• Karun Chandhok's ESPNF1 column

'Lewis was Lewis again'

Karun Chandhok October 19, 2011
Korea saw some great racing and a return to form for Lewis Hamilton © Getty Images

The last two Grand Prix have really illustrated McLaren's ability to develop a car and recover from a tough situation. In Singapore, we could see signs of it but really it was Jenson's win in Suzuka and then Lewis' performance in Korea that have driven the point home.

Both world championships may have been won but McLaren's current form bodes well for some excitement at the remaining races, and if Ferrari and Mercedes can use their resources to the fullest to produce cars capable of being competitive right from the start, then we could be in for an epic 2012. The rules are going to be largely stable and therefore the 2012 cars are going to be more about evolution rather than revolution for people like Red Bull and Mclaren. But we can expect to see some new philosophies being applied in Maranello and Brackley, particularly as this will be the first Ferrari which Pat Fry would have had time to influence, while Aldo Costa and Geoff Willis join Bob Bell and Ross Brawn to form of technical superteam for the Silver Arrows.

Korea was always going to be interesting given Pirelli's decision to bring its soft and super-soft tyres to a track which the teams had relatively little knowledge of in the dry - and that learning process was not helped when Friday was a wash out. Yet again, my Friday free practice session was spent hanging about getting wet, but I quite enjoyed my first experience of the Yeongam circuit with three layers of asphalt and without cranes parked along the side of the track! (If you remember, I did the track opening demo here last year with Red Bull). It's an interesting layout but the surface is a bit strange. It's very low grip and doesn't really clear the water as quickly as other tracks on the calendar.

Lewis Hamilton was the big talking point in Korea. His body language and demeanour was indicative of a man with a lot on his mind and not really very happy with life. It's been an extremely tough few months for Lewis - possibly the most difficult of his whole career - but I've said many times that, when everyone's operating at their peak, the three guys you can count on to win the races or deliver pole position laps out of the blue are Lewis, Seb and Fernando.

I love watching the onboards from these guys in qualifying. Each one has their own style but the over-riding thing is how aggressively they can all make the cars do the work and deliver a result. The body language from that McLaren during the final minute of qualifying was fantastic to watch. Lewis was Lewis again - driving with that assured confidence and aggression that made him a championship contender in three out of his first four seasons in F1. The stiff front end of the Mclaren changing direction sharply, its driver's left foot managing the brake pressure to perfection so that he's on the limit of a brake lock up but the wheel's still rotating.

In the race, Sebastian Vettel managed to dive ahead into turn four, and from that point onwards no-one else really had a look in. McLaren have reported that they noticed some damage on Lewis' car which cost him performance, and certainly the way the new double world champion was able to stretch his legs indicates that all was not well with Lewis. In the end, the big concerns over the option tyre went out the window early. The teams noticed after the first stint that the tyres were working better than expected and so any fears about needing to race excessively on the slower yet more durable prime were cast aside.

It was another wet practice session for Karun Chandhok in Korea © Getty Images
The battle for second between Lewis and Mark was fantastic. Two top class drivers being hard yet fair - one attacking but unable to get close enough in the DRS zone and the other providing a defensive master class in a slower car. The battle allowed Jenson and Fernando to close towards the end but not enough to alter the result.

Red Bull's strategy of doing longer runs on Saturday morning as opposed to the typical FP3 low-fuel short runs seemed to work well as they certainly had the quicker car on Sunday. Would Lewis have been able to sustain the lead if he didn't get passed on lap one? Possibly, but I suspect not. The fact that Sebastian was able to ease out a lead of over 12 seconds is a good indicator of his pace and you would have to imagine that somehow, somewhere in the race the Red Bull guys would've used the undercut to get ahead with that pace advantage.

On to India next and a completely new challenge for the teams and drivers to learn a new track. The drivers should all be up to speed by the end of FP1, but the big question marks will be over car setup. With a couple of long straights - one of which is 1.2km from turns three to four - combined with a non-stop sequence of corners from turn five until the end of the lap, the trade off between downforce and drag will be critical. I suspect most teams will have a car similar to Korea, although the tyres that will be used will be the soft and the hard as opposed to the super-soft. It should be another fantastic contest and a real treat for the Indian fans!