Hello, welcome, settle on down, it’s time for the F1 Advent Calendar 2012. Our mini series review of the 2012 Formula One season is rapidly heading towards the finish line, but there’s still time to squeeze in some more racing action. Last time it was in Japan, so this time we’ll be moving on to... well, let’s find out. This is Day Nineteen - A new reign.
From the highs of finishing on the podium in front of the home crowd, Kamui Kobayashi plummeted back down to earth just one week later during the Korean Grand Prix weekend. It wasn’t a great qualifying for the Sauber team as a whole - Sergio Pérez finished Saturday 12th, with Kobayashi directly behind him in 13th.
Red Bull managed to lockout the front row again, this time with Mark Webber ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Lewis Hamilton had a much better qualifying session, taking third on the grid to Fernando Alonso’s fourth. Webber’s notoriety for bad starts was not improved on Sunday when he lost the lead to Vettel into the first corner.
Hamilton also lost a position, relinquishing third to Alonso, whilst his teammate Jenson Button lost quite a lot more. Kobayashi came flying down the right hand side, bashing into the back of Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes and then bouncing into Button’s McLaren and damaging the front suspension, whilst also causing a puncture for himself. Kamui returned to the pitlane and emerged running last.
Button had to stop out on track, and was a forlorn figure watching the field pass his stricken car on their second lap. Rosberg also retired from the race on the first lap, for the second weekend in a row. The abandoned Mercedes caused a few problems, as it was stopped in the DRS area. The yellow flags were waved for ages as the marshals took about five minutes to clear the area. Now, five minutes doesn’t sound like long, but it is everything at F1 speeds, and crippled overtaking for those few laps.
Meanwhile, Kobayashi actually only got 16 laps in before the damage to his Sauber was race-ending, and that was after taking a drive through penalty for causing the collision too.
Sebastian Vettel was away at the front again, backed up by teammate Webber, and Fernando Alonso third. Despite the Spaniard’s strong podium finish, it was Vettel’s win that sent him into the lead of the Driver’s Championship by six points when the Korean race was over.
That lead would be extended even further when Vettel picked up his fourth consecutive win in India. Those watching in 2011 will have been used to dominance by the German driver, but after the start of the season that we’d had in 2012, seeing any one driver manage to string together four victories was impressive stuff. Vettel had led from pole position but there was some concern from the pit wall towards the end of the race, as some sparks were visible rising from the floor of the car.
Post-race, Horner dismissed the matter, attributing it to a bolt or some such small part falling off, nothing serious as it disappeared within a lap or two.
Fernando Alonso finished second on the podium, with Mark Webber the third wheel once again. Alonso was trying to keep the damage to his championship chances down, but Vettel was on a roll, and the gap grew to 13 points.
Elsewhere in India, Sergio Pérez had been taken ill during the earlier practice sessions, and was replaced by reserve driver Esteban Gutiérrez. Pérez was back for qualifying and the race, but retired after a puncture. Pedro de la Rosa also retired after the HRT’s brakes failed and sent him hurtling backwards into a barrier. He was unharmed, thank goodness.
Finally, the McLaren duo qualified 3rd and 4th, and the team was convinced they could battle for the victory - but found themselves 4th and 5th by the time the chequered flag was waved. Hamilton said afterwards he was baffled by the lack of pace, but after some investigation the blame was apportioned to the soft tyre compound, with the McLaren particularly hard on it and causing severe blistering.
Whilst Mclaren remained close to Ferrari in the constructor’s championship battle, their drivers were drifting further and further away from the sharp end - as Alonso and Vettel made it clearly a two-driver race.
That’s all for this episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2012. Next time we’ll be on the double decade, and that means we’re drawing ever so close to the end of the series. Do leave your thoughts on Sidepodcast.com about this show and all those you’ve heard so far, and, as ever, join me again next time.