Sunday, November 4, 2012


Apart from the complaints that the track is boring and is more resembling a car park rather than a race track, I would say the Abu Dhabi GP qualifying session yesterday was a success. It was entertaining because of 2 factors - one, the time it was done was at dusk so the track temperature dropped by about 11 degress compared to Saturday free practice. And the other was that Sebastian Vettel got kicked back to the back of the grid because he ran out out of fuel on the track.

I feel that the ruling on Vettel is justified after the same thing happened to Lewis Hamilton at the Spanish GP this year where he stopped out on track due to insufficient fuel as well. If the ruling did not happen this way, you can be sure Lewis fans will be up in arms and all sorts of conspiracy theories will fill the news columns all day.

I have to admit that I am quite happy about the session for another reason - that of course my driver, Lewis Hamilton took pole and did it with a significant margin. Mark Webber behind him was 3/10th off which is significant. In fact, Lewis led all 3 sessions - Q1, Q2 and Q3. In Q3 he didn't have to go for another round to improve his time because it was more than enough. Even he was surprised at the gap.

What does this mean for the championship? Well, with Vettel leading Alonso by just 13 points, this situation has the potential to turn the championship on its head. If Vettel had a 5 or even 10 place grid penalty, that would be different. Starting from the back of the grid (actually Red Bull has decided to start from the pitlane) is really bad and makes trying to get some points really hard. Especially on hard to overtake circuits like Abu Dhabi. Vettel said before the penalty was announced - “It’s difficult to pass here, even though you’ve got long straights, we’ve got the double DRS so we’ll see if that helps. I’m sure it’s not impossible. It’s definitely possible to pass people, even though it’s not easy but, y’know, race pace should be good.”

Many great F1 drivers have started from the back of the grid and managed to move themselves up to finish in the top 10 or even top 5 but it is a struggle. The highest anyone has ever finished from 24th is third, this was achieved by Emmerson Fittipaldi at Long Beach in 1980. Vettel will have his chance to prove himself a great driver if he can reach the top 5 today.

Fernando Alonso has a major opportunity here to bring his hopes of a third world title alive. He now starts from P6 and has to make a really good getaway to position himself for the rest of the race. The run to the first corner is short at just 300m and the pole sitter has never lost the lead between the grid and the first corner. It's also important for Lewis to get a good start as he has had disastrous ones before where he had clutch problems at the start.

Lewis who is anxious for a good start said “At the start, it’s down to the team to make sure the clutch performs perfectly because the getaway will be incredibly important. Our race pace is very strong, but so is Red Bull’s – and staying ahead will be tough, particularly with the double DRS zones.”

Vettel's race will be determined by his car, the RB8. The RB8 was designed to be very fast in a single lap with good aerodynamics and grip in corners but less so on long straights and high speed turns, basically it has the lowest top speed on the grid as seen many times this year. It is very good in putting Vettel on pole and then pulling away in clean air. Today Vettel won't have any clean air in front of him.

Red Bull are able to make some set-up changes on the RB8 to help Vettel as the car has been taken out of parc ferme and will start from the pits. But they’re unlikely to be able to radically transform the car’s top speed. A safety car deployment would help Vettel to close the field up and bring him closer to the cars in front. However in the past three races here it’s only come out once. As the tyre selection for this race is again on the conservative side we are likely to see drivers making single stops for tyres during the race. This may give Vettel a strategic opportunity to gain places using an aggressive two-stop strategy.

So, what will it be then? Will Vettel be able to show his true greatness as an F1 driver and carve his way to the top 10? Or will he be stuck in the midfield? Either way, the championship has suddenly become interesting again. One thing is for sure, Alonso and Vettel will be fighting tooth and nail to ensure they finish higher than the other. And Lewis Hamilton will fight for the win to leave a nice going away present for McLaren.

Good luck to all drivers and teams. Hoping for a clean start and lots of overtaking and wheel to wheel action.

1 comment:

shamraiz said...

Maybe this explains the somewhat clumsy looking camera mount on the McLaren nose yesterday.. observing wing endplate but crudely mounted off-centre, and seemingly in undisguised lead-like housing... Can't beat them, join them perhaps ??
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