Suzuka Throws Up Some Surprises
I wanted to publish this post under the title, Sebastian actually does some racing, Roman shows he can start, Felipe rebels and the latest RB conspiracy, but that seemed too long and too obvious and a week or so later after the fact not very exciting. I can’t really add anything new and I was not in too much of a hurry immediately after the race to hit the keyboard. A combination of the same old result albeit with a different twist and the all but certain ending of the championship (despite the fact Fernando Alonso spoiled the party) did not really inspire the blogger in me.
Well better late then never, I do however want to touch upon the aforementioned points of the race because they each in their unique way are what matters about the race. Twenty-two drivers and their respective cars competed but the cars of Roman, Vettel, Webber, Massa and Alonso were for all intents and purposes the only ones that mattered at Suzuka.
Let’s just take a few moments and have a quick rundown on each of these talking points. I guess in order of importance we should address Vettel’s win from second, who immediately after the start, and by that I mean a mere five seconds after the start, found himself in third behind Mark Webber with, surprise, Roman Grosjean in first and leading the race.
I’m not too sure which is more preferred by a driver, to win from pole or to come through the field whether it be from third or from twelfth to win a Grand Prix. Which ever the case it was nice to see Vettel not win from the front and actually do some racing. An equal mix of his driving ability which just gets better and better, and Red Bull’s team strategy although it has to be said that was at the expense of Mark Webber’s race. More on that later.
My complaint about Vettel is that he usually has the best car; therefore of course he should be winning at the rate he is. “What’s the big deal?”, I often wonder. This complaint remains unchanged. However, winning is never easy and Vettel in addition to having the best machinery, is driving the way all champions do. This being: calm, measured, and with great confidence in his team. Similar to all champions, he drove mistake-free and found a way to get to the checkered flag first. My feeling is if Sebastian Vettel won more races in this manner he would have less detractors, (including myself) and much less booing. But at the end of the day who cares what cranky fans think or for that matter a Los Angeles blogger. Let’s not waste any more copy on this one. Well done Seb and the Red Bull Team.
I’m going to preface this section by saying I still have a fair amount of animosity toward Grosjean for unnecessarily taking out Alonso at the start of the Belgium GP last year. Such is the cost of being an F1 driver and all the good and bad that comes with being one of the elite twenty-two that compete in this formula, the pinnacle of Motorsport. That said, lets concentrate on his most recent results, the last two in particular. Since the season resumed Grosjean has out-raced Kimi Raikkonen, if only by a small margin. Roman’s last five outings have yielded; 8th, 8th, DNF, 3rd and a 3rd. Kimi; DNF, 11th, 3rd, 2nd, and a 5th. It’s impressive to our-race Kimi, even if Kimi does have back problems.
Ironically, in Japan it was Grosjean’s start that turned out to be key for him and Lotus and put them in the position to fight for the win. From the on-board camera viewpoint it was a great pass on the inside and I was on my toes as he made it (in a good way I might add). It ended up as a brilliant move.
The funny thing about motorsport, all sports in fact, is that risky split-second decisions are always viewed through the lens of their result. If what you do results in a hit, a completion, a goal, a basket, a catch, a run, a block, then you’re all good. If going for it means you made the play or in this case a gutsy move/pass that worked, you’re a hero, but we all know the converse of this statement, when it does not work, you are a zero.
Grosjean is telling the press he has more confidence of late and this could be now showing up in his driving. Could his new confidence inspire him to start taking the necessary gambles at the start of a race again which can really have a positive impact on your final result, a la a one Fernando Alonso? It may well be and I say great, and welcome more from the Frenchman. I think it is funny when bloggers (like myself) and experts state some manufactured question and then proceed to answer it. Which is what I just did. I suppose this is just a way to introduce a topic that one wants to examine and I am tempted to do it again, i.e. has Grosjean finally matured? Let’s dispose of that and just say Roman Grosjean looks to have turned the corner and is driving extremely well. Enough said.
Just a few and I mean a very few words about Felipe Massa and his teammate Fernando Alonso. It looks as though Massa is no Mr. Nice Guy and for that matter why should he be? On his way out of Ferrari, and still interested in competing in F1, hopefully in a team that has a chance of winning a race from time to time, the best way to ensure this is to race as hard as you can against the best in the business.
Massa did just that for the first half of the Grand Prix to stay in front of Alonso. To the point of team orders, was there a team order? Was there no team order? I did not hear any in the NBC feed of the race and I have not read anything as such in the news and even if there was a team order, as Leigh Diffey said so eloquently, Massa is going to give as much help to Alonso as Webber will to Vettel. Priceless. Does it really matter now with Alonso effectively having no chance to win anything else this year, be it a pole, a race or the championship? Not in my opinion.
I guess you could make the argument that as long as Alonso is mathematically still in it (which to me is right about the time one should give up the argument, even if it is true) then Massa shouldn’t have held Alonso up for nineteen or twenty laps, so Alonso could have had a greater chane to made the podium and therefore collected more points. However it took Alonso too many laps to actually make the pass on Massa, and by the time Alonso did make the pass, fourth was all that was achievable. Kudos to Massa for not giving in and what a great move from Alonso on Massa heading on to the pit straight. Thank you very much, good night.
Mark Webber and the RB conspiracy
Let’s open this way. Right from Will Buxton’s own lips, “I can’t help but wonder if RB are using Mark Webber as a sacrificial lamb.”
I’m always up for a little conspiracy, especially when it involves F1. Right after the race the online world was buzzing with what looked to be a Red Bull fast one in the handling of Mark Webber’s race and the switch-a-roo with Vettel that resulted in Vettel claiming his 35th race win. Gary Anderson of the BBC put up an article right after the Japan and here is what he had to say:
“Vettel won after Red Bull switched his team-mate Mark Webber, who was ahead of him for the first half of the race, to do an extra stop. And you have to question why they did that.”
Anderson goes on to say: It’s unfortunate – and unusual – that they picked to do the worst strategy with the lead car. That’s strange because normally the lead car gets the priority – if there’s a better choice, the lead car would get it.
It is important to state that Anderson is only posing questions and not accusing Red Bull of compromising Webber’s race solely to benefit Vettel, but the questions are valid and need to be answered and explained.
It does look fishy and that Red Bull would do this makes quite a bit of sense to me and I am sure many more in the F1 fan world and of course there is four years and about 80 odd races to provide precedent, but let just hold off on any conclusion for the moment. I will only add this, from my point of view it did not look to me as though Webber was losing time to Grosjean in the second stint and I was slightly surprised when Red Bull brought him in for his second set of Pirellis.
As is the case for me and many others that love to geek out on everything F1, I went directly to James Allen’s site and checked in to see not just what Mr. Allen had to say, but also to see what the prevailing opinion was in the comment section. As of right now there are 546 comments. Wow.
The fan’s comments are pretty predictable. Some think Red Bull are the devil incarnate, some that Vettel is just a better driver, some feel that it is Webber’s fault for not being able to pass Grosjean in the final stint, etc. As far as our expert, Allen breaks it down quite convincingly, which is why I am constantly on his site and repeatedly mention it.
One has to conclude that all the talk of conspiracy is just that, talk. For the record I don’t think there can ever really be a conspiracy in regards to Vettel, Red Bull and Webber for this simple fact: Conspiracies are usually not provable and very few people are aware of them. It is quite the opposite in this case, we all know Vettel comes first at Red Bull, and every decision that is taken is made with his (and the team’s of course) best interests in mind. Back to the Allen piece, here are some excerpts to clarify and I think a great way to finish my wrap-up:
“Most strategists in the F1 pit lane agree that Red Bull did exactly the right things strategically in Suzuka and all would have done the same thing in their shoes.”
Hard to argue this one.
“They gave their fastest driver the best chance to win the race and got their other driver into second place. As a team, you cannot do better than that.” Is this not standard operation procedure for any winning team?
“Yes it is tough on Webber, who had been ahead of Vettel in qualifying and on the road in the first stint and yes, it does undermine the team agreement that the lead driver on the road gets first call on strategy. They overruled that protocol because as a team they saw the best way to get the team victory.” Similar to Gary Anderson and now it is explained. Well what did we expect from Red Bull anyway?
“This is the hard reality of F1, which is sometimes hard to take for fans of particular drivers. They race for a team and their contract terms oblige them to accept that the team will make decisions in the interests of the team.” This has always been and will always be the case in F1. No conspiracy theories needed.
“And at the end of the day Formula 1 is about doing the best job as a team, rather than taking chances in order to favour one of your drivers, even if observers on the outside read it that you have favored your lead driver, who was behind on the road.” Definitely a hard pill to swallow.
“That is the pragmatism of Formula 1.” So true, so true.
-jp- (I’m out and I bet Ayn Rand would have loved F1)