2012 Formula One European Grand Prix Review
Formula 1, like most other sports, has those moments that live on. Etched in history books, yellowed by time and weathered by fans discussing them, over and over again, decades later; reliving the spectacles that they were.
The 2012 season, is one such rather long moment.
We’ve seen how epic the season has grown to be. We’ve seen how the first seven races have yielded seven different winners. We’ve even seen six world champions starting off the same grid.
And if that wasn’t enough, the European Grand Prix took the season by the scruff of its neck and dipped it in a fresh bowl of sheer brilliance. It epitomised all that Formula 1 stands for. Skill; triumphs; heartbreaks; laced with a dizzying concoction of national pride, and wuthering spirits.
For all that it was, one cannot deny that the day belonged to Fernando Alonso. A rather dismal qualifying session had seen him being sidelined for Q1, breaking some thousands of Spanish hearts in the grandstands. Starting at P11 from the grid, and keeping his cool in a circuit that demanded so much from a driver, he was at his sensational best, as he drove home a victory, amidst retiring rivals and an absolutely ecstatic home crowd – his second win, and fifth podium of the season. His superb run finally put an end to the new-winner-in-every-race streak that the 2012 season had been flaunting since the very beginning.
We had all speculated about Ferrari’s chances at Valencia. They seemed to have finally found their grip on the season. That is, till qualifying happened. Alonso’s drive to victory from a near hopeless scenario, certainly does cement the Scuderia’s vast potential, and lays testimony to the amount of work the team has been putting in to bring their F2012 up to standards. And boy, has it shown.
If Alonso’s victory was sensational, what would one say about Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher on the podium? When words are superfluous, it is often a common practice to change the topic and take it up again, later. I shall do, just that.
Red Bull Racing. They had it all coming along perfectly. Sebastian Vettel was well in the lead, a comfortable 20 seconds ahead of Romain Grosjean. Any sensible bloke would have had his money on Vettel, and going by his impeccable first half of the race, he sure looked on the verge of waltzing into his third consecutive Valencia victory. Indeed, he knew the track better than anybody else; he had won from pole positions on both occasions before this; he was on pole position again; he had administered a flawless start. And he was simply about to win it again. Who in the deepest caverns of hell would have expected a confounded gearbox problem on an otherwise perfect machine, to which the defending world champion succumbed and retired, much to the disappointment of the writer? Murphy’s Law, they call it.
The team can however find some solace in the fact that they are still in the lead in the constructors’ battle, thanks to Mark Webber salvaging some much needed points – finishing a remarkable fourth, having started from P19 on the grid. A move, that has innocuously brought the Aussie up to 2nd on the driver’s tally.
Which incidentally brings us to the curious case of McLaren. Now, like Red Bull, McLaren have consistently been among the points throughout the season – plucking podiums and wins like ripe cherries. For a team generally used to having points, Valencia was a disaster. There was a likelihood of Lewis Hamilton being on the podium today had he not entered that fateful corner wheel-to-wheel with Williams’ Pastor Maldonado. The result of which was rather sad. A twitch of the steering wheel, a tap on the brakes and wham! A heart wrenching end to the grand prix for the Briton in the waning laps of the race. Holding out for a few more minutes would have given him some twelve points and a much better tally to capitalise upon in the future races. Lewis’ frustration was written all over him as he chucked the steering wheel out of the cockpit in utter disgust.
Three is crowd, they say. And indeed there was a third disappointment in the European Grand Prix as well: Romain Grosjean, who had slid into a rather comfortable potential podium position – following Vettel’s retirement in the 35th lap. He had executed a terrific start, and for the couple of laps or so that he raced behind Alonso’s Ferrari, he systematically chewed seconds off the Spaniard’s lap time and looked all set to clinch the first win for Lotus. Alas, that was not to be, and he retired following an electronics failure on his E20.
But then, the 2012 European Grand Prix was a grand prix of sorts – dishing out disappointments and triumphs in equal measure. The podium was incredible – bordering on the surreal. Of course, everybody had seen Kimi Raikkonen coming. The Iceman just oozes too much of level-headed brilliance to stay off the podium for so long. But seeing Schumacher up there, was most definitely a dream come true for several thousands all around the planet. It was in China, back in 2006 when he had last been on the podium. It took him six long years, one retirement, and a subsequent return to go up there one more time today. We can only hope that the living legend continues to surprise us in this manner for more grands prix to come.
Here are few random closing thoughts.
- FIA’s choice of the DRS section was spot on. The first half of the race rewarded all fans with a plethora of overtaking maneuvers – something that is generally missing on a street circuit like Valencia. And if someone took the cake in the DRS battle, it was Lotus, hands down.
- The yellow flagged session and the safety car’s intervention following the rather unnecessary collision between Jean-Eric Vergne’s Torro Rosso’s and Heikki Kovalainen’s Caterham was very crucial in shaping the second half of the race.
- If someone has emerged the undisputed champion after eight races into the season, it is not Fernando Alonso. It is not Red Bull. It is, and most definitely is, Pirelli. It has solely been the tyre manufacturer who has been responsible for all the excitement and all the unpredictability that has set this season apart.
In what has been a rather dramatic turn of events, Red Bull have gone so far as to suggest that safety car was employed in the middle of the Grand Prix to artifically ‘aid the show’. According to Vettel, he was pulling away without any problems from the rest of the pack, and all the safety car did was try to make the race more exciting by allowing Grosjean to close in on him, and that it may also have contributed to the Red Bull’s gear box problem forcing the German to retire.
While a heated discussion is on the cards, one might recollect the rather infamous Renault Crashgate controversy, back in the 2008 season. Undoubtedly the worst blemish in the sport’s near 60 existence, it was revealed after the Singapore Grand Prix that Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jr had been given instructions by his team to intentionally crash his car, to make the safety car come out onto the track. This would make the scenario rather favourable for the other Renault driver, who was quite coincidentally, Fernando Alonso. And indeed, it did. Alonso went on to win the race, in what was considered a brilliant, albeit lucky pit-stop strategy. When the controversy was revealed, all parties related to this scandal were dealt with harshly, with Renault’s managing director being handed a life-long ban from any FIA event. The Formula 1 universe can only hope that a repeat of a similar incident, or anything near to that does not happen in the future.
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