more than the desire to speak his mind.  I don’t think he even bothered to shake Nico’s hand. Lewis, along with a lot of other drivers was clearly of the opinion that he had been cheated out of pole by his own team mate. Just to rub it in, Rosberg than attempted to out smug Vettel in his pomp, in every interview he gave. I think he rather enjoyed himself, and the more grumpy Lewis looked the wider Nico’s smug grin got.

Now. okay, I'm one of Hamilton’s biggest fans. I love his style, his “let’s go racing yeah, enough talk, drive”. He’s a great driver. But he was behind Nico all weekend. Whenever it counted Nico went faster than him, I don’t think Lewis ever looked like he was in full control of the front row. Nico was faster than him, period. And when you look back at that final run, that he insists was going to be the new pole time, he was behind Nico by the time he got to Mirabeau. He was beaten fair and square, and I think he knows that deep, deep down.
And, I don’t really think that’s the sort of driver Nico is, Schumacher, was a cheating git from day one.  When he crashed you checked to see how it affected the championship before wondering how he was. Mickey could and would use every incident to his advantage, legal or not. But like his father, Nico has always played it with a straight bat, but then again, he’s never been in the car that will win the world championship before. That sort of thing can make people do odd things.
Maybe the pressure of Lewis behind him just got the better of him and he tried that little bit too much, knowing full well that the Merc that started second was going to be the car that finished second. He’s always gone well here and perhaps he pushed it too much and made an honest mistake. The reversing back onto the circuit was a bit cynical in my opinion, but as for the initial mistake, no I think that was just “one moment” in an otherwise exemplary weekend. The basic fact is Nico was too good for Lewis when it mattered this time.

As for the race, it was dull, all the good stuff happened on Saturday, Rosberg got it off the line cleanly, Hamilton didn’t hit him at turn one (as some had hinted he would when he said he’d sort the matter out like Senna). After that it was all extremely processional. As it pretty much always is. You can’t overtake here unless the driver lunges it up the inside and catches the driver ahead napping. Rosberg wasn’t going to fall asleep and Hamilton knew that not finishing was going to be more than a bad PR job. Sit back, apply some pressure, and accept the points, live to fight another day, cross his team mate off his Christmas card list.   Further back Vettel had more bad luck, Kimi forgot how to apply the word “professional” to his driving and errr some stuff happened, I may have fallen asleep as some point, the race for the minor places was interesting, the front, less so.  Oh and for the first time in what I think is 40 years, Lewis “got something in his eye” and could only drive with one eye open for a few laps.  How times have changed, Nigel used to complain that all that changing gear gave him blisters the size of golf balls, these days it’s grit in the eye..

So Nico won, and goes back to the top of the table. Slapped Lewis down on Saturday and made sure this title race isn’t going to be a one horse affair. It will go a long way to dismissing any self doubt he’d had after coming second in the last 4 races. Nope. He’s always gone well here and this was no different, the car looked good all weekend, nothing scary or wild, just smooth and in control, job done now on to Canada next which will be a bit more of a challenge.

Hamilton was second and looked pretty grumpy all weekend. Fair enough you can’t win them all and at least he made it back to the podium this time. Nico is proving to be a tough nut to crack for Lewis and even though he’s got more wins he needs Rosberg to have a few mechanical failures, or that DNF in Australia is going to prove very costly. Canada next, which suits his style a bit more than Nico’s. If it’s wet, he should be the one to beat. The press has got itself into a bit of a tiz over the whole qualifying incident, the “team mates at war” headlines are being dusted off and hands are being rubbed together in glee down fleet street way. But, I think it’ll pass. Both drivers are pragmatic enough to move on and just ignore all the hoopla. Nico was evidently faster all weekend and Lewis knows there’s more than half a season left. The headlines will get written, but I imagine a lot of it will be exaggerated. The toys will get tidied up from around the pram and we’ll get on with the racing.

Danny is next and pretty much confirms his elevation to stardom. This is a driver’s circuit and to watch Danny hustle that Redbull though the swimming pole complex was sheer joy. Here is a driver who is right on top of his game, has total faith and commitment in the car and knows this is his chance to shine and damn it, he looked like he was having fun. Yet again Vettel fell foul of the “number two driver” curse with some engine gremlin or other, but he didn’t look as smooth or as fast as Danny at any point during the weekend.  Danny is now the Redbull driver it’s okay to like.

Alonso was fourth and pretty anonymous all race long. Head down, stay out of trouble, pick up the points blah blah blah. With Rosberg signing a new contract with Mercedes, the good seats for next year are disappearing fast. Unless Vettel, in a moment of madness, decides to swap seats with the Spaniard,  Alonso looks like he’s going to be stuck at Maranello and can kiss goodbye to ever getting a third title. Shame that.

Hulkenberg is his usual fifth and needed that to get his reputation back on track. The last few races have seen Perez get his act together, remember all that ho harr around the Mexican when he was at Sauber, everyone though he was the “next big thing”? Well he’s making the Hulk work this year and a few people are starting to question whether Nico is, ”all that” after all. It’s fashionable to point out when the Hulk beats Perez and then look the other way when the result is reversed. Maybe Perez is just being lucky, perhaps not. But Hulkenberg needs a really good result soon or his stock is going to start dropping fast.

Button, sixth, took out Perez on the first lap and then avoided anything like an over take all afternoon. This is a better result than the last few races, but what has happened to that podium car in Australia?

Massa seventh and didn’t crash into anyone.

Grosjean gets some points for Lotus at last, the car still looked to be a real handful and there is obviously still a lot of work needed there, maybe the prize money will help to pay some of their bills.

Lordy be and save us all It’s a new name to the top ten!!! Last seen bouncing around the back of the grid in an noncompetitive GP2 car, its Bianci in a Marussia, no I can’t quite believe it either. And all credit to them here; they beat a McLaren, a Ferrari and the two Caterham’s. In the case of the two Caterham’s pretty much on pace.  He even clouted Kimi’s Ferrari and had a drive through, which they took illegally during the safety car period. They got pinged again and were given a five second penalty at the end of the race.  So in fact Bianchi was ahead of Grosjean’s Lotus on the track. I told you they were going places; I told you they had a super little team of engineers down there and look all that promise has paid off with two championship points. Which puts them ahead of Caterham (obviously) and now Sauber in the championship, hurrah for them. J

Finally Magnussen was tenth after Kimi “had a moment” and drove them both into the wall.

Kimi got the fastest lap by the way, after taking Kevin out, he had to go to the pits for a new nose and got some tyres into the bargain, que a couple of fast laps at the end to prove some sort of point.

And finally Max was last on the day he didn't crash when everyone else did and still he couldn’t beat them.

Okay that’s enough for now, Its the Le Mans test day next weekend, then the Canadian GP before the Le Mans week and some proper racing. ;) until then stay safe.  

Before all of that however, I'm off to the Le Mans Dinner in London for  Hope for Tomorrow. a charity that provides mobile cancers treatment service and Aspire a spinal cord injury support charity. I've never been to one of these things before, but the chance to pimp my photography and Blog whist getting drunk on some particularly fine wines whilst listening to some of my driving hero's, was not one to be missed. Wish me luck, things could get messy as one of the unwashed ordinary people, joins in with the beautiful people behind the velvet rope :)

Monday, 19 May 2014

Its all about clenched buttocks and big balls in Monaco.

Monaco then and this could be the one race this year that Mercedes don’t win.

An excited race fan earlier..

Because it’s not about power here, it’s all about car control and feeling; The ability to thread a cruise missile, pulsating with around 800bhp between two very solid triple Armco barriers. Whilst all the while trying to avoid being the one Maldonado crashes into this time.

Modern F1 one cars are alive with electronic brains and hydraulic nerve systems, they breath, they twitch they snarl and they bite. The drivers, well the good drivers not the ones with more money than brains, must take these monsters and guide them through the twisting concrete and steel jungle. They have to flow through the streets, caress the barriers to glide past the back markers and on to the finish line.

It also takes trust in the team to set the car up to respond the way the driver wants. A wrong set up call on the first day and they will be chasing a balance for the rest of the weekend. Nail it in practice one and the engineers still have to follow the track as it evolves, the grip building as more rubber is laid down.

The driver needs to feel the car responding and changing and then communicate that to the team, this is where the edge comes from that rewards them all with the champagne money shot and another trophy to add to the bulging collection.

But if the driver can’t get his head around the car and tags the wall a Newton too hard in practice or yet again smears his black and gold liveried car down the tunnel wall. It’s all over.

Monaco is won and lost on Saturday. Qualifying is where it’s all at, and is going to be a big marker for the title (between the Merc boys only) this year I think we have three contenders for pole; Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso.

Alonso is the most speculative of the three with a Ferrari that isn’t the best handling nor the fastest. But what the car lacks, the Spaniard makes up for … if his heart is in it. Because this is yet another year where he’s behind the leaders, he needs a miracle to help him fight for wins on regular tracks. The team is starting to play the blame game and the management are getting all Italian over whose fault it all is. There are desperate attempts to lure Adrian Newey away from Redbull, no one seems to be able to pull the whole thing together and just deliver a fast car with a fast engine. And Alonso knows this and you have to question his commitment to the cause. But a pole at Monaco, that would be something this year.
But Alonso was never one of the best at qualifying; he can read a race like no other and deliver points all year long but banzai it onto pole? Not so much. But, Monaco is about reading the track and the other drivers and his being there when it matters. I want his to be on the front row, just to prove how superb he is.

Then Vettel, well if Alonso can’t qualify, Vettel can certainly pull that rabbit out of the hat. It pains me to say this, but he is quite possibly the best driver at taking a superbly handling car to pole position. As long as he’s sure of the car under him, he’ll drive the nuts off it to the front of the grid. The Renault engine is down on power but Newey has delivered another sweet chassis for the German and here of all places that’s what you need. Barcelona showed that when he’s got his mojo on song and a pole here would get his head back to game mode. He’s got the car as long as he doesn’t over drive it trying to beat Danny boy.

Then we have Lewis. Who can take an awful car or a wonderful car and stick it on pole, except Nico can also take a wonderful car onto pole.  They won’t have such a power advantage this time out, there are no fast straights to speak of.  So car control is going to be the key, Lewis has said at pretty much every race so far that Nico is a master at setting the car up. He knows he’s going to have to go out there and just spank the car to the front.
This is going to be about who has the biggest balls; Nico, whose car will be set up beautifully, smooth, purring and dialed in. Or Lewis whose car will be loser, angrier and looking to bite back.
This is the place that these two will push it too much, where the friendship ends and the battle for the title moves into phase two – Team mates at war- one will end up in the wall, possible both as neither will want to give in to the other.

If you though Bahrain was tight, wait till lap red light goes out on Sunday, it’s going to be epic*

Right practice starts on Thursday for strictly French reasons here, so the deadline for updates is Wednesday midnight. Good luck all.

"I must not crash, I must not crash, I must not crash etc etc"

*If it turns into a 78 lap dull-a-thon it’s not my fault okay.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

From sniff petrol today

Other F1 drivers whip round to buy out Maldonado's contract.

Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, am I a racing driver ?

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Ruthless and efficient.

Well, not the most exciting of races but it did liven up at the end. We finally saw a sort of return to form for Vettel, who appears to have copped the gremlin that was plaguing the number two car of Webber last year. How odd!
But really this was just another Merc flag to flag demolition job. They were 50 odd seconds ahead of Ricciardo at the end, even racing each other they were faster than anyone else. But unlike the last couple of years we don’t have to rely on the best of the rest to keep the front boys honest. The Merc pit wall was giving both drivers the chance to win here. There were no “Multi-21” calls or “Nico is faster than you” messages. As the race at the front continued, Lewis was told he needed six seconds to defend his lead and Nico was told he needed to be two seconds behind to give him a chance at the end. No team order here then, this was proper racing.

And it’s a smart move by Mercedes. They have no real challengers; well Redbull might start to eat into the lead ... a bit. But the fight for the drivers title is between these two and the constructors is going to be theirs by the time we get to Hungary. So, where Ferrari and latterly Redbull were one driver focused teams who got a load of bad press for “fixing” races, Mercedes are letting the world know that they are letting their boys “have at it” and can bask in the glory. A good race with uncertain outcome means we all forget that they are miles ahead of the rest.
But they need to check their history books. McLaren played the same game and lost the title to Ferrari in ’07. Hamilton or Alonso should have been Champion that year but infighting and toy throwing left Kimi to pick up the points and claim the title.  I'm not suggesting for a second that Danny boy in the Redbull is going to sneak it, but it’s always worth checking the drivers behind before letting the boy’s trade paint. So far it’s been amicable, but as the mid season wears on, things might start to get edgy between the two sides of the garage. Nico is faster than Lewis, but he’s not winning the races.

Anyway, Redbull appear to be back on track, sort of. And all credit to Vettel here fifteenth to fourth is a top draw drive. And, I think it’ll be ranked as one of his best. He didn’t rely on people getting out of his way or pit strategy, he went out and passed googd solid drivers in comparable cars. It’s almost like he is a four times world champion or something!! Having said “oh he’s just an average driver who’s just doing what the car can do”, I find myself eating a small quantity of humble pie. He got the fastest lap as well, almost half a second faster than Hamilton’s best. Is this the dawning of a Redbull fight back? Given Danny was on the podium again and Vettel drove through the field, I think it might be. They’re ahead of the customer Merc cars, and Ferrari are slowly imploding, so it looks like Redbulls will be the ones keeping Mercedes honest.  

Right, okay then.

Hamilton wins his fourth race in a row and once again he wasn’t the fastest Merc driver but he was the winner. He also took pole with a certain amount of ease, he had to work up to it, but when the hot lap was required he delivered the goods.  It’s not easy, Rosberg is a knats chuff behind him and one snatched brake was all that was between him and victory. He’s not being gifted the wins by the team, he’s having to beat a driver that is faster than him for a lot of the race. And that’s the mark of a true champion. Go out there and pound the opposition into the dust. God I Love him !!!

Another weekend and another second for Rosberg and the question is, is Lewis just being luckier than Nico? And the answer is no, Nico is the one who is making the tiny mistakes that add up to being the first place loser.  A missed apex in qualifying and he’s second, and that’s all it takes. And that’s pressure from Hamilton. Because Lewis keeps saying, “Oh yeah, Nico is so much faster than me and I can’t figure out how he’s doing it!”. Nico is over driving the car to try and beat the plucky Brit, “Why can I not beat my friend, who I am faster than, for sure?” he is thinking and it’s burning away at his soul and he’s tensing up and making mistakes. Suddenly he starts to take risks to beat the other car and his “speed advantage” is lost. Nico needs to get his head fixed, pronto.

Ricciardo is third and let’s hope he gets to keep it this time. He certainly deserves it, although this wasn’t the most exciting race he’ll ever have. He got mugged by Bottas off the line, had a few goes at him, then relied on the pit strategy to sweep past and claim his podium. He’s turning into a proper little racer. Let’s see if the team let him continue with that as Vettel gets his act together.

Vettel was fourth with the drive of the day, and certainly his best performance of 2014 so far. A burned out wiring loom in practice meant very little running time, then a lost gear in qualifying meant a gearbox change and a grid penalty  back to fifteenth of all places. Far too close to Maldonado for anyone’s comfort, along with lots of new bloods down there trying to make a name for themselves. It took him a bit of time to get used to the fact the blue flags weren’t being waved for him anymore. But he was soon into the spirit of the thing with some top draw passes of Perez, Kimi and Alonso.  When a driver tells the team he wants a new car, it’s generally a desperate attempt to prove he’s still got the skills to pay the bills. “Lads, can you dig out that old car from under the dust cover and let’s see if that’s any better” is usually greeted with a resigned shake of the head and a flick though the driver markets. But this time it appears to have worked.  Is it all in his head? Maybe, this chassis wasn’t any more reliable after all, but sometimes just being told it’s a better chassis is all a driver needs.

Bottas, fifth and should really have been on the podium.  But at least he didn't have to sit behind Massa for the whole afternoon this time. But well Williams, whilst still better than McLaren, need to shake themselves up a bit and deliver some more of that pre season testing promise. Redbull are now in front of them and Ferrari isn’t too far behind.

Alonso was sixth and made hard work of it. The pit wall was trying to make things difficult for both drivers as they umm and erred about strategy. The car didn't look any faster than before, so I still don’t see a win for them anytime soon.

Kimi was seventh and can pretty much blame the pit wall team for that. He was leading at the first round of stop and should have gone in ahead of Alonso, but he got told to stay out and so had older tyres at the end of the race. I wonder who Ferrari will fire next?

Holy Mollie it’s Grosjean in a Lotus up next in eighth!!! No I don’t believe it either!

Perez was dull in ninth

And Hulkenberg was even duller in tenth, if such a thing is possible, the track not suiting the car apparently.

And in a titanic battle for last place our new best friend is Ericsson. Who was 20 seconds behind Max. Just imagine being able to make Max look good. How rubbish would you have to be to achieve that? Though given the implosion that Caterham are going through it’s an easier job that you would credit.  Apparently having designed a rubbish dog of a car, they’ve fired the head designer and rustled up a committee to do the development and design work for the rest of the year. Like that’s always worked throughout history.
And there are some ugly rumours going around that certain teams who are not in any way at all you understand, painted green or black and gold. Have yet to pay for their customer Renault engines this year. A scurrilous rumour put about by ill informed individual no doubt attempting to bring discord and chaos to two great teams that have a proven track record of paying up first time and every time the bailiffs arrive at the door.

Anyway it’s all good fun. The next race is in Monaco which will no doubt see the continuation of the Merc demolition. Can Lewis continue to dominate or will Nico get his act together ... hahah not a chance. J

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

No really, just look at the midfield !!!

It’s all back to Europe and the Spanish GP at Barcelona this week. Can anyone catch the Mercs ?


Okay then. But that’s not to say it won’t be exciting.... well maybe it is, but that’s not the point. Back behind the dust cloud that was the Mercs, it’s all rather interesting.  Throw a blanket over the cars behind and you’ll catch the Redbulls, Ferraris, maybe a Hulkenberg in the Force India.  Behind them and on a good day maybe mixing it up, here come the McLarens and the Williams boys. Torro Rosso are nipping at their heels, Perez in the other Force India in there too.

The early reports of Redbulls demise appear to have been wide of the mark. The car is probably the most aerodynamically efficient and certainly cleanest looking machine. Danny has jumped in the car and, with no preconceptions or pressure of success, blown the old finger waver away. In three races he got the nod from the team to pass the increasingly grumpy Vettel to take the fight to the best of the rest. I have to say I’ve been impressed with Ricciardo. He’s got on with the job, appears to have a rapport with the media and the team, has a big grin on his face and is making the most of his chance in the sunshine. Whilst Vettel has demonstrated what a lot of people have said for the last four years, that given an average car, he’s an average driver. Stick him in the best car and he’ll win all day. But unlike say Lewis and Alonso, he’ll only take the car where it’s capable of going. No angelic choirs as he dances on the edge of disaster. Maybe he’s just forgotten how to develop a car into a race winner, now Webber isn’t there to do his donkey work!

Ferrari claim to have fixed their engine problems. Quite how they’ve made it lighter and faster is any ones conspiracy theory, my money is on pure luck. Things are disintegrating over in Italy, with finger pointing harsh words and Domenicali getting a royal shafting for his efforts to keep it all together.  Kimi is, as pretty much everyone expected, phoning in his race weekends. I'm still not sure why he went back to the prancing pony; Alonso is blowing his away as everyone said he would. He doesn’t like the car/tyres/colour/ice cream flavours/foot ware/dark glasses and ice cream flavours. Just to add insult to injury, Massa is ahead of him in the championship standings. Meanwhile Alonso is basically doing what he does best; drive second rate cars around and around picking up points and shaking his head in disbelief. The only thing that’s changed is the British national anthem gets played as he stands next to the winner, rather than the German one.

Force India are actually delivering on some of that promise of the last few years. Perez’s podium was just the sort a thing a team with money “issues” needs to gets some financial stability. Nico is picking up the points and proving yet again he is a proper talent. Okay, Nico: 6,5,5,6 - solid consistent finishes.  Perez 10, DNS, 3, 9 - the DNS was a car related issue and not his fault, the third a “right place right time grown a pair of balls result” and two back of the top ten finishes. So the car is fast, if the driver can unlock the potential and drive what he has under him. With a bit of luck and a trailing wind, more podiums are there for the taking.

Then we have the disappointing teams. McLaren were on the podium in Australia and Ron was happy. Then they dropped the ball and looked very amateurish again and Ron was unhappy, Very unhappy.  Do you remember Martin Whitmarsh ... he didn’t even get a chance to “take one for the team” like Domenicali ... he just disappeared one night and has never been seen again. There wasn’t even a hastily scribbled note next to a bottle of pills and a litre of cheap red wine ... one minute he was there, the next a cooling pit wall stool slowly rotating in the warm pre-test Spanish breeze.  And that’s what’s going to happen to some others real soon. Ron does not like his team to lose. He’s talked before about how it physically hurts him when the team losses and he’s been in a lot of pain recently. The word is the lack of front end downforce/grip has been fixed and they will be back at the front this weekend. Let’s wait and see shall we.

The other team that promised so much in pre season testing, Williams, has got a problem on its hands. Massa, yes that lovable, happy go lucky, smile on his as he gets told to move over chap, finally got sick of moving over and is out there doing whatever he damn well wants to now. The pitwall has spent these past weekends trying to remind the two boys that they are racing EVERYONE ELSE YOU IDIOTS, not each other. It’s entirely the teams fault with the insane call to Massa to get out of Bottas’s way at the second race.  There was no way he was going to move over for a punk half his age, what were they thinking?!?!?! But more worryingly for Frank, the car hasn’t really delivered the promised performance. I mean, yes, it’s better than the steaming turd that was the 2013 Williams as driven by the equally steaming turd that is Maldonado. But it’s not the car that was showing off with fastest laps in pre season testing. And now the likes of Redbull and Ferrari have got their development departments in max spend overdrive, there is no way Williams will be able to keep up, financially if nothing else. They’ve missed the boat and its going to be about damage limitation now, with increasingly acrimonious and disgruntled team mates.  

Now Torro Rosso, have sort of impressed, well Kvyat has, with better results than most expected, knocking around the bottom of the top ten.  Vergne lucked into an eighth at the first race and pretty much disappeared after that – come on, you’ve had four races now, without looking it up, what nationality is he ? What colour is his hair ? You have no idea do you  - But all in all its about where they were last year, so I don’t know if they’ve really done well or not. I mean they are ahead of Lotus and Sauber now, but is that really an achievement this year or just baseline performance? Are they just the point between teams that has performed well and those that have failed? “The back markers start here” perhaps ?

Then there is the row of woe, the walking dead and Maldonado. Sauber appear to have lost too much talent from the back room and are going nowhere with their Ferrari engine. The boys at Maranello say they’ve fixed all the problems with the software and its drink problem. But it’s heavy and just not fast enough, especially with and let’s be kind and call then the journey men, Sauber drivers.  There is just nothing exciting about the car is there ? Other than the fact it can survive an assault from Maldonado, it’s done nothing of any note. Five retirements between them, a best result of eleventh for Sutil. That has to be seen as a failure really, the car looks half finished and the team looks like its struggling to find the cash to carry on. As the bigger boys gear up the development curve, Sauber are just going to get left further and further behind.

Caterham, ho ho, what a debacle this is. They pretty much gave up last year after one race, to concentrate on having a car that could break into the top ten this year, they got in two handy drivers, went for some new talent, and a Japanese chap with big old cahoonas this time and in testing looked to be about to deliver on the plan. Then they got to Australia and failed to finish either car, then spent the next three races tooling around getting in everyone’s way. Then to add insult to injury when Kamui pulls off a last gasp lunge for seventeenth as the flag drops in China, the flag waver had appeared a lap too early and Kamui got shunted back to eighteenth.  It’s a mess and old Tone is going to sell up any day now. They are being beaten by Marussia. Plum dead last and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

So then Marussia who are currently ahead of Caterham with the aid of Max getting two thirteenth place finishes. Yeah I know who’d have predicted that Max was going to the saviour of Marussia. And you know what, they could even get a top ten with an enormous amount of luck, well a twelfth perhaps! But anyway yeah they’re not entirely hopeless. Max is ahead of Kobayashi, Maldonado, Ericsson and Bianchi ! he needs to be careful he doesn’t get a nose bleed up there.  Expect lots more of his happy gormless grinning if this keeps up.

And so to Lotus, this is just embarrassing now. The car is a mess; it doesn’t work, the engine only sort of work and Grosjean is trying his hardest to little affect. The only saving grace in this whole world of fail is that Hulkenberg isn’t being dragged down by it all. Then there is Maldonado who is just awful, and my current odds on driver to made to sit on the naughty step by the FIA. I know I go on about this idiot and he is the target for a lot of my ire, but he really is just a liability and he keeps proving it race after race.

So yeah, that’s a bit longer than I was intending.

Were back for the European season and as things stand i still thinks its a straight fight between Nico and Lewis for the title. Rosberg has, so far, been the faster of the two drivers. But its Hamilton that is taking the points (apart from the first race of course). If he wins here than I think he takes over the championships lead, Nico isn’t giving in and rolling over, but the fact he’s faster and still not winning, must be starting to get to him. Hamilton and the team are talking about “oh yeah its all happy days and high fives all round”. But that’s just misdirection, it’s going to kick off any day now, just you wait and see ;)

My prediction this weekend ... the pick a Mercs you fancy, Danny, Alonso, The Hulk with maybe a McLaren and either of the two Williams boys. Pot luck on a Torro Rosso or Vettel in the top ten, an outside bet would be Sutil in Sauber.

Pole Lewis or Nico, Vettel might feel he has something to prove. So far Lewis is up three, Nico has one.
Fastest lap is another straight Merc fight, whoever doesn’t get off the line cleanly and has to race back at the end.  So far Rosberg is three to Hamilton’s one, proving the German is the faster driver, sort of.
Last place ... well Max would be your normal go to guy here. But I think Ericsson in the underperforming Caterham might be the better bet. But never underestimate Max’s ability to be two laps behind the winner.

So there we go, don’t forget to update your predictions before Friday and good luck J