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Stunning Spa & stuff

  On the face of it, Sebastian Vettel winning his eighty gazillionth race of the year from Webber and a McLaren might not sound too interesting. It might sound predictable, dull, boring, bereft of suspense and denuded of excitement. But Noooooooooooooooooooo!!! The Red Rags may have, yeah OK, yet again, dominated practice but until the final lap of qualifying the dominator was Mark Webber, showing yet again that he is rather useful on the damp stuff. Even that should not have happened. The Red Rags are not supposed to have enough grunt to be quick on the super-fast Spa-Francorchamps and it was assumed that they would struggle against the McLarens and Ferraris. 

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  Then, just to make a Red Rag one-two even more unlikely, they blistered the buggery out of their front tyres in qualifying by running an extreme degree of camber. Of course the rules state that they had to start on these damaged bits of black and could not alter their set-up so their race chances didn't look so hot. And THEN, they both bogged down at the start with the anti-stall kicking in, more so for Mark than Seb and the surprise leader at the end of lap one was the super starting Nico Rosberg. Seb's start wasn't too bad and he held out Massa for second but Mark's was the F1 driver's version of discovering rampant crutch-rot.

    He has, however, obviously found a new friend in young Bruno Senna who undid all his excellent practice and qualifying work to make a complete pig's breakfast of La Source, and slam, tyres smoking, into Jaime Alguersuari who had started a career high sixth on the grid. The resulting carnage rescued Mark's start as he weaved through the flying shrapnel and emerged ninth through Eau-Rouge. The major casualties were Alguersuari, who oddly enough survived Senna's assault, but was, as a result pushed into the path of the faster starting King Fernando who neatly removed the left front corner of the Toro Rosso. Senna, obviously had a bent snout and had to pit at the end of lap one while both Lotus's got caught up with each other while avoiding the mess and Button's McLaren not only had a damaged wing but also had one of his mirrors taken out by someone's debris going through Eau-Rouge. As he mentioned, a bit scary that.

   From there, it was one of those races where a mixture of circumstance, conditions and testicles infected with elephantitis resulted in the Red Rag one-two. Part of the circumstance was the Hoon putting himself into the wall after forgetting to look and see if there was anyone along side him who he could hit when moving over to take the ideal line through Les Combes. There was and he did. Kamui Kamikaze did not roll over and die as the Hoon imagined when he initially passed the young Japanese Sauber pilot, but closed back in on the run from Radillon and had come alongside in the braking zone. Quite aptly named, as the result was a very broken McLaren and an equally broken Armco barrier. On this occasion the Hoon won back a few of the fans who he lost at Monaco when, after viewing the footage, he admitted that the accident was "100%" his fault. You don't mind a guy making a mistake if he admits it. The conditions took care of the Ferraris as, as ever, the flying fag packets could not make the harder tyres work in the cool temperature and King Fernando dropped to a distant fourth by the flag.

   The Testicular Elephantitis Passing Move of the Year will surely go to Webber who, on the harder rubber, caught King Fernando who was leaving the pits and ballsed it out around the OUTSIDE at Eau-Rouge. Everyone watching, including commentators, spectators and Red Rag managers closed their eyes and waited for the resulting plane crash. There was no horrible noise, just the joint exhalation of a few thousand breaths and the stunned viewers opened their eyes to see Webber pulling away from the Ferrari.  Both intact. It is as much a tribute to King Fernando's racing ethics as the skills of both drivers that something very horrible did not happen. I may be wrong, but I cannot remember a successful pass for position around the outside of Eau-Rouge. In fact, the last time I recall anyone even trying it was the unfortunate, but very brave, Stefan Bellof attempting the move on Jacky Ickx in Porsche 956s in 1985. Despite Ickx's equally high standard of ethics and skill, that particular move had tragic consequences and robbed the sport of quite possibly Germany's first World Champion.

   Had it not been for Webber the award may well have gone to Jenson Button who pulled off some wonderful moves in a great drive from thirteenth on the grid to the final step of the podium. Or maybe Vettel passing Rosbert on the outside at Blanchimont. There may have been a lot of overtaking as a result of a very long DRS zone between Radillon and Les Combes but it was the passing elsewhere that this race will be remembered, and for a very long time at that.

   Another beneficiary of the Senna carambolage was Daniel Ricciardo who was running as high as sixteenth early on and although he dropped back as the faster cars recovered he was still on course to give HRT one of their better finishes until the car ground to a halt just as the red flag came out for the Hoon's mangled McLaren. Also benefiting was the under-whelming Herr Schumacher who had one of his better days since the comeback. It didn't look too flash on Saturday when a rear wheel decided it just didn't want to hang around with the Mercedes, leaving the German to get somewhat better acquainted with the barriers than he would normally like on his out-lap in first qualifying. Starting dead last, however, may have been a blessing as if he had begun in a normal sort of place, somewhere around the bottom of the top ten, he would have been in the middle of the La Source kafuffle. As it was, he rose steadily through the race and just before the end took fifth place from the other Mercedes of the kin of the Flying Finn.

   Just days before the Belgian Grand Prix it was announced that Bruno Senna would be taking Nick Heidfeld's place at Renault. Despite outscoring Vitaly Petrov so far this year, his pace, especially in qualifying, has disappointed Renault team management. After 185 starts it would appear that Nick's dream has come to an end, although it has seemed that way before. Despite being a member of the Mercedes junior squad he debuted with the hideously crap Prost-Peugeot in 2000 (not even Jean Alesi could score points in that) before joining Sauber in 2001. He out-pointed team-mate Kimi Raikkonen that year and expected to be named as a replacement for the retiring Mika Hakkinen at McLaren-Mercedes for 2002. It came as a surprise for Nick then, when Raikkonen was signed by McLaren and so he stayed with Sauber for another two seasons. Dropped by Sauber at the end of 2003 it looked like the promising German's career may have stalled but he was given a lifeline by the struggling Jordan squad. After another fruitless season he was given a surprise chance with a drive alongside Mark Webber at Williams where he proved his capability with a pole and three podiums in the year that Williams decline really began. 

   When Williams engine supplier, BMW, split with the team to form its own squad, it purchased the Sauber outfit and named Nick as their lead driver. Four seasons with the Bavarian/Swiss squad brought eight more podium finishes but as time wore on he was slowly outpaced by the super-fast Robert Kubica. When BMW pulled the plug and sold the team back to Peter Sauber, Nick's career once again seemed to be over and he was replaced by Pedro de la Rosa. There was the possibility of finally joining Mercedes as they rejoined Grand Prix racing as a works team but then the deal was done with Michael Schumacher and Nick became a "test" driver who, because of the new testing rules, could not even test the car. De la Rosa's poor form saw Nick back in the Sauber for the last five races of 2010 and when Kubica suffered his horrendous rally accident at the start of this year, Nick stepped into his former team-mates seat at Renault.

    He may not have achieved the heights that he would have liked but if Hungary was really his final Grand Prix, then Nick bows out with a record that many drivers would be proud of. 185 starts, 1 pole, 13 podiums and 259 points ain't half bad for a guy that was often in mediocre machinery.  

 

Sam Snape

05/09/2011