We are in Turkey and its the 7th race of the season already. What an eventful race! I will focus mainly on the McLaren-Red Bull battle or I fear I wont get done with this post tonight.
Lets take a peek at qualifying, shall we? The one hour on Saturday is the only time we get the chance to see the ultimate pace of these beasts!
So who would or rather, who could challenge the Red Bulls for pole? And would Vettel be back in the game with his new mistress “Randy Mandy”? It quickly became apparent that Vettel was very much back to form. The faulty chassis of “Luscious Liz” must have played a big role in his slump because he was matching and beating Webbers pace in practice. And when Q1 and Q2 came around he looked to have a firm grip on the situation. Being notably quicker than the Australian in both sessions.
Another team that on the other hand did not have a firm grip on the situation was the Scuderia. This was their 800th GP weekend and naturally had high hopes after Alonso’s strong showing in Monaco. But all their hopes came crashing down when their star driver failed to make it into Q3. 12th for Alonso while Massa gets into the final session with a 5th best time.
When being interviewed after, Alonso had to make a choice between saying he made a mistake or saying he wasnt fast enough. He chose the latter. By the way. Do you remember when Alonso said “The F10 is the best car I have ever driven” at the beginning of the season? I wonder how he feels about that quote now.
Back to the battle of the Bulls in Q3. Vettel was on his first flying lap and was 4 tenths quicker than Hamilton at the second split. Then something strange happens. His time is slower across the line than Hamilton and replays shows him locking up the left front. But the wheel doesnt start rolling again for several seconds after his braking had ended.
On his second run the same thing happened in Turn 1. Left front locks up and the car goes wide and the lap is ruined. He still manages to salvage third on the grid with the time from the first run. His time was quick enough to have gotten pole without the problem at the end of the lap. The culprit was his rear anti rollbar.
So the bad news for Vettel is that reliability is still his number one enemy. The good news for him is that he is still the fastest driver in the Red Bull team. Webbers comfortably takes his 3rd pole in a row, now that his main competition is gone.
The feel-good story for Saturday has to be Kobayashi making it into Q3. That is nothing short of amazing. The little Japanese guy is basically a rookie unless you count two races last year and he is throwing that Sauber around without any fear or respect for what might happen. Watching him was a blast. Such level of attack and commitment. More of that please.
Lights out – here we go. Vettel gets a cracking start and slips ahead of Hamilton into P2 after turn one. But Lewis is having none of that and makes good use of the straightline speed of the McLaren to repass him. And he doesnt seem to be satisfied with that either but takes up the hunt on Webber. Surprisingly it doesnt take him long to get right up to Webber and gets a good tow on him down towards turn 12. Webber defends on the inside but also brakes very late making it impossible for Hamilton to complete the pass. He tries this a couple of times but without success. Great racing though
Only a couple of seconds behind was Vettel lurking. And behind him, Button was still keeping contact. We had the pieces coming together for an epic 4-way fight at the front. Something I cant remember seeing in F1 actually. Please remind me if you remember something similar.
Vettel makes the first stop of the front runners and gets out behind Rosberg. Nico pits on the next lap along with Webber and Hamilton. The McLaren crew does a quick change and seem to have beaten the Red Bull crew. But a problem with the rear wheel keeps Hamilton hanging for a few extra seconds. And that is enough for Webber to keep the lead. When the McLaren came out from the pits, those problems proved to also give away second place to Vettel!
To top things off – Button has a flawless stop on lap 17 which got him close to Hamilton as well.
Now we have 4 cars running extremely close to each other at the front. Webber who is leading the race seems to be the slowest of the quartet. The interesting thing about this race is that the McLaren is matching the Red Bull in race pace. Its faster in a straight line. But the Red Bull has the upper hand when it comes to downforce, making it possible for the drivers to take Turn 8 with full throttle in 6th gear when fueled up. Whereas the McLaren has to make a quick downshift to 5th.
Lets take a quick look at the positions behind before I delve into the big incident of the race. We have Schumacher and Rosberg in 5th and 6th. And they seem to be slowing everyone up behind them. Kubica, Massa, Petrov, Alonso who has made it up to 10th, and then Kobayashi and De la Rosa. They all run very close together. But passing is nearly impossible without muscling your way past. Something Alonso would prove later with Petrov.
Vettel has steadily been closing in on Webber and when we switch back to them, we see Vettel has a great tow on Webber coming out of turn 10. It has later been confirmed that Webber was on fuel saving mode at the time. They go up the hill, Vettel clearly faster. And unlike previous attempts to overtake Webber, Vettel actually gets on the inside which is practically a 100% sure pass as long as he brakes in time.
What happened next outraged me at first. And then it baffled me. Vettel seem to be turning right into Webber and their wheels touch and around goes Vettel with a puncture and most likely a broken suspension. Hes out. Webber is able to go on but not before the two McLarens have passed him. You see Vettel gesturing towards Webber and he is clearly not a happy camper.
I have studied and looked at the footage very closely, trying to determine who is at fault. So here is my take on it. You may or may not agree with me but here it is. Without a doubt in my mind, the majority of the fault lies with Mark Webber. What we witnessed here was a typical Webber move defending his position. And I do not mean the crash itself – but the leading up to it. He never intended to let Vettel get on the inside. He didnt close the door enough on the left. And when he realized this, it was already too late.
-Watch from 0:45 in the video. Webber looks in his right mirror and realizes that Vettel is much closer than he thought. And not only that – he sees that Vettel goes for the inside. That was not in his plans. So at 0:46-0:47 you see the slightest twitch of the steering wheel to the left and you see he starts drifting ever so slightly to the left, leaving Vettel no room at all. That is a very well camouflaged move by Webber but its not exactly sporting behaviour. And the complete opposite of what the team instructs their drivers to do.
This is far from the first time he does this maneuver. He did it on Barrichello last year and it got him a drive-tru. He did it to Kimi in Brazil last year and it cost Kimi his frontwing and a podium. Instead of moving over to defend in due time, he tends to just ease his car slowly towards his competitor. The intent is to force them to yield but it is often done too late and contact is made with the other driver. Needless to say that is not only very questionable but also very dangerous.
But what about Vettels move into Webber? I still dont quite understand why Sebastian didnt just keep his line and then go for outbraking Webber. Most likely he would have made the pass. Looking at the replay I can only conclude that he expected Mark to move over when he himself did. That is what Webber should have done in my opinion because its a team sport and you have to follow the guidelines from the team. Up til then he had already tried to defend his position – all he could do now was to try and outbrake Vettel. And the best place to do that is on the racing line. Not completely squeezed up against Vettel on the dirty side.
Point is – he left way too little room and kept to the right for WAY too long. If you look at the GP2 racing done here this weekend, with any overtaking move there is defending but they always move over to the racing line to get the most efficient braking. Webber did not do that. And that is very important to consider here.
When you look at the replay of Horner in the pitbox you can see him screaming “Move”. That could only be directed at Webber. If you read Horners quotes, a picture emerges: http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/84050
Especially if you read between the lines. “Not enough room was given” for instance. “But he was quite a long way down the side” is another.
The fault Vettel has here was wrongly assuming Webber would move when he did. He should not have done that but instead kept his line on the left. The rest is all on the Australian. It is very characteristic of him and the Red Bull team is clearly not pleased with him right now.
Helmut Marko who is involved with the Red Bull team had some interesting quotes in an interview. And its something you might not hear from Horner. He said Webbers speed was dropping. So they instructed Webber to leave room for Vettel because he was the faster of the two and they didnt want to risk that Hamilton passed both of them. But apparently Mark Webber didnt listen to that. There is a lot more under the surface here and more is sure to emerge the following days. Webber for instance said to journalists that they should “dig deeper” when confronted with questions. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
THE CONCLUSION OF THE RACE
A few laps later we get a perfect demonstration of how teammates should behave when racing. Button and Hamilton set a prime example there. Hamilton gets passed by Button in Turn 12, they get real close in the chicane but keeps it clean and respectable. Down the start finish straight they are side by side and Hamilton repasses Button. A great scrap with no casualties because both of them behaved like teammates. Well done. Ok, there was a slight touch at Turn 1 from Button, but still pretty fair.
We see Alonso making it past Petrov by force giving Petrov a puncture and ruining his race. A shame since the russian was in for some points. Alonso picks up 8th, 10 seconds behind Massa in 7th. Kobayashi bags the first point for Sauber. Well done. I really really hope he gets a drive in a faster car next year. Mercedes GP takes home 4th and 5th but they need a lot of work on their race pace. They seem to be quicker than Ferrari in qualifying but falters a bit in race mode. Canada may be a different story.
So its the second 1-2 for McLaren this season, this time with Hamilton as the winner. They now lead the constructors with a single point. This championship is far from over. It could have basically been over if it werent for two things. Red Bull reliabilty and Red Bull driver management. But until these things gets sorted out, both titles are up for grabs.
DRIVER OF THE DAY
Its clearly Hamilton for me. And I would probably have chosen him even if he didnt win. His moves are getting cleaner it seems and the way he retook Vettel and Button was just classic stuff. And that is what we race fans like to see.
DOUCHE OF THE DAY
You probably wont be surprised when I say Mark Webber.
SORENS RACE RATING
Its a 7 out of 10 for me. A point extra for the controversy probably. Not that I wanted them to crash but it does spice things up. Gives you something to talk about and ponder on, right? Some people are even saying that Webber is done in Red Bull after this year. Not that I believe that.
Anyway – there was some great racing taking place. We mostly saw the action at the front. The few glimpses we got from further down the field proved that there was lots of stuff going on. I was entertained Great circuit too. Shame if it has to go next year. There were also some talk of rain during the race but all we saw was a few drops on the cameras. Never made any difference. Might have gained another point if the heavens had opened up.
In 2 weeks the F1 circuit makes a quick trip to North America and the great Gilles Villeneuve circuit. Its a welcome return for me. And I cant wait to see how the Red Bulls and the McLarens do there. Until then, you need to take care of yourself. You hear? Drink some green tea or something. And while you do that, I will be in my garden chair with a beer. Cheers!
Soren says: Do as I say, dont do as I do.