Echoes of a bygone era give spice to championship battle
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Jun 2012   |  11:02 am GMT  |  256 comments

[Updated] We’ve grown so used to seeing almost perfect reliability from F1 cars that what happened on Sunday in Valencia with both Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean retiring from potential race winning positions, seems surprising.

Throw in Lewis Hamilton also retiring from a podium position after crashing out with Pastor Maldonado and it’s a real throwback to the 1980s, when finishing a race was never a given, even for championship contenders.

Since the early 2000s the cars have become super-reliable because teams have imported quality control processes from industry. Last year’s European Grand Prix was unique because it featured all 24 cars finishing the race, the highest number of finishers in Grand Prix history.

Both Vettel and Grosjean retired with electrical problems caused by an overheating alternator on the Renault engine.

The retirements this year were costly; for Grosjean the chance of a first Grand Prix win for him and for his Enstone based Lotus team, for Vettel and Hamilton the sight of Fernando Alonso scoring a maximum 25 points on a day when they go home empty handed.

Alonso now has some breathing space at the top of the points table; he has 111 points to Webber’s 91, Hamilton’s 88 and Vettel’s 85. With his record of scoring points in every round, this margin gives him something to work with.

Of all the F1 drivers I’ve known over the years, Alonso always seems to have points and permutations in his head at all times. When he comes into the unilateral TV interviews after the podium, he always wants to know championship positions to confirm what he’s worked out in his head on the slowdown lap.

And going into events he is always thinking about what needs to be done numbers wise and who he needs to stay ahead of or close up to. Last year there wasn’t much to be done with Vettel already certain to be champion at this stage of the season.

But this year, with things being much more open, he has every reason to believe that he can challenge for the title.

Valencia showed us that the Red Bull, with its significant rear end and blown diffuser upgrades is now clearly the fastest car in the field, but the multiple problems suffered by Webber’s car on Saturday and then Vettel’s retirement on Sunday will undermine confidence a little.

This is the Red Bull way, to push to the limits all the time, new parts arriving in boxes at all hours of the day and night.

In his short but stellar career, Vettel has lost a number of wins through reliability problems. One thinks of the start of 2010 when he lost certain wins in Bahrain and Australia through technical problems, then later that year there was the engine failure in Korea. Last year’s problem in Brazil deprived him of another win. With Sunday’s disappointment that’s five more victories that could have been added to the 22 wins he has from 89 starts.

Alonso has control for the moment then and the Ferrari will have an upgrade at Silverstone but they too cannot relax as the McLaren will be upgraded there and the fast corners on the track will really suit the Lotus. So the pressure is still firmly on Ferrari, as team boss Stefano Domenicali acknowledged last night,

“Our car is still not the quickest. In my view Red Bull, or the Red Bull that I have seen this weekend, is the quickest in terms of pure performance,” he said. “In the race it was leading comfortably, the pace was very strong. That is something that we need to look at. They had problems with reliability, but we are not, in my view, at the level that we should be in terms of the performance.”

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The ability of Alonso not only to calculate the numbers but also to predict what he has to do and what he will do is more and more astounding.

He predicted for the last three races to score 50 points – 50 points he scored….

I first got aware of this quality of his in full bloom in 2010, when starting with Silverstone he made solid predictions for nearly the rest of the championship – I wonder how much these predictions became self-fulfilling prophecies….. 😉


Couldnt agree more, I think Alonso’s intelligence and cleverness is not given the weight it deserves, though if there is anything this year is proving it would be that.

Pay attention to what is said about him… like this comment from James, on the Speed broadcast they mentioned comments from Alonso himself as well as Montezemolo that show Alonso’s complete integration at Ferrari. We all know the last guy given such importance at Ferrari….it’s not handed to just anyone. Add to the shame he puts on his teamates to being an obvious key contributor to the improvement of this years car…all go to show he is a cut above.

He not only seems to be better at working with a poor car and handling adverse circumstances he seems to flourish with it. (can you honestly say the same about Hamilton? Vettel?) Any other pilot handed this year’s Ferrari in Australia would have far fewer points on the board. Certainly debateable, but IMO Alonso is in a class all his own.

And yes…I agree…the reliability has taken away what was once a major player in the outcome of races. A blown engine and the oil hazard on the track…a driver losing a gear or two…brake failures etc, fun stuff.


What is wrong with radio messages in Italian, or German, or Spanish, or French, or Japanese, or whichever else lenguage a team can choose to communicate, if such a lenguage is understood by engineers and pilots of the team? Where is the rule saying that English should be compulsory everywhere? F1 is trullyI international I do not complain about hearing radio messages in English. I do my best trying to understand them, and my local tv do translate them..


It is like with the airline industry; one universal language is used for communication, especially at an international level. No one should get an advantage because of their bi/trilingual abilities.

Continental Europeans are so blessed as to have a primary language (eg: Italian, French, German, Dutch, etc.) as well as having education systems that place a relatively high emphasis on learning English. English is used as the medium for different European nationalities to communicate with each other.

Unfortunately, for people whose first language is English there is very little incentive, educational opportunity or practical opportunities for them to learn another language. People in F1 who are in this position are already at a disadvantage regarding this, so multi-lingual people should not be allowed to use their skills and unfairly outsmart the opposition. I wouldn’t be surprised if a cashed up team like McLaren employed a full time translator to utilize under such circumstances. But this is not the way it should be in F1; it already costs too much.

True, this is all probably an almost inconsequential issue that most likely has an infinitesimally small effect on the racing but it is an issue that has been raised nonetheless, so I thought I would comment.

ENGLISH is now as LATIN was in the Ancient and Medieval times.


I cannot agree in this with you. English is the official language of F1 as an organization, no problem with it. Yet English is not compulsory inside the teams. That the individuals of a team can communicate one another in the language of its choice is understandable and it should not rise any laugh (BBC, Sky?). This laughing is highly arrogant, IMO. If F1 as an organization wants all the teams to radiocast in English, it should be written or spoken out. Im not saying that the teams must have translators, I say that BBC, Skynews or other local tv station either should be able to translate radiomessages for the audience or refrain themselves any laugh when a team speaks other languages. And please, I ask you to not shout when illustrating about English and Latin, we all travel in airlines and live in current times.


James after a great race in Spain’s Tesco carpark of a track which for you has been the best race of the season so far? Would say this one is right up there as you never get good ones round there. But then Mayalsia might get it as a Sauber battling a off the pace Ferrari for the win? Brave man who would have put money on that at the start of the year.


Considering how insufferably boring last year’s Valencia race was, this year it just had to be as fantastic as it was in order to keep the universe in balance. 😉 LOL 🙂


I thought it was one of the best races, yes. Plenty of cars pushing hard which is what we want to see, lots of drama, interesting strategy calls and overtaking.



I noticed recently that non of my posts are getting published. I have put down time writing them, but obviously none of them have made it to the site!

Am I banned (for some for me unknown reason) from posting??

Name: Quattro_T




The above post was submitted with a different mail address than the one I usually use – the one I suspect is blocked somehow. I used the same name I usually use though.

I tried to reply to your response with the string “Ok, then I am testing posting here.”, using my regular email adress minutes ago. It did not appear here. When I tested posting it again, the string

“Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!”

appeared, so the post is being registered in your database. Still not showing up here.


I’ve had the same issue until I changed my email address.


We’ll check it


“Who else is wondering if ferrari aren’t playing mind games with everyone first by lowering their expectations even if they seem to have a fast racing car only for alonso to shine come race day and their italian radio messages?”

Ferrari (and its drivers) have been very clear and IMO honest about the expectations for Valencia, given (1) the qualy result, (3) the track characteristics (overtaking has historically been very difficult at Valencia) and last but not (3) the fact that at least RB and Lotus were faster than them.

Are you otherwise suggesting Ferrari did order its drivers to qualify in the midfield, even though they could do better? Or that they did lap ~1 sec slower than the other top teams in the first races of the season on purpose?


Not at all mate, qualifying problem was because overconfidence, no one tried the harder compounds inp2 except ferrari.


Yes James! That race reminded me of the 1982 Monaco Grand Prix and of Ricardo Patrese victory!

Even Ricardo didn’t know that he had won the GP crossing the line while giving a ride to the start/finish line to Didier Pironi.


Yes, what a scenario that was!



Mario-Alberto Bauér at P1Mag-eZine is reporting that Montezemolo was in Valencia to let Ferrari Sponsors know that Massa is gone.


Not sure about that, don’t see why he’d need to do that.

But I think the Vettel stuff is a bit of a smokescreen to move the story along for a 2013 without Massa. I sense he’s going


On the subject of radio messages, why aren’t the BBC and Sky able to translate what Ferrari are saying given a lot of viewers now have to pay a premium to view.

Its clear Ferrari now speak to Alonso in Italian on the radio so hearing the commentators laugh about not understanding only cuts it so far. Does nobody on the BBC or Sky team understand Italian and can provide a translation to the commentary booth?


As a side note…Anyone else notice the “much love” between Hamilton and Alonso with a bit of Ferrari thrown in?

Usually when a driver starts complimenting a team or rival driver this much there’s something going on in the background.


Lewis would make a good number 2 to alonso

Tornillo Amarillo

Agree, hiring Hamilton is the best bet to beat the archrival MacLaren, and almost sure getting the WCC, a chess move.


the FIA won’t do anything drastic with Maldonado, no matter how bad his offences – because hes bringing in crucial dollars to Williams.

Simple as that.


Mclaren have absolutely no problem with their pitstops as regards to Button, these problems seem to affect only Lewis, why is that?


Regarding Ferrari playing mind games. I don’t think they have deliberately done so. The performance from the car is read by the technical head and the driver. At the beginning of the year. They were way off, but thanks much to the confusing/tricky tires. Their result is not as bad as they initially expected.

Regarding the bygone era. How I’ve missed those days:

1. old champions charging from the back of the grid to the podiums

2. heartbreaking engine failures and

3. frustrating crashes.

This Valencia race has to be the most exciting GP I’ve enjoyed this year.


Maybe I’m late to notice it, but Alonso is starting to remind me more and more of Prost. It’s great to see.

‘El Catedratico’ for his title, perhaps?


I recall one of the last races at Adeliade Gianni Morbedelli in a Arrows finishing on the podium 2 laps behind Michael Schumacher.

I miss the old days of the smaller teams picking up good points. 15 years ago HRT and Virgin would have picked up a handful of points. Whilst it has been easy to take pop shots at the performance of these teams it is worth remembering just how reliable the existing teams were when then they came into the sport.

I recall in the mid 90’s midfield cars were sometimes 4/5 seconds of the pace.


Some conclusions. . . Who else is wondering if ferrari aren’t playing mind games with everyone first by lowering their expectations even if they seem to have a fast racing car only for alonso to shine come race day and their italian radio messages? Vettel will run away with title easy with a car that creats a gap of 20secs in just 18 laps. Mclaren are determined to deny hamilton any chance of getting the title with yet another pit stop error . Lastly no one seems to mention how bad button was yesterday, either the mclaren is a bad car or button has lost it.


Since we know from Lewis’ efforts that the Mclaren isn’t a “bad car” and it seems unlikely that a driver of Button’s experience and demeanour would have “lost it” for no obvious reason, the possibility of hidden/unsuspected chassis damage should perhaps be considered. I recall something of that nature afflicting Seb Vettel’s car after he ran it over a kerb last season. If I were Mclaren I’d either be undertaking a total stripdown and blueprinted rebuild of Buttons car, or giving him a brand-new chassis ASAP.


I always say about Ferrari and they always win races. People don’t read behind the politics too well.

Hamilton is quick Mclaren have to play catch up with Red Bill and Ferrari now (as do everyone)

Button ? Ironically cannot cope with the tyres this year and is gone. I’ve always said he’s not in the same league as top few.

Am very curious to what red bull changed on that car? cause that Quali in Valencia was perfect !

Hope Lotus can find something for the E20 because if they don’t they will fade.


Alonso yesterday used similar tactics by lowering a bit his speed during the last 10 rounds, so that Hamilton could push and destroy his tyers. Remember the radio call from McLaren, “you’re faster than Alonso”. A few minutes later Lewis made late braking, and his tyers were gone. He should have let Kimi pass. I think that was a crucial moment before the Maldonado crash.


F1 is good at the moment, But i think they need to make a few changes, could they not make Q3 abit longer as 10 minutes for the most exciting part is to short, plus it’s not really fair if you qualified well in they top 10 you have to start on the same tyres when others outside the top 10 don’t, plus could pirelli not make the tyres last longer cause when they go off they’re useless


Well we all know that the drivers championship will be open until the last race but how about the constructors?

In my opinion Red Bull will have it easy, it’s the only top team that has two drivers constantly beating each other, rather than one dominating his teammate, I mean look at Ferrari, Alonso leading but they’re 4th.

By the way if he finishes in the points in the next couple of races he will be beating Schumacher’s record of 24 consecutive point-finishes.


Last year, Lewis Hamilton was on the verge of facing disciplinary action from the FIA after he jokingly suggested his skin colour might be the reason he is so regularly punished by the sports’ stewards.

Yesterday, Helmut Marko fueled conspiracy theories started by a disconsolate Sebastian Vettel by confirming that the world champion team suspect that the safety car was deployed onto the Valencia circuit, midway during the race on Sunday, to artificially aid ‘the show’.

Two identical allegations; In Hamilton’s case, he was forced into a humiliating retraction and apology after F1’s governing body, the FIA, suggested he could be charged with bringing the sport into disrepute. It even led to a further meeting with race stewards where Lewis tried to repair the damage.

What will happen to the RB case?


I quite agree. It is surely better to be safe than sorry when there are chunks of wheel rim scattere on the track and, regardless of whether the debris could have been cleared under double waved yellows the stewards made the call. In most other sports the referee’s decision is final, and to call their judgement in to question with innuendo about favouritism towards the Spanish driver deserves at least the same level of inquiry as Hamilton’s tongue-in-cheek comments about his colour. The leader is always disadvantaged by the safety car but that’s racing I’m afraid. Would a dead steward or a badly injured driver be preferable?

Mike from Colombia

Marko is a loose cannon and I can’t really understand his added value….apart from knowing DM.

He will say anything to support and protect his wunderkid Vettel. He claimed Webber as guilty in the immediate aftermath of Istanbul 2010. He announced Webber’s retirement mid-way through 2011. In 2012 he has tried to write off Hamilton coming into the team and potentially embarrassing Vettel…even though it is not his decision to make.

Seems very out of touch to me.


” it is not his decision to make.”

That’s the (only) part I think you may possibly be mistaken about.

Tornillo Amarillo

Maybe a comment for a different post, it seems teams have lernt their strategies, but depends of the circuit.

2 or 3 pitstops if you are among the fastest and 1 pitstop less if you are not, and if you are not the fastest and you are doing 1 pitstop less than the others, try the 2nd pitstop to be a “late” one for the 15 last laps.

Or just 1 pitstop to be done after half of distance.


– Hamilton in Montreal 3 pitstops

– Vettel in Montreal and Schumacher and Rosberg in Valencia, with 2 pitstops, the last one late.

– Grosjean and Perez 1 pitstop in Montreal

Di REsta was complainning (again) that his pitstop wasn’t in the right moment, too early, and I think he is right.


I think Hamilton may have been able to win on a 3 stopper this time around. But only after Vettel retired.


Unless he had a perfectly clear track, I think that would have been a major stretch for him to get the win.


II think the judgement being unleashed on McLaren is warranted to some degree, however yesterday showed me that the team are making improvements. Look at the race from this perspective if you will. McLaren’s first pitstop was recorded at 2.9 seconds, I believe it was for Lewis (my guy : 0 ). Consider that an option on the table may have been to let Lewis gallop away at the start, if the lead attainable. The lack of getting the lead may have changed the plan, to preserve the tires after the second lap that Vettel unleashed the Dragon. From that point on given that the plan to fix the pitstop errors more than showed the teams ability to compete in this area, then maybe this is a step forward in the championship. Maybe, just maybe a three stop strategy whit an average 3 second or faster pitstop would have one the race. The pressure is heating up at all factories now. Red Bull dropped points. McLaren dropped points. Alonso’s strategy of “Podiums” finishes is definitely in full effect. Come on McLaren. Give my boy three in a row. I know it is possible. I still believe.



I am so disappointed in McLaren. The number of issues they have had this season is unacceptable!

Lewis has been driving fantastically this season and to have the team let him down on numerous occasions is getting beyond a joke. With regards to the Maldonado incident, you could argue that Hamilton should have let him through (I for one was shouting at the TV screen to let him by), but with just over a lap of the race to go on a circuit where overtaking is difficult I can understand why he was defending heavily. Then after the race to have the team principal only half heartedly back Hamilton over the incident is outrageous, particularly when Lewis has been very gracious over the countless number of issues and lost points he has had to encounter (the way he dealt with Barcelona was brilliant and Whitmarsh himself said that it was Lewis that was consoling him that weekend instead of the other way round).

Next – what has happened to all the upgrades! I thought McLaren were meant to be one of the best teams at developing throughout the season. We have gone from having the fastest car in qualifying and the race to not being the fastest in either. I’m not sure if the lack of development is down to the issues Jenson has been having – I fully support the need to dedicate time and effort to resolve his issues, but if it has had such an impact on the development of the car then some serious questions need to be asked.

Finally, from the race in Valencia what is worrying me most is not the pit stop mistakes and lack of points, but just how fast Red Bull were – being a second a lap faster than everyone else in the race! I understand McLaren have a big upgrade planned for Silverstone, so it better do the business otherwise I think we are in serious trouble.

[mod] I need a lie down…



yours was the second comment describing a perception that McLaren would be using most of its efforts to solve Button’s issues and would be therefore not prioiritizing the car’s development. Do you really think that this could be a relevant cause for losing pace in development race? Would that be resource (manpower) or technology-related?

If you have additional thoughts let me know, I couldn’t still correlate these facts.

J Arnold (South Africa)


Can you do an article/comment of the blown diffuser upgrade that Red Bull brought to Valencia.

Do you think it will be deemed illegal? I thought the whole idea was to avoid this. If it is deemed legal I hope the other big teams can catch up, quickly!

Cracking drive by Alonso, really gutted for Hamilton. Hope it goes down to the last round between those two… Vettel should also be in there for good measure.





Any updates on this? Do you have any news from your sources? This looks like really key for how the rest of the WDC will go.

tom in adelaide

Let’s hope the FIA look at this in the eyes of an impartial F1 fan. I don’t think many people want to see Seb getting pole by half a second and racing away for uncontested wins for the rest of the season….



I’d love to know what’s going on with Red Bull’s latest upgrade package!


Dear James, can you explain how it is possible that Red Bull use blown diffuser? All regs were chamnged to prohibit it so even if they found some clever working around words it must be clearly against spirit of the rules… Many thanks in advance.

tom in adelaide

Agreed – it’s obvious that the FIA did not want teams blowing the diffuser. This is the RedBull way though – they walk way outside the boundaries but cover it up cleverly. I just wish the FIA could act faster to assess the legality of these upgrades. RedBull shouldn’t be getting free wins with parts that are later deemed illegal.


They’ll call it evolution; First the tail, then the body, and later the forehead. Everywhere you go take the diffuser with you.


No one wants cars failing. But 100% reliabily is boring too. Let’s remember the type of emotion that a failure – while in comfortable lead can evoke. It’s crushing to the fans, to the driver. Is there anything more crushing than feeling like you have it in your grasp, just to discover it was all a mirage?

There have been many engine failures that have delivered drama over the years. Those famous images of Mika in the forest of (I think) Hockenheim, or Schumi in Japan 2006 – which was the classiest way I have ever seen a driver behave after an engine failure from the lead – not only did it result in Schumi not winning the race, but the championship. He went to the garage and thanked all the guys for their hard work. It was amazing.

Is there such a thing as a beautiful engine failure? I say yes.


Hi James,

Can you tell us if the outcome of the race would have been the same if Alonso was not able to get infront of KImi on his pit stop ?

In Otherwords could Kimi have been the 8th diffrent driver to win?



It would have required Lotus to perform an equal pit stop as alonso. Kimi is always slow on his first three laps until he gets the brake and tire temperature up. Hence problems in qualifying.


Has Grosjean had the same problems?


Vergne receives a 10 place grid penalty and €25000 fine for dangerous (but maybe not fully concious) driving.

Maldonado gets +20s penalty for wilful and very unsportsmanlike driving which has a direct impact on the top standings of the championship.

Why do I fail to see the logic?


If Vergne was really driving an F1 car while “not fully conscious”, then a) hr’s lucky not to have received a life ban and b) he was actually driving incredibly well, really, in the circumstances…


It was more like a chicken race where neither of them wanted to be the chicken…


They are both trying to emulate Senna’s overly aggressive approach.


Wilful? You are dreaming if you think he would throw away a podium in by crashing on purpose in the last few laps of a race.


Agree, I don’t think the crash was 100% deliberate. If you saw the race, the crash was not a “racing incident” but a result of reckless and overly agressive driving (as opposed to Vergne’s).

However, I got the reply I was looking for above in this thread (cash).


Mike from Colombia

Absolutely. Maldonado has demonstrated that he can be a dirty driver who does not care about the consequences to others or himself.

He has shown this by jeopardising his own race in qualifying in Spa 2011. He was offended by being mugged by Hamilton and took a side swipe. He sought revenge on Perez at Monaco 2012 and was even condemned by his own team.

Maldonado has also previously faced a four race ban in the Renault World Series for dangerous driving.

This guy has form, as well as a chip on his shoulder ever since Frank Williams had to make excuses as to why he chose him in the team line up.

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