Posted by Carrot on September 25, 2011 | No Comments
Racing in the dark, under the lights, at Singapore always looks extremely pretty. The cars shine and dazzle the cameras and new crash helmets are brought specifically. If Monaco is the most glamorous race of the year, Singapore is surely the most aesthetic race of the year.
Sebastian Vettel led from pole and disappeared into the darkness, only a late charge by Jenson Button brought him back into sight.If he’d only got the fastest lap as well he’d have recorded a Grand Chelem, as he had pole, the win and led every lap. There’s not much else you can say about his drive or his year. I still have doubts about his ability to overtake, when he finds himself in a situation that Lewis Hamilton did in Monza we’ll all see, but we’ll probably have to wait until next year at the earliest to find that out. Team mate Mark Webber had another abysmal start, but some impressive overtakes meant he finished on the podium. It hasn’t been Webber’s year, but he’s still been bringing home enough points to be proud of his contribution to Red Bull’s inevitable second title.
The only non-Red Bull on the podium was Jenson Button in the McLaren. He took second from Mark Webber at the start and then ran a lonely race in second until the last pit stop when he was able to charge at Vettel and get the fastest lap of the race. Ultimately Button didn’t have the pace to win the race, without the safety car Vettel would have have been at least half a minute down the road. In the other McLaren Lewis Hamilton had a messy race to say the least. A collision with Felipe Massa, after their close call in qualifying, meant the car needed a new nose and then another trip through the pit lane because of a penalty. Then being out of sequence on tyres meant he could unleash some mighty overtakes on the track, ending up fifth. Even without the contact I don’t think he could have done much better, yes he would have beaten Alonso, but it would be anyone’s guess whether he could have beaten Webber.
The third fastest team, yet again, was Ferrari. Both cars started well but by the midpoint of the first stint neither Fernando Alonso nor Felipe Massa had the pace to stay with the cars in front. Massa’s race was ruined by the puncture caused by the contact with Hamilton. However he failed to impress in his subsequent run through the field, Hamilton overtook him again and finished fifth, Massa sulked in ninth. Alonso tried fighting with Webber, using the undercut of the fresh tyres to ultimately gain track position, but the pace of the Red Bull and the racing ability of the Aussie left Alonso to settle for fourth.
Now normally I’d talk about Mercedes GP, they’ve been consistently the fourth fastest team. Not today however, today it was Force India. Sixth for rookie Paul di Resta are intelligently starting on the prime tyres and running a long first stint. On worn tyres he was able to deliver similar lap times to his much more experienced team mate on fresh tyres. Adrian Sutil brought the other car home in eighth, although it’s a good result, he’s being overshadowed by his team mate and needs a good performance to remind everyone of the promise he’s shown in recent years.
The one remaining Mercedes GP came home in seventh in the form of Nico Rosberg. So today Mercedes GP were beaten to the line by both of their customer teams, that can’t be what they were looking for when they re-entered F1 as a constructor. Michael Schumacher retired in the second car, his accident a clone of the Webber/Kovalainen collision in Valencia last year. A mistake by Michael, but probably not one that cost him a haul of points given the pace of the car today. Rounding out the points was Sergio Perez in the Sauber. A good result for him, following di Resta’s example in beating his more experienced team mate. Outside the top ten I have to give a nod to Heikki Kovalainen in the Team Lotus car. He came home ahead of Vitaly Petrov’s Renault on terms of race pace. Yes, Renault were off the pace for the entire weekend, but they should still be beating the new teams even if they’re missing three wheels.
So, what’s the state of the championship? Well Vettel could go on holiday until 2012 really. Only one man can overtake him in the points now, and Button must win every race left in the season to do so. Alonso could draw level with Vettel if he won every race left on the calender, but Vettel would still take the crown based on race wins having taken his ninth of the season today. What remains to be seen is how exciting the rest of the calender will be, the constructors’ title is still up for grabs of course, but Red Bull’s pace means that should be wrapped up in the not too distant future. We still have two of the most exciting races of the year ahead, Japan and Brazil, and a new race in India so the prospects of some excellent racing is still good.
Two weeks now until Japan, my second favourite circuit of the year. Suzuka’s always exciting, doubly so if it rains and it’s the only figure of eight race track on the calender. Vettel requires only a single point and Red Bull only need 77, though the potential points always go down with each race and push the team towards their second crown. See you there.