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F1: Abu Dhabi and 2010 Year in Review

Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi
Image via Wikipedia

The race in Abu Dhabi wasn’t a classic. I don’t think it was even as good as last year’s debut at the Yas Marina Circuit. The track and facilities are incredible, but as far as the racing goes, the main two points that we’ll remember this race for are Vettel‘s brilliantly controlled drive and Ferrari’s poor strategy which cost Alonso any chance of winning the championship by putting him in the pack behind Petrov for the remainder of the race.

Mark Webber decided to pit early as the tyres on his car weren’t holding up well. Once he pitted, Ferrari thought that it would be wise to pit Alonso in order to cover Mark. They did successfully cover him, with Fernando emerging from the pits just in front of Webber, but by that time they were both effectively out of the running.

There was one other memorable part of the race. The incident at the beginning involving Schumacher and Liuzzi was a scary one. Michael span on his own and Liuzzi had no where to go but up the front of the Mercedes like a ramp. It was incredibly lucky that the car missed his head by a narrow margin because that is probably the only part of an F1 car that doesn’t give full protection to the driver.

As far as Sebastian goes, he drove a controlled race to cruise to victory in the championship. He had to be on his guard for Kobayashi at the stops but he managed to get back out in the lead and it was plain sailing from there.

Had it not been for all of the failures he had endured when he was leading races throughout the season, he would have won this championship far easier. He is incredibly deserving of the title and in the end I think that clearly the best driver and the best car won in 2010.

Mark Webber has a lot to be proud of in 2010. He was dominant in some parts of the season only to let it slip from Korea onwards. Alonso has settled in perfectly to Ferrari and was unlucky to not capitalise on Red Bull’s reliability issues. McLaren were the third fastest team for the majority of the year and yet were able to sneak ahead of Ferrari for second in the constructors. While this is partly because Felipe Massa had a very poor season, it’s also because they had some great races for both Jenson and Lewis. With Jenson completely comfortable in the team now, and with next year’s car likely to suit him more, I think the team will be formidable next year.

2010 was a great season in F1 and if the new regulations don’t cheapen overtaking too much and makes for exciting racing, then I think 2011 could be even better, despite this year being a hard act to follow.

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F1: Italian GP of Monza Thoughts

This year’s Italian GP ended up being a fairytale for Ferrari fans, who accounts for probably about 80% or more of the spectators that come to the track over the weekend. They got what they came for, a Ferrari win and double podium and as a bonus, they achieved it without any shady tactics being deployed, which I’m glad about.

The start of the race was exciting and eventful as always. Jenson got a great start to jump Alonso, just edging him into the second turn. He did receive some damage from Fernando’s nose cone in his rear wing which caused some pretty big damage which may have compromised his race pace. Massa was in third, while Lewis Hamilton was right on his tail coming into the second chicane. He made a mistake however and broke a steering column on his front right wheel that took him out of the race. This was a massive error which cost him serious points and his lead in the championship. With 5 races to go, it will be interesting to see how crucial that error will prove at the end of the season.

The battle at the front was really a two horse race right from the beginning to the end, with Massa not quite able to keep up the pace. The win seemingly came down to the pit stop phase when McLaren pitted button first because they were worried about the pace of Kubica on the harder tire. However, Ferrari were able to wait until the lap after to pit and had a fast enough in-lap to jump Button barely when Fernando emerged from the pit lane.

Button must have felt that if the team had somehow managed to pit on the same lap as Ferrari, then he would have been able to keep Alonso behind him and take the win, because in true race pace the Ferrari was clearly faster. The damage Button’s car suffered at the first corner may have added to the performance gap as well.

Further down the grid, it was a case of damage limitation for Red Bull. Vettel will be very happy with 4th after starting 6th especially with a short lived engine issue that cost him time. Webber started 4th and finished 6th and will be less happy after being cost the 4th place by Hulkenberg who continually cut the chicanes and didn’t get penalised for it. When he did get past, it was too late as Rosberg and Vettel were too far ahead. Singapore should suit their car though so both drivers will be feeling upbeat about that race. Especially Mark as he goes there leading the championship by 3 points over Hamilton.

Mercedes had a solid race with 5th for Rosberg who qualified 7th and Schumacher who qualified 12th and converted that into 9th. Williams also had another solid race, even if Hulkenberg’s 7th was a bit controversial. Barichello maintained his grid slot to finish with a point in 10th.

Force India will be disappointed following their success at Monza last year, as will Renault who could only manage 7th with Kubica. Sauber also had a race to forget with Kobayashi retiring on the first lap and no points for De La Rosa who has now been replaced by Nick Heidfeld. It’s a harsh decision I think but Nick has experience with the tires for next year so he may have an advantage at the start of next season if he maintains this drive.

At the back of the grid, Virgin overcame Glock’s 5 place penalty for a gearbox change to finish ahead of Lotus in what would be considered a small victory for them.

The Singapore GP weekend starts in about 8 days time. It’s always an incredible spectacle and it should be an exciting race.

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F1: Hungarian GP Review

Last week’s Hungarian Grand Prix was a great race for Mark Webber and for Red Bull in general, but not what Sebastian Vettel wanted. After a mistake behind the safety car where he let Mark get too far ahead, which he subsequently received a drive through penalty for. That penalty cost him a fairly easy win and also the second place, which was the real killer blow to his patience.

He was clearly much faster than Alonso for the entirety of the race after that point but simply couldn’t get past him due to the nature of the circuit with its tight turns and narrow layout. However, even though the race ended up being handed to him, Mark Webber drove yet another fantastic race. When he needed to produce the laps of his life to build a lead big enough to pit and still come out in the lead after the safety car, he rose to the challenge and did 42 laps on those super-soft tyres.

Aside from Red Bull, Ferrari had a fairly decent race with a second and fourth position finish. McLaren struggled for the second race in a row with an absolutely dismal weekend. They had Lewis retire with a car issue which appears to be engine or gearbox related, and Jenson, after a poor qualifying could only manage 8th in the race. The team lost the lead in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships. They’ll be looking to make a huge improvement in Spa to try to get back in front. They’ve got a tough task ahead but if anyone is likely to pull it off, it’s McLaren.

It was a great result for Vitaly Petrov with a 5th place. He out-qualified his talented team-mate Robert Kubica and after Kubica had a collision with Sutil in the pit lane he cemented his first weekend as the top Renault driver. Nico Hulkenberg was the best of the Williams drivers in 6th. Rubens Barrichello was in 10th after an exciting but dangerous overtaking move on Michael Schumacher. Pedro De La Rosa had his first points finish of the year in 7th and his team-mate Kobayashi had an 9th place finish for Sauber.

While Williams and Sauber have been steadily improving recently, Mercedes, McLaren and Force India have been going in the opposite direction. Mercedes had a terrible race. First, Nico Rosberg had a horror pitstop where a wheel came loose and speeded down the pit lane narrowly avoiding pit crew until eventually it was stopped by a williams engineer who took quite a hard hit but was fine after.

After Nico retired, near the end of the race Rubens was faster than Michael and wanted to take that last point scoring place off him. After a couple of laps Michael made a mistake in the final corner which put Rubens right on his tail going into the main straight. he got a good slipstream and was going to easily pass him but Micahel pushed him towards the pit wall, far beyond the white line of the edge of the track. Luckily a serious accident was narrowly avoided but Schumacher has been handed a 10 place grid penalty at the next race in Spa, which is probably going to put him near the back of the grid at that race. It’s unfortunate for him especially after finishing outside of the points at this race but it was a deserved punishment.

Also notable is all new teams achieving double car finishes for the first time. This is a great achievement for Cosworth who haven’t had a single failure so far this year from what i believe. This result just underlines their excellent reliability, especially considering their multiple year absence from the sport.

The next race is in Spa in about 3 weeks. It’s a classic track and it should be great this year so I’m really looking forward to it. I hope we get as many teams as possible evenly matched and some good racing up and down the grid.

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Miscellaneous

F1: German GP Review

The 2010 German GP will end up being remembered for one thing only. The Ferrari switch was one of the only real highlights that I can remember in the race other than the start.

Qualifying was incredibly close with Vettel somehow finding 0.002 of a second over Alonso to get pole position. However, that went to waste in the first corner as Massa and Alonso both breezed past the Red Bull car. It was almost a mirror image of the start at Silverstone in that Vettel was forced to try to defend his position to the second place qualifier and failing after a poor jump off the line.

He managed to hold on to third but he probably could have won if he had just held onto the lead on the first lap. With that said, Ferrari deserved the 1-2 finish, although it should have been happened without team orders coming into play.

Mark Webber had a pretty poor race as he qualified lower than he should have done in 4th after a mistake in his last flying lap cost him dearly. He qualified ahead of both McLarens but ended the race behind both of them. As far as McLaren, their race was a case of damage limitation as they clearly weren’t on the pace on this weekend. Jenson qualified 5th and Lewis 6th. However, on the first lap Jenson was forced to take evasive action which put him behind his team-mate for the rest of the race. He did pass Webber in the stops but couldn’t make further progress.

Renault and Mercedes’ cars filled the final 4 spots in the top 10 which is expected considering recent results. Williams weren’t able to continue their recent strong form with 12th and 13th. Kamui Kobayashi had a fairly strong result in 11th and was unfortunate to not gain a point. His team-mate De La Rosa was 3 places behind in 14th.

It was a pretty dismal race for Force India and Lotus. Liuzzi finished 16th after a crash in qualifying ruined his weekend with Sutil 17th. Both Lotus cars failed to finish. Only two cars from the new teams managed to finish the race: Timo Glock and Bruno Senna. Rounding out the results, Toro Rosso had a poor showing as well with Sebastian Buemi taken out in the first lap by losing his rear wing in an incident, and Alguersuari down in 15th.

Going back to the Ferrari situation, I don’t have a problem with the team winning, or even Alonso winning from Massa, but he has to earn it on the track and not be handed it in an illegal fashion. Massa should have been warned by his engineer to watch out for Alonso who was faster on the harder tire, and tried to keep him behind him for the rest of the race. If Fernando and possibly Vettel had caught up to Massa before the end then there’s no disgrace in that, but to manipulate the race result for a team benefit is just completely wrong. I also disagree with the people who are saying that the ban on team orders being unworkable in current F1. I would hate to see that rule being taken away because F1 needs to always be about pure racing whether it’s between competing teams or within teams and any other way just dilutes the sport to something not enjoyable.