Sixty Three light years away a planet is blown away by a star, This planet received furious X-Ray flares that were three times more then what Earth sometimes receives, 1000 tons of gases were ejected out from planet’s atmosphere every second with speeds that reached more then 482,803 km/h. This will surely blow you away but for someone on this planet who wants to experience some thrill and excitement all he has to do is watch Formula 1 and more specifically any race from the current season and Valencia should be one the top of his list.
Too much of exaggeration?
We had quite a season so far, 7 different winners from 5 different teams, Then came Valencia which simply many had put off saying that its really a boon for F1 to have the spanish circuits alternate. Some of the drivers loved the City more then the circuit and the fans were equally voicing their opinions against the circuit, Fortunately for the organisers the Friday Practice sessions sparked slight intensity among the public who were surprised to see so many contenders for the weekend including the usual favorites, an Austrian Team, a certain German Team and more over an Anglo-Indian Team were all in the mix and thick of the battle. The curiosity was more about the Eighth winner of the season and the pundits were all voicing their opinions on a German and a Finn. And many declared to watch the race only because they were interested to see who the Eighth winner really is rather then anything else. The curiosity grew rapidly when Top 13 cars in Q2 were separated by 0.4 of a second which was something impossible in yesteryears and this ensured more of the public were glued to the thick of the action.
“The development rate this year is going to be really fierce” - Sam Michael
We have to wonder where Teams are going to eek out those extra tenths from the car, If Aerodynamics is what differentiates a top team to the rest, there are other stuff that belongs to the car as well. For very long, we were forced to think that Engine is what differentiates the losers and the winners, The priority was Engine, Seriously there were times as that and then came Aerodynamics and we were again of that opinion that since the Engine freeze took out the key differentiator, Aero will be the battle for the rest of the decade or so. Thankfully in this closely contested era, the things are really shaping out for the better. From the quality of brake ducts used to the art of managing your tyres, everything seems to matter now and this differentiates the winner and losers. With the much talked about RRA and cost cutting measures all in the pipeline, we have to hope the following years doesn’t turn out to be a predictable and boring races where only one element holds the key to victory. Formula 1 is enjoyable when it is least predictable and we hope to have more enjoyable seasons
"Aero is still key, aero is first order, but it just means that you've got to find time to do the rest of it." - Sam Michael
But then again when everything looks amazingly close, People like the Big A. pops out of nowhere or if you are one of those who believe in superstitions then you can say an external force was responsible for Vettel’s sudden burst in laptimes. All the while we were talking about how ridiculously close the season has been so far but a gap that separated the top 13 in previous session all of a sudden separating the Top 2? May be the Austrian team were running a unique specification for the final part or if there is something called the ‘art of fine tuning’, May be you have to say a certain element called Engine Mapping was in play something this team used all of their 2011 season. While many theories can flounder around. Surely people were awestruck by the sudden turn of events. And most importantly some people were on a rampage on seeing ‘a cucumber’ on pole. The race for many was done and decided by that, A few of us were on a roll saying that it was Vettel’s race to lose. The Austrian team never failed when they dominated the qualifying with the German, It was always a game of Cat and Mouse and the rest of the field were supposed to catch up on the German and make sure he gets his nose in the traffic only then he will struggle else the winner is always there and decided unless an external factors cause him the race with a DNF.
The Race: Renault as a Game Changer!
For over the few seasons, We have seen Renault as a pacifier, someone whom many Teams trusted for their trait of being reliable and something that conserves fuel as compared to the rivals. For sure, Renault had its stroke of bad luck on few occasions in the past especially on the championship leader over then but again they built a solid base with probably more teams eyeing for a partnership. Heading into the race weekend, a certain Engine supplier who should be making a mark in 2014 with the new Engine rules warned people that Renault’s presence should be limited for the beneficial of F1. Such has been the reputation all along but them to play a role of game changer was the next big thing of the weekend.
The start was unusually an aggressive one for this circuit with many drivers diving up and down the field and a pair of drivers were battling for that spot, You can talk about the way Massa was battling thick and hard with the Mercedes pair or the battle a lap or two later where the Force India Team had the better of Ferrari drivers with neither Alonso nor Massa managing to gain a place. If someone leads the pack by over 1.5 seconds in the second lap off the race, one should understand the dominance the car was destined to operate for the race. The other talking point being Lewis Hamilton who seem to have maintained a defensive style uncharacteristic of his nature. At this point there were talks of whether the FIA should have gone ahead with two DRS zones, Certain Commentators made reference to the earlier concluded GP2 races where as many as 42 pending queries were there for overtakings. Some commentators then realized that Vettel has sealed off the victory but the wise ones warned people of a famous quote that haunts F1 galaxy, ‘Never Say Never in F1’.
With some serious gaps forming across the field, many top running drivers were told of pit stops and unlike Montreal where less stops ruled the day, It was now sure that two stops were at least guaranteed. But there was also a sign of certain drivers doing a one stop or that they were to be affected by faster rear deterioration and were asked to look after the rear. By lap 10, The field was more or less understood with the usual cars of Mercedes leading the drop away pack with too much stress being put on their Rear.
“At the start, it was not easy to make up places and I tried to delay the braking to the maximum at Turn 4, staying on the outside. Then I started to fight my way up” - Fernando Alonso
The battles were up and down the field, Even the backmarkers had their say in action. Pic and Narain had a battle with Narain maintaining a defensive line while there was some contact, no major damage was visible. The chain of cars were seen on the map with one famous chain being that of Senna, Perez, Ricciardo and Webber. The first off the Pitstops were done by the Mclaren camp as Button dived into the pits on Lap 11 to do a stint on Medium compounds and this was the start as more drivers preferred to do their first set of stops in the next few laps. As more people came in for their stops, The ones who hadn’t stopped were running up high but preferably willing to risk their position as seen from earlier GP’s. Di Resta, Rosberg and that chain of cars which included Webber moved up the grid as others pitted A 15.2 seconds gap on lap 17 saw Vettel come into the pits but Grosjean did the same as well which meant that Vettel resumed where he left off. The following laps were the action involving cars on fresher tyres overtaking the cars on longer stint and it wasn’t an easy job for some as heavy chain was seen forming behind the slower cars and as you would expect a crash between a crash did happen that involved Kobayashi and Senna which saw Senna spinning away with the Sauber on a damaged front wing. Although there were visible debris seen across the track, Vettel’s 19 second lead over Grosjean remained unthreatened thanks to the much expected safety car not being deployed at that point, With Alonso and Maldonado passing Di Resta on Lap 25, It was obvious that he is going to come in for the fresh set of tyres and like expected, he came in at the end of the lap and made himself a contender for a larger haul of points. This is moment that saw Red Bull leading at 20.6 seconds off the second place while the much of the battle was behind the leader and just few laps down as none would expect a bitter crash involving Vergne and Kovalainen shook the pit-wall as the Safety car was then deployed thanks to some amount of debris clearly hurting others. Lots of drivers reacted to the safety car news and they made their way into the pits, This clearly hurting certain drivers who were tipped for a one stop strategy or who made a stop a lap or two earlier. Danniel Ricciardo surprisingly for others seemed to stay out. With no lapped cars creating a hurdle, it was the fight for the top spot with Grosjean seemed to at last get his chance to get behind the Vettel’s Gear Box.
“I couldn’t get the tyres up to temperature quickly enough after the safety car, and I made a small mistake on the re-start lap too.” - Kimi Raikkonen
After a 5 lap hiatus behind the safety car, the race was restarted and unlike what you would expect a battle for top spot, it was the battle for second that put the crowd on their feet with the charging Alonso wheelbanging Grosjean and a few moments later the crowd erupted when they saw Alonso taking the lead with Vettel having to retire due to an Alternator issue. With the tyre wear issues known at the Ferrari camp, It was then the Grosjean’s show all the way as some would predict, The Lotus known for conserving tyres on the long run meant they were in nice position to take that 8th win of the season. Some drivers who elected not to pit under SC were now under some kind of pressure with most notable being Webber losing out 3 places in one lap. Ricciardo who is on a strange strategy came in for pits on Lap 38. But then the question of 8th different winner looked slim after Grosjean retired with similar issues as that of Vettel, It was now down to strategy and to the art of conservation with Kimi who is struck behind Lewis for sometime now was advised to make a move so as to challenge Alonso on the final stages of the race. Schumacher who dived into the pits on lap 42 was ahead of Webber when he rejoined with the battle continuing all the way to the finish line. Petrov and Caterham enjoyed a limelight for few moments as they were up in 10th before a rapidly advancing pair of Schumacher and Webber made a pass on the Russian. Unlike Narain’s spotlight at Sepang in a mixed conditions, this drive from the Caterham Team looked more convincing and with more upgrades in the pipeline, The Russian and the Anglo Malaysian Team are looking set to earn a point or two before the season finishes. Elsewhere the charging pair of Schumacher and Webber who apart from their own battle for positions seem to make a move on those who seem to stretch their tyres on who is off the pace with Button being the next victim as the pair eventually finished on Third and Fourth respectively as Hulkenberg, Di Resta, Perez all tried but failed to keep the aggressive pair behind. After 13 laps behind Hamilton, Kimi and the Lotus finally made it past the British driver after having a significant traction at Turn 17 unlike his rival who went searching for grip and traction. But it was nevertheless too little too late for the charging Kimi. The crowd erupts as Alonso takes a comfortable victory in the given circumstances as he parks the car in his victory lap and was then taken to the podium celebrations by a Medical car. The crowd going nuts to see their favorite driver on the top step of the podium
Maldonado, A Pricey Possession?
“At the end I passed Lewis (Hamilton) and then he came back across. I jumped across the kerb but there was nothing I could do and we made contact” - Maldonado
All through last season, the ‘Pay Driver’ tag kept haunting him, His level of inconsistency and his battle with reputed drivers including Lewis Hamilton made the news for wrong reasons as he seemed to have worse luck on his side with him ending up in bad state of collisions. Although Williams will never maintain it, This season it was all about him leading the group as he is main driver for the Team, His victory in other spanish circuit garnered him many praises as many saw him being matured then what he normally used to be and with Senna admitting that there has been enough potential in the car, one has to wonder if Senna is sometimes overated but on the other hand they got Maldonado who everyone admits that he has to cut down on his mistakes, If he has backed off at Valencia and tried re-attacking Hamilton on a next attempt, it could have virtually earned him more points then criticism, As of now Williams should be treating him as a pricey possession, the price he pays for the seat and the mistakes he makes on the track seems to be too pricey for the Team’s comfort
Alonso, Still the real champion!
“I attacked Grosjean and managed to pass him, although I was worried that I might have sustained some damage when we touched. After two or three corners I realised everything was alright and I relaxed” - Fernando Alonso
If there was no 2012 or if Massa hadn’t struggled so much as he is now, There wouldn’t have been too many likes for Alonso, He would be have far more hates then likes. This season is really a turning point for the Spaniard. His strategy to perfectly back off and attack when required should inspire those inexperienced drivers. It took him close to 15 laps to make a move on Hulkenberg. Once he was done, he got positive message from his camp asking him to push. He judged his limits of his car perfectly with him making some well judged moves on Webber, Senna and Schumacher in quick succession post his pit stop. There was a massive trail of cars and some of them not managing to squezze through and some of them found themselves in a crash. Nah, We aren’t saying it’s one of his best moves but still its a notable attempt and this differentiated him from the rest of the pack, For much of the weekend till then it was all about the story of the Ferrari’s struggles, These things put him on his path to victory although he got his shear of luck with Hamilton struggling in the pits followed by alternator failure on both Grosjean and Vettel’s cars. We got to admit that Racing is sometimes purely based on Luck. His move on Grosjean post the restart was a good tactical one. This for him will remain as one of his sweetest victories of all time
“This has been an unforgettable day for me and I can’t find the right words to express my feelings! Winning in my country is an indescribable emotion. Winning today in Valencia with this fantastic team, is amazing, especially when we are going through such a difficult time at the moment in Spain.” - Fernando Alonso
Fab’ Seb- The Real Hero
“Sebastian (Vettel) was very strong and I don’t know if we could have caught him.” - Grosjean
Bar the Engine problem, There wasn’t any particular thing that one could point on Vettel, It was a perfect day for racing and it was time for perfect payback. The dominance in Q3 only ensured that things were flowing right for him, The way he built up the gap perfectly over the course of the race showed him as a strong driver. At one point nearly nearly 20 seconds which is quite a lot in this season. It may be down to the Engine mapping that put him ahead in Qualifying, When ever Vettel is ahead, He was always known to build the lead and this is no exception but to repeat what he did all through last season again for this race is something brilliant.
“It was clear we were strong, I was very happy in the car and had the pace. We were very quick today and it felt good. The initial re-start after the safety car was fine” - Vettel
Lotus- Worth the Hype
If you have to pick one different team for a win here on, It gotta be Lotus. Right through the build up to Valencia, Kimi and Lotus had been tipped to be the Eighth different winner of the season. They always seem to have the right ingredients but they always seem to falter in doing the unpredictable. This weekend was no different, They had an amazing qualifying and things looked right for their first win since their return. But again the luck was not truly on their side.
“Second place is okay but the win is what I really wanted. We didn’t quite have the pace for it today.” - Kimi
They seem to have really struggled with their lack of straightline speed, Even with DRS, they could go at 310 km/h which was not where others were going, Not sure if they with this particular setup to get the good balance of the car for one full lap but either way, they lost the race because they lost the pace in the straights.
The Alternator Issue
Vettel and Grosjean had both issues with the Alternator which Renault believes is due to overheating of the Engine and they put an rest to theories that re-start post the Safety car period paid its part in hurting the reliability of the Engine, to which Renault simply stated that the Safety car period played its part in not decreasing the reliability of the Engine but rather increasing its term. And this raised to the real question of what caused the overheating in first place, To which Renault simply stated that it will be conducting some dyno tests to replicate the conditions so as to determine what caused the overheating
At the end of the day, One has to say that experience really plays its part. The opportunist found their way of scoring in few points and that's what Racing is all about. Ferrari themselves would not imagine being where they are now, but they never really lost their hope. They kept on pushing and won the race today in an unbelievable fashion, something they will cherish for a long time and for the matter they are inspiring others which is a nice sign. For all the Teams in paddock they have to solve the case of Red Bull's dominance in the weekend, They seem to have built something out of the box and if we are to witness the same amount of excitement again all through the season, It's only at the Hands of those teams in the paddock!