411: Abu Dhabi and beyond

I say beyond as the closest race now (Bahrain) is 118 days away…so it’s would be rather prudent of me to assume that the gossip would cease altogether. In fact we are now about to get the best gossip of the year. We have officially entered the off-season (although I suspect that Red Bull are still in that post double-win haze). And this is where the hard work starts all over again. The racing calendar may only run from March to November; but those factories are open all year churning out upgrade after upgrade, development after development.

We’ve got a lot to get through so let’s get to it…

Vettel Victorious:

The biggest news; and by far a sweet ending to the season. As you may have noticed I would have loved a Webber win (vindication for years of his career spent in sub-standard cars); and so would have most of the general public. But Vettel thoroughly deserved this title by latter half of the year. A shaky start with reliability issues was compounded by crashing into Jenson Button in Hungary; and an another one with his teammate in Turkey. The media had him labelled as an immature kid who needed a sharp lesson in what it takes to be a F1 champion. But as he grew in confidence in both himself and his car; maturity followed and was demonstrated in Korea after his engine failed.

Having never led the championship at any point; he went into the final race as third favourite, and before qualification fans were embattled in what should have happened in Brazil. Many called for Webber to have been let through to squeeze Alonso; but if that had happened, the title would be in Spanish hands now. To balance the argument it could also be said it may have given Webber the boost; and he would have smashed qually in Abu Dhabi. We will never know as we don’t have ‘what ifs’ in F1.

2011 will have 5 world champions lining up on the grid; I’m putting my money on a 6th by the end.

Webber and Vettel are all smiles (Getty Images)

I had to include this picture as reports have come through that Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber spoke for an hour after the race. This was during the riotous celebrations in the Red Bull garages; in those precious moments of victory the two drivers were talking. ‘Vettel is fully aware’, David Coultard informs us, ‘that without [Webber] he would not be where he is.’

(More on Vettel’s win to come)

Competition Time:

Now this is really for the Red Bull Fans out there. Ever wanted to have a look around the Red Bull Racing Factory? Interested in how they build a Championship winning car? Want to get up close and personal with the team that make this happen? Then click the link below and enter a competition (in association with sponsors Pepe Jeans) and win one of 10 double tickets.

Click here to enter!

Fernando; Ferrari; Fiasco:

There might be another word beginning with ‘F’ I could easily use; but I’ll leave that to your active imaginations at this time. Fiasco aptly describes what happen in Abu Dhabi in my opinion; Ferrari did not do this on purpose, they’ve had good strategies all year. The million dollar question is who thought following Mark Webber’s lead into the pits was a good idea? Italy is in uproar; politicians are calling for the Ferrari president to be sacked, the fans are in despair, but Fernando remains strong.

He may have damaged his reputation (or help keep it; depending on your relationship with him); with his behaviour towards Vitaly Petrov (Renault) on the slow-down lap after the race had finished. But the Spanish and Italians have passion is spades; and this is what frustration looks like, perhaps going into this race having declared yourself champion wasn’t the best idea. Petrov understated response to Alonso’s reaction…’I think he was angry.’

However the season is over; everything is reset to zero, and Alonso has declared his undying love for the prancing horse and vows to make the championship his, and his alone, next year. But will Massa?

Massa reflects on his 2010 season

All Change:

The juiciest bit of gossip of the off-season is always the transfers. Which seats are going free? Who is leaving? Who is staying? Of course I will staying on top of this on my Twitter account and on here…but we,ve already had some confirmation through from a couple of teams. And so far; I’m puzzled by the choices.

Renault:

Vitaly Petrov has his seat confirmed for next year. I talked about this last week; but I’ve not been impressed with his overall season, and I suspect his performance against Alonso at Yas Marina has saved him. If he had spun off or dumped it in the wall; he would have been gone for sure. So how much sponsorship has he been able to bring in? Wonder what Kubica is thinking? If he decides to stay…he definitely deserves a driver who can consistently back him up.

Williams:

Conversely; The Hulk produced the first pole position in 100 races for his team at Interlagos, his reward? You’re dumped. They are keeping Barrichello on for his 19th season in the sport; but his talented teammate is left out in the cold. He’s being replaced by Pastor Maldonado; who is bringing in some serious cash for the team. He’s a talented driver; but some what erratic and could prove a disasterous move for Williams. Sponsorship is a huge consideration for the team to keep themselves going throughout the year; but the better your team is the more money you get from the F.I.A. It’s a shame for Nico Hulkenberg; but I am positive that he will find a team to utilise his talents. And as it stands he’s being linked to Force India, Hispania and Mercedes (as a reserve).

Maldonado makes the move to Williams

The Test:

With the Red Bull Championship packaged up and sent back to Austria; now was the time of the test drivers and young blood. Upcoming stars and people to look for in the future. This is running November 16-17th and includes all the teams. This gives next years drivers/reserves/test drivers to have a spin in this years cars; so the times should be relative to

McLaren Mercedes: Gary Paffett & Oliver Turvey
Red Bull – Daniel Ricciardo
Ferrari – Jules Bianchi, Cesar Ramos, Stephane Richelmi and Andrea Caldarelli
Renault – Jerome D’Ambrosio, Mikhail Aleshim
Mercedes – Sam Bird
Force India – Paul di Resta, Antonio Felix da Costa & Yelmer Buurman
Williams – Dean Stoneman & Pastor Maldonado
Sauber – Sergio Perez & Esteban Gutierrez
STR – Jean Eric Vergne
Lotus – Vladimir Arabadzhiev, Rodolfo Gonzalez
HRT –  Pastor Maldonado (mentioned twice as he’s testing for both teams), Josef Kral, Davide Valsecchi
Virgin – Jerome d’Ambrosio, Luiz Razia & Rio Haryanto

The result for the morning session of testing is that Daniel Ricciardo has continued his great form from last year and ends up at the top of the timesheet again. His best time 1:40.813, just 1.5 seconds off Sebastian Vettel’s best time.

Day 1 Results:

Position Driver Time Laps
1 Daniel Ricciardo 1:39.616 83
2 Oliver Turvey 1:40.725 84
3 Antonio Felix da Costa 1:41.381 77
4 Esteban Guiterrez 1:41.432 88
5 Dean Stoneman 1:41.522 70
6 Mikhail Aleshin 1:42.073 58
7 Jean-Eric Vergne 1:42.489 93
8 Paul di Resta 1:42.736 28
9 Sam Bird 1:42.985 66
10 Jerome D’Ambrosio 1:43.518 36
11 Pastor Maldonado 1:43.750 108
12 Jules Bianchi 1:43.894 58
13 Rodolfo Gonzalez 1:44.924 83
14 Rio Haryanto 1:49.439 21

A great first day for all; most notably from Australian Daniel Ricciardo driving the Red Bull. consistently posting the fastest times all day; let’s see what he can do tomorrow. As it has been reported Mark Webber signed up for one more season earlier in the year; with times like these Ricciardo could be an interesting teammate for Vettel, no? I suspect he’ll spend another year as a test driver as Toro Rosso have both confirmed the same lineup from this year for 2011. I’m betting that they’ll be an Aussie driver again at Red Bull in the very near future.

Ricciardo posts the fastest time in Abu Dhabi

Yas to change in Abu Dhabi:

Martin Whitmarsh has called for changes to be made to the Yas Marina track in Abu Dhabi after a tough race. Ferrari are bound to agree as both drivers had issue with overtaking. Despite the long straights; the opportunities to overtake were severely limited. Even though we had a couple of retirees; the bulk of the race was essentially a procession, punctuated with a well execute pit stop. Even Petrov agrees!

Whitmarsh will be happy to hear that circuit boss, Richard Cregan, confirms that they are always looking to improve. Although Abu Dhabi won’t be the last stamp in the passport; with some improvements here and there it could provide the fireworks of Brazil.

That’s my lot today for you; plenty to digest. I’ll have an article out for you soon on the 2010 season and team performance. And it’s fair to say they’ll be something on the winners as well.

Later rookies!

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