Daily Archives: June 28, 2010

Thoughts on the European Grand Prix

I remember, back in 2009, when the European Grand Prix weekend was approaching, I decided not to bother watching the race at all. Not even the highlights. I decided that even if the slightest bit of racing action occurred, then I would pick up on it later online, and I would therefore spare myself an hour and a half of monotonous racing. And I turned out to be right.

What a difference a year makes.

The 2010 European Grand Prix was one of my highlights so far this year, not entirely because of the exciting race itself, but because nearly every F1 fan -myself included – believed the race would be awful. I am delighted to say that we were all wrong, and for the first time Valencia gave us quite a good race.

Kamui Kobayashi's pace and last-gasp overtakes were the highlights of the race for me

Kamui Kobayashi's pace and last-gasp overtakes were the highlights of the race for me

When the paddock moved from Montreal to Valencia, the main thought was that since tyre degradation wasn’t a problem here, then the racing here would be nowhere near what we saw in Canada 2 weeks ago. This turned out to be wrong, as we realised that the 2010 rule changes, especially the refuelling ban, had fuelled the racing excitement today, and not tyres like we had (rather, hadn’t) expected.

Even in the first lap, I was surprised by the quality of racing we saw. Lewis Hamilton nearly took the lead, and damaged his car for being too optimistic. Mark Webber fell all over the place, dropping to 9th. Robert Kubica put in an early pass on Jenson Button for 5th. After this, on Lap 10, we saw what was easily the worst crash of the year, with Mark Webber backflipping his car and smashing into the barriers. It was a miracle that he walked away without injuries.

With this, the safety car was out, and strategies were made more complicated, another reason why we saw a more exciting race than we would have thought. This also gave an opportunity to Kamui Kobayashi, who had started 18th on the harder tyre, and could now jump up the field while everyone else pitted.

Once the safety car pitted, it emerged that even Jenson Button could not keep up with Kobayashi, as the Japanese driver was getting the most out of his risky strategy. From here until the end of the race, after Hamilton’s penalty, Kobayashi’s pace was a joy to watch, and showed us why he was signed up for 2010. It also proved that his Brazil and Abu Dhabi 2009 drivers were certainly no fluke.

Apart from this, there weren’t as many overtakes as we would have hoped, but it was certainly an improvement over the monotonous drone of 2008 and 2009.

Driver of the race – Kamui Kobayashi: Proved that when he is given the opportunity, he will always take it. He pulled off some great moves, at a track well-known for it’s difficulty to overtake on. Still a star for the future in my book.

Driver of the new teams – Karun Chandhok: This award isn’t how I wanted it to be, since practicallt every other driver for these 3 teams were taken out early, or held up the frontrunners whilst battling among themselves. This leaves only Chandhok and Senna as the drivers who drove a clean race, and since Karun was ahead of Bruno, he gets the award for this race.

Best rookie – Kamui Kobayashi: Call me opportunistic, but in my opinion he’s still a rookie until the final few races. Like I said, a risky strategy paid off for him, and a fantastic overtake on Alonso at the end was the icing on the cake.

Best team – Sauber: This award is intended for the team that performs above its potential, or was clever in its strategies. Sauber certainly did that, and if it wasn’t for the 5-second time penalties after the race, it would have been a double-points finish for the struggling team.

Least impressive – Fernando Alonso: I’m going to get a lot of stick for this. Yes, he was massively hindered by the safety car, and I took that into account. But, he really should have put some effort into passing Sebastien Buemi and the others, rather than moan about it after the race. That doesn’t get you extra points.

European Grand Prix stats and facts

Sebastian Vettel took his 7th Grand Prix win of his career in the European Grand Prix today. Here are more stats and facts from today’s race:

  • His 7th Grand Prix win puts Vettel in joint 34th place overall, alongside Juan Pablo Montoya and Rene Arnoux, and ahead of drivers like Ralf Schumacher and Gilles Villeneuve.
  • This was Red Bull’s 10th constructor’s win, putting them level with Alfa Romeo, and ahead of Mercedes, although they have only been competing in F1 for 3 years total.
  • Also, it was Vettel’s 10th pole position, ahead of John Surtees and Ricardo Patrese.
  • Vettel became only the third driver to win from pole this year, alongside Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton.
  • Amazingly, this is only Jenson Button’s 3rd fastest lap of his career. The other two were in Malaysia and Turkey 2009. This puts him only 1 behind Sebastian Vettel.
  • This is the 13th race that Red Bull have had a car on the front row after qualifying.
  • I found this one out today – Jenson Button hasn’t started on the front row since Turkey 2009.
  • If you believe in it, this would be Lotus’ 500th race, although you could argue it was only their 9th.
  • With their 1993-2005, 2006-2009 seasons included, Kamui Kobayashi got Sauber above the 500 points mark today. They now have 501.
  • This is the first time that the safety car has been deployed in Valencia.
  • Michael Schumacher’s finish of 15th is the worst of his entire career. Amazingly though, it is only the 9th time in his entire career that he has been classified in a race outside the points.
  • After Mark Webber’s retirement, now no driver has scored points in every race this year.
  • Robert Kubica is now the only driver in the field to have completed every single lap this year.

If you know any more, leave a comment.