When Nico Hulkenburg made his debut for Williams in 2010, he was highly rated by those who know what they’re talking about. Admittedly I didn’t see what the fuss was about until he unleashed a bit of brilliance in qualifying at Interlagos and put it on pole. And not by a fluke either. In 2012 it was more of the same: he was promisingly fast in practice for the Australian GP but as the season wore on he and Force India roomie Paul di Resta were equally anonymous (or equally brilliant- it was hard to tell) in a midfield car. But since being confirmed as a Sauber driver for 2013 the Hulk has become a little bit more incredible, whereas di Resta has just been green. The German had a golden opportunity to give the Silverstone squad its first win since their triumph at the same track nearly ten years before, when they were still being run by everyone’s favourite gibberer, Eddie Jordan. And it so nearly happened. I think the team could be forgiven for reaching for a few Kingfishers after the race.
Before I start let me say that there is no way that Sebastian Vettel did not deserve his title. He knew what he had to do and he did it, simple as that. He could probably have made life easier for himself if he hadn’t chopped across Bruno Senna at the start and reverted to a 1979 school minibus exhaust configuration, but he was impossible to shake off and drove around his self-imposed problem. The mark of a champion. And, eating my own words here, I can’t think of the last driver who gave a Newey car three titles in a row. For various reasons Mansell, Hill, Villeneuve, Hakkinen and Raikkonen couldn’t manage it. Ayrton Senna might have done given half a chance, but that goes without saying. So Vettel might have the best car, but he makes the best use of it.
But I and many others would have loved to have seen that number 1 adorning the ugly nose of next year’s Ferrari, if for no other reason than to have a slight change. If they gave out points for places gained off the start, that might have helped Alonso’s charge. He was certainly the most determined, complete, and impressive driver this year.
In 2008 Felipe Massa thought he had the title in the bag until right at the end. Although not in quite as dramatic a fashion, Marussia thought they had the equivalent of the same accolade sewn up until the closing stages in 2012, when Charles Pic lifted off for a blue flag. Vitaly Petrov, who seems to excel at bursting other people’s bubbles in the final race, pounced. The moral of the story is if your name contains the letters ‘M-A-S-S-A’ then you’re going to leave Interlagos crushed.
When the race was in its ‘mental’ stage, long before the crushing anti-climax of the safety car finish, most of the new teams’ drivers were running in the points. Yet they were destined not to stay there. Such is their fundamental lack of pace compared to the big boys that they may as well have been racing sit-on lawnmowers.
It’s been 19 years since a member of the Senna family stood on the podium or even scored points in Brazil. Bruno has a half-decent race car and he excels in greasy conditions. Unfortunately he also excels at being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and thanks to the world champion his likely last race for Williams was a damp affair in more ways than one. In fairness to Bruno, neither his uncle nor his good mate Rubens Barrichello quite got it together on home soil as frequently as they might have been expected to.
It was rather funny to see Raikkonen get lost. I wonder if his engineer was scared of getting on the phone and giving him directions…?