Champion looking to retain crown
John Floyd reports on F1’s closing races and changes for the WRC Mini team
REIGNING F1 champion Sebastian Vettel took the lead for the drivers title following a faultless drive from start to finish in the Korean Grand Prix. Vettel had been pipped at the post in qualifying by his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, but made a good start and was never challenged throughout the 55-lap race.
McLaren was the team to suffer most when Jenson Button was eliminated within seconds of the start as the Sauber of Kobayashi sliced through the pack, out braked himself and removed the McLaren’s right front wheel and suspension. Hamilton had a reasonable start but was slowed with a rear anti-roll bar problem, managing to just hang on to tenth place and one point.
It was the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa that took up the challenge and chased the Red Bulls, but were unable to match the performance of either Vettel or Webber’s car. Finishing in third and fourth meant that the team move into second place in the constructor’s championship, but Vettel’s victory gives the German a six-point lead with just four races left this season.
The drive of the day and the best overtaking move has to go to Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg. His move, which saw him dispense with Hamilton and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean, was one of the best we have seen for a while.
Still on the F1 front, Sauber have announced that CEO Monisha Kaltenborn has been appointed as team principal with immediate effect, replacing team owner Peter Sauber. Kaltenborn joined the team in 2000 as head of the legal department. She was made CEO in January this year and was handed a third of the company shares last year. Sauber himself, who turns 70 next year, was reported as saying: “We decided a long time ago that Monisha would take over from me, but we left the timing open.”
The new team principal said: “Naturally I’m very aware of the major responsibility I have for Peter Sauber’s racing team. He founded the team over 40 years ago, and in the spring it will be 20 years since the team lined up for its debut Formula One grand prix. We are the fourth oldest team in Formula One. To build up a project like this and keep it alive in a difficult environment is a tremendous achievement. I have set my sights high and am committed to taking the team forward as Peter Sauber would want and leading it on to success.” Sauber will remain as president of the Swiss based Sauber Group.
For rally fans the announcement by the BMW-owned Mini brand that they will no longer compete as a works team in the WRC came as no surprise. The Mini team for the 2012 season had competed under the Motorsport Italia-run WRC Team Mini Portugal banner, and the future of this team remains undecided.
Mini will work with British based Prodrive to develop the 1.6l turbocharged engine, although funding for this work will be withdrawn at the end of this year. Having almost achieved the required homologation for the WRC Mini, Prodrive will produce the Mini John Cooper Works in both WRC and S2000 guise for privateer teams to compete in future.
Richard Taylor, business development director at Prodrive, said: “We have been developing our own plans for 2013 WRC participation with the Mini John Cooper Works and will announce next season’s Prodrive WRC Team entry and driver details in due course. We have a number of further enhancements to engine, chassis and transmission scheduled for introduction in the first quarter of 2013 and look forward to making these available to our many rally partners who already operate Mini JCW cars around the world.”
Good news for Mini fans and maybe, with newly crowned champion Sebastian Loeb announcing that he is backing off next season, we will see a Mini team on the top step of the podium ahead of the nine times WRC king, but somehow I have my doubts.
With the likes of Volkswagen and Hyundai joining the field it is going to be a very exciting future for WRC.