Mark Webber won a interesting Monaco Grand Prix to make a new record as the first 6 races have been won by 6 different drivers. The Austrailians win puts him on equal points with his team mate and only 3 points off Fernando Alonsos lead in the championship.
It was another difficult weekend for McLaren who managed only to get Lewis Hamilton to 5th place while Jenson Button retired after an awful weekend in the Principality that promised much but delievered little.
Casey Stoner the 26 year old reigning World Champion has made the shock announcement that he will retire from Moto GP at the end of the season. The rider is now regarded as one of the greats after his dominant season last year and his 2007 world championship on the Ducati which has embaressed ever other rider who has tried to master the Italian machine. The Austrialian has said it is a combination of the lack of support he felt in 2009 when he took the second half of the season off with fatigue which was later diagnosed as a Lactose intollerance along with the top flight of motorbike racing moving to the new CRT format.
Its a bold move and a real shame to see the 26 year old hang up his helmet. It does make for a mental silly season at the end of this year with all of the factory riders out of contract (along with Tech III) and a ride on the competitive Honda to fill.
At the weekend the usual snorefest of the Spanish Grand Prix was turned into a nail biter as Pastor Maldonado held off the home town hero’s Ferrari to take the Grove’s team first win since 2004. Its been well reported that the team have been in decline over the past decade, punctuated with finishing 9th in the standings last year. The race proved that Williams have core pace as they qualified on pole after Lewis Hamilton’s time was deleted after failing to make it back to the pits under his own steam (under fueling the car has been expressly banned since McLaren did it at the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix).
However it proved that the Pirelli rubber can provide a good race without it being a pure overtaking fest, as Alonso spent most of the race within sniffing distance while Maldonado skillfully kept him at bay. However certain drivers are still finding the performance too erratic, like Jenson Button who dialled it in on Friday but it had all but evaporated come the weekend.Pastors stock has definatley risen after a drive that would of befitted the home favourite who came how a respectable 2nd.
Ferrari did look in much better form and in the hands of Alonso have eeked out points every race this season leaving him on the same points as the leader Sebastian Vettel. Lewis Hamilton is still well in the hunt despite not managing to better the lowest step of the podium in the first 3 races. Consistancy is certainly the key which leads us onto:
The two Brazilians under pressure. Bruno Senna’s poor weekend wasn’t helped by his team mate charging forth for the victory and will hope for a better result soon to bounce back. The newphew of the late great Ayrton is having an odd season where he’s gone well in the races but struggled in qualifying which is opposite to his problems before 2012. Although it is worth noting that he was comforatbly outscoring Pastor before Spain so i’d expect this to fade away with consistant performances from the Brazilian over the rest of the season. Felippe Massa however is running out of time to save his Ferrari drive as his points total currently stands at 2 for the season while his team mate is joint leader on 61. Massa looks more so than ever a shadow of the driver that took the 2008 title to the wire and in a season where taking every little chance that presents itself, the Scuderia surely cannot afford to continue when there are younger drivers who are embaressing his total.
Finally the weekend ended on a slightly sour note as there was a serious fire in the Williams garage which left several members of the pit crews needing medical attention. One Mechanic has only arrived back to the UK today after he suffered serious burns in the incident. Investigations are ongoing but its believed to be an issue with removing fuel from the cars, we wish everyone involved a speedy recovery.
This weekend sees the start of the traditional main European season which will see the teams visit the classic tracks of Monaco, Silverstone, Spa and Monza. There are only 8 European races (split by the trip to Canada and the modern Summer break) this year a vast change from 10 years ago when 11 of the 17 races were in Europe. The first race will be at the Circuit de Catalyuna which is a highly technical circuit that many think will sort out the correct order of the grid and usually features a Noah’s ark qualifying (All the teams in order). However last year it was a great race thanks to Pirelli whereas in previous years its been quite processional as its so aerodynamically dependant – hence why the teams use it for Pre-season testing.
HRT missed the mid-season test in Mugello to move to their new base in Madrid which I was a little sceptical of, however the new factilty does look good and was visted by Jean Todt. Furthermore the team have announced two new sponsorships with olive oil producer Carbonell and windscreen replacement company Cristalbox. This is good news for the team as cars have been looking increasingly unbranded down towards the back of the grid. The spanish team will bring an update for their home Grand Prix this weekend along with running GP2 driver Dani Clos in FP1.
McLaren are also going to be running their new higher nose (dont worry theres still no step) at the 5th race of the season at Barcelona. We expect to see all teams with a large amount of new parts for this race.
Today is one of those strange days for followers of Formula 1, its 18 years to the day since Ayrton Senna died at the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola (The event also claimed the life of Roland Ratzenberger in qualifying) so it seems appropriate that 2 things that have been missing in recent years are returning.
The first is the in-season test which see’s 11 of the 12 teams decamp to Mugello to conduct 3 days of testing. HRT have opted not to attend because they are moving boxes into their new base of operations and thus miss yet more testing. Ferrari have been tinkering with exhaust settings and the paddock is going into overdrive with the rumour mill before the start of the European season.
Second is the return of Silly season which appears to have started extra early with Mark Webber having reported to be moving to Ferrari to replace Felipe Massa for a single year. Red Bull are reportadly keen to promote some young blood to the main team while Ferrari dont think Perez is quite ready to replace the struggling Massa. Its been sorely missed after all the top teams (except Lotus) have had the exact same driver lineup since the start of the 2010 season.