Sport

F1 – Entering the Home Straight

Korea’s inaugural Grand Prix had been the subject of much controversy in the weeks leading up to its arrival – since much of the circuit was yet to be built. The final layer of track was laid less than two weeks before racing began, with details such as grid boxes being painted just hours in advance of first practice. But despite the last-minute rush for its completion, Korea was ultimately the most thrilling race of the season so far.

Viewers who managed to wake up early had to experience a long wait for the action to start. The newly-laid track seemed to collect all of the heavy rain that fell on it, and the race began 10 minutes behind schedule with the safety car out. The race was red-flagged after just 4 laps due to the amount of spray on the track. More delays followed, and when cars came back out it was once again behind the safety car for another 13 laps. However, when they were finally allowed to race at full speed, an action-packed contest ensued with a total of 9 DNFs with cars skidding off in the tricky conditions or into each other. It has always been said that one of the defining qualities of Michael Schumacher was his ability to superbly dominate the field in wet conditions and this race allowed us to witness the drivers pushing their talents to the limit

Once again an enthralling season has been turned on its head. We look at the five drivers who are still in with a chance of taking the 2010 title, reflecting on where their performance in Korea has left them.

Mark Webber – DNF
Mark Webber was the first of all the drivers to crash out after he ran wide exiting turn 12 and took out Nico Rosberg with him. Webber took full responsibility for his error but some still questioned why he apparently failed to hit the brakes after losing control of the car and whether he had, in fact, been hoping to take out a title-rival like Alonso, rather than Rosberg. But conspiracy theories aside, this was a rare error from the Australian who had a chance to stamp his authority on the title race but made a mistake which could prove to haunt him.

Sebastian Vettel – DNF
It was the first time neither Red Bull scored a point this season, but Vettel was blameless for his DNF. With dusk falling on the circuit, he had driven brilliantly from pole to gain a large advantage over the rest of the field and for the first time had the chance to lead the championship. Due to the fading light he called for the race to be ended then and there, but just laps later his RB6 suffered an engine failure. Korea served as yet another reminder of why reliability issues may ultimately be responsible for ruining the chances of what has been the fastest car on the grid all season.

Jenson Button – 14th
Button finished outside the points after a nightmare race in which he repeatedly struggled with wheel-locking. He now trails the championship leader by 42 points, with a maximum of 50 points available. Button vows to keep defending his title, but has admitted that his chances are slim: “People would need to have massive problems for me to win. I am not really in it anymore.”

Lewis Hamilton – 2nd
After a trying few weeks, Hamilton managed to turn things round slightly this week with a good driving performance. Despite heavy rain and fading light, he countered Alonso’s opinion that it was ‘the worst conditions he had ever driven in’, and over the radio cheerily claimed that grip and visibility was fine. Hamilton was clearly keen to continue chasing down the front runners and get the points he so desperately needed. In a momentary glitch, Hamilton lost a place to Alonso and never had the speed to gain it back, but 2nd place was an excellent result that has put him back in with a chance at winning the title.

Fernando Alonso – 1st
Alonso was consistent throughout the race, with the pace needed to match the Red Bulls and take over when they failed. With Vettel out of the picture and having overtaken Lewis Hamilton, Alonso maintained his steady race all the way to the chequered flag. Now leading the championship, he has both the points and momentum going into the final two races. Earlier this season when the Ferraris seemed to be struggling, Alonso said he was still confident he would win the championship. This determination, combined with a little support from his team-mate, seems to have done the double-world champion wonders.

The top five in the championship standings are as follows:
1) Alonso – 231 points
2) Webber – 220 points
3) Hamilton – 210 points
4) Vettel – 206 points
5) Button – 189 points

Next weekend, the teams head to Brazil. It’s an exciting and challenging circuit that has produced some great races in the past, not least in 2009 as the stage for Button’s championship victory. In 2005 and 2006 it was also the location for Alonso’s two title wins, and this year history could repeat itself for a third time. However, with this season proving how unpredictable races can turn out, Alonso insists that Ferrari “will do the maths in Abu Dhabi”. McLaren and Red Bull have both said that points are too close to favour one driver over another. It’s a risky strategy that could see team-mates taking points off each other, but if Korea demonstrated anything it’s that the slightest change in circumstances can see a new favourite emerge. Since all five are technically still able to win the 2010 crown, we can be sure that they will fight harder than ever in Brazil.

Fiona Crosby & Ketan Patel

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