Nov 15, 2010

The class of a true champion

"yeah baby, this is what I was talking about" are usually the words mouthed by Sebastian Vettel after winning a race but this time, he was fighting tears. It was almost like a last gasp effort as the whole of F1 fraternity witnessed the arrival of a true champion in Seb after he fought all odds to clinch the 2010 F1 world drivers' championship by a mere 4 points from the languishing Ferrari of Fernando. I truly had belief in him even during the thick of times, that he would do it. After Korea, the morale broke when he failed to finish the race after suffering an engine blow up while leading the GP. He was then a clear 25 off Fernando and 14 off his teammate, Mark.

By winning the Brazilian GP, Seb gave himself an outside chance to atleast fight it out till the end but was still trailing by a good 15 points off Fernando who only needed to finish in the top 2 in the season finale in Abu Dhabi to seal the title. But that was not to be. Seb fended off the off-the-line punch from Lewis by maintaining track position going into turn 1. Schumacher was squeezed by his teammate and the catastrophe caused the deployment of safety car during which time, Rosberg, Petrov and Jaimie stopped for a tyre change. The decision proved to be pivotal as when Fernando pitted during lap 15, he came out behind the trio who were going to the end.

There were a lot of press against the strategy deployed by Ferrari to hold off Mark but I thought the fate was there to be sealed anyhow. I never overestimated Ferrari’s capabilities on the soft tyres. Fernando could have maximum gone for another 6 laps with the options which would have taken the lead he had of Rosberg from 15 to 18 secs (Mercedes was only lapping 0.4 slower than Ferrari on primes). 22 secs lead was needed to come, change and go out in front. Button stayed long to only leapfrog Kubica despite the fact that he was losing time against both Vettel n Hamilton but even that didn’t pay off. Button went to lap 36, Vettel 24, Hamilton 22, Alonso 15 before they all stopped. Alonso might have gone ahead of Petrov had he waited but then there was Kubica who was stopping at lap 46 only. Hence, Alonso would have been held up by one Renault or the other in either ways and more importantly he would have been behind Rosberg no matter what he did because Rosberg didn’t have to stop again and that meant all he could have managed was fifth (not enough). He lost the race in the first corner when Button got past him and by virtue of an average duct.

McLaren showcased what they are capable of in circuits where they could utilize the
superiority of their F-ducts. They and Renault were the only teams to have pulled off a move against Kobayashi IIRC. So after 55 laps of tipsy-topsy, it finished with Vettel from Hamilton, Button and Rosberg meaning the winner took it all. Fernando could only manage a seventh, four below where he had started. It was amazing to see contrasting emotions from the title contenders cos at one end, Vettel was embracing his mates in the team but there on the other end, Fernando was giving a 'sporting gesture' to Petrov for holding him for more than half the race. Seriously, the guy is a sore looser as Petrov was firstly, fighting for positions and secondly, fighting for his career. I think he has a great chance of securing a drive for 2011 with the Anglo-French squad and Seb will be more than willing to sponsor the same ;)

Redbull were the team to beat all season though they had a share of mishaps in the form of Vettel's reliability woes, Webber's DNFs etc but championships are always won over a season. Hence, I don't give too much into the gritty drives of both the Renault drivers which held Fernando at the back because in the end, Vettel was a touch unfortunate not to have sealed the title earlier. He lead the most laps in 2010 but won only five times giving a clear indication of how the machinery had failed him at times. Still, they are both the drivers'(prestige) and constructors'(revenue) champions. Yes, another car from the Adrian Newey stable has won both the championships. Bravo!

Finally, the talking point! Redbull allowed their drivers to have a go while Ferrari maintained a status quo and in the end, Redbull showed the world that championships can be won by giving equal priorities to drivers. Mark can never complain because he was atleast not treated like the way Ferrari treated Massa. Fernando as always doesn't want to fight his teammate partly because he's demanding and partly because of the aftermaths of 2007. Hence, he needs his team to get victories for him on a plate, a practice which might have fetched him silverware earlier in his career but things have changed, and for good. Fact that a genuinely popular driver has won the championship is like an icing on the cake apart from the way he did it. Ferrari has a long way to go in terms of ethics while Fernando's hand of gestures are better reserved for the streets.

And on that note, let's welcome the youngest world champion SEBASTIAN VETTEL!

Aug 12, 2010

Where's the championship heading?

The deadening summer break is here with a two week mandatory shutdown back at the factories and no sound of the V8 for a further week. Ouch, it's so ho-hum it hurts! The intriguing races prior to the break left us fans with hope of a nail biting finish to the championship finale at Abu Dhabi with as much as five drivers and three constructors in with a shout.

Redbull is the team to beat with an unmatched qualifying pace coupled with a competitive race pace and controlled by two very good pilots behind the wheels. Vettel might be gutted post Hungary to loose out on what seemed like an easy way out to the flag but only to be undone by some inconsistent stewarding, yet again. How can they measure 10 car length? I seriously wonder! Webber meanwhile is picking up pieces very well. The odds of him winning the title are minimal but the kind of show he puts up for the fans is worth taking a look. Leading the championship is no mean feet with just seven races to go.

If there's a group of restless souls breaking their heads, it's back at Woking in the UK as the badge board says "McLaren Mercedes". They were left strangling with the so called midfield team Renault at a high downforce Hungaroring. They clearly couldn't match the Ferraris and the Redbulls on an ultimate lap and their race pace too looked sluggish. Hamilton's leading from Button by a perfect ten but Button's no easy route. So far so good at woking as McLaren is treating their drivers equally but as we all know, equality brings tension and with two British drivers at the wheels of a British car, one would be brave to place harmony alongside them. Coming up are two low downforce tracks which could help McLaren bridge the gap, like they did in Montreal.

If Ferrari is not the team to beat, surely is the team at the spotlight but how I wish for the right reasons. A controversial German GP saw the media taking a dig which looked like a verbal onslaught. Some of the questions thrown were so embarrassing that one would have to stand up and applaud the PR managers of both Fernando and Felipe. The team has cuddled behind Fernando and Massa is his rear gunner for the rest of the season which by the looks of it is advantage Spaniard over the other four contenders whom I have mentioned. A no:1 driver means he gets the upgrades first, has a better say on the testing performances, better strategy for both quali and race etc. But being Alonso the demanding personality, I doubt he would please any neutral by winning the crown for the third time anyhow.

So all five drivers are in with a chance but gone are those days when you could afford to play conservative by cruising to the championship. Just like 2007 and 2008, this one too will go down to the wire. Don't worry about the FIA test if you are a Redbull fan because I'm sure their pace comes from somewhere else, somewhere at the back. :P McLaren needs to buck up and they sure will as Spa is a power circuit. Vettel edges Webber on raw talent but is trailing the Aussie by ten points. It will be interesting to see how the strategies poise at the two England outfits though with teammates fighting and taking points off each other.

All to play for, oh yeah, bring the xmas early!

May 18, 2010

Things to ponder over post Monaco

1. Alonso has mentally destroyed Massa

Though the latter had the grid advantage to the former, he really couldn’t utilize it to the full potential. Staying 4th with the second best car on the grid is hardly an achievement whereas Fernando fought his way back to the middle of the grid. It started all at the first corner in Bahrain and from then on, Massa has only been a shadow of himself. Even though Alonso made uncanny mistakes, those were mistakes not like an overall dip in performance.

2. McLaren doesn’t have the package

If Spain was not a yardstick, then Monaco sure was. The team who always claim to be the best in slow circuits were altogether slow. Button lost 4 places in two corners whereas Lewis salvaged home some points. Lewis is suffering from a bit of Massa syndrome and bit of stupidity, as always.

3. It’s the matter of when rather than how for RBR

Adrian Newey, take a bow! What a car, I mean what a car!

6 GPs, 6 poles, 3 victories inspite of reliability woes. Now that’s the way to stamp your authority. I won’t be surprised if they wrap it up before a handful of races both the drivers and constructors championship. While Webber was untouchable as in Spain, Vettel watched his mirrors pretty well. Knowing Seb, I guess he’ll be a bit down on his head but one victory can quickly swing the pendulum in his favor.

4. Damon Hill took revenge in a lame manner

Perhaps Schumi needs to realize that his livery is no longer red but in a season were suicidal mistakes were mellowed down to mere warnings, the penalty was harsh and unjustifiable. According to the new rules, you can overtake a car between the SC line and the start line after the SC has gone into the pits which is exactly what Schumi did. Also, green flags were waved asking drivers to go racing. Damon Hill looked stupid to take the Adelaide 94 revenge cos that was really stupid.

5. Ferrari is missing the Iceman

With a fast car, maybe not the fastest, at their disposal both Alonso and Massa could have done better on the whole. 1 win out of 6 is hardly Ferrari. Alonso is making some uncanny mistakes and one too many for the team’s liking while Massa is merely a passenger. On top of it, if a repeat of Shanghai happens, all hell will break loose between the teammates and the team harmony would be found wanting, something only Kimi could bring to a team.


Mar 28, 2010

Oz GP 2010 review: so much for crying out loud

What was it? How was it? Bahrain a borefest, the latest edition of F1 doesn't allow cars to follow each other and drivers are brutally cautious, yeah right! Time to eat a big pie of the cribbing which was served for two continuous weeks and a bit of mine too :P. It was one heck of a race, maybe the best since Hungary 2006 thanks to similar circumstances as that of the latter. Slippery track, changeable conditions, inspired pit calls, jaw dropping maneuvers, futile errors all comprised a mesmerizing spectacle. As someone in the BBC crew rightly said, the highlights this Australian GP offered are enough to last a whole effing season.

Vettel looked all set for an easy pole-to-flag win until his wheelnut cut loose half way into the race which ended his aspirations at a gravel trap near turn 3. Redbull had a dismal day after starting 1-2 on the grid. Aussie home hero Webber was erratic and was far from being a contender, first being passed by Massa at the start but taking his place back before loosing out at the tyre change and finally clobbering his front onto Hamilton's McLaren. He eventually finished 9th, taking home just 2 points instead of a possible 18.

Ferrari should be all smiles after a second consecutive podium for Massa with Fernando completing a brave drive to 4th after taking a wild spin into turn 2 due to a tussle with Button and Schumi at the start, sending him to 22nd and dead last. Bravo Fernando! Some of his moves, especially against the Sauber and the Williams of Rubens were sublime. Yeah, bring more of the u-cant-follow-cars crap. Also, both the Ferrari drivers chose not to make a second pitstop which was indeed an inspired move as their set of option tyres lasted for a mammoth 50 odd laps. Tyre degradation, anyone?

Now the outfit from woking! Jenson Button seemed to have lost it in the beginning when he fell from 4th to 6th and was passed by his teammate at turn 3, but only to come back strong with an inspired pitcall by switching to options two laps earlier than anyone else. I saw him taking a wild route onto the grass just after making the pitstop but catastrophe turned superlative when he kept his McLaren on the track all day long and also earning a victory from the grasp of the then retired Vettel. Did someone say he made the mistake of his lifetime by choosing to partner Lewis? :D The real story of McLaren for the day came from Lewis Hamilton's fantastic drive and the subsequent outcry. He was called into the pits for another set of dry tyres when everyone else at the front chose not to change. Lewis lost his 3rd place and rejoined at 6, seconds behind the "tyre saving" Ferraris. He was told on the radio that he would inevitable catch the Ferraris but these days, catching a car in front is one thing, finding a way past is another. And he got his medicine.

Fernando Alonso showed off some defensive skills against a 1.5 sec a lap faster Lewis who eventually got hit from the back by Webber sending both to the gravel before both being passed by Rosberg. McLaren, I guess were right cos Lewis wouldn't manage his tyres for 50 odd laps like Button or the Ferrari drivers. Instead of not finishing the race, they gave him an opportunity to grab a podium which obviously he blew from the outset. What followed after the race was a preposterous dig at the team's failure to make the right call. That's Hamilton for you! I rest my case.

Mercedes though had a day to forget when Schumi's challenge ended with a broken front wing on lap 1 and Rosberg finishing at a conservative 5th. A lot was expected from this team but unless they come up with some drastic revamp strategies, the title aspirations are fast slipping away. Force India made hay while others were having fun as Liuzzi got a solid 7th with 6 points in the bag while Sutil's woes continued as he retired early. India's new sensation Karun Chandok managed to finish the race with a baby of a car and has brought smiles to the country. Way to go mate!

On the whole, we have seen yesterday how flamboyant F1 racing could actually get given the opportunities to "race". More of the Albert Parks and less of the snorefests would be handy. Tilke, are you listening? Sepang is on the cards next which usually offers amazing wheel-to-wheel action. Let's hope it betters Melbourne though I'm really happy from what I got down under.


Jan 7, 2010

Enough of the 'idiotic bak-baks'

As we break the walls of the decade and jump into a potentially fruitful one starting with 2010, it's really time to look back at what happened in tinsel town, one of my fav topics. The year that was, was nothing great TBH except for some Kamineys freaking out on the streets and some dropouts or 'idiots' to accompany them. :) Yes, the focus of this entry is the best film I have ever seen, and that is RajKumar Hirani's Aamir Khan starrer 3 idiots.

I really don't have to waste my time reviewing this tedious film because by now, everyone would have seen it and appreciated the way it was made along with the message it gave away to the masses and classes combined. Just when it shattered all the box-office records any film has ever set in the country and just when "all's well" became the new anthem, in came the controversy. What's this big fuzz about credits coming from the so called intellectuals behind the book and film? The credits for the wretched media bites should indeed go to Mr. Hirani, Mr Chopra and the iconic modern day wonder of an author, Mr. Chetan Bhagat.

I follow Mr. Bhagat in twitter and TBH, he grabs a lot of attention with his witty one-liners just like his celebrated writings. But lately, I'm a bit disappointed by some of his tweets which are aimed at some of the big names in the industry. He claims that he was undone by the crew of '3 idiots' who failed to stuff in "based on the Novel 5.someone by Chetan Bhagat" during the starting credits, not the ending credits. He also claims that 70% of the movie is based on his novel. Let's take a pitstop here. I have a golden Q to Bhagat. I am a big fan of 5.someone and on the same lines, I loved watching the film as well. Most book adaptations fail to strike a chord but still 3 idiots worked wonders. Why? 5.someone is great as a book but it can't be an appealing motion picture unless the director changes the plot a bit, adds some twists and turns and incorporates some brilliant creative liberties into the screenplay.

Yes, DVC was a CC of the book, so was Angels and Demons but 3 idiots, I beg to disagree. I remember 5.someone like yesterday and I have seen '3 idiots' twice already, so please don't tell me what I know and what I don't know. I know the facts as a reader/viewer. Whatever credits being given to Mr. Bhagat is all due, nothing more nothing less. And on top of it, Hirani broke all the silence when he came on air and said that whatever he has done were based on the contract which was signed by both parties. (The contract is available to download at VV Chopra site).

So why this tamasha? Maybe Chetan was expecting his name to popup on the screen during the starting credits. I don't want to say Chetan is doing a publicity gimmick because he doesn't need any publicity for god's sake. And even if he needs, by this time, the whole of India knows that 5.someone has got something to do with the biggest grosser ever in Bollywood.

Time to take a chill pill guys!

All's indeed well that ends well and let's just hope it does.