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Exciting Times

FEATURE BY CHRISTIAN KLIEN
15/09/2013

It's been a busy few weeks in Formula One, first with Daniel Ricciardo being confirmed at Red Bull and now Kimi Raikkonen heading back to Ferrari. There was a Grand Prix or two in there as well but it's been so busy they have almost been forgotten!

Nobody expected Red Bull to be as strong as they were in Belgium and Italy. In my last column I predicted Mercedes would have two good races because the circuits seem to suit the car, but instead Sebastian Vettel was able to win them both with ease.

The two wins seem to show Red Bull thinking in a new way to how they've gone about racing in the last few years. Normally the car is very good in corners with lots of downforce but that means on low downforce tracks they have been less good. But in Belgium and Italy Vettel and Mark Webber were strong, and fast in the speed trap, which tells me the team had a very good low downforce package for those tracks. It's something Red Bull has not had in the past.

Lewis Hamilton was fast in Italy, his lap times were good, but he had a bad weekend. Things didn't go right in qualifying for him and while the car probably had the speed to be a little bit further forward things just didn't go his way. Still, it could have been worse, Nico Rosberg seemed to really struggle at Monza meaning Mercedes didn't get the results I thought they could have going into the weekend.

We will have to see if things change in Singapore but I think Red Bull will stay on top. The Singapore circuit is very challenging – I raced there in 2010 with Hispania (pictured) - and is normally suited to Red Bull because downforce is important.

The Singapore circuit is unique. Even though it is a night race the drivers almost don't notice because the lights are so good and with a clear visor it's almost like driving during the day time. It is the toughest race of the year because of the heat and the humidity which really saps it out of the drivers, just look at them when they get out of the car!

It is normally one of the longest races of the year too because it is such a long lap with more than twenty corners. There are a few straights but because it's a street circuit they are very bumpy meaning drivers can't afford to relax.

Much of the talk over the Singapore weekend will surround Kimi going back to Ferrari. It's a strange move after he left the team a few years ago but then this is Formula One and strange things do often happen!

With Fernando Alonso, Ferrari has two very fast and very consistent drivers who will score a lot of points if the car is something close to competitive. That could be important because in the last few years Felipe Massa has only scored about half the number of points of Alonso, and that's a big difference for a team at the very front.

I thought it was interesting that Massa confirmed he wouldn't be driving for Ferrari via Instagram. Normally the drivers and teams work together to make those announcements but since Felipe is leaving it's probably in his best interests to make the announcement early so other teams can consider him.

It will be interesting to see where Felipe goes, the simple option would be to swap seats with Kimi at Lotus. Maybe there is a seat at Sauber if Sergey Sirotkin doesn't get his super license (and so can't race in F1 next year) but otherwise Felipe is competing against all the other drivers.

One of those is Nico Hulkenberg who was a stand-out for me in Italy. The Sauber was fast, even Gutierrez's lap times were good if not as consistent as Hulkenberg's, it was just that Nico was able to put in good performances in every session. His qualifying lap was a mega performance, and he drove well all race. If I was a team boss Hulkenberg would be one name on my shopping list, but it's often not that simple.

And that brings us to Daniel Ricciardo who next year will race alongside Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull. Daniel is a very talented driver and I think since Mark Webber announced his retirement he has proved the stronger of the two Toro Rosso drivers.

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