Monday, May 30, 2011

#F1: Vettel's lucky win in Monaco

So Sebastian Vettel continues to run away with this year's world championship. With 143 points out of a possible 150, 5 race wins out of 6, he looks invincible. Having said that, Jenson Button was in the same position 2 years ago and his title win wasn't decided until the penultimate race of the season. Having said that, the Red Bull will develop more than the Brawn car did in 2009.  We can but hope that others will start to win races soon.  Nowt personal about the lad, you understand, but I'd just like the title race not to be decided by the Summer holidays if at all possible.

He'd never won in Monaco before and his victory yesterday was by no means assured, despite him storming away to a significant early lead. His pit stop on lap 18 was almost farcical in its inefficiency with confusion over which tyres to put on and one of them getting caught in a tyre blanket, losing him a good chunk of time. It would never have done for Mark Webber to have had a more efficient stop so by the time he landed in his box, they didn't even have his tyres ready for him and he was stationery for 15 seconds. From his third on the grid slot, after being passed by Alonso at the start, the pit stop debacle saw the Australian having to fight back from 14th.

Red Bull fluffing it in the pit lane meant that Jenson Button was in front. For a while it looked as if he might be able to pull off a victory.  And he might have done, if his reckless team-mate Lewis Hamilton hadn't decided to pull an overtake on Massa in the tunnel which sent the Brazilian out of the race and necessitated a safety car.  Every time I see that pass it looks more dangerous, with Massa being pushed onto the tyre marbles. He was very lucky that it wasn't a lot worse. Just before that, Jenson had been pulled in for a pit stop in anticipation of a safety car, which never materialised, when a Virgin retired and he wasn't able to get the benefit of the new tyres to set some cracking lap times and sacrificed his place at the front of the race needlessly.

By the time we'd got to lap 60, Vettel was leading Alonso and Button within a second or so of each other. The thing was, Vettel had had his tyres on since lap 18. Because he'd started on the super soft and then switched to soft, he didn't need to stop again. The unknown factor was how long would the Pirelli tyre last? He'd need to complete 60 laps with that set of tyres and it seemed likely that at some point he'd lose grip and potentially lose 2 seconds a lap which would give Alonso and Button the chance to pass him - and Button had the fresher tyres.

9 laps later, just as the leaders were clearing the midfield, near the swimming pool, Jaime Alguesuari and Vitaly Petrov ended up in the barriers after a series of collisions which also saw Lewis Hamilton's rear wing broken, seemingly hanging by a thread. The race was red flagged and there were some scary moments as it was clear that the problem was extricating Petrov from his Renault. He had been complaining of pain in his foot, so once he'd been gingerly extricated he was taken to hospital. Thankfully, all was well and he was out after a few hours.

The resulting red flag and race restart benefitted Petrov's fellow Renault powered driver, Sebastian Vettel, who was able to get rid of his knackered tyres and replace them with a lovely new set of supersofts on the grid. McLaren were even able to replace Hamilton's rear wing. After the restart behind the safety car, the ultimate result was never really in doubt.

Lewis Hamilton featured in most of the day's controversial moments. Having been passed by Michael Schumacher at the hairpin early on, he tried to pull a similar move on Felipe Massa and completely mucked it up. After the restart he tried a similar ill judged attempt to pass Pastor Maldonado at St Devote. Both Williams could have been in the points otherwise. His comments afterwards, that the stewards' interest in him was "a fricking joke" showed that any veneer of civility he's been cultivating this season so far is all for show.

I'm hard pushed to decide on driver of the day. Vettel won by chance, but still he managed to hold off Alonso and Button for many laps on older tyres, so he has to get credit for that. I get so frustrated with Jenson sometimes. He was caught napping a couple of times yesterday, but most particularly at the restart after the red flag. Vettel and Alonso were off into the distance before he realised what was going on. And it's not like he didn't know that the safety car was going to peel off and they'd be free to race. His smooth driving style suits him a lot of the time, but he can be a bit too laid back and slow to react and that definitely holds him back. I'm also tempted by Mark Webber who, as he always does, got his head down and got on with the job and salvaged a 4th place from being as low as 14th. He was clearly disappointed at the end, and, although I think he gets a rough deal at Red Bull, he was measured in his comments at the end of the race. He certainly had a lot more to complain about than Lewis Hamilton. Then there's Alonso, for his storming start and he did harry Vettel quite a lot when he was chasing him. He'd have got past without the safety car, I'm sure.  Out of that lot, I'm going to pick Webber, I think purely because he banged in that fastest lap right at the end.

I've not had time to write much about F1 this year, although I hope that will change now that the elections are out of the way, so I haven't been able to wax lyrical about how fantastic I think DC and Brundle are together in the commentary box. Their passion is so infectious, but they remember that they need to keep it real for the fans and explain things. They have a really good chemistry - not seen since Brundle's days with Murray Walker. At times it's like they're finishing each other's sentences. Their commentary has a feel of a chat down the pub which draws you in. Brundle has stepped very ably into the role of lead commentator and comes out with some brilliantly random lines. During quali it was "I know there are 52 billion chickens in the world, but I'm not sure about that." In the race, while a hapless driver was trying to get his car in gear to leave the pits, he said "there are seven of them in there son, you'll find one".  I'm not entirely sure about the veracity of the 52 billion chickens, though - Wikipedia says 24 billion and I read another source that suggested 45,000 per person, but that doesn't seem right.

DC, apart from a highly irritating inability to pronounce Heidfeld or Vettel correctly, is brilliant and the banter between the pair is easy and funny. During the red flag period yesterday, Brundle told DC that he was supposed to have the regulations at his fingertips and DC replied that the dog had eaten his notes. I could have listened to them all day. It's interesting that they didn't go back to Jake and EJ during that time - they would never have been able to fill that twenty or so minutes in the dull days of Jonathan Legard without recourse to something to waken us all up.

Monaco is the race pretty much any F1 fan would love to go to. And Laura Marieee did it this year. She has some cracking photos of the drivers and the iconic track and she's been keeping an online diary here at Formula 1 Blog.  She was even able to walk through the pitlane. She's truly captured the spirit of the weekend and her excitement is as palpable as my insane jealousy that she made it there. Enjoy her account.

I can't wait for Canada in a couple of weeks' time. I was so glad to see this race back last year. It will, I think, favour the McLarens over the Red Bulls so maybe there will be a chance to rein Vettel in a bit.


oneexwidow said...

Good review and I agree with your comments re: Brundle and Coulthard - they're a great combination.

As you say it's a race any (every?) F1 fan would love to go to... unfortunately they can't 'cause it's the preserve of the likes of Geri Halliwell (pit lane interviewee, 2011) or, a couple of years ago, the Sugababes!

Motorcycle Madness said...

Wow!! That’s really cool. He really is a great driver. Congrats to him for winning this GP. It’s really fun to watch racing like this.


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