The most boring race of 2011? Yes. Predictable? You bet? A potential sedative that could be used prior to major surgery? We wouldn’t go that far, but there’s little doubt Valencia was a damp squib. However we at Badger pride ourselves of asserting that F1 isn’t boring, and even in a race like that which we witnessed yesterday there’s plenty to pick over. Here we’re looking at the performance of the frontrunners, better known in these parts as The Top Dogs.
- Qualifying: Vettel (1st) Webber (2nd)
- Race: Vettel (1st) Webber (3rd)
Would anyone notice if I copied and pasted this section in from the Spanish Grand Prix? Or Malaysia? Or Australia? Because once again Sebastian Vettel was inch perfect at the head of the field, rarely looking challenged on his route to victory. No, he doesn’t have to work particularly hard on a Sunday, but that’s because he does such a good job in qualy. You can’t blame him for that.
And there’s little more to say about the German. Unquestionably driver of the race, he will soon be a double world champion. At 23. Madness.
For Webber it was once again a case of close but not close enough, as he qualified just two-tenths slower than Vettel and endured the consequences of that in the race. It left him vulnerable to Alonso, and the Spaniard took advantage to take second. Mark was hit with a late gearbox issue that slowed him, but it would be mad of us to suggest that it was always going to be he, not Seb, who found himself with a sick car. However if you want to make such suggestions we’re always happy to listen.
Badger’s Best: Vettel
- Qualifying: Alonso (4th) Massa (5th)
- Race: Alonso (2nd) Massa (5th)
Another virtuoso performance from Fernando Alonso proved – if it needed proving – that he can be a terrifying force of nature behind the wheel of an F1 car. Martin Brundle said it during the race: “if I was in F1 now the one man I wouldn’t want chasing me down is Alonso.” That sums it up: whether or not you like him as a person he’s an immense racing driver.
Top start (aided by Massa getting jammed behind Webber), relentless pace, a smooth pass on Webber and the help of his team gave Alonso P2, as much as he could have hoped for. He seemed pleased enough, too.
Massa also had a decent run, splitting the McLarens in P5. You wonder what would have happened had he held third at the start: would it have been Felipe, not Fernando, who split the Red Bulls, or would he merely have held his team-mate up and ensured a Vettel-Webber one-two. We won’t speculate however, just congratulate Felipe on what was a solid job – albeit one of a very definite number two driver.
Badger’s Best: Alonso
- Qualifying: Hamilton (3rd) Button (6th)
- Race: Hamilton (4th) Button (6th)
After making the headlines in Canada McLaren were anonymous in Valencia, aside from a bit of banter between Lewis Hamilton and the pitwall. As ever Lewis was faster. He usually is – he’s just naturally faster than Jenson. That doesn’t always translate to a better result, but in the borefest of Valencia it was inevitably going to. After dropping behind the Ferraris at the start an early pitstop made reclaiming third seem possible but the pace wasn’t there. Fourth was actually a decent result for a driver who’s taken so much flak of late.
Jenson was almost invisible. He came home sixth, over a minute shy of the man he beat with such style in Canada and behind Massa’s Ferrari. KERS issues hit him during the second half of the race but it’s unclear whether this had any baring on his finishing position. The pace just wasn’t in the McLarens this weekend.
Badger’s Best: Hamilton
- Qualifying: Rosberg (7th) Schumacher (8th)
- Race: Rosberg (7th) Schumacher (17th)
Not a good weekend for Mercedes, but ultimately Rosberg’s seventh place shouldn’t be sniffed at given the fact that Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren all got both of their cars to the flag. Nico was largely anonymous, but after a couple of poor results he can take some cheer from this.
However things looked more promising early on, and once again it was a case of starting well and dropping back for the Merc boys. They now look to solidly be the fourth best team in F1, but their prospects of getting among the big three appear slim.
Schumacher had another shocker, driving in to Vitaly Petrov as he exited the pits and ending the day 17th. Was it a lack of concentration, the sort that can be expected of a driver in his forties trying to compete with a bunch of twenty-somethings? Probably, and after his best post-comeback performance in Canada it will have hurt the seven-time champ. Hear that creaking noise in the distance? It’s the ‘Schumacher to retire’ rumour mill grinding in to action once more.
Badger’s Best: Rosberg
Driver character graphics provided by Unlap.