The 2012 Spanish Grand Prix … Live on twitter

Posted: May 17, 2012 by thevillainf1 in 2012 Grand Prix reviews - Live on twitter

I don’t really know what to think if this season anymore. One the one hand the total unpredictability from race to race is terribly exciting and it is great to see fresh faces on the podium as well as first time winners, but it’s starting to feel more like a lottery than a ‘best man wins’ kind of thing. Of course, while we already sucked last year with our predictions at backmarkersF1 (by mid season you had to be a total idiot to still bet against Vettel – which we obviously kept doing, so what does that tell you about us…), this year it’s just impossible and whoever gets a prediction right on the blog probably deserves more than just a Horny Horner pic, perhaps a Nostradanus price on top of it?

Qualifying was quite fun in q3 and q2 but with Senna binning it in his ultimate flyer the odd man out tension at the end of q1 was settled with an anticlimax. For the first time in three races, Vergne managed to get into q2 and would go on to beat his teammate in quali for the first time this year. Felipe Massa qualified another whopping 6 tenths behind Alonso (comparing their q2 times), while both Saubers did very well to haul themselves into q3, although Kobayashi would not actually participate in the session due to grinding to a halt on track before it got underway.

Q3 was very strange, showing just how important (too important?) saving tyres has become in F1 2012. Even Vettel, the supposed qualifying wonderchild did not even attempt to set a time, and of those who did run only Hamilton made two runs..and boy will he regret making that second run. People who watched Pastor manhandling that dog of a Williams during qualifying at Catalunya last year to sneak into q3 knew he was capable of something special on this track and he delivered it again this year with a very nice lap.

Hamilton’s lap was even better, half a second better even, but he saw yet another superb performance ruined by his team. While in previous races it was the pitcrew at fault for some sloppy tyre changes, this time it was a catastrophic failure of the team’s top management which cost them – in hindsight – a likely win. The mechanic seriously messed up, that is beyond doubt. Putting your fuel system to drain instead of fill is a pretty basic error to be making as a mechanic in one of F1’s top teams. However, while Mclaren does need to sort out these continuous stream of silly errors from their lower level staff, management takes the cake for this particular error. From the telemetry, they must have known almost immediately as Lewis went out on track that he was underfueled and wouldn’t make it back to the pits with sufficient fuel for the mandatory FIA sample if he did a hotlap. The only sensible decision to make in this case was to call Lewis straight back in from the outlap and cut their losses, so his first Q3 time would stand. In hindsight that time would have still been good for 7th on the grid and judging by his race pace he could have vied for the win or at least a podium from that position.

However Whitmarsh and or Sam Michael must have consciously decided to stupidly wing it and try their luck, full well knowing they were risking a near certain DSQ. After all, it was after Hamilton ran out of fuel in Canada ’10 that the rules were rewritten to prevent this exact thing from happening. The incompetence shown with this decision is frankly staggering. One could sort of expect and forgive this level of incompetence from say HRT, but not Mclaren. In any case, Sam Michael is failing miserably in his first real tests as Mclaren sporting director after having failed miserably last year at Williams (don’t forget, he can take no credit for the 2012 Williams as Coughlan was already leading that team, Michael’s sole focus was on 2011). The pit work, overall strategy, and calls like this one have arguably never been worse at Mclaren. Martin Whitmarsh must also start feeling the pressure but for now Ron Dennis is still keeping a lid on it.

Somehow Alonso dragged the Ferrari up onto the front row following Hamilton’s demotion, and the Ferrari is really proving to be an enigma this year. One must really wonder how bad or how good the car really is if Alonso consistently manages high points scoring finishes and in Barcelona good quali, while the other half of the garage is happy if he can fight with a Toro Rosso for crying out loud. The car can’t be a total dog because then even the great Alonso wouldn’t be fighting for wins (remember the dark days of Renault v2), but neither can the car be super good if Felipe keeps driving it like it’s a bottom of the midfield car. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

On to the race then, where almost everybody (for once) had correctly predicted that Alonso would jump Maldonado at the start (not so difficult judging by Alonso’s signature lightning starts and the extra boost he always seems to find in Spain). Maldonado had a decent launch as well and defended hard but fair. As Alonso would say : ‘He always leav-e de space, okay’. If it were Vettel there I have no doubt Alonso would have been pushed to the grass like he did to Button in Japan so Pastor deserves credit for his sportsmanship after the less than fair moves he pulled off last year. The bigger surprise came in the Ferrari’s good, consistent pace (well, Alonso’s) and the ease with which Maldonado was able to follow him. Equally surprising was the lack of pace in the Lotus during the early stints, as Raikkonen could not hold onto the leading pair and Grosjean was too busy playing bumpercars with Perez and later Senna to challenge his teammate for the podium. Perhaps that’s one prediction that sort of worked out for me but it’s hard to give the cucumber to someone who finished fourth while a German old fart plows into another car from the back.

While things were settling down after people were doing their first round of pitstops, Schumi had a bit of a brain fade as he slammed into Bruno Senna. While on first sight it looked like Schumi just completely misjudged how much earlier Bruno had to brake, Senna is not entirely free of blame as he does make a little chop to the left and then back to the right while already in the braking zone. Vettel did the same to Kimi in Bahrain and it is sad to see stewards so harsh on peripheral things while slacking on basic ‘gentleman driver’ rules like this one, but in the end all that matters is that Kimi had better reactions while Schumi just plowed both cars of the road. I was tempted to give it to Romain but he finished too high for that. Even though I believe Senna and Schumi share the blame, the cucumber of the Spanish GP goes to Schumi imo.

Hamilton was making great strides from the back while the Red Bulls were proving pretty powerless, in this year’s almost mandatory disappointing race after a team has won to get their feet back on the ground in the game of lottery that is F1 2012. Hamilton was the only one trying to do a two stopper – on a track where a 4 stopper won it last year! – when the rest of the grid went for three stops. He got badly held up by a lost at sea Massa (on two occasions) until the latter was slapped with a drive through for using DRS under yellows, as happened to Vettel as well. Without this hold up he would have caught Rosberg and may have held up Vettel long enough to finish sixth, but nonetheless from 24th to 8th was a stunning performance, especially considering he did not have the huge tyre advantage top cars usually have when qualifying mishaps have them start from the back.

However, Mclaren were not finished in trying their best to chase Lewis away to another team for next year by yet another pitstop failure, this time not costing him that much time luckily as the left rear (yes, them again) mechanics failed to get a wheel out of the way as Hamilton was released, resulting in a short bump and delay exiting his box. What else can you say but…

Back to the front then, where the Williams crew took a calculated –and ultimately successful- risk to bring Maldonado in earlier in order to undercut Alonso and get the lead back. However Pastor was also almost robbed of his maiden win as a pitstop problem cost him about 3 seconds.

Luckily for him, Alonso faced some trouble in the form of a Virgin and Pastor nailed his in and outlaps so that he still comfortably cleared Alonso as the eyebrows emerged from his pitstop.

Thoughts were going back to Malaysia where Alonso – him again- was involved in another battle for the win with a 2nd year f1 ‘pay’ driver, however this time the roles were reversed: For a while it was looking inevitable that Alonso would pass Maldonado as he was creeping ever closer into the DRS zone, but he never really got close enough to try a move, and then suddenly the tyres dropped off, cementing the win for Maldonado..that is if a charging Kimi could be held at bay. Lotus had followed a different (and ultimately unsuccessful) tyre strategy than the other teams and left their final pitstop until quite late in the race. While this left Kimi with a 20 second gap to bridge, he was able to lap a second or more faster than the front running pair, and for a while it was not clear whether Maldonado and Alonso would be able to make it to the finish without stopping again.

As it was, Kimi did everything he could and then some to try to catch up, but he had lost too much time in the earlier stints. Again showing just how much of a lottery it is this year, as soon as track temperatures rose again (the beginning of the race track temp was some 10 degree lower than during the Friday sessions when Lotus was showing great pace) Kimi came into his own, and finished only 6 tenths adrift of a struggling Alonso, with Maldonado only three seconds further up the road, concluding a fantastic, if ultimately fiery weekend for the Venezuelan and the Williams team with their first win since 2004. Like in qualifying Pastor’s surprise victory overshadowed the performance of Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber (with Perez eventually retiring after his race was already ruined when Grosjean gave him that first lap puncture) who finally showed us again why he has become such a fan favorite with two banzai passes on Button and Rosberg (not ending in tears because of the fair play by both drivers) in the final stages of the race to finish an impressive fifth, equaling his career best achieved at Monaco last year.

Rosberg and Button both had weekends to forget as they languished anonymously in the final points scoring positions, while Hulkenberg had a much needed confidence boost with a great drive holding off Webber for the final point and beating Di Resta. Vettel recovered well from the drive through with a blistering final stint to haul decent points for 6th and maintain the joint WDC lead with Alonso. The Red Bull’s did both suffer some mysterious problems with their front wing, as both drivers went in for a nosejob during the race. In all the excitement this was something else that got snowed under, and I do hope the journos get to the bottom of this as to me it reeks like flexi wings gone bad.

The Caterhams fought the Toro Rossos in the first stint then dropped away as usual, the Virgins and the HRTs were there too I heard. I do remember a spectacular spin by Pic in front of oncoming traffic during the opening laps. On to Monaco then. Predictions post for that will be up soon, but I’ve already decided on predicting a Kamui win with Perez in third. That’s right, if F1 wants to go batshit crazy on us, BackmarkersF1 gladly takes on the challenge and cranks it up a notch!

  1. Jack says:

    Good read as usual. Rivals sime of the BBC’s pro writers actually.

    I tend to agree with the concerns that MSC has risen and perhpas you eluded too. Tyres are too much an infleuence now and it is getting in the way of the racing. Exciting it may be for now but I feel the ‘lottery’ effect which, is a decent anology here, is too big a factor.

    Tyres (and the old fuel pitstops) are enough of a ‘lottery’ in F1. McLaren and rear left pitstop problems, (my prediction for Monaco by the way) coupled with zippy Ferrari stops make for some interesting moments. Tyre management is gone too far. Alonso’s tyres going off basically gifted Maldo the win (deserved win of course) but frankly stole the excitement in the last laps.


  2. thevillainf1 says:

    thanks a lot for the kind comment bud 🙂 Dont want to bag too much on pirelli but i’m glad I’m not the only one thinking we’ve gone too far.

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