Observations From The 2011 European Grand Prix: 85,217 Spectators Witness Yet Another Vettel Victory

If the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix went down in history as one of the longest races, the 2011 European Grand Prix could well go down as one of the most boring ones. Nearly 2 hours and 57 laps later, the race in Valencia saw a 100% start-to-finish ratio, a feat that has only been achieved a few times in the history of the sport.

After clinching an effortless pole-position (Read: 2011 European Grand Prix Qualifying Report) on Saturday, Sebastian Vettel won yet another GP this season further strengthening his hold at the top of the Driver’s Championship table.

Observations from the 2011 European Grand Prix:

  1. Narain Karthikeyan became the first driver in the history of Formula1 to finish 24th in a Grand Prix. Ironically, the last time all cars finished the race was in the 2005 Italian Grand Prix (there were 20 cars on the grid that year) and Karthikeyan finished last in that race too! Not quite the statistic that he would like, but the HRT car seemed unable to cope with tyre wear in Valencia. Liuzzi and Karthikeyan finished last and second last behind the Virgin and Team Lotus cars. Karthikeyan on his part learned the circuit pretty fast. This is his first race in Valencia and from starting the weekend nearly 2 seconds off, his fastest lap of the race was 3 tenths off!
  2. HRT seemed to have lost ground to the Virgin Racing cars in Valencia. The last two GPs saw Tonio get the better of at least one Virgin, but in Valencia, both HRTs finished a lap down on them. Karthikeyan finished 95 seconds behind Tonio!
  3. Prior to the start of the race, the paddock predicted a two stopper race for the top runners. This was mainly due to the reduced pit lane speed limit of 60 kmph at this race. However, we saw most drivers opt for a 3 stopper, including a Jenson Button.
  4. The consistent tyre strategy meant that racing was almost boring during the race with whatever little entertainment provided by Michael Schumacher’s rookie-error on Vitaly Petrov. The only drivers who attempted a different strategy were Sergio Perez, Jaime Alguersuari, Kamui Kobayashi, Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock. While Perez tried to repeat his Australian GP success mantra, Alguersuari was the only driver who benefitted from the different strategy.
  5. To appease the viewers and to cite the success of holding the GP, the organizers released official figures on the number of spectators that turned up to watch the race on Sunday. For those interested: 85,217 as compared to last year’s 83,443.
  6. After the afternoon siesta on Sunday, my guess is that the TV figures in Valencia dipped after the first round of pit stops and I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers from the start of the telecast itself are lower next year.
  7. Ferrari has replaced Mclaren as the second best team on the grid and they have consistently beaten the team from Woking in the past few races. Alonso and Massa made a quick start and out-braked Hamilton into the first corner. I would say that Massa probably made the best start of all drivers on the grid.
  8. Alonso and Webber were engaged in some good pitstop poker. Alonso-Webber-Alonso was the eventual result after their three pit stops. Post-race, Webber agreed that he lost the place to Alonso in the last pit stop due to a wrong pit call, basically, he pitted too early for new tyres. Massa encountered bad luck during one of his pit stops that saw him lose time and eventually 4th place to Hamilton. Massa scored his 500th F1 point in Valencia.
  9. Vitaly Petrov, who started 11th ended up 15th in the first few laps of the race. He was one of the only drivers on the option tyre and hence lost ground in the opening stages. Just when one thought that his strategy might see him make a late charge in the race, a collision with Schumacher meant an extra pit stop for the Russian. Team-mate Nick Heidfeld, who started 9th, finished 10th in the race. The Lotus Renault GP were the most disappointing top team in Valencia. Their competition this weekend was with the Mercedes and Force India cars rather than the Ferrari, Red Bulls and Mclarens.
  10. During the course of the race, one got to know that 2011 has already seen more overtaking moves than all of 2010. The question again put up to the adjustable rear wing – do you think it is making overtaking artificial? (Read: Adjustable or Ambiguous Rear Wing)
  11. Rosberg finished 7th, a position he thought was best suited for his Mercedes GP car. However, Michael Schumacher ran out of soft tyres in the race and only had the hard tyres at his disposal. As per records, Schumacher registered his career’s lowest finishing position in Valencia, this year and last!
  12. Red Bull Racing usually have KERS issues and we saw Webber unable to discharge his KERS completely. However, mid-way through the race, Button reportedly had no KERS working on his car. The Canadian GP winner eventually finished 6th. While the temperature caught out Button’s KERS, Hamilton faced tyre issues during the race.
  13. Jaime Alguersuari’s qualifying was terrible, but he quite made up for it in the race. Started 18th and finished the race in 8th after he made one pit stop less than everyone else. He was engaged in an interesting battle with Force India’s Adrian Sutil in the latter stages of the race.
  14. Force India’s Paul di Resta only managed 14th in the race, while team-mate Adrian Sutil scored points for the team yet again. Sutil was awarded 2 points for his 9th place finish.
  15. Sebastian Vettel, the winner of the 2011 European GP, is the only driver in the history of the sport to have completed 8th races and finishing not lower than 2nd place. He also scored his second hat-trick in Valencia by clinching pole position, race win and the fastest lap of the race.
  16. Vettel’s win and Webber’s 3rd place meant that Red Bull Racing scored their career’s 50th podium.
  17. While Vettel leads the championship, there is a tie in the second place between Jenson Button and Mark Webber. Both drivers have scored the same number of points from the first 8 races of the season, but Button edges ahead of Webber due to his race win in Canada. That reminds me that Webber and Schumacher are yet to lead a lap this season (Read: F1 Statistics)

The next stop is Silverstone. I am hoping to visit the venue and witness the new pit lane complex and other changes made to the ‘Mecca of Motorsport’. Between now and then, there are a few interesting stores lined up, so keep checking!

Kunal Shah is an FIA-accredited Formula 1 journalist who has been reporting on Formula 1 for nearly two decades. He worked with the Force India Formula 1 Team for 6 seasons in Marketing, Sponsorship and Commercial roles. As a former single-seater racer, he was responsible for Force India's grassroots talent program, One from a Billion Hunt. Presently, he co-writes a regular Formula 1 column for Firstpost, speaks on Inside Line F1 Podcast & Pits to Podium and produces broadcast/OTT content for NENT Group (Viasport & Viaplay).

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