Why Vettel’s latest win was both refreshing and frustrating to watch

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Respect and admiration for a driver’s achievements does not necessarily mean one has to like it.

Case in point, I respected and admired almost everything Michael Schumacher did in his era of dominance from 2000 through 2004. But, purely as a fan, I couldn’t stand the notion that more than half the time, I went into a race knowing what result was going to happen.

It was going to be a combination of brilliance from Schumacher behind the wheel coupled with strategic calculations played to perfection from Ross Brawn on the pit wall, and of course culminating with the German and Italian national anthems on the podium.

And so, this Monday, we are still firmly entrenched in Sebastian Vettel’s era. A different era, for sure, in terms of how Formula One has evolved since then – but not different in one driver and one team’s ability to extract the maximum performance and results from its machinery.

The first half of this year, sure, the Red Bull didn’t have the single-lap pace of the Mercedes and relied as much on Vettel’s guile and determination as outright pace to secure wins. Four wins from 10 races heading into the summer break was still the most in the field, but it wasn’t as outright dominant as he had been in 2011 or as in any of Schumacher’s years.

Then the summer break happened, and for four consecutive races, Vettel Clinics were re-introduced to the field. Blitzing starts, often from pole, and with more than one second gained after the first lap or two (often two seconds plus), Vettel basically already had the race won. He had enough of a lead to where second place couldn’t use their DRS, and so long as Vettel sustained the gap and managed his tires (and a new, more conservative construction from Pirelli at that, this second half), it was game over.

Singapore and Korea were the culminations – the ultimate in ass-kicking with back-to-back “grand slams” of flag-to-flag wins from pole, with the fastest lap set.

The stat that stuck out most to me heading into Japan was that prior to this weekend, Vettel hadn’t not led at the end of the first lap since Hungary – a three-month stretch.

So as for his latest triumph in Japan, it was very refreshing to watch. A poor start left him third and needing to follow Romain Grosjean’s strategy, and needing to leapfrog his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber. He played the cards right to when he emerged behind Grosjean, he willed himself past rather easily. Once Webber’s strategy was shifted to a three-stopper and he emerged too, behind Grosjean, he couldn’t make the pass in near the amount of time and his tire advantage was negated. Again, game over, Vettel wins.

But here’s why it’s frustrating. We’ve seen so many of Vettel’s 35 career wins where he had limited adversity to overcome, and he could control the race from the outset. Here, the deck was stacked against him, but he still found a way to win. How demoralizing must that be to the rest of the Formula One field who not only don’t have the cars to match a Red Bull, but a talent level behind the wheel also unmatched?

Why else is it frustrating? Fernando Alonso did just enough in Japan to postpone the inevitable, with a fourth-place finish meaning Vettel will likely clinch the title at another soulless Tilkedrome in India instead of at a historical, challenging circuit with a fervent fan base who is knowledgeable enough to appreciate Vettel’s accomplishments, rather than boo him.

Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that a driver who’s made the most of this new age of Formula One will clinch his fourth straight championship at a type of new age track he’s made a habit of blitzing.

Oh, and heading into India, he’s a perfect two-for-two there with wins from pole and 100 percent of the laps led.

Vettel is an all-time great, to be mentioned in the same breath alongside Schumacher, Fangio, Senna, Prost, etc., no question. You have to give him that.

But he is the face of this new, often unlikeable era of F1, where as the “villain,” his accomplishments perhaps aren’t appreciated in the moment as they will be with time.

That, more than anything, is probably why it’s difficult to like him right now even as he continues his assault on the Formula One record books.

NHRA: Force power — Courtney, Brittany — dominates 1st day of qualifying at Norwalk

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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NHRA Media Release

NORWALK, Ohio – Both Brittany and Courtney Force are the current No. 1 qualifiers in their respective nitro categories after one qualifying session due to inclement weather at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park.

Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) is also a current No. 1 qualifier at the 12th event of 24 on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. Weather did not allow for Pro Stock to take to the track during Friday’s qualifying.

Force piloted her Monster Energy / Advance Auto Parts dragster to a 3.776-second pass at 324.44 mph which took her to the top of the Top Fuel category Friday evening. She looks to secure her second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 10th of her career.

“That pass was very important for our team,” B. Force stated. “With the rain you don’t know how many laps you’re going to get in before race day. The conditions were great, and we just went straight down there.”

Eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher is in second after his U.S. Army ran a pass of 3.792 at 324.44. Points leader Steve Torrence is third with a 3.792 at 327.82 in his Capco Contractors dragster.

Funny Car points leader Courtney Force leads qualifying with her run of 3.935 at 327.66 in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS. She is coming off a No. 1 qualifying position in Bristol and seeking her eighth No. 1 of the season.

“Going up there I was a little surprised we were going to lay down a number like that,” C. Force said. “With the rain coming in I was just looking for a clean run from point A to B. The car went straight down there and it felt like a good run.”

Ron Capps is in second after his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T ran a 3.961 at 320.28 and teammate Matt Hagan is third with a 3.981 at 325.22.

Smith holds the Pro Stock Motorcycle top spot after running as 6.866 at 195.39 on his Victory Magnum. He looks to lock-in his first No. 1 qualifier of the season.

“It was good to get the first run down,” Smith stated. “We have a top three bike every weekend. I’ve just got to do my job, be focused and hurt some feelings.”

Angelle Sampey rode her Team Liberty Racing Victory Magnum to a 6.899 at 193.24 and Andrew Hines rounds out the top three with a 6.911 at 194.58.

Qualifying for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals continues at 12:45 p.m. Saturday at Summit Motorsports Park.

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NORWALK, Ohio — Friday’s results after the first one of three rounds of qualifying for the 12th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, 12th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

TOP FUEL: 1. Brittany Force, 3.776 seconds, 324.44 mph; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.792, 330.63; 3. Steve Torrence, 3.792, 327.82; 4. Clay Millican, 3.800, 329.91; 5. Antron Brown, 3.805, 323.27; 6. Mike Salinas, 3.818, 313.07; 7. Pat Dakin, 3.833, 328.86; 8. Doug Kalitta, 3.871, 309.13; 9. Leah Pritchett, 4.099, 271.73; 10. Scott Palmer, 5.854, 116.34; 11. Richie Crampton, 6.073, 104.42; 12. Blake Alexander, 7.041, 82.72; 13. Dom Lagana, 7.105, 85.82; 14. Terry McMillen, 7.432, 91.70; 15. Luigi Novelli, 7.996, 75.45; 16. Chris Karamesines, 9.544, 59.37. Not Qualified: 17. Kyle Wurtzel, 10.731, 64.88; 18. Audrey Worm, 12.635, 56.10.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.935, 327.66; 2. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.961, 320.28; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.981, 325.22; 4. John Force, Camaro, 3.991, 325.22; 5. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.017, 322.27; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.032, 314.61; 7. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.044, 315.27; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.101, 308.57; 9. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Stratus, 4.143, 313.95; 10. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.148, 279.73; 11. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.198, 298.21; 12. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.258, 304.67; 13. John Smith, Camry, 4.302, 277.66; 14. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.997, 185.92; 15. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 5.409, 152.64; 16. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 6.489, 101.17. Not Qualified: 17. Shawn Langdon, 6.512, 106.74; 18. Cruz Pedregon, 10.971, 44.80.

PRO STOCK: Class did not race due to rain.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Matt Smith, Victory, 6.866, 195.39; 2. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.899, 193.24; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.911, 194.58; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.915, 192.85; 5. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.917, 195.39; 6. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.929, 190.92; 7. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.938, 196.64; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.938, 194.66; 9. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.952, 193.63; 10. Cory Reed, Buell, 6.954, 193.85; 11. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.975, 195.70; 12. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.990, 191.51; 13. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 7.066, 191.13; 14. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.074, 190.92; 15. Ron Tornow, Buell, 7.158, 188.75; 16. Mark Paquette, Buell, 7.209, 187.29. Not Qualified: 17. Marc Ingwersen, 7.428, 187.29; 18. Joey Gladstone, 12.376, 63.63; 19. Kelly Clontz, broke.