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Category Archives: 2010 Grand Prix reviews

SEBASTIAN VETTEL of Red Bull became the youngest ever F1 Drivers’ World Champion by winning last Sunday’s (14 November) Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Welcome to the club Seb!

Vettel, who took the title at the age of 23 years 134 days, won the 55 lap race in a time of 1:39:36.837 (114.324 mph). The two previous World Champions, Lewis Hamilton (2008) and Jenson Button (2009) (both McLaren) came home in second and third places respectively. Hamilton also set the fastest lap of race, a 1:41.274 (122.673 mph). The two drivers who lead the title race going into the final Grand Prix of the season, Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) and Mark Webber (Red Bull) could only finish down in seventh and eighth places respectively.

When the race got underway Vettel kept his first place by easing out Hamilton into the first corner, but Alonso lost his third place to the fast starting Button, who could still play a vital part in deciding the championship.

Here we go!

While all this was going on up front, tragedy almost unfolded before our eyes. Seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) was following his former Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello (Williams), with his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg alongside him. On the exit of Turn 6 Rosberg and Schumacher came within inches of each other and Schumacher spun 180˚ and was now facing oncoming traffic. He tried desperately to spin around, but was hit head on by the Force India of Vitantonio Liuzzi. The Force India climbed up the front of the Mercedes and only just missed Schumacher’s head. It looked worse in real-time and from the camera angel I saw it at, I honestly thought Michael Schumacher had been killed. But to my great relief, his head moved naturally in the cockpit, and before too long he and Liuzzi were walking back to the pits together. This crash naturally brought out the Safety Car for yet another appearance this season.

Michael! You are too old for this S***!

The race was back on at the end of lap 5 and just as he had done so many times earlier in the season Vettel shot off into the distance leaving his fellow title challengers to eat his dust. Rosberg and Vitaly Petrov had taken advantage of the early SC to get their pit stop out of the way and immediately began to pass other cars on old tyres.

On lap 11 Mark Webber radioed the Red Bull pit wall telling them that he had lost the grip in his rear-tyres. We saw that he was struggling for grip when he had hit the Armco at Turn 19 a few laps earlier. The Red Bull pit crew raced into the pits and Webber came in and had his tyres changed. The Australian rejoined the race in 16th place behind Toro Rosso’s Jamie Alguersuari who let him through with no trouble. This is probably because he was driving the Red Bull ‘B team’s’ car.

Alonso dived into the pits at the end of lap 15 to have his tyres changed and found himself behind Petrov’s Renault in 12th place, but more importantly he was in front of Webber who needed to beat Alonso to have any hope of winning the title.

The millions watching the race now expected Alonso to breeze past Petrov who was still a rookie and under pressure to keep his drive for 2011. But the young Russian’s Renault was proving to be as wide as the Iron Curtain and Alonso was starting to get fidgety. By lap 23 he was so fidgety in fact that he put off braking into Turn 11 too long and instead of passing Petrov, went off and would have lost his place to Webber if the Red Bull was any much closer. While all this was going on Hamilton pitted. The front three of Vettel, Hamilton and Button had seen their tyres come back to life and were still charging around the track. Hamilton rejoined the race behind the Renault of Robert Kubica who like Petrov would prove to be virtually impossible to pass.

Race leader Vettel pitted at the end of the next lap, letting outgoing World Champion Jenson Button inherit the lead. Vettel came back out on track just ahead of the third placed Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi and the Kubica – Hamilton fight. This swung the odds massively in Vettel’s favour. He was in a net first place (Button was yet to pit) and all the other title challengers were stuck behind Renaults!

Button pitted at the end of lap 39 and Vettel re-took the lead. The McLaren driver came back out in fourth place behind his team-mate Hamilton who was still behind Kubica, who didn’t pit until the end of lap 46. All the while Petrov was still preventing Alonso and Webber from getting to where they needed to finish.

Not even those ill-gotten seven points in Germany were going to help Alonso pass Petrov.

Vettel crossed the line at the end of the 55th and last lap first – his third win in the last four races – with both McLaren’s second and third. But he still wasn’t World Champion yet and his radio went silent. As we saw at Brazil in 2008 it isn’t over until the last car crosses the line, and Red Bull didn’t want him to get his hopes up. Further back Alonso tried one last ditch dive up the inside of Petrov but failed, and it was confirmed that Vettel won the title.

The 23 year-old German burst into tears when he was told over the radio that he had realised his dream. What a feeling that must be.

Alonso spoiled the mood slightly after the race by angrily waving his hands at a bemused Petrov on the slowing-down lap. Yes you may have been faster Fernando, but unlike Massa, Petrov wouldn’t move for you. And why should he have? In my opinion, Petrov’s drive in this race was the best of the season, and he totally deserves a 2011 race seat.

With regards to our new Champion, the right man won I cannot deny it. Vettel won five races, took ten podiums finishes, took 10 pole positions and set three fastest laps. He would have won in Australia but his brakes failed on him, he would have come in the top two in Turkey if he didn’t have himself and Webber off and he would have won in South Korea if his engine didn’t blow up. Remarkably this is the first time in his career that Vettel has even led the drivers’ championship. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

Schumacher congratulating Vettel after the race.

But, will he defend his title next year? That is the question.

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP – Final Standings

Pos

Driver

Constructor(s)

Points

Gap From 1st

World Champion

Sebastian VETTEL (GER)

Red Bull

256

2

Fernando ALONSO (ESP)

Ferrari

252

4

3

Mark WEBBER (AUS)

Red Bull

242

14

4

Lewis HAMILTON (ENG)

McLaren

240

16

5

Jenson BUTTON (ENG)

McLaren

214

42

6

Felipe MASSA (BRA)

Ferrari

144

112

7

Nico ROSBERG (GER)

Mercedes

142

114

8

Robert KUBICA (POL)

Renault

136

120

9

Michael SCHUMACHER (GER)

Mercedes

72

184

10

Rubens BARRICHELLO (BRA)

Williams

47

209

11

Adrian SUTIL (GER)

Force India

47

209

12

Kamui KOBAYASHI (JAP)

Sauber

32

224

13

Vitaly PETROV (RUS)

Renault

27

229

14

Nico HÜLKENBERG (GER)

Williams

22

234

15

Vitantonio LIUZZI (ITA)

Force India

21

235

16

Sébastien BUEMI (SUI)

Toro Rosso

8

248

17

Pedro DE LA ROSA (ESP)

Sauber (1-14)

6

250

18

Nick HEIDFELD (GER)

Sauber (15-19)

6

250

19

Jamie ALGUERSUARI (ESP)

Toro Rosso

5

251

20

Heikki KOVALAINEN (FIN)

Lotus

0

256

21

Jarno TRULLI (ITA)

Lotus

0

256

22

Karun CHANDHOK (IND)

HRT (1-10)

0

256

23

Bruno SENNA (BRA)

HRT (1-9, 11-19)

0

256

24

Lucas DI GRASSI (BRA)

Virgin

0

256

25

Timo GLOCK (GER)

Virgin

0

256

26

Sakon YAMAMOTO (JAP)

HRT (10-14, 16-17)

0

256

27

Christian KLIEN (AUT)

HRT (15, 18-19)

0

256

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP – Final Standings

Pos

Constructor

Engine

Points

Gap From 1st

World Champions

RED BULL (AUT)

Renault

498

2

MCLAREN (ENG)

Mercedes

454

44

3

FERRARI (ITA)

Ferrari

396

102

4

MERCEDES (GER)

Mercedes

214

284

5

RENAULT (FRA)

Renault

163

335

6

WILLIAMS (ENG)

Cosworth

69

429

7

FORCE INDIA (IND)

Mercedes

68

430

8

SAUBER (SUI)

Ferrari

44

454

9

TORO ROSSO (ITA)

Ferrari

13

485

10

LOTUS (MAL)

Cosworth

0

0

11

HRT (ESP)

Cosworth

0

0

12

VIRGIN (ENG)

Cosworth

0

0

More F1 2010/11 blogs will follow between now and Christmas.

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SEBASTIAN VETTEL of Red Bull took his tenth pole-position of the season in the qualifying session for this year’s Championship deciding race in Abu Dhabi tomorrow. The title challenger’s Q3 time was 1:39.394 (124.993 mph). Fellow title contender Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) will line up second on the grid, with Championship leader Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) third. Second placed man in the title hunt, Mark Webber (Red Bull), could only manage fifth on the grid.

The rest of the top ten from fourth to tenth are: Jenson Button (McLaren), Webber, Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Rubens Barrichello (Williams), Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and Vitaly Petrov (Renault).

There was a moment of controversy in Q2 when Massa and Hamilton almost crashed into each other at Turn 5. Neither car was damaged and both drivers escaped punishment, but one bollard was taken clean out of the ground by the McLaren. It would have been a mockery to penalise both drivers and the right decision was made.

For the first time this season Renault’s Robert Kubica failed to make it into Q3, and will start from 11th on the grid. This means the only two drivers who have made it into Q3 at all 19 races in 2010 are Vettel and Webber, surprise surprise.

As for tomorrow’s race I can’t see a clear winner. It looks like Vettel and Hamilton will race off into the distance, but as we have seen over this great season, anything can happen.

May the best man win the title (so long as it is by more than seven points if it is Alonso).

RED BULL became Formula 1 Constructors’ World Champions with their 1-2 finish in last Sunday’s (7 November) Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos. It was Sebastian Vettel who won the 71 lap race ahead of his team-mate Mark Webber in a time of 1:33:11.803 (122.365 mph), with Drivers’ Championship leader Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) coming home in third place. The Fastest Lap of the race was set by fourth place finisher Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) who produced a lap of 1:13.851 (130.495 mph).

Sebastian Vettel (L) celebrates his victory and Red Bull’s first Constructors’ Championship with team Principal Christian Horner (R).

All four of the above drivers can still win the title in Abu Dhabi on Sunday (14 November). This is the first time ever that four drivers will be in with a chance of the title at the last race of the season. Reigning World Champion Jenson Button (McLaren) saw his hopes of becoming the first British driver to defend the title have now gone with his fifth place in Brazil.

The race itself started with Williams’ rookie driver Nico Hülkenberg on pole. He got away from the line well, but was no match for Vettel who led going into the Senna ‘S’ for the first time. Hamilton managed to get his nose ahead of Webber but had to back out of the move. This left Webber able to have a clear run at Hülkenberg down the Reta Oposta straight. The Australian dummied the reigning GP2 Champion and passed him up the inside at the Descida do Lago double left-hander.

Vettel (Far Right) takes the lead away from Nico Hülkenberg (Middle) at the start.

Alonso tried his luck at passing Hamilton on the start/finish straight at the beginning of the second lap but just didn’t have that little bit extra speed in his Ferrari to get around the McLaren. But the Spaniard’s luck was back in again when Hamilton went wide at the Descida do Lago and just as in South Korea, Alonso effortlessly passed him.

The 2005 and 2006 World Champion now had Hülkenberg in his sights. However, the pole sitter was not making life easy for Alonso who also had to be aware of Hamilton behind him; and it wasn’t until lap seven when he took advantage of Hülkenberg’s inexperience and passed him, also at the Descida do Lago. Now it was Hamilton’s turn to swarm all over the back of the Williams, yet he couldn’t do what Alonso had done and needed to wait until Hülkenberg pitted at the end of lap 14 in order to get by. This was also the lap in which Felipe Massa’s (Ferrari) home race was ruined by a problem with his right-front wheel nut. He had to come in again on the next lap so his mechanics could tighten it. Speaking of Brazilian’s having bad luck at Interlagos; Rubens Barrichello (Williams) suffered a puncture after hitting Jamie Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso, Lucas di Grassi (Virgin) finished nine laps down after experiencing car troubles and was not classified; Bruno Senna (HRT) finished in 21st place.

Vettel lost the lead when he made is pit-stop at the end of lap 25 to Webber. Webber then handed first place back to his team-mate one lap later when it was his turn to come in for new tyres. Meanwhile Jenson Button was making his way up through the field after starting 11th, just as he did last year (but from 14th) in order to take the Championship. By lap 31 (roughly half distance) Vettel was leading from: Webber, Alonso, Hamilton and Button. In other words all five title contenders were in the top five.

With only 20 laps to go both the Red Bulls were in the midst of lapping around eight other cars that were all racing each other. But the team’s problems were made easier when Force India’s Vitantonio Liuzzi crashed at the lower half of the Senna ‘S’. The car couldn’t be moved safely while the others were at racing speeds, so out came the Safety Car.

The racing was underway again at the end of lap 55. Vettel charged away from Webber who still had a couple of cars to lap. Alonso and Hamilton were further back in the pack of lapped cars, and by the time they were clear the Red Bulls were gone and on their way to their Championship clinching first and second places.

Well done Red Bull (he writes with gritted teeth). They have had the best car all season, but really should have won the title races ago.

As with regards to the drivers’ title, I’ll have all the ins and outs for you on Friday (12 November) evening.

DRIVERS’ STANDINGS (18/19 GPs)

Pos

Driver

Constructor(s)

Points

Gap From 1st

1

Fernando ALONSO (ESP)

Ferrari

246

2

Mark WEBBER (AUS)

Red Bull

238

8

3

Sebastian VETTEL (GER)

Red Bull

231

15

4

Lewis HAMILTON (ENG)

McLaren

222

24

5

Jenson BUTTON (ENG)

McLaren

199

47*

6

Felipe MASSA (BRA)

Ferrari

143

103*

7

Nico ROSBERG (GER)

Mercedes

130

116*

8

Robert KUBICA (POL)

Renault

126

120*

9

Michael SCHUMACHER (GER)

Mercedes

72

174*

10

Rubens BARRICHELLO (BRA)

Williams

47

199*

*Can’t win title.

There are just 25 points available

 

CONSTRUCTORS’ STANDINGS (18/19 GPs)

Pos

Constructor

Engine

Points

Gap From 1st

World Champions

RED BULL (AUT)

Renault

469

2

MCLAREN (ENG)

Mercedes

421

48

3

FERRARI (ITA)

Ferrari

389

80

4

MERCEDES (GER)

Mercedes

202

267

5

RENAULT (FRA)

Renault

145

324

6

WILLIAMS (ENG)

Cosworth

69

400

7

FORCE INDIA (IND)

Mercedes

68

401

8

SAUBER (SUI)

Ferrari

44

425

9

TORO ROSSO (ITA)

Ferrari

11

458

Yet to Score

LOTUS (MAL), HRT (ESP), VIRGIN (ENG)

Cosworth (All)

0

469

 

There are 43 points available

NICO HÜLKENBERG (Williams) took his first ever pole position in yesterdays Qualifying session for this afternoons Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos. He was the driver who got the maximum number of laps on a drying track in Q3, when the conditions on the track where not quite right for either dry tyres of inters.

The reigning GP2 Champion’s fastest Q3 time was 1:14.470 (129.411 mph). Apart from being Hülkenberg’s first pole, it is also Williams’ first pole since the 2005 European Grand Prix and Cosworth’s first pole since the 1999 French Grand Prix.

The two Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber took second and third on the grid respectively, over a whole second behind Hülkenberg!

The rest of the top ten from fourth to tenth are: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Rubens Barrichello (Williams), Robert Kubica (Renault), Michael Schumacher (Mercedes), Felipe Massa (Ferrari) and Vitaly Petrov (Renault).

Reigning World Champion Jenson Button (McLaren) could only manage 11th place on the grid, and must surely be out of title contention now. But he did qualify down in 14th last year and still came fifth.

Breaking News: Jenson Button was almost carjacked in São Paulo last night. Six armed men approached the car he, his manager and trainer were travelling in. But all of them escaped unhurt after an armed policeman got them away in an armoured vehicle. Lucky boys indeed.

Anyway back to the racing. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg also missed the Q3 cut and starts down in 13th place. Sébastien Buemi (Toro Rosso) and Adrian Sutil (Force India) will start 20th and 23rd respectively after taking five-place grid drops for their actions in South Korea. Bruno Senna – who is racing in São Paulo for the first time ever – will start the race from the back of the grid.

With regards to the start of the race, let’s face it Hülkenberg is a rolling road block if it is dry. He has: fourth, second, third and first in the championship all sitting behind him. He can hold up both Red Bulls and Alonso all he likes. Just don’t get in Hamilton’s way!

Fernando Alonso celebrates winning the first ever (South) Korean Grand Prix.

FERNANDO ALONSO of Ferrari won his third Grand Prix in four in what was a highly eventful first ever Korean Grand Prix (24 October). The 2005 and 2006 World Champion won the 55 lap race in a time of 2:48:20.810, at an average speed of just 68.350 mph! This is because the race was suspended for over 45 minutes due to torrential rain and standing water on a newly laid track surface. Alonso also set the fastest lap of the race with a lap of 1:50.257 (113.919 mph), which was almost 15 seconds slower than Sebastian Vettel’s (Red Bull) pole time. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton finished in second place, while Alonso’s team-mate Felipe Massa came home in third.

The race’s original start time of 15:00 local time was put back by ten minutes as the race stewards debated over whether or not the race should start under the Safety Car. This ended up being the case, and the SC took Sebastian Vettel and the other drivers around for three laps before the race was red flagged because it was descending into a farce. Alonso radioed the Ferrari pit wall telling them: “These are the worst conditions I’ve ever driven in.

And they’re off…kind of.

As I mentioned earlier the race was suspended for over three quarters of an hour before the rain eased up enough for the SC to lead the cars around again. This was the situation from laps four to the end of lap 17. In my opinion they should have been racing at least two or three laps earlier. Hamilton told the McLaren pit wall that: “It’s almost good enough for inters.” [intermediate tyres] just before the SC came in.

The race started for real at the end of lap 17 with Vettel leading from his team-mate Mark Webber and Alonso. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) passed Robert Kubica (Renault) at the first corner, and his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg overtook Hamilton at Turn 3 after slipstreaming him on the long straight between Turns 2 and 3. Schumacher meanwhile spent the rest of the lap hassling reigning World Champion Jenson Button (McLaren) and Massa.

But there was to be potentially championship deciding drama on the next lap. Mark Webber – who was leading the championship going into this race – took too much curb exiting Turn 12 and slid across the track and into the wall before bouncing back across the road. Alonso missed the Red Bull, but Nico Rosberg was not so lucky. He tried to squeeze his Mercedes past the Red Bull but didn’t quite manage it, and was taken clean out by Webber who would not be adding to his points total in South Korea. This crash brought out the SC for its third stint in only two racing laps.

Will this cost Mark Webber the title?

Normal service was resumed at the end of lap 23 with Vettel leading from Alonso and Hamilton. Further down the field Schumacher passed Button at Turn 3. Button decided to gamble and pit for inters on lap 27. But unlike in Australia his gamble didn’t pay off as he was unlucky enough to exit the pits right in the middle of a mid-filed scrap.

Lap 29 saw Sébastien Buemi (Toro Rosso) punt off Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus. But whereas Kovalainen would finish the race Buemi wouldn’t. His race ended just two laps later when he T-boned Timo Glock’s Virgin car at Turn 3. Glock was also forced to retire and the SC came out yet again.

The leaders seized this opportunity to pit with: Hamilton, Massa and Schumacher all going for inters. Race leaders Vettel and Alonso pitted for inters in the next lap, but Alonso’s pit-stop was slow and Hamilton took second place away from his former McLaren team-mate while he was exiting the pits.

Racing got underway again at the end of lap 34. Hamilton went wide at Turn 1 allowing Alonso to retake second place. Massa fancied a run at Hamilton down the straight but the Englishman was wise to what the Brazilian was intending to do at Turn 3, and legally blocked him from trying anything.

Jenson Button’s race went from bad to worse when Adrian Sutil forced him off track on lap 36, causing him to lose yet more places and ground in the title race.

Renault’s Vitaly Petrov had a heavy shunt at the last corner on lap 40 wrecking his car. The replays showed that the impact was indeed hefty, yet to my sheer annoyance Petrov was left there to make his own way out of the car and back to his pit. Absolutely nobody went up to his car to see if he was hurt or not, or to help him back to the Renault garage. What if he was hurt or passed out while walking? Who was there to help him?!

My mood was much improved however when – at the start of lap 46 – the Renault engine in Vettel’s Red Bull began to sound ill. The same had happened to him while he was leading in Bahrain, and just like in the season’s first race Alonso passed him for the lead. Vettel continued to slow through Turns 1 and 2, and just a Hamilton pulled out to take second his engine went BANG! 😀 After parking his car at a marshal’s post on the straight the German grabbed a fire extinguisher to put out the flames that where engulfing the engine just like Heikki Kovalainen did in Singapore. Once again Red Bull failed to take advantage of their epic qualifying speed and their superior race pace.

Will this cost Sebastian Vettel the title?

A lap later Sutil ended his race by crashing into Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber whilst trying to outbrake him at Turn 4. It later came to light that Sutil knew he had brake problems and was fined $10,000 (£6,400) for dangerous driving. Personally I’d have banned him from the Brazilian Grand Prix to send a message out to the drivers that such actions are both intolerable and stupid. Sutil and Buemi have also been handed five-place grid bumps for the Brazilian GP for causing their respective crashes.

Back to the race now, and a new problem…the light. Because we westerners don’t want to get up too early in the morning on a Sunday the power/s that be decided to start the race at 15:00 Korean time. That coupled with the slow race pace and 45 minute delay meant that the Sun had pretty much set over the track, and the drivers were out there in near darkness. Hamilton didn’t mind this at all mind you.

McLaren pit wall: “Lewis, how is the light?

Hamilton: “Light’s good!” 😉

Now, I’ve always gotten up for races and qualifying ever since I was a small boy. True fans would get up to watch the race no matter how early it is. Here’s an idea for a regulation next year: All races with the exception of Singapore and Abu Dhabi will start at 14:00 local time. Not 15:00, 16:00 or 17:00, 14:00. Singapore will start at 20:00 local time, Abu Dhabi at 17:00 local time. What do you reckon?

Anyway, Alonso managed to navigate his way through the darkness to win the longest Grand Prix since Monaco 1960 (Lotus’s first win). He now leads the championship by 11 points from Webber, 21 from Hamilton, 25 (a race win) from Vettel and 42 from Button who finished down in 12th place.

The next race is Brazil at the weekend. The Interlagos circuit has seen the last five championships decided, and can see this run continue in favour of Fernando Alonso if:

  • He wins, with Webber no higher than 5th.
  • He is 2nd, with Webber no higher than 8th, as long as Vettel or Hamilton don’t win.
  • He is 3rd, with Webber no higher than 11th, as long as Vettel or Hamilton don’t win or come 2nd.

Red Bull can win their first ever Constructor’s Championship if they finish first and second. But this is F1 2010. Absolutely anything can happen.

DRIVERS’ STANDINGS (17/19 GPs)

Pos

Driver

Constructor(s)

Points

Gap From 1st

1

Fernando ALONSO (ESP)

Ferrari

231

2

Mark WEBBER (AUS)

Red Bull

220

11

3

Lewis HAMILTON (ENG)

McLaren

210

21

4

Sebastian VETTEL (GER)

Red Bull

206

25

5

Jenson BUTTON (ENG)

McLaren

189

42

6

Felipe MASSA (BRA)

Ferrari

143

88*

7

Robert KUBICA (POL)

Renault

124

107*

8

Nico ROSBERG (GER)

Mercedes

122

109*

9

Michael SCHUMACHER (GER)

Mercedes

66

165*

10

Rubens BARRICHELLO (BRA)

Williams

47

184*

*Can’t win title.

There are 50 points still available

CONSTRUCTORS’ STANDINGS (17/19 GPs)

Pos

Constructor

Engine

Points

Gap From 1st

1

RED BULL (AUT)

Renault

426

2

MCLAREN (ENG)

Mercedes

399

27

3

FERRARI (ITA)

Ferrari

374

52

4

MERCEDES (GER)

Mercedes

188

238*

5

RENAULT (FRA)

Renault

143

283*

6

FORCE INDIA (IND)

Mercedes

68

358*

7

WILLIAMS (ENG)

Cosworth

65

361*

8

SAUBER (SUI)

Ferrari

43

383*

9

TORO ROSSO (ITA)

Ferrari

11

415*

Yet to Score

LOTUS (MAL), HRT (ESP), VIRGIN (ENG)

Cosworth (All)

0

426*

*Can’t win title.

There are 86 points still available

APOLOGIES for the delay in my Korean Grand Prix post. I’ve been off school for a week and taking it easy, plus it was such a long and eventful race that I’m still trying to get over it!

Also, being as Brazil and Abu Dhabi are back-to-back I’ve decided to kick-off the championship run in by posting my Korean GP review later in the week.

I hope this is fine with you reader, and sorry again for any inconvenience caused.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL (Red Bull) took pole position – his ninth of the season – for tomorrow morning’s first ever (South) Korean Grand Prix at the Korean International Circuit in Yeongam.

The young German’s Q3 pole effort was a 1:35.585 lap, an average speed of 131.556 mph.

His Championship leading team-mate, Mark Webber, will line up alongside him in yet another all Red Bull front row. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso will start from third on the grid.

The rest of the top ten from fourth to tenth are: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Jenson Button (McLaren), Robert Kubica (Renault), Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) and Rubens Barrichello (Williams).

I’m not sure what to make of the track itself, apart from the fact that the pit lane entry is not in the safest place in the world by any stretch of the imagination. All those of you who have seen it will (hopefully) agree with me.

Both the McLaren drivers (Button and Hamilton) ideally need to come first and second and hope that the other three title contenders: Webber, Alonso and Vettel finish poorly or fail to score at all in order to keep their title hopes alive. Sadly I can only see a Red Bull, namely Vettel, winning this race tomorrow morning.

We will just have to wait and see.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL of Red Bull strengthened his championship hopes last Sunday (10 October) by taking pole position and victory at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka…

...But Webber still hovers over Vettel in the Standings.

Qualifying had been washed out on Saturday because of heavy rain and took place at 10:00 local time (02:00 British time).

Vettel took pole with a Q3 time of 1:30.785 (143.072 mph). His Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber was second fastest, with Renault’s Robert Kubica taking third on the grid. The rest of the top ten from fourth to tenth were: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Jenson Button (McLaren), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Rubens Barrichello (Williams), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) – who set the third fastest time but had his gearbox changed encoring a five-place grid drop. Nico Hülkenberg (Williams) and Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) completed the top ten.

Felipe Massa (Ferrari) had another qualifying to forget, as he could only manage 12th on the grid.

I then got just under three hours sleep before the race itself. But it was well worth getting up for.

Lucas di Grassi (Virgin) destroyed his car at 130R on the going to the grid lap of all things. Don’t ask me how he managed it. I don’t even think he knows.

The start of the race saw two separate accidents before the drivers had even gotten to the ‘S’ bends. Vitaly Petrov (Renault) cut across Hülkenberg’s path and ended up breaking both of their cars. Massa then went off the road at the first corner and bounced across the track, wiping out Vitantonio Liuzzi’s Force India. This naturally brought out the Safety Car, with Vettel leading from Kubica who has passed Webber at the start.

In Soviet Russia, car drives YOU!

We have to swap insurance details!

But we were robbed of the chance of seeing Kubica giving the Red Bulls a hard time just minutes later. On lap three (while still behind the SC) Kubica’s right-rear wheel came off of his car and he was out of the race. Thank God that this didn’t happen at oh…let’s see…130R at racing speed.

The SC came in at the end of lap six with Vettel leading from: Webber, Alonso, Button and Hamilton.

Mercedes had an eventual first racing lap. Nico Rosberg tried to pass Jamie Alguersuari (Toro Rosso) around the outside of 130R but he ran wide and lost the place. Meanwhile just a little way up the road, Michael Schumacher overtook his old Ferrari team-mate, Rubens Barrichello at Turn 15.

On lap 18, Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi (who was driving in his home Grand Prix for the first time) launched himself up the inside of Adrian Sutil’s Force India at the ‘Hairpin’ for ninth place.

Race leader Vettel and third placed man Alonso pitted at the end of lap 24. They came out of the pits as they came in, but behind them Hamilton (who had pitted earlier) slipstreamed Kobayashi on the front straight and took fifth place off him. Webber – who inherited the lead from Vettel – pitted a lap later handing the lead over to Button.

The reigning World Champion pitted from the lead at the end of lap 38, and Vettel was back in front. On the next lap Hamilton radioed the McLaren pit wall to tell them that he had lost third gear. His lightning pace from 15 or so laps ago had gone, and it would only be a matter of time before his team-mate would pass him. This happened on lap 44. Button followed Hamilton around to the ‘Hairpin’ and eased by without Hamilton putting up a fight.

Kobayashi was at it again on lap 45, this time passing Alguersuari around the outside of the ‘Hairpin’. Alguersuari didn’t give up without a struggle however and made contact with the Sauber. But it was the Spaniard’s car which came off second best. Kobayashi was then greeted with the sight of Sutil’s Force India dumping oil all over the track. Sutil tried to take 130R too quickly and only just saved the car from a violent spin, his backside taking a huge backside out of his seat in the process. He did manage to get the car back to the pits however.

Three laps later it was Nico Rosberg’s turn to lose a wheel (his left-rear). It came off as he went up the hill to Dunlop corner after the ‘S’ bends. He had been holding off a strong challenge from his resurgent team-mate Michael Schumacher for most of the second half of the race, and he really deserved a good finish.

Schumacher (red helmet) could only pass Rosberg (yellow helmet) when his wheel came off.

The cameras then picked up the fact that Kobayashi was now ahead of Barrichello, and was right up behind his Sauber team-mate Nick Heidfeld on the start/finish straight in front of his delighted home fans. The Japanese driver then overtook his team-mate at the ‘Hairpin’ (where else?) and was now up into seventh place.

But it was Sebastian Vettel who won the 53 lap race in a time of 1:30:27.323, an average speed of 126.841 mph. His team-mate Webber came second just under a second behind him and also set the fastest lap of the race (1:33.474, 138.956 mph). Alonso came third, with Button fourth, Hamilton fifth and Schumacher sixth. Lotus managed their best result of the season with Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli finishing 12th and 13th respectively.

For his first lap actions, Petrov has been given a five-place grid penalty for the next race. This will be the first ever (South) Korean Grand Prix. McLaren must win it to save both their title challenges.

DRIVERS’ STANDINGS (16/19 GPs)

Pos

Driver

Constructor(s)

Points

Gap From 1st

1

Mark WEBBER (AUS)

Red Bull

220

2

Fernando ALONSO (ESP)

Ferrari

206

14

3

Sebastian VETTEL (GER)

Red Bull

206

14

4

Lewis HAMILTON (ENG)

McLaren

192

28

5

Jenson BUTTON (ENG)

McLaren

189

31

6

Felipe MASSA (BRA)

Ferrari

128

92*

7

Nico ROSBERG (GER)

Mercedes

122

98*

8

Robert KUBICA (POL)

Renault

114

106*

9

Michael SCHUMACHER (GER)

Mercedes

54

166*

10

Adrian SUTIL (GER)

Force India

47

173*

*Can’t win title.

There are 75 points still available

CONSTRUCTORS’ STANDINGS (16/19 GPs)

Pos

Constructor

Engine

Points

Gap From 1st

1

RED BULL (AUT)

Renault

426

2

MCLAREN (ENG)

Mercedes

381

45

3

FERRARI (ITA)

Ferrari

334

92

4

MERCEDES (GER)

Mercedes

176

250

5

RENAULT (FRA)

Renault

133

293

6

FORCE INDIA (IND)

Mercedes

60

366

7

WILLIAMS (ENG)

Cosworth

58

368

8

SAUBER (SUI)

Ferrari

37

389

9

TORO ROSSO (ITA)

Ferrari

11

415

Yet to Score

LOTUS (MAL), HRT (ESP), VIRGIN (ENG)

Cosworth (All)

0

426

*Can’t win title.

There are 129 points still available

I WOKE up at 4:45am to watch the qualifying session for this year’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, only to be told by my Dad that it might not happen because of torrential rain.

And sure enough, no cars went out on track at all because it was just raining too much, and the cars would handle like boats. Qualifying will now take place at 10am local time, or 2am UK time! This will give me just under three hours sleep before the live programme begins at 6am UK time, with the race starting at 7am.

This is not the first time that Suzuka has experienced qualifying on the morning of the race. Back in 2004, typhoon Ma-on caused qualifying to be pushed back a day as it came within around 25 miles of the circuit.

The weather forecast for Suzuka tomorrow is for it to be clear, but if no qualifying takes place at all, then the grid will be decided by car number order, meaning a McLaren front row lock-out!

Well no actually. The Woking based outfit have had to change Lewis Hamilton’s gearbox, and the 2008 World Champion will take a five-place grid bump. 😦

But on a lighter not as you can see below, some of the drivers and mechanics busied themselves by taking photos and racing little paper boats down the pit lane.

Sebastian Vettel trying his hand at photography

FERNANDO ALONSO made it back-to-back victories for Ferrari by winning last Sunday’s (26 September) Singapore Grand Prix around the Marina Bay Street Circuit. The Spaniard won the 61 lap night race in a time of 1:57:53.579 (97.822 mph). He also set the fastest lap of the race with a 1:47.976 (105.023 mph) lap. Alonso led every lap of the race, and because he started from pole-position, he completed his first ever Grand Slam. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel chased Alonso hard for the entire race, finishing just 0.293 seconds behind the Ferrari. World Championship leader Mark Webber (Red Bull) finished third, thus extending his points lead.

He’s happy isn’t he?

The start saw Alonso move across the track to block any chance Vettel had of passing him into the first corner. Reigning Champion Jenson Button traded places with his McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton, and having started last, Felipe Massa (Ferrari) came into the pits at the end of the lap in order to get his pit stop out of the way.

On the third lap the Safety Car was deployed so as the rescue crew could fetch Vitantonio Liuzzi’s Force India by the infamous Turn 10. He had collided with the Sauber of Nick Heidfeld who was starting his first race since Abu Dhabi 2009. Several drivers took this as their opportunity to pit, including Mark Webber. But when the race got back up to speed at the end of lap five the Australian found himself down in 11th behind Timo Glock’s Virgin, which he passed with ease later on in the lap.

Webber continued to climb up the order, passing Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber and Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes.

The next high profile action came at the end of lap 28. Lewis Hamilton pitted and Webber went though, leaving the 2008 World Champion down in eighth place.

Next time around both Alonso and Vettel pitted. Both pit crews were flawless, as was Alonso’s get away. But Vettel was in the wrong gear and almost didn’t get away at all, losing vital ground on the man he had been chasing all night.

The SC was back out on track on lap 32 after Kobayashi ended his race in the wall at Turn 18. He was then joined in the barrier by the HRT of Bruno Senna, who was going so fast he would probably have hit the wall anyway.

The race was back on at the end of lap 35 with Alonso still leading followed by: Vettel, Webber and Hamilton. But Webber had both Virgin cars in his way, and as he was lapping them Hamilton got close enough to be able to pull alongside and ahead of him on Raffles Boulevard. But on the entry to the Nicoll Highway left-hander, Webber (who was on the inside) hit Hamilton’s McLaren and broke it’s suspension. The Englishman limped into the run-off area at Turn 8 and retired from his third race in four. 😦

I was livid with Webber when I saw this happen live, but having seen it again and again, I now realise that it was a very 50/50 incident.

On lap 54 Robert Kubica (Renault) passed Massa having already seen off his team-mate Vitaly Petrov. Kubica would soon go on to pass Adrian Sutil’s Force India and Nico Hülkenberg’s Williams. For you see, he had pitted later than these drivers who had older and more worn out tyres than him, so he had a huge grip advantage.

While I’m on this group of drivers, you may have seen Sutil finish in eighth place, in front of Hülkenberg and Massa. But it was Massa who took eighth place after the results had been classified. Sutil was given a 20 seconds penalty for illegally gaining an advantage at Nicoll Highway on the first lap, and Hülkenberg was also given a 20 seconds penalty for gaining and advantage illegally after Force India complained. I thought you didn’t get time penalties for stuff that happened on lap one?

The drama was not over yet however. With just one lap to go, Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus’s Cosworth engine burst into flames. The Finn decided it would be a bad idea to bring the car into the pits, so he parked it on the start finish straight by the pit wall. He then jumped out of the car (as you would) and bravely tackled the blaze with a fire extinguisher handed to him by someone on the pit wall.

Singaporean cuisine is harmful to Finns...Official!

Alonso and Vettel avoided this last obstacle, and the former took his 25th Grand Prix victory. This now puts him ahead of Juan Manuel Fangio (24 wins) and level with Jim Clark and Niki Lauda. The only drivers who have won more Grand Prixs than these three are: Sir Jackie Stewart (27), Nigel Mansell (31), Ayrton Senna (41), Alain Prost (51) and Michael Schumacher (91).

The next race is the Japanese Grand Prix on the weekend of the 8-9-10 October at the legendary Suzuka circuit. Will you be getting up to watch it live? I will.

DRIVERS’ STANDINGS (15/19 GPs)

Pos

Driver

Constructor(s)

Points

Gap From 1st

1

Mark WEBBER (AUS)

Red Bull

202

2

Fernando ALONSO (ESP)

Ferrari

191

11

3

Lewis HAMILTON (ENG)

McLaren

182

20

4

Sebastian VETTEL (GER)

Red Bull

181

21

5

Jenson BUTTON (ENG)

McLaren

177

25

6

Felipe MASSA (BRA)

Ferrari

128

74

7

Nico ROSBERG (GER)

Mercedes

122

80

8

Robert KUBICA (POL)

Renault

114

88

9

Adrian SUTIL (GER)

Force India

47

155*

10

Michael SCHUMACHER (GER)

Mercedes

46

156*

*Can’t win title.

There are 100 points still available

CONSTRUCTORS’ STANDINGS (15/19 GPs)

Pos

Constructor

Engine

Points

Gap From 1st

1

RED BULL (AUT)

Renault

383

2

MCLAREN (ENG)

Mercedes

359

24

3

FERRARI (ITA)

Ferrari

319

64

4

MERCEDES (GER)

Mercedes

168

215*

5

RENAULT (FRA)

Renault

133

250*

6

FORCE INDIA (IND)

Mercedes

60

323*

7

WILLIAMS (ENG)

Cosworth

56

327*

8

SAUBER (SUI)

Ferrari

27

356*

9

TORO ROSSO (ITA)

Ferrari

10

373*

Yet to Score

LOTUS (MAL), HRT (ESP), VIRGIN (ENG)

Cosworth (All)

0

383*

*Can’t win title.

There are 172 points still available