Monaco Grand Prix: A Two Act Show

ACT ONE: SCENE ONE

I admit I had high expectations for last night’s Monaco Grand Prix, and what can I say, the race delivered. Monte Carlo had everything I love about Formula 1 racing. There was competitive driving, contact between cars, complete crashes, and a few “what the f***” moments thrown in for good measure.

Rosberg had a perfect qualifying and earned himself pole position, with Hamilton managing second for a Mercedes front-row lock out. Red Bull took out third and fourth with Vettel and Webber, and Kimi and Alonso fifth and sixth on the grid.

Despite Rosberg’s success in yesterday’s race, Mercedes are facing criticism for a Pirelli tyre testing after the Spanish Grand Prix. Now, according to FIA, Pirelli are allowed to run 1000km testing on the current years tyres as long as all teams are offered the chance to take part in the test. Given Red Bull and Ferrari’s protest to the ‘secret’ test, I’m guessing that maybe they didn’t get their invitation. That matter is still being investigated however.

Both the Mercedes and Red Bull’s had a good start (I actually think Webber had one of this best starts for the season) and the first 28 laps of the race were fairly uneventful, apart from  Perez driving like an idiot from the first lap turning in on Button (and Bianchi starting the race from the pitlane). The first taste of the race to come happened on lap 7 when Pic’s car turned in to a BBQ from a gearbox failure, becoming the first retirement for the race.

The first five cars on the grid maintained their positions within 11 seconds of each other for the first twenty odd laps. Freakishly, Massa suffered the same accident (due to suspension failure) he had in FP3 on lap 28 resulting the first safety car of the season.  This shook things up a little for the teams as they had to rethink their tyre strategies for the race. Immediately following the safety car, both the Red Bulls managed to sneak passed Hamilton and the next 16 laps went past largely without incident.

END SCENE.

ACT TWO: SCENE ONE

LAP 44 AND MALDONADO CRASHES IN TO THE BARRIER! WOAH! No but really, despite this not being the most improbable race accident, I was not expecting him to crash when he did. The race was red-flagged for for a short period, in which Kimi wandered off to god knows where (seriously not a single f*** was given). Once Kimi was found, and all the other drivers back in their cars, the race resumed.

The final intervention by the safety car came after Grosjean ran up the back of Ricciardo on lap 61. It had to be one of the most reckless pieces of driving for the weekend on Grosjean’s behalf. The accident forced Ricciardo to retire immediately while Grosjean limped on for one more lap.

Grosjean’s erratic driving could only be seconded to that of Sergio Perez. I mentioned before that he was turning in on his team mate Jenson Button, well on lap 70 he tried to do the same to Kimi. To put it frankly, Kimi isn’t as polite on track as Button so he basically forced him in to the wall… I’m actually still not sure who had the correct racing line here, but the incident caused the Lotus a puncture forcing him to pit late in the race.

Kimi’s late pit put him in last place with only 8 laps to go and for a moment it seemed as if he was going to finish out of the points for the first time in 22 races. This didn’t seem to worry Kimi in the slightest as he casually swept passed the likes of Perez, van der Garde, Chilton, Gutierrez, Bottas, and (in the dying moments of the race) Hulkenberg to finish in 10th place. I’ve never been so happy to see one driver get one point.

For what was an incident stricken race, the front three drivers seemed relatively unfazed. The race wrapped up with Rosberg (who maintained the lead) finishing first, followed closely by Vettel and Webber. I do love to see some Red Bull on the podium.

All in all, a pretty exciting race.

END SCENE.

– Alex

Monaco Grand Prix: Preview

“Driving in Monte Carlo is like riding a bike in your house” – Nélson Piquet

That pretty much sums up my expectations for this weekend’s Monaco, Monte Carlo Grand Prix. This track is considered one of the toughest and most exhilarating on the calender (and for good reason), the Monte Carlo streets are ridiculously tight so there is very little margin for error and can be quite unforgiving in this sense. Over-taking on this track, when it can be done, is startlingly skillful. The challenges of the track translate in to teams having to optimise their qualifying sessions and focusing on the mechanical grip and downforce through the corners. Most drivers will try and aim for a little bit of oversteer in the corners to make the most of being able to accelerate out from the corner sooner.

I have to be honest, it’s one of my favourite races on the calender. It is the first race I remember watching when I was young, and the atmosphere of the weekend epitomizes the sport, absolutely ridiculous.

– Alex

Spanish Grand Prix: Alonso drives home a victory

Ordinarily on a Sunday night I’d be gearing up to watch the race, but alas, there is another week until the Monaco Grand Prix. So instead of watching another race, I’ll write about last week’s.

The title of this post kind of says it all. What a race by Fernando Alonso. If you read by post from before the race you will recall my thoughts in that the front-row-streak would be broken this year, I did not expect it to come from fifth on the grid. So yes, it was very exciting to watch F1 history be made at Catalunya (even if I was watching from the comfort of my bed in Adelaide rather than track side).

Despite what overall might be classified as a rather boring race (Tyre degradation forcing teams to driver more cautiously), there were a few moments worth mentioning. Firstly, Mark Webber seemed to have his signature slow start only to gain positions as the race wore on. What is probably more worth mentioning is the first three corners of the first lap where we saw literally jaw dropping driving by Vettel (yes I’m biased) and race winner Alonso.

Even more astonishing was Kimi’s ability to somehow manage a three-stop strategy when most drivers were struggling with four. There can be only one explanation. Kimi is a tyre god.

Honestly, it was insane watching the amount of marbling accumulating on the track, and yet somehow Kimi kept his tyres in condition not only to keep his position, but gain places on the grid from seventh to finish second. I’m in awe of how he drives.

So while the Spanish Grand Prix wasn’t filled with risky overtakes, cars making contact, and sheer speed down the straights, I still thought it was a pretty great race to watch.

– Alex

Spanish Grand Prix: The Best Kind of Sunday… Race Day

Hola amigos, esto es la Fórmula 1 otra vez! Esta vez en el circuito de Catalunya!

(I wish I spoke Spanish, I had to ask my Spanish friend Anton to translate that for me).

I am so excited for tonight’s race, not only for the fact that its has been a good three weeks since the last round, but I just don’t know what is going to happen tonight.

Mercedes dominated qualifying last night to see Rosberg and Hamilton qualify first and second. This is Rosberg’s second round in a row qualifying first on the grid, and Hamilton is looking increasingly comfortable in his Mercedes this season. If history is to repeat itself then Mercedes are in very good stead to win tonight’s Spanish Grand Prix. Not since the mid nineties has this race been not been won by a driver in the front row.

I really can’t tell who will fare better out of the two Mercedes. Rosberg was faster on track yesterday, but Hamilton has the stronger results on race day. Then there’s the part of me that really wants to see Vettel break the first-row-winning streak, but that’s just my bias I guess.

Similarly I also have some home track bias for Alonso! As I’ve mentioned before I love seeing a Vettel-Alonso battle, and I’d love to see him succeed on his home track. Qualifying from fifth though I’m unsure as to whether he’ll make it to the podium.

Vettel was happy with his qualifying. He improved on his personal sector three time from previous years, saying that he understood the last few corners better. Webber was disappointed with his Q2 time after being impeded  by Massa, who as a result was handed a three place grid penalty to start ninth.

Gutierrez was also handed a three place grid penalty after stewards decided he’d impeded Kimi Raikkonen’s Q1 lap. Actually, Kimi holds the lap record for this track, 1:21.670s in 2008. For tonight’s race Kimi has qualified fourth, and I think he has a good chance of making it to the podium tonight.

Well the race is about to get underway now, so I’ll wrap it up here. I learnt last round that qualifying and race day are two completely different games, so let’s just see what happens. Personally I think the front-row-streak will be broken today… Here’s hoping its Vettel to break it.

– Alex

Bahrain Grand Prix: A very late wrap up from the desert

Arguably one of the most controversial races in the Formula 1 championship in previous seasons, this year was relatively quiet on the politics side of things. Never the less, there was still plenty to talk about following the Bahrain GP two weeks ago.

Firstly, let me just say I was very pleased to see Vettel on the top step of the podium again (for what I felt was a more ‘deserving’ victory). I really do love watching Vettel race, but I enjoy seeing him claw his way up from the back of the grid rather than sitting up front for most of the race. His skill and ambition almost guarantee a win when he’s in the front two rows in qualifying.

Alonso’s race suffered from DRS technical malfunctions, which basically put him out of contention for the podium. Despite this major issue in speed, Alonso did manage to creep back up towards the end of the race to finish a respectable eighth.

Still, I was devastated not to be able to see a Vettel-Alonso battle on the track.

The biggest surprise for me came from the Lotus team. I was sceptical about the durability of the Lotus’ tyres, and ultimately how they’d fair for the later part of the race. Understandably I was forced to eat my words.

With every race I seem to fall a little bit more in love with Kimi Raikkonen (could he be over-taking my love for Vettel? Surely not…). But in all seriousness, neither Lotus driver had an outstanding qualifying, and Kimi managed to gain six places on the grid from eighth to finish second. Kimi just somehow manages to get the power out of the car when all the stats and practices says its lacking. Almost equally as impressive was Grosjean’s race to finish third on the podium. The French driver gained eight position on the grid, and to think I had him picked to retire. I really had to eat my words with Lotus in Bahrain.

Well, I’ve learnt a bit more about Formula 1 from Bahrain, not the least of which being that despite what the stats are, a driver’s skill can beat the odds.

God I love this sport.

– Alex