Singapore GP – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Pure opinion. None of this is said with any malice, although I’m sure there are some who will take it as such! Enjoy it for what it is, and by all means, let me know your thoughts and opinions as to why I am right or wrong. The Good:
Following the Italian Grand Prix – “Out of all the drivers in the title race, Vettel is the one who needs a good Singapore result the most.” I really should start sending these pages to the bookmakers. The reigning World Champion duly bounced back in style following his Italian nightmare with maximum points at Marina Bay. Leave aside the fact that Vettel only won the race due to a faulty McLaren gearbox, and instead look at how he rose to the challenge presented to him by Singapores unforgiving circuit. Vettel drove a fantastic race in isolation, never putting a wheel wrong – indeed his drive was equal to that of Hamiltons, just in a slightly inferior car. In fact Vettels driving never allowed Hamilton to let up, and it has been argued that it could have contributed to the McLarens demise. Personally, I think this is doubtful, but one thing is for sure – his driving never allowed anyone behind him to entertain serious thoughts of catching and passing him. If you had switched onto the race halfway through, you could have been forgiven for thinking you were watching the Red Bull of 2011 and, as a result, Vettel has now cut his Championship deficit to just 29 points and he is looming large in Alonsos mirrors.
To put it mildly, Button was off the pace in qualifying. However, despite openly stating that he was not happy with the balance of his car on the Soft tyre, Button drove a wonderfully controlled race to effectively give his teammate 3 extra points on Alonso. After all, it has been made fairly clear that he feels his own Championship challenge is over – Whitmarsh said after the race – “I don’t want to ask, I don’t want to have to ask, but Jenson came to me. He is a great enough team player to do the right thing for the team. He’s an extraordinary human being.”
And once again, Fernando Alonso teaches us all the art of damage limitation. You have to wonder how many rabbits he has left in that helmet of his. He has finished on the podium in 7 out of the last 10 races, and the others were two 4th place finishes and one near death experience. Alonso is doing all that his faltering machine will allow him to do in his quest to be crowned for a third time, and if his rivals continue to take points off each other as they have done in the last couple of races, they will unwittingly be assisting him as well.
Paul Di Resta
Di Resta finally ended his poor run of form – and his upstaging by his teammate – in emphatic style, posting his best ever result in Formula One. It was a result that he had threatened with his qualifying performance in Italy but failed to deliver, but there were no such problems for the young Scot in Singapore. On one of the most gruelling and testing tracks on the calendar, Di Resta reminded us all of what a understated talent he is. He kept his nose clean, drove his own race and was rewarded with a 4th place that not only puts daylight between he and his teammate in the standings, but also leapfrogs him over a man most people thought he would replace at some point. All in all, a great time to return to form, and richly deserved.
On the face of it, qualifying 13th and finishing 8th whilst your teammate is busy quaffing champagne on the podium isn’t a great result. However, when you look at what Massa had to achieve to get there, it truly was. A puncture on the opening lap meant he rejoined the field staring at the back end of the HRTs, and although he was fortunate to see a Safety Car assist him in catching up to the field so quickly, from there Massa drove superbly. I’ll be honest with you, I would have put him in this section just for the overtake on Bruno Senna through Turns 12 and 13. How he managed to keep control of the car and keep it out of the wall was either blind luck or total genius, and the subsequent shot of Rob Smedley shaking his head was worth a thousand words.
With Timo Glock nursing his car into 12th place, Marussia have stolen the coveted 10th place from Caterham with just 6 races to go. Depending on what sources you use, this result could be worth over £10m to the Banbury based outfit – and better still, they can’t honestly say that they were expecting it. Surely. The Bad:
For the second race in succession, Hamilton drove flawlessly throughout the weekend. His qualifying performance was superb, taking pole by half a second, and for 22 laps he was comfortably driving towards another 25 point bounty. Despite all this, by the end of the race Hamilton found his Championship deficit had been extended to 52 points. Lewis has won 3 races this season, and each time he has failed to finish the subsequent race – through no fault of his own. Barring a non finish from Alonso, it is looking like the end of Hamiltons challenge for another year which is frustrating in the extreme. Frustrating because Hamilton has driven better this year than he ever has in the past, and frustrating because that McLaren MP4-27 is the class of the field. I wrote an article near the start of the season saying that McLaren would have no excuse for not capitalising on their superiority this season and, unfortunately, I stand by it.
Terrific qualifying performance from Maldonado. To qualify that Williams in 2nd place served to remind everyone that despite all his many faults, the boy can drive. He drove a good race too before his car decided not to support him further, and that extended his run with no points to the nine races since his Spanish triumph. It is difficult to remember a more Jekyll and Hyde driver than Maldonado. When he gets it right, and the red mist stays away, he can produce quite stunning pace combined with no little skill. However, there seems to be a switch in his head that causes him to do crazy things that it is impossible to defend him for. The thing on his side though is that you can’t teach the things he can do, but he may be able to learn the things that he can’t.
What he wouldn’t give to be able to find those 4th places that he couldn’t stop getting at the start of the season. Webbers malaise continues, and he now has Button breathing down his neck in the standings. In the last 5 races, he has scored 16 points with a best finish of 6th place – and that was at Spa where 3 or 4 drivers ahead of him were out in the first corner. He has slid from being Alonsos closest challenger to clinging on to 5th place in the Championship. Still, not bad for a number 2 driver.
Bad weekend for Sauber, taking just 1 point when the teams either side of them in the Constructors table had drivers finishing in the top 5. And one of their cars finished behind a Marussia. In 6 races this season, Sauber have scored 10 points or more, and in the other 8 races, they have scored just 2 points or less. If Maldonado is a Jekyll and Hyde driver, then Sauber surely snatch that title as a team.
Quite happily driving along looking to score his best finish of his fledgling career, before feeling a massive whack from behind and flying off the circuit. Harsh. You wonder if he had got out of his car and seen someone other than Schumacher, whether he may have been a little more animated. The Ugly:
A concerning mistake from Schumacher that you genuinely wouldn’t expect from anyone on the grid. He did say after the race that there was an issue with the brakes, but then why would the stewards have given him a 10 place grid penalty for Japan? After all, they have all the information to hand so they clearly feel that it is an incident that Schumacher could, and should have avoided. I still feel that Schumacher is capable of achieving race wins in Formula One (although not in that Mercedes) but you have to wonder whether this incident has meant a long conversation between he and Ross Brawn.
They would not have expected to finish both cars behind a Force India and a Mercedes, and it was clear that Kimi Raikkonen inparticular was frustrated by the cars lack of performance this weekend. He is now 45 points behind Alonso, and with only 6 races left, that race win we all thought was inevitable is looking more and more unlikely.
While his teammate was qualifying on the front row, he was busy bashing his right rear tyre against the wall repeatedly before setting only the 17th quickest time. Doesn’t really make things look good when that happens.
After Italy I wrote: “KK qualified well, but after that it all seemed to fall apart. He ended the race some 40 seconds behind his teammate, and that is too big a gap to put down to just a difference in strategy. A quick look at the Championship sees Kobayashi being beasted 65-35 by his teammate, and there are a lot of rumblings that his seat is under threat for 2013. After all, that Sauber would be an attractive option for a number of drivers.” I feel able to repeat all of that, EXCEPT the first 3 words, as he didn’t even make it out of Q1 this time around.
As bigger win as this race was for Marussia, it was an even bigger defeat for Caterham. Unless either of their drivers can somehow finish 11th in any of the last 6 races, the 10th place that was their minimum expectation will have been lost. In truth, it has been a disappointing season when you look at the pre-season speculation surrounding the Caterham team. Expected to look forward and challenge the mid table teams, to get into Q2 on a regular basis, to leave the bottom two teams behind… none of this has really happened and the result is that they have slipped even further back, which will have serious financial ramifications for next season.Want to be a guest writer on VitalF1.com?
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