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