Posted by Carrot on July 25, 2011 | 2 Comments
Well that was a refreshing change from what we’ve had all season, wasn’t it? Three drivers from three teams all in the hunt throughout the race. Importantly from the point of view of championship excitement, Sebastian Vettel wasn’t one of them.
Making the most of the car and his ability to overtake anywhere Lewis Hamilton took the victory for McLaren. Importantly for his championship hopes, this wasn’t a race he should have won. Based on the pace of Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso during qualifying you wouldn’t have expected Hamilton to be able to fight throughout the race distance, of course he surprised everyone by doing exactly that. Championships are won by taking points when you shouldn’t, this will fill him with confidence for the rest of the season. Team mate Jenson Button will be hoping to forget this race, poor qualifying and start of the race left him down the order before a hydraulics problem ended his race to record his second successive retirement.
Fernando Alonso has suddenly come alive this year, or rather the car has finally been developed to the point where he can attack with it. In the last three races the Spaniard has scored more points than any other driver on the grid, including Vettel. After his charge in the second half of 2010, it’s certainly going to be fun watching him try and do it again. A single mistake, being asleep as Hamilton went around the outside of turn two, cost him race victory which is unfortunate but at least he reduced his arrears to both Red Bull drivers this weekend. Ending in fifth was poor for Felipe Massa, being overtaken in the pit lane at the beginning of the last lap by Vettel really added insult to an unlucky race. His race was ultimately ruined by being stuck behind Nico Rosberg for most of the first stint, but the root cause was actually Vettel and Alonso. If you watch the start Massa got away much better than the pair of them but got blocked by the pair and forced to go round the outside of turn one that allowed Rosberg to get through and ruined the Brazilian’s afternoon. The fight back was good, just a little late to ultimately make a difference.
It’s odd getting this far into my reaction piece before talking about Red Bull, it’s even odder that the first driver I’ll be discussing isn’t Vettel. This is the first race of the year where a Red Bull driver hasn’t been first or second, and we’re halfway through the season. A poor start for Webber and a lack of race pace compared to the two in front of him ultimately locked him into third. Still Webber can take away from this weekend the fact that when problems occurred for his team mate he was still pushing for the race win. Down the road in fourth, thirty-eight seconds behind his team mate came Sebastian Vettel. I said that Silverstone was his worst race of the season, starting and finishing in second, this is apocalyptic in comparison. I could talk about his inability to overtake and battle when he’s not out front, but everyone else will. What I will mention is 2009, which will undoubtedly be playing in his head. Jenson Button in the best car on the grid ran away with the first half of the season and then didn’t win again and had to scrape whatever points he could to win the championship. Vettel will be wondering if history is repeating, of course Button won that year, but given Vettel only won last year’s crown at the last race, he’ll be more worried now than he has at any other point this year.
Outside the top three teams the best of the rest this weekend was Adrian Sutil in the Force India. Using a mix of pace and clever strategy he managed to finish ahead of both the Mercedes GP cars which should be easily faster in race trim. It would have been a bigger haul of points for Force India had Paul di Resta not have been spun on the first lap by Renault’s Nick Heidfeld. The Mercedes ended up in seventh and eighth, Rosberg beating Michael Schumacher to the line after an early spin by the former seven times World Champion. Rounding out the points were Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber in ninth and Vitaly Petrov bringing the remaining Renault home in tenth.
Not much really to discuss about the race. McLaren and Ferrari have clearly developed to the point where Red Bull’s qualifying advantage isn’t enough to secure them the victory, but with only a week before the next race and then the mandatory summer break, it’s going to be a while before we’ll see definitely how things shake out. The second half of the season is going to be decided on development and a lack of mistakes. Red Bull had the superior car and only one mistake from Vettel in Canada, this weekend they didn’t have the car and Vettel made plenty of errors, only his pit crew really saved his blushes.
The Pirelli tyres seem to have become more durable recently, the soft tyres were running at full, pace for twenty laps this weekend. Now we might automatically consider this a bad thing, but it’s brought some more excitement and competition into the race. Provided we maintain a happy balance in allowing drivers to demonstrate their skill and stop them becoming bulletproof like the Bridgestones were I think we’ll all be happy.
Only a week now until we go to the slowest track on the calender in Hungary. No respite before the three week August break. Will Vettel be able to put this week behind him and enter the break with his head high, or are his opponents going to be able to punish him again and leave him crestfallen before the second half of the season? We’ll see very soon. Mid-season reviews will be after Hungary. We have two new writers joining the site this week, please make them very welcome. See you again in a few days.