Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Champion Vettel

You can't argue with the last two races. While the rest of Vettel's season was marked with inconsistancy, the fact that two weeks in a row he came from literally the back of the grid to score good points, enough to finish the year three points ahead of Alonso, to me means he is deserving of this year's titles. Coming from the back as he did were both champion's drives, and the net result on the rest of the year makes him champion for 2012.

A worthy champion for a great year.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


If someone had told us immediately after this year's disappointing pre-season test that Alonso would be 10 points behind the championship leader with two races left to run, I think we'd be ecstatic.

2012 has been another year where the car's performance has been constantly downplayed, yet Alonso has managed to score good points with it more often than not.  Combined with an excellent reliability record, plus no little luck avoiding other cars (Belgium perhaps excepted) and Alonso has placed himself in position to catch Vettel as the season winds down.

Unfortunately it isn't a case of catching Vettel, per se.  It is more a case of continuing with the reliability and consistency and being in a position to capitalize on Vettel's misfortune.

Sunday in Abu Dhabi offered hints as to what might have been.  Had Vettel not profited from the safety car periods falling when they had, Alonso might have cut the points lead that much more than he did.  However you can't wish away Vettel's good luck any more than Vettel could wish away the bad luck from Saturday.  Had that not happened, I think there's little doubt that the Red Bull would have circulated comfortably ahead of the Ferrari and the points gap would be larger than it is.

Red Bull is clearly the faster car right now -- I think Webber's fumbling around with it shows that the car has elite speed.  Massa's Ferrari still lacks parts that are on Alonso's,  but even so neither Ferrari can seem to live with either Red Bull right now.

With only two races left to run, the odds of a technological breakthrough diminish.  And we are definitely into the part of the season where express effort now against the rest of the 2012 season will negatively impact the 2013 campaign.

I think barring an extraordinary run of bad luck for Vettel, the title is his for 2012.

Those of us who cheer for Ferrari will once again have to be disappointed that the team came so close -- again -- and start contemplating next year.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Charmed Life

Red Bull drivers led a charmed life on Sunday.

While no one can dispute that Vettel got his act together when it mattered and managed to be in the right place at the right time, much of his spectacular result can be placed at the feet of profiting from the Safety Car periods that happened when he did. Further, while all the chatter about him passing a car while outside the white lines on lap fourteen, I counted no fewer than four changes of direction while he vigorously defended his position.  Vettel comes away very fortunate that he was permitted to continue without a sterner penalty than just giving back the position.

Webber, on the other hand.  His first collision I can excuse as a racing incident.  The collision with Massa similarly I would be willing to write off as a racing incident.  But my view is he caused Massa to spin -- the long-lens footage is inconclusive, but the in-car camera from Massa's car clearly shows Webber charging back on-track in front of the Ferrari, causing Massa to take abrupt avoiding action.

Massa was right to be incensed that no action was taken.  I wonder how the stewards would have ruled had Massa failed to take avoiding action and clobbered the Red Bull instead?

The comentators gleefully claiming that Webber had "frightened Massa into a spin" didn't help, either.

Frankly when Webber happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time once too often and got clobbered by Grosjean's avoiding action, I thought it was merely karma.

It isn't in Webber's history to drive like this.  I hope this is merely a one-off performance, and not an indication of things to come.

Victory Laps, Compared

Right, you're on. First of us to win a race in 2012
gets the other guy to clean his pool.
Kimi Raikkonen once again shows us how it is done.  His victory in Abu Dhabi on Sunday might have been helped more than a little bit by Vettel's bad luck on Saturday and McLaren's fragility on Sunday, but he was in the right place when it mattered and kept his Lotus Renault in front of Alonso long enough to capture the win.

This I think is more in line with what Schumacher hoped for when he started his comeback tour three years ago. A car capable of being regularly competitive, consistant points-scoring finishes, and the occasional victory.  Then building towards being a championship contender in year three.

It hasn't worked out for Schumacher, who finds himself out of the top seats for 2013 and looking at a return to retirement.

Raikkonen has been the more consistent of the Lotus drivers in 2012 (although some of that is Grosjean's propensity for running into things on lap 1).  There have also been some odd strategic calls, such as in China where Raikkonen fell from 2nd or 3rd all the way out of the points over the space of a single lap.  But he never looked disinterested in the racing the way his critics accused him of being in his final year with Ferrari.  The Lotus was definitely top of the 2nd tier teams, hanging on to the bottom of the top tier -- and was usually in the right place to take advantage when the absolute top got it wrong.

This win is well deserved, and I think we all enjoy it more than we would have a Schumacher victory.  Schumacher is regularly out-shone by Rosberg, whom himself is not doing anything really special with the Mercedes.  The whole last three years make it look like Schumacher's time really has passed, and it is time for him to assume his rightful place as one of the historical elite.

Ironically, Raikkonen was hinting that he'd call it quits after 2013 before the race started.  It will be interesting to see if he finds himself in a more competitive Lotus next year and changes his mind.