Williams, Ferrari, Lotus; we have to admit we can be a little old-school here at Sunday Afternoon Club so that’s a result that made us smile.
Williams? They’re a throwback, aren’t they? The only remaining breakwater against the prawn sandwich tide in F1. But it had looked like a seawall long-ago broached; last year, the team’s worst ever, was genuinely uncomfortable to witness. Are there any Sunday Afternooners out there who genuinely thought last year’s re-organisation at the team, culminating in the departure of Patrick Head, would deliver? And even if you did, did you think it would do so this soon?
So Pastor Maldonado, friend of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, £45million blue-eyed boy of PDVSA (his country’s national petrochem’), 2010 GP2 Champion and now, grand prix winner. And a grand prix winner won the hard way. That wasn’t his team-mate in his mirrors, but Fernando Alonso, this year’s most never-say-die driver. Until three laps from the end, Maldonado had to keep this thought from his mind; if anyone out there can get by me, it’s Alonso.
So Maldonado becomes the second first-time winner in 2012 and the fifth winner in five races and who can say how many more there will be yet?
Kimi Raikkonen could have won this race, as he could have done Bahrain, given a few more laps or, more realistically, a chance to dictate tyre strategy from the front. Team-mate Romain Grosjean followed him home in fourth. Given a little luck RoGros could win this year. And, need we remind you, Lewis Hamilton has yet to win a race this year, but that doesn’t seem to be bothering him. Despite more rotten luck/McLaren omni-shambles-ism (delete where appropriate) he’s kept his chin up and his head down (can you do that?); eighth place from last was the result of a pretty spectacular charge, putting him ahead of Jenson Button who started 11th. JB had one of those afternoons where he just somehow didn’t quite seem to be there. After the best of starts to the year, he’s starting to look like a man losing direction, or momentum, or both.
So the result; Maldonado, Alonso, Raikkonen, Grosjean we know…. Kobayashi, Vettel and Rosberg filled in the spaces before the McLarens and Hulkenberg grabbed the tenth spot for Force India. No Mark Webber in the points then and no Michael Schumacher.
Schumacher’s absence can be explained by what looked to everybody but Michael like a classic ‘ooops, I’m really terribly sorry, but I dove in to the back of you’ accident with Bruno Senna. Michael has made this something of a trademark since returning. (Do ‘older’ F1 drivers have to take a mandatory eye-test like your granny has to?). Yet it had looked like he’d sorted it this year, so the messy accident and the predictable denial was another disappointment. It wasn’t so long ago that we at the Sunday Afternoon Club were eating our words, having predicted this would be another season where the fairy tale didn’t happen. We don’t think it will now. Like Felipe Massa (15th in the same car that came second), it’s hard not to conclude Michael’s time in F1 has passed.
Does Bruno deserve his place as part of the new guard? Well, it’s easy to explain yesterday’s early exit from qualifying (he never really got over a simple mistake on the lap before he set his ‘fastest’ lap), but less so the nagging sense that in the first phase of the race, if there’s anyone likely to be throwing lumps of carbon fibre around, his own or others, it’s Bruno.
Don’t get us wrong; Bruno, we adore you over here. Now you know your car is a winner, please prove us wrong at Monaco in two weeks time young man. Imagine… As if today wasn’t already likely to induce a lump in your throat.