Sunday, 25 March 2012

Malaysian GP - Qualifying

You wait all year for an F1 race and whatd’ya know, two come along in 7 days. I’d barely drawn breath since completing my humungous Australian GP blog when it was time to sprint downstairs to catch (most of) the Qualifying in Sepang. Admittedly at the far more civilised hour of 8am so by this point my children had been up for hours and 4 year old was already getting himself into a state about  the whereabouts of Michael Schumacher. This week he drew a picture of Schumacher for his school diary and his teacher wrote ‘my favourite driver is Jenson Button’. Must be the cool shades (which I did find a moment to google – Oliver Peoples Sheldrake apparently).

Between the two races, there had been some boring ‘your car is better than ours and its not fair’ challenge from Red Bull and Lotus on the legality of the Mercedes rear wing and the front wing F-duct (nope, no idea either!). I love the way its always a leading team that challenges these innovative devices while the likes of HRT don’t give a flying fig and are just frantically trying to build a new a car that Martin Brundle won’t keep calling a ‘mobile chicane’.

Anyway the FIA ruled in favour of Mercedes presumably moments after receiving a fax from Mr Bernard Charles Ecclestone (“do not, I repeat, do not mess with Schumacher’s fast car”). I like to think he is old-school and still fires off faxes to all corners of his empire. Only joking, Bernie, if you’re reading this – oh and also, my Dad says ‘hi’ (random fact: my Dad bought his first ever car from Bernie!).

So back to Qualifying...

Thoughtfully knowing I was writing a blog, the husband had started watching the qualifying (er, what do we have Sky Plus for?) so I had to ask what had happened so far in Q1. I can’t remember what he said as my 4 year old was bleating away incessantly about Schumacher who was topping the timesheets until that arch-villain Mark Webber (who would have thought?) had the temerity to pip him and set the fastest time. Brilliantly though for HRT, they managed to qualify both cars for the race and even better they won’t even start last due to Kovalainen's five-place grid penalty. What’s the betting that an HRT does something daft while being lapped by a front-runner?!

Not a great qualifying for Williams as in Q2, Pastor Maldonaldo managed to slither off into a load of gravel and trash part of his car. It all got a bit fast and frenetic towards the end and with a couple of minutes to go, Schuey and Massa were languishing in 11th and 12th place respectively. One driver out  of the two managed to make it into the top ten and it wasn’t Felipe. A precision lap by Schuey (it was never in doubt) to finish 4th ensure he made it through to the final shoot-out.

Apparently there was a fire in the Lotus hospitality building overnight. I hope someone didn’t forget to take out the sausage rolls. I quite like the idea of some VIPs all trying to sneak into the McLaren tent to pilfer a ham sandwich and some pringles. Actually Martin Whitmarsh is such a bloody nice bloke he’s probably offer round the nibbles himself.

Anyway time for Q3. This is what it all comes down to. Alarmingly, we were told that Mercedes were only doing one run this session. By this point, Lewis Hamilton had already done an absolutely blistering lap to gain provisional pole. Rosberg was the first of the two Mercedes’ drivers out and basically made a complete hash of it. I wondered last week whether Nico could cope with the pressure of having a potentially race-winning car and it would seem possibly not. Also it can’t be great having your 43 year old team-mate suddenly out-qualifying and out-racing you. Schumacher went purple in the 1st and 3rd sector and  managed to set the 2nd fastest time. Much whooping from 4 year old! The last time Michael Schumacher qualified so high up the grid was at the Japanese GP in 2006 when he was a mere 37 year old whippersnapper.

Not to be outdone, at the death, Button did a stunning lap and ensured there would be another McLaren 1-2 for the second race in a row. So the line-up for tomorrow is 1. Hamilton, 2. Button, 3. Schumacher, 4. Webber, 5. Raikkonen, 6. Vettel. Gazooks, that means 5 world champions on the front 3 rows. Sky Towers will be verily giddy with excitement!

There was a great moment in the post-qualifying press conference when Schuey was asked if it could have been pole today. Cue death stare and a classic Schuey response that they had achieved the maximum that was available! Interestingly by the end of the press conference, Lewis didn’t seem too sure after all that being on pole was a good thing (as it was a long haul down to turn 1. Yikes, don’t say he’s going to pieces already. There was just time for the camera to show Vettel with his Kevin the Teenager face going into the FIA garage to be weighed. Not sure what is worse for him, qualifying 6th or being out-qualified by Mark Webber. We will see what he is made of tomorrow and what thrills, spills and crashes the Malaysian GP has in store for us.

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