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Monza F1 GP 2011 – Race

With Vettel on pole and winning again you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a boring race, but it was far from it – from even before the first corner! With action all the way through, Schumacher up to his old naughty tricks, Alonso giving the Tifosi something to shout about, and action, action action the race was a classic.

Interestingly it was Vettel who had the shortest gear ratios of all the drivers which was counter-intuitive on the fastest circuit of the year. However, you could see from the split screen comparison of his and Hamilton’s laps that he gained a lot going through and out of the chicanes. It also gave him better acceleration off the start line with heavy full tanks too. The McLaren’s meanwhile seem to continue to have terrible starts again and again.

I was surprised that Schumacher gave Hamilton such a hard time compared to how easily he let Button past, and you really never can rule out racial issues. I imagine there’s certainly no personal warmth between them off the track. It was rather like the times when Schumacher never gave any room to Rubens Barrichello, or Felipe Massa either, and before them to Fisichella. To be honest he’s a bit of a bully/cheat which is why I don’t feel he’s worth the 7 Championships he’s collected – maybe four he deserved, two he definitely cheated to get, and one at least was were his equally competent team mate was not given the same equipment or support by contract (eg Herbert, Irvine, Barrichello). Schumacher could look at his teammates’ telemetry and settings but they could not look at his.

Ross Brawn of course loves him, and has been steadfastly pandering to Schumacher’s wishes to change the car all year. Rosberg is in a way the Cinderella of the Mercedes team, faster and better than his team mate, but overlooked by Brawn. One feels Nico could do well to switch teams – maybe to Red Bull after Webber retires? He certainly has his father’s talent and drive and deserves better.

In contrast, is Bruno Senna an Ayrton or a Ralf (Schumacher)? I’d say he’s more like Ralfie than his Uncle. Ayrton had a vivid intensity and a bloody minded will to win that Bruno doesn’t have. He’s always relaxed in interviews, he doesn’t seem to feel he has to fight for things, he knows they’ll come to him (spoiled, monied background).

Nor is Vettel a Senna, despite being only the first man since Senna to get ten pole positions in two different seasons. Senna had team mates like Prost to fight against and rivals like Mansell but sadly Webber is at the end of his career and not the racer he used to be – plus he gets the least good equipment, has the most mechanical failures (or do they shut his KERS down if he gets too close to Vettel? It goes wrong often enough…) and very often the wrong strategy. That puts him under pressure, and consequently he makes mistakes. Senna also managed to get a lot of his poles when he wasn’t actually in the fastest car, whereas Vettel is in a car that half the drivers on the grid could become champions in. As for his “grand pass” against Alonso, yes, he put two wheels on the grass and kept his foot on the pedal, but in that position if he’d have taken it off he’d have spun: he just had to hang on and Alonso was kind to him, kinder than Schumacher was when he pushed Hamilton onto the grass later on in the race.

One driver new to the circus this year is Paul di Resta, a surprisingly Scottish guy who was driving DTM touring cars last year. He’s been consistently better than his team mate Sutil who has a reputation for being fast (I don’t know why, when he was team mates with Fisichella he was normally a second off his team mates lap times). It shouldn’t be a surprise though, when he was Vettel’s team mate in F3 he was consistently faster than today’s Wunderkind. But then they said that about Frentzen in relation to Schumacher but he never got the fast cars to drive when he was at his prime so we never saw that promise develop any further. I really hope di Resta gets a good break soon. He has an inner calm that shows a driver with inner steel, brains, nerve, and confident talent. Something to do with all that Scottish Irn Bru?

Button’s sublime though. Like my mate Lazzo said about him in another place,

Most of the time this year he just gets in the car and calmly drives without drama, then bang! He overtakes someone – it’s like watching a trapdoor spider.

Jenson’s a bit slower than Hamilton in qualifying (but not much) but he’s clean as a whistle on the track and what a racer!

You have to say though, that never mind the drivers, the main differentiator between teams this year is Adrian Newey, he’s the man! When he was at Williams it didn’t matter who they put in the driving seat, whoever it was won the World Championship. Looks like Red Bull is another of his masterpieces. And both with Renault engines. Maybe there’s something there?

Somewhere where there seems not to be anything there is in the three new teams. The best of them was lapped twice today, and Daniel Ricciardo in the HRT finished the race a massive FOURTEEN laps behind the leaders. You have to ask the question, what the hell are they doing on the grid? I do feel sorry for them because they do have some good people, but F1 is all about money, and they just don’t have enough. C’mon Bernie, introduce a special prize for the team that scores no points in the year but has the fastest lap times through the season on average. At least that way they get some help.

Very good race though. Not certain Singapore will be as well. Street circuit, not so much overtaking, probably another Red Bull win and near certainty for Vettel to be crowned Champion, although I suspect that won’t happen until the race after that.

This season it seems to be all about who will be number two. Once Vettel gains the driver’s Championship you can bet that suddenly Webber will start scoring more points with fewer issues so that Red Bull can secure the Manufacturers title too. If Webber’s performance suddenly does improve, then it’ll be proof that Red Bull artificially stifled his competitiveness this year and that Vettel’s Championship will be, for me, a hollow one.

I still can’t get used to Brundle’s Norfolk accent. At the beginning of the race commentary he said “Herr in Monza…” and it took a while for me to realise he wasn’t talking about one of the German drivers, or about David Coulthard’s (lovely) hair, but was just saying “Here in Monza….” Still, I nearly named this blog post with those words but nobody would have known what I was talking about. Unless they came from Norfolk.

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