Sunday, 6 October 2013

Korea: post-race analysis

In betting terms that was red. I’ll go into detail below, but one could argue the case either way for bad luck or a bad call. For Webber getting a podium (tipped by Mr. Putney) that was more a case of bad luck. Mr. M, hogging the good fortune to a degree that can only be considered selfish, got a rather large number of bets right, so good for him.

I forgot my Legard-repellent Batspray, so had to avoid the radio coverage and wait for the highlights, hence the later than usual post-race piece.

Off the start the Mercedes and Ferraris were not as good as usual, and basically held station initially. Vettel had a good start and got away (quelle surprise) but Grosjean managed to pass Hamilton and Hulkenberg made up some ground too.

Early on Massa spun, almost taking out his team mate, and caused a bit of difficulty for those outside the top four or five.

From that point it was not the most thrilling spectacle, as Vettel built a small but consistent gap and Webber advanced through the field. Di Resta crashed, which will not help his seat prospects for 2014.

Just before the first safety car emerged Mercedes had been running a comfortable third and fourth (Hamilton ahead). But the team cocked things up enormously. They left Hamilton out too long [he may’ve paid the price at the end if they’d changed earlier, but we’ll never know] and cost him something like 8s at least, maybe more. Then when Rosberg passed him and the German’s nose failed they pitted Rosberg and forced Hamilton to complete another lap. They should’ve let Hamilton pass him, done the 3s stop to change tyres and then seen to Rosberg. The cock-up for Hamilton and misfortune for Rosberg robbed the team of any chance to top score.

Perez, at the end of a 21 lap stint on his tyres, had a huge lock-up which caused much of his tyre to part company with his car, causing significant bodywork damage and littering the track with debris. This prompted a safety car and Webber, who had made good progress and just come out of the pits, to suffer a puncture and therefore force him to pit once more.

Webber, who I can only assume killed a witch’s black cat by hitting it over the head with a mirror, suffered more bad luck. After the safety car went away the cars were naturally bunched up. Sutil lost control and his car hit Webber’s, forcing it off track where it burst into flames. Sutil apologised to Webber after the race, which was a nice gesture.

The safety car didn’t help Mercedes but really helped Raikkonen due to the pit stop timings and he ended up second, after a close pass on Grosjean.

This prompted another safety car, although a rather silly mix-up meant that a jeep (medical car, I think) was dispatched before the swanky Merc that serves as safety car was deployed.

At this stage Vettel was first, then the Loti, Hamilton, Hulkenberg and Alonso. After the restart Hulkenberg managed to pass Hamilton. For the next 13 laps the Briton battled in vain to pass the Sauber. The reason for the difficulty was that in the prime passing spot the Sauber had astounding traction and then a good top speed, meaning that even with DRS the Mercedes struggled to get close enough to effect the pass.

At one point (when Hulkenberg’s tyres were graining, I think) Hamilton did get ahead, but immediately afterwards the German retook the place and then retained it until the end of the race.

Fourth is Sauber’s best finish of the season, and means that the team is now ahead (equal on points but with a superior highest position) of Toro Rosso. If they can maintain that then they’ll be delighted.

Vettel won, with Raikkonen and Grosjean joining him on the podium. Hamilton was fifth, followed by Alonso, Rosberg, Button, Massa and Perez.

Red Bull have effectively won both titles already, but the battle for second in the Constructors’ is very tight, with Mercedes a single point behind Ferrari.

The next race in Japan is in just a week, and I’ll try to remember the early discussion piece (which will probably be up tomorrow).

Morris Dancer

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