HAMILTON’S STUBBORN GEARBOX ALLOWS THE RETURN OF ‘THE FINGER’

24 Sep

The Michael Report- 2012 FORMULA ONE SINGTEL SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX

ONE THOUSAND and six hundred lights surround the Marina Bay in Singapore, guiding the F1 drivers around the tight and twisting streets under the moon’s gaze in F1’s only night time race, and it delivered a spectacular race yet again.

Lewis Hamilton’s race began very strongly, and his stunning pace demonstrated his careful manner around the Singaporean streets, but unfortunately, we were denied a good old scrap for first between Hamilton and Vettel. This was due to the fact he had to retire with a gearbox failure, and had to coast solemnly into the corner of the race track, his chances ruined today, and also providing a significant dint to his overall standings at this crucial stage of the season- all hopes for McLaren will now be pointing to Japan, and they will be praying for a disaster free couple of Grands Prix if they have any chance of reining in Alonso or Vettel.

Today’s race was dedicated to the life of the late Professor Sidney Watkins OBE, who revolutionised safety in the sport, and if it weren’t for his developments, racing here would have been impossible.

On the 39th anniversary of the first deployment of a Formula One safety car, it was only fitting that we should see not one, but two safety cars in the race, the first one following Narain Karthikeyan’s trip into a wall in a tight part of the circuit; the racers managed to close down the leaders so much so that after the restart, Jenson Button nearly collided into the back of Vettel’s car as the safety car was making its way back into the pits, and moments later, Michael Schumacher underestimated Jean Eric Vergne’s racing line into one of the corners, and subsequently careered into the back of the Frenchman’s car, causing the safety car drivers to have another spin on the track.

The near misses and unlucky moments seemed to come thick and fast following the second restart: Pastor Maldonado suffered misfortune as a hydraulic problem forced an early, yet undeserved retirement- the Venezuelan had excellent driving form and I expect that he will be disappointed with another pointless finish. Bruno Senna’s run of bad luck continued after losing power just before the end of the race, and a very poor pit stop by Vitaly Petrov saw him finish almost three whole laps behind the rest of the field.

Action further up the field wasn’t missing either- both Saubers, Nico Hulkenberg and Mark Webber jostled for position and their battle saw car body parts flying all over the track, and Felipe Massa wasn’t short of near misses, either- whilst trying to overtake Bruno Senna (before he retired) the Ferrari came within millimetres of damaging a bridge that was over a century old, and risked damaging both cars in the process- brave, courageous driving, but it eventually paid off.

The race was scheduled to last for sixty one laps, but since the safety car slowed down proceedings in an already long race, the two hour time limit elapsed, and when Sebastian Vettel crossed the finish line on the fifty ninth lap, the chequered flag was flown and twenty five points were awarded to the German- the ‘finger’ got its second 2012 outing- its first since Bahrain- nevertheless Christian Horner needed something to smile about as these points put Vettel comfortably back in contention for the Driver’s Championship. McLaren received some consolation, as Jenson Button received eighteen points for finishing second, and Fernando Alonso completed the podium earning fifteen more points to add to his tally.

Paul Di Resta did Force India proud with his best ever finish- fourth place should put a huge smile on the young Scot’s face as twelve points were much deserved and a good sign that he has a good future ahead of him. Nico Rosberg avoided the same fate of his German team mate and received ten points for fifth place, with Kimi Raikkönen receiving eight points in sixth place followed closely behind by team mate Grosjean in seventh place with six points. Felipe Massa avoided more near misses to take eighth place and four points followed by a deserving Toro Rosso in ninth place- Daniel Ricciardo did well to earn two points for his team, and Mark Webber earned he final point in tenth place.

It is also worth noting that Marussia’s Timo Glock finished in a very respectable twelfth place, and although no points were scored, the team are now statistically the best of three “back marker” teams; Sauber were very disappointed with their performance today- neither driver finished in the points after looking so good in Monza two weeks ago.

The fly away action continues next fortnight in Japan and McLaren will be hoping that both drivers will have an excellent performance without any mishaps as the season begins to draw to a close, but with everything still all to play for.

OFFICIAL STANDINGS UPDATE

There are six drivers with more than 100 points in the Driver’s Championships. Leading the way is Fernando Alonso with 194 points- if he keeps scoring good points, he might just hang on to the lead by Brazil, yet any DNF’s will be devastating, and something that all drivers will be hoping to avoid. Sebastian Vettel has re- taken second place with 165 points, followed by Kimi Raikkönen in third with 149 points and Hamilton has stayed on 142 points, dropping two places since Monza. Fifth place belongs to Mark Webber with 133 points to his name, whilst Jenson Button completes the top six with 119 points. Nico Rosberg is seventh with 93 points, and Romain Grosjean’s return has seen him score more points, taking his tally to 82.

In the Constructor’s Championships, Red Bull have increased their lead to 298 points, 37 points of McLaren’s 261 points in second. Ferrari remain third, with 245 points, and Lotus follow closely behind with 231 points. Nearly 100 points separate fourth and fifth, with Mercedes in fifth with 136 points. Sauber remain in sixth place, staying with 100 points. Paul Di Resta’s superb performance has seen Force India’s points tally increase to 75, remaining in seventh. Williams are eighth with 54 points, 40 points clear of Toro Rosso in ninth and 14 points. Although still yet to score, Marussia are statistically ahead of Caterham in tenth place, and HRT, as ever, bring up the rear in twelfth.

I will be back in 2 week’s time with another update, as Formula One returns to Suzuka in Japan- last year, the Championships were decided here, but with 150 points still up for grabs, the tide could turn at any moment and we can still expect a few surprises, just remember to set those alarm clocks if you don’t want to miss the excitement!

Since this review was written, Mark Webber has been demoted to eleventh place, with a 20 second penalty for dangerous driving (contact with Saubers and Hulkenberg) and Michael Schumacher has been issued with a ten place grid penalty in Suzuka for crashing into Vergne.

This means Sergio Perez finished tenth and has earned the point- Mark Webber’s tally is in fact 132; Sauber has 101 points and Red Bull lead by 36 points with 297 points to their name.

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