Only a week after Sebastien Vettel wrapped up the 2011 Formula One World Championship, the circus reconvened in Korea. The quick turnaround no doubt took it’s toll on the teams, but they were all still hungry with a constructors championship and second in the drivers standings all up for grabs – race on!
It was almost like seeing the Korean track for the first time this weekend. A year ago the entire weekend was clouded out by a phenomenal amount of rain, many didn’t make the chequered flag. But despite a slight hiccup in practice, the weather remained dry for today’s race… I almost wish it hadn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, there was some good racing through the field today – but the Grand Prix just seemed to me to be very lacking. The rather dull colour of the Korean tracks walls probably didn’t help, but I just felt that such a promising race just didn’t deliver.
It was an exciting race in prospect with Lewis Hamilton (albeit very downhearted) becoming the first non- Red Bull driver to claim pole position this year – what an incredible statistic. This however didn’t last long. Many have previously criticised Vettel as being a fast driver, but not a racer. I think this no longer applies as Vettel dispatched of Hamilton quickly and clinically before the end of the first lap. There’s no doubt it was a blitzing move from Vettel, but I can’t help thinking there was a groan around the world as we realised that once again this race was to be dominated by one man until the finish.
Hamilton was able to stay with the Red Bull for the majority of the race, but it was clear that the McLaren driver was really having to push to stay in contention whilst Vettel had plenty in reserve up front. This was obvious from the fact that Vettel always stayed just over a second in front, denying Hamilton that crucial DRS activation. Clever and frustrating driving from the champ.
Instead of battling for the lead, Hamilton soon had to switch to a defensive strategy to keep second place. Mark Webber had been closing on Lewis for the entire race and after the second pitstop came his chance. This was without doubt the highlight of the race. Both Webber and Hamilton raced wheel to wheel round the entire lap, each diving in front of each other only to lose it on the next corner. They showed how it can and should be done, each giving the other plenty of room without compromising their own race.
In the end it was Lewis who came out the better and remained in second. Some will argue that Lewis was saved by the DRS which he used to breeze straight back past Webber in the first instance, but lets not forget that Webber was able to use DRS on every lap after and still coundn’t re-pass Hamilton. Perhaps we have found Red Bull’s only weakness (just a little too late!).
Behind the Hamilton/Webber battle was Jenson Button who really failed to come alive today. After a shocking start, Button found himself battling with Rosberg as he rejoined the race after his first pit stop. Button came down the pit lane behind Rosberg but overtook the German by crossing the white line at the pit exit. This struck me as very strange as normally drivers are not allowed to cross this line and receive a penalty for it, yet here in Korea it seemed to go unnoticed as everyone tried it.
Once again, I think the FIA need to sort their rules out and decide what you can and can’t do as I believe Rosberg was only following the line he thought you were supposed to take out of the pits. Mind you, the pit exit itself is a complete shambles, allowing for less run off than a motorway entrance and nearly causing a collision between Michael Schumacher and Feranando Alonso in the middle of the race.
Of course, Michael didn’t have to wait long before he actually did have a collision. Soon after the nearly-incident with Alonso, Schumacher was whacked into from the side by Vitaly Petrov who had completely missed his braking zone. This was due to him racing to the limit with Alonso (who also missed his braking zone, but to a lesser effect) and clearly not spotting Schumacher in front. Another unfortunate exit for the German, but I was most worried Michael was ill as he told Lee McKenzie that other incidents between himself and Petrov were his own fault. Schumacher, admit a mistake – what?!
Fernando Alonso did not fall out of the race, but he may as well have done. The Spaniard had a horribly average Sunday stuck behind his teammate Felipe Massa. I think it was clear that Alonso could have been quicker, but Massa defended well and kept him behind – clearly both have been told they can race now. When Alonso did get some clear air, he did start to cruise up to Button but curiously said over the radio that he had ‘given up’. A very strange attitude from a racing driver and was most likely sour grapes from being stuck behind Massa. But I’m afraid the only thing I have to say to Alonso is, it’s a race – if you want to pass Massa, overtake him. Don’t expect to be given it!
Around 10 seconds ahead of the rest, Sebastien Vettel (remember him!) came through to win the race on lap 55 – sealing the constructors championship for Red Bull – and was just as excited as he has been all season. But I’m afraid I wasn’t. Perhaps we’ve been treated by such an exciting F1 of late that I forgot how bad the sport once was (and this was nowhere near as bad as the mid-2000’s) but I did just find todays race dull. Maybe it’s the track, maybe it’s the drivers attitudes, maybe it’s just me – but I’m hoping for a much more exciting race when we head to India in two weeks time.
And as a quick note, I’m afraid there will be no Fast Lane post from me for the Indian Grand Prix (well at least not on Sunday) as I’ll be otherwise engaged during the race. Never fear though, ‘The Fast Lane’ and hopefully a more upbeat writer will return for the 13th November for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix!