Wacky Pit Stops
Is there something in the water at Sepang that makes people do silly things in the pit lane? Not that we’re complaining of course, as it makes for great entertainment all round.
The madness started with Force India’s sticky wheel nut failure, that dogged them for the whole race and saw both cars eventually retire, a very tough break for a team that have a good chance to do well this year. Then Toro Rosso were a bit too eager to get Jean-Eric Vergne out, and let him out right into the path of Charles Pic, a clumsy move that saw them be very lucky not to lose the solitary point that JEV eventually gained.
Finally, messrs Hamilton and Button added to the act, Lewis dropping into McLaren in a classic Specsavers moment and Button being the victim of yet another McLaren pit stop gone wrong. All it needed was the Benny Hill theme tune, and everything would’ve been complete.
Fernando’s Front Wing Fiasco
You have to hand it to Alonso. His race may have only been a lap-and-a-bit long in the end, but it summed the man up very well. Not many other drivers could’ve kept fighting so well for 2nd place when their front wing has had a knock, and it was looking like he was going to make it back to the pits to pull a great recovery.
But it never happened and his race ended in the gravel at Turn 1, cursing the decision to try and coincide the pit stop with tyre changes. Of course, if the opportunity’s there to stay out and limit lost time by pitting with the rest of the field, you’re going to take it. But when your front wing’s hanging at a precarious angle, and there’s no telling when it may come off or even go under the car (the third most scary thing to happen to a driver, according to Martin Brundle)?
There’s risk-taking, and then there’s being silly, regardless of who made the call to stay out.
The Hulk Does It Again
It must really irk to retire from or DNS all the Australian Grands Prix in your career. Not many people can have that much bad luck, but when you have setbacks like that, often the best way to deal with them is to just get on with things and try even harder to do your best. And that’s exactly what Nico Hulkenberg did.
True, he may not have been as blisteringly quick as we’ve become accustomed to in the damp qualifying (not exactly a Brazil 2010 performance), but he made up for that by mixing it up with established midfield teams and even the Lotus’ of Raikkonen and Grosjean, who were the cars to beat a couple of weeks ago, to finish 8th. Considering that Sauber were a bit invisible in Australia, it’s certainly brought them some much-needed good attention.
Hopefully this is the start of a promising streak for The Hulk, or he may start to wonder how different things might have been if he’d stayed at Force India after all.
The Wilting Lotus
Every team has its weaknesses, and it seems Lotus found theirs in the damp and sticky conditions of Malaysia.
The pace that saw them take the win in Melbourne looked to have evaporated in the heat come Saturday morning, with both Raikkonen and Grosjean struggling for grip to see them start 10th and 11th after penalties. Not what anyone was expecting after such a dominant display last time out.
The race was more positive but still saw them lacking some speed, especially at the start, where Kimi sustained some front wing damage. By the time people were pitting for slicks, Lotus were around 30 seconds adrift of the front-runners and not looking good at all. Thankfully for them, things improved once the track had dried out, and a very impressive move on Hulkenberg saw Grosjean finish 6th and ahead of his team-mate.
A good haul of points considering the difficulties, but there’s still a little work to do if they want to be competitive enough to get the title they’re capable of winning.
It Should’ve Been Me!
Two sets of team orders, two very different outcomes. Both of them leaving a bitter taste in a lot of people’s mouths, not least for the drivers on the receiving end.
The fallout over the Vettel/Webber and Hamilton/Rosberg incidents has understandably been massive, and has once again opened up the debate on team orders. The thing that makes it interesting is that both sides of the argument are very convincing. There isn’t a simple yes-or-no answer, and it largely depends on the particular person’s values. At the end of the day these drivers are competing to be the best, and that requires a ruthless streak in all of them. It’s where you draw the line that matters, and it isn’t clear-cut by any means.
What would we have done in the same situation – stay put and get the brownie points, or be defiant and get the place by any means necessary? Does it say a lot about the sport when drivers are forced to apologise for wanting to do the best they can, or should drivers keep to the agreement set out?
Whichever way you feel, this is a debate that won’t be over anytime soon.