What did we learn from the Abu Dhabi GP?

Friday, 18 November 2011 From Issue Vol. XIX No. 46 By  Dr. Iain Corness

Well, we learned that for the first time Lady Luck deserted Sebastian Vettel.  Has his charmed life in F1 come to an end?  Has Red Bull run out of red rags to spur its drivers to victory?  However, it was none of these, but Mr. Pirelli will be having a few questions to answer as to how one of its tyres suffered instant deflation.  However, it will take a forensic pathologist to take the scraps of rubber that were left to work out just what happened.  Michael Schumacher also had a puncture and was unable to complete the slowing down lap.  So all that we know from Abu Dhabi is that Pirelli make some tyres that are miles better than their other tyres and get punctures.

With this silly rule that all drivers must race on both the ‘fast’ tyre and the ‘slow’ tyre, this is like saying that at some stage in the race all drivers must race with one hand tied behind their backs.  This is not “motor racing”.  It is time that the FIA stipulated one tyre for the entire race for everyone.

After Vettel’s demise on the first lap, Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) seized the opportunity that Pirelli had given him and remained comfortably ahead of the chasing pack, led by Fernando Alonso (Ferrari).  Having been the quickest runner all weekend, it was a deserved victory for Hamilton.

Drive of the day, in my opinion, came from Alonso.  He did not have the fastest car, but by dint of a brilliant start, hauled himself (from fifth on the grid) up to second on the first lap, where he stayed for the entire race.  In the past I have been critical of Alonso, but his drives this year in the Ferrari have been exemplary.

Third was Mr. Consistency, Jenson Button (McLaren), who has matured so much in the past 12 months.  Button had his problems during the race.  “It was a difficult race for me, as I had a KERS Hybrid issue, which is admittedly very rare for us.  After about 15 laps it stopped working - and that doesn’t just affect your power out of the corners, it affects engine braking too.  Fortunately, my engineer came over the radio and told me they’d found a way to make it work again - but it meant pushing lots of buttons on the steering wheel every couple of laps because it only returned intermittently.  So I’d arrive at a corner and not know whether I had any engine braking because I had no warning.  So selecting the right spot at which to brake was tough.”  Button and Mark Webber (Red Bull) had spirited dices and showed that clean wheel to wheel racing is possible, something that Felipe Massa (Ferrari) is yet to learn.

Having two DRS zones one after the other just makes for a pass, quickly followed by a repass.  Order unchanged.  The way F1 is going, with the totally inept decision-making, they may as well institute a compulsory Safety Car period every fifteen minutes, interspersed with watering the track.  Next step is to get rid of the bitumen and make the tracks on dirt, and then call it Speedway F1.  There’s far more action in speedway!

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