Monday, November 08, 2010


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.

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