Michael Bailey: Good on Lewis Hamilton for taking advantage

Go on, admit it – who didn't let out a little cheer when Sebastian Vettel spun off so early at Yas Marina? I did – obviously through no dislike of this year's dominant world champion; just at the prospect of something we hadn't had all year.

That, and supposedly giving Vettel the challenge of seeing how quick his RB7 really was. In a way, it was a shame his first lap incident ended rather than hampered his race. I was looking forward to seeing his charge.

But either way, it opened up the race like no other this season.

No need for Vettel to be too disappointed. It was the German's first retirement since an engine failure in Korea more than 12 months ago.

That left the watching world to see who was on hand to take advantage. Who, after a season of waiting, was actually ready to make the most of a rare piece of Vettel misfortune.


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It wasn't Jenson Button, although his podium finish was amazing given he was manually fiddling with his brake balance every second lap, following his Kers issues. Plus, he deserved the points for his Movember effort alone. Old school.

Vettel's team-mate could not take advantage either, as Mark Webber once again seemed to get the rough end of Red Bull's pit stop abilities.

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Fernando Alonso drove out of his skin to make his Ferrari competitive – something that outshone Felipe Massa and deserves more reward than the Spaniard is currently getting.

No, Sunday was Lewis Hamilton's day. Given what a tortuous season it has been, the 2008 world champion delivered the kind of drive Vettel has treated us too all year: calm, dominant, assertive, reliable.

It was brilliant to see – and hopefully the sign of a driver rediscovering his best form from here on in, because few can rival Hamilton for the excitement and talent he brings when he's on it. It's something to behold.

Hamilton, now in the top 15 F1 race winners of all time, claimed it was the best of his 17 career victories – it wasn't, but it probably felt like it.

Obviously it's difficult on the outside of Lewis' support group to know how hard things have been for him recently, for whatever reason. As I've said before, you just want that support network to be doing its job – because the guy has clearly been seriously unhappy for most of this season.

Hamilton's mother watched on as her son won his third grand prix of 2011; he dedicated his win to her. And perhaps that was the best reciprocation Lewis could offer his mum for the boost it gave him for her to be there.

Lewis will be beaten by a team-mate for the first time in his career this season – but no one should write off the McLaren fighter just yet.

• Now we just about know the two Norfolk teams for 2012 – one Caterham and the other either Lotus or Lotus Renault – it seems only logical to move on to the drivers to back.

And in some cases the rumour mill has already kicked into gear.

Starting at Hingham, the 2012 incarnation of Team Lotus may have a decision to make – but it won't involve Heikki Kovalainen. The Finn is a shoe-in – unless he doesn't fancy it or gets a better offer elsewhere. It seems unlikely the loss of the Lotus marque will take any gloss off where he is at.

Kovalainen has revelled in his de facto number one status and made regular noises about enjoying his role – so it would be a surprise if he moved on this winter.

Of course, if another 12 months brings only one more chase for 10th then that situation could well change.

But despite announcing Jarno Trulli's continued stay with the Norfolk team earlier this year, there now seems to be a question mark over whether that stay includes a race seat.

Trulli's race performance topped his team-mate in six of the opening 12 rounds – but the last six have all belonged to Kovalainen, increasing the pressure on the 37-year-old Italian.

A strong performance in Brazil may come too late, especially if Tony Fernandes and Mike Gascoyne think they already have the experience they need in Kovalainen – and want some new energy and the extra money that comes with it.

Belgian Virgin driver Jerome d'Ambrosio is one name touted, and others will certainly follow.

Things are no easier to fathom at Hethel-backed Lotus Renault, where the big question surrounds Robert Kubica's return.

The Pole has been missed, with Nick Heidfeld, Vitaly Petrov and now Bruno Senna all struggling to produce consistency in a car that has leaked more performance the longer the season has gone on.

Yet Kubica is unlikely to make the start of 2012, with GP2 champion Romain Grosjean in line to join Lotus' current duo – ultimately still some way from a line-up to set the pulses racing.

• I see Tony Fernandes will put the Queens Park Rangers badge on Caterham's cars next season.

I will use similar cross-pollination to advertise my Norwich City column in Wednesday's Norwich Evening News, and make the point that Fernandes' move is sure to dissuade a few Norwich City-supporting F1 fans that their backing should head for Hingham.

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