Thursday, 13 June 2013

Canadian GP - The Race

Guess who?
Guess who?


As good a place as any to start. The one downside about having an evening race is that the build-up is slap bang in the middle of the Witching Hour when the kids are totally feral and the two year old has passed the Point of No Return. But the build-up will be sifted through at a later date for any glorious nuggets. The only bit I spotted from a distance was an interview with Christian Horner. Definitely, definitely not in the golden nugget category.

So over to Martin Brundle. Canada is an old school, super narrow grid. I love the way he sets the scene and gives the viewers at home a flavour of the atmosphere at each track. Whatever Sky pay him it probably isn't enough!

Jean-Eric Vergne wasn’t talking today. So Martin interviewed Michael Fassbender which was a far better outcome all round. Michael F is a fan of Vettel but thought Lewis was one to watch with his excellent record at Montreal. Anyone who says ‘this is the only sport’ is a supremely worthy Random Celebrity at a Race.

Michael Fassbender. We like.
Michael Fassbender. We like.

Attempt two to speak to a driver in the unpredictable form of Adrian Sutil. He too was looking forward to the race and in clear conditions (we know…boo). Next up Nico Hulkenberg who was starting in P9 ahead of some ‘fast packages’. The Hulk also was looking forward to the race. No really? I would love a driver to say ‘you know what, I really hate driving here’. Is there any point interviewing drivers who are (understandably) going to chuck out a few soundbites just to get rid of Martin, Tanja & co before they focus on the important matter at hand of racing very fast for two hours.

Bernie was chatting to the Crown Prince of Bahrain. No doubt finessing the details (how many 0000s do you want, Mr Ecclestone?) of the appalling decision to make the Bahrain GP the first race of the 2014 season. The usual interview with Mark Webber mainly about the Isle of Man TT as it turned out. Focus Mark focus. Martin then asked Jackie Stewart if he thought his man could come through. Who is his man?! I was a tad confused given the many several thousand regenerations of Stewart GP and JYS's propensity to support Scottish drivers. Apparently it was Raikkonen. Fair do's.

JYS back in the Lotus days
JYS back in the Lotus days

Martin had a quick chat with Bottas’ engineer who is the purest example of a petrolhead (basically heavy metal cool-hand-luke rocker in overalls) you could ever imagine. Seems mildly affronted when Martin asked about there being a lot of pressure being up near the front. Martin said he meant for Bottas! Cool Hand Luke was having none of it. As they say that didn’t go very well.

I don’t normally comment on national anthems but its not every day you see a grand piano out on track. A bit surreal. Still beats the ear-drum shattering operatic murdering of a national anthem that you get at most tracks. I might start a campaign for Daft Punk to do the anthem at the British Grand Prix. Surely Bernie can make this happen – he can just buy Daft Punk or their record label. But no, we'll probably have Katherine Jenkins assaulting our senses and ears instead.

Daft Punk doing the anthem...just imagine!
Campaign starts here for Daft Punk to do the anthem

Five red lights and its Go Go Go! Great start by Vettel but Poor Bottas (as he shall henceforth be known) dropped a couple of places almost instantly as Rosberg and Webber put the frighteners on him knowing he would definitely yield to avoid crashing out. Next in the queue to leapfrog Poor Bottas was Alonso. And all this before DRS was even enabled. Valtteri, welcome to Nico Rosberg’s world where qualifying is as good as it gets (Monaco aside!).

Lap 3 and Vettel already had a 3 second lead. Portents of doom all round.

Time for a barrage of replays of the start from a billion different cockpits and meanwhile Massa was moving up through the field from the back and Grosjean was spectacularly failing to do the same. From nowhere Sutil executed a perfect 180% spin and incredibly he didn’t take anyone out and no one hit him. And then we had a coming together between Maldonado and Di Resta. Bad Driver Maldonado was in the house. Hope Claire Williams was mainlining gin – this race wasn’t going according to the script for Williams. Again.

Claire Williams - will she be able to turn things round? I really, really hope so.
Claire Williams - will she be able to turn things around? I really hope so.

Kimi and Ricciardo were madly scrapping for 8th. And then we heard that Kimi had a problem with his car which might be the same problem he had in China or the same problem he had in the previous race. Oh great. And Massa was now into the top ten. Go Felipe baby.

There was a frission of Huge Excitement as Vettel grazed the concrete wall. But alas in that teflon way he has, he was able to continue unscathed. Kimi finally got past Ricciardo and with Massa bearing hard down on him, the Toro Rosso did the sensible thing and pitted. Now Alonso was hunting down Webber and I’m sure Webber was going to strain every sinew in his body to ride shot-gun for his team-mate? Oh yeah that’s right. They hate each other.

On lap 14, the first round of pitstops all started with Webber, Perez, Rosberg and Poor Bottas (and in the case of Bottas simply just to stop being overtaken for 10 seconds!). Lewis Hamilton meanwhile was still out and was told to PUSH. This was, as the commentators advised in serious tones, A Critical Phase of the Race. Into the pits came our race leader, Vettel followed by Alonso. And Hamilton was STILL out burning rubber as if his life depended on it.

Hamilton - he had the right strategy but not the car
Hamilton - right strategy. Wrong car.

Poor Bottas was told to make his tyres last for 25 laps. Good luck with that. Poor old sod, he was slow enough already without being told to preserve his tyres. Finally Lewis pitted on lap 19 for a set of mediums and where did he emerge? Back out in second place some 10 seconds behind Vettel. I might have been getting the teensiest bit bored now and thank god at least for Felipe Massa who was scything through the field in the manner of Ayrton Senna. What they really should have done was to put a red button cam on Massa just so we could follow his race.

Kimi was well off the pace. Boo schmoo. He was told to do what he could to save fuel without losing performance. Like that’s an easy give. He pitted on lap 23 and there was a problem with the right rear. This race was proving to be a total freaking disaster for Kimi and manna from heaven for Vettel.

Coming soon...a Lotus Pitstop Disastometer
Coming soon. A Lotus Pitstop Disastometer.

Massa and Sutil were having the most amazing duel out there and Sutil was driving amazingly well to keep the much faster Ferrari behind him. Poor old Jenson Button (remember him?) was going very slowly. I mean more slowly than the admittedly clapped out tractor standards of the MP4-28. To put things into context, he was passed by Poor Bottas, a move which must have surprised them both.

Vettel Borefest Update: Seb was continuing to set a string of fastest laps.

There was an intriguing battle for 3rd developing between Rosberg, Webber and Alonso. On Lap 31, Webber got past Rosberg with Alonso hot on his heels. Missing Monaco already, Nico? Most depressingly, Kimi was scrapping for 12th with Poor Bottas. This was not what either of them wanted or hoped for. Still could be worse. They could have been Jenson Button.

And at the halfway point the top order was: 1. Vettel 2. Hamilton. 3. Webber 4. Alonso and 5. Rosberg.

I then [fast-forwarded] [drifted off] [watched paint dry] for a few laps until…we had an Incident. Joy of Joys! Van Der Garde shoved his car into Mark Webber just after being lapped trashing poor old Mark’s front wing into the process. This kind of thing never ever ever happens to Seb (remembers bitterly his mahoosive spin in Interlagos where he miraculously still went on to win the title). So onto the naughty step went Van Der Garde who got a 10 second stop/go penalty.

The official FIA symbol for the naughty step* *this might not be true
The official FIA symbol for the naughty step*
*this might not be true

The battle for 3rd place was still raging on between Webber and Alonso. Finally on lap 42, Alonso passed Webber. Now if some freak thunderbolt (you used to be able to rely on Canada!) could only hit Vettel’s car it would be Game On in the championship. But no such freaking luck.

Grosjean pitted on lap 44 leaving Di Resta as the only non-stopper out on track. <Grits teeth> This was a very good drive by Paul. See there I did it!

Vettel Borefest Update: Seb was continuing to set a string of fastest laps while simultaneously reading the collected works of Nietzsche in the cockpit.

Every car should own one.
Every car should own one.

Overheard on the radio to Perez ‘Jenson is the car behind and we are racing Jenson’. Fasten your seatbelts dudes and dudettes, battle was commencing. Although in all fairness it was only between two McLarens. Hardly Senna and Prost territory. Poor Bottas was now 15th – how utterly tragic for him and Williams. We then had the familiar sight of Van Der Garde with a damaged car limping around the track. And we had our first retirement of the race…on lap 48 which really said everything.

Vettel Borefest Update: He pitted again, enjoying a nice hog-roast before returning to lead the race.

What cars? I can't see any other cars. Where are they all?
What cars? I can't see any cars!

Lap 52 and Paul Di Resta STILL HADN’T PITTED. I bet the beleaguered Pirelli boss is loving this. You dissin’ my tyres? Are you? Are you? In my mind he has morphed a bit into Tony Soprano.

Paul Hembury - the head honcho at Pirelli having a good day at the office for once!
Paul Hembery - the head honcho at Pirelli having a good day at the office for once!

Vettel Borefest Update: He started doing some wild driving with jazz hands to make Christian Horner all panicked. Just for a laugh. Actually the wild driving really did happen.

Alonso was now doing fastest laps and the gap to Hamilton was down to 1.6 seconds with 14 laps to go. Its been said a million times but Alonso is a bloody phenomenal racing driver and the last driver on earth (Lewis pretty much said the same post-race) you would want breathing down your exhaust.

Paul Di Resta - the greatest advert for Pirelli!
Paul Di Resta - the greatest advert for Pirelli!

And Di Resta finally pitted on lap 58. Wowsers.

Lewis’s engineers radioed him with some technical info (metrics blah something or other) to which Lewis said ‘just let me drive’. To be fair who needs to hear lots of boring data during a race that is boring enough already and you’ve got Fernando Alonso swarming all over the back of you. With eight laps to go, Lewis and Alonso almost touched wheels as Alonso put a sensational move to take 2nd place.

Alonso closing in on Hamilton.
Alonso closing in on Hamilton.

Next on the naughty step was Sutil who got a drive through for ignoring blue flags. Gutierrez also went out. There are no further details. On the final lap, Massa squeezed past Raikkonen to snatch 8th place.

Really is that how you say 36 points in Latvian?
Really is that how you say 36 points in Latvian?

Vettel Borefest Update: He was amusing himself in the cockpit by trying out ‘36 point lead’ in a number of languages as he cruised to the finish line. Finally he won the Canadian Grand Prix by a crushing 15 seconds. Well that was a whole load of fun.

Here are the results from the Canadian Grand Prix 2013:
  1. Vettel – Led from start to finish. I don’t know how that sentence could be any more harrowing. But a superb drive and he handled the moronic and unwarranted booing with great dignity on the podium.

  2. Alonso – A superlative drive. Will those 18 points be pivotal? Lets bloody hope so.

  3. Hamilton – Another fine podium for Hamilton and the Silver Arrows.

  4. Webber – Not bad. Not amazingly good either.

  5. Rosberg – Two Mercedes in the top six. Who’dya thunk it. Certainly not Michael Schumacher this time last year. Life is cruel.

  6. Vergne – A fabulous result! Clearly the key is not speaking to Martin Brundle and staying focused. Only joking Martin.
Well that was a real blandathon of a race especially after talking up the unpredictable brilliance of Canada in hysterical fashion. Admittedly there were some stand-out drives – in addition to the above, Di Resta and Massa had superb races to finish 7th and 8th. See I did it again!

Next up, the British Grand Prix...!
Next up the British Grand Prix!

And so onto the annual mudbath of the BRITISH GRAND PRIX. Fittingly, the first F1 race in our new house and miracle of miracles, we haven’t managed to double or triple book something for the same weekend unlike the past 75 British Grand Prix races. After a textbook Monaco race (ie. processional with a random bit of madness) and a lacklustre race in Canada, lets hope Silverstone rocks everyone’s world.

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