There is not much to say after the Chinese Grand Prix. The race itself was spectacularly dull and controversy-free. (And I have left it my customary few hours to see if the stewards get involved — they haven’t.) It’s good not to have controversy, but we have become so used to it that it feels a bit empty to come away from a race with absolutely nothing to talk about!
What we can say though is that we are heading towards the final race of the season with Lewis Hamilton having slightly extended his lead. Ominously, that is exactly the same lead he had going into the final race last year — 7 points. On paper, it should be easy enough for him to simply finish 4th or above so that he can wrap up the title. But what if he gets the jitters?
Today we saw the calmer, more conservative Hamilton. It’s true that he didn’t ever have to go on the attack. Unlike in Fuji, he got a fine start. Besides, his advantage over Ferrari at Shanghai has been clear to see all weekend. So there was no reason for Hamilton to risk it and in the end he cruised to an easy victory with a 15 second margin.
That advantage might not exist in Brazil. Ferrari have won the previous two races at Interlagos, and Felipe Massa in particular tends to perform well on his home patch. What Hamilton needs to do is make sure he doesn’t get spooked if Ferrari perform well like they did last year.
There is a slight debate surrounding Ferrari’s team orders. Kimi Räikkönen had the advantage over Massa for the whole race, but mysteriously slowed down for a few laps towards the end of the race to let Massa pass before returning to his normal pace. The Finn knowingly chuckled when asked about it during the press conference.
The hysteria surrounding team orders is nonsensical. All teams use team orders of some sort, it is a normal part of motor racing and has been for decades. The only reason team orders got a bad name was because of the botched switchover at the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, which was quite rightly criticised. But that incident was so offensive because it took the supporters for mugs. Supporters know what was going on today though, and it was reasonable for Ferrari to ask Räikkönen to move over, allowing Massa to score two extra points which could come in very handy.
Meanwhile, outside bet Robert Kubica has dropped out of the championship hunt. I feel that he has been the best driver this season and he certainly deserves to win the title one day. I do hope he finds himself in a good enough car in the near future. In the meantime, it was always slightly surreal that Kubica was so close to the championship leaders for so long, and it must be admitted that he has done so mainly by hoovering up the points fumbled by McLaren and Ferrari rather than outright pace.
Kubica’s weekend got off to a bad start when he only managed to qualify 12th. As always, Kubica fought a strong race, but could only manage 6th just behind his team mate Nick Heidfeld. One day.
Unfortunately, there are almost no other talking points following today’s race. It wasn’t really worth the 7am start. That’s tilkedromes for ya.