Sunday, 24 November 2013

Brazilian Grand Prix: an historical and emotional weekend!

The final race of the 2013 season was historical and emotional, in many ways and for many people. Mark Webber managed to take second place, in this the final Formula One race of his career. Massa had an eventful race and for the last time in a Ferrari. And of course, Sebastian Vettel was bringing home his championship winning Red Bull, for his ninth win in a row and thirteenth of the season, both new records. The showmanship was on display from all three of them, as both Massa and Vettel did donuts on the start finish straight and Mark Webber did something even more memorable. Webber presented us with an unbelievable sight, as he took of his helmet on his in-lap and drove the last few hundred yards with the wind tousling his hair.

The race was an exciting one, but once again, left fans hoping for some rain and getting none. A little rain in the closing few laps would certainly have mixed things up a bit. It was an emotional race for the Marussia team, who took tenth place in the Championship and celebrated as if they had come first. Many people forget that there are battles going on all the way down through the field and, for Marussia, beating Caterham to the tenth spot was a huge achievement. McLaren achieved relative success as well, as Jenson Button took fourth place, McLaren's highest finish for the whole season. Another achievement, that was a little obscure but a massive achievement all the same, was Max Chilton becoming the first rookie driver to complete every race in an F1 season. All in all, it was a great race and a success for many.

Massa's last race for Ferrari was one of mixed positives and negatives. His race started fantastically and I think he had the best start of the entire season. He was ninth on the grid as the cars formed up and, as the red lights went out, he slipped past three cars and made it up to almost fifth. As he swept through the Senna S he had to slot in to sixth place, but the start looked absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, later in the race, he was penalised for crossing the white line of the pit entrance and had to succumb to a drive-through penalty. It all but ruined his chances of a good result, but it was clear, from his reaction after the chequered flag, that he wasn't too bothered.

The biggest incident of the race, which resulted in another drive-through penalty, this time for Lewis Hamilton, came on the forty-seventh lap. Valtteri Bottas had the opportunity to unlap himself against Hamilton and made the move on the second straight, using DRS. He swept to the inside line and Hamilton moved across to block him. As Bottas moved back on to the racing line, a practice that we have seen time and time again, in DRS situations, Hamilton moved back towards the racing line as well. He squeezed Bottas to the point that he had nowhere to go and they touched. Bottas had total delamination on his left rear tyre, spinning off the circuit, whilst Hamilton had to complete the lap on a flat tyre, before reaching the pits to have the tyre changed.

It was an unusual season, which, at least during the second half, wasn't as exciting as previous years. Vettel was utterly dominant for the second half and many have complained that the tedious days of Michael Schumacher's dominance have returned. However, none can argue that Sebastian Vettel hasn't deserved the success he has achieved. He has always done it with a smile on his face and the joy of youth in his attitude. It has been a pleasure to witness such a fantastic sportsman achieve so much so early in his career. That said, it will be fascinating to see what the changes of next year will do to the hierarchy and whether the young German will make it work to his advantage. It may be that the other youngsters will be able to take the fight to him, or maybe it'll be a season for the old hands like Button or Alonso. We can ponder these questions over the winter break, but until then, this is The F1 Spectator, signing off.

The Result:

DriverCarTeamGridFastest LapRace TimePoints
1 Sebastian Vettel 1 Red Bull 1 1:15.624 1:32:36.300 25
2 Mark Webber 2 Red Bull 4 1:15.436 +00:10.452 18
3 Fernando Alonso 3 Ferrari 3 1:15.496 +00:18.913 15
4 Jenson Button 5 McLaren 14 1:16.450 +00:37.360 12
5 Nico Rosberg 9 Mercedes 2 1:16.442 +00:39.048 10
6 Sergio Perez 6 McLaren 19 1:16.246 +00:44.051 8
7 Felipe Massa 4 Ferrari 9 1:16.470 +00:49.110 6
8 Nico Hulkenberg 11 Sauber 10 1:16.802 +01:04.252 4
9 Lewis Hamilton 10 Mercedes 5 1:16.692 +01:12.903 2
10 Daniel Ricciardo 19 Toro Rosso 7 1:16.974 lapped 1
11 Paul Di Resta 14 Force India 12 1:16.855 lapped 0
12 Esteban Gutierrez 12 Sauber 17 1:16.528 lapped 0
13 Adrian Sutil 15 Force India 15 1:16.049 lapped 0
14 Heikki Kovalainen 7 Lotus 11 1:17.249 lapped 0
15 Jean-Eric Vergne 18 Toro Rosso 8 1:16.790 lapped 0
16 Pastor Maldonado 16 Williams 16 1:17.554 lapped 0
17 Jules Bianchi 22 Marussia 21 1:17.717 lapped 0
18 Giedo van der Garde 21 Caterham 20 1:17.590 lapped 0
19 Max Chilton 23 Marussia 22 1:17.281 lapped 0
20 Charles Pic 20 Caterham 18 1:18.434 retired, 58 laps 0
21 Valtteri Bottas 17 Williams 13 1:16.840 retired, 45 laps 0
22 Romain Grosjean 8 Lotus 6 1:20.898 retired, 2 laps 0

Monday, 18 November 2013

United States Grand Prix: where were the Stetsons?!

Sebastian Vettel is on top of the world, his dominance is unrivalled and his achievements are already historic. He broke yet another record today to become the first driver to win eight grands prix consecutively. The emotion was clear, up on the podium, and before that through Seb's team radio. There was an outpouring of praise and love from Vettel, broken up with sobs and tears. Sebastian looks utterly invincible as the season approaches its conclusion.

Mark Webber, on the other hand, had another frustrating race, in this his penultimate grand prix. He had yet another terrible start, finding himself slipping back behind Romain Grosjean and then Lewis Hamilton. He was later able to get past Hamilton but was unable to overtake Grosjean and gain the second step of the podium. The frustration was clear for all to see, in his face and his mannerisms. A combination of not making the most of qualifying, not being able to make more of his second position on the grid, and the fact that his season isn't proving to be a fairy tale send off, is obviously taking its toll on the Aussie.

The vast majority of the race was as dull as dishwater. There were very few passes and very little incident, the only real excitement coming on the first lap. Adrian Sutil was unaware of Pastor Maldonado moving up on his left hand side and moved over in to his path. As he clipped Pastor's front wheel he was spun around and was powerless to stop his Force India car from being wrecked against the barrier. The incident resulted in a safety car, but once the race got back underway all action went out of it. The DRS zones were relatively ineffective and drivers didn't seem to want to commit to anything risky or daring, at least not until the final few laps.

Any action there was, occurred in the middle of the pack and mainly between the Ferrari's and McLaren's. The final laps threatened to be extremely exciting, but it was all a bit of an anti-climax. In the final couple of laps Mark Webber lost touch with Romain Grosjean as the tyres on his Red Bull car went off, whilst Alonso passed Hulkenberg with a fantastic move, but Hulkenberg was unable to fight back again.

The biggest controversy of the weekend was the absence of Stetsons. I was looking forward to seeing those hats on the podium and without them the American Grand Prix was lacking. Hopefully next year we will see the return of the Stetson!

Race result:
1 Sebastian Vettel 1 Red Bull 1 1:39.856 1:39:17.148 25
2 Romain Grosjean 8 Lotus 3 1:40.445 +00:06.284 18
3 Mark Webber 2 Red Bull 2 1:40.591 +00:08.396 15
4 Lewis Hamilton 10 Mercedes 5 1:40.818 +00:27.358 12
5 Fernando Alonso 3 Ferrari 6 1:41.186 +00:29.592 10
6 Nico Hulkenberg 11 Sauber 4 1:40.952 +00:30.400 8
7 Sergio Perez 6 McLaren 7 1:41.830 +00:46.692 6
8 Valtteri Bottas 17 Williams 9 1:40.492 +00:54.509 4
9 Nico Rosberg 9 Mercedes 12 1:41.133 +00:59.141 2
10 Jenson Button 5 McLaren 15 1:41.285 +01:17.278 1
11 Daniel Ricciardo 19 Toro Rosso 10 1:42.119 +01:21.004 0
12 Jean-Eric Vergne 18 Toro Rosso 14 1:41.320 +01:24.574 0
13 Felipe Massa 4 Ferrari 13 1:41.209 +01:26.914 0
14 Esteban Gutierrez 12 Sauber 20 1:41.401 +01:31.707 0
15 Heikki Kovalainen 7 Lotus 8 1:41.028 +01:35.063 0
16 Paul Di Resta 14 Force India 11 1:41.148 +01:36.853 0
17 Pastor Maldonado 16 Williams 17 1:43.058 lapped 0
18 Jules Bianchi 22 Marussia 19 1:43.419 lapped 0
19 Giedo van der Garde 21 Caterham 18 1:43.933 lapped 0
20 Charles Pic 20 Caterham 22 1:43.968 lapped 0
21 Max Chilton 23 Marussia 21 1:43.775 lapped 0
22 Adrian Sutil 15 Force India 16 No time retired, 0 laps 0