Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Alonso stamps authority on championship // The Ferrari driver makes the most of a changeable German Grand Prix

Published

Alonso en route to win number three
Credit: Pirelli S.p.A.

Hockenheim is a happy hunting ground for Fernando Alonso. He has won the last two races there and both have had dramatic effects on the championship. Two years ago, a seemingly needless use of team orders by Ferrari eventually put Alonso in prime position for that year’s world title. This time around, Alonso did all the work himself and won in far less controversial circumstances (well if Ferrari were up to the same tricks again, we didn’t know as both British broadcasters refuse to employ an Italian translator). This time it was left to McLaren and Red Bull to provide controversy as they each used borderline tactics to catch the Ferrari. Both, eventually, in vain.

Calculated Fernando does just enough again

I know this will sound like I’m just jumping on the bandwagon but I have been saying that it looks like Alonso’s year since early in the season. If he were to win the title, the first six races of the season is where he won it, getting the best possible result at each event. When the Ferrari was a midfield car at best, Alonso was still getting into the middle of the points when the car was a long way from deserving it. Just to strengthen his chances, cars with superior speed were not optimising it. The fact is, regardless of his win the Malaysian rain, Alonso should have been shut out of the championship before the Spanish Grand Prix when Ferrari finally showed true pace.

It was another example of why Alonso is the best driver in F1 today

At Hockenheim yesterday, it was another example of why Fernando Alonso is the best driver in Formula One today. Despite my dislike for his character and some of his actions, in my view, there is little argument about this. I think he won in Germany with a little to spare, as he maintained the gap to Vettel and then Button, despite the fact that his competitors had DRS for most of the race. He drove at exactly the pace he knew he had to make the tyres last, all the more impressive due to the lack of practice to assess the limits of the tyres.

The margins that we are talking about are made all too clear by Button falling away in the late stages. Had Alonso not controlled his pace he would have been powerless to the advances of Sebastian Vettel and possibly Jenson Button. While it wasn’t Alonso driving at the absolute limit I think that this drive warrants merit for his composure under pressure. He does appear to be an obvious successor to Alain Prost as the Professor.

Button back on form

Jenson drove the race that his season desperately needed
Jenson drove the race that his season desperately neededCredit: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

Although Jenson Button may have been a little lucky to keep his second place, it was good to see him back at the front and back on the podium for the first time since the Chinese GP in April. There’s no doubt that McLaren has found more speed, in both of the cars, although it is slightly masked by a wet qualifying session and Hamilton’s unfortunate puncture. We’ll have to wait to see how strong McLaren are over a single lap because their car has always struggled with tyre warm-up in cold or wet conditions, which is only magnified over a single lap, but the indications are that the ‘80% change’ of aerodynamic surfaces has worked and got them back in the hunt for race wins.

The question is, will they be able to play catch up which is certainly not what they had planned for halfway through the season before it began.

I’m unsure whether Button had the pace to win in Germany, or whether McLaren are now faster than Ferrari and Red Bull. That being said, Button was able to claw back the time that he lost in the first stint and was able to jump Vettel at the second round of stops thanks to some intricate team tactics by McLaren.

Jenson Button’s only failure in the race was that he was too aggressive on his last set of tyres and ran out of pace in the final laps. This allowed Alonso to pull away and Vettel to close in and pass Button controversially with a lap to go. I think Button did everything right in his defence of the position. He was not overly aggressive but left Sebastian with no room, until he found an alternate solution. I’m not a fan of every debate going to the stewards as it eats away at the purist in me, but having seen some of the decisions over the past few years, there was little doubt that Button deserved his second place back. Jenson drove the race that his season desperately needed and it will hopefully lead to a revival for the man from Frome.

Sauber on the up

Sauber are really starting to remind me of the Sauber of the early 2000s with Kimi Räikkönen, Nick Heidfeld and Felipe Massa nipping at the heels of the big boys with a basic car that just gets the job done. After a poor qualifying session in the rain on Saturday, both Kobayashi and Pérez unlocked the genuine pace and tyre conservation of the simple Sauber car to move up into the middle of the points.

Kamui dices with a wayward Massa in the opening lap of the GP
Kamui dices with a wayward Massa in the opening lap of the GPCredit: Sauber Motorsport AG

There were rumblings about Kamui Kobayashi’s job in the build up to the Grand Prix after a series of off-colour performances, paired with Sergio Pérez’s two podiums so far this year, but he went a long way toward answering his critics as he climbed from twelfth on the grid to fourth after Vettel had been penalised, beating his teammate by six seconds on the track. Pérez followed Kobayashi home but didn’t reap the benefit of the sanctions of Vettel and stayed sixth for a great double result for the Swiss team. Both showed great aggression in making up places through the field and Pérez showed it was possible to score points from the back of grid as Rosberg (who scraped one point) and Grosjean struggled to move up through the pack.

Vettel feels the heat

Sebastian Vettel is yet another man to be affected by the home race virus. He is yet to win a race in Germany and certainly did himself no favours on Sunday. I’m sure that Vettel would not have tried such a borderline move if he wasn’t feeling the pressure of Alonso getting away in the championship, and in a season where consistency is proving to be key, it could be costly. I think the same logic can be applied to McLaren’s use of Lewis Hamilton. Whilst what they did is perfectly legal, I don’t think they’d have been as quick to do it if they felt they weren’t slipping behind in both championships.

We are now at the halfway point of the season believe it or not. The teams cannot wait to get to Hungary as they are desperate for the dry weather practice and running. Given the nature of the track, it should give an advantage to the best car and it may be the best test yet on that barometer, but we’ve been saying that all year. If McLaren still have an aerodynamic advantage, I expect them to be strong but Red Bull will be tough to beat. My main prediction is to expect Fernando Alonso to do exactly what is required and get the best result possible.