Korean Grand Prix Preview

Korean International CircuitImage via Wikipedia

With the brand new circuit in Yeongam finally completed, the Korean Grand Prix will go ahead this weekend, with Mark Webber currently leading the Drivers’ World Championship, fourteen points ahead of Fernando Alonso. As the 2010 season draws closer to the end, the Grand Prix in South Korea is set to be an enthralling contest.

The Korean International Circuit includes eighteen turns within a 3.492 mile stretch. The circuit was described as “satisfactory” by FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting, just twelve days before the race is scheduled to begin. Many racers are worried about the final layer of the track surface, which has only recently been put down, which could mean that oil could still be seeping through it this weekend.
The building of another new and expensive racing circuit in a country which is not really interested in it has resulted in surprisingly few strike threats from teams and drivers, who have been united in their backing of the FIA.
The race itself could benefit Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button of McLaren, as the team think that it will thrive in the first sector where Red Bull fears it could regret its relative lack of straightline speed, leaving it to make up ground in the aero-rewarding middle of the track. 
Former Hispania driver Karun Chandhok demonstrated a Red Bull car on the track in September, explaining that the infrastructure was basically in place, although the Indian racer did notice that the barriers were very close to the track, which means any mistakes on the course will be inevitably punished.
A new circuit will mean new uncertainty for the teams, who will not know how their cars will perform until the free practise session. McLaren, especially, will be looking to improve on their fourth and fifth place finishes in Japan, while Vettel will be looking to increase his fourteen-point lead over Button. Alonso and the German Vettel are level on 206 points, which could mean that we could have, by the end of the weekend, going into the final two races of the season, a Red Bull one-two at the top, which has been so familiar this term.
If Hamilton and Button want to have any chance of claiming the Championship title this year, they need a solid race in Yeongam.


Hamilton storms to victory in Belgium

Lewis Hamilton battled through rain and incidents to claim his third Grand Prix win of the 2010 season in a chaotic Belgian Grand Prix.

Four drivers were forced to retire from the race, which was hit by rain throughout, including Hamilton’s McLaren teammate Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello of Williams, who would have been looking for a better end to his 300th Formula One race.
The Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium is notorious for its unpredictable weather, with most drivers saying that the course is the most challenging race track remaining in the F1 calendar, given that, while one side of the circuit can be dry, the other side can be wet as the site is so large.
After Mark Webber had started on pole after a good qualifying session the previous day, Hamilton will have been overjoyed to be leading the race going into the first corner. Webber had a poor start and Hamilton took full advantage, breezing past the Red Bull driver, as did Renault’s Robert Kubica.
Button, who started fifth on the grid, soon got himself into a decent position as eased past a troubled Kubica to take second. In the middle of all that Barrichello came into contact with Fernando Alonso, forcing the Brazilian to leave the race early.
The unpredictable rain did begin to come down on the third lap and, with Kubica still struggling for pace, Sebastien Vettel stormed through to take third position. The track was causing problems for most drivers and Alonso, who had already pitted after the Barrichello incident on the first lap, was forced to pit again only three laps later, sending the Spaniard towards the back of the pack in 20th position.
Hamilton was now flying. By the tenth lap the Englishman had gained a 5.6 second lead on Button in second, while the trio of Vitaly Petrov, Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher battled it out for the places of ninth to eleventh. Rosberg did have some damage to his front wing but managed to keep up with teammate Schumacher to pit at the end of the eleventh lap.
Button also had front wing damage but decided to delay his pit stop so that he could coincide that with changing his tyres, as news of more rain reached the track. As Button struggled with balance and speed Hamilton pulled away even further, gaining an 8.3 second lead on his teammate.
Button’s race was ended, however, when Vettel and the McLaren driver collided coming out of Blanchimont, with Vettel veering into Button on the wet surface. Vettel managed to go into the pits but Button’s race was over; a cruel twist of fate for Button, who admitted that the collision was a “massive blow”, both for the race and the season. Vettel did receive a drive-through penalty for the accident, although that will be no of consolation to Button who is now fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, thirty-five points behind Hamilton who, by the twenty-fourth lap, had gained a fifteen second lead on Kubica.
There was an interesting battle in the middle of the race standings as Adrian Sutil breezed past Michael Schumacher on the twenty-fifth lap while Vitantonio Luizzi and Vettel had a little coming together at the Bus Stop corner, with the Force India car taking a slice out of Vettel’s wheel resulting in a puncture for the Red Bull car, forcing Vettel to pit yet again.
Hamilton remained calm and relaxed throughout the race and, by the thirtieth lap, had created a 12.9 second gap between him and Kubica. As the rain began to pour, with Hamilton and Webber deciding to stay out on the track without changing tyres, Hamilton very nearly threw it all away at the Rivage with only nine laps to go.  He went into the gravel but, impressively, managed to divert the car away from smashing into the padded barrier. He kept his head, got back onto the track and resumed his race.
The final few laps were full of incidents, with Felipe Massa getting a corner all wrong and spinning his car into the barrier twice before being forced to leave his car lying horizontally across the track. The safety car was deployed and, when it left the track with three laps to go, Jarno Trulli did a full 180-degree turn, somehow managing to avoid passing cars as he spun.
With a lap to go Hamilton had a 1.7 second lead over Webber, who had passed Kubica five laps previously in the pit lane when the Renault driver seemed to miss the designated pit-area for his car. Hamilton, who has been known to throw races away in the past, was cool and calm going into the last few laps, leaving every other car behind him in his wake. Kubica did manage to obtain a third place finish, behind Webber, which sets the Drivers’ Championships up very nicely with only six races to go. The Monza Grand Prix is only two weeks away, though, and Button will be looking to move further up the leaderboard in Italy.

The Tale Of Two Teams

After a fantastic Silverstone weekend, packed with thrilling racing and sub-story after sub-story, it looks as if things are boiling over at Red Bull. Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel seem to be in the middle of a feud over who is the so-called number one driver. On the other hand, however, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button seem to be dealing with the pressure of having a competitive teammate rather well. Why, then, are the McLaren boys much happier than the Red Bull team?

Webber could only watch on as his team made the decision to take away the front wing of the Australian’s car and give it to teammate Vettel, on the basis that he was leading the championship and therefore required it more. Webber, though, got his own back on Sunday when he claimed a brilliant victory at Silverstone, after cruising past Vettel on the first corner and never looking back. Vettel had started on pole after an impressive set of practise sessions and qualifying laps, while Webber was just behind him in second. British hopefuls Hamilton and Button were disappointing on Friday and Saturday, with the pair starting fourth and fourteenth on the grid respectively.

     On winning the British Grand Prix, Webber exclaimed into his team radio that the win was “not bad for a number two driver”. The feud is very apparent between these two fantastic drivers. It was Christian Horner and his team’s decision to take the wing off of Webber’s car, just before qualifying for the Silverstone race. A simple act of favouritism that would commonly be found on the school playground has found its way into Formula One, a sport that is rapidly growing into a major commercial brand.
     It’s clear to see why Webber would be irritated with his team. The 33-year-old first joined Red Bull Racing in 2007, where he partnered another previous Silverstone winner, David Coulthard. This season, Webber has won three Grand Prix’ and been on the podium for a total of five races. The Australian is an experienced driver who has been with Red Bull since they were vying for seventh place, rather than the top spots. 
Vettel is part of the new breed of F1 drivers.  The 23-year-old was brought up by Red Bull, coming through the ranks and finally getting his chance when Coulthard retired in 2009. The German has won two races this term, while being on the podium at total of four times. Not bad for his second season in Formula One with Red Bull.
     The two drivers clearly don’t get along. After Webber’s Silverstone victory a very solemn-looking Vettel decided to stand at the back for a team photo, instead of at the front where the drivers normally pose. Vettel could have been unhappy with the way in which his race went; he started on pole but, after a puncture to his front tyre on the first corner forced him to pit after the first lap, the young driver battled back to claim a respectable seventh position. It cannot have been easy to watch as Webber was showered in glory, up on the top podium spot. 
     The story could not be more different at McLaren. After poor qualifying times, the British pair, who have both been world champions, finished second and fourth, with Hamilton on the podium. Button stated after the race that the second best thing to getting on the podium yourself is to see your teammate up there. The feeling is that within the Red Bull team that is certainly not the case.
     The true extent of the problems facing Red Bull were revealed in a press conference, where he was asked about the removal of his font wing. The Australian said that he would never have signed a contract extension if he knew what was going to happen. Webber is clearly not getting any respect from his team or from Vettel, although it could be argued that Webber may not be the most respectful person towards Red Bull at the moment.
     The respect that Hamilton and Button hold for each other plays a major part in their sound working relationship. Both drivers have come up through the carting aspect of racing, and now both hold the title of previous world champions, although it took Button a little while longer than Hamilton. The media seem determined to provoke bad relations between the two Brits; every so often there will be a story about the one being unhappy with another. In front of the cameras, though, this could not be more untrue. Every interview they do together is done with smiles on both faces. Banter is given and received as the pair seem to enjoy each other’s company. Sceptics would say that this is all for the cameras; that McLaren chiefs don’t want fans to think that there is disruption amongst the ranks, and so they send out the faces of the team to put them straight. The happiness seems to me, however, to be true. The respect, loyalty and friendship between the pair cannot be carved by the team.
     While McLaren chiefs seem determined to convince the public that there are no problems within the team, Red Bull Racing keep provoking media frenzy by never actually denying that there is a problem. Horner, who is the team principle of Red Bull, told The Telegraph that maybe it was all just a big misunderstanding:

“My one regret is that I didn’t have time to discuss the issue with Mark personally prior to qualifying as I’m sure that would have given him a more balanced understanding.” 

     The McLaren team must think that Christmas has come early. The on-going argument in the Red Bull garage can only damage their title contentions, giving Hamilton and Button the chance to really take a hold on the Driver’s Championships. Hamilton is currently sitting at the top of the table with 145 points, while Button is behind him on 133. Webber and Vettel have 128 and 121 points respectively. The next race, in Hoffenheim in two weeks, could be a major point in an already thrilling season. The track is one that Button especially, enjoys racing on, having raced to a top-ten finish a total of seven times in his career. Hamilton has only raced the circuit twice but came first in 2008 on his way to claiming the Driver’s Championships.
     Two teams; two very different situations. If Red Bull could get their act sorted out they would surely be streaking away in the Championships, as it is clear that they have the fastest car. Their problems, both on and off the track, though, seem to hinder them week after week. Although it wasn’t a fairytale British victory at Silverstone last weekend, it may well be another British driver claiming the Formula One Driver’s Championships.          

Webber Dominates Silverstone, But Hamilton Is Still Top

Mark Webber spoilt the British party as he stormed to a victory at the British Grand Prix. With a record crowd attending Silverstone, the majority were looking for a British win from either of the McLaren drivers, Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button. 

Nevertheless, Webber had a great race and showed that, even though Red Bull seem to have picked their ‘favourite’, Webber is by-no-means the second best driver behind Sebastian Vettel. 

   After Vettel had started on pole, with Webber behind him, many expected another Red Bull one-two finish. The race, though, could not have been more thrilling.
   The excitement started on Friday. In the third practise session Jarno Trulli desperately tried to improve on the previous day’s efforts, after the Lotus driver only managed three full laps out of two practice sessions, with the Italian recording the lowest score of twenty-four drivers. Trulli, though, could only manage a lap time of 1:36.098, putting him twenty-first after the final practise. The English pairing of Hamilton and Button, who currently occupy first and second place in the Driver’s Championships respectively, had poor practises on Friday, with Hamilton in eighth and Button in thirteenth. The two Brits were frustrated once again in the final session on Saturday as they could only watch as the Red Bull pairing of Vettel and Webber in first and second correspondingly. The McLaren team recorded the seventh and twelfth fastest times.
   Red Bull’s persistent problems, though, were again evident in the final session before qualifying. The nose cone of Vettel’s car came loose on the entry to the 170mph Abbey corner late on.
   It was Vettel at the top once again after the first qualifying session, with Webber in second. Alonso followed him, with Hamilton in fourth and Button in seventh. The McLaren cars were again having problems out on the Silverstone track, with Hamilton going off-track going into a corner and Button struggling to keep up with the front-runners on the grid.
   It got even worse for Button, who couldn’t manage a top-10 finish in the second qualifying session. Hamilton made it through in seventh, with the Red Bull team again sitting at the top, not only after the second qualifying session, but after the third also, giving Red Bull yet another pole position in this year’s Driver’s Championships. Vettel started on pole for Silverstone, with British hopefuls Hamilton in fourth and Button in fourteenth.
   The race itself had a fantastic start. The two Red Bull cars went wheel-to-wheel right from the start, with Vettel being forced off-track and Webber steaming clear at the front. After the first lap, Felipe Massa and Vettel were forced to pit with punctures, giving Hamilton the chance to go second, behind Webber. Massa clashed with teammate Alonso at the start to damage his back tyre, with Alonso struggling to keep up with the rest of the pack. Button forced his way to eighth before the end of the second lap.
   Hamilton pitted after lap sixteen and exited just in front of teammate Button, and Webber pitted on the next lap. The Australian, though, was so far ahead of anyone that he came out of the pit lane still in first place. Webber was in control throughout the race and simply could not be caught, with Hamilton, Niko Rosberg and Button all trailing behind him. Vettel, though, was still struggling to make his way towards the front of the grid, although he did make his way past Michael Schumacher, who disappointed once again. Schumacher still hasn’t obtained a podium finish since he returned to the sport this season. Vettel then barged his way past Adrian Sutil to go seventh.
   It was Vettel’s teammate, though, who stole the show. Webber was at the front from the first lap and deserved the victory after obtaining fastest lap after fastest lap, giving Hamilton no chance, who was five seconds behind the Red Bull driver. Hamilton, though, remains at the top of the Driver’s Championships, twelve points ahead of Button, with Webber now five points behind Button.