Pastor Maldonado

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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2015 Bahrain Grand Prix

Last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix proved to be one of the most exciting races of 2014 when the Mercedes teammates battled head-to-head, resulting in a win for Lewis Hamilton. Sunday’s event didn’t have quite the same spectacle, but the chess match between Mercedes and Ferrari is becoming ever more interesting as the sport heads to Europe.

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F1 - BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX 2015

Much of the talk this week centered around accusations of Hamilton’s strategy made by Nico Rosberg following the Chinese Grand Prix. In an effort to save his tires, Hamilton reduced his pace putting Rosberg on the defensive to a charging Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari. It was a clear sign that not only was Rosberg beginning to succumb to the pressure, but Ferrari were bringing the fight to Mercedes.

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A much more reserved Rosberg showed up in Bahrain this weekend and it was clear he would need to let his driving do the talking. After an excellent showing in qualifying on Saturday, it was Vettel who shared the front row with Hamilton in pole. Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top 4. Contrary to what many, including Mercedes had suggested, both drivers followed the same strategy in Sunday’s race.

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The start saw Ferrari on the offensive with Raikkonen outpacing Rosberg for 3rd. The remainder of the race would be a tire strategy battle that saw Vettel taking a similar course to the Mercedes drivers doing 2 stints on the softs and finishing on the mediums. Raikkonen on the other hand ran his second stint on the mediums and finished on the softs. It was a strategy that ultimately paid off brilliantly and put the Ferrari driver in a position to exploit Rosberg, who cooked his brakes into turn 1 on lap 56. Raikkonen who was outpacing both Mercedes at that point finished 2nd, his first podium of the season. Vettel’s luck wasn’t as good and after a misstep off track damaged his front wing causing the German to head back to the pits for a replacement. The stop left Vettel behind the Williams of Valtteri Bottas who was having none of the Ferrari. Vettel’s mistake ultimately had him finishing in 5th.

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GP BAHRAIN F1/2015

Ferrari executed a brilliant strategy with Raikkonen and his unbelievable pace on the medium tires made for a well deserved podium finish. In many ways Mercedes dodged a bullet on Sunday when during the final lap, Hamilton began having brake issues. Reliability has been a factor for Mercedes before and with Ferrari’s pace, they will be there to exploit each and every opportunity as the season progresses. For every bit as good as Vettel and Raikkonen have been so far this season, Maurizio Arrivabene and James Allison are also hugely responsible for the Ferrari turnaround.

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F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain

Elsewhere on the track it was more of a GP2 race than anything that corresponded with the battle up front. Apart from Williams, none of the other teams have been able to match the pace of Ferrari in an attempt to challenge the World Champions. After qualifying 6th, Felipe Massa started the race from pit lane but managed to finish 10th after an excellent recovery drive. Daniel Riccardo showed some pace in the Red Bull who’s Renault power unit went kaput meters before the finish line. Christian Horner and Adrian Newey must be loving this very public display of Renault’s “reliability”. You have to feel for Ricciardo who had one hell of a 2014 season. Now he has the opportunity to lead Red Bull and the team are threatening to pull out of the sport completely.

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F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain

Fernando Alonso on track.

In a very predictable, no less disappointing series of events, Jenson Button was unable to start Sunday’s race due to an ERS failure. McLaren Honda said that had Button started he would have been unable to finish the Bahrain Grand Prix. It’s been an uphill battle for McLaren Honda who have somehow managed to become one of the most likable teams in Formula 1 purely because of how well they’re rolling with the punches. As Red Bull are all too willing to complain to anyone who will listen, the Woking outfit have kept their heads down and steadily improved their pace every race weekend. As any fan of the sport will tell you, seconds equal years in Formula 1 and there’s something to be said about Fernando Alonso finishing just one place (11th) outside of the points on Sunday. What McLaren Honda need is testing and although that won’t happen, the European leg of the season should tell a very different story as the team receives upgrades from the factory and continues to dial in the new chassis.

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Overall the Bahrain Grand Prix was an interesting strategic exercise for Mercedes and Ferrari. How fantastic did the sparks look on track? They’re gimmicky yes, but no doubt improve the look of Formula 1. The flyaway races are over for now as the teams head back to Europe for the summer. Can you believe Monaco is nearly a month away? It’s hard to believe how fast this season is moving. See you in Barcelona at the Spanish Grand Prix in 3 weeks.

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Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

Nothing To See Here – 2015 Chinese Grand Prix

What can be said about today’s Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix? To be honest, I could barely get through the thing.

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There’s been endless talk over “the show” that Formula 1 and the FIA are putting in front of fans on race day. At best, it’s a technical exercise where manufacturers can strut their stuff and fan favorite Lewis Hamilton can cruise his way to uncontested victories. At worst, it’s a case of mistaken identities and a fanbase who views the sport with rose-tinted glasses, only too quick to hark back to Hunt-Lauda or Prost-Senna as McLaren barely manage to finish races in 2015. The reality is Formula 1 lies somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, but if things carry on as they have, the circus will continue to lose its place of relevance on motorsport’s biggest stage. Today’s Chinese Grand Prix didn’t exactly help matters and as the cars rolled through the finish behind the safety car, the over-bloated, over-funded F1 machine was hoping you had not decided to change the channel already.

F1 Grand Prix of China

For American fans, NBCSN’s coverage offers absolutely nothing at this point. We’re well aware that Will Buxton and Steve Matchett have plenty to offer from their extensive databases of Formula 1 knowledge but the network’s decision to repress that knowledge has left us with cringeworthy impersonations of Sherlock Holmes from David Hobbs and Leigh Diffey flapping on about the weather and the divorce of Max Verstappen’s parents – honestly Leigh, who the hell cares? With NBC’s deep pockets, you would think they could employ the very best commentators Formula 1 has to offer in a bid to really sell it to an emerging American audience. Instead it’s SPEED’s coverage with a new coat of paint and Diffey turned up to 11.

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Mercedes were back to form this weekend with Hamilton and Nico Rosberg leading qualifying and the German missing pole by just 0.4 seconds. From Rosberg’s point of view things have to be unbelievably frustrating as the team continue to favor Hamilton. For everyone else it’s clear that Rosberg just doesn’t have the same elite skills that Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso possess. Today was an easy win for Hamilton who lead Rosberg by 5 seconds for most of the race.

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GP CINA F1/2015

Ferrari looked strong on the back of a surprise Malaysian Grand Prix win 2 weeks ago. Kimi Raikkonen mucked up in qualifying again on Saturday but had the pace all race long. His transmissions about the woeful McLarens made for some of the few high points of Sunday’s race. Vettel meanwhile looked strong in qualifying and put the pressure on Rosberg. It will be very interesting to see how the Ferraris do at the slower, tighter European tracks.

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Williams rounded out the top 6 with Felipe Massa still having the advantage over teammate Valtteri Bottas. Elsewhere on the field it was a mixed bag of reliability issues, driver errors and more Pastor Maldonado acting as a human chicane for Jenson Button in the McLaren.

Fernando Alonso.

It really is shocking that Honda have botched this Formula 1 return quite so badly. Has Ron Dennis completely given up on finding a title sponsor and showing us all that “new” livery? Where is all that 650S money going?

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F1 Grand Prix of China - Practice

The true embarrassment of today however was the utter incompetence of the trackside marshals, attempting to return Max Verstappen’s Toro Rosso to pit lane, after the car’s Renault engine blew. To the delight of perhaps Red Bull alone, the stranded car resulted in the safety car being deployed with 3 laps to go and one of the most chaotic and dimwitted displays the sold out crowd has likely seen, as the marshals managed to inflict as much damage to the Toro Rosso as possible while performing a 1000-point turn getting it into pit lane. Could this display support an argument about the much larger problem of flyaway races to countries with no motorsports pedigree? Absolutely. But all of these marshals should have been briefed and trained so there are really no excuses. If anyone wants to argue that point, I urge you to watch the Monaco Grand Prix and see how long it takes them to remove a car from track. With the safety car in a lap sooner, we could have been treated to one of the most exciting finishes in years.

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Formula 1 feels like a bad remake right now. The set pieces are certainly more spectacular, but any semblance of a plot is difficult to find and the cast really isn’t that good. As long as it makes money at the box office, it’s done the job. The cynic in me says the show’s over and once we wrap up the Hamilton-Vettel era, Formula 1 will well and truly be done. The optimist in me says I’ll look back on all of this with fond memories as we all do with seasons gone by. Ultimately if Formula 1 has any chance of surviving this rut, it really needs to figure out what it is and what it ultimately wants to become because the rest of us are packing our bags.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

2014 Lotus E22

It’s been a tough few months for Lotus. Granted, most of their issues stem from not having their finances in check, but to lose both your star driver and Team Principal in between seasons is difficult. Romain Grosjean proved he was ready for the challenge of leading a team in the latter half of 2013, but will there even be a team for him to lead much longer?

Thursday it was announced that Team Principal Eric Boullier would be leaving Lotus immediately. Soon after the team took to social media and hastily released images of the 2014 car, the E22.

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In many ways the E22 is very much like the rest of the cars we’ve seen so far in 2014. It looks quite good from the side, but come around to the front and you won’t find the finger nose that the other teams are sporting.

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Instead, Lotus has gone all feminine. The asymmetrical, split nose on the E22 could prove to be the most radical design of the 2014 season. Whether it will actually dominate on the track is another story.

2014 is shaping to be another strange year in Formula 1.

Photos courtesy of Lotus.

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 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.

The Grand Prix Of Spain

Formula 1’s return to Europe, began with yesterday’s Grand Prix of Spain. In a race where many predicted to see a repeat driver or team win, it was Pastor Maldonado and Williams who secured top honors. The win marked a first for Maldonado, who’s in his 2nd year of Formula 1. It also saw the end of an 8 year drought, for one of racing’s most storied teams.

While it may not have been the most exciting race so far this season, the controversial Pirelli tires ensured an unpredictable one for all the teams. 2012 is seeing a massive shift, where teams who have long dominated the sport, are having to find new ways of staying on top. Tire strategy is more important than ever and as we’ve seen many times, it can make or break a race weekend.

Williams Ends The Drought

I’m not going to say that Williams is a contender, not just yet. McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull all had lousy weekends and when those teams are on, they’re hard to beat. With that said, a solid drive by Pastor Maldonado, a driver I’ve never really been fond of. People have made comments in the past, myself included, that Maldonado is a pay driver. He proved his worth on Sunday and held the lead for much of the race. A great pitting strategy by Williams ensured Maldonado the win. Things didn’t fare so well for his teammate, Bruno Senna, although he’s another driver that has shown considerable improvement this season. Williams have gotten their act together in 2012 with a car that’s dialed in and quicker than Ferrari’s F2012.

McLaren In Shambles

There’s no other way to say it, McLaren are a train wreck. It’s the kind of slow moving catastrophe, you can see coming from a mile away. For some reason, it’s all a big joke for Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh, who likes using the UK media as his personal diary. 3 weeks ago, Whitmarsh made remarks in response to the team’s horrendous pitting strategy. He defended the wheel mechanic who botched Hamilton’s race and said the team were behind him. In Spain we learned the mechanic in question, had been relieved of his job. Rightfully so, but why discuss it in the first place?

With two of the biggest driver’s in the sport and a budding road-going division, McLaren are becoming the most Hollywood of Formula 1 teams. The irony in the situation, is that the drivers aren’t to blame for the team’s shortcomings. On the back of a horrific season in 2011, Lewis Hamilton has turned over a new leaf. He’s arguably driving better now, than he ever has. He seems to have a clearer mind and is determined to win another Driver’s Championship with McLaren. However, his team are keeping that from happening. There was no excuse for sending Hamilton out in Q3, without enough fuel in the car. Those are the kinds of silly mistakes one would expect from rookie teams, not the sport’s Imperial Powerhouse.

Despite everything his team is throwing at him, Hamilton had one hell of a race. I’m tired of people from the We Hate Lewis bandwagon. The man’s still got it and Sunday’s drive proved it. Following his Q3 penalty, Hamilton started in 24th and finished a respectable 8th. This isn’t the grid of 2011 either. Most of the midfield teams are more competitive than ever. On the other hand, Jenson Button was lame on Sunday. He cruised the car to a mediocre 9th, after getting knocked out in Q2. Button was quoted in the media saying he was just going to “forget this one”.

It may be time for Ron Dennis to spend some time back in the pit lane. His presence as Team Principal, is severely missed and I’m not sure Whitmarsh is up to the job. Ultimately, the remainder of the season will determine, whether or not he’s working for McLaren in 2013. The same can be said for Hamilton, who is surely on his way out, if the team can’t turn things around. It’s going to be a telling next couple of races.

Drivers & Tires

For all the crying Michael Schumacher has been doing about Pirelli’s tires, many of the drivers seem to be flourishing on the new rubber. It’s been very advantageous for teams like Ferrari, who don’t have a solid car, but have managed to have fantastic races at the hands of Fernando Alonso. I have great respect for Alonso and the job he’s done this season. While he didn’t win on Sunday, he had another great race. The F2012 is a car no one had faith in, but Alonso is working it.

Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus are also off to a great start. The car is no doubt quick and Kimi is on the hunt. For a guy who prides himself on not giving a damn, he’s certainly had a lot of passion following the last 2 races, in which he thought he should’ve won. Week after week I’ve said it’s only a matter of time, before his first race victory this season. With the way things are going, it could be any weekend now.

I’ve struggled with my opinions of the tires this season. While they’ve certainly made racing more fun to watch and kept the season extremely unpredictable, they’ve made qualifying a complete bore. Most teams are opting out of Q3 hot laps, in favor of conserving rubber. The drivers are also holding back during racing, for the same reason. There’s no doubt they could push the cars far more than they do and that in of itself, would create more wheel to wheel racing and more excitement, for the drivers and their fans. A lot of them have come to the defense of Pirelli, following Schumacher’s comments, but I’m not buying it. These guys don’t race on the World’s stage to look after tires.

Fire In The Paddock

You’ve already read about the fire that broke out in the Williams garage, following the Grand Prix of Spain. I think it’s a shame; to end on such a high, only to have that overshadowed by such chaos. It was really great to see the other team’s immediate support, when the incident broke out and even better to know, that no one was seriously injured. In the safety era of Formula 1, it’s easy to forget just how dangerous it still is.

The glitz and glamor of Monte Carlo is less than 2 weeks away.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

Is Lewis Hamilton Ready For Monza?

It’s been a while since I’ve discussed Formula 1. I always intended on recapping the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, I just never got around to it. Well another 2 weeks have gone by and the sport is gearing up for yet another infamous track, Monza.

The Independent recently did an article on McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and the current state of things.

“The Belgian Grand Prix 10 days ago proved to be another low point for Hamilton in what has so far been a rollercoaster campaign.”

I’m sure a lot of you caught the Belgian Grand Prix, where Hamilton crashed into Kamui Kobayashi, taking himself out of the race. He accepted full responsibility for the accident, which followed a controversial row with Pastor Maldonado, the day before during qualifying. The article goes on to discuss the driver’s high profile celebrity lifestyle and phone book of posh friends.

It’s only natural that Hamilton would take advantage of the fruits of his labor and up until this season, I’d not have thought otherwise. Unfortunately, it’s been a bad year for McLaren, with Jenson Button being their only glimmer of hope. Button has been a star on the track and further emphasized that at Spa, finishing 3rd, after a horrific qualifying the day before. Hamilton has indeed had moments of greatness this season and the cars appear to be more competitive than ever, but his temper seems to be his biggest rival.

A perfect example was at the end of Q2 at Spa. I’m sure there were unexpressed feelings from their previous encounter at Monaco, where Hamilton crashed into Maldonado, but the end of Q2 wasn’t really the place to hash it out. By no means is Maldonado innocent, I still think he’s more at fault than Hamilton, who should’ve just left it alone. Hamilton being the far superior driver, for the far superior team should’ve backed off the throttle or gone wide. It wasn’t a race and there was no need to put the entire weekend in jeopardy over something so stupid.

The same can be said for Hamilton’s crash on Sunday which was another result of his overzealousness. Hamilton’s aggressive driving style has been what’s made him a champion and I’m all for it. His temper is what costs him in the end. It seems like every week Hamilton is having to apologize to the media, for what he’s said or done. The constant damage control is extremely distracting for both the driver and the team. Do I think he’s lost focus? Possibly, but it’s hard to say because he’s accomplished some great drives this seaon. Is he in a rut? Absolutely. Consistency can be difficult and this seems to be another season for the boys at Red Bull (their time will come). For now, all Hamilton can do is take things one step at a time. The driver’s championship is virtually unattainable at this point, so what’s most important is to focus on more short term goals, like winning races (or at least finishing them).

So is Lewis Hamilton ready for Monza? Well, it’s one of Red Bull’s worst tracks but Ferrari are getting faster by the week and they’re at home. Looking back, Hamilton usually has great drives after lousy, previous races. Hopefully another fire has been lit. It’s going to be a very interesting weekend and I can’t wait.

Photos courtesy of McLaren/F1 Fanatic.