By on April 15, 2013

My rant about colorless F1 drivers of the 21st century may have been honored more in the breach than the observance this past weekend; while Lewis Hamilton was doing the interview with David Coulthard at the end of the race, champagne drinker Raikkonen was having a convo with race winner Alonso. When Coulthard asked the two men to share their conversation with the crowd, both of them declined, Kimi snarking a bit a bout “tires”, but the local camera director for the race coverage made sure you could see that Alonso’s stunning girlfriend had a friend with her. Or a sister. Or who the hell knows.

Anybody who watched it happen and still thinks the winner of China had a lot of extra room in his king-size bed last night is being willfully naive. To the winners go the spoils, and our trio of podium finishers each demonstrated why their teammates weren’t standing next to them when it was time to hand out the trophies.

Much hay was made on Saturday of the fact that Massa was poised to outqualify his teammate for the fifth time in a row. Even with qualifying wizard Jarno Trulli next to him in the Flavio-era Renaults, that hadn’t ever happened. Nor did it happen on Saturday, with Alonso sneaking a third place out near the end. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel elected not to bother to qualify at all in the name of tire strategy. Now would be a good time to insert a rant about how the staggeringly low quality of this year’s Pirelli rubber appears to be injecting all sorts of unnecessary stupidity into the season, but truth be told it’s all rather fascinating to watch and it beats the Ferrari-Bridgestone flag-to-flag snoozes that were an accepted and seemingly unchangeable part of the sport just a decade ago.

Mark Wobbler, meanwhile, was starting from the pitlane after running low on “fuel pressure” (meaning: fuel) in Q2. If the rumors are true — and it appears they are — @AussieGrit is moving back to sports cars next year. His unique combination of indifferent qualifying, hopeless starting, and mid-race position loss will be missed by precisely no one. It’s hard not to think that either of Toro Rosso’s young bulls could replace him with no difficulty; in fact, there was one incident during the race where Webber banged into an unsuspecting Jean-Eric Vergne who was in the process of kicking his ass in the junior car. The FIA waited until after the race to hand out the penalty, no doubt because Webber wasn’t even on the track for more than a few laps after that. Red Bull probably wishes they had Coulthard back at this point.

Although the race started with Hamilton leading, Alonso disposed of him with respectful but rapid authority and it would have been a bad idea to bet against the double world champion from that point forward. Ferrari’s tire strategy was sound, but that was also true for Massa. The difference between first and sixth was, as it usually is at Ferrari, the tremendous lap-by-lap discipline that Alonso brings to his craft. I don’t think he’s a brilliant, fearsome qualifier in the mode of Hamilton, but he surpasses everyone else in the twenty-lap sprints between changes. It’s been a long time since he could be said to have the best car but year after year he finds himself in the hunt for the championship. Had McLaren been able to keep their politics under control he would no doubt be a quadruple world champion by now. As it is, he may wind up matching Senna’s record in 2013.

Kimi Raikkonen, of course, is the Official Favorite Driver Of Car Guys Who Kinda Watch F1 Sometimes Because He Rallies And Chases Strippers And Took A Shit During The Pele-Michael Schumacher Presentation but he, too, is a quiet master of the twenty-lap sprint. Nowhere was this more apparent that at the end of the race, when he effortlessly held off Hamilton and duped said highly-paid Pussycat Doll into burning up his tires, leaving him vulnerable for Vettel at the end.

Oh yes, this battle for third place was reason in and of itself to watch the race. While Messrs. Hamilton and Alonso profess to mutually admire each other and conspire to give the impression that Vettel is merely an adequate driver in the very best car, week after week Sebastian puts the lie to that and rarely as impressively as yesterday, when he took the maximum possible advantage of the iffy tire strategy to pull sixteen seconds out of Hamilton in just four and a half laps. In the final corner of the race, Hamilton locked up and it seemed that the race was Vettel’s to take, but he washed out the front end and had to watch it walk away by 0.2 seconds. Every racer knows the sickening feeling of having pushed the front end too far in the only corner that really matters in a race. The tenths of a second you spent grinding the outside tire in that situation seem long enough for a vacation, a critical reading of Ulysses, or a Mercedes-Benz auto-show presentation. In this case, it was two tenths too long.

And what of Hamilton himself? He started from the front and finished third. Doesn’t seem very champion-ish. And yet he did what he needed to do with the chassis he had at his disposal. He was mostly mistake-free and as usual he took every passing opportunity available, including one on a rather despondent-sounding Jenson Button. Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg did his usual job of bumbling around the circuit making Hamilton look good until a suspension problem canceled his day. Even Gerhard Berger, who has made ridiculously unsupported comments like “Rosberg is as good as Vettel” in the past, now has to concede that his favorite German doesn’t have “the killer instinct”. Mr. Rosberg, who in exchange for lacking the killer instinct has tens of millions of dollars and a remarkably DiCaprio-esque look, couldn’t be reached for comment because he was out enjoying his life. Mr. Hamilton’s decision to leave McLaren, which seemed short-sighted as well as churlish and ungrateful, looks increasingly intelligent as the schedule grinds on. Still, the Silver Arrows need something. Neither Hamilton nor Rosberg appear to have any rapport with the team or any ability to develop the car. One suggestion: Michael Schumacher announced this weekend that he would be staying on with the team in the capacity of “ambassador”. Perhaps he would be more useful behind the wheel, sorting out the W04, eh?

Honestly, can you even imagine a podium consisting of Massa, Grosjean, and Rosberg? Of course you can’t. It’s more improbable by a long shot than a Schumacher-Barrichello-Tiago Monteiro podium, which actually happened in the USGP once. An Alonso-Raikkonen-Hamilton podium, on the other hand, makes perfect sense. As often as we hear that Formula One is a sport of machines, engineers, and ruthless computational power, it’s nice to see it proved yet again that the driver matters — and these three matter more than most.

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37 Comments on “F1 Report: A Trio of Champions, A Threesome For The Champion...”


  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    Wow great post and good analysis!

    I am very relieved to see someone who realizes Vettel has talent and is one of the best out there. Everyone keeps making excuses he can’t pass or race. That is flat out wrong. He has proven on multiple occasions not only can he overtake, but he is very good at racing too. 10+ seconds shaved off in two laps? That takes skill.

  • avatar
    keet

    I started reading this, saw the “Mark Wobbler” comment, checked who wrote, then went on another website. I’ll go elsewhere before I read an article from a wannabe denigrate an accomplished driver.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      I agree that the “Mark Wobbler” comment was quite unnecessary bit of snarkiness.

    • 0 avatar

      Do you ever read music reviews? Film reviews? Is criticism only valid when given by someone of equal skill and talent? Ever, ever say something critical about an athlete who failed at something? Sure, the “Red Lantern”, the bike racer who finishes the Tour de France last is undoubtedly a better bike racer than I am, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t say he doesn’t have what it takes to wear the yellow jersey.

      Jack’s no wannabe, he spends his own money going racing. Webber’s career has been helped by others’ funding. Put them in the same car and it would be interesting to see just how much faster Webber would be than Baruth. Put JB and MW in spec Miatas with sealed engines and it might be an interesting race.

      Putting aside Webber, I’m sure that there are plenty of drivers with talent equal to or exceeding that of the drivers in F1 who have their seats because they’ve essentially paid for the ride through sponsorship they bring or through family money.

      In other things that Baruth has written about his and others’ racing he’s been openly critical of his own driving abilities and usually quite willing to commend those whose skills exceed his own. However, this piece was not about Webber vs Baruth, it was about Webber vs Alonso, Hamilton, Kimi and the other top drivers in F1.

      You don’t have to know how to race a Formula One car to appreciate the precision of a Jim Clark or the smoothness of a Jackie Stewart.

      • 0 avatar
        keet

        yeah, and you also don’t have to be a snarky a-hole about your opinion! …and i’m not even a fan of Webber. but thats what this website has become, for every one really good article, there’s 12 snarky, hyperbole laden ones full of conjecture.

      • 0 avatar
        dude500

        “Put JB and MW in spec Miatas with sealed engines and it might be an interesting race.”

        This is a bit much, don’t you think? I like Jack, but I haven’t heard him get a podium finish in any of his auto races. There’s no need to measure him against Mark.

      • 0 avatar
        keet

        i go to a bunch of websites about both 2-wheel and 4-wheel motorsports, NONE of them resort to petty name calling. if this was to be an OP-ED article, fine, but to be reported as a legitmate race overview is a joke.

      • 0 avatar
        hurls

        I agree with Ronnie’s point here entirely. That having been said, jack vs Aussie grit wouldn’t even be remotely close. Webber would be so far ahead that Jack wouldn’t even be able to take him out at a corner.

        I don’t know jack, but I’m sure he agrees.

    • 0 avatar
      comrade slow

      agreed – I HIGHLY doubt either of the Toro Rosso drivers will do as well as Webber has. All the top teams second drivers are struggling because the team is developing the car in the direction that favors their #1 driver which is exactly why you’ll never see a Massa, Grojean, Rosberg podium. I personally think there are other places to look when it comes to criticising drivers that don’t seem to have the skill to move up past where they are now. Webber has pulled in enough points to secure the constructors championship each of the last three years.

    • 0 avatar
      bryanska

      nice avatar!

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      Apparently, humor is an unappreciated talent round these parts. Much as I root for Aussie Grit, Mark really lacks the killer instinct (as well as qualifying ability, starting ability, mid-race pace, etc….) to stay in RBR beside Finger-boy.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    “One suggestion: Michael Schumacher announced this weekend that he would be staying on with the team in the capacity of “ambassador”. Perhaps he would be more useful behind the wheel, sorting out the W04, eh?”

    Perhaps the nicest thing one can say about MS is that he is an EXTREMELY experienced test driver. So why didn’t he do that for M-B those last 3 years? And if Rosberg’s so bad, what did that say about Shoe-Me?

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Not a great result for Hamilton, but a promising one for Mercedes. I do agree that Nico is overpaid and overrated at this point. I think the ‘something’ that Mercedes needs is downforce. I’m not so sure what Michael can contribute to sorting out the Mercedes, if that’s really a part of his skillset it certainly didn’t show in the last three years. I think he was as perplexed as to how to get the optimum performance out of the tyres as anyone on the grid. Nor do I understand why Michael must play some role in Mercedes, he just doesn’t seem to be cut out for politics, which is really what an ‘ambassor’ for a team is about. Michael didn’t seem to do well in that role at Ferrari, Mark Webber said that Michael just sort of hung around and got in the way like ‘an ex girlfriend who won’t go away.’
    Still a good race, and as a life long tifosi it was good to hear the Italian national anthem played again as well as simply having someone other than Red Bull on the podium.

  • avatar
    th009

    Alonso qualified third, not second (Raikkonen was second on the grid).

  • avatar
    Waterview

    Keet:

    Your willingness to support Webber is admirable, but which of Jack’s points aren’t borne out by the results on the track? He rarely qualifies in a position worthy of the car; his starts are probably better than Jack give’s credit for, but he does seem to fade late in the race. He simply gets less out of the package (team, car, resources) than Vettel.

    Barricello played a very solid “Ed McMahon” to Schumacher’s “Johnny Carson”. Perhaps Webber should brush up on his “Heeeerrrres Sebastien . . . !”

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      One can be critical of Webber (or any other driver, for that matter), without resorting to childish name-calling. Jack chose not to take the high road, though.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I am of two minds. Is Jack phoning it in? Is he in love with his own voice? While undeniably brilliant on occasion, he seems to have lost his muse in recent postings. What is that old saying about serving two mistresses? Am I babbling – again?

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Notice how much more relaxed and chill everybody is when Kimi makes the podium. Just saying.

  • avatar
    Waterview

    +1 stuntmonkey

    well played, sir!

  • avatar
    stuki

    Not being a racer, my main gripe with F1 is rather that there is too little between the different cars. Too little race to race variability, too few mid season surprises etc. Watching competent men in competent cars drive competently around and around weekend after weekend isn’t really all that exciting for those of us who do not intimately identify with 2/10ths second of outside front tire scrubbing as some incredible bummer/tragedy.

    They’re obscenely good drivers though, those cats. Probably better on average than the “legends” from back when F1 was genuinely exciting, even for the uninitiated that just watched fro the storybook crashes. The broads conspiring to take up space in their king sizers post race, recognize good genes when they see them.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      There is a tendency in F1 racing to go between extremes. Boring snooze inducing seasons are followed by extremely close cut-throat competitions. Unfortunately, its often the case that as soon as you’re forced to stomach a “bad” season, you just walk away completely from following the sport. Just look at the past 5 years.

      2007 = great.
      2008 = again.
      2009 = boring. The Brawn GP “surprise” rookie (ex-Honda) team takes double championship in its maiden season with relatively little effort.
      2010 = one of the best seasons ever.
      2011 = pretty close to being considered as boring as the worst seasons involving single team domination (2002,2004,1994,1992,etc)
      2012 = very entertaining. Red Bull probably had the fastest car for much of season, but the tire circus (sort of like this year) and multiple engine failures forced the driver championship to continue till the last race.
      2013 = so far a great promise. Casual F1 fans probably will like the races as the tire lottery induces constant pit stops and order shuffle due to frequent tire changes, some of which don’t last even 5 laps. The fake tire induced show does irritate the hard fans of the sport though.

  • avatar
    bludragon

    For me, Alonso had the fastest 20 lap car on the grid, a fact bourne out by both Alonso and Massa being able to follow Hamilton so closely at the start. However, Alonso also showed that he is probably the most complete driver at the moment with some once again sublime overtakes that minimized his time lost in traffic, metronomic driving, tire intelligence and optimal in and out laps.

    Meanwhile Hamilton demonstrated that he is the fastest man over one lap. The only person who might argue this is Vettel. Here’s an interesting experiment; add 0.2-0.3s to Rosberg’s time to see where Schumacher would have qualified (6th). Now, subtract 1.0s from Button’s time in Q2 to see what Hamilton would have done in the McLaren (1st, 2nd or maybe 3rd – Raikkonen and Alonso’s times are almost identical). Suddenly the Mercedes is no longer outperforming expectations, and Mclaren does not look to have taken quite the step back that everyone claims.

    Vettel with his combination of speed and self belief and Raikkonnen with his consistent speed also both showed why they are both world champions. This is a great time to be a fan of the sport :-)

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      It was a good track for the Ferrari, but it isn’t a typical track in that the front tires wear out first (at most track it’s the rears). I hope Alonso starts a strong run of results, but there’s no guarantee.

      Last year, China was Mercedes’s only win.

  • avatar
    JMII

    So far this season is starting out alot like last season: I have no idea who is going to win on any given Sunday – and its great! I’d love that the tires fall apart. Like me and my brother have discussed many times: normally the only way F1 is watchable is when its rains randomly during the race. However the peeling tires is really mixing things up.

    Lewis sure looks like he made the right move at the right time, makes you wonder what insider info he had. Alonso made the best of last season’s car but this year he has a real machine, if he doesn’t win the championship I’ll be shocked. And I swear Red Bull just want Mark to go away… they didn’t put enough fuel in the car? Seriously? They are multi-billion dollar F1 team and they forgot to fill-er-up? Then in the race they forgot to secure the wheel? If I was Mark I’d “accidentally” run into Vettel or the pit crew next week. Seems the only way to stop Vettel would be crashing into him – some of last years drives were epic (like last to first) and this weekends “almost” 3rd place finish was another unreal drive.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      The driver championship will probably end like the last season too, with Alonso and Vettel fighting hard for the driver title, and Raikkonen and Hamilton fighting for the third place.

    • 0 avatar

      The manufacturers’ championship is worth tens of millions of dollars to the winner. Red Bull is not going to compromise their chances of winning the mfgs’ championship by sabotaging Webber. Team orders are generally about getting maximum points for *both* cars.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I’ve been following F1 for over 35 years. If there has ever been a team that would actually sabotage one driver in order to protect the confidence of the other, it is this RedBull squad. The idea that Mark Webber can’t start a race in a modern F1 car is farcical. He’d have been out of his job years ago if it were really his fault that his car sits there or stumbles when he activates launch control. His mechanics would be out of their jobs if RedBull ever wanted him on track in a position to challenge Vettel.

        If RedBull wants the constructor’s championship and the TV money that comes with it, why do they continue to employ a driver who has such ‘bad luck’ and ‘inability to start’ that they routinely leave podium finishes on the table? Someone at RedBull cares more about not having Vettel rattled by a second RedBull car being anywhere around him. If Webber is as bad as Vettel’s fans think, then hasn’t retaining him been an act of sabotage for RedBull’s WCC hopes?

        • 0 avatar
          niky

          They keep Webber because he really isn’t THAT bad. In previous years, the cars have been fast enough that Webber’s poor performance has meant that he was simply not giving Vettel trouble while taking Constructor’s points away from everyone else.

          Let’s face it. There are precious few drivers like Alonso or Hamilton out there. Guys who are worth several tenths of a second per lap and several positions per race more than their team-mates.

          Webber is not that guy. He will never be that guy, and it galls him. And at his age, he can’t develop any further to match Vettel. A younger driver might… which is why Webber is likely going out.

          In the meantime, he stays, and we get to make jokes about his race starts, race after race after race…

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Show the girls?

  • avatar
    michal1980

    1st F1 race I actually watched.
    have to say I really enjoyed. especially that it only lasted <2hrs.

    I guess my biggest surprise is how far ahead the leader got and stuck there

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Now I wish I had watched the race…

  • avatar
    dougjp

    ” Neither Hamilton nor Rosberg appear to have any rapport with the team or any ability to develop the car. ”

    Huh? Have we morphed to the 3/4 point of the season and we all didn’t know it?

    Nope. We have had 3 fly away races, that’s all. Therefore, the quoted comments are nonsensical, only a sound byte for dubious effect.

    WAIT. If its true, it will be known much later.

  • avatar
    niky

    True, only time will tell how development goes for Mercedes. While Schumacher was a good development driver in his earlier years, that didn’t seem to give Mercedes an edge during his time with them. In fact, Mercedes often started out each season with a good, potentially revolutionary car (the double-diffuser was a great idea) that fell back as the season wore on.

    Over the last two seasons, Ross Brawn has been hiring a ton of technical people, as well as pirating people from teams like McLaren. It may have started to pay off this season, as the car is extremely fast. But whether it is fast because it is fast or because “Hamilton make go fast, hur hur” remains to be seen. Indications are that it still has the same tire wear foibles as before, and with Hamilton’s aggressive style, this means poor race finishes, but I’m pretty sure he will learn to adapt.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      With testing limits being what they are, I don’t think the drivers’ input is anywhere like as important as in the past. Whoever has the best physics models running on their computers and the best wind tunnels is way ahead of the game. The only other variable is who has Adrian Newey.

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        I’d say when teams are tackling unusual new parts and systems (see how much trouble McLaren seems to be having with the new suspension), simulation can only do so much.

        You still need drivers to pound out as many testing miles as possible in free practice to get a car right, and to give you accurate feedback in very short periods of time.

        Also helps to have drivers who can drive your fastest set-up, whether it suits them or not, without making you rebuild the car from the ground up, as Schumacher did with Mercedes a few seasons ago.

        Newey has a good driver in Vettel. He drives in the manner the team tells him to drive to get good pace out of the car. People seem to underestimate the importance of this.

        But yeah, a lot of rule changes over the past three years seem merely to be ways to force Newey to earn his considerable pay by devising new strategies to keep ahead of the pack.

  • avatar
    hurls

    Jack, thanks for doing these!

    I thought your description of Kimi was going to be the funniest thing I was going to read today, until I got to the part where you talked about Rosberg.

    Agree about Vettel and those 10 seconds. I can’t stand the guy, but anyone who says he can’t drive is dead wrong. I found myself rooting for him and that is quite unusual.


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