26/07/2011

German GP – As close as it can get

It was one cracker of a race. It had all the things which fans crave for, some awesome driving, overtakes, it was all action packed day. There were spins, mistakes & incidents too. It was Lewis Hamilton of McLaren who claimed his second win of the season which was unlikely on Friday, followed him was Alonso of Ferrari and Red Bull’s Webber, trio giving the action which we want.

Here is the detailed report of the whole weekend:

FP1:
Here we were for the German GP weekend to kick-off. The weather was quite cold with chances of rain (which didn’t in the end). All cars out to try the Pirelli’s Soft and Medium compound tyres along with trying out the new upgrades on their car. In the end it was Ferrari’s Alonso topping the timing sheets followed by Webber & Vettel of Red Bull. Force India’s Sutil & Hulkenberg (both in their home GP’s) finished off at a good P8 & P9. Both our Indian F1 drivers too were in action with Karthikeyan (sitting for Liuzzi) in his HRT F1 finishing at P20 while Chandhok (sitting for Trulli, a surprise move by the team) in his Team Lotus debut as a whole weekend driver finished at P21. We saw some spins and lock-ups but the biggest was, Buemi bouncing over the gravel top when he was trying hard to improve his timing.


FP2:
The teams were back after lunch for the second session of the first day. The weather remained cold throughout the day. Webber in his Red Bull finished at top in the end followed by Alonso in his Ferrari & Vettel in his Red Bull. Force India’s home boy Sutil finished at P10 while his team-mate Paul finished at P12. Another strong session for the team and the drivers, comfortably ahead of their direct rivals. Chandhok in his Team Lotus continued his improvement and finished at P20, he had a huge spin at the start. His major issue was understanding the brakes of the car as it was different from his previous team. Only, Buemi didn’t set a time as his car was troubled with misfire.


FP3:
A new day, the teams were hoping for a bit of ease in temperature but it was still cold with teams facing stiff challenge ahead. Vettel by the end of the session finished at the top of the table followed by his team-mate Webber & Alonso of Ferrari. Force India looked very comfortable and strong with Sutil finishing at P8 while Paul finishing at P12. Chandhok in his Team Lotus was still learning the car as he finished at P23, spinning his car two-three times.

It was looking good for Force India, I expected atleast one car in Q3 as the pace was looking good from the onset and the drivers felt comfortable as well. As for Chandhok, it would have been tough but was expecting him to be close to Heikki.


Qualifying:
Q1:
It was qualifying time as the teams set out in order to get through to Q2, the times kept changing during the session as the track was improving and the drivers were getting the much needed grip. In the end it was Massa who finished at P1 in the session as he took the advantage of the improving condition. All the six drivers of the news teams bowed out as expected. Chandhok in his last lap improved and qualified at P21, 0.8s slower than his team-mate which was quite his target. Kobayashi of Sauber was the driver who bowed out along with the other six. Both our Force India drivers safely made it to Q2.


Q2:
The track kept improving and so did the times of the cars. McLaren jumped into the Pole fray, something which they said will be tough to get as Hamilton topped the time sheets in Q2. The top 5 place was all booked, it was the next 5 places which the drivers were fighting for. An improved last run by Sutil helped him to get through to Q3 in his home GP. While Paul had to settle with P12 but he was ahead of all our direct competitors. Heidfeld, Paul, Maldonado, Rubens, Perez, Buemi & Jamie bowed out in the end. I was happy with Sutil making it to Q3 as I had expected one car in Q3, though Paul’s time and position was strong too to challenge for points.


Q3:
The stage was all set as it was well a 3 way battle for pole. Clearly, Webber, Hamilton & Vettel were in for getting on pole. It was a close battle between Webber & Hamilton but in the end it was Mark Webber of Red Bull getting the Pole position with Hamilton securing a surprise P2, followed by Vettel at P3. Force India’s Sutil continued with his strong form and qualified at P8 in the end with both Renaults & one Mercedes behind him. It was his best qualifying till date in the 2011 season.

For Force India it was just time to convert yet another great qualifying performance into a good point haul and get ahead of Toro Rosso & Sauber in the Championship. An interesting race was on the cards with rain being predicted.


Race:
It was a cloudy Sunday afternoon with possibilities of rain in the later part of the race (which didn’t come). Some drivers hoped for rain and some didn’t, its natural. For a change Vettel wasn’t on the front row, it was Webber and alongside him was Hamilton with Vettel and Alonso behind. We hoped for an exciting start (frankly, I was craving for it). The five red lights illuminated and we see, Hamilton taking the lead, once again Webber losing out. Behind them Vettel & Alonso having a fight and behind them Rosberg & Massa. Sutil had a good start as he gained one place to be 7th. But his team-mate Paul unfortunately spun after Heidfeld hit him from behind and he dropped back to last, his bad luck continued to haunt him. The tussle at the top continued for laps to go.

Vettel got to P3 but soon Alonso took back the position from him, then Vettel had a half-spin and faced some break issue problems which slowed him a bit. The fight ahead then took a 3-way turn as Webber & Hamilton fought for the first place with Alonso joining in, the way they were going it was giving us the entertainment we were craving for, a top position fight. Webber managed to lead a lap too which he hasn’t during the season. Force India’s Sutil was driving his heart out and making most of his tyre in order to go for a 2 stop strategy and gain points. Paul in the mean while was passing the slow cars one by one in his quest to be in the top 10. Chandhok strangely was running last which quite proved that he was having a tough time out there.

There was yellow flags when Heifeld (the first DNF) crashed out as he was trying to pass Buemi (who suffered a rear tyre puncture). Meanwhile, the tussle went on ahead, Vettel & Massa fighting for P4 position, didn’t imagine that Vettel will too fight for positions lower than P1. Sutil was riding lonely most of the race on P6 & P7 while Paul was in points one time but the pit-stop threw him back behind Jamie at P13. Chandhok went a lap or two down but hung in there, determined to finish the race. Hamilton took the lead after getting ahead of Alonso, in another great move.

By end, Hamilton had taken a comfortable lead to win the race with Alonso behind him, having driven another great race. Webber should be just happy with his P3, he could have won but the pace was just not there. The grit & determination of Hamilton was commendable, he was just superb. While Vettel & Massa even in pits provided the last touches to the race, unfortunately a bit slow pit-stop helped Vettel to over-take Massa in the pits and thereby getting the P4 position. For Force India it was like redemption as Sutil in his home race finished at P6 (best result for him & team this season), he was in my eyes the best German of the race, it was just perfect. Paul had to content with P13, the spin compromised his points scoring chances but he did well to come up the field. Chandhok finished the race last but he drove a good race, it was very tough but he held there.

I was happy with Force India getting those 8 valuable points and getting ahead of there competitor Torro Rosso in the Championship Table (P7). The car is improving and at the moment looking as if the best of the mid-field. For me the Moment Of the Year (until now) goes to Webber giving a lift to Alonso in his RBR7 to the parc frme, when Alonso had to stop his car. It was a cute and funny moment. Next up is Hungary, and we don’t have to wait long, its on this Sunday. Can’t wait..!!

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