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THE WEIRD AND WONDERFUL WEEK THAT WAS..

 

The UPS logo on the FerrariThe dick butt cartoonBest racing I have seen in years  Well OK – two weeks – mostly ‘cause I’ve been a bit slack. I think I might have mentioned that Albert Park was a sodding awful circuit sometime in the past and so it was proven with two fine races at Sepang and Shanghai showing that the snoozefest that was the Australian decidedly un-grand Prix was not how the entire season was going to play out. OK so the racing for the lead in either race was not a thrill a minute dicing but there was some great action down through the field and at least one surprise result based on a perfect strategy for the stinking hot conditions that are prevalent in Malaysia at this time of year. And some weird shit in China just to give you a laugh if you start thinking this stuff is serious.

 

  We’ll start with the weird stuff first shall we? Not so much in Malaysia as it is just too damned hot but Shanghai threw all sorts of oddness in our direction. During Friday practice a spectator ran across the start/finish straight in front of Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India before diving head first through a gap in the fencing on the pit wall. Well OK, we’ve had mad monks and pissed off Mercedes employees doing similar craziness before but this idiot wasn’t protesting anything. Oh no…According to reports he just wanted to have a go in a Ferrari and thought that the admission price (which to the average Chinese worker is probably the same as a house or two) meant that he could have a drive. Was probably a bit pissed that the rozzers at the paddock gates wouldn’t let him in so he chose the most direct route. He was then prevented from entering the Ferrari pit by a couple of mechanics who handed him over to the always polite Chinese coppers who have undoubtedly sent him off for a brief bit of “re-education”. Needless to say security was a tad tighter come Saturday which briefly halted some of ITV’s commentary team from getting into the circuit. Shouldn’t have left your pass at the hotel Johnny.. Ah – isn’t it wonderful to visit lands with such a deep history and knowledge of motor sport. Can’t wait to see what happens in Azerbaijan…

  In hindsight the next bit of silliness was quite appropriate considering the now missing afore mentioned idiot. One of Ferrari’s sponsors, UPS, thought it would be a great wheeze to run a campaign in which they would create their logo on the car out of a collage of facebook home page pictures submitted by fans. One can only assume there was no actual person checking these before the creation went off to the printers or one doubts that a cartoon of “dick-butt” would have made it through. Nice to see some fans still have a sense of humour, even if UPS and Ferrari didn’t. Come Saturday Ferrari had blacked out dick-butt with a nice cheap permanent marker (I wonder if they are cheaper in China where they are made?) but that didn’t stop the wags who have access to this interweb thingy posting photos of proudly smiling drivers Seb and Kimi holding up the offending logo. And April fools days was ten days past. Perhaps it was submitted on April 1. More please, gave everyone a laugh.

 

 

  And now to the stuff that is all about the four black round rubbery things on the flat black tary stuff. Team by team may be easiest and we can match it with some of my pre-season prognostications to see just how much of a genius I am (not). Well I, like Nostradamus before me, correctly surmised that Mercedes would be crazy to change anything and they didn’t. Except perhaps how much quicker they are than last year. Utterly dominant in Oz they were heading in that direction again in Sepang until a bit of a strategy blunder on lap 4 saw both cars pit for a change of tyres under yellow flags while the Ferraris stayed out. This meant that Nigel – sorry – Lewis and Nico had to do 2 long stints on the harder and slower compound black round rubbery things while trying to catch the Ferrari of Vettel who’s car was very friendly to the softer and faster compound. Needless to say they didn’t and for the first time since 2013 2 healthy Mercs finished only second and third. Rosberg was particularly hampered by this pit decision as he had to wait in the pits while Hamilton’s tyres were changed losing loads of time and six positions before rejoining the race. While Mercedes was beaten it wasn’t for pace and it would have been much more interesting had they split their strategy and left Nico out, right behind Vettel and on basically the same plan. They weren’t beaten for pace at Shanghai either where normal service was resumed. Often a second quicker than their nearest rival they dominated the meeting, much as in Australia and the only time Ferrari really got close was when Nig…Lewis was intentionally backing Nico up. Funny how much quicker he became when he was told to hurry up or the team would give Nico a preferential pit strategy.

 

  Red Bull are having a shocker of a start to the year and despite what Mr Horner et al would like you to believe, it’s not all Renaults fault. OK the current power unit from Regie is a bit asthmatic and they are losing them quicker than an amoeba can divide, but Renault don’t provide the Red Rags brakes. They are suffering from currently incurable overheating of the brakes which was not rectified by a change in pad supplier between Sepang and Shanghai and it sort of helps through the twiddly bits if you can slow down before you get to them. Both the cars limped home in the last two points paying places in Sepang with great gouts of brake dust spurting from the cars and just like in Oz, they were a lap down. Shanghai wasn’t much better with continual cooling problems but at least Kvyat didn’t need to wait for his brakes to give up on him. His Renault went pop on just lap 15. Daniel meanwhile struggled after a dreadful start and only just scraped into ninth place. Seems a lot like what happened at Williams and McLaren when a certain Mr Newey stopped designing their cars. I wonder how long it will be before he is dragged back to his white board?.

 

  As to Williams they don’t seem to have made the strides they hoped for and have currently slipped back behind Ferrari in the battle for second best. Considering the respective budgets this should not be a huge surprise it is a bit of a disappointment to the chaps at Grove. They are currently well lodged in as the third fastest car as can be shown by the drivers finishing fifth and sixth in both races behind the Silver and Red fellows and never being any real threat. I have a feeling, despite Rob Smedley’s contention that we are seeing “the best ever Felipe Massa” that all may not be completely well with Bottas’s back after his injury in Oz. Having had a disc injury myself I can tell you that even with the greatest medical minds in history working on you, you are not going to recover fully from this type of injury in a couple of weeks and the fact that Felipe has out-qualified Valtteri three from three seems to support this hypothesis. Perhaps the break between Bahrain and Spain will help Valtteri but even then, Team Willi needs to find some time to get back to where it was last year.

 

  And here’s where I look like a bit of a prat. Having suggested that having the two least impressive drivers of 2014 join a team that had just sacked the best part of it’s design and management team may not lead to the best of all possible outcomes may not have been my finest prediction. Vettel has driven superbly and delivered all he could possibly have done with his win in Sepang and third in Shanghai following on from his similar result in Oz. Kimi has been equally impressive, if not more so, in the races but just needs to finds that extra tiny something in qualifying. If Kimi does find it, Seb will not be looking over his shoulder, he’ll be looking far down the road at the ever decreasing size of the second Ferrari. Raikkonen’s come-back drive after an early puncture in Sepang was mesmeric. Having being screwed by bad timing in his qualy 2 efforts he lined up 11th on the grid and had to pit at the end of lap 1 after damaging a tyre. After pitting for his second time (his first scheduled) on lap 15 Kimi was sitting 17th and second last. Within twelve laps he was third and trying to hold off Rosberg who had just stopped for new rubber. Fourth place was a fine result which he repeated in Shanghai. It might have been better but as he was closing on his team-mate near the end a safety car was called upon after yet another Renault went pop on the pit straight with a couple of laps to run.   

 

  To say that McLaren are getting more bang for their buck with the Honda engines is not as good as it sounds. Even with the power turned down the Honda units are detonating at an unpleasant rate. So much so that King Fernando may well be in line to cop his first grid place penalty for using too many engines by Spain. Not that he or Jenson can be sent too much further back on the grid as they are currently only ahead of Manor. Be that as it may it seems impossible that things will not improve, it’s just how long will that take? And in the mean-time two of the fastest guys out there will just have to trundle around and give us more of those wan smiles that Jenson seems to have perfected.

 

  Force India are only marginally ahead of McLaren and are waiting for their use of Toyota’s wind tunnel at Cologne to produce results. The team is saying the first upgraded parts should arrive in Austria and so again the drivers, Sergio Perez and Herr Hulkenberg will just need to stop sulking and get on with racing each other and enjoy being two of the twenty luckiest fellows on the planet. There are, after all, plenty of others who would be very happy to race a temporarily sluggish Force India.

 

  The Red Rag junior team is proving the absurdity of the recent rule change mandating a minimum age for Grand Prix drivers. With the youngest and least experienced driver pairing and the same explosive engine supplier as the senior team they are getting on with making the most of it and both their drivers finished ahead of Ricciardo/Kvyat in Malaysia. Both Verstappen and Sainz are proving if you are good enough you are old enough and have both looked confidant and assured in their three outings so far. Both more so that Kvyat who has been a bit ragged in the Red Bull and the Scuderia sit just one point behind Red Bull in the constructors standings at this juncture. Sure they will make some mistakes along the way, that’s what rookies do. But both look like potential race winners on their performances so far. Time I guess will tell how good that prediction is….

 

  Lotus are probably the current fourth fastest team about and about the least luckiest. You’ve got to wonder just how many Chinamen they ran over before they got to Shanghai, but finally Grosjean scored some points with a seventh place finish in China behind the big three. Pastor Maldonado retiring from three races on the trot would sometimes not be an unsurprising occurrence but on not one occasion so far this year has it been his fault. Even the two accidents. Shoved into the wall in Oz after Seb hit Kimi who hit Nasr hit him can hardly be construed as Pastors error. Brake failure in Sepang could have happened to anyone (see Red Bull for example). And when, just when, was the last time you can remember Jenson Button cocking up a simple braking zone as he did while ploughing up the arse of Maldonado at turn one in Shanghai? The battle with the resurgent Sauber team for the best of the midfield will be a good one but I suspect Lotus will prevail. Providing people stop running into Maldonado.

 

  We all knew that Manor/Marussia would be propping up the rear of the grid this year after getting out of administration just a few weeks before Oz and that is exactly what they are doing. And they are possibly doing it a lot better than some believed likely. With the usual dipshit nay-sayers coming out with ridiculous theories about their failure to get both cars into the race in Oz and Sepang – I particularly liked the one about then only having one steering wheel in Malaysia – who comes up with this crap? – it was good to see that both qualified, started and finished the Chinese Grand Prix. A difficult rebirth sure, but that was a better result than was had by Red Bull, Lotus, Toro Rosso and Force India. A plus for effort and determination.

 

  And finally Sauber. After the Van der Garde fiasco it has been onwards and upwards for the little Swiss team. Except for Ericsson’s spin in Malaysia both Marcus and Felipe Nasr have finished all the races in the points and they are currently sitting fourth in the championship. Both drivers were condemned by some as pay drivers not worthy of their place in this lofty championship but Nasr after some super races sits seventh in the drivers standings, behind only those from the big three, and Ericsson has scored points twice and qualified inside the top ten in both Sepang and Shanghai. Not something a muppet can do. Both are proving themselves very worthy of their place on the grid.

 

  For full results go to;

 

http://www.mmmsport.com.au/index.php/the-database/formula-1-races/2010-2019/2015-formula-1

 

 

  On a completely separate subject (sort of) if you want to see just how good motor racing can be without all this stupid engine standardisation bullshit we have to put up with in F1 check out the World Endurance Championship round from Silverstone. Spectacular racing between Porsche, Audi and Toyota with more overtaking (without DRS mind you) than your average Moto 3 GP. I’d say in the 45 minutes leading up to the half way mark there would have been at least 30 passing moves between Fassler’s Audi and Jani’s Porsche alone. So much so that there was a marvellous bit of film of the Audi boss laughing out loud in the pits. Exciting, exhilarating, dramatic and just bloody good fun to watch. Reminds me of why I loved the sport in the first place. Can’t wait for Spa…

 

  This link has the whole race – you can bounce forward to the really good bits and there are plenty of them.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VibdXK7X7o

 

Sam Snape

 

15/04/2015