Sunday, 24 June 2012

I know absolutely nothing about Formula One

So, I was really, really wrong

About two days ago, I thought it would be hilarious to talk about how boring the forthcoming European Grand Prix would be. And for about three and a half laps, I was as smug as a vindicated Piers Morgan.

My bad.
Then things got a bit silly. I have no idea how to analyse this race but, as you have probably been directed here from Andrew Benson's blog, luckily I don't have to. So this will probably be a calculated, eloquent, mature evaluation of a f*cking awesome race.
Sebastian Vettel's retirement.
If neither Vettel, Gary Anderson nor David Coulthard - three men with considerably more money, knowledge and sex appeal (yes, even Gary Anderson) than me - can't make sense of the incident, then I will have no chance. It was lap thirty-something or forty-something, and a safety car had bunched up the field to the point where my prediction of boredom was already looking misguided.
So often in the past, Vettel has used the safety car restart as another opportunity to show everyone else how good his car is. However, today he was not able to get the gap he wanted and, under pressure from Fernando Alonso, Romain Grosjean and other, his car inexplicably failed.

Out of the race went the German, out of the car went some pretty expensive gloves and out of my sofa went my backside. "HAVE SOME OF THAT YOU MUG! SHOVE THAT FINGER UP YOUR A**E!" I politely exclaimed. The realisation that Fernando Alonso had taken the lead was yet to sink in, but suddenly, a real race was building.

Suddenly, those still dormant fears in the back of the minds of F1 fans were receding - unlike last year, Vettel was not going to simply run away with the world championship.

The sight of Christian Horner's leg nervously shaking with no image of his top half always makes me feel a little uncomfortable and wonder which channel I am watching. It was nothing like the nervous excitement felt by Formula One fans around the world and the crowd in Valencia when the German walked away from a race which was far from finished.
My reaction to Vettel's finger

Fernando Alonso's brilliance.
In recent weeks, I am warming to Alonso. Despite myself and, to a larger extent, despite himself, I am gaining a huge amount of respect for the man which I know in my heart of hearts is mutual. I respect his driving, he respects my writing.

Starting 11th on the grid, it appeared that today's race would be an opportunity for Vettel and Lewis Hamilton to stretch their leads over the dangerous Spaniard. As it happened, Alonso managed to gain 25 points on both men. What the hell.

As usual, Eddie Jordan was up Ferrari's arse about their poor qualifying performance and again, Stefano Domenicali was reduced to the role of told off schoolboy as Mr Jordan went on another of his hindsight-fueled, senseless rants. A bit like me really, but in a fabulous shirt.

Yes, Alonso's qualifying was poor but, as I remarked in a rare moment of insight and clarity, starting 11th is probably about the 7th best place to start. Ignoring the temptation to start on the harder, slower tyre, Alonso knew that he needed a good start to make his fresher tyres work. He did just that, climbing to seventh early on, a position which enabled him to take advantage of the huge slices of fortune he was to enjoy.

Explains a lot...
The safety car which indirectly brought about the end of Vettel's race served to help Alonso. Closing right up to the leading cars, Alonso found himself in the top three when an uncharacteristic bad pit stop for Lewis Hamilton saw the home driver challenging for victory.

Another important retirement, this time for Grosjean, meant that Alonso was never going to be seriously threatened for victory.

Lewis Hamilton's...afternoon.
I'm not talking about him first, so I'm not a "fanboy", whatever that means. As a Hamilton fan, today was incredibly difficult to watch. Starting second, it was clear that his McLaren did not have the pace to threaten for victory and it was no surprise when the impressive Grosjean found a way through. What followed was a continuation of the impressive maturity we have seen throughout this season from Hamilton. 

With around thirty laps to go, Hamilton was in a comfortable enough third position and fifteen points would have been a respectable return from a difficult race. Hamilton was on the harder tyre while Alonso was closing in on softs. Had the safety car stayed out, Hamilton would possibly have been favourite to claim at least a podium place. 

However, the safety car meant that Hamilton had to pit earlier. Which is not good.
Had someone said that Grosjean and Vettel would not finish, one would have believed Hamilton would win, and he perhaps would have done were it not for more bad luck/incompetence from McLaren. 

As those around him pitted, Lewis decided the time was right to follow suit. Big mistake buddy. This time, a faulty jack contributed to a fourteen second pit-stop, which meant that Hamilton fell to sixth place, a position he improved to third, but to the detriment of his tyres, which would later fall away.

Surviving a stewards inquiry for speeding under yellow flags, Hamilton was in second with around five laps to go. He fought bravely to keep Raikkonen behind, but it was no use and soon Pastor Maldonado was behind him.
At least he's good-looking...
I don't much like Maldonado. Like Hamilton, he has a reputation for being a hot-head and overly aggressive, but without the same talent. Braking late to overtake Hamilton, the Venezuelan ran wide and went off track and it appeared he would have to try again.

All biases aside, he then cut back into Hamilton and took him off the track. With Hamilton's tyres fading, Maldonado could have been more patient and Lewis more pragmatic. Both men could have taken twenty-seven points instead of one.

I haven't seen Hamilton's post-race interview, but another 'Ali-G' moment can't be discounted! Many observers were wondering if Hamilton could do a one-stop strategy. People think this is to save time. No, it's literally so that Lewis only has to pit once.

I am proposing a sweep stake for the reason for Hamilton's next poor stop. Square tyres are currently the favourite.

Parallel to this is the Martin Whitmarsh attempted cheer-up line. I am expecting "the jacks were fine, the mechanics are the best, and it is probably Lewis's fault for stopping too far forward. But he'll learn and we'll come back stronger."

Jenson Button came eighth.

What else happened? Oh yeah, Jean Eric-Vergne crashed into Heikki Kovalainen for no real reason. Narain Karthikyean, no doubt buoyed by his 24th-placed finish here last year, drove a splendid race.

Michael Schumacher finished third after a relatively anonymous race, but his podium was well reserved. A return of one podium in around forty races isn't tooo bad.

So I was wrong, oh well. Let's hope I write off Silverstone too.


  1. Great blog as ever!

    I especially liked the 'uncharacteristic' Hamilton pitstop reference! It could almost be worse though, did you see Massa's last stop? They can't even get a set of matching tyres out for him! As if his driving wasnt bad enough...

  2. I also have a hat that needs eating, but on the bright side, Maldonado did give me another reason to hate him! Not only does he crash into him, but he blamed Lewis for it and went on about Lewis crowding him off the track (um, because we didn't see you do that at least twice earlier on in the GP, right Pastor?) Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

    After the Ham pit-stop debacle/business-as-usual I was hoping F1's little ray of sunshine Grosjean would win, poor little bunny.

    Ah and Button. He is my super best favourite, but that was sucky. Again. 8th after 4 people coming off in front of you. Sigh.

  3. Great blog Doug (watching Christian Horner will never be the same again, thanks for that!).
    Gutted for Lewis and Grosjean. But at least Webber is ahead of Vettel in the standings, long may that last.
    I'm not an Alonso fan, but have to admit the guy is impressive to get so much out of that car (Massa being exactly 100 points behind him in the same car).
    Hope Grosjean does manage a win this season, I thought he was in with a real chance.

  4. Thanks for the comments guys!

    The Massa pit stop summed up his season and...basically what I find funny!

    Frustrating race huh Gwan, nothing seemed to go right for favourites. I like Button, but he isn't my favourite, yesterday's performance proving why. It was almost like he waited for good luck instead of getting past slow Toro Rosso's etc.

    I agree Clare, I really like Grosjean, he looks like an excited child, and I respect that!