Wednesday, June 24, 2015


That was a boring race. Really. A few laps in and it was processional. I thought the track was supposed to make it a good race but somehow it fizzled out. It's not helped by the fact that Lewis lost the lead at the start and didn't have the pace to challenge all race long. Yes there were some good battles at the back but still most laps were slow. Even the commentators were struggling with what to say.

Here is what PlanetF1 had to say about it.

Danger is never far away, McLaren into the abyss, game of moans and more in our conclusions from the Red Bull Ring.

As Formula 1 grapples with its latest identity crisis, much debate has centred on whether F1 is a business or showbiz, and whether F1 cars are fast and exciting enough. The discussion was rendered moot on lap 1 of the Austrian Grand Prix when Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari lost the rear on a straight and slapped Fernando Alonso's McLaren. The two cars came to a rest with Alonso's car sitting atop the nose of the Ferrari - the McLaren's sidepod and aero skirting just centimetres from Raikkonen's head.

"I was in the wrong place," said Alonso.
"It was a very strange incident because he lost the car in fifth gear or something like that."

F1 is part business and part showbiz, but the Raikkonen-Alonso shunt underscores that it is a sport. And a dangerous one at that. Alonso was involved in an incident at Spa in 2012 when Romain Grosjean's Lotus similarly lurched over the Spaniard's Ferrari and narrowly missed his helmet.

In both cases Alonso was an innocent bystander. Now 33 and with five retirements in his seven starts in 2015, Alonso might be contemplating his next career move - especially as his good friend Jules Bianchi remains in a coma following his crash at Suzuka in 2014. #JB17

On the bright side for Alonso, his first-lap incident spared him the ignominy of another catastrophic race. McLaren have between their two cars entered 16 races this season and have reached the chequered flag a mere six times.

Of the 9 failures to finish and one failure to start (Jenson Button in Bahrain), nine have been caused by mechanical problems:

- Power Units: 4
- Exhaust: 2
- Brakes: 1
- Electrics: 1
- Gearbox: 1
- NA: 1 (Austria retirement not released at time of writing)

Nico Rosberg's win moves him to within 10 points of Lewis Hamilton in the Championship.

The German rocketed past Hamilton through the inside of turn 1 on lap 1 and was feisty in his defence of the lead until the safety car was deployed following the Raikkonen-Alonso shunt.

Rosberg was criticised for his 'soft' wheel-to-wheel ability in 2014 and his showing amid the rolling hills of Austria will go some way to quell the critics.
"It's an awesome feeling to win again here. The start made the race. I really wanted to push this time and I opened the gap over Lewis," Rosberg said after the race.

Hamilton acknowledged he had a bad start and that Nico "was quicker in the race". The Brit's indiscretion at his one and only pit stop and ensuing five-second penalty put paid to his challenge for victory.

Rosberg, therefore, is the form driver having won three of the last four races. Victory at the next race, on Hamilton's home turf at Silverstone, presents the German with an opportunity to well and truly shake the Champion.

Ferrari's Canadian Grand Prix updates would, analysts said, offer the Scuderia the tonic required to push and even catch the Silver Arrows. Instead, Sebastian Vettel and Raikkonen have found themselves scrapping with the Williams of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas in Canada and Austria.

Aghast at the step backwards, the tifosi must be wondering how Vettel managed to win in Malaysia and how the men in red might repeat the feat.

Two factors are worthy of scrutiny.

First, Ferrari have engineered their own woes. At Montreal, Raikkonen's issues with engine mapping resulted in a spin that gifted Bottas the final step on the podium.

Maranello's strategists then got the Raikkonen's qualifying approach all wrong in Austria, which resulted in his exit in Q1. Adding to the litany of errors, the Ferrari mechanics struggled to replace Vettel's right rear tyre at his only pit stop, a blunder that cost him 10 seconds and a podium.

The second factor is the ultimate variable: the weather. Vettel won in Malaysia because the SF15-T responded better than Mercedes to the heat of Sepang. Ferrari will hope that the higher temperatures in the European summer season will help to close the gap to the Mercs.

Singapore may present a similar opportunity, but by then it will be too late. So, at what point do Ferrari channel extra resources to their 2016 challenger?

The fifth season of Game of Thrones and the 2015 F1 season make for a strange comparison, but there are some parallels.

Many critics have pilloried the HBO series for its predictable brutality and violence. While F1 doesn't exactly burn people alive, Mercedes' dominance is the sporting equivalent of flaying a rival alive. The Silver Arrows now have 21 one-two finishes in the modern era and have started on pole position in 19 consecutive grands prix.

In this environment of Merc dominance, questions swirling around the complexity of the current regulations have become more pointed. Niki Lauda believes F1 has been "regulated to death" while Alain Prost, Maurizio Arrivabene and Bernie Ecclestone have questioned the current rules.

The absurd 25-place penalties handed to McLaren highlight F1's current morass. Unlike Game of Thrones, which drew record viewership in its season finale this month, F1 viewing figures in 2014 were down across the globe and few would predict an uptick in F1 viewers in 2015.

Nico Hulkenberg's triumph at Le Mans has rejuvanated the German. After a middling season, the German qualifed fifth and finished a solid sixth in Austria.

Daniel Ricciardo finished tenth to collect one point for Red Bull at their home race. The only consolation for Red Bull at this stage is that they're not McLaren-Honda.

Pastor Maldanado had the biggest tank slapper in recent memory down the main straight on lap 70 on his way to a seventh-place finish. "It was a bit scary but okay. Good control!" said the Lotus driver, as he reached around and patted himself on the back.

By Michelle Foster
Nico Rosberg topped the charts, Lewis Hamilton is on the pit wall and did you hear the one about McLaren...

Good Race
Nico Rosberg; P1
Having missed out on pole position through a mistake at the final corner on his final flying lap, Nico Rosberg was quick to make amends as he snatched P1 off Lewis Hamilton at the start of Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix. Keeping his wits and bravery about him, he did not back down as the team-mates raced wheel-to-wheel to take the lead.

From there the German always appeared to have the measure of Hamilton as he raced unchallenged, although not entirely untroubled given a vibration in the closing laps, to his third win of this season. With Sunday's victory he also threw his hat into the ring for the World title as, more importantly than him closing the gap to Hamilton to 10 points, he proved he can come out tops when the two race it out.

Felipe Massa; P3
Some may say that Felipe Massa was gifted his first podium of the season thanks to a Ferrari error. Others will note that the Williams driver not only drove a flawless race but he did not buckle under the pressure when Sebastian Vettel caught him in the final laps. Success in F1 is about not only the driver but also the team getting it right. Massa did, Williams did, a podium was the end result.

Sebastian Vettel; P4
Sebastian Vettel did nothing wrong this weekend; you could say he did everything right. Ferrari, though, let him down. Problems in both Friday practices and yet he still finished the day quickest. A car unable to match the Mercedes in qualifying so he lined up third. A car also falling short on race-pace so he joined the Mercedes on the podium. Or at least he would have if Ferrari had not dropped the ball.

A botched pit stop - the one and only pit stop Ferrari did the entire Sunday and they could not get it right - left him in the pits for 13 seconds and dropped him behind Felipe Massa out on track. Yet Vettel never gave up and hunted down the Brazilian. He ran out of time.

Nico Hulkenberg; P6
Following up his Le Mans 24 Hours victory with a P6 in Spielberg, Nico Hulkenberg's phone must be ringing off the hook. Racing a VJM08 that is just days away from a massive (and much-needed) upgrade, the German raised his hand high into the air for a better 2016 race-seat as he qualified fifth and brought the car home in sixth place, his - and Force India's - best result of this season.

Max Verstappen; P8
Pastor Maldonado may have had a go at Max Verstappen in the wake of their closing-laps battle, saying the rookie driver "wasn't really respecting the rules" but, however you saw it, it made for a good racing. Taking on Valtteri Bottas, Daniil Kvyat and Maldonado at different times of the race - and at times wheel-to-wheel - Verstappen finished P8, his second points-haul of his fledgling F1 career.

On The Pitwall
Lewis Hamilton; P2
For just about any and every other driver, finishing a grand prix in second place would count as a good race – for many it would even be a great race. But not for Lewis Hamilton.

The reigning World Champion started Sunday's grand prix from pole position having edged Rosberg in qualifying, a session which ended with a mistake for both drivers. Hamilton, though, suffered a clutch issue off the line and before he knew it he was staring at Rosberg's rear wing.

A racer by reputation, fans had hoped it was only a matter of time before Hamilton attacked his team-mate for the lead but instead he drifted back. Even commentators were asking if he was biding his time for a late attack but that never happened and instead Hamilton incurred a five-second penalty for crossing the white line at the exit of the pitlane. A good reason for some to say why he finished second but most definitely not the true story.

Bad Race
Red Bull Racing; P10 and P12
They scored a point. At a race track that Red Bull owns and that carries the Red Bull name, dominated by a giant metal bull (not red), they scored a point. A single, solitary point.

McLaren; double DNF
I would never call a team with McLaren's history and prestige a joke but their performance this past weekend in Spielberg was laughable. Between Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso they amassed a 50-place drop on the grid (engine parts and a gearbox). But given that there are only 20 places that meant in-race penalties for both. And all this taking place in front of Honda's head honcho.

The team's misery was compounded when Alonso, completely innocent in the matter, was taken out by Kimi Raikkonen on the opening lap, which meant McLaren were unable to gather any useful data from the new aero package - including the short nose - that the Spaniard was running. Button's race didn't last much longer as he retired with an electrical problem on lap 8.

Despite their rather public woes, the drivers sprouted off phrases such as "in a good place" (Button) and "the crisis is over" (Alonso). To anyone watching the only place McLaren are in is in the pits and the crisis is far from over.

Kimi Raikkonen; DNF
On the up side, Kimi Raikkonen is making Ferrari's decision on whether or not to keep him rather easy. On the down side, it probably won’t go in his favour.

Even if the 2007 World Champion was done in by his team in qualifying, and that depends on whether you're wearing your 'Iceman' cap, having a go at your team is never a good idea especially while still in the interview process. And crashing out on the first lap is a big no-no. That, though, is exactly what Raikkonen did. Yes he was on the prime tyres, which gave less grip, but so too were Maldonado, Perez and Ricciardo and none of them suffered wheel spin. None of them had a tank-slapper. None of them ended the race with Fernando Alonso on their head.

Marcus Ericsson; P13
Oy vey, what do you say to that. Jumping the start is a rookie error and a rather embarrassing one. Could the Swede have scored if not for that mistake and subsequent penalty? Given that his fastest lap time for the race was on a par with sixth-placed Nico Hulkenberg and only marginally slower than Verstappen's and Perez's, Sauber will be wondering the same.

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