The F1 season is winding down fast. The venue is India and after that we have only 3 races to go.. *sniffles* But plenty of stuff can happen – and will happen. Red Bull has had an incredible bullish charge led by Sebastian Vettel. He will be eager to extend that here. There was also a small hope of a return to the podium for Kimi as Lotus comes to grips with their Coanda exhaust.
Judging from the practice sessions, Lotus is still trailing the top teams. But Kimi got through Q1 without having to go on the softs. Once the softs came on in Q2, tire heating came into play and it looked like it took an extra lap before the Finn was able to push for a quick lap. He made it semi-safely into Q3, while his teammate just missed out.
As the Red Bulls seemed untouchable in Q3, Kimi was still seemingly struggling on the softs. P7 was all there was and that was it. Seeing his top speed was one of the lowest at 310 kph, it was easy to make an onimous prediction for the race. Ironic how the Lotus has gone from being the fastest on top speed in one part of the season to now being the slowest among the contending teams. Much of it is down to power loss from the Coanda exhast of course. After qualifying, Kimi revealed that they had changed the car after practice 3 and that it was a “shit decision”. He reckoned that he could have been 2-3 places higher up without the changes made to setup. Alas, the cars are in parc ferme after qualifying and no changes are allowed.
Lights out and its a scruff down to the first corner. Alonso gets the best of both McLaren drivers down the straight but Button brakes late and squeezes back in front. Vettel and Mark are 1-2 with Vettel already starting to pull out his traditional gap. Kimi didnt manage to make up any places and even has to defend from Perez down the straight. He defends well and keeps 7th place.
Unfortunately there is a topspeed strong Ferrari ahead. And he literally spent the entire freakin’ race behind Felipe Massa. Explanation: Lotus top speed with DRS: 310 kph. Ferrari top speed without DRS: 305 kph. So that pretty much concludes the race summary for Mr. Raikkonen. He had one lap in clean air after his pit stop but still got out just behind Massa. He managed to edge ahead of him which was awesome but lo and behold, the looming straight awaited. And sure enough, the Ferrari eased by with its superior top speed. As frustrating as it was for me to watch, I can only imagine the choice finnish vocabulary inside that black, white and red helmet.
So with that being said, lets move on to other things that stood out for me. Halfway through the race, Vettel has established a 10+ second lead on his teammate. Which in itself is pretty ridiculous. Okay, Vettel is good. But I cannot for the life of me understand why Webber is still placed in the best car on the grid. He is crushed, nay demolished by his teammate in 9 out 10 races. And they keep renewing his contract. I’m sorry, but I dont get it. I dont get it at all. People get on Felipe Massas case so hard (and rightly so) and calls for his retirement. But hardly anyone mentions Webber when he is outclassed by pretty much the same margin as Massa is. Where is the logic in that??
The result of this pathetic race pace displayed by the Australian, is that Alonso smells blood and ups his pace. And Webber is barely able to just hold him off the DRS striking distance. That is downright crappy when he should have left the Ferrari in the dust with an RB8 between his hands.
After the one-stop, Alonso is still hot on his heels. Only the superiority of the Red Bull in the middle sector saves his face. Then we get a message that his KERS isnt working. An old Red Bull gremlin acting up. This allowed Alonso to close up and eventually pass him on the straight.
You had one job, Mark Webber. And that was to keep Alonso or other challengers behind you. But because of your failing race skills, you have once again let your team down. As you have done so many times this year and the year before. Last year, your petty racecraft was not needed as much while the RB7 was superior. But with the closeness this year, one should expect if not keep up with your teammate, then at least keep his rivals at bay.
Ok, he lost his KERS. But the Red Bull is so good around the India track, as proven by Sebastian 2 years in a row, that Webber should’ve been comfortably ahead of Fernando. Even without KERS. 2011 he should have been runner-up to his teammate in the standings. The car was a rocket. He was not. He was 3rd. A whopping 134 points behind Vettel. And just one measly point ahead of Alonso in 4th.
2010. 3rd again. The RB7 a right rocket that year as well. Just 3 points from being dropped to 4th. 2009 – also 2 places behind his teammate in the final standings. He didnt even beat Vettel in 2008 when the semi-rookie was driving a Toro Rosso. Remember how Kimi was blasted, critisised and torn a new one by the press due to him being beaten by Massa in 2008? Even then, Kimi finished just one place behind his teammate in the championship. And yet Mark Webber escapes this critique year after year. In spite of being decimated to the point of ridicule by his German colleague. Again – I dont get it. I just dont get it.
I think that seat is properly wasted on Mark, sorry to say. I mean it is so bad that its simply laughable. He can get the occasional win when something goes wrong for Vettel and his rivals. And he should – knowing what equipment he has been driving. But thats it. Once he gets booted from Red Bull, the clever thing to do would be to retire.
Just learned that he actually walked out of the post race press con in India. What kind of ridiculous behaviour is this? This is not the first time he acts like a petulant child:
RACE ROUNDUP AND FINAL THOUGHTS
All right. Moving on. Vettel is gone and untouchable. There is a peculiar moment on the screen as we see the floor of his Red Bull scraping along the track and throwing up sparks. Is something wrong? It didnt happen again which will probably add to the conspiracy theories on the Newey design of the car. Was it suddenly lowered by mistake? Is that even possible? And so on. Maybe there is something to it, maybe not.
Webbers KERS-less car is now also a target for Hamilton who has had an anonymous race after he passed his teammate. He catches up but Webber gathers the last ounce of talent he has left to keep the McLaren behind. So Alonso limits the damage but still loses 7 points to Vettel in the standings, now 13 points behind. Still all to play for. Massa crosses the line in 6th, 0,5 seconds ahead of Kimi. One can only imagine that Kimi was glad to see the chequered flag here. Looking into the gearbox of a Ferrari can only be interesting for a limited amount of time. 59 laps in this case is 59 laps too many. He keeps his 3rd place in the standings. Not that it really matters. Only for the fact that it is impressive.
Self-promoting and self-loving award goes to Fernando Alonso for this quote: “A great start, a great first lap, a good top speed and the right tyre management produced, along with me driving at 120% for each of the sixty race laps, this second place”. Link: http://www.f1zone.net/news/alonso-driving-at-120/16435/
If you have to say it yourself. Well..
Less than one week and its go for Abu Dhabi. Shame that Lotus could not keep up in developing the car. Because the championship was a real possibility before the summer break. But where other teams went forward, Lotus was status quo at best. So I have come to terms with this being an outstanding comeback for Kimi. Could have been worse though. Look at Mercedes. They won a race and now they cant even finish in the points. Good luck to you, Hamilton. I think you will need it.
Had Kimi been in Red Bull, Ferrari or McLaren, he could have surely been jousting for the title down to the last race. Apparently he has still not given the extension on his Lotus contract the green light. I have no idea why, so I will not speculate too much in that. They keep saying that a decision will be made very soon. I will say that I fear that he could suddenly call it quits. But that would make no sense really. Why come back and have a cracking season beyond anyones expectation and then just leave after one year? No, I just dont see that happening.
Edit, Oct 29: Lotus has just confirmed Kimi for 2013 with this video. Very cool as always when Kimi is involved:
Now that Kimi is effectively out of the hunt, I am personally rooting for Vettel to take the title. It will be thoroughly deserved if he does. He is one heck of a driver and the team behind him is not to be taken lightly. And as long as nothing happens to the car, I think Vettel will take it. My fingers are crossed for that. Interesting statistic that came up after the race. Vettel has led every lap, 3 races in a row. Crazy. And the last driver to do so was Ayrton in 1989. So I round off my review by congratulating Vettel and wishing Kimi better luck in Abu Dhabi.
Images © Indian GP/Sutton, Mark Thompson/Getty Images, EPA/Harish Tyagi
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