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Formula One - As of Japan

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Looks like my tips for last race were wrong again. Formula One used to be a lot easier to call back in the days of the Red Baron. It'd almost always be Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello and a McLaren/Renault/Honda driver.

But my much earlier, broader guess that it'd come down to the Red Bulls and Fernando Alonso seems to be spot-on. Mark Webber's not very far ahead of Vettel and Alonso so the final three races will come down to whether he has the nous to continue defending his lead or whether the more recent form of Vettel or Alonso can snatch it from him. As an Aussie, I'm saddened to say that F1 gods in the recent past have favoured the chaser when the lead is this small. Hopefully he can prove me wrong.

Suzuka is normally an exciting race. 2005 was a great year for it with Raikkonen coming from 17th on the grid to win and Fernando Alonso passing Michael Schumacher through 130R. But this year it was made boring by the Red Bulls who were just too good up against everyone else. Even if Button's strategy (qualifying on the prime tyre and saving the grippier options for later in the race when the track would be truly rubbered in) had worked and Hamilton's gearbox survived the race, Mark Webber's and Sebastian Vettel's last few laps (when they were both chasing the fastest lap record) showed that the Red Bulls had been coasting throughout most of the race anyway. If they needed the speed, they had it.

Kamui Kobayashi ought to get drive of the race in Japan. It was a great display of overtaking ability in front of a home crowd. He went for a strategy similar to Button's and he made it work (admittantly, he was racing against Force India and Toro Rosso, not Ferrari and Red Bull). Good drive by his new teammate Nick Heidfeld too, a person who really deserves to be in F1. Two or three years ago, no one would've said Nick Heidfeld is any worse an F1 driver than Mark Webber or Jenson Button, but now one's leading the championship and the other's the defending world champ. I still hope to see the day when Quick Nick wins his first race.

It's a new track, so it'll favour the more naturally-gifted drivers on the grid like Lewis, Sebastian and Fernando. Then again, Suzuka showed that no amount of skill can outdo a well-set up car. I recently won the world championship on my copy of F1 2010 on PS3 and I'm still not sure what sort of track Yeongnam is. It's got some pretty long straights which will favour the McLarens and their F-duct, but the middle part of the track, from memory, is mostly slow to medium speed corners, which should spell win for Red Bull. I'm confusing myself so I'll just go with my gut and take a stab at it xD.

1. Lewis Hamilton
2. Mark Webber
3. Sebastian Vettel
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