Well, the Sunday Afternoon Club is confused. Was that a good race or a slightly strange spectacle with a predetermined result largely calculated on various team laptops some time on Saturday night?
Certainly that last lap was as edge-of-seaty as F1 has been in a while as Sebastian Vettel managed somehow to close a gap of eleven seconds in just five laps. But honestly, Lewis Hamilton’s third place seemed like the only result in any kind of real jeopardy. Fernando Alonso and Ferrari cruised it today, the team’s request for him to slow down being met with a response that he was slowing down. While setting fastest laps.
Kimi Raikkonen meanwhile started second, finished second and despite ripping a hole in the nose of his Lotus on Sergio Perez’s McLaren was otherwise largely inert. Just doing his thing. Raikkonen is meant to be one of the sport’s most exciting drivers remember.
It won’t have escaped your notice that the top five today – Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Vettel and Button – are also the best or the most experienced (or both) drivers out there. Yet the result didn’t so much reflect their talents to drive fast, more their talent to drive appropriately, to drive perfectly. To drive exactly as required by the strategy necessary to get to the end of the race on two very different compounds of tyres.
I’m not sure I agree with Mark Webber’s comment that F1 is becoming like the WWF (though after today Mark, after today…), but it is all a bit enervating isn’t it?
And yet…that was also pretty exciting wasn’t it? One of those races when Ben Edwards seems the need to engage the high-octane voice. Good news for the BBC and its first live race of the season; pole position for Lewis Hamilton; a brilliant opening lap as Raikkonen fluffed his start; and a whole list of different leaders that included Nico Hulkenberg’s Sauber and Jenson Button’s McLaren.
Although once again, they were doing no more than taking their turn at the front of the stage as the script demanded. JB had us fired up when he phoned in to ask whether he might have a proper ding-dong with Hamilton, only to give in and fall over at the first opportunity.
Strategies apart, there was proper racing out on the track, albeit proper DRS-assisted racing. There were cars getting in the way of other cars, there were cars not getting out of the way of other cars, a big old shunt when Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber took out Adrian Sutil’s Force India just a few laps after Sutil had tried to take out team-mate Paul di Resta. And of course the comedy value of Mark Webber’s wheel coming off at exactly the moment nemesis Sebastian Vettel drove by.
Poor old Webber, ran out of gas on Saturday, lost a wheel on Sunday, but only after colliding with Red Bull Junior Jean Eric Vergne and collecting a grid penalty for Bahrain. Off the back of Malaysia you can only imagine how he is feeling about RB. This was team race today, and Webber’s team-mate has made it clear he doesn’t give a damn. Webber must surely be wondering whether the whole thing is just over. You could be forgiven for thinking that Daniel Ricciardo has decided the same thing. Seventh place today from seventh on the grid in the Toro Rosso was his best performance yet for the junior team. Another couple like that and the talk will be about ‘when’ not ‘if’.
Considering he has in the past spent the second half of the season playing catch-up, Vettel is, worryingly, leading this year’s championship from Raikkonen and Alonso, although clearly the Ferrari is the car right now. Still, the Lotus was the car in Oz and the Red Bull in KL. It might all be getting a bit predictable from the moment the lights go off. It’s clearly anything but from race to race. And the next one is just a week away Sunday Afternooners. You looking forward?