The game of woulda, coulda, shoulda is played out far too often in motor racing as an excuse for losing, but sometimes — like in Sunday’s European Grand Prix on the Valencia Street Circuit — it’s valid.
Sebastian Vettel’s victory for Red Bull certainly will now be debated long and hard after a series of moves by race stewards brought the race outcome into question. While the young German dominated the proceedings, the Lap 10 incident between Mark Webber and Heikki Kovalainen that brought out the safety car changed the whole complexion of the race.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton passed the safety car — a no-no in any form of racing — and he was dutifully penalized with a pit road drive-through. However, by the time that penalty was served — about 20 minutes after the infraction — Hamilton had built up a huge lead over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who was in third place at the time.
Alonso and Ferrari lost any chance right then to challenge Vettel in the closing laps.
Ferrari screamed bloody murder afterwards to no avail. The result will stand.
“A scandal, that’s the opinion of so many fans and employees who are all in agreement: There is no other way to describe what happened during the European Grand Prix,” Ferrari said in a statement released by the team. “The way the race and the incidents during it were managed raise doubts that could see Formula One lose some credibility again, as it was seen around the world.”
Alonso went so far as to charge that the stewards “manipulated” the outcome of the race.
“It’s a shame, not for us because this is racing, but for all the fans who came here to watch a manipulated race,” Alonso told a Spanish television network. “We were running well, in third after a good start. Then the safety car came out, which wasn’t too good for us, but Hamilton overtook the safety car, something that I had never seen, overtaking the medical car with yellow flags. We were a metre off each other, and he finished second and I finished ninth.”
None other than four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson thinks that folks should ease up on Danica Patrick’s performance in the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. Johnson said that once Patrick gets “it” (how best to drive the big heavy stock cars) she’ll find success. “I do sympathize with her on the project and commended her for taking the risk and chance and giving it a shot. Hopefully she has the patience to stick it out for a long time and find her way through it all.” ... How long will it be before notorious meddling owner Dietrich Mateschitz order major changes — possible a change of manufacturer from Toyota to Dodge — on the Red Bull Sprint Cup team ...What was leaked out last week — that the IZOD IndyCar series will race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2011 was made official on Sunday. “We’re pleased to restore an Indycar short oval to the schedule to further increase our diversity of venues,” Randy Bernard, chief executive officer of the Indy Racing League, sanctioning body of the IZOD IndyCar Series, said in a release.
Nascar sprint cup
For all those out there who thought Jimmie Johnson’s “drive for five” NASCAR Sprint Cup championships was stalled, check again.
The No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet won the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 on Sunday — his second consecutive victory and his fourth top six finish in the past four races.
The win moves Johnson to within 105 points of current leader Kevin Harvick, who finished fifth Sunday.
Johnson battled door to door on the final 10 laps with the No. 2 Penske Dodge of Kurt Busch but after each took turn bumping the other out of the way, Johnson moved to the front on the final two laps.
Tony Stewart, in the No. 24 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, moved past Busch to finish third and Jeff Gordon was fourth in the No. 24 HMS Chevrolet.
Sebastian Vettel won for Red Bull on the Valencia Street Circuit but it was Mark Webber’s spectacular crash at 300 km/h that will remain the highlight of Sunday’s European Grand Prix.
Vettel was joined on the podium by second-place finisher Lewis Hamilton and his McLaren teammate Jenson Button, who finished third.
Webber, however, dodged death when his race car somersaulted in mid-air after colliding with the back tire of Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus.
The Australian driver was attempting to pass Kovalainen on Lap 10, but appeared to misjudge how much faster he was than the Finn. He ended up flying through the air and landing head first into the pavement before turning over again and slamming into a tire barrier.
That Webber walked away was a miracle.