This won’t take long.
First of all, it is worth pointing out just how awesome Sebastian Vettel was at Suzuka. At this “drivers’ circuit” which suited the Red Bull car down to the ground, Vettel was untouchable.
An error meant that instead of the normal on board channel, the BBC broadcast the on board camera of Vettel only for a large part of the race. Although this meant being unable to see any other cars on board, it provided an opportunity to watch an up-and-coming master at work. I can tell you he was definitely pushing hard, and to my mind he almost lost his car at Degner 2 twice. And they are only the moments I saw.
Vettel’s awe-inspiring dominance was in stark contrast to the other three Red Bull drivers in a weekend that promised so much. Even the Toro Rosso, which has been at the back for almost all of the season, looked like it had awesome pace. Unfortunately, its two rookie drivers both made a bit of a hash of things multiple times each throughout the weekend, meaning the potential came to nothing.
Webber also had a tough weekend after a big crash in Saturday Practice which left him with no car to qualify with. Having started from the pitlane, he then suffered a litany of problems forcing him to pit three times in quick succession. As a result, the race ended with one Red Bull dominating, and the three others footing the result sheet.
Beyond that, there is not much to say about the race. Jarno Trulli did a good job, which he does once or twice a year. But it’s not the sort of thing that would impress me enough to hire him. Maybe the new Lotus team will think differently.
For my money, the best action of the race came from Heikki Kovalainen. Firstly, there was his tangle with Adrian Sutil which appears to have divided opinion. I think it was a racing incident — Sutil was probably too optimistic to go for it, but Kovalainen was probably too eager to close the door abruptly having left it wide open in the first place.
But if that was a bad move from Kovalainen, he more than made it up with his gutsy and opportunistic overtaking manoeuvre on Giancarlo Fisichella while they were both coming out of the pits. I let out a yelp and probably woke up half the street at that time of the morning, as I thought it was going to end up as a huge accident. In the end, it turned out well for Kovalainen and I was left impressed. It is the only ballsy thing I can ever remember him doing. But it’s probably too late to save his career at an established team.
It says a lot about the state of F1 at the moment that the biggest talking point of the weekend was the way penalties were dealt with. Eight drivers were penalised after qualifying. Most were for ignoring yellow flags after Sébastien Buemi’s accident, another was for blocking and others changed gearboxes and chassis.
This left the entire world scratching its head as to what the actual grid might be. Apparently several permutations were doing the rounds, while the FIA decided to sleep on it and published the grid just hours before the race began. Seemingly this is not a case of the Random Penalty Generator — it all seems above board, with the grid having been determined as it should be by the letter of the law. But clearly this is a system that fails the fans. We watch qualifying to find out what the starting grid will be, only to tune into the race finding that the stewards have changed it.
Then there is the case of the investigation into Nico Rosberg failing to observe the lap delta times under Safety Car conditions. It transpires that Rosberg was unable to know what his target time was because the message was overridden by a low fuel message from the standard ECU. Given that McLaren Electronic Systems designed the ECU, my first thought was that this was a particularly elaborate way of penalising McLaren for the incident.
In all seriousness though, this just sums up how Formula 1 has been swallowed up by an officious governing body more interested in rules than racing. The Safety Car rules have become so ridiculously complex in the past few years, mirroring the crisis that hit qualifying a few years ago when several formats were tried out in quick succession.
I suspected that Nico Rosberg knew he was guilty of driving too quickly under Safety Car conditions when he conducted an evasive interview on the BBC after the race. When questioned, he would only say that he didn’t gain an advantage. When asked if he was within the rules, he only said “I definitely did what I should do”.
As it transpires, he probably had good reason to be coy given that it seems as though he simply did not have the information that should have been displayed, even if it meant he technically broke the rules. In that light, it is fair to let Rosberg off on this instance, but he shouldn’t even have been in this position in the first place.
Now we are left with the tantalising prospect of Sebastian Vettel making a Räikkönen-esque comeback. James Allen says that a mental block has been passed, with Vettel now within 16 points of Button with two races to go. That is closer than Räikkönen was with two races to go in 2007.
It still seems like a long shot, but if the momentum is going anywhere it is not towards Button. All of a sudden, the pressure looks like it’s all on Jenson Button.