Summer break is finally over. It feels like months when F1 is shut down for a few weeks, at least to me, because I’m chomping at the bit to see the second half (and COTA, ah, COTA my “home” grand prix).
And Spa is one of my favorite tracks. It’s over 4 miles, nestled in a beautiful forest, and it was where I got to see my very first Grand Prix live in 2009. Where Hamilton went out on the opening lap, Kimi took the win, and Fisicella took an unexpected podium for Force India. We ran out onto the track to watch the trophy presentation and even watched other people run off with track markers like it was a normal thing. I have incredibly fond memories of that trip, and Spa will be the race that ties it all together.
With that said, what a race weekend.
Free Practice 2 was no slouch with Nico losing a tire. He was so lucky to not hit anything and it had to be a little bit nerve wracking to go into the race not having a final answer as to why the Pirelli failed. Yet another example of why Bridgestone backed away from the sport–Pirelli having to advice teams to stay within strict parameters to make sure the tire doesn’t fail, and teams saying they’re within those specs yet didn’t get a warning from their telemetry that the tire was going to fail. Without refueling, FIA requires tires to be the point that makes pit stops a requirement, and with that, problems happen. It’s a no win for the manufacturer, and at the same time, it’s annoying for the fans to have to listen to the blame game when all we want to see is a good race.
But I digress.
Quali was decent–the ultimate highlight being in Q2 when Kimi’s radio came in with, “Something broke.” The awful clanking and clunking was a giveaway for that but I’ll never stop enjoying his quiet sarcasm.
The 55 grid spot combined penalty for McLaren Honda was, once again, ridiculous. This will bring me into another rant about how I feel the sport is failing its fans and to keep it short, if you want to give the “lesser” teams a fighting chance, don’t limit the number of engines to 5 for an entire season. And let them test before the season starts to get those engines as reliable as possible. The claim of trying to make it more affordable is nonsense. The teams with the most money continue to succeed not because it’s a level playing field with limitations, but because it’s an unfair one where more money means more reliability. It’s the simplest of racing trinities that still holds true–fast, reliable, cheap: you only get to pick two.
Race day: I do kind of like the new start. All driver and no help from the team certainly proved interesting today. It reminded me of when they took away traction control and some drivers struggled more than others. But it gives back to the time when it was more about the driver and less about the technology. And Perez showed he could start better than just about anyone today. Impressive, Checo.
Hulkenburg’s aborted start was unfortunate. His first DNS, and he just continues to have terrible luck that takes away from his talent.
The first lap was incredibly clean, which is always nice to see–especially when so many drivers were fighting early. Rosberg to make up for his start, Bottas to gain an advantage, and Perez scaring Hamilton with that early threat to take the lead away. All very thrilling stuff.
Then Bottas’ team let him down with the right rear being the harder compound. After the drive through penalty, his fight for the podium was over. Just when everyone found out the Ferrari rumors weren’t to come true after all–at least for next year. The guy just had a tough weekend.
Grojean had a great drive and a podium finish–probably great news given that Lotus continues to battle financial demons. The rumor is that they’re going to have property seized after the race. I hope they’re able to sort it out because they’re on the cusp of being a very competitive team.
Red Bull had a bad and good day, losing Ricciardo’s car but Kvyatt driving like mad. When you handidly pass Massa and Perez and then keep fighting to gain position, you’ve earned the chance to say, “That’s how you **** do it!”
Ferrari had its ups and downs, too. Kimi finished strong after his qualifying problems but Vettel’s gamble ended up costing him a points finish. I’ll give them credit for trying to make it on a 1 stop strategy, but it’s gut wrenching to watch his tire blow on the final lap (and I’m anti-Vettel).
McLaren–at least they both finished and ahead of Manor? I really hope the work they were able to do over the break with the power plant upgrades help them the second half of the season. There’s something very wrong about watching such a storied partnership fail this bad.
And Merecedes. Another one two finish for the team. They’re new Red Bull–the undisputed front runner and everyone else is just fighting for second place.
And since I am unapologetically a Hamilton fan girl, I really liked the race result. I also appreciated his comments on the podium. When DC asked if he was starting to feel confident about winning a third title, he was quick to say it’s too early for that and he’s just focusing on the next race. Yes, I know, he lives the Hollywood life and is often criticized for it, but let’s not pretend that the past history of F1 champions didn’t know how to party but switch gears (ha!) and race. Jacky Ickx? Kimi Raikkonen? James Hunt? Yeah, Hamilton is pretty tame compared to those guys. And I don’t have a problem with any of their behavior, either. As long as he doesn’t get arrested or is a complete asshole, if he wants to glam it up a little, I’m not going to hold it against him. He’s got the money and he’s entitled to enjoy it.
So there you have it. Hamilton extends his lead. Rosberg is still on his heels, and Vettel lost serious ground today. Next up in two weeks… Milan. One day, another race I’d LOVE to see in person.