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.
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.
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.
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.
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.