• Karun Chandhok's ESPNF1 column

Finishing on a high

Karun Chandhok November 28, 2012
Sebastian Vettel won the title after a crazy race in Brazil © Press Association
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What a crazy end to a crazy world championship that was! Brazil has thrown up some crazy races in the past and the world championship has had some crazy deciders but last weekend's race has to be one of the best. Mind you, I still think Bernie was sitting with an on-off switch for the rain to make it more entertaining...

The weekend started predictably with the Red Bulls and McLarens looking like the class of the field while the Ferraris just weren't quick enough. Felipe Massa was possibly the only man happy in the Maranello camp on Saturday night after yet another weekend where he has shown that he's back to his 2008 best, but elsewhere there were plenty of people in red with glum faces. McLaren on the other hand had locked out the front row and looked like they were in great form. With two wet-weather aces in their cars, they were looking in good shape whatever happened with the weather.

The opening lap of the race was just incredible. The McLarens got away reasonably, the Red Bulls were woeful and the Ferrari's super fast. What people may not realise is that for the start procedure the drivers rely on a systems engineer to assess the grip levels on the green flag lap and give them a shout on the radio to tell them which clutch map to use. Obviously on a damp track with changing conditions it was very hard to get these clutch slip numbers right and clearly some got it better than others. Fernando did his tried and tested, opportunistic move around the outside, which worked brilliantly while Sebastian was boxed in alongside the inside wall by Mark Webber. By turn four, the reigning world champion was right in the middle of the pack and perhaps unsighted by Di Resta's Force India, he didn't see Bruno Senna on the inside and turned across him.

Karun's top drivers, race and moment

© Sutton Images
  • Top Drivers:
    1. Fernando Alonso - Took the championship fight to the wire in a car that didn't deserve to
  • 2. Lewis Hamilton - Superb all season long and without pit stop dramas, puncture, running out of fuel, late season DNF's would've been a contender
  • 3. Kimi Raikkonnen - Very impressive come back. Showed great pace straight away with fantastic consistency ... plus some comedy!
  • 4. Sebastian Vettel - Seems strange putting the world champion at No.4 but it was clear that the Red Bull was once again the car to have in the second half of the season
  • 5. Nico Hulkenburg - Despite the podiums for Perez and wins for Maldonadoand Rosberg, I thought Hulkenburg did a great job particularly in the second half to establish himself
  • Best Race:
    Austin - Great track, great racing with the best 3 drivers in the world fighting on the limit for every lap of the race
  • Best Moment:
    Kimi Raikkonnen driving onto the old banked track in Interlagos!

The second impact where Bruno's front wheel hit Sebastian's rear was quite a hefty impact and I was amazed at how the Red Bull's rear suspension wasn't damaged. That moment when you crash and then try and select 1st gear and get going again is a horrible one. I can assure you Sebastian would've breathed a HUGE sigh of relief when he spun the car around and got going up the hill! A few inches here or there and it could've been all over - fate had played its part.

The Ferraris struggled in the cooler temperatures as usual - struggling to get temperature in their tyres. During the race I wondered if Fernando should've gambled on doing what Jenson and Nico Hulkenburg did, and stay out on slicks but I think the fact that the Ferrari can't generate heat in the same way as the Force India or the McLaren would've sent him backwards anyway as that's what happened to Massa. That phase of the race was amazing - it was so hard to work out what tyres were the right ones to be on and the gamble Jenson and Nico made to stay out on slicks and wait for the brief shower to stop worked a treat.

In the end, there were only 3-4 laps where they were slower than the cars on intermediates which meant that by the time everyone had changed from the slicks and changed back, the two leaders were 45 seconds up the road. The skill and concentration required to drive on slicks in the damp conditions at the front of a race is amazing and these guys showed their pure class.

The safety car put an end to their advantage however but it was nice to see the Force India showing such good pace. Nico was genuinely quicker than Jenson for that phase of the race and until Lewis started pushing him after the re-start, he looked in total control. The incident in the end was a shame for both drivers as it was clear that Jenson, Lewis and Nico were in a class of their own. After the re-start, they were consistently half a second faster than the Ferraris behind so their collision was a real shame.

I saw that as slightly over optimistic from Nico on the damp part of the track away from the racing line but I suppose he was a little bit frustrated at losing the lead with his half spin a few laps earlier. The Ferraris were the beneficiaries of course and duly inherited their podium finishes at the end of a long hard season for the team where they were forever playing catch up.

What about Vettel? Well, after his first lap drama he showed off just why he's a triple world champion by keeping calm, not giving up and just chipping away at the lead. To add insult to injury he lost radio communication with the team, which under normal circumstances is nothing more than irritating, but in changeable weather it could easily be the difference between success and disaster! Red Bull were a bit lucky that despite the damage, Sebastian had good pace in the wet part of the race because the communication gap meant that he ended up on the intermediates at one stage which were wrong tyres and had to do an extra stop to change back. In the end, it all worked out okay for them and Sebastian was able to do enough to hang on to sixth place and take the championship. RBR had Webber up ahead anyway and could've used him as a joker to drop behind Vettel if need be, but fortunately for them it never came to that.

Karun Chandhok gives his views exclusively to ESPNF1 at the end of every grand prix weekend

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0 Karun Chandhok gives his views exclusively to ESPNF1 at the end of every grand prix weekend Karun Chandhok is one of just two Indians to sit on a Formula One starting grid, making his debut in 2010 with HRT. A motor sport fan since he was a kid, in his first year in the paddock he quickly built up a solid reputation, not only as a driver, but also as an impeccable source of F1 trivia. Now he draws on both his first-hand experience and his extensive knowledge to offer his views on the sport he loves.