The key to silly season, the lock is turned – Lewis to Mercedes

Winner: McLaren and Perez
Loser: Hamilton

I’ll have to see it to believe it. I expected the Ross Brawn road show to deliver results, and it did, when they got the cheat device, double-decker diffuser, accepted by the FIA; this always was Ross Brawn’s greatest comparative advantage. He also used to show brilliant strategic decisions, propelling an off-pace car to the sharp end of the grid.
But the magic is not working within the Mercedes corporate environment, and as we’ve seen with Toyota and Honda, maybe it won’t work in F1.
Hamilton has gone the way of, dare I say it, my favourite driver of all time, and to the same team, but under a different name now, gone for the money, not the proven infrastructure to deliver the winning machinery to match the winning driving capability.
I write, not happily; I sincerely believe Hamilton to be amongst the top three pure drivers (excluding team management capability, we know who the KING of that is, just in car capability); where he is in that top tier, is difficult to say, but it is so close, it probably varies by race track and other intangibles.

But I will say, good luck Lewis, over the 2011 to 2012 seasons, there is no doubt, for me, that you have delivered the greatest part of the spectacle, and great driving, especially when you have had the right focus; I hope you continue to strive for this year’s world championships; go for it!

Perez has indeed benefited from superb strategic decisions, but he had the goods to make those strategic decisions reasonable prospects, and then pull it off! He is a phenomenal driver, and we may be including him amongst the top tier at this time next year, after he’s had a chance to demonstrate what he can do at a top-funded pedigree team.
Too bad for dedicated Peter Sauber and co. but they knew this was coming; it is my understanding that they have yet another Latin American phenom in the pipe, rated even higher than Perez was before he entered F1; so hopefully he can pick up where Perez leaves off, and good luck to the little team that could. Unlike many, I think Kobayashi is a very good driver, and I hope he has the chance to demonstrate it before the season is out.
McLaren get the deal of the grid in Perez; while I still feel Kimi would be a superior choice, I would be at all surprised if he preferred to stay where he is, at Lotus; they give him the chilled environment, where he can focus on what he loves, and is the best at, driving whatever machinery he gets, as fast as it can be driven.
No disrespect to Jenson Button, but I fully expect Perez to start getting the better of him early on, next season; furthermore, if McLaren continue with the comparative development pace, remember there will be minimal technical changes this year, Perez could well be the 2013 champion!
But that is getting a little bit ahead of ourselves.

The elephant in the room, is the winningest world champion of all time; is it into Mercedes management, or… possibly a one-year stint back with the family?!?

Other benefactors, possibly:

I personally believe the Schumacher return was a disaster for Mercedes, but even more so for a fundamentally star-class potential driver, Rosberg; anybody who knows how the things work, knows that Rosberg never really had a chance, not because of his driving capability, but because of his ability to manage those around him.  In this skill, he was a midget against the all time heavy weight champion.  Hopefully, Rosberg’s great talent has not been permanently emasculated.  But even if it hasn’t, he now goes up against one of the truly great talents in F1 racing, in Hamilton.  Rosberg will have to re-establish his self-esteem, and come out of the blocks on all cylinders and keep it closer than Jenson Button has to have a chance at making a lasting impression in the sport.  He has shown glimpses of stardom, but he has to deliver a steady stream of top-calibre results to get back on the map.  Good luck to Nico, he’s going to need it.

You might think Jenson comes out on top, but he’ll have to get the better of Perez from the start, and stay in front for the season; I just don’t think he’s going to be able to.  Perez has the lust for victory; he’s been so close, and many would agree with me, he’s already deserved a last step to the top, but hasn’t got it.  So close he could taste it.  We saw his dueling with Raikkonen, and it may have been the most telling display of mastery seen in Perez yet, competent against a top tier driver, yet fair.

I admit it, I like Perez.  He’s an exciting, talented, focused driver.  And it’s the last bit, that could elevate him to the top, which looks elusive for Hamilton this year.  It wasn’t an issue of capability with Hamilton, it was focus.  I think McLaren are trading up on that characteristic; time will tell if they had to give something up for that particular advantage.

The title race 2012 September 24, with six races to go…

As indicated on the Official Formula 1 web site, the drivers’ championship stands as:

01 Fernando Alonso 194
02 Sebastian Vettel 165
03 Kimi Räikkönen 149
04 Lewis Hamilton 142
05 Mark Webber 132
06 Jenson Button 119

While there remains a maximum mathematical total of 150 for any driver on the grid, even if one driver were to gain all of those points, the other drivers would likely continue to amass points as well.

The logical favourite is the current points leader, Fernando Alonso, not only because he has a 29 point lead on his nearest rival, but also because he has demonstrated relentless determination to maximize the points haul for every race, regardless of the competitiveness of the equipment that he has had.  Furthermore, Ferrari, contrary to their ongoing claims of uncompetitive machinery, have come on terms with the leader in the development race, arguably McLaren, so that the most significant difference between the competitiveness of the McLaren and the Ferrari is the qualifying pace, only!

Second, after his Singapore victory, Sebastian Vettel, is charging hard in his Red Bull.  The reigning world champion is going through his first year since he joined Red Bull without a clear advantage in machinery (2009 the Red Bull was faster than the Brawn except for the double diffuser).  He has responded by upping his game, as evidenced in his driving in the second half of this year.  Already having established his credentials in the top tier of drivers, Vettel is currently the fastest driver on the grid.  Singapore was only his second victory of the year, yet he is in second in the driver standings, only 29 points behind Alonso.  Like Alonso, he has maximized points scoring for every race, regardless of the comparative competitiveness of the Red Bull machinery. 

Speaking of the machinery, this year has had no clear dominant car, but over the course of all of the races so far, I would be tempted to place the Red Bull tied for second with the Ferrari, behind only the McLaren.

Speaking of McLaren, there is no doubt that Lewis Hamilton is in the top tier of drivers, in fact, when completely on his game, he dominates more than anyone else on the grid; and that is saying a lot in the company of Alonso, Vettel and the other former world champions.  However, Lewis has shown he is unstable.  He has a history of reactivity that seems to have constrained his phenomenal capability; the tweeting of the telemetry after his exit from Spa is just one example in a long list.  So this fantastic driver, with arguably the best equipment over the course of the season so far, is only 4th in the championship, and a whopping 52 points behind championship leader Alonso.  It could be argued that this is because he has NOT maximized his points haul in every race of the year.  He is now only an outside contender to become world champion this year; he is not eliminated, we’ve seen one person on the grid make up this magnitude of points to win a world championship in the last race; that person BEAT Lewis in the final race, and Alonso.

Kimi, in terms of raw racing ability, is second to none on the grid.  He currently stands in third in the championship, but 45 points behind Alonso, with no wins.  But he has, like Alonso and Vettel, maximized his points haul even when the Lotus was not competitive, stayed out of trouble, most of the time, unlike his team mate Grosjean.  He is a long way back, but has the demonstrated experience in making up a sizeable gap to win a championship.

In my opinion Webber and Button are no, for all practical purposes, out of the running for the drivers’ championship.  Webber has maximized his points haul, but has still come up short, whereas Button, it could be argued, has not had the consistency, even accounting for the team errors that cost both him and Hamilton points, so far this season, to be champion.

I don’t know about you, but I really feel that this year’s formula has ultimately created a situation wherein the driver capability is the defining factor, and that factor this year is in extracting the maximum from whatever the competitiveness of the machinery is for that given race.  The people who have done that the best now stand in the top three spots in the drivers’ standing.  Let’s face it, Ferrari started the year with a dramatically inferior car, and Lotus has only really had observable dominance in Budapest, and then yet hindered by sub-par qualifying pace; and Vettel was just as fast as Lotus in race pace; so Kimi’s placement in the championship is even more extenuating.

Factors affecting the final six races and the championship:

1. Development:

All of the contenders must keep their development on pace or better, to win the championship. Ferrari just needs to maintain their comparative competitiveness, regardless of their media propaganda machinery, their car is now as competitive as any, except as noted, and their reliability is second to none.  ed Bull seems to be just hanging in there, and really need to improve their qualifying pace to give Vettel a chance.  At the other end of the spectrum, Lotus need to make gains against these two rivals; they need better race pace than Red Bull, and they need better qualifying pace compared to Ferrari; if their vaunted and much anticipated ‘device’ fails to deliver, then, unfortunately, I predict a two-way fight to the last corner in San Paulo, and Lotus won’t be there.  McLaren have the car, and the development pace, but now they are so far back with Lewis in the drivers’ standings, that not only do they need to maintain or exceed their rivals in development, they need a little luck, the bad kind, to befall Alonso, anyhow, for a real chance to win.  Even an Alonso DNF combined with a Lewis victory would still put his more than a race vicory’s worth of points behind Alonso, and counting on that to happen more than once to Alonso/Ferrari is pretty thin ice.

What I’d like to see:

A second world championship for Kimi, won in the last corner of the last race, in Brazil.

My prediction:

Vettel will win it in the last race.

Vettel bounces back, and wins the Singapore Grand Prix!

As Martin Brundle just said, moments after the end of the Singapore Grand Prix, it would have been fascinating to see the battle between Vettel and Hamilton; but Hamilton’s McLaren transmission got busted.

During the first safety car, Button almost crashed into the back of Vettel; wouldn’t that have been interesting, especially if you were a Spaniard in a Red car?  But even if it didn’t happen, it’s still looking good for you, if you were the Spaniard in the Red car, because your championship lead to your closest rival, is now larger, regardless of who the rival is.

It was an interesting race with lot’s of attrition.

Maldonado was good in the opening corner and lap, I guess he has to be, or else he’ll certainly be painted with it.  Unfortunately, he lost position to Button, who was on very good form, and then, lost hydraulic pressure, and had to pull out, from fourth.  Senna looked pretty good, too, but also lost power before the last lap, allowing Glock in the Marussia/Cosworth to gain twelve, and thus take position on Caterham in the constructors.

Star performance by Di Resta to get 4th, in the Force India.  At times Hulkenberg was as fast as anybody, but on the wrong long-stint tire strategy, ending out of the top ten.

Rosberg held on to hold off Kimi, and they take fifth and sixth, respectively.  Michael crashed out late in the race; it looked bad, as if mental/driver error, also taking out a strong race from Jev in the Torro Rosso, a real shame.  The Sky Sports F1 showed Vergne taking it really well, and being very congenial with Schumacher, after the crash.  That makes Vergne higher in my esteem, because it really sucks that he got crashed out, through no fault of his own. UPDATE: I saw the Schumy incident again, and it was a bit weird that the load bearing front tire locked up coming down to the corner; it’s definitely not as bad as last year’s crash out, which was a real bad crash, for no reason; so maybe it was something with the car/tires this year, just the fair benefit of the doubt at this stage.

While Mercedes have come up in performance, they are not at the front,at his type of circuit, anyhow.

At one point, close to the end, Grosjean allowed Kimi by, without too much challenge; it was a reasonable move, but I’m sure even Kimi doesn’t like it too much.  Grosjean successfully held off a battling Massa, who took the eighth.

Webber, on a crossed-up tire strategy, with the rash of safety car deployments, lost out, fairly big, but fought tooth and nail, right o the end, for every point.  He’s under investigation for one pass, on Kobayashi, during which it looked like he might have got all four wheels outside of the white line, marking the track; but he didn’t really have any options, not even after the move; it wouldn’t have been realistic for him to even give the place back up.  I hope it remains a racing incident with no penalty.  As it was, he couldn’t get past Ricciardo in the second Torro Rosso, in ninth so Webber took the single, and must realistically be the odd man out of the championship race.  I like Aussie’s, I like Webber; I was hoping he could be the Red Bull champion this year, but it is now really remote.

Trends:

As predicted, Red Bull would be back after their worst case scenario circuits, and Vettel is the best driver in the world right now.  Vettel moves into second in the champion ship, leapfrogging Lewis (DNF) and Kimi (6th); but an improvement for Alonso, still in first, and yet by even more points.  Kimi stays in third, passing Lewis.

Alonso is not unbeatable, and is definitely ‘the hunted’.  Vettel is so hot right now, but he does have 29 points at hand, more than a race win of points, with a total of 150 over the last six races.  Alonso has been unflappable, but if Lewis can continue driving as he has, and gets the equipment, he still has a shot at it; but he is a LONG way back, now.  But right now, the man in the mirror is Vettel, and he looks awesome.  I get the feeling that they are just barely keeping the Red Bull competitive, in the development race, but their race pace in Singapore was as good as any.  You could still see, however, Red Bull maxing out on the rev-limiter in seventh gear, that will be a drawback in Japan!

Kimi, still third, but with 149, he is 45 points behind Alonso on 194.  Lotus MUST bring the stuff, including a fully functional device, to get half a second a lap in race, and more in qualifying, or they are out of the hunt; so my ‘silly’ prediction about Kimi winning in Singapore, was every bit as silly as I indicated.  But this isn’t silly, if they can’t give Kimi a car with the potential to win, he won’t win.  If Kimi doesn’t win in Japan, it will be VERY difficult to win the championship.  If everything does work out with the upgrades to the Lotus, then it will be a very close race to the finish, with both drivers’ and constructors’ championships going three ways to the line.  Go Lotus go!  Kimi must love Suzuka, I’m picking him for victory, again.

Ferrari/Alonso: expect them to be closer on pace, both race and qualifying; they could be up at the front and if Alonso is at the pole for the start, he will be extremely difficult to beat in the race.

McLaren/Hamilton: should be very competitive, both top two in qualifying and race pace; Lewis is a likely candidate for victory, if he just can get completely over this weekend, and continue to spend energy only on the things that most make him go faster in the race and qualifying.  McLaren are going to be at least close, in the development race to the end of the season.  They just have to keep on doing what they can, and give him the best chance he can get, and hope for a bit of a break.

Red Bull/Vettel: The charging German bull.  He is on his game.  Can they tweak the Red Bull machinery to continued competitiveness at Suzuka?  It is not their worst-case scenario track; there are several components that play to their strengths.  So it will be very interesting to see their race pace.  But where they really need to advance their comparative advantage is in qualifying.  Everyone has seen the boon it has been recently for McLaren.  Vettel/Red Bull doesn’t need to be on the pole to win in Japan, but a place on the first two rows will really help his victory charge.  Vettel should, and likely will be focusing only in front of him, therefore, while doing their own Red Bull thing, Vettel will be looking to mark Fernando Alonso, and be in front of him, any way possible.

Force India: this team has made steady progress, and now is in fighting distance to Sauber!

So we have great, great potential for Suzuka, one of the great race tracks; for me, it is second only to Spa.  What to look for:

  1. Does the Lotus ‘device’ deliver a potential game-changing improvement and catapult Kimi into the heart of the drivers’ championship; look for it on Friday?
  2. Is Ferrari more competitive at Suzuka; can they qualify on the front row?  We should know by end of Friday’s practices.
  3. Can Lewis keep his cool, and thus his championship challenge alive; it should be evident by the second practice on Friday?  If Lewis is in the top four, he’s even odds for pole/victory.
  4. Can Red Bull be competitive at Suzuka?  We probably won’t get an idea until Q1, Saturday, because they (RB) will spend their energy making the car go faster, for qualifying and race, as opposed to showing that the car can be the fastest in practice.
  5. Will Mercedes get all of their stuff together to challenge at the front?  We’ll know by the end of the first practice, if the are in the top four.

Next report after the second practice.

Send comments, if you are there.

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Singapore, trends and signs in the race

I honestly thought it would be on by now.  But it’s the tribute to Sid Watkins; so I have a few mintues to share with the last minute blog readers, who existing potentially only in my mind, and even there, not so often.

Packages:

Lewis-McLaren/Mercedes: trend of development leaders, including their balance between single pace, and race pace, is confirmed on Saturday with Lewis 0.4 ahead of the next qualifier?!?  Lewis continues doing what I said he needed to do, to continue to win, spending energy on the things that will most add to your speed, and otherwise, just shutting up.  Good job Lewis.  You are the clear favourite to win; but I don’t think it’s going to be easy, even for you.  Good luck, it rarely hurts.

Maldonado-Williams/Renault: let’s just say, I’m not a believer.  If you look at consistency, then Maldonado is a lucky fluke.  While I do believe that lightening can strike twice, let’s just say, I’m not a believer.  At the front, he may be able toad to the interestingness, and take care of the expect safety car deployment, right away.

Vettel – Red Bull/Renault: confirming my prediction that Singapore would reduce the advantage of the more powerful engines, and confirm Red Bull’s continued competitiveness for other than high power, long straight circuits where they are disadvantaged.  Vettel has been out of the limelight, slightly off the pace, but if you were following his exploits, you might also have seen what I saw, that Vettel has actually upped his already phenomenal race ability.  He may be the best driver in the world, over the trend of the past the races! I expect him to challenge in a car that will have overall better race pace than the McLaren.  Can he pass Lewis?  I believe he may be able to, so I have him on almost equal likelihood to win, as Lewis.  It will be most interesting to see if the McLaren yre solution is as good as it has seemed, lately.  For Vettel to win, the Red Bull will have to have a tire management advantage, otherwise it will be impossible o catch Lewis.

Alonso-Ferrari: Always saying he is in damage control, is getting tedious.  They have a very well crafted, underdog theme in their public relations.  Yet I do believe that they were somewhat flattered by the layouts of the past two races.  Don’t forget how bad that car was at the first race.  They must have had to pick and choose where they made it better first.  But this is Alonso, forth on the grid, must be considered a threat.

Here it goes, the lights are out…

Silly, uhh… enough!

Maybe in some seasons, last season, come to think of it, the British-slanted media could be forgiven for yawning at yet another superb matching of superior blown diffuser car with peaked German munchkin driver, coasting to another top step, and looking for comparatively interesting things to write about.  Even the driver line-ups for the next season.

But we are in the heat of the closest fought season in recent memory!

I am much more interested in in whether of not McLaren can continue the recent trend of out-developing the rest of the field, and whether or not Ferrari really have a complete package that can race at the front at all or most track layouts and weather conditions.  Or, will Mercedes, languishing, perhaps the biggest dud of the season, so far, can they get into contention, maybe even on the podium in Singapore?  And what happened to the Bulls of the paddock, they are down, but are they really out?  Lotus, they peaked at Hungary, never  breaching that elusive top step, bummer.

I am interested more in whether Lewis will be able to really get close and win Singapore, much more than where he will be driving next year.

I say, who cares where they will be next year?  They’ll likely worked it out by then, wherever!

James Allen sends me an email, notifying me of a response to my post, stating the obvious, McLaren seem to have found the development balance between qualifying and race pace, as evidenced over the past three race victories at different tracks, but Monza was a best case scenario for them, and the steadily improved Ferrari, but will the hot winding Marina Bay Street Circuit accent the drivability and (previously seen) tire wear advantages of the Red Bulls and the Lotuses?  And will the development steps change the comparative speeds: a bit, or even drastically?  Mercedes seem to finally be getting a handle on their flaws, and I suspect that they may be back in the hunt before the season is through.  James says, “Mclaren and Ferrari will win most of the remaining races maybe Red Bull or Lotus might steal one or two-Suzuka, USA or Brazil. Mclaren will most likely win at Singapore”.

I’m hoping for the continued variability on the knife’s edge of development of some of the most intense and finest engineering minds on the planet.  I’m hoping for a four way race down to the last corner of the counter-clockwise Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace tarmac.

But if you want to be silly:

Lewis to Mercedes

Sergio to McLaren

The only person who could get a drive and have equal treatment with Alonso at Ferrari is Michael Schumacher; and maybe even not him.  This is NOT the team of the golden Ferrari-Schumacher era.  This is the team of the dawning Alonso-Ferrari era.  Nonetheless, there are big guns at Ferrari who will demand respect for Michael, if he were to go there to drive.  He will have to choose to give up driving, and stay at Mercedes, moving into management, or go up against the grittiest driver on the grid, at the top of his craft, and it is way up there.

Anybody else who goes to Ferrari will get eaten alive.  I would have thought Di Resta, but if Sergio doesn’t have enough F1 experience… Kimi would be nuts to go there, but maybe McLaren?!?  I think he likes the relaxed kharma at Lotus and can continue to bring them more into contention.  Maybe Ferrari will go to Sutil for the one year, until they get Vettel.  Or maybe, Rosberg!?!  How about Nick Heidfeld?  Hulkenberg?  Hulkenberg to Mercedes?

Some stuff I’d like to see:

Williams: Bianchi and Jaime Alguersuari  (very fresh line up)

Alguersuari could go to Sauber.

Alguersuari could go to Mercedes.  What about Ferrari?

And of Toro Rosso: are they going to scrap this year’s line up; they haven’t done as well as last year’s, who got dumped.

And what about Sébastien Olivier Buemi, could he go to Ferrari, Mercedes, Sauber, Williams?

In the end, who cares when the racing is so good at the moment.

Here’s my silliest prediction, but I feel it!

Kimi Räikkönen will win the Singapore Grand Prix and go on to win the 2012 F1 Championship at the last corner of the 71st counter-clockwise lap at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace.

2012 Sept. 10 – MONZA to SINGAPORE trends to look for

Lewis, if he can keep to what he said before Monza, reported by PlanetF1, when asked how it would feel to win at the home turf of the tifosi, “Rather than telling you what it would mean to me, I’ll try and work towards it. If that ever comes true then I can tell you what it means.”  Well, he did that!  And that is very, very good for Lewis Hamilton.  If he can continue to follow this approach and really attain this mind set, then Lewis is definitely my favourite for the championship, so long as McLaren can keep technically on par or an advantage compared to Ferrari; nothing else is critical, just nice-to-have.

I haven’t had a chance to sing the praises of Lewis on these pages; there is so much coverage of his weaknesses, most of them not directly connected to racing in a car.

But the sheer grandeur of what he has actually accomplished in a race car, even if you only consider his F1 career:

2007 Rookie is paired with the personality widely regarded as the best all around driver, and dominant team leader, then as it is now, in Fernando Alonso; first race in F1 Lewis out drags and passes Fernando Alonso in the first lap of his Formula One career!  Continues to battle, at least evenly with Fernando Alonso, over the course of his first season; Lewis is the first driver of any experience to even come close to challenging Alonso in the same equipment, i.e. on the same team.  By itself, this feat alone is no less than shocking!  But there’s more, he fights to the last race for the championship, winning race after race and becoming only the second person, after Jacques Villeneuve, to win more than one race in his rookie Formula One season since the first year of the Championship.  In what may be considered the astonishing come from behind victory in the history of F1, Kimi Raikkonen wins over Lewis by a single point.  It could be considered that inter-team destructive activities, i.e. a qualifying demotion resulting from a complaint filed by Lewis’s teammate, Fernando Alonso, may have been the definitive reason for Lewis losing out to Raikkonnen.

Since then Lewis has always been regarded as a potential winner, regardless whether McLaren have provided him with top-end equipment, or not.

In 2011 Lewis single-handedly provided over 90% of the entertainment of the F1 spectacle (in my opinion); making a contest of it, despite never getting equipment that was on terms with the superlative conceptual and detail executed Red Bull design; the season won easily by Sebastian Vettel, who was in a league of his own.

This year, in 2012, with minimal rules change, therefore no conceptual and technically difficult to adopt advantages on tap from the Adrian Newey Red Bull, McLaren’s key team comparative advantage, in season development capability, has shown critical in the technical development race which is critical to this season’s success.  Only Ferrari, as the seasoned F1 observer would suspect, has been in the same league as McLaren for in-season development, this campaign.

However, over the entire course of this closely fought season, McLaren have struggled with developmental dead-ends and strategic set up difficulties, as well as some bungled race operations, which definitely negatively affected Lewis’s total potential points gathering capability.  Despite that, he has four poles and three victories, including a trend of two victories in the last 3 races.

If McLaren can keep it on track in the development race, continue to provide him with the race operations support of the past three races, and Lewis can be focused on execution of the moment, he is the likeliest contender to beat Alonso and take this year’s championship.
The critical success factors to look for in Singapour:

1. The McLaren machinery continues to be competitive; sometimes, frequently this year, it is not always easy to see how competitive a car is, both single lap (qualifying) and/or race pace; 1st or second in both of these criteria are essential for any race winning here on in.  Singapour is a very different race course from Spa and Monza, will the McLaren still be in the top two proficiencies at this race track?  Based on the net difference between Budapest and Spa and Monza, if the race was held tomorrow, I’d still place them in the top two rankings for both quali and race; but there will be changes to cars between now and then, and the changes in comparative advantage will matter as much as the different characteristics of the track.

2. The McLaren race operations have to continue to be as good as they have been; they are trending favourably, and this is the most likely to be maintained out of the three critical success factors.

3. Lewis’s focus and head space; he’s a flighty, peaky genius, but not always the most stable.  This guy has the talent; when he is on, there is no one better, there may be as good, (Alonso, Sebastian, Kimi) but not appreciably better; when the weight of the minutiae go his way, and against his rivals, Lewis is the dominant driver on the circuit, just like Monza.  The test of his focus will be how little he says, especially predicts, before the race; anything from him differing from what he said before Monza, as represented by the above quote, will be a bad sign.

Good luck Lewis, as much as anybody could have it, your championship fate is in your own hands, seize the opportunity for growth, and take it!  If you can.

Other trends:

Red Bull: I expect that Spa and Monza distorted their existing overall capability.  My suggestion that they were sandbagging didn’t come good, on the surface, but if you look at Sebastian’s progress in the race prior to his stop-and-go penalty, he’d have been fighting for a podium until the end, at the worst track for Red Bull for the season.

Singapour should be in the sweet spot for their car, the twisting and turning, short straights should play to the efficiency and drivability of the Red Bull package.  No team could have designed the base of a car to dominate at all circuits, this year.  However, if you look at the relevant personalities at Red Bull, you find an individual with the greatest proven capacity for conceptual and detail design execution, AND strategic technical development dominance.  The Red Bull in-season development capacity is unlikely to be better than McLaren or Ferrari this year, but their strategic development, based on their known resources is unlikely to be second to any team.

What to look for with Red Bull to predict their success at Singapour, and their championship drive:

1. Red Bull needs to be demonstratably back at the sharp end of the stick in terms of competitive machinery from the get-go in Singapour.  At the equator, Singapour is going to be warm or hot, the only thing in question is the extremity of it.  Hot will favour Red Bull second to only Lotus, based on the teams’ form over the past six races.

2. The Red Bull race pace has been close to the best for the most part of the season, but realistically, if they are going to have a driver win the championship, and hold on to their constructor’s lead, they must get a car into the first two rows for the start; qualifying must be better.  From the first row, I like Sebastian Vettel, if he can drive like he did in Spa, even over Lewis Hamilton, it was that good.

Ferrari: are definitely competitive in all aspects of their machinery, and even have both drivers competitive, as of Monza.  Questions: have the Spa and Monza track characteristics hidden remaining Ferrari comparative disadvantages?  I don’t think we’ll know until qualifying and the race itself, to be perfectly honest.  Ferrari may have to play their hand close to their chest to win, or they could conceivably come with an overall comparative technical advantage, with their development trend this year, anything is possible.

Lotus: what went wrong?

I keep on hoping for a Kimi victory.  Overall, he has been squeezing the most from the equipment and race operations offered; even better than Alonso at Ferrari, in my opinion.  Kimi is very quiet about it, he is the full time practionner of what Lewis Hamilton needs to do to win, focus on doing the things that can be done, that most contribute to winning; Kimi is this personified; talking about it, or anything else, not significantly contributing to actually performing better in the race, is something he does better than anybody; he is the consummate professional racer; and probably the biggest natural thrill-seeker on the grid.

Much of what is written above for Red Bull, and it’s machinery, applies to Lotus and it’s machinery.  Also, they just have not yet been able to put all of the race operations and strategy together for the best weekend!  Lotus lead on race pace in Budapest, both cars were faster than Lewis, at the front, in the McLaren.  At the very least, they need to be as dominant in race pace in Singapour, and they MUST be able to get onto at least the second row in qualifying.

I don’t know how Lotus will utilize their drivers down the straight of the championship.  It seems to me that there has been a slight favouring of Grosjean this year, as the prince in waiting, at Kimi’s expense.  But Eric Boullier has shown a very pragmatic approach this season, and any pragmatic person will have realized Grosjean’s race ban for Monza has ended his realistic championship aspirations.  It will be crucial for Eric Boullier to use every tool at his disposal to propel Kimi towards the driver championship; Kimi is a proven winner, no less a proven strong finisher to capture the championship!  Give him the best car you can, and the best support you can, and he most definitely can win the championship, any way it can be won!

Sauber: I’d love to see a Sauber victory this season, and at least a Kobyashi podium.  I’ll write it again, the most exciting driver pair and team this season.  Kobyashi has been getting slagged in the light of Perez’s impressive feats, but Kobyashi has been doing a great job, also, and a podium would only formalize his achievements of the season.

Mercedes were definitely as close to the hunt as the have been since Rosberg’s utter dominance in the fridged and wet of Shanghai, at the Chinese GP, way back at the beginning of the season.  But they haven’t kept pace with the tire management improvements of the top teams, including Sauber and Williams.  Maybe their double DRS was a wrong turn in the technical race?  But under it, maybe it’s been disguising a fundamentally fast race car.  The Mercedes device had a horrific effect on front tire grip and wear and traction at both ends.  They seems to have the expertise and base to implement a Lotus-style system before Lotus.

Look for the Mercedes out-of-the-box pace to tell whether they have managed to develop the car to contend with a Singapour-style circuit, and the heat; they haven’t been reluctant to show how fast they are, right away, when they are fast.  Let’s face it, Michael likes to be the fastest, at any time, and this has only been moderated during his time at Ferrari, during pre-season testing and development, according to planet F1, he used the ‘Schuey little wooden wedge’ to camouflage the true pace of the car.

Expect next post after second practice for Singapour, but send me an email deancassady.wayward@gmail.com or comment here, should you wish to further discuss in the meantime.

2012 Monza F1 GP – Lewy Pole to Flag – VICTORY!

Way to go on the win Lewis, pole to flag meant your race wasn’t very exciting.

From Planet F1:

01. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1h19:41.221
02. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 4.356
03. Alonso Ferrari + 20.594
04. Massa Ferrari + 29.667
05. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 30.881
06. Schumacher Mercedes + 31.259
07. Rosberg Mercedes + 33.550
08. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 41.057
09. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 43.898
10. Senna Williams-Renault + 48.144

Jenson looked ready to get the second, until his engine blew; too bad Jenson; you are out of the championship race, and should now aid Lewis, ironically by taking the seconds to his firsts to limit the available points to rivals and lift McLaren in the constructors.

Driver of the race was Sergio Perez, coming from twelve to second at the line, passing both Ferraris, and Kimi along the way; way to go Sergio!

Red Bull, maybe the worst circuit for their car, but double DNF, not good.  Different strategies, with Webber on the one stop; Vettel however aggressive driving, could not hold off Alonso.  About the incident, really a marginal call, maybe it would have been let go before last weekend, but not with the Grosjean precedent, Vettel got the stop-and-go penalty for squeezing Alonso on the outside.  Anyhow, Vettel’s race was undone when his engine blew; you could hear the team radio on SkySports F1 coverage telling him to stop to preserve the engine.  With the eight engine limit, bringing a replacement engine will cost a ten grid-place penalty, and Vettel’s championship drive just could not take that, probably.

Ferrari are definitely back in the hunt with McLaren.  Alonso’s first lap from tenth to sixth was the foundation for his drive to the podium, third seems very good, all things considered, and he pulls away from his closest championship rivals.

Speaking of which, it is VERY tight behind him, but he’s got some good space.

1     Fernando Alonso     Ferrari                               179
2     Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes          142
3     Kimi Räikkönen        Lotus-Renault                  141
4     Sebastian Vettel       Red Bull Racing-Renault 140
5     Mark Webber           Red Bull Racing-Renault 132
6     Jenson Button          McLaren-Mercedes          101
7     Nico Rosberg           Mercedes                           83
8     Romain Grosjean     Lotus-Renault                    76
9     Sergio Perez            Sauber-Ferrari                   65
10   Felipe Massa            Ferrari                                47

Even Webber is a long shot, now; Jenson is just not a realistic championship possibility, let alone Grosjean.

Kimi in the Lotus is the highest finishing Renault-powered car at this ultimate power circuit.  Nonetheless, Kimi continues relentlessly marching up the standing, only two points out of second, but only a point above fourth; still Kimi’s pattern is very consistently upward.  Yet no win!  What can Lotus do to get their machinery up to the McLarens and Ferraris?  Maybe the Singapour track will favour them again.

Mercedes are coming back, and nipping at the heals of the top cluster of teams.  They still suffer the highest degradation rate, yet Michael still almost caught Kimi at the line and would have with one more lap, certainly.  About the future of Michael, please feel free to comment whether you think he should be back or put out to pasture.