Who would have thought it eh? Staying afloat was the Great Saturday Qualifying Challenge. But come Sunday, it was the players, and not the elements, that threw up the real drama. Silverstone was the next playground for all those little stories that have made this season so special.
Tyre management and strategy was the biggest challenge and held the key to podium dreams. Pastor Maldonado still played bumper cars (yes, yes, there are many who say it was a ‘racing incident’). Fernando Alonso continued to push the limits in his not-so-prancing Ferrari. Felipe Massa shocked and awed, as he actually ‘raced’ (that hasn’t happened in a while). Our very own Sebastian ‘pouty’ Vettel finally made it to the podium again (though thankfully there was no finger this time). Kamui Kobayashi drove like he would on Delhi’s roads as he entered the pitlane. Bruno Senna gave us a few breathless, yet beautiful moments towards the end of the race. The class act came from Mark Webber. More about that though, in a bit.
But first, the weather: The brilliant Qualifying left everyone, including those of us who were watching it on television, bedraggled. Race day though, was bright and happy, with clouds on the horizon. It rained everywhere, but at the circuit. Thank god for that. I couldn’t have taken any more excitement. It poured later though.
The race began with an intelligent tyre strategy when Ferrari outfitted Alonso with hard-compound tyres. It was enough to keep him ahead of a determined and focused Webber until the 37th lap. Alonso, now on soft, was still ahead, but Webber ate away at the distance, reducing the time gap slowly and gradually. By lap 48 though, Alonso was struggling. Then, came that oh-wow moment, when Webber swept past the Spaniard to take victory. It was good Red Bull strategy, in a challenging race, and demonstrated too, that the quiet Australian is not the underdog everyone’s made him out to be. It was to be a two for one for Red Bull. Vettel, obviously tired of waiting by the sidelines, chased Webber and Alonso, and took the 3rd spot.
My shock-and-awe moment came with Massa, who showed remarkable shades of his former self, held on to his position and battled Michael Schumacher and Vettel with great panache. He took the 4th slot, his best this season.
McLaren had yet another bad day at office. I can’t even blame the pit crew who performed incredibly well, given their history. Lewis Hamilton began in good form, making up lost lead and zooming ahead. But it was towards the end that his pace faltered leaving him with a 6th position. Jenson Button continued to struggle (He was the star dropout from Q1 on Saturday), but held on to his 11th position, until Bruno elbowed the Hulk (Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg) off the 9th position.
Bruno brought home the points while Williams’ blue-eyed boy Pastor Maldonado was busy playing bumper car. Bruno slid up and down the grid in between pitstops, but made up time with ease. He gave the Hulk a hard time, even as he held off Button. It was in the last few laps though that Bruno saw an opening, made his move, and took the 9th position. I hope Sir Frank Williams was watching!
Meanwhile, his teammate struggled at the back of the grid, ending the race at the 16th position. Despite a strong start, Maldonado did it yet again. The ‘incident’ happened on the 11th lap as he battled Sergio Perez for position. The cars made contact and spun. Maldonado managed to get back on track, but Perez retired with suspension damage on his car. Racing incident or not, the stewards took a serious view and Maldonado got a double penalty with a reprimand and a €10,000 fine.
Kobayashi joined Maldonado in the bad-boy category. He was running a strong race until his second pitstop. Kobayashi came in, and then overshot his pit, knocking over three mechanics. It was a horrifying oh-my-god moment. No one was injured, but it was a silly mistake that should never have happened. The stewards fined him €25,000 for a ‘very dangerous maneuver, which had potentially serious implications’. Kobayashi later told F1.com, “…the accident at the pitstop was my fault and I want to apologize to the team. Of course, I had to push hard for points, but without doubt I braked too late in the pit lane. The front wheels locked, I couldn’t control the car, and this is how I overshot the pit box.” He finished 11th in the race.
Next up is the classic Hockenheim circuit and there are no clear winners so far. I wouldn’t make any bets, but Red Bull leads the scoreboard with 216 points. Ferrari is a close 2nd at 152 points. There is sure to be fireworks between the two teams. The surprise is Lotus at the 3rd slot with 144 points and Williams at 7th with 47 points. Who would have thought it? And McLaren, with its dream team, is stuck at the 4th position. Don’t write them off yet, though they have a hard season ahead where they will need to push really hard. Maybe Germany will be the turning point? I don’t know. I have realized that this season, it’s just better to wait and see.
Note from Me: My posts have been late, but sometimes a job does tend to overcome passion. As they say though, it’s better a little late than never.
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