October 24, 2010

F1 Update!: Korea 2010

Many people suspected that the new track at Korea would be a true wild card in the race for the Driver's Championship.  A new circuit always puts a cat amongst the pigeons; nobody has an idea what to expect, so you've got as many guesses as there are teams and drivers.  The one thing we'd not seen during the three practice sessions and the qualifying periods was rain, which on a brand new track puts an ostrich amongst the kittens.  But would weather matter, or would we get a straight-out race for the Championship?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the inaugural Grand Prix of Korea!

*SPLISH:  During the recon laps before the race, cars were skidding off-track like they were driving on ice.  The rain, which had been falling all day, washed away all the rubber laid down on the track surface.  Throw in the new-style asphalt with a high oil content, thus preventing the water from permeating the surface and draining away, and we had a situation to rival the worst of the Swimming Pool at Spa-Francorchamps.  The closer it got to the scheduled race start time, the heavier the rain came down.  The start was delayed ten minutes by Race Director Charlie Whiting, then the decision was made to begin behind the Safety Car.  Two laps like that was enough for everybody; the radio freqs were buzzing with calls from the drivers saying they couldn't see the car in front of them.  Renault's Robert Kubica, buried near the middle of the trundling herd and thus deluged by the rooster tails of nearly half the field, reported that he couldn't even see his own front tires.  And so the race was Red Flagged, hoping for the weather to clear up.

*SPLASH:  After nearly an hour with the cars sitting on the grid, Charlie Whiting made the call for everybody to raise anchor and get under way, again behind the Safety Car... and for 17 more laps, Bernd Maylander led the cars around.  For the last five or six of those, the track was more than safe enough to race on, making everybody wonder if Whiting had fallen asleep.  Eventually, the safety car came in and green flag racing had finally come to the Korea International Circuit.

*CRASH:  Almost immediately, Red Bull's Seb Vettel jumped away from his teammate, championship points leader Mark Webber.  As the only driver with a clear view of the track, unobscured by spray, he had a much easier time of it.  Indeed, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who had been agitating to get the race started, was passed very quickly by Nico Rosberg's Mercedes for fourth place... a pass that, strangely, may have kept Hamilton in the hunt for the Driver's Championship.  For on Lap 20, as he went through the technical section, Mark Webber got a tire over a curb, spun and slid down the track.  Ferrari's HWMNBN got past cleanly, but Rosberg was speared by the crippled Red Bull, wrecking both cars.  The leader of the Driver's Championship was out of the race, but he didn't collect Hamilton.

*BLAST:  What followed was a rash of Safety Car periods, called out as one car or another ended up slipping off-track, occasionally taking someone else with them.  In the end, nine cars would retire from the race, seven from accidents.  Surprisingly the most violent of them all, when Vitaly Petrov's Renault wound up leaving the track at high speed and spearing into the wall protecting the pit lane entry, did not bring out Bernd Maylander.  Race leader Seb Vettel probably wished for the Safety Car, as he had started to call to the pit lane that it was becoming difficult to see braking points due to the gathering darkness... or perhaps he had an ulterior motive.  You see, a few laps later HWMNBN drove past a rapidly slowing Vettel in Turn 1, who then had a total and comprehensive engine failure.  Smoke, sparks, engine parts and, eventually, a small amount of fire, issued from the rear of the Red Bull, making it very clear that Vettel's day was done. 

*NIGHT:  Then it became a race to see if the entire race length would be run, or if Charlie Whiting would call it early because of nightfall.  Oddly enough, around the time of Petrov's accident the radio calls that the FIA had been liberally playing throughout the race strangely went silent.  The last one we heard was Vettel's call of darkness.  One suspects that the radios were burning up from the drivers' calls saying it was too dark to drive, but still Whiting left them out there.  By the time HWMNBN swept across the finish line 14.9 seconds ahead of Hamilton, they were running in the dark, but running they were.  The most eventful race of the 2010 season had come to an end, and the entire landscape of the Driver's Championship had changed.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  We think Bernd Maylander deserves this for his flawless drive in the 571-horsepower Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Safety Car.  It has less effective wet-weather tires than the F1 cars, less downforce, and yet he had to power around in conditions that were ugly at best at speeds that would keep the F1 cars healthy... somewhere between 80 and 120mph.  It obviously wasn't easy, as the F1 cars were sliding off even at those low speeds, yet Maylander kept the Safety Car planted like a rock.  We would love to give it to him, but we can't, even though he led the most laps today.  No, we have to give the award to one of the actual racers, and today the honors go to HWMNBN.  While he was given 1st place by the failure of both Red Bulls, he was very much the fastest car on the track for much of the race, despite appalling conditions.  Indeed, he was closing in on Vettel even before that driver's engine problems, and probably would have caught up with him with five laps or so left... and you know he would have tried the pass.  As it was he left Lewis Hamilton, not a shabby rain driver himself, in his metaphorical dust, finishing nearly 15 seconds ahead of the McLaren driver.  An excellent drive from HWMNBN indeed.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Ferrari.  A win, a third-place, and a sudden resurgence in the Constructor's Championship?  Oh yeah, they got it right this week.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 27 Slappy Schumacher was in 6th with the reigning Driver's Champion Jenson Button just ahead as they went through Turn 2... and Schumi had the fastest car through the speed-traps all weekend.  The rain, though, took that advantage away as the two silver cars went down the longest straight on the circuit.  Back in the old days Schumacher had been known as "The Rainmaster," and he showed, at least for this moment, that he hadn't lost that touch.  As the two reached The Elephant, Schumacher stayed off the brakes almost suicidally too long, then put just the right amount of force into the pedal.  Button, taken a little aback by the sudden appearance of the petwer Mercedes next to him, didn't slam the door, and the two went through the turn in lockstep.  Schumi put in just the right amount of throttle for his rear tires to grip and powered away from Button, who spun his tires just a bit.  A really sweet piece of driving in horrid conditions, and one well-worth the Move of the Race!

*MOOOOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 47, Force India's Adrian Sutil had lined up the Sauber of Gandalf Kobayashi as they ran down to Turn 4, but he wasn't sure he'd be able to do anything about it.  His brakes were giving him fits, and the track was still sopping wet.  Still, no guts no glory, right?  He went to the inside of the white car, stomped on the brakes, turned the wheel... and quickly peeled the front-right wheel off his car as he slammed into Gandalf.  Surprisingly the Sauber kept on going on while the Force India ended up sliding off into the wilderness.  Congratulations, Adrian Sutil, you won the stupidest move award in a race filled with worthy contenders.  You also get a honorable mention for admitting to the race stewards that you knew you had brake problems, yet went ahead and tried the pass anyway!  You've earned yourself a five-spot penalty for Brazil AND a $10K fine too.  Good Job, a winner is you!

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:


"It's a great feeling winning this way. It's much easier when your opponents kill themselves." - HWMNBN

"My car is crape, but I still finished second.  I consider myselfmyselfmyself the luckiest man in the worldworldworld." - Lewis Hamilton

"How dark was it at the end?  I was being blinded by a light on my steering wheel." - Felipe Massa (note: not a real quote, but a real statement)

"Now that's more like it." - Slappy Schumacher

"Sure, I was gifted three places by Vettel, Webber and Rosberg failing.  So what?" - Robert Kubica

"What a crazy race today." - Vitantonio Liuzzi (note: real quote.  Brother, you said a mouthful...)

"It was very difficult out there." - Rubens Barrichello (note: real quote)

"What the hell was Sutil thinking?" - Gandalf Kobayashi

"It was not easy today to keep track of what was happening in the race." - Grizzly Nick Heidfeld (note: real quote)

"I lost three places due to a puncture with three laps left to go.  I'm dripping wet.  And I'm afraid of the dark.  I hate my life." - Nico Hulkenburg

"In my view, for sure, the race should have been stopped earlier than it was - it was way too dark to race a Formula One car in the conditions we witnessed at the end of the afternoon." - Jenson Button (note: real quote)

"Just think... I was racing Jenson Button." - Heikki Kovaleinninninnie (note: not really)

"We're no longer the worst of the n00bs!" - Bruno Senna and DJ DNF (note: really.)

"Aiee." - Adrian Sutil

"This is not a nice moment." - Seb Vettel (note: real quote)

"*twitch* *twitchtwitch* *twitchtwitchtwitchtwitch*" - Vitaly Petrov

"AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!" - Timo Glock, Seb Buemi, Lucas diGrassi.

"My steering went away.  With the track being so wet, that's not a good thing." - Jarno Trulli

"AIEEEEEEEEEEEEsobEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!" - Mark Webber

"AIEEEEEEEEEE!" - Nico Rosberg

And so the weirdest F1 race of the year comes to a close.  Webber goes from leading the Driver's Championship by 14 points to trailing HWMNBN by 11.  Hamilton jumps Vettel for third.  And Jenson Button needs everybody in front of him in the standings to crash the next two races, and he has to win those races, too.

Brazil in two weeks, we'll see you then!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:17 AM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
Post contains 1806 words, total size 12 kb.

1

Holey moley!  That looked like a race that probably shouldn't have started and then wouldn't end. 

Excellent coverage, Wonderduck.  Hope you got some sleep!

 

Posted by: Mallory at October 24, 2010 02:16 PM (WJ2qy)

2 It reflects well on Webber to accept full responsibility, but it would be even better not make mistakes like that. This is how you lose championships.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at October 24, 2010 11:52 PM (9KseV)

3 It was a great race but sucked being there. Not to complain but sitting in the rain it would have been nice to see some more actual racing. As for the future of the Yeong-am Circuit they can only improve. Mud and gravel everywhere. Hardly any roads for the buses (which were poorly organized, not even the Koreans knew where to go) to get out. Stands with bolts and slats missing. The sidewalks are already sinking into the mud. I trust Korea can do it. It's just going to take a lot more time and money.

Posted by: greg at October 25, 2010 09:43 AM (q17h9)

4 I agree, Maylander deserves to be driver of the race.  I mean, dang.  I wouldn't even drive at 5mph in those conditions.
Any word on what happened to Vettel's engine?

Posted by: Vaucanson's Duck at October 26, 2010 11:31 AM (XVJDy)

5 So, pursuant to your F1 posts which I dutifully read each week, I finally watched an entire race.  Are they all that interesting?  ;-)  -- btw, I was wondering what your opinion was, of the decision by everyone to don intermediates - the announcers thought it was a bad idea, but the second wave of rain apparently didn't materialize, and though some of the drivers had troubles with the inter's, the other drivers seemed to do okay with them.  I'm not sure there wouldn't have been as much mayhem if they'd stayed on the green-line tires anyway... thoughts?

Posted by: dkallen99 at October 26, 2010 01:11 PM (1PFDl)

6 Vauc, not exactly.  Renault, the manufacturer of the engine, actually apologized to Red Bull because it failed.  Turns out it was on it's third race, which should be doable.  Actually, the fact that RB hasn't said anything makes me suspicious.  If it was just "oh-the-engine-had-500-miles-on-it-oh-well-bad-luck," I'd've thought that RB would have come out and said so... but all we've gotten is silence.  Since Vettel has used all his engines for the year, he's either got to keep re-using old ones or take a grid-spot penalty.  I wonder if the team knows that the others are in bad shape but doesn't want to let the other teams know it?

DKallen, no, usually the races are a lot more exciting!  *innocent look, tuneless whistle*

As far as the Inters go, my notes from the race seem to indicate that I didn't like the choice to change when most of the teams did.  I think that scribble says "it's going to be bad," but since I was kinda sleepy when I wrote it, it may say "there's a gong in my bed". 

My notes for Button's stop, though, say "good idea, bad time."  Since he got stuck back in 15th or 16th, I think I got that one right.

I'm by nature conservative on choices like that... unless there's a good reason to try it.  Jenson was going nowhere fast, so changing to Inters ahead of the leaders was the right choice: what did he have to lose?  The problem was that the team didn't have to bring him in right then... and it cost him any shot at the championship.  Six of one...

Posted by: Wonderduck at October 26, 2010 07:07 PM (vW/MM)

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