Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Spanish GP - The Race

Pastor Maldonaldo - hero of Barcelona
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Weekend of Sport has ended and I’m still a bit punch-drunk with it all. I went into Sunday’s race with severe sleep deprivation. Thanks to the 4 year old catapaulting himself into action at 6am (after stumbling home in the early hours like the pre-children days of old), I had a paltry 4 hours shut-eye. Apparently Margaret Thatcher used to get by on just 4 hours sleep a night and there I guess is a lesson for us all. I must admit while mainlining coffee on Sunday morning (the post-op nurse actually recommended caffeine intake unless I was hallucinating in the Hospital that Time Forgot) and a steady stream of painkillers, I quietly hoped for one of those processional, soporific Spanish races where you can catch a few zzzzs here and there and you miss squat diddly. Spoiler Alert: this race was nothing of the sort. Bugger.

We started off (careful choice of wordage) on the Beeb, principally because the TV was still stuck on that channel and I love seeing the husband 4 year old doing air guitar to The Chain. Quite partial to a bit of Fleetwood Mac which I know makes me sound about 900 years old. Can’t be doing with that ‘Just Drive’ intro on Sky – its all a bit…erm…Journey South really.

First off, Jake Humphrey, David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan decided to recreate the 100 metres final from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics (you know the one that we won). Its hard sometimes to imagine what goes on in a Beeb F1 show production meeting and why anyone thought this would be a good idea. Maybe the name of the game was just to make EJ look dafter than normal but I felt sorry for a man of his years exerting himself in that heat – he could have done himself an injury! They chatted about where they all were back in 1992. Eddie was reminded of the inglorious Jordan-Yamaha era. OMG, I had forgotten about those cars – they were really, really bad. DC was racing somewhere or other and I’m not sure Jake said but I fear he might still have been at school. I myself was at a Greek summer school (don’t ask) with a good sprinkling of (I just know the husband will mentally insert ‘fellow’ here) oddballs. Rock and roll baby.

Farina in a Alfa Romeo, Silverstone 1950 

Eddie randomly spouted on for a bit about golf and the great Seve Ballesteros who apparently was the epitome of Spain’s brilliant sporting talent. A more ‘relevant’ (to use one of Simon Cowell’s buzzwords) reference might have been Rafael Nadal (youngest player in the Open Era to win the Grand Slam) but there you go. We then had an utterly magical quick snippet of footage from the first EVER F1 World Championship Grand Prix held on 13 May 1950. The podium was a 1-2-3 for Alfa Romeo. The 4th Alfa (driven by Fangio) retired due to engine problems (which will surprise no one who has ever had an Alfa Romeo). Nonetheless, I simply Heart Alfa Romeos. 

Careering back to some semblance of race build-up (from the Beeb and blog-wise!), we were eventually told that Hamilton had been demoted from P1 to P24 on the grid. Duh…elephant in the room etc. Apparently, Ferrari were ‘disappointed’ in Massa’s qualifying performance. And in other news, the Pope is Catholic. I wonder if Pope Benedict XVI is interested in F1? Is it compulsory for a Pope to support Ferrari? Or does Pope Benedict secretly pray for Mercedes. If so, he needs to start praying a bit harder to the Big Man Upstairs.

Ron, your old team needs you!
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

DC interviewed our new man in pole position, Maldonaldo, and remarked that he hadn’t actually done the perfect lap. Er, David, he stuck his frigging car (and a Williams at that) on pole FFS. Then there was quite a painful interview with Martin Whitmarsh who provided us with a convoluted explanation as to why there wasn’t enough fuel in Hamilton’s car. The poor man seemed a bit shell-shocked to be honest and said that Lewis was shocked and disappointed. Let’s hope they had flown the therapist out to Barcelona. Time for an SOS to the Dark Knight, Ron Dennis. He wouldn’t put up with this incompetence – there literally would be bodies on the ground. There was a long feature on pitstops (the entirely of which I fast-forwarded) and a monosyllabic interview with Kimi Raikkonen and Lee McKenzie. No fault on the part of the lovely Lee but Kimi is David Blaine-esque when it come to interviews. There is simply no point. And I actually like Kimi.

So time for the David Coulthard Gridwalk (no trademark pending). Normally this is the point at which the Beeb coverage starts to unravel. One of the problems seems to be that DC doesn’t actually walk up and down the grid but stays on the grassy bits at the side so the poor camera-man is literally stumbling over leads and tyres to try and keep up. It was desperate stuff and DC resorted to talking to the one person on the planet who is always gagging to be interviewed, Christian Horner. Time to defect across onto Sky and we rejoined proceedings at #Martin’sGridwalk (as emblazoned on the screen). Never mind trademarks, hash-tag and Twitter is where its all at. Clever old Sky.

Martin’s first interviewee was Narain Karthikeyan. How fabulous. I have had a soft spot for Narain ever since the Malaysian Grand Prix when everyone kept crashing into him. He said he’d had a lot of technical problems on Friday (the husband quipped “its called the HRT” – hmmm, not sure a career in stand-up awaits) and they were targeting Marussia in this race. Ah it’s a different world down the back of the grid. Martin had lots of quick chats with Massa, Jackie Stewart, Norbert Haug and several failed attempts to interview a 'Marty’s Random Person' until Brundle spotted Bernie (the least random person ever at an F1 race) who said he would like to see Williams win. Good God – I don’t think he even said that in the Damon Hill era.

Time For the Start and Go Go Go...! A fantastic start from Alonso who raced wheel to wheel with Maldonaldo along the monster straight to the first corner. And Maldonaldo under severe pressure blinked (well it was never going to be Fernando ‘balls of steel’ Alonso). So Alonso took the lead at the first corner. Both Mercedes were out of the blocks very quickly whilst Webber seemed to stick his car into reverse. Meanwhile Lewis was driving like a demon making up a dizzying 8 places by the 5th lap. By the 6th lap, Alonso reported that his left front and rear tyres were starting to degrade so it didn’t take a rocket scientist to work out the first lot of pit-stops were nigh. Holy cow. At this rate, people will be having to pit on the formation lap in Monaco. Perez was zooming around the track faster than everyone else on his new hard tyres (after sustaining a puncture when he banged into Grosjean on lap one) so no prizes for guessing what everyone would do in the pits. Quick camera flick onto Webber dicing dangerously with Narain Karthikeyan. Poor old Narain – he always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Don’t worry mate, its only Monaco next.

Angry Schuey (vintage model)

Time for the first McLaren pitstop (for Jenson Button). Duh duh duh. Hearts in mouths time and praise be, there were no cock-ups. Unfortunately only another 5ish McLaren pitstops to go. All the front-runners came in and interestingly Mercedes and Lotus opted for soft tyres (seemingly in the face of all reason). Meanwhile Lewis was just charging through the pack and was up to 8th place – he may be a fragile character at times but boy can he drive. Lap 12 and Grosjean/Senna had a little scrape. Then all of a sudden, we saw Michael Schumacher sitting IN THE GRAVEL. Surely this can’t be happening again. The 4 year old who was busy drawing a picture of Michael Schumacher (I know, we don’t live in a normal house) suddenly went into meltdown and started shrieking repeatedly (which didn’t get annoying at all!) “has Schumacher crashed?”. The replay showed that Michael had indeed crashed into the back of Bruno Senna. No easy way to say this but it was totally Schuey’s fault – he got caught out by Bruno entering the braking zone, admittedly a bit early. Schumacher did look very angry and called Bruno an ‘idiot’ on his team radio. I hope Bruno is in a safe place as Angry Schuey has a habit of storming into other garages looking for a punch-up (see Coulthard, Spa 1998).

According to my drug-addled notes, on lap 14, Lewis did something called a lapstop (???) and ‘something went wrong’. Well it was merely a matter of time. Hamilton seemed to hit something that was in the way as he drove off causing his car to bounce up awkwardly. What is going on at McLaren – have they got someone working on the inside trying to scupper Hamilton’s title chances (maybe I’ve watched too much 24). Team radio message to Jenson Button (hey I’d almost forgotten about him) to say they were ‘moving to Plan B’ and ‘running to target’. Must be quite a low target then.

Meanwhile, Webber was still going backwards and the world and its dog was overtaking him. Even Massa managed to get past him. Oh the shame. Time for another Red Bull pitstop for Mark – if in doubt, blame the pesky tyres hey Mark. Anyway Far More Importantly, Pastor Maldonaldo pitted and came out in 3rd place behind Kimi. As Brundle ever-perceptively commented, Pastor needed to do the greatest out-lap ever and you know what, he did A Truly Epic Lap. All the same while as Alonso was stuck helplessly behind Pic’s Marussia (another prime candidate for the Mobile Chicane Wall of Shame). We had some classic Fernando latin fist-shaking as he eventually got past Pic. Time for Alonso’s pitstop and those crucial fragments of seconds gained by Pastor and lost by Alonso on the previous lap meant that Alonso rejoined the race BEHIND Maldonaldo. Turning Point Alert. In my opinion, Ferrari pitted Fernando too late #Ferrarifail.

The stewards’ little office must have been a veritable hive of clipboard activity. First off, both Vettel and Massa were given drive through penalties for failing to slow down under yellow flags (enormously helpful for Hamilton who was battling Massa by then for 5th place) and the Schumacher/Senna incident was being investigated. At the half-way point, the order was 1. Maldonaldo, 2. Alonso, 3. Kimi, 4. Grosjean, 5. Hamilton and 6. Rosberg. I was just wondering what on earth had become of Jenson Button when we saw him being overtaken by Kamui Kobayashi for P7. Cue a new Brundle-ism, Jenson was apparently ‘KK-ed’. He wouldn't be the first.

By way of context, the Super Tense Final Day of the Football Season was now underway and although the husband was still watching the race (at his request, go figure), his nerves were increasingly shot to pieces as he checked the latest scores every 5 seconds. Back to F1 normality and what could be more normal than a drive-through for Pic who ended up retiring at some later point anyway. Well done Charles, you came to Spain, messed up Alonso’s race then left again. Probably best to get yourself on a flight out of the country sharpish.

Maldonaldo in the race-winning FW34 (who'da thunk it!)
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Maldonaldo was driving imperiously from the front. Williams brought him for his final pitstop and it was not the slickest of pitstops although quite low down on the McLaren Pitstop Disastometer. Alonso then came in for a much cleaner pitstop and both emerged behind Kimi. While Pastor was stuck behind Kimi, Alonso was just eating into the gap. Eventually both got past the Lotus but Alonso was still taking chunks out of Pastor’s lead every single lap. This was going to be EXTREMELY close and a right old humdinger to the chequered flag. Ten mahoosive laps to go and there was only a 0.4 second gap. I felt Maldonaldo would have to do a Gilles to pull this one off especially given that this was Alonso’s home Grand Prix.

To add a bit more into the mix, Lotus were telling Kimi that they were actually best placed to win this race! But he was miles behind – what do they know that I don’t?! (ok, actually loads). The thing with Kimi is that anything is possible. Both Maldonaldo and Alonso were having to ease off on their tyres (to avoid another race-destroying pitstop) – it was glorious cat and mouse stuff. Vettel (remember him?) was having a blinding final stint, swallowing up cars in his path left, right and centre. First Button and then Lewis and then later on Rosberg. On lap 60, Nico was KK-ed as Kobayashi put a stunning move on him to move into an incredible 5th place. He is a fabulously gutsy driver – Ferrari could do a lot worse than look at him alongside Alonso.

Kimi was gobbling up more and more time from Alonso with one blistering lap after another but on lap 66, Maldonaldo took the chequered flag to seal a truly magnificent victory. The first Williams win since Montoya in 2004 (how can this be 8 years ago already?!) and on the weekend where the F1 paddock joined together to celebrate Sir Frank Williams’ 70th birthday (didn’t these birthday celebrations all start back in China – memories of EJ’s gushing eulogy are imprinted forever on my mind – it’s the birthday that never ends).

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

1.     Maldonaldo – And I really never thought I’d be writing that next to P1. A magnificent drive.
2.     Alonso – Broken record I know, but he is doing a truly phenomenal job in that pig of a Ferrari. What a Class Act.
3.     Kimi – Another podium. I am loving Kimi's comeback.
4.   Grosjean – And the second Lotus to be high up in the points. Isn’t this what Mercedes should be doing?
5.     Kobayashi – Such an impressive drive.
6.     Vettel 

And finally a most honourable mention for Lewis Hamilton who finished an incredible 8th (from 24th on the grid) having had to overcome the crushing blow of being stripped of his pole position. A very cool and mature (and un-Lewis) drive. He drove brilliantly to conserve his tyres all through the race. Blimey, have I just written that sentence? It was really Lewis in that McLaren wasn’t it?!

Sir Frank Williams - Living Legend

There were great scenes of celebration in the Williams garage and a most marvellous moment when the Sky Team were asking Senna about Schumacher crashing into him and Damon Hill said (in the dryest way imaginable) “we now have something in common”. Actually thought that Damon and Johnny Herbert were a great pairing and it almost brought a tear to the eye to see Damon being back in the Williams garage again. For the record, I have wiped any memory of the utterly dismal Simon Lazenby from my mind. How can anyone look so bored at a F1 race as he does? I’m almost longing for the (not very halycon) days of Jim Rosenthal. Believe it or not, dear old Jim counted as one of our celebrity spots at the Monaco GP once (back in the pre-sprogs day of course). Another top moment was seeing Dickie Stanford (Williams Race & Test Team Manager) go up onto the podium. Random Fact: Dickie just turned up on the doorstep of the Williams factory on the early 80s and asked for a job. Another Did You Know is that he used to be Nigel Mansell’s mechanic. This is why everyone loves The Williams Family.

In the midst of the Super Tense Football Watching (after the race), I was flicking through Twitter and suddenly exclaimed very loudly. The husband asked if Sunderland had scored (he was in a very dark place by now) and to his utter shock (and mine) I discovered there had been a terrible fire in the Williams garage. It seems like there was a fuel explosion just as Sir Frank and the whole team were celebrating their win. Although several people were injured, it could have been so, so much worse and it was wonderful and heart-warming to see how all the other teams rushed in (literally, into a burning garage) to help. Perhaps the stand-out image of the race is Pastor Maldonaldo carrying his young cousin to safety as the smoke billowed out of the garage behind them. Does the drama of this F1 season ever end?

And so to Monaco (SCREAM!!!). Five races so far and 5 different winners in 5 different teams (McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams). What do the racing gods have in store there for us? The mind boggles. Lotus (who are going great guns) haven’t even won a race yet? Could it be 6 different drivers in 6 different cars? I am beside myself with excitement about the Monaco GP. The 4 year old has acquired a new hat (yes, a hat) for the occasion. All will be revealed. See you back here on 26th May with a glass (or three) of Krug.


  1. New hat? Krug? Are you off to the Principality?!

  2. Wow that was quick! Oh I so wish - if it wasn't for the sprogs (though to be fair, George would be in seventh heaven) and, oh yes, the astronomical cost, I'd be there in a heartbeat! But no, we will watching from the comfort of our sofa in rainsodden England. The hat is pretty cool though...!