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The Final Countdown

Wednesday 10th November 2010

The 2010 Formula 1 World Championship. Wow. I mean, seriously, it’s been immense, and it’s not over yet. This coming weekend sees the 19th round of the championship, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. And heading into that event, there are four drivers with a chance of securing the championship, which I think is unprecedented.

It’s been quite a topsy-turvy year. Without a doubt, Red Bull have had the quickest car all season. They’ve won pole position 14 times so far, which I think equals the record set by McLaren in their dominant 1988 season. That they’ve only won 8 races from that qualifying performance is pretty shocking really, and down to a mixture of unreliability (particularly on Sebastian Vettel’s car) and driving errors (er, again, particularly for Sebastian Vettel). They should’ve crushed the opposition this year, but these mistakes have opened the door for other drivers to capitalise and build a championship campaign.

And interestingly, two teams have provided the bulk of the challenge in both halves of the season. In the first half, McLaren were the team with the pace – and tactical nous from Jenson Button, who had two sublime victories in Australia and China – to take the fight to Red Bull. Indeed, I think I’m right in saying that at the halfway point it was Lewis Hamilton who led the championship. However the McLaren challenge has sort of fallen away in the latter half of the year, due to the increased pace of the Ferrari as well as some uncharacteristic crashes for Hamilton at Monza and Singapore. In the latter part of the season, Fernando Alonso has managed to score more points than anyone else, and has clawed back a pretty sizeable points deficit to now lead the championship by 8 points from Mark Webber. Vettel is 15 points behind Alonso, and Hamilton behind by 24 points; 1 point less than the amount awarded for winning a race, and so just about still in with a chance.

With such an intense season it’s perhaps not surprising that team orders have been somewhat of a hot topic. I’ve blogged before about Ferrari’s use of them at Hockenheim, but the behaviour of Red Bull is also pretty interesting. They say that both of their drivers are in with a chance of the title, so no team orders. Yet there have been hints over the course of the year that, actually, Vettel is the favoured son in some parts of the team at least. He is currently behind his team mate in the rankings, and it’s been argued that actually Red Bull just want to keep him in the fight and that by doing that they are harming Webber’s chances. It’s a persuasive argument.

For instance at the previous race in Brazil, Vettel won from Webber and Alonso. Which means that for Webber to win the title, he needs to finish a few places ahead of Alonso and so is likely to need Vettel to help him (assuming current form continues and the Red Bulls qualify on the front row, with Vettel on pole). Now, that’s a big risk, because it’s impossible to know what could happen next weekend. In order to maximise the chances of one of the Red Bull drivers winning, it would’ve arguably been more sensible to let Webber win. Which would’ve put him 1 point behind Alonso, and so not dependant on anyone else to win. Vettel could conceivably win. But it’s going to require something odd such as Alonso having a poor race. It’s possible, but pretty unlikely.

I have a feeling that Abu Dhabi is going to be a properly thrilling race. There’s all the team politics that I’ve just discussed, as well as a bunch of other factors. Certain drivers – Alonso and Vettel, I think – are getting fairly low on engine mileage. Which means that they go into the next race with older engines. Vettel had a pretty spectacular engine failure a few races ago in Korea (innards became outards, which I don’t remember seeing for a while in F1), and Alonso had one let go in practice in Brazil. It’s probably unlikely that one will pop in the final race, but it’s a thought.

It’s also going to be interesting to see how the drivers cope with the pressure. I think the Red Bull drivers in particular are going to be under pressure, and we’ve already seen this year that Vettel is not the most adept at soaking up this pressure; he collided into Webber during the Turkish Grand Prix, and I would not be at all surprised to see him clout into the side of someone in Abu Dhabi.

All in all, I have a horrible feeling that Alonso will wrap up the title. If he does then I’ll be pretty damn annoyed, because I really can’t stand him. He’s a great driver, one of the best in F1, but when he gets out of the car the way he conducts himself is terrible. For instance, when he was Hamilton’s team mate in 2007, he apparently tried to blackmail the team into slowing Hamilton down. In 2008, he and his team cheated their way to win the Singapore Grand Prix – a win that he still counts as valid (see this, and his smug little grin when he answers the question. ARGH. Something else about that video that irritates the fuck out of me: Max Mosley. Don’t get me started on that awful man. I digress). Great drivers don’t need to cheat, don’t need to bitch to the team to slow down their team mates; instead they raise their game and work out how to beat their opponents. Don’t get me wrong, if he wins, he’ll deserve it. But I won’t like it.

I’ve not mentioned Hamilton in all of this, mainly because he’s really a long shot. But anything can happen in motorsport, and I have a feeling that the final race will be eventful. The bookies have him at 66/1, which was definitely worth a £5 punt…

So I don’t have a clue what will happen on Sunday. And whilst I’d like Webber (or Hamilton, but preferably Webber) to win, I’ll be happy as long as it’s a fitting end to a classic season. I can’t wait.

Posted at 4:24 am | Posted In: MotorsportSleep Tagged:

1 Comment:

Dickie

Monday 15th November 2010, 3:52 am

I genuinely didn’t expect Vettel to win the championship, but I’m quite glad to be wrong. Goes to show how unpredictable this sport is!

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