Monday, 15 November 2010

Reflecting on Abu Dhabi finale

After 19 races, it came down to 55 laps of Yas Island and as darkness fell, things would fall away for some and dreams come true for a 23 year old German...

Alonso thwarted by unlikely source: Fernando Alonso went into the race as the favourite for the title but it would be a day of frustration for the Spaniard. He lost out to Jenson Button at the start and that left him still on course for the title. However Mark Webber was now on his tail and Alonso needed to maintain his position to take the championship. The Australian's early stop prompted Ferrari into action. They needed to cover Webber who found himself behind Jaime Alguersuari but was soon released by the junior Red Bull driver and started to make use of his fresh tyres. Ferrari didn't want to pit Alonso because he'd lose out to Rosberg and Petrov who had pitted under the safety car for the scary incident involving Michael Schumacher and Vitantonio Liuzzi.

So Felipe Massa was called in to try and jump Webber. Key here was his slow time in the pits, 1.4 seconds slower than Webber and meant he could not interfere in his race. So Alonso had to make the move. It was a move which ultimately left the championship out of his hands. It was understandable why Ferrari did it, their main rival was Webber. However he would have soon caught Petrov and lost time and Alonso could have stayed out until he had a gap to pit and back out clear of the Red Bull and the early stoppers. What was surprising was that the Ferrari struggled to mount much of a challenge to Petrov. The Renault was quick in a straightline with its effective F-Duct and had good traction for going onto the long straights. The Russian also had a fresh engine whilst Alonso's was on its third weekend. Perhaps Ferrari finally found themselves hindered by their early season reliability woes directly.

Webber limps home quietly: This weekend just never seem to get going for Mark Webber. A long run in Q3 didn't pay off and he ended up 6 tenths off his team mate. He could have tried a early stop strategy like in did in Singapore but decided to stay out. Then, shortly after saying his rear tyres were starting to go, he pitted. This dropped him into traffic and he was eventually covered by Alonso and jumped by others. However his tyres were likely graining, as team mate Vettel soon regained some speed. There was some thoughts that Webber had been used as 'bait' to help Vettel take the title and the Australian seemed to hint at this afterwards. Having thought about it for a while and watching Vettel and Webber on Austrian TV tonight being interviewed, you get the feeling it could have been the case. Much was made of Vettel maybe having to let Webber through and my feeling is that both drivers were told that if one was in a better position than the other during the race then they would have to concede or be used to help the other.

Webber didn't qualify well enough, didn't do a good enough job this weekend and thus blew his chance. He used the same chassis as Singapore where he also struggled and that may not have helped. Vettel put it on pole and set himself up for a tilt at the title. If Red Bull wanted to take a 'calculated risk' like Christian Horner described, then surely Webber would have chanced a pitstop behind the safety car. Red Bull gave Alonso a dilemma and Ferrari couldnt get out of it, they compromised their race and Alonso couldn't recover what was lost. I can't say with any certainy whether i'm right, its just a feeling i get looking at the situation and the reactions of the people involved. I'm not having a go at Red Bull either, i think that, if true, they scored a huge strategic win over Ferrari and a key championship winning one at that. It was a great plan and it worked Red Bull did a great stop for Vettel, kept the lead, took the championship and the rest is history...

Vettel holds off McLaren: Lewis Hamilton's strategy was worth a go because usually you wait to clear the traffic but Vettel would have built this gap first and covered the McLaren. Instead McLaren gave Hamilton 1 lap of clear air before hitting traffic and put some pressure on Vettel and Red Bull. The team dealt with it brilliantly though and Vettel just got out ahead of Hamilton, and also Kobayashi and Kubica who had yet to stop. Didn't work out for Hamilton but Vettel done a great stop throughout the pitstop laps and it was enough for the German to maintain the lead and continue on his way to victory

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