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Undertaking in Barcelona

Did the new chicane make a difference to overtaking at the Spanish GP? You know it did not. But the modification to the track will sit there and grin at us from now on, having ruined a couple of fast corners without giving us anything in return. Track alterations stay, whether they achieve the desired result or not – after all, it is more important that the track designer save face than that the racing be improved at all.

Start

So Barcelona remains the track where you overtake in the first few hundred yards or not at all. Alonso made his bid for the lead, failed and that was the end of any real fight at the front. Technically, Fernando was a little ahead at the corner and by the unwritten rules was entitled to claim the line in theory. But Massa was already committed and had nowhere to go, even had he wanted to after being criticized in the early races for not being aggressive enough. The slight bump that sent Alonso into the gravel was the risk he took and both drivers were lucky not to have suffered worse – a racing incident, indeed.

Thereafter things settled into the usual pattern of waiting for the driver ahead to run into trouble. Kimi Raikkonen duly obliged, electrical problems putting him out early and allowing Alonso back into third. Perhaps only Chris Amon can truly understand the thoughts that must be going through Kimi’s head as he wonders whether his bad luck has followed him to the ultra-reliable Ferrari team.

If we were only interested in the lead, Barcelona would have been boring indeed. But there was plenty to interest, mostly in the form of progress by some and disaster for others. David Coulthard had a great race in the Red Bull RB3, showing that it is becoming a force at last, and Super Aguri scored a point, admittedly thanks to Renault having a problem with their (French-made) fueling rig.

BMW were a little less convincing this time out, Robert Kubica coming in fourth but Heidfeld being on the receiving end of some blundering pitwork that saw a wheelnut deserting to the Toyota team. A little more Germanic efficiency required, methinks (and a rap on the knuckles for the lollipop man, no doubt).

Talking of Toyota, they joined Toro Rosso in having a truly (Trulli) dismal weekend, both cars retiring before lap 44. Not even Ralf’s optimism and Jarno’s amazing effort in putting the car into sixth in qualifying could save them this time. I have more sympathy for Scott Speed, however, who looked set to prove all his critics wrong with a tenth fastest time in practice and then a leap from last to 14th in the race, only to have a tire explode. After being robbed of the chance for a decent grid spot by engine failure in qualifying, it was Raikkonen-like luck indeed.

The interest was all in what might be coming in the future of this season. Yes, we have a battle royal for the title that should continue for a while at least, but we also have a few teams that look to be getting it together at last. Red Bull are beginning to threaten BMW’s third fastest spot and Renault are improving faster than Fisichella had predicted. Williams are a bit unpredictable but quicker than Toyota at least, while Toro Rosso show signs of real improvement. Things are tight in the midfield and could become even tighter.

And now we look ahead to Monaco, traditionally the circuit where driving skill counts for more than aerodynamics. Hamilton is confident, having raced in the principality before, Fernando and Kimi know it only too well; can this be the circuit where Massa finally convinces me?

16 Responses to “Undertaking in Barcelona”

  1. Come on, you have to love Massa after this race! I personally don’t care for Mclaren (which thus makes me a Ferrari fan), although my allegiance stands with BMW and Red Bull, but Massa seems to be a real down to earth likable guy. Granted he has only won 4 races, but every time he gets up on the podium he looks ecstatic, more so then Hammy.

    Also what I always find interesting in sports is how each ultra-competitive driver interacts with one another. Massa and Hamilton seem to have this unspoken friendship going, congratulating one another when they get out of there cars. Kimi is a machine as far as I am concerned and doesn’t have any friends…. At least outside of the clubs. In fact based on the coverage I saw, Hamilton seemed to get more praise from Massa then he did Alonzo. Alonzo may have been pissed at everything that had transpired, but he still seemed to be out casted.

    Could this be Massa playing mind games? Maybe. Alonzo’s teammate seems to be getting under his skin (although he would never admit this) and Massa is only magnifying this. Now if Renault can become competitive and Hamilton continues to be this good, Alonzo might consider his move to be less then ideal.

  2. I don’t dislike Massa – it’s Ferrari I have little time for! If Felipe can win from a grid position lower than pole or at a place like Monaco or Spa, then I’ll be convinced. Until then, it’s clear that he has the best car and is making good use of it – and many F1 drivers could do that. Alonso and Raikkonen don’t have anything to prove; in the past they have won races from disadvantaged positions.

    Notice that I am delaying judgment on Hamilton too. I admit that he has had an incredible run for a rookie so far and has not been embarrassed by Alonso at all – but it’s early days yet. Too often in the past I have jumped to conclusions after a new driver has a few good races, only to be disappointed in the end.

    I’m not really a McLaren fan but they have one good thing going for them: they’re not Ferrari! ;)

    And I’m also more inclined to believe McLaren when they say that neither of their drivers gets preferential treatment. Ferrari’s attitude towards Kimi has been odd from the start, to say the least…

  3. Do you think that Massa may be playing mind games with Alonzo, knowing that Hamilton may not be as great a threat and thus befriending him in the hopes to create turmoil between him and Fernando?

    I agree that Massa has yet to truly prove himself, I am not suggesting that he is the best driver, just one of the most likable. If it were a time trial and not a race,which it is becoming, Massa could very well be the best, he has been putting down some remarkable times. It seems to me that McLaren have the better car, or so the excitement and surprise that Ferrari expressed after the win would have you believe.

    Lastly weather you loved him or hated him, any driver that has to replace a man that wins about 40% of the races that he entered deserves credit for not cracking under pressure.

    P.S.

    Can we get Scott Speed the same tires that everyone else is running on!

    Simply amazing how he managed to not spin out or take someone else out.

  4. I was surprised how warmly Massa and Hamilton greeted each other on the podium in Spain – they looked like two friends who had just enjoyed a great race and did not begrudge each other’s success at all. But I doubt it’s about mind games; it looked too genuine for that. I think both are just happy that success has come their way and are enjoying it to the full – which would mean that yeah, I agree that Felipe seems a nice guy.

    Kimi is Finnish and they are not exactly the most demonstrative of people – Hakkinen was very quiet as well. I will agree that Kimi’s demeanor has been even more grim of late and I do not doubt that he is feeling the pressure of trying to assert himself in the Ferrari team (and, perhaps, ruing the day he decided to leave McLaren). Alonso is hard to fathom – he often has little outbursts of petulance when out of the car but, once he gets into it, he seems to be able to put all that behind him and get on with the job to the best of his ability. And that’s what makes great drivers, I’m a-thinking…

    I wonder how much influence Schumacher has had in the maturing of Massa’s talent. There is no doubt that Massa benefited greatly last year by being prepared to learn from the master and we are seeing the results now. Will he crack when things don’t go so well, however?

    What happened to Scott Speed was almost inevitable – time and again bad fortune dogs those F1 drivers who have a chance to prove their worth after suffering from substandard machinery. When I saw Scott’s times in practice, I knew it would happen! I just have to hope that the Toro Rosso keeps getting better and that Scott will have other chances. The more I watch him, the more convinced I become that he is far better than anyone realizes.

    And yes, that was some car control we saw when his tire exploded!

  5. Bollocks! car control under tire blowing… remember Red 5? Now that’s car control. At the end of a hell of a straight, full speed on. Speed has nothing special but his surname, wich I think is the ridiculous “american way”. One day he’ll be out F1 and no-one will notice.

    Now, I find really interesting that both top teams seem to like more their “slow” drivers than their “fast” ones. Kimi and Alphonso are supposed to be the #1 drivers but something tells me they won’t for long. Even Kimi is playing mind games now, remeber him telling that he would show his “true speed” this weekend? Well, third isn’t exactly mind blowing.

    Alphonso may complain all he like, the fact is that Massa told him very clearly “You don’t scare me”.

    I’m starting to believe Kimster will be remembered as the greatest F1 driver not to win a championship. Alphonso pulling a hat trick? I think Hamilton thinks otherwise… and Ron. Massa? Who knows.

  6. Exactly the same circumstances, Haplo – flat out down the main straight and a rear tyre blows without warning, immediately stripping itself off the wheel. I take nothing away from Mansell being able to control the car in such circumstances and you should not belittle Speed for doing the same. He parked it very neatly after keeping it straight – no mean achievement.

    As to Speed’s ability, we shall see, if Scott ever gets a decent car underneath him. Analyze his race laps last year and you will find that he outperformed Liuzzi from the midway point onwards. Since Liuzzi is highly regarded amongst F1 team owners, that would make Speed much better than you think he is. It was no surprise to me that he set a time in practice in Barcelona that would have put him into sixth on the grid in qualifying.

    The name as well is merely an Anglo Saxon surname and not invented for the purpose of racing. Zimbabwe’s top racing driver many years ago was named John Love but I don’t think he laid any special claims as to his charms with the ladies…

    As to Kimi, he has nothing to prove – his years of wrestling uncompetitive McLarens into good race finishes have shown that he is an exceptional driver. If Ferrari cannot take advantage of that, then more fool them. Massa has looked good in the last few races – let him keep it up for a few more and maybe I’ll admit he is in the same league as Kimi. ;)

    Alonso remains the best bet for the championship because he has done it before and because his team is more together than Ferrari. That is already shown by the fact that they are leading the constructor’s championship in spite of winning only one race so far.

  7. “The name as well is merely an Anglo Saxon surname and not invented for the purpose of racing. Zimbabwe’s top racing driver many years ago was named John Love but I don’t think he laid any special claims as to his charms with the ladies…”

    That would make Schumacher a better cobbler then driver…. While maybe thats true of Ralph, atleast he’ll have a job next year!

  8. But would you buy any of Ralf’s shoes? The prices might be a bit steep, for a start… ;)

  9. I know I know, that was just me being rabid.

  10. Hey, rabid makes for good discussion, Haplo. It got us Ralf making shoes, after all. :D

  11. True, his shoes would be way overpriced and certainly not worth the money. And then, if you complain about them, he’ll just blame it on the rubber….. (I guess thats more of a shot at Renualt)

  12. His shoes would be gay.

  13. I’ve just watched the GP (I missed it, 6am live on a sunday is not my idea of fun.

    To me it’s very clear that: Alphonso had the position, but Massa had the inside and Alphonso pushed him too hard, Massa didn’t had nowhere to go and obviously they touched. In my eyes it was Alphonso’s blame, not Massa.

    Now the really dangerous thing was that idiotic returning to the track, very dangerous driving, it almost knock Lewis out, AND the two bimmers. Very stupid from Alphonso’s side.

    Now Super Sato, what a show!
    Did you catch the german cheating bastard when his brother ended his race? His face was like a very angry dad! And, you don’t get to see the F1 drivers out of their sparcos very much… he’s incredibly fit.
    BTW I download the Tele-5 version of the races, and usually De La Rosa is invited to the show as tv narrator, he thinks that Kimi has the worst luck off all drivers, while another narrator (don’t remember his name) has always said that Kimi is just too hard on the machines.

  14. Let’s read ALL of this thread again:

    Barcelona’s new chicane……………
    Massa/Hamilton ‘friendship’……….
    Primary/Secondary driver role reversal………….
    Speed’s name doesn’t mean speed…………….
    Love’s name doesn’t mean love…………………
    Schumacher doesn’t make shoes…………………
    and the shoes he doesn’t make are GAY!

    I guesss this thread has run it’s course!

  15. I’ve watched that overtaking maneuver several times since the race, Haplo, and I think you’re right. To me it looks as though Alonso knew that he was slightly ahead of Massa into the corner and turned in, expecting Felipe to give up and let him through. But he miscalculated, partly because Fernando was just too fierce with the turn-in, leaving Massa no room to stop, and also because Massa had decided that he wasn’t going to be a push-over this time. That’s what he has learned from MS…

    I didn’t see Michael’s face when his brother dropped out – but I would have loved to! All of the drivers are super-fit these days but Michael was the one who really made it so that they had to be – he’s always been the most physically fit of them all.

  16. ROFLOL, Number 38! You’re right, we end up in some strange places sometimes… :D

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