Driver Performance Analysis: Valencia
Published 27th June 2012 - Written by Craig Norman
Hot Rod or Hot Dog is our regular post-race feature where we select drivers who we think deserve recognition for strong performances and those who, quite frankly, should be ashamed of themselves.
We’ve already done him – read it here.
Oh hello 2010 Lewis Hamilton – where ever have you been?
It was very much a weekend spoilt at the last for the McLaren driver. He looked as though he’d successfully manhandled his car round for most of the race, only for another duff pit stop to drop him from second to sixth and then a charging Pastor Maldonado to knock him out of the race.
The pit stops, quite frankly, are turning into this year’s equivalent of accidents with Felipe Massa. What on earth is going on? Race after race, they simply can’t get it right; Hamilton is getting into territory where he can justifiably kick up an absolute fuss.
Then we come to Pastor Maldonado – a driver with whom Hamilton has form. To us it looked reasonable that Maldonado should have engaged his brain and braked when he went off the track, rejoined behind Hamilton and then passed him before the end of the race. He was clearly a lot faster.
How much of it was Hamilton’s fault? Some, given he was fighting hard for a place he would probably have lost, but then the fault only goes so far. We certainly don’t think it was unreasonable to fight for the place, especially so close to the end of the race.
Nico Hulkenberg & Paul Di Resta
After a rallying call from team boss Vijay Mallya – who has watched his squad slip worryingly adrift of chief rivals Williams and Sauber – both Force India drivers produced excellent displays in Valencia to bring home a bumper haul of points.
For Nico Hulkenberg this was a much needed result: the German has been put in the shade by team-mate Paul di Resta this season and will take great confidence from having the beating of the Scot all weekend. The Hulk qualified strongly (P8) and like di Resta ran a one-stop race that put him high up the order in the closing stages. He was a sitting duck when the fresher-tyred Schumacher and Webber stormed by but the Hamilton-Maldonado mess promoted him to P5 at the flag – his best finish to date in F1.
For di Resta it was merely another of the strong displays we’ve become accustomed to, albeit not quite of the calibre produced by Nico. The Scot was towards the front all day thanks to his one-stop strategy and came home a solid seventh following the late chaos. Overall Valencia proved to be the Silverstone-based squad’s best performance of the season and will re-ignite hope that they can fight their midfield rivals for that coveted sixth in the standings.
It would be remiss of us not to mention Seb.Vet [ed. is this what we’re calling him now? Really?] in this column. The reigning champ had done everything right – pole position, led from the start and set the fastest lap – when his car cried no more. It was a typically perfect display and one that it’s hard to suggest wouldn’t have given him the win had his car gone the distance. Chin up Seb: there’s enough pace in that RB8 to fight for plenty more victories.
His car may have expired on lap 40 but this was still another sterling performance from former scrapheap dweller Romain Grosjean. He could perhaps have qualified better, but once the lights went out he was a star. His pass on Hamilton was as good as any made during the race (note to P.Maldonado: that’s how you pass Lewis in Valencia) and had his car not given up the ghost he would have had every chance of winning the race. It was by no means a perfect display: he took a touch too long to overhaul the McLaren and was a victim of Alonso’s magic at the restart, but this is a man still learning on his return to F1. A win is still very much in the offing this season.
Did Mr. Grit do a good job in Valencia considering the speed that Seb.Vet [ed. seems it’s stuck] extracted from the Red Bull? Kind of. P19 to P4 for the man who calls a spade a spade may sound mighty impressive, particularly as he didn’t have that great of a start – by lap 6 he was still in 17th, stuck behind Daniel Riccardo (who, incidentally, fell back comically towards the end). But this is just not good enough. As we all know (now at least) Valencia is a great circuit for daredevil overtaking. The trend continues – whilst ze Wunderkid was romping away at the front Webber was lapping two seconds a lap slower in the midfield. But he was on a set of shoddy medium tyres, the eagle-eyed amongst you cry! Fair criticism, but I saw it coming. In rebuttal, with some fresh soft rubber, a clear track, a safety car, freak retirements and Maldonando calling on us (again) to question his morality, Webber was able to follow the slower Mercedes of Michael Schumacher around to his favourite position of 2012, 4th. As I said, he kind of did a good job, although it’s difficult to determine if a spade was indeed a spade in this instance.
In the head of the Venezuelan there must be a little switch triggered by excitement. It flicks “off” whenever there’s a bit of bloodrush, and off goes Pastor’s brain. That must be the case, right?
A podium place was begging. Hamilton was a sitting duck. Yet, instead of playing the waiting game further down the road, Maldonado tried a ballsy overtake that didn’t pay off, and out goes the McLaren.
With a little more maturity and class, Pastor Maldonado could be a fan favourite – instead, he’s the sport’s version of Joey Barton. If it wasn’t for the $19m of sponsorship, would he be in F1 at all?