It’s been a while since the dominant teams in F1 were Ferrari and Lotus and my, hasn’t it all changed since then? The fast, fragile machines of the sixties and seventies eeked out narrow advantages through the relentless evolution of their engines, their suspension and chassis construction, a few shots in the dark of the then impenetrable world of aerodynamics and, more than once in a while, dollops of genius in the drawing rooms, the workshops and on the track.
Not today, not this season.
Formula One, 2013-style was summed up in five words today from the mouth of one its greatest stars, one of its three fastest drivers and a man who started today’s race on the front row and could do nothing to stop him dropping endlessly backwards 11 whole places, Lewis Hamilton: “I can’t drive any slower.” As the man himself might have written (and excuse the implied language) WTF?
There were moments of genius. Well, maybe one, when winner Fernando Alonso passed second-placed man Kimi Raikkonen and Hamilton around the outside of turns two and three on the opening lap. But that was that. It’s gratifying too to see Felipe Massa’s continued return to form (and the obvious pleasure that gives Rob Smedley). Third place was well deserved. Ferrari feels like a proper team now and feels like the team the others will have to beat this year. But let’s face it, nobody is going to win this year just by making a faster car, Mercedes have already done that.
So what’s to be done? Pirelli tinkered with its tyres this weekend but it didn’t make any difference. All the cars that matter are quicker than the rubber on which they race and so, once again, we had the spectacle of cars being driven well within their limits. These are F1 cars ladies and gentlemen, the spaceships of the modern age, capable of generating g-forces that in every direction would melt the brains of you and I. And yet they are cruising. Is it any wonder they never break down anymore?
Say what you want about Sebastian Vettel, but can you imagine how he’s feeling this evening, forced to let cars that qualified behind him disappear down the road as he nursed his rubber home to fourth, just ahead of Mark Webber who started appallingly once again but was able to make the places up largely because of a super-early pit stop. Sure, he had cars to pass but let’s face it, that’s just a matter of pressing the DRS and KERS buttons at the right moment.
Mercedes who had locked out the front row managed to salvage sixth with Rosberg, who will be finding out about now that his tyre-saving tips were being passed on to his team-mate. Paul di Resta followed him closely home in seventh but also found himself prevented from pressing for the extra points by the need to keep his tyres circular and singular.
Behind him McLaren’s strategy office, the only part of the team that seems to be functioning properly right now, hauled Jenson Button up from 17th on lap one to eighth. We’ve been dropping hints now that McLaren’s ‘issues’ might prove to be more than JB’s laid back constitution wants to deal with and this season might be last. Whattayaknow Eddie Jordan, who seems to know more about driver’s destinies than they do, suggested the same just now. Wouldn’t that be a terrible indictment of the state of F1?
Ughh. Not a good afternoon and after so much promise. Pirelli will keep on tinkering but as it’s been said before here and elsewhere, they are not to blame. Still just as this is posted Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s boss in F1, has just suggested to Eddie and Suzi that it took the wrong direction this weekend. He seems like a reasonable chap. Let’s hope it is; after so much Red Bull, a Ferrari-Lotus-Ferrari cocktail should have tasted sweeter than it did today.