Sacred bulls on top in India
You don’t need to be an F1 expert to work out who the form team is at the moment. The pendulum has swung decisively towards Red Bull in recent races.
Sebastian Vettel heads into this weekend’s race on the back of three consecutive wins. Indeed, he’s led the last 145 racing laps in a row. He will stretch that to more than 200 if this year’s race goes as well as it did last year, when he led from start to finish.
In Korea, Vettel moved into a prime position to secure a third consecutive championship, edging six points clear of Fernando Alonso. A hallmark of all Vettel’s recent campaigns has been his superb late-season form. It’s hard to pin down exactly what is the key to this. Perhaps he and his car are particularly well-suited to the Asian races at the end of the schedule. Perhaps the youthful Vettel – still only 25 – is better-equipped to weather the grind of the increasingly long F1 calendar.
In the case of this season, it appears to be mostly down to Red Bull unlocking the latent potential of the RB8 at a crucial time. Since the middle of 2009 Red Bull have usually been the team to beat in F1. But this year new restrictions on two of their key innovations set them back.
Their fight to the front was stymied further when other updates they brought to their cars were ruled out by the sport’s governing body. Victories in Bahrain and Monaco were followed by an instruction from the FIA to change part of their car deemed not in compliance.
There’s no denying Red Bull have had a harder time this year than they did in 2011. But they have fought back commendably well. Their form may be sapping the life from the championship contest but they mustn’t be begrudged the success they’ve fought hard to achieve.
Red Bull’s rivals in trouble
If Alonso is going to have any chance of wresting the lead of the drivers; championship back from Vettel he needs to have Ferrari firing on all cylinders.
He was closest to the charging Bulls in the final practice session. But a deficit of six-tenths of a second means he has little hope of beating them to pole position. And Ferrari’s cause was not helped by the efforts of Felipe Massa.
Despite another below-par season Massa’s recent resurgence in form has proved sufficient for Ferrari to keep him on for another year. They may have regretted inking a new contract with the Brazilian when he spun off twice during the second practice period. He damaged both his sets of tyres, leaving him without enough rubber to do a race simulation run at the end of the session, depriving Ferrari of vital data.
McLaren and Lotus both showed promising performance on the high-fuel run, suggesting they may have the potential to take the fight to Red Bull. But they may prove equally capable of splitting Ferrari from their principal rivals, further compromising their championship hopes.
McLaren’s practice form was especially curious. They were in the running on the harder tyres but when they switched to the softer rubber they seemed incapable of producing the same performance.
The odds on Vettel taking pole position are too short to be worth considering. But there are other betting options of interest. Unibet is offering 3.6 on Lewis Hamilton to reach the top ten (Q3) in every qualifying session this year (there are four left). That is definitely worth a look going on his and McLaren’s current form.
Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic.