Button at Spa and Hamilton at Monza. Both the British drivers seem to be spearheading a solid charge back to winning ways for McLaren. The second half of the season has seen the Woking team in regular contention for race wins and podium finishes.
After Lewis’ win at Canada nearly four races ago it seemed that Ferrari and Red Bull were the main contenders this season. But McLaren are back. And Red Bull recorded their first double DNF! It looks like the RB8 is no longer its bulletproof self. And that may have shaken up the defending champion’s confidence.
At Monza, Lewis Hamilton led from start to finish in a commanding fashion. He was fastest through most of the weekend much to the disappointment of the local tifosi. Behind him though was the real fight.
Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa for Ferrari from Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus Renault and the Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. The Mercedes cars of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg featured merely as supporting cast amongst the Toro Rossos and Force India cars.
But the real sensations in terms of throwing up a surprise came from the Sauber garage. Kamui Kobayashi from Japan and Sergio Perez from Mexico entertained F1 fans all over by qualifying their cars in the top 4 at Spa and finishing in P2 at Monza. Beating the Ferraris to it.
With that qualifying effort, Kobayashi has earned Sauber their highest grid position ever. And with Perez’s fantastic charge in the closing stages of the Italian Grand Prix the team recorded their highest finish ever, matched by the same driver again.
Sergio was sublime.
Driving a car powered by a Ferrari engine at its spiritual home track, the Mexican was reeling down race leader Hamilton by 1.5 seconds a lap. The Swiss team kept him out on a one-stop strategy knowing that the C31 is easy on tyre wear. This enabled him to leap frog 10 cars that included former world champions in race-winning machinery.
Such was his speed and determination in passing that he dived past Fernando Alonso in a clean slipstreaming manoeuvre without enabling DRS for P2.
Monisha Kaltenborn, team CEO of Sauber Ferrari has promised more to come in terms of performance and results from Sauber. That’s the best news for the Swiss team who’ve already amassed 100 points. Almost double than that of their entire 2011 campaign.
Back to McLaren. Although they notched up two successive wins in two of the world’s fastest circuits they still have a niggling reliability problem that surprised them at Monza when Button’s car was pulled over to the side of the track. Bad luck struck them at Spa when Lewis’ MP4 27 was the victim of an adventurous move from Romain Grosjean that saw him out at turn one.
With only one car coming home, a team can only amass that many points. That may not help McLaren’s cause in the Constructor’s championship fight. Martin Whitmarsh will be fully aware of this. But for now he doesn’t need to worry. McLaren can head to Singapore knowing fully well that they now clearly own the fastest car of the field in Formula 1.