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F1 Advent Calendar 2010 (Day 21) - Hold everything - The Japanese Grand Prix weekend sees weather affect play

Published by Christine

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Hello and welcome to Sidepodcast, this is the F1 Advent Calendar 2010 - a mini series running through all the things that shaped the season just gone. We're into our final five shows now, and this one is Day 21 - Hold everything.

It is not unusual for there to be rain during a Japanese Grand Prix weekend, and this year was no different - however it was qualifying that was affected and not the race itself. Let's start with Free Practice though. It was dry on Friday at the Suzuka circuit, but only a little way into the first session, Hamilton crashed his McLaren out at the Degner corner. It was a big crash, and the car was not patched up in time to take part in the second practice. That allowed the Red Bulls to finish top without bother and Vettel was fastest in both sessions.

On Saturday, the weather had taken a turn for the worse, and FP3 was essentially non-existant. The FIA sent out the Safety Car to test out the track, and they allowed the session to go ahead but throughout the whole hour only Jaime Alguersuari and Timo Glock set a time.

The rain started coming down even harder between the two sessions, and qualifying was officially delayed. The FIA continued sending out the Safety and Medical cars to see how the track conditions were holding up, and, well, they weren't. It was repeatedly delayed in half hour bursts for a total of one and a half hours until finally Race Control decided that the weather still wasn’t good enough, and the light was failing. They confirmed qualifying would have to run on Sunday.

Personally, this was a bit of a nightmare, because it meant we had to get up in the early hours for the second day in a row. For the teams and drivers it wasn't much easier. Pushing qualifying back meant that they would find out who was on pole position and just a few hours later they would be lining up for the race, with little time in between for strategy meetings and any car tweaks. It did give them more of an idea of the track conditions, though, so every cloud...

On Sunday, the track was mostly dry with just a few areas of lingering water. Hamilton qualified third, which wasn’t bad considering he hadn't had much running after his Friday crash. Unfortunately he also had to take a five place grid drop after the team discovered some gearbox damage, so his efforts were slightly in vain. Up front, it was Red Bull back on top with Vettel taking pole position.

Everyone was ready to start just a few hours later, but for Lucas di Grassi, the race was over before it even began. Inexplicably, he crashed the Virgin Racing car on the formation lap, meaning he couldn't even start. He climbed from the car, but couldn't say what had happened. The team had a look into it, and they couldn't figure out what happened either.In the end we came to the conclusion that it was driver error, but it was a strange accident that no one was keen on owning up to.

For those who made it to the first lap, things were not that much better. Hülkenberg had a poor start, and when he finally found the accelerator, he collided with Petrov in the Renault. Massa, in trying to avoid that accident, found himself taking out Liuzzi in the Force India. Five cars out of the race and not a single lap completed. The Safety Car was deployed, and whilst following it, one of Kubica's wheels fell off, forcing him out of the race as well.

Vettel found himself leading easily, whilst further back Kamui Kobayashi was putting in a storming drive and overtaking everybody he could see in front of him. The Japanese driver started the race 14th and finished 7th, picking up some valuable points. It was Red Bull's victory though, with a 1-2 finish, Vettel ahead, and Alonso joined the pair on the podium.

This left Webber leading the championship, but Vettel and Alonso both on equal points behind him, and plenty of drivers still in contention to win the title.

That's all for this episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2010. I hope you're enjoying the series so far - we've got just four episodes left and then it's Christmas! I will be back tomorrow with Day 22, so I hope you'll join me then.

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