With sadness I only just realized as the Abu Dhabi GP came to an end that the 2011 season has just one race left on the calendar. It felt like the first 8 races or so were still early season, before you knew it we were in midseason and only now do I realize that this is really the end already. I am already dreading this long hot dry season months – yea no winter for me here, suckers – before we even get to see some early testing.
This melancholy isn’t helped of course by not having much excitement left in the championship, the only notable fights that remain to be decided is who will be 2nd in the WDC and the fight for 6th, 7th and 8th in the WCC. Even our spectacularly devised alternate WDC does not offer much more excitement, with the tightest battle being for best of the rest behind the Mercs in the midfield, but even there it is almost certain that Sutil will run away with it after a brilliant late season charge.
The Top Dogs
1. Vettel 141
2. Button 78
3. Alonso 70
4. Hamilton 66
5. Webber 65
The top dogs didn’t offer much excitement for the 2nd race in a row, though that was in part largely helped by the Abu Dhabi ‘all bling no soul’ Tilkedrome and DRS which made whatever passing there was totally artificial. It also didn’t help that we were denied a possible Vettel-Hamilton showdown when the German retired with a puncture on turn 2. That said, there was some nice wheel to wheel action courtesy of Webber who tangled with Massa and Button as yet again the Aussie managed to lose a spot at the start.
Button got nabbed by Alonso who turned up in p2 after nabbing Button as well; showing Webbo how an f1 start is done. Despite these brief moments of excitement, nothing really changed up front as Hamilton took a controlled race win ahead of a superb Alonso and an almost equally impressive Button, who dragged a wounded car up onto the podium despite severe pressure from Webbo in the first stint. Webbo saw his chances at a podium evaporate as he got schooled in wheel to wheel racing by Button, leaving him unable to pass despite having DRS available against a KERS-less Mclaren. Red Bull then had a rare pit stop slip up at the end of his first stint to seal his fate.
Massa, who in qualifying was again off hitting stuff and cutting corners, was racing Webber for his best finish of the season….a lowly 4th, until he dropped it in turn one with a quite inexplicable rookie spin, which saw him drop into the clutches of Rosberg who finished only 2 seconds behind. Looking at Massa’s weekly failures it becomes more and more ridiculous for Ferrari to keep him in that seat. He didn’t even have a Hamilton excuse this weekend, he just threw it off the track all on his own. You can be the biggest Massa fan alive, but it’s become impossible to deny he just does not have the pace.
When your teammate can score 10 podiums, and your best finish all year is 5th, you should be finished with that team, but Ferrari is Ferrari and logic is not always their thing. In Abu Dhabi Alonso was consistently lapping 1 sec/lap faster than Felipe for crying’ out load. Sure, Alonso is a genius behind the wheel, but that’s the kind of gap you may let a rookie get away with, but you definitely shouldn’t forgive a 30 y/o veteran in his 5th year with the team. Anyway, with Vettel’s record streak broken with this retirement, Massa is the only one left with a chance to get his name in the record books in Brazil….to be the first Ferrari driver having failed to finish on the podium during a full season.
Button now is almost a shoe in for 2nd in our WDC, as Alonso needs to win in Brazil to still stand a chance, while all Jenson would have to do in that case is finish 5th. With this win, Hamilton did jump Webbo in the standings, making this season all the more humiliating for the Aussie bastard if he were to finish 5th to his WDC teammate.
3. Sutil 184
4. Di Resta 164
5. Kobayashi 144
6. Petrov 142
7. Alguersuari 135
8. Buemi 118
9. Perez 104
10. Barrichello 75
11. Maldonado 38
In the midfield Rosberg again firmly put down Schumi in a tough first lap tussle to later streak away and grab another dominant midfield win. Sutil all but sealed the title of best of the rest as he finishes third and extends his lead over teammate Di Resta to 20 points. In light of our standings, Sutil most definitely deserves a seat somewhere next year.
Another piss poor weekend for the Renault team saw a DRS-less Petrov finish outside of the points as Kobayashi jumps him in the standings by 2 points with 1 race to go, the Japanese driver finally breaking into a solid points finish again. Meanwhile Buemi is losing out to Alguersuari as he is again forced to retire through no fault of his own, while Jaime had a difficult race and grabbed a penalty when he ignored blue flags but still managed to grab 4 points.
The difference between the STR teammates is now 17 points so it will be incredibly hard for Buemi to still overhaul Jaime. That said, while Jaime has been driving very well lately, he probably would have finished behind in the WDC had Buemi not suffered all this bad luck. Even Perez could theoretically still overhaul Buemi should something happen to the Swiss as the Mexican has now closed up to within 14 points.
Barrichello drove a solid race from the back of the grid to pick up 6 more points while Maldonado was dumb enough to get penalized twice for ignoring blue flags and finished outside of the points again. Barrichello forgot he was in a Williams as he passed the leader Hamilton with DRS..seriously Rubens has an issue with getting lapped, he’s been doing strange things all year. While Maldonado has performed better than expected this year –by which I mean that he still sucked, only less than I had expected – I’d have loved to see the Hulk retain that seat and give us a better benchmark to evaluate Rubens.
It’s sad that with all the petro dollars Pastor doesn’t even have to worry about his seat for next year either while Barrichello is now reduced to practically begging the team to keep him on. It is really all getting a bit sad how Rubinho is clinching at straws and I think he should just have a nice big cake in Interlagos and say goodbye to F1 in front of his home crowd. Senna meanwhile wrapped up another bad weekend putting his short f1 career at risk but at least he picked up 2 points in our standings.
5. Liuzzi 29
Back in the back of the pack Kovalainen again didn’t get the memo that he is supposed to be in a backmarker car as he gave the midfielders another run for their money, pushing the Williams and Renaults as well as finishing a full minute ahead of his washed out teammate. It makes even less sense than Ferrari with Massa for Trulli to retain his seat.
With Kovalainen they already have their experienced lead driver who looks intent on becoming a franchise player and take them to the top. Unlike Alonso, he also doesn’t mind having a quick driver as a teammate so why not give a promising young gun –ahem Alexander Rossi or whichever big talent doesn’t get picked up for a race seat- next year- a shot alongside Heikki instead of a whiny old man who’s been thrashed all year long, whether he had power steering or not.
D’Ambrosio for his part seems a bit down since it’s becoming clear he won’t keep his seat since for the 2nd GP in a row he got out qualified by an HRT and was running dead last for a while. It’s starting to look he isn’t even trying to keep the seat anymore. In the end his poor start didn’t matter since the Belgian was forced to retire with brake failure fairly early on in the race. This saw another nice drive by Timo Glock – you have to respect how every race he keeps going for it and gets the max out of that pos car- get rewarded with hopping ahead of his teammate again.
All will be decided in Brazil as just 2 points separate the Virgin pairing now. Liuzzi got lucky his charging teammate had some bad luck these past races so he will still finish ahead in the WDC as the gap is now a near insurmountable 8 points. It’s still telling Ricciardo is already regularly outracing and outqualifying him so Liuzzi’s F1 career is really hanging by a thread and next to HRT I see no other option left for him…
Driver of the race
This was a pretty tough one to call as I’m again tempted to give it to Kovi for another stellar yet anonymous drive. Alonso and Hamilton are prime candidates as well and even Button is too for dragging a car with some serious gremlins on the podium. In the end I’ll settle for Alonso’s superb drive, for a brave first lap with nice overtaking without DRS and for hounding Hamilton all the way in an inferior car. Mr. Eyebrows, Backmarkersf1 salutes you.
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