Sunday, 2 September 2012

Belgian GP - Qualifying

This way please for Eau Rouge....

Our itinerary for the last three Saturdays had read a bit like a Tour de France schedule: (1) Dordogne to Pyrenees (2) Pyrenees to Charente and (3) Charente to Alencon. Wiggo may be supremely brilliant on two wheels but has he traversed the length of France twice over with two small children in 90+ degree heat listening to the same story about the Pontipines over and over and over again. It is debatable which is the greater challenge. So in the knowledge that qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, the first race for FIVE whole weeks, was on 1 September, I surely would be all set for the grand return of Formula 1 at 12.10pm on the Beeb (or 8am or whatever ungodly hour the build-up would commence on Sky). But in a classic bit of daft planning, we had gone and booked ourselves a lunch with friends. They are great friends and it was a lovely, lovely day (involving a BBQ – wonders shall never cease!) but it meant a 3 hour round trip on motorways to London and back. Right now I’m so over motorways. I cannot face another one for a very long time (tries to block out impending trip to St Albans on yet another Saturday in a week’s time).

Anyway all of this meant that we sat down to watch qualifying at 8pm on Saturday evening (with the luxury of no small children crashing around) and best of all we had miraculously avoided the qualifying results after a self-imposed ban from Twitter and pretty much all of the internet (which nearly killed me!). Just before we started watching, I had to return a call to the childhood ranch and, just before signing off, the Dad piped up with “well enjoying watching xxxxxx get pole today”. Cheers, because obviously (as we all now know), the pole-sitter was something of a massive surprise. Gah. But according to the Dad it was a cracking qualifying. Stop with the spoilers. Enough already!

The three amigos (I would lay money that Eddie refers to them all in that way as well!)

Welcome back to Jake, DC and Eddie Jordan (sporting an ‘interesting’ ensemble of a loud disco shirt and grandad cardigan). After the gargantuan summer break, we now had 9 races in 13 weeks coming up. I remarked to the husband that I would be a practical blog hermit and he didn’t look too dismayed. He probably thinks it will distract me from talking about a new kitchen and buying new handbags online. Fool. There’s always time to buy bags.

Spa 1998. The subject of the husband's first ever chat up line to me (I  kid you not...!)

Anyway SCREAM, they were straight in showing highlights from One of The Greatest Races Ever…Spa 1998. Spectacular crashes, horrific conditions and Damon Hill’s last ever race win (and Jordan’s first win) and a blazing row/punch up between Schumacher and Coulthard. It was the race that had everything. Especially the near punch-up which was TV gold.

Cheer up guys, for pity's sake!

Anyway back to 2012 and our first Christian Horner interview of the weekend, conducted quite bizarrely against a backdrop of techno dance music drifting out from the garage behind. Those mechanics know how to party or maybe they delight in trying to sabotage a ‘live on TV’ interview. Next up, a quick chat with Martin ‘please don’t cry’ Whitmarsh. Martin (sporting a natty shiny baco-foil jacket) was saying he wasn’t feeling very confident. Someone give that man a hug please!

You too could make a lego model of Ron Dennis's home

Since the last race, Jenson Button has been busy unwinding doing triathlons. As you do. Apparently it’s a great amateur sport although I might take a raincheck after seeing someone as fit (hehehe) as Jenson having to retire from his triathlon as his lungs were taking the strain. Maybe halfway round he remembered the existence of Ron Dennis who would summon him into his Death Star if he picked up even the slightest injury. Still all for charidee (Help The Heroes) so good for Jense.

Finally time for Q1 and with 5 minutes to go (there may have been some fast-forwarding as the husband was chomping at the bit to watch Doctor Who), the 3 fastest were Button, Alonso and Kimi. Languishing either side of the dropzone of doom were Rosberg and Schuey. We heard that an incident between Maldonaldo and Hulkenberg was being investigated. Who could be the culprit? Put it this way, my money was on the stewards reaching for a template letter pre-addressed to Maldonaldo and filling in the words ‘Grid Penalty’. They might as well just DHL a pack of these letters in advance to each of the remaining Grand Prix and have done with it. The Surprise Scalp of Q1 was Nico Rosberg after Mercedes stuffed up the timing of his final lap and he crossed the line too late. Dudes that is basic stuff. Tut tut. Other than that all the usual suspects bombed out of Q1. Interestingly, Maldonaldo was fastest of all – an opportune moment perhaps to recall that the husband hailed him the ‘new Senna’ earlier in the season. A very creditable 6th place in Q1 for Ricciardo. It will never last. Bless.

Jenson Button, fastest in qualifying. By miles.

Q2 sessions have been pretty lively and unpredictable all season and this was no exception. Button did an absolutely STUNNING lap-time of 1.47.654 to go fastest. To put it into perspective, his laptime was 0.8 seconds quicker than anyone else at that time which is a huge gap in the nanosecond world of F1. With 2 minutes to go, Vettel and Schuey were perched very precariously in 10th and 11th spots and (…look away now German fans) despite some frantic last-minute laps they ended up failed to make the cut and ended up in 11th (Vettel) and 13th place (Schuey). I guess they were the Surprise Scalps of Q2 and we could also count Massa as another one in 14th place. Nope, fair enough, 14th is pretty much Massa territory.

Time for the top-ten shoot out and it was a very cagey session with most of the drivers opting to do only one run. With 0.00 seconds to go on the F1 time-ometer, we just had two times on the board (another absolutely sensational 1.47.686 from Button and Kimi in 2nd place) with just about every car out on track trying to nail one magic lap. But brace yourselves, the top six qualifying results were as follows:

1.     Button – just ballistically fast and a truly brilliant performance.
2.     Kobayashi – do not adjust your sets, this really happened.
3.     Maldonaldo – oh good lord, another complete lunatic high up the grid.
4.     Kimi – talking of lunatic…but this guy can drive Spa (I’ve doomed him now).
5.     Perez – another ‘hint’ to Luca di Montezemolo.
6.     Alonso – not incredible but better than all his title challengers.

Lewis and the twitter-storm

Before I wrap up and head off to watch the race, just time to mention that Lewis has been preparing calmly for the race by getting involved in a big twitter-storm. I’m guessing that Scary Ron might have spontaneously combusted in the Death Star at reading Lewis’s musings on qualifying – “WTF!! Jenson has the new rear wing on, I have the old. We voted to change, didn’t work out. I lost 0.4 tenths just on the straight.” The tweet has since been removed but then for some inexplicable reason this morning, Lewis decided to post a bit of top-secret telemetry from his AND Jenson’s cars which has also since been removed (at the instruction of Martin Whitmarsh no less). It just looks like utter gibberish to me and I suspect most of you too so here it is (and unless any F1 engineers read my blog – as if – I should be safe!!).

Looks a bit like a lie-detector test but caused a bit of a rumpus. Naughty Lewis.

Another possibly not unconnected point is that Lewis has yet to sign a new contract at McLaren. The resumption of contract negotiations should be interesting. Admittedly the telemetry info was definitely crossing a line but you know what, sometimes we all need to vent and its great that Twitter enables us to see the real, human side of drivers and not some PR micro-managed automaton. It definitely brings us the fans a little bit closer to their world and that has to be good for the sport.

Right nearly time for 5 red lights so I’m outta here!

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