Bitten by the weather bug Shane :( For me dry-damp-wet transitions are ok, but wet to dry conditions are almost impossible to get right. Fingers crossed for a patch soon.
Qualifying target – 21st
Race target – 19th
Practice is forecast to be mostly wet, with quali even wetter and, thank god, a dry race.
The practice session begins with blazing sunshine, so I head straight out to get as much dry running as possible.
For some reason finding a decent set up takes ages, and I’m still struggling with the braking into turn 10 by the time the clouds start rolling in and for some reason my 7th gear just isn’t long enough for the start/finish straight with DRS open.
As the rain just begins to fall I get turn 10 totally wrong and I have to limp back to the pits without a front wing. By the time I get back out the track is pretty drenched. There’s still 30 minutes left, so I spend the rest of the time testing how far I can push with my dry set up in the rain. I finish in last place, over 10 seconds adrift.
Qualifying, as expected starts off in heavy rain. I’m not too worried about where I qualify here, as the conditions will be so different in the race. I’m set up for dry conditions, with the only compromise being less sensitive brakes.
I try to runs, and manage somehow to get myself into 22nd ahead of the two HRTs. I wonder if the rest of the field is going for a dry set up too?
By the end of Q3 the rain has stopped and the sun is beating down onto the track, so I head out with 5 minutes left on inters hoping that it will dry up in time. I notice a few others try the same too. Unfortunately, the desert sun doesn’t evaporate the water quickly enough and I spin and slide around the track for a few laps without improving my laptime.
So onto the race, and I’m starting 21st as it seems Vergne has received a penalty at some point. I choose to start on options.
Get a decent start, staying ahead of the HRTs although Vergne is alongside me before turn 1, presumably via the aid of KERS. Seeing a gap in the pack, I dive straight down the middle. I bump a Force India very gently on the gearbox, but we’re both ok and I emerge from turn 3 in 15th place! I overtake another two cars into turn 4, into 13th, and take one of the Saubers into turns 6 and 7 to take 12th. I enjoy making an awesome move on Ricciardo into Turn 10, sliding just down the inside pretty much sideways – it’s probably as much luck as anything, but it feels great and looks pretty amazing! At the end of the lap I’m in 11th.
For the first couple of laps I seem to keeping up a good pace, easily keeping the rest of the pack behind, being led by Schumacher and Hulkenburg who trade places a few times. Finally Schumacher gets close enough for DRS on lap 5 and he streaks past followed by Hulkenburg. Ricciardo gets his revenge at the last corner, meaning I’ve lost 3 places in one lap and I’m now down to 14th. Another lap, and another two cars overtake, and I’m going into lap 7 in 16th.
I’ve now got the Caterhams behind me, with Vergne and Senna behind them. I’m surprised at my pace though, I’m maintaining the gap to Petrov behind and occasionally pulling out a few tenths on him. I decide to make my stop on lap 11, although my tyres could probably last a bit longer, with Petrov around 3 seconds behind.
I turn the engine up for a few laps, as my rivals make their pitstops. To my delight, my early stop seems to be a strategic masterstroke as my nearest rival, Petrov, is now 9 seconds behind! Vergne appears to have got ahead of me during the stops, but I’m not really worried as I wouldn’t have been able to match him for pace. Senna started on primes, and is ahead of me now having not stopped yet.
My pace is still strong on the primes and I’m easily able to match Petrov, both of us runnning in the 1’42s and occasionally dipping into 1’41s. It’s just a case of consistancy for the forseeable future and I can finish 19th.
Things are going well, although as usual the leaders lapping us backmarkers is causing the usual trouble. The gap to Petrov fluctuates between 4 and 10 seconds, and once the top 10 have passed through it is around 5 seconds between me and Petrov, and I notice Heikki is very close behind.
I’ve driven 23 laps now of the Bahrain circuit, I’ve completed practice and qualifying in the same sitting and it’s 10.30 in the evening at the end of long week at work – I have to admit, I’m exhausted!
Maldonado overtakes under blue flags, and I get DRS down the start/finish straight along with a good tow behind him. My mind wanders just slightly, and I miss the braking for turn 1.
Not just braking a bit too late, not even a lot too late – I just don’t even brake at all, not until I’m almost off the track itself!
Disaster – luckily there’s acres of run off there, but I lose a ton of time, maybe 15 seconds.
I see my 23 laps of hard work fall apart, as the two Caterhams, my teammate Glock and Pedro de la Rosa drive past as I struggle back onto the track. There’s still 4 laps left, and I push to try to get back at de la Rosa, who is initially only 2 seconds ahead, but I just keep making mistakes – maybe it’s frustration, or tiredness, or my tyres starting to fall away, or a bit of all of the above, but I just can’t make any in roads.
Karthikeyan is 20 seconds behind, so the last few laps are quiet and pretty disheartening really. I start to catch up into lap 26, and I’m just 2 seconds behind DLR again.. But my hopes are dashed as Hamilton laps me again and my race finishes at the end of lap 27 in a dissappointing 23rd.
My girlfriend has joined me in the front room by now, and her simple ‘what’s up?’ as I cross the finish line elicits a long, drawn out sigh. I don’t have the energy to explain how one stupid mistake cost me a good result and wasted a couple of hours or so of hard work and concentration.
Oh, the ecstasy and the agony of Formula 1!
Still, lots of positives to take back into Europe. I’m down to last place now in the standings, but I’m confident I’ve got the pace to get a decent result in Catalunya.