In another staggering example of how this new season has turned our expectations of Formula One on their heads, the world’s most boring and uninspiring track—Valencia—has produced arguably the race of the season, with drama and excitement from start to checkered flag.
Even more strangely, Fernando Alonso became the first driver to secure a second victory this season. Not that he isn’t a brilliant driver, but he’s in a car that saw team boss Luca di Montezemolo leave the circuit despondently shaking his head.
Anyone tuning in to the race late would have wondered whether they weren’t watching a repeat from 2005, with Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher standing there. And with Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton nowhere to be seen.
While the race was exciting in its own right, the behavior of a number of drivers resulted in it being exciting for a whole range of other reasons.
This race saw more carnage than we’ve seen for almost the entire season.
Some of it was understandable, like a simple racing incident between Kamui Kobayashi and Bruno Senna. Some was more avoidable, like the one between Kobayashi and Felipe Massa
There seemed to be a bit of an outbreak of testosterone-fueled racetrack hooliganism. There was a lot of wheel to wheel racing and nudging, but occasionally it got out of hand.
Jean-Eric Verrne pulled a strange move on Heikki Kovaleinen, seeming to throw an unnecessary feint at him after completing a solid overtaking move. It resulted in a collision which left Verne unable to continue and Kovaleinen making another trip back to the pits.
Verne’s excuse of starting to turn in for the corner is laughably ridiculous.
Had that actually been the case, Verne would have hit the wall 100 metres before the corner and would have had even more explaining to do in his garage. It was a dumb stunt and he deserves his punishment.
Pastor Maldonado’s collision with Lewis Hamilton, however, should result in a much more significant penalty for the Venezuelan than that paltry 20-second retrospective drive-through that he received.
The incident occurred on the penultimate lap of the race as Hamilton was losing rear grip.
Maldonado tried to pass Hamilton in the DRS zone and managed to pull alongside, but not complete the pass before Turn 12. Hamilton held the racing line and forced Maldonado wide and off the track. Instead of backing off and re-joining the circuit safely, Maldonado simply drove straight back on as Hamilton turned in for Turn 13.
Unsurprisingly, the two collided and Hamilton hit the wall, while Maldonado returned to the pits for a new nose.
Maldonado blamed Hamilton for not leaving him enough room. Apparently, in his mind, Hamilton was supposed to concede the corner and let him drive on to a spot on the podium. He seemed to forget, however, that he did exactly the same thing to Kimi Raikkonen on the exact same corner on Lap 2.
His move on Hamilton seemed more like a flash of anger and bloody-mindedness than the act of a professional racing driver. Coming on the heels of another ridiculous—and very similar—incident in Monaco, the FIA must have some concerns about Maldonado.
In Monaco, Maldonado hit a slow-moving Sergio Perez who Maldonado thought had held him up during free practice session three. He seemed to cut Perez off in what looked to be payback for some perceived transgression.
Maldonado was the loser, crashing out later in the lap, but it was a dumb move.
At the time, B/R colleague James Nielsen argued that Maldonado should have been suspended from racing. I argued that he should be given the benefit of the doubt.
I was wrong.
He should have had the book thrown at him then. They should throw it a lot harder now.