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.

Other matters

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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15 responses to “Korea GP review: Alonso and Kobayashi know the game is up. More poor marshalling ruins the race

  1. Removing Kamui for the last races, while perhaps a bit harsh, would make sense in terms of driver development.

    However, with Sauber in such a battle with Force India and Mercedes for constructor positions would it not make more sense to leave him in and try and go for the points?

      • While they didn’t close the gap, the gap didn’t get any bigger with Merc not scoring any points either.

        It’s only a 20 point gap.

        • You’re right. I guess it could go either way. I don’t know what I’d do if I had to decide. There is of course 15 days of testing for 2013 drivers to get the equivalent of several Grand Prix mileage under their belts and on that basis I’d prob stick with Kamui.

  2. I feel a bit sorry for Kamui – Perez was almost as erratic at the start today. Jenson was not impressed with either of them when interviewed.

    After his efforts today, the mechanics ought to be taking Lewis out, not standing him up. It was a pretty ballsy drive from someone who has allegedly checked out already…

    • Its all about money for a team like Sauber, and Kamui has none.

      I too feel sorry for Lewis, I did a piece a couple of weeks ago suggesting McLaren have pushed him out. They may regret it next season, because if Jenson continues poor qualifying and Perez is in training, it could be along year

      • You may be right.
        Still, I thought Whitmarsh’s appreciation of Hamilton’s drive today was sincere and well done.

        • Martin didn’t want Lewis to go – I believe he was not allowed to negotiate properly until it was too late. Lewis was magnificent today and whilst the team may have checked out on him – he will race as he always does to the end

      • Just a note, the Bowling alley incident was in Japan, not Korea. It also wasn’t a snub, for they’d all agreed to something Button has arranged, before they knew about Hamiltons offer. This was last week, not this week.

        • Well spotted – had cut and paste the sentence from my Hamilton notes and failed to change timescale.

          You’ll note I didn’t say it was a snub, just shows the disconnection

    • After Lewis did his ‘WTF tweet, It was referred to in the next Tooned episode. If you read my blog from tue or wed this week I said Tooned will be Racey as I know someone who works in production.

  3. Bit late to this as I didn’t watch the race until last night and wanted to avoid knowing the result!

    I feel a bit sorry for Kamui, looks almost certain he’ll now lose his seat at Sauber, and Sunday’s incident didn’t help his cause. Shame as he’s a good driver, but has underperformed a bit this year compared to last year when he was brilliant.

    Regarding the Sky v BBC thing, I prefer watching the Sky coverage, although I also occasionally watch the highlights again on iPlayer so I can get a comparison of the different services. I know from our little conversation on Twitter that JH really annoys you – he annoys me a bit as well, but not to the same extent. I think the main reason I prefer Sky is because I like Crofty’s commentating. He can be very entertaining, especially diring the free practice sessions. I also have a bit of an axe to grind with the BBC – ie they forced me to pay for a Sky subscription this year as they obviously spent most of their sports budget on the Olympics!

    • That’s F1 though for Kimui – ask Massa, world champion for 20seconds.
      Crofty is very good, but Ben Edwards has grown on me this year, he has a bit more of the Murray Walker high pitched shriek when there’s a moment of high drama. I also really enjoy James Allen on the red button on 5 live.
      I have to watch the SKY post race coverage from a recording for information – so saying I’m off SKY is only if I can watch the BBC doing a full live show.

      • I see what you mean about Ben Edwards, watching the BBC coverage now. I’m sure he’s changed his style a bit though (or been told to by his bosses). Watched a couple of races on the BBC earlier this season and he seemed a bit lacklustre compared to Crofty. Definitely an improvement.

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