If you watched the race like I did, I am sure you are equally upset and disappointed with how things went down. But I will get to that. Thanks to Joe Saward for the picture above. Check out his and David Tremaynes magazine.
Im gonna do a quick run through of the major movers and shakers in qualifying.
The final turn or the Südkurve bags its first victim in Q1. Liuzzi goes too wide, spins and slams into the barrier by the pits. It looked scary for a moment because the tethers on the suspension were unable to hold the wheel and Di Grassi had to swerve to avoid it. It was only one year ago on July 20th that poor Henry Surtees was killed by a stray wheel while competing in an F2 race. We do not want any more of those.
After the usual suspects are out in Q1, the biggest disappointment in Q2 has to be Schumacher qualifying 11th. But I gotta hand it to the guy. He isnt giving up. He is fully committed to give it a go next year. My personal opinion is that once we see Schumacher in a car better made for him, it will be a different story. Time will tell.
Kobayashi got real close to making it into Q3 again. Impressive in his own right as he was half a second faster than his veteran teammate. Just 7 hundreds faster would have seen him through. But that is a huge margin compared to what went on at the top..
Alonso and Ferrari had been looking incredibly strong all weekend. Massa were also mingling around the top of the charts. They seem to have gotten their blown diffuser working whereas McLaren have not worked the kinks out yet. A bit surprising actually. (A blown diffuser is where the exhaust system are altered and now blows the gasses through the diffuser for increased downforce through fast corners)
Alonso gets a cracking lap in at 1:13.793 on his final run in Q3. Half a second faster than Massa. Pole position is clearly decided already. But Vettel somehow pulls out a last lap effort in what has to be his best this year as he was 2-3 tenths behind Alonso in Q1 and Q2. 1:13.791. 2/1000s of a second. Thats barely a snap of your fingers! In distance it converts to 15 centimeters or 6 inches. Not a lot but it will do. Massa gets 3rd. His best position since Bahrain.
One year ago on July 26th, Felipe Massa had a horrifying accident when he took a spring weighing close to 1 kilo to the head at about 240 km/h. He suffered minor braindamage and was in danger of losing his sight on one eye. He had to be put in a coma to reduce the swelling of his brain. Many believed his race career was over. But he made an impressive recovery as we know. Trouble is that he has been outshone by Alonso for most of this year. Maybe the accident did have an effect after all? F1 are about the smallest of margins and who knows what such a blow might do to a person. You may not notice it playing checkers but driving an F1 car? Is that the reason for his struggles? That will probably never be answered. The explanation given is that he cant get heat into the tires. We know Kimi struggled with that in 2008 so its a valid excuse. But one cant help wonder if there is the other aspect as well.
Lights out and we are racing in Hockenheim! But whats this? Can it be that Vettel has another horrid start? The Red Bull is slow off the line. He tries to defend in exactly the same way he did at Silverstone with Webber. But like Silverstone it is too late. Alonso is past him. But so is Massa! He is on the clean side and gets past both drivers in front and now leads the race! What a great show on the very day 1 year on from his accident. But can he keep this lead? Even through the pitstops?
Looking at previous years it was always an advantage to pit later than your rival or teammate. That way you could set some quick laps after your opponent had pitted and gotten fueled up. And lots of times we saw the last car pitting making it out in front.
This year however it is the opposite. No refueling means there is no difference in weight, the only difference is the tires. So when you get to that window where your tires are worn, pitting first is an advantage. Because when you get out, you weigh the same but you have fresh tires. So most of this type of passes done this year in the pits have been done by drivers pitting one or two laps before.
Alonso is keeping close to Massa but is not in any position to try and overtake. So when he is pulled in first and Massa stays out it is obvious what Ferrari is trying to do. They want Alonso to have maximum points for the championship. Fair enough. Except it didnt work. Massa responds and is able to stay in front of his teammate.
At this point Button is leading the race. He stays out longer on the softer tires and tries to get his smoother driving to make the tires last longer. He has good pace but Hamilton just manages to get in front of him when he emerges from the pits on lap 22. Mark Webber is having a rather anonymous race in 6th position. He isnt challenging the McLarens in front and the Renault of Kubica is no match for the Red Bull. They did have a good fight after Webber had pitted but eventually pulled away from the Renault. We get a rather cryptic team radio for Webber at one point saying that “dont lift on the straights” and “get a 4 second gap to Button”. It later became clear that they had an oil temperature problem. I guess not all tech problems strikes Vettel.
After the pitstops the Ferraris are trading fastest laps. Alonso closing, Massa responding and its a good and fair fight. But Alonso doesnt seem to enjoy it like we do. He comes on the team radio while close behind Massa saying “This is ridiculous!”. What is Alonso? That you arent leading when you “deserve” it? Or that we have to listen to your bloody whining every fucking race?? Personally, I lean towards the whining being ridiculous..
A few laps later race engineer Rob Smedley is on the radio to Massa: “Alonso.. is faster.. than you.. Can you confirm you understood that message?” Come again? I think I know where this is going. They would not dare. Would they?
But sure enough. Lap 49, after the hairpin at turn 6, Massa visibly slows down and lets Alonso pass. We get a replay with the telemetry onscreen, which is quite crude compared to the data the teams have, but even that shows a clear lift of the throttle.
Rob Smedley: “Ok mate. Good lad. Stay with him now. Sorry.” Sorry? For what? If you are talking about being sorry for Ferrari ruining the race for the millons of fans watching, then yes. Sorry indeed.
The air is let out of the balloon. The suspense is over. We are back in Austria 2002 where Barrichello was told to let Schumacher pass for the championship. Rubens had some fight in him and he refused to do so before the very last lap. He demonstratively lifts and lets Schumacher by just meters before the finish: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwZju13GCWM
This created an outrage among F1 followers. The podium in 2002 was embarassing to say the least. Schumacher is clearly surprised by the immense booing from the crowd and awkwardly pushes Rubens onto the top step in a sad attempt to make amends. It wasnt pretty. And because of Ferraris actions the “no team order” rule was born.
Flash forward 8 years and we are not in Austria but in Germany. We have another Brazillian leading the race. A popular character among many F1 fans. Especially after his remarkable recovery from last year. A win on the day a year after his accident would be poetic justice and a real sunshine story for the F1 history books. But Ferrari had other plans. They had to get their golden Santander cash-cow in front no matter the cost. Even if means slapping every F1 fan in the face in the process.
You would think that the very team that started the whole team order misery would have had better sense than this?? But they didnt. And they did not only repeat their atrocious history, they managed to make a mockery out of the podium ceremony again. The drivers have stepped down from the podium and are done but we see Domenicali having a word with the drivers. He practically shoves Massa back onto the podium for the one big happy family picture. Except Massa isnt happy. His body language and expression speaks a thousand words. And it isnt pretty.
Press conference was toe curling business as well. Alonso is grilled a little and asked that his pass on Massa looked pretty “easy” and if he could tell what happened. “Well, I think eh.. I dont know.. eh.. what happened.” Thanks Alonso. After what we just witnessed on track I am sure that every F1 follower appreciates being lied to directly in our face. As I recall you didnt know what happened in Singapore 2008 either, did you? Ignorance sure is handy.
He goes on with his reply and is clearly shaken by the direct questions and he stumbles to find words and lets out some general drivel that hardly even makes sense. Massa on the other hand keeps it short and sweet and there is no doubt what the feeling is from that side. “I dont think I need to explain that.” Youre right Massa. You dont. Thank you for not insulting our intelligence.
Are we that are outraged by this, hippocrites? Doesnt team orders take place all the time? What about Red Bull and the front wing in Silverstone? No. There is a difference between team orders before and during a race. It wasnt a good call from Red Bull PR-wise. But it wasnt anywhere near this. F1 is for the fans that spend their time and money following the sport and they dont want the racing itself to be interfered or tampered with.
But what about Kimi in China 2008? He let Massa by for the championship?
There is a big difference. Kimi could not win the championship at that point no matter what. Massa could. Every fan understands that. Besides – it wasnt a pass for the win. And that is a HUGE difference.
DRIVER OF THE DAY
Judging by the global outrage after todays race, I think we as F1 fans are allowed to feel a bit miffed and robbed after todays display. I was never a fan of the term “moral winner”. But if there ever was one, it is Felipe Massa on this day.
Yes, Alonso was faster. But Massa grabbed the lead due to a fantastic start. He held Nando at bay and only had to defend once from a passing move. Massa richly deserves it as he deserved the win today.
DOUCHE OF THE DAY
The Scuderia. For once again reviving the sins of the past and ruining a perfectly good fight for millions of fans.
SORENS RACE RATING
1 out of 10. It was a good race in essence. Some good fights and overtaking. But I just cant find any enjoyment from it now. It got killed with a shot to the back of the head on lap 49 and is best forgotten about. What could have been glorious and one for the books is now just an anticlimactic scandal. Ferrari got fined 100.000$ for this. In 2002 they got fined 10 times more. Make of that what you will.
Soren says: O tempora! O mores!