Sunday, 15 March 2015

T shirt sellers out number the runners in Australia!

Right then, you remember that rule I had last year about the number of cars finishing and not counting them if there weren’t enough to make a top ten. Yeah, how we never needed to use it because all the cars turned out to be pretty much bullet proof, well I actually had to dust off the rule book and find what I’d actually written last year after four laps of the race.

I was prepared for the fact Caterham weren’t there. That was fine, they were a mess and I never liked them anyway. And I was ok with Manor racing turning up and not actually fulfilling the “Racing” part of their name, I had kind of expected them to at least practice a bit not just sit and watch the whole thing from the stands.
But I had sort of kidded myself that McLaren had been fooling us all and would roll up with a car that could actually move quite fast and be a credit to the name “racing car”. Not limp around half heartedly like a Lib Dem candidate apologising for getting in the way and making a nuisance himself.  Then to add insult to injury Magnusson’s engine blew up spectacularly on the way to the starting line! Not even racing! Not even giving it some beans off the line, or seeing how fast it could go. No, trundle, trundle POP!

Alonso must have been sitting at home, glass of Rioja in one hand and his McLaren contract in the other. Staring dumbfound from the TV to his contract, searching desperately for the get out clause.

Alonso after reading his contract earlier today

 I don’t know if you can get secondary concussion by association, but if I was the FIA doctor I’d want to check over Jenson who calmly sat and told Martin Brundle that the car was going to be winning races by the end of the year.

Not getting much further was Kvyat. The newly promoted Redbull Russian managed to lunch his gearbox whilst on his way to the formation grid. Horner turned up all self righteous indignation and blowing his “It’s all Renaults fault” trumpet as loudly and as single not drone as ever. Apparently vibrations form the engine at destroyed the internal mechanics of the gearbox, written rude notes on the toilet wall about Horner’s wife and stolen the tuck money from matrons locked desk. They were very naughty and he wasn’t happy, not at all. 

 Renault just shrugged and walked off.

Also failing to start (gosh this is a long list) was Bottas, who somehow managed to compress a vertebrae in qualifying when he ran off the road at the last corner. I know these cars have very little actual suspension, but the bounce of the curb didn't look all that harsh and yet Bottas failed the mandatory “get out of the pretend fiery car ASAP” test that the FIA like to use when drivers have injured themselves. So he was told he wasn’t allowed to take part in the race and had to watch from the garage whilst sitting on one of the garden chairs the mechanics are made to sit on. There is a certain amount of speculation that Suze Wolf might get to drive the car if Bottas is still injured for the next race. But I'm pretty sure she doesn’t currently have a super licence at the moment.

Someone else short of a super license this weekend was Guido Van De Garde. He of Caterham fame, he was under the mistaken impression he had a race seat for 2015 with Sauber. The clue he didn’t, might have presented itself when he didn’t do any winter testing and wasn’t invited to join in the team photo at Christmas. 

He rocked up in Australia with a court order and a massive chip on his shoulder. The team and driver trooped down to the court house on Thursday and the judge said, “Well, it says here he paid for the testing job in 2014 and a race seat in 2015 ... so he should be in the car”. The team mumbled something about not having a seat that would fit him. The judge gave them a VERY hard stare and said, “I know he’s a bit rubbish and irritating, but he paid for the drive and if he doesn’t get it I will take all of your equipment and cars and we’ll go though all your contracts with a fine tooth comb ... case dismissed”.

The team trooped back to the race circuit and went to see the FIA and said, “yeah errrrr, right. Err Does Guido have a super licence and if not don’t give him one, cos we’re not paying for it”.

Guido turned up to the circuit followed by the world media in a feeding frenzy, he waved his FIA pass at the machine and assumed a nonchalant air of someone who’s got right on his side a court order to prove it. There was a beep, Guido strode forward and was almost cut in two as the gate failed to open, he frantically waved his pass at the machine which continued to beep at him and resolutely fail to open the nonchalant air dissolved into petulant shouting at bouncers and desperate pleading to those with working passes to let him in and the media frenzy went into over drive.

Eventually, Perez came out with a spare Force India pass and the show moved to the Sauber garage. There 
Guido was grudgingly given a seat fitting and told he didn't have a super licence so it was all a moot point anyway.  There was much hurrumphing from all concerned, the media followed everyone around and the Sauber cars sat in the pits for the first practice session.

Eventually Bernie was roused by the hubbub to come down and sort things out. He quite rightly pointed out to Guido that Sauber were two inches from bankruptcy and simply didn’t have the money to either give him his money back or give the other two drivers their money back and give him a race seat. What happened next is anyone guess, they all went into Bernie’s VIP trailer and thrashed something out. I like to think Bernie dipped in to his lose change draw and paid off the various parties and told them to stop airing their dirty laundry in public and sort these things out before the first race of the season. What probably happen was Bernie looked annoyed until Guido walked away from the circuit and wasn’t seen for the rest of the weekend and Sauber got on with the job of racing.

Back in the normal (rich) end of the F1 world, Mercedes carried on as normal with Lewis and Nico trading fastest laps in practice. Redbull complained that Renault engine was junk, Ferrari continued to look surprised that the car was going well, and Williams punched above its weight.
The qualifying for pole was a two horse Merc race. Nico had topped all the time sheet in practice, but Lewis took the last of his gold chains off in Q2 and was about five minutes faster than everyone else for the rest of the day.  He was so far ahead with his first run in Q3 that he could have got out of the car with 10 minutes to go and put his feet up. Nico simply had no answer, but Lewis still went out again and was even faster. The lad will be on song then, maybe all those winsome pictures of Rocco and sunset beaches did the job after all.

Right then, so yes, the race. Well once we’d lost Magnussen and Kvyat, along with the two Manor boys who were still sitting in the stands. As the lights went out for the start of the race, we had the glorious sound of 15 F1 cars starting the 2015 season for 200 yards. Roughly the length of the track from the start line to the first corner, where Vettel bumped across the inside curb, bounced sideways into Kimi, who ran onto the grass on the outside of the corner before cutting back to nudge Verstappen into Maldonardo who spun into the wall and wiped out the left side of his car.  For once I can’t even be rude about Pastor; he was the innocent victim of a racing incident for a change, not its instigator, which has to be a first!

So we were down to 13 cars. This was going to be a dull race then.

We had a handful of safety car laps to clear up Pastor and then I kind of lost interest as it was early and there wasn’t much racing on offer.

Button and Perez traded a bit of carbon fibre, errrr Ricciardo got stuck behind Kimi I think and  ... look I wasn’t really concentrating ok. 11 cars following the two Merc miles ahead is pretty dull. Not even Merc were letting the boys have at it. Nasr in the Tesco Value Sauber was doing alright, that was a bit interesting. And I suppose well done to Jenson on doing the longest run the car has yet seen.
But no, not really a classic race.

Okay so the result then.

Hamilton just looked awesome all weekend and especially against his team mate. I thought Nico would carry over his practice times to qualifying or the race and make an actual race of it. But no, he was well beaten on Saturday afternoon and I suspect Lewis didn’t break a sweat all Sunday. Just to underline how far ahead of everyone he was, Lewis was trading fastest laps with himself for most of the second half of the race. It confirms the Merc are a country miler ahead of everyone else and Lewis is odds on favourite for the title now.  This year might just test my love for F1 if it’s like this every weekend.

Nico was second and then had to suffer the indignity of being asked what it was like to be the second best driver of the day by Arnie Schwarzenegger grinning like an idiot on the podium interview. It’s going to be a question he gets used to answering this year I suspect.  

Blow me down with a feather Vettel was third in a Ferrari, who had money on that?? Not me I can tell you. Ok so they looked alright in testing and stuff, but you know, I thought that was all bluff? Not actual race pace.  He nerfed into Kimi at the first corner and didn’t look back from there. Post race Nico said he hoped Ferrari could develop the car nice and quick to give them a bit of competition, which is the same as saying “We’ll give you a five lap head start if you like?”.  This year is going to be about Williams and Ferrari coughing on Mercs dust. Still Vettel did all right, he didn't have to overtake anyone, it was all done in the pits, something he’s good at.

Massa was fourth and another one I didn’t see all afternoon.

Fifth was interesting. Nasr might just have demonstrated that the new Ferrari engine is actually pretty good and he, Nast, might be rather handy. Ericsson in the sister car was only eighth and never really looked like taking the fight to anyone. Nasr spent a lot of the race with some serious talent behind him, he wasn’t fazed, didn’t get all unnecessary and picked up desperately needed points for Sauber. In short it was exactly what was required of him after all the distractions of the “Who has a contract to drive the car this weekend” farce, let’s see if he can repeat that.

Ricciardo was sixth and it looks like Redbull have a lot of work to do this year. They need to stop pointing at Renault and telling everyone it’s their fault, it’s getting boring now. They need to sit down and work out why they have a problem and be honest that Newey has designed yet another no compromise car which doesn’t look that easy to set up. They’ll be back up the sharp friend eventually, but not on any power circuits.

Hulkenberg was seventh with a careful steady drive. The Force India boys had only had four days testing up to this point and whilst the car has a Merc engine and so should be reliable, the rest of the car was still a bit of an unknown. So to go out and come back with a solid points finish is again exactly what was required of him. Like Sauber, Force India are just moments from the bankrupt courts and need all the help they can get, they had to scrap around under the filing cabinets to find the change to pay for this year’s car to be finished. Points this early in the season are a God send, because McLaren might one day get their act together, Williams and Redbull only had a single car in the race so Force India had to come away with something here. Sauber got two cars home in the points and Nasr made it look effortless, if you had to put money on which of these two drivers would be in the top ten again, right now I’d have my money on the Sauber, Force India are still on the back foot and in trouble.

Ericsson and his enormous cheque book were eighth. Not very exciting and he benefited from others misfortune really. I don’t expect him to trouble the top ten much more this season.

Sainz was the only Torro Rosso to make it home in the battle of the rookies. He seemed pretty good , didn’t make too many mistakes and kept his nose clean.

Perez was tenth and made hard work of that.

And finally in eleventh and last man running was Button. In a car that looked slow and heavy and twitchy and just awful. Jenson assuring Brundle that the car was a winning is just laughable. I could be wrong of course, season veterans of this game will attest to that. But that car is just utter rubbish right now.
What were Honda been doing all last year? I mean they have half a dozen other race programs around the world, why didn't they stick the engine and KERS systems into a mule and test the thing to get it all working BEFORE they embarrassed Big Ron and the boys and girls or McLaren?
The word is, the Japanese KERS system they began developing when they pull out of F1 in 2009 was pretty capable and could have been the basis of an integrated 2015 system. But they binned it and jerry rigged an old Merc system that McLaren had developed in house years ago. Its just not good enough and no amount of money is going to save them here.
And as for Alonso, I really don’t he’s going to come back. Why would he? The car is 50/50 on making the formation grid and Alonso is a better driver than that.
So there you go.

Mercedes was the big winner of the weekend, the paying public and McLaren the big losers

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