Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Monaco GP – The Race


Mark Webber - he had a bonza race in Monaco
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

So I realised in my, ahem, slight hysteria, about Michael Schumacher getting pole position that I actually forgot in my previous blog to give the rest of the grid order for Sunday’s race. Ooops. I was just a little bit excited and might have been bashing out the blog on Saturday evening while partaking of a glass of wine or two while watching Eurovision. A dangerous mix. Imagine if Michael Schumacher even won a race again – you’d be lucky to discover from my blog who else even made it onto the podium! Still as that eventuality seems destined never to happen until Mercedes can actually provide Schuey with a car that doesn’t break down every single frigging race, you can all rest easy.

I still (and it is Wednesday, shameful I know) haven’t watched all of the build up – the blame for this can be placed solely on a not-at-all tedious visit to Homebase to buy endless bags of sand for the sprogs’ sand-pit and random plants chosen by the 4 year old which will probably all be dead this time next year. The husband vetoed the Beeb build-up and for once I was pretty much in agreement after their obsessive Schumacher-bashing the previous day. So we were straight in to ♯MartinsGridWalk for which I had high hopes given we were in uber-chic Monte Carlo crammed to the rafters with Beautiful People. We were told that the average life expectancy there is the highest in the world at 90. Not sure what we were meant to do with this nugget of information but its safe to say that if you are rich as Croesus then you do tend to have access to the best doctors on the planet. Ah the unfairness of life, or death (if you’re not fortunate enough to live in Monaco!).

Jools Holland, Random Celebrity at a Race
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Martin had quick chats (ie. 4 words) with both Nico Rosberg and Grosjean, then muscled his way into a getting a quick interview with Antonio Banderas who was there with his New Best Friend, Fernando Alonso. To be fair, Antonio was able to name at least three F1 drivers (Lauda, Senna and Prost) which is probably three more than Geri Halliwell could name. The grid was absolutely rammed to the extent that Martin just walked past Eric Clapton and Jools Holland. Maybe they’re just close personal friends of Martin so he doesn’t see them as celebs – whatever, they were all very matey and chummy. Eric Clapton was also aware of the Crucial First Corner at Monaco. There was a quick throw-away line from Martin to them at the end of “are you on the boat tonight” which I think confirms that Martin leads a pretty glitzy life behind that bloke-next-door exterior.

Then to my amazement, Martin interviewed the True Polesitter, Michael Schumacher. WTF? Michael never ever gives interviews on the grid. I immediately started to worry whether he was too relaxed in a ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ kind of way. Portent Alert.

Princess Charlene (lets hope she brought a good book for the race)
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

It turned out that the Dark Knight, Ron Dennis, was in Monaco. He was wearing quite a loud Cityboy shirt trying to pretend he was just there for the fun of the race but I reckon he has flown out to put the fear of god into the McLaren mechanics not to make any more mistakes. He is still a very scary man – there were a couple of death stares as ditsy Natalie interviewed him. We caught a brief glimpse of runaway-bride Princess Charlene hiding her sad eyes behind some large shades. Then Nicole Scherzinger told us how Lewis was really focused and happy. Nice try, Nicole, but we don’t really believe you. All in all, quite a disappointing Monaco Celebrity Pitlane. Maybe the global recession is biting or maybe the A-listers don’t want to venture forth from their swish hospitality tents in case a tiny speck of grease gets onto their designer clobber. Pah.

I have made a note here that the husband was droning on about brake ducts. He knew I wasn’t listening and bless him, he plugged away regardless.

So (I did get around to it eventually!) the Monaco grid lined up as follows: 1. Webber, 2. Rosberg, 3. Hamilton, 4. Grosjean, 5, Alonso, 6. Schumacher, 7. Massa, 8. Raikkonen, 9. Vettel, 10. Hulkenberg.

Time For The Start and Go Go Go...! The next bit I had to rewind and freeze-frame about 8 times to work out what had happened. Webber and Rosberg got away cleanly, Hamilton had a very poor start and as a result Alonso got stuck behind him and moved out into the path of Grosjean and they banged wheels. Grosjean in a classic rabbit-in-the-headlights moment went wide into the path of Schumacher (Sebastian, you utter utter total swine) who had made a brilliant start on the outside. They touched and Grosjean’s car started spinning around wildly. He then managed to punt Kobayashi into the path of Button. Way to go, Seb. In an entirely unrelated event (I think), Maldonaldo crashed out after colliding with an HRT. So it was all a bit frantic to say the least.

Lewis was on his radio in a nanosecond asking “what the hell happened at the start?” Is this not a question for Lewis who was the person in the car at the start? Kevin the Teenager is back in the building. What does Nicole know about his state of mind hey? Lewis is happy my foot. Does she ever watch the races? He is normally having a nervous breakdown by lap 3. Meanwhile there was general consternation about the state of Schuey’s car and how badly it had been damaged by the coming together with Crashjean (yes, the mean nickname has been reinstated). Brundle thought Schuey’s suspension might have been damaged – oh FFS. All Mercedes were saying to Schuey was to look after the gear-box. Great. That was two things for me to now worry about. The 4 year old already thought it was an outrage that Schuey started 6th (ie. after the grid-place penalty) so was getting super agitated as to why Schuey wasn't doing better.

First Clipboard Moment of the race – stewards were investigating cars shortcutting the first corner on lap 1. How idiotic – what were they supposed to do when confronted head on with the wildly spinning Lotus of Crashjean. Plough straight into it or sensibly try and pick another path around it. Anyway eventually they decided no further action would be taken. Maybe they feel they have to justify their salary sometimes by pretending to look into various incidents while kicking back and slugging on a bottle of beer, or champagne seeing as we were in Monaco and all that.

Meanwhile Webber was setting fastest lap after fastest lap while Alonso was holding up a stream of cars. First appearance of the word ‘procession’ in my notes and depressingly it wasn’t the last. On lap 13, we were told that it was due to rain in 15 laps time. Showing that A-level maths wasn’t a complete waste of time (but largely, it was), that meant the race might actually get vaguely exciting around lap 28. Until then the drivers would be working very hard to preserve their tyres and stay out until they would need to pit for wet tyres. Could we take much more excitement?!

Loews Hairpin - it really is very tricky
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Button was told they were switching to Plan B. Isn’t this what they always do and it never ever works? There was a hilarious moment when Narain Karthikeyan got the wrong racing line going round the Loews hairpin (or whatever its called these days) with no other cars remotely close by and basically managed to have an incident all by himself. It was eerily reminiscent of when I drive around Monaco when playing the Wii – the 4 year old, of course, has somehow mastered the art of staying superglued to the racing line (a point he makes to me repeatedly as my virtual car hurtles headlong into a virtual barrier). So I have great sympathy with Narain. That is a very difficult corner.

There was a big old tussle between Kimi and Schuey for the next few laps. Schuey was all over the back of the Lotus but simply could not find a way past – such is the joy of the near-impossible-to-overtake track that is Monaco. By lap 26 (yes we’re up to that point already), we were told there was possible rain in FOUR minutes and everyone’s tyres were starting to go off. Hall-e-lu-jah! As riveting as it was watching a huge traffic jam trundle around behind Kimi Raikkonen, it would be nice to actually see some action out there on track or even in the pitstop. Not fussy in the slightest!

Suddenly we had our first pitstop of any significance – in came Nico Rosberg for some soft tyres and he slotted back in nicely in 6th place ahead of the Kimi Traffic Jam. Also dicing with each other were Alonso and Hamilton, until Hamilton (along with Webber) came in to the pits. Alonso stayed out for one extra lap and had not one but two purple sectors (I thought the commentators were actually going to implode with excitement) which meant after his pitstop he was able to leapfrog Lewis. Did the McLaren mechanics not know that Scary Ron was in Monaco with his industrial strength hairdryer borrowed from Sir Alex Ferguson?! Oh dear.

From nowhere, it appeared that Sebastian Vettel was leading the race. I (pointlessly) asked the husband how on earth this had come to pass and he said it was because he had yet to stop. But various other drivers behind him had yet to stop (Schuey, Button etc) although admittedly he had the distinct advantage of not encountering Grosjean’s car doing pirouettes at close quarters at the start. Lap 35 saw Schuey finally come in for a pitstop but as he was now in 9th place, all the euphoria from qualifying (and indeed the will to live) had longed since drained away.

Next frisson of excitement was discovering that Perez had been given a drive through penalty for doing some naughty blocking tactics on Kimi just before going into the pits. Has the man got a death-wish or something. You mess with Kimi at your peril. Sergio had better watch out in Canada.

Bit like the Monaco Grand Prix

So at the half-way stage, the top order was 1. Vettel (how? how? how?), 2. Webber, 3. Nico, 4. Alonso, 5. Lewis and 6. Massa. It seems hardly worth noting that Button came into the pits and even though his race was effectively jiggered, the McLaren loons still managed to get him stuck behind Kovalainen in 15th place. Maybe Scary Ron had just thought blow this popstand and was sipping dry martinis on a luxury yacht. And who could blame him. He was probably bored senseless like the rest of us.

Time for an update from the Weather Monitor of Doom (or ‘Hope’ depending on whether you wanted some rain to spice up the race or fancied a quick 50 minute kip on the sofa). Heavy rain was now thirty minutes away. Lewis was now complaining that stuff from a pitboard was being dropped on his head. Okay, that’s a new one. You worry for his state of mind sometimes. FINALLY, Vettel came in for his supersofts and emerged from the pits just ahead of Hamilton and Massa. I hope Seb knew to get a move on – he didn’t want to get too near to Lewis. He is never off his radio for a single second. How can that be safe?! We were now told that no rain was expected before the end of the race. The will-it-won't-it rain updates were now getting beyond tedious.

Not that my attention was wandering (much) but I have noted down at this point that the 4 year old was re-enacting a race outside on the patio involving Hamilton and Schuey throwing sticks at each other. Truly bizarre but to be honest a darn sight more entertaining than the Monaco GP. The commentators meanwhile were telling us a pack of lies and saying it was going to be a barnstorming finish. The best thing you could say was that it was still very close up front – just a few seconds separated the top six. But unless the heavens opened and a flashflood hit Monaco in the next 20 minutes, squat diddly was going to change.

Lap 60 and Schuey reported a problem with the car (a fuel pressure issue apparently) and a stream of cars started passing him. Another retirement for Schuey. NOT GOOD ENOUGH, Mercedes. Do you hear me? The 4 year old drew a sad face on my pad. Think of the children.

The Weather Monitor of Doom (rely on this at your peril)

It was time for Lewis to start panicking about something else. Apparently there was a funny yellow light on the right hand side of the dashboard. Man, he really needs to chillax. I’m kind of thinking being an F1 driver wasn’t the best of career choices for someone who is a bit mentally fragile. Up popped a few umbrellas and we all got temporarily excited it was going to rain. None more so than Vergne who rushed in to get a set of inters. He dropped 4 places then promptly was the slowest man on the track. As they say on Top Gear, that didn’t go well.

Meanwhile it was all still very close at the front but it was Monaco, they could be out there for a month of Sundays (please god no) and nothing would EVER change. Button, who I had entirely forgotten about, crashed into Kovalainen and that was it, race over. And a pretty lousy one at that. The flag people had all suddenly woken up as there appeared to be more flags being waved everywhere than at a UN convention.

Basically nothing more happened until the end of the race. Or possibly I did fall asleep or got sidetracked watching the 4 year old hitting a small replica F1 car with a stick. Who knows?

So here are the results from the Monaco Grand Prix 2012:

1.     Webber – it will amuse you (as it did the husband) to learn that at the start of the race I said "whoever will win this race, it won’t be Mark Webber".
2.     Nico – hmmm you make sure his car is reliable don’t you, Mercedes?
3.     Alonso – he just keeps getting brilliant results and I’m probably more impressed by him this season than any other season. Currently TOP of the drivers championship.
4.     Vettel – qualified 10th and finished 4th so proves it can be done at Monaco but still no idea how.
5.     Hamilton – another missed opportunity…a big session with the shrink will need to be scheduled before the next race.
6.     Massa – for many people, 6th would be disappointing but in Felipe’s world it is pretty stunning.

So we got our SIXTH different winner in six races. How exciting (whatever Jenson Button might think). It doesn’t take Einstein to work out that the key to winning this year’s title will probably be consistency. Step forward, Fernando Alonso. Still I leave Monaco quite disappointed and gutted for what could have been. A race that promised so much from the thrilling qualifying session can basically be summarised in 6 words: no rain, traffic jam and dull.

But next up it is Montreal which is normally total and utter carnage. Last year’s utterly bonkers race was off the scale in terms of incidents, crashes and drama so I really, really cannot wait for this one. 

2 comments:

  1. Most entertaining, more so than the race itself! But it's always like that at Monaco (Gilles Villeneuve won in a truck of a Ferrari by dint of no-one being able to overtake him). As you say we now have 6 different winners - what price a repeat of 1982 when Rosberg Snr won the title after winning only one race? Ahhh, happy days.

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