Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Hülkenberg steals Vettel's limelight // Nico impresses under pressure

Published

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.

Vettel on the verge

How can Sebastian Vettel do anymore to gain the respect of F1 fans? He's the fastest on the track by a long way, both over a single lap and on long runs, and he's not even at full tilt. What's more, he's doing it all with a smile on his face while his contemporaries are enslaved by the team's corporate image. Surely it is time for the F1 public to realise that they are watching a master at work, and that is why no one can touch him, certainly over the course of a season.

Vettel prepares for another dominant performance
Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Excluding his gearbox failure at Silverstone, he’s never finished outside of the top four this season. In fact his two worst finishes are a pair of fourth places in China and Spain. He is so consistent, it’s scary. I know I have made the same point about Fernando Alonso in the past, but Vettel takes it to another level.

But what Sebastian Vettel will surely be known for, beyond his dominance, is his stunning pace off the line. If he starts on the front row, only a fool bets against him standing on the top step come the end of the race. And Sunday’s Korean GP was no exception. As those at the top of the non-Vettel championship squabbled going into turn three (which was considerably harder as Felipe Massa decided that the best thing to do was pitch his car into a spin to avoid Nico Rosberg), Vettel had a quick glance in his mirrors and set to work on ‘breaking’ the DRS to Romain Grosjean. He did so without breaking a sweat, opening up his lead seconds at a time.

The only thing that could halt his progress was a safety car and Sergio Pérez’s right front tyre saw to that as it exploded spectacularly coming out of turn two. After a lengthy delay, as the watching audience waited for the backmarkers to scamper to the back of the field, Vettel was again on it as he left Romain Grosjean for dead. Well, until he came across a stray fire engine on track. Finally someone matched Vettel at the restart as Räikkönen anticipated Vettel’s every move but still he didn’t get anywhere near the German, as Vettel opened up a manageable gap and cruised to the flag for an eighth win of the season. There’s surely just one yardstick to measure Vettel by now: and he’s German too!

What does Nico have to do?

I’m starting to feel Nico Hülkenberg is like Donkey from Shrek. He's jumping up and down, kicking and screaming trying to get the big boys’ attention. I feel like Hülkenberg needs to put a sign up above his garage quoting donkey, “Me! Me! Ooh pick me!”, because despite his evident talent, no one has snapped him up and it looks like the German will start his fourth season in F1 next year with a fourth different team.

Nico holds off Fernando in style
Credit: Sauber Motorsport AG

The Sauber has certainly improved in recent races but both Hülkenberg and Gutiérrez did a great job to get into Q3 and start seventh and eighth. Hülkenberg was right amongst it from the start, profiting from Felipe Massa’s chaos-causing spin to move up to fifth. Having held a double World Champion, Fernando Alonso, behind him for two stints, Hülkenberg stole fourth from Hamilton at the restart, setting up a barnburning final 19 laps as Hamilton threw everything but the kitchen sink at Hülkenberg, even courting ideas from his team on ways to get by.

The Brit came close but never made it through; and it was Nico's calmness and maturity he showed under pressure that impressed most. He never made a rash move and always knew where Hamilton would be. The result: twelve valuable points, leaving Sauber ahead of Toro Rosso, not to mention garnering the attention of the whole paddock.

The question is, was this latest stunning drive what finally convinced a team like Lotus to sign Hülkenberg? I hope so!

Bottas doing the job

I continue to be impressed by Valtteri Bottas. Apart from his unbelievable third on the grid in Canada, he hasn’t set the world alight, but he has had a fine rookie season. He has matched Maldonado all year, outqualifying the Venezuelan eight times in fourteen races and beating Maldonado four times in the races (the Williams pair have only had ten double finishes all season).

Bottas was in a battle for best of the rest outside of the points, a season-long war between himself, teammate Maldonado, Esteban Gutiérrez, the Force Indias and Toro Rossos. The Finn showed great pace throughout the race but eventually the improving pace of the Sauber shone through and Bottas was left to settle for twelfth, yet again just outside the points.

The gloves are off for Bottas
Credit: Steven Tee/Williams F1

While a point still eludes him, there are really good signs coming from Bottas and if Williams can provide him a car somewhere near the pace, I expect him to show his true potential. Breaking into the top ten before season’s end would be a good confidence boost for the rookie.

Webber's season up in flames

Red Bull spectacularly bursting into flames after minimal contact just the perfect metaphor for Webber’s career

Gone are the days when I thought that Mark Webber could rival Sebastian Vettel if only he had no bad luck. But come on, give the Aussie a break. If Webber didn’t have bad luck, he wouldn’t have any luck at all. Was it just me or was the Red Bull spectacularly bursting into flames after minimal contact just the perfect metaphor for Webber’s career, and especially his partnership with Vettel?

All I can say is, Webber certainly didn’t seem to mind seeing the car burning to a crisp as he looked on, resigned to his fate. Hopefully he can find some luck, or at least a swansong performance in one of his final five races in Formula One.