By on May 13, 2013

Forza Alonso. Picture courtesy BBC UK

Some of TTAC’s readers have made it absolutely clear that they cannot abide it when I pick on Red Bull’s Mark Webber. So let’s say something nice about the man: he made up for his usual an unexpectedly poor start to finish in fifth place, just behind his teammate, Sebastian Vettel. If you’re a Mark Webber fan, now would be a good time to feel good about the whole thing and look forward to the next race.

Everybody else should click the jump.

In a pre-race interview with NBC Sports’ Will Buxton, the Wobbler summed up the conventional thinking in quite woeful fashion, complaining that in 2013 it was all about the tires and that nobody could race hard any more, and so on, and what are you going to go, and isn’t it a shame. This line was duly parroted by the commentary crew: this race will be won by conserving tires. It was suggested that Kimi Raikkonen might be a good bet to win this one, since the Lotus is uniquely (some say suspiciously) easy on tires. The Mercedes Silver Arrows were expected to fade early in the race due to camber control issues in the rear.

Another expectation: that Fernando Alonso would make another one of his excellent starts to improve his position from fifth. When the lights went out, he met expectations and then some by driving around the outside of Hamilton in Turn Three and challenging Vettel before settling for third. It was then time to conserve tires. Vettel’s crew reminded him that “only the last five laps matter.” Hamilton tumbled down through the order, unable to keep rubber under the car at any pace. At one point, the Hundred Million Dollar man responded to corrections from the pit wall by moaning, “I can’t drive any slower.” He would finish the day out of the points in twelfth, while his dour teammate Nico Rosberg, who is perfectly used to driving slowly, managed to conserve a sixth out of it.

Alonso, meanwhile, had surged to an early lead and continued to increase it. The math was plain to see: it takes twenty-five seconds or so for a pit stop at Barcelona. Therefore, if you can get a second and a half extra out of the car per lap for sixteen or seventeen laps, it’s worth taking an extra stop. Kimi, meanwhile, was on the other side of that math, trying to run a three-stop strategy and keep the time loss from a more conservative pace below what he’d lose by pitting a fourth time.

In hindsight, it’s plain that Alonso was never really in danger of doing anything other than winning. His start was about perfect, his pace was blinding, and he was completely mistake-free. It was one of those rare occasions where the truth unfolds along the lines of fiction: the man actually ran along the fence before the race, touching hands with the thousands of fans who had come to see him and him alone. He delivered touching comments beforehand about wanting to make sure the fans got their money’s worth in what is currently a difficult economic time for Spaniards. It was almost too good to be true. Given the way the FIA operates, maybe it was too good to be true. Unless Nelson Piquet Jr. has some information he’d like to share after the fact, we’ll probably never know.

What else is there to cover? Oh yes, McLaren is in a very deep hole right now and it came as no surprise that they were beaten by Paul DiResta in his Force India. With the imminent retirement of the Wobbler to DTM, NASCAR, prototype-into-treeline gymastics, or whatevs, the battle between the teammates at Scuderia Toro Rosso all of a sudden starts to look fairly relevant to the future. There are rumors of financial problems at Lotus (are there ever not?) which means that Kimi’s astounding consistency, pace, and development work could be undone by lack of cash to improve the car. There are Kimi-to-Red-Bull rumors but it seems unlikely that Mr. Vettel would permit that to happen. He’s probably the only person in the world who is genuinely satisfied with Webber’s performance these past three and a half years.

All of that belongs to the future. The present, this day, belonged completely and rightfully to Fernando Alonso. Even if you hate Ferrari or don’t care for the wide-jawed Spanish driver himself, this was a wonderful and perfect day, from start to finish.

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35 Comments on “F1 Report: Hamilton can’t drive any slower, Alonso can’t go any faster....”


  • avatar
    grzydj

    Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel would make the greatest odd couple teammates the racing world has never known.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      This will never happen.

      Just imagine a sobbing Vettel having to complain after the race: “Multi12, Kimi. Yeah, multi12.”

      Kimi: “Shut up. I know what I am doing.”

  • avatar
    Manic

    So Jack, what’s your view on that all important tire problem esp. as Barcelona track is the biggest tire eater in this years calendar?
    Many respected people are saying (even incl. Pirelli, whose tires these are)that more than 80 pit stops during dry weather race is just too much.
    Other are saying that everyone has the same tires and changing them will punish teams that have got their car umm..more right, like Lotus and give gift to teams who got their cars a bit wrong: MB, RB and the rest.

    • 0 avatar
      another_pleb

      A bit of an own goal for Pirelli IMO; I certainly won’t be putting Pirellis on my car and I’m probably not alone in thinking this.

      It would be better all round I there were two tyre manufacturers with a competing range of four race tyre types and every team had to use both makes at least once per race.

      • 0 avatar
        Manic

        Pirelli is top tire co., no question about that. Their F1 tires are especially engineered to create more drama compared to boring Bridgestones 3 years ago, everyone knows that and that’s what FIA and F1 teams wanted. Let’s see what they gonna do now, by changing tire properties too much they could kill that newly found excitement. But something has to change, at least for the tracks like the one in Spain.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          Maybe they should leave the fans of extra drama to reality TV and get back to catering to racing fans. Pirelli makes very few good tires anyway. If I were Bridgestone, I’d be advertising the tires that were too good for F1. Those are the tires I’d spend my money on, not embarrassing Pirellis. I’ve heard Pirelli makes decent motorcycle tires, but I have cars.

        • 0 avatar
          another_pleb

          Mea Culpa. I just checked the rolling-resistance, wet-grip and external noise ratings for the various tyre options (and primes) for my car and Pirelli are the best and Bridgestone and Toyo the worst. The Continentals that I currently have ar pretty high in the rankings though. Obviously different sizes will differ between brands, YMMV etc.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Where are these ratings? The Tire Rack has a pretty effective compilation of ratings based on millions of miles of user data, and Pirellis are mediocre on their best days. Bridgestone’s high performance all season tires and touring tires are among the best. If you’re looking at summer tires, Bridgestone falls off quite a bit, but Pirelli still doesn’t shine. Some Continental tires are very highly rated.

          • 0 avatar
            another_pleb

            These are the new European Union rankings which give each tyre a grade between A and G for wet-grip and rolling resistance and a dB rating for external noise.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      Changing the formula now will simply handicap teams who’ve adapted.

      Ferrari struggled with that new suspension last year, putting up with a dog of a car in the first half of the season and suffering through the lack of “heat” in the tires over the past two years. Suddenly the formula swings their way, they’ve mastered the set-up, and that’s supposed to be bad?

      Half of F1 is keeping the teams on their toes so that the engineering teams are forced to earn their multi-million dollar payrolls. The other half is whining about Vettel always winning. And when he doesn’t win, whining about the tires.

      Don’t blame the tires. Blame the teams. The other teams, I mean, who can’t figure out how to adjust to them.

      -

      I almost burst into tears laughing when Hamilton sent that message out. Mercedes have had a tire problem for YEARS, and they haven’t fixed it. At all. Mr. Brawn, Formula cars need to do more than one lap per race, thank you.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Did you miss it, JB, as Coulthard was just speechless at what Hamilton said about pace? Today’s racing is beside the point, as the petroleum interests and automakers are trying to breed a new generation of car driving fantasists in emerging asian markets. That is all. Marketing is the real F1 now. More soap-operatic melodramas rumored to be on the way as Sir Dwarf the Bernie may soon by charged for bribery and have a big old tax bill to pay Her Majesty. Write us an aria, Jack.

    (Ciao, Maestro)

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting insights, you offer. Having enjoyed F1 races for the last 40 years I have finally learned from you that it was and is just marketing. True enlightenment! Call me shocked!
      Let’s cite Bernie Ecclestone (still optimistic): “They think they’ve got me by the balls–their hands aren’t big enough.”
      Now look at your balls.

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention Williams, especially with Lewis’ comment over the radio. I mean, what a freaking disaster this season.

  • avatar
    hawox

    the most ridiculous motorsport on earth! with DRS and theese new s**t tyres it isn’t funny or entertaining at all, just stupid pathetic marketing.
    at least last year there was some good battle.
    sorry but americans are correct: nascar wins hands down.

    • 0 avatar
      SomeGuy

      No they aren’t. NASCAR doesn’t hold a candle to F1 or even IndyCar.

      • 0 avatar

        NASCAR has its problems too. In particular, the balance of fixing the outcome, where everyone has to give everyone else just the right amount. If someone just races, the other competitors bump him out. Monty had to learn that the hard way.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Thank you. Indy Car has been great this year, the last race was won on the final turn. The top four guys had a shot at winning. Chip and Penske are struggling, its great stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      hawox….

      You said: “sorry but americans are correct: nascar wins hands down.”

      Are you kidding? F1 is the world’s most lucrative and popular sport, overall.
      (I believe soccer is the world’s most popular ball game…but someone please correct me if that’s wrong.)

      hawox – Re NASCAR: I used to be a fan too; but now, who wants to watch a bunch of disrespecting good old boys circulating inside a fish bowl in phony cars that attempt to look like real ones. NASCAR’s attendance and income are dropping through the floor.

      I want comprehensive driving on tracks that go left and right, up and down, fast and slow, with massive braking and acceleration — ALL the time. And that’s either F1 or ALMS.

      —————–

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Wrong. NASCAR will have a chance to win hands down the day they race in a rainstorm. Like Formula 1, MotoGP, World Superbike . . . . . . and Pro Tour bicycling for that matter.

      As long as NASCAR stops races at the first raindrop, they’re an overrated joke.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I must be missing something. The races this year seem to meritocracy epitomized. Conspiracy theorists aside, all are coping with the same rubber and associated mechanical and aerodynamic variables. Alonso is showing his flexibility in technique, Hamilton is becoming an apologist, and Kimi continues to be, well, Kimi. Webber wouldn’t even be on our radar were he driving for a second tier team. This is great fun to watch, for me, and now it has spurred me to re-acquaint myself with friends in Montreal. Besides, what other sound can can lure gearheads like a V8 at 19,000 RPM?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I don’t know. The FIA has limited the engines to 18,000 rpm for years. Watching people managing tires is a poor substitute for watching grass grow.

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        I’ve always felt that the best years were when their was more engine + tire than the drivers could cope with… the cream rose to the top. MotoGP had an awesome period with the 990cc engines before they ruined it by going to 800cc.

        The best tears were usually the multi tire supplier years. With the prematurely wearing tires right now, it’s almost like a throwback to the snooze years of the grooved tires.

        No wonder that Hamilton and Alonso did so much the opposite. Alonso isn’t always the outright fastest, but he is consistent. Hamilton is an ultimate-hot-lapper, and so go the tires. Kimi, is Kimi… his car control is uncanny but not really forceful.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          I was less than thrilled with the 1998 move to narrow tracks and grooved tires, but the Bridgestone/Michelin tire war actually produced some of the best racing tires under those rules. The need to maintain the grooves and keep them stable under load and heat meant that they developed amazing compounds and constructions. They were getting pretty grippy, and maintaining the grooves meant that they weren’t shedding massive amounts of rubber. That kept marbles from building up on the track, allowing passing at any time during the race instead of just in the first corner. That’s also why I’m not big on tire wars with slicks. The marbles ruin the racing. Single tire suppliers and slicks have produced good racing, until the Pirelli era anyway.

      • 0 avatar

        Tire management has always been part of auto racing.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I must be missing something. The races this year seem to meritocracy epitomized. Conspiracy theorists aside, all are coping with the same rubber and associated mechanical and aerodynamic variables. Alonso is showing his flexibility in technique, Hamilton is becoming an apologist, and Kimi continues to be, well, Kimi. Webber wouldn’t even be on our radar were he driving for a second tier team. This is great fun to watch, for me, and now it has spurred me to re-acquaint myself with friends in Montreal. Besides, what other sound can lure gearheads like a V8 at 19,000 RPM?

  • avatar
    Pagani Baguette

    The whole “tire issue” is a well orchestrated story. The goal is to make the last year of the V8 2.4L cars so slow, so when the new engines come next year, Pirelli will make the tires better during the winter and so suddenly the new cars will be faster than the old cars and so no one will ever complain how “the new engines are bad for F1 because the cars are slower”… Or Pirelli is going to be left out, new manufacturer is going to come in, the cars will get faster than this year due to the better rubber and everyone is going to clap hands and say “I have been saying this all along – get rid of Pirelli, they don’t know how to make tires”…

    ;)

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      If that was the goal, then it hasn’t been achieve. The cars right now were about as fast on the Spanish track as they were in 2011 when tires were longer lasting and more predictable.

  • avatar
    RRocket

    Where there any passes for 1st place (or a podium) ON TRACK this weekend?

    Or more of the same parade/procession that we’re led to believe is racing?

  • avatar
    hawox

    i don’t know, i fell aslept after 10 minutes! but i don’t find so entertaining to see passes where the guy behind can open the wing and the one in front can’t do nothing but wait and look.
    sorry but it’d be like go to see a football match with only 1 team. wins who is more gentle on the tyres! that’s stupid, if they want an endurance they must do at least a 6 hours race.

  • avatar
    TomHend

    Kimi will replace Webber next year.


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