Saturday, 21 April 2012

Bahrain GP - Qualifying


Oh how we loved all loved China with its brilliant racing. And best of all there wasn’t a single petrol bomb or Molotov cocktail in sight.


Welcome to Bahrain where we have petrol bombs, grenades, Molotov cocktails and shootings galore! According to Jean Todt, the FIA is only interested in sport not politics. Sure it is Jean. Given his political manoeuvrings over the years (just ask Luca Montezemolo) and the fact he has morphed from a cuddly dude in a Ferrari jumper in the corner of a podium into the shadowy √©minence grise of Formula 1, this does stretch the bounds of credulity. But to be fair the FIA isn’t all about the politics. No, what it really likes is the Big Dollar (and lots of them) or in this particular context, the Bahraini dinar. Ahem.  

Maybe it escaped Jean’s attention (possibly while perusing his Swiss bank account statements on the way to Bahrain in his private jet) that the ruling Bahraini regime has been using the slogan 'UniF1ed - One Nation in Celebration' as part of its propaganda for the last 3 months. It would appear not everyone in Bahrain agrees with this but shhhh… don’t tell Jean or Bernie. Mind you if you did, they wouldn’t care anyway. I mean whenever has Bernie has shown any interest in politics like…er…say making a donation of £1m to a political party.

And talking of Bernie, what calming and diplomatic words did he have on the eve of the race. Well take your pick. "What we really need is an earthquake or something like that, so you can write about that now.”...or… “Go to Syria, it's more important than here.” Good old Bernie. You gotta love him.

Now the politicians back at home have decided to stick their oar in. Ed Miliband has joined 17 MPs (wow a whole 17 – that’ll definitely make Bernie have a rethink) calling for the event to be scrapped. Yvette Cooper (possibly the world’s most boring woman, sorry person) said that both Britain’s drivers, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, should boycott the race. So Yvette doesn’t mind if Paul Di Resta (who is British at the last time of checking) takes part in the race then. I’m going to take a wild punt here and suggest that Yvette doesn’t watch much Formula 1 (because that would be too much like having fun) and probably has never heard of Paul Di Resta. Still I’m sure Paul will get over it. I was just thinking that it won’t be long until George Galloway wades in with some kind of ‘blood on their hands’ soundbite and sure enough, George has been flooding the airwaves with his not at all inflammatory thoughts on the matter. “There is blood on the tracks and anyone who drives over there will never be forgiven.” At some stage I’m sure he will be pinning the blame on ‘Mr Blair’ for all of this.

So far the Force India team (note to Ms Cooper – this is who Paul Di Resta drives for) and the Sauber team have all been targeted (whether randomly or otherwise) or caught up in dangerous situations. The Force India team was sufficiently spooked to take the decision not to take part in Friday’s 2nd practice session. To show the world how safe and lovely Bahrain is, Bernie even offered to travel back with members of the Force India team to their hotel at night without an escort. Given Bernie’s usual security detail would probably outstrip Barack Obama’s, the Force India team would have been as safe as houses but fair do’s.

Oh man, I start a blog (which took a lot of persuasion from the husband though deep down I’m sure he thought it would distract me away from online shopping now I am a ‘lady of leisure’ – arf) and I find myself getting embroiled in political and moral issues. This wasn’t meant to happen. I did a paper on modern history in the Middle East as part of my finals and it was a total minefield (no pun intended). It was all a haze even at the time but that’s probably because I was writing the paper as per usual at 2 in the morning. Mind you all those essay crisis all-nighters were excellent preparation for having small children.

What I would say though (serious hat on etc) is can it be right to have a Grand Prix in a country where the Foreign Office has advised British F1 fans against travelling to the race. There are so many countries in the world who would love to host a Grand Prix and have a much greater tradition of motorsport (eg. Buenos Aires, Estoril, Kyalami) than Bahrain. Just a thought.

Anyhoo, I went through the pointless rigmarole of a debate with the husband about whether to watch the qualifying coverage on the Beeb or Sky only to discover this isn’t one of the Beeb’s live races. Pity, who wouldn’t want to hear Eddie Jordan’s thoughts on the strife in Bahrain while standing the pit-lane in a florescent neon-pink shirt. But F1 needs those characters (and I use the word advisedly!). God forbid we should all turn into David Coulthard-bots. And Damon Hill was back from wherever he had been for the Chinese GP. Way to pick races, Damo. He misses the thriller in Shanghai but is back in time to dodge Molotov cocktails in Bahrain. But Damon is a man who does a good ‘serious face’. Slightly sticky moment I felt when Simon Thingy asked him about his change of heart on whether to race in Bahrain (by way of background, Damon was vehemently opposed to it but now is ok with the race taking place for reasons that were not totally clear). He said though the FIA should make some kind of statement on human rights. Dream on, Damon. Martin Brundle’s take on matters was that holding the race was something of an ‘own goal’ and actually it had just given the protestors a platform and a voice. So maybe Bernie has done them a favour after all. Confused? Let’s move on!

I was merrily fast-forwarding through a segment with Georgie Thompson and the lovely Anthony Davidson (sorry Ant) on their super-whizzy Sky Pad when the husband suddenly asked for the remote and mumbled something about needing to rewind as he wanted to watch Ant’s technical explanations of how the double DRS system on the Mercedes worked (no, I haven’t a scoobie either). Georgie was pretending to understand but this is a girl who wears a LBD day and night which doesn’t really smack of petrolhead to me. Bless her – she doesn’t really care how airflows are routed through the car but she made a valiant effort to look faintly interested as she mentally counted down the weeks to Monaco.

So time for qualifying. At this point the 4 year old suddenly announced he had a dream about the race last night and it finished 1. Alonso, 2. Schumacher, 3. Hamilton. My son is already dreaming about Formula 1. Not sure if this a good or bad development – it is most probably linked to the thousands of hours he has spent playing Mario Kart Wii. At the time this made sense as a throw-in stocking filler but now I’m wondering whether the 4 year old has developed a passion for The Most Expensive Sport in the World to Finance.

So Q1 kicked off with Michael Schumacher blowing a kiss to the camera. The 4 year old blew one back. I think Schuey might be his first sporting idol. I hope he’s not bullied at school for this. Mine was Stefan Edberg (still would) and at my all-girls school, I was not alone. It was the usual mundane affair of the fast cars going fast and the slow ones going slow and with 2 minutes to go, the 4 year old (on full-time Schumacher Watch) said “Michael Schumacher is 9th”. Indeed, what could possibly go wrong? Well as the middle-of-the-road pack all started putting in flying laps it all went terribly, terribly wrong for poor Schuey. In the form of Heikki Kovalainen who drove the lap of his life to squeeze himself into 17th place and dump Schuey into the drop-zone. All the meanwhile, Schuey had been sitting in his garage preparing for Q2. Well might Ross Brawn look grim-faced. Poor old Norb was probably weeping buckets. Schuey did look quite cross and threw his gloves on the floor. Earlier in the week, I had (portent alert) said to the 4 year old who was in meltdown after not winning some Mario Kart race, “just think what would Michael Schumacher do, would he give up?”. Not sure where that kind of tactic features in the parenting manual. Anyway it worked. Sort of.

So Q1 finished 1. Perez, 2. Ricciardo (say what?), 3. Webber. Actually what’s the point of listing the Q1 order when Alonso, Button and Hamilton were 14th, 15th and 16th respectively. You can see what Schuey was trying to do in preserving tyres etc but the gamble obviously backfired. Boo Schmoo.

Then we were onto Q2 (trying to speed up here as it’s a Saturday night and the husband is playing some ‘interesting’ music in the kitchen – think 80s revival night and you’re there!). It finished 1. Hamilton, 2. Rosberg, 3. Grosjean, 4. Webber, 5. Alonso (almost superhuman effort from Alonso to haul that piece of junk Ferrari there) and 6. Button.

Top-ten shoot out time. And the Red Bulls were really, really on the pace. Rosberg did the slowest outlap in the world (presumably as the car had the tiniest amount of fuel in it) but didn’t reproduce his stunning pole-position lap-setting form from China. At the death, it was a Red Bull 1-2 (Vettel and Webber) until Lewis came along and ruined the party by splitting the two Red Bulls so the grid for tomorrow will line up:
1. Vettel, 2. Hamilton, 3. Webber, 4. Button – hey like old times guys. From P5 to P10 are Rosberg, Ricciardo (that is just an incredible qualifying in a Toro Rosso), Grosjean, Perez, Alonso and Paul di Resta (take that Yvette!).

Apologies for the lateness of the hour in posting this. Its all the husband’s fault for having to work from home and hogging the laptop all afternoon. Apparently it was worse for him. But many, many thanks to those who have posted comments. It really does make it all worthwhile. √Ä demain.

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