Tuesday, April 17, 2012

F1: It's Already Been Three Races, FFS

So, last week, in the height of excitement for the upcoming Chinese Grand Prix (which, quite unsurprisingly for this season, turned out to be incredible), I've made a bunch of statements in an attempt to "debunk" some of what people have been saying after the fairly random beginning of the season. Of course, it would be completely unfair of me to not hold myself to the same standards as I did with others, so let's see how the opinions I was bashing on stack up after China. Of course, no conclusive evidence here - it's still 3 races in.

On Kimi Raikkonen's race and chances of winning one: Kimi's had a reasonably good qualifying on fourth and you'd expect him to be up there on the podium considering the cars in front of him were the notoriously problematic (when it came to tyre wear) Mercs and a Sauber, which generally is not as fast as a Lotus. He had a reasonably good race throughout, opting for a two-stopper alongside race winner Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel and his teammate Romain Grosjean. However, unlike for the three latter drivers, it did not work out for Kimi who went from fighting for second place (admirable) to no-points zone in all of two laps. 

Thing is - those weren't exactly laps 55 and 56 which signified the race and his 28 lap prime stint, longest of any other stint any driver had. No, those were laps 47 and 48. A bit more than 20 laps into his stint. Romain had a 24-lapper closer to the end and his pace did not drop off. 

It's not exactly Kimi's fault, no. He keeps insisting that the strategy did not work out but it worked out for everyone else and some of them spent just as many laps fighting. I don't know if there's general consensus that it was the marbles he picked up off the racing line while defending from Vettel - but it looks like there really should be, because no other explanation seems to apply. A small mistake, not really one Kimi can be blamed much for - Romain had a worse one and Mark allowed two off-track moments during that same stint.

However, what I'm saying here is, this is how the Lotus seems to fare in a "normal" race everybody's been asking for. Yeah, sure, cold temperatures and all, but even if the race was red-flagged at lap 46, that second place would only have been a signed gift from Jenson's and Michael's pit crews. A normal race will not be enough - it will take a lot more to get Kimi up there. I don't know if he has what it takes, but I'm pretty certain his team does not.

On Maldonado and Senna: Yeah, Pastor has beaten Bruno in qualifying yet again but the time gap there was absolutely insignificant. And, say what you will about Bruno Senna, even I have to admit he had a good start and was genuinely better than his teammate throughout the race. Ex-STR driver, Jaime Alguersuari, on the BBC Chequered Flag post-race podcast for Malaysia has mentioned, if I remember correctly, that he did not think Bruno's success in Sepang was much due to his racing ability as much as the car he's been given. I was inclined to agree with him, but this race certainly does create a lot of suspicions that point otherwise. Also, Jaime is probably still mad about Bruno ramming him into the first corner of Spa last year. It's okay, Jaime. I am still a bit mad, too.

Still, Maldonado did manage to get yet another damn reprimand for blocking and Bruno has once again forgotten he has brakes during the first corner, breaking off parts of his front wing off of somebody's car in the process.

On Red Bull: After a fairly terrible qualifying, both RBR drivers had quality races. Vettel has gotten the best he could out of the circumstances he was in, while Mark was arguably the most entertaining one to watch.

There aren't exactly problems that team has on the driver front. However, the car isn't exactly what you'd call a winning one and with Mercs seeming to have figured out their tyre issues, it's not looking to occupy second place as it was in races one and two. The car doesn't have much qualifying pace and while everybody with qualifying pace seemed to have problems translating that to race, they don't anymore, and Red Bull still hasn't fixed their problems yet. Also, DRS, just as last year, seems entirely useless for RBR due to the terrible speed on the straights, which is a shame, cause this time they actually need it.

On Sergio Perez and Sauber:Well, he wasn't fighting for podiums in this one, just as expected. The uninspiring Sauber performance is not exactly his or his teammates fault - mediocre race strategy and tyre issues contributed to that. But, even with that, neither he, nor Kamui were up there after their qualifying.

This isn't so much directed at the people who sang Sergio praises after his Malaysia performance (for he deserved them) but more so at those who were sure that it was time for Sauber to repeat those results and generally be a contender for podium. They're not - because, even if their car is as good as Ferrari's (and it actually looks better), neither of the drivers is exactly Fernando Alonso and when you're fighting for places 5-10, you can't exactly beat a team who has a driver that can get its terrible car to podiums. If I were to take a wild, wild guess at Sauber's Constructors Cup result at the end of the season, sixth would be my guess - far ahead of the struggling Force Indias and Toro Rossos, but not exactly as good as either Williams and Ferrari.

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