GRAND PRIX: Europe: Dull?


It's never dull in F1 - the latest row is about engines.  The FIA said that for 2013 it would be 1.6 litre, 4 cylinder turbos restricted to a maximum 12,000 rpm. However older readers who look back with nostalgia to the mid '80s when turbocharged rocket-fueled cars would trail black smoke on their out lap preparing for their sole lap on qualifying tyres can forget it. These won't be Bimmers with the wastegate replaced with a blanking plate, 5.5 bar boost and 1300 bhp; the call now is for more eco-friendliness.

The new engines will be coupled with some sort of Energy Recovery System.  This would put them directly in line with the way most major vehicle manufacturers are heading e.g. Ford are known to be planning a wide range of “eco-boost” (petrol) engines as turbos will be called, undoubtedly to get away from the old rip-snorting turbo image; think more of a pure, sweet breath of cleansing air.

Renault, currently the only mass-manufacturer of small/medium cars currently involved in F1 was in favour of the new regs, but Ferrari and Mercedes were not. Ferrari has made cars with 4 cylinder engines, but not for more than half a century and it’s hard to imagine a modern Ferrari fitted with a four banger.  Cosworth were concerned about the cost.  Also an inline 4 has got to be more difficult to use as a fully-stressed member. 

The compromise is that the new engines will be 1.6 litre V6s revving to 15,000 rpm in 2014. The new engines will also have controlled fuel flow and Kinetic Energy Recovery of 120kW on the rear wheels, plus Exhaust Energy Recovery linked to the turbocharger. Merc already make many cars fitted with V6s and you can easily imagine future Ferraris fitted with turbo V6s and ERS.

However all this has released a fight over the future of F1, is it to be eco-friendly, road relevant technologies or showbiz? Bernie does not like the new engines, saying that noisiness is a vital aspect of live F1. Now the majority of the circuits, led by Bernie's pal Ron Walker have said they don't want the new engine and may turn to IndyCar! This is simply preposterous. Interestingly, noise is really only significant if you are at a race live; on TV, where most experience F1, it matters not one jot and can barely be heard above lunch being cooked.

Talking of TV, there have been mutterings (led by the Murdoch press) that the BBC may not renew its contract with F1 when it expires. F1 is the most expensive item in its programming and you can image the sniping of the intelligentsia at something which is so expensive and seems to symbolise gross, conspicuous consumption. The sport's close association with non-democratic regimes can't be helping here either. But then.....maybe the rumours are more to do with Rupert Murdoch's Sky TV attempt to join a consortium to take over F1. As I said, never a dull moment.

Another thing that cannot help F1 either is the constant mucking about with the rules. For Valencia the FIA announced that qualifying engine maps would effectively be banned as cars would have to start the race on the map they qualified with. This was seen as an attempt to reduce the effectiveness of the off-throttle diffuser in general and Red Bull's in particular. In the event it did not make the slightest difference. Nor did tyre degradation, KERS and a double DRS zone mean that the truly dire Valencia circuit delivered anything other than a tedious race.

The only good thing was Ferrari's performance. Technical Director Aldo Costa was shouldered out some weeks ago to be replaced (functionally) by Brit Pat Fry. Ferrari seem to have replaced McLaren as second best. Luca says Ferrari must not give up. Fernando says it's not over - not many agree. Other Ferrari news is that it has announced the extension of its agreement with Philip Morris International until the end of 2015. This is despite any noticeable, even "subliminal" branding on the cars. Also Fernando Alonso has signed up through to the end of the 2016 season.

Your webteam slept soundly throughout most of the race. One person who did not was the winner, Sebastian Vettel. His team did not tell him that team mate Mark Webber had changed to the prime tyres as they did not want to worry him. Vettel radioed in and asked them what time he was doing on the primes. He had seen it on the giant screen TV!

Here is Ferrari Media's (slightly abridged) view of the race:

Fernando Alonso finished second in the European Grand Prix and, helping to bring home Scuderia Ferrari’s biggest points haul of the season, Felipe Massa came home fifth. Almost inevitably, the win went to pole man Sebastian Vettel, the Red Bull Racing driver taking his sixth victory from eight races. Joining the German and the Spaniard on the podium was third placed Mark Webber.

When the lights went out, Felipe got a fantastic start, shooting past his team-mate and Hamilton to come up behind second placed Webber. But the Brazilian got a bit boxed in by the Australian at the first corner, which allowed Fernando to come back again to take third, so that Vettel led from Webber and the two Ferrari drivers, with Hamilton, Rosberg and Button leading the pursuit.

When Webber pitted on lap 13 it temporarily promoted the Ferraris to second and third places. Vettel, Fernando, Button, Schumacher, Di Resta and Buemi all came in on lap 14. Felipe who led the previous lap now came in on lap 15 as Schumacher had to pit again for a new nose, having collided with a Renault. The run of pit stops had not changed the order of the top three, so that Fernando found himself third again behind the Red Bulls.

On lap 18, Fernando put in a fastest race lap, as he closed to 0.8 of Webber and that gap was halved to 0.4 on lap 20, which had the home crowd on its feet and they went wild when one lap later, the Spaniard got past the Australian at the right hander at the end of the long straight, to take second place. The Ferrari man was now 3 seconds behind Vettel. Hamilton pitted for a second time on lap 24, which saw Felipe go back up to fourth, behind Webber, who was closing gradually on Fernando. Lap 28 and Webber pitted the Red Bull for a second time, rejoining fourth behind Felipe, while Fernando made his second stop one lap later. This meant Vettel led Felipe by almost 20 seconds. The German then pitted on lap 30 and emerged from pit lane just ahead of the Brazilian Ferrari driver. Webber then got past Felipe, as he came in for his second stop next time round but in the second run of pit stops Webber had got the better of Fernando, so once again it was a Red Bull one-two. Felipe’s chances of doing better than fifth took a blow on lap 31, when there was a problem with the left rear wheel nut when he made his second pit stop, which slowed him by a significant four seconds.

With 20 laps remaining of the 57 lap race, Vettel was maintaining a comfortable 2.3s cushion over Webber, while Fernando was very gradually closing up on the Australian, with a gap of 1.3. In fifth place, Felipe had closed the gap to Hamilton to 4.8. Webber made his third and final stop on lap 42, so that Fernando was now second and Hamilton followed down pit lane. On lap 45, Fernando made his final tyre change and came out in heavy traffic which slowed him for a while, but crucially he had got ahead of Webber by running three laps longer on the soft tyres while the Red Bull man was on mediums, and so the Ferrari was lying second to Vettel, who pitted on lap 47, but still led Fernando by 8.6s.

Behind the podium trio came Lewis Hamilton, who finished unchallenged as Felipe in fifth had lost ground after his slow pit stop. Jenson Button was sixth in the other McLaren, with Nico Rosberg seventh for Mercedes. Eighth and the only points scorer to get through 57 laps with just two tyre stops was Alguersuari in the Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso. The final points went to ninth placed Adrian Sutil for Force India and Nick Heidfeld for Renault. All 24 starters finished.

Click here for FIA lap chart.

Stefano Domenicali: “Our only target has to be the victory- we are Ferrari after all – but today, all things considered, we can be pleased with this result. It was an exciting and very evenly matched contest: Fernando and Felipe drove great races, fighting right to the end with their main rivals. The only negative point came at Felipe’s second pit stop, which might well have cost him the chance of fighting right to the end with Hamilton for fourth place: but he too drove a strong race, especially from the start where he managed to make up two places and attack Webber.

Fernando Alonso: “I was determined to get on the podium. In my trophy collection, the only ones now missing are from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and, naturally, India. I hope I can complete the collection by the end of the year! I was really pleased to taste champagne again, especially in front of this lovely crowd in Valencia, an amazing city where there is a great passion for racing. This result means a lot to me. The Red Bulls are still significantly superior, but it was equally significant to stay close and stop them getting a one-two. We must continue like this, race after race. We know that, at Silverstone, it will be very tough because it is one of the tracks which best suits their car.”

Felipe Massa: “It was a good race spent constantly fighting other drivers. I tried to get the most out of the Option tyres because we reckoned that with the Prime, our pace was not at its best. It was a shame about the problem at my second pit stop, when I lost those four or five seconds which cost me the chance of fighting Hamilton for fourth place.



The European Grand Prix Valencia, Spain.
57 laps. Weather: Sunny

Pos Driver Team  
1. Vettel McLaren  
Alonso Ferrari  
+ 10.891
3. Webber Red Bull  
+ 27.255
4. Hamilton McLaren  
+ 46.190
Massa Ferrari  
+ 51.705
6. Button McLaren  
7. Rosberg Mercedes  
+ 1:38.000
8. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari  
+ 1 lap
9. Sutil Force India  
+ 1 lap
10. Heidfeld Renault  
+ 1 lap
Fastest lap: Vettel: 1m41.852s

World Championship Standings, Round 7

Drivers:   Constructors:
1. Vettel
  1. Red Bull
2. Webber
  2. McLaren
3. Button
  3. Ferrari
4. Hamilton
  4. Renault
5. Alonso
  8. Mercedes 58
6. Massa
  6. Sauber-Ferrari 27
7. Rosberg
  8. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 16
8. Petrov
  9. Force India 12
8. Heidfeld
  9.` Williams
9. Schumacher
10. Rosberg
11. Kobayashi
12. Sutil
13. Buemi
14. Alguersuari
15. Barrichello
16. Perez
17. Di Resta

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