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GP Week : Issue 159
Seb Vettel would nonetheless have won the Grand Prix of Europe; it was his day, his race. Suddenly, though, half-way around the first flying lap of the re-start, Seb felt his engine die and his world grinding to a halt. In this most unpredictable of years, a mechanical retirement had suddenly sprung from nowhere. A similar, sudden retirement hit Grosjean a few laps later; in this case it was “an alternator” – the sort of problem that we all thought had disappeared about 50 years ago with the BRM H16 or at worst the Alfa V12! And so we’ll never know if Romain, had he driven those last 16 laps, would have beaten Fernando Alonso. Certainly he was driving the quicker car; certainly he could have driven faster for less tyre wear. Fernando, though, doesn’t give away race leads unless his tyres fall off the cliff – as in Canada. As this race wound down, it was Lewis Hamilton who felt the sudden grip loss, not Fernando. He was passed first by Kimi and then almost by Pastor Maldonado, who had driven beautifully until that point to keep the Williams right in it. For a few laps or more, Pastor had been the fastest driver on the circuit. Now, with Lewis in trouble, he easily caught the McLaren. Lewis was painfully slow over the bridge section. Lewis protected the inside on the long straight that followed; now Pastor was in the DRS zone. He pulled up to 313kph in the tow of a McLaren just touching 300kph and pulled perfectly to the outside on the approach to the slow T12/13, right-left section ... but Lewis, being Lewis, would not give way. This was Pastor Maldonado. There is history here. Lewis moved left to the centre of the road, cramping Maldonado’s passing space. Braking down to 70kph they were now side- by-side on a section of track where several passes had that day been cleanly executed. Michael, for example, had given way to Lewis here back on lap 16; the impressive Daniel Ricciardo had managed to pass Sergio Perez on exactly this piece of road in the same manouevre (lap 25); and, in the early stages of the race, Paul di Resta had managed a couple of times to run through the right-left section with Felipe Massa on his outside without hitting him. All it takes is the passee to give a little and thus to allow the passer enough room to breathe: you can still defend, in other words without squeezing the other car off the road – as Paul proved. Pastor assumed (naively) that Lewis would give him room. Lewis, of course, stayed right there, assuming that Pastor would back away. And so the two collided. It was as predictable as a Seb Vettel win ... Lewis DNF’d (and thus allowed Michael Schumacher, who had driven a fiery race up through the field after another difficult Q2) to finish third (subject to a discussion about the use of DRS under yellows; as if communicating from two different eras, Michael and DRS in one way or another do not seem to be getting along ...); and Pastor, minus front wing, etc, limped home to finish P10. Mark Webber was a Schumacher-led fourth after a Saturday that included no brakes or DRS; and Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta finished a deserved fifth and seventh for Sahara Force India. Not that anyone really noticed. This was Fernando’s day. He stopped short of Parc Ferme, wrapped himself in the Spanish flag, stood emotionally to attention as they played the anthems and smiled his Fernando smile. From11thtoawin.Onahotdayin Spain. In a Ferrari that had been counted down and out. Either side of him: former Ferrari world champions Kimi and Michael. It was just like old times. For more of Windsor on F1 watch The Flying Lap live every week on http://smibs.tv 22 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> EUROPE