2012 European Grand Prix in Valencia review… Live on twitter

Posted: June 26, 2012 by thevillainf1 in 2012 Grand Prix reviews - Live on twitter, Uncategorized

Some might say that the Valencia race was an absolute corker, a classic even, and on face value who can argue against that: a shock home victory of underdog and homeboy Fernando Alonso topped off with a full retro podium combining 10 world championships with Kimi Raikkonen in p2 and Michael Schumacher finally grabbing his much awaited comeback podium result. However, if we scratch a bit below the surface, one must realize how different things would have been as if not for a few developments  we would have talked about another Valencia borefest. The key points which made this race as exciting as it was were in fact two decidedly unexciting events: the safety car deployment and alternator failures on the two leading Renault powered cars. Strip that away and you get a boring lights to finish Vettel domination just like 2011, probably with little movement behind him, as the Safety car threw a lot of people’s set strategies out of the window which helped make for the strange end of the race.

All in all, sadly the Valencia weekend was one which will mostly be remembered by me because of the horrid driving standards exhibited first by the youngsters, especially the GP2 feature race was appalling with 3 safety cars and levels of retardedness which made you think you were spectating a random online race in f1 2011 the game.

However the F1 guys did not help to show the youngsters how to do it, as Kobayashi clattered into the side of Massa after having already been in a clash with Senna who squeezed him into the wall, Vergne who had a brainfart as he made a totally unnecessary, stupid and dangerous swerve into Heikki as he blasted past him, Maldonado who saw the red mist descend again and robbed Hamilton and himself of a good haul of points on the penultimate lap… No, in general, I was pretty pissed off at the driving exhibited at the Valencia track.

Luckily we had a masterful Fernando Alonso to remind us what F1 racing is all about. With another stonking start and first lap he managed to put himself into play, and then his calculating mind, a smidge of luck during the safety car period and some decisive overtaking on in particular Webber and Grosjean made the race for the Scuderia number one. On the other side of the Ferrari garage. despite a definite upturn in his performance, it seems that no matter what Felipe tries he still ends up a lap down on Alonso come the chequered flag. It must have surely hurt to have been lapped on the final lap and see his teammate take the chequered flag just in front of him.

I’ll admit it’s a bit mean to bash on Felipe here, as he was tantalizingly close to Alonso (close as in actually really close, not three tenths kind of close he was talking about earlier in the year)  for the first time this season with only 8 hundreds separating the Ferrari drivers as both dropped out in Q2, and the blame for the accident which truly crippled his chances in this race lies fully on Kobayashi’s shoulders so for once I will lay off Felipe baby. Kobayashi’s incident with Senna was a bit more difficult to analyse, as after all Senna does squeeze him into the wall, but Kobayashi did try something very risky there as well. While I’d put this dfown to a racing incident, Senna ended up getting penalized for it.

Like I said, we can sort of thank our lucky stars that the Renault alternator failed on Vettels’ car as his pace was truly astonishing. First he blasted off a q3 lap where seemingly out of nowhere he gapped the next best man Hamilton by three tenths, the same gap pretty much covering the rest of the top 10. Then during the race he was consistently lapping a scary 2 seconds per lap faster than a visibly struggling Hamilton as the Mclaren simply lacked the race pace to put up any kind of challenge to Vettel.

Grosjean was clearly faster but he remained stuck behind Hamilton for too long to make any kind of impact on Vettel, and I doubt he would have been able to do much better had he had a clear track. He’d maybe have kept the deficit down to 1 second per lap, but Vettel’s pace was just plain scary….and made the race settle into one big bore until  a very disappointing Vergne decided he could do better than the idiots in GP2 by swerving at Kovalainen for no reason at all.

Nonetheless the fact that both Caterham drives got into fistacuffs with the Toro rossos shows that Heikki’s qualifying lap was not a fluke, and that the Caterhams seem to finally be making the real progress we had expected of them earlier in the year. It was even more stunning to see Vitaly lob one around the outside of Massa in the closing stages of the race. With apparently more major updates coming for Silverstone, if Caterham manages to make a similar surge as they did last year thet may just sneak into the points before the year is over. For a second there in Valencia it even looked like Petrov would be the one to score those points as he was running in tenth near the end of the race. Anyway he sure proved my cucumber of the race prediction wrong with a fine drive.

However, contact with Ricciardo – and fast charging drivers behind would have made p 10 impossible anyway, although maybe with an extra dose of #PERRRRKELE who knows what could have happened! Some people may disagree with me on that though

Force India had looked strong all weekend and are probably happy taking home a 5th and 7th place, with Di Resta again pulling off a one stopper while a KERS-less Hulkenbegr dragged himself onto p5 afte both cars also made it into Q3. Where the FI pace came from? I don’t know, perhaps they just got the right lottery ticket this time around?

Moving back to the front of the grid. It was a testament to Hamilton’s gritty drives this year that he managed to hold on to p2 for as long as he did, until another of the now countless Mclaren pitstop errors robbed of what turned out to be a chance to lead the race. As it happened Alonso jumped him during the SC induced pitstops, which after Vettel’s failure propelled him into the lead that could have been Hamilton’s had the front jack not failed. So indeed, it did look like a mechanical rather than a human failure for the pitcrew this time around, but in the end somebody is still responsible for the constant problems that have been plaguing the team, and in the end the finger must point to Sam Michael. While the initial failure was mechanical, the crew reacted very panicky to the jack failure, and that surely cost Hamilton some extra seconds. The spare jack was slow to come on, and the crew was clearly in full panic mode rather than calm and collected.

For a little while was looking like Mclaren had finally overcome their pitstop grumbles, clocking an impressive 2.9s stop on Hamilton’s first visit to the pits. However, one super quick stop means nothing if the next time around your car loses 14 seconds in the pits. It’s better to have consistent 3.5 second stops and never a slow one than the occasional 2.9s stop mixed with 10+ second stops. Anyway, if Mclaren wants to really challenge for the title with Lewis, these mistakes must end. Every time this happens, it will also put seeds of doubts in Lewis’ mind when it comes to signing a new deal and perhaps look elsewhere to continue his F1 career. After all, no driver has lost more points in the pits than Hamilton this year.

Still, With a clearly struggling Mclaren he managed to drag himself back up from p6 to p2 following Vettel and Grosjean’s retirements, and one might argue that if he did not have to fight back from 6th, his tyres may have held up better until the end, as we know that even the slightest of extra stresses put on the tyres while fighting with other cars  can make the difference between falling off the cliff and cruising to the finish. With this in mind, the pitstop blunder may have cost him more than those who say he wouldn’t have held on to 2nd anyway as he hit the cliff about 3 laps from the finish. I would argue that if Mclaren had not fucked up and Lewis would have been ahead of Alonso, he would have been able to nurse his tyres more and get to the finish on the podium at least, perhaps even the win – as Alonso was not really able to gap Hamilton until the latter hit the cliff, so their pace was fairly similar during the final stint. The optimists would say it cost him a win, but I’d argue it cost him at least a third place on the podium.

Of course the whole argument becomes a bit moot, as what happened, happened and Hamilton did end up in p2 with a lurking Kimi waiting to pounce. Earlier in the race Hamilton had already tried to deal with the other Lotus but that didn’t exactly end the way
Hamilton would haver liked.

Perhaps Kimi should have tried the move earlier but he was probably also wary of his tyres so he did not want to stress them too much too soon, and only pounced in the closing stages as it became evident Lewis started to struggle. While Grosjean outshone him all weekend long, Kimi did end up on the podium again so he must be commended on the smart race he ran, taking advantage of other people’s misfortune while keeping his nose clean.  However, as a true racer he is never satisfied unless he gets the win.

Third should have been Pastor Maldonado, as he had also been driving a smart race, albeit a bit out of the spotlight until the lights went out in his cockpit….again. The most controversial moment of the GP was no doubt the accident which took out Hamilton and saw Pastor end up 10th instead of on a sure podium (a 10th place he subsequently lost to his teammate due to a 20s time penalty incurred because of this incident). Hamilton was clearly trying to nurse home the car as his tyres were totally shot, so first off Pastor should have known he could be patient and take Hamilton pretty much anywhere he wanted, probably best on traction out of one of the many slow corners in Valencia.

Instead he opted to try and go around the outside in a corner followed immediately by another tight one. If successful, your car ends up in front and on the inside for the 2nd corner. However taking somebody around the outside is always a difficult proposition, and to make it stick you need to be ahead of the guy in front by the time you hit the other corner. Lewis edged Pastor to the outside as he is perfectly entitled to do – and as Pastor often does to others himself when he gets a chance –  after all Lewis was still clearly in front and had the racing line. However, in a moment of red mist once again Pastor decides he has to take Lewis anyway and comes from off the track to clatter into the Mclaren, launching him in the air and into the wall while losing his own front wing. It was another dumb and unnecessary move by Maldonado, whose fiery reputation in the cockpit is doing him no good. Also his reaction post-race, putting all of the blame on Lewis is to me the sign of an arrogant, spoiled brat who does not know the meaning of taking responsibility and has had everything handed to him on a silver platter. After all the goodwill he had built up following his superb Barcelona win, he’s flushed it all down the drain again with his driving and attitude in the subsequent races.

While to me there can be no doubt Pastor was the culprit in this incident, can we say Lewis was entirely blameless? As far as blame goes I would say yes, as he did nothing wrong, however he should have been smarter. He should know by now that Pastor is a reckless idiot when racing wheel to wheel, and he also must have felt that with his tyres in the condition they were, there was no way he could have held off Pastor for the remaining one and a half lap, so to salvage his race he would have been better off to just let Pastor have the place and not defend at all. However Hamilton is a pure breed racer, so after a very gritty drive in what must have been a frustrating race for him, his racing instinct probably got the better of him and he fought for a lost position. I’d say Hamilton is not to blame, but he should have been smarter and just let Pastor go, he might have salvaged 4th , or 6th at the worse as it’s possible that a charging Schumi and Webber would have caught him. It’s this kind calculated driving which wins championships, and while he had been doing a great job on this all season, the Hamilton of 2011 made a resurgence there in that fateful corner…

All this drama up front of course left room for a shock podium return for Michael Schumacher, something probably nobody had seen coming the entire race until the final lap suddenly saw him promoted to third. It was definitely not Schumi’s best weekend of the year, messing up his Q2 lap by his own admission and not making much headway in the race until he came alive in the final stint. Of course he profited massively from all the retirements but after all he has been through this year he probably deserved to have luck go his way for once in 2012. Kimi made the picture complete by giving us a full retro podium although he was unable to challenge Alonso for the win.

In the end, nobody got their predictions fully right, but there were a few, me included, who did pick the right winner, while others had the pole man correct so we are making improvements. Maybe #HornyHorner will make an appearance this year after all to the lucky winner!

After what turned out to be an eventful weekend Alonso may deservedly take the spotlight for now, but what I mostly take away from it was the Red Bull’s ridiculous pace, which does make one rather apprehensive of how the rest of the season will play out, as a 2 second/lap performance gap can never be due only to track conditions. They had some reliability niggles which is to be expected in the first race for such a heavily revised car but the team will have those ironed out in no time (on Vettel’s car anyway lol).

Newey is back baby…unless another protest reels him back in.

That’s it for the European Grand Prix. Thanks for checking out backmarkers F1, and make sure to keep firing your tweets at me so maybe next time you will also have contributed to another ‘live on twitter’ Grand Prix review!

  1. KielF1 says:

    Alonso, Schumacher and Raikkonen have reputedly shared a F1 podium on five occasions and Fernando has stood on the top step on every occasion

  2. JH says:

    Maldonado’s car was entirely on the kerbs, that doesn’t mean he can just steer away because the half of his car wasn’t on ‘clean’ track. And Hamilton had the entire width of the track/turn left to give Maldonado at least some space to come safely back on track, but he just cut through in front of Maldonado’s nose. That’s a little bit difficult to avoid in my opinion.

    • thevillainf1 says:

      Pastor had 3 options:
      1. back off and slot in behind Hamilton
      2. take to the runoff and cut the corner
      3. crash

      He took the dumbest of the three options. Like I said, Hamilton should have been smarter, but he was in no way obliged to give Pastor space at that point.

      In fact, was watching the race rerun yday, it show Pastor doing to Raikkonen exactly what Hamilton did to him. You saw it all weekend long.When you’re on the outside but not ahead, you’re guaranteed to be hung out to dry, that kind of move is as old as racing itself.

      The sensible drivers all backed off to fight another day (as did Kimi). the idiots drive into others.

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