Sunday, 23 September 2012

Vettel can still win when McLaren lets Hamilton down.

Well not the most exciting Grand Prix you’ll ever see, but then you could say that about most street circuits. From the championship stand point of view it’s an interesting result though, Alonso still leads but Vettel now replaces Hamilton as the ‘best of the rest’.

Hamilton picked up in qualifying where he’s left off in Italy, a pretty easy pole after Vettel had a bit of a brain fade and spent too long trying to get a clear run rather than going fast.  Maldonado showed him how it should be done and put in a stunner to start second.  There were a lot of drivers attempting to crash test the wall with Senna having two goes at breaking his car before succeeding on the third go. Hamilton on his second pole run just kissed the wall with the right rear but reported no problems as he crossed the line at the end of the day.

Come the race and as predicted Hamilton pretty much disappeared off in to the distance with Vettel who’d made a great start for company, behind him Maldonado managed to make turn one and not collect anyone. But by the end of lap two he was back in fourth and didn’t look like he was going to trouble the big boys for the rest of the day.
After the initial flurry of opening laps the race sort of settled down into a bit of a dull rhythm.  The faster boys who were out of position moved up through the field slowly, Vettel kept Hamilton honest and Button tried to catch both of them.  
Then all of a sudden Hamilton swept into turn one and suddenly there was a puff of smoke and he had a box full of neutrals.  Apparently the right rear diff bearing had failed which led to no oil and a cooked gearbox.  Maybe slapping the wall on Saturday had affected the car after all. Post race and McLaren denied the problem was a result of the contact, claiming it was just a faulty seal , but you have to wonder.
Still the result was Vettel led the race with Button behind and everyone else following along. Then to spice up the evening our regular last place driver Karthikeyan decided he wasn’t getting enough air time for HRT so it with his job to smack the wall and bring out a safety car to clear up the mess.  This gave us a chance to watch the cars tool around behind the safety car for 6 laps during which Maldonado retired with an engine problem and Vettel brake tested Button who probably wasn’t paying attention.

Also not paying attention was Schumacher who, as the cars restarted the race, lasted a handful of corners before ploughing into the back of Vergnes Toro Rosso and bringing out a second safety car for another 3 laps.
As the race restarted for a third time, Massa in a stunning move worthy of the old days steamed it up the inside of Senna, who squeezed the Ferrari towards the wall. Suddenly the Brazilian got it into a tank slapper, with a dazzling display of car control he caught the slide, slowed it down into the corner and came out ahead of Senna. He’s still got the chops when required.

And that was the highlights ... dull, but it looked good.

Vettel wins, but didn’t really do anything for it really. Hamilton had him covered until his gearbox let go and Button couldn’t close the gap as the laps ticked off.  This win puts him into the fight for the championship, and with more Redbull friendly circuit coming up he might just have enough races left to beat Alonso.  After the race however the Stewards had called Vettel to the head masters study for a bit of a stiff talking too about break testing Button before the first restart. As yet I’ve seen nothing to suggest they’re going to throw the book at him and steal the win .... But you never know with the FIA .

Button is second and was happy with that.

Alonso was third and more than happy with that. The Ferrari isn’t as fast as either the McLaren or Redbulls so to still be leading the championship has to be pretty satisfying.  He’s 29 points ahead of Vettel and 52 ahead of Hamilton, so with a maximum 150 points still available it’s not all cut and dried just yet. But Lady luck is currently sitting in the Ferrari hospitality suit and knocking back the Verve Cliquey like there’s no tomorrow. Consistency and luck, that’s what wins you championship.

Di Resta was fourth, a fine result and given Hamilton’s retirement in the McLaren a very timely result.  The word is the whole driver market will be sorted on Wednesday, if Schumacher gets ‘asked to retire’ after the result today then Hamilton will move to Mercedes and Di Resta has to be a hot favourite for the McLaren seat.  The Merc links and years of DTM work will finaly have paid off.

Rosberg fifth, in an unremarkable drive.

Kimi was sixth and not very fast.

Grosjean kept his nose clean for once and made it home seventh.

 Massa had a surprisingly good run, after getting a puncture at the start fo the race he was dead last and still managed to bring it home eighth.  If he’s going to help Alonso get the title then he’s going to need to be further up than this though.

Ricciardo was ninth for Toro Rosso

And Webber was tenth.

Petrov was last for a change and Hulkenberg got the fastest lap after a late stop for a new front wing.

So after the not very interesting to watch Singapore GP we have a two week break before the very much exciting to watch Suzuka in Japan, a proper, old school hairy chested circuits for men. Though I expect the driver market is going to be the main topic of conversation.

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