|Tense yet unexciting season finale|
Wednesday, 17 November 2010 12:16
So much was made of the expected battle between at least three of the four drivers in contention for the 2010 Formula One World Drivers’ Championship that the final race of the season – the decider - was a letdown for many fans.
Going into the event, run at dusk under lights at the magnificent Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, Fernando Alonso was the favourite to take the title as he started ahead of his closest rival, Mark Webber. Sebastian Vettel was the outsider, having to win the race with both Mark and Fernando down the order in order to become world champion.
Amazingly, the German achieved this goal, winning from pole position without any serious challenges, to become the sport’s youngest champion.
Vettel’s peerless drive notwithstanding, race fans wanted to see a battle between the title contenders – a final showdown in the UAE desert. They were denied, thanks in part to a first-lap crash between Michael Schumacher and Vitantonio Liuzzi which played a key role in the race’s outcome, along with flawed strategic thinking by the Red Bull and Ferrari teams.
At the start Vettel led from Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button who managed to slip ahead of Alonso at the first turn, relegating him to fourth place. However, the race was soon under the control of the safety car as the debris from the Schumacher/Liuzzi crash was cleared.
Significantly, Nico Rosberg, Vitali Petrov and others took this opportunity to dive into the pits to make their one mandatory pit stop for tyres. The main protagonists stayed out.
When racing resumed, fifth-placed Webber soon pitted for new rubber, complaining of loss of grip. Many competitors on the soft compound tyres were experiencing similar problems in the early running, but kept faith with their tyres which gradually recovered grip as the race progressed.
Surprisingly, Alonso pitted early too, not because of grip problems, but in an attempt to cover Webber, as the Australian was considered by the Ferrari team to be their main rival for the title.
However, these decisions proved to be disastrous as both drivers rejoined the race in the thick of the traffic, critically behind Rosberg and Petrov who they would now have to pass in order to gain any change of winning the championship.
For lap after lap race fans watched in growing frustration at Alonso’s vain attempts to get ahead of Petrov’s Renault. The normally erratic Russian didn’t put a foot wrong on this occasion and kept Alonso and the closely following Webber in his wake – in seventh and eighth positions and out of the championship reckoning.
Vettel, meanwhile, made his tyre stop from the lead on lap 24 shadowing Hamilton in second place. Race fans were again denied a fight for the lead (if not the championship) as Lewis rejoined behind the Renault of Robert Kubica which, having started on the hard tyres, was running a very long first stint. The McLaren had to wait – frustratingly - until the Pole pitted before resuming the chase.
Did the championship trophy go to an appropriate recipient? Most certainly. Vettel has proven to be one of the fastest - if not the fastest - drivers and has led the most laps in the 19-race season. With five wins and numerous pole positions and fastest laps to his credit, he is a most worthy winner.
After the race, both Ferrari and Webber’s side of the Red Bull garage lamented their strategic decisions, which seemed so correct at the time they were made yet proved to be disastrous because they failed to appreciate the enormity of the task of passing rivals on the Yas Marina circuit.
Graham Duxbury is a former racing driver, champion and TV commentator. He is featured in the ‘hall of fame’ at the Daytona Motor Speedway in the USA. Here, in 1984, he made history by winning the famous 24-hour sports car race in an all-South African team. Today, he heads Duxbury Networking, a leading IT company.
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