As the campsites clear after another spectacular and controversial weekend, it’s time to reflect on another round of the 2012 Formula 1 World Championship. The German Grand Prix never disappoints and this year was no different: there were penalties, arguments, technical hearings and, between all that, some good old-fashioned racing!
Saturday’s qualifying session was like déjà vu from Silverstone as the clouds moved in and heavy rain interrupted proceedings. There was the usual moans and groans from some of the drivers complaining that they shouldn’t be driving in these sort of conditions, but these are supposed to be the most skilled racing drivers in the entire world! If they can’t handle a bit of water then they signed up for the wrong job. Add to that the fact that everyone is in the same boat (no pun intended), and you have got a very fair qualifying session if you ask me. Fernando Alonso gained his second pole position in a row, beating Sebastian Vettel by nearly half a second. Mark Webber was next up, followed by the surprise trio of Michael Schumacher, Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado. The McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton underperformed in the session and only managed 7th and 8th respectively. But at least they made it into the top 10, unlike Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg who were completely humiliated by their team-mates and only qualified 14th and 17th.
Sunday morning began with a bit of controversy to spice things up even more. A report by FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer said he felt that the engine torque maps on the Red Bull RB8 are in breach of both Article 5.5.3 of the Technical Regulations and Technical Directive 036-11. He believed the maps were able to deliver more torque at certain speeds and artificially change the aerodynamic characteristics of the cars. But after a hearing attended by stewards Derek Warwick, Paul Gutjahr and Tim Mayer on the morning of the race, it was decided that, although they do not buy all of the arguments put forward by the team, no further action would be taken. This story is far from over, however, because when interviewed on the grid both Derek Warwick and Mercedes Team Principal Ross Brawn admitted that this is definitely not the last we will hear on the issue.
So after all this technical gibber-gabber, us fans just wanted to see some action and the first lap did not disappoint. Although there was no change in the top three positions after the lights went out, there was a coming together between Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo which saw the entire Ferrari front wing hurtling through the air. You could almost hear the groans of the Ferrari management after another promise of improvement by Massa failed to materialize. The time lost from this incident meant Massa spent the race trying to salvage whatever place he could: he ended in 12th.
And the Brazilian wasn’t the only driver to have a disastrous race. The Massa/Ricciardo collision had left a substantial amount of debris at the first corner and it was this debris that gave Lewis Hamilton a dramatic left-rear tyre puncture on the 3rd lap of the race. But it was the Brit’s reaction rather than the incident itself which left viewers surprised and confused. On his slow return to the pits, Hamilton’s radio crackled into life and the dejected driver told his team: “That’s it guys. We should retire.” But why was the normally feisty Britain feeling so sorry for himself in his 100th race? We got used to him acting like a moody teenager last year and it seems as though his recent poor form has bought that side of him out again. Thankfully, his team were a little more optimistic and sent him on his way with a fresh set of medium Pirellis. A long stint on these tyres ensured that he moved up the running order quite rapidly. So quick, in fact, that he eventually caught up with drivers who had lapped him earlier on in the race, most notable Vettel. The German didn’t take too kindly to someone who was running out of the points getting in the way of the battle for 1st position. The hot-headed German called him “stupid” after the time lost racing Hamilton helped team-mate Button bridge the gap and eventually overtake Vettel. Perhaps Hamilton is turning into the next Psychic Sally though because he few laps later the McLaren driver was forced to retire due to mechanical difficulties.
This wasn’t the only controversial incident that Vettel found himself caught up in during the race. As Button’s tyres began to fade in the closing laps, the German had already smelt his prey and was closing in rapidly. He chose the hairpin on the 66th lap to pounce on Button but the manner in which he made the overtake was a source of unhappiness for both Button and the stewards. After choosing to make the overtake around the outside of Button, Vettel proceeded to run wide with his entire car leaving the perimeters of the track. He claimed he could not see where Button’s car was positioned and wanted to leave him enough room but the stewards didn’t buy his argument and imposed a 20 second time penalty on the Red Bull driver after the race.
Amidst all this drama there was one driver who stayed cool, calm and collected throughout. Fernando Alonso held the lead from the very first lap and crossed the line to be the first driver of 2012 to win three Grands Prix. Vettel’s penalty pushed him down to 5th meaning that Button regained his 2nd position and Kimi Raikkonen was bumped up to 3rd. If it were any other driver, I would have made a comment about them being disappointed to have missed out on the podium celebrations but seeing as Kimi is the most chilled out person on the planet, I really don’t think he will have a problem with it! Sauber enjoyed a successful weekend with Kobayashi and Perez finishing 4th and 6th respectively. Michael Schumacher will have been disappointed with 7th in front of his devoted home crowd, as will Mark Webber who could manage only 8th. Hulkenburg and Rosberg rounded out the top 10.
With Webber finishing way down in the points, Alonso extended his lead in the driver’s championship to 154, 34 points ahead of the Australian. Vettel remains in 3rd on 110 while Raikkonen leap frogs Hamilton into 4th on 98 points. Button remains well down the order in 7th.
The next race in the 2012 Formula 1 Championship is only a few days away at the Hungaroring in Budapest, Hungary. Drivers will be eager to put in a positive performance before the five-week long summer break.