Posted by Carrot on October 24, 2010 | No Comments
Some days it all goes wrong, no matter what you do. Some days it all goes right, luck falls in your favour, the months of hard work comes good at the right time and on those days you can laugh. Fernando Alonso might have taken it a bit far by cackling like a cartoon villain, but everything worked for him today. Even his own bad luck, losing a wheel nut during the pit stop, didn’t seem to matter as he took the win during Red Bull’s first double non-finish of the season to retake the lead in the drivers’ championship for the first time since the third race back in April. Having won two world championships previously, Fernando knows it doesn’t matter where you are in the standings during the season, it’s where you are at the end.
The victory is Fernando’s fifth of the season. He now has the most victories, surpassing Mark Webber’s total of four that had stood since Hungary. It was a good team day for the Scuderia with Felipe Massa taking third and the final podium place to keep their constructors’ championship hopes alive. Although it was apparently a good result for the Brazilian, the numbers aren’t on his side. Even with the many safety car periods Alonso finished 30 seconds ahead of Massa, who was only nine seconds ahead of Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes. Massa’s under-performing at the moment, racing in a different class to Alonso although they’re in identical cars. It was the failings of the opposition, the retirements of Webber, Vettel and Rosberg, as well as the poor performance of Jensen Button that gifted Massa this result. Luckily the next race is his home Grand Prix, a race that Massa has always excelled at, both he and the team need him to pick up his performance.
Lewis Hamilton brought his car home to split the two red cars on the podium, if only he hadn’t made the mistake on the restart that let Alonso have track position, he might have been able to defend against the charging Spaniard in the closing laps. Jensen Button’s race was a disaster, my pick for the win should the race be wet couldn’t get the car or the tyres to work and ended up ahead of only the new teams come the chequered flag. Jensen’s title challenge is all but over now with Lewis still in contention but neither have the car to make an effective challenge. The fabled McLaren development machine that I’ve been talking up all year has simply failed to deliver and the two men in the cockpit can’t do anything but watch Ferrari and Red Bull walk away into the distance.
Michael Schumacher reminded us why he used to be so feared in the rain, intelligently testing the track under the long first safety car procession. Bringing the car home in fourth was only one place shy of the podium he said he thought he could achieve at the beginning of the weekend. Again though, I don’t think the performance was that impressive when you consider the pace of his team mate, who was shadowing eventual race winner Alonso before getting caught up in Mark Webber’s accident. Both Mercedes ended up ahead of their main rivals Renault in pure race pace though, things are looking good for them to retain fourth in the standings if they can maintain this standard until the end of the season.
Robert Kubica’s fifth was lacklustre, particularly when he’d been setting very fast times in practice. The Renault couldn’t seem to cope with the conditions very well. His team mate, Vitaly Petrov, has probably seal the fate of his F1 career with his latest race ending crash. He had the look of a man who knows he’s leaving the race cockpit when he despondantly walked away from the wreckage. This season for Renault has been a perfect example of why employing drivers for the money they bring to a team nearly always ends badly. Renault are only 25 points behind Mercedes, with a consistent and talent team mate for Kubica they would have easily taken fourth in the standings this year and all the extra revenue that brings. Petrov might bring sponsor money to the team, but he loses them more when he drives the car.
Rounding out the final five points positions were the best of the mid-field, sixth for Liuzzi’s Force India and double points finishes for Williams and Sauber. Although a good result, it seems too little, too late for Liuzzi to save his drive for next year, unless Sutil jumps ship to Renault or Mercedes. Rubens Barrichello was the first of the Williams drivers in seventh, his team mate only managing tenth at a time when rumours suggest he won’t be driving for the team next year. Barrichello though seems to be unstoppable, he’s in a middling car and is the most experienced driver on the grid but he still keeps out-scoring and out-racing his much younger team mate. Sauber have been one of the success stories of this season, after their dismal start with a poor car from BMW’s 2010 project the new technical management have turned things around spectacularly. Their second double points finish in a row underlining that they have pace in the mid-field as well as reliability and consistency from their two drivers. These results also heat up the challenge in the middle of the constructors’ standings, Force India, Williams and Sauber being covered by 25 points in the battle for sixth in the standings.
Red Bull will be hoping they wake up tomorrow with today having been a bad dream. It certainly seems like it. Mark Webber’s second retirement of the year couldn’t have come at a worse time. Another mistake on the part of the Aussie cost him the championship lead and could dent his confidence before Brazil, a race he won handily last year. Sebastian Vettel not only lost the points today, but another engine as well. The spectre of last year seems to be rearing its head again. As the only team and drivers in contention that haven’t previously won a championship, how they deal with this double retirement will make or break their championship challenge. They’ll either be galvanised and come back stronger, or crumble under the pressure.
Today’s race was delayed for safety concerns due to lack of visibility but the delay itself caused visibility problems at the end of the race with the encroaching darkness. Something needs to be done about situations like this as this is becoming a recurring problem at some of the East Asian races as their start times are delayed by a couple of hours for European audiences. As someone who hasn’t had a full eight hours sleep all weekend due to the F1 coverage I can testify to the powers that be that it doesn’t matter if the race starts at 1am Sunday or 5am, we’re still going to be tired and most people will watch the re-run of the race on Sunday afternoon. The hardcore fans will watch the race at any time, and we honestly don’t mind getting up slightly earlier in the middle of the night if it keeps the racing safer. Either the times need permanently changing, Europe be damned or all the tracks in that part of the world need fitting with lighting rigs in case of a delay meaning that racing continues around sunset.
The track itself recieved praise for its layout, if not for the lateness of the surface which caused a lot of the problems with the race today due to lack of drainage. I’m not impressed. This wasn’t a brand new racing track, it’s a poor mix tape, a greatest hits album that is an amalgamation of other tracks. It’s like a homework assignment done at the last minute by taking sections of other work you’ve already handed in to the teacher. If I want those straights I’ll go to Malaysia, if I want the Becketts complex I’ll go to Silverstone, if I want Turkey’s turn eight, I’ll go to Turkey. Hermann Tilke has done a disservice to Korea by handing in this design, don’t give them bits of other people’s race tracks, spend some time and thought and do your job to create a new and exciting track for Korea.
We’re a month away from the end of the 2010 season. Two weeks until Brazil and then two weeks until the finale in Abu Dhabi. This weekend certainly mixed up the championship fight, and Alonso and Ferrari certainly have a lot of momentum going into the final two races but personally I still give the advantage to Mark Webber. Vettel and Alonso are going to have to be very frugal with their engine mileage while Webber will be able to attack all out to the final lap of the season, provided he makes no more silly mistakes.