It was always going to be a forgone conclusion that Sebastian Vettel would wrap up the Drivers’ Championship before the final race this season, which really shows how much of a winning dominant combination that both he and Infiniti Red Bull Racing has become over the last four years.
He may have been just concentrating on the race as it comes, but deep inside, you can not help but to think that the goal he set out to achieve was a deep burning desire to fulfill along the way. His mindset to achieving goals, such as pole positions and race victories are what any driver strives for, but his overall dominant display this weekend just put into context how skilled the 26-year-old is, putting himself onto another level.
The race itself provided a true test of Vettel’s resolve and grit, as even when his team mate Mark Webber stopped due to an alternator issue on Lap 42 after gearbox issues signalled the beginning of the end for one car, he was persistent to make sure that he kept going. His engineer “Rocky,” even said to him on the radio to not use the drinks bottle, which meant that conservation of Sebastian’s RB9 was the upmost of priorities to ensure he finished the race.
But it all came good in the end, even with Vettel celebrating his landmark achievement in style that got himself and the Milton Keynes squad into a slight myriad of hot water, but well deserved. Webber seems to suffer the misfortune that has plagued him, having retired more times this season than what he would have liked. But the Australian seemed to want to make an exit as soon as possible even with a smile of his face to an extent, but not on the race track. You can feel for him, as there are only three more races left to run in the season before he goes to the WEC.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was fighting a losing battle, which escalated rather quickly on the first lap, first having contact with Webber then Jenson Button a few turns later. It has been a case of “close, but no cigar” again for the two-time champion, who fell like a sack of potatoes to eventually recover back to eleventh with a damaged F138. Massa’s stock however has surely risen in the driver market with his epic start to blast past both Rosberg and Hamilton and finishing a credible fifth place, at one point leading after Vettel pitted early on.
The Scuderia itself were overtaken by rivals Mercedes AMG Petronas for second place in the Constructors’ Championship standings, as Rosberg got back on the podium for the first time since Singapore, whereas Hamilton placed at the lower end of the top ten, having diced with Sergio Perez numerous times throughout the race, especially as they had to get past a slowing Raikkonen over the long 1.4km straight, with Hamilton showing pin-point precision getting into the Mexican’s tow.
Lotus had a mixed day, especially with Kimi’s performance as he tried to do a one-stop strategy, which eventually forced the “Iceman” to pit on the very last lap. This was as well as battling with his teammate, before he was told to move over by Alan Permane, who along with the team was not happy with the “Iceman” and well, the subsequent radio communication was not that reserved.
Grosjean, however, was the driver of the day, having made his strategy count, even though he was himself surprised that he got to another third successive podium in a row. His consistency when it comes to race results have shown the fact that Team Prinicpal Eric Boullier placed his faith in the Frenchman, who has shown a more mature racing style. The achievement he had this time out was even more impressive, as his E21 had started to suffer with engine problems during the race.
Home soil heroes, Sahara Force India, had a welcome upturn in form, as both Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil secured points for the Silverstone-based outfit, after what has been a difficult season, but with the upgrades still coming, they can be hopeful of more improvements next time out. The Scot may have had a bit of “Delhi belly” over the weekend, but even a stomach upset did not impact on his form overall. Sutil was the man that really put the soft tyres to the limit, surpassing anyone’s potential expectations, including Pirelli’s advisory limit that was passed to all the teams.
Sauber had a woeful weekend, especially as both drivers were in the hunt for a repeat of the points haul they amassed in Suzuka, with Hulkenberg set to continue his impressive run of form that he had carried over the past two Asian races before the brake disc issue forced his retirement with a handful of laps left. Gutierrez could have really done without the jump-start penalty, but kept his wits about him, especially when it came to keeping Alonso at bay. This promising rookie still needs to make a couple of steps forward to assure himself of a place on the grid next year.
It was a tale of two stories for the McLaren duo, as Perez is showing the talent that people had been expecting to come earlier on in the year. The Mexican driver really pushed Hamilton hard whilst having to perform to show his credentials at a team that had decided to go for it with a injection of youth that would compliment the experience that Button brings to the table.
However, “The Frome Flyer” was looking at using a “radical” strategy, but his progress was happened with the Turn 4 incident with Alonso that forced him to pit early. It could have been a different story, as McLaren are clearly focusing on the 2014 challenger, but with the current car being somewhat of a test bed for new parts for the change in regulations, it could have been a better run for the 2009 World Champion.
Then the men at the back have to be taken into consideration, as Caterham had another weekend that would be one to put on the back burner on what has been a season they would rather want over and done with. Giedo van der Garde had his second successive DNF in a row, following his first-turn incident with Bianchi at Suzuka, before a tete-a-tete with Chilton just showed us that a split-second decision can go right or rather wrong.
The Dutch driver may have been quick to point the finger, but that is always the case when adrenaline flows and the story is only seen from one angle. Things went from bad to worse when Pic retired on lap 38 with a hydraulic problem, meaning that the Leafield-based outfit would again play second fiddle to Marussia.
Chilton was on the receiving end this time, but Bianchi was a driver that has been reveling in the fact that he got a shot at a dream of being in Formula One, and is clearly making it count towards a promising future. The Frenchman may have been sporting a more aerodynamic haircut than what was normally around, but it did not help to beat his British team mate, who came back to finish with a damaged car and also maintained his impressive finishing record this year. It looks promising for the Oxfordshire-based outfit, who look to finish ahead of Caterham for the first time in F1, but they may not be counting their chickens just yet.
Images credit: Red Bull/Getty Images (c) and Octane Photographic (c)