Istanbul Park: Race Day

Turkish Delight…or Despair?

The Race:

So much for this season being considered a banquet, we have been here so many times before the shine might be wearing off the gilded tableware, but it isn’t for the pole sitter or the team that builds the carbon fibre around him. Or a slightly less pessimistic view on the current champion’s unwavering dominance on the top spot in qualifying, is that instead of a grand dinner, this is becoming a cosy get together between a close network of friends…well one friend, but some may like that. A discerning group will certainly want to see more of that finger pointing as we continue to traverse the globe, others will think of ways in which to make it disappear in the most uncomfortable fashion. Regardless of the camp you pitch your tent in, one thing is alarmingly clear, Vettel is the one to beat.

Sebastian Vettel continues his 100% batting record for pole position this season and edges closer to matching Aryton Senna’s 8-in-a-row feat. It’s a feat I’m sure he will want to challenge, one a fool would bet against, and one that everyone else on the grid would love not to happen. Especially his teammate, more so for Mark Webber is still without a secure seat for next year and he needs to show the young whipper snapper a tougher side to Formula One. Someone sure needs to, and it will have to be a brave soul with a sturdy car at the helm and a team armed to the hilt with plans and magic paddles.

The scarlet illumination hangs for an age before the roaring beasts are released upon the Turkish asphalt, shooting towards the first challenge Nico Rosberg had already capitalised on his stellar qualification performance. However from that very start it was a case of business as usual, Vettel never felt the hot breath of a challenger behind him as he streaked home with jubilant ease. Spectators looked to Rosberg to quell the young master, but as Ross Brawn admitted, the car doesn’t do well under the heavy fuel loads and a slow stint of the primes hinder progress. Understandably disappointed, he had a sliver of Turkish delight when he split the McLarens. Talking of the McLarens, an early bout of wheel to wheel racing pulled focus from podium battle ahead of them. Tussling for position, their pit wall was hive of activity as desperate calls for temperance and pleas of ‘don’t do a Red Bull’ were transmitted.

The star of the show today though was the strategy calls from respective pit walls, with the fine weather many were hoping for the 3 stop shuffle. It’s what we expected, it’s what the commentators expected, but when Webber, Alonso and Rosberg pit on lap 10, it becomes clear that we were in for a pit stop heavy afternoon. The popular circuit might have been action-packed but it was that strip of slippy concrete where the majority of points were won and lost today. Martin Bundle may have compared Jenson Button’s tyre saving techniques to the grace of a ballerina (he obviously hasn’t heard them thump around a stage) but the Brit was hurting come the end on his mandated 3 stop race. Hamilton and Massa were transformed in to pit lane soldiers, Massa almost came a cropper with Hamilton when his Ferrari lollipop man released his a touch early. Then roles were reversed when Hamilton anticipated his release a tad quick following a stubborn wheel but episode.

But this isn’t all about those dictating the pace, there was just as much action in the midfield but we only got to see that via replays thanks to the FOM feed. The pressure to perform was tangible in Turkey, Renault are intent on clawing their way back onto the podium once more, but the intense competition between their drivers literally drove them together in their interpretation of the 2010 Red Bull collision. Special mention for Kamui Kobayashi as he showed others exactly how to pull off a 3 stop race with aplomb, P24 to P10 is no mean feat when others relied on 4. McLaren and Toro Rosso will be taking notes, both Button and Buemi lost a couple of places as their cars slowed who shared the same stop system. Quick mention for Buemi who outshone his teammate again (Ricciardo for Alguersuari anyone?), and got into the points with a P9 from P16. Timo Glock never made it to the grid as he suffered a fifth gear problem and Paul di Resta retired on lap 44.

Results:

Position Driver Team Time
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:30:17.558
2 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:30:26.365
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:30:27.633
Fastest Lap Mark Webber Red Bull 1:29.703

Best Driver:

Would it be the wonder boy? Would it be the banzai kid? Would it be the beholder of the most impressive eyebrows in the paddock? For me it was the latter. Fernando Alonso’s recovery from a disappointing and unreliable prelude to the race, to flying the flag triumphant for the beleaguered team. Through sheer determination and a stunning drive he remained cool and provided a worthy foe to one of the Red Bulls, proving the old adage that you should never count a Ferrari out…especially if it’s got an Alonso inside. This double champ is desperate for that winning feeling again, let’s hope Ferrari can keep up.

Best Team:

For flawless strategy calls and a machine that delivered on cue this weekend (ignoring the moment one of their drivers starting touching up the kerbs), Red Bull can take this back to Milton Keynes with them, on top of their maximum haul of trophies from the weekend. They covered the bases with both their drivers, when Webber pitted he usually started a chain reaction from the rest of the top 10, ensuring that the Austrian outfit dictated proceedings and maintained control throughout.

Eddie Jordan moment of inappropriateness:

Kai Ebel vs Martin Brundle. Not necessarily inappropriate, but the tension escalated in such a way that I envisaged mics being thrown to the floor, and camera men mopping up bloody noses. Kai Ebel fronts the RTL coverage of Formula One and is more known for his questionable sartorial choices (he makes Eddie Jordan look like a fashionista), but today he pipped Martin Brundle to the post to both Red Bull drivers. If looks could kill, I suspect RTL would be auditioning for a replacement.

Rookie Mistake:

Michael Schumacher is an easy vote for this, he crashed, bashed and walloped his way through the field and has since raised serious questions about his legitimacy for the second bite on the F1 biscuit.  He came across Petrov, Barrichello. But it goes to Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld for their attempt at recreating the Red Bull incident last year. In a particularly aggressive move, Petrov almost forced Heidfeld into the pits to avoid being overtaken by his German teammate. No damage to the cars, but Eric Boullier is penciling in a ‘team building’ weekend as we speak.

Banzaiiiii!!!!:

Jenson Button, Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg three abreast was pretty exciting, but the master takes this one easily. Kamui Kobayashi sliced up through the field in a move we can now refer to as ‘doing a Webber’. Starting from the back, he took on everyone who stood in his way as he went on the hunt for points. If he keeps up these performances a bigger team will surely be knocking on his manager’s door.

The 1000 word picture:

"Dum dum dum dum de dum dum de dum..." (Okay, so this one needed some Star Wars music)

Say what?:

David Coulthard: “Michael Schumacher doesn’t know when to give up.” Martin Brundle: “On his career or that move?” – Another classic Brundle-ism

“What about P3?” – Lewis Hamilton optimism carried over from China wasn’t quite enough.

“Where did you come from?” – Sebastian Vettel fails to conceal his surprise from Fernando Alonso.

“I very cry.” – A Russian fan talking about his love for the Jordan F1 Team

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