A lot of people spoke with surprise this year about how Lewis Hamilton had chosen to leave McLaren for Mercedes after his entire career from childhood up was nurtured under the McLaren roof, with money and support from the team even in go-karting. My theory had mostly to do with Hamilton growing up and needing to move to a new home. Today Autosport.com has continued its year-end stories providing quotes from some F1 drivers, with Sebastian Vettel being quoted from some point in the year about why he is staying at Red Bull, where he had been nurtured also since he was a teenager:
"I've been wearing a Red Bull helmet for almost my entire career," Vettel said. "It is difficult to imagine another kid of life if you are so used to it. It would be like when you turn 18, 19 and move out of your family's home. I am very happy where I am right now and I don't want to move to anywhere else."
I think that quote sums up perfectly why Hamilton, who will turn 28 in a week, has left McLaren. Vettel, who this year became the youngest three-time drivers' champion, is still just 25.
When we think of the amazing 2012 season that Fernando Alonso drove this year, just barely missing out on the title in the last race despite not having the best car in his Ferrari, we don't think much of something that Brazil's Globo Esporte site has just pointed out: That Alonso was also as clean a driver as you could possibly be. Pastor Maldonado had the record number of penalties this year with 15 penalties had nearly double the number of the second most penalties, of Serio Perez, who had 8...as did Sebastian Vettel. But Alonso had NO penalties (as did Timo Glock).
After the former Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok of India raced in 2012 in the World Endurance Championship with the JRM Racing team he may also race in the American Le Mans Series next year, said Chandhok. "JRM Racing has some American sponsors and we could very well be doing the American Le Mans Series," reported an Indian news agency. "But nothing has been finalised. As of now, it is the WEC." This year saw the second annual Indian Grand Prix running a better race this year than last, but without Chandhok. It did feature his countryman, Narain Karthikeyan, however.
In a talk with Autosport, Jenson Button has said that he thinks McLaren will be able to be stronger in 2013 and that he thinks they will not have the problems of reliability that cost them so much this year. It is true that when the car held together, it was fast and great - look at the end of the season when things looked little better, and Lewis Hamilton won in Austin and then led in Brazil until he was bumped off the track.
But Button also made an interesting observation about the new Pirelli tire compound for next year that the drivers checked out in Brazil. Button thinks that it will be easier to warm up, and that it will not give the same problems as last year, but he says he thinks there will be a lot more rubber degradation towards the end of the season, creating a lot of unpredictable results, as things were with the Pirellis in the beginning of 2012....
Interesting. After Ferrari wondered after the end of the season whether Sebastian Vettel had done an illegal pass in the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix - when the German took his third title in a row - now it is Autosport in its Top 50 list of racing drivers that rates Alonso higher than Vettel. It rates Alonso as the best driver of the year, and Lewis Hamilton as the second best, although he finished fourth in the championship. Vettel comes in third on the Autosport list. Also interesting that Nico Rosberg, who won his first race this year and again bettered his teammate Michael Schumacher, finished only 49th on the list!
Sebastian Vettel has told Autosport that he can still improve as a driver. Vettel became the youngest 3-time world champion in history this year at age 25. The previous youngest was Ayrton Senna, at 31. Vettel also became only the third driver in history, after Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher, to win three titles in a row.
"In terms of results, the last three years and winning the constructors' championship have been perfect but I still feel that there are little bits here and there we can improve on," he told Autosport.
In fact, while much of the focus had been on Fernando Alonso's extraordinary efforts this year, a turning point for the impression Vettel made on his critics came at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, when he climbed up from the back of the grid and finished third. He did it again - finishing fourth - at the Brazilian Grand Prix, and thus silenced critics who had said he had to start up front of the grid to win a race.
For the sixth year in a row, this weekend Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel won the Race of Champions nations cup for Germany. The RoC has the teams driving against each other in various bizarre cars in heats. Can you imagine that team? Schumacher with 7 F1 titles and Vettel with 3? And 18 years difference in age? It suddenly occurred to me that this would be one driver paring I'd love to have seen - or see next year - at Red Bull! But I wonder if they would remain such great friends....
I mean, two of the greatest drivers in the world - and if anyone still doubts Vettel, look at his drive at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this year from the back of the grid up; or if anyone doubts Schumacher, there is a story to read on Autosport - if you subscribe - in one of the best analyses I've seen of his two careers in F1, by Pat Symonds, who worked with Schumacher at Benetton.
And then, how can I report on this without saying that in the individual driver part of the competition, the champion is...Romain Grosjean!!! The so-called first lap nutcase of the 2012 F1 season, according to Mark Webber, of Red Bull.
It just occurred to me that we never hear enough about one other things preventing American drivers from breaking into Formula 1. In a year in which optimism of the series breaking into the U.S. was at a very high level after the fabulous return of the U.S. Grand Prix, at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, the idea of the need for an American driver in F1 was raised many times.
The big complaint, the usual leitmotif about that problem is that Americans have to move to Europe to train in, and be seen racing in, the lower series leading up to F1. What is rarely spoken about is that these same drivers usually need a vast budget from sponsors if they want to break into the highest level.
The official IndyCar web site has reported that Conor Daly, an American who was racing in the GP3 series this year, has just said he doubts he can make it to Formula 1 for that very reason: No budget high enough."We have had some great sponsors and supporters around us, but it will take more if we want to move up in Europe and also if we can do IndyCar," he said. "Europe has been awesome; I've learned a lot. But the financial backing is something that we don't have to move to the next level."
Of course, there was never any doubt within Formula 1 that the results were final after the Brazilian Grand Prix, but now Ferrari has accepted the clarification from the FIA and said it will not consider an appeal after videos showed something confusing to some internauts that seemed to suggest that Sebastian Vettel had passed Jean-Eric Vergne under the yellow flags at the Brazilian Grand Prix. But he had not. So the season is really over - even though it already was. And what a season it was. Another United States Grand Prix, and this one without controversy like that one of 2005 ... or like that little hiccup in the last few days with Ferrari asking or a clarification from the FIA....
I was quite amused last night when I went home very late to find an F1 journalist colleague saying on his Facebook that it was possible that the results of the Brazilian Grand Prix would be protested by Ferrari for an apparent illegal passing move by Sebastian Vettel, and that the result could be that Fernando Alonso would be champion - not Vettel. I mean, hey, this was exactly the deal I expected to happen AFTER the race - I mean, an hour or so after the race. Not because I expected there had been any wrong doing - just because I expected that someone had to make a protest! So I wrote onto my friend's Facebook page saying that he obviously had a fun sense of humor and the season was over and bringing out his joking nature.
Woke up this morning to find that there HAD been a letter sent by the Ferrari team for clarification to the FIA over a move Vettel made during the race. This letter had been sent Wednesday night, it seems, three days after the race.... Huh? Well, the FIA will clarify it, and apparently did so to Autosport, and the result is that there is "No Case." According to Autosport.
It also turned out that Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 promoter, also thought it was, in his words, "a joke." Well, let's keep posted. Too bad it was such a great end to the season and had to be spoiled - at least momentarily.