Archive for the ‘2012 Grand Prix reviews – Live on twitter’ Category

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!

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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!

We all know it was so very wrong to indulgence in Bernie’s money-grubbing and go to Bahrain despite the mess the country is in at the moment, but the racefan in us was yet again treated to quite an enjoyable race. While not on the level of China – that epic 6 car scrap for 2nd place will be hard to top this season– Bahrain shocked the world by providing us with some fun times on the track, for the first time since F1 started going there in 2004.  Join me for the 2nd installment of backmarkersF1’s race reviews and see how the race unfolded in real time on twitter.

Of course, we could all be bummed out by the fact that we’ve had to endure the finger again on both Saturday and Sunday – the nightmares of 2011 re-emerging just as I stopped wetting my bed – one cannot take a well deserved win away from Vettel… But that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it!

In another extremely tight quali session he produced a perfect lap while his main challengers Rosberg and Hamilton made mistakes. This left the finger to start on pole yet again, and fears were immediately there of him doing a repeat 2011 performance of buzzing away at the front from lap 1 onwards. Schumi of course can’t catch any break this season as he was out in Q3 with a broken DRS and a stonking lap from Heikki – 1 full second faster than the rudderless Russian.

Of course the loyal backmarkersF1 crowd knew Heikki’s top performance and Caterham’s first appearance into q2 was all due to our #PERRRRKELE efforts, as we gave Heikki maximum Powa and reached (very, very) brief interwebz fame as even @myCaterhamF1 used the hashtag we inspired!

Schumi was joined in backmarkers hell by Vergne for the third time in a row, while his teammate Ricciardo qualified a highly impressive 6th. Ouch..

On to the race then and soon it become clear that what everyone had feared was becoming a reality: Vettel got away off the line very smoothly and by lap 1 had already build a gap and proceeded to speed away from Hamilton building himself that nice cushion from where he can manage the race as he did expertly so many times last year.  While some may have expected Hamilton to start catching  Vettel near the end of the 1st stint, it was Hamilton who started feeling the pressure from behind. It all would matter very little in the end as the Mclaren boys did everything they can to ruin Lewis’ race.with one failed pitstop after the other.

On the not so sharp end of personalities – err I mean the grid, Felipe Massa was stunning the world in the early laps with some feisty driving, including a great battle with Raikkonen in the opening laps, and seemingly keeping pace with Alonso throughout much of the race. While it petered out nearing the end of the race, and Massa still got whooped by his teammate with a whopping 6 tenths gap in quali and a few places down in the result, at least he managed to put himself on the points table.

As the pitstop game played out, and Mclaren kept failing again and again, it quickly emerged that only the Lotus cars would be able to put up a challenge to SebVet. At first Grosjean was leading his teammate, but on older tyres he managed to hold up Raikkonene for 2-3 laps. While we must give credit to Lotus for letting their guys race, it meant another delay for Raikkonen (after losing time fighting vs Massa in the beginning), and it’s likely he would have caught Vettel sooner before the end of their 2nd stint. While the Lotus was looking good, there was still the lingering fear that Vettel was just managing the gap as he so often did, just toying with the competition.

Nonetheless Raikkonen was becoming THE story of the afternoon, outshining a superb drive from Grosjean to his very first F1 podium as Kimi filled our hearts with hope and started catching Vettel by a handful of tenths per lap. Even as he breached the 3 second barrier Vettel still did not seem to have an answer so the race was on.

Unfortunately it seems Kimi had taken the best out of his tyres by the time he got on under Vettel’s rear wing. As he got within the DRS zone he managed only one attempt at a pass into turn one, which Vettel aggressively prevented by a late chop to the inside.

However Vettel’s move looked like a schoolboys karting drive compared to what last week’s hero Rosberg managed to pull off. He was so busy pushing other guys off track, he even went off track himself. I do wonder what happened to “leaving a cars’ width” space when defending. While Hamilton seemingly stayed cool, Alonso was quite furious, as heard on the team radio, and then post race on twitter. Nando is turning out to be a pretty fun guy to follow on twitter I must say.

I’m not one for dishing out penalties at the rate they did last year, but what Rosberg was doing was pure and simple blocking, not tactical racing. It’s crowding a car about to pass you off track, not tactically defending your position by say, taking the inside line and then park it on the apex so the other guy can’t get a run at you out of the corner. Even worse is that he did it twice, but what really took the cake was that Rosberg even complained over the team radio that Hamilton passed him off track!

So while this was going on the Mclaren’s day went from bad to worse, as they hit trouble in all three of Lewis’ pitstops, and Jenson first suffered a puncture late in the race to then retire with what was reported to be a cracked exhaust. While they have one of the most consistently strong packages, their constant pitwall fumbles will end up costing them dearly. As we said at backmarkersF1 last year, Mclaren may build the best car, if they can’t get their pitwork and strategy together, they won’t be WDC or WCC for a long time coming. This subpar pitcrew performance earns them my ‘facepalm of the race’, as predicted by Mauin.

As Vettel and Raikkonen dived into the pits at the same time, it would be a battle on track, as both pit crews turned their cars around normally, leaving the whole F1 paddock with bated breath to see what Kimi could do. Vettel was streaking away early on, leading some to suspect Vettel was taking too much out of his tyres in the first part of that stint. The lotus engineers seemed to agree with a confident team radio message to their driver. ‘ his degradation is worse than us, he will come back to you’.

Alas, it never really materialized and Vettel snatched the win, although apparently not the only one being on the edge when it came to fuel loads as he pulled off straight after crossing the finish line, as did Rosberg and Massa. Despite the Vettel, win, even as a non- Vettel fan a lot was made good by Lotus first podium, Kimi’s comeback podium and Grosjean popping his podium cherry. The Lotus hashtag wheresmypodium proved to be very suited to the situation this weekend.

Di Resta made a two stop strategy work superbly with his drive to 6th, While for the first time this year both Ferrari’s where in the points, and both Saubers weren’t. Ricciardo had his race ruined after a great quali to finish after his teammate, while Kovalainen’s streak of bad luck continued with a puncture early on in the race. Schumacher fought back to a nice 10th and apart from his destruction derby antics Rosberg drove a pretty anonymous race.

Needless to say you all sucked so badly again at your predictions this weekend, I really do believe I should change our award because you are doing it on purpose! I know that next time I’m going for a crazy prediction as this season is turning out to be impossible to predict. Tune in for the next podcast soon and see you at the Mugello tests!

I’m going to try and do something a little different from all the other race reviews you read on F1 blogs and make a pseudo review highlighting the major themes I identified in the race by using the live tweets made for and by the backmarkers F1 crowd during the Grand Prix. I’m not using tweets from the big shots or teams (unless they’re hilarious, dumb, or essential to telling the GP’s story) but tweets made by you and me, the backmarkersF1 crowd. Twitter has made it easy to engage between simple F1 fans like us, so why not reconstruct the race through our tweets?

Let me kick this off by saying: what a race!! What a season we have gotten ourselves into in 2012! It’s the best of 2010 and 2011 combined:

For the third race in a row we saw a different winner, with the only consistency being Lewis Hamilton who’s secured the third step on the podium every time. Rosberg’s maiden victory in Shanghai could not be laden with more fun and historical stats. Nico is the third son of a former F1 driver to win a GP after Villeneuve and Hill – and both his predecessors went on to win a championship- He grabbed his 1st pole and his 1st 1 st place finish in his 111th Grand Prix, It was Mercedes’ first win as a manufacturer since Fangio in 1955.

This win must have made statistics nuts jizz in their pants! It could have been even better had Schumacher’s pitcrew not made that mistake as judging by the Mercedes pace this was his best shot yet to get that much desired comeback podium. While it is difficult to say what would have happened, he did not seem to be able to hold on to Rosberg in the first stint, so it’s doubtful he would have made it past his teammate for the win. He clearly wasn’t driving slower to preserve his tyres as unusually (being the lead driver normally Rosberg had pit priority) he pitted before his teammate. Nonetheless this retirement was only a small damper on Norbert Haug’s enthusiasm, who must have started feeling the pressure from HQ after 2 lackluster years having taken over the 2009 constructors champion.

Judging by our very own backmarkersF1 predictions post very few people  were expecting the Mercs to do good in the race after a 1-2 in qualifying (considering Lewis’ grid penalty), with the car having struggled immensely on Sundays during the first two GPs.

Slowly but surely it started to sink in that Rosberg was not just going to fall back into the clutches of the chasing pack, as he was in fact even steadily building his lead over his teammate and the Mclaren of Button. On lap 10 he had already eked out a 6 second gap and showed no sign of tyre woes, even as his competitors started pitting –reacting to Webber’s very aggressive early pit stop on lap 8 – Rosberg stayed out the longest of all the top drivers. I could barely believe it: the car known for the past 2 seasons for munching up its tyres was staying out the longest and staying on a very strong pace. “Brawn has done it” was flashing through my mind.

While Rosberg drove fantastically and it was great to see the Mercs finally get on top of their tyre issues, the stars did align perfectly for Rosberg. His teammate got eliminated early on after the pistop error – something yours truly was quick to note I might add. While early on in the race, nobody managed to threaten Schumacher’s lollipop man and right rear mechanic for the  Backmarkers F1 ‘Facepalm of the Race’ title.

The early stop by Red Bull forced the other guys in the chasing pack to react and stop earlier than they probably intended, creating a nice buffer for Rosberg and the Brawn strategists who kept a a cool head by sticking to the two stopper despite some vehement disagreement from a few tweeps.

This clashed with the strategy of other 2 stoppers further back like Massa and Perez, who subsequently seriously held up the chasing pack as they came charging back through on fresher tyres. Ferrari especially finally found a use for Felipe Massa as Nando’s roadblock as he easily (and perfectly understandably) let Nando past while badly holding up the likes of Hamilton before his first pitstop.

The same happened as Massa had come in on his second stop when he made us all forget about Trulli and create the ‘Massa train’ , further cementing Rosberg’s victory by holding up a pack of like 8 cars and allowing Rosberg to get a full pitstop ahead, one of the largest gaps we’ve seen in recent F1 history. For a car with slow top speed  reportedly one of its biggest weaknesses, the Ferrari held up remarkably well in the DRS zone as it took people a few laps to pass roadblock Felipe.

Once they had cleared Massa, a struggling Raikkonen tried to stay ahead of the pack for a while until his tyres fell of the proverbial cliff everybody keeps talking about but which we rarely see. This may have sent some alrm bells going off in Vettelµs cockpit, another 2 stopper.

The constant bickering in the pack also made sure that Rosberg did not need to push very hard as everybody was losing time dicing it out behind him. Rosberg was all but guaranteed victory when his final remaining challenger Button saw Mclaren make yet another pit error (seriously they need to get this sorted as the amount of errors at the Mclaren pits is unacceptable for a top team) which dropped him into the Felipe train which he would have otherwise cleared comfortably to go chase after Nico.

Indeed in many ways it was a perfect storm for Rosberg, but that does not take anything away from a well deserved victory. You make your own luck in F1, and had he not opened up that gap in the first stint he would not have been in the comfortable position which allowed him to ignore Webbo’s early stop whereas others couldn’t for fear of the undercut. All this led to a dominant first win for a Mercedes, and I doubt many people in the paddock and fans at home would have taken it away from ‘Britney’.

To top it all off, we saw Vettel suffer late in the race as Button, Hamilton and Webbo cruised past him. For  Mark it must have been a wonderful feeling to put the ‘maintain the gap’ ghosts behind him as he took his teammate on the inside of the hairpin in the dying moments of the race.

Does this win now  mean Mercedes has suddenly become a serious title challenger? I think it’s a good possibility, however the field is so tightly matched this year that it is still anybody’s championship. If we disregard Rosberg’s alien quali lap which put him half a second ahead of the rest, the top ten is covered by a second. That used to be the gap from p1 to p4! At one point in q2 the gap from P1 to p16 was a mere second, meaning the slightest of errors could leave you in the drop zone, which is exactly what happened to Vettel.

While last year Felipe could sort of hide his abysmal performances with the Ferrari’s huge pace advantage over its nearest competitor Mercedes, nowadays what would have been his usual 6th on the grid right behind his teammate can easily become 11th or lower, 5 or more spots behind Nando which is exactly what’s happening nowadays. The 3 tenths he is slower than Alonso may satisfy Felipe and Smedley, but in this field three tenths can be  the difference between getting into Q1 or dropping out in Q3.

We should also not forget how important finding the tyres’ sweet spot is this year. We saw a Ferrari on top while the Sauber was the fastest car in Malaysia, in Australia the Mclaren’s were untouchable and in China a Mercedes ran away with it.. I guess that does mean Rosberg – and Schumacher who’s been driving well but has been horribly unlucky- do have a shot at this year’s WDC but so do the Mclarens, Red Bulls, Lotuses, even Saubers…and never disregard Nando! The Mclaren still looks like overall the fastest and  most consistent package so I would not bet against a Mclaren title, but they need to stay on their toes if they are to clinch that coveted WDC for one of their drivers. Which one? That’s food for another post…..