Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The Trend Continues

A while ago, Jenson Button was quoted as saying that he didn't think the fact that the first six races of the season brought six different winners was a good thing. In fact, Jenson believed that having such variability was off-putting to us fans. Well, he'd be disappointed with the race we saw in Canada - a race that brought us our seventh different winner of seven different races!

Canada is always an interesting circuit. The infamous 'wall of champions' on the main straight has claimed many victims over the year - last year catching out Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel in the final practice session. Luckily last year this didn't seem to affect Seb too much, as he went on to grab pole position. This year, it was Heikki Kovalainen who suffered during the practices, although this incident happened on Friday practice, and sadly didn't lead to a Caterham pole! Pastor Maldonado however was caught by the wall during qualifying, and although he did his best to try and complete his lap with only three wheels, this was clearly a strategy that didn't pay off.

I think we can say that we had a pretty exciting qualifying session overall. It was a genuine mystery as to who would grab pole position. Red Bull had earlier suffered controversy once again over the holes in their car. Last race, a hole in the floor at the rear of the car was controversial, and between the races was deemed illegal - even though Red Bull had previously asked for clarification and were deemed legal. F1 in the last few years is a bit notorious for its sudden changes of mind on aerodynamics (in fact, I'd argue that this is perhaps the more off-putting to fans, rather than having different winners). So, in Canada another controversy arose with the Red Bull holes. This time, holes in the hub were deemed illegal for providing an aerodynamic advantage, and had to be changed before qualifying on Saturday - but whether this would disadvantage the drivers is another story.

Hamilton was perhaps one of the more favourited drivers for pole position in Canada - the circuit which granted him his first win. Q1 saw the Caterhams of Petrov and Kovalainen out-qualify the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne - quite an achievement for the team! Q2 was fairly straightforward, with the usual suspects (McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, the Lotus of Grosjean and the Force India of Paul di Resta) making it through to Q3. So, with the final part of quali to go, we were still no closer to understanding who would be on pole. Vettel set an early time in the low 1:14s, and took pole. However, the McLaren of Hamilton was still in with a good shot, as was the Ferrari of Alonso. Button seemed to opt for a race-strategy, choosing the soft (rather than super-soft) tyres, leading to him finishing in 10th. With the first runs out of the way, the leaders came back out for their final qualifying lap and we got our answer of who was fastest. While fantastic times were set by Alonso and Hamilton, Vettel took his 33rd pole of his career, with a 1:13.7! So, despite the controversy of their car, it looked as though Red Bull had the advantage in Canada.

Race day was another exciting affair - something we're all getting quite used to now. In the early stages of the race, Vettel did his usual trick of flying off into the distance at the start. However, he was swiftly followed by Hamilton and Alonso. When the first round of pit stops came up, there was a lot of switching around at the front. Hamilton took the lead after Vettel pitted, only to be replaced by Alonso after his own pit stop. With the top three still Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel, we could expect a fair amount of close racing. However, the leaders tended to bide their time during the second stint -possibly waiting for clues on each others' strategies. Tyre degradation was such that Hamilton was forced to make a second stop, although on the team radio he did ask whether Alonso and Vettel would also take second stops. As he was assured of the second stops of his rivals, Hamilton pitted. However, it seemed that Alonso and Vettel did not want to stop, having gained the advantage over Hamilton at last.

With this fact in mind, the team were back on the radio to Lewis and asked him to push as much as he could. Of course, the circuit of Montreal is much more suited to the McLaren of Lewis than it is to the Red Bull of Sebastian, and with much fresher tyres the move on Vettel was easily made. This prompted Vettel to pit himself, and eventually Sebastian finished the race in fourth place. With Vettel out of the way, Hamilton only had to pass Alonso - often easier said than done. However, the gamble of Ferrari to only one-stop did not pay off, and the pass was easily done with the aid of newer tyres and DRS. Hamilton thus became our seventh winner.

Things went from bad to worse for Alonso however, as due to his crippled tyres he was passed not only by Hamilton, but by Lotus's Grosjean and Sauber's Perez - people who had otherwise had fairly uneventful races! Now that Vettel was also on fresher tyres, Alonso was easily passed by the Red Bull, and Alonso eventually finished fifth. All of this in the final five laps of the race!

Someone else who has been suffering with a bout of bad luck is Michael Schumacher. Although he managed to qualify in the top 10 once again, SchumacherDRS failed in the open position - something which isn't meant to happen at all! I'm really hoping that Schumi's luck starts to pick up, as he has been showing more promise lately after his pole position a few races back.

Massa was driving an amazing race at the start, however a spin on lap six meant that his amazing form wasn't continued into a higher result. He did, however, recover from his spin to finish 10th. It seems as though Massa is having a second chance at the season, and hopefully we'll see more improvements from him as the season goes on.

So, overall another fantastic race. The next time out is at Valencia - surprisingly one of the races I rarely look forward to, largely because nothing ever really happens. However, the way the season's been going we could see a change in this trend, and maybe we'll end up with an eighth winner! The week after Valencia I am also happy to report that I will be attending the Goodwood Festival of Speed! So, expect a very long update when I return.