Saturday, 14 April 2012

Chinese GP - Qualifying

To my utter astonishment the other day I discovered that this will be the 9th Chinese Grand Prix. And there was me thinking this was a new-ish race on the F1 calendar. I do have a blurry memory of Schumacher winning one race in China and more recently various McLarens winning and…er…that’s pretty much it. Now I know I have lost random chunks of time in recent years due to the arrival of the sprogs (who never seem to appreciate the need for peace and quiet during sporting events) but surely not every Chinese GP bit the dust under an avalanche of nappies and wails. Turns out there were 3 whole Chinese GPs before the first sprog was a twinkle in the husband's eye. Lets face it the races in China are generally a bit meh and are somewhat lacking in the yacht/glamour quotient which might otherwise elevate a boring, processional race (like Monaco can sometimes be) into a Must Keep Watching event.

To prove my F1 credentials (and basically to give everyone a laugh), there is a photo of me at the 1999 British Grand Prix (but you have to read/scroll to the end of the blog first!). Next time I shall dig out one of the husband so he can stop sniggering!

As that great sage of our age Nico Hulkenberg put it “it’s not my favourite race of the year”. For that read ‘boring and bland’ but Nico H is far too polite (or rather, paid vast sums of money) to be rude about the Chinese GP. Sorry, the 2012 Formula 1 UBS Chinese Grand Prix. See what I mean? Spa, it ain't. And you know who I think is to blame? Obviously I’m not going to say Bernie in case he knows where I live. So take a bow, Hermann Tilke, the designer of the track in Shanghai. It would appear that Mr Tilke has been a very busy man for he is responsible for giving the world the following circuits: Sepang, Bahrain, Istanbul, Singapore, Valencia, Abu Dhabi, South Korea, India and coming to a TV near you this November, the brilliantly named 'Circuit of the Americas' track for the new US Grand Prix in Texas. I'm already having worrying premonitions that we might be treated to a special ‘Dallas’ segment on the Beeb’s build-up before that race with Eddie Jordan decked out as JR Ewing…or actually maybe he is more a Cliff Barnes? Ooops had better swiftly return to F1 before I get carried away (the husband knows of my obsession with Dallas and will be fearing the worst so I’ll leave it there – no promises come Texas though!).

It caused great excitement when Michael Schumacher went fastest in practice yesterday (so the 4 year old will watch a F1 practice session over breakfast but ordinarily has an epic meltdown if I have the audacity on a school-day to flick onto the news or whatever dross is on Daybreak). Now he can vaguely read, he has worked out that MSC stands for Schumacher so we are treated to a constant stream of updates (Schumacher is 9th, 10th, 5th etc). So we get to watch F1 with our very own in-house Schumacher Watch (eat your heart out Sky Towers) and support our child’s education all in one go. Winner!

In other eve-of-qualifying news, the FIA has rejected Lotus’ protest about the Mercedes’ Innovative and Controversial Rear Wing. Of course they did! Silly Lotus for wasting everyone’s time. Can’t they just settle down and concentrate on having a nice, normal race weekend with no hospitality fires or flash floods for a change. Apparently we may be in for some rain this weekend so expect shots a-plenty of the Weather Monitor of Doom.

Normally not many things irk me more than being awake at stupid o’clock on Saturday morning when everyone else in the house is still asleep. However as I zoomed through my timeline on Twitter under the duvet, I suddenly remembered I had forgotten to Sky Plus the Beeb’s qualifying (live coverage for the first time this season). After weighing up the alternatives for a nanosecond of watching Lovely Jake Humphrey or dull dull dull Simon Lazenby, I sprinted downstairs and flicked on the Beeb. I’m sure the husband would have cast a vote for Georgie Thompson and her come hither eyes (I nearly wept for the poor woman interviewing the no-nonsense Patrick Head the other day) but hey that’s the price he pays for having a lie-in.

For those who might not have seen qualifying yet, Do Not Adjust Your TV Set. Eddie Jordan really was wearing an 80s-tastic purple paisley shirt. Still at least he showed some originality – Jake and DC are stuck in a never-ending metrosexual timewarp of pink shirts.

Also it looks like the Bahrain GP will be taking place in a week’s time after all. Luckily all the unrest from the Arab Spring in 2011 that led to that year’s race being cancelled is all over and done with. Oh hang on its still going on. But to be fair, I never did have Bernie down as some kind of human rights crusader. According to Bernie, he knows people who live there (the royal family?) and ‘it’s all very quiet and peaceful’. Lovely jubbly. We’ll gloss over pictures of protestors currently burning Bernie flags and dressed up in F1 overalls carrying machine guns.

Anyway it was time to drop the proverbial trousers and get Q1 underway. Poor old Lewis has been given a 5 place grid penalty for changing his gearbox so already the highest position he can start from is 6th place. All the cars came out, trundled around, did their laps and by the end of Q1 we had an unlikely fastest top three of Perez, Alonso and Grosjean (or Crashjean as I sometimes think of him). Bet Stefano Domenicali was wishing he had told his employment lawyer to go ahead with the ‘you’re fired’ letter to Felipe Massa. Its safe to say its in the pending tray.

As always things got much more interesting in Q2 (I might have fast-forwarded parts of Q1) and the two Mercedes cars were looking mighty fast (whoops of joy all round, ok it was just the 4 year old and me!). The Big Story (as the Beeb told us over and over again) was that none other than Sebastian Vettel (the current F1 champion and the best driver to ever come out of Germany…Michael Schumacher who is currently much faster than him but anyway) did NOT make the cut for the top 10 shoot-out. To compound Seb’s misery, his team-mate Mark Webber topped the timesheet for Q2 ahead of the two Mercedes. Who’da thunk it (certainly not Vettel anyway). Personally I think things might have gone wrong when he called his 2012 Red Bull ‘Abbey’. What kind of name is that for a car? I liked Luscious Liz. It had a pleasing ring to it.

And so the unbearable tension was almost over and we were into Q3 (WITHOUT SEBASTIAN VETTEL) just in case anyone had suddenly been shunted off to Mars or slipped into a coma for the last 15 minutes. Far less surprising was the news that Massa had failed to make the top 10. Again. Somewhere in Maranello an employment lawyer is being called into the office on a Saturday.

Who would finish where was anyone’s guess as (stat alert!) we were told that 3/10ths covered the top 10 drivers.  Schumacher Watch was in full swing – would Michael get his first pole in 6 years? Then all of a sudden, Nico Rosberg put in a blistering lap to smash everyone else’s time and take provisional pole. There was a great bit where Schuey radioed to ask what was Nico’s lap-time and when told, said ‘not bad’. According to DC it was very significant that Schuey asked this question because it showed all he was concerned about was his team-mate. Er, no David you dingbat. I think Schuey had just worked out that the only person who could beat him to pole was Nico (especially as Lewis had a 5 place demotion looming). So the line-up for tomorrow is 1. Rosberg, 2. Lewis, 3. Schumacher, 4. Kobayashi, 5. Raikkonen, 6. Button. But as Hamilton will start in 7th place, this means we have an all-Mercedes front row for the first time since 1955 (name that driver line-up if you will!). All hail the genius that is Sir Ross Brawn (if he isn’t a Sir, then he frigging well should be knighted pronto!). I cannot wait for the start tomorrow. Its going to be MEGA.

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