VETTEL CRUISES TO VICTORY AMIDST OPENING ‘NUTCASE’ CRASH

8 Oct

The Michael Report- 2012 FORMULA ONE JAPANESE GRAND PRIX

SEBASTIAN Vettel has made Suzuka one of ‘his’ circuits- he has achieved pole position on the last four consecutive occasions, and has won three of them. However, this time around, the Championship has not settled, and the margins between the top two have closed significantly, and this race could perhaps prove a turning point for some of the contenders.

It was a typical Vettel race- pole position and after the lights went out the Red Bull stormed off and was not to be seen until the car pitted for tyres, and then until the chequered flag dropped. Twenty five points were awarded to the current World Champion, and every last point counts in this crucial point in the season, and an exciting start to the race ruined Fernando Alonso’s chance of increasing his lead.

Immediately after the chequered flag dropped, the cars raced forward into the crucial, narrow first corner, where position is crucial. Cars scrapped for the best line, and  light contact came between Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, leading to a small puncture that sent Alonso spinning off the track, dust flying everywhere, but most importantly out of the race, and no points. After this incident, “first lap nutcase” (according to Webber) Romain Grosjean was concentrating on Sauber’s Perez overtaking him, and carelessly crashed into Mark Webber, then subsequently Nico Rosberg was crashed into by an erratic Bruno Senna! Grosjean- in his seventh first lap incident- was given a 10 second stop-go penalty, and Senna a drive-through penalty for causing their collisions.

To make matters worse for Webber, the safety car retired just one lap later while Webber was still in the pits, leaving him with a huge time gap to chase down. Webber was furious, but nursed his tyres excellently to race right up through the pack to ninth place, where two points were just a small consolation for a difficult race for him.

The drivers who benefited considerably from the opening incident were Felipe Massa and the McLaren drivers. Apparently Massa used to win Grands Prix and stand on the podiums in the past, and he actually performed very well today, and his Ferrari management will be hoping for second places and podiums to continue if they want to keep him at the team. Massa looked elated to receive his first trophy in two years, and eighteen points, and frankly he deserved it after sensible driving quick pit stops and fending off Kobayashi.

Kobayashi’s third place and first F1 podium was like winning the race to him in front of the partisan crowds, and he- and Sauber- clearly loved the atmosphere in Japan earlier today. Fifteen points could indicate that the young Japanese driver’s place at Sauber is a little more secure than rumours suggested prior to the race. Kobayashi did well to fend off Jenson Button, who narrowly missed out on a podium in fourth place. Martin Whitmarsh should also be pleased with two McLaren finishes- twelve points to Button and ten to Lewis Hamilton, who finished fifth from starting in ninth. His driving was very passive; even Perez overtook him at the hairpin that Hamilton could easily defend against (but later Perez went off at the hairpin whilst trying to pass Hamilton for the second time), However, ten points is better than none and he must ensure high place finished in order to catch the leaders with five races to go.

Kimi Raikkönen finished sixth for Lotus, earning eight points, and Force India should be pleased with Nico Hulkenberg, who managed to finish seventh – he will be pleased with the extra points (six from today); Pastor Maldonado earned points today for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix- he finished eighth and earned four points; the final point was awarded to Daniel Ricciardo in tenth place for Toro Rosso. In his final Japanese Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher agonisingly missed out on points, finishing eleventh.

It was an easy victory for Vettel, and the first back to back victory this year, but with five Grands Prix to go, there are still 125 points up for grabs, all it could take is 1 mistake to lost the championship, but as the paddock pack up and fly to Korea for next week, I have a feeling that Formula One in 2012 could go down to the wire.

OFFICIAL STANDINGS UPDATE

Fernando Alonso must be feeling bitter if he looks at the Driver’s Championship, as his lead has been reduced to just four points. He remains on 194 points, with Sebastian Vettel breathing down his neck with 190 points. Kimi Raikkönen has retained third place, increasing his points tally to 157, just five points ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s score of 152. Two strong races for Hamilton or Raikkönen and disasters for Vettel or Alonso could still see a McLaren Champion or even a Champion who hasn’t even won a race yet- an F1 first.

Fifth and sixth place are separated by a mere three points, with Mark Webber on 134 points and Jenson Button on 131 points. Although mathematically possible for either driver to gain victory, realistically their chances are very slim indeed. Both Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean remain in seventh and eighth place with 93 and 82 points respectively. Felipe Massa has moved into ninth place 69 points, and Sergio Perez has dropped to tenth with 60 points.

Concerning Constructors, Red Bull have now amassed 324 points, now 41 points clear of McLaren with 283 points, who are ahead of Ferrari by 20 points- Scuderia have 263 points. Lotus have a secure fourth place with 239 points, but Sauber are catching Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton’s 2013 team remain on 136 points, and Sauber are only 20 points behind on 116 points and in sixth place. Force India are seventh with 81 points, Williams are eighth with 58 points and Toro Rosso have increased their tally by one point to 15. Marussia remain tenth despite not scoring, and Caterham and HRT remain at the bottom.

As F1 heads to Korea I will be back next week for another update as the season draws to a close, and the Championships draw tighter and closer together. Who will win? No-one can yet put their hands firmly around the Championship trophy but Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkönen and Alonso will all be hoping for a disaster free race- it will be a tense, crucial and exciting race.

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