Awe-inspiring Fernando Alonso and Lotus’ development race ahead of F1 break
With the usual fast pace of Formula One, it seems fitting for the first half of 2012 to come to an end with back to back races. More fitting would be if the pair brought separate race winners – but we may have out-lasted that.
Fernando Alonso wasn't necessarily spectacular in Germany, but he was definitely awe-inspiring. In terms of getting the maximum out of his Ferrari, giving the fans some style to enjoy and producing an almost relentless pursuit of championship points, the Spaniard's season has been bordering on perfect.
Forget the fact the F2012 was one and a half seconds off pole at the opener in Australia or all the trials and tribulations in testing. It's completely different now. The combination of Maranello and Alonso are in the driving seat.
What's more, the chase from Red Bull, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, McLaren's propensity to blow hot and cold, and a clearly competitive Lotus and Mercedes – actually, scrub that; just make it the rest of the established grid – and the points will continue to be shared. That makes Alonso an even better shout for the drivers' honours come the end of this marathon season at Interlagos.
The smoldering development race is an added subplot – driving teams to believe more will come after August's summer break.
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McLaren hope they have already found a key to improvement, while Red Bull's performance has clicked upwards nicely for most of the season. Expect more to follow.
Hingham's Caterham have had it tough again – with the weather doing them few favours as they try to unlock the full potential of their revised exhausts, sidepods and wings. They will get there – the sooner they can do it the more they gain. But with situations like point promises and Heikki Kovalainen's future, it leaves plenty on the line – both ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend, and when 2012 part II kicks off with Spa at the end of August.
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And, quite deliberately last, the most interesting outfit over the coming races could well be Hethel-backed Lotus. Their innovative reactive suspension was outlawed before winter testing – and their subsequent complaints aimed at Mercedes' double DRS fell on deaf ears at the FIA. All of which led Enstone to unwrap in Germany their prototype double DRS – I'm yet to see anyone who knows what it does.
But rest assured it will deliver more than Mercedes' version. Lotus will test it for a second time at the Hungaroring before attempting to race it after the summer break.
'We are at the point of making estimates of how big the gain might be and assessing the difficulty in actually realising that gain,' said Lotus technical chief James Allison. 'It's anyone's guess how powerful any existing system is, but that's not the issue; it's how powerful we think we can make any system which we can develop now we know how the rules can be interpreted.
'There are systems like Mercedes has, but the interpretation allows other permutations too. So it could be an interesting time for developments in this area.'
Just another excitement to add to the F1 pot then – we'll miss it this summer…
• To say McLaren's season has been a bit up and down would be an understatement.
From a victorious gap at the front on the opening weekend of the season, the ride has been so bumpy both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have looked like being launched out of the seats of their MP4-27s.
But after a desperate home weekend at Silverstone, the signs of another climb towards the light were in evidence at Hockenheim – led by Button's own sublime drive. That got the Brit's juices flowing.
'There is no one quicker than us at the moment and we can fight for the win in the next few races,' said Button, talking about their race pace – although it would have also worked as a comment on McLaren's incredible 2.4 second pit stop.
'I have had some difficult races earlier in the year but the last two I have felt confident in myself and the team…so to come here and fight at the front for the victory was a very special feeling.'
After some difficult weeks, it was brilliant to see Jenson back on form – all Woking needs now is to shake off the terrible luck continuing to bog down Hamilton's campaign.
While his unlapping efforts on Sebastian Vettel were more than just a matter of pragmatism for the number four, what happened for the rest of his Sunday was a crying shame. Lewis deserves better. When his talent gets to shine, few are better to watch – but he lucked out again.
McLaren have been here before. And it may be 2012 just isn't meant to be for them, Lewis or Jenson. In fact, they may already be too far behind. But here's hoping their luck changes.
• Admittedly it is seven days early, but this week's column signals my last effort this side of the summer break.
I will be back to look ahead at what promises to be a superb conclusion to 2012 in the EDP on Wednesday, August 29.
In the meantime, don't forget to check out our EDPF1 podcasts – see the link at the top-right of this page.
See you on the other side.