| AP Photo/Mark Baker
Red Bull was well-known for its pure domination of Grand Prix weekends over the last season with its seemingly simplistic approach of grabbing pole on Saturday and winning from there untroubled on Sunday.
But with the ban on the off-throttle blown diffuser and the introduction of the cryptically degrading Pirelli rubber, every team from top to tail suffered a massive headache this season - and Red Bull was no different.
As the season went by, the momentum shifted between the top-flight teams and no clear favourite emerged. Even a Ferrari, devoid of any ingredients to win, triumphed in Malaysia and a Williams claimed a pole-to-flag march on Spanish soil. Seven different drivers unprecedentedly won the first seven races, with Vettel paving his way to his season’s first top-step finish on the podium in Bahrain.
The German though was overshadowed by some stellar drives out of nowhere by Fernando Alonso with the defending champion heading into the mid-season break 42 points behind the Spaniard. After Alonso’s triumph at Hockenheim, the rest of the European races were led by Mclaren with three straight wins while Red Bull had showed no great deal of pace to fight for victories.
The street track of Singapore was a lucky breakthrough for Vettel as he capitalised on Lewis Hamilton’s gearbox failure to triumph for the second time in the year- after nine barren Grands Prix. He went blisteringly quick in qualifying with the DDRS aiding to cut down a few tenths, which left the rest of the field in despair in Japan.
The forgotten-tale was back for Red Bull as Vettel’s win served a timely reminder after Alonso’s predicament further complicated in a first corner snarl with Kimi Raikkonen and the championship hunt was back on.
Red Bull’s sudden leap in form was down to the constantly evolving updates in recent races. Both Vettel and Alonso had fair share of hoodoos; alternator-induced retirements in Valencia and Monza for the reigning champion and the first-corner crash at Spa along with the race-ending incident at Suzuka pretty much hampering Alonso’s title hopes.
Ferrari’s windtunnel woes at its factory in Maranello made it vulnerable a bit but new parts are scheduled to appear for India nevertheless while Mclaren remains upbeat with its development as well – although the British team’s title hopes didn’t.
Though Raikkonen stands third in the standings, Lotus has failed to improve in recent races. So, it’s down to Mclaren to take the fight in terms of pure race pace - over qualifying - to Vettel. This could help Alonso in some ways and with Vettel cautious in the closing stages in Korea, it suggested the Red Bull was probably not too far away from getting caught on race days.
The hat-trick of victories put Vettel at the top with Alonso trailing by six points. Will he be beaten or will Alonso make a miraculous comeback? The Indian Grand Prix beckons!