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What Comes Next?

June 11, 2012

First we had one winner.  Then we had two.  China made it three in fantastic style.  The fourth winner came in Bahrain and eyebrows began to rise.  Barcelona gave us a fifth winner and we knew that this was going to be a special season.  When Webber made it six from six in Monaco, making the 2012 season the most unpredictable in history, I thought it could not go on.  Surely Montreal would give us a repeat winner? Of course Vettel would convert his pole position into victory and become the first double winner of 2012?  Or maybe Alonso, in the reinvigorated Ferrari, would leave the field in his wake and claim his second victory of the season.  But, it was not to be.  In yet another brilliant race, with a nail-biting last few laps, Lewis Hamilton sailed to the top of the podium, and the championship, becoming the unprecedented seventh winner in seven races.

The Canadian Grand Prix began without incident.  All of the cars got off the start and the order remained relatively unchanged for the first few laps.  I was a little bit worried that the race was becoming a bit of a procession.  Vettel seemed to be in absolute control at the front of the field and, with no chance of rain, it didn’t seem like anything would upset the apple cart.  There was no need to worry though, Pirelli came to the rescue.  The Pirelli tyres, which have been the defining issue in the strategies of the teams the entire season, once again proved to be instrumental to the excitement and the outcome of the Grand Prix.

After 15 laps the pit stops began and the race started to heat up.  Vettel pitted and Hamilton took the lead until his turn for fresh rubber brought him into the pits.  Alonso grabbed the metaphorical bull by the horns and produced some blistering laps to ensure that when his turn to pit came he returned to the track ahead of Hamilton and in the lead.  Hamilton made a second pit stop which saw him coming out in 3rd place, behind both Alonso and Vettel.  This is where things really became interesting.  Vettel and Alonso, in an all-or-nothing bid for the win, decided to skip a second pit stop, the logic being that if they could somehow make their tyres last to the end of the race they had a chance of walking away with victory.  It was a brave decision by both teams, but ultimately the wrong one.

The severe drop-off in performance of the Pirelli tyres, demonstrated so emphatically by Kimi Raikkonen in China, meant that in the last few laps of the Grand Prix Hamilton simply had to stroll past both Vettel and Alonso as they slipped and skated around the circuit on tyres well past their use-by date.  In clear admittance of their error, Red Bull brought Vettel in for new tyres with just 5 laps remaining, worried that he could end up very far down the table.  Alonso took his chances and stayed, but was ultimately passed by Grosjean, who seemed stunned to finish in 2nd place, and Sergio Perez who rounded out the Podium.

As we head back to Europe I’m starting to believe that we might just have a different winner every race of this season.  Surely Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen, in their very competitive Lotus, will fancy their chances of becoming the 8th and 9th winners of 2012 in Valencia and Britain?  Michael Schumacher must believe that he could become the 10th winner when he races in his home Grand Prix in Hockenheim?  The way this 2012 season is going, I will only be slightly surprised if a tornado sweeps across the track in Budapest, sweeps away 22 of the cars, and HRT coast across the finish line to claim their first Grand Prix victory!  It would only be marginally more unbelievable than the start we have had to this 2012 season.

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