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F1: Turkey, Canada and Europe GP Reviews

I haven’t written a GP review for a while but I just wanted to catch up now and take a look back at the last few races, as well as look ahead to Silverstone this weekend.

Turkey

This race was to me the handing of momentum from Red Bull to McLaren. Red Bull won in Spain with Mark Webber in dominating fashion. They then went to Monaco where he drove another dominating and controlling race. You would think that Turkey would suit McLaren more than Red Bull because of their straight line speed. In the end, it was close throughout the race but Red Bull were able to keep ahead of both McLarens without too much trouble.

That was until Webber was instructed to turn his engine down a bit to save fuel and the engine itself. Vettel got a big slipstream off him in the back straight and pulled out to the left to overtake. Mark stayed central on the track to hold his line. He didn’t weave to defend his position and was fair in his actions. Vettel then got alongside and still quite a way before the corner he turned right, straight into Mark’s car. This sent them both spinning and off the track. Mark was able to keep going but Sebastian had damaged his car too severely. You could argue that Mark should have realised that Vettel was faster and let him go, or at the least give him some more room, or that Sebastian should have not turned in so early when he didn’t need to.

Both drivers were at fault and it handed McLaren a 1-2 finish. Who knows if they would have held off the McLaren drivers all the way to the finish without the crash, but you would think that they would have. Even if not, Vettel cost himself a possible win or high place finish. In the end he walked away with nothing to show for his weekend’s work.

Canada

The circuit Gilles Villeneuve was expected to be a very McLaren suited track with long straights and slow speed corners. This proved to be the case as they ended up with another 1-2 finish. In qualifying The McLarens and Red Bulls were all close at the front of the grid. Lewis took pole. Webber second, Vettel third and Alonso managed to just get ahead of Button in fourth. Jenson seemed to not be able to get the tires working as well as lewis.

In the race, Webber and Vettel both couldn’t keep their 2nd and 3rd places and slipped back. This was mainly due to tire strategy as well as the track not being suited to them. The final reason would be that as with most races, McLaren’s race pace was stronger than their 1-lap pace and while Red Bull excel at qualifying speed, in this track they couldn’t use the qualifying advantage to keep them challenging for the win. They did however pick up good points in 4th and 5th so it wasn’t a disaster by any means.

Europe

Valencia was a tale of mixed fortunes. Sebastian Vettel got Red Bull back on track with a win, while Mark Webber had a race to forget. A horrendous start where he lost around 8 or 9 places followed by a horrific crash after an early strategic stop to get clear air. He approached Heikki Kovalainen on one of the straights. He stayed in the slipstream for too long when you consider how much faster he was than the Lotus. Heikki breaked considerably earlier than Mark normally does on that corner and therefore was taken by surprise and couldn’t avoid the back of the Lotus. He then got launched into the air, hit an overhead ad-board and then flipped back onto his wheels before taking another huge impact into the tire wall. It was incredible to see him throw his steering wheel out and get out so easily. The safety of these cars is absolutely incredible.

While Red Bull had a surprising win on yet another track they weren’t expected to do well at, McLaren had a contrasting qualifying session with Hamilton 3rd behind Webber. Button could only manage 7th after a mistake on his hot lap. In the race, however, he made up 4 places to finish on the podium.

Kamui Kobayashi also had a fantastic race. He pitted very late and somehow made the strategy work. On the last lap he overtook Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Buemi with his fresh set of tires. It was a great result for Sauber. Unfortunately Pedro De La Rosa was hit with a time penalty that put him outside the points. He was one of quite a few to receive this punishment.

Looking Ahead

I’m definitely very excited to see how the season pans out from here. I hope that Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault can really start to catch up and challenge McLaren and Red Bull for wins. Having said that, of course I’d like to see all the teams to do better. Williams I think have potential in their car after a solid performance from Rubens in Valencia. Toro Rosso and Sauber also have room for improvement.

The new teams I would like to see catch up to the back of the established field and start shaking up the Q1 results more. I hope they can remedy their reliability problems that they’ve had with hydraulics and other niggling issues. Maybe one or more of the new teams can get a point before the end of the season, but it’s definitely going to take incredible driving, great reliability and a lot of luck as well, but it’s certainly not impossible.

Practise at the improved Silverstone Circuit starts on Friday as usual. I’m really excited for a great race with more teams challenging at the top.

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Miscellaneous

F1: Spain Race Review

This weeks Spanish GP from Catalunya was an interesting race in several ways but also slightly disappointing. Before I mention the negative points, let’s start with the positives. Mark Webber drove the best race of his life in a lights to flag win after a brilliant qualifying performance on Saturday. His first win in Nurburgring last year was more emotional than this as it was his first and that’s always the hardest to get. Not only that but he also had to contend with a drive through penalty, which he managed to take and still win. However, this race Mark really showed his class and dismissed the stigma that he can’t have a great race without getting into some kind of strife.

This race was all about the start, Mark got off the line well but was under immense pressure from Vettel and Hamilton. The move he made to cover Vettel was the move that won him the race. He wanted to make a mends for letting Vettel through in Malaysia and he definitely did that. anyone who doubted Mark Webber’s skill and passion for racing can surely no longer hold those thoughts as true in their minds.

Now let’s dive into the negatives of this weekend. Because of the no re-fuelling rule, F1 races are generally split into two groups now. Exciting wet races and boring dry ones. Now, that’s not really a totally fair generalisation to make as many of the tracks will provide great racing on a dry day, but it’s hard to deny there is a lot of truth to that statement. This race wasn’t the most exciting of all time, but it wasn’t terrible and we saw an outstanding drive from Mark Webber and a lot of action in the midfield. There were crazy moments that you wouldn’t expect like Lewis Hamilton being denied a 2nd place finish by a tire blowout. And we also had incredible tension with Sebastien Vettel having yet more problems with his Red Bull’s braking system or wheels. We watched him drive the car to the limit while using the brakes as little as possible. I’m glad he kept it going because he really deserved the points not just for this race, but to start making up for the problems of the first couple of races.

Lewis Hamilton was desperately unlucky with his wheel problem and Jenson Button had an infuriating race after an issue in the pit stop got him stuck behind Michael Schumacher for most of the race. His in-car display was also not working so he couldn’t see the rev lights or any display on car settings or lap times. He is also now stuck with the label as a driver who cannot get it going in the dry. I hope he can do something about that in Monaco, a track where he can really show his impeccable driving style and put it to it’s best use.

The three Spaniards had contrasting races. Pedro De La Rosa wanted to finish the race badly, but suffered yet another retirement after the car was un-drivable after 18 laps. Fernando Alonso faired better after inheriting two places after Vettel was forced to pit for new tires and Hamilton went off on the penultimate lap. I’m sure he wouldn’t have been happy with the car as their pace for the duration of the race was not consistently fast enough to challenge the guys ahead.

Jaime Alguersuari had an eventful race. He was looking on course for a handful of points when he made a schoolboy error and turned into Karun Chandhok in the HRT when he was trying to let the Spaniard through, and scored himself a drive through penalty for it. Despite the drive through he still ended up coming home in 10th. The problem is, he could have had several more points had he avoided that incident. Whatever the case, this young driver looks like he’s really acclimatising to F1 well now and is starting to show some real speed.

Overall it was a decent race. Not a classic except for Mark Webber and Red Bull. It’s a shame the most excellent drives constitute boring races in the eyes of the casual fan. I think Monaco has the potential to be possibly the most boring race of the year for casual fans. The only saviour being its iconic setting and demanding tight track. But passing is basically impossible there and it’s hard to see anything other than crashes and car failures causing position changes in the race. Regardless, it should be interesting, especially in qualifying. I can’t wait to see what happens.

“Friday” practice in Monaco is actually on Thursday so don’t miss that if you’re a real fan. Friday is an off day from what I can remember and Saturday it’s back to business for qualifying.

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Miscellaneous

F1: Spanish GP Thoughts / Preview

So far this weekend leading into qualifying, we’ve had three practice sessions in which Red Bull and McLaren looked to set the tone for the weekend, and Michael Schumacher with the innovative but ugly new Mercedes car showed what he can do.

Qualifying proved what we all assumed and continued the trend with Red Bull showing absolute dominance with the gap between Webber at the front and Hamilton in third approaching a second, which in F1 terms, is massive.

It was nice to see Mark Webber get the pole position ahead of Vettel when most people tend to always assume that Vettel will always get the better of the Aussie. You would expect that in a straightforward dry race tomorrow, Red Bull will surely be long gone very quickly and will sail to a one-two finish barring any incidents at the start or reliability problems.

In a wet race you never know, just look what happened in China when Red Bull locked out the front row and then ended up coming in for minor points at the chequered flag. Even in a wet race this time, I still expect them to be stronger than in China, but it would certainly give McLaren, especially Jenson Button a chance to do something impressive from 5th. We’ve seen what he can do in the rain twice this season so far so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

The race starts Sunday at 2pm local time, 1pm UK with the BBC build-up beginning at 12.10

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Miscellaneous

F1: China GP Qualifying

Today’s Chinese Grand Prix qualifying was fairly predictable but exciting nonetheless. Q1 was all about avoiding falling into the bottom 7 along with the 6 new cars who couldn’t really do anything to propel themselves out of that first session apart from hoping that as many of the established teams as possible experience some form of problem which halts their progress like in Malaysia where the weather played a massive part in qualifying.

The unlucky driver who occupied that last elimination spot of the 7 was Vizantonio Liuzzi. This was not a good result for him when you consider that his team mate Adrian Sutil qualified in the top 10. He cited traffic problems as the reason for his early departure, but in the end, traffic or not, it seems fairly obvious that Paul Di Resta is eyeing up that Force India drive and Liuzzi didn’t do himself any favours with this result.

In Q2, there weren’t really any huge surprises. Rubens Barrichello couldn’t quite make it through after he got bumped down by Michael Schumacher into 11th. In Q2, the depressingly under-performing Saubers, both Toro Rosso cars and the Williams of Niko Hulkenburg also went out along with the sole Renault of Vitaly Petrov.

Q3 was another similar story of Red Bull domination. This time on a dry track, the pair sealed a 1-2 start for tomorrows race. The McLarens, after looking very strong to challenge Red Bull and Ferrari were 5th and 6th, with Jenson ahead of Lewis despite the order being reversed for most of the weekend up to that point.

Fernando Alonso came in 3rd after Mark Webber and surprisingly, and clearly very disappointingly for McLaren, Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes was ahead of Jenson in 4th.

Massa was 7th, Robert Kubica continues to get what appears to be close to the most out of the Renault in 8th. Schumacher was 9th and Sutil rounded out the top 10.

The race should be good tomorrow. You would expect a Red Bull winner and possibly a 1-2 again, but we all know about Vettel’s reliability issues in particular, as well as Mark Webber’s plain bad luck and uncanny ability for things to go wrong in races.

McLaren will be dangerous along the straights and Ferrari will have strong race-pace if their engines hold out. It should be an intriguing race. Catch it tomorrow. Coverage starts on BBC1 in the UK at 7.00am.