Playing With Fire
There was nothing ordinary about this race, despite the driver standings after the race.
You’d think normal service has been resumed, with Vettel narrowly at the top of the table once again- followed by the soon-to-be-troubled Hamilton in the we-don’t-know-why-we’re-failing McLaren. Alonso is unhappy with his car and the minute-gap to the leaders, and Massa continues to underperform in the same car. Webber continues to remain in the shadows, doing just enough to convince the management that there is really no number 2 better than him.
But the 2012 Bahrain GP was anything but normal. Despite long-marked protests in this troubled nation, Bernie and his team of merry bankers decided that their absence here in 2011 may have affected the finances of the sport in the longer run. With unenviable short-sightedness, Jean Todt declared that the Bahrain GP will be a go, come what may, and that Sport has nothing to do with the political situation. With most journalists from South Asia coming from a nation where Sports binds religion and even corrupt, absurd porn-watching politicians, this may have seemed like a bizarre statement. To add to it, the lack of sentiment in the top brass’s statements about how this sport merits top security for the greater good of the nation- gave us a sort of hollow, empty feeling about covering this controversial race. The drivers, of course, were slapped with a tape around their mouths- but their expressions leading upto race weekend betrayed anxiety and a sinking feeling that they were part of a whole that relied on ruthlessness and selfishness- no lesser a political explosion than the one happening beyond the boundaries of the stadium. It was not only about the sport, and they knew it.
Nevertheless, the race did happen- a bit of a farce, really, much like playing a cricket match when the entire stadium has been evacuated due to ‘impending violence within the stadium’.
Sebastian Vettel, blessed with a genetic condition that removes all sense of tension and anxiety when put in pressure cookers (much like the entire German population), drove a slick race that demonstrated admirable skill to hold back faster cars. His 22nd race victory has put him back where he belongs- at the top- after a few sloppy races that must have proved him mortal. No doubt, he will be worried about the near future for Red Bull- where they are clearly not the fastest on the tracks- but for now, he can be proud of his doggedness. Holding off a barging Kimi Raikkonen, whether in 2012 or 2008, has never been easy- and apart from a near corner that had them going head-to-head for a few seconds, the German held his own with great efficiency. This was also a race that marked a record Fourth different driver taking the podium in as many races- a situation unseen since the beginning of the 2006 season. To make any sort of predictions right now as to how the season might pan out, will be a laughable exercise- because even Vettel admits to a lack of confidence that may have taken a toll on his qualifying prowess.
Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button resembled clueless Ferraris that lacked any kind of competitiveness, and were instantly jolted back to reality after a rosy few weeks that has seen them harbor hopes of that elusive Constructors title. The skill of their pit crew will repeatedly be questioned, and there can be nothing more frustrating as a professional driver to see your team destroy you with a few seconds of clumsiness.
Do We Really Care?
Previous winner Nico Rosberg remains among the points, as does evergreen Alonso- with cars that are as consistent as Marat Safin’s net game. Schumacher managed to drive his best of the season so far, and still ended up with a sole point at 10th after starting last- also his first point (and finish) in 2012.
After a break of three weeks, we move to the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona for the short European stint (followed by Monte Carlo)- after a race that has done considerably more damage to the reputation and conscience of a sport admired by many.