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The Top 5 from Valencia

Published 26th June 2012 - Written by Craig Norman
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After a fantastic race on the streets of Valencia (can you believe it?) the Badgerometer picks the Top 5 talking points. Twelve months ago we could barely scrape them together – what a difference a year makes!

 Lotus need perfection, it seems

You have to feel for Lotus this year. Each race they seem to be there or thereabouts in terms of getting that elusive win. They are becoming, ironically, a constant factor in an unpredictable season, but they’re missing that vital last little bit to get them to to the next level.

Close again, but no cigar - Photo: Lotus F1

It felt like this weekend was going to be the one, didn’t it? Both cars looked good on long runs during Friday practice, both were in the top 5 on Saturday (a target the team had set itself) and both were positioned well as the race wore on.

Then Romain Grosjean’s alternator gave up the ghost, while Kimi Raikkonen got caught behind Lewis Hamilton and used up his fresh tyres. Small things, but they need to go your way in 2012 if a win is to come your way.

It’ll happen – it’s getting closer and closer – but it’s all about keeping up with developments. Can Lotus keep it going, or will their opportunities keep disappearing in a puff of smoke?

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 Red Bull are now very, very fast

0.384 seconds. Not a large amount by timing standards, but that was the gap by which Sebastian Vettel took pole position for Sunday’s race.

And it was pretty impressive, as all of the cars in Q2 were separated by just 0.218 seconds.

Seb flew in the updated RB8 - Photo: Red Bull Racing

In 2011 Red Bull perfected the formula  of getting on pole position and racing off into the distance, which worked a treat. All of a sudden, after a raft of updates, the RB8 can deliver that kind of performance again. That is a warning sign to the rest of the grid that they mean business.

Of course it’s not like they haven’t been fast in 2012 already – two wins and two poles (after penalties) – but now it’s a whole new ball game. Without the alternator failure for Sebastian Vettel, he’d be the first double winner. Fact.

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 Finally, Michael gets his champagne moment

Here it is Schumacher fans, that one big moment you’ve all been waiting for. Soak it up.

And about time too - Photo: Mercedes AMG

Michael Schumacher finally got a podium finish for Mercedes, something that had been eluding him since his return in 2010. He hasn’t really been in the running for one in the previous 45 attempts – bar Canada 2011, maybe – and it was fortunate to say the least.

But it gives Mercedes a headache for 2013 for one simple reason: Michael can still deliver. With his contract up at the end of the season, and no rumblings that the 43-year-old wants to stop racing, why can’t he go on into another season?

With the way Mercedes are improving season-by-season, he could be a threat next year…

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Photo: Williams/LAT

A few laps from the end of the European Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was fending off a charging Pastor Maldonado for the last spot on the podium. The Williams attempted a move round the outside, left the track, then collided with the McLaren. Lewis was eliminated on the spot. Pastor limped to 10th place.

The stewards were right to slap a time penalty on the Venezuelan, costing him the point. It was a crass move that should have been avoided as Lewis was a sitting duck on worn tyres. Not for the first time, Pastor showed his immaturity in a situation that should have brought him much more than it did.

Photo: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

The only criticism we might have with Lewis is that with the tyres he had, he didn’t really have a chance to hold anyone off. We saw in Canada with Vettel, ironically against Hamilton, that conceding and taking whatever points are left is a better option (especially in this crazy season). Dropping to a solid 4th would make more sense than to scrap for, and then lose, a 3rd place.

Is that a sign of immaturity too?

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 Fernando Alonso – King of Spain

If there’s one thing you can say about Fernando Alonso, it’s that he knows how to win a race. With a performance for the ages, the Spaniard delivered a home win from 11th on the grid that even he thought was impossible after Saturday’s qualifying.

Luck might have played a small part in what transpired, but Fernando did everything right to get into a fortunate position. He made a good start, passing three cars on the first lap alone before Nico Hulkenberg was then dispatched. Tyre management was key too, as he managed to jump three cars in the pits thanks to a fast in-lap and a great Ferrari pit-stop.

You have every right to enjoy that, 'Nando - Photo: Octane Photography

After the first stop he put in some blinding moves to overtake Webber, Senna and Di Resta, passed Hamilton in the pits after another bungled McLaren pitstop and sat third in the queue behind the safety car.

At the restart he hustled Grosjean and passed him almost immediately. When the Red Bull of Vettel dropped out it was the home hero who made the most of it. It was a simply stunning drive.

Moments like this are what legends are based on. In a few seasons time, if Valencia is still on the calendar, this will be its defining race. It’s track that needed a classic Grand Prix to add to all the other ingredients it possesses – location, hospitality, track – and now it has it. In spades.

The brilliant part of the victory was the long and broken trawl back to the pits. There was Fernando, Spanish flag in hand, climbing out of a car he’d dragged from 11th to 1st, celebrating with the marshals in front of his homecrowd. A brilliant drive from a superb showman. Awesome.

Craig Norman
Badger GP Editor

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Photo: Red Bull Racing Media

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Photo: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

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Photo: Lotus F1/LAT
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