Sunday, 24 October 2010

Korea: post-race analysis

I slept in [for the second race running] and missed the start, only to discover that my tip had been rendered impossible by the elements. Oh well. F1 is very prone to random events steering things [weather, mechanical failure, being hit by an idiot driver, pit stop woe etc].

The race really took a long time to get going, and I thought the safety car was out too long after the restart. However, once it went in there was a pretty fantastic debut for Korea. My prediction of many thrills and spills was spot on. There were numerous overtakes, including a surprising but good one by Schumacher on Button, a number of crashes, most notably the Webber-Rosberg incident, and mechanical breakdowns too.

I feel tremendously sorry for Vettel. He was fastest in qualifying, fastest in the race, led from start to finish and then, yet again, his car failed him. He should’ve won the first three races of the season, and did not because the Red Bull was as reliable as an English football team taking penalties.

Even worse, this meant Alonso, the only man of the quintet competing for the title I do not want to win, got the full 25 points. Lucky swine.

Hamilton had a mixture of fortune and skill to thank for his very welcome second place. He’d been passed by a talented Rosberg [the Mercedes really did thrive on the new circuit], but then Rosberg had his race ended when Webber made an error, spun and collided with the Mercedes. However, Hamilton’s tyres were terribly degraded at the end, and it was only a hefty margin he’d built up over Massa that allowed him to still take second.

Schumacher had a great race, passing Kubica and then Button and taking a deserved and season’s best fourth place.

Button had a terrible weekend. Bad driving, bad tyre degradation, bad luck changing tyres sixteen seconds before yet another safety car came out meant he came a pitiful 12th out of 15 survivors. Mathematically he could yet retain his title, but realistically it is over.

So, a fantastic weekend for Ferrari, mixed for McLaren and absolutely dire for Red Bull. Vettel’s made a number of cock-ups this year, but no-one else has suffered such shocking reliability failings.

Interestingly, the driver’s title is not the only one now in play. With Red Bull failing to score and Ferrari getting a pair of podiums (podia?) the constructors’ is also becoming tighter.

First up, the driver’s stand as follows:
Alonso 231
Webber 220
Hamilton 210
Vettel 206

Red Bull 426
McLaren 399
Ferrari 374

We have just two races left. The fantastic Interlagos, and the glamorous dog turd of Yas Marina. Interlagos was excellent [in terms of the race on its own] for Red Bull last year. Webber won in 2009, having qualified second. Vettel had a hellish qualifying, struck by bad luck [yet again] due to awful weather and bad timing but fought through the field from 16th to 4th.

Yas Marina debuted last year and saw a Red Bull 1-2 (Vettel winning), but Hamilton had pole and car issues forced him to retire well before the end.

Can Alonso be stopped? I bloody well hope so. It’s certainly the case that an 11 point lead is nowhere near enough to guarantee the title. McLaren brought some updates to Korea [aero stuff] that worked well, and Red Bull had a tasty race at Interlagos last year. There are four men with realistic chances of winning the title, and it’s too early to write any of them off.

Sadly, for the third race in a row, I won’t be able to offer a pre-qualifying post with tips for Interlagos as that weekend I’m away attending to some personal business. I should be able to write the pre-race post, however.

Morris Dancer


Nigel said...

I'm not sure I agree that the McLaren upgrades worked well. Button's car was a disaster in the race (and I don't think it was his driving), and Hamilton's didn't look particularly well sorted, either - he was complaining of tyre degradation after only a couple of laps on new inters behind the safety car.
It appears to me that they are trying to push development of a car which is fundamentally slower than their two competitors, and they simply don't have enough time left.

I wouldn't be betting on Hamilton for the title now, though it's still just about possible. Much as it pains me to admit it, and assuming car reliability (which could well be a mistake), it's now Alonso's title to lose.

Morris Dancer said...

I wouldn't go quite that far (I think the Red Bull is a better car, except for its bad habit of exploding). Webber and Alonso are equal favourites in my eyes for the title.

Regarding the upgrades, we never had race running in dry conditions. The combination of a new surface with wet conditions makes it hard to assess. That said, you're probably right that I moderately over-egged the cake.

Anonymous said...

Hi Morris Dancer, I now agree about Webber and Alonso as equal favourites. The one thing to perhaps slightly favour Alonso is his experience of winning titles before - that may count for something. On the other hand, Red Bull clearly have the faster car if their drivers can remember to keep it pointing the right way.

The driver I felt sorriest for, including Vettel, was Nico Rosberg. He was driving absolutely beautifully, in with a great chance of a podium, had pulled off a couple of daring overtaking manoeuvers and then got wiped out through absolutely no fault of his own. Life can seem desperately unfair at times.

Morris Dancer said...

Can't agree Rosberg deserves quite as much sympathy as Vettel, but it was sad to see him taken out and with no real chance to evade the accident. Damned shame Webber didn't take out Alonso instead.

Nigel said...

>>Webber and Alonso are equal favourites<<

Perhaps so, now that Red Bull are contemplating team orders after all:

Otherwise the points advantage, combined with the likelihood of Vettel and Webber continuing to take lumps out of each other, gives Alonso a very defensible position.

Of course, a couple of engines throwing out their pistons could still make a nonsense of everyone's calculations.

Morris Dancer said...

Cheers for the link, Nigel.

It's hugely difficult for Red Bull now. The problem is that they don't know how good or bad (or lucky) Alonso will be next race. If he comes 11th and Vettel leads a 1-2, they can't even try to give team orders in Yas Marina.

But if Vettel's winning, Webber's second and Alonso's third the pressure to have a Hockenheim moment would be huge.