The day after one of the most exciting races in years, and yes I could easily copy and paste the first few lines of text of that from the previous race. Or the one before that. It is getting increasingly difficult to find positive words to use to describe this season, when words like ‘astonishing’, ‘staggering’, ‘sublime’ or ‘brilliant’ just isn´t enough anymore.
So was it astonishing, staggering, sublime and brilliant? Well, let me say this. My father tries to watch all races, bu usually falls asleep after ten laps. He knows that the street of Valencia hasn´t exactly produced the most mind-boggling amazing races in the history of F1, in fact, the four previous versions can easily be labelled ‘most boring race of the season’. But I spoke to him on the phone after the race, and he not only managed to stay awake, it was almost as if he sounded younger and more vital. Well, I don´t know, but if he was entertained, then it´s a pretty fair shot to say that so was I.
Driver of the Day: Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso won the race, starting from 11th on the grid, in what I think is the best race performance from Alonso on the last five years. He ducked and he dived and he took the chances, calculating the risks so fast, you´d need a computer to beat him. This is one of his strengths. The mind of a racing driver is usually right on the edge, but Alonso showed that little bit extra that makes his effort seem just that more important. Alonso was in tears after his victory, and it was clear that a huge weight had dropped from his shoulders. No one can put a finger on his performance on Sunday. Well deserved win.
Best of the rest: Michael Schumacher
It´s what his fans have been waiting for since his return. A podium. And they got it. Schumacher drove a very smooth race, he too calculated the strategy so fine, knowing when to push, when to ease off. Tyres are hugely important this season, but in Valencia, it all came together for Schumacher and Mercedes, and produced some memorable racing. And his first podium in six years.
Best of the rest II: Mark Webber
Mark Webber is a strange cat, isn´t he? We know he´s fast, we know he drives that Red Bull so close to the edge, but he makes it looks so effortless that we tend to forget him a bit. In Valencia it was almost like no one noticed he drove home 4th, because all eyes were on Vettel´s exit from the lead and the race. Webber started 19th on the grid, that´s a long way up. In an astonishing drive, he managed to conserve the tyres at just the right time, finding that small gap where the tyres work perfectly, and in case you didn´t know, is actually second in the championship. Bravo, Mr Webber. Bravo!
Biggest Head Scratcher of the Day: Safety car
I am sorry, I didn´t get why the safety car had to be deployed. When it finally came out, the cars had been going round the track for a few laps and there wasn´t any dangerous debris lying around, and no car had been plowing into a barrier, blocking a piece of the track. First Senna and Kobayashi touched each other, that was the incident where Senna simply didn´t see the rather optimistic move from Kobayashi on his right side. No one´s fault, but Senna got penalized for it. Soon after Vergne and Kovalainen touched wheels and that was the reason the safety car came out. Both cars were able to either drive around to the pits, or if they couldn´t manage that, there was a huge run-off area right there. The deployment of the safety car did make the race interesting again, not that it was boring at all, but it was un-necessary in my opinion.
Great Driver: Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean is having a whale of a time these days, as he returns to F1. Good results are one thing, but coming back after two full seasons, into a car that had a big question mark on it in February and then are battling for wins against a handful of world champions, his place in F1 is rightfully deserved. To retire such a short way from the chequered flag is enormously frustrating, but I have every confidence in him to take at least one win this year.
Worst performance: McLaren
It´s safe to say that I didn´t expect the McLaren team to struggle the way they have been this season, but it seems that nothing they do seems to work. For Button, there were talks that he would copy the set-up from Hamilton, seeing that this is working out rather well for the 2008 champion. He has 88 points, Button 49. But the team continues to botch their pit-stops to such a degree that it looks they have given up. Again in Valencia, we saw how Hamilton´s second pit stop failed miserably, the one under safety car. we don´t know if the car is hard to handle for Button and this is the reason why he is not scoring the points needed. And we don´t know what the pit stops fail. What we do know is, that this needs to stop. Fix it.I am not commenting on who was at fault, when Pastor Maldonado and Lewis Hamilton had a get-together at Turn 12, that is just not up to me. I will say that the accident was avoidable.