Michael Schumacher

2015 Singapore Grand Prix

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At some point it was decided that the Singapore Grand Prix was one of the marquee events of the Formula 1 season. While the nighttime backdrop of one of Asia’s premier cities is certainly stunning, the racing has always been kind of a slog. Sunday’s 61 lap running felt like a 2 hour chore compared to the brisk Italian Grand Prix 2 weeks ago. While it was refreshing to see neither Silver Arrow finish on the podium, Sebastian Vettel’s commanding drive from pole to the top step was very much the same plot we’ve seen all season long with a different actor in the title role.

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NBCSN’s Leigh Diffey did his very best to make sure we all knew that Lewis Hamilton was 1 win away from tying Ayrton Senna’s record in Singapore. Despite Hamilton and Nico Rosberg qualifying 5th and 6th respectively, it didn’t stop the network’s bias for Mercedes as the drivers were featured almost exclusively in the broadcast’s opening montage. What happened instead was the more significant achievement of race winner Sebastian Vettel becoming the 3rd all-time most successful driver in Formula 1.

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Daniel Ricciardo in the RB11 didn’t really have a shot at beating Vettel and ultimately finished 2nd. The numerous safety cars which have become synonymous with Singapore presented plenty of opportunities for a scrap but overtaking on the Marina Bay Circuit is a near impossible task. Ricciardo’s best opportunity was ruined when a lunatic fan entered the track on lap 37 – a gate onto the track which was left unguarded may have had something to do with it. The oversight is yet another occurrence where negligence by the staff at a flyaway race may have produced costly and dangerous results. Remember the trackside marshals’s treatment of Max Verstappen’s Toro Rosso in China earlier this year?

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Singapore saw the retirements of more big name drivers than any Grand Prix this season. McLaren executed a now routine showing of retiring both cars due to gearbox issues. This came after Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso both had opportunities to score points. While it’s convenient for all fingers to point at Honda, Button’s overtaking tactics and the pit crew suffering from a bout of heat stroke didn’t help turn things around.

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The mishaps continued with a collision involving Force India’s Nico Hulkenburg and the Williams of Felipe Massa exiting pit lane. The crash ultimately ended the races of both drivers with Hulkenberg receiving a 3 grid spot penalty for next week’s Japanese Grand Prix. It was a hasty ruling from the stewards who probably should have waited until the race was over and clearer heads prevailed. 50/50 blame could be taken from the situation but I’m of the opinion that Hulkenberg had the right of way. Surprisingly the 5th retirement of the day was the Mercedes of Hamilton who’s car lost power from a coupler issue on the turbo.

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Meanwhile, the Formula 1 drinking game just got more interesting with the addition of “American Alexander Rossi”. Rossi seems like a great guy and deserved of the Manor drive for the remaining 5 races, but this really is a non-story that took up way too much of the race broadcast. No folks, contrary to what Diffey or the NBCSN team might have you believe, there is absolutely no chance of Rossi winning a Formula 1 Grand Prix in a Manor and it’s highly likely he won’t score any points either. The day’s other non-story, Ferrari mechanics exhibiting “thug-like” behavior and shoving photographers aside to celebrate Vettel’s win on pit lane.

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What is becoming more and more clear every race weekend is that Formula 1 really isn’t that great anymore. It is in many ways like Sir Elton John. The days of hitting the high notes on ‘Tiny Dancer’ are long gone, but fans still amass because of what the singer was, not who he’s become. Formula 1 has a rich and celebrated history and most of us suffer through the current product because we’re still hanging onto that history. “This is Formula 1” we tell ourselves, hoping that this race will be different. The reality however is that there hasn’t been a genuinely great race since Bahrain in 2014 and Britain the year before that. It’s a sport that on average produces one good showing a season and when you consider the other 19 races are duds, that’s a poor success rate.

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Members of the Formula 1 media have been quick to combat this notion. Will Buxton told all of us to get over it following the Italian Grand Prix. He and many others hark back to the days of Ferrari-Shumacher dominance, but ultimately they’re as guilty as we are for using the past to justify the present. Too often are we concerned with Formula 1’s history, always hoping to find a way to weave it into the modern context of the sport. The MLB also does this as they become increasingly irrelevant on a playing field dominated by the NFL, NBA and European football. The only thing any of us should be concerned with is what is right in front of us and what’s in front of us isn’t Formula 1, it’s not even racing.

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The Japanese Grand Prix is next weekend and Suzuka should favor the Silver Arrows who will likely be back on form after today’s misstep.

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Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

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The United States Grand Prix

Hats off to the state of Texas and Circuit of the Americas. They pulled this one off in stunning fashion.

Formula 1 was stateside for the first time since 2007 and what a race it was. If the nearly 115,000 fans at today’s race was any indication of things to come, then Formula 1 has a great future in America.

McLaren finally showed up this weekend with a decent car for Lewis Hamilton and it was a 1-on-1 battle with Sebastian Vettel for most of the race.

With 14 laps to go, Hamilton used his DRS to overtake Vettel and held the lead to the end. In typical fashion, Vettel was quick to throw a temper tantrum and media bash Narain Karthikeyan for getting in his way.

Red Bull were however able to secure their 3rd consecutive Constructor’s Championship, which went virtually unnoticed until being brought up by Vettel during the podium interviews.

Joining Hamilton and Vettel on the podium was Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. Predictably, Alonso struggled with the F2012 all weekend but managed to make it work on race day. He’s indebted to Hamilton who’s kept his (slim) Driver’s Championship hopes alive for another week. Alonso’s teammate Felipe Massa pulled off another stellar drive finishing 4th.

Ferrari made a bold move changing Massa’s gearbox in order to receive a 5 grid spot penalty, that would allow Massa to start on the clean side of the track. The gamble paid off.

Michael Schumacher spent most of the race trying to send drivers off the track, a throwback to his Ferrari days. Neither he or his teammate Nico Rosberg scored points for Mercedes (again). Somewhere Lewis Hamilton is laying in bed wondering if he has indeed made the worst decision of his career to leave McLaren. What’s done is done and it was a bittersweet victory for the driver and his team today in Austin.

Formula 1 has massive potential in the United States and it’s all going to come down to how the sport is marketed to an American audience. A big part of that will lie on the shoulders of NBC Sports, who are in charge broadcasting duties next year. However, today it was the city of Austin who welcomed Formula 1 with open arms and did so in big Texas fashion.

Another season of Formula 1 is almost in the books. The Brazilian finale at Interlagos is next week. Alonso better pray for a miracle because it’s going to be a tough one.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

The Grand Prix Of Japan

Sebastian Vettel became the first driver of 2012 to win 2 races in a row at today’s Japanese Grand Prix. Now just 4 points behind Fernando Alonso, Vettel is well on his way to clinching his 3rd WDC in a row.

After blowing a tire in turn 1 at the start of the race, Alsonso was forced to retire, scoring no points and quickly loosing sight of his lead in the WDC.

His teammate Felipe Massa had a stellar driver and finished 2nd, earning his first podium in 2 years. Today’s success was just the boost Massa needed and may have secured him another year at Ferrari.

To the delight of the Japanese fans, Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi finished 3rd, his first podium in Formula 1. Similarly to Massa, Kobayashi is said to be fighting for his seat at Sauber next season. There’s no doubt today’s results have helped his standing with the team, especially with the looming departure of Sergio Perez.

The wounds of Lewis Hamilton’s departure are still fresh at McLaren. The team appeared out of sorts all weekend with both cars finishing 4th and 5th.

Hamilton made a comeback after starting 9th, but it wasn’t the type of driving we’ve seen from him or Jenson Button in the last 4 races. Button managed a great start and worked his way up to 3rd from 8th, but was unable to hold off Massa or keep up with Kobayashi in the closing laps. Reliability issues may still be affecting the team as Button complained of the gear box on separate occasions.

It was another tough weekend at Mercedes. After announcing his second retirement on Thursday, Michael Schumacher struggled and put the car in the wall during Friday practice. His teammate Nico Rosberg retired in turn 2 just after the start of the race. With a mediocre car and the strange hiring of Nikki Lauda as Mercedes’s Brackley “informant”, the team have a very long way to go. If history serves me correct, Ross Brawn has the tendency to follow his driver off the team. I wonder just how “good” the relationship is between Brawn and Mercedes. The Lauda hire makes no sense from a strategic perspective. One only needs to look at his time with Jaguar.

Lotus’s Romain Grosjean is the center of more controversy after making contact with Mark Webber in turn 2. He suffered a 10 second pit stop penalty, something I’ve not seen in all my time watching Formula 1. While there was plenty of chaos at the start of the race, it seems like Grosjean will never learn.

I hate to see Vettel win with such ease, especially after a clear advantage over the rest of the grid. It’ll be interesting to see how the remaining 5 races pan out. Ferrari and McLaren need to get their acts together if they have any hopes of retaining the WCC. Red Bull is on a mission.

The ever hilarious Grand Prix of Korea is next weekend. Hopefully they cleaned out the hospitality fridges from last year.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

Done Deal: Hamilton To Mercedes, Perez To McLaren

Disregard my speculative post from a few hours ago. It’s a done deal.

He who laughs last.

McLaren have confirmed that Sauber driver Sergio Perez will be Lewis Hamilton’s replacement in 2013. If that doesn’t say Vettel to Ferrari in 2014, I don’t know what does.

Lewis Hamilton is on his way to Brackley with an official announcement expected today. The question of Schumacher’s future in Formula 1 still remains. The consensus is that he will be forced to retire at the end of this season.

I still can’t believe it.

Rumor Has It

The Formula 1 rumormill has been on overdrive this evening. According to a number of British newspapers, Lewis Hamilton has agreed to a 3 year $100 million contract with Mercedes. The other half of the story is that Sauber’s Sergio Perez will be replacing him at McLaren. The official announcement is expected tomorrow. As of right now this is all still speculation but lets think about this for a second.

There have been rumblings that Mercedes wants to pull the plug on their F1 program. It would make sense considering the team have amounted to little in the 3 years since their return to the sport. Michael Schumacher has been rumored to be retiring again at the end of 2012. For Mercedes to justify staying in the sport, they would need to improve their chances at winning and bring in some star power. From their perspective it makes perfect sense to bring on Hamilton. The driver has had another up and down season with McLaren. A slew of botched pit stops, bad strategical decisions and mechanical errors have had a major impact on his WDC hopes. It has also been said the McLaren were unable unwilling to match Mercedes’s contract offer. All parties considered, a Hamilton move to Mercedes would greatly benefit the German team as well as Hamilton’s representation, XIX Entertainment. There have been reports that XIX could pocket up to 50% of Hamilton’s deal with Mercedes. Also included in a move to Mercedes would be increased sponsorship freedom for Hamilton, which would allow him to make more money and build his ” brand”. The driver has made numerous claims that winning is all that matters but it’s tough to agree when Mercedes have been at best a midfield contender for 3 seasons.

Sergio Perez was rumored to be next in line for a drive at Scuderia Ferrari. Felipe Massa is more than likely done with the team after another tough season and Perez seemed the likely replacement, being part of Ferrari’s young driver’s program. On the surface it all seems to fall into place except for the fact that Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel is said to have signed a pre-contract with the Scuderia for 2014. Apparently it’s the worst kept secret in the paddock and for all we know, Vettel is already learning Italian. This would explain Luca di Montezemolo’s reasons for claiming that Perez “isn’t ready” for a drive at Ferrari. Why would the team sign him for a 1 year contract? With all things considered, the game of musical chairs is beginning to make a lot more sense.

Throw in a potential new Mercedes sponsor, Monster Energy (owned by Coca-Cola) and things make even more sense. The talk is that the deal is being heavily pushed by Bernie Eccelstone in order to keep Mercedes in the sport. Hamilton is the missing link to keep them interested. However, there are 1 or 2 questions. What if Schumacher isn’t prepared to retire? Would Mercedes keep him and ship Nico Rosberg off to Ferrari for 1 season? Is Jenson Button prepared to lead one of Formula 1’s premier teams? Who would replace Perez at Sauber?

Good thing McLaren’s got the P1 to worry about because tomorrow might be a tough one.

The Grand Prix Of Singapore

The Grand Prix of Singapore. Just sounds exotic doesn’t it? Let me start off by saying that I like so much of what this race offers. It being the only night race on the Formula 1 calender is enough to make it stand out as a truly unique event. The Marina Bay Circuit is a fickle one and with the added equatorial heat, a true challenge for the drivers. If anything, the Grand Prix of Singapore makes me want to see more night races. Rosso corsa never looked better and blue flames from the car’s exhausts looks spectacular under the lights.

However, Sunday’s race left much to be desired. Rather than my usually long winded Formula 1 summary, a few thoughts.

Sebeastian Vettel appeared emotional on the podium after winning on Sunday.

Shockingly, it’s been a rare sight to see Vettel holding 1st place trophies in 2012. Maybe he was overcome by victory after a long draught? Maybe he was worried about Eddie Jordan conducting the post race interview? His light up helmet was fantastic though.

Say what you will about Felipe Massa, the man can still drive. Those of you watching the race will recall a particular move against Bruno Senna that could’ve ended in tears. Instead it proved to be one of the few highlights of the race. It was the precision, speed and danger of Formula 1 in a nutshell. Despite his best efforts, Massa probably completed his last Singapore Grand Prix with the Scuderia.

Michael Schumacher showed his age after using Jean-Éric Vergne as a barrier following the first safety car. Some have questioned Schumacher’s relevance in the sport, but as things stand he’s still out pacing and out performing Nico Rosberg. Imagine what he could do in a better car?

McLaren can’t seem to get it right can they? For all the great qualifying sessions and performances of the last few races, they have yet to see both drivers finish the same race since the August break. This week the bad luck followed Lewis Hamilton, who suffered a gearbox failure after 22 laps.

The team’s radio transmission alluded to this being a problem they were already aware of. I would assume rather than suffer a 5 grid spot penalty for a gearbox change, the team decided to take their chances with Hamilton in pole. It was a big gamble that didn’t pay off. Hamilton can’t seem to win these days and that mishap could’ve been the final nail in McLaren’s coffin. He should do himself a favor and make a decision already.

It’s that time of the season when reliability is crucial and I suspect it’ll play a major role in determining the WCC and WDC in the coming months. Suzuka is less than 2 weeks away.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

The Grand Prix Of Belgium

One thing you can be sure of at the Belgian Grand Prix; it’s never going to be a boring race.

After a mixed starting grid, a spectacular crash determined much of Sunday’s Grand Prix. If you’ve been reading the British or Italian newspapers then you’ll have already seen a call for Romain Grosjean’s head.

In the opening seconds of the race the Lotus driver made contact with Lewis Hamilton, causing a chain reaction that saw Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi as part of the collateral damage. Alonso’s weekend was over, as were Sauber’s and Hamilton’s, who was already dealing with more heavy criticism.

Shortly before the race Hamilton posted telemetry charts of his and Jenson Button’s cars to his Twitter account. This was after a Saturday evening spent Tweeting his frustrations about a bad qualifying session earlier. Many of the Tweets were quickly deleted with Hamilton left to explain himself. It’s obvious the McLaren contract negotiations are far from complete and the weekend’s events certainly haven’t given him any advantage.

After the crash, the race carried on and despite the lack of Hamilton or Alonso on track, it ended up being a fantastic one to watch. Jenson Button was the star of the show in his MP4-27, which clearly outpaced the rest of the grid. Button maintained the lead for every lap from start to finish and secured his second win of the season. This came after his first pole since 2009 and a long stint of bad drives in 2012.

Sebastian Vettel also had one of his best drives of the season. After qualifying 11th, Vettel managed to secure second place after battling with both Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher. Despite all the excitement of the day, the highlight was some pristine racing between Raikkonen and Schumacher.

It was F1 wheel-to-wheel at its best as the drivers battled for 3rd, ending in a spectacular pass by Raikkonen in Eau Rouge.

The talk following the race was how the FIA would handle Grosjean’s punishment and the driver was eventually handed a race suspension. A lot of people have varying opinions on the matter and while I think Grosjean’s driving was overly aggressive and at times moronic, he should not have been suspended for a race. This event marks more inconsistent governing by the FIA who seem to enjoy making examples out of drivers, rather than making fair calls. They explicitly said in their report that the crash “eliminated leading championship contenders from the race”. If this isn’t playing favorites, I don’t know what is. Something also tells me that had it been back marker drivers involved and not the championship leader, Grosjean would still be racing at Monza.

Understandably, the backlash from the British and Italian presses have been harsh, putting additional pressure on the FIA to make the situation “right”. At the end of the day, crashing is part of professional motor sports and it’s something all the drivers understand. If the FIA wants to single out a driver, why not go after Pastor Maldonado? The Williams driver has had more incidents this year and evaded the kind of harsh punishment that Grosjean was handed.

Always leave it to Spa for a great race each and every year. It’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular tracks on the F1 calendar. The talk is already shifting to the Italian Grand Prix, which is now less than a week away. The circus will be at Monza this Friday with the Tifosi in full swing!

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

The Grand Prix Of Hungary

The Hungarian Grand Prix. It struggles to make a case for itself as round 11 of the Formula 1 World Championship. Like Valencia and Korea, it’s a filler race. Something to keep the fans happy. Unfortunately, Sunday’s race did little to satisfy in terms of racing.

Hardly any passing saw most of the strategic moves done in the pits. For certain drivers it was about endurance. Lewis Hamilton held off the Lotuses of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen for nearly 2 hours. For other drivers, it was about being the guinea pig. Jenson Button, who got off to a great start, was forced to sacrifice his race for the good of the team. The tires were unpredictable and it was Button’s 3 stop strategy, that gave Hamilton’s engineers the data they needed.

Michael Schumacher continued to struggle at pleading his case for staying in the sport. After failing to pull into the correct grid spot position, the remainder of the field was thrown off, forcing Charlie Whiting to send the cars out for a second formation lap. In fear of overheating the Silver Arrow, Schumacher cut power and started from pit lane. Ultimately he didn’t finish the race, his 6th retirement of the season.

Red Bull also struggled under the watchful eyes of the FIA. A controversial suspension modification was the latest incident for the team, who have become VIP members in the steward’s office. Sebastian Vettel was quick in qualifying, but it was clear he was feeling the pressure. In a very uncharacteristic display, the microphones picked up Vettel barking orders at his engineer to “do something”, after struggling to pass Jenson Button in the McLaren. Vettel ultimately finished 4th, keeping Red Bull in lead of the Constructor’s Championship.

Despite a great drive and eventual win by Lewis Hamilton, it was Lotus who stole the show. Both Grosjean and Raikkonen took turns in putting the pressure on the McLaren. The highlight of the race was a bought between the two drivers that saw Raikkonen overtaking Grosjean out of the pits, nearly ending both driver’s races. At this point everyone must be surprised that Lotus hasn’t taken a win this season.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso stayed quiet most of the race, finishing 5th, but maintaining a comfortable lead in the Driver’s Championship.

Formula 1 is officially on holiday for the month of August, but it’ll be interesting to see how the Hamilton saga progresses, as he enters contract negotiations with McLaren. Hamilton’s been very active on Twitter lately and even tweeted “change is good”. Whatever that is in reference to, remains to be seen. There’s a strong possibility that Hamilton will maintain his spot at McLaren, but there have been rumblings over a move to Ferrari. Felipe Massa’s fate should also begin to reveal itself over the coming weeks, with Sergio Perez, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel all being thrown into the conversation as other potential replacements. The soap opera never ends, but that’s the beauty of Formula 1.

The Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francochamps is September 2, a proper race on a proper circuit.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

The Grand Prix Of Great Britain

The Grand Prix of Great Britain, the home race for most Formula 1 teams, including the toon-tastic McLaren. A typically British wet weekend, saw the teams practicing and qualifying in the rain. Things fared well for Ferrari on Saturday, with Fernando Alonso securing pole. Just behind was Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Mercedes’s Michael Schumacher. The hometown heroes, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button continued to struggle with grip. Button has had a notoriously bad career at Silverston and was unable to break out of Q1. His teammate Hamilton qualified 8th overall. This was not looking to be the home race McLaren had hoped for.

Experience Trumps Speed

Now that Formula 1 has reached it’s midseason crest, we’re beginning to see a couple teams pull away from the pack. While Red Bull’s RB8 and Ferrari’s F2012, aren’t the fastest cars on the grid, they’re both being piloted by seasoned war horses.

Fernando Alonso has continued to drive brilliantly, while Mark Webber has firmly established his place at Red Bull; outdriving his teammate Sebastian Vettel. The end of the race would see Alonso and Webber going head-to-head. After leading most of the race, Alonso began to lose pace because of tire degradation. This provided the perfect opportunity for Webber to overtake in the final laps, ultimately securing the victory.

He now sits just 13 points behind Alonso in the Driver’s Championship.

Something To Prove

Williams’s Pastor Maldonado routinely came into contact with another driver on Sunday. This time it was Sergio Perez who was forced to retire his Sauber. Maldonado’s overly aggressive style alludes to a driver with something to prove.

After being constantly referred to as a “pay driver” he’s eager to show his worth. While the drama may be good for marketing purposes, I’m not convinced by Maldonado, who’s become Formula 1’s new Jacques Villeneuve. In the media he comes off as an arrogant brat, with his accusations of other drivers and complete unwillingness to accept responsibility. An order of humble pie is certainly on the menu.

Home Team Woes

Following Sunday’s race, McLaren Team Prinipal Martin Whitmarsh, called for an emergency meeting at the team’s Woking fortress. Since March, the “car to beat”, has lost pace and struggeled for grip.

It’s a scenario that’s impacted most of Jenson Button’s season and is now beginning to affect Lewis Hamilton’s. For whatever reason, Pirelli’s new tires don’t seem to want to work for the MP4-27, as we saw Hamilton admit to his team, that Romain Grosjean was much faster, just before being overtaken. McLaren’s new aero improvements have done little to help the car’s pace.

In a contract year for Hamilton, this isn’t the position McLaren want to be in. Rumors have been swirling over a possible Hamilton move in 2013, but ultimately I think the driver wants to stay with McLaren. Despite the car, Hamilton has driven extremely well and stood by his team. His new-found level of composure is something we haven’t seen in years past.

American Fans Are Imbeciles

All summer long, FOX has insulted our intelligence with their Formula 1 broadcasts. It pains me to say this, but NASCAR is currently catered to a more eclectic audience in the states. During the summer months, SPEED does a 5 race swap with FOX. I can only presume this is to grow American interest in the sport. In typical fashion, FOX’s broadcasts are aimed at the lowest common denominator, rather than the seasoned fans, who likely make up a vast majority of the audience. Sunday’s race intro sums up the FOX style brilliantly, with an absolutely cringe-worthy montage of drivers, morphing into superheroes; including Alonso as “El Lobo” and Hamilton as “Two Face” (WTF?!). This combined with SPEED’s Three Musketeers explaining DRS 47 times, made for a truly horrendous viewing experience. Watching F1 on SPEED has always been for convenience, but it’s getting to the point where I’ll go out of my way to find a SKY/BBC stream. The whole situation brings up an interesting discussion of how Formula 1 is marketed to Americans. With 2 races scheduled here in 2013, it’ll be interesting to see how bad it truly gets.

The Road Ahead

With teams like Red Bull and Ferrari pulling away, Mercedes consistentely qualifying well, and Lotus setting the pace, it’s going to be intersting to see what’s in store, for the second half of 2012. Felipe Massa’s fate is at the hands of his replacement. If rumors of a Vettel move are true (doubtful), Massa may get one more season with the Scuderia, before Vettel takes over in 2014. There’s also the prospect of Sergio Perez making a move from Sauber (more likely), which could happen before the end of 2012.

McLaren have come leaps and bounds from their previous pitting strategy and are back to form. A blistering 2.8 second stop at Silverstone, cemented the fastest time of the season. Despite being back on track, the MP4-27 needs immediate attention. If McLaren hope to secure Hamilton for an extension, the car must become more competitive. Rumors of a Hamilton move to Lotus or Ferrari have been discussed, but neither team seems to be a good fit.

Sebastian Vettel doesn’t seem to be performing at the level he’s grown accustomed to. He ultimately needs to learn how to lose and should take some cues from Alonso and Hamilton. Both drivers have had to come to grips with not being the best in the past and they’re both better for it. Vettel would be wise to create some distance between himself and puppeteer Helmut Marko, who’s been making waves in the German media, with his conspiracy theories.

The Lotus boys have been quick all season. Romain Grosjean is no doubt one of the stars of the future, but he lacks intelligence and comes off as overly eager. This has proven his downfall and caused the driver to make costly mistakes. Kimi Raikkonen still seems to lack any interest in F1 whatsoever. However, with a good tire strategy, it’s only a matter of time before his first win. It’ll be interesting to see how Lotus fares through the end of the season.

Formula 1 invades Hokenheim next week.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

The Grand Prix Of Europe

I can honestly say, this is the first Formula 1 recap, I haven’t wanted to write. How can I possibly begin to summarize the events of Sunday’s European Grand Prix? There’s so much to talk about, not only concerning the race itself, but all the rumors swirling around Sebastian Vettel’s (rumored) move to Ferrari, in 2014 and Lewis Hamilton’s contract negotiations with McLaren. On top of that, I’ve just heard Mark Webber, was nearly disqualified for using suspension, that was (almost) outside of the regulations.

For the last 5 years, Valencia Street Circuit has been home to the European Grand Prix. I’ve never been a fan of this race, if you could call it that. It’s mostly come off as a glorified testing session, that just happened to contribute to the Driver’s and Constructor’s World Championships. The drab affair has provided little in terms of passing and wheel to wheel excitement. Despite this, all of the cars are built with this track in mind and once it’s no longer on the F1 calendar, teams can begin to use smaller fuel tanks, which may affect other races throughout the year. However, 2012 was a much different affair. Would you expect anything less in such a competitive and unpredictable season?

Saturday qualifying saw more of the usual suspects on the front row for Sunday’s race. After a single, balls out lap from Sebastian Vettel in Q3, pole position was his. Lewis Hamilton, despite struggling with the MP4-27, managed to come in just behind Vettel. It was looking like Sunday’s race would be another Red Bull-McLaren shoot out. Ferrari was nowhere to be found, as neither of their drivers made it out of Q2. Fernando Alonso would start from 11th.

Lap 26 of the European Grand Prix. Ask anyone, who was going to win and they would’ve told you Sebastian Vettel. He was in his element all weekend. A typically brilliant start, had him 2 seconds a head of Lewis Hamilton, by the end of the first lap. The lead would keep increasing to 20 seconds, by the middle of the race. With the right tire strategy, Vettel would surely drive to his second victory of 2012; the first driver, in this most historic of seasons, to do so.

Vettel’s Abrupt End

A collision between Jean-Éric Vergne and Heikki Kovalainen, saw the arrival of the safety car in lap 27. Vettel was able to maintain the lead, after the race resumed in lap 34, but coming out of turn 10, his pace began to slow. There was no visible damage to the RB8, which Red Bull later alluded to a failed alternator. Vettel’s race was over. It’s a scenario we haven’t seen since Korea in 2010. A seemly flawless race from the World Champion, ended on no account of his own.

McLaren Out Of Sync

On Saturday, Lewis Hamilton seemed surprised by his success in qualifying. He mentioned that the team had a lot of work to do and he was struggling with the car. McLaren’s brilliant 2.9 second pit stop, earlier in the race, was the fastest of any team this season. It was beginning to look like the team were finally sorting out their issues. Maybe we all spoke too soon because Hamilton’s next trip to the pits was of a more typical outcome. Not 1, but 2 broken jacks, slowed Hamilton’s stop, as the mechanic’s struggled to change his tires. It cost Hamilton 2 positions and ultimately the race.

Jenson Button continued to be the invisible man on Sunday. I don’t think we’ve seen this little of him since his Honda days. Pirelli’s new tires, not only seem to have Button perplexed, but his engineers as well. For Valenca, he began using Hamilton’s tuning setup, which seemed to benefit him. What I can’t understand is why Button’s engineers have struggled so much to find a solution. The driver has always been known for his amazing ability to conserve tires, while winning races. Could this be a case of McLaren showing favoritism to the more successful of the pair? You can tell it’s another contract year at McLaren as the team tries to woo Hamilton into an extension. Button is locked in for the next 3 years.

Scuderia Year Book

The outcome of Sunday’s European Grand Prix was one for the ages. Who would’ve expected 3 of Ferrari’s greatest past and present driver’s to finish in the top 3? In many ways it was a look back in time, with Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher (both out of retirement), joining race winner Feranando Alonso on the podium.

Fernando Alonso continues to silence all naysayers. He’s proven that tools will only get you so far and in a car, that no one thought would be successful, Alonso is 2012’s first repeat winner. A stunning drive saw him work his way up from 11th to 1st, in front of his home crowd. An emotional Alonso, took some extra time on his victory lap, to celebrate the occasion with his fans and some of the race marshals. It was a fantastic sight; typically the drivers are rushed through the podium ceremonies, for post race interviews. At this point, my money is on Alonso to win it all this season. While his qualifying has been mediocre at times, come Sunday the driving has been consistently brilliant.

Kimi Raikkonen had a good drive in the Lotus, which was quick all weekend. As Hamilton struggled with his tires, Raikkonen was quick to pass, securing 2nd. But if there was anyone to steal Alonso’s spotlight, it was Michael Schumacher, who celebrated his first podium finish with Mercedes. While many will say his 3rd place finish was due to the various retirements, Schumacher was there at the checkered flag.

Grosjean & Hamilton Retired

Romain Grosjean and Lewis Hamilton were two of the top contenders, who failed to finish, alongside Vettel. Grosjean was forced to retire his Lotus in lap 41 because of an alternator failure. The Renault-powered RB8 of Vettel, is presumed to have suffered the same demise. At the time of the incident, Grosjean was in 2nd, behind Alonso. Were he able to finish the race, we probably would’ve seen a different Lotus driver on the podium. Grosjean continues to impress each race weekend.

Lewis Hamilton’s race went from bad to worse, in the final laps. His tires began to falter, forcing Hamilton to struggle for grip, with Raikkonen and Pastor Maldonado closing in. Raikkonen eventually passed Hamilton, who’s tires were shot at that point. The ensuing battle for 3rd, between Hamilton and Maldonado, resulted in a collision and a 20 second penalty for Maldonado. Hamilton’s car was unable to finish the race; his first major error, in an otherwise mistake-free season. The debate over Hamilton and Maldonado’s contact, has been hotly debated, as many believe Hamilton was at fault. While I tend to agree with both arguments, the stewards made the right decision, in penalizing Maldonado. With that said, Hamilton was overly aggressive and should have moved aside, especially since he knew his tires were done. Ultimately my blame is once again on McLaren. Had Hamilton’s second pit stop, not been riddled with problems, he wouldn’t have been forced to push his tires so hard. This one was definitely on the team.

The European Grand Prix certainly threw a curve ball and ended up being one of the best races thus far. It’s impossible to think that Formula 1 keeps getting better and better, with each race. Fernando Alonso’s lead in the World Championship is only 20 points. Next in line is Mark Webber (of all people), so it truly is anyone’s game. The British Grand Prix is next weekend, the home race for most of the teams. It’s great to see Formula 1 back in Europe. The season proper is in full swing!

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.