Thursday, April 12, 2012

F1: It's Only Been Two Races, FFS

While F1 testing is usually given the importance that it should (i.e. as a combination of teams running weird different strategies that make the lap times incredibly varied and, therefore, almost universally unimportant), same cannot be said for the beginning of the F1 season. And, while it is true that a team that's leading the first race probably won't end up struggling to make the 107% by the end, first races are still just that and can't exactly be indicative of the general pace or of the trends that are gonna be prevalent throughout the season.
However, that doesn't exactly seem to be something a lot of people take into account, meaning that a lot of people have already managed to jump to fairly baseless conclusions about what the season's gonna be like. Here's some of those conclusions and why they might very well be complete bullshit:

Assumption #1: Kimi Raikkonen is a racing God who has returned to win championships and dominate the field and his pace has already proven that.

For all of the pre-season, I have been finding the incredible excitement over Kimi's return to F1 somewhat unexplainable. It is, obviously, of no doubt that the guy is an F1 great and a masterful driver. He also does, in fact, have a fairly unusual personality. But Michael Schumacher he is not and it would be foolish to expect him to light up the field right away with race wins and great performances. Apparently though, 7th in race number one and 5th in race number two is good enough for people to shout that the legend has returned and that he's surely gonna be battling for wins soon enough.
Just the facts here: 1. Discounting Vettel and Button in Malaysia whose unsatisfactory results were due to collisions, surely not lack of pace, Kimi hasn't clearly topped either McLaren, either Red Bull or Fernando Alonso in the two races. In fact, both of the times he's had a Sauber finish ahead of him. In other words, the relatively high finishing positions are gifts signed with love from Vettel, Button, Grosjean and even Maldonado.  2. Gearbox changes, team radio mistakes and all that, Grosjean has started ahead of Kimi in both races. 3. Unlike, say, Pastor Maldonado, at no point was Kimi's pace in the Australian GP as good as that of the Red Bulls or even the McLarens that were cruising to the win.  4. The Mercs can't exactly be having tyre issues forever and Romain's surely gonna finish the race one of these days.
No, he's not been bad by any means. In fact, 7th and 5th after a long F1 break and starting from 17th and 10th is more than respectable. However, that's quite a lot of guys he has to beat to get that win, some of them with clearly superior machinery and, you know what - the "normal dry race" Renault has been wanting so bad probably is a lot less likely to bring them that result than a massive mess like Malaysia.

Assumption #2: Pastor Maldonado cannot drive for shit and is not good enough for F1. Bruno Senna is clearly the better driver out of the two.

While it's hard to deny that Pastor, probably more than anyone else on the grid right now, really enjoys putting his car into walls or other cars. However, as always, the argument is that this man is a GP2 champion, a fact that isn't affected in the slightest by the 35+ million dollars PDVSA's paying for him. Oh, and there's also the little fact that he's been on RBR's pace for most of the Australian GP - no small feat for a Williams driver. Noticeably faster than Bruno in practice, he's hammered the guy both times in qualifying - only one of those two is fighting for Q3 after all.

Yes, the first two outings of 2012 haven't been that great for him, but only one of those was his fault. We've seen where that car can end up and Maldonado's probably the guy to take it there.

Still, lost the Malaysian P1 to Bottas. The guy who should have a race seat regardless of whoever comes out between Pastor and Bruno.

Assumption #3: Red Bull are in deep shit and Seb Vettel is terrible under pressure.

While it's almost impossible to defend Vettel for the stuff he's said about Karthikeyan, that's not exactly evidence of his lack of driving ability. And, while in qualifying he's lost out to Mark, in the races he's been faster on both occasions and was gonna get that Red Bull to the best it could do in those conditions. In fact, in Australia, he went one step higher than that. It's clear that there's some struggling going on - he almost went off chasing after Michael in Melbourne and nobody knows how that would've ended if the Merc didn't decide it didn't want to play anymore. However, the guy quite clearly still has what it takes to win F1 races and he doesn't really have to prove anything to anyone - those two championship titles are his and there's little doubt that they're his because he deserved them.

As for Red Bull, I advise you to go check out the constructors standings. Second. Also, the only team theoretically capable of pole positions that doesn't seem to have an issue converting qualifying pace to race pace (unlike, say, the team whose driver gets on pole twice and is both times nowhere near competing for the win or the team that's the anti-Sauber when it comes to tyre management or the team that has the overrated guy and the guy who can't seem to finish a lap so far).

Assumption #4: The race Checo Perez has had in Malaysia is a true indicator of his brilliance and incredible racing ability.

I wanted him to win that race. Really, really did. And he's quite clearly one to watch - has been pretty much since the start of his F1 career. But if we're not crowning Adrian Sutil, Giancarlo Fisichella, Nico Hulkenberg, Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais as incredible racing talents based on their one-off performances, we should probably wait a bit on Perez, too. 

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