Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Belgian GP - A Preview


Eau Rouge, Spa - The best corner in the whole of F1

Ok so here’s the thing. I may have said in my last blog (posted several million light years ago) that I would be ‘still blogging away on F1 during August’. What I didn’t bargain on was the trail of destruction and semi-internecine warfare unleashed by having two small children in the house All Day Long. Kofi Annan would have his work cut out in the House of Power (and in the defence of the 5 year old, it is actually the 1 year old who is the aggressor).

One of our holiday excursions involved a slight detour through part of the Pyrenees after my map-reading skills failed me. Still the husband is pretty good at negotiating hairpins now!

So I gave up a lost cause and postponed my blogging until we were safely in the peaceful and relaxing surroundings of the South of France where of course I would have ample time to blog away under the cool shade of the olive trees with a Kir Royale or three. Epic Fail. A combination of many factors  - the internecine warfare simply relocated to France, the intense heat, erratic Wi-Fi due to those charming gite-style stone walls (and the fact that my brain pretty much stopped working…) all conspired to bring any blogging to an earth-shuddering halt.


Lets hope Lewis steered well clear of Autosport and any features on 'Awesome Alonso'

But I think I realised that blogging was best left alone while en vacances when I found a copy of Autosport in the magazine pile in our first cottage and had actually read a fair chunk of it before I realised it was from July 2011 (and not July 2012 as I had thought). To be fair the main headline on the cover read ‘Awesome Alonso’ with smaller headlines of ‘McLaren’s Blunders’ and ‘Webber closes in on new Red Bull deal’. As they say in the land of Prost, plus ├ža change… Maybe certain aspects of this weird and wonderful and unpredictable season aren’t quite as different to previous seasons after all.


To fight off the F1 withdrawal symptoms, I had a little light holiday reading in the form of the following:


Yes, it was The One and Only Non-'Fifty Shades of Grey' book around the pool!

Not sure how I had missed this book before but it was a cracking read and gave some brilliant insights into the mind and psyche of Michael Schumacher. The parallels between Senna and Schuey (as the new kid on the block); and then Schuey and Alonso ten years later are quite striking. Even if you’re not a Schumacher fan, it’s a great overview of one of the most eventful decades in F1 history (the 1990s) and the all-dominant Schumacher Ferrari years.


Can anyone stop this man?
Anyway A Dash of Eau Rouge is back and feeling slightly less shattered totally reinvigorated and raring to go. It has been forever since we last had a Grand Prix weekend. Note to Bernie, a five week hiatus is WAY too long. Although, as a consequence, I suppose I’m now as ridiculously excited about this weekend as if it was the First Grand Prix of the Season. And in a way it is – well its the opening race of the Back End of the Season with everything still very much to play for although one of Webber, Vettel and Hamilton really need to start chalking up a few wins pronto to close the 40+ point gap to the current leader in the title stakes and this year’s driver par excellence, Fernando Alonso.


So its 11 races gone and 9 still to come. Anything is yet possible (except presumably a Schumacher win…sob) before the F1 season reaches its denouement in Interlagos on 25 November. To refresh your memory of the season so far, check out Phil Duncan’s excellent F1 Half-Term Report Card. Pretty much agree with all the grades although I would have to say Massa is lucky to scrape even a D and if I’m picky, I’m not sure Hamilton quite merits an A*. Surely only Alonso as ‘Top of the Class’ should get an A* but then back in my day, the concept of an A* didn’t exist – as the 5 year old would say ‘Mummy, they had real blackboards when you were at school’. Actually we also had post-war (yes WW2) prefab huts but we made our own fun. Ahem.


Graham Hill leading the charge up Eau Rouge at the 1965 Belgian Grand Prix

And there could be no better track for the F1 season to resume at than the glorious Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps deep in the Ardennes forest which IMHO is by far and away the best track on the calendar with its sweeping, majestic curves, razor-sharp hairpin bends and utterly exhilerating corners. If you took a straw poll of the F1 paddock, most of the drivers would rank Spa as among their favourite tracks if not their absolute favourite.


La Source, Les Combes, Blanchimont all evoke many classic memories and emotions but it is Eau Rouge that is The Most Legendary Corner in Formula 1. A wild, violent, fearsome downhill-left-uphill-right ride with a blind summit that the drivers tackle at 300kph. Spare a thought for Narain Karthikeyan this weekend or indeed any other cars that crest the brow of Eau Rouge flat-out only to find a HRT gingerly ambling across the track (who knows in what direction?!). In the words (as ever) of Martin Brundle, “you had better hold onto your heart in Eau Rouge, otherwise it will come out of your throat.”


Michael Schumacher at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix. Where it all began.

Someone who really loves Spa is Michael Schumacher and this weekend he will be celebrating his 300th Grand Prix. Wowsers. Spa is where he made his debut for Jordan back in 1991 (an interesting tale chronicled brilliantly in James Allen’s book), he won his first race here and has won the race a whopping six times. Still no news on Schumacher’s or indeed Hamilton’s futures. Monza is often the place for these kind of announcements so we shall see…


Alex Zanardi, former F1 driver and now Paralympian

A blog by me wouldn’t be a blog without me straying off on a mad tangent but for once, this has a strong F1 connection. Eleven years ago, Alex Zanardi, the former F1 driver (who raced for Jordan, Minardi, Lotus and Williams), was involved in a truly horrific accident in a Champ Car race in Germany. Both Alex and his car were sliced in two when another driver unwittingly crashed into Alex’s stationary car at 217mph. At one stage, Alex was left with only a litre of blood in his body and had to be resuscitated 7 times. He lost both his legs as a result of the crash. Next week, Alex will be competing in his first Paralympics at Brands Hatch (of all places!) in handcycling. Ranked number 1 in the world, he is aiming to win a gold medal.


In a recent interview, Alex said “if some people could fly, Usain Bolt would feel disabled. Doing the best with what I have is the biggest challenge." What an inspiration and I really hope he is at the top of the podium once more.

Now that the creative juices are flowing again (and deliverance from the never-ending school holidays is nigh), I have a couple of interesting blogs in the pipeline – including a special event taking place at Brands Hatch in a couple of weeks – as well as the usual live-blogging (kind of!) race fare so stay tuned…

Less than two days until the first practice session at Spa. Excited Much!!

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