The qualifying session was a strange one to say the least. The big name knocked out of Q1 was Bruno Senna. He hit traffic and when pushing spun out on his final try. Not the best birthday gift for Frank Williams who just turned 70 in April. What was strange is that top teams had to put on softs in Q1 just to be sure to make it through.
Q2 was a real dogfight. The track was improving all the time and to get a clean lap was also a challenge. Surprise knockouts was Button and Webber. Play time is over for real. The shocker was Maldonado setting the quickest time by far. Where did that come from??
The final shootout went so-so for our protagonist. He was up 3 tenths on Alonso who had provisional pole on the final run. But (another) mistake in the final sector lost Kimi about 2 tenths. His teammate narrowly pipped him due to this.
The shocker came when Pastor Maldonado in the Williams beat Alonsos time and got the provisional pole! Until Hamilton blasted into pole position half a second quicker. However, Lewis came to a halt on the track on his inlap. I caught myself thinking that they did another “Canada 2010” where the same happened. He got pole but could not make it back to the pitlane.
And sure enough, investigation showed that low fuel was indeed the reason. Hamilton was stripped of his pole position and sent to the back of the grid. Pretty harsh. My take on this? The reason FIA smacked McLaren so hard is because it happened before. So they felt they had to set an example probably. I think eradicating his Q3 time and being sent to P10 would have sent a clear enough message. But thats me. Now he even had to start behind
a car that failed to meet the 107% Q1 time. Something seems unfair with that.
But it is what it is and Maldonado is awarded a sensational pole position. Everyone moves up a place and Kimi starts 4th. If not for the mistake he would have been very very close to taking pole position.
The lights go out on the Catalunya track and in no suprising move, Fernando Alonso takes the start and the lead into turn 1. Accompanied by a mighty roar from the Spanish crowd. Raikkonen keeps his cool, does a good start and passes Grosjean with ease to take 3rd. The Lotus cars were tipped to have race winning pace but it quickly emerges that is not the case. At least not on the softs as Alonso and Maldonado pulls away at the front. Or perhaps Kimi is just taking care of the tires?
Kimi still puts a solid gap between him and Romain who is even battling the Mercedes cars for that 4th position. But the two front runners seem untouchable at this stage. Kimis first stop goes by without any hinges. In fact it is one of the few stops that dip below the 20 second mark, so Lotus have really been practising here. His next stop was 1.5 seconds slower however, so there is room for improvement.
Meanwhile Maldonado is keeping in close touch with Alonso. No change after the first stop but he pits 2 laps earlier than the Ferrari for his second stop. And a great couple of laps got the jump on the Spaniard. So now we have a Williams leading the race in proper fashion! Amazing.
What is not as amazing is an incident between the other Williams car of Senna and Schumachers Mercedes. From the replays it seems Schumacher just careened into the back of Bruno Senna. Granted Senna moved a bit but there was plenty of space on the inside. The Williams driver was also on pretty worn tyres so naturally he would brake earlier. Here is the crash: http://youtu.be/5c-pu4Kt_T4
The golden rule of racing is that the guy behind is the one who can see and always have the major responsibility. Schumacher is eventually handed a 5-place grid penalty for Monaco after the race.
What I find absolutely uncanny is that it is an almost repeat of an incident that happened 20 years ago. The involved? Schumacher and Senna: http://youtu.be/cMPuTqVzDn8
Here you can see Ayrton giving Michael a piece of his mind about the incident at 0:18 – http://youtu.be/zfmJ8mivNxw
It would have been freaking awesome if Bruno Senna had went up to Schumacher and did the same now. Anyway, that concludes todays history lesson from F1bias.com ;)
Back to the race, we have Maldonado building a small gap of 5-6 seconds before he pits for his final set of tires on lap 41. Ferrari leaves Alonso out for 3 laps longer to have a fresher set towards the end. He is not losing too much time to the Venezualan, even on the worn tires so this looks to be a fight to the end.
Meanwhile Kimi is having a quiet race. His teammate is 16-17 seconds behind him and the top 2 are about 20 seconds ahead. Lotus lets him stay out all the way to lap 48. He is passed by Maldonado and Alonso even after they have stopped. What plans does Lotus have here? We get a team radio for Kimi stating that they believe the leaders will have to pit again. Kimi just drove 21 laps on his previous set, so why they would think that Ferrari and Williams would stop a few laps before the end is beyond me?
Alonso is chasing down the Williams and gets within DRS range. But Maldonado plays it smart. He is told by the team to really go easy on the tires in the most demanding corners like turn 3 and turn 9 where passing is near impossible anyway. And my guess is he saved a healthy dose of KERS for the DRS zone keeping Alonso just out of range for a proper attack. Seasoned driving.
The chasing and fighting eventually takes a toll on Alonsos younger tires as well and as soon as he dropped out of DRS range, I knew Pastor had it in the bag. Kimi is lapping a lot faster than the top 2 at this point. But they are about 14 seconds ahead with 7 laps to go – surely that is a tall order. But Kimi claws in the gap, lap by lap. Amazingly he is only 0.7 seconds behind Alonso at the finish line and 3.8 seconds behind race winner Maldonado. So close and yet so far..
Before I get to Maldonados sensational win, I would just like to comment on Kimis final pit stop. Lotus was criticised for keeping him out too long. But taking him in earlier would only have meant more worn tires at the end. But if he instead could have defended from Alonso and held him behind for one more lap before his final pit stop, then he might have had a decent shot at 2nd place. Or if they had put on the hards on the first stop. But that is hindsight and Kimi would not be pleased with 2nd anyway so..
Edit on May the 15th:
I have now had more time to reflect and look at the laptimes and Kimis strategy. And some helpful insights from other fans have shifted my opinion a bit. Turns out Kimi lost about 8 seconds on the extra 3 laps he did compared to Alonsos second to last stint. Had he been pulled in two laps earlier, he would undoubtedly have caught Alonso with a a lap or 2 to spare. Again, hindsight. But what worries me the most is that the Lotus team so far seem to have been unable to make quick and clever changes to strategy when the situation calls for it. I also feel that they should changed strategy and put on the harder tire on his second stint when they saw that he was losing a lot of ground to the 2 guys in front. The medium tyre was the better one. And they could have used the softer on the next stint when the track had rubbered in more and the track temp was up. (As it usually does in a race)
As it stands its another great result and Lotus has cemented their 3 place in the standings, just 14 points behind McLaren. Whats more is that Kimi have moved up to 4th in the standings, only trailing Vettel and Alonso by 12 points! Its a long season folks and Monaco is coming up. Kimi always have something special up his sleeve around Monaco. A track where talent matters more than any other venue. Bring it on!
As for Pastor Maldonado and Williams: What an incredible improvement from last year. In 2011 they had 3 finishes in the points. Three! One 10th place and two 9th place finishes. That is 5 points in the entire season. And now they have a win and 43 points overall. That is comparable to Caterham going from backmarker to suddenly fighting for podiums from one season to the next. Well, I for one hope that Williams will be fighting with the top
teams from now on. Even if it means one more competitor for Kimi to deal with before he gets his hands on his next win. This however, ends an 8 year win drought for the Williams team. Congratulations!
FIRE IN THE WILLIAMS GARAGE
As I am writing this review, it has been brought to my attention that there has been an explosion in the Williams garage. And several team members are being treated in the medical centre. What a sad conclusion to this fairy tale story for Williams. I really hope no one is seriously hurt. It was pretty bad as you can tell from the pictures and video on this link: http://thef1times.com/news/display/05984
More news here: http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/99599
SORENS RACE RATING
It was a good race, but the subdued middle stint from Kimi brings it down a bit. Perhaps a 6 out of 10 raised to a 7 out of 10 due to a surprise winner. So far the streak is going. 5 races, 5 different winners from 5 different teams. Now we need Kimi to prevail in Monaco to make it a record 6.
Here are Kimis own thoughts on the race: http://en.espnf1.com/spain/motorsport/story/78595.html
And here is what he had to say in the press con in his own language. Is it any wonder that the guy is a legend? LOL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiXDQHQxY3s
Yours truly is actually and in fact getting married in less than 2 weeks. May the 26th is the date and the ceremony takes place during Monaco qualifying. Yes, I am skipping watching that. If that is not true love, what is?
What I am trying to say, is that I will not be able to write a review of the Monaco GP this year since my services are required elsewhere at that time ;)
Wish us luck!
One more thing. As you probably know, I write these reviews in my spare time and I get a lot of positive feedback which I duly appreciate.
However, I would really like to do an on-track review this year and I would also like to bring my lovely new bride along as well. Especially since she has never been to an F1 race before. So that is why I am boldly and bashfully asking for a small donation to be able to do so. Also – I have previously had a few requests from regular readers asking about a donation option. So thats nice.
Any small amount is greatly appreciated and will be earmarked for a GP in the European venue. Should the funds not be sufficient, they will be used for another race at a later date. Our dream is to go to Spa this year for obvious reasons. Call it a wedding gift to my wife and me. Only if you can and will of course (-:
Okay, enough begging. Take care y’all!
Images © Williams, Glenn Dunbar, Steven Tee, Pirelli/LAT Photographic, Charles Coates, Lorenzo Bellanca, Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo
Do not hesitate to contact me if you need any of these photos taken down for any reason.