Brazil: Final act of the circus

Discussion relevant to each individual race rather than the racing in general.

Brazil: Final act of the circus

Postby meteorite » Sat Nov 24, 2012 10:05 pm

And so it all comes down to this: a few drops of water. The World Championship is down to the wire. with Sebastian Vettel leading Fernando Alonso by 13 points. First place awards 25 points, there are 18 points for second, and 15 points for third. So if Alonso were to win the race, Vettel would have to finish on the podium to claim the championship. If Alonso finishes off the podium, Vettel will not even need to finish to be champion. And now the plot thickens.

Sao Palao is notorious for its fickle weather - and rain is predicted. But will it fall before or during the race? Will it drizzle or deluge? Will it be a passing shower or a race-long soak?

In Formula 1, every detail counts. Tires work optimally only under certain temperature conditions; similarly for brakes. Wing angle adjustments are infinitely fiddly and critical. Engine mapping has to be adjusted for ambient temperature and humidity to give its best - and on, and on. The first ten starters are stuck with the tires they qualified on, however suited or otherwise they may be to race day conditions. Unless, of course, there is enough of a downpour at the start to have it declared a rain race, in which case everyone switches to wets. And if it stays a wet race throughout, it may run up against the maximum time limit, and end early. Or there may be a wreck requiring a red flag, which if it occurs before the halfway means only half points are awarded - and Vettel is champion regardless of where or whether he finishes. Confused yet?

For this race there are two issues to be decided - can Alonso outpoint Vettel by a sufficient margin to take the world championship? It's a longshot, but given the place and its weather, stranger things have happened. Hamilton and Button have the front row of the grid, with Massa and Vettel behind and Alonso starting a surprising eighth. McLaren trail Ferrari for second in the manufacturer championship (Red Bull having sewn up first last week) but depending on the placings of the four cars involved the standings could be reversed - and don't think the teams don't care deeply; big bucks are at stake.

There are subplots too numerous to count - even tenth in the manufacturer standing carries millions more than a lower spot and yes, there's a fight there too, and some driver rankings to be settled. This is the last chance, it's all on the line, now or never, win or go home - whatever. It's going to be a thriller and everyone's motivation couldn't be greater.

So given the variables, there's no guessing how things will play out when the lights go out, except that it's a good bet to be a nail-biter to the end. It ought to be great.
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Re: Brazil: Final act of the circus

Postby meteorite » Mon Nov 26, 2012 11:26 pm

First. the F1 official analysis of the race...

Brazil analysis - a thrilling end to an enthralling season 26 Nov 2012

In one of the most dramatic rounds of the season the weather played a key role in creating a classic in which the world championship was finally decided in Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s favour by just three points over Fernando Alonso and Ferrari. Ultimately it was McLaren’s Jenson Button who rode the Sao Paulo storm as only Button can, to dominate the Interlagos race - a race which could have been won by a Force India…

Jenson Button, P1
Lewis Hamilton, Retired lap 55, accident
McLaren owned Interlagos for much of the weekend, wrapping up the front row for the 62nd time and taking their 182nd Grand Prix win courtesy of Button. He took the lead from Hamilton as the track got increasingly slippery in the early laps, then gambled successfully on staying out on slicks as Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel pitted for Pirelli’s intermediates. But then he lost the lead to the press-on Hulkenberg on the 18th lap, and together they lost a 40s advantage when the safety car neutralised the race on lap 23 while debris was cleared. By the restart Button had grained his front tyres and lost a place to Hamilton. The latter later overtook Hulkenberg on the 48th lap, but was under attack when the German spun and smashed his left front suspension on the 55th lap. That left Button in the lead and he held on easily to the flag, but Hamilton’s retirement in his last race for the team, and Ferrari’s 2-3, meant McLaren had to settle for third in the final constructors’ standings.

Fernando Alonso, P2
Felipe Massa, P3
Ferrari prayed for a miracle, and with blistering starts from both Massa and Alonso, allied to Vettel’s problems on the opening lap, it seemed one was imminent. But Vettel’s comeback put an end to the great dream even though Alonso eventually finished second to Button. He owed much of that to Massa, who drove like a hero to create situation from which his team leader could benefit. It was teamwork at its best, and one had to feel sorry for both Alonso and Ferrari failing by such a small margin in the final race after such a brilliantly fought campaign all season.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, P4
Sebastian Vettel, P6
The race seemed like a disaster for Vettel and Red Bull when Senna spun him through 180 degrees in Turn Four on the opening lap. He dropped to the back of the field with a car that was so damaged that it was bog slow on the straights. But he kept his head and even when he lost radio contact with the pits later, managed to claw his way back into contention. Sixth place was ultimately all he needed, to score a brilliant third consecutive world championship by three points over Alonso. Webber had a tricky race, with a half spin in the Senna S, and another later on, but fought his way back up to fourth and kept Hulkenberg at bay to the flag.

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg, P5
Paul di Resta, Retired lap 69, accident
This was a massive race of what might have been for Force India. What might have happened had Hulkenberg not got sideways on the 48th lap and lost the lead to Hamilton? What might have happened had he not then spun while re-challenging the McLaren driver for the lead on the 55th? The latter resulted in a collision that put Hamilton out, dropped him to second, and then earned him the drive-through penalty that left him fifth. Di Resta struggled for grip all afternoon, had an up and down race, but was running behind Vettel when he spun on the climb to the start/finish line, bringing out the safety car for the second time. He was unhurt.

Michael Schumacher, P7
Nico Rosberg, P15
Seventh place was the best that Schumacher could do on his final Grand Prix appearance. Both he and Rosberg were unlucky enough to sustain punctures caused by the debris that brought out the safety car on lap 23, and both made four stops. Schumacher had a terrific battle with Raikkonen and scored six more points, but Rosberg said this was the longest race of his career as he finished an unhappy 15th.

Toro Rosso
Jean-Eric Vergne, P8
Daniel Ricciardo, P13
Vergne drove a blinder to score four more points with eighth, despite a moment when he ran into the back of Glock after the first restart. But he thought he could have done better still with better personal management of the pit stop situation; he said he made the decision to stay out too long on slicks early on. Ricciardo had good pace at one stage, but said his race was simply a matter of too many pit stops.

Kamui Kobayashi, P9
Sergio Perez, Retired lap 1, accident
Perez was a first-lap victim of Senna’s indiscretion, on his last outing for Sauber, but on his last appearance Kobayashi kept himself in play and was a contender for better than his eventual ninth place before his C31 began to fade near the end. There was to be no fairy tale passing of Mercedes for fifth overall, but the 2012 season was without doubt the Swiss team’s most impressive.

Kimi Raikkonen, P10
Romain Grosjean, Retired lap 6, accident
Lotus had an unhappy race, with Grosjean crashing out early and Raikkonen struggling for speed. There was a pantomime when the latter slid off in Turn 12 and appeared to have trouble finding the route to regain the track; it involved going through a support race pit lane where, when he did the same thing in 2001 with Sauber, he went through an open gate. But this time it was closed, so he had to improvise… He finished a lowly 10th to score the final point and cement his third overall in the drivers’ rankings.

Vitaly Petrov, P11
Heikki Kovalainen, P14
You would never have put money on Caterham landing the result they so desperately needed to recapture 10th place overall, but the cards fell their way in this topsy turvy encounter. Petrov had a real battle with Pic and seemed to have blown it when he spun, but he managed to claw his way back into contention and 11th place sealed the deal, to Tony Fernandes’ delight. Further back, Kovalainen was delayed and so was Glock, and the Finn managed to vault from 16th to 14th on one lap near the end when he disposed of the German and fellow countryman Rosberg.

Charles Pic, P12
Timo Glock, P16
Normally Marussia would have been over the moon with 12th place, but unfortunately for them it was one place behind a Caterham, which meant a serious loss in revenue for losing 10th place in the constructors’ championship table. Pic had a brilliant fight with Petrov and seemed to have won it after the Russian spun, while Glock was likewise embroiled with Kovalainen further down the road. But it just didn’t work out in their favour this time.

Pedro de la Rosa, P17
Narain Karthikeyan, P18
What many were predicting would be HRT’s last race realised little, but at least De la Rosa and Karthikeyan made it to the finish for the independent Spanish team.

Pastor Maldonado, Retired lap 2, accident
Bruno Senna, Retired lap 1, accident
Sometimes you eat the bear, other times you’re the ursine meal. Thanks to Senna’s indiscretion on the opening lap both he and Perez ended up parked with damage, and then Maldonado made a similar error a lap later, putting his FW34 into the tyre wall. It doesn’t get much worse than that.

Pos No Driver Team Laps Time/Retired Grid Pts
1 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 71 1:45:22.656 2 25
2 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 71 +2.7 secs 7 18
3 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 71 +3.6 secs 5 15
4 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 71 +4.9 secs 3 12
5 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 71 +5.7 secs 6 10
6 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 71 +9.4 secs 4 8
7 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 71 +11.9 secs 13 6
8 17 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 71 +28.6 secs 17 4
9 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 71 +31.2 secs 14 2
10 9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 70 +1 Lap 8 1
11 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 70 +1 Lap 19
12 25 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 70 +1 Lap 22
13 16 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 70 +1 Lap 15
14 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 70 +1 Lap 20
15 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 70 +1 Lap 9
16 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 70 +1 Lap 21
17 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 69 +2 Laps 24
18 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 69 +2 Laps 23
19 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 68 +3 Laps 10
Ret 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 54 Accident 1
Ret 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 5 Accident 18
Ret 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1 Accident 16
Ret 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 0 Accident 11
Ret 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 0 Accident 12

Note - Maldonado dropped 10 grid spots after missing a call to the weigh bridge and thus receiving his third stewards reprimand of the season

© 2003-2012 Formula One World Championship Limited

And so the season reaches its finale, with the Interlagos race circuit in Sao Paulo having its usual mishmash of weather and leaving competitors and spectators alike chewing their fingernails up to the elbows as fortunes shifted dramatically not only lap to lap but even within a lap. At times, much of the track was almost dry, but other areas had small rivulets across them well placed to send the unwary driver aquaplaning to disaster. It seemed no matter which tie choice a driver made, it was soon proven wrong. And with the world championship on the line, as well as placings in the - note especially the battle between Caterham and Marussia - manufacturers' standings that mean huge amounts of money for next season were being meaningfully contested even at the tail of the field.

In an interview i Toronto last week, Joann Villeneuve - widow of the revered Gilles and mother of World Champion Jacques, said she was hoping Alonso would win the championship. She said she felt that way because she saw Alonso as a fast driver, but Vettel as simply a driver with a fast car. This has been our sentiment all season, though in justice we can recall Vettel showing us some serious racing heroics at times as the circus moved on. But other times he seems to have fallen into the tracks of his buddy Michael Schumacher, who a rival team manager recently described as "a ruthless winning machine".

Ironically, it was the superiority of Ferrari that gave Schumacher a boost towards his outstanding final record, but all this year it has been Ferrari that has thwarted Alonso's brilliance. Alonso has persisted, through not quite competitive cars, problems finding the right setup (if it existed), mechanical failures and the errors of other drivers knocking him out of races - almost as much victimization by others errors as Hamilton - to still be in contention with a narrow hope in the final contest. There has been a feeling he deserved better (and like Hamilton had earned it) but it ws not to be.

The wild card of the day was Nico Hulkenberg, in his last drive for Force India before moving to Sauber to replace Sergio Perez. Force India has been showing noticeable progress during the year, but to see Hulkenberg leading the race and two of the most rain-skilled drivers in faster cars not being able to do that much about it was a shock. Eventually his bravery caught him out, leading him to knock Hamilton out of the race in the process, but Sauber have reason to believe that they have themselves a live one, and his new contract was a good investment.

But if anyone got their money's worth this day it was Ferrari. The loyal wingman did everything a driver could do to advance the fortunes of his teammate. He actually had the faster car for some strange reason this day, and used it as it were to break trail for Alonso, opening gaps he could follow through. Alonso's car was noticeably short of speed and grip, and it was only his fanatic concentration and bravery that carried him, with Massa's help, to a podium position far higher than the car was worth. A truly heroic drive by both drivers, for sure.

It was a day everyone was struggling. Webber spun a couple of times, early damage from Senna's accident hobbled Vettel\s car. Both Williams were out in a few laps. Raikonnen and Schumacher showed the limitations of even World Champions' skills, though their junior teammates struggles far behind showed how much those talents were worth. And with all this going on, adjacent pits looking at the same radar screen reached opposing conclusions about how much rain would arrive how soon. A day that provided likely the stiffest challenge of the year not only to the drives but also to the pit crews, manages, strategists, engineers, and the organizers. But the crowd got its money's worth of excitement.

So now it is time to sit back, relax, take a deep breath and unwind to await the resumption of the action next spring.
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