Monday, 31 May 2010

3-in-1 …

I really lack the words to compliment myself today.

Alberto TombaRetired Italian alpine ski racer. He was the dominant technical skier (slalom and giant slalom) in the late 1980s and 1990s. Tomba won three Olympic gold medals, two World Championships, and nine World Cup season titles; four in slalom, four in giant slalom, and one overall title.

He was popularly called Tomba la Bomba ('Tomba the Bomb').



This post is a composite of the three Formula One races held during the month of May. As usual, they do not claim to represent the definitive, purist version of race reports, simply one armchair critic's views on how things are progressing - or not!


Barcelona (Spain) on the 9th was a tame affair. All the teams and drivers were looking forward to the start of the 'European' season, and Barcelona is an easy entry into this phase. They are all familiar with the circuit (perhaps too familiar) having carried out pre-season testing at the circuit and no surprises were expected, except for the modifications to the cars that would catch some of the unwary wrong-footed. As it turned out nothing much happened, and the race bored itself into one's subconscious with a certain inevitability! The Icelandic volcano event affected Branson's Virgin team by stranding them and their cars in China, reducing the time they had to convert their fuel tanks. They only managed to convert one of them. If I haven't mentioned it before, allow me to expand a little on this farce. The pre-season fit for Virgin found them with fuel tanks that did not hold enough fuel for the car to RACE. They could finish the 300+ kilometres at each venue, but they couldn't actually RACE to the finish line. Ho-bloody-hum! Wonder whose head rolled for that one?

The next racing venue held more promise!

Monte Carlo (Monaco) on the following weekend, the 16th. It is the iconic 'road' venue that carries huge prestige for the winner. Every driver wants this one, and the fact that overtaking during the race is almost unheard of, the 'Qualifiers' are of the utmost importance. The driver that manages to gain pole position (P1) is almost guaranteed to win the race if he and his car can survive the rugged conditions. Not surprisingly, Mark Webber (RBR-Renault) grabbed pole and managed to hang on to win the race. Sebastian Vettel (the other Red Bull), could only manage 3rd position on the starting grid, but grabbed second place on the podium because Jensen Button (McLaren-Mercedes) suffered an engine failure.

The safety car was called out three times, each time cutting Webber's lead down to a second or so, but Webber is an old hand at this game and was able to shrug off the attentions of the following pack.

The only other eyebrow raising incident was Rubens Barrichello's (Williams) tussle with a drain cover. Yes, you read that right - a loose DRAIN COVER  spun up and hit his car's rear left wheel at Turn-2 causing him to lose control, which resulted in a spectacular crash, smacking both sets of barriers, coming to a halt in the middle of the track facing the wrong way …


Barrichello comes off second best in Monte Carlo
Rubens Barrichello comes off second best in Monte Carlo!
(click for a larger image)


That little incident resulted in the second of the safety car deployments. The third came shortly after because ANOTHER loose drain cover was discovered at Turn-3.

Did I mention that this was a 'rugged' race?

So, two weeks later with many modifications to the various cars, we arrive at Istanbul (Turkey). Red Bull-Renault showed that they were still the cars to beat. McLaren-Mercedes appeared to have worked miracles in the two weeks and were giving a good account of themselves during the free-practise sessions. The venue, Istanbul Park, boasts an horrendous bend called Turn-8 which tends to sort the men from the boys. It is a sweeping left-hander which the cars take at full speed. To go through this turn flat out you need to have a car that is so well balanced that it will carry you through without deviating left or right. Red Bull had the balance; the rest did not. Simple as that.


The dreaded Turn-8
The dreaded Turn-8
(click for a larger image)


Mark Webber (RBR-Renault) made pole, Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes) shared the front, in second place, but on the 'dirty' side of the track. Sebastian Vettel (RBR-Renault) took third and Jensen Button (McLaren-Mercedes) was behind Hamilton in fourth. The scene was set for a two-team, four-car race. There were other players, but they appeared to have lost a little here, lost a little there, and were playing catch-up for the most part.

The race unfolded exactly as one would have expected. The first hint that things might not be going smoothly was when Hamilton's crew took two-tenths of a second longer than they should have to change his right rear tyre. This allowed Vettel to get his nose in front of Hamilton and now it was a Red Bull 1-2. Hamilton was not a happy turkey. Trying to pass one Red Bull was difficult enough, but having to contend with both of them in front of him was no picnic. They drove nose-to-tail waiting for the 'other guy' to make a mistake until Lap 40 (of 58).

Team Red Bull were beginning to get nervous. It appeared that Hamilton was driving the drive of his life and that it was only a matter of 'when' not 'if' he would overtake Vettel, so they radioed both RBR drivers to appraise them of the situation (that is their version - 'team orders' are now illegal). Vettel was going faster than his team-mate at this stage and it appears he decided to extricate himself from the humiliation of being overtaken by Hamilton by placing himself in the lead, ahead of Webber, and on Turn-12 of Lap 41 he got a 'run' on Webber on the inside. When they had drawn alongside each other he tried to move to his right to get the correct line into the next corner. But Webber was still there! Vettel's right rear clipped Webber's left front. Suddenly Vettel was spinning wildly down the road and Webber had to run wide to avoid him - twice! The touch punctured Vettel's tyre putting him out of the race. The two McLaren's following, quietly avoided the debris and slipped into 1st and 2nd, relegating Webber to 3rd.

And that is how they finished.

But not before Button attempted a similar move on Hamilton two laps later. In that exchange they swapped positions 3 times in 4 corners, with Hamilton bludgeoning his way to the front to stay there! You might be forgiven for thinking that this was foolhardy in the extreme considering the outcome of the tussle between their immediate competitors. But 'Joe Public' (including us armchair types) want to see a race, not a procession, and that is what we got. Well done, fellas!

The post-race interview was a subdued, even muted, affair. Much diplomatic language was used by all three podium finishers to describe the events that had just taken place. Hamilton commented that he would have preferred to have won in a straightforward race for the front. Webber muttered something about, "… these things happen."

Webber is a straight-talking Aussie and I suspect that a bit of Aussie straight-talking will take place at team-HQ when he confronts Petula(nt) Vettel who actually had the cojones to make a gesture, whilst walking back to the pits, to indicate that Webber was a bit loopy in the head. Oh boy, is he in for a surprise!


A moment of madness!
A moment of madness!
(click for a larger image)


Canada and  Montreal next. 13th June. Make a date …

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Sniffles and Smiles said...

Oh. my. What a surprise that should be!! Great fun, these posts. I learn more about the Formula One races from you...and begin to get a better feel for it all! But my favorite thing about this post is a funny one...your quote: "I really lack the words to compliment myself today." CLASSIC!! Love it! Hope you are well...your redesign on the blogs is looking really terrific! Hugs, Janine

Sniffles and Smiles said...

I don't think I missed this post...I'm sure I've commented during the month of May...But I do want to add...the drain cover is hilarious! What a problem!!! I love how I can ALWAYS count on you to give the interesting scoop! Hope you and Maria are've been in my thoughts! Hugs, Janine

Sniffles and Smiles said...

I keep leaving comments here, and they keep disappearing...ARGHHH!!!! Just want you to know that I read this wonderful post (loved the drain cover story)...and that you've been in my thoughts!!! Hugs, Janine

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Are you okay, my friend? Missing you here! Hugs, Janine

Shrinky said...

My jaw gaped when I read "drain cover", and I had to re-read it back again. Good God, how the hell, how on earth, in this day and age (okay, I'm spluttering and speechless).. that is totally and completely unacceptable!! And as for Virgin (shaking my head), um, a tad remiss of them to miss such a fundamental thing as enough petrol to get home (mind, it's easily done, I've certainly done it in the past). Mustn't laugh, eh? Smashing post again, Fletch, I'm still exiting scratching my head over that drain cover..

Thumbelina said...

You know, I did read this and appreciate it, but evidently failed to comment. So now I am. And the internet connection is playing up again so I am not seeing all the blog.
Changed ISP. Maybe should change back... ;0)

Shrinky said...

Vettel did THAT?? (I'm not really laughing..) At least it proved an exciting race! Ah, your enthusiasm for this sport brings me right back to my glory days - you write with such passion and vigour, it's contagious. Another fine post, Terry.

Fletch said...

Thank you ALL for your kind comments!

For a little while there I thought I had been ostracised by the blogging community, because NOBODY was commenting on the posts - not even regular visitors like you three ladies!

Now I know it was Blogger playing tricks on me by working on my weakness of keeping all my tabs open in Firefox - so I didn't get to see that Blogger was AUTOMATICALLY filtering the comments on my posts on the grounds that it could be SPAM!

That's sorted, then?



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