Whoa, not so fast. Did Kimi do that or was it Alonsos own doing? We will get to that later. In the meantime, Japan is a nice place to be. Great fans and an awesome track that celebrates its 50th aniversary this year. The iconic figure 8 track is a winner. Perfect for a Scalextric track if you are into that sorta thing:
Lets be honest, Kimi has had his share of troubles in qualifying this year. Both self- and team inflicted. And this weekend added to that statistic unfortunately. Starts out with no KERS in nearly all of FP2, so valuable setup time and car to track adaptation time lost. In qualifying he gets into Q3 without much drama, although he had to put on the softs in Q1. Things are starting to look up as he is on a final quick flyer that seems destined for a second row grid slot. Sadly, the Iceman pushed the E20 a tad over its limits in Spoon corner and round he goes. Here is a fan who caught the whole thing:
Ok, thats bad enough. However, it was far from over. This brings out the yellows, meaning people behind Kimi on their flyer effectively also got their hot laps ruined as you cannot go full speed under yellow or you will get penalized. The biggest name affected by this was Alonso. He was clearly angry about how his lap was ruined but kept it relatively PC to the press. Raikkonen himself was possibly even more angry with himself. That came across pretty well in this interview from the always demented Natalie Pinkman that asks the dumbest questions known to mankind: http://youtu.be/7NCGgD0KpfA
So she says its a “bit of a disaster for you and a few others” with which Kimi responds with “I don’t care about what happened to the others”. Sure it sounds rude and it is not exactly “politically correct” to be so blunt. However, no driver cares about the others in such a situation. They care about setting a fast lap. And sometimes mistakes happen. It can sometimes give a yellow flag, sometimes not. Or when someone crashes in a race and brings out the safety car. Plenty of people have lost races due to this but I cannot recall anyone ever saying sorry for causing a safety car. It happens while drivers push themselves. Anyways, his first Q3 run was quick enough for 8th which is bumped up to 7th due to Buttons gearbox penalty. Could have been worse.
The lights go out and hello! Is that a red car and a black car? Is that Grosjean? Is that Massa? Nope, thats Alonso and Kimi and he is pushing Kimi onto the grass and OMGYUNOWTH!! Alonso is out of the race! Oh boy, oh boy. The championship – it’s alive, it’s aliiive! http://youtu.be/xos2MnVxe-c or:
Was that Kimis fault? Bitch, please.. Watch this clip as you first see Alonso cutting violently across the track to block Kimi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZoESZe0mCs#t=27s
He is just a tad late in blocking him and keeps squeezing Kimi until the Lotus is on the grass. Kimi could do nothing but was skilled enough not to spin out of the race himself. Instead Alonsos wheel makes contact with Kimis front wing (which breaks off a rather large piece) and the puncture is instant. Off goes the Scandalman in a cloud of dust.
But wait – there’s more! Alonso likes to tweet. Here is one after the race: “in qualy and today in the race we had bad luck with Kimi, a yellow flag and a puncture today! Now all our efforts for Korea!”
Yea, bad luck Alonso. Right.. You were the architect of your own demise as Keith Collantine so eloquently put it on his Twitter account. Are your toys starting to come out of the pram one by one?
Here is an interview where he blames Kimi some more and said he didnt have room on his right towards Button: http://youtu.be/Ig_HcFQJxGQ
To which I say: Tsk tsk Alonso. You must not tell lies. And ALL DA TIME YOU HAVE TO LEAVE DA SPACE!
Here is an excellent breakdown of the start by Anthony Davidson. You may need to let it buffer a little: http://indavideo.hu/video/Rajt_2012_Japan_F1
Also a breakdown of Grosjeans blunder while slamming into Webber, which earned him a stop and go. Havent seen one of those in a while. But this is getting serious for Romain. His confidence must be really shaken. Not to mention the large amount of millions he is costing the team in lost points. I have a feeling not all is said and done on this.
All right. On with the show as the late great Freddie would have said. But first the safety car has to come out and in again after cleaning up Fernandos, Romains and also Brunos mess that retired Rosberg from the race. Phew. And that was just turn 1.
The Lotus cars are not good at restarts as we have seen. Tire heating issues is the culprit. And sure enough, Perez hooks onto the backend of the #9 Lotus and tries a pass on the outside in turn 1. But Kimi is not playing around today and holds his ground and racing line perfectly, forcing Perez onto the runoff. 5th position kept.
Button made a great start from 8th to 3rd before the Safety Car, helped by retirements and slipping through the mayhem unscathed. Massa has done even better and is running 4th from 10th when the dust had settled. Up ahead is Kobayashi and Vettel in front.
Perez lost a place after jousting with Kimi and is behind Lewis but makes a brave Kobayashi trademark move on the inside by the hairpin and makes it stick. Thats what we like to see! Lap 13 and Kimi pits with really worn tires and Perez right behind him. He comes out into traffic right behind Kovalainen and Vergne. I remember thinking that there is no way Kimi will keep Perez behind him now. He will waste time getting past those cars. He spends an entire lap behind the Toro Rosso but makes good use of the DRS on the straight. While the engine is hitting the limiter he makes his move, braking much later and dives into turn 1. Now its Heikki up ahead. He doesnt get him at the hairpin but makes a move on the inside at the Spoon curve. Seems Kovalainen was a good guy and didnt put up much of a fight. Kiitos Heikki 🙂
Meanwhile Perez has pitted. He had plenty of free air to get in some good laptimes. But surprisingly he emerges behind behind the Lotus of Kimi. Well done. Hamilton is also able to jump ahead of Perez in the pitstops. So he slots in behind Kimi. Seems the Mexican had a bad lap somewhere.
The biggest winner in the pitstops is Massa. He went from 4th to 2nd after his first stop. Helped by Kamui and Jenson being held up by the other Toro Rosso of Ricciardo. Felipe baby wants podium. gugu-gaga.
Lap 19 and Kimi is having to look in his mirrors for Hamilton and Perez instead of making up ground to the top 4. The large bit missing on his frontwing is also playing a big part in that. On lap 19 Perez thought: “well if I can do it once on Hamilton, I can do it twice”. Well, you cant. Not this time anyway. Trying to overtake Hamilton at the hairpin again ended in tears. Its very easy to go from hero to zero in F1. He carries too much speed into the corner, spins around and is left churning his wheels in the sandtrap. Insert sad trombone: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJxCdh1Ps48
Hamilton is in DRS range of Kimi but overtaking is hard at Suzuka. For some strange reason FIA shortened the DRS zone from last year. No idea what the motive for that was. But the McLaren starts to fall back from the Lotus after a few laps, apparently struggling with understeer. At the end of his stint the McLaren seems to rectify its problem and starts gaining on Raikkonen again. The gap is below 2 seconds when the Lotus pits for the second time on lap 30. He comes out in clean air while Lewis pits one lap later. Hamilton comes out from the pits neck and neck with Kimi on the outside. Kimi has the momentum but Lewis the inside line and Kimi shows of his lightning sharp reflexes to avoid a coming together. So Lewis takes 5th place. The reason for that is pretty much down to a crappy Lotus pitstop and a brilliant McLaren one. 21.2 vs 19.8 seconds. That is a huge chunk of time in F1. Not the first time Lotus has lost Kimi a position in a race.
Even if he lost a place, it was a brilliant and exceptional piece of driving. The way he avoided contact was masterful. Great stuff from Lewis too. But it is a testament to the fairness of Kimi on the track and it is no wonder that he almost never gets into trouble. His sense of depth and spacial awareness is second to none. And he has all the capabilities that his teammate seems to lack at the moment. Watch this clip as Anthony Davidson breaks it down. Might take a while to buffer: http://indavideo.hu/video/Kimi_vs_Hamilton
From then on the positions are basically held. Vettel is up ahead looking like its 2011 with a 20 second lead to Massa in 2nd. Kobayashi is holding on for dear life to his podium position at his home race while being hounded by Button. Kimi in 6th also has to think about Hulkenberg who is closing in. Looking at this race, one would hardly believe that Kimi holds 3rd place in the WDC. Because the car was great before the summer break. Fast enough to potentially win in Hungary. After the summer break, it has been damage control, brilliant driving from the Iceman and some luck from other peoples retirements that have kept him in the title hunt. The elusive DDRS device have not yet made its race appearance and one wonders if it ever will.
Oh well, its still a fabulous day as Vettel crosses the line and gobbles up Fernandos lead down to 4 points. Attaboy! Massa takes his first podium since the shameful race in Germany 2010. (Edit: Korea 2010, actually) And Kamui holds on for 3rd place! Not since 1990 has there been a Japanese driver on the podium in the Japanese GP. The crowd erupts in cheers and praise for their home driver. Domo arigato Kamui-san. Well done.
SORENS RACE RATING AND FINAL THOUGHTS
The race is a 6 out of 10 in itself. However, it is rewarded 9 out of 10 for that delicious first corner incident that pretty much reset the counters of the championship 😀 I like it. I like it a lot.
Korea is coming up this weekend. And only a retirement can stop Vettel there it seems. Lotus is still talking of some big updates that will be utilized for this race. So lets wait and see. I admit that my hopes for Kimi taking the title are dwindling but stranger things have happened. 5 races to go. Come on Kimi. Kick it Gangnam Style in Korea.
Images © Lotus F1 Team, Mark Thompson, Red Bull/Getty Images, Sauber F1 Team, xpb.cc/F1life.ru
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