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Singapore swing hands Vettel the initiative

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Andrew Benson | 19:35 UK time, Sunday, 23 September 2012

Lewis Hamilton cut a remarkably phlegmatic figure after the Singapore Grand Prix, considering his retirement from what seemed a victory for the taking left his championship hopes in tatters.

The McLaren driver said all the right things after the race about not giving up, but the sad reality is that he is 52 points behind Ferrari's Fernando Alonso with only 150 still available.

To expect Hamilton to be able to make up more than a third of the points still remaining on a man who is driving one of the best seasons in Formula 1 history is ambitious in the extreme, although it's certainly going to be entertaining watching him try.

Hamilton's performance in Singapore confirmed two things about this season - McLaren are the team to beat with the consistently fastest car and the 2008 world champion is driving superlatively well.

Lewis Hamilton

A gear box failure caused McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton to retire from the Singapore Grand Prix. Photo: Getty 

His pole lap on Saturday was a sight to behold, all controlled aggression and commitment, brushing the walls, judging the balance between risk and reward to perfection to leave his rivals breathless.

Until that point, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel had appeared to be evenly matched with Hamilton but when it mattered the German found his car's grip had mysteriously disappeared. Hamilton found plenty, though, to go more than half a second clear of anyone else.

It was, as McLaren sporting director Sam Michael put it, a "fantastic" lap and he followed it with a controlled performance in the race, taking only as much as he needed to out of the car and tyres, confident that he had pace in reserve if Vettel upped his pace behind him.

But then the oil started leaking out of his differential, he lost his seamless gearshifts, then third gear and finally all his gears, and he sadly coasted to a halt at Turn Five with more than half the race still remaining.

It was the latest in a series of disappointments for Hamilton this year, without which he would be right up with Alonso in the championship.

For nearly all of them he has been blameless. Only in his collision with Pastor Maldonado in Valencia could you perhaps lay any small fault at his door - of course the Williams man drove into him, but ex-drivers, including Ivan Capelli, have questioned whether Hamilton might have been wiser in the circumstances to leave him a bit more space.

Despite the series of McLaren-related incidents that have cost him his best chance of the title since 2008, Hamilton's mood upon getting back to the paddock was notably different from his subdued bearing after taking pole and victory in Italy two weeks ago.

In Monza, he was downbeat, almost monosyllabic, despite his crushing performance. Here, the speed was the same, but the disposition far sunnier.

It remains to be seen whether that was to do with him making up his mind about his future one way or the other.

But it would take a brave man who gave up the pace of the McLaren for the uncertain and unimpressive form of Mercedes, whatever the difference in remuneration, real or potential, there may be between the offers.

"I think it would have been a nice result for us but we still have more races to go," he said.

"We really couldn't afford today but it is what it is. The good thing is we have good pace. I have to go and win the next races."

On his and McLaren's current form, he could easily win all of them, but if the season continues in its topsy-turvy way, with wins shared about, it is difficult to see him making up so many points on Alonso.

Vettel, though, is a different matter. The low-downforce circuits of Spa and Monza behind them, the Red Bull is likely to be competitive everywhere.

Even if it is not as strong as the McLaren, it is certainly consistently quicker than the Ferrari and in that context a 29-point deficit following the victory he inherited from Hamilton in Singapore is eminently bridgeable.

As Red Bull team boss Christian Horner pointed out, Vettel "was 25 points down with two races to go in 2010, which indicates anything is possible for all the drivers. We need to keep taking points off Fernando, which ideally means getting a few more cars between us and him."

And there's the rub.

Alonso has not won since Germany in July. A potential win escaped him in Italy two weeks ago because of a mechanical problem in qualifying, but Ferrari's poor performance in Singapore, when he had been expecting to fight for pole and victory, was a wake-up call.

On the form of this weekend, Alonso does not look likely to win in normal circumstances unless Ferrari can bring some more speed to the car.

But what he does keep doing is finishing in the points.
In the 10 races since the Spanish Grand Prix in May, Alonso has retired only once - after being hit by the flying Lotus of Romain Grosjean in Belgium three weeks ago. Of the nine he has finished, seven of them resulted in a podium - including two wins - and the other two fifth places.

No-one else has consistency anything like that, and it is in that consistency that lies his best hope.

The concern for Alonso is that if both McLarens and Vettel finish races, those podiums will be hard to come by, and in those circumstances that gap would come down quickly indeed.

So well has he been driving this year that Alonso has to still be considered a narrow favourite for the title.

But while McLaren's weaknesses have made the championship a long-shot even for Hamilton, as Alonso leaves Singapore, he will be casting worried glances over his shoulder at Vettel.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    No mention of Michael here, good job.

  • Comment number 2.

    Good summary, and I'm feeling, even though Kimi is always, somehow, still in the top 3 race after race, unless he wins very soon, this championship comes down to Alonso vs. Vettel. It would be great, coming from a Kimi fan, for him to be involved in a championship battle to the wire, and even win, on his return, but a race win is looking necessary soon.

  • Comment number 3.

    Mclaren have thrown the drivers title away this year. Pit stop disasters and reliability issues have cost Hamilton the title. Imagine where he'd be with the reliability that Ferrari have had.

    It's no wonder he wants to move... though moving to Mercedes would potentially be even worse for him.

  • Comment number 4.

    Alonso's consistency is incredible, but I do feel for Hamilton. He's now lost certain wins in Barcelona and Singapore, a chance of a win at Valencia, as well as potential podiums in Bahrain, Hockenheim and Spa. Without that kind of bad luck/team errors he and Alonso would be miles ahead of the rest! I think Button and Webber are completely out of contention now.

  • Comment number 5.

    I've criticised your blogs in the past Andrew, but credit where it's due, you have given a fair report of Hamilton's season here.

    So the 40 (ish) points you have mentioned before due to operational errors from McLaren and the 25 lost today would have given Lewis a healthy margin at the top of the table by my reckoning. Although, like Vettel, I don't claim to be a genius.

    Of course there have been other drivers with bad luck and ifs, buts and maybes don't amount to much in the world of sport.

    Alonso has been fantastic all season, absolutely indisputable, but we must acknowledge Ferrari's excellence too. They've provided Alonso a reliable car, excellent strategy calls and seamless pit stop service. Something that should be expected from all the top 3 teams but sadly lacking in 2.

    The final six races will be a fantastic spectacle and I cannot wait. It would do any of the drivers a disservice to wish bad luck on them. Unlikely though it is, if Hamilton wins all of them with Alonso second it will be an incredible way to finish off two great seasons from the two best drivers in the world. And it will provide one with a moral victory and the other with a very real one.

  • Comment number 6.

    Remember 2 years ago after the British Grand Prix when Alonso said he would win the championship by getting a podium in every race? Everyone said that was too ambitious then. Don't write off Hamilton yet (although he is a long shot compared to Vettel and Raikkonen)

  • Comment number 7.

    If we try to be optimistic: if Lewis wins every race with Alonso third, then he would snatch the title by 8 points, that's not gonna happen though...

  • Comment number 8.

    Vettel will undoubtedly win this championship - if the reliability issues are not present. Yes, the Red Bull is nowhere near as fast this year thanks to the low downforce rules, it is better than the Ferrari, enough to slowly but surely overhaul Alonso's lead.

    I must say I am disappointed at Schumacher's performance today. I don't like him or support him but I feel he has finally reached the point of no return - diminished skill and down right dangerous driving.

    Saying that, Maldonado seems to be learning to restrain himself - shame Grosjean isn't grasping such a concept... Great potential but needs to restrain himself or face losing his seat.

  • Comment number 9.

    Nice blog Andrew. And yes Alonso will now be looking over his shoulder for Vettel instead of Lewis. But I still think that Mclaren and Red Bull drivers will take enough wins off each other that Alonso will win the title. Then again I could be completely wrong :)

  • Comment number 10.

    Kimi won the title in 2007 after being 17 points behind with two races to go. In today's points that would equate to a 1st and a 2nd place (43), so the championship is still open for Hamilton, Kimi, Mark or Jenson.

  • Comment number 11.

    @ JoeAvis

    "...if Hamilton wins all of them with Alonso second it will be an incredible way to finish off two great seasons from the two best drivers in the world. And it will provide one with a moral victory and the other with a very real one."

    Well said, couldn't agree more.

    Good article from Mr. Benson

  • Comment number 12.

    Although I am a huge Lewis fan, I do think this piece of misfortune has cost him the championship.
    I was reading somewhere, a comparison between this F1 season and the epic 1982 season, it quoted; 'the championship could still be one by a quiet Finn whose sole win comes at the end of the season'. Keep your eyes open people, there's a fourth player in this championship battle!

  • Comment number 13.

    I see the cat has got the tongue of all the Hamilton knockers.
    And so it should be.
    What a performance, stylish, classic, professional, daring, adventurous, dramatic, enthralling.

    Better luck for the rest of the season and thanks for the
    drive.

  • Comment number 14.

    The BBC curse strikes again for Hamilton. In races this year where the BBC have shown the live event Hamilton has picked up a total of 33 points in 7 races, while when the race has been a sky exclusive he has picked up 109 points in 7 races. In the last four Grand Prix's shown live by the BBC, Hamilton has retired from 3 and picked up an 8th place in Britain, quite an extraordinary pattern.

  • Comment number 15.

    Some absolutely shocking blunders from the Mclaren team throughout the year has cost Hamilton dearly, although obviously blaming them for today is outrageously harsh. Whilst many may rave about Alonso's consistency, Hamilton (the inconsistent "boy racer") would be just as consistent if it weren't for these errors.

  • Comment number 16.

    I know this might make me sound like a bit of a Lewis 'fanboy', but if you look at his luck this year, it has been dreadful;
    Australia- safety car timing allows Vettel to take 2nd
    Malaysia- 2 bad pit stops (although I reckon he would have still been 3rd)
    China- 5 place gearbox penalty (this rule definitely needs changing)
    Bahrain- 2 bad pit stops
    Spain- refuelling error costs likely win
    Europe- bad pit stop and taken out by Maldonado
    Britain- poor car
    Germany- puncture
    Spa- taken out by Grosjean
    Singapore- gearbox failure from lead
    Obviously, he is not meant to win the title this year, so now i am hoping Alonso wins the title as 1. he has been brilliant this year and 2.i think he is better than Vettel. On today's race, happy for Jenson and especially PDR, 2 great races for him after i slightly questioned him. Rosberg also has a very solid race for 5th, well beyond what i expected of mercedes. Vettel drove very well too and Alonso is always around the top end of the points.

  • Comment number 17.

    A pleasant suprise Andrew. Not unessessary critisism of MS or over the top praise for JB. Maybe after all the complaints the BBC have recieved after your last blog you have focused on the news rather than your likes/dislikes. I'm very happy to see that you've also included Ivan Capelli as a source for one of your 'ex-driver', 'insider' opinions as well. A good article I would say. Thank you.

  • Comment number 18.

    By the way the FIA Stewards disagree with your interpretation of the Maldonado incident in Valencia as he in fact got a 20 seconds penalty for it, so whenever Lewis has failed to make the chequered flag this year it has not been his fault

  • Comment number 19.

    Hamilton has driven very well this year and has been unfortunate with incidents outside of his control that have cost him points at several races.

    Alonso will be a clear favourite for the title now but I have a feeling it will go down to the last race of the season. Ferrari have looked off the pace for the last few races so Alonso will have to continue his excellent form this season to get the points he requires.

  • Comment number 20.

    This O.P. is a masterly example of the famous but oh! so pointless, example of the "If Only" game by Benson and most posters--remember this one--"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride them". Fact is, that unlike any other sport motor racing of any kind is full of uncertainties because no matter the driver, he is in the hands of a highly sophisticated (and therefore unpredictable) piece of equipment.
    The argument being made here, could be made about more drivers than Hamilton.

  • Comment number 21.

    A well written article Andrew, and it is shaping up to be a close conclusion to the season.

    Bad luck for Lewis today, & Pastor, good drives by Seb, Jenson, Fernando and Paul.

  • Comment number 22.

    I've said before that both Alo and Hammy are having as good a season as I can remember.

    This is a much more balanced read than the "Vettel wins Singapore thriller/marathon" article.

    I personally think that if McLaren don't win the constructors this year Whitmarsh could be gone.

    Bad luck to Ham & Pastor. Driver of the day goes to Massa for me.

  • Comment number 23.

    Well done to Paul di Resta for an excellent fourth place. Congratulations F1 for making it impossible for any of us to know who actually is currently the best driver.

  • Comment number 24.

    good race hopfully more of the same for next 6!! pity schumi made a mistake 10 grid drop a bit harsh tho!

  • Comment number 25.

    All 3 still have a chance, with Vettel being the favorite.

    My feeling is, they will end up very close to each other,
    probs 1-3 within 25 points or less. Alonso will run into trouble, if he is 0.85 secs off the pole. He won't be in the podium every race with the luck he had today. Lets remember he was 5th before Lewis and Pastor retired..

    Also... if Lewis does win all of the 6 remaining races, then there is no doubt he will be champion.

    Sebastian has a quicker car than Alonso, and JB is there too, so there is really no way Alonso would always be 2nd, average finish will probs be between 3 and 5.

    But Lewis winning winning every race, or even five is near impossible.. today was really decisive in the championship = (

  • Comment number 26.

    @25 just to confirm Pastor was 10th when he retired and Alonso 4th at that time. Pastor stopped under the safety car and Alonso did not

  • Comment number 27.

    calculations: D
    "easiest" scenario for LH to win WDC:

    4 victories, 2 2nd places = 136 pts
    while FA finishes with 3 3rd places and 3 4th places = 81 pts

    whilst seb & kimi dont take the maximum of remaining pts

  • Comment number 28.

    McLaren really need to sort out their reliabilty issues.

    Last 2 races, Button played the good team mate in staying ahead of Alonso in both. Playing his part, maximising the gap between Alonso & Hamilton.

    Only for reliability issues to cause a DNF for himself, from 2nd place, last time out & then today a DNF for Hamilton.

    Never mind the issues & ramifications for the WDC, both McLaren drivers need to keep their motivation & their cars need to finish.......then as high up the field as possible, to maximise their potential for the WCC.

    It's been too long since they last won it.

  • Comment number 29.

    @28 we were debating the team orders and I felt like lotus would play them here. What did you think to them saying to RG that Kimi is faster? You feel it was fair or too early in the season still? I feel it was the right call if Kimi is to stand any chance at all. I know it might be disheartening for RG but I still agree with it. What were your thoughts on it? :)

  • Comment number 30.

    Yes, kudos to Sebastian for finishing the race in first. Well done! Kimi could have run a better race with higher quals. M. Schumacher should be no more than a testing driver. For Force India, at best. Along with Massa.

  • Comment number 31.

    Great race for:
    Paul DiR - another amazing qualifying, great race lap pace, deserved 4th place in A Force India!

    Alonso - great result considering Ferrari is slow, not even sure it was the 3rd fastest car at Singapore, plus the strategy sucked, coming out in traffic after pitstops fair enough but pitting at the same time as Maldo, to come out behind the 2 stoppers Perez, Hulk and also Gros and Rosberg! The laptimes were so poor then and could have been more costly.

    Hamilton, great despite retiring. Wish I could have seen a Lew Seb battle at the end though. Wonder if it had anything to do with the whack he gave the wall on his 2nd Q3 lap which he didn't even need to finish McLaren!

    SebVet, good effort, good pace at the end, did everything right till he got out of the car and kept on showing off 'the finger'!


    Poor race for:-

    Karthi - man that wall hit looked really pathetic

    Schumi - good qually, shame about the mistake in the race

    Maldonado - great qually but understeer to gift places to Seb and Jens then lose loads of time overdriving and over-defending against Alonso, plus why red tyres then a 4th stop, before retiring?

    Webber - utterly disgraceful strategy from the initial pitstop right through the race! Red Bull look like the don't want the constructors, just Sebs drivers title.

    Ferrari - really poor pace, no working upgrades, look like Lotus, Williams, Sauber could wipe away points from Alonso if they get it right, let alone the gap to the Bulls and Maccas.

    Overtake/crash save of the race goes to Massa on Bruno, just took another 5 years off Smedley with that one...

  • Comment number 32.

    so biased...

  • Comment number 33.

    @29 As you probably remember, I don't hold with team orders.

    Not sure the Lotus orders were about the 2 WDC points or as much about the relative speeds of the 2 cars in the race today? Suppose it results in the same thing. Either way can't say I like them.

    Don't know how Grosjean feels. Maybe he feels chastened anyway after his ban, so felt easier about it today? How does a driver react if it keeps on happening? Where does it put his psyche? Would be really interesting to hear what Massa, for example, really thinks & how it really has affected him?

    My point in 28 is that both drivers fully motivated, maximising their own points, can diminish the amount their rivals can score. That type of team order I can live with, but that's what the drivers should be doing anyway ;)

  • Comment number 34.

    @33 as Brundle said on the comms that once Kimi was let by RG was back on the same pace again. I think if Lotus had told RG after Monza that look the rest of this year if it happens to arise you will have to let Kimi by then maybe that is easier to take. I do hope though that it doesn't dishearten RG too much as he was having a good weekend. Still not sure if Kimi can win the title without winning a race or two. Because FA and SV will take it if he doesn't win some races. I think if the double DRS works in Japan that could be his best chance. But will have to be dry which is what didn't happen in Spa.

    It would be really interesting if Felipe wrote a book at the end of his career, but I think he loves Ferrari so much he wouldn't betray them. Too nice for his own good

  • Comment number 35.

    @34

    It's artificial & one place, 2 points was all that was gained... either way. The team scored the same points whichever the order, but one of the drivers was, potentially, demotivated. Of course, you'd have to ask Grosjean how he felt. However, with the politics etc., you'd be unlikely to get anything but a "diplomatic" answer.

    Lotus are currently 4th in the WCC. The way that is panning out, particularly as they've scored regular points rather than won races, they've probably got a better chance improving their position in the WCC, than Raikonnen has of winning the WDC.

    Rather than deflating a driver with the negative effect that might have for the remainder of the season, keeping both drivers fully motivated, with the WCC in mind, might be the more pragmatic approach?

    As you say, if Massa, or any driver were ever to spill the beans it would be at the end of their careers or stay bottled up for good.

    The drawback to that is we'll never know how it really effected them & what they might have delivered, over the race, season or their career, if they hadn't been put in that position?

  • Comment number 36.

    @35 I suppose it depends on the strength of the team. For example back in the MSC Ferrari days their car was that strong they could have a clear number 1 and still win the WCC. Even though those team orders especially I think Austria 03 was it I'm sure you know the one I'm talking about. Anyway the point is also the mental strength of Runens must've been huge, as he knew he was only there to win if Michael was out and to kind of pick up the pieces. I think in 06 and in some ways 07 Massa was happy to play the second driver but after so nearly winning the title in 08 felt he had earned number 1 status.

    So yes in some ways I see where you are coming from and I still can't decide what affected Massa more the 09 crash or Germany 10 (which I thought was wrong). But either way he drove excellently today recovering like he did so I think it shows if you give him the car and the arm around his shoulder he still does have the skills. Also what's your opinion on the development of the Ferrari? Again a new rear wing brought here didn't work (not for the 1st time this year)

    I still believe that F1 is a team sport and both the orders at Monza and here were correct, but I do think they have to be handled very delicately. Will be interesting to see how things play out at the next 6 races and if any other teams start playing the team game. I.e Red Bull?

  • Comment number 37.

    Really bad luck for Hamilton but I don't think he is out of the WDC. He is in good form and has the fastest car on the grid. However, it is unbelievable to hear people say that if Mclaren had the same reliability as Ferrari, Lewis would be running away with the championship. Well if Ferrari was as fast as Mclaren, then Alonso would have already wrapped up WDC. I think if you give a choice to any of the drivers to either pick Mclaren or Ferrari to drive for next 6 races, every single one of them would pick Mclaren as it is a much faster piece of machinery.

  • Comment number 38.

    Its going to be tough for LH now. There is just no consistency, which he himself said would be key to the WDC this year. FA has been the most consistent performer and he must be the absolute favourite now. If the new upgrades ferrari brings work, he will be fighting for pole in the coming races and it will be tough to push him from the podium. If, however, the RB and Mcl maintain there pace superiority than it will be equally tough for him. If Vettel or Hami are to have any chance, MW, Kimi and JB have to somehow push Fa out of the podium in the upcoming races. Maybe the sauber and williams will come to the party as well.
    Feel sorry for LH. But thats sport, we are glued because of the unpredictability. This might turn out to be the defining race... Of the last 5, retired, first, retired, first, retired. Wont call it bad luck, but very unfortunate.

  • Comment number 39.

    Mr Benson, I have to say, I very often find myself criticising your blogs, therefore only think it for to also praise and credit where credit is due. An excellently balanced, objective perspective!

  • Comment number 40.

    It was such a shame for Hamilton. I do believe that in F1, what goes around comes around, and I think it would be wrong to say that Hamilton has had nothing but bad luck, though this season has proved to have it in for him in some way. As I mentioned on the immediate report of the race, Vettel, Button and Webber all suffered from poor reliability in Italy, so it is not like Hamilton has been struck an extra blow compared to his rivals, albeit while he was leading through a very composed drive.
    Alonso has had his share of luck this season, but even he was a victim at Belgium, and I while the fact that finishes in 4th/5th have actually increased a championship lead, you can't account the [performance of others as luck for Alonso, that's just what happens. What usually makes Alonso stand out is that he seems immune to a bad patch, i.e. a succession of races where he can't get it together. We saw Button struggle towars the end of the first half, and Webber certainly came across it in Hungary, and is yet to battle his way out of it. 52 points is not an overwhelming deficit, considering one unfortunate twist or incident could halve (Grammar question, do you half or halve something?) that gap in one race.

    While I would love to see Lotus surprise everyone, I can't quite see it happening. Raikkonen has been very consistent, but his car seems to lack the sheer capabilities of the McLaren and Red Bull. Fortunately for him however, he has a team-mate who is capable of stealing points off his rivals.
    Alonso perhaps has another win in him, but the same could be said for a retirement. Ferrari have enjoyed dominion over reliability for just over a decade, but Japan 2006 proved that a disaster can occur at a crucial point, and that could still happen.

    It's still in Hamilton's power to claw this back, as it is for Vettel and dare I say, Button and Webber. It's not over until Vanessa Feltz sings, as it were.

  • Comment number 41.

    Mathematics apart, why does anyone see Kimi Raikkonen as a contender? Apart from a couple of races, he has not been a front-runner. The car is good but not fast enough. Raikkonen wasn´t exactly on fire in Singapore, given his championship position, you´d expect to see a bit more hunger.

    Kimi has to win a couple of races to take the championship, hard to see were that extra speed is going to come from in either the car or the driver. Probably it´s more likely that the Lotus effort will fade than build, but strange things do happen!

  • Comment number 42.

    One again Andrew Benson with his biased views. Will he ever learn.

    McLaren had a great deal more warning that the official line that they put out. The engineer stated they knew on saturday after Hamilton hit the wall that there was a problem. Hamilton stated in the first stint that he had a 'funny feeling from the right rear' and when he got out of the car he immediately went to check it out. The engineer said 'we did what we could yesterday'

    Thus retirement WAS due to Hamilton hitting the wall in qualifying and therefore his fault. You cant smack the wall like that and expect not to do some damage to the differential so it will go down as yet another mistake from Hamilton in the long line of them in his career so far.

    As for his bad luck what about Vettel's? Hamilton hasnt lost a certain victory at al this year. Vettel did in Valencia and also had a puncture earlier in the year and another failure in Monza. All things being equal it would be Vettel leading the Championship in reality. Considering the Red Bull is in no way a match for the Mclaren in terms of the speed of the car this speaks volumes about Seb's ability in comparison to others. If he or Alonso are able to win this Championship and i hope one of them does neither will have had the best car and both will thoroughly deserve it Alonso heroics in a severely off the pace Ferrari are truly a 'sight to behold'

    Stop waxing poetical about the driver in the fastest car and concentrate more on the two that are in reality driving the wheels off their respective cars in super human efforts.

  • Comment number 43.

    Alonso benefitted massively (again) from the safety car (caused by an average driver in a terrible car). I think he was on the wrong strategy prior to that and would've struggled - I think we were robbed of a more eventful race. But kudos to him, consistency is king. Renault seem to be fading so it looks to be Alonso/Vettel/Hamilton with Webber and Button outsiders - at least they still have competitive cars unlike, I fear, Kimi.

    I think it's time to put an end to HRT. That dog of a car has already ruined the races of world champions this season. I can't blame the drivers because quite clearly it's so horrendous even Senna in his peak wouldn't have been able to get it off the back row. They consistently use the first race as a test session because they can't get the car ready on time and are well off the pace of the Caterhams and Marussias. They aren't even blooding young talent.

    Also, the first corner(s) of the race - Rosberg and (if I recall correctly) Webber went off and rejoined ahead of those they went into the corner alongside. In my book, that's called not losing a place. Rosberg at least could've got on the brakes more and taken the corner, albeit losing position to a couple of cars. Are we to send a message that using run-offs to miss a corner but hold position is acceptable because it's the start and there's a lot going on?

    On a positive note, a good showing for Williams despite technical problems. Apart from the incident from Massa, Senna drove very well. Although he's close in the points, he's not been up there with Maldonado on pace - rather have to calm an erratic driver who has pace than get an consistent driver to speed up. Senna still has a lot to do to convince that he's worth a race seat for 2013.

  • Comment number 44.

    Great blog and I think sums the situation up nicely BUT only takes Hamilton to win in Japan with Vettel getting nothing and it all swings around again!

  • Comment number 45.

    @JoeAvis #5 your comment:
    "Alonso has been fantastic all season, absolutely indisputable, but we must acknowledge Ferrari's excellence too. They've provided Alonso a reliable car, excellent strategy calls and seamless pit stop service. Something that should be expected from all the top 3 teams but sadly lacking in 2."

    We may have seen different championships then.. The Ferrari may be a reliable car but the speed is nowhere near any of the other 2 top teams (may I even say 3 or 4 if you count the Lotus and in the last race the Williams too).. The difference in qualifying lap is staggering..

    Re, strategy.. ahem.. Ferrari's strategic decisions have been a mismatch of hits and misses hidden only by Fernando's superb skills, maturity and flawless performance..

    Re pit stops, I kindly refer you to this championship pit-stops table and check the team leading it.. McLaren

    Re developments, etc, well, Singapore if anything was a involution rather than an evolution..

    Thus, I guess you are not serious in suggesting that Hamilton/Button or Vettel/Webber would be above Fernando in the championship leaderboard had they been driving for Ferrari instead of McLaren or RBR..

  • Comment number 46.

    Perfect Japan Result:
    1) Hamilton
    2) Raikonnen
    3) Button
    ...
    Vettel: low points finish
    ...
    Alonso: DNF

    Both championships would be wide open then!!

  • Comment number 47.

    Brilliant season, marred sometimes by some questionable driving behaviour of some of the grid, about which I have a couple of questions:

    Why is it that drivers who regularly cut corners with all 4 wheels outside the confines of the track never penalised, even though they are gaining an advantage by getting closer to the 1 second DRS zone of the car in front ?

    Why was there no action against Vettel when leading off from behind the safety car when he 'brake-tested' Button. Rule 40.13 covers such a situation - cars '...must proceed at a pace which involves no erratic acceleration or braking ....' when the safety car has indicated that it is returning to the pit lane.

  • Comment number 48.

    Double safety car ruined the race. If button was on 2 stop race and vettel and ham on 3 stops then button may have jumped them both. We will never know.

    Also why was webber suddenly developed a Massa like form!!

  • Comment number 49.

    @45 regina -

    Hi, nice to chat to you.

    Firstly I'm happy to back up what I said but I'm not getting into a forum argument about opinions because they are exactly that.

    Secondly, while I am sure we can both quotes individual cases and races to chip away at each others arguments the point I was making in that paragraph was on the net whole, the Ferrari team have delivered a better 'in-race' service for their driver than McLaren and Red Bull this year.

    So, strategy, while the team as far as I recall have not pulled a race win from no-where, which their driver has in Valencia. They have not done anything to hinder their driver to the same extent as RB or McL (bar Alono's 2 stop choice in Canada). Numerous times we have seen Vettel dropped in behind traffic or McLaren split strategies - yes Hamilton will have been present at that meeting but he does not have final say, otherwise why would you give the engineers salaries?

    Pit Stops - I can only presume you're referring to the fastest pit stop table which admittedly McL lead, and in recent races have been extremely solid. But their poor performance at the start of the season cost both drivers points. If an average pit stop time table exists I'd love to see it. I'm not claiming Ferrari top it, but I doubt their fans are nervous when a red car peels off into the pits. I can't recall a single time the Ferrari has been overly delayed in the pits.

    Developments, I can't say I actually commented on that. But I agree with you, Ferrari are off the bubble. However my point was about in-race team operations.

    And you're right, I didn't suggest where the RB drivers or McL drivers would be in a Ferrari this year, in fact I didn't allude to it. Truth is to comment on that would be pure conjecture and not even opinion.

    I am however saying that if Red Bull or McLaren delivered the same in race service as Ferrari then the championship table would looked markedly different. Not only would Vettel and Hamilton have not lost the points they have but Alonso would not have gained as many.

    So all in all my point remains, on balance Ferrari have been incredible this season, as has their lead driver. And acknowledgement should be given to the engineers and people of Maranello as well as Alonso.

  • Comment number 50.

    Sadly it's all over for Hammo, hope I'm wrong but can't see it happening and....well....enough said really.

  • Comment number 51.

    Hamilton is not out of the title race. McLaren still have the best car but he now needs more consistency in his results and must hope that the Ferrari really falls behind so even Alonso can't get results out of it. Vettel is certainly the main challenger to Alonso and Raikkonen probably needs to get at least two victories now if he is to go into the final race with a chance. Finishing every race in the points is not enough now. Button is too far behind and Webber has really struggled in the last few races so it is now a four horse race for the title going into Japan. Btw, the BBC needs to change the result of the Singapore Grand Prix on their results and standings page as it still has Webber finishing tenth with 133 points and Perez with 65 where it should be 132 for Webber and 66 for Perez.

  • Comment number 52.

    The situation harks back to the Raikkonen era at McLaren where they have had the quick car throughout but too many reliability issues cost them the drivers' title - and Ferrari took it with Michael

    Looks like it is gonna happen again - Alonso the benefactor this time

  • Comment number 53.

    Seb has a faster car as compared to alonso,so do the maths.seb wins championship number 3.

  • Comment number 54.

    I think it's basically Alonso's title now. There are some seasons where you've just got to look at it and say 'yeah it's out of my hands'. Hamilton has driven a champions season for the most part and put the rubbish of 2011 behind him masterfully. But Alonso seems to have the gods on his side. I don't believe in fate or anything like that but when you see the way Alonso emerges onto a podium position from nowhere in the race after every (very odd) front runner breakdown, you've got to wonder if Alonso's name wasn't on the trophy from day one. Hamilton can be proud of his racing this season.

  • Comment number 55.

    gutted for lewis,been on his best behaviour all season and their best chance of both titles since 2007 the team mess it up again(china call was mclarens to make and they left it too late in 2007,Brazil faulty gear box but still finished 8th was comfortably in the top 3 when it happened,he needed 5th at least)

    but jenson can take some responsibility due to his poor qualifying therefore putting him further behind the action and deeper into the mine field

  • Comment number 56.

    I've (through boredom) crunched some numbers (well excel has) with some interesting results. If the championship was decided by quail (penalties excluded), Hamilton would have a 82 point lead over Vettel, excluding pens in China and Spain he has had 10 front row starts. Then button, Alonso, Webber. A surprising 6th is Schumi, 7th Grosjean, 8th Rosberg (2nd after Canada, 3rd after Europe, only 2 Q3 appearance since Europe), 9th Maldonado with 90 points. Kimi 10th, Felipe, Kamui, PDR, Sergio, Hulkenberg, Riccardo and Senna (with only 1 Q3 appearance) If you do points minus 'quail points', you find Alonso has gained 73, Kimi 70. Other big winners are Perez (39) and Senna (23), 7 drivers have 'lost' points, but only Ham (104), Msc (67)and Mal (61) have lost more than 13 points. Generally, you would say that despite the latter 2's crashes, these have been the 3 unluckiest driver on the grid. Basically this shows the quail form and bad luck of Ham, and how good Alonso and Kimi have been in the races (Romain has lost 11 compared to Kimi's 70 gain). I also think this season has said as much about Seb as his 2 WDC, he has been reasonably unnoticed, and not perhaps in his greatest form, but is still second in the championship

  • Comment number 57.

    @52 Alonso also beniffited in 05 when Kimi again had the fastest car but it was not reliable. Although to say Alonso didn't deserve that title would be a disservice to him and to Michael, but I do understand your point. As we all know to finish first, first you must finish

  • Comment number 58.

    Careful @56, with analysis like that you'll end up with a job at Sky F1 to pad out their show that start hours before the race! Would fit right in with their pitstop championship and wire buzzer game...

  • Comment number 59.

    @55, your version of events skewed in Hamiltons favour for Brazil 2007 and are simply not what happened.
    "Brazil faulty gear box but still finished 8th was comfortably in the top 3 when it happened,he needed 5th at least"

    Seem to remember Lewis fell behind the Ferraris of Massa and Kimi at the start to 3rd, then Alonso passed him round the outside of turn 2 putting him 4th, then Lewis tried a daft move into turn 4, locking up and sliding off track, and rejoining in 8th or 9th, all his own fault.
    Then he couldn't remember how to reset his gearbox niggle quick enough losing more time than he should, but he still had 60 or so laps to get the measly points he needed for the championship and couldn't do it in a car that with the Ferrari was the class of the field.

    The icing on the cake for Kimi was that Massa let Kimi through to take enough points to win the championship by a point from Alonso who was 3rd in a McLaren with a team boss who despised him for half the season.

    Infact hold on...
    here you go...

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/9119332.stm

    Definitely not in 3rd when he got stuck in neutral.

    "he's gone wide, he's made an absolute mess of the start"
    Nevermind, he was a rookie after all. ;)

    What a season though!

  • Comment number 60.

    Alonso has had a large helping of luck so far this season, in the sense that his principle competitors have been quite unlucky.

    Hamilton's tale of woe needs no further commentary I assume. So let's look at Vettel. Leading the Italian GP with just six laps to go when knocked out by an alternator failure. Result: minus25 points for Vettel and plus three points for Alonso, who moved up from fourth to third when Vettel retired.

    At Valencia Vettel was leading the race at the mid-point when he was forced out by another alternator failure. Alonso went on to win that race. Result: plus seven points for Alonso (assuming he would have otherwise finished second) and minus twenty-five points for Vettel.

    Malaysia: Vettel was running fourth in the closing stages of the race when Karthikeyan collided with him and gave him a puncture. Karthikeyan was given a penalty, but Vettel finished 11th and out of the points. Result: minus twelve points for Vettel.

  • Comment number 61.

    seeing a lot of comments on which car is the fastest and that certain cars are faster than other cars
    have people not been paying attention to the F1 this year? it is so unpredictable that we can not judge what will happen.
    start of the year everyone was saying it will be a cake walk for mclaren due to their speed then mclaren lost all that speed and RB and ferrari were much faster than the mclaren, now the mclaren is faster again. there is no point trying to justify anything and predict anything for this season which really has my mouth watering. you dont know what to expect every race which makes each race a joy to watch, especially for a more neutral fan like me
    but i would love to see the prancing horse win ;)

  • Comment number 62.

    @61 "have people not been paying attention to the F1 this year? it is so unpredictable that we can not judge what will happen."

    You are correct when you look at the season as a whole, but in recent races we've seen it clearly as Red Bull and McLaren as the class of the field. McLaren have 4 poles in the last 4 races and should have had 4 wins as well, you can't get more predictable than that, though now we move to twisty tracks, unlike Monza, it'll all be about Red Bull and McLaren. The question is will Button and Webber win or take points away from Seb and Lew.

    The most unpredictable car seems to be the Sauber, the only thing predictable is their stubborn strategy to do less stop than everyone even if Perez is 5s per lap slower when his tyres are shot.

    @60, Alonso has not had the bad luck on reliability, only unlucky to be taken out by Grosjean at Spa. Despite this you could equally argue that it is bad luck for Alonso that for so many races this year he has a car slower than the McLaren and RedBull. Even more so now Ferrari are not closing the gap for the final races. He has been a lot further from pole than Ferrari would have expected recently.

    He has had to take more risks during races to overtake for position, Valencia for example, and even when he finishes 4th/5th you get the feeling that this was the absolute best the car could have done at that race.

    I'm waiting for a clash between championship contenders when racing wheel to wheel this year, it nearly happened between Vettel and Alonso at Monza.

    I'm expecting it to happen between Vettel and Hamilton at some race followed by synchronised staring at each other while spinning their fingers at the side of their helmets for the universal sign of 'crazy', followed by total denial of blame by both drivers. Would be good to see a Piquet/Salazar style scrap again though ;)

  • Comment number 63.

    Lewis.. Nothing to do with the race on Sunday but please leave Now!!!!
    Relationships change as do many other things in life. Since the snake was appointed as your team mate, It was time to go.. You are the best driver along with alonso by far, and anyone apart from the biggots know that only too well. The snake has done more than you will ever do with regards to contract movements, as we all know, giving his word to williams, only to retract it, and buy himself out to go to Honda.His lifestyle was one of pure enjoyment and lust. Nothing wrong with that,only the fact that they rub your nose, and try to discredit you for what??? Alonso well we all no is past, and his total insistance that he get everything he wants or else, but once again he is held the most high as a man of standing and somone to aspire too.

    The British F1 media loved you when you were a young new boy on the block, of a different skin colour entering the white domain of F1 motor racing, but you are now a man of sheer class and dignity coupled with the being one of the best drivers their is. And we all know for alot of people that is to much to bear. The genaral public outside of F1 find it hard to understand why you get so much flack?? as many do not see skin colour, but only a talented young man who does is job and leads a life off track that is an example to follow, with all the trappings at is disposal.. If you have the best ca, fate as you have seen so far this season has the last say.. Look forward to the future, the past is the past.. Good luck...

  • Comment number 64.

    63. At 10:03 25th Sep 2012, notagain24 wrote:

    The genaral public outside of F1 find it hard to understand why you get so much flack?? as many do not see skin colour, but only a talented young man who does is job and leads a life off track that is an example to follow:

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/4426933/Nicole-Scherzinger-furious-after-Lewis-Hamilton-has-hotel-party-with-ten-girls.html

  • Comment number 65.

    a real shame for Hamilton, I just think the quiet sit in the cockpit after he stopped, was his decision to sign for Mercedes..the car isnt as good, but who knows next year?
    I hope Alonso gets the WDC, he deserves it...not a natural Alo fan here but credit where its due! if Vettel wins it, he will be insufferable!

  • Comment number 66.

    @64 touche!

    The beer goggle effect really seems to affect F1 drivers. Oh well, party on, you're only young once.

  • Comment number 67.

    @56, interesting analysis but as we all know there are no poinrs for quali.. Just the advantage at the start. Reliability is crucial and sadly Mclaren have issues to go with stupid pit stop mistakes. The latter seem to be fixed now but this will be no consolation for LH who really ought to be right up at the sharp end of the WDC. I hope he stays at Mclaren. Cant see him moving to Merc for several reasons, not least of which is that they have not yet signed the concorde agreement so may pull put of F1 in the next year or two.

  • Comment number 68.

    @Twirlip, Post 60

    Oh look who is back after Vettel has eventually won (inherited) his secod race of the season! It's Vettel's biggest fanboy, Twirlip!

    But what ARE you talking about re. Vettel dropping out of the Italian GP "whilst leading!?" Do you even WATCH the races?

    Vettel was running sixth behind Alonso even BEFORE getting a drive-through penalty for dangerously forcing Alonso off the track. After that he was scrapping around for the last of the points available. Certainly, he didn't lead the Italian GP at any point and even more certain is that he didn't lose out on 25 points due to having to retire at Monza.

    As for lost points, Vettel did lose a likely 25 points at Valencia but most (objective) observers had him to blame for the NK collision in Malaysia. Other than than that, he has been thoroughly average this year. He has on a number of occasions qualified poorly, even missing out on Q3 a few times. He has struggled to impose himself on races now that he cannot regularly secure Pole Position.

    There have been two stand-out front-runners this season. One is Fernando Alonso who has managed to get a relatively poor Ferrari to over-perform early on in the season and since then has been remarkably consistent. The other is Lewis Hamilton who has been near-flawless in 2012 and but for McLaren errors, mechanical failures and twice being taken out of races by other drivers, would have another 100 WDC points.

    Who knows, your beloved Vettel might yet go on to take the WDC yet again in 2012. But short of winning all of the remaining six races, he would be a thoroughly undeserving WDC this year when Alonso and Hamilton have performed at such a higher level.

    One thing is certain though. If Vettel wins the WDC this year, you'll be all over the BBC forums, harrassing any one who dare says anything non-flattering about Vettel. Equally, if Vettel doesn't win the WDC you'll be nowhere to be seen. It's typical fanboy stuff.

 

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