Archive for the ‘This Time Last Year…..revisiting the 2010 season’ Category

Dear friends of backmarkers F1, with great sadness I can bring you the very last in this year’s predictions madness, after this weekend all that’s left is to go hibernate in a cave until the February tests. But of course, let’s not allow this shocking realization to dull our enjoyment of this weekend’s Brazilian GP and come up with some crazy predictions shall we. Somehow I couldn’t find last year’s  race on my hardrive but if memory serves it was just a pretty boring Red Bull dominated procession with Vettel taking it home in front of Webbo, while team orders should have probably favored Webber at that point, and the Bulls clinching the constructors title. Aside from that it’s all just a blur, but to me yesterday evening is as well so that may not be so surprising.

As for this year, Mclaren is still repeating the sad trend since 2009 where they finish the season with a car that’s on race winning pace. This is always too little, too late, and the story of Whitmarsh saying that ‘next year we’ll be competitive from the start’ is getting quite repetitive. It’s also a little early to really speak of a Hamilton revival, since let’s face it, had Vettel not suffered a puncture chances are he could have very will run away with it in Abu Dhabi as per usual.

Those things aside, Mclaren should be strong again,  and I really hope we can finish the season with a bang, as a taste for what hopefully will be next year’s showdown between 2 –  or maybe 3 if Ferrari get their thumbs out of their asses and stop talking bullshit about an aggressive car which they say every year- roughly equal cars from season start. I want Webbo to be up there with a chance for the win – he won’t win it, but I want him to at least look like he might win it beyond the first stint.

I expect another classic Hammy-Button fight, given some extra punch by Whitmarsh’s strange comments lately, and whoever comes out on top of that one will then take it to the champ in some balls to the wall racing on the great Interlagos track. Early weather predictions indicate a fairly dry qualifying but a strong possibility for storms on Sunday so we may be in for a corker. With all that in mind, I’m again going to predict my main man Button to come out on top, in front of Hamilton and Webber, with Vettel making a mistake that drops him down the field and end his magnificent season on a low note.

While up front pretty much everything of import is done and dusted – though I guess some people are interested who will be first of the losers in 2nd place – the fight in the midfield will have a very tight ending. Renault is probably out in the clear for 5th thanks only to their early season double podiums, though a surprise result from both FIs could still see them get overhauled but it’s a long shot indeed with 15 points to make up. Still, 5th and 6th is all the FIs need to jump the Renaults provided they don’t score themselves. It is possible if the front runners get into some trouble and with the Interlagos weather notoriously unpredictable that isn’t entirely out of the question.

Sadly, I do not believe it will happen, as Senna will find some of his uncle’s magic on this legendary track to nab enough points to stave off the FI and possible also Grosjean for next year’s seat. Petrov will end up in the trees somewhere while Sutil will complete his final race for FI with a solid drive in the rain to finish 6th after Massa dn Rosberg punt each other off and Schumi spins in Turn  3, ruining his chances to finish the season ahead of Rosberg in the standings. With this drive Sutil will jump Heidfeld and Petrov in the WDC standings – he’s currently only 2 points behind Petrov and equaled with Heidfeld- to finish 9th. Di Resta will fail to bring home the bacon after a long fight with Senna.

The battle is even tighter between the STRs and the Saubers, with Kamui’s 10th place in Abu Dhabi just barely giving the edge to the Swiss team. If no one of the 4 drivers score in Brazil, this could very well be the most expensive point in f1 as it would secure 7th for Sauber. Further back I’d love to see Lotus score at least a point this season so I’m going all out and predict Heikki for 10th in a rainsoaked crazy race. Buemi is almost guaranteed to lose the teammate war but it’s mostly some very bad luck which got him in this situation. Perez could even overhaul him as the young Mexican is only 1 point behind, but for all his skill in the dry, his first laps in Hungary made me worry about his wet weather skills as he dropped some 10 places in 1 lap without sustaining damage or contact which could explain this spectacular drop.

As for the recap

Quali

1. Hamilton

2. Vettel

3. Webber

 

Race

1. Button

2.  Hamilton

3. Webber

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With fear in my heart that I probably will not be able to watch the Japanese GP at all since aside from the interwebz our satellite tv is kinda borked here too, I  consoled myself by breaking out the old collection of races and rewatched Suzuka 2010 to bring you the recap and open up the floor for predictions on this year’s race.

Red Bull owned this track last year, as they were in a league of their own locking out the front row and finishing 1-2 as they started. Particularly in sector 1 with the crazy esses where downforce is key, they just blew the field away. Webber shadowed Vettel’s every move in the race but never got in a position to challenge.  Kubica somehow got the Renault into p3 on the grid, as the Mclarens had a strange quali session: Button opting to quail on the hard tire, and Lewis dropped  5 places down the grid for an overnight gearbox change. Despite this brand spanking new gearbox, Lewis would still suffer a failure as he lost 3rd gear with about quarter of the race remaining.

The start of the race was total mayhem with brainfarts from Massa and Petrov taking out other cars in the process. Petrov got a great launch and rocketed ahead, but then misjudged his position relative to Hulkenberg and as he moved over his right rear tagged the Hulk’s front, sending Vitaly into the wall and Hulk also out of the race. Going into turn one Massa pulls an outrageous move into T1 as he goes on the grass coming in way too hot and spears into Liuzzi..maybe that’s where he got his inspiration for his Monza antics. Meanwhile at the front Webber botched another start and saw Kubica leap into p2,  but the pole was not to enjoy this for long.

During the safety car period triggered by the start pandemonium, Kubica suddenly lost his left rear wheel and was forced to retire. Hamilton had made a good start and was right behind Button stting  p4 and p5, who was holding up his teammate as his strategy to start on the hard tire began to unravel; but no teamorders from Mclaren saw Hamilton boxed up behind the invisible wall of turbulent air, while the Red Bulls were streaking away and Alonso giving it his all to stay in touch but the Red Bulls were clearly just toying with him.

Kobayashi was the real star in an overall fairly entertaining race with some crazy passes at the hairpin. It seemed he was somehow able to brake 10 meters later than anyone else there. His first move on Buemi was a bit clumsy, but the rest of his passes there were things of beauty. Alguersuari did some pretty naughty stuff after getting passed, deliberate bumping into Kamui as he was already well past and exiting the corner, but despite the damage Kamui kept flying to come home in 7th. The mercs of Rosberg and Schumacher were also in a fun battle, which sadly ended after Rosberg also lost a rear wheel quite inexplicably and ended up in the barrier.

Hamilton might have challenged Alonso for third but then the gearbox gremlins struck, which saw him fall back and allowed Button to take 4th from him in the end as the Red Bulls headed home a 1-2 on cruise control, which allowed Alonso to finish closer, only about 2 seconds behind, than the race had actually been.

So what will this year’s GP have in store for us? Vettel has dominated this track since 2009, and only a fool would bet against him…which is exactly what I will do of course! He has to have one DNF this year, right? However, the tracks they were dominant on last year were tricky for them in 2011, like Hungary for instance. That said, the RBR will just nom up the esses and Vettel will find that magical half second in q3.

Button has been superb these past races and should the fickly Japanese weather play a part he’s on for the win. He’ll also beat a cautious Lewis who’ll try to save a set of tires in q3 and get caught out by it in quali. The Ferraris have given up on 2011 so I don’t expect much from them anymore yet mr eyebrows will always find a way to nab a podium. Lewis will drive another Monza like race after again a crash happy Singapore GP to finish somewhere around 4th after getting held up by Alonso for a long time. Kamui will again be on fire in the race and the Sauber’s kindness to its tires should pay dividends on this high degradation track where they will pull off at least one stop less than the others, so I put my money on him to finish best of the rest, perhaps even beating a Merc who will struggle with the tires as they have all season.

Renault will improve a lot compared to last race with a track that should be much more suited to their car, the front facing exhaust bringing a lot of benefit through the esses  I am expecting a tight fight between them and the much improved and the Force Indias for the final WDC points.  Lotus will have a hard time repeating their good pace of last race, as the new power steering is taken out and they don’t have the high, efficient downforce required on this track with its many sweeping bends. Virgin and HRT are even in danger of falling out of the 107 % zone.

Pole: Vettel

2.Webber

3.Button

Race:

1.Button

2.Webber

3.Alonso

Do share your mad predictions in the comments below, a Massa win anyone? 😉

Qualifying and pre race drama

Further sealing Felipe’s fate and endearing himself to the Tifosi, Alonso nabbed a superb pole position in his first outing for the Scuderia at their home GP: Monza, La Pista Magica! The Ferrari’s had been looking strong all weekend with only the Mclaren of Button managing to sneak ahead of the Ferrari waterboy who himself qualified a solid third.

Going into the race Hamilton was still on top in the WDC after his win at Spa, 3 points ahead of Webber. The pair of them had created a bit of breathing space behind them since Vettel, Alonso and Button all failed to score the previous race. At this point, the championship started looking like it would boil down to a Webbo-Lewis fight.

Other noteable performances in quali were Hulkenberg getting a solid p8 ahead of his teammate Rubinho in 10th. Both Williams cars in q3, hard to imagine in 2011! The Red Bulls were struggling on this power track as Webber only managed 4th with Vettel putting in a dissappointing 6th, their worst qualifying performance of the season. The top 10 was rounded out by Hamilton (5th) Kubica (9th) and Rosberg (7th).

Lots of controversy surrounded the interval between Spa and Monza, with Ferrari escaping with a ‘mere’ 100k $ fine for their team orders BS in Germany at a council hearing, and the FIA having introduced more stringent load tests in response to the (ongoing) Red Bull flexi wing drama.

The Race

Jenson Button got a great run off the starting grid and despite Alonso’s best attempts to scare him into the wall or on the brakes in a classic Vettel/Schumi swipe, Button kept his foot in and balls firmly in hand as they headed into the tight first chicane. Massa also got a better start than Nando and was challenging him hard. However Nando being Nando, and Ferrari being his team, he basically barged Felipe out of the way on the corner exit, the pair even banging wheels. But that was not enough bumper cars for Nando, as he also took out a chunk of Button’s rear diffuser late in his desperate, yet ultimately successful attempt to keep his teammate firmly behind. Something tells me that in the 2011 stewarding universe, he may have gotten into some trouble there. While it did not seem to massively hurt Button, it did compromise him as he certainly lost some rear downforce in that incident.

Webber made yet another of his now trademark horrific starts as he dropped from p4 to p9 at the end of the first lap. Either Mark has horrid reaction times or something fishy has been going on at Red Bull with their clutch settings for Mark because this continues to jeopardize his races to this day. Rosberg jumped into 4th as the rest of the field squeezed through fairly cleanly in that tricky turn 1.

The Ferrari bumper cars antics in turn one allowed Hamilton to get a run on them in the slipstream heading into the second chicane. However, he was nowhere near enough to make the overtake stick into that tight turn and slammed his right wheel hard into Massa when he slotted in behind Alonso. This broke Lewis’ steering column and had him flying off into the gravel trap. Perhaps as a sign for things to come this year, an overoptimistic move saw Lewis’ race over at the first Lesmo, and the championship was wide open again with Webber facing a long fight from down in p9.

While Button’s superb start saw him grab and maintain p1, he just could not build a gap to Alonso, and even Massa hung on to them reasonably well for the first 10-15 laps, until Felipe started getting very ragged and had some moments which dropped him a few seconds behind the leaders. Button had gone for a radically different strategy at Monza, using a high downforce setup and counting on the F-Duct for top speed. This meant that in the Lesmos and chicanes Button managed to build a gap in sector 2, but the Ferraris would keep clawing him back in sectors 1 and 3. However it was not  enough as Button fairly easily withstood the constant pressure from Alonso to stay ahead. It would all boil down to pitstops, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Rosberg was leading the best of the rest but was quickly dropping behind the leading trio, followed by Kubica, Hulkenberg, Vettel and Webber. Suddenly we hear a very panicky Vettel on the team radio saying his engine was giving up on him, and indeed he started losing chunks of laptime as Webber cruised past him and Vettel was falling back into the clutches of Schumacher. However miraculously Vettel’s engine ‘fixed itself’ after 1 or 2 laps and he was straight back on the pace, setting the scene for a curious strategy which would see him pit for the hard tires on the final lap of the race. (screw you Bridgestone, thank you Pirelli)

Even the leading trio left it to well past the halfway mark to make their one and only pitstop, and the Mclaren team were the first to blink. Handily announced by the FOM coverage on the team radio, Button was coming in on lap 39 and he was told to push. Of course, Ferrari heard this as well and Alonso in particular started to pump in some quali laps and hope to pip Button in the pits. He came in one lap behind Jenson and true enough, the Ferrari fairly comfortably cleared the Mclaren into T1, and Nando took the lead. Massa came in two laps later but had fallen too far back prior to his stop to make an impact on the fight for the lead.

Thinking about it: how many times have Ferrari had their pit strategy announced to the world over the FOM feed compared to Mclaren, and to a lesser degree, Red Bull? Ah the conspiracy theorist in me is working overtime again! 😉 Anyway, that sorted out the top 3 as they headed to the finish with Button failing to make any impression on Nando, who cruised home to his first deserved win of the year (Bahrain he inherited it through Red Bull unreliability and Germany..well you know), even though his bumper car antics in T1 raised my eyebrows, the general public and analysts didn’t make a fuss about it.

Further back, Hulkenberg was badly holding up Webber and defended his position on three occasions by cutting the chicanes. Webber -rightfully- complained about it on the team radio but the stewards wouldn’t budge. When Webber finally did pass the Hulk, it was too late. Vettel’s strange strategy and Bridgestone’s retard ‘soft’ tires saw him maintain 4th on the final lap, something which surely would have left Webber fuming in the cockpit as he finished 6th. Rosberg got 5th and the top 10 was completed by The Hulk, Bobby K, Schumi and Rubinho.

Webber grabbed the lead in the WDC, 5 points ahead of Lewis and Nando’s late WDC challenge really kicked off here as he got himself into third, 21 points off the lead. Vettel was down in 5th, 3 points behind Alonso.

Prediction Time!

So, does this teach us anything to make an accurate prediction for this year’s race? Of course not, but it wouldn’t be fun if we didn’t try now would it! I’ve had a bit of a shocker prediction eating away at my brain, nay my very sanity, for the past few days: I was thinking of predicting a Massa win! Even as I write this I’m still expecting someone to come out of the woodwork and bitch-slap me to see reason, but I’m sticking to my guns: Massa will win the 2011 Monza Grand Prix! Work with me here, see the reasoning behind the madness:  He has upped his quali performance, out qualifying Nando the past two races. His race pace is still off but the flow of Monza makes it a less technical track and more of a powerhouse thing, so it is not really a track where the driver can make that much of a difference compared to other places. Ferrari always bring a bucket-load of upgrades at their home GP so the car should be up there. Monza’s looking to be dry and hot, which will also favor the Ferrari and negate their tire warm-up problems. There’s just one factor I can’t get around: Nando and Luca’s man love for the Spaniard. For this to work Nando’s race needs to get cocked up somewhere, as there’s no way Felipe will be allowed to win if Nando is closely behind him. Stranger things have happened, and Nando’s been quite lucky with the car’s reliability this year, so perhaps it’s time for him to eat the cake this time.

While everyone expected to Bulls to suffer at Spa only to see them come out on top, they did – again- get luck on their side: the rainy qualifying, the perfect timing for the safety car, I believe Spa was more of a fluke Red Bull 1-2 than they would like to admit. Of course they will be up there, but I see Vettel having a horrible weekend to finish third (no sarcasm at all here, move along). Button will look set for the win until another team error hands P1 to Massa, but he’ll finish 2nd, just like last year. Hamilton will again try too hard and end up either in the wall or way down the order. He doesn’t seem to be learning the lessons this year, and for once I’m with Niki Lauda. If he just tones it down a bit, he’ll be WDC again in no time. But the way he’s going now, he won’t be for a long time.

As for quali, I see a Hamilton pole, closely followed by Vettel and Alonso. Button will line up 5th behind Massa with Webbo in 6th.

Wrap up:

quali:

pole: Hamilton

2.Vettel

3. Massa

 

Race:

1. Massa

2. Button

3. Vettel

 

I know I’m crazy but if this comes through I’m a legend 😉 Do mock me and share your predictions in the comments below!

 

 

After a short break where I didn’t bring you a review for Germany since I was actually in Germany – though sadly not at the Nurburgring – we pick up this series looking back at last year’s races. We were in quite a similar situation than where we are now when it comes to speculation about Red Bull and Ferrari’s relative performance. Of course we all remember how Ferrari had dominated the German Grand Prix and made a mockery of themselves with the infamous ‘Fernando is faster than you’ team orders, but fact remains Hockenheim was a Ferrari 1-2, and people started seeing chinks in Red Bulls armor.

Then comes along Hungary, and the Red Bulls just blew everyone away, Vettel taking pole a few tenths ahead of Webber but more crucially, a full 1.2 seconds ahead of Alonso in p3!  Because of this I’m wary of jumping on the bandwagon of people claiming Red Bull is weakening this year and that Ferrari has caught up to them. Same as last year though, it seems Mclaren are dropping a bit behind. Despite Hamilton’s great win last week, it seemed the Mclaren does not have the ultimate raw pace RBR and Ferrari have. Only a remarkable quali lap and race by Lewis bagged them the win in Germany and dragged that car up to places it really had no business being. Of course it was also in a way all different last year, with Hamilton leading the WDC and Mclaren on top at the WCC before Hungary.

Let’s head onto qualifying: as said, Red Bull were in a league of their own, the Ferrari got 3 and 4 (no surprise as to in what order they lined up), Hamilton on p5 flanked by Rosberg and behind them Petrov with a surprizing p7, outqualifying Kubica for the first time who lined up right behind him. Button messed up yet another quali session to start in p11- sort it out Jenson! – and De La Rosa got a surprising p9 on the grid for Sauber in front of Hulkenberg who also outqualied Rubens for one of the first times in the Williams.

As the lights went out it become clear that the right side of the grid is way more dirty than the pole side, and Vettel gets away cleanly while Webber bogs down and sees Alonso slip ahead into turn one- who even had a look ’round the outside of Vettel in T1 but was then crowded out. Petrov makes a lightning start and bags Lewis and Rosberg for p5, while Button moves backwards down to p15. Schumi and Kobayashi were the best starters, with Kamui up from dead last on the grid to p16 after 2 laps – penalized after failing to show up at a weighing session post quali. Barrichello also slipped ahead to p9 in front of his teammate seeing his hard work in quali undone.

Immediatly Vettel pulls away- something we’ve so gotten used to this year but was still a surprize last year as he streaks ahead by about 1 seconds per lap ahead of Alonso who is holding up Webber badly. Despite his lightning start, Petrov is way too cautious on the brakes and Hamilton takes him around the outside on turn 2, a a crucial move for him as the Renault clearly lacked the pace to keep up with the Red Bulls and Ferraris, but once released Hamilton could not make an impression at all on p4 man Massa.

Early on in the race a huge plume of smoke bellows out of Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso with an engine blowup, who stupidly continues to run for quite a while, putting oil and debris all over the track. tssk tssk Jaime, not cool!. Meanwhile futher behind Rosberg is starting to build a little Trulli train, frustrating Kubica’s progress in particular. It was clear from the get go that the Hungaroring is not a track that promotes overtaking, and it will be a good test again to see if the 2011 tires and rules will improve this here.

The key event of this race happens on lap 15, just as Button had pitted trying to get out of traffic, when Liuzzi loses part of his front wing and it’s lying dangerously on track, prompting a safety car. It’s sad looking back at it how many times SCs determined a race result in 2010, and not actual on track racing. Some people call DRS and Pirellis a lottery, but looking at 2010 it’s just so much better. So everybody and their momma dive into the pits as soon as the safety car is announced and mayhem ensues. Hamilton jumps Massa in the stops, Ferrari being delayed by having to pit both cars on the same lap though crucially the gap was big enough that Felipe didn’t have to queue, but it still took more time than a regular pitstop. The Mercedes crew cracks under pressure and forget to tighten Rosberg’s right rear wheel, which almost immediately goes flying off straight into the pitcrews waiting for their cars, especially Sauber and Williams down the pitlane. As the tire is apprently bodychecked by a Williams crew member and is still bouncing up in the air, Renault stupidly release Kubica right into the path of Sutil who’s pulling into the FI box, resulting in a nasty crash which forces Sutil to retire. The Renault crew manage to push Kubica back into the box and repair the damage, but his race is ruined as he’s now a lap down and will get a drive through for unsafe release – which he won’t even bother to take as he just parks the car in the garage.

Crucially though for this race, Red Bull chose not to queue their cars and only called in Vettel – and a last minute call that was, as we saw Vettel hopping across the kerbs of the final turn to just barely still make it into the pits. Webber hasn’t pitted then of course, and will thus need to build a 20 second gap if he wants to come out ahead after his pitstop, with Vettel in p2, Alonso p3, Hamilton 4 and Massa 5th- poor Felipe again drawing the short stick in pitstops shenanigans. Button profited slightly and got into the points at p10.

As the safety car is brought in, Vettel is caught napping and leaves a huge gap to Webber, way more than the maximum 10 car lengths prescribed in the rules. Post race he admitted to have been napping and hampered by a radio failure which meant he couldn’t hear his engineer Rocky’s instructions but during the race he was fuming in the cockpit as he dived into the pitlane to serve a drive through, wildly gesticulating. Luckily for Vettel, it took quite a while for the stewards to serve him with the penalty, so he managed to build up a big enough gap to Massa, allowing him to get p3 as he exited the pits again, on the hunt for Alonso. Meanwhile Webber is pulling off some stunning series of quali laps to build himself a 20 sec gap to Alonso, and as usual the Bridgestone softs are holding up very well as he only pits on lap 44 of 70, retaining his lead. Before that, on lap 24 Hamilton suddenly pulls over with a mechanical failure, later said to be a gearbox/transmission issue, putting Massa in p4 again and the start of a miserable streak of bad luck and silly driving errors from Hamilton which saw him ruin his WDC chances.

As everything settled down Vettel caught up to Alonso very fast but then got stuck behind the invisible wall of turbulent air. Despite being about a second per lap faster, once he got within the 1 second zone there was no way for Vettel to pass Alonso unless the latter makes a mistake, which is unlikely from a driver of Nando’s caliber. That said, perhaps another driver might have done it, as I’m one of the many starting to doubt Vettel’s overtaking abilities after his poor performances vs Hamilton in Silverstone and Massa in Germany this year. That leaves the procession to cruise home to the finish, but two drivers will still serve up some drama: old teammates Rubinho and Schumi, clearly no love lost between them! Rubens, like Webber did not pit under the SC but he had started on the primes and pits only on lap 56, dropping him down to p11 behind Schumacher in a fight to the death – sadly that becomes almost literally- for the final WDC point to be earned. On the fresh softs, Barichello was catching schumi by 1.5 seconds per lap, and soon enough was right under his gearbox. Rubens starts to complain to the team that Schumi is slamming the door on him too late when already under braking but little did he know what he had in store for him next! Schumi makes a tiny error in the final corner which allows Rubens right under his gearbox on the pitstraight. He breaks out of the slipstream on the right when all of a sudden Schumi starts squeezing him into the pitwall. It was a truly scandalous move by Michael, and Rubens was right to call for a black flag on the team radio, fuming in his cockpit. All credit to Rubinho, he showed some major cojones keeping his foot in all along the way, even when he was millimeters from having a horrid crash into the pitwall. Nonetheless, Rubens gets through and nabs the final point. Schumacher did eventually get penalized with a grid penalty for the next race, but that kind of move was so outrageous I wouldn’t have minded a stronger penalty.

That leaves us with the end result: Webber taking the win and the lead in the WDC from Hamilton, Alonso holding Vettel at bay for p3, Massa 4th, and Petrov with his best result of the year in a flawless drive to p5. The Hulk bags some good points for p6, as do the Saubers of De La Rosa and Kobayashi in p7 and 9, with a disappointing Button in p8.

Does this learn us anything for next year? The circuit obviously suits the Red Bulls well, as it was one of their most dominating performances and would have been a walk in the park 1-2 had it not been for the SC and Seb’s penalty so Red Bull will surely be strong here again in 2011. However, in Silverstone the RBs dominated as well in 2010, and this year the Ferraris were already much closer to them there so I don’t think the gap will be as large as last year, but Red Bull will still have an edge. The sequence of high and medium speed corners are absolute Newey territory. If Red Bull does not dominate this year, then I believe we can really start getting exited about Ferrari and Mclaren bringing the fight to them on equal terms. To save the WDC from Vettel dominating even further we need a strong Webber and for Alonso and Hamilton to put Vettel into the pack behind them on the grid. It’s his biggest weakness and they should pounce on it if they even get a sniff at the opportunity in quali.

I’m thinking Webber will finally convert a pole into a win- it’s long overdue- and it’s clear he has finally gotten on top of how the pirellis work. A stunning quali lap by Alonso will put him p2 ahead of Vettel who’ll be flanked by Hamilton. Massa and Button complete the next row, with the Mercs behind, Schumi outqualifying Rosberg.

Race result I don’t believe much will change at the sharp end with Webber and Alonso staying put, it will still be very hard to overtake despite DRS, and I don’t see it being too effective. The DRS zone is similar to Melbourne with a tricky, long final corner where a following car is really hurt by turbulent air, and I don’t think they’ll be able to get close enough to try a move under braking for turn one when on equal tires. That said, caught back in the pack, Massa and Vettel will get embroiled in some kind of drama taking Massa out while Vettel can continue but only to finish 6th. Hamilton will be the laughing 3rd to take the final podium spot ahead of Button. Merc will finally bring some good performance with Schumi in 5th and Rosberg 7th. Heidfeld will be doing his last race for Renault if Senna performs halfway decent on the friday practice session he’s been given.

wrap up:

Pole: Webber

Win: Webber

2: Alonso

3. Hamilton

do share your predictions!

After the snorefest in Valencia we were all desperately looking forward to an exciting race again at the home race of pretty much all the F1 teams. Only Ferrari and Toro Rosso are based outside of  the UK though granted, we hear the Austrian anthem with every Red Bull win but somehow I must have skipped the geography class that put Milton Keynes as a suburb of Vienna.

The tension in the Red Bull team reached new heights. While it had been kept on the wraps since the very controversial Turkey incident, Qualifying saw these tensions flare up again. Red Bull had brought 2 new front wings to Silverstone, but Vettel’s failed in practice. Red Bull made the rather strange decision to pull the one remaining new wing off Webber’s car and put it on Vettel’s, supposedly a decision driven by standings in the championship (Vettel was at this point 12 points ahead of Webber). It was all a bunch of horseshit of course, and drove the point home that Webber was Red Bull’s number 2 driver. We already had a clear incling of this after Turkey, where inexplicably Mark was criticized  by some in the team (cough…Marko…cough) for the incident where to me it’s a clear cut case of Vettel turning into Webber.

The best starters of the race were probably Kubica, who found himself into p3 after the first lap shenanigans; and Button, who made up 6 positions on the first lap to move into 8th. Vettel had a fairly bad start and damn near put his teammate into the pitwall trying to do the classic Schumi chop off the start line but yielded just in time to avoid a Turkey repeat. However he did not yet concede what was effectively a position he already lost with Webber established on the inside for Turn one. Both kept their foot in and it was inevitable Vettel was pushed wide. It was clear that after all the controversy Webber was intent to make a point, he was not gonna let Vettel or the team bully him out of the way. A charging Hamilton was right behind Webber on the inside as well, and minor contact with Vettel’s rear tire resulted in a puncture, sending Vettel off onto the grass and putting him all the way at the back to limp back to the pits. The Ferraris tango’d as wel, with Felipe yet again coming out of it the loser as he too suffered a rear puncture and was forced to come in.

Following the same ‘ol predictable pattern of 2010 races, everybody settled in and started managing fuel and such, tires of course being no issue with Vettel pitting for hards on lap 1 and nobody expected him to have to pit again to the end of the race. Hamilton did what he could to stay with Webber but it was clear the Red Bull had more than enough in hand to manage the gap and pull out whenever they needed it. Behind the top 2 a gap quickly developed to Kubica and a train of cars behind him, so unless reliability hit them it was clear who would be 1-2 in the race from lap 2 onwards. Schumacher started the pitstop phase hoping to get himself out of traffic and leapfrog the likes of Barichello and Alonso but as other people came streaming into the pits it became clear the performance difference between the hards and softs was not enough to make the undercut. This was demonstrated best by Button who stayed out the longest of the front runners on his softs and managed to jump Barichello to go into p6.

Rosberg, for all the critics who say he’s too boring and never takes risks, pulled an amazing move on Alguersuari who had not pitted yet as he started on the hards, going round the outside first and then cut back into the inside on the final corner. It did result in a damaged barge board which compromised his pace for the remainder of the race. But the main incident in this race would be the Kubica-Alonso fight for P3. It was clear that the Ferrari was being held up, and a frustrated Alonso (remember how pissed he was after the last race in Valencia with the SC shenanigans) was getting impatient. He made a move round the outside against a hard defending Kubica going into Vale corner but as always, Robert gave no quarter and stuck Alonso out to dry. Alonso was forced to cut the corner and passed Kubica in the process. With this year’s Button-Massa incident in mind it’s clear Alonso should have just given the position back but he didn’t. Again the stewards took ages to make a decision, and it was only quite a lot of laps later that Alonso was issued a – deserved- drive through. The similarities with the Button-Massa incident are striking. It was too late for Alonso to be told to let Kubica back through after a few laps, since Robert was forced to retire with a mechanical failure.

Compounding Alonso’s woes, the safety car was brought out just as he had gotten word of the penalty – meaning the field would bunch up and of course he would have to wait until after the SC period to serve his penalty. He must have been fuming in his cockpit and a funny team radio convo ensued with Alonso saying his engineer to basically shut up :’I don’t want any more radio for the race’. The safety car was brought out following an incident between De La Rosa and Sutil where the Spaniard chopped in front of Sutil who subsequently rammed into him, showering the track with pieces of De La Rosa’s rear wing on the pit straight and the hangar straight. Of course this played beautifully into the hands of Button and Rosberg, who moved up into p4 and p3 respectively.

While from then on the race at the front was over, Vettel did provide us some excitement driving from the back of the field. Of course he also profited massively from the safety car and went for a charge up the field. He got Petrov easily after the Russian went into the grass, then mugges Schumacher and Barichello with qome quite nice moves. However then he got stuck behind Sutil’s Force India, trying to salvage p7. He was lucky to get away with a mistake putting all four wheels on the grass as they entered the new arena section, but did well to keep it together and didn’t seem to lose any time from it. On the penultimate lap he basically just barged Sutil out of the way, who only just managed to keep Schumi behind him.

Webber took a well deserved and dominant win ahead of Hamilton, Rosberg, Button, Barichello, Kobayashi, Vettel and Sutil. Great results for Williams and Sauber after an equally nice performance the race before. Hamilton kept the lead in the championship ahead of Button but Webber jumped Vettel to be 17 points behind Lewis in P3. It might give us some hope for this year to think Alonso was 47 points down on Hamilton yet still managed to lead the championship as we went into the final race. Of course Vettel now has an extra win in the bag in terms of points but you never know!

There you have it, the Silverstone GP 2010. It was quite enjoyable really, with some good scraps, a few nice overtakes, a tad of drama, and Vettel’s nice drive at the end. So what do we think Silverstone 2011 will have in store for us? As we all know the race will see a major change to the cars as the off throttle blown diffuser will be limited to just 10% as opposed to 100%, so any prediction is going to be even more guesswork than it usually is (and I totally stuffed it up last race already!). There’s no way of really knowing which cars will be most affected by it. In my opinion Renault will be the hardest hit. They have built their entire car around the concept of maximizing use of the blown floor with their front exiting exhausts, and this rule clarification (note, it is not a change of rules mid season, it is enforcing a rule already in place which the FIA determined was breached by the teams) is likely to hurt them badly. A grim prospect of course judging by their declining performance already before this change. Red Bull might be hurt quite badly as well…or not.

As I detailed in my latest 1k special video, Adrian Newey is admired for how he builds his cars not just for the great aero, but because he puts together the whole package beautifully, he always has the big picture in mind. Take away one important element of the overall package he’s worked so hard to perfect, and it might upset the balance of the car more than those of its rivals, since they seem to be less subscribed to the one man- one concept idea than Red Bull. Of course I might be clutching at straws – and probably am- and it does not mean the Red Bull will all of a sudden become a midfield car, it is near guaranteed the car is still bloody quick and the main advantage of the Red Bull is in the high to medium speed corners, going flatout where others can’t because they have such massive downforce. Last year the Red Bulls were the only ones to take the first corner flat out and flew through Becketts and Maggots so think of this: exhaust blowing when on throttle hasn’t been changed, so Red Bull will keep blowing their diffuser in these corners (and Silverstone has loads of them), while the others lift off and lose the extra downforce given by blowing off throttle. Looking at it this way, it might even increase Red Bull’s overall performance advantage compared to the others.

Technical things aside I’ll of course have to name some names! Webber is the only one who can save this championship realistically by challenging his teammate so I’m going to put the good’ ol Aussie bastard up for pole and the win. Valencia showed he’s finally getting to grips with the Pirellis, and as discussed previously on this blog, the EBDs introduced by Red Bull midway through last season took away a key advantage Webber’s driving style had over Vettel.

Predicting (well to be honest, more like hoping 😉 ) Vettel to be phased by Webbers’ regained mojo, he’s going to get sloppy and involved in incidents, putting him down the field but fight back for a p4 finish, still setting the fastest lap. As for the fight for second best team, a lot will depend on which tires Pirelli will bring and they have just announced it will be the hard/soft compounds. Though Ferrari claims to have gotten round the issue, they sucked badly on them the last time they were used in Spain and have never tested them on track since then so if this is the case Ferrari will be fighting for third best team again. Added to this, while the Ferrari has definitely improved, the last 3 tracks were fairly similar: street circuits with fairly minimal aero dependence and not many high load, mid to high speed corners, and aside from the tires aero is the area where Ferrari have struggled the most. Rear tire wear should be ok here and that might put the Mercedes up for a good finish. Mclaren I believe will bounce back from a tough weekend in Valencia, and we’ll see Button snatch his first Silverstone podium in p3, Hamilton p2.

I believe the biggest impact of the EBD rules will be seen in the midfield and amongst the backmarkers: those midfield cars like Sauber, STR, Force India used the EBDs, but only as an afterthought so they are likely to have it less developed as the front runners so we might see them close the gap. This might prove exceptionally good for Team Lotus to move closer to the midfield as well, and might help them gain that half a second they need to start challenging the back of the midfield for real. The 107% rule will probably also be less of an issue for Virgin and HRT, since the front runners will be slowed down they will not lose much. It might put HRT back firmly behind Virgin though, because HRT did use the EBD for the past 2 GPS while Virgin did not.

a recap:

Pole: Webber

Win: Webber

2. Hamilton

3. Button

fastest lap : Vettel

Nobody did particularly well last week so feel free to post your predictions in the comments to see if we can do better this time!

Valencia is a great circuit….but only on paper. The track looks great, it has the hangbridge, the paddock in an old fisherman’s wharf, the hustle, bustle and glamour of Monaco (allbeit a tad toned down). Sadly since F1 first got there in 2008, the amount of competitive overtakes seen on the track can be counted on one hand. Last year’s race was pretty much one long, boring procession only -briefly- spiced up and shaped by Mark Webber spectacular ‘Red Bull gives you wings’ crash with Heikki Kovalainen and Kobayashi’s final lap madness.

Red Bull once again locked out the front row with Vettel on pole after Mclaren had finally broken Red Bulls qualifying dominance in Canada, making it 8 out of 9 pole positions for RBR. However unlike this season, early 2010 Red Bull was still struggling with reliability so they did not fully exploit their car’s superior pace in terms of points, and the Mclarens were leading the way in the WDC and WCC with Lewis and Jenson 1 and 2 in the standings after their Canada triumph. At this point in the season, Mclaren and Lewis Hamilton definately had the best cards to snatch the title. Compared to this year with Vettel so dominant, one could argue it does not bode well for the competition in 2011. Hamilton and Alonso were on row two, Massa and Kubica made up row three, and Button saw himself only on row 4 flanked by rookie Hulkenberg, only one of the first times the Hulk managed to beat Barichello in qualifying.

The start was quite exciting, Hamilton got a great launch and went flying past Webber who sort of botched it. Alonso subsequently also mugged Webber into T1. Hamilton had a go at Vettel into turn one but another of his Vettel’s now characteristic ‘Schumi’ chops kept Hamilton behind him, with both cars making contact as Vettel squeezed Hamilton into the apex (thought they weren’t allowed to change lines under braking? – ah yes, on lap one everything is permitted lol). Hamilton sounds a bit panicky on the radio complaining of vibrations but his pace does not seem too badly affected by some front wing damage he incurred on the contact. Meanwhile Webber is going backwards all the time, getting passed by Massa into T2 as well and ending a dreadful first lap going from p2 to p9!

As everyone settles in for the procession, Webber serves up a spectacular crash as he’s just a tad too optimistic trying to slipstream the much slower Lotus of Kovalainen on lap 9. This was a battle for position because Webber pitted early on lap 8 trying to get out of traffic as he was stuck down in p9 behind Hulkenberg anyway (damn you durable Bridgestones – the hards he put on would have easily allowed him to finish the race without stopping again). Kovalainen decides to defend the position, a bit futile of course, and Webber got caught out by the huge closing speed and how much earlier the Lotus had to brake compared to the Red Bull. This delivered the most spectacular crash of the season with Webber flipping up into the air, landing upside down and slamming hard into the barrier. Luckily, neither driver got injured but both were obviously out of the race.

This crash triggered a safety car period which basically determined finishing position. The inlaps for those that had not yet been caught by the safety cars also proved to be highly controversial, and saw a new piece of classic Ferrari whinging to the FIA. The most controversial moment was when Hamilton passed the safety car as it was exiting the pitlane, with Alonso getting stuck behind. This payed great dividends to Hamilton, who retained p2 after his stop, but the Ferraris suffered badly with them ending up p 8 and p15. While Hamilton clearly violated the rules with this overtake, it was just a matter of a few metres. Had he not held back that much, he’d have passed the safety car before the safety car line on track and his move would have been perfectly legal. As it was, he passed it just behind that lines, and was up for a penalty. Showing the bad blood of 2007 still runs within Alonso, he immediately started whining on the team radio for the stewards to have a look into Hamilton’s move. I understand he’d want that checked out, but it all sounded a bit desperate and petty on the Ferrari team radio. Alonso’s saying all the team should do for the rest of the race is be on the radio to Charlie Whiting about Hamilton, his race engineer Stella complaining how unfair it was but had to get Alonso back in line for him to focus on his own race. Kobayashi was one of the few people not to stop during the SC period, and this put him in a spectacular p3 ahead of Jenson Button who also profited massively from the SC madness. With Sauber having a dismal season up to that point, this was the first indication of Sauber’s improved form in the latter half of the season once James Key had joined them.

While the Ferraris suffered badly from the safety car, Michael Schumacher was in even worse shape. As he wanted to exit the pits, the red lights came on at the end of the pitlane and Schumi was left waiting there for the entire field to come through putting him all the way at the back of the field with the exception of Trulli who was already two laps down following a long time in the pits with technical problems. All throughout the race the Mercs were struggling with brake temperature as well, something to keep in mind for this year’s race as brakes could play an important part on this tricky track with many heavy braking zones.

We’ll revisit the stewards’ decision later but first there was of course the restart. Vettel took them along very slowly and caught himself out by low brake and tire temp when he launched into the final corner and locked up, going slightly wide but Lewis Hamilton could not profit from this mistake. From then on things settled back down very quickly and the procession was underway again. Ferrari’s constant whinging to Charlie finally did come to fruition and Hamilton was issued a drive through penalty. Crucially though, it took the stewards a very long time to issue this penalty -Ferrari did have a legitimate gripe over this- and Hamilton managed to eke out a big enough gap to a stunning Kobayashi who fairly easily retained p3 ahead of Button, and emerged from the pitlane ahead of the battling duo. While the penalty was indeed deserved – rules are rules, but Ferraris’ whining was very petty indeed. Hamilton’s transgression was a matter of just a few meters and I very much doubt it was intentional, he just hesitated for a split second and Alonso would have probably been stuck behind the SC regardless of Hamilton’s move. To say Hamilton ruined their race is therefore quite unfair, their race would have been ruined regardless, the only thing different is that Hamilton would have been in p7 rather than p2, but it wouldn’t have changed the Ferrari’s position at all. In addition, stewards were investigating about 10 cars for not respecting the safety car lap delta, but were only issued a 5 seconds time penalty after the race, which did not change much: Buemi lost a spot to Alonso and De La Rosa dropped out of the points for Rosberg to take p10.

While Hamilton did not lose track position from the penalty, it did rob us viewers of what could have been a good battle with Vettel. From 2 seconds behind Hamilton dropped to 15 seconds behind, allowing Vettel to basically cruise home to victory. Meanwhile Button could not find a way past Kobayashi and was not even really trying, knowing Kamui would have to do his mandatory pitstop to fit the softs before the end of the race. Astonishingly, Sauber left it to lap 52 of 57 (every time I watch a 2010 race I fall even more in love with Pirelli) and Kobayashi rejoined just behind Alonso in p9, ahead of his Sauber teammate De La Rosa. Luckily we have Kamui to save the race and deliver some spectacle, as he was absolutely flying on his fresh options on low fuel. His final two laps were quite stunning: First passing Alonso on the penultimate lap with a daring outbraking move (read back to my blog post on overtaking and think that if Alonso had turned in aggressively instead of very fairly giving room we’d have called for a penalty on Kamui which would have probably happened with the 2011 stewarding). Then on the final corner of the final lap he pulls another superb move on Buemi to snatch P7.

Thinking of how Kobayashi managed to pull of these moves with great driving but crucially on fresher Bridgestones than his competition, this does make me optimistic that we could have plenty competitive overtakes in 2011 with the Pirellis. In addition, Valencia will see another double DRS zone like in Canada. While I found it severe overkill on Canada, a track where we’ve seen plenty of passing throughout the years, I believe it will be a good thing for Valencia. The activation zone is shorter than Canada, and there’s a good chance for DRS to work as intended to get cars alongside in the braking zone for a good fight (ie not as in Canada and Turkey where cars came sailing by on the straight). The DRS zones will be separated by three corners, unlike in Canada where it was just the wall of champions chicane. I believe we’ll see DRS deliver spectacle without the sour taste we got in the above mentioned GPs this year.

So now it is time for my predictions. I’m still on a high for prediciting the Button win in Canada so let’s see if I can get it right again (nevermind I also had pole for Button and stuffed up p2 and 3 – the win is all that really counts lol).

I believe Mclaren will come out swinging and continue their drive putting Red Bulls’ dominance to an end. In reality, Mclaren have probably had the fastest car in race pace since Spain, and I truly believe Red Bull’s dominance is nearing its expiration date. That said, Hamilton will snatch pole in a very close fight with Vettel. Valencia will be the hot blown diffuser’s final hurrah, with the ban coming into effect for the next GP at Silverstone and I do believe Red Bull will be among the hardest hit (Renault will suffer most in my opinion). But Valencia is a track that also nullifies another of Red Bull’s major quali advantage: unrestricted DRS use . A large part of the quali gap Red Bull have is that they  have so much downforce so that they are able to use DRS earlier than all others even before they have properly exited the corner (Vettel in Turkey’s Turn 8 a classic example) , but Valencia does not really have the medium speed corners where this comes into play. Hamilton will be on a charge after his dismal weekends in Monaco and Canada, and there’s no doubt this rot he’s in will end at some point. Webber will pip Alonso for p3 in quali. Crucially, I have just read this breaking news story, that already in Valencia the FIA will force teams to use the same engine map in quali during their first stint in the race, which would make it impractical for Red Bull to use their extreme mapping for quali. That said, the Red Bull remains a stunning car so they will still quali well, but it will allow Hamilton to pip Vettel. I’m surely looking forward to quali!

On to the race, I’m going out on a limb and predict another Button victory through clever strategy and precision overtaking. Perhaps even more controversially, I’m going to put Hamilton p2 for a Mclaren 1-2 after a botched pitstop lets Button through. Vettel will lose out to Webber for P3. I don’t see the Ferraris performing particularly well on race pace but Alonso will pick up some solid points, and I see Massa struggling again, as the medium tire will probably not suit them too well and we will not see the supersofts (Pirelli are bringing the soft and medium tires, and the harder the tires the bigger the struggle for Ferrari it seems). Merc will struggle because of their continuing trouble with rear tire wear, which is going to be very high anyway on this track. There you have it, my review and predictions. Please do give your views and predictions in the comments so we can determine bragging rights next week 😉

Pole: Hamilton

Win: Button

p2: Hamilton

p3: Webber

Canada 2010 can be seen as somewhat of a milestone race for Formula One. It was the mayhem and spectacle caused by the fast degrading tires which prompted F1 to ask its new tire supplier for 2011 to make tires that will produce similar results on all race tracks in a search for multiple stop races and hard to predict tire life. On top of that, it was the first time a car other than a Red Bull scored pole in the 2010 season with Lewis Hamilton’s stunning quali lap. He ran out of fuel on his inlap which produced one of those iconic F1 images with an ecstatic Hamilton pushing his car back to the pits. Everybody knew tires would play a key part in this race, and this was already reflected in the team’s qualifying strategy. Both the Bulls qualified on the prime compound while the Mclarens qualified on the options. Webber set the second fastest time but was demoted 5 places for a gearbox change – the Red Bull still struggling with reliability at that stage of the championship. This moved Vettel up to the front row.

The start was pretty chaotic, while the front four came through unscathed, Massa ruined Liuzzi’s best quali performance in his career (5th) by repeatedly slamming into him in the first corners – though Liuzzi was not completely innocent in this incident either. It meant both fell to the back of the pack, effectively ending any chance they had to score points. Petrov had a pretty horrible weekend too. He got 2 drive throughs, one for jumping the start and another for causing a collision. During the start he also went on the grass and spun out, miraculously avoiding most of the traffic except for an unlucky De La Rosa in the Sauber. Hamilton initially built a small gap back to Vettel, but his soft tires soon went off and he had Vettel right on his tail as he was forced to pit very early on on lap 7, as did Alonso. Yet again the Mclaren pitstop was slow (as in Turkey where Vettel passed Hamilton for p2 through a better pitstop) and Alonso passed Hamilton, leading to a tense moment with them side by side in the pitlane. Hamilton however quickly seized back the place taking advantage of Alonso trying to overtake Buemi to slip by (this was a battle for position, Buemi had not pitted yet and even briefly led the race). Button was also struggling on the options and pitted after Webber got passed him. On the prime compound the Mclaren’s and Alonso found some clean air and started immediately clawing back the Red Bulls running a longer stint on the primes. This prompted them to bring in Vettel and Webber, but Red Bull split the strategies. Vettel went on the options to get them out of the way, while Webber took on a fresh set of primes.

As the race developed it became clear that Webber yet again had drawn the short straw at Red Bull. The pair came out behind the three front runners and Alonso was starting to pressure Hamilton, who dove into the pits just as Alonso got alongside him. If it were not for traffic, Alonso would have probably gotten in front of Hamilton when he made his pitstop two laps later, but as it was he rejoined behind Hamilton. Vettel pitted on the same lap as Hamilton for primes but Webber continued, taking the lead. Initially, Webber was leading the chasing trio of Hamilton, Alonso and Button quite comfortably, eking out a 12 second gap. However as his tires started to degrade, they started catching him by about 1 second per lap, and Webber was caught between a rock and a hard place. He still had to make his mandatory stop to fit the options, yet he was not yet in the window for making these last ’till the end of the grand prix with about 30 laps to go, the maximum the softs were expected to do was 20 laps. The trio quickly caught Webber and Hamilton again took advantage of traffic ahead to pass Webber. Alonso was stuck behind Webber for the rest of the lap but was freed as Webber finally pitted for his softs, dropping him back down to fifth behind his teammate. It was interesting to see if Webber would catch Vettel on the faster options so we could see how they’d handle wheel to wheel racing just 2 weeks after the infamous Turkey incident, yet ultimately Webber fell a few seconds short at the end of the race.

However the top three would see one more change of position, with an opportunistic Button pouncing on an opportunity that arose when Alonso was lapping Chandhok in the HRT. Briefly it looked like Button could make a charge at Hamilton for the win, but Hamilton put in a few fastest laps to make the message clear to his teammate. The first Mclaren 1-2 of the year was a fact and with both drivers also topping the championship standings Mclaren’s title chances were looking very good at this point.

All the while in the background Schumacher was up to some questionable shenanigans again. Refusing to yield to a charging Kubica as they were side by side with Kubica on the inside when Schumi left the pits, he gave no quarter and both were forced to cut the chicane across the grass, luckily both escaping without damage. Later on he almost nudged Massa into the Wall as he went on the outside in the run up to the final chicane, and a nasty nudge from Schumacher broke Massa’s front wing, forcing him into another pitstop which saw him finish 15th. Despite this fighting, Schumacher looked set for 9th place but was passed on the final lap by both Force Indias to finish 11th on badly worn option tires. Hulkenberg also had a race riddled with rookie mistakes, running into the back of a Toro Rosso at the hairpin which broke his front wing and  later on banging wheels with Sutil in a not so clean fight.

Will 2011 see another Mclaren breaking the Red Bull dominance? There’s a good chance, Mclaren has been on par with the Bulls on race pace on tracks that arguably suit the Red Bull better, and on the first track of the season where it is thought the Mclaren have the upper hand due to their good traction out of slow corners, higher top speed than the Red Bulls, and little high energy corners, we could very well see Vettel’s dominance finally broken. Even in qualifying the Mclaren’s have their best chance to date to beat Vettel, as there are no high downforce corners where the Red Bull had the huge advantage of being able to open the DRS way earlier than the competition.

I think we’re in for another corker in Canada this year, bring on the race!

To close off I figured I’d spice these blasts from the past up with my predictions for this year to give you all a chance to chuckle when I get it badly wrong 😉 Please do share your predictions in the comments below

3 pitstops the ideal strategy

Pole: Button

Win: Button, 2: Hamilton, 3: Webber

Vettel into the wall of champions to confirm his status lol

As the F1 circus heads to the glamourous principality, we take a look back at what perspired there last year. I usually watch these races while working out at home, so it makes it a bit less difficult to really doze off after everyone has made their single pitstop and just settles in for the drive to the line with 40 odd laps to go. This time I got lazy and watched it from my sofa..how I regretted that decision.

Before we get to the race let’s take a quick peek at what happened during quali. Alonso got too intimate with the barriers in FP3 so had to sit out quali and start from the pitlane. Webber dominantly took pole in front of Kubica (it still feels very weird to see him driving around knowing what happened to him this year) and Vettel. Massa nabbed p4 ahead of Hamilton and Button, who had both Mercedes cars on his tail. It is perhaps interesting  to note for this weekend’s race that the Mclaren’s did not look particularly dialed in for Monaco as both Button and Hamilton struggled quite badly in quali.

The 2010 Monaco Grand Prix saw a fairly eventful start, Kubica agressively pointed his car towards Vettel on the grid, yet still did not manage to keep fingerman behind him into Turn 1. Barichello had a lightning start to move in front of the Mercedes and Button. The field was quickly brought back together as Hulkenberg had a peculiar crash in the tunnel on lap 2 and prompted the first safety car of the GP. This would prove crucial for Alonso’s race as he pitted straight away to fit the hard tire and get his mandatory pitstop out of the way. Imagine 2011 Pirelli hards being expected to last for 76 laps – oh how F1 has changed in just a year’s time! During the safety car period Button was forced to retire due to his mechanics’ negligence leaving his radiators blocked so the car overheated and ground to a halt in a plume of smoke.

As the safety car comes in the most interesting thing happening on track is Fernando Alonso fighting with – of all people- Lucas Di Grassi in the Virgin, who to his credit did not make Alonso’s life easy. It got to the point that the Spaniard got quite hot headed in the cockpit and started gesticulating at Di Grassi who of course had every right to defend his position in this case (Nando does not seem to like drivers that don’t bend over and take it when he is behind them 😉 ). The camera follows Alonso for about the full 10 coming laps as absolutely nothing is going on at the front (and throughout the field), except for Webber edging away from Vettel lap by lap.

On lap 18 Hamilton triggers the pitstop wake up call and comes out just in front of Alonso. So because the Bridgestones were retardedly durable Alonso was already well on his way to jump the entire midfield in the pitstops due to his first lap stop (Ferrari should have probably remembered this in Abu Dhabi when Petrov pitted after the lap 1 safety car in Abu Dhabi). In fact, even though getting from P24 to p6 after the pitstops were over, Alonso actually only had to pass the backmarkers HRT, Virgin and Lotus on track, with only Di Grassi putting up some real resistance. Rosberg tries something different from the rest and goes a whopping 29 laps on his softs before pitting. It changes nothing for Rosberg except that Alonso jumped him.

We doze off yet again until on lap 32 Barichello has a spectacular crash running up the hill and throws his steering wheel on the track in anger, which gets picked up by Senna’s HRT and was reportedly dragged along all the way  to the chicane after the tunnel. The resulting safety car again does nothing but reduce the lead Webber has yet again eked out over Vettel and makes him start all over.

A particularly striking comment by the not so dearly missed Legard when talking about the Bridgestones and whether Alonso was going to suffer from his early pitstop was that the engineers told him ‘These tires could run all day’. So Webber runs away from the pack again, only to get reeled back in by a loose drain cover prompting safety car number 3. I battle falling asleep but manage to watch through the final stages of the race when Trulli decided he’s going to quite literally leapfrog Chandhok and does not exactly make it stick with 3 laps to go in the race.

Then the biggest controversy comes right at the end of the race. It is announced that the safety car will be in on the final lap, effectively leaving the final corner back open for real racing. Effectively, that’s how Mercedes understood it as Schumacher makes a brilliant opportunistic move to nab 6th from Alonso. Images clearly show the green flag is out at the moment Schuacher overtakes Alonso, so I found the penalty recieved by Schumacher was absolutely retarded. I’m not a Schumi fan, but this was complete bollocks. Safety car in, green flags out everywhere = you are cleared to race! If the stewards had indeed decided there was to be no racing in the final corner, then the safety car should have just led the pack over the finsish line. Pull the SC in, then the cars are allowed to overtake as soon as they cross the SC line, which is exactly with Schumacher did. Perhaps it’s just karma that FIA (Ferrari International Assistance) finally worked against Schumi for once. I’m no fan of Schumi, but this injustice really had me fuming last year, and it still annoys the crap out of me one year later.

To conclude: Webber absolutely dominated the Grand Prix weekend to take the lead in the WDC (and look where he is at now!), Vettel makes it a Red Bull one-two, Kubica gets on the podium,  safety cars gave us some measure of excitement, the Bridgestones could last an entire race without losing any grip, Schumacher got royally screwed over by retarded stewards. Oh boy how much I’m looking forward to Monaco this weekend with the Pirelli tires. The more 2010 races I look back on the more I fall in love with F1 2011 and look at F1 2010 as an ugly ex girlfriend that has me wonder what I ever saw in her.

Welcome to a new segment on my blog! A little personal tradition I have going on is that during the week before a Grand Prix Weekend, I watch last year’s Grand Prix at the same venue again, just to refresh my memory, make sure i’m not jonesing too much for more F1  and so I would be perhaps able to draw comparisons. I did so last night rewatching the 2010 Spanish Grand Prix and by god what a snorefest that was, a classic F1 processional! Nobody knows how DRS, tires and KERS will play out on the track this year, but it’s a safe bet it will be a hell of a lot more exciting to watch than that sorry excuse for a grand prix we had last year.

I wasn’t at all surprised to hear Martin Brundle say that in the past 9 years at Catalunya, the pole sitter has walked away with the win (now 10 years, with Webbers flag to finish victory in ’10). If the races’ most exciting (or more accurately:  less nap-worthy) moments were the following, any DRS/KERS/Pirelli opponent will surely think again after watching the 2011 race.

Moment 1: The start…..nothing of note happens at front, everybody stays in position, Petrov and Kobayashi share a moment, De La Rosa comes together with Buemi.

Moment 2: First (and only) round of pitstops: Hamilton jumps Vettel in the pits for p2…yawn.

Moment 3: Button has a botched pitstop and gets stuck behind Schumacher…he will stay stuck for the remaining 40 odd laps of the GP…snore

Moment 4: (wakes up) ZOMG an on track pass for position!!! Rosberg dives down the inside of Hulkenberg for p 12 or something in turn 10…after having gotten stuck behind for about 10 laps  in a clearly faster car on fresh option tires after an unsheduled 2nd pitstop.

Moment 5: Vettel has brake troubles and has to make a pitstop so he falls behind Alonso and has to  cruise home very carefully.

Moment 6: Hamilton has a front left puncture in turn 3 and plows into the barrier with just 2 laps to go, ending his race and gifting Alonso 2nd and Vettel 3rd place.

I’m willing to bet good money we’ll have more than 6 noteworthy and much more exciting moments in the 2011 Spanish GP after 10 laps. I did not like how DRS worked out in Turkey as it made passing just too easy, but one just needs to take a good look back at last year’s mainly processional races to see why F1 badly needs the new tires and regulations, even if it is not always implemented as it should. Let’s face it, last year was exciting because the championship fight was tight, not because the races were so good. This year if Vettel manages to dominate it like he is doing now, we may get a boring chamionship (non) fight, but we’ll sure get hella more exiting races. Bring on the 2011 Spanish GP!