April 02, 2006

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.

Massa Sandwich
No butter for me, thanks

The Massa sandwich opened the door for the star of the first half of the race to shine.

Star of the show
One of these cars is a bit out of it's depth. It's certainly not the CLK.

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

Klien Carnage

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.

- 14 comments by 3 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Mathew Mannion

    Clearly you mean two of the top three men in the sport, behind 'Our Jense'... or more seriously, the legend that is Mikey :)

    02 Apr 2006, 10:37

  2. Action packed certainly, but for me not the best race to watch. It was good to see Alonso win, but that's about the only good result from my perspective. It was disappointing to see Michael, having found some blistering pace from nowhere, throw it off at the last corner like he did. I'm not his biggest fan, but I do respect him and he really still doesn't have the car under him. For all the potential of the younger drivers, I don't think there's anyone more skilled or more dedicated on the track than him, and I'd like to see him get a little more fruit from his labours now that he's had a crap season to cut him down to size a bit. Raikkonen's second place meant he'd completed 57 laps too many in a car that has massive speed but poor reliability, and it was again disappointing to see Montoya as the McLaren that went out (of his own doing, mind) and not Kimi. Incidentally, I suspect that the failure he suffered was down to the massive shock unplugging something in the electronics. Almost all electrical failures are a result of connections coming unstuck. I'd have liked to have seen the Williams do better; I rate Webber well and Rosberg has really burst onto the scene this year. I just hope he can keep his good performance up as he climbs the steep learning curve in F1.

    As for Jenson… Well I agree that he's overrated and his performance today wasn't the best, but even so I don't believe he deserved that failure, or to have been that low down in the first place. The car he's got isn't really that hot, yet despite that he creamed everyone in qualifying with a blistering 0.4 seconds over everyone else, including the super quick McLarens and Renaults. Not only that, but he managed to make a semi-decent start. His second set of tyres graining and the inability of the car to maintain front temps under slower than race pace conditions just blew it for him, before the engine blew up. I also agree it was a stupid decision on the part of Honda to stop him before the finish. All in all, a great race, just the wrong results.

    02 Apr 2006, 11:45

  3. Oh and with regards to the safety car, I don't share your disappointment at the on-board noise Jj. If that's what sewing machines sound like, I want a sewing machine for Christmas!

    02 Apr 2006, 11:46

  4. Just from watching the replay this afternoon, the TV coverage has been useless – constantly missing the big incidents and always cutting to the next camera too late (esp. when someone's about to be overtaken).

    02 Apr 2006, 14:02

  5. Yeah, thats the kind of race I like to see. Car no. 999 CLK AMG leading. It did have a very low engine drone for a V8, I actually thought it was a CL65 AMG V12. Erm overall that was a crazy race. I like your Massa comment above. Good old Heidi did very well in the Sauber. And you couldn't have asked for a better finish than a Honda-BANG (and why is it you buy a Civic? Reliable?)

    02 Apr 2006, 14:34

  6. Mathew: Yeah, I guess you're right. It's just a shame that, as Siggy pointed out, he doesn't really seem to have the car to make the best of his skills. I hope that he can put in a good fight soon though, it would be sad to see him retire on a downer.

    Siggy: Top of your Christmas list: sewing machine…top of my Christmas list: CLK 63 AMG ;-) (Disclaimer: actually I'd prefer a Veyron, but that would be beside the point :-p

    Chris: Agreed, does anyone know how Luizzi ended up in the wall? Bit of an oversight on the part of the TV people.

    Nathaniel: I thought it was a CL too, it wasn't until I found the photo and saw the single headlamp clusters that I realised it was a CLK (ahem…not that I pay attention to things like that, or anything….:-p)

    By the way, did anyone else notice Alonso doing his trademark tyre-warming routine behind the safety car? I can never believe how much he throws his car around when he does that…I'm astonished he hasn't thrown it off the road. Most people just drive from side to side in that situation, but he somehow seems the make the car wiggle down the road in a straight line. The kid has definately got 'the touch' :-D

    02 Apr 2006, 17:07

  7. Yeah course we don't pay attention to details like that. I noticed the rear clusters were defo CLK, but I was confused cos I figured the CLK is old so it can't be it.

    Yeah I bet the Midland drivers were following Alonso under the SC wondering "I wish I could do that."

    I reckon Klien had suspension failure from the "Massa sandwich." I really hope Rosberg keeps cool depsite these two DNFs. I'm (unfortunately) starting to lose faith in Jenson. My favourite quote was Barrichello saying his car behaves like a total pig.

    02 Apr 2006, 18:10

  8. Top of my Christmas list is a TVR Tuscan S :-D Closely followed by a Michigan L270 for the daily commute. Just the thing for dealing with traffic and speed cameras. I am also in the CL/CLK confusion camp. German cars all look the same to me. I did also note Alonso's tyre warming antics – I think he should give Montoya some lessons!

    02 Apr 2006, 18:18

  9. Christopher Rossdale

    It wasn't the best race i've ever seen – but probably the oddest (although a significant portion of that must have been caused from sleep-loss). Jense is overrated, but he's not that overrated, the honda's still got a long way to go. I agree with the analysis over the fact that the giving up of the 3 points was mad – he's statistically the best qualifier this season, he could have started the race from 11th or 12 at imola and been about as likely to score as he was from pole. That said, he had a few unlucky moments – he was definitely one of the biggest loosers from the safety car periods.

    Imola should be fun – Kimi had his problems – front wing etc – but he posted a few reminders that the McLaren can now match the Renault for ultimate race pace – without that spot on his front right the race would've been a lot closer.

    02 Apr 2006, 18:27

  10. I don't think it was nearly as good as Suzuka last year – that was a proper race, with lots of genuine racing and overtaking – not artificially created by loads of safety car periods – it was more like a Champ Car race. And every time it looked like something good was going to happen, Schumi would dump it in the wall, or Montoya would retire. I thought it was a bit frustrating.

    With regards to Jenson, ok, he fell away in the race, but compare his performance with Barrichello – he blew him away this weekend. I think, as it's been said before, he doesn't have the car underneath him to win yet. And it might have finished a bit differently had there not been all the safety cars, and Jenson lead until at least the first stops. He would never have won it – but might have managed better than 5th (crazy engine decision aside… :) )

    03 Apr 2006, 08:44

  11. Moo the Moo Foo

    Boys and their toys, sound like there will be a rise in sales of sewing machines this year. Whooppee!

    03 Apr 2006, 12:14

  12. Did everyone hear when the Renault crew were on the radio to Fisi, and basically told him "Your running the same as Alonso, and your 2 seconds a lap down, you can't be this slow!" that's got to crush a man's ego, and on national television as well.

    03 Apr 2006, 20:19

  13. Well it was true. He was slow. He's got Trulli syndrome. Or is it "second Renault lacking-pace" syndrome?

    03 Apr 2006, 21:34

  14. Hehe, yeah, it was harsh, but fair. You could almost hear the sound of his already-diminutive ego breaking up into tiny little pieces, poor guy.

    04 Apr 2006, 12:21

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