Monday, 18 October 2010

Formula 1 2010 Season Update

This is for those who have been too busy or stuck in your lab or with your job or in your classes and hence has been unable to keep in touch with the world of Formula 1. Don’t get me wrong, I was stuck in my lab as well, but while I was there pretty much all I have been doing is keeping in touch with F1. So here is a quick update on the points status as of now. After the Japanese Grand Prix, with just 3 races left to go in the season, Mark Webber leads the driver’s standings with 220 points from Fernando Alonso and Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel, both on 206. The McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are a little further back on 192 and 189 points respectively. Red Bull leads in the constructor’s standings with 426 points to McLaren’s 381 and Ferrari’s 334 points. Point allocation has been modified for 2010 with top 10 positions rewarded points. Race win grants 25 points, second 18, third 15 and so on.

Red Bull had the best car in the paddock in the second half of last season, yet failed to clinch either of the titles thanks to the early season domination by Button-Brawn combination, which won 7 of the first 8 races, thanks to their innovative double diffuser. Come 2010, they dominated the practice and qualifying sessions in the first 3-4 race weekends, yet frustratingly failed to convert it to points on Sunday. McLarens brought the innovative F-duct into F1, a device which allows drivers to alter the airflow over the rear wing so as to reduce drag and downforce helping them hit higher speeds on the straights and yet have grip in the corners. Ferrari won the season opener in Bahrain with Alonso leading the Ferrari 1-2. The Spaniard winning his first ever race with Ferrari much like his predecessor Kimi Raikkonen. Yet Ferrari was not good enough to challenge for victories throughout the first half of the season. So first half of the season, Red Bull dominated in tracks demanding high downforce and aerodynamic efficiency while McLaren took over in high speed low downforce circuits. Jenson Button played his cards well to pick up two victories in the rain.

Mid season, Ferrari introduced their own version of the F-duct making them much more competitive. From then on it’s been a fight between the three teams for the top places and race wins. The Season was nicely poised with all three of the leading cars exhibiting different characteristics. Red Bull – brilliant aerodynamic grip making them unassailable through fast flowing corners and in high downforce circuits, but their engine lacked some high end punch making them susceptible down long straights. McLaren - F-Ducts and a powerful engine gave them the advantage down the straights but lacked aero grip to match the Red Bulls. Ferrari – their F-ducts and engine power made them faster than the Red Bulls in their weak area and their aero grip advantage made them quicker than McLarens likewise. So it was all down to the tracks, with different mix of corners and straights favouring different cars every race weekend.

2010 has not been without its fair share of controversies. In the German Grand Prix, Ferrari resorted to team orders and made Massa, who was pretty much out of the running in the driver’s title race by then, move over and give Alonso the win, so that they could keep the championship hopes of Alonso alive. Team orders had been banned 4 or 5 years back so the team was immediately slapped with the highest possible monetary fine and referred to FIA for further action. No further action was taken. In the Turkish Grand Prix, the increasing tension in the Red Bull garage spilled onto the track when Vettel, who was running second at that time tried to pull an unnecessarily aggressive move on Webber, who was leading, resulting in both the cars going off the track. Webber recovered to finish the race in 3rd but Vettel’s race was over. Both drivers proceeded to blame the other for the accident after the race. With the prospect of going home empty handed even after having the best car in the paddock, for the second consecutive season looming large, Christian Horner called up a meeting in his house and assured both the drivers that both will be given equal treatment by the team but they had to act responsibly on the track. At Silverstone, Red Bull arrived with two new front wings. Vettel ended up damaging his during practice and Webber was asked to sacrifice his new wing as there were no spares available and Vettel was ahead in points at that time. Red Bull scored a 1-2 in qualifying with Vettel on pole. Webber got the jump on Vettel into the first corner and led from there to win the race while Vettel struggled home in 7th place, after going off the track. After the race, Webber gave vent to his feelings over the in-car radio when he said, “not bad for a no:2 driver”. After that it has been pretty much equal status at Red Bull.

Alonso rekindled his title hopes with back to back victories at Monza and Singapore followed by a podium at Japan, while Vettel was upto his early season habit of outpacing his teammate as he won convincingly in Japan. Hamilton has endured a wretched run of late. After winning in Spa, he did not finish in either Monza or Singapore followed by fifth place in Japan thanks to a gearbox which was not engaging third gear. McLaren just hasn’t had the pace to win in any of the three races as reflected by Button’s showing. With just 3 races left, everyone seems eager to write off the McLarens and think of it as a three pony race for the driver’s title. When I look forward, of the 3 remaining tracks, 2 are right up McLaren’s alley with Abu Dhabi and Korea both sporting 2 long straights where top end speed could prove critical. Kubica, in the F-ducted Renault, which performs surprisingly well (in his hands) in such venues could prove to be a fly in the ointment for the top 5 if he manages to steal valuable points. With the winner getting 7 points more than second placed man and 3 races left to go, Webber knows that if Red Bull does dominate with 1-2s at all the races, he has to beat his teammate if he is to win the title. Add to it the fact that Alonso has no fresh engines left, having used up his allocation of 8 units for the season. Using a new unit will set him back by 10 positions from his qualifying position or a blown engine in the race could prove fatal to his title chances, and he will be desperate for some support from Massa who seems to be stuck in switch off mode. So I reckon it’s far from over. Eagerly looking forward to the last 3 races as the season heads to a nail biting finish. Will Red Bull finally be able to get a deserved title with either the experience of Webber or raw pace of Vettel? Will McLaren pull off a phoenix act and rise from the dead in fiery splendour to capture the title through either reigning Champion Button or the champion he deposed, Hamilton? Or will Alonso do a Kimi, winning the title on his first year with The Prancing Horse?