Tuesday, November 16, 2010

F1-Geeks Armchair Team Principle - Interlagos *Spoiler Alert*

Exactly 17 years to the day that Ayrton Senna won his last race, the spectacle once again unfolds in his home country Brazil.  Although already mentioned in our track analysis, it really is worth restating that while this is one of the oldest tracks in F1* it really has some sublime subtlety that makes it a joy to drive.

Tim's thoughts
I want to start off with a quick recognition of Nico Hulkenberg's astounding qualifying show.  I'm not going to go into a lot of detail here because I know Fred has some cool things to say about it.  But suffice it to say that everyone was impressed with the young lad's performance.  And on a wet track!!

I was really hoping that we'd see Nico defend his pole position through a few laps of the race, but alas, it was not to be.  Vettel deftly took him in the first corner and it was only a matter of time before Webber did the same.  I was surprised to see Alonso have as much trouble as he did getting around him, but eventually he displayed the kind of driving prowess we've come to expect and overtook him in the 4th lap (I might be off by one).  By then, the Red Bulls had gapped Alonso by nearly 10 seconds.  Christ, those guys are fast!

It didn't take long for Button to start complaining about his tires, and 12 laps in, he was looking to pit and get rid of the super softs.  To his credit, once he came back out on the primes, he drove the hell out of them for about 40 laps.

Once Alonso slotted in behind the Red Bulls, there wasn't much interesting up front.  All the good stuff was happening in the back of the field.  Last year when Kobayashi was driving for Toyota, he was a man possessed.  Kind of like he was this year in Japan.  He overtook 2 drivers in spectacular fashion down in turn one.  I remember thinking that he was absolutely going to go off, but stuck it like the tires were coated with glue.  This year, we saw 3 drivers pull the very same move on him, at the same corner!  It actually made me kind of sad.

In a move that still seems odd to me, it appeared as if Schumacher let his team mate go by.  I don't know if he had some sort of problem,  perhaps team orders were involved, or Rosberg obtained some compromising photos of Michael.  It was just so... strange.

I think the biggest topic to come from this race is Red Bull's decision to let the boys race and to let the chips fall where they may.  I'm sure I don't need to go into the gory details of how the points would have stacked up if Webber had taken first rather than Vettel.  But in standing by their lack of action they've done two things.  First, they've made it more difficult for either of their drivers to take the championship.  Obviously a win will be necessary, but then Alonso will have to finish back in the pack just so.  But second, they've avoided the media and FIA scrutiny of having dispensed team orders.

Alonso must have been absolutely incredulous hearing that Vettel was ahead, and nothing was happening to push Webber up.  As each lap counted down the championship just comes closer to within his grasp.  I'm not saying a Red Bull victory can't happen, but if I were one of the Red Bull drivers, I'd be trying to find out exactly what time of night I had to slaughter the chicken, and whether one voodoo doll of Alonso would do or if I'd need one for each eyebrow as well.

With the increasing certainty that everyone in the teams would eventually be robbed at gunpoint, or attacked, I'm sure they are all happy to be heading off to Abu Dhabi to close the season.

Fred's thoughts
Tim was right about qualifying.  It was one of the most enjoyable sessions this year.  I defy anyone with a soul to be disappointed with the results. 

The overwhelming positive response exposes the very core of the F1 community.  For all the competition, rivalry, espionage, exploits, tricks, secrecy and team orders, these people love the essence.  The point at which the driver, the machine, the track and the time all intersect.  When someone reaches an apex of performance so far beyond the rest of the field, no one can deny the beauty of that moment.  When it's someone who rises up unexpectedly from the middle of the group, you not only wish them well, but admire their achievement against the obstacles the front runners don't have.  You are reminded that regardless of their season results, any of these men can achieve greatness.  

Even when the performance disadvantages you personally, your love of the essence appreciates that moment.  More so than any outsider can because you know exactly what it takes to do.   Watch the interviews after qualifying.  Watch the moments during the weighing.   Everyone felt some joy at what Nico had done.  Vettel could not contain his immense pleasure at the result and neither could Mr. Crankypants.   It's too bad it took an entire season of set-up for this payoff to work, it would convert many skeptics.

As Tim covered earlier, there wasn't much going on up front.   I found it interesting that Hamilton was completely unhappy with his car.  Perhaps the pressure got to him.   Red Bull Racing winning the constructor's championship after only 6 years of effort is incredible.  Remembering that this was Jordan, then Jaguar, before it was Red Bull.  Even after it was Red Bull, they were not taken very seriously.   Good on them.  Is this all Newey's genius?  Horner's ability to form a team?  Probably both.  The underdog did it and I couldn't be happier for them.  

Now on to Abu Dhabi to decide the champion.

*70 years since it's birth, it's been modified a few times and in its current configuration it's about 20 years old.

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