July 24th, 2012 (F1plus / Chitra Subramanyam).- This season just doesn’t let up now, does it? Just when you think you are getting a boring race. Wham! It turns around and kicks you right in the you-know-where. No, I am not complaining. I promise. I love an unpredictable race, especially if it’s on one of my favourite circuits.
Rain during Qualifying ensured that the bets were off. So, on race day, as the cars lined up the grid, I had my fingers tightly crossed. I just couldn’t shake off that feeling. You know, the one that says I’d see Sebastian Vettel on podium, his finger pointed to crowd in victory. Now, just an aside: I am not averse to his racing. I am just biased. I prefer Jenson Button and Bruno Senna. That’s just the way things roll on my side of town.
Anyway, the lights turn red, everyone sets off, harum-scarum (I love the start of a race), and then Felipe Massa happens. Ok, it wasn’t his fault really. It was a racing incident. But it’s Massa, if you get my drift. He made contact with Daniel Ricciardo, lost the front wing of his car, sparkly little pieces of carbon fibre flew up and debris scattered all over the track. Chaos ensued, as Bruno Senna, Romain Grosjean, and Massa limped into the pit lane. That was that then for our heroes.
Up ahead though, things were looking up for Fernando Alonso and Vettel. The Red Bull showed good pace, but Alonso had what it takes for victory. There were many other stars of the show with stunning racing and overtaking from most of the teams on track. There was Paul di Resta’s face-off with Michael Schumacher, Massa’s rise to the 12th spot after the first lap debacle, the Saubers vs Schumacher, and of course, Vitaly Petrov’s race with teammate Heikki Kovalainen.
But it was Lewis Hamilton who became the one man to leave a definite mark on the race. It was the Briton’s 100th race and should have ideally, given that the McLaren had the pace, been on the podium. But the debris on the track attacked his left rear tyre and left him at the back of the pack. He tried to make up time, and it was on lap 36, fresh on medium tyres that Hamilton found himself ahead of teammate Jenson Button and behind Vettel who running at the 2nd position.
Hamilton tried to unlap himself with DRS and passed the German. This drew an angry shake from the German who post-race called the Briton “stupid”. (Note: Vettel does like to bandy words about. Remember “cucumber”?) He told Sky Sports, “That was not nice of him. I don’t see the point why he is trying to race us… But, it’s a bit stupid to disturb the leaders. He was a lap down, so I don’t see the point anyway. I think that potentially lost us the position to Jenson because soon after that we pitted, I think only two or three laps after that.” (Read the interview here). Even as Vettel gestured wildly at Hamilton, the Briton was chasing down race leader Alonso. But, couldn’t pass him, even with the DRS. Hamilton retired soon after with mechanical problems. He added spice to what was turning out to be a brilliant race and left everyone (on Twitter) chuckling.
In all this excitement, calm and collected, Button worked his way up to the top, to a race-winning position. The McLaren team outdid themselves with a stunning pitstop ensuring that Button emerged right before Vettel. The race was now on. Button chased Alonso, waiting to make his move. But the Spaniard was just too quick. By the end of the race though, Button was fighting off a determined Vettel who crept behind him, vying for the 2nd slot.
It was the final lap and Alonso was driving to a sure-win. Behind him, Vettel closed in on Button, finally overtaking him at Turn 6. But, as he made his move, cries of protest went up. Vettel passed Button. There’s no doubt about it. But Vettel went outside the track to overtake Button. The German said that he was giving Button room. But the stewards decided otherwise. He has now been handed a 20-second penalty, moving him to 5th place and Ice Man Kimi Raikkonen to the 3rd spot.
This post-race, post-podium drama was the icing on a beautiful, sunny day at Hockenheim.
Alonso is now the only racer this season to have won three races. It has put him at the top of the Drivers Championship with 154 points. But the season isn’t over yet. In fact, we go into a month-long break after Hungary. What happens next is anyone’s guess. The cards are still up in the air, and the championship is up for grabs. Don’t make any bets just as yet.
Bruno ran a great race given the situation. I feel it important then, to point out that he ended the race 17th. His teammate Pastor Maldonado started out in the 6th position, but ended 15th. Maldonado later said that his car was damaged because of track debris and that it lacked pace. Well, we will just let that be for now. The less said about this the better.