After claiming pole position in yesterday’s qualifying session, Sebastian Vettel won the European GP in Valencia ahead of a fast-charging Lewis Hamilton in his Mclaren. Lewis’ team-mate Jenson Button claimed the third step of the podium, strengthening Mclaren’s top of the table position on the Constructor’s championship.
However, the European GP in Valencia also witnessed a horrendous accident where Mark Webber’s Red Bull Racing car clobbered the back of Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus Racing machine. Webber and Heikki were racing for position, but the Lotus’ nervousness under-braking meant that Heikki went on the brakes much before Webber anticipated him to. As a result, Webber’s car not only broke the rear wing assembly, but also lifted off by rolling onto Heikki’s rear tyres. The sight which was fearful on TV, saw Mark Webber somersault in the air before coming to a standstill under heavy impact of the Armco barriers.
I am usually critical of the FIA and their regulations, but I would like to bow down to those men who drafted the FIA safety regulations. Mark Webber, even after the somersault and heavy impact, managed to walk away from the scene of the accident within seconds of impact that saw his car’s engine cover, front and rear wing assembly and of course the tyre-rods be tested to their maximum. I am certain that within minutes of walking away the Australian was ruing the loss of some valuable points for his F1 driver’s championship challenge.
However, up at front, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton were the first to pit under the safety car regime – a move that ensured that they didn’t lose their speed advantage and track position. However, at the restart, Sebastian Vettel almost spun himself out exiting the last corner, but managed to hold up in front of Lewis Hamilton to lead the race. Lewis Hamilton on his part, was at the receiving end of yet another controversial Steward’s call. Lewis was seen overtaking the Safety Car just when it exited the pit lane and was on the pit-exit parallel to Lewis’ Mclaren.
While the margin was negligible, the Stewards did dish out a drive through penalty for the former World Champion. However, some great thinking by the guys on the Mclaren pit-wall ensured that Lewis didn’t lose his 2nd place even after serving his drive through penalty.
Here’s a small explanation: post receiving a penalty, the team and driver have 3 laps to serve the penalty, post which they face disqualification. On receiving the penalty, Mclaren asked Lewis Hamilton to up his pace, which saw Lewis make up atleast 3-4 seconds over third placed Kamui Kobayashi. As a result, when Lewis served his drive through, he still managed to come out of the pits ahead of Kobayashi’s BMW Sauber-Ferrari. The few seconds he gained prior to his drive through served him well by ensuring that he didn’t lose track position.
Lewis’ penalty only worked in Sebastian Vettel’s favour. He led the race with his precise driving and though Lewis did close the gap in the latter part of the race, he never looked to be challenging Vettel’s race lead.
The European GP was interesting in parts and saw some gritty driving by the BMW Sauber Ferrari rookie Kamui Kobayashi, who decided not to pit under the Safety Car period thereby gaining track position over the others. Jenson Button was at the receiving end of BMW-Sauber’s pit strategy, as he spent most of his race staring at Kobayashi’s gearbox. The teams however are not celebrating their results yet. The FIA is investigating atleast 7 drivers for their pace under the Safety Car period. More to follow.
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