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