Posted by Carrot on September 26, 2010 | No Comments
Two years ago he won this race, later came the revelation of contentious circumstances, this year Fernando Alonso dominated the race weekend on pure merit and achieved his first Grand Chelem. Even though the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel was considered the faster car, Alonso maintained his momentum from Monza to take pole position on Saturday and the win, fastest lap and led every lap of the race on Sunday. Back at the British Grand Prix Alonso said he and Ferrari were going to win the championship, everyone laughed back then, after the performance of the last five races you’d be insane not to take that prediction seriously.
Driving on the limit through with no obvious mistakes, Alonso was able to resist the pressure of Vettel in a duel that took the pair off to another level and left the rest of the field behind. Alonso has now reached second in the championship table, ahead of Vettel, Hamilton and Button and only 11 points behind Mark Webber. Should Ferrari’s pace continue to improve like it has, what seemed a simple championship for Red Bull to win will quickly slip away from the Austrian concern and back once again to Marenello.
Lewis Hamilton recorded his second DNF in a row, both caused by overtaking moves he initiated. Due to his pace earlier in the season it still leaves him ahead of his team mate and only 20 points behind Webber. It’s like we’ve gone back to 2007 with his recklessness at times. Another error could well cost him a chance at taking the crown this year, if it hasn’t already. Things aren’t much better in the other McLaren garage, Jensen Button was unable to make an impression on Mark Webber towards the end of the race even though the Aussie was on well-worn tyres. McLaren have fallen badly behind in development, firmly behind the pace of both Ferrari and Red Bull. The unstoppable McLaren development machine that many of us thought would decide the championship isn’t working, and it’s running out of time to make a difference.
Webber managed to make a difficult strategy work in order to rise to the final podium position and extend his lead at the top of the table. He’ll need to show more pace in the coming races in order to remain at the top at the end of the final race in Brazil. Interestingly we found out after the race that the risky strategy should have gone to Vettel but it was changed to Webber by Christian Horner forcing Webber to work hard on track to get a reasonable points finish. It seems that Red Bull management certainly still have a ‘preference’ for protecting Sebastian Vettel at the expense of Mark Webber.
Nico Rosberg drove another anonymous race to finish fifth for Mercedes GP, only Barrichello on a track well suited to the Williams could stay close to him from the mid-field and the young German was well off the pace of the front runners. His team mate was less successful today, as red rags are to bulls, apparently Sauber cars are to Michael Schumacher. He managed to connect with both of them today and ended up 13th, eight places behind Rosberg in the same car. Eddie Jordan said he’d sack a driver for that standard of driving after the race, how long until Mercedes start to line up a replacement and let Rosberg lead the team forward?
Both Williams scored today to close up on Force India in the standings. It was an especially impressive result from Nico Hulkenberg given his visible frustration in the garage after being eliminated in the second session of qualifying. Rubens Barrichello and Hulkenberg make a good pairing for that team and have resulted in their most competitive line-up for that team in the last few years, I can’t help but think they missed an opportunity with Lotus gaining the Renault engines for next year, Williams’ flywheel KERS had better be special to stick with the Cosworth.
Apart from Vettel and Alonso at the front, the best driver on the track today was Robert Kubica who overcame a late puncture to overtake a raft of cars to finish seventh and in the points. Yes, he had new tyres on, but he was able to be aggressive and use his superior machinery to take the cars that had held up his team mate for the entire race. With the prize money from Kubica and today’s poor performance underlining his lack of race craft, I’d be surprised to see Petrov in a Renault cockpit next year. Maybe we’ll see him in a Virgin, or a Lotus if he’s swapped for Kovalainen. Other drivers on the market no doubt eyeing up that seat will include Adrian Sutil and Kimi Raikkonen.
Singapore itself is a wonderful city and the track and skyline from the helicopter shots looks beautiful, reminding me of the opening images from futuristic animated films like Ghost in the Shell and Akira, unfortunately the track itself is poor. Twenty-three corners and only one (excluding drivers in superior cars on fresh tyres) overtaking spot? Add to that the hideous turn 10 complex of speed bumps masquerading as a chicane, Hamilton said it was the worst corner in F1 and I agree with him. You’ve only got to look at the Force India accident on Friday where just coming off the bumps was enough to break the front suspension. Yes, we all know it’s a street circuit and it has to go around buildings, but not when there’s a dangerous section or stilted racing. The only real racing today came from cars in different classes and the only other talking points we have are about stupid collisions, the night race is certainly an achievement but I’d swap it in a heartbeat for a race at a track as exciting as Spa. Of course the people there love the place, who wouldn’t? It’s a welcoming city and a great place to visit, but the racing for the majority of the audience, those of us who watch on TV, isn’t up to scratch. I couldn’t care less what country a track is in provided it gives me good racing to watch, Valencia doesn’t and neither does Singapore.
My major criticism of this weekend isn’t directed at a driver, team or the track itself, it’s aimed firmly at the stewards and marshals at the race. I may agree with the stewards on the decisions in the Webber/Hamilton and Schumacher/Heidfeld incidents, but when they announce that they will investigate a lap one incident on lap 17, then they’re being slack. It’s nearly two minutes a lap here, that means they took over half an hour to actually decide to investigate something. After what happened in Valencia it’s clear that fans, teams and drivers all want stewards decisions fast and clear, today was anything but with Sutil being given a post-race penalty for something that happened on lap one.
The marshals on the other hand haven’t been slow like the stewards, they’ve been slow like a glacier, all weekend. The amount of time taken to reach and remove a stopped car could have been measured by growth rings on trees. I understand it’s a new race, but it’s their third attempt at running one and expect some improvements. Next year some marshals need to be flown in from Monaco to oversee and overhaul their procedures. There was a lot of activity on the internet after the race with some calling for a penalty to Kovalainen after he avoided the pit lane with his burning car, after seeing how the marshals have been this weekend I think we should give him a commendation. He was looking for a fire marshal’s post from when he developed the problem going on what he said in the post-race interviews, yet couldn’t see one. I’ve never know such a situation in modern F1 where the track was so poorly organised that a driver with a car on fire couldn’t find a fire marshal’s position. The extinguisher he used to put the car out was kindly handed over the pit wall to him by the Williams team.
Two weeks now until the amazing track that inspired a thousand Scalextric tracks, Suzuka in Japan. Popular paddock opinion expects Red Bull to walk away into the distance there, but then we all said the same thing about Red Bull here, and look what happened. Suzuka always springs and surprise and gives us exciting racing, I look forward to this race nearly as much as Spa. See you there.