This week saw everyone gear up for the most boring race of the season at Valencia. Boy were we wrong.
Whilst Valencia is usually a track where no one can overtake and is pretty much just a procession, 2012 once again did exactly what was not expected and produced a great race.
Qualifying was unpredictable as ever. Q1 saw Kovalainen impress, getting through to the next stage. It was Webber that struggled however. The Red Bull driver had been having problems in free practice on Saturday morning, and come qualifying had little practice and no DRS. He simply couldn’t compete even on the soft tyres, placing himself 19th.
Q2 saw Kovalainen out-qualify Daniel Ricciardo, meaning he was in front of both Torro Rossos, great stuff from the developing Caterham. Meanwhile big names were knocked out: Alonso, Schumacher, Massa (as always) and Perez all failed to get through to Q3.
The surprise in Q3 for me was the performance of Force India. They qualified 8th and 10th with Hulkenburg the better of the two. Di Resta, however, could have been on the second row of the grid if not for a botched 3rd sector. Button was the driver splitting the two, however, another poor performance from him. He’s starting to look like the ‘Massa‘ of Mclaren.
Overall it was all super tight, with positions in Q2, for example, separated by just 2 tenths. Hamilton put in a good lap, qualifying 2nd, but it was a massive surprise when Vettel blew everyone out of the water by putting in what might be described as the perfect lap of Valencia- he was almost 4 tenths faster than anyone else.
No penalties this week, but Timo Glock did not take part in qualifying (or the race) due to illness.
Grid positions (after penalties):
- Di Resta
- de la Rosa
- Glock (DNF)
This race really had everything. Valencia is usually long and boring, with little happening at all, let alone overtakes. This week we saw lots of overtakes, lots of drama and some great driving. At the very start Vettel immediately pulled out a huge lead, making everyone release a big grumpy sigh- another Valencia, and a race out of 2011 with an easy win for Vettel.
It all changed during the race though. Senna had already spun once, but got back out with not much incident to the other cars. It was a coming together of Kobayashi and Vergne that caused a massive change though. The subsequent punctures meant the tyres spread debris all over the track and a safety car was needed. This meant one thing: all Vettel’s hard work was undone and the cars bunched up again. What’s more, the Red Bull’s alternator failed and put Vettel out of the race completely. An absolute disaster for the double world champion.
It should have been Hamilton leading Alonso and Grosjean from here, but more pit-lane troubles at Mclaren with a broken jack meant Hamilton fell behind. Alonso was gifted first place from Hamilton, and then pressure from Grosjean was relieved too as his alternator failed just like Vettel’s and put him out of the race. An element of luck for Alonso then, but that shouldn’t take away from his subsequent victory- coming up from 11th he produced some wonderful overtakes and showed just how amazing a driver he really is. A truly fantastic drive and deserved win.
The final bit of drama came as Hamilton hit the wall in terms of tyre degradation- Raikkonen got past easily, as did Schumacher. When Maldonado had his go though, it was disastrous- the Williams driver ended up off the track, clearly over the white lines whilst trying to overtake Hamilton. This didn’t stop him being as aggressive as ever and t-boning Hamilton thus ruining his race just as he did in Spa last year. I’ve said before I don’t like Maldonado and he’s only confirmed what a nasty sort of driver he is. Aggressive and unsporting, he shouldn’t be on a team in my opinion, and should definitely get a hefty penalty for next race.
Other stories for the race were the success of Webber, climbing from 19th and eventually finishing in 4th place- a brilliant surge through the field. Button didn’t do much, ending up 8th and the Force Indias did well once again getting some points. Schumacher, as aforementioned finishing 3rd, did very well indeed to get his first podium of the year.
Massa, as always, was awful.
- Di Resta
- Massa (lapped)
- de la Rosa (lapped)
- Karthikeyan (lapped)
- Hamilton (crashed, 55 laps)
- Grosjean (retired, 40 laps)
- Vettel (retired, 33 laps)
- Kobayashi (retired, 33 laps)
- Vergne (retired, 26 laps)
- Glock (retired, 0 laps)
Europe has for the first time made for a great race. We saw great drives from Alonso, Webber and Schumacher. In fact, Grosjean looked as if he’d win the whole thing if he hadn’t had any car problems. We saw great drama, with a saftey car, retirements and another dodgy Mclaren pit stop. We saw great strategy from Force India and Petrov who at one point was well in the points.
As Alonso emerges as the first two-time winner of 2012, he certainly seems the favourite to win the championship. Sitting pretty atop the table, he has shown time and again how brilliant he is and it really was evident this weekend. In terms of different winners though, we still have a lot of candidates- Schumacher and Raikkonen have shown today they’re capable, and we know Grosjean and Perez could still get their first wins too.
In terms of teams, Lotus look ever present still, as do Mercedes. Sauber and Williams have fallen behind slightly but they’re still able to get on the podium if they get it right on the day. Meanwhile further back Force India are only getting better, and Caterham are pulling away further from Marussia and HRT. Torro Rosso meanwhile seem to be getting worse- a poor season for them despite some quite exciting pair of drivers.
Next time, it’s the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.