A better race than many were expecting, the European Grand Prix in Valencia not only looked better (nice colour scheme by the way…) but, more importantly, was better than last year’s dismal fare. It was a race full of incident rather than on-track racing of the sort we saw in Canada but, when that’s the best you can hope for, you’ve got to take what you’re given.
- Qualifying: Vettel (1st) Webber (2nd)
- Race: Vettel (1st) Webber (ret)
Another weekend for Red Bull where their performance in qualifying didn’t really translate into the race. Vettel drove well to win from pole, although it certainly won’t do anything to assuage the doubters who claim he’s nothing but a rich man’s Ralf Schumacher. Going fast with no-one to pass isn’t really racing.
Webber, on the other hand, had a far more eventful race; if we were him, we’d ask for our money back. After being passed by Hamilton off the line and then finding himself reduced to ninth place, he managed to come up rather too fast behind Heikki Kovalainen on the second lap and have a spectacular accident. If he was a figure skater, it’d have been a 9.5 at least. A back flip, a roll and a smash into the tyre barrier all made for a rather more exciting afternoon than Valencia usually allows.
The last couple of races have seen the Red Bull pendulum swing back in favour of Vettel, who manages to seem really nice when he’s winning and like a sulky teenager when he’s not. Hard to warm to.
Badger’s best: Vettel
- Qualifying: Hamilton (3rd) Button (7th)
- Race: Hamilton (2nd) Button (3rd)
Hamilton never likes to make things easy for himself does he? After a very impressive third place in qualifying, he set about the race in earnest, passing Webber off the line and having a go at Vettel later in the lap. After Webber had performed his pretty decent attempt at a triple salko, Hamilton managed to pass the safety car as it was coming out of the pits, holding up Alonso in the process, and incurring himself a drive-through penalty. Thankfully from his point of view he managed to get in and get out again without losing a place, which was as much a testament to his speed as it was to Kobayashi’s ability to hold up those behind him, which then left a run to the finish.
Button, on the other hand, wasn’t happy with his qualifying performance and wouldn’t have been happy to be stuck behind Kobayashi for a long, long time during the race. All in all though, a move from seventh to third place during the race, especially at Valencia, has to be counted as a good result. He’ll still be worried by the fact he’s struggling to best Hamilton for raw pace, having to rely on intelligent racing earlier in the season to beat his young compatriot. He’ll be hoping the big update for Silverstone in a couple of weeks favours his driving style.
Badger’s best: Hamilton
- Qualifying: Hulkenberg (8th) Barrichello (9th)
- Race: Barrichello (4th) Hulkenberg (ret)
It’s a long time since Williams have appeared this far up a Hot Rod or Hot Dog… piece and, by “a long time”, we of course mean “never”. In an absolutely cracking weekend for the team, both drivers qualified in the top ten and both were looking on for good finishes until Hulkenberg retired a few laps from the end.
There’s still life in the old dog yet. Barrichello in particular will have been delighted by his race performance. After a long period of underachievement this season, whatever Williams did to the car before this race really worked. Obviously it helps to be at a track where you have to be significantly faster to overtake, but Barrichello drove well throughout the weekend.
Hulkenberg, by contrast, endured a very disappointing Sunday. Not because he was slow; in fact, far from it. The frustration comes because he was quick but didn’t manage to convert it into points, a fact amply demonstrated by his attack on the nearest tyre barrier after exhaust problems forced him out of the race. He really needs to push on after beating his team mate in qualifying, but we at Badger love his matter of fact post-race quotes: “When the safety car came in I couldn’t keep Alonso behind me, but after that it was quite a processional race up until something caught fire on my car. That obviously ended it for me.” Simple.
Badger’s best: Barrichello
- Qualifying: Kubica (6th) Petrov (10th)
- Race: Kubica (5th) Petrov (14th)
There’s really no need to substitute the first paragraph of the Renault section after Canada:
“Another Renault weekend, another Kubica whitewash. This one wasn’t even particularly close. Does anyone else think Petrov’s getting an easy ride? Just because your team keep saying they’re desperately happy with the way you’re performing, doesn’t mean you should escape all suitable scrutiny. To be honest, bar the odd good performance, Petrov’s been pretty rank in a good car.”
Kubica will have viewed the race as an opportunity lost. According to him, he was the first man into the pits, but the third man out. Ah. If the team had been a bit sharper, they could have had a decent shot at a podium, but as it was they were left with a still-not-that-disappointing fifth place.
Petrov needs to move away from “I’m a rookie, it’s good for me to finish the race”. No Vitaly, we need a bit more now. This is Formula One, not the mid-Urals cup.
Badger’s best: Kubica
- Qualifying: Sutil (13th) Liuzzi (14th)
- Race: Sutil (6th) Liuzzi (16th)
After last week’s improved performance, Liuzzi didn’t have anything even approaching a tolerable weekend. Fourteenth in qualifying and then having to stack behind your team mate in the safety car inspired pit stops doesn’t make for a stellar afternoon. It just goes to show that on narrow tracks with limited overtaking opportunities, your work on a Saturday afternoon is arguably more important than any other part of the weekend.
Sutil, on the other hand, managed really to make the most of Webber’s accident. Amongst the drivers who were able to dive into the pits immediately after the crash, he passed a number of drivers who hadn’t been so lucky, followed by a successful move on Buemi in the Toro Rosso. One of the best results (and races) of the season for Adrian; just what he needed after Liuzzi’s improved showing in Canada.
Badger’s best: Sutil
- Qualifying: de la Rosa (16th) Kobayashi (18th)
- Race: Kobayashi (7th) de la Rosa (12th)
Much improved is simply the only way to describe the Sauber performance on Sunday. After being pretty poor on Saturday, the team really managed to make the race work for them on Sunday, exceeding all expectations with a completely different strategy from everyone else.
Probably best start with the main man, Kobayashi. After another abysmal qualifying performance, the decision to start the race on hard tyres allowed everything to flow from it. While all about them were pitting, Kobayashi stayed out and managed to make his way up to third, where he stayed for the majority of the race, maintaining a very decent pace. After pitting six laps from the end, he managed to overtake both Alonso and Buemi to finish seventh. As he said afterwards, “Of course it was a risk to overtake Alonso and Buemi. If it hadn’t worked out and I had crashed I would have been in trouble.” Never was a truer word spoken.
A solid performance from de la Rosa to finish in tenth place, something he was clearly delighted with afterwards. It must have been like shooting a puppy to tell him he’d been one of nine drivers penalised for going too fast while the safety car was out and that he’d been demoted to twelfth. Poor Pedro.
Badger’s best: Kobayashi
- Qualifying: Alonso (4th) Massa (5th)
- Race: Alonso (8th) Massa (11th)
Alonso would have come into this weekend feeling full of hope and promise. Update to the car? Tick. A Grand Prix in Spain? Tick. Renewed hope in the Championship battle? Tick.
Instead, he left Valencia feeling very frustrated and with only four points to assuage his anger. Essentially, it all stemmed from Hamilton slowing down when the safety car came out, just passing it and leaving Alonso sat behind it, thereby wrecking his race. Alonso then proceeded to get ridiculously angry, demanding the team get onto Charlie Whiting to complain, which they duly did. Now, while we at Badger can well understand his legitimate grievance, as well as the fact Hamilton wasn’t really given any meaningful punishment, but to act all holier than thou is something we find a bit much. It’s not as if you’d try anything like that, is it Fernando? Also, being passed by Kobayashi probably won’t make for a fun two weeks off either. Ha.
It was another weekend for Massa in which he was beaten by Alonso and went backwards during the race. He’s looking the least likely out of the Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari drivers to mount a realistic title challenge. Never mind though, he’s got a new contract after all.
Badger’s best: Alonso
- Qualifying: Buemi (11th) Alguersuari (17th)
- Race: Buemi (9th) Alguersuari (13th)
Another weekend in which Buemi was the better driver throughout. Even in one of his two home races, Jaime just couldn’t quite make it work for him.
Now, we in the Sett like Buemi. We like him even more when he comes out after a race and says that he could have finished sixth had he not made two mistakes. Honesty. Good on him. That said, it doesn’t look good when you’re passed into the last corner. Good on the honesty, less good on the concentration. Never mind though; one out of two ain’t bad.
Alguersuari complained afterwards of not having any feeling in the car, and hoping that it’ll come back further into the season. Not what you want to happen as a driver and certainly not what you want to hear as a team. It would be a shame to let the season slip away after such a promising start.
Badger’s best: Buemi
- Qualifying: Rosberg (12th) Schumacher (15th)
- Race: Rosberg (10th) Schumacher (15th)
Another team where we get to quote previous column entries to try, vainly, to make ourselves look smart. After Canada we said “Mercedes [are] underperform[ing] and are definitely slipping back into the eager clutches of Renault and Force India.” That’s right, we’re sages of the highest order. Or we just know when a team isn’t doing very well. Probably the latter.
Their worst qualifying of the season set the stage for an underwhelming race, Schumacher being held at the pit exit and Rosberg having to manage his “critical” brakes. Just what you want on a circuit with very high speeds and limited run off areas. Although both drivers struggled, one struggled more than the other, with Rosberg looking far less uncomfortable than his more experienced and decorated team mate. To be honest, we can’t be bothered to rehash the same old, tired arguments about Schumacher. He’s back, he’s not doing very well, but we think it’s more the car than him. Simple.
Badger’s best: Rosberg
- Qualifying: Trulli (19th) Kovalainen (20th)
- Race: Trulli (21st) Kovalainen (ret)
Not a bad weekend for the Lotus team, at least in terms of their raw pace. More than a second faster than the Virgins, they just need to gain the next second to get up to the midfield pack. Impressive.
Never has the word “(ret)” hidden so much. Kovalainen was having what he thought was a duel with Mark Webber down the back straight, braked, and the Red Bull flew right over the top of him. Madness. Apart from that, he hadn’t had a great weekend after being out qualified by Trulli, albeit only by a couple of tenths.
Trulli was happy with the pace of his car, but was again hamstrung by reliability issues. He sustained some damage in a first corner scrap and then had a gearbox problem. Both times the Lotus mechanics were able to fix the car, leaving Trulli very grateful, but also massively off the pace.
Badger’s best: Trulli
- Qualifying: di Grassi (21st) Glock (22nd)
- Race: di Grassi (17th) Glock (19th)
Well, I say. A weekend in which di Grassi bested Glock in qualifying and the race is remarkable. After complaining last time out that he didn’t look terribly good, Lucas obviously had a bit of a read and decided to do something about it.
Glock had a bit of a mare, destroying two sets of tyres and crashing into people but, given his run of form up to this point, he’ll be confident of beating his younger team mate at Silverstone.
Badger’s best: di Grassi
- Qualifying: Chandhok (23rd) Senna (24th)
- Race: Chandhok (18th) Senna (20th)
A good weekend for Karun Chandhok, besting Senna in both qualifying and the race. That said, Senna finished his first race in three and had a scrap with Glock in the first part of the race in which his front wing was damaged, so he didn’t do badly at all.
We at Badger think we can see slow but gradual improvement from the Hispania team – they certainly seem to be much closer to the Virgins for instance – and they’ll be delighted to have got two cars to the chequered flag in their home race.
Badger’s best: Chandhok
Driver of the weekend
Kobayashi. The young Japanese driver answered his critics in the best style today, by mixing it up at the sharp end of the grid. Yes he’s crashy and wild, but he’s quick when given the chance and genuinely seems to have no fear. If he can manage to finish more races and get himself a decent car, he’s definitely one to watch for the future. He’ll come with money as well, so we don’t see him going anywhere soon. Here’s to a fantastic drive Kamui, you’re this weekend’s Hot Rod. Enjoy it.