Korean 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:
After the Italian Grand Prix and Sebastian Vettels unfortunate non-finish, he was 39 points adrift of Fernando Alonso. Three magnificient race wins later, he finds himself at the summit of the Championship with just four races to go. Not only that, but he is in the only car that you would want to be in right now. Everything seems to be going right for Vettel at the moment – including missing out on pole position which ridiculously gave him the inside line on Mark Webber into the first two corners. After that, he managed the race exactly how a reigning champion should, and had the buffer of his teammate behind him incase needed. If there were any doubt that Vettel was an odds on favourite for his third successive title, those doubts should have been expelled by now.
A welcome return to the podium for Mark Webber, who scored as many points in this race as he had in the last six. Exactly what he needed, as he closed to within a point of Lewis Hamilton, and put daylight between himself and Jenson Button. His drive was also exactly what his team will have wanted – with the second Ferrari returning to some sort of form, it was important that the second Red Bull secured some points for the Constructors race. Not bad for a number two driver.
Well done to Red Bull for allowing their boys to race, although Christian Horners heart must have skipped several beats in the first few corners. But their drivers showed mutual respect, and no little skill, to show exactly why the dominant team of the last few seasons are where they are. The constant work put in by Adrian Newey and co has led to them producing a working double DRS to help in qualifying, and has meant that at the business end of the season, they have the best package once again. On top of this, the team and their drivers are making the most of it, which is telling in comparison to all the issues McLaren had earlier in the season when they could lay claim to having the best machine. A cliche it may be, but the championship is a marathon not a sprint, and Red Bull appear to have timed their march to perfection.
For the second race in succession, Felipe Massa achieved the best result he possibly could as he backed up his terrific podium in Japan with another outstanding drive in Korea. If the race were earlier in the season, Massa would have passed his teammate and seriously challenged the Red Bulls such was his pace… however, Felipe is well aware what side his bread is buttered and settled for the tag of ‘gallant teammate’. Only Vettel has scored more points than Massa over the last 5 races, and it is because of this that Ferrari have finally ended the speculation over his race seat and signed him up for next season. His return to form has also given his team a fighting chance in the Constructors standings.
The Scuderia took their chance in Korea to leapfrog great rivals McLaren and become the closest challengers to the champions elect. With four races left, they are now playing catch up in both title races, but are not out of either entirely. The fact that they have two drivers performing has obviously been key to this, but there has to be a belief that they still have time to overhaul Red Bull. A solid 3rd and 4th place finish was terrific in isolation, but surely there was an opportunity to take a chance when Massa was clearly quicker than his teammate. Alonso was never in any danger from the pursuing Lotus, so why not let Massa past to see if he could mix it with the Red Bulls? At best, he could have slowed them down to allow Alonso to catch them, but no matter whether he was successful in that venture or not, he would always have been able to give Alonso the place back later in the race. On a Constructors level, are Ferrari just happy to be in second place?
Another excellent showing from Nico Hulkenberg, and one which put him ahead of Paul Di Resta in the ever topsy-turvy inter-team battle at Force India. He will have particularly enjoyed passing Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean at the same corner, and it is moves like that, and races like these, that have alerted a Sauber team with one currently empty cockpit for next season.
Good race for Toro Rosso as both Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne showed their passing abilities, and both equalled their best results of the season. Question is, have either of them really shown that they could one day pilot one of the big brother cars? The Bad:
Poor Lewis Hamilton. His season just seems to be going from bad to worse. And then to the ridiculous. Hamilton managed to qualify his McLaren on the 2nd row of the grid, but then an anti roll bar failure on Lap 18 saw his lap times drop off and his tyres do the same. Hamilton had to switch to a three stop strategy and somehow managed to keep the car going. Then, to add insult to injury, his car collected a piece of Astroturf and dragged it around for the last few laps. Hamilton held on for 10th place, a result that Martin Whitmarsh described as “heroic” and “an inspiration”. Probably one of the best 10th places that has ever been seen and, unfortunately, good preparation for his challenge next season.
As far as the race goes this was a good podium finish for Fernando Alonso, but Championship-wise, it means he conceded 10 points to Sebastian Vettel, and lost the lead he had been clinging to for some time. There is not much time left for Alonso and Ferrari to come up with a solution, and seeing as they have struggled to produce a car worthy of a title this season, it seems unlikely that they will be able to climb off the ropes and deliver the knockout punch needed. It is a shame for Alonso, who has worked miracles to even be involved in the race at this late stage, but barring reliability issues for Vettel, his valiant fight appears to be almost over.
It is sad to see Michael Schumacher disappearing into retirement with barely a whimper. His reasons were retiring the first time round were solid – he wanted to bow out at the top, a fitting end for a driver who had achieved everything he had. He didn’t want to be seen to be clinging on and, in short, delivering forgettable races like this. Schumacher was barely involved in anything of note, and finished in 13th place, ahead of only the two Williams and the ‘new’ boys. Four races left, and we can only hope that one of them gives him the chance to remind everyone what a truly fantastic talent he always has been. Just one last time Michael, please.
You know when you’ve been KK’d.
You know when you’ve been KK’d. The Ugly:
As I’ve said before this season, this sport can bring you back to earth with a sickening thud at any point. After Kamui Kobayashis heroics in Japan, he made a truly schoolboy error on the first lap to end the races of Button and Rosberg. It was a mistake as bad as anything that Messrs Maldonado and Grosjean have been castigated for this season, and it was fitting that Kobayashis car only made it to lap 16 before giving up. Kobayashi remains a mystery – he can be capable, quick and good with his tyres. He regularly outqualifies his more vaunted teammate, and isn’t far behind him in the standings. Yet, he can make errors when you least expect that, and can easily disappear from races when it would appear that the car is capable of better. After the euphoria of Japan, it looked like KK’s seat was safe for next year, but the past week has seen rumours swirling about both Nico Hulkenberg and Estban Gutierrez. I would say Kobayashi needs to deliver a solid last four races to be certain of a 2013 drive.
What has happened to McLarens famous reliability? They now seem to be finding different ways for their machine to fall apart during races. Lewis had had to put up with three different problems in the last three races – gearbox in Singapore, suspension in Japan and now anti roll bar here in Korea. Not to mention the issues his teammate has had as well. McLaren have now been overtaken in the Constructors race by what has been a one man team, and it is purely down to their reliability – they have had the best car for long periods of this season, and yet have not been able to make the best use of it. There is no excuse for them being 83 points off the pace this season, and that will extend their inability to win a Constructors title into a 15th season.
Mercedes and Sauber
The race for 5th place stalled as Mercedes and Sauber managed one point between their four drivers.
It can’t be easy being Sebastian Vettels race engineer. When poor ‘Rocky’ is asking him to slow down and preserve the tyres, he must feel like he’s a) talking to a child, and b) banging his head against a brick wall. Want to be a guest writer on VitalF1.com?
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