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Vettel: Not the only happy German that Sunday.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL won last Sunday’s eventful European Grand Prix in Valencia.

The Red Bull driver won the 57 lap race from pole a time of 1:40:29.571, at an average speed of 114.594 mph. The McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button finished second and third respectively. Button recorded the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:38.766 (122.726 mph).

The first lap of the race saw Hamilton pass Red Bull’s Mark Webber for second place into the first corner. The 2008 World Champion tried to pass Vettel for the lead in Turn Two but the Red Bull driver closed the door on him. They touched and Hamilton lost momentum. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso tried to take second off of Hamilton but didn’t manage to pull off the pass. Meanwhile Mark Webber was dropping like a stone down the field.

Because of his loss of track position, Red Bull brought Webber in to the pits to change his tyres on lap 8. But his left-front wheel wouldn’t come off quickly and he lost lots of time.  He eventually rejoined the race in 19th position.

Webber caught the Lotus of Heikki Kovalainen a lap later and tried to get every last piece of the Finn’s slipstream he could as they raced down to Turn 13 at well over 180 mph. But Webber was caught out by his own closing speed and hit the back to the Lotus. Webber’s Red Bull took off and flew through the air and flipped upside down. Fortunately the car flipped back onto his wheels and the wreckage continued on its journey into the tyre barrier. Millions of TV viewers (including me) breathed a collective sigh of relief when they saw Webber throw his steering wheel out of the car. Kovalainen managed to drive his damaged Lotus back to the pits. Not the way the team wanted to celebrate the names 500th Grand Prix.

Air Webber taking off from Helsinki.

Both drivers were perfectly okay.

The crash itself had spooky similarities with Mark Webber’s 1999 Le Mans crash when his Mercedes flipped upside down, and the Riccardo Patrese / Gerhard Berger crash at the 1992 Portuguese Grand Prix.

Naturally this crash brought out the Safety Car. Vettel and Hamilton decided to pit to keep themselves in the first two places.

At the end of lap 14 the race re-started. Vettel almost spun as he rounded the final corner, and he almost lost his lead to Hamilton. Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi was now third because he didn’t pit during the Safety Car period. Both Ferrari drivers (Alonso and Massa) were now well down the order. Alonso because he was passed by other drivers in the pit lane, Massa because he had to queue behind his team-mate.

By lap 17 Vettel and Hamilton were pulling away from Kobayashi and Button with ease. The reigning World Champion (Button) just couldn’t get close enough to the Japanese driver to make a pass.

Elsewhere in the race, Alonso was spitting his dummy out because Hamilton was so far ahead of him after the Safety Car pit-stops. He told the Ferrari pit wall to: “Just keep on about Hamilton all afternoon. That is all you have to do.

And lo, on lap 25 Hamilton was given a Drive-Through Penalty for passing the Safety Car. The SC itself was still within the pit lane exit line when Hamilton drove up alongside it. He hesitated, probably thinking: “What’s the rule here?” The Englishman put his foot down just as the SC technically came onto the race track. Hamilton drove off into the distance and Alonso and Massa were caught behind it.

As a McLaren fan I have tried to defend Lewis, but I have to admit that he did transgress the rules on this occasion. However, I do not see how disgraced former Renault team boss Flavio Briatore [spit] can say that Hamilton should’ve been disqualified. Oh wait; it was his Fernando that got the short end of the stick.

So on lap 27 Hamilton served his DTP, and fortunately rejoined the track just ahead of Kobayashi’s Sauber and his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button. This left Ferrari fuming. Team boss Stefano Domenicali told Alonso: “He’s [Hamilton] still second. It’s hardly like a penalty at all.

The race continued without much incident until, on lap 44 race control issued this statement: “Incident involving cars: 1,9,10,11,12,14,15,16 and 22 to be investigated after the race. Speeding on Safety Car lap.” This meant that: Button (McLaren), Barrichello and Hülkenberg (Williams), Kubica and Petrov (Renault), Sutil and Liuzzi (Force India), Buemi (Toro Rosso) and de la Rosa (Sauber) had all gone faster than the time the F.I.A. had told them to go when the SC was deployed after the Webber / Kovalainen crash. This could mean a 30-second time penalty for each driver at the end of the race.

And guess the name of the driver who would inherit third place if this happened and he finished. Yep, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in front of his home crowd.    

Back to the racing, and on lap 49 Hamilton was catching Vettel at a fast rate of knots. But three laps later Vettel was pulling away from Hamilton. Nobody was going to beat the Germans today.

To Button’s relief, Kobayashi pitted on lap 54. He rejoined the track in ninth place, just behind Buemi and Alonso.

The Japanese driver took eighth place off of Alonso on lap 56, and robbed Buemi of seventh place on the very last corner of the very last lap. He later admitted that he was so busy passing Alonso and Buemi had he didn’t realise that the race was over.

After the race, the stewards issued a five-second time penalty to all the drivers who went too fast when the SC was deployed. This meant that Buemi lost eighth to Alonso, while de la Rosa and Petrov lost out on places giving Rosberg (Mercedes) a point after he admitted he was: “Just driving around wasting my time.” He was told he had to go easy on his brakes early in the race. His team-mate Michael Schumacher recorded his worst-ever merit finish in his 259 Grand Prix starts. He crossed the line in 15th place.

Fernando Alonso accused the stewards of “manipulating” the race result. He was unhappy that Hamilton’s DTP took too long to be handed out. But many other teams – Red Bull, Lotus and McLaren for example – have rejected this. The Spaniard has since said that he wants to put this race behind him and concentrate on the British Grand Prix.

I say that Ferrari should shut up moaning and just accept that they got unlucky. They wouldn’t have won the race anyway. F.I.A. stands for “International Automobile Federation” and not (as it has done in the past) “Ferrari International Assistance”.

Now then, my home race is next. The British Grand Prix from the new, even higher speed Silverstone. Hopefully England will have something to cheer on 11 July with another McLaren 1-2 finish.

PS: A certain football match was the main talking point before the race.

Glock and Sutil (both German) were the only ones to predict a German win, whereas: Bruno Senna, Webber and Barrichello were way off.

DRIVERS’ STANDINGS

Pos

Driver

Constructor(s)

Points

1

Lewis HAMILTON (ENG)

McLaren

127

2

Jenson BUTTON (ENG)

McLaren

121

3

Sebastian VETTEL (GER)

Red Bull

115

4

Mark WEBBER (AUS)

Red Bull

103

5

Fernando ALONSO (ESP)

Ferrari

96

6

Robert KUBICA (POL)

Renault

83

7

Nico ROSBERG (GER)

Mercedes

74

8

Felipe MASSA (BRA)

Ferrari

67

9

Michael SCHUMACHER (GER)

Mercedes

34

10

Adrian SUTIL (GER)

Force India

31

 

CONSTRUCTORS’ STANDINGS

Pos

Constructor

Engine

Points

1

MCLAREN (ENG)

Mercedes

248

2

RED BULL (AUT)

Renault

218

3

FERRARI (ITA)

Ferrari

163

4

MERCEDES (GER)

Mercedes

108

5

RENAULT (FRA)

Renault

89

6

FORCE INDIA (IND)

Mercedes

43

7

WILLIAMS (ENG)

Cosworth

20

8

TORO ROSSO (ITA)

Ferrari

12

9

SAUBER (SUI)

Ferrari

7

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2 Comments

  1. Great drive from Vettel today, hopefully he can stay with the McLarens to fight for the championship.
    While the Alonso-Hamilton incident was little more than a delay in handing out penalties, I can’t help but feel worried after the 9 5-second penalties handed out. Speeding during a safety car period is worth well more than a 5 second penalty, and if this time deduction becomes the norm, then it might encourage drivers to drive unsafely through a crash zone, which would be a disaster after all the improvements in safety across the years. I’m not trying to promote Alonso’s position, but much sterner penalties should have been handed out to those 9.

    • With regards to the time penalties, I think I have an idea about why it was only five seconds. When Webber had just come to a halt and the SC board came out the lap counter changed from 9 to 10. The cars penalised would have been finishing a full speed racing lap and therefore not be able to slow down to the target time.


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