June 27, 2010

F1 UPDATE!: European Grand Prix @ Valencia 2010

We've never seen a race where one event so completely dominated the results, but that's the only way to interpret what happened today.  But what happened?  And why was it so influential?  THIS is your F1 UPDATE! for the 2010 Grand Prix of Europe @ Valencia!

*MARK WEBBER AND THE TERRIBLE HORRIBLE NO GOOD VERY BAD DAY:  It's hard to imagine that any day in a F1 driver's work life could be considered bad, per se.  After all, they're F1 drivers.  Their job is to take one of the most technologically advanced race cars out on a track and go very fast with it... and get paid great honking stacks of money to do it.  It's dangerous, of course, but the cars are very safe and the drivers are very, very skilled.  What a F1 driver might call a "bad day at work" would be a day in the giggle factory for most of us.  "Oh dear, I had an awful day at work today, I only got my car to go 170mph instead of 180 and finished last in the grand prix.  May I eat some more caviar and champagne off the small of your back, Giselle, or would you prefer to peel me grapes and feed them to me?"  Terrible.

And yet, describing Mark Webber's day as "bad" isn't going far enough.  Starting from second on the grid, with his teammate just ahead of him, Webber looked to be in good shape for a high points-paying finish.  When the lights went out his start didn't seem too awful.  However, starting on the dirty side of the track, he wound up getting passed by cars that managed to slide onto the clean side before he could.  By the end of the first lap, he had dropped all the way to 9th.  His retreat ended at that point, but 8th place Sebastian Buemi proved remarkably tough to pass.  After seven laps of frustration, the crew on the pit wall changed his race strategy on the fly and brought him in for his mandatory tire change.  He returned to the race in 19th, but in the interesting position of having everybody in front of him still needing to make a stop.  All he needed to do was go quickly, not let the drivers ahead of him get too far afield, and when they made their stops, he'd leapfrog back up the standings.  His tires may not be as fresh as theirs, but a driver of his ability could work around that.  Two laps later, he had closed up on the Lotus of Heikki Kovaleinninninnie, and while it was a race for position, it was clear that the Finn had no chance of holding Webber behind for very long.  As they came down the back straight towards Turn 12, the Red Bull was in good position to pass under braking.

And then it all went terribly wrong.












Remarkably, both Webber and Kovaleinninninnie were unhurt by this massive shunt, a testament to the level of safety inherent to a F1 chassis.  For his part, Heikki was defending his position and said as much over the radio just after the accident.  Webber says that the Lotus braked some 80m earlier than he would have, and that Kovaleinninninnie was blocking him and should have let him past.  Of course, the Lotus isn't the same as a RB6, and is nowhere near as stable under braking, so it's no surprise that it has to slow earlier.  In the end, it should be judged as nothing more than a racing incident.

Seemingly before the wreckage had stopped bouncing, Charlie Whiting, F1's race director, had called out the Safety Car, and that's when the race went straight into the garbage can.

*RULES?  WE DON'T NEED NO STEENKING RULES!: As the Safety Car began rolling down the pit lane, Seb Vettel in the other Red Bull chassis swept past the pit exit at full throttle.  As the SC exited, however, Lewis Hamilton's McLaren and the two Ferraris of HWMNBN and Felipe Massa were in a pickle.  It looked like it would be close as to whether or not they'd get past the modified AMG-Mercedes SLS before it hit the pit exit line.  If they did, they would be able to swoop around the track and dive into the pits before the rest of the field.  If not, they'd either be stuck behind the SC for a lap while other cars, those nearing the pit in, could go in before them, or they could be penalized for passing the SC, a definite rules violation.  Hamilton thought he would get by so didn't lift off the gas.  The two Ferraris weren't so sure, so they slowed down.  They made the correct call, for as Lewis drew even to the SC it crossed the pit exit line.  He would later be given a drive-through penalty for his infraction, but he continued on around at nearly full throttle for the rest of the lap. 

And that's where the controversy began.  When the penalty was handed down to McLaren, the Safety Car had come in and the race resumed.  By the Sporting Regulations, a penalized driver has three laps to serve the penalty or be black flagged (excluded from the race).  During those three laps, Hamilton turned in back-to-back fast laps of the race, opening his gap to third place wide enough that he didn't lose a single position when he did the drive-through penalty.  Yes, he went from three seconds behind race leader Vettel to 15 seconds behind, but he was still in second place, a few seconds ahead of Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi, who did not pit behind the Safety Car.  So for a rather flagrant violation of the Sporting Regs, Hamilton essentially lost nothing.

Meanwhile, the two Ferraris, neither of whom did anything wrong, lost out big-time.  As they had to trundle around behind the Safety Car before they could pit, they tumbled down the timesheets.  HWMNBN exited in 10th, falling from third.  As the two Red cars pitted at the same time, Massa was forced to stack behind his teammate and wait for his service to be completed.  By the time his stop was done, he'd fallen from fourth to 15th.  For once, the screams emanating from Maranello were justifiable.  Neither Ferrari, both of whom were looking quite racy, were ever again in contention for anything other than back-of-the-order points.

Meanwhile, nine other cars were being investigated for speeding under Safety Car conditions.  Again, by the Sporting Regs, when a Safety Car is called out a driver must reduce his speed, whether or not he's in line behind the SC.  Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello, Robert Kubica, Adrian Sutil, Seb Buemi, Pete Rose, Vitaly Petrov, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Nico Hulkenberg were all found to be in violation of this rule and given a five second time penalty after the race.  This would eventually affect the final results.

*FINALLY:  Back at the front, Seb Vettel cruised blithely around and around, never putting a tire wrong and romping home for a victory, though not one without drama.  Towards the end of the race, Lewis Hamilton turned up the fire in his engine and began to take huge chunks out of the Red Bull's lead.  From 12 seconds with 10 laps to go, the lead fell to six seconds with six to go.  Instead of being threatened, however, it turned out that Vettel was just trying to conserve his engine.  As Hamilton looked to be threatening, the Red Bull began to nearly match the McLaren.  Over the last six laps, Vettel only lost one more second, all on the final lap.  A fascinating and controversial race had come to an end.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  While Seb Vettel drove a solid race and won without much in the way of excitement or drama, he was not the driver of the race.  That honor goes to Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi.  When the Safety Car caused by Webber's crash was called out, he stayed out on track, jumping from the back of the pack all the way to third.  Of course, he'd still need to pit to change his tires, but who was to say there wouldn't be another Safety Car?  When the safety car period ended, Kobayashi suddenly became Gandalf the Grey in the Mines of Moria, bellowing "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" at the silver, blue and yellow Balrogs that were Jensen Button, Rubens Barrichello and Robert Kubica.  For thirty-nine laps!  It was only when he was dragged into the fiery pits on Lap 53 for his mandatory tire change that he relinquished third place... but he would re-emerge as Gandalf the White, in 9th place but on brand new soft tires with three laps to go.  See the Move of the Race for the finish to this saga.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Williams.  With Rubens Barrichello ending up in 4th place, it was already going to be a fantastic result for the struggling team.  Nico Hulkenberg was poised for a points-paying finish as well, but an exhaust problem ended up knocking him out with only a few laps to go.  When he exited the race, he was in 10th, but had probably lost a couple of positions due to the problem, which emerged as a dramatic (but short lived) plume of smoke a few laps earlier.  A huge morale boost to the team, surely. 

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  As previously mentioned, Kamui Kobayashi had dropped from 3rd to 9th due to his mandatory pit stop on lap 53.  He emerged from the pits reborn on fresh soft tires while everybody ahead of him were on well-used rubber.  Two cars, the Ferrari of HWMNBN and the Toro Rosso of Seb Buemi, were within striking distance.  Seemingly from the moment he rejoined the race, he was all over the back of the former World Champion, hassling him in every turn to the point that the Spaniard, who had been trying to overpower the Toro Rosso, had to let him off the hook and drive defensively.  The Ferrari just couldn't cope with the Sauber, however, and in Turn 20 of the penultimate lap Kobayashi did everything right and slipped by HWMNBN with no fuss whatsoever.  He then set his sights on the Toro Rosso, some five or six lengths ahead.  The chase would prove to take the entire lap, with the Sauber slowly reeling Buemi in.  Then, finally, going into the final turn, Kobayashi came from three or four car lengths back, seemingly without touching his brakes, leaped to the inside of Buemi and rolled past in a daring and bold move.  Yes, he only went from 9th to 7th, but it was a beautiful bit of driving for a team that's not had a lot of good news this year.  Congrats, Kamui, you deserve every bit of this MOTR!

*MOOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  While messageboards will be buzzing over who was at fault for the most spectacular crash of the 2010 season (and the most frightening; we here at F1U! felt sick to our stomachs when Webber landed upside-down), we believe it to be a simple racing incident, albeit one with a rather dramatic outcome.  No, the true Mooooooo-ooove of the Race came on Lap 36, between Timo Glockenspiel and Bruno Senna.  The two were dicing for 19th place as Kobayashi and Button were coming up to lap them, when Glock's Virgin cut across the nose of Senna's HRT.  Glock's right-rear tire immediately went down as Senna's front wing suddenly became a child's drawing of what a finely-crafted aerodynamic device should look like.  Normally this wouldn't've been much of an incident, but Glock's VR-1 began seesawing across the track, much of his control lost.  It was only by force of will that he kept it from slamming into either the Sauber, the McLaren, or the wall.  Still, considering how avoidable an incident it was, we've got to give the Mooooooo-ooove to Timo Glockenspiel.

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"Woo!  Yes, I'm the winner!  I won!  Look at me, I won the race!  Oh, Mark was in a wreck?  He okay?  Yes?  I'm the winner!  Woo-hoooooo!" - Seb Vettel

"Whoops.  Guess I'm a naughty boy, huh?" - Lewis Hamilton

"All that you shall not pass stuff was pretty irritating.  Could hear it above my engine and everything." - Jensen Button

"I love this track." - Rubens Barrichello

"Eh.  Good race." - Robert Kubica

"Best damn race of the season for me!  And Germany won in the World Cup, too!" - Adrian F'n Sutil

"I am a servant of the secret fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Ud√Ľn! Go back to the shadow! YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" - Kamui Kobayashi  ("Oi!  Give it a rest, will you, mate?" -Jensen Button)

"The race was ruined by the Safety Car and everything that followed on from that. I am disappointed most of all for the thousands of spectators who were here today and saw how the situation was handled. I am very bitter about what happened today. I was in third place, a metre behind Hamilton at the moment the Safety Car came out on track and, at the chequered flag, he was second and I was ninth, even though we had made the same choice of strategy. The penalty he was given came when it could no longer have any real influence on his finishing position. From then on, my race was compromised." - HWMNBN (note: real quote)

"It was like Kobayashi was riding a giant white horse or something..." - Seb Buemi

"Well that just frickin' sucked." - Nico Rosberg

"The difference between us and Hamilton is that he committed an infraction and we did not, but his penalty had no effect on his result. I think that errors were made in the way this situation was managed." - Felipe Massa (note: real quote)

"Just great.  Now he'll be the grand white wizard, and I'll be looked at like some slob of a footsoldier." - Pete Rose

"Um... at least I finished." - NKOTT

"So much for the Legendary Announce Team proclaiming me as the second coming..." - Vitaly Petrov

"How DARE they make me stop in the pit lane?  Don't they know who I am?" - Slappy Schumacher (note: Slappy got caught by the line of cars coming by behind the Safety Car; before he could be released, the line had to pass completely, so he wound up sitting at the pit out for quite some time)

"I've got better hair than Sutil." - Vitantonio Liuzzi

"Best race of my career.  Which isn't saying much." - Lucas di Grassi

"I did 47 laps on one set of tires... how come I wasn't up in third?" - Cowboy Karun Chandhok

"Take your stupid award, fold it until it's all sharp corners, then sti*static*" - Timo Glockenspiel

"I finished the race.  You take your victories where you can." - Bruno Senna

"At the very start of the race I was hit from behind at the same time someone took off my front wing.  Then later I had a gearbox problem, but the team still managed to get me back out.  And you're surprised I was four laps down?" - Jarno Trulli

"It was quite the race until something in my car caught fire.  Then I took my frustrations out on a tire barrier by kicking it.  My foot will be healed in time for the next race." - Nico Hulkenberg

"I won't let him past me I won't let him past me I won't let him past mAIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" - Heikki Kovaleinninninnnie

"I'm happy. I was just having a shower and thinking, 'Mate, you're lucky to be in one piece.'  It was a nasty incident.  I'm surprised at what happened.  I'm a bit tender here and there, but the car did a great job.  Bloody hell, let's just get on with the rest of the season." - Mark Webber (note: real quote)

After the race, the nine drivers mentioned above that were being investigated by the stewards for speeding behind the Safety Car were hit with a five-second time penalty.  Mostly, it didn't change the finishing order, though HWMNBN and Rosberg gained one position each.  All because of Webber's accident.  Between the penalties, Kobayashi's heroics, Ferrari's finishing positions and Hamilton's non-penalty penalty, this was easily the most influential incident we've ever seen in one race.

And so a dramatic and exciting Grand Prix of Europe comes to an end.  In two weeks, we'll be in Silverstone with its new layout, so don't miss it!  See you then!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 09:24 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
Post contains 2784 words, total size 18 kb.

1 I caught the last half-hour or so of the Fox broadcast. It was interesting to actually watch one of these things after following your updates for so long. Biggest surprise for me: Robert Kubica's last name is pronounced 'koo-beet-za'.

Posted by: Andrew F. at June 27, 2010 11:08 PM (aq/wL)

2 Hopefully, at least once during the race you were able to say something along the lines of "I knew that!  Wonderduck told me!"

Posted by: Wonderduck at June 27, 2010 11:39 PM (iJfPN)

3 Man, it's a good thing that Webber's roll bar did what it was supposed to. If it had buckled, he'd be dead.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at June 28, 2010 01:31 AM (+rSRq)

4 That was some crash. I think that was the watching through the gaps in the fingers moment of the year, just amazing. So glad Webber walked away from that one, although I'm sure the unluckiest person involved in the incident is whoever does his laundry.

The safety car incident was bad all round, there was a medical car coming out at the same time, it shouldn't have been a question for Hamilton or his team, as soon as they saw the cars leaving their station, they should have given way. Now Hamilton was riding the rules a little, as all the teams would, but the race should be truly neutral from the point the safety car is required, and that is down to firm clear regulations and race management rather than just the teams.

Posted by: flotsky at June 28, 2010 01:59 AM (16eCj)

5

That was one scary crash.  I was holding my breath until Webber moved.

As far as Hamilton's "penalty," I think he ought to have to serve a penalty of some sort in the next race.  Just  because he's wiley enough to figure a way around the drive-through, doesn't mean he should benefit from it. 

Perhaps the medical car should be a different color than the safety car to avoid confusion. 

 

Posted by: Mallory at June 28, 2010 10:17 AM (WJ2qy)

6 @Mallory
So what about the (relative) back-rankers who benefited from the SC? If Hamilton had stayed back, I imagine he still would have stayed in front of the Ferraris. (Assuming here he was second at the time)

I can't really find fault in him for NOT undeservedly losing position, but maybe there's something I'm not getting about this.

Posted by: Sward at June 29, 2010 02:37 PM (bbnAV)

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