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The Formula One Teams' Association, or FOTA, hosts a Fans' Forum in select Grand Prix host cities. It's a unique opportunity for fans to hear from their favorite F1 Drivers, Team Principals and F1 personalities, meet other F1 fans and engage in a Q&A session with panelists. Last year's event was well attended with about 500 fans in attendance, proving F1 is welcome in the United States.
It's hard to see straight across the sea of red. The most passionate, brilliant red reserved for the most famous automobile brand with a horse was all over the grandstands at the Italian Grand Prix. Everywhere around the tracks, there were red Ferrari flags, red shirts, red hats, red hair wigs, like I said, sea of red. Massive crowds of fans gathered at Monza to watch the Italian Grand Prix unfold. And Monza did not disappoint!
At the qualifying, odds on favorite Alonso did very well until he had a mechanical problem, Massa capitalized on that and qualified ahead of Alonso to land at P3 while Alonso had to settle with P10. Hamilton and Button took over the front row of the grid with tremendous drives. Red Bulls were less than stellar at P5 for Vettel and P11 for Webber.
The 1st Lap is always exciting to watch. Hamilton defended his position right away from Button but it was Massa who surged ahead, passed Button then went side by side with Hamilton, though ultimately not able to pass. Alonso, incredibly have gone up from 10th to 6th by Lap 2. There was no stopping Hamilton though, he did a flawless drive and converted his pole to a 3rd win this season.
Perez qualified P12 but stealthily climbed up the positions. He started with the hard tyres, stayed out as long as he could until Lap 29 (!!) and switched to soft tyres after pit stop. This was a brilliant tyres strategy from the Sauber team. Hedid some great overtaking throughout, and with fresher soft tyres near the latter part of the race, he was easily passing other drivers to take home 2nd spot. Perez is definitely a rising star. Some even rumored that he may be take Massa's spot for 2013!
There was a bit of tit for tat playing out between Vettel and Alonso at Lap 26. Last year at Monza, Vettel tried to pass Alonso at one point and wasn't able to make the pass stick, but got slightly wide as Alonso tried to claim the racing line. This move left Vettel with 2 wheels on the grass at high speed. This year, some are calling this a revenge move from Vettel, Alonso tried to pass Vettel at the exact same spot but Vettel didn't leave enough room for Alonso, and made Alonso slid onto the grass on all wheels. As if he's expecting this, Alonso got on team radio immediately to complain about Vettel's move which subsequently got Vettel a drive through penalty. Innocent driving incident or premeditated revenge? We'll never know.
In the end, it didn't matter for Vettel. Both Red Bulls had mechanical issues that caused neither of Vettel or Webber to finish the race. Vettel had mechanical problem and had to stop on the grass at Lap 47, meanwhile Webber flat spotted at Lap 51 and got called in by the team to retire before damaging the car. With a 53-Lap race, to retire at Lap 51 is entirely too painful. It's been a very long time since Red Bull had a double retirement. Are reliability issues rearing its ugly head at Red Bull again? Tell us what’s up, Adrian Newey!
Other drivers with misfortunes include Button, Hulkenberg and Vergne. Button had a fuel pickup issue with his car and had to roll onto grass and retire at Lap 32. Hulkenberg also had car problems and retired at Lap 50. Vergne was out much earlier at Lap 9 getting airborne (and then back down) as a result of spinning out.
All of drama and retirement did not distract Alonso though, who never for a moment gave up with P10, but hustled all the way to land at 3rd spot on the podium. This is an important win for Alonso with him not scoring any points at Spa last weekend and Hamilton taking the most points by winning this race.
We wrap up the race with Alonso leading the championship (still), Hamilton is now 2nd, and Raikkonen 3rd. What a shake up!
The next race will be at Singapore on 9/21 - 9/23. This is one of my favorite tracks to watch - night race, street circuit, Singapore skyline and landmarks as backdrop, not a dull moment. Catch you then!
Without a doubt, Formula 1's ability to take on the rain makes it a unique series in the motorsports world. Tolerating substantial downpours and several hour delays is the norm for the traveling event, separating it from the fair-weather nature of most racing (think day-long delays, such as the Daytona 500 this year). This year's British GP will certainly not disappoint, and for those attending the race, it's going to be a tough couple of days "mucking about" in the mud around the circuit and the traffic on the A43 highway.
We've seen that tires can be the deciding factor this season, evidence in Fernando Alonso's fight in the final two corners of the Malaysian GP with Sergio Perez, almost costing him the win. The likelihood of such another fight is eminent as the potential of an "emotional" British GP will only be exacerbated by the buckets of rain pouring on Silverstone this weekend. Today's practice sessions were a combination of control and chaos as each driver struggled to pilot their vehicle across the delicate, slippery surface. Though the action was relatively slow today, tomorrow's qualifying shouldn't disappoint.
Let's not forget as well, the recent remodel of the Silverstone circuit has spurred a love/hate relationship with the F1 community. Though Formula 1 has seen a bit of rain at other circuits so far this year, the new remodel of the Silverstone circuit has made the problems more complicated.
In his rant this morning on Speed TV's live coverage of Practice session, Will Buxton (@willbuxton) let America know exactly how he feels about the remodel. With a Pit Lane that's partially below the water table, the likelihood of flooding in this essential area is a real possibility. Just how they will address the issue as the weekend continues is still a mystery, but we hope fixing floaties to the cars is outside of the regulations.
Rain filled races have made the history books time and time again, and no one would dare say only dry races are the most exciting. It is possible to go too far to the other side of that argument with Bernie signaling he's a fan of playing in the rain. Though the likelihood of sprinklers being added to race tracks for "fun" seem to be squashed for now, we'll be looking forward to a wet mess in Silverstone this weekend and hoping rain stays a natural feature of F1.
Good things come to those who wait. For Hamilton, that good thing came in the shape and form of a Grand Prix Gold Cup from the beautiful Sunday race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal. It was a much-needed boost for Hamilton's points in the Championship to stay competitive, a long time coming win for Hamilton to prove to the world that he still got it, and a respectable comeback for the McLaren Team from the many errors they've made in recent races.
The race started well enough with the usual suspects on the front rows - Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton and Webber. Soon after the race started, we are treated with Webber and Rosberg fighting for 4th position with some great wheel to wheel action, and Massa driving like a man who has something to prove. Rumor has it that Ferrari is looking for a new driver to replace Massa, so Massa has a lot riding on his performance in coming races. I am also continuously impressed with Di Resta, he's been doing really well in qualifying and races given the car he has, with a little more time and a better car I could see Di Resta on the podium.
Noticeably missing in the front battles are Button and Raikkonen, they've both fallen off the radar in the last few races. It's definitely odd to see Button struggling so much while Hamilton is competitive from the same McLaren car. Can the car setup really make that much of a difference? Button went from 10th position 16th at the end of the race. With Raikkonen's Lotus, it's hard to decide whether it's car or strategy that ultimately ruins the Ice Man and his comeback, I'm inclined to think both are factors for the time being. Started at 12th spot on the grid, Raikkonen went up 8 positions to 4th and then fell back to 8th right. And yet, Grosjean, also with a Lotus car, went from 7th to 2nd. How long will we have to wait before we see the Ice Man smile a non-smile on the podium?
Nothing like a little pit-stop action to shake up the line up. Right around lap 17, Vettel pitted and then just missed by a hair coming out to have Hamilton over cut, and then Alonso did the same to Hamilton after Hamilton pitted. McLaren's pitstops continue to make me nervous, even though I think the mini-stall at the pitstop was Hamilton's own doing. No matter, Hamilton recovered from that little hiccup at pitstop and eventually passed Alonso in DRS zone in lap 20.
The person who didn't recover and basically had some of the worst luck of the season is Schumacher. Schumacher qualified 9th, but ended up with a faulty DRS wing and had to retire. The mechanics can't even fix it with their gloved-hands at the pit stop. Totally tragic to watch.
For a long while (30 laps!), Hamilton was leading the way with Alonso and Vettel behind. I thought, well, that's how the race would end. Wrong! Lap 50 came around, Hamilton pitted with another nerve-wrecking McLaren pit stop, and stuck to his 2-stop strategy. I was fully expecting Alonso and Vettel to pit since their tyres' been hustling and need some refreshing. A few more laps and neither pitted, it became clear that Alonso and Vettel were both trying to stick it with those tyres until the end of the race. Haven't they learned the lessons from Raikkonen a few races back? It's a ballsy strategy gamble from the teams, and one of these races it may actually work, but Ferrari and Red Bull got it all wrong for this race.
One teams' wrong call is another teams' gain though. Perez and Grosjean both made the 1-stop strategy work for them and started to climb up the positions at the late part of the race. Red Bull realized quickly by lap 60 that Hamilton is catching Vettel and Alonso fast and furious with fresh tyres and they are now defenseless. Red Bull did the only sensible thing a team can do - bringing in Vettel for new tyres at lap 64 in a 70-lap race. Red Bull is hugely lucky that the pit stop at Montreal is one of the shortest run and they were able to slot Vettel back in near the top. Alas, the damage is done and Vettel can only fight back to pass Alonso to take 4th at lap 69.
Meanwhile, Hamilton took his 1st Grand Prix win of this season with a spectacular drive, with Grosjean and Perez taking 2nd and 3rd respectively. The race was completely unpredictable from the beginning until the very end. Amazing!
In case anyone has any doubt on who should win the Best Post-race hair at Montreal, that special title goes to Perez. His hair didn't look like it's been compressed in a hot helmet for 70 laps at all! And as a Canadian, I'm mildly relieved to see the Montreal grid girls outfit. Short red dress (no weird cutout bits!) with white heels is boring but classy! European Grand Prix grid girls, I hope you bring it in the next race on 6/22-6/24 weekend!