At least, the race behind winner Sebadtian Vettel did. Sebastian, for the third consecutive race, drove his Red Bull faultlessly to first place. No win is as effortless as Sebastian makes it look and this one perhaps took particular concentration as he was obliged to control two safety car restarts with the field closed up behind him.
Although few dispute Sebastian Vettel’s talent, intelligence and work ethic, he does seem to lead a charmed Formula 1 life in terms of reliability and keeping out of trouble. His teammate, Mark Webber, apparently sits at the other end of the luck scale. Taking a ten-place grid penalty as a result of receiving his third reprimand of the season at the last race, Singapore, had him starting from thirteenth. He had been cutting through the pack when he emerged from the pit just in time for the front right tyre of Sergio Perez’s McLaren to explode in front of him. Mark picked up a puncture and immediately had to pit again, this time for the softer, option, tyre, because, as he as told on team radio, ‘We haven’t got any primes left, mate.’
Gritting his teeth and setting about the task of doing it all again from eleventh, Webber was hit by a spinning Adrian Sutil in his Sahara Force India. In seconds, Mark was hopping out of a car that was on fire in quite the wrong way and his race was over. If he hadn’t got that penalty from Singapore, would taking up his rightful third place on the grid have kept clear of the bad luck fairy? If so, it can be argued that he makes his own luck – but surely it shouldn’t be quite that bad.
As a result of Mark’s Red Bull bonfire, the fire truck took to the track without warning or notice, appointing itself safety car, effectively, as the drivers backed off and lined up behind it. The actual safety car was deployed with alacrity to neutralise this bizarre situation caused by the chief fire chief taking the decision to send the fire truck out without consulting race control. This second, otherwise unnecessary, safety car period, certainly affected the race.
Kimi Raikkenon was one who benefitted. Getting his Lotus Renault ahead of Perez just before Perez’s tyre exploded, Kimi was able to close up on his teammate, Romain Grosjean, behind the safety car. When Romain made a small error shortly after the restart, Kimi pounced to secure second step on the podium, leaving Romain in third. Otherwise, Romain raced well today, especially passing Lewis Hamilton early in the race and subsequently maintaining a gap of only a few seconds to Sebastian Vettel.
In fact, this race treated the spectators to many exciting dices, notably between Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Fernando Alono (Ferrari), and later between Lewis and Nico Hulkenberg in a much improved Sauber.
Everyone’s talking about Nico Hulkenberg, saying that he should be in a front-running car. I’m no exception. I think he should have been in the McLaren this season, rather than Sergio Perez, who has given away points by taking his team’s advice to ‘get his elbows out’ with too much gusto and too little science.
Although Sergio impressed me last season, Nico Hulkenberg has proved a more complete driver, thinking as well as fast, rarely seeming to lose his head. McLaren say they haven’t spoken to him. Picture me looking astonished. But, looking at McLaren’s performance in 2013, Nico might in any case prefer to take a seat with Lotus, the team that took second and third today. By Sue Moorcroft