Saturday, 7 September 2013

Italian Grand Prix - Qualifying

Monza. The Temple of Speed.

A magnificent track that is so deeply embedded in the history of Formula 1 since its very inception in 1950, it must forever stay on the F1 calendar. All the drivers want to win at Monza. Granted the modern circuit has lost the sweeping high banking that made for such breaktaking racing at Italian GPs of old but the long straights, high-speed corners and pure raw speed we see at Monza are unparalleled anywhere else in F1.

But first something wonderful. An interview with the great Michael Schumacher on BBC before qualifying. I have slated BBC in the past for their constant digs and sniping at Schumacher over the years (although in all fairness most of this came from the not knowingly bitter David Coulthard in the commentary box) but enormous kudos to them for remembering that Schumacher still exists. Interestingly they timed the interview to air before Monza, adopted home of the Tifosi. To remember Michael properly is to remember him in a blaze of red sweeping to victory. I am FOREVER privileged to have seen Schumacher win in Monaco.

Michael. The Greatest.
Michael. The Greatest.

A whole host of celebrities and former drivers are in town. Rowan Atkinson, Zara Phillips, Jean Alesi (literally he has not aged a day since he was driving in F1) and Gerhard Berger. Well that gives Brundle much more to work with for the hallowed Gridwalk than trying to interview a random Marussia mechanic!

Gerhard and Ayrton, a different era.
Gerhard and Ayrton, a different era.

And no pressure much for Ferrari this weekend. Their season has pretty much imploded, grandstands packed to the rafters of fanatical, crazed Tifosi and the very visible presence of the Boss From Hell, Luca di Montezemolo. Maybe I’m being harsh and knives do in fact work well as a motivational tool. Still a BIG weekend for Fernando Alonso before all those boring races in the Far East that Vettel always seems to tediously win.

So without further ago, lets crack on with the events of qualifying.

Q1 – In a nutshell (apologies for the brevity but most of Q1 was spent supervising the 2 year’s potty training which in many respects might shade Q1 for entertainment).

OUT went 17) Gutierrez 18) Bottas 19) Van der Garde 20) Pic 21) Bianchi 22) Chilton and INTO Q2 went everyone else.

Q2 – Squeaky Bum Time time for Button, Hamilton, Grosjean and Hamilton both languishing in the dropzone of doom with seconds to go. And in a massive shock or twist or whatever, out of the top ten shoot-out were BOTH Lotuses and Lewis Hamilton. Un-frigging-believable. Either the Lotus is not handling well at Monza or both Kimi and Grosjean had shockers. Endless Sky forensic analysis indicated that Hamilton was blocked by Sutil. But he had also made a mistake on an earlier lap running wide at the Parabolica so not all the blame can be shovelled at Sutil’s door. And in all fairness, Lewis was blaming himself first and foremost.

Lewis Hamilton in pensive mood.
Lewis Hamilton in pensive mood.

So OUT after Q2 were 11) Raikkonen 12) Hamilton 13) Grosjean 14) Sutil 15) Maldonado 16) Di Resta.

Not too surprisingly Hamilton was a dark, brooding place when interviewed afterwards. “I just drove like an idiot. That's the worst I've driven for a long, long time. I'm sorry to the team.” Someone please give Lewis a hug.

Lauda looked similarly broken in the Mercedes garage. Cheer up, Niki, not many F1 drivers have had their career so brilliantly portrayed on the silver screen as currently is the case in Ron Howard’s epic film, Rush. I am BEYOND excited at seeing this film. Six days to go until its release. It’s a movie about Formula 1. Set in the 1970s. Specifically 1976, one of the most astonishing and dramatic seasons ever in F1. James Hunt played by Chris Hemsworth (so on The List), the ridiculously talented Daniel Brühl as Niki Lauda. What is there not to love?

Rush: the movie I have been waiting for all year!
Rush: the movie I have been waiting for all year!

Q3 – Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Ricciardo, Massa and Rosberg were the only six to set a time with one minute to go. Ferrari’s cunning idea was to give Alonso every possible advantage in qualifying at their home grand prix was to position him in Massa’s slipstream and use the extra tow on the long straights to buy those crucial extra nano-tenths of seconds. Not only did Massa not play ball but to add insult to grievous injury he had the temerity to out qualify Alonso. People have swung for less. Alonso yelled over the radio at his team “Massa is too far away” and depending on your interpretation he followed that up with “you’re really idiots…Mamma Mia guys”. According to the Ferrari press office instruction to Alonso he simply sarcastically called them ‘geniuses’. Perhaps something was lost in translation or the s h i t is really hitting the fan at Maranello these days.

Anyhoo, clearly Felipe did not read the script. Or maybe he did and thought ah feck it, they’re going to sack me anyway I’ll just go for it regardless. Apparently the Ferrari press office were letting it be known after qualifying not to approach Di Montezemolo for interviews. But you know what Luca, if that kind of risky slipstream tactic is what you’re reduced to then its pretty desperate stuff especially considering the budget of gazillions you have at Ferrari.

This vice-like grip means you will smile for the cameras, Fernando...okay?
This vice-like grip means you will smile for the cameras, Fernando. Ok?

But lets not overlook the brilliant performance by Hulkenberg to qualify 3rd on the grid, ahead of both Ferraris. A truly stunning achievement and some top teams could do FAR worse than take a close look at the Hulk for a seat next year. But I’ve been saying that for years.

Well done to the uber-smart 6 year old who predicted Vettel and Webber would be 1-2 on the grid. In all fairness even the 2 year old probably would have predicted Vettel would get pole such is the soul-destroying dominance of the young man from Heppenheim.

Another pole, another finger. Bored already.
Another pole. Another finger. Bored already.

So the top order of the grid lines up tomorrow as follows. The husband thinks there might be a ‘gear box change’ (nudge nudge wink wink) for Felipe Massa overnight. What an outrageous suggestion.

  1. Vettel

  2. Webber

  3. Hulkenberg

  4. Massa

  5. Alonso

  6. Rosberg

  7. Ricciardo

  8. Perez

  9. Button

  10. Vergne

Not writing off Monza but the current in-form fastest driver in the fastest car at the fastest track has got pole. It doesn’t bode well but in Formula 1 you never know what can happen.

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