Japan GP review: Kimui enjoys more pressure, Massa’s 1st podium for 36 races, Grosjean hounded again

We’re pretty fortunate in the UK in the amount of TV coverage we now have. Many UK fans were distraught last year when it was announced that the BBC would not be getting more than 10 races live and that SKY TV (subscription) would be covering all the races.

Of course having to pay a few hundred pounds a year to watch F1 for some is too much, but if we just look at coverage SKY F1 now provides, it is of the highest quality.

Of course most countries get the official podium interviews and some of the press pen interviews the drivers are compelled to provide. Yet where we are fortunate is we get many post race unofficial interviews with the various SKY (and BBC when they’re live) presenters from team principles, race engineers, drivers and many others.

In these informal chats away from the pack of photographers and mass microphones, the F1 players are often emotional, positive or negative, and can be very, very revealing

The main reason for me saying all of this is that when I’m fortunate to be at a race, I get to spend several hours after the chequered flag has fallen pouring through the race and post race footage.

So for those of you without SKY here’s some stuff I picked up.

Of course the main story for the WDC’s title is Alonso’s DNF. It’s clear from the replay’s there was contact between Kimi’s front wing and Alonso’s rear left tyre, which deflates instantly and causes him to spin.

Alonso was critical when questioned about the incident of Kimi, he suggests Kimi shouldn’t have been there as he had nothing to gain as there was no chance of going around the outside of the Ferrari into turn 1.

Kimi asked about taking out Alonso said with a shrug, “I couldn’t go anywhere else”, and to be fair that pretty much sums up the replay evidence. If Kimi decelerated too quickly he risks being hit from behind and he was squeezed by Alonso onto the grass, as Alonso too was being squeezed by Jenson Button.

Kimi feathered down the throttle and there was just the faintest of touches that caused the incident. For the record Alonso stalled the engine, otherwise he like Webber may have been able to get back to the pits and rejoin the race.

Post race Alonso’s official tweet (@alo_oficial) says, “5 great races coming! If the enemy thinks in the mountains, attack by sea, if they think in the sea, attack by the mountains #leaders”. I think he’s been drinking from the same stuff as Lewis.

Much as I respect Button, and of course he’s the only one to challenge Vettel’s dominance at this circuit in 4 years, I was willing Kobaysahi to hold out for 3rd.

When interviewed by SKY, Kimui frankly admitted he feels he performs best under pressure and enjoyed the final 10 laps keeping Button at bay. He goes on to say, “maybe more pressure would be good for me [more often]”.

Well he’s getting his wish it appears, Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber CEO, not looking her best after presumably being drenched with champagne was asked by Jonny Herbert, “how does this improve Koby’s chances of retaining his seat for next year?” She replied, “We already said before the race actually that we don’t really want boil it down to this one race and how he does here”.

Herbert presses the issue, “ok well now we’re talking after the race” and Monisha smiling replies, “its still the same”. SKY anchor Lazenby then cleverly (for a change) asks her how they as a team go about evaluating new drivers when considering recruitment. Kaltenborn “we have been looking at [external] drivers and evaluating that internally”.

Of course since the Perez announcement this is something they’ll need to do, but the inference within the conversation was that this “evaluation” had been taking place prior to this. I think Kamui is not yet safe.

Yet for Sauber to recruit 2 rookies for next year would not be the smartest thing to do, so maybe they still have eyes for Michael.

For me, the podium presentation was probably my favourite of the year, and I’ve stood on the pit straight for a number this year. Just before the drivers were announced, I loved the Japanese fans chanting in unison, “Ka-mu-I, Ka-mu-I”. The order and total togetherness of thousands of fans cheering was typical of their cultural stereotype.

The fans stayed in their thousands and thousands in pitch black hours after the drivers had gone just watching the teams pack up and enjoying themselves massively – compare this next week to the Korea race attendance.)

Talking of the podium, I think Jean Alesi made the driver interviews work really well. This year this has mostly been a ‘cringefest’, but Alesi brought a bit of statesmanship to the whole thing by not trying to be too clever and make the drivers the centre of attention rather thank milking it for his own glory.

It was in fact a podium that was a Sauber fraternity lockout. Vettel was a Friday practice driver for Sauber, and Alesi and Massa both drove for the team.

For Massa, this was his 1st podium for 36 races, since Korea 2010. it’s obviously been so long that he forgot podium protocol and went to spray the champagne too early and before Vettel had been presented his trophy.

After being highly critical of the safety car in Singapore, I thought it was good to see a very short outing for Bernd Maylander – such that Webber after pitting for tyres, following his collision with Grosjean, was still 20 seconds behind the back of the snake at the time of the restart.

With regard to Grosjean, I am going to write an article tonight and I am quite perturbed about the way senior F1 personnel are hammering him so severely. It reminds me of the way the MotoGP fraternity were treating the young exciting Italian driver Simoncelli prior to his tragic death last season.

In contrast slow motion replays show Kimi’s amazing skill when dueling with Hamilton in turns 1 and 2 after Hamilton’s final pit stop. He literally whilst turning right in turn 2 flicks full left hand lock on and back to full right in a fraction of a second to avoid colliding with Lewis.

McLaren strategy may have cost Jenson a podium. Just before his final stop (16 laps to go) Maldonado had just set the fastest lap of the race on the softer tyre and it was his 16th lap on those tyres. Why didn’t McLaren put Jenson on the same tyre instead of the hard tyre. It was about 1 second a lap quicker – and Jenson’s car was much lighter than when Williams put the softs on their car.

Post Race Informal Chats

Vettel was moved to tears when someone pointed out he had now equaled the record of the first F1 great champion Fangio. Some think Vettel is a bit of  a blubberer over things like this but the history of the sport validates the present day achievements of our current F1 heroes.

Massa was very phlegmatic and relaxed in his press paddock interview and said “you will soon hear about my future”. I wonder whether with Kaltenbrown’s comments and Massa’s slightly wry demeanor whether they have been having talks.

Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali appeared deflated and was asked whether the wind tunnel issues were affecting the development of the car. He said on air “No excuses for my engineers because we’ve had to decommission the wind tunnel”. Mmm, its got to be a bad time when pushing to finish the season to lose that facility and having to travel to Germany to use an ex-teams facility. Then of course there is the development of next years car too.

Finally, Lewis was slightly critical of the car saying it was “very strange all weekend”, clearly inferring a most unusual occurrance. When asked about the WDC, “ Is it all still to fight for?” he was slightly coded in his response, “I’m quite a realistic person  so I know my situation, but I’ll never give up – I’ll keep pushing”.

What is your situation Lewis?

I’ll be fascinated to here what you’re observations were, leave a comment.

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10 responses to “Japan GP review: Kimui enjoys more pressure, Massa’s 1st podium for 36 races, Grosjean hounded again

  1. My take on Lewis’ ‘knowing his situation’ translates to maybe the fact that putting aside all unavoidable circumstances, McLaren appear to sabotage more than help Lewis in situations where he clearly has an advantage over Jenson. It was two points today and yet McLaren chose not to have Lewis go in front of Jenson. Championships have been lost by one point. Ferrari are raw on point collection and this is why Alonso is able to lead a World Championship with a bad car and so much support from the garage. He may have openly appeared OK with lack of team spirit at a crucial moment, but knowing his situation, he must be just counting days to 26th November 2012.

      • Do you think such teams (with no team orders) then compromise their titles a great deal? Or is F1 now a better place without the caveman-like hunt for every point? Perhaps it can be argued that allowing every driver a chance to shine when they get their moment, contributes to driver development and a chance for marketing purposes? IDK

        • Some teams are known for team orders much more than others. Constructors get paid on team position not driver titles. But a teams like Ferrari have a lot of money (and special arrangements for extra cash with BE) so the glory of the WDC appears more important to them than winning the constructors title. Yet this year we have in qualifying cars 1-14 regularly covered by less than 0.5secs so it is more difficult to orchestrate a particular team order finish in the race than previously. Further, making a driver a clear No.2 is demotivating and when lap times are so tight – mental approach can be worth half a second a lap which is now huge.

  2. My take on Lewis’s ‘knowing his situation’ may translate to the fact that putting aside all unavoidable circumstances, McLaren appear to sabotage more than help Lewis in situations where he clearly has an advantage over Jenson. It was two points today and yet McLaren chose not to have Lewis go in front of Jenson. Championships have been lost by one point. Ferrari are raw on point collection and this is why Alonso is able to lead a World Championship with a bad car and so much support from the garage. He may have openly appeared OK with lack of team spirit at a crucial moment, but knowing his situation, he must be just counting days to 26th November 2012.

  3. For me I believe it is now obvious Mclaren aren’t supporting Hamilton on the WDC front. I also think, from othe rposts I have read, Spa was a coded message: ‘sign for us or you’ll be defacto #2 for the rest of the season’ and that’s how it appears to me. I think this weekend was a manifestation of it and Hamilton knows.

    In another thread, someone mentioned Hamilton wearing his heart on his sleeve, and that once he leaves Woking, on Jan 1st 2012, he will sing like a canary. I know Lewis, and he will. I said myself, in a few posts, this will all come out in the wash, and it will. The pally ‘I can see myself returning to Woking’ is just that, for he will not come back.

    However, MW will not carry the can for this. SM is still learning Martins job, and it will be a season or two before MW is moving inward and upward.

    I think we’re starting to be able to see what has happened, now the dust has dropped and it all looks like Mclaren played their hand very, very badly this year and it’s affected their driver. Offering Hamilton the same money as Button, maybe to appease Button, backfired spectacularly and it’s from there, that we are here.

    Roll on 2013. I think 2012 is now out of the question for Hamilton, because of Mclaren, not because of him. If I were Ham, and believed this, I would go for a few DNF’s to hand the WCC to RBR. That would ruffle a few feathers.

    What did people think of Hamiltons dismissive handling of Perez? Looks like we have another fued building up nicely…

  4. Think a few people are reading too much into a throwaway comment by Lewis; “knowing his situation” to me sounds like he realises he is over 40 points down on Alonso, with Vettel also getting out of reach. I still expect him to attack every race until he can’t win it.

    McLaren will still want Hamilton (or Button) to take the title too – it would put even more pressure on Hamilton and Merc to defend it next year. As for Hamilton deliberately throwing it away to had the WCC to RBR, the only thing that would do is make him look unprofessional. Hasn’t he been doing that a bit too often this season as it is?

  5. I think Massa accidentally knocked over the champagne bottle with his foot and the cork popped, so he then grabbed it and had a bit of a spray. It wasn’t intentional. I would have thought the organisers would have a spare bottle or two on standby for such situations, although it’s the first time that I can remember such a thing happening.

    Actually, if I remember it correctly, he was presented with his trophy and he was so obviously delighted to be up there that he rushed over to the front edge of the podium to show the trophy to his team, which is when he knocked over the bottle.

    • You’re absolutely right – I was just poking a bit of fun at the events and attibuting them to Massa’s long absence from the podium.

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