Hail the youngest double world Champion

By on Monday, September 26, 2011

Only one point left for Sebastien Vettel to become World Champion in 2011

It was the most boring race of the year but still way better than some races in 2010, as you would appreciate. That only tells you how terrific season we have been having. Now it will be enough for Sebastian Vettel to grab only one point to be crowned as World Champion. Therefore, there is not much left to say for that front. Vettel is about to take what he deserves. Totally. But the real race will continue as it is for the runner-up spot in both individual races and championship. Button now is the only driver other than Vettel who has a mathematical chance to clinch the title, albeit highly unlikely. When compared to the same period of previous year, it is crystal clear how Webber, Alonso and Hamilton lost their places and how Vettel has been dominant throughout the year. To me, Button earned more fans this year than he does when he became World Champion. Including me.

After taking his 11th pole position on Saturday, Vettel will break Mansell's record of having the most pole positions in one season - 14. If he even wins all remaining races, that is to say 5 wins, they his wins in one season will be 14, which means he will also break Michael Schumacher's record of having most wins in one season - 13. How Vettel drove magnificently this year can be evident in Webber's results. He is in every way on top of his game in 2011. When Mark said he was content with 2nd place in qualifying after having being beaten by 0,4s to his team mate, it was quite clear how Webber lost to his team mate both mental and performance wise. How could he be satisfied with being beaten by 0,4s to his team mate? Yes, Red Bull has a very good car but not as dominant as it was in 2010. McLaren and Ferrari raised their game this season and become much more formidable opponents in that sense. Hence the superiority of Vettel's drive this season.

Jenson Button is impressing everyone with his calmness and maturity this year

When I try to reflect on how important the superiority of Vettel is, nothing but the records that will be broken by Vettel in years to come springs to mind. You can feel what Franz Tost meant when he said he was happy having worked with both Senna and Vettel. In the interview with BBC after the race, Vettel said he was aware of Lotus pitting at the same time and he knew that Heikki might block him on the way. What he did was remarkable. After his pit-stop finished, he watched Lotus’ pit and when he saw the green light, which would mean lollipop guy would release Heikki, Vettel said he backed off. That is sheer concentration, which we saw from great champions like Alonso, Hakkinen and Schumacher, who by the way also was seen as the last man leaving the track on Saturday night. Being the only person visited Pirelli’s factory, Vettel now simulates great champions with his maturity and pace. Even after his party when he clinched the title in Abu Dhabi last year, he chose to sit in the car to taste the Pirelli’s tyres for the first time, which in turn might be the reason why he handles the Italian tyres most. In retrospect, Hamilton and Button might have been there to try the tyres, rather leaving it to reserve driver.

Starting from the dirty side, both Webber and Hamilton lost their places to their rivals and that wrote the scenario of the evening. Button managed to realize his grid walk purpose and duly took second place after Vettel, who went into distance in a blink of an eye thanks to a brilliant stint and spectacular laps. On Lap 5, Vettel was leading Button by 7 seconds already! On the hand, thirteen drivers from Button were lined within 20 seconds. First stint came to an end when Rosberg pitted for fresh tyres, giving a clue where Mercedes were with its tyres compared to its rivals. Rosberg’s last lap before pit was 1:57.2, whereas Vettel did a 1:54.205, Button 1:54.9 and Alonso 1:56.4. Alonso also lost the contact with front runners in this phase and pitted immediately after overtaken by Webber by a bold move.

Ferrari pit crew reacted this and pit both Alonso and Massa to undercut Webber and Hamilton but Red Bull chose to stay out one more lap and Hamilton chose to pit at the same time with Massa. Unfortunately for Webber, Red Bull stayed out him too long and eventually he lost the place to Alonso. On the other hand, that infamous crash between Hamilton and Massa took place in the meantime. Ferrari pit crew did an amazing 2,9 seconds pit-stop for Massa, while Hamilton’s pit-stop was 4.0 seconds. Therefore, Massa joined the party in front of Hamilton. Hamilton tried to overtake Massa on the outside only to hit Massa’s rear tyre with his nose from behind, leaving Massa with a puncture and him with a broken front wing. On the face of it, it was a racing incident, not a big deal, but since Massa’s race was ruined, stewards decided to give Hamilton a drive-thru penalty, which I think was the right decision. Just like Schumacher’s penalty after hitting Kobayashi in Silverstone.

Lewis Hamilton is going through a tough period in his career right now

Hamilton is not a bad driver. He has just lost the plot for two years now, after seeing the new next big thing Vettel went off the distance. It must agonizing for Lewis to see all of his records being broken by him in a strong car. Hamilton had to endure tough seasons after having two perfect seasons in 2007 and 2008. His impatient behavior on track could be linked to his frustration not having the best machine under him. Maybe he started feel threatened by Button, who is having a hell of a season. After Ron Dennis and his father left, there are rumors that Hamilton feels himself alone within the team, which now allegedly focused on Button. The Guardian article about Hamilton dropped in at the most ironic time.

Anyways, second stint mirrored the first one. Vettel up at the front increased the gap to Button. Alonso and Webber went hand in hand to the second stops, while at the back Rosberg and Schumacher lined in stern, without having any impact to the race. On Lap 15, after Hamilton served his penalty, there was 87 seconds between him and Vettel. On Lap 17, he set nearly identical lap time with Vettel, half a second faster than his team mate Button. If it wasn’t for they silly mistake, he would have been right up there with Button and Vettel. On Lap 25, Alonso pitted and Red Bull again didn’t respond to that and left Webber on track. There was a 0,7s gap between those two but after the pit-stop, Alonso managed to eke out enough of a gap to be in front of Webber when he pitted. Meanwhile, Schumacher made a mistake and crashed heavily into the barrier, which brought out the Safety Car on Lap 29. Schumacher was lapping two seconds a lap quicker than Rosberg and seemed to be heading to 6th place. Schumacher had the upper hand race pace wise from three races now. In qualifying, we were robbed to see true picture between these two but Schumacher’s Q2 time gave all the more reason for his fans to be encouraged.

During safety car, all top teams headed into the pits and earned a free pit-stop. This would have worked out beautifully for Button but there were three back markers between Vettel and Button when the race was resumed, so Button couldn’t capitalize safety car period. I think the old rule which gave lapped cars a chance to unlap themselves was working in that sense. Hamilton was 8th when safety car came in so it worked out for him beautifully. Interestingly, when Hamilton asked his team what he was racing for, McLaren pit wall had told him there would be a great chance to score points as there would a safety car.

When safety car was in, Vettel immediately pulled out a gap at the front earning himself a cushion for different strategies cause at that time, when tyres were cooled, there was a chance for top teams not to pit again, especially for taxi driver Button. Knowing that, Vettel’s engineer came in to radio and told Vettel that they could go to the end with this tyres. What he didn’t say was “Button could go to the end.” However, these lap times draws a clear picture why Vettel shouldn’t have any worries about his tyre usage. Alonso had pitted on Lap 25, while Webber and Hamilton on Lap 29, Vettel and Button on Lap 30 under safety car. So only Alonso’s tyre were older than his opponents. So he was lapping in 1.53s when third pit-stops arrived, just like Hamilton although Hamilton had younger tyres than him. Button and Webber were in 1.52s, whereas Vettel up front was still lapping in 1.51s when he pitted. He pitted because he didn’t have to take risks. He just needed to mirror what Jenson would do. He and Red Bull duly did that.

Fernando Alonso being chased by the Red Bull of Mark Webber

It was surprising that Fernando Alonso couldn’t find any pace neither on soft nor on super soft tyres. He finished the race 55 seconds behind Vettel, although there was a safety car in the middle of the race. Ferrari was quick this season on tracks which it wasn’t quick in previous season. And vice versa. One can only hope they can combine the best parts of its 2010 and 2011 car, so that Alonso would have a good enough car to compete with Vettel.

Mercedes and Renault was hopeless in the race. Force India managed to take a haul of points, which might effectively seal the sixth place for them. Now for Sauber, that would be very very hard to beat them in the championship.

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