Posted by Carrot on October 10, 2010 | No Comments
A 1-2 in qualifying and the race has Red Bull extend their lead at the top of both championships after a very tiring morning for European fans. After heavy rain yesterday caused qualifying to be postponed to this morning, teams and drivers had it all to do in one day and fans had to be committed to follow both sessions live.
Sebastian Vettel led his team mate in both sessions, scoring the win he needed to stay in touch in the championship. Despite the young German winning the race, Mark Webber was able to increase his lead at the top of the standings. While his opponents are taking points off each other, Webber continues to score steadily and is on course for his first title. The Red Bull machine finally came good after Ferrari’s upset in Singapore. Suzuka had been called a Red Bull track for months and with the rain of Saturday gone they were able to demonstrate why and walk away into the distance. They even had enough pace in the car to patiently wait behind Jenson Button until he had to stop before unleashing their raw speed again and controlling Alonso’s charges until the end of the race. Webber’s started the mind games though by snatching back the fastest lap at the end of the race, Vettel does like to get those achievements.
McLaren had a torrid weekend, Hamilton losing time on Friday due to an early smash, the new rear wing and f-duct system not working and having to be taken off, Hamilton needing a new gearbox that earned him a penalty and just when they thought they’d found the pace in qualifying it all came apart in the race. Lewis Hamilton’s new gearbox let third gear go elsewhere and that left the 2008 World Champion coasting to the end of the race and Jenson Button ended up having his strategy ruined by the fact that Bridgestone’s soft tyres are nothing of the sort. Although there’s still a mathematical chance of Hamilton and Button winning the drivers’ title this year, without a massive upgrade in pace and reliability problems for their rivals their hopes are all but gone.
Ferrari’s weekend was little better than McLaren’s, Felipe Massa lasted until halfway through the first corner, taking out Vitantonio Liuzzi’s Force India on the way to retirement. Fernando Alonso managed to come home in third, although the red cars were lacking in overall pace this weekend, only Hamilton’s gearbox gremlins stopped the Spaniard from having to weather a charge from his former team mate. Alonso’s also going to be in big trouble in the Italian press, in the drivers’ room after the race Mark Webber pointed to the black armband he (as well as the whole Ferrari team) were wearing. Alonso replied “Oh, is nothing, just something with the Italian military.” Way to endear yourself there Fernando.
Behind the title contenders Michael Schumacher brought the Mercedes home in sixth, with many pointing out that it was his best drive in a long time. Unfortunately I still don’t think it was impressive enough from someone of his calibre. Nico Rosberg was again the better of the Mercedes GP drivers, managing to make a long run tyre strategy work and survive the onslaught from Schumacher on fresher tyres. Only a rear wheel failure denied him the result that would have reminded us again that he’s the number one driver at that team in terms of ability.
Sauber recorded their best finish of the season with Kamui Kobayashi and Nick Heidfeld coming in seventh and eighth. Considering it took until the seventh race this year for the team to score their first point, they’re now well clear of Toro Rosso in the standings and look to be able to close and challenge Force India and Williams by the end of the year should their form continue. Kobayashi provided a great deal of entertainment to the fans watching with a great deal of overtaking manoeuvres in the race, he won Martin Brundle’s driver of the day for the impressive pace and courage shown in the overtakes. Rounding out the top ten were Rubens Barrichello in the Williams, who seemed to suffer with a lack of pace during the race and Sebastien Buemi in the Toro Rosso taking the final point.
With six retirements (seven if you count Rosberg who was still classified dead last) and one failure to start with Lucas di Grassi’s crash on the way the grid it was an excellent opportunity for the three new teams to take some good finishing positions to help their finishing order in the championship at the end of the year. Lotus capitalised on these events, Kovalainen leading his team mate home and taking twelfth place. Virgin, on the other hand, failed to capitalise. Their chances weakened with only one car after the pre-race crash they couldn’t overtake HRT in the standings meaning they still sit last in the table. I expected more from Virgin after Lotus announced long ago that they’d stopped working on their car and were concentrating on next year, the complete faith in Nick Wirth’s CFD approach doesn’t seem to be producing results.
A quick bit on the TV coverage, another weekend without the BBC’s F1 Forum available to everyone, I’ll be sure to complain in my post season review of the BBC’s services. Lee McKenzie did a fair job taking over as anchor for the coverage on a very difficult weekend, it certainly took the edge off having to get up twice in the early hours of Sunday morning to have someone pretty presenting. I’ll be watching with interest the fan reaction to Jake Humphrey not being at the race but being at the Commonwealth Games instead. I know he’s an employee and goes where he’s sent, but we all remember how the F1 fans turned on former ITV F1 anchor Steve Ryder after he basically announced on the coverage that he was going to be away covering other things that he felt were more important for his career and standing.
A post race development that’s been announced as I write this, a penalty has been given to Vitaly Petrov by the stewards. He’ll receive a five place grid drop in Korea (or Abu Dhabi if Korea is cancelled) for causing the crash that ended his and Nico Hulkenberg’s race.
Two weeks until Korea, or is it? The FIA final inspection takes place tomorrow, if the track, pit and race control buildings and medical infrastructure aren’t in place and up to specification the race still could be cancelled. Look out for tomorrow’s late news to see how that inspection turns out. If it does go ahead it’ll be another early start for the dedicated before we return to afternoon racing in Abu Dhabi and evening racing for the finale in Brazil.