Australian GP – Well Worth The Watch
WARNING - MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS so if you want the race result to remain a suprise, then look away...there's only a few pictures of some cars getting destroyed :-D
This morning's race in Australia was fascinating. Littered with a series of unusual incidents, it was one of those races where the time just flies past. Apparantly it was as good as last season's epic race in Japan…I say 'apparantly' because, unfortunately, I never saw that one :-s.
The first lot of incidents made Jense's task of winning (or at least making another pathetic attempt to do so) considerably easier, with Fisi removing himself from the front row with a stall. Montoya is also officially a living legend, having spun on the final corner of the parade lap…what a move!
The second bouts of incidents just after the first corner of the race were equally amusing. Klien and Rosberg made a Massa sandwich, and speared him into the wall. Much carnage and unleashing of in-car fire extinguishers took place, which would have given Massa a nice suprise. The whole thing looked like a racing incident, with no-one to blame, but unfortunately Rosberg incurred race-ending damage. I was looking forward to seeing what he could do from the back of the grid, but never mind.
The Massa sandwich opened the door for the star of the first half of the race to shine.
I feel like an F1-uber-geek by rattling on about the safety car…but…wow! Did you see it move!? Like Brundle pointed out, it was clearly going flat out, and it was a pleasure to watch. It looks great, it looks fast when you see it move, and if you ask Mercedes-Benz very nicely indeed, I think they'll build you one. I'm not a fan of the new CLK, but in the safety car configuration it looks great, very similar to the superb limited-run CLK DTM road car of 2004. Shame it sounded like a sewing machine on the in-car footage, but no matter…it was good to hear the unusual sound of squealing tyres at an F1 race.
Happily for me Mr Maylander got plenty of chances to take the CLK out for a spin, as people kept ditching it into the walls in spectacular fashion. Happily none of the accidents were serious in a driver-life-threatening way, but they were very serious in the car-life-threatening way. Guys like Klien, Liuzzi and Schumacher just trashed their cars completely…extremely watchable stuff :-D
Whilst all this was going on, Jense had inevitably succumbed to the likes of Raikkonen and Alonso, and was steadily falling back. Webber had suffered a mechanical failure whilst in the lead, so both Williams were out early :(. Kudos to Sato and the Toro Rossos though, they were driving extremely well at this point. Especially Sato…the guys stuck behind him were people like Barrichello, Coulthard and Fisichella, and they (should) know what they're doing. They'll probably haul out the Racing Driver's Big Book Of Excuses 2006 to explain why Sato was holding them up. Regardless, they should be pretty appalled with themselves. That Super Aguri is rubbish (did you see Ide spin THREE TIMES in the same lap in qually!? Surely that can't all be down to Ide's uselessness?), and even with the best driver in the world in it, the guys with Hondas and Renaults should just have cruised past.
Maybe Sato's 'reputation' preceeded him, and they were scared of taking him on, just in case…which in fairness, was probably wise. Although Sato did eventually fall behind these quicker guys as the race progressed, he finished the race (third time this season, I believe), without incident. With Ide getting to the finish for the first time as well, the SA people should be proud of themselves.
As race began to draw to a close, Montoya was next on the bizarre-incident hitlist. It was almost a copy of Schumacher's demise, where he ran wide at the final corner, and then hit a bump at the end of the kerb, which flung him into the wall. However, Montoya pulled off the save of the season by copying Schumacher in every way, apart from the hitting the wall bit. He showed some great skills, and whether it was luck or judgement that meant he hit the bump straight on (which made the car easier to control when he jumped over it), we may never know. We may also never know why, inexplicably, as soon as he had escaped a trip to the wall, his car just…stopped. The engine died, and it rolled to a halt underneath the pit wall. Very bizarre. Speculation as to what could have caused this is most welcome.
The race had a few more twists in the final few corners of the race. Alonso had the race in the bag, with Ralf Schumacher having one of those suprising drives that was so effortless no-one noticed him get onto the podium, behind Raikkonen.
However, Jense and Fisichella were now battling it out for fifth position. This is highly concerning…I probably shouldn't keep going on about how overrated Jense is, but he started from pole…and Fisi started from the back of the grid. What more can be said. Anyway, with two corners left, Jenson's Honda decided to explode, and try to barbecue Fisichella in the face for good measure. Fisi probably had mixed emotions about this…being gifted a place just as you're crossing the finish line is lovely, but getting a engine-fuelled roasting isn't. Jenson's Honda stopped just short of the line, so zero points for him. However, the strange manner of this failure will go some way to masking that throughout the race, both Honda and Jenson were mediocre at best. Not a hint of their claimed race- or world-championship winning potential.
The twists of the race were no longer over, though. It turns out that Jenson could have rolled over the line to take three points, but for some utterly inexplicable reason, Honda told him not to. The argument being that it was worth trading in those three points for not having to change the engine after 'completing' the race, and not incurring the 10-place penalty on the grid for the next race. What a stupid decision.
The fact the Fisichella, from the back of the grid, was right on Button's tail at the end of the race shows that a 10-place grid penalty is relatively insignifcant for a team that can't win races. If it were a McLaren or Renault in that position, then I can see the logic. It's much harder to actually win a race starting from the bottom ten, than it is to get a good points finish. Honda showed today, they can't win even starting from pole, so they need to take all the decent points-finishes that they can. The chances of them recouping those lost three points by virtue of not taking that penalty is very slim. Indeed, at this stage of the season, three points is just over 25% of Jenson's points haul for the season. 25%! Oh well…most likely Jense will win the next race purely to spite me.
My final point on this great race was the silent exchange between Alonso and Raikkonen at the post-race press conference. The pair inadvertantly caught each other's eyes at one stage, and instead of quickly looking away and ignoring each other, Raikkonen broke into a big smile. It was clear that he had geniunely enjoyed chasing Alonso, who returned the gesture with sincerity. It was a nice touch to see that the two top men in the sport really respect each other, and value their rivalry.