If I’m honest, I don’t quite know how to evaluate this race. I think it was, compared to other events this year, definitely a competitive one. I was happy to see Webber cross the line in first place, especially after the baffling decision to favour Vettel for qualifying. Similarly, I was pleased that the British fans' loyalty was rewarded with strong finishes from their men.
However, as an Alonso fan, I was outraged at his penalty and felt that his demotion to the back of the pack ruined an otherwise pleasing race. I was also disappointed to see Vettel carve his way so easily through the pack after a very fortunate safety car period.
Of course the Vettel stuff was, for many, great to watch, and also completely in the German driver’s control. Therefore my irritation in that respect is purely personal; but the Alonso incident really bugged me and I think it will take a good while for the red mist to clear from in front of my eyes, and for me think about quite how well this race actually turned out, when considering the alternative result (a dull Red Bull walkover).
Anyway on to the start, and it was a good one.
The Red Bulls pulled away excellently and were wheel to wheel into turn one. As a fan who is not keen on Vettel, I saw the manoeuvre from the German off the line as an attempt to push Webber into the barriers. Vettel fans will argue that Webber gave his teammate no room into the first corner and forced Vettel off. I think a clear-minded, neutral fan would simply conclude that the start was a good’un!
Hamilton worked his way up into the mix, and Button and Kubica were able to capitalise on a poor start from Alonso.
In all of the confusion Vettel found himself off the track and in trouble as a slight knock with Hamilton had caused a puncture; the German slipped to the back of the pack and would now have to limp to the pits.
Massa had picked up a puncture early on after contact with his team mate and was also forced to take an early stop.
After five laps the positions were as follows:
Webber, Hamilton, Kubica, Rosberg, Alonso, Barrichello, Schumacher, Button, Kobayashi, Sutil, de la Rossa, Petrov, Hulkenberg, Buemi, Alguersuari, Trulli, Kovalainen, Liuzzi, Glock, di Grassi, Chandhok, Yamamoto, Massa, Vettel.
A couple of laps later the front two drivers had pulled away, but there was a close battle developing within the points paying positions. At the back, an out of position Liuzzi (after a five-place drop for blocking in qualifying), was nicely making his way past the category B drivers.
However, this period was relatively dull and the only thing really worth reporting was that di Grassi pulled into the pits slowly to retire with hydraulic issues. Perhaps unfortunately, the first few pit stops promised change, but delivered similarity.
The big fight between Rosberg, Alonso, and Kubica was unaffected by stops, but this of course meant that if any positions were going to be changed, they would have to happen on track.
It was here, that the race both turned exciting and sparked the moment that would leave Alonso and his fans scratching their heads in disbelief. The Spaniard was super fast and all over Kubica by lap 17.
On through turns seven and eight it looked as if Alonso was getting ready for a big push. This came at turn nine, but the Renault driver gave Alonso no room and forced the Ferrari to cut the corner…was this a legal manoeuvre?
Technically no, and Alonso probably knew this judging by the fact that he felt he needed to radio the team to check the rules. However, he was clearly faster than Kubica and the Pole gave him no room.
Okay, so what Alonso should have done was let Kubica past straight away, and he probably would have done this later if a stroke of terrible luck hadn’t occurred. A couple of laps after the incident, Kubica’s Renault pitted with terminal problems.
Alonso was seemingly screwed. He couldn’t let Kubica through, and he had physically committed a racing crime. Nevertheless, both David Coulthard and Martin Brundel agreed that any punishment would have been extremely harsh. Unlucky for Alonso, Special Constable Mannsel was in the Stewards' box and had clearly let the unusual British sun go to his head!
Soon after the incident, both Rosberg and Alonso beautifully sped past Alguersari (unusually high due to the fact he was yet to stop).
By lap 25, most of the front-runners had pitted and rejoined. The positions were now:
Webber, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Rosberg, Alonso, Button, Alguersuari, Barrichello, Kobayashi, de la Rossa, Sutil, Petrov, Liuzzi, Buemi, Massa, Trulli, Vettel, Glock, Kovalainen, Chandhok, Yamamoto.
Now it was here that the afternoon went from bad to worse for Alonso. First, he was handed a drive-through penalty, and secondly because a safety car was required to slow the pack after pieces of de la Rossa’s rear wing had broken off and were all over the circuit.
The Ferrari driver could not serve his penalty under the safety car period, and would therefore find himself dead last. Kubica himself said that a penalty would be harsh, but this didn’t stop the stewards. Yet another decision goes against Ferrari as the previously "bent" rule makers desperately try to prove they are no longer in the red team’s pocket.
I suppose if I had to pick a positive from this dreadful decision it would be that my other F1 hero, Button now found himself in P4 (having leap frogged Hulkenberg through pit stops).
The race restart around lap 31 gave some great madness between Schumacher, Sutil, and Vettel (who had fortunately been able to gain time on his rivals under the safety car).
The last few laps were certainly exciting. I will admit, even though I don’t like Vettel, it was great to see him fight through the pack and dispatch Sutil, and Schumacher, and Petrov for a hard fought P7.
Similarly, it was quite nice to see Alonso try his hardest to prove a point from the back, though when it came to it, he simply tried too hard and picked up a puncture.
The race finished with a satisfying victory for a fantastic bloke, but for me the sting had been taken out by the mistreatment of Alonso. Nevertheless, to see Webber’s clear joy at proving himself and to hear the very interesting comments made over the radio made the race even more interesting.
Christian Horner radioed, "Well done Mark, perhaps you can smile now." This was followed by Webber’s reaction, "Not bad for the No. 2 driver." Somehow I don’t think everything is fine in that Red Bull team.
So in conclusion, though the race was personally disappointing for me as an Alonso fan, I was ecstatic to Button and Webber do as well as they did. The crowd wanted a great race and I think they got one, and as for the championship? Well it’s wide open now…
1 Mark Webber RBR-Renault
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
5 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth
6 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari
7 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault
8 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes
9 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
10 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth
11 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes
12 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari
13 Vitaly Petrov Renault
14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
15 Felipe Massa Ferrari
16 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth
17 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth
18 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth
19 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth
20 Sakon Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth
Ret Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari
Ret Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari
Ret Robert Kubica Renault 19 +33
Ret Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth
Drivers’ Top Three:
Constructors’ Top Three
Red Bull Racing 299