US 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:
A third consecutive title confirmed, and a ninth for Adrian Newey – both incredible achievements. But seeing as this has been virtually a certainty for some time now, we will move on to other matters, in exactly the same way that Red Bull themselves are doing.
A superb drive in his penultimate outing for McLaren. Lewis Hamilton ensured that he minimised the effect of starting on the dirty side of the grid, held onto Vettels coat tails, took advantage of an opportunity presented to him, and then managed the gap to bring the car home in exemplary fashion. Hamiltons pace and talent has never been in question, and having him as part of a title battle is something that Formula One has missed in 2012. Unfortunately, it would appear that it is also something that Formula One had better become used to missing for a little while yet. McLaren have been pilloried for the reliability problems which have denied Hamilton a shot at the world title, but this weekend was a reminder that when they get it right, Hamilton is one of the few drivers who can and will take advantage. He is world class, and his being the big fish in a small Mercedes pond will be to the detriment of the sport. One can only hope that this will only be temporary.
Until the untimely intervention of a mobile chicane, Sebastian Vettel had driven faultlessly to keep Hamilton behind him. Even after Hamilton had got the jump on him, Vettel refused to give up and ensured that he finished the race with the fastest lap once again. I have mentioned it before, but Vettel seems unable to think about the bigger picture when he is behind the wheel. That Red Bull would appear to be struggling with various issues – look at his teammates constant KERS and alternator battles – doesn’t seem to faze him in the slightest. Earlier in the season I wrote about McLaren and the issues they were having with Buttons car, and if they did not know how to fix them that the same issues could eventually appear on Hamiltons. The same applies to Red Bull, although Vettel will be praying that his car can last out for just one more race. He takes a lead of 13 points to Brazil, where a finish in the top 4 will see him smash more records and become a three time World Champion. The last thing he wants to remember when he looks back on 2012 is a scenario where his alternator blows up in pursuit of the fastest lap when he should be just cruising to victory.
The one driver that Vettel would not have felt comfortable with still being in the title race at the end of the season would surely have been Fernando Alonso. You can guarantee that Alonso will not give up until the chequered flag falls at Interlagos, and seeing as that chequered flag is widely predicted to fall in a rainstorm, Alonso is quite right to believe that it is not over. The equation is simple – Alonso needs to win, and that only be good enough if Vettel finishes 5th or worse. Fernando will not even be thinking about the alternatives, he will be well aware that he needs to concentrate on the only one thing that his actions can affect.
As the Brazilian remarked after the race, Ferrari are fortunate to have a second driver as understanding as him. Can you imagine Webber being as reserved had Red Bull broken his gearbox to help out his teammate? The debate will go on long and loud, but what is being brushed under the carpet is the actual performance of Massa throughout the weekend. He was quicker than Alonso through qualifying, and drove superbly to move from his starting position of 11th up to 4th. Massa has turned around his form in the second half of the season in a way that just about everybody thought was impossible, and full credit to him for doing so.
The only race of the season in which McLaren garnered more points than they did in America was Australia – the first race of 2012. Oh how different their season could have been. Both drivers drove brilliantly in the race, and if Button had been able to switch it on in qualifying, they could have really upset the championship order.
Circuit of the Americas
If America can’t find a way to accept the pinnacle of motorsport after this, then it surely doesn’t deserve to host Formula One. Credit must go to everyone involved, because the circuit itself is fantastic. From an uphill straight into a blind apex at Turn 1 to the high speed curves, the Circuit of the Americas combines everything a fan and driver could want from a race track. Plus it gave us the podium that we wondered if would ever see, the triumverate of Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso. More talent up there than most drivers could dream of.
Two points finishes in a row. Wow. The Bad:
Paul Di Resta
In all fairness, Paul Di Resta only finished two places lower than he qualified, which was exactly the same as his teammate. The only problem with that is that his teammate was seven places ahead of him and adding to his chamionship tally, while Di Resta had been lapped and was fannying around in 15th place, ahead of only the bottom six and a two stopping Mercedes.
Qualified 16th, finished 14th. Poor old Kamui Kobayashi seems to have had the fight knocked out of him. It could be that the race at Interlagos will be Kobayashi’s last in Formula One, which is a shame, but even his most ardent fan will struggle to argue that KK has shown the consistency needed to retain his drive in a forward thinking team. It’s a shame because when he first came into F1 at Toyota, it seemed that he was a breath of fresh air – it just seems that the air went a bit stale.
When Nico Rosberg won the Chinese Grand Prix, it sparked off a run of six races where he finished no lower than 7th. In the last 10 races, Rosberg has scored 18 points, and he has been literally pointless in the last 5. The Mercedes isn’t great, and they appear to have lacked the developmental capabilities of their rivals, but this does not reflect overly well on Rosberg either. You’d be surprised if his teammate went through 5 pointless races next season. Rosberg seems to be one of those drivers who just can’t push on to the next level – we all thought the Shanghai win was going to provide us with the Nico Rosberg we had been expecting for years, but it just hasn’t. He has fallen backwards, and next season will be telling.
I would love to be a fly on the wall in some of the debriefing sessions at Red Bull. Surely Mark Webber must question why his parts keep failing whilst his teammates’ carry him to a possible third consecutive title. The Ugly:
A wonderful qualifying session from Michael Schumacher saw him start the race in 5th place… but that was most definitely the highlight of his weekend. Needing to two stop meant he finished down in 16th place, and that ‘block’ on Button was reminiscent of what he did to Barrichello two seasons ago. No-one could quite understand why Schumacher was so aggressive in defending the position to a clearly quicker car when he knew he was going to be making another pit stop himself – it was the equivalent of a footballer diving into a dangerous tackle on the halfway line. On to Brazil and the last race of Schumachers career. Will we get something to remember him by the second time around?
Mercedes are fortunate that Sauber also scored no points in America, because the 12 point gap should now be enough to bring home 5th place for Mercedes. Not that they haven’t tried to throw it away however – no points in the last 5 races is a disgraceful return for a team that had threatened to challenge the big guns at the start of the season. Mercedes are lucky that Perez has had his head turned, and lucky that Kobayashi appears to cry his way around the track at the moment. Good job they haven’t signed a highly strung, outspoken, media magnetising driver for next season really isn’t it?
“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?” And so America didn’t produce that result… infact both Caterhams were outqualified by both Marussias. Their only hope is that it rains in Brazil and causes carnage.
Things go from bad to worse for HRT. But for a team that just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, it’s no big deal. Let’s be honest, if HRT was a horse, we all know what would happen. Want to be a guest writer on VitalF1.com?
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