Just when we thought things were getting a little dull, along came Monaco. And before even the race itself, the F1 paddock was mired in controversy. Rosberg's actions will be hotly debated but one thing is for sure - the F1 season has exploded into life.
I had the best of intentions to do a blog on this most thrilling of qualifying sessions but due to rushing out on Saturday evening and having a poorly child at home, it didn't quite happen. But thanks to the predictably inclement bank holiday weather, I am holed up (still with one poorly child) ready to relive all of the brilliantly controversial moments from the weekend.
|Final practice at Monte Carlo - the stage was set|
Monaco has a habit (probably because the grid positions at the start of the race are more critical and advantageous than any other circuit on the calendar) of throwing up hugely controversial and dramatic qualifying sessions. For anyone holed up in outer Mongolia – Nico braked too late and skidded off at Mirabeau onto an escape road at the very end of Q3. The rest of the session was yellow-flagged thereby denying Lewis Hamilton (who was on a flying lap) his first pole at Monaco. Of course we shall never know whether Lewis would have actually gone on to snatch pole but certainly in his mind he believes he was robbed of a dream pole.
The good-humoured, matey rivalry (if it really ever existed?) has fully metamorphosed into Full Blown Internecine Warfare. There are huge parallels to the bitter feuds between Prost-Senna, Mansell-Piquet and Villeneuve-Pironi. We haven’t had a fierce and nasty rivalry between two team-mates since Prost-Senna (although the husband did point out that Hamilton and Alonso didn’t exactly get on – a common theme perhaps emerging here). Lewis Hamilton seems to increasingly regard himself as a persecuted but brilliant driver and, in his mind, a modern day Senna who is fighting the system, his teammate, his team, the cruel injustices that life has dealt him by not coming from a rich F1 dynasty etc. Of course other drivers could look enviously at a driver who was brought into the McLaren fold at a young age and had his racing career financed and carefully nurtured by one of the giant teams in F1 from the age of 13. Not many drivers are as lucky as Lewis (even with his prodigious talent) to be given a title-winning car on his debut F1 season.
On the eve of the race, Hamilton helpfully further stoked up matters by claiming he would "take a page out of his [Senna's] book". What like crash into your team-mate at the first corner? Might as well take a page out of Prost’s book then. Or here’s an idea Lewis, just STFU and get on with it.
But first to an hour of glorious build-up opening with evocative sepia footage of Monaco in yesteryear (or Mon-ark-o as old newsreels used to say). Officially in heaven. I could watch old footage of Monaco All Day Long. But snapping back to reality and the controversy that is still raging on and on as to whether Nico deliberately sabotaged Hamilton’s lap to ensure pole. Brundle tells us that Lewis is still very, very angry about Nico Rosberg’s run off at the end of qualifying. His take on the Senna comments is that Lewis is just trying to put pressure into the system. Martin doesn’t want to believe that Nico did it on purpose and knowing Nico as he does (which lets face it trumps the gazillions of us giving our tuppence worth on Twitter) he doesn’t think Nico would have done something like that.
|Rosberg spins off at Mirabeau...|
|...ending up on the escape road|
And we have a Damon and Johnny feature. I know I shouldn’t but I utterly love these! Its a total guilty pleasure. This weekend Johnny is making his racing comeback with Damon as a manager. They even got Alain Prost to take part. Respect! The husband reckons there isn’t much difference to the car Johnny is driving (a ’72 March Cosworth) to the one he (the husband) drove around Brands Hatch. Bless.
Time for Brundle's track guide which this weekend is interpersed with great footage from Monaco races of old. Triumphant moments, dramatic moments, heart-stopping moments (including Brundle’s horrific crash at Tabac in 1984) – Monaco has had them all. In spades.
|The aftermath of Brundle's monumental crash in Monaco|
Random Celebrities at the Race are in abundance this weekend – Benedict Cumberbatch, Glen Johnson and Patrick Stewart. Its going to get much worse before it gets better. I am almost weeping at the thought of Geri Halliwell popping up during #MartinsGridWalk. And as if by magic, here is Martin on the grid which appears to have about a zillion people on it and no actual cars.
A classy first interviewee – the legendary Jacky Ickx. He tells Martin that Monaco is very special, you can’t overtake and you cannot flirt with the rails here. Predictions are impossible! Martin is prowling around looking for Patrick Stewart who has been hanging out with Mercedes. Everyone is keeping things very close at Mercedes and the first few yards is where everything will happen. Well not necessarily but we'll see.
|Jacky Ickx, F1 and Le Mans legend|
I’ve come to the conclusion that gridwalks are pants at Monaco. There are far too many people for Martin to even move around let alone spot interesting people to interview (amid the throngs of stinking rich Eurotrash). Thierry Boutsen’s take on run-off-gate - no way did Nico do it on purpose. Just not in his character.
Aha, Martin has located Niki Lauda. He must be having an interesting weekend though I’m not sure even an imminent nuclear war would phase Niki. He has told the boys to be careful in turn 1. He is not sure they will listen to him and its going to be a very interesting start. Rosberg has apologised and that is good enough for him and interestingly he revealed that Lewis apologised after Spain for running with a higher engine setting than had been pre-agreed. Those in glasshouses…
Alain Prost wades in next. He doesn’t believe Rosberg did it on purpose. So where are all those scores of people that Ted told us about on Saturday who thought Nico had gone off deliberately. Either opinions are very divided or people are loathe to bag someone out as a cheat on live TV.
Derek Warwick (who is stewarding in Monaco this weekend – nice work if you can get it!) tells Martin that the comment Lewis made last night is a “little bit extraordinary”. Hamilton’s card is SO marked if he tries a little Senna-esque nudge on Rosberg today.
Time for the Monegasque national anthem. Oh god it is Princess Charlene with the sad eyes. She just looks sadder every year.
|Sir Jack Brabham, 1926-2014|
A beautiful gesture to have a moment’s silence and pitlane banner to reflect on the passing of the great Sir Jack Brabham. I saw a great quote on Twitter about him in the week – imagine if Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher were the same person, you would basically have Jack Brabham.
This must be the most anticipated start of the season! The husband has predicted a crash. My Twitter buddies have predicted a crash. Make it a good one please Monaco!
Coming up in Part 2 – analysis of the race itself. It deserves its very own post!