Sunday, October 24, 2010

F1 Korea 2010

It have may taken a while for the action to get started, but for its debut race, Korea delivered a stonker. Qualifying was nothing special as Redbull took their usual positions of the front row of the grid with Vettel on pole. Race day was very, very different, however.

Rain on race day turned the barely two week old track surface into a pond. The race started behind the safety car, but was red flagged after only four laps. After a long delay, the race restarted under the safety car again and it wasn't until lap 17 that the real racing got under way. It was excruciatingly boring, but safety comes first. The hard part for the officials was deciding that the conditions were good enough for racing, especially as the track conditions did not improve very much while the safety car was out.

In old school F1, the race would have started in the rain and the drivers were expected to just deal with it as best they could. These days the drivers have more of a say, but their feedback is often contradictory. Hamilton thought the conditions were extreme but tolerable while other drivers felt it was just too dangerous. In hindsight, the safety car should have been brought in a few laps earlier, according to Button. As it was, the race ended after sunset which was not ideal either.

Redbull had their worst race of the season. A seemly small error got away from Webber, put him into the wall, and for good measure took out Rosberg who was minding his own business. While Webber's DNF was self inflicted, Vettel's problem was another mechanical failure. It's been a long time since I've seen a F1 engine actually blow its guts out the bottom of the car so spectacularly.

Redbull's troubles basically gifted Alonso with the win, but that's motor racing. The reverse could easily happen in the remaining two races. Hamilton had a very good race with a second place finish but Button has an appalling day as he struggled with grip to finish a twelfth. Schumacher showed some of his old talent for driving in the rain to finish in fifth place, his best showing this season. I wonder if he will be able to keep it up in the remaining races, or was this just due to conditions.

Alonso now leads the drivers' championship but what is unbelievable, is that there are still five contenders with a mathematical chance to win the title. Button has the least realistic chance as it depends on other contenders getting DNFs, but as Redbull's result just demonstrated, that's not completely impossible.

Many drivers took advantage of the several passing opportunities the track offers, but the poor conditions meant that it required great skill and bravery to make a pass work. A dry race at this track is going to be awesome. However, since the construction was delayed by 51 days of continuous rain, I have a feeling that most of the races at this circuit will be wet races.

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