Monday, June 30, 2008

F1: Mitty’s Magny - 2008 French GP

So just why is the Circuit de Magny cours so overly UN-LUVED? As this tranquil countryside circuit is just three hours south of Paris in the “Nevers-sais-Nevers” (Nevers) region, having been upgraded with a sizeable donation of Francs in the early 1980’s when France’s President François Mitterrand successfully co-erced Bernie Ecclestone in moving the French GP to his home region, in the tranquil Loire Valley… Could it possibly be the influx of Bovines or its propensity for Hay fever? As SPEED’s Peter Winsor was quick to point out how the Circuit plays havoc with allergies… Yet, I was told long ago by some smarmy Brits, that it’s truly a great racing venue, so go figure? (Although Bob Varsha was quick to point out how the track was overflowing with spectators and its now been reported that it’ll host another two years of the French GP…)

And so, Friday’s second practice session wasn’t too much of a surprise, as the field was seeing red… As in the two Scuderia Ferrari’s blitzing the time sheets, but Renault went for a bit of a ruse, by having Fredrico Suave (F. Alonso) end up quickest of all… Suggesting that the Spaniard was running on extremely light fuel tanks in hopes of grabbing some headline space for the Reggie, eh? Thus Felipe Massa was second ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, (P3) who was followed by Louise “Jaguar” Hamilton. (P4)

Sadly, the F1 paddock was mourning the loss of Toyota’s Ove Anderson, who’d been killed in a Vintage Rally Raid in South Africa and the Toyota team were donning black arm bands and sporting black stripes across the noses of their two TF108 challengers.

And a good deal of fun was had at the expense of SPEED’s senior commentator, Messer Hobbs, who waxed on a bit about how if he was to ever write a book, his missus said it should be titled; “I Shoulda Won, But!” to which the House of Winsor immediately broke in and said he’d just received a text message from Hobbo’s colleague S. Posey that says the title of Hobbs biography should instead be titled: “I could have been Second!”

Saturday qualifying saw the true formation of the grid come about, when The Iceman (K. Raikkonen) grabbed the pole position ahead of his Brazilian teammate, in what would be Ferrari’s coveted 200th pole… Giving the Scuderia Ferrari another front row lock-out, with Jaguar slotting into P3, yet recall that Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had both been given 10 grid spot penalties for the pit lane contretemps in Canada. And thus Alonso would ultimately start from P3 with Toyota’s Jarno Trulli alongside, while uncharacteristically The Krakow Kid (R. Kubica) was starting from row three.

And while Jaguar was to start from P13, his teammate Heikki Kovalinen was given a five grid spot penalty for supposedly driving too slowly and impeding Nick Heidfeld’s progress, while Rosberg started 15th and Honda’s Rubens Barrichello moved to caboose with a five spot gearbox change penalty.

When the lights went green, Kimi simply shot off into the lead, continuously setting the races fastest lap and pulling away from Massa, (I believe that Kimi set fastest race lap and thus tied Nigel Mansell for third for overall fastest race laps, as it would be Kimi’s 29th) with both Ferrari’s simply leaving the rest of the field in the dust. Then the unthinkable happened when Kimi’s exhaust decided to separate itself from the Ferrari lump. After being held on solely by a sensor wire, the offending exhaust pipe finally disembarked the stricken Ferrari, which enabled Massa to shoot by after having been behind by over seven seconds. Yet, amazingly Kimi held onto second place, while Trulli “Scrumptious” hung onto third to claim his very first podium in 55 races, after a massive blocking maneuver he performed upon Kovalainen, which seems an appropriate tribute to Toyota’s stricken founder.

As for Hamilton, the theme of his day was something to do with Groundhog’s, (Groundhog Day?) as he was forced to attempt passing Renault’s Nelson Piquet Jr. three separate times… And wound up tenth, out of the points for the second race in a row.

And bully on you Nelson Nelson, who pulled off a late race pass on teammate Alonso to secure seventh place, his first Grand Prix points of his young career, with Alonso having to settle for eighth.

Thus, Massa’s third victory of the season now makes him the fourth driver to lead the point’s standings in the past four rounds and the first Brazilian to lead the World Championship since Ayrton Senna did at Monaco in 1993.

Qualifying Results
Pole: K. Raikkonen; 2. F. Massa; 3. L. Hamilton; 4. F. Alonso; 5. J. Trulli; 6. H. Kovalainen; 7. R. Kubica; 8. M. Webber; 9. D. Coulthard; 10. T. Glock

Race Results
Winner: F. Massa; 2.K. Raikkonen; 3. J. Trulli; 4. H. Kovalainen;
5. R. Kubica; 6. M. Webber; 7. N. Piquet; 8. F. Alonso

2008 F1 Point Standings
(Round 8 of 18)

F. Massa 48
R. Kubica 46
K. Raikkonen 43
L. Hamilton 38
N. Heidfeld 28

Ferrari 91
BMW Sauber 74
McLaren 58
Red Bull 24
Toyota 23

So now we’re off to Bloody ‘Ol Silverstone, where Jaguar has just claimed the fastest time in pre-race testing last week and although the race is a reported sell-out, there’s still the BMW Sauber Pit lane Park exhibit to visit in Manchester…