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?