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GP Week : Issue 102
30 point, over the Anderson bridge. His car still carried load, weighted to the outside, and so he flicked the RB6 into the apex of 13, giving it a sock-thickness of excess power. The back let go. He feathered out of the throttle again, finger-tipping the steering away from the apex, letting the car slide towards the exit. Inelegantly, the Red Bull dipped towards the wall. He missed it with the right front but the back caught it a glancing, sparking blow. That was no issue, however: the problem was the time he had lost mid-corner and on the straight that followed. Momentum dissipated, he also lost the pole. Fernando’s lap-construction had proved the more resilient, even though the Ferrari was the slightly slower car. Had Seb’s best Q3 three sectors been accumulated into one lap, he would have been on the pole be 0.29sec. As it was, Fernando would have been on the pole even with the slower of his two Q3 flyers. Thus they raced. Seb was actually quicker in launch than Fernando (Red Bull have responded well to their recent run of slow starts) and for a half-second or so looked as though he might take the lead into the first corner(s). Then Fernando chopped across and put an end to the conversation. Seb was forced to brake hard and to jink the Red Bull back into line. It was all over. Fernando made no mistakes once the race was properly under way. Seb never pushed him into one. Behind, Mark Webber drove beautifully in a brand new (and supposedly slightly lighter) RB chassis in which he never felt comfortable. He qualified only fifth and he stopped early to change to primes. The risk was not only the traffic that might now hold him up but also the traffic that might put him into the wall. The upside was potentially passing other cars as they ran to the end of the natural Bridgestone tyre cycle. Mark, as I say, drove impeccably – the more so, given his status at the head of the World Championship. He passed a wild- looking Kobayashi without damage to the Red Bull; and he sat patiently behind Rubens Barrichello’s Williams-Cosworth, noting with surprise the quality of the Williams’ traction out of slow corners: “ We’re just going to have to be patient for a while but it could get good,” said Mark over his radio. It was an intelligent call. RBR were definitely marginal on brakes in Singapore (Adrian Newey is as likely to switch from Brembos to Hitco or CI as he is to party all night at the Amber Lounge) and so Mark took this time behind Rubens to let his fuel load lighten and to protect his tyres and brakes. You never know what you’re going to need in the closing laps in Singapore... The man he was racing effectively for third place was Lewis Hamilton. McLaren (as is their wont) had experienced more tyre- temperature issues than Ferrari or Red Bull in qualifying but Lewis was always going to be a solid third and potentially a race winner if things went funny with the Safety Cars. When Safety Car two emerged around two-thirds distance, just after the leaders’ pit stops, Mark found himself in a queue behind Fernando, Seb, and the two slow Virgin cars (di Grassi ahead of Glock). Behind, in his mirrors, sat the two McLarens of Lewis and Jenson. Mark quickly ran around Timo at the re- start and blasted out of turn three with di Grassi ahead of him and Lewis down his neck. At this point di Grassi should have pulled way off-line, onto the dirt and kept right out of the picture. He didn’t. He was leading Timo. He was on TV. Annoyingly, he stayed in the way. Mark, remembering Valencia, backed out of the throttle under full acceleration. On the right, Lewis got a run on him. Mark could only do what he could do – which was to protect the inside. They made it through Turn 5 but into 6 Lewis was right there and slightly ahead. Mark took to the apex kerb but the front hopped away from him, into Lewis, who was now crowding him, hoping against (improbable) hope that Mark was going to drop anchor and make it easy. The impact was slight by today’s let’s- carry-on standards but it was enough to break a tyre, a wheel and a half-shaft stud on the McLaren. Lewis was left stranded with no drive. The stewards, of course, ruled this to be a blameless ‘racing incident’. They were correct about the incident but not about the blame. The blame squarely falls on the selfishness of Lucas di Grassi, because backmarkers have a certain responsibility towards those at the front, especially when they find themselves in artificially high positions at a re-start. If this Decisive (championship) moment? Far enough past to turn across? Above and right, history now suggests not ...