Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Camaraderie …

The camaraderie he and I have built is good. We're pushing each other.

Brian Grant



The quotation I've chosen, by Brian Grant, was made specifically about basketball, but I found it a perfect fit for how the two British drivers, Button and Hamilton of Team McLaren, are currently behaving.

Just prior to, and at the start of the season, the more sensational press hinted at unrest in the McLaren camp and friction between the two drivers. The immediate post-race reactions and body language of the two drivers, after the China Grand Prix, will certainly dispel the rumours.

At the end of the race Hamilton made it to 'parc fermé' ahead of Button and jumped out of his car to rush across to congratulate the other driver even before he had come to a halt. Button, in turn, extricated himself with difficulty from his cramped cockpit, didn't even wait to replace the (very expensive) steering wheel, before sprinting across to Hamilton to give him a huge bear-hug. Their congratulatory celebrations were undoubtedly genuine, their conversation was animated, punctuated with smiles and laughter, and they even managed to include young Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), who finished third, in their conversation. It was a far cry from the peacock-like posturing of Alonso (GP Bahrain) and Vettel (GP Malaysia) when they made it to the podium.

Long may the sportsmanship continue.

Bowing to comments left in the previous post I shall attempt to summarise the race, picking up on some of the more entertaining incidents that occurred, and to which I was privy, thanks to the Portuguese cable company that carried the event.

The start of the race brought back bad memories of last year's Malaysian GP rant in which I excelled myself by almost frothing at the mouth. Yes, once more it was bucketing-down at the start of a race. It was referred to as 'light rain', but it appeared to be leaving a heavy sheen on everything. And were those slicks I saw the cars shod with? They sure were! And wasn't that why the cars were swerving madly to build up the temperatures in their tyres on the warm-up lap?

Oh well, the professionals know best; I am only an armchair critic.

Alonso (Ferrari) got a 'jump start', an euphemism for 'cheating bastard', and got to the first corner ahead of 'Petula(nt)' Vettel (Red Bull) and 'Jaws' Webber (Red Bull). Lucky. Because Liuzzi (Force India) lost it at the corner, spun around, and then somersaulted into and over Kobayashi (BMW) and Buemi (Toro Rosso). WIPEOUT for three!

Safety car ...

Alonso had been rumbled by Charlie Whiting Charlie Whiting is FIA Formula One Race Director, Safety Delegate, Permanent Starter and head of the F1 Technical Department, in which capacities he generally manages the logistics of each F1 Grand Prix, inspects cars in Parc fermé before a race, enforces FIA rules, and controls the lights which start each race.

Now you know why some things go pear-shaped when you consider how 'stretched' Charlie must be during each race!

When Charlie retires they are going to find it hard to hire two (or even three) 'professionals' to take over where he leaves off.

in the starters box and was invited to a 'drive through penalty' party, the equivalent of losing 25 seconds. Because that's how long it takes to traverse the pit lane adhering to the set speed limit. However, before the uplifting news was radioed to him, Alonso and the the two Red Bull's (the latter two probably incandescent with rage by now) pitted to switch to wet tyres.

Safety car exits stage right

Three laps later all those who changed to 'wets' were back in again to change back to 'slicks'. It was sheer chaos. The pit crews - sorry, CREW, singular - attended to both team cars, and to hell with the niceties of each driver having his own crew! That was also the pit stop in which Hamilton and Vettel tussled on exiting the pits, earning each a 'reprimand' after the race. I am a Hamilton fan and NOT a Vettel supporter, but I think in this instance they BOTH got off lightly. Will they have learned a lesson? I hope not; this is not a sport for the faint-hearted, and handbags at five paces doesn't have any place in the makeup of an F1 racing driver.

Hamilton then proceeded to dish out a driving lesson to Vettel and Webber. He overtook Webber and was sandwiched between the two Red Bull's who began making life difficult for him - one braking in his face, the other threatening to ram him up his derriere. On lap 12 he outfoxed both of them and passed Vettel with ease, disappearing in a cloud of spray.

Lap 20 and more wholesale pit stops: Button, Rosberg, Petrov, Hamilton and Vettel (again), Schumacher, Webber, Alguersuari, Sutil, Massa and Alonso (back of the field now after serving his drive-through) all stopped for 'wets'.

Lap 21 - safety car - Alguersuari was off, damaging his nose cone and leaving a trail of debris behind him. Bad time for a safety car deployment for some; great news for others. Button's lead was wiped out, but Hamilton's 40 second deficit behind the leaders was also cut to a second or two. Ah well, that's motor racing!

Lap 25 - safety car off - but Button had slowed down the rest of the field so much that when the race resumed they were all bunched up behind him and it was almost surreal to watch racing cars behaving like waltzing couples at the Hammersmith Palais. Only they were doing it at around 300 kilometres an hour. Whew!

Hamilton wised-up on lap 37 and ducked into the pits to put on a fresh set of rain boots, fractionally before Button (1st), Rosberg (2nd) and Alonso (4th) did the same. This allowed Hamilton to 'overtake' Rosberg whilst he pitted, and it was now a race between the teammates for 1st and 2nd.

Thrilling to the end. Button pulled away from Hamilton at first, increasing his lead to 9.9 seconds, but as his tyres degraded he found Hamilton closing in on him with each lap.

Button crossed the line only 1.5 seconds ahead of Hamilton, and I have no doubt that had they not run out of track, the latter would have taken the race.

Motor racing, especially the Formula One kind, can be so entertaining!

If only the backroom boys would leave it to the drivers ...

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Monday, 19 April 2010

Bewilderment …

Anyone who tries to keep track of what is happening in China is going to end up by wearing all the skin off his left ear from twirling around on it.
Robert Benchley



Fortunately it was only I that was in a state of bewilderment caused by my inability to follow the Portuguese television commentary. I tried my damndest to keep my eyes on the racing and read the ribbon at the bottom of the screen at the same time, only to make a dog's dinner of both.

The final outcome was greatly to my liking but, oh, didn't this race provide some 'fluidity' to the race placements, as always dictated by the vagaries of the weather! If there is a mythical Olympian God who presides over Grand Prix excursions, then today he (or she) was in a mischievous mood throughout the afternoon, emptying their watering can over the participants, only to raise the rose when hordes of them ducked into the pits to change tyres. And then doing it all over again!

I am still re-living in my mind's eye much of the top class driving I witnessed today, and for that reason alone I intend to keep this post as short as possible. If you are interested in the sport and didn't watch it, then you missed a 'cracker'.

Boring the pants off readers who don't follow the sport by delivering a blow-by-blow commentary as I have been prone to in the past would do today's spectacle a disservice!

Here are a couple of stolen images off the Official F1 Website, which I shall be happy to remove if they decide to complain about my audacity.

The first is an incident that I thought could possibly lose Hamilton his second place finish ...


Hamilton and Vettel get it on in the pits ...


And, to celebrate an all-British victory (drivers and team), here are the final moments ...


Button wins. Hamilton a close second.


'Till next time ...

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