Back in good old Germany. Ah, the beer is flowing and the bratwurst is a-plenty. Not to mention crazy local F1 fans with the luxury of choosing between 5 home drivers to cheer for. For a Kimi fan, one always anticipates the race in Germany with mixed feelings. As I touched on in my previous review, the German venue has by far been the worst for Kimi for some odd reason. Of course it is only circumstances and coincidences but as humans we tend to concoct some kind of reason why things happen. And in the case it has been called the “Germany curse” for Kimi.
Just to recap, here are some of the races to forget:
2003 – Taken out by Barrichello right at the start before turn 1: http://youtu.be/KvuYG9e-c60
2004 – Rear wing failure while fighting for the lead with Schumacher: http://youtu.be/VwB8XybW558
2005 – Suspension failure while leading the race *sob* : http://youtu.be/m4MY6SaCJUY
2007 – Hydraulic failure while running 3rd.
2009 – Retires on lap 34 with radiator damage.
But that is in the past. But I was anxious to see if Kimi could make a change from the many previous disasters.
Well, guess not… After a Q1 that saw Kimi set an absolutely blistering time and go fastest in Q1, (on medium tires nonetheless) the rain started coming down. Kimi was lucky to set a quick time in the beginning of Q2 because the conditions worsened and he just scraped through to Q3.
Q3 was just horrible to watch. It quickly became clear what cars had the ability to generate heat in the full wet tires. And the Lotus was not one of them to put it mildly. After qualifying, Raikkonen was quoted of saying that he crashed almost every lap trying to get the car working and get a lap time. But to no avail. He stayed 10th. 5 seconds off the polesitter tells the difference between a working and non-working set of tires.
So it seems the “curse” is refusing to let go. But would the race prove different. The car was certainly fast in the dry and that was also the prediction for Sunday.
Lights out and yours truly is half expecting a DNF on lap 1, but Kimi makes it through unscathed while battling with DiResta and Hamilton. Grosjean drives into the back of Massa and loses his front wing and has to pit on lap 1. Unfortunately for Kimi, Hamilton picks up a puncture from the bits of Massa and Grosjean and slows down enough to let Di Resta pass him on the third lap. 2 laps later though, we get the pass of the race – hands down. With my heart nearly stopping, I watch Kimi go outside-inside-outside-inside to make the pass on Di Resta. Stellar racing and fair play to Di Resta. His experience in DTM serves him well in such occasions. Worth another look: http://youtu.be/QgxUw7wdOms
Lap 11 and Lotus finally gets their strategy right. They pit Kimi early for a new set of softs and when Webber and Red Bull responds on the next lap, it is too late. Quite a feat by Kimi as he had to battle both Caterhams in traffic on his outlap. The lap after that, Maldonado pits and he is also passed by Kimi before he exits the pitlane. Kudos Lotus!
Now he has another Force India in his sights. Hulkenberg is up ahead. But Schumacher exits the pits in front of them. Resulting in a scrap between the 2 Germans. Kimi, ever the opportunist bides his time and pounces perfectly on Hulkenberg as he goes wide in turn 8 and has to lift for Schumacher who just passed him. Epic! Have a look-see before someone takes the vid down: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3fkWXKqItg
Schumacher is the next hurdle on Kimis charge towards the front. He is a tough cookie to pass and it takes skill to do it as the DRS zone is not enough on its own. On lap 21 the Kimster seizes an opportunity and outfoxes the old fox on the turns following the long straight. There is a small clip of that in the end here. (As a bonus you get to see the two earlier passes as well 😉 )
From then on, its a curiously long stint on the softs for the Finn. 27 laps compared to 11 laps on stint number 1. That meant he had 30 laps to run on the medium tire. Arguably a tire that could strongly hold on for 4-5 laps longer. The reason for my displeasure was seeing Button increasing the gap up to 14 seconds before Kimi pitting for fresh tires. Granted, Button was flying on that stint but I do think the gap could have been less if they pitted Kimi when we heard him say that the softs were beginning to go off on lap 32. The gap was 10 seconds at that time.
Edit: There are people who think Kimi should have been put on medium-medium-soft instead of soft-soft-medium. I disagree halfway. Yes, Kimi looked very fast on the mediums in Q1, but he still needed the grippiest tire to make quick progress through the field. Could he perhaps have done it with the mediums as well? I think its unlikely but its one of those things that we will never know. He wouldnt have got the undercut on Webber and Maldonado with that strategy. He would have had to pass them on track.
In all honesty I dont think either strategy would have made him dice for the win. That chance went out when it rained in qualifying. He had to use a lot of his tire performance to get through traffic and make up places. And the top 3 of Button, Vettel and Alonso had a quicker pace than I expected. McLaren have made good improvements on their car it seems. Even Button seems to have stumbled over his lost balance. We will have to wait for Hungary to see what Hamilton can do with the upgrades to the MP4-27.
Anyway, I am getting to my musings over the race already. Better round it off first.
So up ahead there has been a race long fight between Alonso and Vettel. The German has been close for many laps but the Red Bull straightline speed blows compared to the Ferrari. Even with the DRS open. So no dice. Button is on a charge after his final stop. But not before Hamilton mixes up things and decides to unlap himself by passing Vettel. Vettel is not amused but nothing in the rules say that Lewis cant do so.
But wait – we have to mention the record pit stop for Jenson. 2.4 seconds to change 4 tires and off he goes. Hello. Breathe in and out and that is about the time it took. Insanity.. Take a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNK49ZD_D0Q
Seems McLaren has finally got it right. The previous incidents were teething problems as they were coming to grips with and perfecting the system.
Anyway, Button catches the leaders and passes Vettel and takes up the hunt for Alonso. Unfortunately his tires does not have enough life in them to make a proper charge and he starts to fall behind after a couple of attempts. He had a severe lockup in the beginning of his while he was catching up. The huge flat spot was visible and it may very well have been the deciding factor. As his tires go, Vettel catches up and would really like his 2nd place back. The RB8 is not the fastest on the straight but he gets close enough to make a move on Button in the chicane. The controversial pass here:
I was initially hoping that they would just let it be but on second review I understand why the stewards could not. They have just introduced the rule of having to stay inside the white lines on the track while overtaking. And to not penalize such an incident immediately after its introduction was always unthinkable. I still think that dropping Vettel back to 3rd would be enough, but he predictably was hit with a 20 second time penalty. Similar to the time a drive-thru would take. The positive for Kimi fans was that Kimi bagged another podium! The penalty dropped Vettel to 5th. The downside for all F1 fans that do not like shady, whiny characters is that Alonso extends his championship lead. Shady and whiny you say? Well, I go more into detail here: https://f1bias.com/2010/03/15/my-beef-with-alonso/
ALONSO THE GREAT?
If F1 was a movie, Alonso would not be the hero. He would be the villain with the scar on his face and dirty tricks up his sleeve that we all hope the protagonist beats in the end. In real life however, the black and white is not so easy to see. And many people also turn their blind eye to it.
The fact remains that Alonso get unadulterated preferential treatment in Ferrari. Massa is reduced to a guinea pig to try out new parts and solutions before Alonso gets the parts that work in a car exclusively adapted to his taste and driving style. None of the other drivers have this kind of luxury as they have to divide and share everything with their teammate. That is part of the explanation for Alonso leading the championship and Massa is 14th. Yes, 14th.. I have no doubts that Alonso is a better driver than Massa, but no one sensible will agree that he is that much better.
As for the downsides of equal treatment compared to the Alonso treatment in Ferrari, double champion Hakkinen touch on the same thing here. From the 2 minute mark: http://youtu.be/NaJCjPkLqPo
He is trying to be diplomatic about it of course.
The thing is; Alonso needs to have it this way. If he doesnt, he has shown signs of (without exaggerating) outright paranoia in the past. Who can forget his outburst to the press in 2006 when he accused Renault of conspiring against him so he should not win the championship! Bear in mind that Renault enabled him to win the WDC the year before and the statement seems even more absurd. Make no mistake – he was taken well care of by team boss Flavio Briatore as the no. 1 driver in all his years in Renault.
His behaviour while in McLaren was equivalent to that of a child when he realized that he had more than his hands full with a rookie. Here he is shaking his fist to his own team because Hamilton didnt move over: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fv5hi9u1x8 (At the end of the video.)
Hungary 2007 saw him stay stationary in the pitlane to prevent Hamilton to have enough time to get around the track for a flying lap:
Dont miss his in-the-face lies to the press afterwards.
When he feels wronged, his sense of entitlement knows no bounds. That coupled with his active involvement in the spy case makes me wonder what kind of people that really support a driver like that. Either they know nothing about his escapades and only his driving. That I can understand because his driving is sublime when everything is working for him. Or they are well aware of his character and yet support him while making wild excuses and explanations to justify his behaviour. To be frank, I do not have a lot of respect for people with such a conviction.
I guess an Alonso fan reading this may resort to the usual argument that my writing has something to do with Kimi being replaced by Alonso in Ferrari. Not at all. I got Alonsos number a long time ago. Besides, Alonso did not directly have anything to do with that. Dont believe me? Read the extensive post on what really happened in Ferrari in 2008: https://f1bias.com/2012/04/05/truth-about-kimi-ferrari-santander-2008/
SORENS RACE RATING AND ROUNDUP
So chequered flag and Kimi crosses the line in 4th. Upgraded to 3rd and another podium to his tally after Vettels penalty. Not bad from starting in 10th. Germany curse was only in effect during qualifying so Im sure that it will be gone completely next year 😉 Joking aside, it is still qualifying that Lotus needs to sort out. We saw a flash of promising speed in Q1. But Hungary this coming weekend will tell us more.
Race rating 7 out of 10. Exiting scrap at the front. Stellar racing and overtaking from Kimi. Got kinda dull in his final stint all on his own. Sadly the antagonist won this round. But its not over til the fat lady sings. Bring on Hungary please.
Images © Lotus F1 Team, Pirelli, photo4/motorionline.com, McLaren/Hoch Zwei
Do not hesitate to contact me if you need any of these photos taken down for any reason.