I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a bad Brazilian Grand Prix, and Sunday’s race proved it. The atmosphere and the charisma of the circuit saw to that. Add to that the narrow track with close, inviting walls and a very indecisive (and localised) weather system and you are guaranteed a dramatic race at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace. Unfortunately, as so often happens when rain is considered a factor, the watching public spent the whole race waiting for the heavens to open as they had all weekend but instead mother nature played a high stakes game of chicken with each of the eleven F1 teams.
It wasn’t a classic, and there isn’t exactly a championship riding on it, but Texas proved the perfect environment for some of the drivers who are still fighting for their F1 lives to thrive. There were some great moves and great driving throughout the field as many drivers took a few more risks now that the championship is sealed for Sebastian Vettel. And while he was showing his ominous speed once again for a record eighth win in a row, he was by no means the star of the show.
It was a slow burner in Abu Dhabi, but despite most people’s worries, there was still enough action to go round, with some great close racing and interesting strategy choices. Not much could have been squeezed between Fernando Alonso and Jean-Éric Vergne at 180mph going through turn three before Alonso took the bumpy route. The fact he carried on after an impact over 15g (Ferrari claimed that it was as high as 25g) is a credit to Alonso’s commitment.
I try to use this series to praise the drivers who haven’t received credit for their weekend’s work, but on the day that Sebastian Vettel joined the absolute elite, how can you not lead off without mentioning the now four-time champion. Who said this man couldn’t overtake? Who said that Sebastian Vettel couldn’t win if he didn’t do it from the front? Well on Sunday, Vettel proved the nay-sayers wrong with a great drive.
There’s just something about Suzuka. It has a special aura unlike any other race track today. It may lack the glitz and glamour of Monaco, but it has character in abundance. On top of that, I think it is the biggest drivers’ circuit on the current calendar. Silverstone and Spa are still challenges, but they have been sanitized in recent years with big run offs and not a grain of gravel in sight. At Suzuka, it is a narrow ribbon of tarmac, doubling back on itself in a figure of eight layout, and if you get off line, you will be punished.
So Sebastian Vettel starts on pole, opens up a lead only for his good work to be ruined by a mid-race safety car, leaving him to do it all again, which he did impeccably. Sound familiar? That's because it is. The Korean GP seemed to follow the same script, at least up front, as the Singapore GP that preceded it. Fortunately for the fans, it still provided us with the best Korean race in its short history.
It probably doesn't take an expert to guess who I thought was driver of the day in Singapore. Forget the phenomenal speed that Sebastian Vettel achieved over the weekend for just a second and you will realise the remarkable pace that Kimi Räikkönen showed.
I can no longer do it. Sebastian Vettel has all but secured his fourth title in four year, as well as his place amongst the all time greats in the sport. I don’t think that there can be any doubting about that. The man is arguably the best man in the history of the sport at leading from the front and proving untouchable if he leads at the end of lap one, especially when you consider that he has to contend with DRS, whereas his predecessors didn’t.
It appears that even Spa needs a little weather and volatile tyres to spice up the action. There was intrigue in the midfield and between Mark Webber and the Mercedes, but up front, it was a one man show, who I’m sure was on screen about three times during the entire Grand Prix, such was Sebastian Vettel’s dominance.
There’s nothing quite like a nail biting championship fight is there? And while I still hold out hope that there are enough competitive teams that could mix up the drivers’ championship, one of the titles is already as good as wrapped up halfway through the season. Despite this, two of the chasing teams have had seasons to be proud of, while Ferrari must have a severe case of déjà vu, as they appear to have ruined another chance to get Fernando Alonso his dream: a championship with the Scuderia. Surely they can’t recover from here?
Hands up who thought that these three teams would fill the awkward middle slot of my midseason review. McLaren would never have imagined that they’d be in the second half of teams in the constructors’ championship, while Toro Rosso would probably have bit your hand off if they were offered form like this time last year. As for Force India, they are still stuck in midfield, but must surely be happy to have jumped two teams up to fifth.
Don’t read anything into the title, but the truth is that these four teams receiving my grade for their season so far have scored just eight in ten races, that’s eight points from eighty starts. That’s far below expectations for sure. My views on Caterham and Marussia have been made clear: what are they adding to the sport if they are running nearly three seconds off the pace three years into their campaign?
What a race?! I knew from straight after qualifying that Lewis Hamilton would have to lead at least the first stint in order to keep Sebastian Vettel at bay. Well, he did more than that as, with the help of Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel led just eight laps through the pit stop cycle, as Lewis Hamilton was the man in dominant form, staking his claim for this year’s world championship in the process (if you acknowledge that there still is a championship fight, then Hamilton is well and truly in it).
Well, it took a whole week for Sebastian Vettel to slam shut the door that was opened just a crack by his gearbox failure at Silverstone. Vettel also broke the home-race hoodoo, which by the way effects most drivers (see Messers Webber, Button and Hamilton, among others), as well as breaking his July duck. All in all, it was a great weekend for the German, but he knows that the hard work is still to be done, despite opening up his championship lead above the crucial 25 point - one race win - mark.
Well, what a difference eleven laps make. Coming to the end of lap 41, Sebastian Vettel looked odds on for a simple victory, and given the circumstances in the world championship, it really looked like a race where ‘the championship was won’ with Kimi Räikkönen in third and Fernando Alonso in fifth, allowing Vettel to open up his lead in the championship.
Despite a processional Grand Prix, there were still some great drives in Canada, a track where it pays to drive aggressively (take note Sergio Pérez). I love Montreal, if ever I can scrounge together enough to meet Bernie's ludicrous ticket prices, Montreal is the race that I would watch. Unfortunately, there was a lack of action this year, particularly at the sharp end, as Sebastian Vettel got up to his 2011 tricks of a sublimely fast opening couple of laps, 'breaking' the DRS and managing the gap from there.
Can the questions about Nico Rosberg now stop? First the thought was that he was in F1 because of his father’s success. Then the thought was that he’d get a pasting from a returning Michael Schumacher, but after proving the doubters wrong, he wasn’t given credit as the media cited poor Schumacher performance as the reason that Rosberg had, easily, come out on top. Then, when Schumacher retired for a second time, one of F1’s fastest drivers entered Rosberg’s lair, with similar doubts as three years earlier.
It wasn't a particularly memorable Grand Prix - it rarely is in Spain - but it proved to be a day that Fernando Alonso would never forget. He won the Spanish Grand Prix for the second time, his third win in his native Spain. Alonso was fairly restrained compared to his post race antics in Valencia last year. He didn't lay out the Spanish flag on the track, nor was there a cuddly toy; there was just a flag raised in salute.
I thought Bahrain was an excuse for Bernie Ecclestone to reap money out of the Middle East, but Sunday’s Grand Prix proved that Bahrain can provide an action-packed Grand Prix as well. However, even after all of the exciting racing, it appears that Formula One has not changed in the past 12 months. Still the F1 circus arrives in the Gulf region to scenes of protest and British politicians desperate for the race to be called off at the last minute. And still Sebastian Vettel leads home the Loti/Lotuses of Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean (in that order). Sense of déjà vu perhaps?
It took me a while to get back into the swing of this, having had three weeks off. By the looks of it, a lot of the drivers seemed to have the same issue, or at least thought the Chinese Grand Prix was next weekend. There was a car on track for less than half of qualifying, so now this is a full blown issue. At least, for the sake of future qualifying sessions, the podium was full of drivers who bothered to set a representative time on Saturday.