May 18, 2012 (F1plus / Gustavo A Roche).- It is just very exciting to witness a very contested championship so far. Yes, I know what some of you are going to say. It probably has to do with the tyres (‘tires’ for Americans) and the immense responsibility they have had over the results this year (and somewhat 2011 too).
Drivers are now supposed to “handle” the tyres and drive the car “carefully” to basically sustain a constant race pace and to bring the car home. At the end, it seems that race management rewards better than true speed. But, let’s not get into that since it would divert us from the point of this article.
It is incredible that few changes on the rulings and we have a totally different championship, in which we see a somewhat struggling Red Bull team, while at the same Williams comes out of nowhere (gained a lot of in performance) and claimed an impressive victory on the hands of no other but the scrutinized Pastor Maldonado.
The Venezuelan proved his worth last Sunday, but it would be a little unfair to say that it was a total surprise in his performance. Remember how hard Alonso had to fight to keep him at bay at Melbourne until the Williams driver crashed victim of his own impetuous action at the very end stages of the initial GP. He has shown very good race pace, and his team seems to finally steering into the right direction after falling into oblivion for a good while.
Now the question is: who goes next? To me and our team here at F1plus is simple: Kimi Raikkonen. Lotus has been one of the most consistent teams on the grid, they certainly have the race speed, they appear to have figured out the tyres, and with the Finn displaying his old form, well, to us it is just a matter of time. And, by the way, they deserve it. For the Williams team to earn that victory before what might be a more worthy competitor, it might just be perceived as rude!
But, not only Raikkonen has a chance here. Romain Grosjean has outqualified his teammate in all but one race (China), in which he precisely finished the race in better position than the Finn (6th against 14th, and yes, we recall how horrible Kimi went from 2nd to 12th in about two laps), so for us the Frenchman will eventually get his maiden victory this year.
Please don’t panic, we are not going to miss a sure prediction: Hamilton collecting a win. It is simply a fact that the man might be the only one as fast as Vettel (we would love to see those two with the same car). The 2008 champion accumulated three straight third places finishes before the last pair of eights, add to that three ‘poles’…oh…ok…two, and on top of that, few mishaps while pitting that have just made of his season an unfair one. Rest assure, he’ll stand on top of the podium, and for sure he will have a saying in the championship hunt.
Now we have a second tier of prospects for that win. We dare to list them in order of possibilities: Webber, Schumacher, Massa, and a little bit farther we think of Senna (the care made it, so he has a chance). We would love to include any of the Sauber drivers, but looks like a stretch.
Aussie Mark Webber waited an entire calendar in 2011 to earn his first and only victory of that season, which came more as a present from his teammate who was struggling with his gearbox but still managed for a “second’ place finish, weird. Four straight 4th places speak miles about his consistency, and since Red Bull seems to be figuring the thing out, it should happen, Mark will get a victory, his last in the category maybe.
The “Kaiser” has been so unfortunate this season that we don’t even know what to expect or think. Personally, he deserves a win, and then retire with a final mark. Let’s just recap his eventful season.
In Australia the German started 4th but then while controlling a faulty gearbox ran wide and was out. In the complicated Malaysian GP, contact with Grosjean early in the race forced him to the back of the group and never fully recovered, but he earned his first point. China was the place of the incorrectly mounted wheel, done. In Bahrain, starting from 22nd was a tough one, so a 10th was a good result. Then, we go to Spain where a desperate or distracted -or whatever the reason was- Schumacher rammed into Senna’s back ending his race. Motivation has always been in the discussion, as the source of his poor results, but in reality it is more around the Mercedes car, which has been really competitive this year of the last three (ask Rosberg).
Massa, why is he here? Well, he was once very close to become a champion, and even though he has been greatly outraced by his teammate, Ferrari looks like is coming to life, so another crazy race like the Malaysian one (Perez made it in second) and then another unexpected winner, in this case it might be Felipe. He could just find his old groove.