- Karun Chandhok's ESPNF1 column
Seb's turn for a slice of luckKarun Chandhok September 26, 2012
There's no doubt that Sebastian Vettel's second win of the season was largely thanks to the gearbox failure on the McLaren that was three seconds up the road from him on lap 23, but after losing a pretty well assured victory in Valencia a few months ago, you couldn't really begrudge him of this bit of good fortune.
All weekend the reigning world champion and Lewis looked like they were in a class of their own. Neither their team-mates nor anyone else seemed to be in with a shout in practice and apart from Seb's runs in Q3, qualifying looked like a two-horse race as well. It was a real shame for Lewis and for the overall picture of the world championship battle that he ended up walking back to the pits rather than on the top step of the podium as the result has left him 27 points further behind Fernando than he would've been.
The Ferrari man never looked like being a threat all weekend in terms of the overall win and it was once again a typically relentless and patient race which rewarded him with yet another podium. Fernando benefitted from non-finishes for Lewis and Pastor to sneak onto the podium in yet another weekend of damage limitation. With every race that goes where his championship leads stays about the same, you get a sense of relief from the Maranello camp but this is certainly a stressful way to try and win a world championship.
A couple of interesting stats will give you some perspective of what I mean. At this stage in 2010, Vettel had also just won two races and in fact clawed back a 25-point deficit in the final two rounds to steal the championship from under Fernando's nose. The 2010 Ferrari was not as competitive as the Red Bull, as is the case at the moment, and the team and Fernando once again relied on his supreme consistency with the odd wins thrown in to get themselves in a position of strength. They will be fully aware of these numbers I'm sure and very mindful of the fact that they need to somehow get a win or two on merit with absolutely no DNF's before the end of the season to try and secure the tittle that they have led for so long.
For McLaren and Red Bull, they need to get their reliability under control. Both teams are chasing hard and if anything taking points off each other, which in turn helps Fernando, but they need to almost ignore that and just focus on their individual gaps to the leader. It's slowly turning into a three- (maybe four-) man race for the crown with Jenson and Mark slipping out of contention with every race that gets ticked off. Having said that, Lewis, Sebastian and Kimi all have to win at least a couple races between now and the end of the year, with strong podiums in the others to take the crown.
Lotus had a tough weekend in Singapore. Both drivers looked a bit lost and sounded pretty disappointed on Friday. The team did will to recover through Saturday and Sunday and a double points score ensures some damage limitation, but there will be some head scratching there to try and regroup. The high-speed flowing nature of Suzuka should suit the Enstone cars which were very competitive at the aero-dependant circuits like Barcelona, Hungary and Silverstone. The team really need to break that race-win duck this year, if nothing else but to get that monkey off their back before the winter break.
Force India and Paul di Resta had a great weekend. The Scot did a very tidy lap in qualifying and then used his two stop strategy well to ultimately get close enough to keep Fernando alert in the final part of the race. It will be interesting to see in the races ahead if the team is over their tyre degradation issues or if the safety cars helped the tyre recovery at different times of the race.
You really had to feel for Williams after yet another weekend where the car looked very quick but they took home no points to show for it. Pastor Maldonado's qualifying lap was very impressive and after a somewhat cautious opening lap, he looked on course for a top five finish. It would be very interesting to actually look back at all the "what might have been weekends" of Williams' season and see how many points were lost.
Off to Japan next and a real driver's favourite at Suzuka. Along with Monaco and Silverstone, it is certainly one of my favourite circuits in the world and the Japanese fans are simply extraordinary. The championship race is tightening up now and the pressure to deliver race finishes, points, podiums and victories is increasing with every week.
Karun Chandhok gives his views exclusively to ESPNF1 at the end of every grand prix weekend