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F1: Japan, Korea and Brazil 2010 Race Reviews

Formula One 2009 Rd.15 Japanese GP: Sebastian ...
Vettel at Japan 2009. Image via Wikipedia

I haven’t posted a race review for a while so before I get into Abu-Dhabi and a season review, I’d like to quickly recap the previous 3 races.

Japan – Suzuka

Japan this year was another display of Red Bull dominance with Vettel first and Webber second followed by Alonso grabbing yet another podium for his string of solid results.

The two McLaren’s finished 4th and 5th with Button ahead due to Hamilton’s gearbox issue. Schumacher had a strong finish in 6th and the Sauber drivers were impressive in 7th and 8th, especiall Kobayashi who made some really exciting overtaking moves through the race and as usual had no problem risking everything at any point.

As far as the new teams, Kovalainen all but secured Lotus’ 10th place in the constructor’s championship with his 12th place finish, higher than any other new team driver had managed.

Many drivers also experienced a weekend to forget. Kubica after qualifying strongly among the Red Bulls, had a wheel come off under the safety car at the beginning. That safety car was brought out by multiple incidents. Petrov got a great start but had too much speed and no where to go, taking out himself and Hulkenberg who was minding his own business before the first turn. Rosberg also had a wheel come off late in the race which scuppered a promising result for him.

Massa got squeezed onto the curb at turn 1 which caused him to lose control and barrel into Liuzzi who couldn’t do anything to avoid losing all his wheels in the barrier.

The worst incident appeared to be from Lucas Di Grassi who crashed on his way to the grid, even before the warm up lap around 130 R. Whether it was a driver error or car failure I’m still not sure but it is one of the worst places to make such a catastrophic error if indeed that’s what it was.

Overall, Suzuka was a strong weekend for Red Bull that brought Vettek back into the title hunt and cemented Mark Webber’s position as a serious challenger. Alonso kept himself in there fighting and McLaren seemed to not be making much progress.

Korea – Yeongam

While Japan was a brilliant weekend for Red Bull, Korea was an absolute disaster for the team. The damp track was causing huge visibility problems and the race had to be red flagged to wait for conditions to improve. They improved but not by much. After the second safety car start, Mark Webber made a simple mistake and spun his car. He might have been able to continue had it not been for him backing across the track and taking out Nico Rosberg, who even after taking to the grass to try and avoid the Red Bull still couldn’t avoid him.

It was a massive blow to Webber’s title challenge as well as Rosberg’s race hopes. It was the second race in a row where Nico was robbed of a potential strong result. Vettel was looking at ease out in front, managing the conditions well before he suffered an extraordinary engine failure. You could clearly see nuts and bolts flying out of the back of his car as he came down the long straight with smoke barrelling out of the engine. He was remarkably dignified afterwards despite being robbed of a win and potentially his championship hopes.

Alonso sailed through to inherit yet another win from Vettel like he did in Bahrain at the first race.

Lewis Hamilton finished second to out perform his car while Felipe Massa had a strong third place although he was realistically looking at 5th or 6th at best in the dry without the two Red Bull’s and Rosberg’s retirements. Schumacher had a great 4th place and Liuzzi had an equally fantastic 6th place for Force India.

Brazil – Interlagos

Red Bull were back to winning ways with another 1-2 finish, again with Sebastian out front, which may have been a sign that Webber was going to struggle to stay ahead in the championship. Alonso couldn’t match the pace of Red Bull but finished on the podium again to stay in the fight leading the championship heading to the last race. Red Bull decided against team orders to switch the drivers as they wanted to not put all their eggs in one basket heading to the last race, where anything could happen. At the time I wasn’t sure if this was a smart move as it looked as if they were almost conceding defeat to Ferrari and Alonso, but if you’ve been following recently you would know how much of a smart move it was.

After the top three were the two McLaren’s with Lewis just ahead of Jenson, followed by both Mercedes cars with Rosberg about 8 seconds ahead of Schumacher at the flag. Nico Hulkenberg, despite starting on pole and holding up Alonso for a few laps, could only manage 8th with his car’s speed in the dry, but he said afterwards that he gave it everything and that he was happy with 8th.

Despite the home support, all 4 Brazillian diver’s had races to forget finishing outside the points, especially Rubens and Felipe who both had tyre problems and had to have extra pit stops.

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Miscellaneous

F1: Spa GP Review

Spa Francorchamps track original layout
Spa Layout. Image via Wikipedia

Spa is known as as being one of the most exciting circuits of the season each year. The track itself is very high speed, has good overtaking opportunities and the weather in the Ardennes Forest is known for being erratic and often very wet, leading to unpredictable, exciting races year on year.

2010 was no exception. The race started with light rain which caused confusion as to whether or not to switch tires based on how long it would last. Webber had a terrible start from pole with a clutch problem, he ended up benefiting from what happened to Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel later on in the race. At the end of the first lap, everyone had almost no grip coming into the bus stop chicane and many of them went off. Rubens came off worst in his 300th race. He locked up completely and barrelled into Alonso who had made the corner fairly well. Somehow the Ferrari didn’t seem to take any major damage and was able to carry on after the big impact. The williams car didn’t escape and lost most of the front of the car in the hit.

Because of Webber’s poor start, Hamilton was able to take advantage and lead from there pretty comfortably. Button pulled off a great overtake on Kubica for 2nd on to be taken out by Vettel at the end of lap 17, also at the bus stop chicane. Vettel was slipstreaming behind, had a look up the inside but had no room, then darted across the track which caused him to lose control as there was not enough grip on the damp tarmac. Button was understandable annoyed after taking a huge dent to his championship defence, especially because he was minding his own business.

Sebastian also ruined his own race, after sitting fairly comfortably in 3rd, he lost time pitting for a new wing and tires, and then had to serve a drive through penalty for causing the collision. To add insult to injury, he then picked up a puncture from Liuzzi‘s Force India on an overtake just after the pit entry. He had to crawl around the long circuit back to the pits on just 3 tires.

He did get back out on fresh rubber, albeit in 20th place. I think at that point the team were just hoping for a downpour and a lucky strategic decision paying off. The shower did come on lap 35 but the lucky strategic decision didn’t. They opted for full wets when the track wasn’t damp enough. It was a risk that didn’t pay off as he had to come in for another set as he wore out the first ones as the track wasn’t wet enough at that time. He ended up 15th in what must have been one of the most frustrating races of his career.

He wasn’t the only one of course. Barichello had his crash of course, Button got taken out and Fernando Alonso crashed in the wet conditions on lap 37 after being spun around at the start by Rubens. He’s had plenty of these terrible days so far this year, and could have another if Ferrari are stripped of their points from Germany this week when they attend the world motorsport council.

Eventual race winner Lewis Hamilton had a scary moment on lap 35 when the rain started coming down hard. He took a bit too much speed into one of the turns in the second sector and went off into the gravel. He came within about an inch of losing his front left wheel. Luckily, he had built up such a lead though that he was able to carefully get back to the pits to get the wet tire and still come out back in the lead. It was relatively plain sailing from there. Sailing being a pretty relevant term.

Summing the race up, I would say that Hamilton has given himself a real boost in the driver’s championship, especially with monza coming up next, another track where they should be at the front of the pack. Mark Webber did well to avenge his clutch issue off the start with a second place. He was lucky that the two ahead of him took each other out but you have to maximise your luck in this sport, and he achieved the most the car was capable of.

Button and Vettel are going to be hard pressed to make up for the points lost today. They are both now considerably behind their team-mates in the standing now and with only 5 races to go, they’re going to have to pull something special out of the bag in the next few races to get close to the front. Jenson has been quoted recently as saying that Vettel has made too many mistakes to win the championship. While it’s not over yet, I have to agree. He’s just too accident prone at the moment. He needs to be more consistent with points finishes to get right up there.

As far as the midfield teams are concerned, Renault had another great result with 3rd, but it should have been second if Kubica hadn’t overrun his pit box. Williams had a race to forget along with all three of the new teams, despite finishing.

Force India had two points finishes with 5th for Sutil and 10th for Liuzzi which was a great result for them. Ferrari had the wrong man finish 4th with Massa who drove pretty well, and Mercedes GP had a brilliant strategy to hold off their stops as long as possible until it rained. It worked and propelled them both right up to 6th and 7th, which for them is a great result considering where their car is.

I’m really looking forward to Monza this week. Practice starts on Friday morning.