Abu Dhabi 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:
Just leave me alone, I know what I’m doing!”. And boy did he. Finally, Kimi Raikkonen put the gloss on his triumphant return to Formula One, just as everyone thought that his and Lotus’ chance had gone. Once fate had intervened and taken care of the McLaren that no-one could catch, Raikkonen produced a peerless display, proving that he has lost none of his speed during his sabbatical from the sport. He holds the distinction of being the only driver to have completed every lap of the 2012 season, and the only time he hasn’t finished in the points was the now infamous Chinese Grand Prix where he demonstrated just what happens when your tyres hit the cliff, as he fell from 2nd to 14th in the last few laps. There can be no doubt that Raikkonen is a born racer and knows what needs to be done during a race – just look at his retort to his engineer when behind the safety car – “Yes, yes, yes, yes, I’m doing all the tyres, you don’t have to remind me every second!”. And as if to prove his point, Raikkonen defied conventional wisdom by producing the fastest lap of the race just after the safety car had pulled into the pits. Like I said, Kimi Raikkonen is a proper racer. Formula One needs drivers like Kimi Raikkonen. More importantly, Formula One needs drivers like Kimi Raikkonen to be successful. Hopefully, next season, he will have a car that befits his talent and we can see him at his rightful place, challenging for the title.
This is what I write after the Indian Grand Prix: “Now 43 and 53 points behind the two teams they have been battling with all season, Lotus have slipped into a no mans land in 4th place. Off the pace of McLaren and Ferrari (the last time Lotus outscored them both was 12 races ago in Spain), and miles ahead of the non battle between Mercedes and Sauber. So many good things were being said about Lotus a few months ago, and the question was when, not if, they would start winning races. However, the development experience of the top three has seen them remain standing still whilst the others have pushed on. The confirmation of Raikkonen for next season is undoubtedly a boost, and you would expect them to be building for 2013 already.” Yes I ate my humble pie, but no, I didn’t choke on it. One great result will not quell the ‘what-might-have-beens’ for Lotus this season, but credit to them for keeping going when the season appeared to be slipping to an anonymous end.
As is well documented, if the Ferrari had any sort of qualifying pace, the season may have been ending differently. Fernando Alonso started the race in 6th place, but still managed to finish in 2nd, which seems to be accepted as the norm for him these days. His overtake on Webber during the first lap was typical Alonso – getting better drive out of the corner to pull up alongside the Red Bull on the straight and then outbraking him into the corner. Textbook. He will no doubt have been pleased with Vettels expulsion from qualifying, then relieved that he was able to pull back some points in the title race, but probably miffed that Vettel was somehow still stood with him on the podium. There are two races left this season, and Alonso is on a hiding to nothing. Indeed many people are predicting that the title will be sewn up for Vettel in the next race, but if there is one man that is capable of stopping him, it is the miracle working Spaniard.
What Sebastian Vettel must have been thinking after being expelled from qualifying you can only imagine, but as it turned out, it was only to ramp up the drama of what was to come. Let’s be clear on my opinion of this, Vettel did not produce his best race. Far from it, but it was a very good one. He was fortunate in the opening exchanges with Senna that his front wing did not sustain more serious damage, and then he got all prissy when he ruined it completely behind the safety car and the Toro Rosso of Ricciardo. The two safety cars could not have been timed better for him and that allowed him to make up the ground he needed to. However, let’s also be clear on something else, no matter what the circumstances, it takes some effort to start 24th and finish 3rd, and Vettel may look back on this weekend as the race which secured his hat trick of titles.
Pastor Maldonado’s talent and speed is without question, but he can be truly frustrating at times. However, this was by far one of his better weekends, qualifying superbly before leading his Williams to a 5th place finish. Maldonado will have almost certainly done enough to be there next season, and if he and his team continue their improvement, sights will be set higher in 2013.
5th and 8th is the best return for Williams since Maldonado’s race win in Spain. Williams have shown very promising signs of a quick car this season, and have defied the expectations of many. They currently have an extremely rapid, but flawed driver who has only 4 points finishes this season – one of those a win; and a consistent, aware driver who has 9 points finishes but has never finished higher than 6th. With Bottas driving well in practice, Williams have quite a decision to make regarding next years line up.
"Three races left, and you would imagine they have to be decent ones.” 6th was a decent result for Kobayashi and Sauber, especially seeing as he only started in 15th place. Two races left for Kobayashi to save his place in Formula One, but it’s still looking bleak for KK. With Carlos Slim coming out this week to say that Gutierrez would have his backing, odds have lengthened dramatically on Kobayashi being in a Sauber next season. With a lack of seat availability elsewhere, Paul Hemberys mention of Kobayashi as being in the running for the role of Pirellis 2013 test driver may be his best option.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
The Yas Marina circuit produced a great race, which is exactly what the sport and its corporate types will have needed. Circuits like Abu Dhabi and Singapore are where the big clients come to watch nowadays, and the predictability of Monaco is being pushed further into the background.The Bad:
Ouch. Lewis Hamilton drove superbly all weekend, and got absolutely no reward. Just as in Singapore, an almost nailed on race win was snatched from his grasp by yet another mechanical issue with his MP4-27. Hamilton desperately wants to leave McLaren with a bang, and there was more disappointment than anger in his head shaking as he pulled to the side of the track. Hamilton must be in a strange place mentally right now – the car he has driven this season was good enough to win the title, but it hasn’t due to a number of mechanical failures, pit stop issues and so on. The car he will be driving next season will almost certainly not be good enough to win titles, but will he feel that it is easier for a team to build speed rather than reliability?
I feel able to just repeat my musings from last week: “You wonder whether Sergio Perez feels that he has something to prove in his last few races in a Sauber. That is now three races in a row that he could be accused of being a little ‘over-eager’ in his overtaking, and it has cost him every time. Perez has talent to burn, but he needs to mature quickly before his McLaren debut.” All you need to do is change ‘three races’ to ‘four races’.
The countdown continues. Two races left, and now no points in the last 5 for Michael Schumacher. He was looking at a points finish before an unfortunate puncture saw him miss out, and with Mercedes seemingly concentrating on next season, it seems unlikely that Schumacher will have anything to shout about in the remainder of his career.
McLaren now find themselves 22 points behind Ferrari, and it is once again an issue with the machine that has lost them further points. They are 104 points behind the leading Red Bull team, and a crude calculation of lost points this season (21 for Lewis in Spain, 18 for Jenson in Korea, 25 for Lewis in Singapore, 25 for Lewis in Abu Dhabi, plus numerous points lost due to the pit stop problems McLaren experienced earlier in the season) show that it is not enough to have the best car throughout a season, especially if it can’t finish races consistently.
Mark Webber had another poor start, dropping from 2nd to 4th before the first corner and seemed to be having a number of incidents throughout the course of his 38 laps. His afternoon came to an end when he was trying to improve on his miserable 8th place, and got collected by the Grosjean/Di Resta/Perez battle. He is now 31 points off 3rd place in the standings and will surely now have to concentrate on the McLarens trying to overtake him.The Ugly:
No points in the last 4 races. In a season where Mercedes would have expected to be in the top 4, they are in danger of slipping into 6th place. Not only a big dent to the collective Mercedes ego but it creates a financial burden, especially when you consider what they must have offered Hamilton for next season.
A horrible accident for Nico Rosberg, but in truth it was neither drivers fault. Rosberg hit the wall at a great speed and it was a relief to see him step out of the car almost immediately. However, the records will show that that is no points in the last 4 for Rosberg – as mentioned earlier, it becomes increasingly clear that Mercedes eye is no longer on the 2012 ball.
A lot was made of the situation Alonso was in when a wheel flashed before his eyes in Belgium, but a similar situation befell the hapless Narain Karthikeyan as Rosbergs car passed mere inches above his head. And not much has been made of it. Karthikeyan was fortunate, and whilst this writer does not agree with closed cockpits, I can’t understand why the same people who do agree with them have not been as vocal as they were after Spa. It couldn’t be anything to do with the respective statuses of the drivers involved could it? Surely not.
The races are running out for Caterham to snatch that lucrative 10th place away from Marussia. It will now be having a negative effect on their planning for next season, as well as preventing them from finalising their driver line up as they cannot bank on the funds that they previously thought were pretty secure. If they are unable to find that result in either America or Brazil, and they need to find sponsorship, will it mean an end to the most talented driver partnership that Caterham have any right to have? Want to be a guest writer on VitalF1.com?
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