Monday, 10 May 2010

A Spanish Analysis - Only Red Bull can beat Red Bull

Mark Webber drove a faultless race in Barcelona, Spain to record his first win of the season. Webber, who topped all 3 Free Practice sessions and drove a storming lap to Pole position in Saturday’s qualifying session just missed out on the ‘weekend trifecta’ when Lewis Hamilton pipped him to the fastest lap of the race by 0.471 seconds. A big margin, but one that would’ve been easily obliterated if Webber had pushed till the end.

It was an astonishing performance by Red Bull in general with Sebastian Vettel dragging his RBR home to finish on the podium as well. Vettel, who struggled towards the end of the race with deteriorating front brakes, was lucky to finish on the podium, managing it only because Lewis Hamilton (who overtook Vettel after his second pit stop) crashed on the penultimate lap of the race in dramatic fashion after a front left wheel failure sent him into the tyre barriers.

Home-boy Fernando Alonso finished in a strong 2nd place, thereby ensuring the huge Spanish crowd (almost all of whom were shod in Scarlet Red) got their money’s worth. Second place was just reward for Alonso hauling his car around the circuit quicker than it should’ve gone to first snag 4th in Qualifying and then driving as quickly and cleanly as he possible to benefit when Vettel and Hamilton (literally) fell by the wayside.

Michael Schumacher made a return to some sort of form. More importantly for the legions of his fans around the globe, he was consistently quicker than his teammate Nico Rosberg over the entire weekend. Schumacher himself wasn’t all too happy with his race and for someone like MS, it is more important to be able to gain places than it is to defend them. His tussle with Button while interesting, and Rosberg’s difficulty in getting past Nico Hulkenberg, showed the glaring problem that Mercedes GP now faces. Yes they have a new B-Spec car, one that features several new and innovative aero ideas (like the new Air inlet besides the driver’s head) and one that seems to suit Schumacher more than Rosberg, but have they actually made the car slower?

Adrian Sutil put in another fine performance showing that Force India has made genuine progress this year. Sutil, along with Renault’s Robert Kubica have now become the de-facto ‘others’ in the top 10. Kubica did his chances of snagging a fancy drive with a fancy team in 2011 no harm with another solid drive to finish in the points. His ability to haul the car into the top-10 in almost Alonso-like. A fitting compliment, since he might partner Alonso in 2011.

If he does, he will replace Massa. The Brazilian has had a tough time of late. As a friend of mine said, the way he has been outclassed by Alonso is embarrassing. Why Ferrari chose to replace Kimi Raikkonen with Alonso and not Massa is a point for debate. My thoughts on the matter are that Ferrari under Stefano Domenicalli has become a lot less ruthless. With this new found mellowness, it was difficult for Ferrari to let Massa go after he suffered his accident last year. Kimi would’ve cost them a lot more and would’ve been a lot less talkative, but he drove a quick car. Something that Massa is evidently not doing.

The race wasn’t as interesting as the previous 3, and a lot of the work that teams have done actually seems to have slowed them down as compared to RBR. One thing is for sure, Adrian Newey and his team have done a phenomenal job. The car is lightning quick. But as they say, Newey’s cars are fast, but fragile.

A bungled pit stop cost Vettel P2, and his deteriorating brakes should’ve cost him P3. But they didn’t (more because of Vettel’s ability than anything else). The fact of the matter is that the infamous Red Bull reliability is the only thing that is preventing them from leading both Championships by a mile. The team is a class act though. And because of that, they’re bound to get things together at some point of time. If they can, and still be as quick as they are, only a brave man would bet against them winning both championships for the first time.

As of now, only Red Bull can beat Red Bull. Everyone else is at the least, a second behind.