It’s probably fair to say that after such a thrilling start of the season thanks to KERS and the DRS, everyone - fans and teams included - were waiting for Valencia as a test of how good those systems really were. Now that the 2011 European Grand Prix is a thing of the past, everyone will probably agree: Valencia still needs a bit more than that to become a thrilling race venue.
KERS and DRS certainly helped to close gaps yesterday, but the lack of proper straight lines in Valencia was probably a factor in the small number of pure overtakes we saw during the Grand Prix. Amazingly though – as we need to find something amazing! – Sunday’s race happened to be the first time ever that 24 racing cars crossed the finish line at the end of a Grand Prix. Another proof of how reliable those cars can be.
Nico had a great start on Sunday, escaping well from his seventh place starting slot to overtake Jenson in the first corner. From there, Nico pushed hard for the entire race, and a good three-stop strategy - used option/new option/used option/prime, stopping on lap 12, 30 and 45 - meant that Nico managed to finish in seventh place after yet another mistake-free drive, the maximum that we could have achieved with the car at the moment.
Sadly Michael’s afternoon wasn’t as quiet as Nico’s. Michael was running comfortably in eighth place during the early stage of the race when, right after his first pitstop on lap 15, he slid into Petrov at the apex of turn one. The contact broke his front wing and he had to do a full lap before making an extra stop to replace it. Michael rejoined the race track in 20th position and obviously, his race was spoiled from there. Michael said: “I locked the front wheel and slipped into him, which was clearly my mistake”. This extra stop left Michael 47 seconds behind Nico, and the fact is that in spite of being lapped by the leader, being in the field losing time and having a different strategy, Michael only finished 57 seconds behind Nico shows that his pace was comparable to Nico’s… A disappointing result for him, but everyone can be sure that Michael will do everything do bounce back for the first of our home races at Silverstone.
After the race, Ross was the first to admit that Nico had achieved the current potential of the car. The six valuable points will serve the team well in our current battle with Lotus-Renault for fourth place, but obviously we want to fight back to be more than ‘the best of the rest’. We saw some encouraging things in Valencia, and after our concerns earlier in the weekend, the tyres behaved well and we didn’t experience any serious degradation problems - which represents a step forward compared to previous races. We also saw seven good pit stops from the boys, including one front wing change in less than 15 seconds.
BUT – as there’s always a ‘but’ in Formula One - our targets are very much higher than racing for seventh place. The team is working very hard to bring the planned updates for our cars in order to close the gap to the current top six runners, and we’ll fight hard, starting in two weeks time for the first of our two home races in succession in Silverstone .We hope to see you there.