Daily Archives: November 14, 2010

Thoughts on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

So, the season finale of the 2010 Formula 1 season gave us our youngest ever world champion, but that’s not half of the story. Both Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso fell prey to mistakes in Abu Dhabi, though not through driver error.

First of all, when rating this race, it’s important to separate the title battle from the actual race. In the context, I would have said that the Abu Dhabi GP was actually very poor, as like last year, the track prevented overtaking, and restricted activity to strategy and not the driver skill.

However, it was the strategy aspect which threw away the title for Alonso today. His team opted to pit him early to cover Mark Webber, which deposited the Ferrari in a line of traffic, from which he never recovered. While Fernando can easily blame the team for putting him into this situation, the fact of the matter is that he failed to make a single overtaking move, not even on a rookie driver in a Renault.

Fernando’s actions after the race were simply disgraceful. To blame a fellow driver for doing his job demeans the entire sport. Not every driver on the track is like Felipe Massa, Vitaly was driving to secure a seat for next year, and he is expected to simply move out of the way? Any driver who expects this does not deserve the championship.

Meanwhile, as Alonso was stuck in 7th, the opportunity was present for Mark Webber to capitalise on this, but he too failed. He was struggling for pace all weekend, and never even looked like progressing up the field. Again, a performance like that does not earn you any titles.

A title well deserved for Sebastian Vettel

A title well deserved for Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian, on the other hand, put in a dominant performance like we have seen so many other times this year. He never looked like letting go of the lead, and with his title rivals slipping when they had to push, gave Vettel a well deserved world championship. I’ll have a separate post on this later.

But of course, there was more than the title to settle here. As I said earlier, Vitaly Petrov did extremely well to keep Fernando Alonso back for nearly the entire race, just like he did in Turkey. He has impressed me in his rookie season, and definitely deserves to keep his seat for 2011. His team-mate Robert Kubica also did well, starting from his worst qualifying spot of the year, to leap as high as second in the race, and he too did well in keeping back a much faster car, in the form of Lewis Hamilton.

Jaime Alguersuari is another driver who deserve a shout-out for his performance. Starting 17th, he progressed calmly up the field, almost invisible to the viewers, and ended up 9th, only 6 seconds behind Mark Webber. Both Toro Rosso drivers have disappointed in recent races, but this was a good way to end the year for the Red Bull sister team.

Schumacher's and Liuzzi's crash was far too close for comfort

Schumacher's and Liuzzi's crash was far too close for comfort

Nico Rosberg did very well to jump up to 4th, and was one of several drivers who threw the spanner in the works of Alonso’s title bid. Even before the race, he told journalists that he was planning to pit early, and so he did, utilising his strategy perfectly to move from 9th to 4th. His collision with Michael Schumacher at the start could have been avoidable, but I don’t think it was anyone’s fault, just the lightest of contact. However, the subsequent crash with Vitantonio Liuzzi needs to be scrutineered more closely, as the Force India came to a rest just centimetres from Schumacher’s head.

 

At the end of it all, there wasn’t very much racing action, yet plenty to keep our nails being bitten right to the very last lap. The podium was a lovely spectacle, I thought, as the three champions from the last 3 years were 1st, 2nd and 3rd. To make it better, Lewis Hamilton had the pressure off him for this race, so there were no sullen faces, just happiness for Vettel’s victory, which is great to see.

These 24 drivers have made 2010 a legendary Formula 1 season

These 24 drivers have made 2010 a legendary Formula 1 season

And finally, I’d just like to say that this has been one of the greatest Formula 1 seasons in history, and most certainly the best that I have ever watched. Never before has the world championship been so enthralling for me, and at the end of the day, the best man won, and the cheaters fell at the final hurdle.

Not that this is the end of my work. Throughout the winter, I hope to keep the blog well alive, keep writing all the way through the off-season, and also the introduction of a new series, which I’ll post about later. Stay tuned!

Vettel unaware of championship victory until last lap

In the post-race press conference, 2010 world champion Sebastian Vettel has said that his team did not inform him he was about to win the title until the very last lap.

Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber were stuck down in 7th and 8th places repsectively, meaning that Vettel was 4 points clear of the Ferrari when the chequered flag fell. However, as Sebastian tells us, he didn’t know much about it:

 To be honest I didn’t know anything until I took the 
chequered flag. The last ten laps I was wondering because 
my race engineer Rocky was trying to give me advice in 
the last ten laps to bring the car home. And I was think
 “why is this guy so nervous? We must be in a bloody good 
position.”

And then crossing the line he came on the line very 
silently and said “it’s looking good, we have to wait 
until the cars finish” and I was thinking “what does he 
mean?” Because I hadn’t seen the screens, I just wanted 
to make sure not to get any distractions, just focus on 
myself.

And then he comes on the radio and screams at me that we’ve
 won the world championship.

I have to say thanks to a lot of people, I will surely 
forget a lot of those but to start with the team, all the 
guys here at the race track, all my mechanics – all the 
mechanics in the team, not only my mechanics – everyone.

The engineers – sorry I’ve made this a bit long – we have 
an extremely strong amount of people together working in 
harmony. Back in Milton Keynes the guys are pushing like 
hell and I think they’ll enjoy this moment as much as 
last year.

Back in Austria, all the people that have been supporting 
me from the beginning. It’s been an incredible season with 
Red Bull and after this season’s ups and downs, to come 
here and lead the world championship at the last race is 
unbelievable.

Thanks and also thanks to all the people back in karting, 
some of them are in Kerpen supporting me, but also back 
in my home town, Heppenheim, I just want to say thank 
you very much.

 

Vettel snatches victory and the title in Abu Dhabi

Sebastian Vettel took victory at the season finale in Abu Dhabi, and wrenched the world championship out of Fernando Alonso’s and Mark Webber’s hands. Fernando suffered badly when he pitted to cover Webber early on, and he was held up by Vitaly Petrov for the rest of the race. Here is what happened:

At the first corner, Jenson Button made a successful move on Fernando Alonso, putting the Ferrari back into 4th place. At Turn 4, Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher made the lightest of contact, Michael lost out and spun. The cars behind tried their best to avoid the Mercedes, but Vitantonio Liuzzi failed to do so, and smashed straight into him, with the Force India jumping just over Schumacher’s helmet.

The safety car was deployed for the crash, with the two cars and debris all over the track. For the next few laps, all of the cars tried to keep the heat in their tyres, although Lewis Hamilton was complaining of cold brakes. Bernd Maylander pitted on Lap 6, and the racing resumed.

Robert Kubica made a wonderful move on the outside of Adrian Sutil for 9th place. Kamui Kobayashi dived down the inside of Rubens Barrichello, but overshot the corner and Rubens retook the position. Nico Rosberg, who pitted for the harder tyre under the safety car, overtook Nico Hulkenberg for 13th.

Within a few laps though, both of the Red Bulls began to lose pace, with their rear tyres graining. Hamilton began to get right up behind Vettel, while Webber was falling away from Alonso. Mark made the call to switch to hard tyres on Lap 11, and fell to 16th. Ferrari were about to pit Massa, but decided to keep him out.

However, the next lap, Felipe Massa stopped for harder tyres, but emerged behind Webber still. Mark was being held behind Jaime Alguersuari, but the Spaniard decided to allow the Red Bull through next up for Webber to overtake was Vitaly Petrov.

Fernando Alonso pitted on Lap 15, and despite nearly hitting the wall, pitted and emerged just ahead of the Red Bull, to the relief of Ferrari. If Webber had cleared Alguersuari a lap earlier, he could well have jumped Fernando in the stops.

The focus soon switched to Vettel and Hamilton at the front, and both seemed to be utilising the super-soft tyres better than anyone else, with both staying out longer than their rivals. Nico Rosberg was now crucial to the championship battle, as Vettel now had to stay out, then pit and emerge ahead of the Mercedes. By Lap 20, however, Sebastian’s tyres had finished the graining stage, and he could now push in the lead for longer.

With Alonso and Webber being held up behind Vitaly Petrov, the situation now had another twist. If Nico Rosberg’s strategy was to work, and he jumped up to a podium position, this would push Alonso down to 5th, and hand Vettel the title. With this in mind, Alonso was instructed to push and try and get past Petrov.

On Lap 24, Alonso made a dive on the Renault, but ran wide and lost some time, although he stayed ahead of Webber. Meanwhile, Hamilton pitted, and Sebastian was ordered by his team to push like hell. He pitted one lap later, and was still ahead of Lewis. Even better, Kamui Kobayashi and Robert Kubica were in between the Red Bull and the McLaren. To make it even better for Vettel, they began to battle, with Kubica out-braking Kobayashi around the outside, a stunning move.

Jenson Button was now left in the lead of the race, although he was still yet to stop. Robert Kubica was now holding up Lewis Hamilton, as they were in 3rd and 4th places. Kamui Kobayashi pitted from 5th, and was back out in 16th. Nico Hulkenberg stopped a few laps later, and promoted Alonso to 9th.

The title was shifting closer and closer to Sebastian, and he showed that by setting fastest lap after fastest lap. Sebastien Buemi stopped, giving Fernando 8th position. On Lap 40, Jenson Button finally pitted, after an astonishing 40 laps on the super-soft tyres, which gave Sebastian Vettel the lead, and Button was now 4th.

As well as Nico Rosberg being crucial to the title, Robert Kubica was now entering the equation. The average pit stop time lost was 22.5 seconds (Williams estimate), and Kubica was 19 seconds ahead of Alonso. The Renault was lapping half a second faster than the Ferrari, thanks to Vitaly Petrov holding Alonso up, so now Fernando could lose another position when Kubica was to pit.

On Lap 45, Hamilton and Alonso were still stuck behind other cars, and Hamilton wiped out another trackside camera trying to catch Kubica. Timo Glock, meanwhile, retired on track with a gearbox problem. Kubica pitted on Lap 47, and tortured Alonso a little bit further by emerging ahead of the Ferrari. However, he ran a little bit wide at pit exit, and went a little too close to incurring the stewards’ wrath. Adrian Sutil pitted from 4th, and left Alonso 7th.

With this, and only 5 laps to go in the 2010 Formula 1 season, the dust began to settle. Alonso began to realise it was all over, and Webber was told he could try an overtaking move on the Ferrari, although he failed to do so. Apart from Jarno Trulli’s rear wing collapsing, little happened in the last few laps, to settle the hearts on the Red Bull crew. And with that, Sebastian Vettel cruised to the finish line, to take race victory, and the 2010 world championshp!

Fernando Alonso crossed the line 7th, but he wasn’t done yet. As the cars slowed, he gave the middle finger to Vitaly Petrov, who was simply doing his job, and, with hand gestures, signalled to Alonso: “What did you expect me to do?”

But that was swiftly disregarded, as the youngest world champion took to the top step of the podium. And with that, Sebastian Vettel wore the biggest smile in the world in Abu Dhabi, and Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber retreated to lick their wounds. Plenty of posts will be up in the next few days, but I’ll make it clear here: Sebastian fully deserved the 2010 title.

The standings have been updated for the final time, you can view them here.

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