WELCOME to my sixth driver performance scoring chart of the 2012 Formula One season which covers how I thought every driver did in the 2012 Grand Prix de Monaco:
I can’t decide whose stock went down more significantly in the last week; Facebook or Pastor Maldonado. He had a horrible weekend and all of it was self-inflicted. The hero of Barcelona was docked ten grid places for some foolish driving in Saturday morning, when he drove into Sergio Perez. Seeing red mist, he went onto crash on his next lap at Casino Square and only decisive work from his mechanics got the Venezuelan out for qualifying. Ninth place became 19th, then last after a gearbox penalty. His race didn’t even last a lap after whacking Pedro de la Rosa into Ste. Devote. The damage meant he didn’t turn into Loews hairpin and that was that. A dramatic fall from grace. 4/10
Once again, Fernando Alonso showed his skill to maximise his race result. Strong from the outset in practice on Thursday, a slightly cautious approach from Ferrari in qualifying cost them a shot at the pole. Alonso was lucky to not suffer any damage off the startline after some wheel-banging with Romain Grosjean. He survived, managed his super soft tyres brilliantly to close up on Lewis Hamilton, then jump him by staying out a lap longer. Faultless as ever and now, the sole championship leader. 9/10
Kimi Raikkonen’s return to the Principality was fairly lacklustre. He was on the backfoot from the outset, when a steering adjustment ruled him out of FP1. Playing catchup, eighth on the grid wasn’t bad considering he flirted with elimination in the first part of qualifying. Lost out to Sebastian Vettel on the first lap, then held on under pressure from Michael Schumacher as his super soft tyres wilted. Lotus decision to keep him out for as long as possible cost him a higher finish but ninth was probably the right result. No doubt that Kimi still has that sheer pace but Barcelona aside, hasn’t been able to string together a trouble-free weekend so far in 2012. 6/10
A weekend that started out so promisingly but delivered very little. Romain Grosjean’s consistency and confidence on Thursday made him favourite for pole position in qualifying. Lotus had problems with tyre temperatures all weekend and this left the Frenchman in fourth on the grid. His race lasted six seconds, involving three elements of contact with three different drivers and broken rear suspension meant he didn’t even make turn one. Disappointing outcome and some foolishness with this DNF but the speed is definitely there. 7/10
Whenever Monaco arrives on the calendar, Sergio Perez must dread it. An incident packed weekend but for the wrong reasons. Totally blameless in the incident with Pastor Maldonado on Saturday morning and had a near altercation with Nico Hulkenberg too. Perhaps feeling a bit stressed, he crashed heavily at the Swimming Pool in the first few minutes of Q1. Later, a steering problem was blamed for his early demise. Struggled to pass Marussia cars, then collected a drive-through for baulking Kimi Raikkonen in the pitlane entry. Narrowly missed out on points and fastest lap shows it was another case of what might have been for Perez. 6/10
Quiet beginning to the weekend but Nico Rosberg came on form on Saturday and continued his consistent scoring approach as a result. Fastest in FP3, Nico maximised the car’s potential in qualifying and ended up on the front row. Kept Mark Webber on his toes all afternoon in the race but Webber didn’t crack under pressure, so he had to settle for second place. Rosberg has now scored the most points out of anyone since Malaysia and on this evidence, has to be seen as a potential championship contender. 10/10
Bruno Senna kept his Williams pointing in the right direction to score a point, something his team-mate Pastor Maldonado had major problems doing all weekend. Senna was rather oblivious all weekend although he looked all at sea on Thursday in the wet. 13th on the grid was better in comparison to recent events and made his way through the turn one carnage to run ninth in the first stint. Got his point through persistance and Toro Rosso’s failed gamble on intermediates for Jean-Eric Vergne. Williams will expect more though as the season progresses from Senna and they will be disappointed that he was beaten by both slower Force India cars. 6/10
The years rolled back on Saturday when Michael Schumacher produced a special lap to land a surprising pole position. Back in sixth following his Spanish grid penalty, contact with Romain Grosjean before turn one ended the Lotus driver’s race and delayed Schumacher to run behind Kimi Raikkonen for the first stint. Got past Raikkonen by staying out longer but had no chance on improving from seventh until a fuel pickup issue limited his top speed and ultimately cut out the engine. Difficult to pin any blame on Michael this time, just another luckless weekend. 7/10
McLaren look to be losing some of their early season speed and Lewis Hamilton knows it more than anyone. Wrestled his car to third on the grid, as the team struggled to match the Mercedes and Ferrari teams all weekend. Bad start was the trigger to what happened behind between Romain Grosjean and Michael Schumacher although Hamilton kept third. The team kept him out too long on the super soft and he lost track position to Fernando Alonso and later, Sebastian Vettel. Only highlight of a boring race for Lewis was being hit by objects from his pitwall. It was a frustrating day but still scored solid points to stay firmly in the championship hunt. 7/10
Fourth place at the finish was a save for Sebastian Vettel and he can count himself slightly fortunate. Practice pace was poor and even needed super soft tyres to escape Q1. Ran out of the option by Q3 so settled for ninth. Romain Grosjean’s wayward Lotus nearly took him out at the start but Sebastian narrowly missed him to run sixth and wait for the others to pit before exposing his pace on the prime tyre. Spent 12 laps heading the field and there was a time when the race looked to be heading into his grasp. Unfortunately, the tyre lost grip and forced a slightly earlier pitstop than planned. The longer strategy got him ahead of both Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa though so a good job to collect 12 points on a weekend where he was second best throughout to Mark Webber. 7/10
Two points from three races and a very unconvincing performance from Button, who isn’t out of the championship hunt but needs to stop the alarming slide in fortunes. Didn’t seem happy again from Thursday, although he set the fastest time in FP2. Pace flattered to deceive and he exited qualifying before the pole position shootout again, lining up 12th. Unlucky to be hit by the flying Kamui Kobayashi in the Ste. Devote fracas and this dropped him behind Heikki Kovalainen. It is tough to pass around Monaco but the speed differential between the McLaren and the Caterham meant that Button’s performance was dismal. How he spend all afternoon behind the Finn is a mystery. Spun out at the Swimming Pool attempting an ambitious pass on Kovalainen. Needs a big score to regain confidence in Canada. 4/10
Kamui Kobayashi badly underperformed when the car was capable of so much more. Like Jenson Button, disappointing to see the Japanese driver be knocked out in Q2 and his race didn’t last long. If Kobayashi had taken his initial plan of shortcutting the first corner, he would ducked in behind Sebastian Vettel in seventh. Instead, he decided to take the longer route and the result was, flipped airborne by Romain Grosjean’s spun Lotus. Damage to front suspension ended his event after five laps and not much symphony from me on this one. 5/10
I think we have to admit that Jean-Eric Vergne is a better Sunday driver than Saturday driver. Again only escaped Q1 thanks to the misfortune of another driver and his own accident at the start of Q2 meant he couldn’t do any better than 17th. Smart move to change tyres on lap 17 allowed him to leapfrog the midfield that were trapped behind the tyre hungry Kimi Raikkonen. Seventh place was his until the team gambled the lot by pitting for intermediates with six laps to go in a rain shower. It didn’t work and left the rookie in an unlapped 12th. He wasn’t happy but should be encouraged with his consistent race speed. Urgently needs to work on qualifying form now. 7/10
Mark Webber’s twin brother must have been present in Spain because the real Webber turned up in Monaco. In a car that didn’t deserve to win, he showed his might around the streets to record his second Monte Carlo victory in F1. Struggled on Thursday but strung a mega lap together in qualifying which earnt him pole position, once Michael Schumacher was moved back down the grid. Perfect start and made no mistakes throughout on raceday to lead home Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso. His consistent approach makes him another championship contender. 10/10
Perhaps not quite as eye-catching as at Williams but Nico Hulkenberg is looking better since the Grand Prix scene returned to Europe. Missed out on the top ten shootout by just over a tenth of a second and had no problems running in close company with the likes of Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen on Sunday. Jumped by team-mate Paul di Resta in the pits but took full advantage of Raikkonen being unfairly blocked by Sergio Perez to chase di Resta home. Eighth was an excellent result, considering the car is still not at the team’s best liking yet. 7/10
Felipe Massa’s job is safe for now at least after a committed and charging Monaco weekend. Threatened the frontrunners throughout free practice and was fastest in Q2. A couple of mistakes on his qualifying lap left him seventh on the grid, when third was definitely possible. Strong start saw him chasing Fernando Alonso hard and only the late rain shower dropped him off the back of the top five. Still less than seven seconds behind race winner Mark Webber, sixth place is a massive boost for Massa, both in confidence and psychological terms. 8/10
PAUL DI RESTA
Qualifying 14th was a disappointing result for Paul di Resta but his fourth points finish already of the season shows that he is almost the complete racing driver now. Kept it out the barriers with consummate ease and although I’d say he was lucky to beat his faster team-mate Nico Hulkenberg on raceday, you can see why teams such as Mercedes GP are interested in his future services. 6/10
Daniel Ricciardo is turning into another average driver. So far, he hasn’t delivered in a car that looks difficult to drive but probably would achieve better results if either Sebastian Buemi or Jaime Alguersuari had been driving it this season. Beating Vergne in qualifying is a regular achievement now but race pace is not good and was running behind Heikki Kovalainen when he retired with a steering problem. Must do better to prove his worth to the team in the coming races. 5/10
The street fighter that is Heikki Kovalainen threatened to steal a point at the weekend, proving his quality is being masked by the chassis at his disposal. Thursday was a nightmare as an engine failure and a spin meant he had to climb out of his Caterham in both sessions earlier than anticipated. Bounced back on Saturday to only wind up a tenth slower than Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso. Then ran brilliantly on Sunday to keep Jenson Button and Daniel Ricciardo behind him in faster cars and with little trouble too. A messy battle with Sergio Perez cost him a front wing in the closing stages and meant 13th looks like a mundane finish. Has plenty to be pleased though with his race performance. 9/10
Looked fast on Thursday and had potential to shock Toro Rosso in qualifying and make Q2. The Russian underperformed on Saturday and ended nearly a second slower than Heikki Kovalainen. Delayed by Kamui Kobayashi’s flying antics in the first corner chaos and an intermittent electrical problem meant he was a regular pit caller until withdrawing on lap 15. 5/10
Had the measure of Charles Pic throughout the weekend, although on a better day, could have punished Vitaly Petrov for his tame qualifying effort on Saturday. Had little option to shortcut Ste. Devote at the start to avoid the multiple accident and made his car had to pass against the likes of Sergio Perez and Jean-Eric Vergne. When they got past, had a lonely run to 14th. 6/10
PEDRO DE LA ROSA
Claimed his qualifying lap on Saturday to be his best ever around Monaco and by beating Charles Pic, would have pleased the HRT bosses. Unfortunate to be clouted heavily by Pastor Maldonado while attempting to avoid the St. Devote carnage and the resulting rear wing damage meant it was retirement in the pits without completing a lap. 6/10
Done well for most of the season but Monaco seem to overwhelm Charles Pic. Struggled in qualifying and ended up on the back row and half a second behind Pedro de la Rosa’s slower HRT. Promoted up thanks to grid penalties for Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez and evaded the first corner mess well. Made little impact in the race and retired for third successive race with an electrical problem on lap 64. 4/10
Kept it out of the wall this season in Monaco and credit to Karthikeyan to finish the race, only two laps down and in 15th place. It is hard to judge the HRT team’s merits in Formula One but if their drivers finish the race, that’s all that can really be asked. 6/10
Total scores after 6 events: Fernando Alonso 51, Lewis Hamilton 48, Sebastian Vettel 46, Romain Grosjean 46, Kimi Raikkonen 45, Mark Webber 45, Nico Rosberg 45, Pastor Maldonado 42, Sergio Perez 42, Jenson Button 41, Paul di Resta 41, Michael Schumacher 39, Nico Hulkenberg 39, Heikki Kovalainen 39, Kamui Kobayashi 38, Bruno Senna 37, Vitaly Petrov 37, Daniel Ricciardo 36, Jean-Eric Vergne 36, Timo Glock 35, Charles Pic 34, Felipe Massa 31, Pedro de la Rosa 30, Narain Karthikeyan 28
A NEW star has been well and truly born in the world of Grand Prix racing tonight after Pastor Maldonado powered to a wonderful victory at the Spanish Grand Prix. It is the first time a Venezuelan driver has won a Grand Prix and sees the iconic Williams team return to the winners circle for the first time since Juan Pablo Montoya’s win in the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix. Second place for the home favourite Fernando Alonso sees him join world champion Sebastian Vettel level on 61 points at the top of the drivers championship.
Great management of the delicate Pirelli tyres and some tactical strategy were the keys to Maldonado’s maiden success in just his 24th Grand Prix. He also had to stay calm under pressure from a charged up Alonso and constant backmarker incidents on his way to the top step of the podium. In the process, 2012 has become a record season. We now have had five different winners from five races, in five separate teams and the last time this happened was back in 1983. Also the top seven in the points standings are now covered by a meagre 20 points.
Maldonado inherited pole position last night when Lewis Hamilton was sent to the back of the grid following McLaren’s costly error in not being able to give the FIA a litre of fuel for a sample after qualifying. However his lead disappeared when Alonso made the better start. The pair went wheel-to-wheel on the rundown to turn one but just like in 2011, Alonso led into the first bend of his home Grand Prix. A clash between Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez punctured a rear tyre on the Sauber and trashed the Mexican’s afternoon. Kimi Raikkonen moved into a third position he would not relinquish, whilst Grosjean’s delay enabled Nico Rosberg to sweep into fourth place.
Alonso kept a solid lead to make sure he wouldn’t be affected by DRS, although he never was able to leave Maldonado standing. Further back, there was trouble for Red Bull with both Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel stuck in heavy traffic and both pitted inside seven laps to get some clear air. Later, the nosecones on the two cars were changed after some issues with tyre rubber and debris ending up in the front assembly of each chassis. A late fightback from Vettel, despite a drive-through penalty for ignoring yellow flags saw him back to sixth. Webber missed out on points for the first time in 2012, finishing half a second outside the scorers in 11th place.
Sharp pitwork from Ferrari kept Alonso ahead in the first round of pitstops and with Raikkonen and Lotus not able to show their prestigious long run pace from Friday’s simulations, the fight for the win turned into a two way scrap. Out of contention though would be Maldonado’s team-mate, Bruno Senna. Senna was struggling behind Heikki Kovalainen’s Caterham in the early laps and was gambling on a two stop strategy, meaning he was mixing it with some of the frontrunners but on older rubber. On lap 12, Grosjean made a late dive up the inside into turn one and contact was made, removing a corner of the Lotus driver’s front endplate. One lap later, Michael Schumacher closed up quickly through the DRS zone but made a complete mess of his braking point. He misjudged Senna’s wherabouts and crashed into the rear of the Williams. Debris and tyre smoke flew into the sky as the two cars headed for the turn one gravel. Schumacher retired on the spot, his third DNF from five races and Senna had to park his car before getting back to the pits due to heavy rear wing damage. On the radio, Schumacher branded his rival an ‘idiot.’ The race stewards disagreed and handed a five place grid penalty to the German for the Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks time.
After his qualifying exclusion, Hamilton had to start from the back and did well to miss a wayward Perez in turn three on the first lap. He battled well with tyre management and had an entertaining dice with his old rival Felipe Massa. Hamilton eventually finished eighth whilst Jenson Button’s struggles continued and he could do no better than ninth. Tyre issues, understeer and a new brake supplier might well have accounted for his lack of speed throughout the last two days.
In the second round of pitstops, Williams pitted Maldonado earlier and got him out infront of Alonso, inheriting control of the race in the process. There was no change after the third round of pitstops either but Alonso cutdown the seven second lead to basically nothing and got close to overhauling Pastor twice without succeeding. A severe vibration with the rear of the Ferrari denied us a grandstand finish for the win, although Raikkonen suddenly closed up in the closing laps, having pitted for his third and final stop later than his rivals. The way was clear for Maldonado to take an emotional win, with all of Sir Frank Williams family here in attendance this weekend; the team principal having celebrated his 70th birthday yesterday. Sir Frank Williams told the BBC afterwards; “All the boys are delighted, and I’m quietly delighted, boy did we need that win as you can well imagine. Most of the season has been thanks to a fresh group of people but it’s been very well balanced. The aero guys have done their stuff, more than their stuff. The Renault engine is very competitive.”
Alonso and Raikkonen completed the podium placings. Raikkonen couldn’t hide his disappointed in the press conference, saying; “I’m a bit disappointed. I expect to be a bit stronger in the race, especially at the beginning. At end of the race, we were good but it was too late. We were too slow at the start which is why we couldn’t fight for the win. We showed we still have the speed. Maybe we took the wrong choice in the first stop.”
Grosjean came through to finish an excellent fourth and Kamui Kobayashi matched his best ever result with fifth for Sauber. Nico Rosberg fell away to seventh place at the chequered flag as his tyres hit ‘the cliff,’ in the last two laps. Nico Hulkenberg took the final point after a solid drive in the Force India. Scotland’s Paul di Resta missed out this time in 14th and a drive-through penalty for ignoring yellow flags added insult to another disappointing performance from Massa, well back in 15th.
After the race, celebrations were muted by a serious fire in the Williams garage. Luckily, there are no serious injuries although four mechanics had to be treated with smoke inhalation afterwards. (see separate story).
A sour and fiery note to end on but take nothing away from Pastor Maldonado, who fully deserves his time in the limelight. It is always nice to see a new winner and who knows, we might get another one when the sport visits the jewel in the crown that is Monte Carlo in two weeks time. Anything is possible in 2012 if this season’s first five races are anything to go by.
2012 FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE ESPANA SANTANDER RACE RESULT
|1||PASTOR MALDONADO||WILLIAMS RENAULT||66||1hr 39min 09secs|
|3||KIMI RAIKKONEN||LOTUS RENAULT||66||+3.8secs|
|4||ROMAIN GROSJEAN||LOTUS RENAULT||66||+14.7secs|
|5||KAMUI KOBAYASHI||SAUBER FERRARI||66||+1min 04.6secs|
|6||SEBASTIAN VETTEL||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||66||+1min 07.5secs|
|7||NICO ROSBERG||MERCEDES GP||66||+1min 17.9secs|
|8||LEWIS HAMILTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||66||+1min 18.1secs|
|9||JENSON BUTTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||66||+1min 25.2secs|
|10||NICO HULKENBERG||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||65||1 LAP|
|11||MARK WEBBER||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||65||1 LAP|
|12||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE||STR FERRARI||65||1 LAP|
|13||DANIEL RICCIARDO||STR FERRARI||65||1 LAP|
|14||PAUL DI RESTA||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||65||1 LAP|
|15||FELIPE MASSA||FERRARI||65||1 LAP|
|16||HEIKKI KOVALAINEN||CATERHAM RENAULT||65||1 LAP|
|17||VITALY PETROV||CATERHAM RENAULT||65||1 LAP|
|18||TIMO GLOCK||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||64||2 LAPS|
|19||PEDRO DE LA ROSA||HRT COSWORTH||63||3 LAPS|
|Retired||SERGIO PEREZ||SAUBER FERRARI||37||TRANSMISSION|
|Retired||CHARLES PIC||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||35||DRIVESHAFT|
|Retired||NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN||HRT COSWORTH||22||TECHINCAL|
|Retired||BRUNO SENNA||WILLIAMS RENAULT||12||DAMAGE FOLLOWING COLLISION WITH SCHUMACHER|
|Retired||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER||MERCEDES GP||12||COLLISION WITH SENNA|
|1||SEBASTIAN VETTEL (RED BULL)||61|
|2||FERNANDO ALONSO (FERRARI)||61|
|3||LEWIS HAMILTON (MCLAREN)||53|
|4||KIMI RAIKKONEN (LOTUS)||49|
|5||MARK WEBBER (RED BULL)||48|
|6||JENSON BUTTON (MCLAREN)||45|
|7||NICO ROSBERG (MERCEDES GP)||41|
|8||ROMAIN GROSJEAN (LOTUS)||35|
|9||PASTOR MALDONADO (WILLIAMS)||29|
|10||SERGIO PEREZ (SAUBER)||22|
|11||KAMUI KOBAYASHI (SAUBER)||19|
|12||PAUL DI RESTA (FORCE INDIA)||15|
|13||BRUNO SENNA (WILLIAMS)||14|
|14||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE (TORO ROSSO)||4|
|15||NICO HULKENBERG (FORCE INDIA)||3|
|16||DANIEL RICCIARDO (TORO ROSSO)||2|
|17||FELIPE MASSA (FERRARI)||2|
|18||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (MERCEDES GP)||2|
|1||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||109|
|8||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||18|
|9||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO FERRARI||6|
FORMULA ONE’s first in-season test since 2008 turned into a damp squib, as rain ruined the first day in Italy. There was something for the patrotric tifosi to cheer however as some consistent times from Fernando Alonso this morning saw the Spaniard end up fastest today. Alonso was a full 1.2secs quicker than the Red Bull of Mark Webber, although that isn’t a fair representation of times due to the weather. In fact the afternoon session was a washout and the track had to be closed for a while as the medical helicopter couldn’t take off. The Mugello circuit, where this test is based turned into the lake, akin to the weather most of the UK has seen in April.
Alonso’s quickest time today was a 1.22.444 on slick tyres as drivers did at least have the morning to set competitive times and gain useful data for the European leg of the 2012 championship, starting in Barcelona on May 11-13. Ferrari will be hoping that the new aerodynamic package it has brought to this test can revive the flaling fortunes of the F2012. Despite Alonso’s shock win in Malaysia, the team has struggled to set the standard and were often in the midfield in the flyaway events.
Webber was second fastest and will hand over the duties at Red Bull to Bahrain race winner and world champion Sebastian Vettel tomorrow. The Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne finished third fastest just infront of Lotus Renault tester Jerome D’Ambrosio and Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes. It was a tough day for the drivers and the afternoon deluge prevented Michael Schumacher from doing any serious running. Nevertheless, he told Planet F1 of his joy of being back at a circuit where he spent thousands of kilometres pounding around in his Ferrari days. “This afternoon, I was literally able just go out to check if it made sense to run – which it did not – and at least I could show the spectators who were waiting in the rain a running car for some short moments. Still, it was nice being back in Mugello after so many years, and I must say it was also nice being welcomed back by the tifosi so warmly.”
11 of the 12 teams are testing here, including Marussia. HRT will be absent this week as they concentrate on moving factory location to Madrid. Also away are McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. Button was doing a demo run on the streets of Budapest today with young British duo Olivier Turvey and winner of the DTM opener at the weekend, Gary Paffett in action this week.
Better weather is forecast in the region for the next two days which will be hoped for by all the teams. On the 18th anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s tragic death at Imola, May 1 saw the return to testing and not enough of the anticipated track action forecasted.
DAY 1 TESTING TIMES FROM MUGELLO – TOP TEN
1. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1.22.444
2. Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.23.648
3. Jean-Eric Vergne (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.23.891
4. Jerome D’Ambrosio (Lotus Renault) 1.24.048
5. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) 1.24.100
6. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber Ferrari) 1.24.736
7. Olivier Turvey (McLaren Mercedes) 1.25.303
8. Jules Bianchi (Force India Mercedes) 1.25.475
9. Rodolfo Gonzalez (Caterham Renault) 1.27.197
10. Charles Pic (Marussia Cosworth) 1.27.359
REFLECTING on Nico Rosberg’s crazy and unecessary swerves on his rivals in Bahrain, I wanted to share my opinion on the state of defensive driving in Formula One and how lucky there hasn’t been any serious accidents because of this for a while.
There was a time in Grand Prix racing where turning into your rival early or deliberate attempts to take a competitor out of the race seemed to be okay. Ask Michael Schumacher, who did it at Jerez in the 1997 title decider and received a very leninent penalty for the crime. Then we had the debate about weaving excessively to keep track position in defence. Damon Hill did this in Canada 1998, which upset Schumacher greatly afterwards. The boundaries continue to be pushed in the element to be totally successful.
Driving etiquette in Formula One needs to be looked at because the standards in defending a position seem to be getting worse. Any driver doesn’t want to get into a position like Jarno Trulli used to; ‘There’s a green arrow, pass me on the inside.’ However, today’s drivers need to respect their competitors more and know when track position is gone.
Rosberg’s moves on Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in Sakhir were dangerous and he didn’t get penalised. Luckily no contact was made in either incident but they were lucky escapes. In the first incident with Hamilton on lap 10, Rosberg dived inside the McLaren as Hamilton was exiting the pits from his first pitstop. As Hamilton got into the slipstream, the Mercedes driver went to defend the inside and started to move across the road. As the Brit dived out from underneath the rear wing, Rosberg squeezed him completely off the track. Lewis had to take to the concrete asphalt to avoid Rosberg’s late direction movement and actually got infront. He might have exceeded track limits but it was either that or have an accident. I would have given Rosberg the benefit of the doubt, maybe give him a reprimand for this as he isn’t a regular offender in Formula One.
The second moment with Alonso was even more dangerous, as the Spaniard had to get out of the throttle to avoid being launched over the Mercedes car. The extra speed used thanks probably to some KERS use from the Spaniard looked frightening. Rosberg continued to move from the traditional racing line and although his direction change wasn’t quite as brutal as it was with Hamilton, he didn’t give Alonso an option and sensibly, the double champion took a safe choice and backed out of the attempted overtake on lap 25. On this occasion, I would have added some time onto Rosberg’s finishing position, maybe 5-10 seconds as there seemed to be more of a thoughtful decision in what he was doing rather than a sudden movement or rush of blood. It was risky and very severe, uncalled for actually.
No-one wants a repeat of Mark Webber’s terriyfing accident in Valencia 2010. The race stewards in Bahrain had their chance to send out a message of no nonsense and this they failed to do. Rosberg’s manoevures were not the worst ever seen in Grand Prix racing but it deserved a time penalty even if that just dropped him behind the two drivers affected in the final classifcation. He could count himself lucky to have not been sanctioned for the incidents.
On his team radio during the race, Alonso said; “He pushed me off the track. You have to leave a space, all the time you have to leave a space.” Later that evening, he posted on his Twitter page when finding out Rosberg would not be punished,“I think you are going to have fun in future races! You can defend position as you want and you can overtake outside the track! Enjoy! ;)))” It is very true but I find his reaction to this hilarious. Pot, kettle, black spring to mind Fernando. Weren’t you the driver who squeezed Sebastian Vettel onto the grass during the Italian Grand Prix last season? Vettel criticised the move and rightly so, he was brave to make it stick too.
The FIA Sporting Regulations say this under Article 20.4;
“Manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such as deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are not permitted.”
Sounds like Rosberg was guilty then but no action was taken. The defending ruling changed at the start of the season where a competitor will be penalised if they moved across the road more than once in an overtaking scenario. This ruling was brought in after the feisty scrap between Schumacher and Hamilton at Monza last year. Is it a ruling or just a guiding? After last Sunday’s incidents, you can’t help but agree to some form with Fernando Alonso.
The decision was made and at the end of the day, all the drivers have pushed the regulations of driving etiquette to the brink on occasion. Schumacher has done it all throughout his career, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton have both made questionable track movements in the past in an attempt to defend their position and even the world champion isn’t perfect. Vettel has shown his ruthlessness at times. Remember giving Jenson Button minimal space at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix last season. These examples show I’m not singling out Nico Rosberg but I reckon that a precedent has to be set, starting from the annual drivers meeting before practice for the Spanish Grand Prix on May 11. I worry that in the top line of motorsport, we have got to a point where the standard of defensive driving is getting to a very dangerous stage. Make it hard and competitive of course but fair and responsible too.
IT MIGHT only be the second round of the championship this weekend in Malaysia but already, Felipe Massa is under a pile of huge pressure to deliver. The Brazilian’s shambolic performance in last week’s season opener in Melbourne has left his future prospects of staying with Ferrari hanging even more by a thread. On Tuesday, the Italian team announced that a new chassis will be flown to Kuala Lumpur, but is that enough to save the charming Ferrari no.2 from the sack.
From the moment Felipe spun off in the opening practice session, his fate in Albert Park of a mediocre performance was sealed. He never looked comfortable with the F2012, which it has to be said, is proving to be a real handful anyways. Qualifying saw him a distant 16th, four places behind Fernando Alonso. That was despite Alonso spinning out early on in Q2. Although he made an excellent start which saw him upto tenth, Massa quickly fell away from the leading group and spent the majority of the afternoon battling a poor chassis, high tyre wear and probably, his demons on a mental basis.
He was overwhelmed by the likes of Kimi Raikkonen and Kamui Kobayashi and the race ended with an unsavoury tangle involving the Williams of Bruno Senna. When you consider Alonso saved fifth place for the team and was lapping 2-3 seconds a lap quicker on a regular basis, it highlights Massa’s nightmare Down Under. I described his driving performance as akin to a pig on rollerskates! It is a sad and sorry decline for one of F1’s nice guys. Team principal Stefano Domenicalli is still backing his driver though, telling JAonF1; “We need to stay close to Felipe because it’s clear that he’s under pressure. I’ve asked his engineers to analyse the data on the car, also to reassure him.” It means that there can be no excuses this weekend.
Mentally, Massa is driving like Damon Hill did in his final, troubled season in the sport in 1999. The former golden boy of Ferrari has been cast adrift by Alonso’s arrival and moulding the team around the Spaniard’s comforts. The days of Felipe outpacing Raikkonen in their three years together are a distant memory. Has he ever recovered from the radio message below (using clever F1 2010 graphics) whilst leading the German Grand Prix by merit in 2010;
I don’t think he has and Shanghai aside last season, I don’t think he has driven as well as he did that day at Hockenheim. Immediately afterwards, he said he would walkaway from F1 if he was a no.2, having experienced a similar order at Sauber in his debut season, ironically at the same circuit.
Now I don’t know what Felipe Massa thinks about, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a mental note saying ‘it is wrong to beat Alonso.’ It is frustrating, as he can match the best on his day. Since Hockenheim 2010, it has led to those basic errors that littered his first season in 2002 reappearing far too regularly. Don’t forget his attempt to pass cars on the grass on the approach to turn one of the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix? Of course, his high profile incidents with Lewis Hamilton last year have been well documented.
Then, there’s the factor of the crash during qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix when Massa was knocked out by a loose spring that had bounced down the road off Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn GP car. He might have scars for the incident, but big knocks can affect a driver. Ralf Schumacher had a similar experience after a testing shunt in 2003 and he never recovered from this shunt, while it took Mika Hakkinen the best part of 18 months to fully recover from his near fatal accident at Adelaide in 1995. Only Massa will know how much the Budapest shunt has affected him.
I do hope that the driver who came within seconds of the 2008 world championship does find some of his old form again. The bare facts are he hasn’t scored a podium since Korea 2010, the longest run a Maranello driver has gone without a podium since Eddie Irvine, 17 races between (1996-1997). We will see whether a new chassis is the solution to Massa’s problems. However, more races like Melbourne and Felipe will be lucky to see the season out, let alone hope for a contract extension.
A STRUGGLE AWAITS
FERRARI struggled to meet expectations in 2011, only managing one victory. For a team with its heritage, history and success – it was simply not good enough. Sadly the Italian team seem to be in the doldrums and testing form indicates that 2012 could be even worse. Not since 1993 has Ferrari not won a Grand Prix in a season. This year, this stat could well be thrown up regularly if their struggle continues.
The sacking of technical director Aldo Costa after Fernando Alonso’s alarming lack of pace in last year’s Spanish Grand Prix highlighted the desperation in the Ferrari hierarchy. Generally they have struggled to recover from the strategical blunder that cost Alonso the championship in Abu Dhabi 2010. In testing, media conferences have been cancelled, Pat Fry and the drivers have admitted that the team is not in the best shape heading into the season and the car has looked slow, unreliable and at times, almost undriveable. Alonso and his team-mate Felipe Massa face a long season ahead on this evidence.
There is bound to be a lot of pressure on team principal Stefano Domenicalli, especially if they are found wanting in the early stages of the season. Domenicalli won the constructors championship in his first season as the main man at Maranello in 2008, but precious success has followed since. No one can doubt Alonso’s quality and by being a double world champion, he is certainly capable of anything. It has been six years now since his last title and the Spaniard will be desperate for Ferrari to give him a championship challenging car. It could be a frustrating season for a driver who deserves more success and drives his heart out every time he gets in the car.
Felipe Massa is also under pressure and he even has said so. His series of run-ins with Lewis Hamilton last season was petty to say the least and covered neither driver in any glory. Psychologically and mentally, the Brazilian looks damaged goods. On his day, he can still outperform Alonso as shown by outqualifying him four times in the last nine races and outracing him comprehensively in Malaysia and China last season. However he lacks the consistency required and with no podium since Korea 2010, the stats don’t lie. If he wants to prolong his career with Ferrari, he needs a massive improvement in 2012.
It is always very dangerous to write Ferrari off, but they simply don’t seem to have the car to deliver the results. I hope I’m wrong but heads will roll if it turns into a nightmare. Australia will answer a lot of potential questions about their true place in the current pecking order.