Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Can Vettel take the crown under the flood lights

Okay then, the European season has run its course and now it’s time to crown the F1 world Champion.

Welcome to the Singapore Grand Prix and Vettels ascension to the hall of the greats. Yeah, I know he’s not one of the greats, but he has (almost) won back to back titles and there aren’t too many that have done that.

But am I getting ahead of myself ?

Will Vettel clinch the deal in the cool night air ?

Well to string it out for a few more races either Button or Alonso needs to win and Vettel needs to not finish, but given how reliable the Redbull has been this year that’s unlikely.

Basically, if Vettel wins and Alonso and Button are not on the podium, It’s a done deal.

Vettel might crash, but he’s one of these new young guns like Hamilton and Rosberg who can go out and spank the street circuits like Monaco and Singapore. Also given that he’s a qualifying God these days, he’ll be up the front and thus does not have to work his way past other cars, which always makes things easier.

So I’m pretty sure he’ll be crowned F1 World Champion this weekend. Which is fair enough you have to admit, if you have a car that can win with ease week after week, then you shouldn’t be surprised if the driver goes out and wins week after week. Unless it’s Webber of course, who either hits other cars or forgets to engage first gear off the line, week after week.

Singapore then, this is the toughest circuit of the championship, it’s hot, humid and lasts bang on 2 hours. It’s a stop start track with lots of heavy braking into tight corners before short sweeping straight bits. The problem has always been that the brakes never get enough time to cool down, so the discs which run at well over 1000 degrees start to cook the wheels, which heats the tires up and this year’s Pirellis don’t like getting hot.

When the Pirellis get hot they start to lose their grip faster than a Greek government put in charge of a bailout cheque from the EU, Added to which, the cars need to be brimmed up with fuel at the start for a long two hour race. Heavy cars with hot brakes and slippery tires equal lots of expensive carbon bits smeared down solid looking walls being swept up by the cleanup crews.

We might well be seeing rather a lot of the safety car on Sunday.
 Singapore isn’t a bad circuit; it’s not too narrow like Monaco so there is overtaking to be had, especially if the tires only last 10 laps.  
 The cars do look fantastic under the stars and the arc lights, with the City lit up with neon and street lights. The place has bags of character and lots of happy looking punters. Exactly the opposite to Yas Marina in fact  
So all things considered being on pole is going to be at a premium here. Let’s look at the likely candidates.

Alonso – the Ferrari is nimble enough, and the Spaniard has the balls to drive it like he stole it, which is what you need here. Ferrari need to salvage something from this year with a car that’s been lackluster on the hard tires, if they can get ahead off the line then they can control the pace of the race and avoid the carnage behind.

Hamilton – has gone very quiet of late, with coded message to the press and media to cut out the character assassination column inches. He’s spent a lot of time in the steward’s offices around the world and I think it’s starting to affect his mojo. Last year he would have nailed Schumacher after two laps, this year and after many “stiff talking to’s” he followed the German for lap after lap. I think he’s found a team mate in button that can out drive him and he needs to prove to himself that he still has it. This place is like Monaco, a place Hamilton excels at, so a pole would go a long way to building him up again.

Vettel – Currently the best one lap specialist out there bar none, if you need a hot lap when the chips are down he is the go too guy this year. He doesn’t seem too fussed about the title either so he’s not holding back to pick up points, he wants to nail this and crush the opposition.

Webber – If he has it all his own way, he’s good for a hot lap or two. He needs to do something to prove he’s worth the contract extension after all.

Button - maybe, but he’s not really a Banzai lap kind of driver. With much umming and arring over his contract a pole and result would go some way to getting him a salary like Lewis has.

As for the rest will there’s Massa, not a chance and Rosberg likes this place a lot so he might have a pop.

As for the winner, well like I say it’s a long old widow maker of a track to it’s a game of survival. The Redbull is a bit suspect on tracks that are hard on tires, but with lots of lesser drivers painting the wall in hint of carbon fiber, they can manage their tires effectively. If they’re at the front then they can control the pace and not burn the tires out chasing the lead down.

 But I would love to see Hamilton win again, he looks a bit sad every week walking back from the race stewards office towards the media who are already sharpening their pencils. Remember the race in China all those months ago where he chased down Vettel and overtook him to win the race. That was vintage Hamilton and that’s what we’ve been missing
 The big grey thing on the horizon though is rain, and plenty of it. The met office is warning of a big old thunder storm sometime during the weekend. Last year it was during the day and was nice and dry but humid and hot for the race. There is talk this year that the typhoon sweeping over Japan at the moment will make it as far as Singapore by Saturday, so we could see some rain on the cars. Once that happens ... well we’ll see if we get a race at all.

Sort out your Predictions by Friday please.
 Qualifying kicks off at 3pm British time, the race is at 1pm BST.

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