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F1 Ð A WEEK IS A LONG TIME INÉÉÉÉ.

  Politics – certainly gets a mention. Hospital – too damned right. The shower – something not quite right there. A bath-tub full of spiders – Ooooeeee. Formula One? – Very much so. After five very long weeks, the two most evocative races of the year are within seven short days of each other. In those seven days we went from the majesty of Spa Francorchamps to the flat out blast through the Royal Park at Monza., King Fernando’s championship lead went from 40 points, to 24 and then to 37. The Hoon went from 4th in the title chase, to 5th and then to 2nd. Romain Grosjean went from being a Grand Prix driver to being a spectator. Jerome D’Ambrosio went from being a discard to a Grand Prix driver and will go back to being a spectator. And of course the silly season rumour mill ran riot with the Hoon quitting McLaren for Mercedes. Not quitting McLaren for Mercedes. Possibly quitting McLaren – err you get the picture. Nico Hulkenberg joining Ferrari. Sergio Perez joining Ferrari, but only after coming second at Monza. Sebastian Vettel joining Ferrari, just not next year. The Hoon joining Ferrari, Raikkonen joining Ferrari, Felipe Massa staying at Ferrari. Anyone who has a good race is joining Ferrari. Seems as if there will an awful lot of Ferraris next year.

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  Mario Andretti coming out of retirement to drive for Ferrari? Has about the same amount of credibility as some of these stories. One thing we do know, Mark Webber will not be joining Ferrari next year. Let’s try to make some sense of all of this shall we? Vettel will not be joining Ferrari next year but may well be in 2014 when his current contract expires. Ferrari has made no secret that they would like to pair Alonso and Vettel and if the wunderkind was to make the move, 2014 would be logical. With the new engine rules coming in then most drivers are probably thinking that the best seat would be for one of the “factory” teams. I.e., teams that are not just constructors but engine manufacturers as well. That makes Ferrari and Mercedes the hottest seats in town as Renault and Cosworth are now only engine suppliers to their customer teams. So of all the other drivers linked to Ferrari, who would want to go there for just one year if Vettel is joining in 2014?

    Probably not many, and certainly not anyone who is already in the top echelon. So almost immediately The Hoon and Kimi can be ruled out. Not the least because The Hoon and King Fernando didn’t exactly hit it off last time they were paired and Kimi probably hasn’t forgotten being unceremoniously sacked by the boys in red in 2009. Perez is in the frame but, a) Ferrari have stated they would like him to have a little more experience before taking him on, b) if it’s only going to be for a year he may be better served by cementing his reputation at Sauber before examining his options at the end of next year and, c) a single season as very much Alonso’s number two could easily ruin his career momentum. Hulkenberg? Even if it was only for one season he would probably see it as a great opportunity to impress and be in line for a really top drive in 2014, but…See Ferrari’s thoughts about Perez’s experience. So probably, despite all the noise, Felipe Massa will stay one more year while the Vettel possibility gets sorted out and Ferrari will decide on their long term driver options at the end of next year. Oh well…

   The Mercedes situation is equally murky. How badly do they want the Hoon? Is Schumacher thinking of quitting again? For good? Or is Ross Brawn going to give him the tap on the shoulder? Would they give Nico the flicko and pair The Hoon and the aging Schumacher? Just how hard is the Hoon really thinking of making the move? If Lewis is going to leave the team he has grown up with, now would be the best time to do it and Mercedes would be the logical team to go to. Even if they don’t come up with a winning car next year he would have had a full season with his crew and be fully integrated into one of the “factory” teams when the new engines arrive. He may see that as a better long term option than staying with what will be a “customer” team at McLaren. Then again, he may decide to stay with McLaren, but what then if Schumacher decides to go? Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg are the obvious choices to move up and join Rosberg, but that would make for a rather unproven line up as Rosberg hasn’t convinced everyone just yet. Perhaps Mercedes would also go for a proven quantity and try to lure Button back? Or Raikkonen? Now I’m speculating - see where this leads you… 

  Meanwhile there were two excellent races for McLaren. Button dominated at Spa as did Lewis at Monza. It is a pity then that Button failed to finish at Monza as did Lewis at Spa. Jenson was imperious at Spa taking pole easily and leading every lap to score his long awaited second win of the year. After hints of team orders to support The Hoon, this moved him to back into championship contention and to within just 16 points of his team-mate but then, just seven days later his fuel pick-up system cried enough and he silently ghosted out of a comfortable second place and back out of championship contention. The Hoon meanwhile, was vigorously assaulted by the errant Grosjean even before the first corner at Spa but then dominated the entire weekend at Monza to leap into second place in the championship with his third win of the year.

 

 

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    King Fernando is currently the living proof that you can’t just be good, you also have to be very lucky in this game. He is probably lucky to still be living after being spammed from above by a re-entering satellite…errr..Lotus at Spa but also fortunate that in this season of super reliability, although he didn’t get around the first corner, none of his competitors scored in both of these races either and despite finishing just third at Monza his 40 point championship lead has decreased by just three points. The Red Rags were underwhelming at these two bastions of top speeds, as were all the Renault powered cars, and were more than 10 kph down through the speed traps at both races. It was possibly fortunate that Webber received a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change at Spa, relegating him to 12th on the grid as had he started where he qualified, in seventh place it would probably have been him that Grosjean first ploughed into, not The Hoon. He needed to do better than sixth place and eight points on a weekend where King Fernando didn’t finish. Vettel had a stronger race and came home both second on the track and in the championship. Then both failed to bother the scorers at Monza. Vettel had another alternator failure while Mark had again made it up to sixth after a disappointing qualifying before looping it at Ascari and then retiring with totally rooted tyres.

   It’s highly possible that Sergio Perez could have collected a couple of podiums had he also not been dive-bombed by Grosjean at Spa. His drive to second place at Monza was sublime and he was the only non-McLaren driver to lead a lap in these seven days. Perhaps if he had pitted a couple of laps earlier at Monza there may have been another different winner for the year as he was just over four seconds behind and was closing rapidly on The Hoon when the flag fell. While most of the spotlight may have been on Romain “Stuka” Grosjean at Spa it was the other Lotus quietly getting the job done. Kimi has always been mega at Spa and this year was no different. As with the Red Rags the Renault powered Lotus was not near the top of the speed trap times but Kimi silenced any doubters with his drive to third which included a Webber-like, giant testicles of the year award winning, pass around the outside of Schumacher’s Mercedes at Eau Rouge. He followed that up with a good as could have been expected fifth place at Monza and has slipped, almost un-noticed into third place in the title race, just one point behind The Hoon.

   Mention too should go to Felipe Massa who is slowly getting back to some sort of form with fifth place at Spa and a season best forth place at Monza after starting from third on the grid. If he keeps this up Ferrari may not need to make a decision after all. Also bagging a fourth place finish, the best of his career so far, was Nico Hulkenberg who benefited most from the carnage at Spa. That benefit aside this was a fine drive staying with the second group throughout and finishing just a couple of seconds behind Raikkonen was no mean feat. At the other end of the pack it was also nice to see Narain Karthikeyan finally get one up on Pedro de la Rosa in their qualifying battle at Monza. When you drive the second HRT and all you are ever fighting for is not to be last on the grid it’s these little things that matter. Enjoy the moment Narain.

 For full results go to;

 http://www.mmmsport.com.au/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=148&dir=ASC&order=name&limit=5&limitstart=15 

 Sam Snape

  12/09/2012