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NICO ROSBERG ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT

 

After one last leap, Rosberg calls time on his career  Just moments prior to accepting his trophy for becoming the 2016 World Formula One drivers Champion Nico Rosberg announced that, having achieved his life long dream, he no longer had the necessary emotional reserves to continue in Formula One and strive for another title. Put simply, the last few seasons battling with Lewis Hamilton had drained him. He was tired and, like Jenson Button, after 25 years of chasing his dream he needed a break from the permanent travel and stress that goes with being a Grand Prix driver these days. You could plainly see after the race in Abu Dhabi just how much pressure he had been under and what a relief it was to have triumphed. His description of the race, “it was horrible”, was probably a very telling comment in hindsight.

  As was his reply to a pit lane commentator who asked him if he would use the number 1 on his car next year. “We will see.” I have a sneaking suspicion that he already knew that he did not want to go through this again next year but wanted to let his team know before he made his decision public. To the very end his commitment to his team over all else is what made him so admired within the Mercedes squad. Some could suggest that Lewis should learn from his example. I hope that the decision was not made in haste and that in six months or a years time he will be wanting to return. It is wise to know when you can no longer give as much as you have done previously. If Rosberg had continued with this mindset he would have done neither himself nor his team justice. So Nico leaves us at the peak of his powers with his reputation as one of the best drivers of his day intact.

   As a result of course, that horrid ripping noise you hear is the sound of Grand Prix drivers and their managers all over the world trying to figure out if they can tear up their existing contracts and fill the vacant Mercedes drive. Mobile phone companies are making record profits as Toto Wolff’s phone reaches melting point. Toto himself joked (almost) that the only two drivers who had not contacted him were Kvyat and Raikkonen, and that was only because they didn’t have his number. So who is likely? Well Pascal Wehrlein as a Mercedes Junior driver is the most obvious candidate.

   You can almost imagine his emotions over the last month or so. Beginning with bewilderment and dejection at being overlooked by Force India in favour of his team-mate, Esteban Ocon, despite his outstanding performances at Manor this year. His options for next year were looking just a bit bleak with just the possibility of going to Sauber or staying at Manor the only ones left on the table. Another year at Manor was the likely outcome but that would leave him where? About where he is now with not many vacancies up the food chain except at a couple of the very top seats which he would be unlikely to get as they all have their own in house junior talent to draw from. And now the excitement of the very possible prospect of jumping into the departing World Champions seat and battling for race wins. If he gets it he will need to grab the opportunity by the throat to retain the seat beyond 2017. If he gets slaughtered by Hamilton he will not get a second chance as many of the top drivers contracts expire at the end of next year opening up some intriguing possibilities.

   Some could be very exciting and possibly work out well. Some could be exciting, but as toxic as the Prost/Senna partnership (for want of a better word). Ricciardo and Hamilton could work. Daniel is as non-political as they come but is blindingly fast. Without having to pull any back-room stunts his speed, dedication and personality would surely draw many of the team to his side and he would be a major threat to Hamilton’s hopes of future championships. I’m not quite so sure about the other two top line drivers working out though. Alonso/Hamilton 1 was about as harmonious as Prost/Senna and although Alonso has mellowed a touch since then it could be very interesting. The Mercedes management had a hard time sorting out the tiff’s between Hamilton and Rosberg but a determined Alonso could take things to an entirely new level. I don’t think Vettel would be much easier. Two more self-centered, self believing, determined individuals than Hamilton and Vettel you are unlikely to meet. Both have been seen to openly ignore team orders in the past if it was in their own interests, even at the detriment of the teams. Not sure Toto and Niki would like that much, but it could be bloody entertaining for the rest of us.

 Sam Snape

 5-12 2016

 

 

 

2016 ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX

Rosberg celebrates his title in style 

A VERY WORTHY CHAMPION

   Over the last six weeks Nico Rosberg could smell it. He could taste it. He could see it. He could almost reach out and touch it. Now, at last, he is it. The 2016 World Formula One Drivers Champion. Nice title, huh? And a very, VERY worthy world champion he is. And of all the previous world champions Nico joins a very exclusive club. Just he and Damon Hill are world champion sons of world champions. Nico’s dad, Keke took the crown in 1982, while Damon’s old man, Graham topped the world in 1962 and 68.

   There has been an appalling amount of bollocks from some of the mostly British fans who are insistent that Lewis should have been the champ but for his unreliability. What utter tosh. These are obviously the same folk that loved “our Nige”. Apart from anything else consider this. If it hadn’t been for an errant Hamilton in Spain Nico probably would have won there. If it hadn’t been for a dodgy gearbox in Austria Nico probably would have won there. So if you balance those out against Lewis’s engine in Malaysia the win tally could have stood at 11-10 in Nico’s favour. Yes there were other issues as well but it is MOTOR sport. Cars brake down. They have since time began, well the 1880’s anyway. It’s not even as if Nico is the first guy to win a title while scoring fewer victories than his main rivals.

   How’s this for a list. Mike Hawthorn in 1958 – 1 win to Moss’ 3. No-one, not even Moss said Hawthorn was an undeserving champion. In fact Moss even went as far as to support Hawthorn when it looked possible that Mike would be disqualified from the final race which would have given the title to Moss. What fool ever said “show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser”. I doubt that anyone has ever thought of Stirling Moss as a loser. Does anyone think that John Surtees should not have been champion because Clark scored one more victory than he did in 1964? Or that Denny Hulme wasn’t a worthy winner in 1967? Lauda scored less wins twice, 1977 (3-4 to Andretti) and 1984 (5-7 to Prost). Is it any coincidence that Niki is now one of Nico’s team managers? Not a bad guy to learn how to win a title from, And of course there was Nico’s dad in 1982 who only took one win that year. And Prost in 1986, who scored less wins than both Mansell and Piquet and again against Senna in 1989. Or of course Piquet who won less than Mansell in 1987. All of them, Nico included, did what was required to win the World Drivers Championship. They mixed raw speed with mechanical sympathy, ran hard when they needed to and conservatively when not and were the ones who were the most consistent drivers of their day. That is why they were world champions. That is why Nico is a world champion. He did EXACTLY what he needed to do to be a world champion while being in the same team as the guy who is considered possibly the fastest driver on the grid. Again, that’s precisely what Lauda and Prost did, and they are both considered two of the true greats of the sport. No-one devalues their championships. 

  So well done Nico, a very worthy world champion.

   A fond farewell was bade to two of the nicest guys to grace the grid this century. Jenson Button arrived as a spotty twenty year old in 2000 and despite immense talent it took him over 100 Grand Prix’s to score his first of 15 victories in the 2006 Hungarian GP. As BAR morphed into Honda things went from bad to worse and it appeared, when Honda pulled the plug at the end of 2008, that his career may have been on the rocks. It is astonishing then that out of Honda’s ashes rose the Brawn GP Team which lasted just a single, championship winning, season. As reigning champion Jenson joined McLaren in 2010 alongside Hamilton, a move many questioned, but proved ultimately to firmly establish Button as one of the best of his era. So after 17 years and 305 races it is understandable that Button has grown tired of the life and decided to become an almost regular person and long may he enjoy it.

   Felipe Massa arrived in 2002 with a slightly erratic reputation and after a single season with Sauber, was dropped from their race squad to become a Ferrari tester. With support from Ferrari Felipe was back in the Sauber squad for the next two years and proved that he had become a much more reliable racing driver. So reliable in fact that in 2006 he was signed up to race for Ferrari where he often outshone Michael Schumacher in their year together. He stayed at Ferrari for eight long years and for 26 seconds was the 2008 World Champion. That was how far from the finish line Hamilton overtook Timo Glock to score enough points to deprive Felipe of the title. In 2009 Massa was again outshining team-mate Raikkonen until he was struck by an errant suspension spring from Barrichello’s Brawn causing a severe head injury. It said much for his courage that when he returned in Bahrain at the beginning of 2010 he qualified his Ferrari on the front row and finished second behind new team-mate Fernando Alonso. Gradually both his and Ferrari’s form faded until he departed to join Williams in 2014. Being away from Ferrari politics re-invigorated Felipe and he enjoyed three fairly fruitful seasons with the equally resurgent English team although another victory would continue to elude him, his final victory being that almost wonderful day at Interlagos in 2008. It is a testament to his qualities, not only as a driver, but as a thoroughly decent human being that after his accident in Brazil two weeks ago that three teams – including Mercedes for whom he had never driven – gave him a standing ovation and guard of honour as he walked back to the Williams pit garage and his family. Not even Charlie Whiting was going to clear the pit lane during that wonderfully emotional moment.

   Happy retirement guys.

   And now looking forward, there is just 119 days until racing commences at Albert park with bigger, wider, faster cars and some new talent. Although I’m yet to be convinced that the new cars will promote better racing. Hopefully though, it will bring some other teams up to really challenge Mercedes.

For full results go to http://www.mmmsport.com.au/index.php/the-database/formula-1-races/2010-2019/2016-formula-1

Sam Snape

 28-11-2016

 

 

 

2016 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX

 

Can Nico smell victory?SMELLS LIKE – VICTORY

 

 

 

  It may have been a line from one of my favourite films but surely Nico Rosberg must be able, if not to taste it, but be able to detect the faint aroma of a world championship after his dominant performance at Suzuka on Sunday. Nico topped all three practice sessions, the second and third qualifying sessions and led all but five laps of the race to push his championship lead out to 33 points. The only session he did not top was first qualifying where he still came in third on the harder and slower “medium” tyres, saving his softs for later use. With just four rounds to go, even if he came home second behind Hamilton in every race he would win the title. Hamilton needs Rosberg to have a terrible weekend somewhere to bring his championship hopes back from the brink.

 

 

  But the luck you need to become a champion just keeps going Nico’s way and the terrible weekends just seem to keep falling on Hamilton’s shoulders. OK Lewis was out-performed by Nico at Suzuka but it was still another bit of bad luck that required him to battle back from an early eighth place instead of chasing Nico hard in second and possibly forcing an error. For whatever reason after overnight rain, the track on the inside line of the main straight did not dry completely by race time and all the front runners on that side of the grid slithered away from the line dropping placings like hot dog turds in the summer. Hamilton and Ricciardo copped it worst while really only Vettel made a reasonable start from that side of the grid. And that set the tone of the race.

 

  So long as Nico kept going there was no real chance that Mad Max was going to catch him and Max’s fight early in the race was more about keeping Vettel behind than eyeing off Rosberg. Ricciardo was blighted by an engine issue that left him struggling to hit top pace after exiting tight turns; ie the hairpin and spoon bend so he was always looking behind him while Lewis fought back to fourth by lap 15 after the first round of pit stops. From there he was just whittling down the gap to the V twins. Ferrari were intending to send Vettel out on softs for the final stint hoping not only that he would be the faster of the trio but that they would last as much as 18 laps. They didn’t. And so although Seb led for five laps he lost out to the undercut as Hamilton pitted earlier and he eventually dropped about 15 seconds by the end as Hamilton closed on Verstappen.

 

  With not long to go the Silver Sling was with the Red Rag and Max was defending second doggedly. The traction of the Red Bull onto the start finish straight was so good that even with DRS Lewis was not able to be in a position to attempt a pass into turn one and the Red Bull had been mega through the twists and turns of sector one all weekend. For lap after lap, by the time Lewis was able to get back into an attacking position the pair would be entering the final chicane and upon exit, Max would apply that traction and the dance would start all over again. It was all clean and hard and fair. Until the second last lap that is. Lewis got a better run out of the Spoon bend and was tucked up Max’s tushy through 130R. As Max took the normal line to enter the chicane Hamilton went for the gap on the inside. As Max has unfortunately done too often he then swerved in the braking zone to block Hamilton who had to stand on the brakes and jink to his left to avoid a collision, and went skittering down the escape road. So Max finished second – in very dubious circumstances, and Lewis third.

 

  Every so often I have had a go at Hamilton for not being the best of sports when he hasn’t won, but for once I am going to have to whinge that he has been too good a sport. Poor bastard can’t win sometimes. Mercedes immediately, and I believe quite rightly, appealed Verstappen’s driving and the stewards were going to hear the appeal before the next race in Austin. And Max’s defensive driving needs to be brought into line before someone gets hurt so a hearing before the stewards where he may have been given a penalty would have been a good thing for the long term. Unfortunately this will not now take place because Lewis did what I have wanted him to do for so long and took his defeat in good grace and asked Mercedes to drop the appeal saying, “this is not what we do”. Timing, as they say, is everything.

 

  In other news, don’t be surprised to hear by the end of the week that one of Force India’s drivers will be off to Renault next year. But not Perez. A little birdie tells me that Hulkenberg has agreed terms and just needs to negotiate his exit from Force India which should not be too much of a problem. That is probably why Magnussen has been left dangling for the last few weeks. My gut feeling is that if Renault is going to keep either of their existing drivers it is more likely to be Palmer or try to get Esteban Ocon. Ocon however, being contracted to Mercedes, is now more likely to head to Force India than Renault. Mind you, Williams are twiddling their thumbs somewhat in exercising their option over Bottas who apparently is also in talks with Renault just in case. Who said the silly season was over?

  One concrete piece of news is that as of season end, Mark Webber will be hanging up his helmet as a professional racing driver. A bit sad for all of Mark’s legion of fans as he seems to have really started to click as a sports car driver but hey, he is going out on while still at the top of his game and with at least one World Championship to his name. Thanks for the memories Mark, pity about Le Mans.

 

Sam Snape

 

11-10-2016

 

For full results go to; http://www.mmmsport.com.au/index.php/the-database/formula-1-races/2010-2019/2016-formula-1?limit=20&limitstart=20

 

 

 

MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX

 

Ricciardo's odd celebration - will it catch on?  Well that was a race that had just about everything. A different and very popular winner drinking champagne from a shoe – almost a Cinderella story if you will. Plenty of overtaking. Cars bursting into flames. First corner carnage. Cretinous penalties and idiots in budgie smugglers getting arrested. Hell, where to start. At the beginning I suppose.

 

 

  On Friday morning the potential safety hazards of imposing the “halo” were brought firmly into focus. Kevin Magnussen’s Renault suffered a fuel system failure relating to a breather pipe and the fuel tank over pressurised, forcing the fuel out of a vent and erupting in flames in the pit lane. Magnussen was able to extricate himself from the blazing Renault without any injury, but the question now stands even more starkly than before. Would the “halo” restrict a driver getting out of the car in case of a fire? In the situation that arose at Sepang with the car upright and in the pit lane it would probably have slowed Kevin but perhaps not to a very dangerous level. But suppose for a minute that the fuel had leaked while Magnussen was on a balls out qualifying lap, got under his rear tyres causing a spin and the Renault had been upside down after an accident? One of the more ridiculous comments in this safety debate recently is that Formula One cars do not catch fire any more, even in accidents. While admittedly none have for some time, Friday proved that sometimes they still do and it will never be possible to ensure they don’t. The last time we endured the sight of a driver burning to death during a race telecast was back in 1982 – poor bloody Ricardo Paletti – and it’s one that anyone who witnessed it will ever forget and never wants to see again. Maybe Alonso’s call for removable “halos” has merit but could they then ever be strong enough to carry out their intended function – deflecting large heavy pieces of debris such as errant wheels? Way – way more thought needs to go into these devices before they are mandated.

 

  I noted with some amusement the war of words between Vettel and Verstappen both blaming each other for the first corner bingle that robbed Nico Rosberg of his chance at victory. Vettel claiming that it was all Verstappen’s fault for squeezing in on him entering the corner and Verstappen calling Vettel a maniac for diving up the inside. Almost exactly the opposite of the event and words after the first corner at Spa. Guys, it’s a race. Get over it. And the grid penalty that Vettel has copped was not to do with any maniacal dive up the inside of Verstappen, it was for clouting into the side of an innocent Rosberg after he had missed Mad Max. Not that I’m a great fan of Vettel but this is one of the cretinous penalties referred to earlier. OK if there was fault to be found, Seb was probably going a bit too fast to make the corner without clattering into Nico but for Christs sake, this was the first corner at Sepang where there is almost always some sort of carnage as not everyone gets it totally right on entry to a very tight corner. It wasn’t as if Vettel intended to take Rosberg out, it was just an accident – they happen. Again - it’s a race. Get over it.

 

  Which takes us to the second of those cretinous penalties referred to earlier. A ten second time penalty for Rosberg for causing a collision with Raikkonen at turn two. Just what are these morons trying to do. Eliminate all overtaking from Formula One? Why not just ban it and have all the cars drive around in grid order behind a safety car while encased in a protective shield of bubble wrap? At the very same time as the powers (???) that be are debating how to make the sport more “entertaining” to the “casual” viewer they go and hand out a penalty for one of the better – forceful – overtaking moves of the year. It wasn’t all Nico’s fault. It was obvious from any objective view point that Rosberg was lining himself up for a run down the inside of turn two from the way he positioned his car through turn one. It was not too fast as he would have made the corner had Kimi not turned in as tightly as he did. This is not to blame Kimi as he would not have been aware of Nico’s presence at that precise moment in time. So neither driver was truly at fault in what amounted to a minor bump that didn’t really effect either driver nor the outcome of the race. So just what was the point of the penalty? Drivers and some fans have been bitching about the “artificial” DRS making overtaking too easy and wanting passing to be harder to achieve so that you would have moves very much like Nico made on Kimi being more the norm. Sort of what it was like back in the eighties – the good old days. Ah yes, the good old days. When you were lucky to see more than two or three overtaking moves in a race because the drivers all just waited for the pit stops to gain a place because it was too damned dangerous to try it on the track. And as for the DRS being artificial? What about the turbo boost button they all had which handed a driver an extra 100 or so horse power. The only thing more artificial about the DRS than the boost button is that it is regulated in its use so not everyone is using it at the same time. There was plenty of good overtaking at Sepang, some of which was assisted by the DRS but very little that was generated by it. You still had to be in the faster car to get by, and that I believe is the point of motor racing.

 

  It was hard not to feel some sympathy for Lewis Hamilton as his Mercedes engine went bang at the beginning of lap 41. His plaintive cry of  “Oh no…” as the flames poured out the back of his car showed just how much emotion there still is in the sport in these overly professional days. What I couldn’t feel any sympathy for were his comments later that “someone or something doesn’t want me to win” which despite attempts from team management to later play down the comments were clearly a hint that he felt that there was some sort of conspiracy against him. What utter bullshit. No team spending as much as Mercedes does on its two cars would ever contemplate deliberately sabotaging one of its drivers. Apart from the vast amounts involved there are two very good reasons for this. One; Does anyone really think that as a brand, Mercedes, who bank on their image of technical excellence, want the world to see one of their cars with flames pouring out the back as the result of an engine failure? Not likely. Two; Championships can be lost that way. Imagine for a moment that Lewis is correct and that the team had made his car so unreliable that he was only third or fourth in the standings. Nico has an accident and is out for the rest of the year. (Think Schumacher in 2009 or Villeneuve/Pironi in 1982). That, at this point, would leave Ricciardo and Red Bull –Renault as likely champions. Again not something I see Niki Lauda or Toto Wolff ever allowing.

 

  And that leads very nicely into the year’s most popular winner. Daniel Ricciardo finally got his much deserved 2016 win after the disappointments of Spain and Monaco with an utterly determined drive on Sunday. For whatever reason Sepang has never been one of the Aussie’s better circuits and throughout the weekend he was usually a fraction off Verstappen and never really on the pace of the Silver Slings – as usual. Come the race, and a bit of luck at turn one and when the Merc went pop on lap 41, Dan just wasn’t going to let the Dutchman go by. Shortly before Lewis’s flame out Verstappen, on fresher tyres, had caught Ricciardo and the pair fought a side by side, elbows out, wheel to wheel scrap for almost half a lap before Ricciardo outbraked Max into turn 7 and held onto what turned out to be critical track position. When the safety car came out to remove the stricken Mercedes, both Red Rags entered the pits to bung on soft tyres with which they would finish the race. Daniel’s were completely fresh, having used one set less in practice, and this may have been the deciding factor. Despite a concerted push from Max early in the stint Ricciardo finally pulled a two and a half second gap by the time the flag dropped to give Red Bull their first 1-2 finish since 2013 and that enormous smile was back and began one of the more bizarre celebrations the sport has seen. Playing up to the crowd on the podium the grinning West Australian removed one of his driving boots, filled it with champagne and drank from it. I can’t imagine it improved the flavour a great deal. But with the crowd cheering him on he not only convinced team boss Christian Horner to also sup from the boot, but also team-mate Verstappen and remarkably, Nico Rosberg, who should all be commended for their sportsmanship (and bravery) if not their sense of hygiene. Rosberg’s comeback drive from dead last to third after the corner one carambolage was one of his finest and probably just as good as his complete dominance in Singapore two weeks ago.

 

  On a sour note (and I’m not talking about the Champagne Shoe) nine utterly moronic Australian fans were arrested on the track after the podium ceremony after stripping down to their underpants, which were all in the image of the Malaysian National flag. A less respectful demonstration to a fairly conservative but generally delightful national populace I cannot imagine. At this point in time they are still in a Kuala Lumpur nick (good) awaiting a decision on whether to charge them or just expel them from the country. Give the stupid bastards a couple of months I say…..

 

 

 

For full results go to http://www.mmmsport.com.au/index.php/the-database/formula-1-races/2010-2019/2016-formula-1?limit=20&limitstart=20

 

Sam Snape

 

05-10 2016

 

BELGIAN GRAND PRIX

 WE DON’T NEED ANOTHER THUG

   Max Verstappen needs a large clog up his Khyber Pass, because if he doesn’t get it he will end up with a large F1 car there instead and who knows what the consequences will be. And it’s Charlie Whiting and the race stewards that need to wield the clog – NOW. Don’t get me wrong, I like Max. He is just about everything F1 needs right now. Young, fast, exciting, a demon overtaker who will surely become a world champion if he lives long enough. He just needs to reign in his overly aggressive defensive swerving. Because if he doesn’t, someone will get hurt. Someone will not back off like Kimi did at Spa and when that happens, either Max or that someone will have an almighty accident.

 

  The stupid thing is that what Max did at Spa was almost entirely within the rules as they stand. And the equally stupid rules will probably not be changed by the hypocritical FIA until someone does get hurt – or worse. But those same people who insist on safety cars starts in the (mildly) wet and those abominable bloody halo things are the same ones who refuse to enact certain parts of their own regulations to prevent this upcoming tragedy. The rule that Max hasn’t broken is as follows, Article 27.6 of the FIA's sporting states: "More than one change of direction to defend a position is not permitted. Any driver moving back towards the racing line, having earlier defended his position off-line, should leave at least one car width between his own car and the edge of the track on the approach to the corner." 

Well Max only made one change of direction on the Kemel straight so technically he was within the letter of this law. It’s just that his move was late and on a rapidly closing car that had to brake to avoid an enormous accident. 

  And this is where the stewards should have broken out the clog. Articles 27.5 and 27.8 state in part: "at no time may a car be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person" and "manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such as deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are not permitted". Swerving late into the path of a rapidly closing car would have to be, in any sane view, considered as driving erratically with an abnormal change of direction in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person and liable to hinder other drivers. Just imagine what the cops would do if they saw you doing this on a highway? It unfortunately seems that the only way to get Max to understand this is to hit him, or any other driver using such odious methods is to hit them with ever increasing penalties. First offence – 10 seconds. Second offence – drive through. Third offence – start at the back of the grid. Fourth offence – race bans. 

  The overriding problem though is the bloody stupid rule 27.6 allowing one change of direction to defend a position in the first place. It was bought in to try to codify what had until that point been the unwritten rule that you did not swerve about on a race track, because you just might kill someone. Those two class A thugs, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher had concluded that as there was no such written rule, they could pretty much do whatever they wanted and receive no penalty – think Senna on Prost at Estoril or Schumacher on Barrichello at Hungary. Sadly they were right, the FIA did bugger all and suddenly every up and coming driver thought it was OK to drive others into concrete walls. So the very badly thought out article 27.6 came into being. And being worded the way it is, it can be read as it is OK to drive others into concrete walls, so long as you only do it with one move. Brilliant….

   The obvious rule that should have been introduced is the one that has been in use in Indycar (and the CART series before that) for many a year. That is you are allowed to take any racing line you like onto a straight or into a corner so long as you do not then alter that line in reaction to an attacking car. Put simply – you are not allowed to block another car from passing you. And do you know why you hardly ever see blocking in Indycar racing? Because the stewards there impose penalties ruthlessly. And they don’t bugger about with small time penalties either. They start at drive-throughs and escalate to disqualification and race bans very rapidly. 

  So Charlie please, enforce your own existing rules regarding dangerous driving and Max, please, go on and win those championships, but please, please, please, we don’t need another thug. 

Sam Snape

 30-08-2016

 

 

 

THE UNCERTAINTY OF FOREGONE CONCLUSIONS

 

  Toyota win Le Mans – Almost. How many times could that headline been written over the past two decades? This time it was particularly harsh for the determined Japanese manufacturer. It wasn’t a middle of the night drama or even a problem with an hour to run. For 23 hours, 53 minutes and 27 seconds the Toyota of Kazuki Nakajima, Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi was on course to defeat the defending champions, Porsche with whom they had battled furiously since the start. All four cars from both teams had led and entering the final hour there were just seconds between the two leading cars.

 

  This had been a titanic struggle, the likes of which had never before been seen at the 24 hours and may never be witnessed again. The number 1 Porsche had led early but suffered a long pit delay due to a cooling system failure. The second Toyota dropped back with bodywork damage limiting its speed with about three hours to run. Either team had a chance but as the final hour wore on the number 5 Toyota edged away. The Porsche struggled to stay with Nakajima as the Toyota could run that little bit longer just that little bit faster. With 10 minutes to go Porsche effectively threw in the towel by pitting for fresh tyres and a top up of fuel. Neel Jani was now one minute and nine seconds behind with three, possibly four laps to run. Surely, finally, the race was now a foregone conclusion. Surely, finally, Toyota would break the hoodoo that has hovered over it and win the Le Mans 24 Hours.

 

  But no. With just 6.33 left on the clock came the desperate radio call from Kazuki, “I’ve lost power.” But the Toyota was still moving at pace. Not full pace but still pulling over 180 kph on the Mulsanne straight. If they could at least keep that pace maybe just maybe, they could still limp home. By the time Kazuki got to Arnage forty odd seconds of the lead had disappeared and gloom and disbelief was setting in down in the Toyota garage. As Nakajima entered the Ford chicanes he was now in sight of Jani’s Porsche and with just under three and a half minutes to go the Toyota exited the chicane onto the start/finish straight and ground to a halt right in front of the pits. At 23 hours, 56 minutes and 39 seconds Neel Jani passed the stricken Toyota to begin his final lap giving Porsche its 18th outright win at Le Mans. 3 minutes and 21 seconds. That was all the time that the Toyota needed to keep going for. That’s less time than it took my espresso machine to make this mornings coffee. Less time than you can wait at a red light in the morning crawl to work. It was hard not to be emotionally effected as the disbelief descended into tears of despair at Toyota. This was as harsh and cruel as it gets in motorsport without the inclusion of injury or loss of life. As one commentator said “Someone should make a movie of this”. However as Anthony Davidson pointed out, “If someone made a movie of this, no-one would believe it.”  

 

Sam Snape

 

22-06-2016