We are back in Spain at the atrocious circuit of Valencia. It made its debut in 2008 and produced a very dull race not helped by the grey and bland surroundings. To make matters worse, overtaking is close to impossible here. The circuit has no less than 25 turns as it twists around the Valencia harbour. So my expections were very low before the race. But as always, F1 has a way of kicking up a few surprises.
I will do a quick run through of the major events in qualifying. Q1 always sees one name from the bigger teams drop out from further contention. This time it was Kobayashi. If Sauber can be considered a bigger or faster team is questionable. Their performance have varied to say the least. Sometimes in Q3 and sometimes out in Q1. So not the biggest surprise.
What was disappointing to see was that Mercedes have still not found a way to amend Schumachers problems. He does a poor Q2 and starts from 15th place. My prediction is that we will see another Schumacher next year with Pirelli coming in as sole tyre supplier and the playing field is levelled once again. Rosberg was also stuck in Q2 although in a more favorable 12th position.
The big surprise was seeing both Williams in Q3! 8th and 9th position. That had to be a much needed boost for the team. Not to mention for Nico Hulkenberg who outqualified Barrichello. Well done by the rookie against the veteran.
Much anticipation laid on Ferrari and the upgrades brought to the F10 for this race. But in the end they were still off the pace of the McLaren and Red Bull. 4th and 5th for the Scuderia team. In fact they were half a second off polesitter Vettel who did a great qualifying session without any technical problems this time. Mark Webber was a close 2nd on the grid. Perhaps this means that business returns to normal at Red Bull?
Lewis Hamilton got 3rd and Jenson admitted to a mistake before the final corner and lines up 7th on the grid as a result of that.
I have to mention that Webber did not congratulate Vettel with the pole while others did. I dont know if that means something, but I will mention it.
The lights go out at Valencia and we are racing! Turn 2 and 3 are always a bitch to get through unscathed. And we see some bumping and grinding down the field. But even at the front there is contact. Hamilton gets a fantastic start and tries to outbrake Vettel and the result is some nudging of their wheels. The result is a damaged front wing and we hear Hamilton on the radio going “Vettel hit me”. Okaay? Interesting point of view there Lewis, seeing that you were behind him..
Anyway – Alonso is equally aggressive and wrestles his way up to third. Mark Webber has a dismal start to his race and slumps down to 9th due to some poor defending through turn 2 and 3. After some laps behind slower cars, he decides to pit on lap 8. A slow stop for the Australian means he finds himself down with the Virgins and the Lotuses. And this is where things really go south for poor old Webbo.
Earlier today I watched the second GP2 race. The Swede Marcus Ericsson was leading the race when suddenly we see his teammate Josef Kral hit another car and get launched into the air doing a complete flip and buries itself in the tyrebarrier. It was extremely scary and the aftermath was no better as Kral remained in the car as the medical car and ambulance came to the crashsite. He was driven away in the ambulance and reports come through of severe back pains. Luckily he seems to be okay without any major injuries.
The Kral crash: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IaVgP9x_0I
Flash forward to lap 10. Webber is fighting for position with Kovalainen. Kovalainen defends and Webber just completely misses his braking point and torpedoes the back of the Lotus, vaulting him up in the air. So much in fact that the car takes out a DHL sign on its journey through the air. (insert cheesy Red Bull wings joke here) It looked like a replay of the Kral crash and it gave me chills down my spine. He slammed the tyre barrier very hard so I was relieved (and amazed) to see him throw his steering wheel and climb out of the car. Amazing safety. I wish we could have had such safety in 1994 and Ayrton and Ratzenberger would still have been with us.
Webber crash: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuXaKhHn4KQ
THE SAFETY CAR
This of course brings out the safety car. And here is where all the holla-baloo starts. As the safety car emerges from the pits, Vettel has already passed by but Hamilton is side by side the SC, so you see he hesitates for a moment and then he drives past it. Apparently the line where you cannot pass the safety car is the pit exit. Not the best rule in my opinion as there often is a wall there and drivers wont be able to see the car until after it has already emerged from the pits. In my opinion, the line should be at the end of white line that the drivers cannot cross after they have been in the pitlane. But rules are rules and Hamilton gets a drive through penalty for it.
Before we get to that, Alonso and Massa stay behind the safety car and Hamilton is able to get a large gap to the cars behind, giving him plenty of time to change his front wing without losing 2nd position. After the Ferraris have pitted they find themselves in 9th position for Alonso and 18th for Massa if I remember correctly. This infuriates Alonso and we hear him complaining on the radio telling his team to talk to Charlie Whiting about it.
Hamilton gets a drive through penalty and gets told by the team to push to close the gap to Vettel in front so he will lose as few positions from the penalty as possible. So he does, takes his drive through and emerges from the pits still in 2nd just ahead of Kobayashi in 3rd who opted not to pit during the safety car.
Alonso: “Tell me what position he is in now”.
Stella: “He was in second. He is still in second”.
DRIVER OF THE DAY
Allright. I will get back to this later. Its time for me to focus on the Driver of the day. Is it Vettel? It could be. We hardly saw him on the screen but he drove a controlled race and got a well deserved win. But as I am sure some of you have guessed, I have to give it to Kamui Kobayashi. First of all, I love seeing him drive and attack the circuit. F1 cars of today look pretty much the same going through corners, but there is just a level of attack and aggression from the Japanese driver that is noticeable and I love every minute of it.
Second of all, he drove 53 laps on the harder tire and while doing so kept the McLaren of Button well behind him. He was never even close enough to make any attempt of passing. And we are talking about a Sauber that qualified 18th. Lap 53 he pits and puts on the softs and now the fireworks begin. He emerges in 9th behind Alonso and Buemi and puts in some blistering laps to close the gap. Alonso is close enough to make an attempt to pass Buemi but he has to abandon that plan as he finds both his mirrors being filled with the Sauber car.
Trying to defend he makes a minor error under braking and you dont have to ask Kobayashi twice. He takes that opportunity and gets a brilliant pass in on the Ferrari. Beautifully done on the second to last lap. But its not over yet.
We now follow Vettel and see him and Hamilton crossing the line and the rest follow suit. As we wait for Buemi to cross the line in 7th, Kobayashi appears from the final corner in front of the Swiss driver! Braking very late at the very last corner gets him on the inside and with better traction out of the corner snatches 7th place. Now thats what we like to see! Racing, not whining.
Granted, he had fresh tyres but considering it is a car that didnt even make it out of Q1, it is mightily impressive. And not to mention a great strategy from the team. De la Rosa finishes in 10th making it their best weekend so far.
9 drivers get 5 second penalties. The penalties mean that Nico Rosberg claims the final point instead of Pedro de la Rosa and Fernando Alonso finishes ahead of Buemi in 8th.
WHINER OF THE DAY
Someone is not a happy camper. And I can understand that. Hamiltons penalty doesnt feel like a penalty. But lets rewind back to China shall we? Alonso jumps the start and gets the same penalty. He started in 3rd and finished in 4th. Didnt feel like much of a penalty either. But he drove a great race after his penalty. And Lewis drove fast to eliminate the damage of the penalty. Should one be penalized extra for being fast? I dont think so. Thats just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
We hear Alonso still nagging about this on the radio and finally gets told to focus on the race instead. Which he should. Because he had Buemi in front of him in 8th to pass. Instead Kobayashi shows up behind him and not only passes him but gets shown how to pass Buemi as well. Seems like Japanese drivers are Alonsos nemesis. Anyone remember Sato passing him in a Super Aguri in 2007?
Alonsos complaining doesnt stop after the race. He calls it a “manipulated race”. And Ferrari joins in the choir and hails the race a “scandal”. Its embarrassing to say the least and not what race fans should be subject to. Not only is it untrue but its rather pathetic.
So whiner of the day is obviously Alonso. Closely followed by his own team. They are not the only ones affected by the safety car. Schumacher for instance got his race destroyed while waiting for a green light in the pit lane.
SORENS RACE RATING
Allright, time to wrap it up. Before the race I suspected I would end up giving this a 1 or 2 out of 10. But I was definately entertained. So its a rather surprising 6 out of 10. 2 extra points for Kobayashi and the entire Safety Car drama. Also great to see Vettel close the gap in points, meaning we now have a full 4 way fight in the top for the championship. Im rather liking this season. Think back to the gloomy start in Bahrain that did not promise the number of great races we have already had. Dont you agree?
Soren says: Love, forgive and forget.
Enjoy the summer 😀