After all of the talk about unnecessary collisions in Formula One this season, Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton put on a master class in safe, close-quarter racing at the Korean Grand Prix.
McLaren’s euphoria at dislodging RBR from pole position after qualifying had evaporated by the time the cars reached the fourth corner of the race when Sebastian Vettel cruised unchallenged past Lewis Hamilton to take a race lead that he would not relinquish.
Those left behind were left to squabble over the minor placings.
On Lap 34, Hamilton and Webber put together some of the finest wheel-to-wheel racing that we have seen in many years.
The pair were side-by-side through corner after corner, squeezing each other as far as they could, but always leaving sufficient room to allow the other to stay on track and at no point did they make contact.
After all of the attention Hamilton has been subjected to—mainly as a result of Felipe Massa’a constant complaints—both he and Webber showed what a pair of highly skilled professional drivers are capable of.
Their precision car placement was reminiscent of Gilles Villeneuve and Rene Arnoux at the 1979 French Grand prix (see video).
It was the highlight in an otherwise uninspiring race.
Strangely, the wonderful racing and podium finish did little to improve Hamilton’s demeanor.
The British McLaren pilot has been uncharacteristically subdued all weekend. In the qualifying press conference, Hamilton appeared intense and focused. He showed little in the way of emotion at achieving pole position—something that no other non-Red bull drivers had been able to do this year.
At the time it was assumed that Hamilton was focused on performing well in the race, but then the sullenness continued after he had finished second in the race.
Of course, it wasn’t helped by a somewhat insensitive and misguided question as to whether the second place helped Hamilton regain some self-belief—as if he had ever lost it.
It seemed as though Hamilton had just had enough of media types asking questions of him. He has received a lot of critical press of late—including here—and he could be forgiven if he didn’t wish to contribute to his ongoing inquisition.
Elsewhere in the race there were precious few overtaking moves and the only retirements were as a result of Vitaly Pretrov’s collision with Michael Schumacher while the former was in a late-braking duel with Fernando Alonso.
Massa and the Ferrari team conspired to destroy Fernando Alonso’s race. Massa held up his teammate for 30 laps and the team chose some pretty odd times to call Alonso in to the pits.
Massa, as you would expect, had the excuses ready for why he was holding his teammate up. He is quoted on the F1.com website as saying, “I’m not pleased because small problems prevented me from getting a better result.”
The small problem of you being an inferior driver, Felipe, one suspects.
Now the circus moves on to India for their inaugural grand prix on yet another Hermann Tilke franchise track. We can only hope that the race is more interesting than this one.
Either that, or pray for rain—that always helps.