Posted by Carrot on August 28, 2011 | No Comments
Spa. I love Spa. I’d even put some other adjectives in there if this place wasn’t suitable for children. It’s a glorious race track, with history, excitement and no shortage of overtaking. Who says you need changeable conditions to overtake in Formula 1? I present Spa, all the races before and today’s as Exhibit A. Yes, by the chequered flag Sebastian Vettel was leading Mark Webber home for a 1-2 finish, but at various points of the race five drivers had an excellent chance to win the race.
Even with potential tyre issues, that caused a lot of talk between qualifying and the race in the paddock, Red Bull were able to return to winning ways in a commanding fashion. The 1-2 really underlines the steps they’ve taken to maintain their car’s speed in the face of the development of the other teams. Vettel seemed to struggle more than Webber on the option tyres, although Webber did pit earlier, the championship leader being on his final set of options before a third of the race had expired. Ultimately it’s about results, and today Red Bull has extended their advantage in both championships. They’ll win both if they can maintain the pace of their challengers, but if they continue their current form it’ll be an utterly dominant victory.
It was more of a mixed day for McLaren. Although Jenson Button made up ten places in the race to finish on the podium, Lewis Hamilton ended his afternoon in a tyre barrier after colliding with Kamui Kobayashi. It was a similar story during qualifying with Button going out in Q2 due to a misunderstanding with the team and Hamilton challenging for pole in the dying seconds of the session. Although the pace they showed this weekend was promising, every time a weekend like this happens the team run out of time to catch Red Bull. With only seven races left, Red Bull can pretty much run out the clock on the season with McLaren being their own worse enemy for yet another season.
A fourth for Fernando Alonso is not what he got out of bed for this morning. A difficult qualifying left him behind team mate Felipe Massa, and even behind the returning Bruno Senna, in conditions where you’d expect a double World Champion to reign supreme. One of the many paddock rumours currently circulating is that those ‘in the know’ expect Alonso to win most of the races in the remainder of the season. Based on today’s performance I wouldn’t bet on it. Massa had another one of what are seemingly his standard weekends, do well in qualifying, start well and then wait until Alonso passes him to fade backwards at a rate of knots. Yes, the puncture cost him some time, but not nearly as much as he ended up down to the Spaniard at the end of the race.
There was a resurgence for Mercedes GP, not only did Nico Rosberg lead the race at the start, Michael Schumacher also made up the most places in the race by making up 19 places over the 44 laps. A good haul of points with the fifth and sixth finish vaults the team out of range of Renault with the French team’s current form. The massive straight line speed the cars seemed to have today means I’m tipping them for a podium at Monza, DRS didn’t seem to matter as they were that fast.
Rounding out the points were Adrian Sutil in the Force India in seventh, an excellent drive in taking points and beating Massa’s Ferrari. Vitaly Petrov in the Renault experienced mechanical problems on the last lap and lost eighth place to Massa, but ninth was still a good result for the team given the calamities that had befallen team mate Bruno Senna. The final points when to the much talked about Pastor Maldonado. 21st to tenth isn’t an easy thing to do and is his best chance of putting the incident with Hamilton in qualifying behind him.
As for the rest of the competitors, I’d like to note how respectable the performance of Team Lotus was. Even though both Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen were caught up in a first corner collision, they managed to fight from the back and not only beat the other new teams but also Rubens Barrichello’s Williams as well. It was a poor day for Toro Rosso, the team’s most promising qualifying since Monza a few years ago when Vettel won ended in a double retirement. After their pace on Saturday they deserved a good haul of points.
Have I already mentioned I love Spa? Even over places like Monza, Suzuka and Montreal, it always provides exciting racing. Whether it’s because of collisions, weather or just driver talent coming to the fore. Today was no disappointment, after a month with no Formula 1 action it was the best way to resume the season. Jenson Button is nearly everyone’s pick for driver of the day due to the massive amount of overtakes he managed to make. It’s an accolade much deserved even though you had Schumacher’s charge from the back and Webber’s almighty move on Alonso in Eau Rouge. Button might have put on an overtaking clinic today, but single most impressive move goes to Webber for his complete commitment into the most famous corner in Formula 1.
We now have a couple of weeks until Monza, the temple of speed. The fastest average speed over a single lap was recorded at Monza, it’s the track where high speed set-up is king. It’s also the home of the Tifosi, Ferrari are going to out to please the supporter, Mercedes GP are looking good and McLaren and Red Bull aren’t going to just sit back. Monza is also the end of the European season, it seems like only yesterday that we got to Europe. See you there.