Sunday, 13 November 2011

Hamilton has a big smile for a change.

Well that was a bit of a turn up for the books wasn’t it? England beat Spain, who would have thought that was possible ? Then to cap a weekend of unusual events, Vettel has a “catastrophic tire failure” and cashes out to let Hamilton take a very welcome win.
To be fair Hamilton has been all over this track since day one, He was robbed of the victory in 2009 by a broken brake disc and just couldn’t match Vettel last year. So it’s about time he won this one. It’s a track like Singapore and Monaco, those tight twisty circuits that require a bit of bravery and a sharp handling car. 
Would he have been able to beat Vettel if it had been a straight fight ? Who cares, it’s about time he had a break and had Lady Luck cruise around on his shoulder. It’s been a tough year with too many silly mistakes and trips to the steward’s office.  So it’s good to see the smile back on his face with a well deserved win.
He lost pole to Vettel in Q3 having set a time in Q2 that would have seen him sitting pretty on pole. The problem with Vettel is that he is fast becoming the qualifying king. He’s always been able to come out and deliver a hot lap when it matters. These days he seems be able to just go out and drive that perfect lap that just blows the opposition away. Better than Webber who has failed spectacularly to be anywhere near matching Vettel the only drivers getting close to him are Alonso and Hamilton.  Who go out and rag the cars like Greece with a bailout cheque, they thrash their poor machines but still end up looking at the back of Vettel exhaust come Sunday afternoon.

So as the cars tore away from the line as the lights went out, we watched Vettel sail into his usual spot at the head of the field with a heavy heart. “oh, it’s going to be one of those races, is it” we thought. Vettel went a touch wide through turn one gave a funny sort of twitch and then swept into turn 2, except the back of the car continued to sweep into turn two long after Vettel had asked it to stop. The front pitched into the air as the rear left tire parted company with the wheel rim and Vettel sailed off the circuit.  Hamilton and co blasted past and never stopped to ask if he was okay.
“Hurrah”, we all chorused, “Now let’s see what our newest double world champion can do with the best car from the back of the pack”. Except, not being used to driving a sick car with a flat tire, he spanked it back to the pits and broke the suspension in the process!

Oh well.

So we were treated to Alonso keeping Hamilton honest for 55 laps
Hamilton never really looked like breaking into any kind of sweat with a controlled race ahead of Alonso. The McLaren had the legs and handling to make sure the Ferrari couldn’t get closer than a few seconds. Tantalisingly close to the magic one second DRS zone, but whenever Alonso got close Hamilton could open out the advantage and stay safely in front, despite various Williams, Torro Rosso’s and the like getting in the way. It wasn’t much of a spectacle, more a sort of high speed chess game.  But given how rough I felt after the party the night before that suited me just fine.  

So then Hamilton gets his third win of the year and jolly well done to him. He Mum was there on her birthday and it was nice to see a happy Hamilton family for a change. He didn’t have to do too much, but avoid the back markers and make sure Alonso didn’t get too close. Some slick pit work from McLaren and a sticky wheel at Ferrari might have robbed us of a grandstand result, but it’s nice to see someone other than a German in the top step this year.  Some of the more excitable press is already saying this is Hamilton of old and he’s going to win the next gazillion races and sweep all before him.  I think it’s a fortuitous win, when he needed the luck to go his way for a change.

Alonso was second and tried hard to take the fight to Lewis. But the old story of the Ferrari not liking the hard tires meant he was always on something of a back foot. I’m sure it’s more than they were expecting, but it continues to be a disappointing season for the team from Italy.

Button managed to salvage third after Alonso caught him napping on lap one. He had a bit of a dice with Webber as his KERS failed during the middle part of the race, with some exciting  moments as the Redbull zipped past in the DRS zone then lost out in the twisty bits. I think this was a race where Button was lucky to get the podium, if Vettel had been alright and Webber hadn’t tried to be too clever he might well have been further back. So I suspect he’ll be happy with this result.

Webber misses the podium in fourth; the car didn’t have the legs on the fast bits and could only overtake with the DRS open and Buttons KERS not working. Tried to be clever at the end with an extra stop and some blinding laps, but it wasn’t enough and he managed to keep fourth only because Massa spun the car fighting thin air. Webber has to look back at this race and think it was a massive failure on his part. Yes, the team wasn’t all that slick at the pit stops, and the car was underpowered on the straights, but he ragged it when he needed to be smooth and got caught out by Button being better when it mattered. Fastest lap will be scant conciliation.

Massa, despite everything just couldn’t blame this one on Hamilton. He had the chance to nab fourth but as seems to happen a lot these days, needed a lot of geeing up from Smedley to stop him from going to sleep in the second half of the race.  Given that Alonso is on the podium, Massa, like Webber, is failing to deliver for his team at the moment. He must feel his days are numbered as a Ferrari driver.

Rosberg was sixth once again ahead of his team mate.

Schumacher didn’t hit anyone this time in Abu Dhabi but couldn’t beat his team mate yet again for seventh

Sutil doesn’t fall asleep and beats his team mate to eighth.

Di Resta did a good job on a circuit that seemed to suit the Force India’s. I would guess that he’s done enough to certainly keep his seat at Force India for next year, Sutil despite a late bid for clemency may well be off. Well let’s hope so anyway. Ninth is okay, it might have been more with a bit of luck.

Kobayashi rounds out the top 10 with the “did he take part in the race I must have missed him” award this week.

Liuzzi makes it home in last place with this extra special quote “....still, I pushed until the very end and got the car past the chequered flag which is a positive thing. It was a difficult race but we got a decent result” that would a decent last place there buddy, two laps behind the winner.

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