Valencia has a history of producing boring processional races but that was not to be this year as an exhilarating grand prix saw Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso script a stunning victory from eleventh on the grid. He drove a stupendous race, passed those ahead of him like a champion and had lady luck smile upon him a tad, to become the first driver this season to win two races. Race leader Sebastian Vettel suffered an engine failure which ended his race just as Alonso had passed into second place after a race restart following a safety car period.
Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen finished in second place having bided his time in the closing laps before passing Lewis Hamilton into second place. Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher finished a surprised third, after he pitted for a fresh set of tyres and scythed through the field towards the latter part of the race.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber finished fourth having duplicated Schumacher’s tyre change and following him as they hunted down other drivers in pairs. Fifth place went to the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg ahead of Nico Rosberg in sixth and Paul Di Resta in seventh. Jenson Button finished eighth ahead of the Sauber of Sergio Perez in ninth and the Williams of Pastor Maldonado in tenth.
Apart from Alonso’s magnificent victory, the three other highlights of the race were the retirement of pole sitter and early leader Sebastian Vettel, ditto for Renault’s Romain Grosjean and a dodo move by Pastor Maldonado on Lewis Hamilton which wrecked the McLaren’s suspension as he banged into the wall whilst in third place.
The incidents were precipitated by a rookie mistake from Toro Rosso’s Jean Eric Vergne, who banged into the Caterham of Heikki Kovalainen as he was passing him – puncturing the rear-right tyre of the Toro Rosso and the front-left of the Caterham. Vergne drove back to the pits shredding bits and pieces of debris all along the track, which brought out the safety car.
Sebastian Vettel stormed to pole position for the European Grand Prix at Valencia’s street track in a close but curious qualifying session which saw his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber fail to make it out of Q3. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was second fastest ahead of the Williams of Pastor Maldonado. It was a given that the Red Bull likes the twisty Valencia circuit and hence not totally surprising that the gap was 00.324 of a second between Vettel & Hamilton for the pole shootout.
Lotus were strong with Romain Grosjean starting fourth and Kimi Raikkonen fifth, with Nico Rosberg in sixth, Kamui Kobayashi in seventh. Force India also had a good qualifying with both their cars in the top ten – Nico Hulkenberg in eighth and Paul Di Resta tenth. Jenson Button, who had a forgetful Canadian GP, didn’t have the best of the sessions and starts ninth on the grid.
What was interesting to note that was how close the top teams were in terms of their timed runs. The fastest time in Q2 was Romain Grosjean’s 1:38.429 and though they clocked 1:38.7, Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa all failed to get through to Q3!
I got really bored by the last two races at Valencia and this time too have no hopes of an exciting race. Only thing remains to be seen is whether we will have an eighth different winner or someone will notch up their second win of the season. I’m tipping Kimi for the win!
McLaren announced their revival in style as they locked out the front row of the grid for the European Grand Prix at the street circuit of Valencia. It was Lewis Hamilton on Pole position with teammate Heikki Kovalainen on P2. The Brawn of Rubens Barrichello is on P3 with teammate Jenson Button on P4. Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Robert Kubica complete the top ten. In a slightly less-than-hectic Qualifying session, the true race pace of McLaren was showcased as early as the first session itself as neither the Brawns nor the Red Bulls could challenge them. Lewis was atop the timesheets for most of the first session and also for most of the second. In both sessions, he was pipped by the Brawns – first by Jenson in Q1 and then by Rubens in Q2 but when it mattered, the Brawns just could not better the McLaren’s times.
Q1 started with long time practice driver for Ferrari, Luca Badoer being amongst the first ones to go round the street circuit at Valencia but his time was not fast enough and he steadily dropped down the charts. Most of the drivers posted their times in the high 1 Min 40s bracket and Heikki Kovalainen was the first one to dip into the 1 Min 39s timeframe which was bettered by Kimi Raikkonen and then by Sebastian Vettel and also by Nico Rosberg. Subsequently Lewis Hamilton clocked the fastest time but was immediately eclipsed by Rubens Barrichello but Lewis again clawed back to P1 but not for long as Jenson Button went quicker still. The ones to drop out of Q1 were Giancarlo Fisichella, Kazuki Nakajima, Jarno Trulli, Jaime Alguersuari & Luca Badoer. Yep, a Ferrari at the back of the grid! Continue reading
A Ferrari Engine blew up for the second race in succession but this time around, it was Kimi Raikkonen’s which let go in a plume of smoke at the 47th lap. Teammate Felipe Massa had the misfortune last time around but he put that behind him and put in a flawless performance and won the first-ever Grand Prix at Valencia’s street circuit. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton didn’t have the pace to challenge the lead Ferrari and had to settle for second place. BMW’s Robert Kubica took the third place ahead of McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen and Toyota’s Jarno Trulli. Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel converted his excellent qualifying performance into a sixth place finish and was followed by Timo Glock and Nico Rosberg in 7th and 8th place respectively.
The race was expected to have a few Safety Car periods but there were none! An early on-track incident involved Nakajima running into the back of Fernando Alonso which took out the Spaniard at his home grand prix in the first lap itself! Adrian Sutil drove into the barriers as a result of brake problems and those were the only two on-track retirements. Kimi Raikkonen’s too was an on-track retirement but that was more as a result of the Engine letting go rather than a driver error. There were a couple of pit-lane incidents and both involved Ferrari! Felipe Massa almost ran into Adrian Sutil as both exited the pit-lane at the same time and that incident will be investigated after the race. The second was a more serious one and it involved Kimi Raikkonen. He and Heikki Kovalainen came into the pits at the same time and in his eagerness to beat the McLaren out of the pits, Kimi lifted off well before the light turned green and brought down the fuel-rig person. The car’s rear wheels hit the mechanic as he was coming down and he was taken into the medical center for medical check-up. This cost Kimi oodles of time and he lost two places after the stop. But of course, the engine failure dealt a bigger blow for the Finn as he picks up no points from the race and Massa overtakes him in the Drivers’ Championship.
As it stands, Lewis Hamilton still leads the Championship with 70 points with Massa in second place with 64 points. Kimi Raikkonen drops into third place with 57 points with Robert Kubica 2 points behind. Ferrari’s lead in the Constructors’ Championship dwindles to 8 points – 121 to McLaren’s 113. The next grand prix is at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium where Ferrari scored a 1-2 last year.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa took the pole position for the European Grand Prix at the new street circuit of Valencia with a neat performance in Q3. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton will start alongside him in P2 with BMW’s Robert Kubica and the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen occupying the second row. P5 went to Heikki Kovalainen ahead of early pace-setter Sebastian Vettel of Toro Rosso. Jarno Trulli, Nick Heidfeld, Nico Rosberg & Sebastian Bourdais complete the top 10.
This was the first-ever Qualifying session at the street circuit of Valencia and all the teams had a learning phase before they could put in a flawless lap. Lewis Hamilton & Felipe Massa were expectedly quick but the surprise P1 holders were Vettel and Trulli who were the fastest cars on the track at some point of time. Q1′s dropouts included the unlucky David Coulthard and both Honda’s of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello and both the Force India’s of Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil. Q2 accounted for local hero Fernando Alonso and his teammate Nelson Piquet alongwith Kazuki Nakajima, Timo Glock & Mark Webber.
The Valencia track is wider than Monaco but it seems overtaking will be at a premium here also and that makes the race all the more exciting. Massa needs a win desperately and Hamilton will want to extend his lead in the Championship, so it will be interesting to see the start of the race tomorrow. Hope those two get into a skirmish and Kubica gets held up behind them, thus paving the way for Kimi Raikkonen to jump into the lead!