It is 7:55AM here in Lebanon. I barely got any sleep last night and my eyes refuse to work with me this morning. Today reminds me of how dedicated I actually am with this sport. Regardless of how much sleep I get the previous night, I always find myself up and awake for the race. I can’t, however, say the same about work.
With five drivers, Sutil, Barrichello, Button, Buemi, and Alonso, having to yield their places due to penalties (not responding quickly enough to yellow flags during the qualifying session), the field is all shuffled up.
Vettel is heaver than his two rivals behind him at 658.5 kgs. Kubica is the heaviest of the top ten runners at 686 kg. The cars slot into their corresponding grid slots. If Vettel can keep both Trulli and Hamilton behind him, it will ruin their strategy and give him a great advantage.
With one lap complete, Vettel is already stretching out a handsome lead of 1.926 from Hamilton, who found a way around Trulli (and almost Vettel) at the start.
This is Mark Webber’s second time into the pits with a problem with his cockpit surround. Ehm. There go his title chances.
Barrichello suggests that he try to pass Raikkonen for fifth place. He feels the Ferrari is slow. That is the price they pay for neglecting to develop the car any further.
As Webber exists the pit for the third time, his engine roars a very defining sound into my ears. It shoots me back to when I visited Bahrain for their first race in 2004. It’s such an other worldly experience. Sitting at turn one I was able to closely pay attention to each car and their sounds. Surprisingly, if I remember correctly, only one or two cars had soundtracks really worth listening too. Others were muffled and cut off, as though they had mimicked the sounds of a dying cow. I think it were Renault and and Honda who had incredible sounds. The first turn at the Sakhir circuit is a tight right hand turn and a long straight in the other direction. During that long straight you can really tell if something is wrong by the sound. I wondered who from the 2009 field sounds the most exciting.
Vettel is being told he shouldn’t push any harder in order to stick to his initial pit strategy. During that lap, he was four-tenths quicker than Hamilton.
Hamilton pits on lap 15 – 83 litres that should last him 23 laps.
Trulli pits two laps later leaving Vettel happy and free to focus on his dominating race.
With three red flags during the quali session yesterday due to driver offs, I had expected more off track incidents this morning. It’s lap 31 and nothing has confirmed my expectations as of yet. Who will be a victim to the fast, narrow Suzuka?
Hamilton is being asked to distance himself from Trulli and can’t seem to budge.
On lap 29, Grosjean is the first victim at Suzuka, if you can call it that. The barriers ached to pull him in despite his brief visit off track, letting Sutil by.
On lap 31, Raikkonen suddenly found boat loads of speed edging closer to Heidfeld with every corner. They have both already pit once and are fighting for 4th place. The pass look inevitable…unless anything interesting unfolds during the second round of pit stops.
He sets the fastest lap of the race on lap 33 – a 1:32.999.
And Raikonen pits on lap 36 with 7.2 seconds in the middle of a fight between Rosberg and Button and Kubica, who loves happy to have found the Ferrari’s rear. Heidfeld pits and slots out just ahead of his teammate, giving Raikkonen some breathing space.
Hamilton pits for soft tires on lap 38, eager to win the fight with Trulli and bring it up to Vettel. In the meanwhile, Trulli sets a personal best lap, pushing to the maximum if he wants to overtake Hamilton in the pits. He dives in a lap later, and changes to soft tires in 6.7 seconds. He rejoins barely in front of Hamilton, as his pit crew jump up and down in joy.
Alguersuari is picked up by one of the cameras sitting in the middle of the circuit with his front wing smashed and a front wheel hanging of its chassis. Replays show him losing control and smashing into one of the advertisement signs, and then into the barriers. The SC is immediately deployed.
If positions stay as they are now on lap 45, Vettel would have eaten 9 points out of Button’s lead.
Hamilton seems to be suffering from a KERS problem that might hinder his restart once the SC retreats. That being said, Raikkonen is waiting to, most probably, take advantage – having pushed harder than ever to get an underdeveloped car onto the podium. The drivers will have four laps to battle it out as the safety car roars loudly into the pits. At the same time, Vettel backs the field into a nice compact bunch.
I love any sort of safety car, giving fans a second race start to enjoy.
Button seems faster than his teammate with 3 laps to go. Only .291 seconds separate them. As that is being said, Kubica is also just as close to the rear of Button’s Brawn. As Vettel crosses the line for his last lap, Barrichello has built a tidy train of cars behind him. Raikkonen can’t seem to get past Hamilton.
Having pit five times, Webber sets the fastest lap of the race.
Vettel crosses the line first, his third win of the season. Trulli, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Heidfeld, Barrichello, Kubica, Alonso, Kovalainen, Fisichella, Sutil, Liuzzi, Nakajima, Grosjean and Webber follow.
With two races left – Brazil and Abu Dhabi – the title race is still on. Button leads with 85 points from Barrichello’s 79. Vettel keeps his title chances alive win that win, edging closer with 69 points.