Sunday, 27 July 2014

Hamilton saves but Danny wins the day ...

It’s not often in a year I get to say this twice, but my God .. What a race that was ! I though Bahrain was going to be the highlight of the year.  But throw in a bit of moisture and stick some drivers out of position and Hungary delivers a belter of a race.

It all looked like it was going to be another dull-a-thon on Saturday when Lewis managed two thirds of a lap before his car burst into flame. He was be all over this track on Friday and Saturday morning, it looked like all he had to do was get out of bed on Sunday and he was going to walk away from Hungary with a comfortable win. But the damn thing sprung a fuel leak as he open his qualifying campaign and then rolled to a fiery stop just inside of the pit entry road.

And it just looked like “Yet more Hamilton bad luck”, as though the fickle patron saint of gamblers and daredevils had deserted him once more, Lady Luck was in the garage next door sipping champers and feasting on bratwurst. This did give a chance for the Red face loons to work up another froth of conspiracy paranoia, however. Apparently having paid enough money to bank roll a small third world dictatorship to get Lewis to come to Mercedes, they were now sabotaging their English driver in favour of the German driver!

I mean how stupid do you have to be to believe that sort of tin foil hatted nonsense? Time and again Mercedes have said the drivers are free to race and it’s all open and honest. No one is being favoured unless there is a damn good reason for it.  Mercedes aren’t stupid; they watched as Redbull and Ferrari got all that bad PR for those “Vettel/Alonso/Schumacher – is faster than you” calls.  They know the value we, the fans, place on letting the boys ‘have at it’.  So no, there was no special secret button that Toto pushed to grenade Hamilton’s engine. It was just a simple error by a mechanic who missed tightening a fuel line.

But, having to rebuild the car meant he was going to start from the pit lane, there was no car to put into park ferme, the boys were in for a long night. Joining them were the McLaren boys after Magnussen discovered the track was just that bit too wet for slicks on the final qualifying run. Rain had been threatening and only decided to turn up as the last ten drivers took to the track for the final time. Rosberg crossed the line to start his of three runs and when he got to the first corner discovered there was no grip at all. He narrowly avoided a trip to the tyre wall, as Kev turned up seconds later and wasn’t so lucky. He mashed the front of the car as it ploughed straight into the first solid object in his path.
Once that was all cleared away, Rosberg made the Mercedes pit wall sweat a bit and gave the Redbull boys three minutes of hope. Before cruising to an easy pole and what looked like an easy win on Sunday.

Except on Sunday it didn't work out quite like that. A massive rain storm dumped a swimming pool load of water on the track before the start. Cars were doing multiple pre grid laps to see where the grip was or wasn’t. Full wets or inters which way to go ? There didn’t appear to be much standing water, but the forecast was for more rain after half an hour of racing. It looked like the pit wall was going to win this race. A driver can only tell you what the track is doing under his backside at that very point in time, he has no idea if the corner he went through 1.24 minutes ago in the damp is going to have the same grip the second, third or fourth time round. His pit wall has to tell him when and if the rain is starting or stronger or if it’s clear now. A pit wall gives the driver confidence and a good call can make all the difference, as McLaren and Mercedes found out.

So it’s a wet start and the teams are expecting more rain. The red lights go out and they all get off the line cleanly, Rosberg is a bit tentative, but is soon off into the distance. Vettel doesn’t quite have the grip or the faith in the front end and is jumped by Bottas. Alonso makes his usual lightening start and is soon past Danny and Vettel.

Hamilton and Kev leave the pits after everyone has gone past and we sit back to watch Hamilton fight his way back to the top ten. Given how far ahead Rosberg is after three corners it looks like the Plucky Brits fight back is going to be the only thing worth watching.

But then the TV cuts back to the on board camera above Hamilton’s head and we have a view of the car facing the wrong way and bouncing along a guard rail .... now that’s not supposed to happen. And here we have our first “pit wall moment”. You still have to remind world champions that a car that hasn’t done its warm up lap is going to have cold brakes and tyres, it seems. So you’ve just rebuilt the car that tried to torch itself and given it to a man that has had nothing but bad luck this year. Understandably, he is going to be a bit nervous of the car don’t you think?.  Once Lewis has the thing pointing in the right direction the lads on the pit wall spent a lot of time trying to calm their driver down and reassure him that his car was fine. It looked like it was going to be a long afternoon.

Not having a long afternoon was Ericsson. Who managed to avoid hitting Maldonardo by spearing off the road and testing the battering ram on the front of his car. The tyre wall won that little encounter and the first safety car of the day was despatched to allow the marshals to clean the mess away. Unfortunately for Rosberg, Vettel and Bottas the safety car was called for just as they went past the pit entry line, as everyone else dived into the pits for new tyres, the leaders had to do one more lap before they could come in.
Just as it was all going to get started again, Grosjean forgot the golden rule. “Don’t touch the white lines when it’s been raining, you idiot” and left the queue of cars following the safety car to test how strong the front of his car was against a tyre wall, once again the tyre wall won. So we had another couple of laps behind the safety car to clear up that mess.
Which all left Button behind Danny by some strange quirk of fate, which leads to out next “pit wall moment”, as Jenson called to his pits and asked “Lads, why did you put me on inters again when the rest of them are on slicks?” the pit wall called back to say, “There’s more rain coming son, now off you go”.
Hamilton was now behind Vettel, who was following Rosberg who had a smoky rear brake as he sat behind the Torro Rosso of Vergne. “Right” we thought, “just a matter of time before the Merc’s are passed this lot and fighting for the lead”. Maybe Lady Luck was eschewing bratwurst for fish and chips for a change! Starting from the pits then an accident at the second corner and now just two places behind his pole starting team mate, aye aye, fireworks ahoy.

Except the Mercs didn't seem to be able catch or let alone pass the cars in front of them. Try as he might, Lewis was stuck behind Vettel and Rosberg just wasn’t close enough to Vergne. Lap after lap saw them concertina up and then drift apart on the start finish line.

Up the front Jensen’s “inters experiment” lasted one lap before the rest of the field streamed past him as the pit wall was forced to concede that, “no, no there’s no more rain coming today Jenson ... sorry”.
Things looked static for a bit with Danny leading Massa, then the wily old fox Alonso, Vergne doing a great job, Rosberg not doing any sort of job, Vettel throwing it around like it was his first 1.2 ltr low insurance hot hatch and Hamilton worrying about how hot his arse was getting.

Time for Perez to step up to the mark and test his car against a wall, yes he too forgot the golden “Wet white lines, you idiot” rule and smeared the front of his car down the pit wall this time. Time for more safety car fun and yet another important “pit wall moment”. With more than half the race to go, do you call the boys in for hard tyres and get them to the end ? or go softs and make it two stops to the flag ?

Danny came in for softs and two stops, Massa went for the hard tyres and one stop the others stayed out and held their cards close to their chests. Alonso now led from Vergne who must have got a nose bleed that high up the pack.  Hamilton sensing something could be on here and damn it wasn’t it his turn for some luck was on a roll. Rosberg sick of being “stuck” behind Vergne, pitted and was followed in by Vettel who didn't have much rubber left. Lewis caught Vergne and in the biggest ballsiest move of the championship so far, went past him exactly the way Nico hadn’t done. The win could definitely be on here, come on Lady Luck.
Alonso pitted, followed by Hamilton a lap later and Ricciardo was back in the lead. When it all shock out Hamilton on the hard tyres was looking to go to the end and Rosberg was behind him on soft rubber and needed to get past. And here is our last “pit wall moment” of the day. Nico needed to get past to gain enough time for his last pit stop. Lewis didn't have the time to slow down to let him past. Nico, suddenly learnt that “fumbling a corner in Monaco” can actually have repercussions, it is remembered and good mates can bare a grudge.

Nico: “Why isn’t he letting me past?”

Pit Wall: “Lewis, get out of his way”

Lewis: “Sorry, you’re break kkereppppaaaoowowowow ing up there, what?”

N: “He’s in my way still, what gives?”

PW: “Lewis, Nico is on a different strategy, let him past on the straight.. okay?.”

L: “Sorry, did you say two Bombay duck curries and a pint of carling?!?!?!?!!11?!”!!!”

N: “SIR .....wwwwwwhy is hheeeeee stilllll in myyyyy wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!”

L: “well alright, if he gets closer I’ll let him past”

 N: “Sssiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr waaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”

PW: “Well we told him and he said you’re not close enough and you shouldn’t have been mean to him in Monaco and you didn't invite him to your wedding and he’s pretty pissed off about that”

N: “I told him, there weren’t enough chairs at the registry office to invite him and Nicole”

PW: ” Well we told you to in invite him and now this has happened, so it’s your own fault really. Look hang back a bit, and wait till you get the next set of tyres, you can over take him at the end .. okay”

N: “Well okay .. But I'm going to be slightly grumpy about this and look a bit perplexed when I explain it all to the BBC later, during which I shall make passive aggressive comments about being fair and playing for the team etc etc etc etc”

hmmm maybe I should have found more seats .....

So Nico dropped back and left Alonso, Hamilton and a fast approaching Ricciardo to duke it out. And what a finale it was! I think races should be won with overtaking moves, chess games of who’s going to pit last are fine, but there’s is just nothing like three cars actually fighting for the win. This being Hungary it looked like Alonso in the lead would be able to hold off Lewis and Danny, he’s got the smarts, knows how to win a race and isn’t going to get flustered by cars weaving around behind him. But Danny is a force of nature right now and now is a good time to put his season into some sort of context.

He has never driven a good car, okay, the Torro Rosso was always a bit of a second hand parts bin special which had some good days but mostly was there to make up the numbers. Danny did alright but didn’t really impress me that much.  So this car, this 2014 Redbull is the best car he has ever driven. And on the flip side and very importantly it’s the worst car Vettel has driven in four years.  So whilst Vettel is struggling to get comfortable in the car, to find a rhythm or feel the car alive under him, Danny is amazed at how much better this car is in his experience.

So Danny is on fire (not in a Hamilton way), he’s got a car under him that responds to his inputs, is being improved race after race and he’s loving it. No one was going to stop the grinning fool today, he was unstoppable, and he was unbeatable. Straight past Hamilton, whose tyres suddenly didn't look quite so resilient, up to Alonso and bang, up the inside, turn one thank you and goodbye. Job done.
Hamilton found himself for a second week following a car that wasn’t going to let him past for a better podium spot. Except this time Nico was behind him and on a charge. The German caught his team mate with a handful of laps to go and it looked like only a matter of time before he stole the podium off the plucky Brit. Lady luck was back on the German sausage it seemed. But Lewis has been robbed of points too often this year and this time he wasn’t giving up. As they began the last lap Lewis got a tank slapper out of turn one and it looked all over, Nico went to the outside to get track position through turn two for the pass into three, Lewis brakes as late as he dared and ran Nico to the outside of the track and for a split second it looked like we were going to end up with two silver cars smeared down the Armco and a proper handbags on the apex fight !!!!! But Nico, thinking of the points lead no doubt, backed out at the very last second and left Lewis to take the final podium spot.
Hamilton did have the good grace to look like he hadn't enjoyed beating his team mate as he sprayed the champagne around at the end. Whilst Nico got to look wistfully at the cameras and be slightly perplex at the various post race interviews. Win win really for those two. Nico is still in the lead of the championship and Lewis has Lady Luck back on side.

Gosh that was long wasn’t it ... right I have a bag to pack for my holiday so the next bit is quick.

Ricciardo won and that was probably the best drive I’ve seen from him. He had a plan, stuck to the plan and it paid off. He didn’t try and second guess what everyone else was doing, he just drove what he had to the best of his abilities and he won. Well done him.

Alonso was second and again thoroughly deserved that result. He doesn’t have the best car but he knows how to bring sub standard machinery home when the opportunity presents itself.

Hamilton was third with a drive from the pit lane and an accident on the first lap. Just think what he could do if he didn't have a problem in qualifying or a car that broke down. He deserved this as it was yet another example of how you should win championships, never give up, never settle for the points and never wait for the pit stops to pass the other cars, get out there and drive it like you stole it! By God I love him

Nico was fourth and pretty much got owned today, he should have tried harder to pass Vergne, yes okay he was unlucky with first safety car, but Lewis showed the car could overtake anywhere, why couldn’t Nico do it ?

Massa was fifth and another victim of a poor pit call, they out him on hard tyres to get to the end but far too early, he had to make a late call to the pits for fresh rubber and didn't have the fight to make it work. Still he’s finished a race at last so that’ll give him some confidence.

Kimi had a nightmare qualifying run, failing to make it out of Q1 through idiocy rather anything he did. His pit wall team didn’t think they had anything to worry about when Maldonardo and Hamilton stopped before the action had started, so Kimi did one run and waited for the next session. Except Bianci of all people suddenly remembered what the loud pedal was for and out qualified the stationary Ferrari to move into Q2. There were a few vague shrugs and Kimi’s engineer picked up the phone to offer Luca his bollocks on a plate.
So after all that to make it into the top ten and sixth place is something of a save. Mostly because of the safety cars and a bit of luck, but he didn't mess it up and gets a good result in the end. I don’t think it’s going to do him much good in the end though, the word is Bianci is a nailed on certainty for 2015 and Kimi is going to be selling ice cream on Monaco harbour next summer.  

Vettel was seventh in the end and I'm not sure why. I think it was because of the first safety car or because he doesn’t actually have any talent. He certainly didn’t look like he was enjoying the ride when Hamilton was behind him, and seem mighty relieved to get out of the car at the end. My personal highlight was seeing his face when they came to do the team photo call at the end for Danny’s victory. No finger waving to be seen for a thousand miles and a “no, I'm going to sit way back over here behind my engineers and not next to the new golden boy thank you matey” attitude. 
Humility seems to just about suit him. Okay, to be fair there were no toys out of the pram tantruming this week and he’s not flouncing around as much as he could do. And you don’t win four championships with no talent. But Ricky boy has got two wins now and Vettel hasn’t looked close to that this year so far. Maybe he praying Pirelli will change their tyres again and he can win all the remaining races like normal.

Have we got time to sign Kimi ?

Bottas was definably a victim of the first safety car in eighth. The car looked okay with the new updates, but seemed to struggle on the tight stuff. They’ll have better luck in Spa and Monza.

Vergne was ninth and on merit I think. He drove away from Rosberg who might have had a brake calliper issue, but the Torro Rosso driver didn’t balls it up and delivered about what the car is capable of. He and Kvyat can usually be found back here so it’s a result really.

And Tenth was Button, who was a victim of the pit wall spending too much time looking at the weather channel and not enough looking at the sky or the people around them. I'm pretty sure he wasn’t going to win anything, but a top five was on the cards with a bit more actual thought. He did what he could with the cards dealt to him, the strategy team messed this one up for him.    


Rosberg got the fastest lap chasing down the proper racing drivers and still failed to get a podium.

Hey hey hey ... look who it is .. Yup it’s that puppy dog grin and the happy go lucky attitude. Ruffle his hair and give him a treat, Max is dead last yet again! He’s like a five point machine for us. We should send him a thank you card at the end of the year.

What's the right pedal for again ?

Okay, I'm off on holiday and I might write a midterm report whilst I'm sipping red win and floating down the Canal Du Midi ... or not.
Part two of this fascinating 2014 championship starts at the end of August with the Belgian GP at Spa. Until then, go out and get some sun, its lovely out there people.

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