Upon wrapping up their second consecutive world championship title with three races remaining in the season, most drivers probably wouldn’t be racing the rest of the field so hard that they look like they’re still competing for the title. One would also think that such a driver starting second on the grid Sunday will surely drive a bit more conservatively this weekend, trying to avoid the mayhem that inevitably ensues on the first lap while the drivers try to find their place. But then, most drivers aren’t Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Renault.
About midway through the first lap, Vettel had already attempted two passing maneuvers on pole sitter McLaren-Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton - the second which paid off – and then opened a full 1-second gap at the start of lap 2. By the end of the race he finished 12 seconds clear of 2nd place Hamilton, who struggled most of the race to keep at bay Vettel’s teammate, a quicker Mark Webber. This battle for 2nd place was probably the most interesting one on the track and resulted in Hamilton finished a mere 0.4 seconds in front of 3rd place Webber, who could not make a couple of passes on track stick.
The gutsy wheel-to-wheel driving didn’t stop there however, as McLaren-Mercedes’ other driver Jenson Button spent most of his race clawing his way back up to a 4th place finish, equaling his starting position on the grid. He also spent much of the last half of the race fending off Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who finished 1 second behind. Alonso’s teammate Felipe Massa finished 6th. Red Bull’s 1st and 3rd place finishes were also enough this weekend to secure their second consecutive constructors championship.
The big movers and shakers of Sunday were STR-Ferrari’s Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastian Buemi, who both climbed 4 spots from their grid positions to place in the top 10. They finished 7th and 9th, respectively. Nico Rosberg brought his Mercedes home in 8th place, and Force India’s Paul Di Resta was awarded the last championship point in 10th, again finishing ahead of his teammate Adrian Sutil. He now has accumulated 21 points on the season, which is rather impressive for a rookie in a mid-level team.
Three cars retired from this weekend’s race. Renault’s Vitaly Petrov ran into the back of (and nearly over) Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes on lap 17, bringing out the safety car and prematurely removing both drivers from the race. Petrov was slapped with a five-place grid penalty for causing an avoidable accident, which he will serve in India in two weekends. The third retiree was Williams-Cosworth’s Pastor Maldonado, whose engine gave out on lap 31. He had already been served a drive-through penalty prior to that for a pit lane mistake.
Other Racing News
The 2011 IndyCar season ended on a very somber note this past weekend as two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and 2005 IndyCar Champion Dan Wheldon died from injuries sustained in a massive accident in the final race in Las Vegas, Nevada. Wheldon raced with several current F1 drivers throughout his career, including Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Rubens Barrichello. Having been an IndyCar fan since1999, I’ve watched Dan race countless times and will surely miss his passion and the spirit with which he drove his car around the track.