Monthly Archives: June 2012

European Grand Prix Report

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On the face of it my prediction of a Vettel/Hamilton fight for the win with Alonso having a chance doesn’t seem too bad, but that doesn’t really tell the full story.

Vettel dominated the race in the early stages to the extent that I thought he must be running an extra pit-stop compared to the other front runners as he was able to pull out a second per lap advantage.  The fact that he pitted later than most of his rivals just shows how dominant the Red Bull is but we cannot tell at this stage if this dominance is likely to continue or if was just down to the Pirelli tyres once again.

The Safety Car ruined Vettel’s perfect race as it appeared just after half distance and negated his big lead.    Vettel soon had to retire with technical problems and you wonder if the slower speeds they had to run behind the SC contributed to that retirement.  Vettel was obviously disappointed by the retirement but if he can enjoy a similar advantage for the next few races then the title will surely be his for the taking.

Lewis Hamilton had a solid drive all afternoon but simply didn’t have the pace to challenge the Red Bull and then once again had his afternoon’s worked ruined by yet another McLaren bodge-stop.  This time it looked as though the front jack failed and so they had to use a reserve, costing around ten seconds over and above the usual 3-4 seconds.

This dropped Hamilton to sixth place at the time after he had been running in second the whole race long, in fact this probably cost him the victory as Vettel would retire soon after.

Fernando Alonso was the beneficiary as his stop was perfect and he inherited the place and went on to win after Vettel’s failure.  Alonso had driven well in the early stages of the race to make places after starting a lowly 11th and once he had overtaken Grosjean to take 2nd place quickly inherited the lead with Vettel’s retirement.

The main excitement towards the end of the race was Hamilton who having driven the last twnety laps or so very hard to make it back to 2nd began the struggle with tyre wear issues.  He bravely fought off Raikkonen for several laps but soon had to give up that place as his grip diminished and then eventually he was rudely rammed off the track by an impatient Pastor Maldonado.

Maldonado lost his front wing in the incident that meant he could only finish in 10th but the 20 second post-race penalty he received was wholly inadequate in my view for a man who has been punished numerous times now for ramming into other drivers.  It’s about time he is given a proper penalty for his dangerous and petulant driving and a one-race ban would have been more appropriate.  You can’t ram title contending drivers off the track, I wonder how important the 12 points Hamilton lost today will be in the final analysis of the season.

This incident meant the Michael Schumacher was at long last able to take his place on the podium.

Alonso now leads the title quite convincingly from Mark Webber who put in a solid drive to finish in 4th after his DRS problems meant he could only qualify in 19th place.  Hamilton and Vettel are a little further back with the top 4 covered by 26 points.

This season is something of a race with the hare (Vettel) against the tortoise of Alonso.

One final thing of note, Hamilton has still not signed a contract with McLaren and the pit-stop incident today could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear he’s signed for another team any time soon.  The question would be which one?

 

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European Grand Prix Preview

The Valencia Circuit

Valencia, Monaco without the history?

This weekend we have the European Grand Prix to look forward to, for the fifth season running it’s hosted by Valencia in Spain.  I will attempt to preview the race in what has so far been a very unpredictable season.

Valencia is a street circuit that some might unkindly call Monaco but without the history and character.  Unlike Monaco however, there is usually a reasonable amount of overtaking as the track is relatively wide with some long straights.

Sebastian Vettel has won the last two races hosted at the track and he must be seen as favourite for the win yet again.  Having said that as nobody seems to have fully got to grips with the Pirelli tyres this season, he’s certainly not clear favourite and his main rival I expect will be Lewis Hamilton, who will be looking to make it back to back wins here after his good showing in Canada a fortnight ago.  Hamilton should go well here as he has done so in previous races without actually having won, but he has been on pole.

We have had seven different winners from the first seven races this season so far, but I really doubt we will see a new winner to make it eight winners from eight races.  Other than Vettel and Hamilton, there is only one other driver I can see having a good chance of winning and making it their second victory of the season and that man is Fernando Alonso.  If Ferrari have genuinely bridged the gap to the leaders, as it appeared in Canada and the track temperatures favour them, Alonso could certainly pull off the win.

I wouldn’t completely rule out Webber or Button’s chances either and the Mercedes drivers might also be able to challenge but I think it’s fairly unlikely.  It would also be good to see Williams produce something here but they seem to be far too inconsistent.

If we are to see an eighth race winner, it’s possible the Lotus drivers could take a win if things go their way, both Raikkonen and Grosjean have shown flashes of brilliance this season but not enough to really make you think they have a serious chance of taking the chequered flag.

Whatever happens it’s likely to be hot and sunny for the race and the Safety Car is likely to be busy!


Canadian Grand Prix Review

Lewis Hamilton on his way to victory
Lewis Hamilton on his way to winning the 2012 Canadian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton’s impressive win at Montreal sets the stunning record of seven different race winners in the first seven races, something that has never happened before in the history of F1.  Not only that, but the McLaren driver now leads the title as main rivals Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel dropped back near to the end due to miscalculated strategies.

It was an impressive performance from Hamilton who had to overtake both his main rivals after making a second pit stop for fresh tyres.  Both Ferrari and Red Bull gambled on a one-stopper and it almost paid off but with about ten laps to go they started to struggle.

Hamilton was catching both of them at over a second a lap and so once he did arrive it was fairly easy to overtake both drivers especially with the DRS available.

The question is, does this mean that McLaren have finally understood the Pirelli tyres or is it simply that they got lucky?  If you look at how Button struggled for pace all weekend you’d have to say it’s the latter!

Ferrari have certainly made good progress once again and were genuinely on the pace of the front runners, Alonso could arguably have won the race if he had pitted around the same time as Hamilton.

Red Bull weren’t affected by the changes they had to make to the car to comply with the rules and we have three teams now genuinely capable of winning races while the other teams that have won seem to have started to drop back a little.

Despite his impressive second place finish, Grosjean in the Lotus was never really quite in contention for the win and picked up the podium finish due to the gambles of Alonso and Vettel.  Perez got the best out of the Sauber that is very easy on its tyres to complete the podium.

Williams were practically nowhere all weekend, so it looks like a fight for the title now between Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso, but it may well be a season long fight without anyone being able to put back to back wins together, time will tell!


Canada Dry?

ImageCanada often produces wet races but this years forecast is for a gloriously sunny race although qualifying may have some showers.  To be fair this season has been exciting enough that we don’t really need the rain and the track at Montreal does tend to produce good racing with plenty of overtaking.

With such an unpredictable set of results thus far, I am not going to be making any bold predictions, but I will have a bit of a stab at who may go well.

The Gilles Villeneuve Circuit is all about straight line speed with 4 long straights, but braking is also very important and the track has a reputation for breaking cars.  

McLaren have won here in the past two years and also back in 2007 when Hamilton took his maiden win, they must have a good chance of winning again and if Hamilton does it that would be 7 different winners for the first 7 races.

The same statistic will become reality if either Lotus driver can win and they also have chances as the Lotus is excellent down the straights.

However, with their double DRS, Mercedes must also be in with a good shout here, especially in qualifying mode, expect a Mercedes pole, if Schumacher can win then we get the 7th different winner as well.

Red Bull have made some improvements of late but how will the changed car perform?  The team recently was told that the holes near the rear of the car are illegal and they have been forced to make changes to the design.  Having said that aerodynamics, or more precisely down-force, isn’t as key around here.

Ferrari are probably the only other team who have a chance to win and Alonso has been very vocal in saying the team must move forward every race.

I wouldn’t rule out Williams but it does seem that their drivers lack the consistency to win again this season, time will tell!

The race should be very open and with the DRS we should see a lot of overtaking, this will be a good tonic after the Monaco procession of two weeks ago.

I’m putting a poll onto the Fantasy-F1-League website so please vote if you have a good idea about who might win.