Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Summer's Over. The Battle Has Resumed. Oh Yes!

Did we all have a lovely summer break? Yes? Wonderful! Or were you like me, and desperate for the F1 to come back off of its holidays? Yes? Excellent! Either way, you have to say it's good to be back, and it feels good to dust off the old blog.

So this weekend just gone saw the Spa Grand Prix - one of the most iconic races on the calendar. There was the usual talk around the paddock over the weekend, and there were questions about Red Bull's performance after their lack of wins at the previous races. Would McLaren and Ferrari overtake them? Has Sebastian Vettel finally cracked? Will Mark Webber say 'to hell with this' and leave at the end of the season? Well, no. None of these things happened and Belgium just proved what a strong team Red Bull are.

The Friday practice sessions were very wet, and we didn't see a whole lot of action there. What was lovely to see was the return of Bruno Senna to F1. He took over from Nick Heidfeld, and is set to race once again in Monza, and possibly for the rest of the season. However, it has to be noted that a lawsuit is currently in progress as Heidfeld is technically locked into the contract until the end of 2011. Whether this lawsuit is successful is another matter of course. What wasn't so good was that Ayrton Senna's nephew got caught out in the tricky conditions and stuck the Lotus Renault into the barriers. At least Senna can be comforted by the fact that Paul Di Resta did exactly the same thing, and that both cars were repaired before qualifying.

After wet running in pretty much every session up until qualifying, everyone seemed cautious about what quali would bring. McLaren looked on brilliant form during qualifying and at the last minute Lewis Hamilton looked set to take pole... Until Sebastian Vettel came along and went almost half a second faster! Well, normal service resumed from the German driver and his Red Bull team then! The big surprises in qualifying included Schumacher losing a wheel on his first outlap and crashing into the barriers. Turns out, the wheel nut was cross-threaded and so the accident was kind of inevitable. However, this wasn't much of a comfort as Schumi qualified in 24th place. Heikki Kovalainen had some good luck though, as he managed to get his Lotus into Q2 once again, showing that Lotus are indeed improving and are approaching the pace of the mid-field. Another surprise was that Jenson Button could only qualify 13th, after slowing to let team-mate Lewis Hamilton past - something which must have been (to use a common F1 phrase) 'bitterly disappointing'. After Senna's crash on Friday, everyone was thrilled when he managed to qualify in 7th place - clearly, this man is one to watch in the future.One final thing to mention about quali was the crash between Hamilton and Maldonado - a crash which looked like revenge from Maldonado after Lewis Hamilton passed him when setting a fast time. Maldonado was given a 5 place grid drop (surprisingly lenient in my view) and Hamilton given yet another reprimand for the incident.

So, with the grid set it was time for race day. Spa is typically a circuit suited to those cars with great straight line speed - traditionally not Red Bull. Sectors 1 and 3 are characterised by long straights, whereas sector 2 is more to the Red Bulls' liking. With this in mind then, it would be interesting to see who had the advantage this year. Another problem for Red Bull was that their tyres suffered from blistering (possibly caused by Newey experimenting with more camber than Pirelli recommended) to such an extent that the bosses and drivers were worried for the safety of their drivers. So worried in fact that they appealed to change their tyres on the grid - something which is not permitted for those in the top 10 qualifiers. Of course, this request was denied, provoking anger among the team - not less Sebastian who could be seen having stern words with a Pirelli worker. Red Bull are though a racing team and so rather than face a penalty for changing tyres, extensive calculations were carried out and the team figured that Mark Webber's tyres would last until lap 3, and Sebastian's would last until lap 5 - both pitted on these respective laps. With disaster averted in this respect, the race could continue.

Although Sebastian started on pole, it was Nico Rosberg who had an awesome start - seriously one of the best starts I've ever seen - and took the lead on lap one. However, this lead was short lived and eventually normal service was resumed. You all know I'm not one to describe the race in every detail, so I recommend you watch the race to see Rosberg's amazing start, and to see an edge-of-the-seat overtake by Webber on Alonso. Really, an overtake on the outside of Alonso at Eau Rouge is something else - no wonder Christian Horner said he closed his eyes! Spa wasn't so kind on Lewis Hamilton however, and he clocked up another DNF after crashing into Kamui Kobayashi. Lewis did later say that it was 100% his fault and apologised to the team, however you have to wonder whether Hamilton is becoming one of the unluckiest men in F1 right now.

After one of the most thrilling races I've seen this year, Sebastian Vettel overtook several other drivers (who said he wasn't a racer?!) and eventually won the race, with Mark Webber bringing in a second place for Red Bull and Jensonwatch the race if you haven't already - it's convinced me and my Dad to take a trip to this race in 2012! With Sebastian's victory comes another blow to the championship rivals - Sebastian can win the driver's championship in Singapore should he win the next two races. However, F1 is increasingly unpredictable and so we can only wait and see what happens. No doubt we'll still get some thrilling action throughout the rest of the year. Bring on Monza!