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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