Indian Grand Prix: “IV”ettel

Sebastian Vettel secured his fourth consecutive Driver’s World Championship title at today’s Indian Grand Prix. The Red Bull driver far from cruised to the victory putting in a very competitive race. Rounding out the podium was Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and all the way from P17, Lotus’ Romain Grosjean.

Hamilton had a superb getaway off the grid, immediately moving in front of his team mate and putting pressure on Vettel. The German was having none of Hamilton’s advances and keep the Mercedes at bay. Massa was the only Ferrari to get a clean start of the grid. Making the most of the squabble through turn 1, the Brazilian snuck through on the inside passed the likes of Webber, Hamilton, and soon after Rosberg for P2. Webber had a rocky start, giving a shunt to Raikkonen and then straight into Alonso in the exit of turn 1. Further back on the grid, Van der Garde who was squeezed out of the exit of the first lap by Max Chilton, and subsequently forced to retire at the end of the lap. Gutierrez had a jump start, which he later served a driver through penalty for on lap 17

While Massa was chasing the Red Bull’s tail in P2, Alonso was having a disaster of an opening lap. The Ferrari suffered front wing damage following Webber’s shunt, but wasn’t making things any easier for himself as he touched wheels with the McLaren of Jensen Button. The rest of Alonso’s race proved to be just as scrappy as his start, eventually coming home in P11. Both Webber and Raikkonen came out relatively unscathed from their contact. The Red Bull on the superior medium compound tyres made up several places after some early pit stops. Race leader, Vettel was among the first to pit relinquishing the lead to Massa. Vettel came out in P17, and just to prove that he can still race from the back of the field, the German eased his way back through the field to P3 in just 11 laps.

Grosjean’s tyre management through out today’s race was nothing short of incredible. The Lotus driver found the race pace that the E21 was hiding during qualifying to carefully carve his way back through the field from an unlucky P17 all the way to the podium. It was a truly impressive race from a driver who has come so far in less than half a season. Lotus couldn’t seem to manage both driver’s strategies over the weekend, with Grosjean suffering on Saturday, but Kimi suffering where it counted. The team made an error choosing not to cover Hulkenberg’s final pit (possibly because the Sauber retired shortly after), but the tyre god couldn’t get his Pirelli’s through to the end of the race. The Finn relinquished the final podium position to his team mate on lap 56 after some harsh words from the pit wall. You have to admire Kimi’s style, replying with a cool “Don’t f***ing shout” as he moved to let his team mate through.

Ricciardo put in another impressive drive, nursing his tyres well through his first stint and spending a lot of time in P4. Perhaps he was trying to familiarise himself with the front of the field for next year. The Toro Rosso, running on the medium compound tyres pitted on lap 34 from the front of the field, and did well to finish just inside the points in P10. Vergne was less lucky today, but still putting in a good race, coming home in P13.

McLaren had a bipolar race, with Perez finishing well in P5, but Button well outside of the points in P14. Force India put on a show for their home crowd and finally had a double finish in today’s race with di Resta and Sutil in P8 and P9. Both Williams drivers finished with Maldonado P12 ahead of Bottas in 16. Max Chilton remains the only driver to finish every race this season, though largely because he’s so far behind any of the action. The Marussia finished ahead of team mate Bianchi in P17. It was an unfortunate double retirement for Caterham, with Pic coming into the pits on lap 35.

Webber had more than recovered from his more than shaky start, spending most of the race with a good shot at the podium. The RB9 was consistently putting in fastest lap times throughout the race, but an alternator issue saw Webber retire with just 11 laps until the chequered flag. Mark’s reaction to the radio message from the pit wall from heartbreaking, after a truly superb race. I have to admit it was nice to see Webber handle his retirement with his head held high, even if it was forced by his HANS system.

After falling back in pace initially, Rosberg found pace in the Mercedes during the second half of the race where Hamilton couldn’t seem to. Hamilton appeared to be lacking for grip and couldn’t make the pass by a defensive Massa. Webber’s retirement from the race benefited the Mercedes, as Rosberg rounded his race out nicely, starting and finishing in an impressive P2 on the podium.

The RB9 alternator issues haunted Sebastian during the final leg of the race, even being told to stop drinking from his water bottle*. Nevertheless Vettel nursed his car through to the chequered flag to become the four time consecutive World Championship Driver. The championship clearly meant just as much to Vettel today as his first in 2010. It was exhilarating to see the Red Bull driver truly earn his victory today. From his companions on the podium today, the most impressive drive would have to go to Grosjean. Red Bull were unable to secure both titles today, but I expect as the championship moves across the gulf to Abu Dhabi we’ll see them lock it down. Until then, śubharātri.

– Alex

* Possibly this was the team’s strategy in saving room for all the champagne

Qualifying Pole Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Podium Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
Romain Grosjean (Lotus-Renault)
Fastest Lap 1:27.679 Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault)

Indian Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

Namasté, from this weekend’s Indian Grand Prix*. For something completely different Vettel once again topped the time sheets in qualifying. The Buddh International Circuit is quite a colourful stop on the calendar. The 5.125km circuit is made up of steep climbs, creeping back into downhill corners. The pinnacle of this circuit however is undoubtably Turn 10 into Turn 11. The long right hander is taken at speed, and puts drivers under immense g-force for up to eight seconds. The first DRS zone has been extended this year by 80 metres to aid in overtaking.

Vettel has at dominated the Buddh International Circuit since it’s inception, qualifying on pole, leading every lap, and finishing first for the past two years. On the way to extending this record to another year, Vettel set the pace on the time sheets with 1:24.119 on the soft tyres. Red Bull chose to split their driver’s strategies, sending Webber out in Q3 on the medium tyres. The result was P4 for Webber, behind his team mate and the two Mercedes.

Mercedes went into the final session of qualifying to challenge Vettel for pole. Rosberg qualified just behind the Red Bull to complete the front row. The Mercedes driver qualified on the soft tyres, and to great effect. Rosberg got everything he could out of the F1 W04, setting a flying lap to line him up next to Vettel on the grid. Hamilton matched his team mate’s strategy, and almost matched his pace in Q3 qualifying only .070 seconds behind Rosberg.

Going out on softs, Massa put in a lap time more than half a second quicker than his team mate to qualify in P5. It seems the Brazilian is making a habit of out qualifying his team mate. Alonso suffered from gearbox issues through practice, and reportedly couldn’t hear the beep telling him to change gears in qualifying. The Spaniard made it to Q3, though he only managed to set a time fast enough for P8 on the grid on medium compound tyres.

Kimi’s strategy opted for the faster options tyres for Q3. Admittedly his flying lap on the soft tyres was very clean, but didn’t quite give him the pace he needed out of the E21, qualifying in in P6. On the other hand, Grosjean’s qualifying strategy was all wrong on the medium tyres. The Frenchmen had difficult session and appeared to be struggling to control his car, the Frenchman qualified in P17. Following Grosjean’s recent pace, it’s very disappointing to see him so far back on the grid.

Hulkenberg had an impressive qualifying, and again made it all the way to Q3. The Sauber driver’s lap time sandwiched him between Raikkonen and Alonso on the time sheets in P7. Gutierrez had a disappointing session after failing to make it out of Q2.  Unlike his team mate, Gutierrez had quite a bumpy ride in qualifying and couldn’t seem to get control of his C32, qualifying in P16.

Both Perez and Button went out in Q3 with the medium compound tyres. McLaren, knowing that their pace isn’t enough to match Red Bull or Mercedes, appear to be going for a tyre strategy that may see either driver make up places in the pit stops. Perez qualified P9 ahead of Button in P10. Toro Rosso. Ricciardo put in an impressive lap in Q2, which for a moment saw him eighth fastest. Unfortunately Ricciardo’s lap time was bumped down in the final minutes of the session, coming to rest in P11. Still managing to qualify ahead of his team mate, Vergne will start from P14.

Force India had a disappointing qualifying at what could be considered their home track. Di Resta’s pace wasn’t enough to get him through to Q3. Unlucky for the Scot, di Resta’s was bumped out from the top ten at the very end of the session to start P12. Sutil looked good on track today, despite qualifying behind his team mate in P13. The Force India while lacking slightly on the throttle had good control. Williams had high expectations for qualifying today. While Bottas proved capable on the circuit today, his best time was only good enough for P15. Maldonado didn’t make it out of Q1 today, being knocked out in the final minutes of the session.

The usual suspects of Bianchi, Van der Garde, Pic and Chilton round out the back rows of the grid. Although Bianchi’s qualifying was rather impressive. The Marussia driver’s qualifying time was only a few tenth’s of a second behind Maldonado’s. The rookie driver showing more promise than his team mate for sure.F

The Buddh International Circuit is a fantastic race to watch. Driver’s use all of the track and then some, constantly running outside of the racing line to get the speed. For the first time at the Indian Grand Prix, Red Bull haven’t locked out the front row for Sunday’s race. I doubt this matters to Vettel though, who only needs to finish in P5 tomorrow to secure the Driver’s Championship. Webber’s strategy starting on the medium compound tyre will mean that he can make up places when those on the soft tyres pit, it would be good to see Webber battling for P2. I have a feeling Ricciardo might opt for a similar strategy to Webber tomorrow and start on the medium tyres. Tomorrow seems like a battle between Mercedes and Red Bull for the podium, and what should be an exciting race.

– Alex

* Actually namasté from my couch

Japanese Grand Prix: All Renault Podium

Today’s race could have been a very effective advertisement for Renault powered engines, as Red Bull and Lotus took out the podium. Sebastian Vettel didn’t manage to secure his fourth Word Championship title at today’s Japanese Grand Prix, despite taking home his ninth victory for the season. Team mate, Mark Webber came home an unlucky second after qualifying on pole, while Lotus’ Romain Grosjean had the drive of his career to finish third.

The first two laps of the circuit saw more incident than the rest of the race. Neither Red Bull driver had a particularly quick get away off line line, which immediately put both Vettel and Webber on the defensive. Grosjean executed a well thought out move into turn 1, going around the outside of Vettel, as the Red Bull marked Hamilton. Webber didn’t have the initial pace, and conceded the lead to Grosjean. Vettel and Hamilton made contact coming down the pit straight, resulting in an immediate right rear puncture for the Mercedes, sending him to the back of the grid and forcing him to limp back to the pits. Behind the rest of the field Bianchi and Van der Garde made a mess of each other, both retiring from the race. Hamilton’s damage to the under tray proved to be too much to recover from, and the team retired him on lap 7.

Most of the race was led by Romain Grosjean, who, on a track where tyre degradation plays a key role in strategy, managed his tyres and his pace extremely well. Particularly of note was the Frenchman holding off an attacking Webber during the final stint of the race. Grosjean is a completely different driver compared to this point in the season last year, and I now enjoy watching him race for very different reasons. Team mate, Kimi Raikkonen had a fairly standard race, despite being out of position in the middle of the pack. The Finn had a good battle between Button in the final laps, and finishing well in the points in fifth.

It was refreshing to see a race where not only did Vettel not have his usual head start from pole, but also have to manage his tyre strategy to ensure he had enough fight from third. The championship leader had quite a scruffy race, locking his brakes on several occasions. Webber had a much more controlled race, despite finishing second. The Australian was forced to run a three stop strategy, after using more of his tyres up in the opening laps of the race. Tyre strategy was always going to be the podium decider today, and Webber was unfortunate, but wouldn’t have been able to keep a competitive pace on two stops due to the increased downforce from his rear wing set up.

Massa had a disappointing finish to what had been a good race. The one-man-team kept Alonso at bay for most of the race, despite at times lapping slower than the other Ferrari. Admittedly, Alonso only managed to get close enough to Massa while being stuck in the train of cars following Ricciardo. Later in the race, Massa was handed a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane, the Formula 1 equivalent of running in the school corridors. The order for the drive through took Kimi by surprise, misinterpreting his team’s message, thinking that he’d been given the penalty.

Sauber had their best points finish of the season, as Hulkenberg  took advantage over the squabbling Ferrari’s and pitted early. Gutierrez delivered the race of his career today, starting from fourteenth, to finish well in the points in seventh. The rookie driver demonstrated some quite controlled battles for position against the Ferrari’s, and Kimi, and finally Rosberg as they approached the checkered flag. Not a bad 70th birthday present for Peter Sauber.

Both Force India’s finally managed to make it to the checkered flag today. Neither Sutil nor di Resta made contact with another driver, or any part of the circuit they weren’t meant to. Quite an achievement for the team, as both drivers were in a constant battle for position with Pastor Maldonado.

McLaren made a mess of their pit stops today, costing first Button, and then Perez valuable time. Button spent most of his race battling for position in the middle of the pack against the Ferrari’s and Kimi Raikkonen. Button made the most of a less than ideal race for the team, and finished just inside the points in ninth. Perez had a less than fortunate race, irritating several drivers, and making contact with Rosberg. The Mexican might have been the recipient today a rather dodgy sounding radio message from Vettel to his pit wall. “Keep him away from me, even if he’s on fresher tyres”, went out over the radio as Vettel approached to lap him. There are some thoughts that this may have been directed at Webber, who at the time was fast gaining on the leader. On the one hand, Perez was on fresh tyres, and particularly reckless earlier in the race, having already made contact with Rosberg (suffering from a puncture and sending himself to the back of the grid in the first place). If I were Vettel I’d want to make sure Perez well and truly obeyed the blue flags. On the other hand, Vettel could have been feeling the pressure knowing that Mark too was on fresher tyres, and putting in faster lap times.

Further getting caught up in the Perez debacle was Toro Rosso’s, Daniel Ricciardo. Although this time it was Ricciardo who fared second best. Ricciardo overtook Perez on the outside leading into 130R, but failed to keep traction and ran off track. The Toro Rosso managed to get back on track, and still ahead of Perez. The stewards, however, viewed this as gaining an advantage by leaving the track, and awarded him a drive through penalty. An interesting decision by the stewards, as this time the punishment outweighed the offence, and cost Ricciardo his race.

So, at Suzuka we were once again treated to the never-ending German National Anthem, as Vettel took the top step. Had Webber been able to overtake Grosjean sooner, maybe we would have heard the Australian National Anthem*, alas, Formula 1 is not a sport of “ifs”. I’d like to see Webber take at least one victory in his retiring season, possibly when Formula 1 moves across to the subcontinent.

– Alex

* Ours is much shorter, I think you’d enjoy it.

Qualifying Pole Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Podium Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Romain Grosjean (Lotus-Renault)
Fastest Lap 1:34.587 Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing-Renault)


Japanese Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

Konnichiwa, this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix gets underway in Suzuka with the Red Bull’s once again topping the time sheets. The Suzuka Circuit is a drivers favourite, and it’s not hard to see why. The 5.087km track runs anti-clockwise, and is the only circuit on the F1 calendar that has a figure of eight where the track loops over itself. Being one of the oldest circuits on calendar, Suzuka has a true race-track feel to it. The circuit isn’t ridiculously modernised, nor is it particularly wide. There are few run off areas, translating into little room for error. One mistake here, and you’re off into the grass or gravel pits.

It was Mark Webber’s turn to out qualify his team mate, showing considerable strength through all three qualifying sessions to take provisional pole position. Webber is reported to be running a smaller rear wing compared to Vettel, and this seems to be working for him, setting an impressive lap time of 1:30.915. Vettel suffered momentarily from a KERS issue, though a quick stop in the garage saw the issue resolved. On his final flying lap he suffered a lock-up costing him a few tenths of a second, and pole position. It’s yet to be seen whether Webber will retain his pole position as the stewards investigate a possible grid penalty for impeding Perez on a slow lap. Leave the man alone, I say, he deserves this pole.

Hamilton qualified third ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg in sixth. Once again the Mercedes were quick and consistent in qualifying. The F1-W04 is undoubtedly quick, though still just lacks the race day pace against the RB-9s. The constant defeat seems to be getting the better of Hamilton, as he’s not been much of a happy chap in the paddock. Rosberg continues to drive consistently lapping at 1:31.397. However, the German has been handed a reprimand by the stewards for slow driving in free practice, it is his second one for the season.

Both Lotus cars are looking promising ahead of Sunday’s race. Grosjean was unlucky miss out on P3 on the grid by just over a tenth of a second, posting a time of 1:31.365. I’m not sure what happened to the Lotus driver during the summer break, but it appears he’s finally figured out how to race his E21 (without crashing it into anyone/anything). Despite an off road excursion during free practice, Kimi lapped well in qualifying. The Finn had considerable grip and pace in the car throughout most of the sessions. However, his time of 1:31.684 wasn’t quite enough in the end of Q3, so he will start from ninth.

Ferrari looked as if they’d found some pace in the car in Q2, as Alonso briefly held the quickest lap time. Unfortunately for the Scuderia, this didn’t translate into Q3. In a further move to stick it to the team, Massa once again managed to out-qualify Alonso, qualifying fifth to his team mate’s eighth. I doubt whether Alonso will spend much time in the middle of the pack tomorrow, realistically I see him running around fifth.

Hulkenburg had a good session, and is still currently quicker in a Ferrari engine than Alonso, qualifying ahead of the Spaniard in seventh. Team mate, Esteban Gutierrez was less lucky in today’s session. To begin with the Mexican was on fire*, though he failed to make it out of Q2, qualifying a respectable fourteenth.

Button will round off the top ten, while McLaren team mate will sit next to him on the grid in eleventh. Di Resta for once had better luck than his team mate, and (even more surprisingly) didn’t appear to slag off the team throughout qualifying. Sutil, unfortunately suffered from his crash in free practice, and failed to make it out of Q1. Williams drivers Bottas and Maldonado will start from thirteenth and fifteenth on the grid after an uneventful session for the team.

Toro Rosso had a disappointing qualifying session today, with Ricciardo starting from sixteenth tomorrow, and Vergne from eighteenth. Ricciardo just couldn’t seem to get the pace out of the car, perhaps he was fearful that his brakes would over heat like his team mate. Vergne in the final minutes of Q1 had the session briefly red flagged as the back of his STR8 caught fire.

For the first time this season, Chilton out qualified his team mate, and will be starting a career best nineteenth. Pic, Van der Garde, and Bianchi make up the final cars on the grid.

Tomorrow, Vettel has the opportunity to secure the Driver’s Championship if he comes home in P1, and Alonso fails to finish higher than P9. While it’s very possible that Vettel will indeed win tomorrow at Suzuka, the probability of Alonso finishing lower than he qualified is slim. It’s more likely that the battle for second and third will be between Webber, and the Lotus’. Hamilton, and Mercedes do still stand a chance, though I feel the Lotus is better suited to Suzuka. We’ll have to wait and see how tomorrow unfolds.

– Alex

* Arguably this was due to the fact that his car was literally on fire in the garage.

Korean Grand Prix: Hulkenberg’s Race

The “unstoppa-bull”* Sebastian Vettel took out his eighth win of the season today at the Korean Grand Prix. After yet another controlled drive, the German is now one win away from securing his fourth consecutive World Championship title. The second and third step of the podium was taken out by the Lotus duo of Raikkonen and Grosjean. Despite the possibly predictable win, the Korean Grand Prix was one of the most confusing and interesting races so far this season.

Grosjean truly earned his spot on the podium today. The Lotus driver, was bold getting off the grid immediately laying a challenge on Hamilton, and quite a good one at that. Grosjean spend most of the race cruising in second, and I say cruising because he really was. Most of the field were reporting graining issues on their tyres, resulting in a noticeable lack of grip, though the Lotus had an incredible amount of traction throughout the race. Possibly Kimi has been sharing some of his “Tyre God” wisdom with his team mate. His position didn’t go unchallenged, as he had to work hard to keep the door closed on the Mercedes, and Kimi. His team mate eventually was in a position to make a move on lap 38, and passed Grosjean on the straight to take second.

Perez brought our the first of two safety car periods with a front right tyre blowout on lap 31. The McLaren’s trye tread came to rest right on the racing line. Webber and Hamilton, who were following Perez were lucky to escape serious debris. Webber did pick up a small puncture himself causing him to dive back into the pits, only one lap after his scheduled pit stop. It took five whole laps to clear the tyre, and allow the back markers unlap themselves.

It was a double DNF for Force India today, when first Paul di Resta threw his off track at turn 12 on lap 27. For the fourth race running, the Force India failed to finish due to driver error. Sutil didn’t see much of the race restart from the safety car as he gave a huge shunt to Mark Webber on lap 37. Webber became an instant retirement, and brought out a Jeep (and the second safety car). The contact saw Sutil retire with damage shortly after the second restart.

Webber had been having a great race, despite his ten place grid penalty, the Australian had worked his way back up the field. One of Webber’s more spectacular battles for position was against Alonso. I really enjoy watching Webber and Alonso challenge each other, because you know that their strategies will be clean and controlled. Nothing goes wrong between those two, because they have a mutual level of respect and trust. It just makes sense. It was therefore unlucky for the Australian to be in the wrong corner at the wrong time. His contact with Sutil immediately transformed his car into a BBQ, and the RB9 immediately pulled over to the side. It did make for some spectacular footage of Webber casually getting out of his car, leaning down and switching off the engine as the fire roared behind him. Possibly more spectacular was the Jeep that ventured out on track before the safety car had been deployed, it was quite comical.

Sauber’s Gutierrez was unlucky to finish just outside of the points in eleventh. Starting from eighth, Gutierrez got off the line quickly to pull himself ahead of his team mate and Massa to run in sixth. Gutierrez did fall back several places throughout the race, though he had a good drive in the middle of the field battling Massa. Unfortunately on lap 45, Maldonado made a move on the Sauber to take tenth position, and his hopes of a point. Gutierrez didn’t go down without a fight, and briefly regained his position a few turns later.

Though driver of the day would undoubtably have to go to his team mate, Nico Hulkenberg. Starting seventh on the grid, Hulkenberg go off to a strong start, avoiding contact from the rest of the field into the first corner. The Sauber held off various manoeuvres from Alonso, Hamilton, and  The German proved his worth on the grid in the final leg of the race as he delivered a perfect balance between defensive and offensive driving to hold off Hamilton to maintain his fourth position. The Sauber-Ferrari’s had a much quicker pace than the Ferrari Ferrari’s.

The scuderia had an unfortunate race today, Massa was too ambitious going turn two and had to brake hard to avoid contact with Rosberg. A lack of grip on cold tyres meant he lost the back and gave his ‘team mate’ a little shunt. Alonso emerged unscathed, though Massa (facing the wrong way) had to wait for the rest of the field to pass before playing catch up. Not exactly what I meant by seeing some mid 2000s Massa on track. Alonso’s race wasn’t much better, despite no real issues with the car, the Ferrari just didn’t seem to have the pace when it was needed.

Mercedes finished the race with Hamilton fifth, and Rosberg seventh. Rosberg put on a spectacular display as he made a move on his team mate on lap 28. Not so much because his attack was brilliant, but rather his front wing failed to drag along in front and rain sparks. Unbeknownst to Rosberg as to why he suddenly had a less than cruisey pace, his challenge to over take did not stick for long as he was called into the pits. Quite the amusing radio message from the pit wall; “Front wing looks to have failed, Nico, front wing looks to have failed”.

In the final stint of the race, Grosjean was urging the team to let him pass Kimi. While he was lapping quicker than Kimi, the team wouldn’t release him. Instead he was told to race him. Most likely the smarter decision, building Grosjean’s confidence in his driving ability (and hopefully his skill), and preparing him for next season when he won’t be able to ask to have Kimi out the way.

Say what you want about Sebastian Vettel winning from pole, but he did have to work today. He survived two restarts, harsh tyre degradation, and a runaway Jeep. Today’s win was no walk in the park.

– Alex

*I’m really sorry for the terrible pun, but I couldn’t resist.

Qualifying Pole Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Podium Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault)
Romain Grosjean (Lotus-Renault)
Fastest Lap 1:41.380 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault)

Korean Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

The Korean Grand Prix has been described as a track where you get two for the price of one. The 5.615km Korea International Circuit is one of the longest races in the calendar. Equipped with a second DRS zone this year, has the qualities of a twisty street circuit from turns four to seventeen, sandwiched in between long straights. The Korean Grand Prix is notorious for rain, it would be fantastic to finally get a wet race. This week there have been weather warnings of a typhoon, though the storm seems to have changed directions, and if the rest of the championship is anything to go by, Sunday will be bone dry. Shame.

Vettel was unsurprisingly fast at the Korea International Circuit taking pole position with 1:37.202. Webber qualified in P3, though his 10 place grid penalty from Singapore will see him out of position to start from thirteenth on the grid. Definitely not what the Australian veteran needs. I don’t think Webber will be spending too much time in the middle of the pack however. Despite having poor starts, Webber is strong in the race, with incredible control in the corners, I don’t think he’ll have issue overtaking.

Mercedes once again have qualified well with Hamilton in P2 and Rosberg in P5 (starting fourth). Hamilton was quick on the pace all through practice and qualifying. Rosberg is at times overlooked, though he is consistent on Sundays when it’s needed. From what we’ve seen today, Mercedes may finally be a serious threat to the Red Bulls on race day.

Sauber were impressive in qualifying making as both cars made it through to Q3. Gutierrez was blisteringly quick during practice*, which I was pleased to see transfer into qualifying. Gutierrez qualified ninth, but will start eighth. Talk among the paddock is that Nico Hulkenburg could be signed to Lotus next year as Kimi’s replacement, and I have to say, I wouldn’t hate that. It is hard to fault Hulkenburg at the moment, with P4 in Q2 and P8 in Q3.

Ferrari looked good in qualifying, despite not being able to get the pace out of the car. Alonso P6 qualified ahead of his team mate today in P7. I look forward to see Alonso at work tomorrow without Massa’s help in the team. The Brazilian has made it crystal clear that he will be racing for himself and no longer the team. It could be fun to see some of the mid 2000s Massa back on track.

Once again Grosjean impressed me with his pace through qualifying, replacing Webber for third on the grid tomorrow. His seat at Lotus next year was pretty much guaranteed with the departure of Raikkonen, but Grosjean is definitely proving his worth within the team. I’m praying he keeps his head in tomorrows race, there are so many corners, and so many opportunities for him to crash. Raikkonen seems to struggle during qualifying, with reported balance issues. Kimi qualified tenth, though will start from ninth.

Ricciardo for Toro Rosso made it through to Q2, to qualify P13, though he’ll be giving that spot to Webber and starting twelfth. Although Ricciardo is consistently out qualifying his team mate, I would still like to see more from the soon to be Red Bull driver on Sundays.

Both McLaren’s and Williams were knocked out in Q2. Button felt he was impeded by the Lotus of Raikkonen by 0.15 of a second, which could have found him a place. The back of the grid is made up of the usual suspects of Caterham and Marussia.

So tomorrow seems set to be a fight between Mercedes and Red Bull. Personally I’d like to see Lotus stay caught up in the action.

– Alex

* Possibly his thick neck/thin head combination is an aerodynamic dream