Formula Won

It took a fair while yesterday to find an online stream that worked on my iPhone so I could watch the qualifying for the Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi (boo to the international rights issues which prevented me from accessing BBC web streaming directly, and curses to all those naughty streaming places still using Flash), but I had to practise yesterday as there was no way that I was going to miss today’s race.

Luckily my hotel’s free Wi-Fi allowed me to sit in bed at 9am and watch the entire Grand Prix. I even got the BBC commentary – although that arguably wasn’t such a good result, considering the “sack him, PLEASE” presence of the hopeless Jonathan Legard.

I’m glad I persevered. Sebastian Vettel produced a master drive to win the race and the World Championship, while Fernando Alonso and his Ferrari team were too busy watching Mark Webber’s every move to realise until it was too late that the German upfront would turn out to be their main rival. Alonso also suffered the indignity of being stuck behind, and unable to pass, the until-now-useless rookie Petrov in his Renault. It just goes to show that cheats never prosper: had Alonso won the Championship by less than the seven points he’d gained due to the team orders fiasco in Hungary, where Felipe Massa was forced to let him through to win the race, there would have been hell to pay.

Mark Webber, Alonso’s closest challenger before the race started, had been poor in qualifying and took that form through to the race. Never did he look like threatening to overtake the Spaniard, and his championship challenge petered out in a manner that belied many of his performances over the season. His whole weekend was very disappointing, and it’s pretty unlikely that he’ll ever have such a chance to win the title again. Maybe the overwhelming pressure told in the end.

McLaren had a good race, with Lewis Hamilton finishing second and Jenson Button third. Had their car been as competitive as this in the past few races, they could have been right up there in terms of the championship. A case of what might have been for them. Hopefully they’ll be stronger next season.

But Red Bull’s favoured son defied the odds to make up the hefty points gap to Alonso, and as he cried down the radio at the end of the race, it was clear just what the championship meant to him. I haven’t always been the team’s biggest fan this season, mainly due to team principal Christian Horner claiming that both his drivers enjoyed equal status when it was obvious there was a pecking order, but their car was undoubtedly the pick of the field, and it’s likely that if Vettel hadn’t had his share of mechanical mishaps and bad luck, he’d have secured the drivers’ title much earlier. A worthy champion, then – the youngest ever, beating Lewis Hamilton’s record – and I’d be surprised if it turned out to be his only season on top.

Next season is already shaping up to be a corker. With five World Champions in the field, and new regulations including an adjustable rear wing for the cars and the reintroduction of the KERS system (basically a turbo boost button that’s charged up by recycling brake energy every lap), overtaking should be easier (though I suppose we’ve heard that one before), which promises some truly titanic battles.

But whatever happens in 2011, the 2010 season has been one of the best on record, and the sport seems in rude health going forwards. Just please, get rid of that clown Legard, yeah?

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