The image of cars in a showroom
Although Lewis Hamilton suffered terrible luck in Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix and Sebastien Vettel went on to win, the question many people are asking in the aftermath is:
Should seven-time world champion and Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher, 43 years old, retire for good after rear-ending another car during the race?
It is not the first time this season that this has happened – a sign, perhaps, that the aging veteran is losing his touch.
But first, the race.
Hamilton looked set to win his second consecutive race and his fourth of the season after starting from pole. He was in total control of the Grand Prix when, on Lap 22, disaster struck and he was forced out.
What turned out to be a gearbox problem for Hamilton was a gift for defending world champion Sebastien Vettel, who cruised to victory for Red Bull-Renault over Hamilton’s McLaren-Mercedes teammate Jenson Button and world championship leader Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari.
Vettel, who was pushed by Button throughout the race but always seemed to be in control, became the first driver to win consecutive Singapore night races.
Paul di Resta drove a storming race to finish fourth for Force India-Mercedes, while Nico Rosberg was fifth for Mercedes. Lotus-Renault teammates Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean were sixth and seventh, followed by Felipe Massa (a marvelous comeback after having to pit in his Ferrari at the end of the first lap because of a puncture), Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso-Ferrari) and Mark Webber (Red Bull) rounded out the top ten.
Timo Glock finished 12th for Marussia-Cosworth, which is one of the best-ever finishes recorded by a tail-ender team.
The start was particularly frantic (most are, but this one was spectacular), with Alonso slow to get off the mark and Bruno Senna (who’d qualified 22nd) passing cars as if they were standing still.
Several cars then had to cut the corner at the first chicane and, ever mindful that one can’t improve one’s position by taking the short way around, just about everybody backed off and fell into line pretty much where they’d started the race.
A big exception was Pastor Maldonado, who’d qualified second and was beside pole-sitter Hamilton when the lights went out. But while Hamilton took off like a rocket, the Williams driver was letting discretion be the better part of valour and was subsequently passed by Vettel and Button in about the time it took to read this sentence. Maldonado eventually suffered hydraulics failure and dropped out on Lap 36.
It was Alonso’s eighth podium finish of 2012 and he now has a 29-point lead over Vettel for the championship, with Hamilton dropping to fourth in the standings.
The question of whether Schumacher will continue in F1 in 2013 might have been answered in this race.
For the second time this season, an incident in which there was a crash suggests that Schumacher’s once razor-sharp mental and physical reaction time is no longer good enough for Formula One. Earlier in the season, he ploughed into the back of Bruno Senna and in this race the victim was Toro Rosso’s Jean Eric Vergne.
Schumacher told this to London’s Telegraph: “First of all, I broke a little earlier than normal but the car wouldn’t decelerate. I went straight on the brakes then hard and locked up everything. The accident at that moment was not avoidable. I feel sorry for Jean Eric and for the team but we need to find out what happened.”
What happened was not the fault of the car.
Even the best have to realize at a certain point in time that they can’t do it any more. Hockey stars can’t score like they once could, home run hitters don’t hit. Prize fighters get knocked out.
For Michael Schumacher, it’s time.
– Schumacher is in the third year of a three-year contract with Mercedes following his first retirement. Mercedes racing boss Norbert Haug suggested to Canadian reporters at the Canadian Grand Prix in June that he wasn’t fussy about Schumacher continuing.
– The stewards penalized him 10 grid positions at the next race in Japan in two weeks. After he rear-ended Senna, he got five grid places at the next race at Monaco as a penalty. Then he went out and won the pole at Monte Carlo. Will history repeat hitself in Japan?
– Incidentally, Schumacher was involved in a similar accident at Singapore a year ago.
– Instead of his usual yellow, Lewis Hamilton wore a different coloured helmet at Singapore because of sponsorship considerations. As TV commentator David Coulthard suggested, betcha he wears yellow from now on.
– Although it was after dark, air temperature it was still around 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the race, Singapore being close to the equator.
– Felipe Massa’s performance might suggest to Ferrari that he still very much has “it.” As mentioned, he recovered from a first-lap puncture to finish in the top ten but his amazing car-control ability, as exemplified by his saving of the race car after being squeezed almost into the wall by Bruno Senna late in the race, was wondrous to behold.
You have to admit it: Denny Hamlin has guts.
He said, going into the second race of the Chase Sunday at Loudon, N.H., that he “guaranteed a win.”
Then he qualified 32nd and still said “no problem.”
So what does he go and do but win that NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, with Jimmie Johnson second and Jeff Gordon third.
Clint Bowyer arrived home fourth, Kasey Kahne was fifth, Brad Keselowski, who won the first Chase race last week, was sixth, Tony Stewart was seventh, Joey Logano was eighth, Brian Vickers ninth and Ryan Newman was tenth.
Hamlin was so sure of himself that when he got out of the car, he pretended to point to the centre field wall and hit an imaginary home run, a la Babe Ruth’s “called” home run.
Will he win the Chase? We’ll see.
It was an okay race; rather routine, in fact – other than Hamlin’s performance, of course.