After seven unpredictable and tightly-contested grands prix, Valencia last weekend reminded many F1 analysts of a dominant past.
On the concrete-lined streets, where Sebastian Vettel dominated in his two past championship seasons, the field was once again forced to play second fiddle to a dominant Red Bull. Only a technical problem stopped the German’s charge, but the message was clear: the RB8’s latest updates – notably a new double-diffuser style floor – worked perfectly.
An unusually big gap to second place was the first hint after Vettel’s strong pole on Saturday, and the next day “Red Bull were phenomenally quick,” noted McLaren’s Jenson Button, “and it was unexpected.”
“For the first time this season,” said former Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari, “we saw someone so much quicker than the rest.
“Sebastian Vettel’s start and the first half of his race were astronomical and reminded us of the driver of last year.
“The way his team has achieved a very important aerodynamic step could be decisive for the near future,” the Spaniard told El Mundo newspaper.
But Vettel and Lewis Hamilton’s failures to finish have given Fernando Alonso a big points gap as F1 speeds towards mid-season, but – like McLaren – Ferrari is also wary of the stride forward taken by Red Bull.
“We know what our target is at the end of November and we know that (Red Bull) did something very good this weekend and improved their car,” said team boss Stefano Domenicali.
Although gutted after Vettel’s failure on Sunday, Domenicali’s Red Bull counterpart is also fully conscious of the real situation, with Alonso benefitting from incredible consistency and reliability, if not out-and-out pace.
“Fernando has done a tremendous job,” said Christian Horner, “but statistics say he has to have one bad weekend in 20. It will hopefully balance itself out over the course of the season,” said the Briton.