No predictions or betting tips for this one. There just isn’t a lot of data on the race, nor is there anything particularly special about the circuit (unlike Singapore’s street circuit nature), and let’s be honest, the winner market is as dead as Button’s DWC chances. However, the race weekend has thrown up some points of contention.
The first, and greatest, bone of contention in F1 at the moment relates to the tyres; the accusation being that they go off far too quickly meaning drivers can’t push meaning we aren’t getting a true reflection of driver/car performance (note the combination there). Well, duh! Pirelli don’t deserve anything like the amount of flak that they are getting – they have designed the tyres that Bernie wanted them to design, tyres that wouldn’t last more than a few laps to push for variable strategies and ‘exciting’ racing. Now Pirelli haven’t got it right, and sometimes their tyres are a bit too fragile or even a bit too resilient, but they are working to order. If the journalists, teams, drivers and followers of F1 (I won’t call them fans as most of them disgust me) don’t like it then they need to raise the issue with the right party (Bernie – not Pirelli, not the FIA) and say what they want; how long should each compound last and with what performance difference between the compounds. For that matter, Pirelli should release full details of the F1 contract – surely that indicates what type of tyre they are meant to be producing – and a line could be drawn under the blame game once and for all. But the teams, and their members, should remember that those people who do follow F1 and have an IQ in excess of double figures also know that everyone has the same tyres available and yet some work better than others.
All that said, wherever the responsibility lies something needs to be done for next season (although with all the other changes coming who knows what that might be). The option tyres have to last more than 5 laps at 100% pace surely? But how do you design a tyre that can do that, but then go off so that the driver can’t do 20 laps at 95% and therefore possibly a 2 stop rather than a 3 stop. The balancing act is far trickier than people give them credit for – I bet they could design a tyre that would last the entire race for any track within a week, controlling wear is another thing and F1 either has to embrace it or look somewhere else.
The Vettel Problem
I don’t mean a problem with Vettel, I mean the problem that people have with Vettel. First of all there is the booing when he is on the top step of the podium; such subhuman scum needs to be removed from the sport and, preferably, the gene pool. But there remains the problem as to what does the poor guy have to do to convince the (predominantly English) armchair experts that he is one of the greatest F1 drivers? He has outperformed his teammate consistently, and that even dates to the time when Webber was getting more support but just couldn’t turn it into results. He has won races easily and fought tooth and nail for every place. He has won a race with a team that is not one of the top four. Sure he has made mistakes, but who hasn’t? Other, that is, than Prost, where I am struggling to think of one, but we all know about Schumacher (M), Senna, Mansell, Villeneuve (G), Lauda, Hunt, Rindt etc. etc. Vettel cannot be blamed for the performance of the car, or of the team, and deserves more credit than he gets from the public. He could do without the backhanded and snidy comments from some other drivers as well.
The Korean GP
I like the Korean track. I think it is a shame that there is even consideration as to its future when circuits such as Bahrain are on the calendar (for both sporting and political reasons), and the USA (which has never really embraced F1) has the chance of two. The Yeongam circuit is an ambitious attempt to combine long straights, fast curves and a technical street-like element in one track. I still think that it works, and is not only great to watch but also a challenge rather than the somewhat soporific tracks found elsewhere. One thing that certainly needs some tightening up is the deployment of the fire response vehicle which seemed to catch everyone by surprise. Apparently the white flags to indicate another vehicle on track were being waved, but it certainly wasn’t ideal and the FIA will want to stop it from happening again. If only they could be so proactive about the safety car. The need for the SC is clear, and few would dispute it given the alternatives of stopping the race or trying to clear a dangerous situation under waved yellows. But the whole business of letting lapped cars unlap themselves is pointless. Just send the lapped cars to the back of the train in race order – hell count them as having unlapped themselves if you have to – and get on with the racing. Six laps to pick up some rubber in one place? Not acceptable when it can totally destroy a race.
The media coverage after the event was, understandably, dominated by Seb, Lewis and Fernando. Disappointing, I thought, considering that Hulkenberg put in one of the performances of the season to fairly, and clearly, keep two world champions behind him for lap after lap (even overtaking one when required). And I do wish that sports journalists had to demonstrate an IQ in excess of a plank of wood – Webber’s 10 place grid penalty (and possibly the origin of all his woes in Korea) was not for hitching a lift in Singapore, it was for three reprimands over the course of the season. That puts a significantly different slant on things.