The 2012 European Grand Prix (Valencia) will be remembered for 3 reasons:
– Sebastian Vettel is no more the frontrunner he thought he was. The law of averages has caught up with him, in the form of reliability- an issue that plagued his car throughout the 2010 season.
-Fernando Alonso made the weekend one for the Alonsos throughout Spain. After Xabi Alonso netted 2 against France in the quarters, it was Spain’s second favorite son’s turn to delight his home crowd. This could mean only one thing for Wimbledon (starting today), if the Spanish Armada continues.
-2012 is the new 2006, with war veterans taking the podium, leaving the flashy young erratic kids behind in a carnage of their own making. Schumacher finally gets his first podium since his return 2 years ago.
Gone in 0.6 seconds
The race began cleanly, and seemed to be heading towards that familiar flawless, boring finish when Vettel cruised through the first 20 laps. He was so comfortable that he could afford to take a pitstop and still come out ahead of Grosjean. Then Kovalainen and Vergne decided to take things into their own hands, and blast the race out of sleep mode. They collided, got on the safety car, and even made a hash of their return to the pits. Suddenly, the track was strewn with debri. Game on.
Just as Vettel was easing away again, his Red Bull tanked. A rare retirement for the Champion that drives on air. The mere mortals behind him saw red, and decided to scramble to the death. It was that man Hamilton again, who was recipient of yet another McLaren pit disaster. Surely, the Brits seem to be inspired by their choking football team and tennis hope Andy Murray. This isn’t the first time they caved in, under pressure.
This is SO 2006
Soon, Grosjean fell away too, with an alternator problem with his car- and it was Spaniard Alonso leading in his dream race. Hamilton, upto second and clinging onto his championship lead, desperately stayed in front of the charging Raikkonen (who is clearly the dark horse this season- with consistent podium finishes). Hamilton’s tyres began giving way, and he was relegated to a battle for 3rd with Pastor Maldonado- both finishing strongly in decent cars.
Luckily for the fans, though, the last lap brought in unparalleled drama- enough to make up for the straightforward victories in the last four races. While Alonso managed to make a clean getaway, Hamilton and Maldonado collided, forcing the furious Brit to retire. Inexplicable, really, when Hamilton knew that there was a Championship on the line.
This, in turn, brought in an early Christmas for chasing Michael Schumacher in fifth. Unaware right till the flag, the old legend was shocked to learn that he finished in a podium position. This, after the rotten luck over the season, and only 2 points from the first seven races. Long overdue, this luck of his.
Back on top, for a bit
With it being an all-Spanish weekend, Alonso now has breathing space at the top of the standings- 20 points from eternal podium man Mark Webber. But his closest contenders, performance wise, will be Hamilton and Vettel- both 23 and 26 points adrift respectively. Vettel, in particular, finds himself in an unfamiliar position- having to play catchup over the second half of the season, much like he did two years ago. This could be a real test of his grit, and ability to grind through on his worst of days.
Onto Silverstone, where Hamilton and Button will automatically be ruled out as favorites- thanks to Britain’s aversion to winning anything on home ground. Down to Vettel and Alonso, and another win for the Ferrari driver could make him start believing that 2012 could just be his year.