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.

Driving through the pain barrier // Vettel states his case as injured Kimi shows he’s not just in it for the money

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Kimi in the paddock
A podium was well deserved for his effortsCredit: Charles Coates/Lotus F1 Team

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.

He let the pain get to him on Saturday, dropping out in the second qualifying once again and ruining what little chance he had in the race. But he was stellar on Sunday, getting the maximum out of the car while in traffic and making the most of the safety car to launch him up into podium contention.

Yes, Grosjean was on the same strategy and ahead of him on the road before he lost air pressure but Räikkönen was battling considerable demons in the cockpit. As someone who has felt the pain of back injuries (insert annoying medication advert here) seeing the Finn drive to that standard on a bumpy street circuit was very impressive. Räikkönen said after the race that it wasn’t a big deal but what do you expect him to say, a podium was well deserved for his efforts, particularly considering the cerebral third stint he put in, fighting with Jenson Button, saving his tyres until late in the race and securing his podium with a spectacular move around the outside.

When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong

There are two drivers that I have criticised more than most this year, in the absence of Narain Karthikeyan to take my rants. One of which, Esteban Gutiérrez is surely fighting to save his Sauber drive with Sergey Sorotkin assured a seat provided he finishes his homework on time and gets his super licence before the Formula One season, not to mention the backlog of drivers looking to pay their way into F1 by getting a drive at Sauber.

Either Gutiérrez is feeling the need to step up his game or he is starting to get to grips with F1 in the second half of his rookie season. I do usually allow rookies some growing pains, however the gap to Hülkenberg earlier in the season appeared to be more than that, and so I started to doubt Gutiérrez’s true potential. Perhaps he is the latest victim of Nico's prodigious pace.

Gutiérrez in Singapore
Gutiérrez is surely fighting to save his Sauber driveCredit: Sauber Motorsport AG

Esteban stole the spotlight with a stunning lap in Q2 that left teammate Hülkenberg trailing in his wake

All that said, recent races have shown real sign of improvement, knocking on the door of his maiden points on more than one occasion. And in Singapore, Esteban stole the spotlight with a stunning lap in Q2 that left teammate Hülkenberg trailing in his wake. It put him 8th in the qualifying segment, enough for a first attempt at Q3 (alright a first sit-out of Q3) as Hülkenberg could only manage 11th on the grid.

Sauber were their usual cautious selves and it left Gutiérrez tenth on the grid. It would have been nice to see him have a crack at a lap, but in reality, the best possible result was eighth, and that was with another mega-lap.

Gutiérrez was having a solid if unspectacular race until the safety car came out and the Mexican was one of the many to gamble and pit. It left him in the points needing to nurse his tyres home, with considerable opposition behind him. Unfortunately, the task was just too hard, his tyres fell away leaving him twelfth, 13 seconds behind his teammate.

Max attack

My second mea culpa is one that I thought I would never give but I feel that Max Chilton deserves some credit for a strong drive in Singapore. I have to say that I’m still not sure he has the ability to compete at this level and surely won’t survive the season (even if he had the talent, Marussia does have a habit of dropping its second driver).

However, for the first time Chilton managed to outrace his highly touted French teammate, Jules Bianchi. He was aided by Bianchi needing to make an extra stop due to a gear selection issue but it was early in the race, and even after the race was neutralised by the safety car, he managed to hold off the dual French threat of Bianchi and Charles Pic for 17th place, his fifth of the season which is only bettered by his 16th place in Malaysia.

Max with a strong drive
Chilton managed to outrace his highly touted French teammateCredit: Marussia F1 Team

Maybe this is the sign of an upturn in form for Chilton, but if it is to show in the results, he needs to eradicate the tenths that he loses to teammate Bianchi in qualifying, not to mention the half a second that Marussia trail Caterham by.

McLaren’s season must be over

It was good to see McLaren make a risky call on Sunday, deciding to stay out on the medium tyres in their final stint. After the spice that the safety car added, McLaren took on a podium or bust attitude and took the gamble that their tyres would survive until the end, knowing that the likes of the Mercedes, Mark Webber and Felipe Massa would be chasing them hard later in the race on fresher rubber.

It was good, aggressive but fair driving by the McLaren pair

Despite all of their tactical nous and attention to detail, the team headed into the unknown by attempting a 36 lap stint on the medium tyres to end the race, as did others including Fernando Alonso and the Lotuses. While they fell just short, finishing seventh and eighth for their best result since Germany, it was good to see the great marque throw caution to the wind and risk everything for the chance to get Jenson Button a podium. It was good, aggressive but fair driving by the McLaren pair as they battled in vain to hold on against the chasing pack.

Although, it is worrying to see that McLaren’s season is over by round 13, with no chance to advance up the constructors’ table and seemingly minimal threat from behind.