Thursday, September 01, 2011


After 17 wins, victory is still sweet for Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel’s dominance of Formula 1 is reminiscent of his compatriot, Michael Schumacher, from a few years ago. 

In 2004, Schumacher won 5 of the first six races.  This was replicated this year by Vettel.  Whilst Schumacher went on to win almost all of the remaining races on offer, and Vettel probably won’t, his lead at the top of the championship is almost unsailable. 
Spa is a track at which Red Bull Racing have never really perfo rmed well at.  With their lower peak engine power and higher downforce, the quicker tracks are their least strongest.  Despite this,  the sheer speed of both Sebastian Vettel, and his car ‘Kinky Kylie’ carried Vettel to an eighth pole position of the season.

From pole, it was a clean getaway that kept him in the lead, or for the first corner anyway.  Behind Vettel, Alonso moved upto fourth from eighth, and Rosberg passed both Ferraris into turn one, and slow starting Webber  and Hamilton off the line. 
Further back, race rustiness showed its hand for Brazilian returnee, Bruno Senna.  He overcooked turn one, and collided with Jaime Alguersuari (who just tapped Fernando Alonso, 

breaking his front left suspension).  The two Lotuses also collided.

Vettel’s lead wasn’t always guaranteed though.  After de fending through the first corner, Rosbergs straight line speed carried him to the gearbox of Vettel’s car, and with a healthy slipstream, the overtake was a mere formality.

When DRS was enabled after three laps, defending from Vettel was a step too difficult for Rosberg.  The champion found a way through on the run down to Les Coumbes.
Michael Schumacher’s anniversary drive had started well.  He had picked off 12 cars in the first three laps and was one of the quickest on the track. 
Button wasn’t going so well.  After a disappointing qualifying, Button was left with 13th.  He was caught up in the first corner carnage, and had lost a front wing end-plate and a wing mirror in the contact.

The final remaining Toro Rosso was taken out of the race by Sergio Perez, in  a mistimed overtaking manoeuvre.

The biggest talking point of the race wasn’t about the Pirelli tyres not withstanding the pressure, but instead Lewis Hamilton’s aggressive driving.
On lap 14, Hamilton misjudged a move on Kamui Kobayashi.  The McLaren had recently pitted (whilst Kobayashi had not) and had closed in on the Sauber.  As Hamilton pulled out to pass Kobayashi, he didn't realise that the Sauber was still on the racing line, and turned in in front of him.  Hamilton’s race was over as he was pitched into a spin, hitting the wall.  The safety car was needed.

Vettel was the only front runner to pit immediately, and was able to return to the track with only Webber and Alonso in front.  By the time the safety car came into the pits, both of the leading duo had given in, and were in need of some fresh rubber.  Vettel resumed his lead. 

From this point, it was plain sailing for Vettel.  The battle for second was beginning to get tasty.  After previously passing Alonso around the outside in Eau Rouge, Mark Webber had to make another pass on the Spaniard.  With better tyres, DRS and a quicker car, Webber could breeze past the Spaniard.

Vettel, chased down by Rosberg early on in the race

Button and Schumacher were also on the move. Button had also caught up with Alonso, and pulled off a move similar to that of Webber.  Schumacher’s charge was topped off with a pass on his team-mate for fifth.  Again, tyres and DRS made this easy for Schumi.  Vettel made it to the finish without any tyre worries for win number 17.  He’ll be hard to catch in the remainder of the season!

Monday, June 13, 2011


Jenson Button crossing the line to win in Montreal, capping off a fabulous
After much discussion and controversy about the postponement of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday afternoon saw business resumed when the cars took to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
The Friday and Saturday practices were littered with crashes, spins and red flags.  The highest profile early casualty of the unforgiving barriers was none other than championship leader Sebastian Vettel.  He carried too much speed into the final chicane and ran wide into the aptly named ‘Wall of Champions.’
Whilst Vettel’s Red Bull was quickly fixed, the same could not be said for team mate Mark Webber.  He didn’t crash his car, but rather his Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) had failed with seemingly no solution.  A compromise had been found come qualifying, though.
The final pre-qualifying news was that of Sauber driver, Sergio Perez.  After his heavy shunt in Monaco qualifying, Perez decided that he was unconfident in driving the Sauber and withdrew from the weekend’s action.  His replacement was McLaren reserve, Pedro de la Rosa (McLaren overalls included).  There were frowns all round as de la Rosa destroyed his car after only a few laps in practice.
With practice over, it was time for qualifying.  The six usual casualties fell in Q1 (Trulli, Kovalainen, Glock, Liuzzi, Karthikeyan and D’Ambrosio) alongside the Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari.  In Q2 it was again a pretty familiar story.  Both Williamses, Force Indias, Saubers fell at the second hurdle with Buemi’s Toro Rosso. 
The top 10 shootout was won by Sebastian Vettel for the 6th time this year.  The surprise of the session was Felipe Massa, who slotted in behind his teammate Alonso for third.  Webber came fourth, Hamilton fifth, Rosberg sixth, Button seventh, Schumacher eighth, Heidfeld and Petrov ninth and tenth respectively.
Despite an eventful practice and qualifying sessions, that wasn’t a patch on the action which was about to unfold.  Rain had fallen consistently overnight and the track was wet.  As a result of this, a safety car start was declared by race director, Charlie Whiting.
The safety car peeled into the pits after three laps, and after the first corner in full race conditions, Lewis Hamilton was already in the wars.  He tried an over optimistic move on Mark Webber, pitching the Red Bull into a spin.  On the following lap, a failed attempt to pass Michael Schumacher saw Hamilton run wide at the hairpin, letting teammate Button through.  However, Button and Hamilton got even closer to each other when they collided on the main straight.  Button continued with no damage, however Hamilton (arguably the main culprit on both occasions) pulled over with a broken suspension. 
At the front, Vettel had pulled out a 5 second lead before the safety car returned to the track to clear the stricken McLaren from the track.  When the safety car came in, Vettel had once more ‘aced’ the restart pulling out a gap on Alonso. 
The day took a turn for the worse for Jenson Button after 13 laps.  He was awarded a drive through penalty for exceeding the safety car speed limit.  Hamilton also was also under investigation for the same reason, however as he was already out of the race, got no penalty.
Button was on the intermediate tyres at this point, and Alonso, Sutil, Rosberg, Schumacher and Webber had followed him in.  This proved to be a bad move as the rain began to intensify with 24 laps gone.  The safety car was brought out initially, however when it became clear that the rain was going nowhere for the time being, the red flag was waved for the second race in a row.
The race was stopped for over two hours
As the rain continued to fall, marshals frantically tried to clear the track from rain.  In the break there was very little actually going on and tv pictures showed lots of mechanics eating burgers and a few shots of Rihanna in one of the hospitality areas.  The most dramatic moment of the red flag break came when a cameraman taking pictures of the Barbadian singer fell over right infront of her.  Had they collided, a safety car might have been needed to clear the carnage, but thankfully no collision occurred.
The proper race resumed after a two-and-a-bit hour break behind the safety car.  At this point the order was 1 Vettel, 2 Kobayashi, 3 Massa, 4 Heidfeld, 5 Petrov, 6 Di Resta, 7 Webber, 8 Alonso, 9 de la Rosa, 10 Button.  Remarkably at this point, Hamilton was the only retirement. 
When the safety car returned to the pits, Vettel once more pulled out a comfortable lead on Kobayashi.  Button had passed de la Rosa on the restart, and the majority of the field elected to pit for the intermediate tyres on the now drying track.  This put Button and Alonso close together, and Alonso attempting a seemingly impossible move resulted in the Ferrari pointing backwards into the wall and a puncture for Button.  Another pitstop for Button resulted and at this point, he was 21st and last.
Another safety car stint was required to clear the Ferrari from the second chicane.  The top four remained the same with Paul di Resta lying in fifth and Michael Schumacher sixth.  Schumacher worked his way up to fourth after the race resumption with Kobayashi jostling for position on the intermediate tyres.  When Kobayashi ran wide, he pushed Massa to the outside of the track letting Schumacher through for second.
The time had now passed for dry tyres and with it, the return of the Drag Reduction System.  Massa had spun and hit the wall whilst trying to lap Karthikeyan.  This came after his pitstop and the dry tyres aquaplaned on the wet surface off the racing line.
After this, Heidfeld had closed the gap on Kobayashi.  Kobayashi was quite a bit slower than the Renault, who then proceeded to bump into the back of the Kobayashisan.  The front wing on the Renault had now failed, and the car jumped over the wing and off the track.  This brought out another safety car.
With Schumacher in second, it was unlikely that he would hold onto his podium position with both Button and Webber behind.  This combined with the Drag Reduction System meant that he was a sitting duck on the back straight, and Button passed easily.
Vettel’s lead had been reduced to three seconds, and Webber was hot in pursuit of Schumacher for the final spot on the rostrum. 
The last lap had now come with Button 0.9 seconds off Vettel and Webber now ahead of Schumacher.  Button seemed to be waiting to line up Vettel at the DRS zone.  However, his move occurred early, as Vettel slid off the road at turn six.  Button now had a comfortable lead, with Vettel second. 
The top three line up with Paddy Lowe of McLaren on the
Soon enough, Button crossed the line. His magnificent comeback from 21st to 1st had been completed and he had been through the pit lane six times in total.  Vettel’s streak of wins had once again been stopped, but with the Red Bull driver finishing second, many wondered if it would only be a matter of time before he collected the championship.
Regardless of the championship, Button had won and had been the best driver on the day.  The season continues with the European Grand Prix in two weeks from Valencia. 
Vettel’s championship lead is at 60 points over Jenson Button (Vettel on 161pts).  Mark Webber lies third (94), Hamilton fourth (85), Alonso fifth (69), Massa sixth (32), Petrov seventh (31) and Heidfeld eighth (29).
This was certainly a race that will live long in the memory of those who watched it.  It will also go down in history books as the longest Grand Prix of all time.

Monday, November 08, 2010


As is with the end of any Formula 1 season, there are a variety of gongs up for grabs.  Some are yet to be won, others have already been decided.

Constructors' Championship
Firstly, yesterdays' grand prix saw the 2010 constructors champions crowned.  This honour went to Red Bull Racing, in only their sixth season in Formula 1.  Austria becomes the sixth nationality of a winning Formula 1 constructor.  Red Bull become the 14th team to take top honours, and also this is the second year in a row which has seen first time champions.  As an engine supplier, Renault have won the championship for the ninth time.  This puts them in third overall, with 1 win behind Ford.

Below is the current standings as of the penultimate race:

1.  Red Bull Racing - Renault              469 Points        WORLD CHAMPIONS
2.  Vodafone McLaren Mercedes          421 Points
3.  Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro               389 Points
4.  Petronas Mercedes Grand Prix        202 Points
5.  Renault F1 Team                         145 Points
6.  Williams Formula 1 - Cosworth      69 Points
7.  Force India - Mercedes                 68 Points
8.  BMW Sauber - Ferrari                   44 Points
9.  Scuderia Toro Rosso - Ferrari        11 Points

 DHL Fastest Lap Competition

The next issue to be resolved is the DHL fastest lap competition.  This is awarded to the driver who has gathered most fastest laps over an entire season.  So far this has yet to be won, but only two drivers are in the reckoning.  With one race left, this is how it stands:

1.  Alonso            5 [Bahrain, Britain, Italy, Singapore, Korea];
2.  Hamilton         4 [China, Spain, Belgium, Brazil];
3.  Webber           3 [Australia, Malaysia, Japan];
3.  Vettel             3 [Monaco, Germany, Hungary];
5.  Button            1 [Europe];
5.  Kubica            1 [Canada];
5.  Petrov            1 [Turkey].

*As a side note - did you know, Mercedes have only ever won two constructors championships as an engine supplier.  The last with Brawn GP last year, but before that 1998 with McLaren.  They would have won in 2007 had McLaren not been disqualified for Spy alligations.

Drivers' Championship

The top five contenders for the 2010 Formula One championship posed for a photo at the Korean International Circuit in Yeongam, South Korea, in October. Yeongam was host to Korea's first Formula One race on Sunday Oct 24, won by Fernando Alonso. Pictured from left, McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain, Ferrari Formula One driver Fernando Alonso of Spain, Red Bull Formula One driver Mark Webber of Australia, McLaren Formula One driver Jenson Button of Britain and Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany.
The five condenders are now down to four.  From l-r:  Hamilton, Alonso, Webber, Button and Vettel.
Now the biggy.  The Formula 1 Driver's World Championship will go down to the wire in this weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.  It will be contested between four drivers:  Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.  Of the four drivers, only Fernando Alonso (2) and Lewis Hamilton (1) have won world championships. 

Last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was won by Sebastian Vettel with Mark Webber second and Jenson Button third. 
Interestingly, if the championship was completed using last year's result, Vettel and Webber would be even on points with Alonso 3rd.  Alonso finished last year in 14th place, however he was in a rather inferior Renault then.

Now I shall attempt to list each permutation or possibility of how each driver can win the championship this weekend.

For Fernando Alonso to win the 2010 Championship:
  • If Alonso wins, or finishes second, he will become World Champion, regardless of where his opponents finish.
  • If Alonso comes third, he must hope that Webber does not win.
  • If fourth, Alonso must also hope Webber doesn't take top spot.
  • If he finishes fifth, he must hope that Webber does not come in the top two, and Vettel does not win.
  • If sixth, he must hope that Webber does not finish on the podium and Vettel does not win.
  • If seventh, he must again hope Webber doesn't come in top three, and Vettel does not win.
  • If eighth, he must hope that Webber doesn't finish in the top five, and Vettel cannot win.
  • If Alonso finishes ninth, he must hope that Webber doesn't finish in the top five, and Vettel in the top two.
  • If tenth, he must hope that Webber doesn't come in the top five, Vettel doesn't come first or second.
  • If Alonso fails to score, he must hope that Webber doesn't finish in the top five and Vettel in the top two.  He must also hope that Lewis Hamilton can't win.
"The main goal for us is to be on pole on Saturday and then win the race on Sunday.   If we cannot do that, if we are not quick enough, then we will try to be second. With that, the problem is finished."   Fernando Alonso

Official: Mark Webber Stays With Red Bull For 2011 mark webberFor Mark Webber to win the 2010 Championship:

  • He must win the race and hope that Alonso finishes third or below.
  • If he comes second, he must hope that Vettel does not win and Alonso finishes below fifth.
  • If he comes third, he must hope that Alonso finishes seventh or below and Vettel does not win.
  • If he comes fourth, he must hope that Alonso does not come inside the top nine and Vettel does not win.
  • If he comes fifth, he must hope that Alonso does not finish ninth or better.  Vettel must also not come in the top two.
  • If he comes sixth or below, Webber cannot mathematically become world champion.
“P1 [in Brazil] would have been nice but it was not possible. But I’m still in the hunt and it’s nice for me to come back after a poor race in Korea.   I’m still in with a big chance, so I’ll go [to Abu Dhabi]  and do my best.”  Mark Webber

For Sebastian Vettel to win the 2010 Championship:
  • If he wins, he must hope that Alonso finishes no higher than fifth.
  • If he comes second, he must hope that Alonso finishes ninth or below and Webber finishes below fifth.
  • If Vettel finishes third or below, he cannot mathematically become world champion.

"In my case, it is pretty straightforward - all I can do is optimise my result, ideally repeat the result we achieved today and then it depends where those two guys are.  For sure, you will have to judge according to the situation. Both of  us, we know how to react. We had some moments we're not very proud of and which we don't want to repeat."  Sebastian Vettel

For Lewis Hamilton to win the 2010 championship.
  • He must win the race and hope that Alonso fails to score, Webber fails to finish in the top six and Vettel fails to finish on the podium.
  • If Hamilton fails to win the race, he cannot mathematically become world champion.
"We weren't quick enough here and we won't be quick enough in Abu Dhabi.  Realistically, we need a miracle.”  Lewis Hamilton

As it stands:
1.  Fernando Alonso        Ferrari        246 points
2.  Mark Webber            Red Bull     238 points
3.  Sebastian Vettel         Red Bull     231 points
4.  Lewis Hamilton          McLaren    222 points
5.  Jenson Button            McLaren    199 points
6.  Felipe Massa             Ferrari        143 points
7.  Nico Rosberg            Mercedes   130 points
8.  Robert Kubica           Renault       126 points
9.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes   72 points
10.  Rubens Barrichello   Williams     47 points

Key - 1st - 25 pts, 2nd - 18 pts, 3rd - 15 pts, 4th - 12 pts, 5th - 10 pts, 6th - 8 pts, 7th - 6 pts, 8 - 4 pts, 9 - 2 pts, 10 - 1 pt.

The most interesting championship permutation is if Vettel wins, Webber second, and Alonso fifth.  That would mean that each of the three drivers end the season equal on 256 points.  In such a scenario, the champion would be decided by countback of wins, then seconds, then thirds, and so on.  Vettel and Alonso would be equal on wins, equal on second places, equal on thirds.  Then as Alonso would have 2 fourth placed finishes, and Vettel 3, Vettel would be 2010 world champion.

This is just one of around 1000 possibilities of how the championship will end.

The final race of the season is in Abu Dhabi this weekend.  Qualifying is at 12:15 on Saturday afternoon (BBC1).  The race itself on Sunday afternoon at 12:10. 

More build up to the championship finale will be posted here throughout the week. 


The Brazilian Grand Prix is usually one race looked forward to by drivers, teams and media.  It is a unique race in that for the past five consecutive years, it has crowned the drivers' world champion.

This year, fresh from a streak of stunning performances, Fernando Alonso will have been hoping to add to that list.  However, much to the delight of all except Ferrari, that was not the case.

Practice was inconclusive as the championship protagonists (and Robert Kubica) traded blows at the top of the leaderboard.  Friday night ended, in the same way Saturday morning began.  With rain.  Rain was the last thing that Alonso, Webber and Vettel would have wanted, yet the McLaren drivers (Button and Hamilton) wanted to use it to their advantage, to claw their way back into title contention. 

Whilst the first qualifying session saw the usual six drivers eliminated alongside Adrian Sutil of Force India.  It was the latter, who came away from the session the least happy.  He nearly crashed as his team mate Liuzzi, spun and rejoined right in front.  Both were unpunished, however Sutil carried forward a five-place grid penalty for unsporting driving at the previous race. 

The surprise ommision from qualifying three was Jenson Button, however that would have been the least of his worries shortly after the session.  He was involved in an attempted mugging.  He escaped unharmed alongside his manager, trainer and father. 

As the rain eased for Q3, the teams considered the use of dry tyres.  They gave in eventually, and it was Nico Hulkenberg who had the upper hand.  As team after team, and driver after driver set lap times, they were absolutely obliterated in the end bu the german rookie.  He set pole position with two laps capable of fastest, and a healthy one second lead over Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.  Hamilton was fourth and Alonso fifth.

On Sunday morning, the rain had completely stopped.  This left a lovely blue sky and dry track.  At the start, Nico Hulkenberg could not maintain his lead, and was behind Vettel even before the first corner.  Webber was next through shortly later.

At this stage, Alonso had passed Hamilton and was now right on Hulkenberg's tail.  Yet, somehow, the clearly inferior Williams was still ahead.  Lap in, lap out, Hulkenberg was holding off Alonso on the main pit straight, by taking the tighter line into the first corner.  Eventually, Alonso changed his line.  He decided to go slower through the first corner, letting him run closer through turn 3, and had a better slipstream on the back straight.  This did work, and Alonso ducked through on Hulkenberg at turn four.  The move was described as "beautiful" by race engineer, Andrea Stella.

Held up in the same train of cars led by Hulkenberg was Jenson Button.  Having started eleventh, Button had worked his way up to tenth, including being passed by Schumacher.  He decided to take the risk and completely alter his strategy by pitting first, or pulling the trigger as it so happened.
The reason for this analogy is that over the next three laps, all drivers from Hulkenberg to Liuzzi in sixteenth, with the exception of Hamilton, Schumacher, Rosberg and Sutil, pitted.  This proved to be inspired for both McLaren drivers, as they ended fourth (Hamilton), and fifth (Button).

The race didn't really settle down from its frantic pace, until Liuzzi had buried his Force India in the hedge on lap 49.  Before this moment, local heroes Massa and Barrichello had both being having terrible races, inflicted by two wheel related issues.  As the safety car entered for its moment of glory, both Button and Hamilton chose to pit again.  This may have been a risk, had it not been for the colossial gap behind to Rosberg.  They aimed to charge down Alonso with fresh tyres.  This did not really pay off for the team, as they lost time navigating well over half of the field on the restart. 

After the restart, it became an easy victory for Vettel.  With Webber trying to close him down before the end, it was apparant that an engine issue would pay claim to his hopes of winning the race.  In third at the finish was Alonso, who's slender lead would continue into the final race of the season.  In fourth, Hamilton, fifth, Button (who's championship reign was ended), and sixth Rosberg.  Rounding out the points were Schumacher, pole sitter Hulkenberg, Kubica and Kamui Kobayashi.

A further blog will be up on this site with the state of the championship heading to the final race in Abu Dhabi next weekend.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Two weeks ago, the tarmac hadn’t even been laid at the Korean International Circuit.  Earlier today though, it hosted its inaugural Grand Prix after 14 days and nights of hard work.
The track had been branded the Hungaroring with more corners, and on Friday the dust seemed to be oozing out of the place.  The weather for the two Friday practice sessions stayed dry, allowing the drivers to get to grips with the track, the location, and the driving limits.
It was a rather eventful day as far as practices go, but the track time brought attention to a rather controversial section on the track.  The pitlane exit follows a blind right hand sweeping corner which starts right on the racing line.  With drivers forced to stay within the white line on entry, and a nasty bump which would be highlighted later on in the weekend, the drivers met on Friday evening to discuss potential changes to the corner.  They concluded that whilst there was not much that they could do for this year’s race, there would be a complete redesign of turn 17 next year.  The only change they confirmed for this year was that the rule of staying within the white line on entry would be abolished.
With track changes made, Saturday brought new challenges – driving on the limit.  Friday practices are used for high fuel testing and so, often the cars are not pushed to the limit.  On Saturday the teams do low fuel runs ahead of qualifying.  This tests the cars’ ultimate pace.
Under starters' orders: the pack make their way around the track behind the pace car
Safety car driver, Bernd Maylander, led more laps
than any other driver
Qualifying this year has been dominated by Red Bull Racing.  The surprise in Korea was though, that with one minute left on the clock, it was Fernando Alonso who had the lead.  True to form, Sebastian Vettel absolutely obliterated the opposition in qualifying with only one single lap.  Webber slotted in ahead of Alonso but behind Vettel.  Further back Nico Rosberg discretely pulled his car up to fifth on the grid, with Hamilton ahead, and Massa and Button behind.  Vitaly Petrov qualified in 15th, but due to a five place grid penalty gained at the previous race, started the race in 20th.
On Sunday morning the start time came and went without a sign of a racing lap.  After 10 minutes, it was announced that the race start would take place behind the safety car. The reason for this was heavy rain in the Yeongam provence.  This proved to be a mistake for the race organisers, as only a few laps in, the race was abruptly stopped and the restart delayed for well over an hour.
After much reluctance from the drivers, and waffle-panned commentary, the race resumed.  This was once again behind the safety car.  On lap 17, the safety car returned to the pits much to the excitement of a very keen Lewis Hamilton.  The race had only just properly started as the action commenced.  Championship leader Mark Webber fell victim to a self induced collision with the barrier on the first lap after the restart.  He ran wide at turn 12, getting on the dust and dirt at the exit.  He was slightly over exuberant on the pedal, and simply speared into the Armco.  This ended his race on the spot, but his rebound off the barrier collected Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, taking him out of the race as well.
Mark Webber was left with three wheels after an early collision
This crash brought out the safety car for a third time in the race.  Soon the safety car came in, and a flawless opening few laps gave Vettel a commanding race advantage.  In second was Fernando Alonso with Hamilton, Massa, Button and Schumacher in pursuit.  Schumacher was on the pace and keeping up with the front runners.  It wasn’t long before he had Button overtaken, the Brit slowing with tyre related problems.
At this point, the weather was still wet, at a level no different to that at the start of the race.  Further back, Sutil, Kobayashi, Liuzzi and Alguersuari providing most of the drama.  This group were the first to pit for the intermediate tyre, sparking a stop for Button and then the rest of the leaders.  Kobayashi was the star at the previous race in Suzuka, and seemed less inspired in Korea.  Instead of Kobayashi, it was Adrian Sutil causing most trouble.  This time, though, for all the wrong reasons.  Button had returned from his stop behind the aforementioned group, losing a lot of time, and subsequently points.  With Button managing to pass Sutil, it was when Sutil came back at him that cost him the race.  The two tangled wheels, sending Button off the track, and losing even more time to the front runners.  Even further back, the new teams were battling (and struggling) for pride.  Buemi collected Glock, earning the former a grid penalty for the next race.  Whilst a collision between Senna and Trulli went unnoticed by the stewards, Sutil’s crash with Kobayashi earned a similar penalty to Buemi.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Korean GP
Vettel was denied an easy win by his Renault engine

Petrov was left fuming after a spin into the barriers out of 7th on lap 39.  Vitaly Petrov is fighting for his position in the Renault team, and a good result would have helped his cause endlessly.  Vettel’s lead drastically decreased with only 11 laps remaining.  This was put down to an engine failure, and his race was over with the rest of the remaining (and reduced) field streaking past. 
This development allowed Fernando Alonso into the lead.  Alonso had been passed by Hamilton at his pitstop because of a jumpy wheel nut, but a mistake by Hamilton let Alonso back past.

Fernando Alonso celebrates his win in the wet
Fernando Alonso now leads the championship
Alonso’s lead became comfortable due to similar problems on Hamilton’s car, as to what was earlier experienced by team mate Button.  Behind, Hulkenberg’s strong sixth place quickly turned into a poor one point with a late puncture. 
The Spanish double world champion finished the race in near darkness, but deserved the result which sends him 11 points clear of Webber in the championship.  In second was Lewis Hamilton, who now moves up into third overall.  Alonso’s team mate, Felipe Massa, rounded out the podium places, with comeback king Michael Schumacher in fourth.  Robert Kubica failed to live up to the Friday hype, finishing only in fifth.  Liuzzi may well have saved his Force India bacon, with a strong 6th placed race finish.  In seventh was Rubens Barrichello, who lost two places in the closing laps.  He finished ahead of the two Saubers (Kobayashi and Heidfeld respectively) with Nico Hulkenberg claiming the final point.
Mark Webber now lies second overall, ten points clear of Lewis Hamilton.  Sebastian Vettel lies a further four behind, with Jenson Button realistically out of the reckoning in fifth.
The next race is in Brazil in two weeks.  This race has decided the championship winner in the past five years, and may well do so again this year.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Sebastian Vettel, winner of the Japanese GP
 After an rain aborted qualifying session, some critics doubted that this year's Japanese Grand Prix would even take place.  However, the race did start on schedule, and didn't fail to impress.

When the qualifying finally got going, Lewis Hamilton knew that he could only manage 6th at best.  This was due to an enforced gearbox change, which brought a five place grid penalty.  Realistically though, Hamilton knew that starting the race in the top 10 would be an achievement. 
It came down to a straight battle between Vettel and Webber in the end for top honours.  But, Vettel was unbeatable.  On his day Vettel can beat anyone and everyone, and this was it.  He had Webber well and truly beaten, and posted two laps both worthy of pole position. 

The race itself started at 3pm local time in Japan (6am GMT) in beautiful climatic conditions.  But the race hadn't even started when the drama began.  Lucas di Grassi en route to the grid bizarrely spun in the high speed 130R corner completely destroying the rear end of the car.  Whilst the cause is still yet to be determined (some 11 hours later), the Virgin team will be trying to avoid such an embarrasment reoccuring in the future.  The drama continued, when on the grid several of the championship contenders had dramas of their own.  Mark Webber's front ducts had cracked and required some quick re-taping, whilst Fernando Alonso was warned over a potential start issue.
Both of the above worries paled into insignificance in the end, however, the start itself certainly raised some eyebrows up and down the pitlane.

Both Vettel and Webber got clean starts, but not as clean as Robert Kubica, who hooked his getaway up beautifully.  The same could not be said though, for Nico Hulkenberg who didn't seem to get away at all.  This, combined with a real moment of carelessness for Vitaly Petrov saw both out of the race immediately.  Also out of the race were Felipe Massa and Vitantonio Liuzzi.  Whilst both of the latter two were reprimanded after the race, Vitaly Petrov was handed a five place grid penalty for the Korean Grand Prix later this month.

The first corner incidents brought out safety car for its first, and subsequently only, stint at the head of the pack.  Even with the safety car out, the action continued.  Robert Kubica was very quickly alerted at the fact that he was very soon going to lose his right rear wheel, which he did.  Thankfully the wheel rolled into the barrier causing no damage.  When the safety car came in the order at the front was Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Button, Hamilton, Schumacher, Barrichello.

With the race at the front settling down and Sebastian Vettel in a comfortable lead, most of the action was further back thanks mainly to two people.  Michael Schumacher seemed to be enjoying this race rather more than the last, and he was all over team mate Rosberg like a wasp to a sweaty man.  Had it not been for a blunder in strategy he may have been able to get past and score more points.  But Mercedes' stubbornness in refusing to show any signs of team orders quickly dismissed any of these suggestions.  The other man lighting up the tv screens was Japan's very own - Kamui Kobayashi.  Kobayashi clearly was clued in when he came up to pass Adrian Sutil.  He'd already passed Alguersuari (rather reluctantly) as he arrived up to the turn 11 hairpin.  Sutil game him just enough room and no more, as Kobayashi glided round the outside of the corner slotting in just with millimetres to spare between himself and Sutil's front wing.  This stunning form continued after a contentious strategy call by his team to leave him out on the slower times as long as possible.  But they needn't have worried in the end as Kobayashi caught back onto Alguersuari.  Again coming into the hairpin the two collided with Alguersuari to blame.  Martin Brundle in the BBC commentary described the incident as if "Alguersuari didn't want to give up a position that he had clearly lost."  This preceded another turn 11 passing move, except on Barrichello this time for 10th position.

With all going seemingly well for Button, the same could not be said for Lewis Hamilton.  Hamilton was informed via the team radio that his car had lost 3rd gear, and he would have to finish the race using only 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th gear.  With Button not far behind, it was not long before the two had to swap positions.  The inevitable happened on lap 38 at the hairpin (bit of a theme emerging here). 

A few more strange incidents concluded the race.  Adrian Sutil probably would have been wishing it was.  He suffered a rather monumental engine failure heading into 130R, the fastest corner on the track.  This spewed oil and flames out of the back of the car, sending himself into a spin right in the middle of the racing line.  Whilst everyone managed to avoid the oil, Sutil was forced to retire from the race.  Nico Rosberg then, who by this stage was still holding off Schumacher, had a similar wheel failure to that of Kubica, albeit with rather differing results.  Whilst Kubica was able to slow down and pull sensibly of the racing line, Rosberg was in the middle of the daunting "Esses" section of the track.  With no time to react to such an event, and at a reasonably high speed, Rosberg spun round tagging the barrier with the front of his car.  It was decided that the safety car was not needed for this incident.

So as the final corner approached, it was Vettel who took the flag.  He finished ahead of team-mate, and championship leader, Mark Webber.  In third was Fernando Alonso, beating off Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton to the line.

With only three races remaining in the championship, it is still Mark Webber in command.  He leads Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel by 14 points.  In fourth and fifth are McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button 28 and 31 points back respectively.  With 75 points still to play for each of the top five are still very much in the hunt ahead of the inaugural South Korean Grand Prix.