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F1 2018 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX

 

HAS MAX STACKED TODAY?

 

  Yes he has…….

 

  Back in 2015 there was a funny (but harsh) little site, Has Pastor Crashed Today, taking the piss at the frequency of accidents involving the rapid Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado. It would seem that after the first four races of 2018 a new site may need to be created for Max Verstappen. Consider his record in 2018 so far; Australia – spun and damaged the car in the race, Bahrain – crashed in first practice and collided with Hamilton in the race, China – Spun trying to pass Hamilton and collided with Vettel in the race and finally Baku – crashed in first practice and collided with Ricciardo on no less than three occasions during the race. As all of these incidents have been his fault methinks it is time for Mr Horner to take Max into his office, bend him over the table and give his botty a taste of the birch.Has Max stacked today?

 

  Unfortunately history tells us that no such damned fine thrashing will take place. For those of a certain age, imagine the “froth job” that Max would have gotten from Ken Tyrrell. Or the bollocking from Messrs Williams and Head. Christian Horner appears to have been unwilling, or unable, to chastise his recalcitrant stars in the past, think Vettel crashing into Webber in Turkey or ignoring team orders in Malaysia. A pity really, because a slightly chastened and wiser Max would end up being a far better race driver (not that he is too bad at present) and that could bring on an exciting new era in the sport. 

 

  Allow me to fantasize for a moment. Just say the new regs in 2021 work as planned and not only are the cars more passable, but the engines are more evenly matched. Then put Max and Gasly in a Red Bull Honda/VW/Aston Martin, Ricciardo and Leclerc in the Ferraris, Ocon and Bottas or perhaps George Russell in the Mercs, Vandoorne and Lando Norris in the McLaren, Sainz and an aging but still rapid Hulkenberg at Renault and oooohh I’m getting a woody. Then toss in a hopefully re-invigorated Williams with someone quick, a Sauber making the most of its Alfa Romeo connections, and Force India, Toro Rosso and Haas still punching well above their weight and what fun we could have. Then again, a works Trabant may enter Maldonado and totally dominate the decade. But….

 

  One has to feel for Valtteri after this race. For the first time this year the Silver Slings got their strategy spot on and Bottas dominated the second half of the race. Even the Ricciardo/Verstappen safety car worked in his favour. Everything was finally going right. Valtteri made an excellent restart which forced Vettel to lock up and head down the turn 1 escape road so with just three laps to go he was leading from his team-mate who was not a threat and the recovering Raikkonen. Perez had even gotten past Vettel. Fastest lap had been set. Then a small piece of debris left on the main straight tore through his right rear tyre and his dream run limped on for two more corners. 14th and last place was a cruel result.

 

  Third place for Perez however was an excellent result, especially considering he was down in 15th place early in the race. This was the first podium for Force India since 2016 when, oddly enough Perez came third in Baku. It was the first podium for any team apart from Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull since Stroll’s Williams took third at Baku last year. See a pattern here anyone? Fifth was probably disappointing for Sainz in the Renault who was right on the early pace and able to pass both Red Bulls. Then Renault bollocks their strategy and left him out too long on the ultra-soft tyres and he lost nine places in the two laps around his pit-stop. Although that would have only been seventh had not the Red Bulls mangled each other. Also benefiting from that mangle was Charles Leclerc in the Sauber who pulled off an unlikely, but well deserved, sixth place to score his first championship points. He was outperforming the car all weekend, qualifying 14th and running comfortably in the points all day.A blow-out buggered Bottas

 

  King Fernando seems to have also been setting a pattern. Qualify 13th and finish 7th. Only in Australia this year has this not been his lot in the McLaren. Still, a vast improvement from last year, long way to go though. Giving Williams some hope in what has been a bad year so far, Stroll finally scored some points in eighth after both cars qualified well in 11th and 12th. Despite the “pay-driver” derision that has been heaped upon Sergey Sirotkin, his qualifying performances in the Williams have been well on the pace of his team-mate so far this year. Whether this is because he is much better than many had given him credit for or Stroll is just no better than a “pay-driver” I guess only time will tell. I’m leaning towards the former. Also scoring his first championship points was Brendon Hartley who nicked the final point for 10th place after starting on the last row of the grid. He suffered a disastrous qualifying which saw him not set a time and almost kill his team-mate, Pierre Gasly. In what was frighteningly similar to the fatal accident that befell Gilles Villeneuve on that horrible day in 1982, Brendon was travelling slowly, having picked up a puncture while Gasly was closing at a vast rate on his final qualifying lap. Just as Hartley started to pull to the left Gasly jinked that way thinking that was where the gap was. Seeing that, Hartley abruptly pulled to the right, just as Gasly did exactly the same thing. Fortunately there was enough room and Gasly managed to just miss Brendon, by inches if that, and avoid what would have been an enormous accident. Both boys and millions of viewers can thank their lucky stars that the only result was a trip down the escape road for Gasly.

 

Sam Snape

 

30/4/2018

 

For full results go to; http://www.mmmsport.com.au/index.php/the-database/formula-1-races/2010-2019/2018-formula-1           

 

YOU KNOW YOU'RE GETTING OLD WHEN...

UglyPrettyUglyPrettyEven with the aeroscreen the Indycar is way prettier 

  You know you’re getting old when you begin sentences with “I remember when…..”. Like, for example, I remember when F1 cars looked exciting and pretty. Or, I remember when you could actually see a driver in a F1 car. For the first of these examples though, that memory is fading, bit by bit, with every passing year. As I perused the images of this year’s challengers the only positive that flitted about my synapses was that the McLaren was a nice shade of orange. Apart from that they are all pretty, well, bloody ugly. And it’s not just the hideous halo that now completely obscures any vision of the driver at work. It’s all of those horrible appendages that have sprouted like some rampant sexually transmitted fungus. And this got me thinking. It could well be almost a quarter of a century since I saw a F1 car that made me think, “Damn that looks good”. And yeah, that makes me feel old………

 

 It really all started with the arrival of the barge boards on the McLaren in 1993. Sure there were some rear wings in the mid eighties that more resembled barn doors than aero devices but they didn’t last long and even when they were about the cars still looked pointy, sleek, fast and sexy. Perhaps the last one I thought was really pretty was the 1991 Jordan. The last one I can think of that I thought looked innovative was the Tyrrell 019 with the raised nose and anhedral front wings. Since then they have all had their lines mangled up with barge boards, turning vanes, X-wings, T-wings, front wings that resemble cheese graters and a multitude of other ghastly additions that appear to be dangly, flappy genital protuberances. Lets face it, these things are just horrible to look at. And to really rub it in, all this crap just makes the racing worse. I mean, you can’t even pass with the DRS any more.

 

  When I fell in love with F1 it was at first sight with the Ferrari 312T. The swoopy, curvy lines, the chrome wings, huge fat rear slicks and the tall white airbox just gave that eleven year old a woody. Then the beautiful sleek simplicity of the Lotus 79 took away your breath in ’78. The “wingless wonders” of 1979 (that didn’t last long as they didn’t work), the stunning Williams, Renaults, Ligiers and Brabhams of the early ‘80s which were joined by the oddities that tried a different variant to the ground effect theme. Think the Arrows A2 or the Fittipaldi F6. Both woefully unsuccessful but great to look at, because they were so different. On top of which you could still actually see the drivers at work. What is there now for a young boy (or girl) to get excited about? You can’t see the driver and the car is as about as enticing as an industrial meat grinder.

 

  When Liberty gave Bernie the boot I had high hopes that F1 might just finally head back in the right direction. Since then six changes have been made to the sport, and not one of them has made it better. OK not all of them were Libertys call but I’m pretty sure if they had put their foot down there might have been a different decision. Firstly, the biggie of the day. The bloody halo. Yeah it was an FIA safety decision regarding head protection but let’s get things into a little perspective. The last time a F1 driver died of a head injury that the halo might have prevented was when Tom Pryce got hit with a fire extinguisher as he obliterated an errant marshal at Kyalami in 1977. Yeah – 1977. That was 40, I repeat, 40 years ago. It wouldn’t have helped poor Jules Bianchi just as it wouldn’t have helped Maria de Vilotta. The halo won’t help if you drive under a twenty ton tractor or truck. It wouldn’t have helped Massa either as the spring that injured him at least hit his helmet. The halo could just as easily divert that down into the unprotected chest or neck area with much worse consequences. People mention both Henry Surtees and Justin Wilson. Yes it may have saved Henry Surtees but he was in a junior category and most junior categories will not be getting any upgraded head protection for quite a while. It might have saved Justin Wilson but Indycar have already decided that they will not be using the halo but have had series sponsor PPG (who manufacture F16 cockpit canopies amongst other things) to produce a clear and unobtrusive high windscreen they will be used for their head protection. And put it on a car that looks 1000 times nicer than the current F1 fuglies. F1 looked at a windscreen. Herr Vettel did 1 lap (yep – 1) and claimed it made him feel ill. They didn’t try any other driver (although Red Bull gave their own version a run without too many issues) or any further lappery. No going back to the supplier for possible modification, no further trials, just 1 lap by 1 driver and the halo was foist upon us.

 

  Second decision. Lets make the cars five seconds a lap faster. Sounds OK. By increasing the wing generated downforce and thereby cornering speed. Sounds bloody disastrous. The sport had been trying for years to increase the ability of the cars to run closely through corners to increase the amount of overtaking and “improve the show”. Hence the DRS. In one fell swoop all this was destroyed and last year saw the return to very processional running with no overtaking at many races. By the way, bookending the year with the two worst tracks for overtaking is possibly not the best way forward. Albert Park and Abu Dhabi have less passing moves between them than the Hungaroring, eek.

 

  Third decision. Lets reduce the number of engines available through the year to 3 per car. Oh great, more grid penalties on the way then. More confusion, less understanding by the fans and therefore probably less fans watching. What the hell is going to happen the day that everyone has to start at the back of the grid or from the pit lane due to penalties?

 

  Fourth decision. Lets hop on the politically correct train wreck and ban the “grid girls”. Not that they are girls. They are women who are in the modelling profession and have just been done out of a job. It wasn’t as if they were being paraded about in skimpy bikinis being groped and drooled over. In almost all countries these days they wore dresses and were treated with professional respect, they were after all, doing a job. Now we have grid kids, what next, podium toddlers and banning champagne?

 

  Fifth decision. Move the European race times to a later start time by 1 hour and 10 minutes. Possibly good for those watching on TV in Europe. If they can afford the pay TV fee because they won’t be seeing it on free to air. Not only does this go against the safety provisions brought in after the Bianchi accident that there must be a 4 hour time window of bright daylight after the supposed race finish time in case there is a delay of any sort. But what about all those TV viewers in the rest of the world? The audience in the Asia/Pacific area for example, is not insubstantial. But now the European races will not begin until almost midnight and be ending well after 2AM on a Monday morning when those viewers will have to get to work. Do they really think that too many fans will bother watching these races live any more? A further fall in viewers brings a further fall in revenues to the TV channels who may reconsider the cost of providing coverage.

 

  And the really important one, announced with great fanfare in Abu Dhabi. Lets change the logo. Who fucking cares. We don’t fork out money to go to the race or plonk ourselves down in front of the Pay-TV to watch a logo. And the only result of a logo change is a reduction of brand recognition.  

 

  So that’s my old age rant for the week. I seem to be comfortably settling in to a new role as a grumpy old man. I may even become a curmudgeon.

 

Sam Snape

 

1/3/2018.

 

YOU CAN'T MOVE THE GOAL POSTS

 

A REALLY bad decision  Unlike many commentators who have bellowed their dubious umbrage, I say bloody well done to the stewards in Austin. Handing Max a penalty that dropped him back behind Raikkonen was exactly what was required for Verstappen was not on the circuit at all when he passed Kimi on the final lap. Let’s understand the rule. After all it is really rather simple. You cannot leave the defined track and gain a lasting advantage. Not too hard to understand. Did Max leave the defined track? Yes. Did Max gain a lasting advantage? Yes. Therefore the rules were broken and the pass was disallowed as it should have been.

 

  For all the cretins howling in protest I ask this. If it had been Maradona using his hand to score a goal would you have said that it was OK because it was an aggressive move? Oh that’s right, we already know the answer to that one. Would it be fine for a goal to stand when the player was blatantly offside? Would it be acceptable today for a batsman to be given out to an enormous no-ball? How many fans scream with outrage when a try is scored from a forward pass or the player has stepped into touch. How did McEnroe react when he lost a point to a ball that was out of bounds? “You can’t be serious” Which is just what I say to all those, including Max, who have complained about the decision handed down by the officials in Texas. You simply cannot have it both ways. You cannot complain about referees making incorrect calls, most of which are split second, on the field judgements, and then bitch and vilify the referee when he makes the right call after viewing conclusive video evidence.

 

  As for the comments by those who really should know better, pull yer head back in guys. Niki Lauda’s comments are usually well worth heading as he doesn’t often speak bullshit, but the drivel he came out with that this “was the worst decision ever” by the stewards and that drivers should be able to drive on any surface they want because there shouldn’t be any track limits is incomprehensible. According to that theory a driver could just do donuts over the start finish line and win the race. No one would have to ever need to actually go through any of those wonderful curves at Austin, ah just straight line the lot of them, it’s OK. Bugger Eau Rouge, just drive back through the paddock and rejoin the track near the pit entry. Sorry Niki, the white lines define the track and as per the rules you are supposed to stay on it. As for it being the worst decision ever? Good Grief Charlie Brown.

 

  What about not slapping Vettel with any sort of real sanction for his appalling road rage in Baku? How about banning cars that were within the rules as written, such as the Lotus 88? What about Moseley fining McLaren $100,000,000 (yes all those zeros are correct) for bring the sport into disrepute after if was given some technical info about Ferrari? And then Moseley not copping any sanction after his little bout with the spanky girl in dubious attire? It does occur to me that the worst decisions in our sport were those that were not made. Not stripping Senna of the 1990 championship after he deliberately crashed into Prost at Suzuka, and don’t try to argue about it, Senna later admitted that it was deliberate. Not giving Schumacher any meaningful penalty when he tried to win the 1997 championship with a similar ploy against Jacques Villeneuve at Jerez. No race bans, no points stripped, just having his second place in the championship deleted. Talk about getting slapped on the wrist with a wet haddock. All that of course dates back to the day that Senna swerved across the track at Estoril almost forcing Prost, his team-mate at the time, into the pit wall. Had a decent penalty been handed down that day we wouldn’t have had the continuation of the unpunished thuggish behaviour that we have seen through Schumacher to Vettel being let off after causing the start-line accident in Singapore. Disallowing an illegal overtake to stand, sorry Niki, not even close to the worst decision ever.

 

  Hell, not even a bad one.

 

Sam Snape

 

26-10-2017

 

BIG WHEELS KEEP ON TURNING

 

Brendon Hartley testing the Mercedes in 2012  Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river goes the song although it was also apt for Friday in Suzuka as the heavens opened in time for practice two and the fastest racing was with paper boats down the pit-lane. And that big wheel did keep on turning as Jolyon Palmer joined Pascal in the spittoon with immediate effect. He will be replaced in Austin by Carlos Sainz who will be replaced at Toro Rosso by Daniil Kvyat, being sucked back up out of the spittoon (possibly only temporarily) while Dannii’s replacement, Pierre Gasly will be replaced by Brendon Hartley who had been in Red Bulls spittoon since 2011, as Pierre will be chasing Super Formula Championship glory in Suzuka. Got that? You, the spotty boy down the back picking your nose – have you been paying attention?

 

  So to re-cap. King Fernando will stay at McLaren because they are getting Renault engines because Renault are getting Carlos Sainz because Toro Rosso are getting Honda engines and Kvyat is being replaced by Gasly who is being replaced by Hartley because Palmer is being replaced by Sainz who is being replaced by Kvyat. There will be an exam on this last period Friday. Hartley, who had been Red Bulls and Toro Rosso’s reserve driver back in 2009-2010 before being dropped from their junior programme also tested for Mercedes in 2012 and has since solidified his reputation with an excellent few years with Porsche in the World Endurance Championship culminating in a World Championship victory in 2015 and a Le Mans win and probably the World Championship again this year. Brendon currently leads the WEC (along with co-drivers Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard) by 39 points from the lead Toyota entry of Nakajima, Davidson and, ironically former Toro Rosso driver, Sebastien Buemi with just 52 remaining from two rounds. Hartley will become the first Kiwi to race in a Grand Prix in 33 years, the last being Mike Thackwell in the lamentable RAM 01 Hart turbo in 1984. Considering the population size of New Zealand they have been exceptionally well represented in F1 over the years, especially in the 1960s. You had 1967 World Champion, Denny Hulme, Bruce McLaren who at one point was the youngest ever Grand Prix winner (1959 US GP in a Cooper) before setting up one of F1’s greatest teams, Chris Amon, Ferrari team leader and 1969 Tasman Series Champion, Howden Ganley, BRM and Williams driver, Tony Shelly, Graham McRae, John Nicholson and Thackwell. Scott Dixon also tested for Williams before heading to the States to become one of Indycars all time greats. Not bad for a nation with a population the size of Sydney, just 0.06% of the world’s population.

 

  There is also a new game in town. It’s called Cyril Says. A bit like Simon Says except you have to figure out what will happen when-ever Cyril Abiteboul makes an announcement. For example when Cyril said that Robert Kubica’s first test was just a bit of fun and not a serious test to evaluate Robert for a 2018 drive it meant that they were going to test him again in a few weeks. When Cyril said that there were no plans for Kubica to test the current car after the Hungarian Grand Prix it meant that Palmer would not be driving the car and that Kubica would put in 142 laps and end up sixth quickest. When Cyril said that he had personally assured Palmer that he would remain in the Renault F1 seat for the remainder of the year, as per his contract, it meant that he was going to be sacked before the US Grand Prix so they could put Sainz in the seat. See where this is going? So I hear that Cyril has said that Palmer has Renault’s commitment to help him find a drive for next year. So what do you think this means for Jolyon? Answers on a post card please…

 

  It would seem that Ferrari should check the treads of the tyres on their trucks as it appears that they have (as per the old superstition) run over a Chinaman. They have left the Asian leg of the championship having shot themselves in both feet, ankles, shins calves and knees. For the entire season Vettel had lead the championship until Ferrari’s underperformance at Monza but still looked odds-on for a championship win. Then Vettel’s crassly stupid swerve took out both drivers in Singapore, both had turbo failures in Malaysia (Vettel started at the back of the grid and Raikkonen not at all) where Vettel managed to salvage fourth place only to retire in Japan from a spark plug failure in Suzuka while Kimi copped a grid penalty for changing a gearbox after stuffing it into the wall in practice and could manage just fifth place. I cannot remember the last time I had to write in Spark Plug as a reason for retirement, quite possibly not since the 1980’s. Mean-while Hamilton has taken two wins and a second to command the drivers title chase, while Mercedes with four podiums, including two wins and Red Bull, with five podiums (one win) have been feasting. Indeed Ferrari are now more in danger of loosing second place in the constructors championship to Red Bull than they are of catching Mercedes for the win. Come to think of it Ferrari didn’t do too well in China either so they must be hoping that they Asian curse doesn’t follow them to Austin.

 

  On the Kubica come-back topic, Robert completed what Williams described as a “successful” test at Silverstone in a 2014 FW36 but did not release any times or other details. We hear that he will be up against di Resta in a two-day test in Hungary this week in what is basically a shoot-out for next years seat along-side Lance Stroll. It is very likely that Felipe Massa will be retiring from Formula One, permanently, this time.

 

Sam Snape

 

16-10-2017.    

 

THE MAGIC ROUND-ABOUT

 

Will Wehrlein stay on the Round-about by getting chumy with Vettel?  Ah it’s that time of year again. As Monza comes about so do the flashing lights of the magic round-about. Jason has bunged on his technicolour dreamcoat, Alice has noted that the days are getting longer in the Antipothies and for those trying to figure it all out the answer is 42, although the question is mired in a certain amount of obscurity. And then the Jabberwocky strikes. The great comeback story of the decade, Robert Kubica will replace Palmer at Renault in 2018. Errr – except that Carlos Sainz is being “lent” to Renault by Toro Rosso. Because another Spaniard (or Catalan – depending on how the revolutio…errr…referendum plays out) won’t stay at McLaren if they keep the Honda engines next year. King Fernando’s position is understandable as Honda haven’t produced a competent F1 engine since 1991. Or to put it another way, since King Fernando was a 10 year old Prince in waiting.

  So McLaren need to ditch Honda (and their $100 million) and find a new motor. Mercedes and Ferrari say no. So cap in hand to Renault who will not supply four teams but wouldn’t mind having Fernando back in front of one of their products and are getting jack of Red Bulls constant complaints so are open to a deal. Red Bull’s reserve grade squad, Toro Rosso, could use Honda’s dosh and hey, who knows, next years Honda might just work. But Toro Rosso have an engine contract with Renault, and Renault have wanted to have Carlos Sainz in their car for a year or two now (and are pissed with Red Bull – see above).

 

  So Fernando will stay at McLaren if it can have Renaults if Toro Rosso can have Hondas and all their yen if Renault can have Sainz (on loan of course) and Kubica can stick his Renault comeback chances far up his …well, you know. And so can Red Bull it seems for an engine supply by Renault from 2019 onwards. Which means that about this time next year Ricciardo and Verstappen will be vying for places at Mercedes and Ferrari and Red Bull will be promoting Gasly and Kvyat (???) to the top grade in Red Bull Hondas because unless Honda pull out a miracle, Sainz won’t be coming back from Renault for that combo, “loan” or not. And no other top line driver will want to join Red Bull that early and wait until the new engine regs in 2021 when they may have Aston Martins, or VWs, or Porsches. Or not.

 

  And now, the great comeback story of the decade. Robert Kubica will replace Felipe Massa at Williams. Or maybe Massa will stay. Or be replaced by Paul di Resta. You have to think though that; A) Kubica did a pretty decent job in testing the Renault at the Hungaroring and, B) Kubica would be a pretty good PR move for Martini. Although di Resta did a very good job on short notice for Williams in Hungary when Felipe got sick. And Felipe does want to stay, but only if he’s wanted. And Gasly replaces Kvyat it the Toro Rosso from Malaysia as Danii has scored far too few points this year and Leclerc looks likely to join Sauber so Wehrlein gets spat out the door. Will Ericsson join him in the spittoon and be replaced by Giovinazzi or will his backers remain firm and Antonio be reserving again? Who would end up at Toro Rosso in 2019? Will Ocon and Perez keep running into each other and therefore force a change at Force India? And so the Round-about keeps spinning, some jumping aboard, some hanging on for grim death and some being flung aside with gay abandon, as it always does. And your current interlocutor keeps grinning like the Cheshire Cat and may well just disappear straight up his own….well, you know.

 

Sam Snape

 

28/9/2017

 

ALL EYES ARE ON THE POLE

 

Robert Kubica takes a giant step in one of sports great come-backs  The issue that many suspected would arise as a result of the aerodynamic changes was manifestly on display at the Hungaroring. Apart from Ricciardo being nurfed out of the race by an extraordinarily clumsy Verstappen lunge the points for the Hungarian Grand Prix might as well have been awarded after qualifying, as so little overtaking was possible. 

  The only passing manoeuvres in the top six were the Mercedes duo swapping places a couple of times to see if Hamilton was better able than Bottas to make any impression on the Ferraris – which despite his greater pace he wasn’t – and then to give 3rd place back as per the earlier arrangement. The almost impossibility of overtaking was shown most starkly in that Kimi Raikkonen who’s Ferrari was healthy was not able to get close enough to Vettel to even have a lunge despite being vastly quicker due to a steering problem on the German’s car which saw him having to turn the wheel dramatically to the right to keep in a straight line for most of the race.

  Admittedly the problem has been somewhat less this year than expected at most circuits but at the tight and twisty Hungarian circuit the result was a tedious return to the early 90’s when the race was nothing more than a two hour procession and the real battle was fought out in qualifying. If you were quick enough to claim pole position in qualifying then you were just about guaranteed the race win. And in qualifying in Hungary it was even more important as to what car you drove than at most other circuits as most of the field lined up like the animals climbing into Noah’s arc. Two by two by two…you get the drift, even poor old Jolyon Palmer made it into the top ten. Bit of a pity for him he couldn’t maintain that place in the race as he really must now be spending more time looking over his shoulder than down the road at pole.

  And looming over his shoulder is the other Pole. The most interesting thing that occurred in Hungary this year happened three days after the race was completed. On Wednesday one of potentially the greatest sporting come-backs took another step forward when Robert Kubica drove a current Formula One car since his hideous Rallying accident in 2011. If you remember the grizzly details, not only had the Armco barrier speared into his chest but had all but severed his right arm. All of the years of operations and physical therapy and immense mental strength have finally allowed him to return to where he should have always been. And the result? Fourth fastest on the day and sixth overall in the Renault in which Palmer has been struggling so much.

  This fairytail began earlier this year when Robert tested the 2012 Lotus E20 at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit. It was said at the time that it was nothing more than Renault giving him a run in an old car so he could say to himself that he had made it back into a F1 car. Not a real test, just a bit of supportive fun for all concerned. Except he was quite a bit faster that official tester Sergey Sirotkin who had driven the same car the day before. Then very quietly there was another test in the Lotus at Paul Ricard. No times were given although there were now comments about evaluating Kubica’s fitness to assess if he was able to drive one of the current cars which are much more physically demanding. Time was also spent in the Red Bull simulator, of which not much was said by Christian Horner except that it was a Renault matter but that he was “impressed”.

  Then days before the race it was confirmed that Kubica would be replacing Palmer for the test. I’m thinking that Jolyon could hear the clanking of hammer on nails when he got this news. And it wasn’t as if the Pole took it easy on Wednesday. He completed 140 laps over eight hours, a distance of almost two Hungarian Grand Prixs and he set his quickest time late in the day when given a chance on the softer rubber. Kubica claims he was “not 100% satisfied” with the test which shows how much more he thinks he can still get out of himself, but I’m guessing that just about everyone else was completely happy with the way things turned out. Except perhaps poor Jolyon.

  So what odds on a Hulkenberg/Kubica pairing at Renault next year? A more promising line-up is hard to imagine and don’t forget, back when Kubica still had both arms, no less a driver that King Fernando claimed that the Pole was the fastest guy out there. So perhaps Robert will force Alonso to stay at McLaren after all.

Sam Snape

5/8/2017