F1 reporter Matt Youson gives us his take on the latest news coming out of the paddock following Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix...
Schumacher gets a grid penalty for Monaco
Michael Schumacher tends to have quite a good poker face but just occasionally it slips when he’s really, really annoyed. That seemed to be the case today after his collision with Bruno Senna. Schumacher ran into the back of the Williams as the pair jostled for eighth, Schumacher on fresh tyres with a big speed advantage and Senna yet to stop. It was clear that Michael, beached in the gravel was less than happy, shaking his head and throwing his steering wheel out of the car.
“My viewpoint was that he [Senna] went to the right to defend the inside line, and then suddenly, shortly before the braking point, went to the left,” he later said when somewhat calmer. “When you are so tight together in the braking zone, you have no other choice than to try to react and avoid hitting but it was too late.”
'I was on very old rubber, so I guess our braking points were uneven for turn one'
Senna shrugged it off: “Of course, he's not going to say it's his fault but at the end of the day he had much newer tyres than me. I was on very old rubber, so I guess our braking points were uneven for turn one. When I went to brake, he probably just tried to cross and he hit me.”
The Stewards summoned both and didn’t take very long to side with Senna and penalise Michael by dropping him down the grid by five places in Monaco. Given the near-impossibility of overtaking at Monaco that should be a massive punishment – but Michael was moved to the back of the grid in 2006 and was utterly imperious in carving his way through to fifth in the race, so five places is probably little more than a minor irritant.
This, incidentally, wasn’t the first time Schumacher has collided with someone named Senna and been really quite grumpy about it.
You really have to given enormous credit to Lewis Hamilton for maintaining a cheerful disposition in the face of a run of luck which makes you assume he’s spent the winter breaking mirrors while walking under ladders, having been distracted by the herd of black cats crossing his path. He’s arguably been the fastest driver this season but isn’t one of the five men with a tick in the win column. He was beaten to the first corner in Melbourne by his team-mate, so doesn’t have a case there, but since his troubles have been entirely in the gift of others. In Malaysia his pole position was swallowed by a torrential downpour and then his race hampered by a slow pitstop with a rear jack problem. In China a gearbox change dropped him from second to seventh on the grid and took away his chances of attacking Nico Rosberg. In Bahrain he had a successive left rear wheels that just didn’t want to come off the hub, and those slow pitstops cost him a shot at the podium. And here in Spain after a frankly sublime qualifying lap he was pushed to the back because of a fuelling error in qualifying. So, what did he say after driving his heart out for a paltry eighth today? “I’m quite happy with that: the team did a great job.” That really is taking one for the team.
Oddly enough, while Hamilton was making the best of it, the usually cheerful Jenson Button was quite the opposite. Jenson’s been struggling with his car all weekend, and generally baffled by why it isn’t doing what it’s supposed to. “From the word go I really wasn’t that comfortable in the car and I couldn’t get it working. It’s not just one end. I feel like I have very low grip all the time.” he said. “I’m just personally disappointed with how the car felt underneath me – but it’s something I need to solve myself and find something that suits me a bit better… Hopefully we’ll solve it for Monaco because it’s a circuit I love.”
Williams, better than most teams, are aware of F1’s history and so it was entirely fitting that team manager Dickie Stanford was the man who went up onto the podium at the Circuit de Catalunya to collect the constructor’s trophy. Dickie performed that task the last time Williams won a race, eight years ago at the Brazilian Grand Prix of 2004.
This isn’t Dickie’s first taste of champagne at the Spanish Grand Prix. In a career with Williams that started in 1985 as a race team mechanic, later chief mechanic he’ll have seen Williams win here (and at Jerez) with Nigel Mansell (three times), Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve.
History repeating again
History has a habit of repeating in F1. We had different winners in the first four races of this season. The last time that happened was 1983, when Nelson Piquet won at home in Brazil for Brabham, followed by John Watson (from 22nd on the grid) in Long Beach for McLaren. Then Alain Prost took a very popular win in France for Renault and a no-less popular Patrick Tambay triumphed at Imola for Ferrari. That year the sequence was extended to five when Keke Rosberg won in Monaco, of course driving for Williams, just like Pastor Maldonado was here. We’ve never had six winners in the first six races in the history of F1 – but with Kimi Räikkönen, Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber – Monaco winners all – yet to take a victory, it doesn’t seem impossible that we might see it this year.