Bahrain 2012 delivered one of the most thrilling races I have seen in many years, and I have a feeling that I will be saying this a lot over the season.
This season has shown to me that we should never count a driver out, just because it´s been a few years since they last been in F1. Three drivers are perfect examples, and two of them will receive honourable mentions a bit further down this article.
Michael Schumacher returned in 2010 and didn´t do a fantastic job. Some people thought he came up with one excuse after the other, some said he was burned out and some said they´d rather go watch Nascar. Whatever that is. But the fact is that after three years away from the sport, Schumacher did what any driver does. He started from scratch. He had to learn how to work around a car that wasn´t built for him, he had to work with new rules, yes I know, so did the other drivers as well, but Schumacher has always had this approach. He is a very patient man and knows that it takes some time to get back to winning races. Fast-forward to 2012 and it looks as though Mercedesmight be close to cracking the code. The performance is there, but the tyres are too important, says Schumacher. I still think that once Mercedes can fgure out a way to get the tyres working for them, not the other way around, we´ll start seeing Schuey back on the podium.
This season is also showing us that no one can predict a winner, at least not on account of the first four races. There are still 16 to go, and four different drivers have so far won a race. It´s brilliant for us, but also for the drivers, because it means they get an extra dose of motivation when they see that it is in fact possible to win this year, you can battle for the big points. When Fernando Alonso won in Malaysia, I think everyone was flabbergasted. The car is a finisher, but around 7th place I reckon. To win in a car that is struggling to finsih in the points, is fantastic.
Ok, back to the honourable mentions, because hthere are two more left. And both from the same team. Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. Yes, I know that the main reason Grosjean is driving this year after been away for two years, is because he is in Eric Boullier´s driver development programme. Renault, sorry, Lotus had a food selection of drivers who were ready and fast enough to drive for them, and they basically gave Grosjean the keys to the pearly gates, because that kid can drive! He never got the chance when the team was run by Flavio, he was only acting as someone filling a seat, unfortunately, but he has the speed and the maturity needed. He is 8th in the standings, has 23 points and got his first podium in Bahrain. If he didn´t retie in the first two races, he could be in the top 4 now.
Kimi Raikkonen is a strange fellow, isn´t he? he left F1, seemingly because he couldn´t be bothered. At least that´s how it looked at the time. He was fed up with Ferrari, they were tired of him as well, I think, and he went on to other things. Kimi never looked to be interested in a comeback, and if you held a gun to his head asking him about it, he would say “it´s ok to drive in F1…”
Now he is back and boy, is he back! Two years away and he just jumps into a car that he has hardly had any test time in. And he is battling for wins! This is once again a perfect example of why we should never underestimate a driver, just because we haven´t seen him around for some time. Kimi is back? You bet ya!
So, to the awards.
Driver of the Day – Sebastian Vettel:
I am sorry if you thought that I was going to award this one to Kimi Raikkonen. It was very close, but in the end Vettel showed his class again. He made the best start and went to get a nice advantage. His position was only ever compromised when Kimi started to shake things up a bit. It was close, very close. At one point Kimi made a move on Vettel, and they were wheel to wheel, but Kimi had to let him go. It went on like this lap after lap, Kimi falling behind a bit, then suddenly he was right behind Vettel again. It was great racing, and great to see Vettel winning again.
Biggest Oh My Moment – Lotus:
Raikkonen and Grosjean seems to me to be a perfect match. They race each other, respect each other and had brilliant internal battles themselves at one point. Lotus is coming out of nowhere this year, well ok, they are coming from Renault, but that car is seriously fast. Two very fast drivers and I see them winning in the next couple of races.
The Who´s A Good Aussie Award – Mark Webber:
Now Mark webber has been criticised a lot for not being as fast as Vettel, but the Aussie driver thrives when things get tough. He also seems perfectly at ease with the fact, that he will probably not be driving for Red Bull next year. But Webber is taking some very good points this season. Four fourth places in four races, he should have 444 written on his car, if you ask me. It means he is third in the championship, which is completely open, and only fiev points away from Vettel in the lead.
Good Effort Award – Paul di Resta:
Paul di Resta is doing a good job, picking up where he left in 2011. Last year he scored 27 points, impressed a lot of people when he drove to sixth in Singapore, but has already amassed 15 points in just four races and is out-performing Nico Hulkenberg.
Worst Performance – McLaren:
Not the place you want to be, I can tell you that. Three third places for Lewis Hamilton and once again a botched pit stop, earning him a disappointing eighth place in Bahrain. Ok, he is still 2nd, four points up to Vettel, but Jenson Button finished 18th yesterday and 14th in Malaysia. Button could have been leading by now, if things worked perfectly. A sticky wheelnut for Button in China, and yesterday Lewis Hamilton encountered issues with the left rear wheelnut twice. As a result, Hamilton has asked the team to investigate the issues and find a solution. Team principal Martin Whitmarsh explained the problems for Hamilton:
“The first [pit stop] one we had what we call pegging, which is when the drive pegs and the drive holes don’t align which is pretty unfortunate,” said Whitmarsh. “The second one we had a cross-thread which we have seen once before. So pretty disappointing, we lost a lot of time and places for Lewis.”