Silver-Stoned

The Bigger picture:

In comparison to the European Grand prix a few weeks back, the British Grand prix was, well, exhilirating to say the least. It is almost like a John Abraham (or a Nagesh Kukunoor) film releasing a week after ‘A Strange Love Story’ or ‘Haunted 3D’. Of course, needless to say, Abraham will seem like the next De Niro and Kukunoor the next Malick.
But after all the dust and grime has settled down and when Hamilton decides to ‘sway’ with Nicole at a London nightclub in a few hours, here is a hard fact: Vettel is not only leading the championship comfortably now- he has EXTENDED his lead. 3 points, maybe, but the closest is Webber. And we all know what Number 2 drivers of Champion teams do. Ahem, Barrichello. Ask Alonso and Hamilton in 2010. They both seemed to be number 2 drivers for Mclaren, and we all know what happened in the last race (and the previous 18 races).

So as it stands, Vettel still looks dominant- and the slight change in DRS rules and other complicated technicalities which will no doubt keep changing every race as long as there’s another Schumacher (yawn) in the making- seems to have made hardly any difference to the Red Bull team. They still finished on the podium to Alonso- who according to many (and yours truly)- is probably the best driver of this generation. The numbers don’t add up yet, but the man is stuck with an underperforming car that performs upto potential only when Massa drives it. The true potential of a driver can only be measured in a weaker car, with a teammate who has been at Ferrari for years now. Aryton Senna did the same when he was racing for Lotus years ago in the 80s, and Schumacher for Benetton in the early 90s.

 A sign that anyone but the British team seems to follow

Red Bull still seems eons ahead of rivals Mclaren (and now, Ferrari)- and there seems no end in sight to their exciting domination- as compared to the predictably mechanical domination of Ferrari years ago. Why, look- Vettel even decided to finish 2nd to truly display that he does have competition. And he can be beaten. Only for the third time in 9 races, but never mind (three runner-up finishes)

It is still a race for second position in the Championship, and unless Massa and Button decide to form a union- It is going to be between old pals Alonso and Hamilton.

The Smaller Picture:

This is the first race that Ferrari have won this year. This is definitely not the last race Alonso will pull out of the hat this year. He may have profited from a deadly virus that rendered all pit crews braindead for the better part of this race, but with the third best CAR on the grid- he sure did drive one hell of a race to finish 18 whole seconds ahead of a seemingly-unstoppable Red Bull team.

Lewis Hamilton resembles that over-aggressive go-kart driver on the track that keeps pulling off daring moves only to pull back seconds later and pay for his stupidity. He may have been inspired from the recent private screening of the documentary ‘Senna’, but he seems to forget that idolizing a tortured genius could mean instant death (or even worse- humiliation) in the modern ultra-competitive era. In fact, EVERY pit crew at Silverstone decided to take cue and demonstrate their importance by screwing up (literally) atleast 60% of the pitstops during this race. That the Red Bull crew decided to live upto the second half of their team name- only made matters more interesting and human.

Jenson Button, ironically, was the greatest victim of his British team. At Silverstone. In front of his home crowd. Last I heard, he has never finished on the podium at this race in 12 attempts. Talk about ‘home’ and ‘away’ advantage in F1. Gah.

The Pole Dancer

Hamilton tried his best to join him in the pits to retire for early drinks, but Massa managed to keep him honest right till the end. To their credit, they did create one of the best LAST laps this year, and the leader was not even involved here. In fact, Alonso may have gotten the least TV footage after he took the lead- sadly for Ferrari.

Once again, Human error accounted for a Vettel loss (yes, second is LOSING- even for him) but failed to really let Webber, for once, make a pole-to-flag finish. That he dominated qualifying over the weekend only added to the Australian’s woes- and one suspects if team spirit got the better of him at the start line.

The biggest disappointment of the race was Michael Schumacher. He actually finished in a points position- and may have proved wrong ALL his detractors over a glorious point-scoring weekend. Rosberg, meanwhile, has stepped on the gas and is proving that age is indeed a factor in his sport by consistently outscoring his teammate for 3 races now. On a serious note, Vijay Mallya must be extremely disappointed with Force India after Di Resta became a victim of under-pressure Britishness (a pitstop gone wrong AGAIN). 6th in qualifying and still no points. One cannot blame him if he decides to change career paths and coach the Royal Challengers in this year’s Champion’s League.

The REAL Picture:

At halfway point in the 2011 season, Vettel looks set for Title Number 2- and also to challenge Alonso as the ‘next big thing’ of this generation. Alonso has been around for a while, but his move to Mclaren for two years has seemed more like an annulment during a season of happy marriages. He is still strong, and he seems to have successfully emulated his mate Rafa Nadal’s dogged spirit and never-say-die attitude. Massa’s days are numbered, as are Webber’s. Maybe not Webber, for he is still second in the standings, but to be honest- he lacks the charisma of a World Champion. He seems like that eternal second-place enthusiast Coulthard. And his physical resemblance to Senna may not be enough to lift the Aussies out of an extremely barren spell as far as World Sports is concerned. With 9 races to go, one does not see Red Bull ease up the way the Brawn GP team did in 2009- but expect some serious competitiveness from Ferrari now that they have rediscovered their mojo after 154 weeks. Even if it means finishing a mere 18 seconds behind Vettel, it will be closer than it seems. Atleast points-wise.

And, needless to mention, the biggest race of the year may STILL be that Indian Grand Prix at Noida- where, rest assured, all you cynics will be left truly gobsmacked by the sheer classiness of the track. The last weekend of October might be a momentous one for every school-kid who has ever grown up racing to school on bicycles trying to emulate Senna, Hill, Hakkinen or Schumacher instead of Armstrong or Merckx.

Kids, do not try at home

On to Nurburgring for the German Grand Prix. I will try to sound excited, but Sebastien Vettel is a young German. And he will race at home. He is definitely not Button or Alonso- both of whom have exactly ZERO race wins between them in front of their own home crowds. German precision (combined with Austrian heart) against Spanish flair against British doggedness against Aussie sluggishness? No contest.

We know what happened the last time an Austrian-German collaboration did to the world. This time, of course, it could be years of sweet and innocent domination that could spell the end of the British Empire. Atleast until Alistair Cook decided to replace Ron Mclaren and Kevin Peiterson swaps places with Hamilton for a year or two.

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