Korea GP review: Alonso and Kobayashi know the game is up. More poor marshalling ruins the race
The rather limp wristed waft of the chequered flag by Psy, of “Gangnam Style” fame, probably encapsulated the event that was the 2012 Korean GP.
The headlines are, Vettel takes the lead in driver’s WDC from Alonso for the first time since Valencia, and Red Bull extend their lead in the constructors’ table, with Ferrari significantly overtaking McLaren for 2nd place.
Marshalling ruins another race
As I suggested following Singapore, the marshalling of the event had a significant impact today and robbed us of what could have been a very exciting race. How it took until lap 10 to move Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes is beyond me, particularly when considering where it was. Races with high tyre wear are often fascinating in strategy and can produce exciting finishes. By lap 2 when the DRS was available, the cars were still tightly bunched any number of drivers may have been able to have a go at Vettel and a number of position interchanges would have occurred.
However, by the time the car was cleared Vettel was nearly 3 seconds ahead of Webber having cleverly eaked out that lead. the other cars in the top 10 had also settled into gaps of over 1 second and were unable to use the DRS to the effect they would have done at the start of the race. This needs looking at by the FIA and Charlie Whiting because that is now 2 out of the last 3 events where the problem of marshalling has impacted the race result far too much.
Alonso and Kobayashi know the game is up
In the end Webber kept Alonso at bay for 2nd – just. Yet Webber’s achilles heel, another poor start, put him on the back foot against “the crazy kid” (MW’s words 2007) again. If anything his time with Usain Bolt this week (who regularly starts badly in the 100m) has confirmed that at the late stage of his career there is little Webber can do about this. Bolt runs in his own lane so this issue is easier to overcome, Webber does not and needed to lead to have any chance of holding off the world champion 2012 elect.
Massa is almost certain with his strong 4th place position of retaining his seat at Ferrari. It must have been sweet for Massa to hear the message, “you are too close to Fernando, stay 2.5 to 3 seconds back” – alternatively – “Felipe, Fernando is slower than you”. He was the only member of Ferrari today with a big smile.
Alonso in contrast was very frank when he inferred Ferrari have been trying big development parts in past weeks, and they are mysteriously just not working. It’s as though he’s now just hoping Red Bull will slip up rather than believing his team will deliver the car for him to attack Red Bull and win the title.
Certain commentators suggested that Ferrari should have let Massa through and have a crack at Webber. Yet even though it looked as though he could catch and maybe pass Mark, to then orchestrate Alonso through to 2nd is an exciting but ultimately pretty far fetched idea.
With tyre wear a huge factor, we were robbed by Kobayashi of seeing how the master of tyre management, Jenson Button, would have fared on a contra strategy. Maybe Monisha Kaltenborn is looking wise when during everyone else’s euphoric acclaim of Kamui’s podium last week, she countered questions of his future with the team with, “We know Kamui very well…one race will not decide this”.
At the other end of the extreme is the beaming Nico Hulkenberg , a driver clearly on the up, who pulled off for me the move of the day passing a duelling Hamilton and Grosjean from a long, long way back. I believe it is all but confirmed formally that Hulkenburg will join Sauber and partner Esteban Gutierrezit, the teams current reserve driver, for 2013. It is even being murmured 3 hours after the race that Kobayashi cold be ‘benched’ by Sauber for the rest of the season in favour of the teams No. 3 driver. More Mmm.
Force India defensive
Di Resta was again downbeat after another disappointing weekend, finishing the race nearly a lap down. You would think Force India will offer him another year with the team, especially with Hulkenberg leaving. This may not inspire Paul with huge confidence, despite assurances from Bob Fernley.
Clutching at straws he observes that the team is a completely separate entity from Kingfisher Airlines and privately funded. He neglects to point out a further sponsor, Whye and Mackay (United Spirits) another Mallya is heavily in debt as well as being the target of a hostile takeover and may too not be funding the team next year. Mallya has been conspicuous in his absence at the last 2 race weekends.
Grosjean happy, McLaren not
On a brighter note, Romain Grosjean has been given the backing by Eric Boulier with a BBC interview that he will be with the team in 2013 – even though “we cannot make this announcement [formal] right now”. It was a very conservative effort from him, and its as though he’s been told that for the rest of this year he just needs to forget podiums and bring the car home. This is understandable when considering his 6 points today added to Kimi’s 10 points places the team a mere 29 points behind a rather dishevelled McLaren team.
Lewis’ demeanor has been commented upon by those close to be of some one who has “checked out of the team”. Late for the team press interview on Saturday, Jenson quipped with Whitmarsh that surely Perez would be on time. Hamilton had booked an entire bowling alley for all the garage mechanics in Japan only to find out they’d all agreed to attend a charity event with Jenson.
McLaren’s animated series ‘Tooned’ appears to indicate that the team have ‘checked out’ of the relationship too. In this weeks episode a young academy driver is walked through the hall of fame where pictures are hung of McLaren drivers who are world champions. No mention of Lewis and no appearance from his character at all in the episode. Jenson ironically was depicted helping an old lady across the road.
Lewis will still race his heart out and following the breaking of a roll bar on lap 18 – the F1 equivalent racing with the suspension of a Robin Reliant - meant his 10th place finish may have been the hardest point he ever earned in his F1 career.
McLaren are a shambles at present and recent reliability issues have haunted them since Monza costing them a bagfull of points and their big lead over Ferrari in the constructors’ race.
I believe morale for the team is at a season low and they even failed to complete the fastest pit stop of the race, something they have been doing for what seems like forever. Whitmarsh looks like a man under real pressure again, whilst a matter of fact Sam Michael briefs the media with an efficient and matter of fact manner.
Worst Midfield team: Mercedes or Torro Rosso?
Lewis may be wondering what he has let himself in for next year when his works Mercedes team for 2013 were trounced by the seasons midfield team who have replaced Williams as the one that so far have grossly under performed. All we have from Mercedes is “we were racing the tyres today” and may Helmut Marco is right in that they appear to lack focus with “so many Chiefs and not enough Indians”.
Gary Anderson, ex car designer, claims the team are now a full second a lap slower than Red Bull in race trim and with the rule changes being slight for 2013, this bodes ill. Many teams are developing the cars very late this year because the components will carry over, so for Mercedes to nowhere is a disaster for them and for Lewis.
On the other hand Torro Rosso are on the up. Ricciardo was stella rising from 21st at the start to finish ninth battling for most of the race with his team-mate. Jean Eric (8) said, “this has been coming for a long time and I’m very happy”.
Williams may be vying for their old title though and apparently have a fundamental problem with their front wing affecting both Senna (15) and Maldonado (14). “Its doing its thing again”, said Senna and the team claim they know the problem and will fix it for India.
Order was returned amongst the new teams with them finishing 2 by 2, Caterham, Marrusia and HRT. The only thing of note was Petrov finishing ahead of Kovaleinan.
Unlike last week in Japan where several hours after the race nearly 10,000 fervent Japanese fans were still in the grandstand cheering the teams pack up, the main stand today was empty less than 5 minutes after the presentation was completed. Why of why Mokpo? (my article on why this location was chosen for the Korean GP)
Singapore and Korea shared something other than dubious marshalling. They each had a different representative from the rival UK F1 broadcasters as MC of the podium drivers’ interviews. SKY was clearly trounced by the BBC in this battle as a bumbling Johnny Herbert muddled through today with his back to the camera for much of the time.
Eddie Jordan of the BBC by way of contrast, leapt manically onto the podium in Singapore and provided one of the most lucid examples of these events this year; events (excluding Alesi in Japan) that have generally been a ‘cringefest’ where the celebrity MC milks their own moment of glory.
Please leave a comment with your observations.
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