Formula One Half-Term and Hockenheim Preview
At a little over the half-way point in the 2010 Formula One season, the championship remains wide-open. The performance advantage enjoyed by Red Bull has not so far translated into superiority in the results table, and the big hitters continue to improve with Ferrari looking at their strongest since 2008. McLaren top the tables, thanks to steady work from its drivers and its unparalleled reliability but today’s race in Germany could provide the closest racing yet.
A hugely enjoyable set of 2010 races, laced with controversy over FIA stewarding decisions which could best be described as inconsistent, has managed to retain fan loyalty. Even the Tifosi – not well-served by Ferrari’s struggling performance in the first half of the season – have much to keep their interest, including the return of 7x World Champion and former prancing horse talisman, Michael Schumacher.
It is the Red Bulls of Sebatian Vettel and Mark Webber who have entertained the most. Driver rivalry has been explosively demonstrated with Vettel’s immaturity taking out his teammate in Turkey, leaving the race to the McLarens. The Milton Keynes-based (Austrian) team has dominated qualifying but has not been quite able to translate this into results. Reliability issues are fewer and they should be set fair to challenge the default leadership of the Woking boys. Ferrari too looked very strong in qualifying in Hockenheim, producing arguably the most interesting starting grid of the season so far. The German race could generate a corker of a start with the Ferraris of Alonso and Massa splitting the Red Bulls, with the McLarens sitting on the third row. Button out-qualified Hamilton but Lewis’s impatience could see him storm through the pack at the start, unsettling hard-charging Alonso looking to defend his 2nd place.
Schuie has struggled with the Mercedes package and came in for criticism for rejoining the sport but as the Brawn car improves, so will the wiley World Champion. He has perhaps suffered by comparison with teammate Rosberg which is unfair on the younger driver; one of my tips last year for success, Nico continues to demonstrate that he is a racer.
Home advantage to Vettel on pole; Webber relegated to 4th; Massa and Alonso back in the hunt. A recipe for an exciting start but the pace from qualifying suggests that again the leading pack will streak ahead of the remainder to turn the Grand Prix into 3 separate races, with the Cosworth-powered newbies playing tag at the back. The shortened track will bring traffic into play early on and, lap one incidents aside, it will be pit strategies which will decide the result in the event that a start-line shoot-out fails to materialise. There is also the weather – rain could present an opportunity to win or lose the race in tyre strategy and pit work, but otherwise should not separate the cars performance-wise.
Coverage from the BBC has matured to the point where they have excellent off-race articles, interviews and general lead-up coverage but the in-race commentary continues to drag from Legeard’s lame prose, and Martin Brundle sounding bored. Still missing a character to match Eddie Jordan’s firey pit-lane challenges (Christian Horner – Red Bull Team Principal – brushes off EJ’s jibes and pointed questions with some dignity), the Beeb must liven up the race commentary. It needs someone with the authority of Brundle who can inform the viewer, with some zesty, emotional shouting in the mold of Murray Walker, and a race awareness which helps the viewer (as opposed to leaving the viewer to understand positioning and other off-camera incidents).
So in Germany, Vettel is well placed to take his home race for Red Bull but qualified ahead of Alonso in the Ferrari but only 4 thousands of a second. The half-second lag of the McLarens appears decisive but they have proved they have the start, tactics and reliability needed to win the championship. It remains Red Bull’s to lose.
Qualifying Positions for Hockenheim :
Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 5 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault
2 8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
3 7 Felipe Massa Ferrari
4 6 Mark Webber RBR-Renault
5 1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
6 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
7 11 Robert Kubica Renault
8 9 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth
9 4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:16.178
10 10 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth
11 3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
12 23 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari
13 12 Vitaly Petrov Renault
14 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes
15 22 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari
16 17 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari
17 16 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari
18 18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth
19 19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth
20 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth
21 21 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth
22 15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes
23 20 Sakon Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth
24 25 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth