Monday, April 20, 2009

Luck and Skill bring Red Bull China GP Victory

Well, I assume that Sebastian Vettel, the driver who has stepped into David Coulthard's shoes at Red Bull, saw a penny and picked it up on Saturday before he landed pole position from just one flying lap at the end of the third qualifying session. He'd stayed in the running with a similarly late flying lap in Q2. Apparently there was some problem with the car, which meant that Red Bull did not want to push their luck.

It's not easy to go out there and deliver under pressure like that, and it takes huge skill to drive in the rain at pushing 200 mph. I don't like driving in the wet myself and I have a roof, windscreen wipers and rarely go above 70 in the dry. I don't want to take away from Red Bull's brilliant first GP win and first 1-2 for Vettel and Webber, but luck did play its part.

Vettel, Webber and team boss Christian Horner presumably also had black cats walk in front of them on Sunday before the race. They knew that the Brawns breathing down their necks on the grid would be faster and were carrying significantly more fuel. Alonso's presence at 2 on the grid was more down to him running on the whiff of an oily rag and wasn't as much as a threat as it looked. However, they also knew that the Brawn car's wet weather testing had been limited to a couple of laps in Malaysia but rain would be ideal for both the Red Bull car and particularly Vettel.

We will never know whether they actually did a rain dance in the Red Bull trailer, but the heavens did open, leading to a start behind the safety car. Luck smiled on Red Bull again when a second safety car stint coincided with the the time that the Brawns might have been able to get away as they were lighter on fuel. Having said that, luck smiled even more beatifcally on Robert Kubica and Jarno Trulli who had a rather spectacular coming together which left both of them pretty much unharmed.

What gets me about these guys is that they could have decided not to drive aggressively and competitively due to the conditions which had visibility down to virtually zero and several parts of the track turned into Aquaplane Central. However, despite everything they entertained us with some thrilling passing manoevres. Hamilton passed Raikonnen at one point only to have to do it all again when he span off at one of the slippery corners. Similarly, Webber passed Button with great style - and Sebastian Buemi, the Torro Rosso rookie seemed to be out to impress with a skilful and mature display of driving.

My heart was in my mouth when Adrian Suthil hit a polystyrene bollard thing at 150mph, littering bits of his car over quite a large area of gravel trap. There were a few breath holding, anxious seconds until we saw him not only move, but get out of the car and run off. It just shows how good these cars are these days.

One of the highlights of yesterday was Martin Brundle in "when I were a lad" mode. He was grumbling about the safety car start, making out that in his day it would never have happened and they'd just have to get on with it. Later on, he had a go about the wide run off areas at the new circuits which weren't there when he was driving. All very funny.

The BBC coverage is still absolutely brilliant. Unfortunately the DC/Eddie Jordan bitching had a week's hiatus, but Mike Gascoigne, ex engineer for McLaren and Force India stepped in. He seemed uncomfortable on Saturday, but much more assured and willing to take part in the banter on Sunday. It was interesting to have his take on strategy, although his advice that teams should pull their drivers in early during the first safety car stint didn't work so well for Alonso who ended up at the back of the pack not able to see anything.

My moment of the weekend, though, belongs to Jake Humphrey. His advice to DC and Gascoigne that they should get out of the way as the pit lane opened for the grid formation on Sunday "because the cars could come out without warning." DC's wry retort was that they would probably hear noise of the engine. You couldn't script something that good.

Now I'm looking forward to Bahrain next weekend. Who would have thought that the season would be so dominated in the first 3 races by two much smaller teams while Ferrari, McLaren and Renault limped along huffily on the sidelines?

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Stephen Glenn said...

His advice to DC and CoulthardShould we be sending the pink shirted one to see a shrink then for multiple personality disorder. ;)

(Sorry for the Twitter feeds to Facebook Saturday I did try and turn off the application 4 times to no avail then Facebook froze up on me)

Caron said...

Well spotted - thanks. Now corrected. The other funny bit was Vettel teasing DC for being a ladies' man.

I take it your Tweetdeck is now sorted?


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