Vettel edges closer to the title with victory in Singapore

Sebastian Vettel scored his ninth victory of the season with a perfect drive in the heat of the night at Singapore.

The Red Bull Racing driver led from the lights to take the chequered flag in style, but he will have to wait until Suzuka to take the drivers’ title. Vettel only needs a single point to become the youngest-ever double world champion.

Jenson Button put in a late charge in the remaining laps, but had to settle for second position.

The McLaren driver had claimed second with a quick start, while Vettel’s front row partner team-mate Mark Webber got away slowly (yet again!).

Lewis Hamilton challenged Webber down the inside but ran out of space heading into Turn 1. He fell down to eighth, while Fernando Alonso made a great start from fifth on the grid to take third on the opening lap.

Webber twice passed Alonso on the street circuit, having to get back ahead after the Ferrari reclaimed third in the first pit-stops following an on-track exchange. But a bold move into the Turn 10 chicane on the restart lap secured the Australian third place and he pulled away thereafter.

Hamilton had an eventful run to fifth position. He quickly recovered from being wrong-footed on the opening lap but then clipped Felipe Massa into Turn 7 while racing with the Ferrari immediately after the first round of pit-stops. The McLaren picked up both wing damage and a drive-through penalty, while Massa was left with a right-rear puncture.

A fight back charge from Hamilton took him from P15 to fifth, an impressive performance although the safety car helped him. A clash between Michael Schumacher and Sergio Perez resulted in the Mercedes launching into the air and a hard hit against the barrier. Thankfully, Schumacher was unhurt in the incident.

The most impressive drive in the 61-lap race was Force India’s Paul di Resta. In his first appearance at this tough street circuit, di Resta finished the Singapore Grand Prix in sixth. His opening stint on the prime tyre was consistent and to finish ahead of Nico Rosberg and team-mate Adrian Sutil was a rich reward for the talented Scot.

Felipe Massa fell to P20 following the clash with Hamilton, but was able to recover to salvage some points in ninth.

Perez’s Sauber was undamaged in the incident with Schumacher, which happened when the Mercedes was coming back through after a pit-stop, and he finished tenth.

So only a single point is required from Sebastian Vettel to become the 2011 world champion. The next race is at his favourite circuit and it will be a surreal scenario if the championship leader doesn’t win the title this season.

Only Jenson Button can stop Vettel but the odds are stacked against him. Button needs to win the remaining five races to prevent the inevitable from happening to the Red Bull driver.

Race results from Marina Bay, 61 laps:

1.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           1h59:06.537s
2.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +1.737s
3.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +29.279s
4.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +55.449s
5.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +1:07.766s
6.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +1:51.067s
7.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +1 lap
8.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +1 lap
9.  Massa         Ferrari                    +1 lap
10.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +1 lap
11.  Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth          +1 lap
12.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
13.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +1 lap
14.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +2 laps
15.  Senna         Renault                    +2 laps
16.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault              +2 laps
17.  Petrov        Renault                    +2 laps
18.  D’Ambrosio    Virgin-Cosworth            +2 laps
19.  Ricciardo     HRT-Cosworth               +4 laps
20.  Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth               +4 laps
21.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +5 laps

Fastest lap: Button, 1:48.454

Not classified/retirements:
Trulli        Lotus-Renault                48 laps
Schumacher    Mercedes                     29 laps
Glock         Virgin-Cosworth              10 laps

World Championship standings, round 14:

1.  Vettel       309
2.  Button       185
3.  Alonso       184
4.  Webber       182
5.  Hamilton     168
6.  Massa         84
7.  Rosberg       62
8.  Schumacher    52
9.  Heidfeld      34
10.  Petrov        34
11.  Sutil         28
12.  Kobayashi     27
13.  Di Resta      20
14.  Alguersuari   16
15.  Buemi         13
16.  Perez          9
17.  Barrichello    4
18.  Senna          2
19.  Maldonado      1

1.  Red Bull-Renault          491
2.  McLaren-Mercedes          353
3.  Ferrari                   268
4.  Mercedes                  114
5.  Renault                    70
6.  Force India-Mercedes       48
7.  Sauber-Ferrari             36
8.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari         29
9.  Williams-Cosworth           5

Next race: Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka. October 7-9.

Red Bull Racing lockout front row in Singapore

Sebastian Vettel is edging one step closer in taking this season’s world championship following qualifying in Singapore.

The championship leader only did one flying lap to take his eleventh pole position while team-mate Mark Webber knocked off McLaren rival Lewis Hamilton to take second, earning Red Bull Racing a front-row lockout in Marina Bay and maintaining the team’s perfect qualifying form this year.

The McLarens will start the Singapore Grand Prix on the second row with Jenson Button ahead of Lewis Hamilton. The latter suffered a right-rear puncture in Q2 and had to preserve his option tyres for the race so elated not to do a second run in Q3.

As for the Ferraris, Fernando Alonso is fifth with team-mate Felipe Massa taking sixth, a full second behind the two-time Singapore Grand Prix winner.

The team formation continues with Nico Rosberg ahead of team-mate Michael Schumacher followed by the Force Indias. The Mercedes-powered cars will line up on row four and five respectively, although Schumacher, Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta decided not to set a lap time in Q3.

Renault’s prediction of a very tough Singapore Grand Prix weekend came true as its drivers ended up fighting to escape from Q1. Bruno Senna was in the drop-zone before a mighty last lap got him up to P15, but in the process knocked his team-mate Vitaly Petrov down to an eliminated P18, the Russian’s lap time nearly a second slower than Senna’s.

The Force Indias’ last Q2 laps denied Sergio Perez a Q3 place and left him P11. His Sauber team-mate Kamui Kobayashi caused a Q2 red flag when the aggressive approach he had taken to the Turn 10 chicane all weekend became rather too wild and he launched his car into the barrier.

The Williams will start P12 and P13, while the Toro Rossos qualified either side of Senna in P14 and P16.

Heikki Kovalainen’s initial Q3 run saw his Lotus ahead of Petrov and within a tenth of Sebastien Buemi, though the Finn was cut adrift when he failed to improve on his last lap.

It was a similar story for HRT, which had both cars ahead of the Virgins going into the final Q1 runs, but ended up on the back row again as Timo Glock and Jerome D’Ambrosio improved.

Tonio Liuzzi’s five-place grid penalty for causing the Monza start mayhem will have no effect whatsoever as the Italian qualified slowest of all, 0.4 seconds behind his Singapore debutant team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Qualifying times from Singapore:

1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m44.381s
2.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m44.732s
3.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m44.804s
4.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m44.809s
5.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m44.874s
6.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m45.800s
7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m46.013s
8.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             no time
9.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes no time
10.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes no time
11.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m47.616s
12.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1m48.082s
13.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    1m48.270s
14.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m48.634s
15.  Bruno Senna           Renault              1m48.662s
16.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m49.862s
17.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       No time
18.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              1m49.835s
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m50.948s
20.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault        1m51.012s
21.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m52.154s
22.  Jerome D’Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m52.363s
23.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth         1m52.404s
24.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth         1m52.810s*

107 per cent time: 1m53.844s

*Five-place grid penalty for causing a crash on lap 1 at Monza

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy review

Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Solider Spy film

Based on the 1974 novel by John le Carré, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a gripping espionage thriller set at the height of Cold War paranoid.

Directed by Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson with screenplay from the late Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan, the film adaption takes a different approach to the classic BBC television series starring Sir Alec Guinness.

When an agent (Mark Strong as Jim Prideaux) is shot while on a mission in Budapest, Control (led by the superb John Hurt) realises that there must be a Russian mole in the British Secret Intelligence Services and asks his former officer George Smiley (the impressive Gary Oldman) to come out of retirement to investigate.

Aided by Peter Guillam (played by the talented theatre actor Benedict Cumberbatch) and retired researcher Connie Sachs (the scene-stealing Kathy Burke), Smiley uncovers the identity of the Russian mole, which seems to involve rogue agent Ricky Tarr (the excellent Tom Hardy), who fell in love with a Russian woman (Svetlana Khabenskiy) while undercover behind the Iron Curtain.

As they unravel Control’s chain of suspicions, Smiley and Guillan begin to narrow down four possible colleagues featuring the codename “Tinker” (Toby Esterhase played by David Dencik), “Tailor” (Bill Haydon, performed by the BAFTA-winning actor Colin Firth), “Soldier” (Roy Bland, featuring the superb Irish talent of Ciarán Hinds) and “Poorman” (Percy Alleline played by Toby Jones).

I enjoyed every moment in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The cinematography is a work of art thanks to Hoyte Van Hoytema, who also shot Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In.

The soundtrack is great too, in the way it builds up a sense of drama and tension during key scenes in the film. As for the performances by the talented cast, it’s difficult to fault anyone in this gorgeous 1970s period of paranoid and suspicion but obviously it is Gary Oldman who is the main highlight in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. His utterly compelling performance as Smiley is fantastic and it is not a surprise to hear Oldman as a likely candidate to win next year’s Oscar for best actor.

Alfredson’s direction is assured throughout the film, allowing the pieces of information to fit together slowly like an exceedingly complex jigsaw puzzle where you don’t see the whole picture until the final piece is played out. The director also orchestrates some terrific sequences, such as Guillam attempting to steal some important files from under the noses of his colleagues followed by a heart-stopping scene that hinges on the inspired use of George Formby’s Mr. Wu’s a Window Cleaner Now.

Impressively directed and beautifully shot, this is a gripping spy story with a satisfyingly intelligent script, with some superb production design work and terrific performances from a wonderful British cast. Highly recommended.

Vettel wins high-speed battle at Monza

Sebastian Vettel scored his eighth victory of the season with an impressive drive in the Red Bull RB7 at Monza.

The championship leader achieved his maiden win back in 2008 for Toro Rosso and this latest triumph, his eighteenth career Grand Prix victory means Sebastian Vettel is edging closer towards the drivers’ title.

Jenson Button won the battle over Fernando Alonso for second position, with Lewis Hamilton having to settle for fourth after spending much of the race stuck behind Michael Schumacher.

As for Mark Webber – Vettel’s closest challenger in the points prior to the weekend – crashed out following a clash with Felipe Massa.

Alonso had briefly raised the tifosi’s hopes for success by surging his Ferrari to the front in a spectacular start from fourth on the grid. Vettel was slow away from pole position and was immediately attacked by Hamilton’s McLaren before Alonso appeared down the inside, taking a bit of the grass along the way.

Carnage further back prompted the safety car. Tonio Liuzzi losing control of his HRT under braking and spun down the inside grass before slamming into Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes and Vitaly Petrov’s Renault in the middle of the Rettifilio.

Rubens Barrichello’s Williams and Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber picked up damage in the consequent traffic jam, while Bruno Senna, Sebastien Buemi and Adrian Sutil had to trundle through the gravel in avoidance.

The race restarted on lap four with Schumacher taking advantage over Hamilton to move into third for Mercedes.

Webber was taking sixth from Button during this moment of time, both having lost ground at the start. But when the Red Bull attacked Felipe Massa into the Rettifilio a lap later, Webber ended up tagging the Ferrari into a spin and damaging his front wing, which then folded under the car and caused him to crash at the Parabolica.

The sister Red Bull was faring better with Vettel seeking an opportunity to get by race leader Alonso. On lap five, the championship leader had better acceleration – thanks to a short gear ratio – to make a brilliant around-the-outside-pass at Curva Grande. After that, Vettel was unstoppable, storming away and holding a 15-second margin as he notched up yet another victory.

Alonso then came under attack from Schumacher and Hamilton for a while, but soon the latter pair were too busy fighting each other. The Mercedes’ supreme straight-line speed and some firm defending from the seven-time world champion kept Hamilton at bay.

Button caught the Schumacher-Hamilton duel, and was able to pass both in quick succession on lap 16 – taking Hamilton when he had to abruptly back off as Schumacher closed the door shut at the Curva Grande, and then slicing down the outside of the Mercedes into Ascari.

That left Button in clean air to chase down Alonso – who he overtook shortly after the second round of pit-stops when the Ferrari got a poor exit from the Rettifilio.

The battle between Schumacher and Hamilton was exciting. The Mercedes’ had the straight-line speed advantage but had to defend quite aggressively to prevent the McLaren getting by. It didn’t help that Hamilton was hitting the rev-limiter as he tried in vain to pass the Silver Arrow.

Hamilton eventually pass Schumacher on the approach down to Ascari on lap 27, and then mounted his own pursuit of Alonso – catching the Ferrari on the final lap but running out of time to try a pass.

Massa recovered from the Webber incident to finish in sixth position for Ferrari behind Schumacher.

Sergio Perez looked assured of seventh on a one-stop strategy until his Sauber’s gearbox failed, which meant Jaime Alguersuari could take the place after a strong drive from P18.

Paul di Resta, Senna and Buemi recovered from their first-corner delays to complete the points-scorers for Force India, Renault and Toro Rosso respectively.

A fine start and a safe passage through the first-lap chaos saw Pastor Maldonado run as high as sixth place for Williams. But he did not have the race pace to remain there and slipped down to P11 by the chequered flag.

Behind the delayed Barrichello, the high attrition rate allowed Lotus duo of Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, and Virgin Racing’s Timo Glock, to take potentially useful finishes in P13 through P15.

So a fantastic result for Red Bull Racing. This result proves that the team had firmly conquered its Monza weak spot by dominating the Italian Grand Prix thanks to Sebastian Vettel. The German can actually win the world championship in Singapore. Currently he is 112 points clear with 284. Alonso moved to second place today with 172, with Button and Webber third on 167 and Hamilton fifth with 158.

Italian Grand Prix race results, 53 laps:

1.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           1h20:46.172
2.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +9.590
3.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +16.909
4.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +17.471
5.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +32.677
6.  Massa         Ferrari                    +42.993
7.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
8.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +1 lap
9.  Senna         Renault                    +1 lap
10.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
11.  Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth          +1 lap
12.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +1 lap
13.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault              +1 lap
14.  Trulli        Lotus-Renault              +2 laps
15.  Glock         Virgin-Cosworth            +2 laps

Fastest lap: Hamilton, 1:26.187

Not classified/retirements:
Ricciardo     HRT-Cosworth                 40 laps
Perez         Sauber-Ferrari               34 laps
Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari               23 laps
Sutil         Force India-Mercedes         11 laps
Webber        Red Bull-Renault             6 laps
D’Ambrosio    Virgin-Cosworth              3 laps
Petrov        Renault                      1 lap
Rosberg       Mercedes                     1 lap
Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth                 1 lap

World Championship standings, round 13:

1.  Vettel       284
2.  Alonso       172
3.  Webber       167
4.  Button       167
5.  Hamilton     158
6.  Massa         82
7.  Rosberg       56
8.  Schumacher    52
9.  Petrov        34
10.  Heidfeld      34
11.  Kobayashi     27
12.  Sutil         24
13.  Alguersuari   16
14.  Buemi         13
15.  Di Resta      12
16.  Perez          8
17.  Barrichello    4
18.  Senna          2
19.  Maldonado      1

1.  Red Bull-Renault          451
2.  McLaren-Mercedes          325
3.  Ferrari                   254
4.  Mercedes                  108
5.  Renault                    70
6.  Force India-Mercedes       36
7.  Sauber-Ferrari             35
8.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari         29
9.  Williams-Cosworth           5

Next race: Singapore Grand Prix, Marina Bay. September 23-25.

Vettel grabs pole position at Monza

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel took his twenty-fifth career pole position with a sensational lap around the legendary Monza track.

His margin over rival Lewis Hamilton was an impressive 0.4 seconds and by taking the top spot, it underlines the speed of the Renault-powered RB7 and maintains the team’s perfect record in qualifying this season.

The McLarens will start the Italian Grand Prix in second and third, with Hamilton edging out team-mate Jenson Button by 0.052 seconds.

Racing in front of the passionate tifosi, Fernando Alonso took fourth for Ferrari ahead of Mark Webber’s Red Bull and team-mate Felipe Massa.

The Renaults and Mercedes completed the top ten, with Vitaly Petrov in seventh, Michael Schumacher out-qualifying Nico Rosberg to eighth, with Bruno Senna completing the Q3 field without setting a lap time.

Senna’s last-gasp Q2 effort knocked Force India’s Paul di Resta out by just a tiny margin of 0.006 seconds. He will share the sixth row with his team-mate Adrian Sutil.

The Williams pair takes up row seven, while the Saubers struggled in qualifying after a promising practice session and will sandwich Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi in P15 and P17. Buemi’s team-mate Jaime Alguersuari was again the unfortunate midfielder knocked out in Q1 and will start the race in P18.

Jarno Trulli led the tail-end group for Team Lotus out-qualifying team-mate Heikki Kovalainen. Timo Glock got close to Kovalainen’s pace despite concerns that his Virgin Racing’s Drag Reduction System was sticking open.

As for the back row of the grid, Daniel Ricciardo will start ahead of his veteran HRT team-mate Tonio Liuzzi for the first time in only his fifth appearance in Formula One.

Qualifying positions for the Italian Grand Prix, Monza:

1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m22.275s
2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m22.725s
3.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m22.777s
4.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m22.841s
5.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m22.972s
6.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m23.188s
7.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              1m23.530s
8.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m23.777s
9.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m24.477s
10.  Bruno Senna           Renault              No time
11.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m24.163s
12.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1m24.209s
13.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1m24.648s
14.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    1m24.726s
15.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m24.845s
16.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m24.932s
17.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m25.065s
18.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m25.334s
19.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault        1m26.647s
20.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m27.184s
21.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m27.591s
22.  Jerome D’Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m27.609s
23.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth         1m28.054s
24.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth         1m28.231s

107 per cent time: 1m29.854s

Leaf on Twitter

свети мина

After months of deliberating whether to sign up to Twitter, I have now taken the action to use this social network once and for all. Although it will take me a while to customise the settings just the way I like it…

At least, I have added a nice background image to give it a sense of identity. The words of my favourite films, television shows, music and Formula One drivers form the shape of a racing car! Clever bit of typography that.

Right, be sure to follow me @walkingleaf79 and I will try my best to ‘tweet’ any random thoughts or news items I have discovered on the net.