This week's edition of AJonGP2 brings you all the drama of the European Grand Prix. A big thanks to co-contributor Martin Trundle for his excellent Round 7 coverage, we hope to see more from Mr. Trundle before the season is over.
The grid began to return to normalcy this week with eleven drivers making the start. STR's thisisaverylongname returned, Mercedes' NightFire missed again, whilst Sauber's much improved PessimistPrime was out with technical difficulties and Williams' zdievo was a late withdrawal. Prime and zdievo are hoped to return for Silverstone next week, whilst NightFire may be out until the German Grand Prix in two weeks' time.
The big story off the track this week is the continued absence of both Ferrari's from the grid, as both the Scuderia drivers were missing for the third straight grand prix. Early title contender VTEC has now missed the last 5 races. Ferrari team management remain tight lipped about the reasons behind the lack of race appearances, leading to a number of theories to pop up in the paddock. There has been no word of the team leaving the championship, however one thing is certain - Ferrari has already begun to fall in the WCC standings. With Williams, Sauber, RBR and STR scoring consistent points, the prancing horse will need a return to the grid, and to form, to avoid falling to the bottom of the table in coming weeks.
The lower temperature made qualifying a tricky proposition when coupled with the forecast of a low chance of rain for the race - those who raced last week once again faced uncertainty in their approach. The option tyres seemed to take longer to get to temperature and provide the grip needed to really attack the circuit this week, in some cases up to three or four laps. This meant longer qualifying runs and fewer chances to really nail that perfect lap as well as older tyres for the race start.
After the high of his first podium last week, Mercedes' Toggsie was brought back to earth with a thud after an early penalty for crossing the pit line when heading out for his first run. He was not alone, as both Red Bulls and STR's thisisaverylongname were also penalised for pit line infringements.
In form driver Ploddy set the early running with a respectable 1:40.913 in the Lotus before he was outdone by championship leader SOJ with an impressive 1:38.596. Sora and Toggsie also impressed with times in the 1:41s before a gap back to Amril in P5 with a 1:43. The times wouldn't tumble much further until later in the session as the the drivers got to grips with the tyres.
With under 4 minutes to go in the session, Williams' rogue eclipse pipped Ploddy's early time to take P2 with a 1:40.713, but was still over 2 seconds behind the McLaren Missile (thanks Mr. Trundle!). A second hot lap would follow, with rogue two tenths up on SOJ in the first sector before the second sector would see him drop to 6 tenths behind. The lap was good enough for a 1:39.278 and secured P2 by close to one and a half seconds. Meanwhile, milky and Ploddy traded times for P3 in the closing stages of the session, with the Lotus driver taking the chocolates after the session expired. Sauber's Sora posted a competitive time for P5 despite some technical issues and was the last of the grid to escape penalties.
The lower half of the grid certainly kept the stewards busy this week - Lotus' EffSea, STR's Amril and RBR's Nobody all took 10 grid position penalties for pit exit offences, whilst Mercedes' Toggsie, RBR's Fredzfrog and STR's longname all received double penalties. This meant only Toggsie dropped in the starting order from P6 to P9. It would be far from the only influence the stewards would have this week...
The race start saw the McLaren Missile misfire slightly, allowing the Williams to take the lead around the outside into turn 2. "Got an ok start but I stayed in second for too long which allowed rogue to get me". Some close racing behind from Ploddy and Sora through turn 2 had the Lotus driver holding P3 and the Sauber take P4 before he ran wide, promoting the returned thisisaverylongname. The unfortunately weekly fixture of the first lap pile up caught the majority of the rest of the field. Confusion continues to reign over exactly what happened, with Toggsie describing it as "Fredz into Amril? Into me, into milky?" - it was not the first or last time the Mercedes driver would be left scratching his head in a forgettable follow up to his Montreal triumph. Fredzfrog was handed a drive through penalty by the stewards before damaging his front wing.
Back at the front, rogue led from SOJ and Ploddy until the McLaren braked late into turn 17 resulting in contact with the Williams, taking them both off the track and elevating Ploddy to the race lead and longname into P2. It wasn't long before rogue and Sora had passed the STR driver, who lost positions by running wide under heavy fuel. As he re-entered the circuit on one such occasion RBR's Nobody jinked to avoid him and unwittingly put Lotus' EffSea into the wall. The RBR driver would be hit with a drive through penalty for another pit exit infringement shortly afterwards.
After his early excursion, SOJ had fought back to P4 by lap 4, while EffSea's suffered a setback after he ran wide and suffered heavy damage, losing his wing and puncturing a tyre. RBR's horrible beginning continued with another drive through penalty for Fredzfrog, while team mate Nobody damaged his wing on his way to the pits to serve his own penalty. SOJ was back into P3 after passing Sora down the back straight and charging hard, but the running order was about to get shaken up all over again.
With the gap for the lead down to three seconds, rogue locked up into turn 2 and lost his front wing. The long trip back to the pits cost him a lot of time and dropped the Williams to P5 as SOJ, Sora and milky (recovering from the opening lap shenanigans) shot through. It would get worse for the front row starter after the stewards awarded the damaged Williams with a drive through penalty for corner cutting as it struggled towards the pits. A member of the Williams pit crew mentioned their driver was "distinctly unhappy" with the decision at the time - indeed rogue may find himself before the stewards again after making an obscene gesture as he served his penalty. Shortly afterwards, Mercedes' Toggsie slid sideways into the wall ending his race. The contact seemed innocuous but must have broken something critical in the car, once again leaving the rookie mystified.
Grip was proving difficult to come by for most runners and by lap 8, race leader Ploddy and SOJ pitted for prime tyres. The primes proved an even trickier proposition in the cool conditions, as Ploddy discovered to his dismay, running wide into turn 2, losing his wing and the race lead. He would rejoin the race in P5 after limping back to the pits, just ahead of rogue eclipse, elevating Nobody to P4, though he was yet to stop for primes. Indeed the Red Bull seemed to be handling the tyre degradation better than his competitors at this stage of the race. His luck ran out on lap 12 and he ran wide into everybody's favourite turn 2, letting Ploddy and rogue through.
Lap 13 brought more drama, as the Williams caught up to the Lotus. The pair lapped STR's longname in P9 down the back straight and as the entered turn 12, the back marker shunted rogue straight on before spinning out of turn 13 and narrowly avoiding Nobody. Having dropped 17 seconds to Ploddy and damaging his primes, rogue's race was done from there on out.
On Lap 19, race leader SOJ misjudged his attempt to lap RBR's Fredzfrog and shunted him, before making another error down the back straight, forcing him to pit for fresh options and letting team mate milky and Sora through. He caught the Sauber a lap later but didn't pass his team mate until lap 26. Meanwhile, a nice little duel was taking place between RBR's Nobody and STR's Amril for P6. Ultimately, the STR proved the quicker and a miscalculation regarding the tyre regulations saw Nobody finish P7.
SOJ began to create a gap at the front but time penalties on two consecutive laps totalling 40 seconds, meant that his 10 second lead over his team mate wasn't enough. Despite crossing the line first, milky was awarded his first race win following an excellent recovery from the lap 1 incident. It would remain a McLaren 1 - 2 however, with Sora just 5 seconds too far back to capitalise on the penalty. It was a strong performance from the Sauber driver, taking his second podium finish of the season - "definitely happy to get third after the awful Canada I had".
So, another week down, and a number of drivers were left wondering what could have been in Valencia. The championship leader will be keen to respond after what he considered a less than satisfactory performance - "I had a great car this weekend and the team had done an amazing job. We were looking really good for another win, but I let them, myself and my sport down with some amateur-like driving. Its not what I expect of myself and won't let it happen again. Great result for milky he drove well and I really can't complain with a 2nd after all that happened and a McLaren 1 2. Will be looking to do better when I get home". Can the McLaren Missile conquer his home race at Silverstone and return to his winning ways? Join us next week for the British Grand Prix to find out.
|8||15||iM Amril intel||Toro Rosso||01:42.404||0|
|6||15||iM Amril intel||Toro Rosso||+1 lap||28||01:43.680||7||8|
|7||11||nobody813||Red Bull||+1 lap||28||01:44.139||8||6|
|8||7||Effing Sea||Lotus||+1 lap||28||01:43.312||6||4|
|9||14||Fredzfrog||Red Bull||+2 laps||27||01:46.390||10||2|
|10||20||thisisaverylongname||Toro Rosso||+3 laps||26||01:47.640||11||1|