Saturday, October 11, 2008

F1: The Arden Forrest - 2008 edition

Continuing on with my theme of slowly recapping the 2008 F1 season, along with borrowing “Press Dawg’s” Beer of the Race tradition, I’d have gone for a most delectable Forbidden Fruit or Duval beverage...

But back to the racing action, as we’re now focusing upon the recently completed Belgian Grand Prix, moving on from the glitter of Valencia to the sublime of Spa Francorchamps... Which definitely has to rank as one of Formula One’s All time greatest tracks, residing in the Arden Forest... Thus it bothers me greatly to hear the rumblings of possible neutering of this momentous circuit... Please DON’T let Herman Tilke get his sweaty palms on another request for a hack job, in hopes of emasculating a legendary venue! As Emperor Bernardo seems quite intent on setting the wrecking ball to all of the Old Guard tracks, i.e.; Silverstone, Hockenheim, San Marino and Spa...

Friday Practice
Once again, this seems to be the most informative program of the week in SPEED’s coverage of the Formula 1 circus, as the opening segment featured Bob Varsha stating that RAIN was coming in 30mins. – Of the 90 minute broadcast, before segwaying into a recap of the various drivers slithering about the confines of the race track in the day’s first practice session.

Prior to Friday’s practice, Nick Heidfeld was pestered about not being so “Quick,” hammering him about his poor performances of late, to which the German replied; “You DON’T have to tell me... I already know ALL about it!”
Yet, Quick Nick isn’t the only driver feeling the heat of being an F1 Superstar, as The Iceman, a.k.a. Kimi Raikkonen was nabbed for speeding in the pit lane not once but twice, during the first practice session, incurring total fines of $4,900 Euros ($7,000k US Funds)

And as many of the “Heavy Hitters’ were reluctant to go out onto the track, as it was still damp, as I think only the Toro Rosso was willing to reconnoiter the circuit, this led Peter Winsor to launch David Hobbs into a great segway about driving at Spa; Asking Hobbo what it was like driving in the wet at Spa? As Hobbs had contested the 1968 1000k Sports Car event in the wet behind the wheel of a John Wyer Gulf Oil Ford GT40, while Hobbs waxed on about how it was totally different back then... As there weren’t any Armco (guard rails) run off areas and the trees lined the circuit, edging right up to the track... With Bob Varsha noting how the circuit was then a monstrous nine kilometers and it must have been miserable in the rain? As Hobbs noted how the event had taken over 7hrs...

And Winsor further mused; that’s when you drove with Paul Hawkins? Who was a rather shy, quiet, non-partying type of guy? (As Hawkins was a fellow Aussie)

To which Hobbs chortled back; Yeah, right! The first race I did with him was the ’68 Daytona 24hrs and he stumbled out of his hotel room and said: Uhm? How do I say this? “Swear word; My Swear word (Bleepity-bleep!) Hair!” As he was blutoed from having been up the entire night partying...

But Paul was an excellent driver... He once went into the Monaco harbour, but swam out... Yet, unfortunately he was killed at Oulton Park, behind the wheel of a Lola T70, when he hit a tree and was trapped in the fire...

Continuing with the somewhat morbid theme, SPEED played a very nice montage in remembrance of the just departed Phil Hill, with footage of him racing at Spa in 1961, enroute to victory after having battled all race long with teammate and title antagonist Count Wolfgang Von Tripps. Showed hill passing the yellow Ferrari of Olivier Gendebien, who’d just won the 24 Heurs du Mans co-driving with Hill the week prior... As Hill and Gendebien would share in the spoils of three Le Mans victories for Scuderia Ferrari, with Gendebien scoring a fourth victory at the Circuit de la Sarthe with Paul Frere, who is having one of the track’s corners renamed after him.

And although according to Varsha, there was constant politicking at Ferrari, with Hill never being quite sure if he was supposed to take the victory over Von Trips, but nevertheless, Ferrari squashed the competition that day with an unremarkable 1-2-3-4 finish; Hill, Von Trips, Richie Ginther and Gendebien, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since in Formula 1.

And Varsha further mused that it’s quite hard to find, but if you ever get the chance, check out Phil Hill’s recording from the Sebring 12hrs race, way back when... As suddenly the Belgian landscape was shrouded in precipitation, with driver’s radio’s crackling; “Box-Box-Box!” (Pits) As everybody came in and the session was red flagged?

Saturday Qualifying
As somewhat typical, my note taking seems to slack off the further into a race weekend, as I find that typically the most information is gleamed upon Friday’s coverage and thus, I have very little in the way of notes here...

Although I did jot down that the Hamburgular, a.k.a. Sebastian Bourdais; You know, the other “Sebastian” at Scuderia Toro Rosso shocked the F1 circus by beating everyone in the Q1 “Qualie” session, as the radio crackled to life; Sebastian you’re P1.” As Sea Bass could be heard celebrating, after having picked up an amazing 2.5 seconds over his morning times and would go onto once again make the final Q3 session before ending up ninth.

Surprisingly, both Toyota’s failed to make Q3, while Nick Heidfeld and “KOVY,” a.k.a. Heikki Kovalainen topped the speed trap with an impressive velocity of 192mph...

Yet, it was Lewis Hamilton crushing the field once again, claiming the pole by 3/10th of a second over Felipe Massa, followed by Kovalainen and Raikkonen, as Massa has now out qualified his World Champion teammate 9-4 in the season’s 13 rounds.

Sunday Race
By now everybody knows about the outcome of this most exciting event... With Raikkonen having eased over Massa into Eau Rouge, which once was one of the most feared corners in all of F1, before The Iceman pulled off a brilliant pass upon Hamilton, who’d momentarily spun whilst leading the races early laps. And then there was that most atrocious finish when the skies opened up and Hamilton and Raikkonen played tiddlywinks with each other, before ultimately Kimi crashed into the barriers and Lewis went onto an apparent victory... With Massa gingerly trailing home in second place, while Heidfeld gambled and put on full wets and vaulted himself into third after having been ninth, before the FIA Stewards docked the young Louise a 25 second time penalty... Yet, all of this seems a bit ironic, as it was the 40th Anniversary of team founder Bruce McLaren scoring the team’s maiden Grand Prix victory...

Qualifying Results
Pole: L. Hamilton; 2. F. Massa; 3. H. Kovalainen; 4. K. Raikkonen;
5. N. Heidfeld; 6. F. Alonso; 7. M. Webber; 8. R. Kubica; 9. S. Bourdais;
10. S. Vettel

Race Results*
Winner: F. Massa; 2. N. Heidfeld; 3.; L. Hamilton; 4. F. Alonso; 5. S. Vettel; 6. R. Kubica; 7. S. Bourdais; 8. M. Webber
(* = Pending outcome of FIA Ruling, regardin McLaren’s Appeal)

Point Standings
(Round 13 of 18)

L. Hamilton 76
F. Massa 74
K. Raikkonen 57
R. Kubica 58
N. Heidfeld 49

Ferrari 131
McLaren 119
BMW Sauber 107
Toyota 41
Renault 38