Valencia: Race Day

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

The Race:

Well what can be said about this race that couldn’t be summed up in a great big long comedy snore? Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad, there were moments where you thought it could get interesting; Schumacher’s front wing got fresh with Petrov, Alonso got past Webb…wha? My bad. Jokes aside it was yet another demonstration of why Vettel is leading the championship in such a  dominant fashion, his ability to preserve the delicate Pirelli rubber is matched by a machine designed by the gods. That RB7 in his hands is easy to compare to the Schumacher/Ferrari era, but this is only year 2 and the season isn’t signed off yet, despite the likes of Alonso and Hamilton writing themselves out of the story. Like a convenient plot twist in a daytime soap opera, two big characters take a nose dive off a cliff after they’re caught doing something naughty off set, but it’s only a matter of time before they make a well-time reappearance. The question of course is when, this season or next?

Ey...what mistake?

We start the race with a little disappointment that the change in engine mapping rules have not stopped the charge of the Red Bulls, a patented 1-2 lock out leads the rest of the field off the line. However there is a glimmer of hope for everyone else, the track is scorching and the effect on tyres in unknown, Red Bull are known for their KERS cooling issues, and there is a double DRS zone that may have caused Vettel’s slip up in Canada. Pushing to make it ineffective for Button behind, he went too far and skidded and opened the door for the second McLaren win, the best of the Brit’s career. As the teams leave the grid, there is one thought going through everyone’s mind…catch those Red Bulls. Could Button do it again? Will Alonso perform for his home crowd? Would Hamilton hit anyone?

Each light illuminates in front of the driver’s visors and as they’re snuffed out, Vettel streaks ahead instantly despite a lazy start and team mate Webber hangs on to his gearbox and pulls away from Alonso who had a fantastic start aided in part by Massa. Hamilton failed to emulate his brilliant start from last year and dropped back behind Massa, Button being taken by Rosberg does not bode well for a team desperate to make the rumours stop. Although they we’re the only ones struggling to get off the line, Petrov bogged down so heavily he seemed stationary, well as stationary an F1 car can be making a start.

One hell of a start...shame about the race

As Vettel won it’s wholly appropriate to discuss his race, but that’s the issue, did he race at all? His ability to create a huge lead from nothing is well documented and a large proportion of his success on race day, gifting himself that margin allows him to dictate pit stops for those behind. Rarely challenged it was an untroubled sprint from lights to flag, and there were more interesting things happening else where. Namely the battle between Webber and Alonso, the other Red Bull driver had finally got to grips with the tyres and following the race called it his best of the year so far. Although a premature switch to primes damaged his second place dreams, he was able to keep his tyres working for longer which bodes well for the rest of the year. Then to compound the issue, an overheating gearbox in the final 4 laps forced him to dip back into the 30 second cushion between him and Hamilton. Alonso kept the Red Bulls checking their mirrors as he tamed Webber with two extra laps on the options, of which Ferrari are known to be kinder on, and a near flawless drive. Great news for the prancing horse, with Massa racing hard as well they’re praying that Pirelli will leave the hard compound behind for Silverstone.

Done without pressing a Button

Let’s dissect McLaren’s Sunday afternoon drive, they came here with high hopes to pull a Montreal and reach the podium once more. But today wasn’t their day, both struggled with the balance of their car on Saturday and it seems to trouble them further on Sunday. Hamilton’s aim upon touching down in Spain was to make it to the chequered flag, that he did, but not in the fashion he would have hoped for. Unlike the last couple of outings, Sunday for him was fairly quiet and only had Massa for company for much of the race. Button had set up and balance issues for the whole day, with Canada a distant memory his KERS did a Red Bull and overheated, leaving him without an estimated 0.5 second advantage. Discussing his race, Button described his overtake of Rosberg as a highlight and that was on lap six. 6th on the grid, 6th lap overtake, 6th placed on Sunday…not a great omen is it?

So what did Valencia bring to the calendar? Not a whole heap to be honest, a haul of 40 points for Red Bull, a much needed podium for Ferrari and a disappointing day for McLaren. But a great day for Alguersuari. The double DRS zone didn’t add too much to the experience, which begs the question do the drivers need a double bite at the overtaking cherry? The tyres were instrumental, combined with the extreme heat they wilted and the rears went away for much of the field and drivers were forced to be cautious to keep themselves on the track.

Penalties: Sutil speeding in the pitlane twice – fined €18,400, incident involving Schumacher and Petrov – no further action

Retirements: None – 24 starters, 24 finishers

Results:

Position Driver Team Time
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:39:36.169
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:39:47.060
3 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:40:03.424
Fastest Lap Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:41.852

Read: Full race results for Valencia

Best Driver:

Might be a bit left field, despite winning Vettel cruised around Valencia and although a crucial overtake by Alonso on lap 21, got him further up the podium, Jaime Alguersuari however rose to the occasion under immense pressure. As the season got into its stride, the young Spanish driver seemed to slip behind and struggle to match his team mate. Issues with the car came to light, but in Canada he took his best career result of 8th and matched that here in Valencia. A good strategy from the team, 2 stop instead of 3, allowed him to stay within the points, although less than fresh tyres towards the end prevented him from going one better for a P7. He had to concede a position to Nico Rosberg in the latter stages, but he exhibited the skills and presence of mind that got him the seat with Toro Rosso. Now all he has to do is keep it up.

Best Team:

Great drive from both their drivers started, well, from the start. Although it was Massa rather than Alonso who got the phenomenal start, unfortunately pulling out of an attempt to overtake Webber on the first corner allowed Alonso to take advantage of his team mate’s hesitance. From there the Ferrari team were strong, showing that today they were able to make decisive strategic decisions regarding their drivers and their tyres. The choice to leave Alonso out instead of reacting to Webber’s final pit stop, proved to be all he needed to split the Red Bulls, something that not only Ferrari had been dreaming off. Although a sticky wheel nut for Massa kept him behind Hamilton, the pace in Spain will inspire the team for the next race.

Eddie Jordan moment of inappropriateness:

Could charge the namesake for not wearing a decent shirt this weekend, barely there horizontal stripes in faded blue and pink failed to light up the screens, but then again it could have been an early warning system for the race ahead. So for yet another forgettable visit to Valencia, this goes to Sir Bernie of Ecclestone for suggesting that Barcelona could be past it’s prime, and that Valencia should be a calendar staple. Shame on you Bernie, shame! Valencia is sticking around for a bit longer, but with an influx of new tracks someone’s got to go…hint hint Bernie, it’s this one.

Rookie mistake:

By his own admission he explained that he failed to secure second place was due to him being eager to undercut Alonso during the switch to primes. Mr Straight-Talker himself, Mark Webber, not afraid to admit his own faults…take note Mr Hamilton. But alas, this one is being shipped off to Michael Schumacher, for his straight-out-of-the-pits-straight-into-Petrov manoeuvre. It was the closest we came to a safety car and an incident for the whole race, well when I say close, I mean there was no chance, but he did provide a couple a laughs as he made his way back to the pits. In typical Schumacher fashion he continued to race hard as his front wing ironically threatened to emulate Heidfeld’s Renault from Canada.

Rookie of the Race:

Given a brave strategy to run for the race, a single stopper, but made it work for him in an extraordinary way. His team mate finished 5 places behind him, and in a day that echoed Alguersuari’s somewhat, he made the very best of a strategy that was shunned by the top teams. Despite just missing out of the points by finishing in 11th, he showed the world that his heavy crash in Monaco and subsequent self-imposed absence in Canada has not dulled his desire to fight.

Banzaiiiii!!!!:

There were a couple of noteworthy overtakes, namely Alonso vs. Webber and Button vs. Rosberg, but this has to go to the start and possibly the most exciting part of the race, it was clean and full of surprises, namely Massa having a stormer, but also McLaren struggling to get off the line. So here is the start; charging bulls, prancing horses and rockets out of fuel.

The 1000 word picture:

Say what?:

“That poor guys has aching wrists each weekend, even before he gets in the car.” Jake Humphrey discussing Alonso’s pre-race activities.

“I can’t drive any slower.” Lewis Hamilton’s reply to calls to look after his rear tyres.

“I can’t go any faster.” Lewis Hamilton’s reply to a request to up the pace.

“This is better than you can imagine.” Sebastian Vettel happy to put Canada behind him.

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