Wow, what a race! Australia and China gave us rain-affected entertainment-fests but it is a long time since a dry race that was that good. It was a tonic to see that much dicing and overtaking for significant positions. The sequence of the Red Bull crash, then the McLaren men trading position, had this arm-chair enthusiast’s adrenalin rushing and heart pounding, reminding me just how joyous following this sport can be.I was stunned by the backlash after the Bahrain GP (a race I found reasonably interesting) about it being boring, and the ferocity of the reaction to the refueling ban. I am not going to arrogant enough to tell people they are mistaken to feel so strongly (I believe some people even like soccer-ball but obviously they are wrong) but I did sense a lot of people were much towards making up their minds before that race. I have been following F1 long enough to see refueling come and go, and come and go again. I have mixed feeling about if it should be part of Formula One. I prefer racing to pit-stop strategy, but for reasons to do with cars and circuits good racing is impeded by the difficulties of overtaking anything but a considerably slower car. Perhaps it is much to do with a younger audience, of whom if they did not buy heavily into the pit-stop strategy aspect would not have become fans of this sport, so are losing what attracted them. I have been fascinated by the way this season has been unfolding, albeit with some boring segments as is the norm. If people no longer want to watch or follow the wider soap-opera, that is their decision, but the season has seen a lot of on-track dramas, even some effective pit-strategy, and boy, will they have missed some good races. Mark Webber, before pitting, had led 158 consecutive laps having led throughout in Spain and Monaco. Hamilton’s 12th win gave him his 30th podium from fifty-nine races. It was the 80th win for Mercedes engines. Turkey was advertised as Ferrari’s 800th World Championship race. I type, “advertised”, as I have not checked this figure. There have been 827 rounds, including eleven Indianapolis 500s that counted in the early years for the championship, one of which Ferrari contested. I will look into this later. I have no doubts on blaming the Vettel-Webber collision on the German. Mark held his line and Sebastian turned right. His impetuosity has been evident before, at Australia last year lunging inside Kubica with the resultant collision, and the side-by-side pit-lane drag with Lewis in China when Vettel ruthlessly and recklessly tried to shoulder the McLaren towards the wheel-guns. Sebastian’s psyche might well have been charged with the frustrations of all his lost opportunities – the dodgy chassis in Monaco, maybe also in Spain, the roll-bar issue in Q3, and the arbitrary reliability issues earlier in the season. The instinct to get away from the dirtiest part of the very edge of the track to brake, and to gain some width with which to turn into the rapidly approaching corner, may have been so automatic that the first he knew of it was the collision, hence thinking it must have been Webber’s doing. Sebastian seems to have gained in maturity over the too many mistakes he made last season, but a move like that is no way to win a championship. For all Mark’s grumpiness post-race, third with Vettel on nothing was a better title-chase result than first ahead of his team-mate, or indeed second behind him. Michael Schumacher looks like he is beginning to connect with his vehicle but that the car is just falling behind with the more than a pit-stop lead the top four pulled out on the grey Arrows. Last season, it was McLaren with works support from the German manufacturer that was beaten by the customer team, Brawn; this year Mercedes are being beaten by their new customer-team, McLaren. When Stefano Domenicali was explaining pre-season that Alonso understood and accepted the team responsibilities of driving for Ferrari, I remembered how smiley-smiley it was when the Spaniard first joined McLaren. David Croft of BBC Five Live had interviewed the driver during the week, and commentating Free Practice mentioned how he had been a joyless interviewee. On The Chequered Flag race-preview podcast, Fernando was spouting about how happy he was at Ferrari and how wonderful the team is, counteracted by the palpable misery in his voice. In Q2, he blew his hot lap but blamed the car for being too slow already, and publically criticised the team for falling behind on development. At Renault, he was loved and favoured, but not so at McLaren when the toys came out the pram like shrapnel. After criticism before Turkey in the Italian media for his mistakes, the team looking not quite up to it in any year soon, and Alonso so obviously disgruntled, the future of the golden partnership does not look shiny. How long ago does it now seem that Fernando led a 1-2 in Bahrain for his Ferrari debut?
Something I suddenly noticed during free practice is just how anonymous the STR team have become. With a ninth and two tenth places, it is only courtesy of the new scoring system they have four points. Red Bull bought Minardi because Mad Max proclaimed customer cars were to be the future (and Prodrive did a deal with McLaren), but it turned out to be a mirage. It made some sense to have the extra team for the brief years both outfits could use the same chassis, and they even got the first win from STR. Obviously, the Red Bull drink company have made an Everest of lucre selling their mildly addictive caffeine and legal-chemical-stimulants concoction (the early versions of Coca Cola contained stimulants that later needed to be phased out). A stated purpose for the second team is to develop new drivers, which has been hit and misses, but I should not be amazed if in the not too distant future it is off-loaded. The tyre supply for next season is down to Pirelli or Michelin, the former being cheaper, the latter expected to be more prepared. Michelin have modern F1 experience, and compete against rival suppliers effectively in top-level sportscars, whilst Pirelli supply control tyres for rallying and Superbikes. The concern is that Pirelli would be learning on the job, with Martin Whitmarsh arguing to pay the extra for expertise. Surely, Formula One would be more interesting with less good tyres? It is the quality of the Bridgestones in providing good grip without high degradation that has added little excitement to the mix.