Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Japan, time to crown a champion...

Hello again.

It only seems like yesterday that we were all sitting around watching the flood lights of Singapore glinting off the carbon fibre. But suddenly the F1 teams have rocked up for the Japanese Grand prix at the Suzuka international racing circuit.

I love this circuit;
It’s got a whole load of motor racing history.
It has got balls out fast bits.
Grab you nuts and hold on corners
And there is a silly hairpin for Banzai overtaking moves from the likes of Kobayashi and Webber.

Now, you might ask, “what’s all the fuss about?” and the simple answer is its old school this place. It’s tight and needs controlled aggression down the long fast sweeping curves, twisting like sinew through the hills. You won’t find any girly runoff areas that don’t punish the Playstation generation. There are no resets here, get it wrong and there will be a lot of carbon bits to clear up. Just ask Timo Glock how hard the pit straight wall is.
  Winning here is something you can add to your CV, it has gravitas. It means something. The Figure of eight track winds through the countryside and the driver has to work the car, control and direct the power and speed. If the car has a mind of its own or the driver isn’t on top of his game he will tool around getting in front of the fast boys.  The 130R corner into the hair pin before the pit straight is a test of courage and set up. It’s lost some of its bite like Eau Rouge at Spa but it still demands a certain amount of respect. Last year Lucas Di  Grassi crashed his Virgin on the way to the grid at 130R.

To win here you need to have a car that can flow throw the corners, that can caress the rumble strips and hang out where only the angles  like to take cigarette breaks.

So what’s been happening in the little bubble of formula One these past weeks?

Well not a lot really. The Internet has gone into apoplectic rage over the Hamilton v Massa incident. Most normal people gave a tut when Hamilton grazed the rear tire of Massa’s Ferrari. Then rolled their eyes as the FIA gave him a drive through for the most minor of crimes. Finally some raised an eyebrow at Massa smacking Hamilton in the press pen after the show, there were a few words and that should have been and end of it all.

But then released a highlights package, which had an extra audio message from the Ferrari pit wall. The lap before Massa and Hamilton are due into the pits Rob Smedley says to Massa, “Hold Hamilton as much as we can. Destroy his race as much as we can, c’mon boy!” As the two protagonists exit the pits the Ferrari as usual suffers from not getting the heat into its tires so that Hamilton gets a run on Massa and then it all goes wrong for everyone. 
Massa limps back but goes nowhere fast after the safety car “spoils” his race. Hamilton just gets on with it and races back to a creditable 5th.  After the race Massa throws a bit of a tantrum, Hamilton ignores him and avoids the swinging rattle.  

After all of this there was suggestion that the drivers would like to have a chat about Hamilton and his “driving standards” during the next drivers meeting, the more astute of you will recognise the scarlet hand of fate attempting to deflect some awkward questions coming their way. Or maybe not, I couldn’t possible comment.

The teacups start to rattle when the Smedley message turns up.
This of course sets the internet off, a few tabloids followed and eventually Massa issued a statement 

“I don’t recall what Rob said. I don’t think there’s any value in stirring up trouble now and trying to link this with the subsequent contact with Hamilton: they are two separate moments and they have nothing to do with each other. I’m sure that Lewis and I will find a way to clear this up and put a lid on this story, as is only correct between two drivers. What happens on the track should remain on the track.”

Which is all very noble and a jolly fine statement until you start wading into the press pen at the end of a race waving you rattle around and giving someone a slap whilst they’re in the middle of an interview. The fact that Smedley has to motivate his boy by telling him to “destroy” another driver’s race is worrying enough. That they don’t have enough control over him when he goes off to give the interviews after the race should set alarm bells ringing.

He still seems to be under the impression he was robbed of a world championship by Hamilton. Forgetting that the FIA tried everything in the book to stop Hamilton winning that year, even going so far as to throw the book at him when he overtook Kim in Spa.  I suppose being world champion for only 15 seconds could be annoying, but he needs to leave this martyred routine back in the motor home, get his head down and start driving like he has a pair.

Oddly enough there hasn’t been much noise from the official Ferrari press off over all of this. If I was Massa I’d be looking for some back up and wondering where the troops were.

Hamilton meanwhile has kept his head down whilst the team has said it’s all a storm in a tea cup and maybe the results speak louder.

Right then.

Oh come on Vettel will win and clinch his second world championship here, I think (I’ve not checked) that Redbull can also wrap up the constructors here too. I don’t think you’ll find anyone betting against that.

Button has finally signed on the dotted line with McLaren for a few more years, he looks to be the best of the rest right now with a car that can take the fight to Vettel, Alonso and Webber are in close attendance, but Lady Luck has been avoiding them like the plague recently.
The only real fight left is for constructors points with Ferrari and McLaren going for second place, whilst the Force India are chasing Renaults fifth spot and the tail end mob are trying to look respectable for next year’s sponsorship money.  

There is a bit of fight out there, no one is going to risk it all for a handful of points anymore though.  

The smug bastard.

It’s time for some brighter news

This Monday sees the release of the Senna film on DVD and Blu-ray.

If you’ve not had a chance to see this on the big screen, why not?  

Now I think I may have mentioned before that I’m not Senna’s biggest fan. I find it difficult to respect someone who was prepared to driver another car off the track to win a championship. But I did respect his talent. I knew he was one of the best drivers I will ever see in a racing car.

The thing that I got from the film was that Senna was the last of the great analogue drivers. He was brilliant when it was him an engine and four wheels. When Electronics came in 1992 /1993 you could see his frustration. And the film shows the deteriorating relationship with McLaren, as he sees the Williams electronic packages start to surpass his pure talent. 
Senna in the wet in Monaco or on a pole lap at Silverstone was a demonstration in pure commitment. No one else I’ve ever seen could come out of the pits and just blow everyone else away with a stunning qualifying lap.  He did it time after time and he never tired of doing it. Vettel is talented, but he’s got the absolutely best car ever built to help him. When he takes a Toleman HRT to second at Monaco, then I’ll be impressed.
Once electronics came in his head and shoulders talent was no longer enough. Yes he could nail a pole lap, but if the traction control of the Williams launched them off the line like a rocket from 3rd, pole counted for nothing.
When he went to Williams in ’94 and realised that Benetton now had the better electronic package with Schumacher. He complains that he can’t stay with Schumacher through the high speed turns, and I think he realises that his talent isn’t enough anymore. 
The footage of Senna on the day he dies is very, very moving. You see a man haunted by the desire to win, but know his talent is no longer enough. He’s taking more risks than he’s comfortable with and you just want to step into the screen and tell him not to go out. Not to get into the car and to just walk away. 
I urge you to buy the film on your format of choice

Oh and finally, the Bathurst 1000km is on this weekend. 

with lots of this 

  plenty of this ....

but mostly a lot of this ....

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