Single Review – Tegan and Sara – 100x

Perhaps the most prolific identical twins in music have been quite busy of late, churning out three singles and videos in a relatively short space of time. These singles are from their impending eighth studio album Love You To Death (Out June 3rd). With it, they look to push their current Pop influences even further and ‘Boyfriend’ and ‘U-Turn’ have been wonderfully open and indulgent pieces of Pop. With ‘100x’ they look to embrace the Pop-tinged swooning ballad and spacious piano chords are certainly the order of the day here. The power vocals are the only thing tinged with a hint of electronica and whilst nothing spectacular, it demonstrates their vocal skill and is a sign of their own versatility.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Anna Of The North -Baby


Norway’s Anna Of The North is quickly making a name for herself as a rising Pop commodity plying herself in the trade of ambient cheesy 80’s ballads and making the well worn sound her own. With ‘Baby’ this includes sweeping chords and bursts of electonica set around her quivering yet tuneful vocals. As a result the song is left as a smooth and cool affair. Get ready to hear a lot more from Anna in the very near future.

Owen Riddle

The Coral – Distance Inbetween Review


Since they exploded onto the scene with their self-titled album and then followed it up with the even more impressive “Magic & Medicine”, The Coral have moved away from the considerable limelight that those albums created for them. The singles collection paints a pretty picture of what was otherwise a fairly disappointing series of albums for the band. The band was still able to create great tracks like “In The Morning” and “Jacqueline”. “Distance Inbetween” is something quite different. This LP sees the band take a more psychedelic approach spasmodically echoing bands that have taken a similar approach in recent years such as The Black Keys and even elements of Kasabian. Yet, the band still retain to the core blues sound that has served them so well throughout their career even if this time it’s channelled into psychedelica.

The first single, “Chasing The Tail of a Dream” borrows a little from The Black Keys’ “Turn Blue” album especially with the drumming and this is the case for many of the tracks on the album. The track marks more of a departure from the bluesy style that appears elsewhere and the incredible guitar instrumental where it just seems to wander aimlessly in a style clearly reminiscent of the psychedelica of the 1960s and ‘70s is symbolic of this. The more blues but still psychedelic song “Holy Revelation” is perhaps the stand-out of the style that dominates the album. Armed with a psychedelic riff, what sounds like a cow bell and a driving bassline the track highlights all that is good about their reimagining of their music.

Similarly, the follow-up single “Miss Fortune” continues with the classic 1960s feel. It’s dreamlike, fun and lyrical simple nature make a great track in general but even more so in the summer. The vision of the titular character as someone who “the worlds got running/ but she’s not running scared” just oozes cool. The final single “Million Eyes” gives a similar cool impression that only the very best quality of rock music can. The first half of this moody track is relatively uninteresting compared to the other singles as the band follow the rather standard rock and blues style that many others have before even if it’s to a better standard than most. What stands out most is undoubtedly the last two minutes or so. Reminiscent of songs like Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” the track comes to a complete standstill before kicking off again in an amazing instrumental finish.

By contrast, the titular track “Distance In between” feels a little out of place on the album. The rest of the LP’s psychedelic mood clashes with this more dramatic ballad style. The track as a whole is a solid one but special praise has to be given to the guitar solo again as the band emphasise their immense technical skill with a solo that is simultaneously haunting and beautiful. Equally, the track “It’s You” sees the band stake a claim to sing the next Bond track. James Skelly’s haunting voice starts with the Bond-like refrain, ‘you’re a killer in the headlights, a lover in the morning’ is as good as any. This ghostly feeling continues into the chorus with tightly harmonised backing vocals and a laid back but powerful bass before it spaces out with a Black Keys esk guitar solo. The opening track, “Connector” also highlights the more diverse nature of the album. The song starts incredibly well, sounding almost like something that would be found on a Kasabian album but the song seems to lose some momentum and ideas toward the end.

“Distance Inbetween” sees the band make a purposeful return to the spotlight with new ideas and a new sound which puts it amongst the very best of this year. The album bares all the hallmarks of an experienced band whose technical prowess is second to none; the perfect harmonisation on tracks like “It’s You” and guitar instrumentals emphasise this as well as the bands great creative chemistry.

The Coral – Distance Inbetween = 8.5/10

Callum Christie

Single Review – PJ Harvey – Community of Hope

PJ Harvey has released the second single of her upcoming ninth studio album from the enigmatic singer-songwriter with ‘Community of Hope’. It is a song that makes direct reference to the album title which is a reference in itself to the US government’s Hope Six project which is countered with the title of Hope Six Demolition Project. She writes about the plight of poorer communities being forced out of their homes for gentrification processes. The song gives off an optimistic tone however of communities standing up to the government and resisting the changes. Musically this is reflected by the buoyed piano chords, ringing guitars and the bursts of saxophones in the chorus along with the backing vocals which give off a sense of euphoria which Harvey matches with her own vocals. Another great track, but with an altered tone.


Owen Riddle

Single Review – Beach House – Sparks

The Baltimore Dream Pop duo that is Beach House return with a new single from their upcoming fifth studio album Depression Cherry which is expected on August 28th. ‘Sparks’ is that single and it is another development on the sounds featured on their 2012 album Bloom. The washed out and faded vocals of Victoria Legrand are torn through by a shredding guitar riff before embarking on the awkwardly meandering rhythms of the warping organs. This rhythm is then met with the highly wistful and echoed vocals with the occasional shred of a riff leading the song on. They are masters of the Dream Pop genre and just demonstrate it here.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Monaco GP Review

Mercedes' Nico Rosberg

The glitz and glamour fest that is Monaco again saw Mercedes set the quickest time in qualifying as they had done last year. Mercedes and mainly Rosberg dominated Thursday and Saturday practice, as well as Qualifying too. He’s always been in-tune with what is the streets of his home. Hamilton had set-up issues and was often a touch behind Nico but still took up second place on the grid behind his team-mate. Again like last year; the race was under a cloud of controversy with Red Bull and Ferrari lodging a protest against Mercedes for conducting a three-day test within the limits of the test ban that is in force throughout the season but i’ll go into that later. In the race Rosberg was a little slower off the start than Vettel and Hamilton but was able to defend accordingly. Up until the first stop, with Hamilton behind, he was able to control the pace of the race and the tyres and sort of sterilise them and the race to some extent. There was a huge train of cars that involved the whole field which presented a dilema for the leading cars as they had nowhere to get back into free air to try and challenge the lead. Luckily for Rosberg, Massa’s large shunt at Sainte Devote brought out the safety car which pretty much gave him a free stop under no pressure. After this and after the Red Flag he was able to have a pretty simple race and maintained a comfortable 3 – 4 second gap over the now second placed Vettel which he recoverd after the second appearence from the saftey car.

Nico Rosberg

In second Vettel lost this race in Qualifying and after several unsuccessful attempts to make his way past Hamilton, he eventually backed off from the back of Lewis to preserve his option tyres and made his only stop before the safety car came out. He was able to jump Hamilton after his timing error under the safety car. He didn’t really put Rosberg under much pressure after the restart and after the Red Flag and Webber didn’t really challenge despite being less than a second behind for a lot of the remainder of the race. Webber too was able to jump Hamilton while the safety car was out and spent the remainder of the race under intense pressure for Hamilton and had to disuade Lewis at Tabac and Rascasse to recover from a difficult run of races for him that have distanced himself from the title fight. But he does move up into fifth above Massa. Hamilton had a good launch off the grid but Rosberg had him covered into Sainte Devote. He then held off the challenge from Vettel and it was looking good when the safety car came out. However he was told to leave space between him and Rosberg as both would have to come in together. But it seems he backed off too much as the Red Bull’s both cleared him. However even if they stacked him it would still have been close as the safety car let the Red Bull’s pass anyway. But that error potentially lost him a podium. After that and the red flag he put Webber under a lot of pressure but Webber more often than not was putting his car in the right places to defend third place. After several laps putting Webber under pressure he had to back off due to the more rapid degredation it was causing in the turbulent air of Webber’s RB9. This was perhaps his best chance to recover some of the ground he lost in the title fight but with Vettel ahead, he’ll have to hope his Mercedes doesn’t work it’s tyres as hard for the remainder of the season.

On the podium: Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber came home second and third for Red Bull

Sutil had one of the drives of his career in fifth and he utilised Lowes Hairpin to make moves on both Button and Alonso. Once Perez and Raikkonen suffered the effetcs of their coming together he moved up to fifth and was able to pull away from Button. This was his first points finish since the season opener in Melbourne and he’ll be boosted by that after his luckless last four races. He’s also made sure that Force India are still fifth in the constructors championship and they’ve shown that they won’t be beaten quietly by sixth place McLaren. It was McLaren’s Button who finished up behind Sutil and he spent the early part of the race scrapping with Perez again and after Sergio cut the Nouvelle and Swimming Pool chicanes trying to defend, he eventually let Jenson through. Button didn’t have the best of races after that as he would later clip the back of Alonso at Lowes, then witness his team-mate fly down the inside of him at the Nouvelle chicane less 20 seconds later. Sutil would later dive down the inside at Lowes hairpin and Jenson was down to ninth. But in the last few laps he was able to take Alonso at the exit of Rascasse as he was stuck behind the retiring Perez. He gained a further place with Raikkonen’s puncture to take home sixth. But he still accepts that he is not in a front running car at the moment. Alonso had a very off day in seventh. In contrast to his sublime victory in Barcelona he found himself struggling for pace on Sunday in a car that was perhaps too geared for qualifying performance but even if that was the case he only managed sixth on the grid. He lost touch with the top five pretty quickly and was set upon by the McLarens. He tried to stay out longer than Raikkonen in a bid to jump him but that didn’t work out and it was only after the first safety car period where he looked like he had some pace on a new set of prime soft tyres. He was attacked on the inside of the Nouvelle chicane by Perez but Alonso was stubborn enough to keep his foot in on the outside but had to cut the first part of the chicane to avoid hitting Perez. After a brief agreement with Perez during the stoppage of the red flag period and some dicussions between his engineer: Andrea Stella, Ferrari’s sporting director and the FIA stewards; he was allowed to give Perez the place behind the safety car as the race was restarted. He did seem a little tame after that and lost out to Sutil at Lowes and Button at Rascasse while Perez was grinding to a halt. Alonso did have some of Perez’s front wing lodged in his floor towards the end of the race but he admitted he was off the pace today but took solace that he finished ahead of Kimi. But he is again out of reach of Vettel at Montreal at least, being 29 points back in third. But that gap can be easily reduced. Especially if you are Alonso.

Lost ground on Vettel: Kimi Raikkonen (left) finished 10th and Fernando Alonso (right) seventh

Jean Eric Vergne drove a consistent, controlled and relatively quiet race to come home eighth from tenth on the grid. He was helped up from tenth by the Kimi and Perez incident but he kept his head and gains four points from it. Di Resta had a disaster of a qualifying when a team error in not putting fresh intermediate tyres on his car saw him eliminated from Q1 in seventeenth. His task seemed even more arduous when he pitted early as Force India tried to pre-empt a safety car which pushed him into a two stop. However he made two great moves at Sainte Devote around the outside of Massa and then Guitierrez and after the red flag he was eleventh. He was helped by Raikkonen’s and Perez’s coming together to move into ninth. From seventeenth on the grid. Kimi finished in tenth in what should have been at least fifth for the Iceman. Even though the move to put on a new set of soft tyres at the red flag interval appeared to be the wrong choice, it was Perez who ruined his race. He had to take avoiding action down into the Nouvelle chicane with Kimi subsequenly calling him an idiot on the radio. But Perez had already took on two world champions down into the chicane and was full of confidence to take on a thrid. However it was this confidence that was his downfall. Kimi had made sure Perez had little room coming out of the tunnel and into the chicane but Perez was committed to the move and went into the gap which was rapidly decreasing and he made severe contact with Kimi and the armco. Raikkonen had to pit with a puncture while Perez continued for a little longer with bad front wing damage but some of his front wing was lodged into his brake caliper and his had no choice but to retire. Kimi meanwhile had an excellent final two laps in which he overtook Gutierrez, Bottas and Hulkenberg going into the final lap to take one point and continue his point scoring run.

Hulkenberg had a very quiet afternoon until he made his way up to tenth like so many others thanks to Kimi and Sergio’s crash. However Kimi was determined to get back into the points and on fresher rubber; was able to take Hulkenberg into Sainte Devote as the last lap started. Even if he had took that point, it would have done little damage to the lead Force India and McLaren have on them now. 39 points from Force India and 32 from McLaren will be difficult for Sauber who have a slow car. Even Toro Rosso are leaving them behind on 12 points and are becoming more consistent as the races go on. So they need to sort their car out very soon before their season becomes a disaster. Bottas in twelfth was where Williams expected to be and if he was to score he needed more drivers to crash. Gutierrez the same in thirteenth. It was a great fourteenth place for Max Chilton in the Marussia who passed their rivals Caterham and Giedo Van der garde in the last two laps. He was however responsible for Pastor Maldonado’s nasty crash at Tabac which pulled the Tech-pro barriers out on to the track and so wrecking his Marussia team-mates front nose structure. Because of this he recieved a drive through penalty and accepted he was in the wrong; believing Maldonado was further behind him. Van der garde was the last of the finishers in 15th. Perez as you know; retired from brake caliper damage from his clash with Raikkonen and with Kimi suggesting he needs to be “punched in the face”. Kimi’s team-mate Grosjean had already crashed once on Thursday and again on Saturday morning. Despite just making qualifying he was knocked out of Q2. He crashed for the third time this weekend when he messed up his braking and clambered onto the back of the unsuspecting Daniel Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso. This leaves many questions about his ability not to crash that he was starting to cast away this year. Bianchi lost control of his Marussia at Sainte Devote in a weekend to forget for the Frenchman. Maldonado of course was launched into the barriers at Tabac which brought out the red flags. He was a little shaken up but ultimatley o.k. The same goes for Massa who had a carbon copy of his Saturday FP3 crash by locking up both front wheels and clouting the armco on entry to Sainte Devote and them slamming into the tyre barriers waiting for him at the bottom of the start finish straight. The high speed of both heavy impacts lead to some trackside medical attention and a lengthy safety car period. But it was confimed after a visit to the Hospital, Felipe was fine. Charles Pic was unlucky to suffer a gearbox seizure and the resulting fire while running in fiftheenth. He felt he could have kept Gutierrez behind him but we’ll never know.

Bad weekend: Massa missed qualifying on Saturday after colliding with the barriers at turn one in FP3

Collision: Pastor Maldonado was taken to a medical centre for checks after crashing his Williams

There was an FIA investigation after the race on the issue of Mercedes being asked to conduct a three day tyre test after the Spanish GP on the 15th – 17th May. Red Bull and Ferrari lodged the protest with Lotus declining and those such as McLaren and Force India not wanting to protest against their own engine supplier. Thankfully Rosberg’s race win stands as it’s always frustrating for a race win to be taken away from someone like that and the test will have had little effect on the race like Sebastian Vettel later suggested. Ross Brawn, Niki Lauda, Toto Wolf and other Mercedes leading figures said they were asked by Pirelli to conduct the test and Pirelli’s motorsports director: Paul Hembery eluded to the fact that in the contract they signed with the FIA in 2010. It states that they can request the use of a teams car for tyre tests. This would also explain why the FIA allowed permisssion for Mercedes and Pirelli for the test to occur as Lauda was claiming before the race. But Red Bull and Ferrari are claiming that it contrevenes article 22.4 of the sporting regulations which forbids full on in -season testing. They also claim they broke the rules in using the 2013 Mercedes in the tests as any cars used in-season for events or private tests have to be a minimum of two years old so only 2011 spec cars can be used. Even Pirelli’s test car is a 2010 Renault. Pirelli thought they wouldn’t have the representative data with a car that is now much slower than today’s and this was something he was saying in the face of critisism post race a Barcelona. Therefore they required the use of a 2013 car. However now the question is that does the FIA – Pirelli contract signed in 2010 by-pass the regulations banning in-season testing that came into effect in 2009.  With this in mind, I don’t see Mercedes or Pirelli at fault here as they are adhering to the FIA contract. Perhaps they were a little foolish to think no-one would cause a fuss and perhaps foolish not to have representatives from other teams or the FIA at the tests. I think the FIA should shoulder the blame for poor governance of the sport. They have drawn up a contract that seems to by-pass the testing regulations and whether they’ve realised it or not; it’s a contract. It should stand. It would also seem they have failed to inform the teams about this clause too. If the contract clearly states the cars Pirelli can ask to use have to be two years old then you could punish them and Mercedes. But Mercedes could escape punishment if they can provide an effective argument suggesting Pirelli mislead them on false information. Whatever the case i’m relieved to hear that this is being decided at the next meeting of the World Motorsporting Council at the FIA headquarters in Paris. The initial idea that the case would or could be decided then and there by the four FIA stewards at Monaco – one who only has juristiction on driving matters, was madness. It’s like local government passing a law for the whole country. This is now a matter for the representatives of the WMSC including FIA chairman – Jean Todt. This means Pirelli, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, even the FIA themselves can gather their evidence in a realistic amount of time with input from FIA Race Director for F1 – Charlie Whiting.

So F1 travels to Montreal under it’s latest politicals storm. Grosjean will again be under scruitiny with a 10 place grid penalty for the race. Despite Mercedes victory their tyre issues are not solved. Monaco is more easy on tyres and Montreal will be similarly. Red Bull might struggle as they always do here, while the winners of the last three Canadian GP’s: McLaren, are in no position to win. This could therefore make it a scrap between Lotus and Ferrari with Mercedes nearby and Red Bull not a million miles away. But expect them to lose points there.

All images from ( / / )

Spanish GP Review

Fernando Alonso

Saturday belonged to one team. Mercedes. They completed their hat-trick of pole positions while the championship leaders; Vettel and Raikkonen lined up on the second row. The homegrown hero Alonso was down in fifth and despite no driver winning at Barcelona in the dry beyond the front row, Alonso claimed with confidence that qualifying wasn’t important. Not even at the Circuit de Catalunya. It’s of little suprise to anyone that he drove a sublime race to take his 32nd victory. Fourth in the all time list behind only Senna, Prost and Schumacher. He always seemed certain he would win this weekend and to me that’s not just Fernando’s self confidence but the fact it’s the first time in about six years that he’s arrived in Barcelona with a quick package. Oh and the 95,000 people cheering him on too which is a sure motivator for a man like Alonso. His usual lightning start down the hill and towards turn one got him up behind Vettel’s gearbox and this put Alonso back to where he started by turn one. But he committed to turn two which took past Raikkonen around the outside on the long turn three. His momentum even took past Hamilton in an inspired move. Rosberg bunched up the pack nicely for him before Ferrari broke first and called Alonso in and this crucially got him ahead of Vettel with Red Bull emerging from the pits behind Alonso. Fernando didn’t waste any time passing Rosberg either and from that point onwards it was relatively easy for Alonso. The only tasks he had to complete were overtaking three stoppers like Raikkonen before Kimi made his final trip to the pits. He’s now cut into Vettel’s 30 point lead and is now only 17 behind which makes me wonder why people were starting to discount Alonso before Bahrain. Firstly 30 points might have been a big gap under the previous points system but since 2010 such a gap is very easy to recover, especially at round five! There was the possibility of a Ferrari one-two but Massa in third was unable to take enough time out of Raikkonen on his final stint for that to work out. But having said that third from ninth on the grid is a great effort from Felipe who is so far having his best season for a long time to supplement Ferrari’s Constructor’s Title challenge.

Fernando Alonso

Raikkonen drove yet another consistent race for second place today but as usual he was less than impressed by having not taken the win. Lotus as usual ran a conservative three stop stratergy but it didn’t allow Kimi to coast up to the lead. He was in the wrong half of the lead pack at the start which split in two as Hamilton’s tyres gave up on him. He also lost out after the first stops as he not only failed to jump Vettel, but also was jumped by Massa. By half distance he was hounding Vettel’s car for third place. Both left each other space as Kimi made an attempt on the outside of turn nine but made an excellent dive down the inside at turn one, just as Sebastian was about to slam the door shut. The three stop race worked well to keep him ahead of Massa but perhaps Lotus needed to put him on a four stop to even worry Alonso. Fernando was able to punish his tyres more readily than Kimi. Vettel knew he had to be in the lead by the end of the first lap and it showed with his move on Hamilton at the first corner. However Rosberg was able to keep Vettel behind for the whole first stint and managed to stay ahead at the first stops which dropped him behind Alonso. Not getting the job done on Rosberg in the first stint hurt his tyres badly in the dirty air. So much so that Rosberg with his disintergrating tyres was able to pull away from him at times. Albeit briefly. This killed his chances of victory as did his three stop stratergy. With it, he was unable to push as much as the Ferrari’s and the Red Bull can’t compete with the Lotus on tyre management. So with that he had to make a fourth stop. Vettel didn’t seem too downbeat with his fourth place though. He retained his lead in the championship and knows that those 12 points could be very useful come November. Behind him Webber on his four stop stratergy was blighted by his poor start but his early stop to pull him from the traffic did work nicely. However he was not able to put Vettel under any sort of pressure and had to settle for fifth.

Raikkonen and Massa

Rosberg must be a little disheartened after today’s sixth place. Again the Mercedes degraded it’s tyres at an unbelievalbe rate and Rosberg’s only saving grace in the opening stint was that he was able to control the pace of the race to some extent in clear air. However just two laps into the second stint Alonso, Vettel, Massa and Raikkonen all sailed by and did so on several occassions as Rosberg somehow pulled off a three stop strategy. However he would’nt have gained much from doing a four stop stratergy as Hamilton’s 12th place suggests. Hamilton is already a little harder on his tyres than Rosberg but the tyre deg was amplified with him being stuck in the dirty air of the top three. This resulted in Hamilton free-falling down the field to a low point of fourteenth place. Upon Maldonado overtaking him he pointed out “Now ive been overtaken by the Williams” and upon his engineer telling him to save the rear tyres he also pointed out that “I can’t drive any slower” From this point on the only high point for Lewis was that he managed to retake Maldonado and keep Sutil in 13th behind him. Rosberg was highly critical of the dire situation in the post race interviews. Even more so than Hamilton who was putting a brave face for his new employers but you can tell that it’s starting to get to him. What is even more confusing is that it seems that the situation has worsened since Malaysia and China where they were atleast able to collect two third places. They really need to embark on a massive set – up shift away from qualifying but that may not occur until Montreal as they may take the gamble of trying to hold the lead in the narrow streets of Monte Carlo. But to lock out the front row and then finish sixth and twelfth is just unacceptable.

Di Resta continues to impress for Force India. He outshone his team-mate Sutil all weekend and drove an impressive and smooth race to finish seventh. He crossed the line right behind Rosberg and on several of his attempts to get past he was side by side with Nico on the outside of turn one but he may have had a DRS signaling issue which isn’t helped by the fact he was racing a car with the same engine and with better traction out of the chicane before the sweeping final corner. Paul is currently in joint seventh place in the championship ahead of the likes of Rosberg and both McLaren’s with Force India still in fifth place in the Constructors, ahead of McLaren. They finished eighth and ninth: Button then Perez in a race that saw Jenson fall down to seventeenth from fourteenth on the grid and Perez make an excellent start ahead of Massa but their roles gradually levelled out by the final stint and despite catching Jenson, Perez was unable to pass or simply didn’t bother trying. Jenson called their performance “embarassing” depite recovering from his poor grid position and start. Some were a little critiacal of his choice of words but Jenson is a champion who wants to be fighting for championships and after being a little optimistic about their ability to recover their situation, the writing is now on the wall as far as Jenson is concerned. The always widely anticipated update package for Barcelona has not propelled him any further forward and on Saturday he did point out that everyone else is gaining from updates aswell. But the best McLaren can hope for this year is a few wins towards the back-end of the season. If that. Some credit has to be given for Daniel Ricciardo for picking up the final point today despite a lot of pressure from Guitierrez in the final laps. He is doing well so far this year and the Toro Rosso’s seem to have the measure of Sauber even if they are not in the same league as McLaren or Force India at this moment in the midfield scrap.

Gutierrez did well today with a Sauber that is below average at the moment. He ran in the points at several intervals throughout the race and even pulled off a move on the backwards Mercedes of Hamilton. Perhaps unlucky just to miss out on the points behind Ricciardo in eleventh. Sutil had a very long first stop that was perhaps caused by accident damage and never really featured until he was hounding Hamilton for twelfth in the closing laps but to no avail. Williams had another off day and still fail to score so far this year. Maldonado pulled a move on Lewis but that was his only highlight in fourteenth while Bottas really struggled with the tyres as Deputy Team Prinipal Claire Williams suggested to the BBC. Their updates seem to have got them nowhere so maybe it’s time to revert to this ‘plan b’ they were talking about on Thursday. Hulkenberg finished between the Williams and might have troubled Ricciardo for the final point if the Sauber pit-crew hadn’t released him into the path of the Toro Rosso of Jean Eric Vergne who was making his way into his pit box. Jean Eric then suffered the same dramatic tyre delamination seen from various other cars so far this season. Paul Hembery of Pirelli suggested it was so dramatic due to how the “rubber is now the weakest part of the tyre” now that their inner structure is made from a metal material. This ultimatley ended Vergne’s race. Caterham were really troubling the Williams team today with Charles Pic pushing Bottas all the way to the finish and Giedo Van der Garde might have done even better had he not lost one of his rear wheels. The damage was too severe and he had to retire while Caterham were dished out a €10,000 fine for not ordering him to stop his car when the problem occured. But Caterham’s updates which include the introduction of a new nose that includes a ‘vanity panel’ which suggests the stepped nose isn’t working for them; seems to have got them ahead of Marussia as Bianchi and Chilton made up the last of the finishers in eighteenth and nineteenth. Grosjean will be dissapointed to have a rear suspension failure in the opening laps which allows Di Resta to draw level on points with the Frenchman in seventh.

Pirelli have a lot to answer for after todays race. When drivers are telling their teams they can’t drive any slower or when Vettel of all people has to restrain himself from pushing then it’s a little too far. The rapidly degrading tyres do add a bigger element of stratergy to each race and often results in it being hard to pick a winner but even Raikkonen said there was no point in trying to catch Alonso, while Rosberg was wondering whether to just let Di Resta go past him in order not to lose a lot more places. In regards to qualifying Alonso see’s it as irrelevant and Perez suggested that getting into Qualifying 3 and running the extra set of tyres hurt his race. When drivers are not trying in Qualifying and the Race then it’s counter-productive for the sport. Imagine the thought. Drivers don’t really want to qualify well. Some don’t even want to be in the top ten! In the race it pays to drive slow and conserve the tyres. Several punctures including one for Alonso just before he made a stop have raised questions about the tyres strength on the kerbs or when running through what would usually be harmless debris. Paul Hembry has suggested a change of direction in time for Silverstone at the British GP to aim for two or three stop races instead of three or four. He does raise an intersting point that echoes ‘be careful what you wish for’ in saying “So if I said we were going to make a change, I know I am going to have the podium people today not happy – then you [the media] will be here at Silverstone telling me we have given the championship to Red Bull. It will be damned if you, damned if you don’t.” So that is the problem he has. Christain Horner was yet again very critical of the tyres and Red Bull have been the most vocal in their opposition to the high degrading Pirelli tyres but you get the feeling they won’t be alone soon. Monte Carlo or bust in two weeks time. Especially for Mercedes. This was where Schumacher memorably posted the fastest qualifying time last year and where Rosberg finished second and following from their hat-trick of pole positions you wouldn’t bet against them doing the same. But this is perhaps their best chance at holding their grid positions in the narrow streets of Monaco which could lead to an epic race. Ferrari and Lotus have the momentum at the moment but Vettel seems unconcerned while his team engages in a war of words with Pirelli. McLaren and Williams are running out of time to salvage something from 2013 aswell and a large amount of their upgrades will be of little use at Monaco.

All images from ( / / / )

Bahrain GP Review

Today’s Bahrain GP has certainly been the best race held at the Sakhir circuit since it’s first in 2004. This is despite what seemed to be a faultless performance from Sebastian Vettel who seemed to dominate today but it could have been a lot harder for him today had it not been for the failures of others yet having said that, i think Sebastian was always going to win today. He won this race pretty much in the first three laps. First by retaking second from Alonso in the run up to turn 5 on the first lap then with clever pass at turn 5 again on Rosberg two laps later. He was a little lucky that Alonso had his DRS failure that would put Fernando back to 19th and would also bunch up the rest of the field for two laps that would give Vettel the breathing space he needed. From then on he managed his tyres well and the two stoppers of Di Resta and both Lotus cars were not to trouble Vettel for the rest of the race.

For Raikkonen second was the best he could hope for and he did well to make a two stop strategy work for him which included getting Di Resta out of his way. But he would have had the chance to put the pressure on Vettel had he qualified better than eighth place when he claimed that he had got all he could out of the car. But they need to work on their qualifying if they want to win the title this year. Grosjean did a great job from eleventh on the grid and utilized the tyre choice he had from that. When you also consider he spent a large amount of his race side by side with the likes of Rosberg, Button and Perez without incident and ahead of them all, then it was a great result from him today. However like Kimi he struggled in qualifying and was clearly upset about it too so again Lotus to qualify just a little better but Grosjean certainly answered the questions asked of him so far this season for not showing enough speed and hanging around in the lower reaches of the points. Paul Di Resta drove the best race of his career so far today. The Force India had the pace all weekend and Paul made a clean run from the grid and was second after Alonso’s woes, even leading several laps. The podium looked like a pretty solid prospect but as Paul said post race “with our stratergy we were always going to be vulnerable” and that was what happened as Grosjean made his way past into third with five laps to go and so denying Paul his first podium finish in F1. But he wasn’t downbeat about this and wanted to take the positives from the result. The first is that the VJM06 is a solid car and Paul is in eighth place in the championship ahead of Rosberg and both McLarens with 20 points; 12 of these came today. The team also hold fifth place ahead of McLaren but their three point gap would be bigger had Massa not ran into Sutil’s front right tyre and gave him a puncture as he would have finished strongly too. But Force India need to maximise the advantage over McLaren and others with points because it could all change too quickly.

I almost find it hard to belive Hamilton finished the race in fifth considering for the first half of the race it looked like he was going to stuggle to score today. The gearbox penalty was unlucky but from ninth on the grid he admitted he got a bad start as he fell as low as thirteenth at one point. He was complaining the balance was terrible and that his rear tyres had gone off in his first stint. However in the last third of the race he was setting a blistering pace to make it up to sixth. Then a long battle with Webber ensued with Lewis taking fifth on the start of the last lap. He admitted himself he doesn’t know where the performance came from but he was very pleased with the result in the post-race interview with the BBC but was under no illusions about Mercedes issues during the races so far this year. “I’m very proud of what we have achieved over the first four races and to be third in the championship is beyond any of our expectations, but we’ve got to keep pushing and find more performance. We’re hanging on by the skin of our teeth at the moment and, if we can make that next step, then we can close the gap.” Ross Brawn again sounded very apologetic about the cars performance to Lewis as he crossed the line. But if anyone at Mercedes needed an apology it was Rosberg. After putting the car on pole he said himself like I predicted that he probably wont win but should have a good chance of a podium. However his tyres were going off almost immediatlely which may be to do with the thermal degredation from the hot track temperatures. With that in mind Rosberg drove a fantastic defensive and counter-attacking race on every car that tried to make a move on him. His robust driving meant he had to make a fourth stop due to the toll it took on his tyres after his third stop but even if he didn’t fight so hard, he would’ve struggled to score much higher due to the tyre wear which makes Hamiton’s fifth all the more impressive. But Mercedes need to do better in the race. In China and especially here their drivers have been at the mercy of their tyres and considering their quick car, it must be very frustrating for Nico and Lewis despite Hamilton’s third place in the standings.

Perez had a controversial race but a much improved performance nonetheless. I lost count of how many times he and Jenson locked horns today on track and it was by no means pretty. Jenson had plenty of hard but fair battles with Lewis during their time as McLaren team-mates and he adopted the same approach for Perez. But Sergio tapped wheels with Jenson at around 200mph as Jenson pointed out and was lucky not to give him a puncture as at one point he tried to go back underneath Jenson’s line at turn 4 but Jenson was wise to hit. Perez got caught out and hit Button’s right rear, breaking his front wing end-plate and somehow not giving Jenson a puncture. Jenson was very vocal in telling the pit-wall to “calm him down” but in their next encounter Button pushed Perez who was on the outside, onto the kerb, then the run off and almost into the gravel! That was out of order as eventhough others were pushed wide at the exit of turn 4; they weren’t pushed that wide! Both were lucky to not get penalties but Jenson had to pit for a fourth time as that battle took the life out of his tyres. But it was clear that Jenson was rattled by Sergio today, regardless of whether either of them were beyond the limits of aggression.

Webber was passed by both Hamilton and Perez on the last lap and admitted he had no tyres left because of the battle with Lewis. He also had a moment with Rosberg after he made his final stop in which Nico has the inside for turn two but Webber was just ahead and so turned in regardless and so hit Rsoberg’s right front wheel. No damage was done and from what i can tell no action taken by the stewards. Up until his final stop Webber had been a podium threat but had faded in the closing stages and seventh was not the response he was hoping for after Shanghai. Behind him Alonso pulled off a minor miracle to finish eighth with the intial time lost with the DRS open and the extra stop with no tyre change to try and solve it and then work his way from nineteenth up to eighth with no DRS is a good result considering. He shouldn’t have scored today but instead has got four points. He is now adamant that Sebastian and Kimi will suffer some bad luck soon and that he will be there to take advantage. Watch out for Alonso on home turf at Barcelona. Button and Rosberg as i’ve mentioned struggled with their tyres and had to make four stops, putting them ninth and tenth.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2013

Maldonado was best of the rest for Williams in 11th. Still not where they should be but at least they were ahead of Sauber today. Did make a nice move on the luck-less Massa on the exit of turn 4. Bottas too briefly made a top ten appearence but this has to be a given for at least one of the cars in Barcelona. They have three weekes to improve the car for the European season and they need to with Force India’s 26 point head-start. Sauber don’t seem to be progessing either. Even Hulkenberg struggled today while Gutierrez struggled again, finishing behind Charles Pic in eighteenth. They too need to make strides at Barcelona if they want to stand a chance of catching Force India. Sutil could have had points if Massa hadn’t clipped him on the first lap and Felipe himself could have had a good haul of points if it were not for his two punctures which Pirelli say were caused by debris on track and that they were not to blame. Either way, Ferrari had a nightmare today when many talked of a one – two which was talked of in Malaysia aswell. But expect them to fight back as they have a solid car. Toro Rosso were behind both Williams and Sauber on race pace with Ricciardo in sixthteenth and Vergne the only car to retire with accident damage on lap 1. But they are still ahead of Sauber and Williams in the Constructors but they have to make sure they react to their upgrades and not suffer the mid season slump they endured in 2012. For the first race this year the pendulum had swung in Caterham’s direction in the back of the pack scrap with Marussia. Pic with a solid seventeenth place finish ahead of a Sauber and only just behind Ricciardo too! Something his countryman Bianchi in the Marussia had been doing in the first three races. Chilton still behind his team-mate though in twentieth while Van Der Garde in the wars in twenty first.

One point i would like to make is why have Pirelli reacted to Red Bull’s protests about the tyres? Even Mercedes haven’t been so vocal and the change in tyre compounds here in Bahrain may have played it’s part in Red Bull’s victory. They haven’t bowed to critics before and i don’t expect Paul Hembry and Pirelli to make an exception for Red Bull again! Slight sour note to end on but it has to be flagged up. So Sebastian has the upper hand after the first chapter of the 2013 season but the next will take us to three very different circuits in Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Montreal and Kimi is very much within striking distance. Ferrari will be raring to go after their up and down first four races, knowing they have a race winning car and Mercedes will hope that they can solve their tyre issues so they can match their qualifying pace. Hamilton has done well to be third at this point and Rosberg very unlucky but if they want victories and Lewis to mount a title challenge then they need to have better tyre wear to combine with the quick car they have. The next three races will define Webber’s season aswell as McLaren’s who need to respond now if they want to fight for the title in which Vettel and Kimi already have a head start. Force India have the potential for podium finishes while for Toro Rosso, Sauber and especially Williams it’s back to the drawing board. If they falter the competitive battle between Marussia and Catherham could involve of of them as F1’s youngest teams improve.

World Championship standings, round 4:

Drivers:                    Constructors:
1.  Vettel         77        1.  Red Bull-Renault          109
2.  Raikkonen      67        2.  Lotus-Renault              93
3.  Hamilton       50        3.  Ferrari                    77
4.  Alonso         47        4.  Mercedes                   64
5.  Webber         32        5.  Force India-Mercedes       26
6.  Massa          30        6.  McLaren-Mercedes           23
7.  Grosjean       26        7.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari          7
8.  Di Resta       20        8.  Sauber-Ferrari              5
9.  Rosberg        14
10.  Button         13
11.  Perez          10
12.  Ricciardo       6
13.  Sutil           6
14.  Hulkenberg      5
15.  Vergne          1

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Chinese GP Review

Fernando Alonso is the third different winner and with the Ferrari, the third different car to win so far in 2013 this weekend in Shanghai and he made it look pretty easy too and certainly made up for his first lap error at Sepang three weeks ago and delivered on the potential Ferrari had that weekend. For me Alonso won this race mainly in the very short first stint on the rapidly degrading soft tyre. Leaving Kimi behind off the grid, keeping Massa behind and then overtaking Hamilton by lap 4. Staying ahead of Massa was crucial as it gave him the potion of getting off the soft option tyres a lap before which was an important part of the race for him. Massa had lost out heavily staying on the tyres for a lap longer which took him out of contention from that points onwards. However Alonso was on fire today he quickly neutralised the threat from those starting on the medium compound tyres. Alonso was long gone by the time Vettel and Button had stopped. But his pace was so strong (or the alternative stratergies of Red Bull and McLaren so misguided) that he overtook them both before their final stops. His overtakes on Vettel and Hulkenberg who was also on a similar strategy on the long turn 13 were examples of his tenacity as the convential move would be to wait for the DRS zone down the long run down to the turn 14 hairpin at around 200mph. This was the final element for Alonso. He either got out ahead of the traffic that Hamilton and Raikkonen got thrown into after their stops; or he simply made light work of any traffic he encountered. It was the sort of victory which hasn’t been seen from Ferrari since 2010. Both driver and car working in harmony, instead of a great driver pulling off minor miracles with an awful car. Alonso is always a threat in most cases, but when his car is even partially worthy of his talent, then those such as Vettel should be very concerned.

But you have to wonder what might have been had Raikkonen not had such a poor start in dropping from second to fourth before turn 1 and if he didn’t have his run-in with Sergio Perez in his second stint. Furthermore with the quite sizeable damage; was it not worth Lotus losing an extra few seconds changing his nose for long-term gain? Regardless of the pace Kimi had with the damage. The resulting understeer will only have hurt Raikkonen’s front tryes which already degrade easily on the twisty Shanghai circuit. From that point Alonso was out of the picture and from then on it was a duel against Hamilton with Vettel lurking in the background with his different stratergy. To come second considering all that is a great acheivement for Kimi, even if he is pretty unimpressed by it all. Hamilton had a good day on Saturday with his first pole position for Mercedes and talk was of a very successful race with Rosberg in fourth. But again Mercedes show that they are still lacking in the final stages of their stints which is then amplified at the end of a race, despite having a very quick car: especially on one lap pace. Many pointed out that Hamilton lost today as he failed replicate the classic Vettel action of pulling out of the 1 second DRS range before it’s activated on lap 3. For me even if he had, the tyre wear would have allowed Alonso to catch at least by the start of the end of the second stint. But more likely Alonso would have caught him before the first stops anyway as Hamilton was probably more dissillusioned than anyone about the soft tyres on Friday. Vettel almost took advantage of his different stratergy with his mandatory stop for soft tyres on lap 52 of 56. Despite Vettel taking at least 3 seconds a lap out of Hamilton and catching Hamilton by the last lap; Hamilton soaked up the pressure well and kept his head while Sebastian blew his chance by going too fast into turn 12 and getting too greedy on the throttle by turn 13. Claiming third just 0.3 seconds ahead of Vettel will have gave Hamilton an extra boost but as Ross Brawn said: “we’re not quite there yet”

Red Bull had failed to get Vettel on to the top step or any step of the podium with their approach of sacrificing grid position in order to start of the medium tyres and so run a reverse strategy to all those starting on the soft tyres. It failed to get him the a win primarily because Hulkenberg had overtaken him during their long first stint on the medium tyres and Vettel’s inability to retake the place when those who started on the soft tyres pitted. This is mainly down to the lack of straightline speed Red Bull chose to have but it surely would have hurt his tyres like it did running behind Sutil in Melbourne as the car ahead robs him of grip. This too ended any chance of him utilizing a two stop stratergy as Button had done and after that he had lost the initative with Alonso, Raikkonen and Hamilton already within the time taken for pit-stop before Vettel ended his fisrt stint. After that he was playing catch up but he gave a new meaning to that when he put on the soft tyres on lap 52 and teared into Hamilton’s lead over him. There were suggestions Vettel would have overtaken him had he pitted a lap earlier but there were signs with his two errors in the turns 12 and 13 on the last lap, that his tyres were already done. It must also be remembered how hard he was pushing on them too. The stratergy simply didn’t work as like Mercedes (but not as bad) Red Bull are hard on their tyres. Hard enough not to be able to pull off a two stop race. Button on the other hand did. For all the faults of this year’s car they do have the silky smooth driving style of Jenson Button at their disposal. He was the only one to really pull off the medium tyre strategy with his ability to conserve his tyres. He did lead a large portion of this race because of this and displayed his usual fair approach by acknowledging that Hamilton was alongside as Lewis attempted a great but unconventional move down the inside of turn 2. Despite dropping to sixth for his final stint on the soft tyres, he was able to make light work of Massa to take fifth but that was the maximum for McLaren today. But it should still enthuse the boys back at the MTC in Woking.

Daniel Ricciardo drove a great race to on the way to his first finish of the season in seventh place. He had been desperatley unlucky in Melbourne and Sepang to have those exhaust failures but today he acted well on a great qualifying to finish where he started despite some damage in the opening laps and a front wing change to put the pressure on Sauber and especially Williams to up their game in the midfield scrap. Can Force India be taken? Today they were with Di Resta in eighth but had it not been for Sutil’s eventful opening few laps it could have been more. Di Resta though losing  several places after his team-mate had pushed him on to the grass had cost him at least sixth place but it was just a little misunderstanding between the two. But then Sutil was 100% victim as Guitierez completely missed his braking zone when fighting with fellow Mexican Perez and slammed into the back of the unsuspecting Sutil. The young Mexican needs to improve as at the moment he is far and away behind teammate Hulkenberg who led the race for the majority of his first stint. The difference between his and Button and Vettel’s stratergies was that his second stop was far the soft tyres and it hurt him. Had he mimicked Vettel and Button in using the soft’s for a short dash of a final stint then perhaps  he could have had better than tenth. Infront of him was Grosjean who had another quiet yet uninspiring race. His move on Rosberg being one of few highlights. Ninth and two points is not reflective of the pace the Lotus E21 has if Lotus want to  challenge in the constructors then he needs to up his game.

Perez had a poor race today. He didn’t make his stratergy work like Button had done today and there were several questionalble incidents. The first was his slight weaving in the braking zone to the turn 14 hairpin as Alonso attempted to overtake after his stop, In addition to this was how he slammed the door shut on Di Resta in the opening laps at turn 3 which forced Di Retsa onto the grass on the inside. Finally was his clash with Kimi on the run up to the same corner after Raikkonen’s stop. I think he could have easily been penalised as it was not to disimilar ro Rosberg’s defend at all costs manouvers at Bahrain last year but perhaps the stewards gave him the benefit of the doubt as he was on the racing line at the time. But it was a poor movement in a poor race for him. Vergne too had an incident at the same corner as Mark Webber tipped him into a spin after Jean-Eric seemingly was leaving the door open for his sister teammate in the Red Bull. However Webber had came from far back aswell so in my mind it’s a racing incident but the stewards disagreed and gave Mark a three place grid penalty for Bahrain.

The Williams pair did well given their car’s pace and Maldonado didn’t end up in a gravel trap for the first time this year. But thirteenth and fourteenth does not score them any points while Force India, Toro Rosso and Sauber opening their points accounts in the first two races, the pressure is on them for Bahrain but the big updates for them wont come until Barcelona. Those updates better be good as Marussia will be looking to make a big step forward too. Bianchi again showed his class by beating his teammate and both Caterhams for the third race in a row and if those updates are half decent then he could seriously worry the back end of the midfield pack. Caterham need to make sure they mirror Marussia with a step forward as they are beind at the moment. Pic showed some standing over Van Der Garde and again finished ahead of Chilton in the second Marussia. Along with Guitierrez and Sutil; Webber retired as as result of an error from the Red Bull pit-crew after his run-in with the Toro Rosso of Vergne. Perhaps he should have done what Schumacher did last year and stopped as his tyre eventually came loose and in the path of the front runners, including his teammate. It just compounded a miserable weekend for Webber who had to start from the pit lane after a lack of fuel forced him to stop during quali session 2 on Saturday and recieved an unfortunate penalty for the Vergne collision which was 50/50. When you add to this Vettel’s mind games in the press and a u-turn to an unapologetic tone after the Malaysia crisis and the growing rumours of his future at Red Bull and a move to Porsche for the WEC in 2014 sums up a bad few weeks for the oldest man on the grid.  Rosberg suffered a suspension failure like he had a FP3 on Saturday morning. He didn’t have the pace to trouble the top five but he still missed out on a handful of points today.

So Alonso has shown his challengers what he has to offer today. But Bahrain could be a different story. Raikkonen will be Alonso’s main threat in the desert but can Red Bull improve their tyre performance? Can Mercedes hold on from their good qualifying positions? Whoever leads the title at the close of the opening fly-away races for the first part of the season will have great motivation for the long slug of the European and Canadian part of 2013 where development could be the difference for the end of the year.

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Malaysian GP Review

There is no doubt that today will go down in the history books for all the wrong reasons; in spite of the great racing skill that has continued from Melbourne. The podium today said it all. None of the drivers wished to be there at all and the tension between them was painful to watch. I fear that from this point that anything Vettel achieves this year will be dismissed and that this might be something of a stereotypical label of his atittude or his ‘true colours’ or whatever. Those saying he has no ability have no evidence of which to prove it: no driver that wins three titles in a row has a lack of ability,skill or talent, but that’s what he’ll have to put up with more this year and it’s his own fault.

Vettel drove well in the very short first stint on the Intermediate tyres with the wet-dry track. However he made the call to come in for dry tyres too early and Webber’s engineer Simon Rennie recognised this and kept Mark out for a further two laps and he subsequently came out ahead of Sebastian, into the lead. Webber stayed strong in that position on the slower Hard-compound tyres and with Vettel and the two Mercedes following close behind. However it was only after the second stops that Vettel got himself less than a second behind for the DRS device to be used and it was on lap 28 when Sebastian complained; “Mark’s too slow. Get him out of the way” After this comment Webber pulled away again and a blistering two laps from Hamilton after his third stop put Lewis ahead of Sebastian. But Hamilton’s pace would drop off dramatically as Mercedes had ran him short of fuel due to a change of stratergy because of the wet start and because he hounded the Red Bulls for over half the race. Vettel easily made his way back past and tried to undercut Webber in his fourth and final stop. Now Christian Horner eluded to Red Bull’s standard pre-race aggreement in that whichever Red Bull is ahead after the final stops; takes the win. Upon leaving his fourth stop; Webber was confronted by Vettel on the outside of turn one and the Vettel made several attempts to pass Webber just after the end of the first sector at turn five. The thrilling battle continued two laps later as Vettel used the DRS to make a pass on the pit-straight, but Webber edged him over to the wall in what has to be said was a dangerous manouvre. Vettel regardless, kept his foot down and had the inside for turn one. Webber got back ahead with the inside line for turn two just yards later but by turn four Vettel had taken the lead and Webber stopped the resistance albeit for another dive to the outside on the next lap, and a middle finger for good measure. You can’t blame him though. All the times he had to concede to Vettel for the benefit of Vettel and on one of the rare occassions in which Sebastian has to follow a team order he refuses in spectacular fashion. You’d also think he would have been a little more muted in his victory celebration but he was more just as ecstatic as always. What a way to kick someone when they are down. Webber composed himself before entering the ‘cool down’ room before the podium ceremony. Hamilton certainly made sure he got out of the way as Webber at first ignored Vettel, but then said in frustration: “Multi 21 Seb?” That is the code for the team order Sebastian ignored. The following events simply speak for themselves and make any judgement you wish on the Red Bull personel involved in the post-race admition and ducking. I have said enough.

Further back The Mercedes made a good account of themselves in third and fourth. The pushed Red Bull hard until Hamilton’s fuel issue. After that they pushed each other, swapping places a few times before Hamilton stayed ahead. Ross Brawn made sure of that despite Rosberg’s protests. At that point of the race he was faster but Hamilton was suffering from a team error and was not at full capacity. You can’t ask one driver to back off and let the other one overtake can you? Maybe… Maybe not… Hamilton himself was requesting that he let Rosberg go through into third but Ross himself reminded Lewis that was also breaking team orders. Both Nico and Lewis were very mature in their post-race reaction. Lewis admitted he felt terrible to take third in that way and that “Nico should be up here, not me”. Nico was a breath of fresh air to listen to amongst all the paddock tension. When the facts were layed out before him he accepted the choice of the team, congratulated Lewis and was enthusiastic about their performance in the knowledge that the same could be done for him but that Lewis “doesn’t owe me one at all”

Where were Ferrari in all of this? They were tipped to take a one – two by some pundits from second and third! Alonso was caught out by Vettel’s caution at the start and damaged one of the front wing pylons from the smallest of contact. The wet conditions masked his damage slightly as he made his way back past Webber for second. Ferrari used this as evidence to take a gamble on leaving Alonso out with the wonky front-wing until the conditions dried out. However by the start of lap two the other pylon failed and his wing went underneath his front wheels; leaving him a passenger as he skidded towards the gravel trap. A lost contender from the race. Massa had a poor start and ended up behind Button and Hulkenberg by the end of the first stint. Had some good scraps in the latter stages that concluded with an easy overtake on Grosjean with two laps to go. Fifth was a reasonable recovery but it should have been more for Ferrari. Lotus had a bad day in general. Both started from the midfield and lost out in the opening laps. Though still showing good raw pace with several installments of the fastest lap from both Raikkonen and Grojsean; they never really recovered properly. Kimi lost alot of time fighting with Perez and Hulkenberg in addition to the two minor off’s he had which were not like Kimi from recent times. At least both finished the race in sixth and seventh so it’s decent damage limitation for Lotus against Red Bull.

Hulkenberg drove an on-the-limit and aggressive race today for eighth and Sauber’s first points of the season. Pressured Button in the early stages, then Massa, Perez and the Lotus drivers later on. A slight question of unsafe release from the Sauber pit-crew into the path of Raikkonen. Plus a small question of driving etiquette with Hulkenberg giving Kimi a nudge which made Kimi more vocal than usual! Apart from that it was a solid race. Gutierrez was a little off the pace but he does have a formidable and highly rated team-mate in Hulkenberg and should be given more time to prove himself. Despite only picking up another two points today: McLaren can take comfort with the step forward they made this weekend. They can just about call themselves the fifth fastest package; just ahead of Force India and Sauber, but i think Button slightly out-performed the car today. He did predict that the smoother surface would limit the ride issues they had in Melbourne and this allowed Button to work on a better set-up for a more balanced car. The warmer temperatures will have helped with the tyres too with Button trying to stretch out a three stop race that ended in tears with another calamitous McLaren pit-stop. That effectively ruined his chance of points and he retired in the closing stages. Perez had a better race than last weekend but got involved in too many scraps with the Lotus cars, Massa and Hulkenberg to really perfect his three stop stratergy which turned to four in the last two laps. Still, they should be able to look forward to a three week break with which they can bring a few small updates from to Shanghai and Bahrain. They should start a decent points haul for themselves come the start of the European season at Barcelona but they must keep up development to a high standard and irradicate pit-stop errors if they want to have a chance at the championship which is already 38 points back from Vettel in the Drivers title and 62 back from Red Bull in the Constructors.

Force India showed much promise on Friday and Saturday as they looked to trouble the ‘big guns’ like they did in Melbourne. They certainly looked like they could take a double points finish until the disasterous pit-stops which were the eventual cause of both Sutil’s and Di Resta’s retitrements. The captive wheel-nut system which is new for Force India this year had failed due to the hot temperatures expanding materials. When the wheel was taken off along with the wheel nut, it’s insert remained on the wheel hub so the new tyre couldn’t be seated on it and had to be removed manually. They stopped both cars on safety grounds but the cars had over-heated anyway. Toro Rosso did well to get their first point of the year in tenth place with Jean Eric Vergne which may have been a little lucky given Button’s issues but having said that they lost plenty of time at their first stops with Vergne being released into the path of Caterham’s Charles Pic who was entering the neighbouring pit-box. Both had damage that needed reparing and Toro Rosso were fined by the FIA stewards. Ricciardo must feel a little frustrated not to finish again with an exhaust failure and Toro Rosso must make sure they sort that for Shanghai.

Williams had another poor paced race which was expected given how it’s only a week between events. However it wasn’t helped by an off into the gravel (again) for Maldonado who retired with KERS issues i think (but don’t hold me to that). Things did improve towards the end of the race for Bottas however who is doing himself no harm at the moment with his perfomances compared to Maldonado. 11th was a solid finish and was a little unlucky to come away empty handed. At the back end of the field Bianchi was a again easily winning that battle for Marrussia with 13th and pretty comfortably ahead of the Caterhams and his team-mate Chilton. Even if Pic hadn’t lost time in the pit-lane collision with Vergne, he still wouldn’t have mounted much of a challenge.

In relation to the massive controversy today; can Vettel recover from it straight away? It’s the first time he has been singled out for such harsh critisism from the media and to some extent his team. Apart from Helmut Marko who tried desperatley to deflect attention to the non-issue at Mercedes instead of blaming Vettel. How will it effect Mark? That must have been demoralising for him today and it could be a crossroads of his career, depending what he decides to do about the situation. In other news Hamilton has been welcomed to catch-up with the McLaren catering facilities any time; just not his old pit-box! China should offer cool conditions so could that bring Lotus back into play? Will it place Red Bull on the back foot? Mercedes were excellent there last year so can they be as kind to their tyres this year? Alonso and Ferrari will be chomping at the bit to make up for the lost ground this weekend while McLaren could spring a suprise too…. F1 in 2013 has just got serious.

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