Monday, October 1, 2007

F1: Singing’ in the Rain? Japan, 2007 edition

Holy Downpour Batman!!! Wasn’t that the MOST DIABOLICAL racing conditions you’ve seen in years? As I’m flabbergasted that the FIA actually squeezed in the entire race distance at the rain drenched Mount Fuji circuit…

Talk about earning your paycheck, as I simply couldn’t believe that those F1 pilot’s were capable of hurtling their race cars around in such HORRIFIC weather conditions. As the race seemed eerily reminiscent of the inaugural Japanese Grand Prix held at Mount Fuji 31 years ago!

You may recall that this was the race that Niki Lauda abandoned due to heavy rainfall, claiming the weather made the race too dangerous and there by handing that year’s Driver’s title to James Hunt.

The following year’s event was little better, with the first and second place drivers (James Hunt, Carlos Reutemann) skipping the podium ceremonies in favour of catching their flights. And with Niki Lauda having already wrapped up the 1977 Driver’s title for Ferrari, before departing the team as his relationship with Enzo had faltered. Lauda was replaced by Gilles Villeneuve whom had a tragic accident that killed a Marshal and photographer!

And although I know I watched it way back when? I simply don’t remember seeing the abominable race Down Under. As the 1991 Australian GP was Red flagged after only 14 laps with Ayrton Senna being declared the victor and half points awarded. And what was that race when Senna rammed into the back of whom in the rain…

Of course I suspect holding a motor race near the base of an extinct volcano in the fall will always be prone to inclement weather, eh? Although overall this is supposedly the better portion of the year to visit the Orient. So I can only ponder what this week’s conditions at Shanghai will be?

And if you think the organizers are NUTS for running at Mount Fuji so late in the season, my way back memory machine faintly recollected the 1994 Japanese GP as Professor Matchett was waxing eloquently about it. As the Suzuka race was held on November 13 and was also Red flagged after Martin Brundle struck a marshal attending a previously stricken race car in the exact locale and broke his leg! Yeah, you guessed it; it was RAINING that day too…

As for the racing, it seemed quite hard to follow this weekend, as there seemed to be a constant parade of race cars throwing up huge rooster tails behind them. And I’m still quite bemused over how Ferrari will indeed spin its wet weather tire advantage. Err excuse me Mr. Todt! Didn’t you get the memo? But who says that the FIA doesn’t play favourites?

And without doubt the star of the weekend had to be German “hot-shue” Sebastian Vettel, who took the Scuderia Toro rosso to never seen before performance heights… As it was pointed out that the last time a Minardi Tail-gunner Charlie” had led a Grand Prix was Estoril, 1989!

As Vettel became the very first driver to push a Toro Rosso into “Q3” Final Qualifying. Although he gave the Williams-Toyota team a bit of a surprise when he attempted pulling into their pit stall at the end of the Q2 session…

And Vettel’s weekend long “High” continued into the race, when the young German found himself leading his very first Grand Prix. Unfortunately the entire weekend would be for naught as catastrophe struck during the second Safety Car period. With “Big Brother” Mark Webber (Red Bull) second and Vettel third behind race leader Lewis Hamilton, young Sebastian rammed into the rear of an unexpecting Webber…

Mark Webber (DNF, Accident)
"That was a completely disastrous finish. We were in very, very good shape to challenge Lewis for first today. We were strong and I didn't make any mistakes despite the tricky conditions, cars were aquaplaning and the visibility was very poor. Fernando's crash caused the second safety car stint, which bunched everyone back up again. That wasn't great; I would have liked to have continued to the end of the race. Vettel was a bit wild behind me during the first safety car period and then did a very good job of hitting me very hard under the second safety car. I think today he will have learnt a very valuable lesson."

Adding insult to injury was the fact that Vettel’s teammate Vitantonnio Luzzi was deemed to have passed Adrian Sutil’s spyker under a yellow flagged corner for the final points paying position.

Which made me very happy to learn as I’m most impressed by my “Rookie of the Year” candidate Messer. Sutil, whom was elevated to eighth place upon the stewards giving Luzzi a 25 second time penalty which dropped him to ninth. Thus Toro Rosso is now the only constructor to have not scored points this season.

And as further penalty to Vettel’s errant ways during the second Safety Car shenanigans… Sebastian has been docked a ten grid spot penalty for China…

Meanwhile the race ending saw a terrific tussle between two Finns, as Heikki Kovalainen and Kimi Raikkonen frolicked about in the monstrous spray while challenging each other for second place. This would see two Finns on the podium for the very first time in history.

And rumours suggest that Lewis Hamilton’s father (and manager) Anthony has hammered out a new five year $110 million deal to stay at McLaren. That’s a paltry $22 million per season for all of you math whizzes out there.

Yet I found myself having a new found admiration for the young “Louise Jaguar Hamilton.” As not only was he fast, nor put a wheel wrong the entire race, he’s also tremendously smooth. As I marveled at his mannerisms of thanking the Japanese crowd for enduring such ABYSMAL weather conditions during the post race interview.

And speaking of memo’s, I seemed to have missed the one noting that the Japanese Grand Prix will alternate venues between Suzuka and Mount Fuji beginning in 2009…

No comments:

Post a Comment