Sebastian Vettel - The Winner
The Chinese GP is becoming the most likely F1 race to be affected by rain. This was the 6th Chinese GP and the third wet one … The 6th Chinese GP also produced the 6th winner after Barrichello, Alonso, Schumacher, Raikkonen and Hamilton. But let’s have a look who were the other winners and losers in Shanghai.
This does not need much explanation. The car worked very well for them in dry, it worked great in the wet. They had some technical issues with a “5 EURO” part of their gearbox (part that can be changed without penalty) but managed to sort it out and went on to dominate the weekend. Their race strategy was aggressive with short first stint. It was probably planned for dry race (with a short super soft tyre first stint) but worked for them nicely on Sunday as well. This may not be the last word from Red Bull this season with Adrian Newey working on major diffuser related upgrades of the Red Bull car.
This was the maiden race win for Red Bull Racing and they did in the same 1-2 fashion as BMW Sauber in Montreal last year.
And then came the rain ...
Every time the F1 comes to Malaysia the first thing on everybody’s mind are the chances of rain. And they are always said to be quite big. Surprisingly however, so far the only proper rain came down on 2001 Malaysian GP. I went to the Sepang race three times in very recent past. All the races and if I remember well even all the practice and qualifying sessions were always dry (altghough humid and hot). The only visibility problems I remember was the haze that came out of nowhere and covered the track back in 2005. What I also remember however is that every time I was in Kuala Lumpur this time of the year it rained heavy every day in the early evening. Early evening was the time the heavy rain came down yesterday. Early evening also was when the 2009 Malaysian GP was still in full swing thanks to that wise decision to move the start to 5pm … Why on Earth did the organizers agree to such a late start is beyond me … Anyway, back to what happened before the rain stopped the race.
Jenson Button, Brawn GP
Before moving on to Malaysian GP here is quick look back at the 2009 Australian GP. I watched the race live in Melbourne and although thanks to the nice people from Kangaroo TV I had the pleasure to use their handy little device there was so much happening and so fast that I may have to watch the race again on TV to see what was actually going on. So instead of reviewing the race that I enjoyed but could not really follow to the detail here is my brief review of the teams:
Bittersweet victory for Felipe Massa
I though that we we had in Brazil in 2007 was as good as it gets when it comes to title deciding season ending Formula 1 races. I was wrong .
Both Hamilton and Massa could have had wrapped the title before the Brazilian Grand Prix. But the reliability problems, driver mistakes, safety cars, rain soaked races and some controversial decisions of stewards created the foundations for potentially interesting final race.
2008 Chinese GP - Podium
The smog covered 2008 Chinese GP was a boring affair that brought us back to the dull F1 reality. The quickest car started from the pole position and bar some mishap it never looked like anybody was going to challenge Lewis Hamilton. There is very little to say here. Hamilton was simply the best for the whole weekend and he won the race. He extended his championship lead to 7 points. This is the same lead he had last year ahead of the final race of the season and so same as last year it is now Hamilton’s title to throw away.
His team mate Heikki Kovalainen had again all the bad luck. First the tyre failure then retirement. But, again, as often this year, even without the bad luck he was disappointing. While Hamilton in the same car was pulling away from everybody Kovalainen was clearly outpaced by both Ferraris and even Fernando Alonso’s Renault. I am wondering if the 1 year extension of his contract with Mclaren is not just a stop gap before Nico Rosberg’s contract with Williams is up …
Good day for Renault in Japan
After the 2007 wash out we had this year an opportunity to see what kind of racing can the new Fuji Speedway offer in dry weather. With “regular” although rather cold conditions few would have expected cars other than McLarens and Ferraris in the front. Even Fernando Alonso said ahead of the race that the race start will be for him more about defending his position then tryin to gain some places. But Raikkonen, Hamilton and Kovalainen had other ideas. Raikkonen had the best start but late breaking into the corner by probably both Hamilton and Kovalainen made the race interesting. Raikkonen went straight instead of turning right, Kubica and Alonso squeezed ahead of Kovalainen. And Hamilton somehow managed to drop back behind Massa. The TV followed the corner 1 chaos for a while and by the time the director switched back to the race Kubica and Alonso were comfortably leading the race with Heikki Kovalainen 3rd.
I decided to go to the Singapore GP the moment it was announced just over a year ago. I was so excited about the race that I even travelled down to Singapore last December to walk to the Formula 1 track to be. After that visit there was no way back, the 2008 Singapore GP was a go, for me and for a bunch of friends. It got a bit tense first when the ticketing system failed, then again when the F1 time hotel prices were published. But we overcame all these issues and we were all set. So, how did it go ?
Fernando Alonso - 2008 Singapore GP Winner
It was a great weekend in Singapore and the whole experience deserves a special post (coming soon ). This review however will focus on the race only.
Following his technical problems in second the part of qualifying Fernando Alonso had to start from lowly P15. It had to be great disappointment after very promising performances in free practice sessions and Q1. His post qualifying words sounded like he will only be there on Sunday to get over with the race:
“The race is lost. You can’t overtake here and I’m starting from 15th, so I will be going out just to lap the track, but it’s over already. If there are 10 or 12 retirements and there are safety cars… but there are no miracles. We have to do a better job on Saturday, especially on tracks like this where you can’t overtake. We said all weekend that starting from eighth or ninth would be a problem, so starting from 15th it’s all over.”
But then Sunday came and he looked very relaxed on the grid. When the commentator on the track asked him about his feelings before the race that seemed to be ruined before it even started, Alonso’s replied with a smile on his face – “who knows, perhaps there will be a safety car and we will get lucky” (this is not the exact quote). He had no idea …
Sebastian Vettel, 2008 Italian GP
This was a funny Formula 1 weekend. Rain in Monza turned this classic but recently often processional race into a grand theater. As expected, we have a first time Monza winner. But few would have expected that this would be Sebastian Vettel – now the youngest ever Formula 1 race winner (and pole position holder). This was also the first time since 1957 German GP (win for Maseratti) that Italian team other than Ferrari won Formula 1 race.
It is often the case that when we have a surprise winner it is a fluke result. Just look back at Fisichella’s win in Brazil with Jordan or Panis’ win in Monaco with Ligier. Vettel’s Monza win doesn’t fit into this fluke category though. Yes, Vettel had luck on his side during the qualifying. But his and his team’s race performance was well worth the race win.
2008 Belgian GP - Podium
The penalty imposed on Bruno Senna during the Belgian GP2 race renewed the debate about pro-Ferrari bias from FIA. No, Bruno Senna is not yet racing against Ferrari. But he received drive through penalty for almost an identical “offence” that brought Felipe Massa under investigation in Valencia – dangerous relase from the pits. Felipe Massa however received only reprimand and the team fine, no other penalty that would have some effect on the race result. (See video of Senna’s incident inside this post). Few could have expected that few hours later after the Belgian Formula 1 race the debates will heat up even more following a decision that went against Lewis Hamilton and for Ferrari. The irony is that the main beneficiary, Felipe Massa, was not even involved in that incident …
Felipe Massa, 2008 Belgian GP
So, we finally had a race that went to the wire. It actually went even further and the final result was amended about 2 hours after the race with 25 second penalties to Timo Glock (overtaking Webber under yellow flags) and the controversial one to Lewis Hamilton for cutting the chicane. The debate on that Hamilton’s penalty has already begun below another article. I wil focus this review more on the race action itself and later today post my take on the whole controversy.
Felipe Massa, Valencia 2008
It was not the most exciting race of the season but still, it was a great weekend in Spain. I am really glad that it was this race that this year coincided with my annual summer trip to Europe. Spain is definitely a great place to enjoy Formula 1 weekend and the setting in Valencia is simply great. And perhaps next year the Formula 1 cars will also be able to show us the kind of racing GP2 offers .
Already on Friday it was becoming obvious that Ferrari will be the team to beat in Valencia. And at the end that also was the case. Felipe Massa claimed the pole and was well set for the victory. His first pit stop (a lap earlier than Hamilton) and the smiles on face of Martin Whitmarsh made the commentators on the track to hand the victory to Lewis Hamilton, but when Hamilton emerged from his own pit stop behind both Massa and Raikkonen, the speculations about possible superior McLaren tactics ended. From then it was pretty about Massa not making any errors and his car giving him no Hungary like shocks. The scare came during his second pit stop. His crew released him straight into the path of Adrian Sutil (who was a lap down). These two almost collided and the incident was under investigation. Massa himself blamed Sutil for it, not understanding why Sutil needed to rush ahead of Massa in the pitlane when he would still have to let him pass on the track. From the outside it looked more like an error of Massa’s crew. In GP2 race Karun Chandhok received drive through penalty for similar error, in F1 it was to be investigated after the race. It is hard to say what approach is better but … should not the officials apply the same penalties (or procedures) for the same violations (or incidents) ? I am not questioning the fact that Massa escaped without penalty (I do not think he deserved one) but the FIA’s inconsistency that naturally leads to debates about certain teams escaping lightly.