The Valencia Street Circuit, despite being aesthetically marvelous, has time and again been criticized for dishing out damp squibs over the past few years. Finally, we had a race which broke this stereotype. We had a action packed grand prix, arguably the best of this season. However, Mark Webber wasn’t totally impressed. He said,
“I think most drivers would put this(Valencia) in their bottom three of circuits in the year, but it turned out to be a reasonable race today”.
The Aussie driver, who started 19th and finished 4th, drove a magnificient race in his Red Bull. His pit stops were well timed and strategy was spot on.
Michael Schumacher, who finally claimed a podium spot in his comeback after two years, gave company for Webber in the final laps of the race. The German, who has been pitied for a string of poor results coupled with bad luck, wooed lady luck in his favor at Valencia, as everything fell in place for him to bag a podium position. But credit has to be given to Michael for keeping his composure while everything was going haywire on the track. After all, Michael has the dubious record of most DNF’s this season.
‘The iceman’ Kimi Raikkonen too had his share of luck. He lost his position to Fernando Alonso after a poor first pit stop, but since then, he drove well and kept his cool. He was in the thick of things throughout the race. He even pulled off a couple of brilliant overtakes on Maldonaldo and Hamilton in the tricky street circuit. A comeback victory is not far away for the Finn.
Raikkonen’s Lotus-Renault teammate Romain Grosjean has to be commended for his mature driving in his comeback season. He had a brilliant start at Valencia and capitalized on it by pulling off a spectacular overtake on Lewis Hamilton to gain P2 behind Vettel in the initial stages of the race. He was foxed by Alonso during the safety car restart but kept him in his vicinity. He had better tyres than Alonso and probably would’ve won this race if not for his alternator failure. It has to be said that his crowning moment of glory is not too far.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg made the most out of his 8th place start by finishing a career best 5th. This despite a problem with his KERS during the race. His teammate Paul di Resta managed to get the one stop strategy to work and in the process garnered some valuable points.
Sebastian Vettel, the pole-sitter, was once again mighty impressive during the first quarter of the race. Having already won twice at Valencia, Vettel looked set for a third until his car came to a sudden halt after the safety car period. It was really unfortunate for Vettel because he had a insurmountable lead before the safety car period and would’ve cruised to victory. Vettel’s loss was Alonso’s gain.
On a scorching Sunday afternoon at Valencia, local hero Fernando Alonso became the first multiple winner of 2012, against all odds. No sane person would’ve predicted an Alonso victory before the start of the race knowing that he was starting outside the top 10 and the race was in Valencia! But it was indeed a miraculous victory for the Spaniard. His start was fantastic as usual, gaining 3 positions. His first pit stop was timed to perfection and overtook Kimi Raikkonen in the process. He outsmarted Romain Grosjean after the safety car period. Then, the misfortune of Hamilton in the pits and Vettel on the racetrack gifted him P1. He did well to maintain that position until the end unlike the previous race at Canada. Everything worked perfectly for the Ferrari driver who is currently on top in the drivers championship standings. His consistency is amazing. He is the only driver to have scored points in every race this season. In fact, he has scored points in 20 consecutive races starting with last year’s European Grand Prix. Alonso narrowly missed out on the world championship in 2010, but this time he is certainly in the mix to win it for the third time in his career.
Nothing is going in favor of Jenson Button who had yet another poor outing this season. He qualified within the top 10 but failed to make it count in the race after a poor start and a bad strategy. He finished 8th, behind the Force India’s which isn’t what his McLaren team were hoping for. His fortunes might change in his home grand prix at Silverstone which is next up on the calendar.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa finished yet another race outside the top 10 this year. Worse, he even got lapped by his teammate who won the race during the last lap. This is badly affecting Ferrari’s position in the constructors championship. Massa showed some signs of life at Canada but has once again stooped to the bottom at Valencia. His pit crew didn’t help the cause either as they terribly botched one of his pit stops.
There was a love affair between Caterham and Toro Rosso cars during the race as they made contact twice during the race. Jean Eric Vergne‘s inexperience showed when he tried an ambitious move on the outside of Heikki Kovalainen halfway through the race. He didn’t make it stick and hence paid the price for it. It also brought out the safety car, spicing up things. So, we are in a way, grateful to Vergne for making the European GP interesting through his antics.
The Renault engines have come under scrutiny as two of them failed forcing two front-runners to retire from the race. The reason for the fault hasn’t been found out yet, but the scorching heat and humidity at Valencia might be a cause too.
The Pastor Maldonaldo – Lewis Hamilton incident on Lap 56 was avoidable had both the drivers stopped being greedy for a moment and thought about what’s at stake. The biggest loser was Lewis Hamilton who lost 12 crucial world championship points (considering he might have finished fourth atleast). Pastor Maldonaldo regarded as the main culprit by many, was too greedy in a tight corner. He could’ve waited a little longer since Lewis was losing grip in his rear tyres and could’ve overtaken him in the last lap. Lewis too was at fault since he failed to notice Maldonaldo coming on the inside and it could be seen from his frustration after the crash that he regretted it.
Things are getting really ugly in the McLaren paddock when Lewis Hamilton pits during a race. Even a round of beer as incentive didn’t deter the McLaren pit crew from faltering during a crucial pit stop. If they had done a fair job during that pit stop, Lewis would’ve come out ahead of Alonso and probably won the race without even having the sight of Pastor Maldonaldo. These pit stop goof ups have been happening for a while and it is high time McLaren find a way out of this mess.