11 Jun – Well That Dream Just Ended At The Canadian GP

ALONSO IN THE FIRST STINT KEEPING VETTEL AND RED BULL IN CHECK

As I have stated man’y times I only blog when I can add something meaningful to the conversation. True, making wisecracks is not that meaningful, but I do try to insert something of substance between the jokes and one-liners on occasion. I find myself here at the keyboard fighting the urge to type out a bunch of lines just so I can add my two cents (American currency for all of those in the Euro zone) about how McLaren got it right and Ferrari and Red Bull got it wrong. Sadly I cannot resist so here we go. It is meaningful … to me, anyway!

Well as the title says, the dream I was dreaming has now come to an end. The second place in Spain, and the solid third place in Monaco was fantastic if you are a Ferrari fan or your favorite driver is the Spaniard, not to mention well deserved for the Ferrari team and also for Fernando. One can only imagine what it must be like to be one of the best drivers in the world and not have a car that allows you to compete “at the maximum”, as the drivers say. So it must be a great relief for Fernando to now have a car that is beginning to show signs of true competitiveness. Before the European season got underway Ferrari had a massive task at hand and I think that they have really risen to the occasion in regards to how they have worked together as a team and technically begun to sort out many of the deficiencies that were plaguing the F2012 Ferrari.

Now I do have to say that I am a little miffed (what would blogging be without a little criticism) that in regards to the Canadian race, Ferrari did not have a plan C after they tried plan B to get a win (since the more obvious plan A would have yielded points but not a win), but here in America we have a saying, and that is this: Everybody can be a Monday morning quarterback, but that does not really help  Sunday during the game.

Nonetheless here’s my Monday morning quarterbacking:

Plan A was: Don’t go for the win; stick with a two-stop strategy similar to Hamilton. In hindsight this would have yielded a second place for Fernando and eight more points, meaning he would now have 94 points instead of 86, and would still be leading the championship, six points in front of Hamilton, and 11 points in front of Vettel. How great would that have been? We all know how each and every point is so important come the end of the year…

Plan B: Well, we know how that played out. (No need for my usual one-liners here, although I was getting all fuzzy inside just thinking about it). Just look to the current points standings.

Plan C (which apparently exists only in my mind): Have a delta time that would have allowed Fernando to still come in and take on fresh rubber knowing that you are going to get the lost position back from Vettel because his tires would not be able to go the distance or he would have had to pit as well. Result: P4 for Fernando and two extra points that would have put him even with Hamilton and five points ahead of Vettel.

Of course this is conjecture, and that is the definition of Monday morning quarterbacking. In the end I have to concede that folks at Ferrari are paid a lot more than me to figure this stuff out. So I’ll buy the argument that Ferrari and Fernando presented as to why the gamble at the time with the information they had was the right decision to make. It still does not make me happy. But that’s racing.

The extent to which Fernando defended and was still enthusiastic about the strategy gamble in the days following the race I suppose is a good sign for things to come. In fact lets all read a quote to this effect.

Fernando Alonso: “Today we tried to win the race, but the gamble of only making a single stop did not pay off. When Hamilton came back into the pits for his second stop, we chose to try and play our hand: now it’s easy to say that we should have made that choice too, but it would have meant we had tried nothing and we could also have lost position to Vettel. The last laps were very long indeed: the tyres dropped off suddenly and I was too slow to defend myself from those coming up behind. My engineer was telling me to hold them off but there was no way I could do it. The real problem today was the tyre degradation, definitely not the strategy, which at the very most cost us one place, but let’s not forget that it was that very same strategy that allowed to us to get ahead of Vettel at the first stop. The car was competitive practically all race long: it wasn’t the quickest because here the McLaren, as was expected, was very quick, but definitely we have made a step forward in terms of performance.”

So I suppose there is a silver lining and that is this, the Ferrari that started the 2012 campaign is nowhere to be seen. It showed up for four races before it realized that it wasn’t welcomed at the party anymore and has decided to stay away. That is fine by me.

Formula One is not just about having the fastest car or driver. David Hobbs always says he would rather be lucky than fast, and sometimes that means making your own good luck. We have seen Jenson do this several times and it has paid off. On Sunday, in Canada, Ferrari and Fernando were feeling lucky. They were at the craps table and everybody was in that gambling kind of mood as the dice were being tossed down that green velvet table. The chips were all on the table and right up to the very last laps everybody was getting paid out. Right up until Ferrari rolled the seven “crapped out” and it all ended. RATS!!

The final take away for me is that for the third race in a row Ferrari and Fernando have been genuine contenders at the sharp part of the grid. So although Ferrari lost a podium Sunday they have gained something much more important and that is confidence in the direction that they are heading. In fact, they must feel pretty damn confident about the rest of the season or they wouldn’t have taken that gamble. It looks like we’ll have three drivers fighting for the championship all season long, all within a few points of each other, and it’s nice that for the first time in the three years that Fernando has been at Ferrari, the team will not have to play catch up in the last third of the season. Fingers crossed.

Valencia is the next stop on the F1 calendar. Another home race for Fernando and according to Stefano and Pat, Ferrari have another series of updates for that pretty little red car. Time to go to sleep and dream that dream again. – jp

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