It has been race action left and right again this weekend. We are all spoiled little brats arent we?
My rally review of Turkey and Kimis glorious 5th place will be posted tomorrow. I like to see the highlights of day 3 before I do my final thoughts. But lets head to China.
A dry qualifying this time. The McLarens looked frightingly fast all weekend. Fastest in Q1 and Q2. And then all of a sudden they are P5 and P6 in Q3. Very strange. Button complained about the car bottoming out. They will be sure to get that fixed come Spain and little by little they are emerging as a serious championship contender.
Vettel had been struggling on Friday and Saturday. Getting pole looked out of reach. But then he pulls a last lap out of the bag to take pole that stunned Christian Horner. He didnt understand how he could get purple in the first sector (due to the long straight) and he went on to say “Who needs ride height control, eh?” over the Team Radio. Class. Also a little kick to the other teams who have accused them of having such a system. At the press con it emerged that Vettel had gone Webbers way on the settings of the car and that made all the difference.
Schumacher in P9 was beaten once again by Rosberg in P4. He was not happy with the car and was lucky to get into Q3 in the first place. It looked to be the same performance gap with Ferraris boys. P3 and P7. Massa explained it was due to a mistake on his final run. This is not typical for Massa who is one of the best qualifiers. Is his teammate getting to him? Did the accident have an effect? Its all guesswork at this point. Lets see how Europe looks first.
A few minutes before race start we hear that rain is expected shortly. Another crazy exciting race seems to be in front of us. Like Malaysia. And Australia. And Bah.. No, wait..
Everyone starts out on slicks and Alonso gets one of the best starts I have ever seen. From 3rd and right up in the lead. But hold on. Something is wrong. Replays of the starts show Alonso jumping the gun and Charlie Whiting pointing his finger at him. Are you up to old tricks once again Alonso? Sure enough, he gets a drive-through penalty. Bad form Nando.
On lap 1 we have Liuzzi braking too late and taking out both Buemi and Kobayashi. A real shame for Buemi as he had gambled on a wet race set up. Safety car is deployed and since the rain has increased, almost everyone pits for intermediates. Rosberg, Button and Kubica didnt pit and were now the trio leading the race.
Eventually Button caught up with Rosberg when the rain intensified and passed him for the lead. The McLaren clearly working much better in these conditions.
Again Hamilton is responsible for the majority of the action in the race. This time some of his moves were a bit questionable. Starting with his dive into the pits over the gravel trap. Then his second pitstop when he dove into the pits on the inside of Vettel. Apparently there is no rule against that, even though the fully drawn white lines are there. Alonso later made that same move but I will get to that.
UPDATE: The rules actually state the following:
4. Entrance to the pit lane
a) The section of track leading to the pit lane shall be referred to
as the “pit entry”.
b) During competition access to the pit lane is allowed only
through the pit entry.
c) Any driver intending to leave the track or to enter the pit lane
should make sure that it is safe to do so.
d) Except in cases of force majeure (accepted as such by the
Stewards of the Meeting), the crossing, in any direction, of the
line separating the pit entry and the track is prohibited.
So if rules are rules, Alonso and Hamilton should indeed have been penalized.
In the pits, Vettel does a slightly better pitstop compared to Hamilton who gets wheelspin with the result that Vettel pulls ahead. But neither driver is backing down. Vettel tries to block Lewis by moving right and their wheels touch. Penalty needed? Perhaps. They are both racers with some red mist in their eyes and this is bound to happen if they are released almost simultaneously. But I leave the judgement of that to you. The stewards eventually only gave both drivers a reprimand.
The commentators here reacted to Hamilton running Webber wide after the second safety car. But maybe Webber just got a taste of his own medicine? 😉 Besides, Lewis had Vettel on the inside so he couldnt go there either. It looked like racing to me. Remember that they can overtake from the safety car line and onward. And they had already passed that with good margin.
Then on lap 22 we get another safety car. This time because of debris from Alguersuaris car. Very unnecessary if you ask me. But there it is. Now we see replays of Alonso passing Massa as they are entering the pitlane. The motive of Alonso is clear: not having to wait behind Massa for tires. It is a very cheeky move and I cannot imagine Massa being happy about that one. Seems like the honeymoon is over for real. Massa said after the race that he made a mistake in the second to last corner which made it possible for Alonso to close right up and pass him. He shrugged it off to the press but Im not sure I am buying that. At all. But thats me.
This move made the difference for Alonsos race. He was able to finish 4th which is impressive of course considering his drive through penalty. The penalty lost a lot of the effect due to the safety cars and the weather but still a solid drive from Alonso. Even if he should have been penalized for crossing the line to the pit entry. But the blame for that is on the stewards for not enforcing it. Massa looks a bit shaken and he has to pick it up if he doesnt want to be relegated to number 2. Or replaced by Kubica next year.
At the end of the race Hamilton is saying his left front tire is bald – meaning gone. He has done 4 pit stops compared to Buttons 2 stops. Hamilton may be the faster driver of the two but there is no denying that Jenson is a master of preserving tires and making some very good calls when it counts. A brilliant win for the Briton and and a deserved second place for Hamilton. Button and McLaren are now leading the championships. Who would have thought after Bahrain. I have to say that this season quite enjoyable. I might have to eat my words when we get to the next dry race however.
My favorite battle was that of Schumacher and Hamilton. Fantastic stuff. The German clearly had the slower car but to see him cleverly defend his position like an old fox was fantastic.
Him being passed was inevitable, but it was a real highlight for me.
Vettels race must be a big disappointment for him. He won in dominant fashion last year and now he was stuck behind Kubica unable to pass him. He salvaged some points in 6th position. But not what you want when you start from pole. Webbers race was also a bit lacklustre as he was not even held up by a Renault but actually passed by one. Brilliant move from Petrov there by the way who also finished his first F1 race.
DRIVER OF THE DAY
Button and Hamilton did great, but my driver of the day is Rosberg. The Mercedes is not really supposed to be up there. First he qualified great. And he kept his head cool and his foot on the gas through an extremely difficult race. When I saw Alonso closing in on him I thought he would be passed shortly. But he just answered and kept Alonso safely at bay. That to me is impressive. 2nd in the championship 10 points behind Button says it all. If all the updates Mercedes GP have planned for Spain works out, then look out.
SORENS RACE RATING
Its another 9 out of 10 people. It had everything. Questionable maneouvres. Lots of overtaking. Too many for me to even remember all. Teammate rivalry. And a surprise winner. If Vettel had won it, I would probably have given it a 10 😀
Again, I remind you that my ratings are purely fueled by emotion 😉
Soren says: Try and enjoy the here and now. The future will take care of itself somehow.
Fernando the bad driver of the day..
1st jump start
2nd overtaking massa aggressively
Dirty move, loser and desperate… if you look at his comment after the race, Alonso said :
” The passing move on Felipe? If he was not my team mate, there wouldn’t be so much talk about it and for me it was a normal move and it definitely won’t compromise our relationship.”
Ouch!! So everyone were talking about his dirty move eh? he felt it? “ouch” … so what so big deal with team mate issue? loser! Massa comment was rather simple but sounds unhappy, wait till next race.. wish to see Massa and Ferrari screwing Alonso. This man has losing his style as a champ.
There is only one driver who has shown pace to defy the car… no one has shown this regularly not even Vettel, not even Alonso ….. this man is irreplaceable .. he is … the iceman Kimi Raikkonen …
Touché Jenni. Interesting comments from the Scuderia indeed. There is more going on under the surface than we the public see. Thats what I read from this.
The Iceman is missed in F1. He is a unique talent. At least his skills shines where ever he is 😉
Thanks for a great summary, Soren. I have to love that you give Nico Rosberg your ‘Driver of the Day’…I was in awe that he was able to keep Alonso, in a clearly faster car, behind him!!
It was a race full of drama….plenty good stuff and lots of intriguingly dodgy stuff, too. Maybe 2010 isn’t going to be the damp squib I was fearing after Bahrain.
My wish? That the stewards get it right this year…imo they failed miserably with yesterdays pitlane incidents.
Rai Rai Rai…..I also miss Raikkonen in F1!!!
Thanks for your comments Yvonne. Yes, Rosberg may have had a more anonymous race than the McLarens but that doesnt make his result any less impressive.
Perhaps its when the recent races have in fact been damp, is why we have been spared of the expected boredom? 😉
If Barcelona is dry which it usually is, I expect a snoozefest there Im afraid.
Hey Soren… awesome review as always. 🙂
I have to agree, this was the best race of the season so far.. I actually watched it again last night.
Yvs, I also miss Rai!!! But he seems rather happy in WRC!!!
Oh god please dont let Alonso win at his country… cant stand this. I hope Rob Smedley and Massa are started to plot their revenge now on Alonso… huhu hahah
Thanks again for a splendid review, Søren! Your summary covers it all, from the exciting drama caused by the rain, till the more discussable racing methods represented by Hamilton and Alonso. It is more than a wonder that Lewis does not seem to learn, -and more so; -on the contrary it seems he chooses this way cold and calculated, knowing the stewards are more than afraid to do something about it. This in sharp contrast to the statements from the drivers forum published earlier this week saying something like; “-we do not accept mad mans driving on the brink of endangering ones contenders. Stewards, stay firm in enforcing the rules.” Well, let`s hope Sebastian, Nico, Button and the all the other gentlemen in the sport keep their traces clean, and on their paths are protected by the clear speaking rules of the F1 game, on the coming event in Spain.
P.S: I`m really looking forward to reading your WRC review, Søren! Kimi sure knows how to please us this year!
Keep on the good work!
Hamilton is riding a fine line. He provides excitement. And I like that. But not when other innocent drivers suffer for it. He dodged a few bullets in China and he was kind of okay. But it could easily have gone the other way. There is a reason that he is the most penalized driver. I guess its the old omelet and eggs saying, huh.
I like how you refer to Nico, Sebastian and Button as gentleman drivers. They race fair. Kubica too. And Kimi did as well 🙂
As you probably know, my rally review is up now 😉