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MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX

 

Ricciardo's odd celebration - will it catch on?  Well that was a race that had just about everything. A different and very popular winner drinking champagne from a shoe – almost a Cinderella story if you will. Plenty of overtaking. Cars bursting into flames. First corner carnage. Cretinous penalties and idiots in budgie smugglers getting arrested. Hell, where to start. At the beginning I suppose.

 

 

  On Friday morning the potential safety hazards of imposing the “halo” were brought firmly into focus. Kevin Magnussen’s Renault suffered a fuel system failure relating to a breather pipe and the fuel tank over pressurised, forcing the fuel out of a vent and erupting in flames in the pit lane. Magnussen was able to extricate himself from the blazing Renault without any injury, but the question now stands even more starkly than before. Would the “halo” restrict a driver getting out of the car in case of a fire? In the situation that arose at Sepang with the car upright and in the pit lane it would probably have slowed Kevin but perhaps not to a very dangerous level. But suppose for a minute that the fuel had leaked while Magnussen was on a balls out qualifying lap, got under his rear tyres causing a spin and the Renault had been upside down after an accident? One of the more ridiculous comments in this safety debate recently is that Formula One cars do not catch fire any more, even in accidents. While admittedly none have for some time, Friday proved that sometimes they still do and it will never be possible to ensure they don’t. The last time we endured the sight of a driver burning to death during a race telecast was back in 1982 – poor bloody Ricardo Paletti – and it’s one that anyone who witnessed it will ever forget and never wants to see again. Maybe Alonso’s call for removable “halos” has merit but could they then ever be strong enough to carry out their intended function – deflecting large heavy pieces of debris such as errant wheels? Way – way more thought needs to go into these devices before they are mandated.

 

  I noted with some amusement the war of words between Vettel and Verstappen both blaming each other for the first corner bingle that robbed Nico Rosberg of his chance at victory. Vettel claiming that it was all Verstappen’s fault for squeezing in on him entering the corner and Verstappen calling Vettel a maniac for diving up the inside. Almost exactly the opposite of the event and words after the first corner at Spa. Guys, it’s a race. Get over it. And the grid penalty that Vettel has copped was not to do with any maniacal dive up the inside of Verstappen, it was for clouting into the side of an innocent Rosberg after he had missed Mad Max. Not that I’m a great fan of Vettel but this is one of the cretinous penalties referred to earlier. OK if there was fault to be found, Seb was probably going a bit too fast to make the corner without clattering into Nico but for Christs sake, this was the first corner at Sepang where there is almost always some sort of carnage as not everyone gets it totally right on entry to a very tight corner. It wasn’t as if Vettel intended to take Rosberg out, it was just an accident – they happen. Again - it’s a race. Get over it.

 

  Which takes us to the second of those cretinous penalties referred to earlier. A ten second time penalty for Rosberg for causing a collision with Raikkonen at turn two. Just what are these morons trying to do. Eliminate all overtaking from Formula One? Why not just ban it and have all the cars drive around in grid order behind a safety car while encased in a protective shield of bubble wrap? At the very same time as the powers (???) that be are debating how to make the sport more “entertaining” to the “casual” viewer they go and hand out a penalty for one of the better – forceful – overtaking moves of the year. It wasn’t all Nico’s fault. It was obvious from any objective view point that Rosberg was lining himself up for a run down the inside of turn two from the way he positioned his car through turn one. It was not too fast as he would have made the corner had Kimi not turned in as tightly as he did. This is not to blame Kimi as he would not have been aware of Nico’s presence at that precise moment in time. So neither driver was truly at fault in what amounted to a minor bump that didn’t really effect either driver nor the outcome of the race. So just what was the point of the penalty? Drivers and some fans have been bitching about the “artificial” DRS making overtaking too easy and wanting passing to be harder to achieve so that you would have moves very much like Nico made on Kimi being more the norm. Sort of what it was like back in the eighties – the good old days. Ah yes, the good old days. When you were lucky to see more than two or three overtaking moves in a race because the drivers all just waited for the pit stops to gain a place because it was too damned dangerous to try it on the track. And as for the DRS being artificial? What about the turbo boost button they all had which handed a driver an extra 100 or so horse power. The only thing more artificial about the DRS than the boost button is that it is regulated in its use so not everyone is using it at the same time. There was plenty of good overtaking at Sepang, some of which was assisted by the DRS but very little that was generated by it. You still had to be in the faster car to get by, and that I believe is the point of motor racing.

 

  It was hard not to feel some sympathy for Lewis Hamilton as his Mercedes engine went bang at the beginning of lap 41. His plaintive cry of  “Oh no…” as the flames poured out the back of his car showed just how much emotion there still is in the sport in these overly professional days. What I couldn’t feel any sympathy for were his comments later that “someone or something doesn’t want me to win” which despite attempts from team management to later play down the comments were clearly a hint that he felt that there was some sort of conspiracy against him. What utter bullshit. No team spending as much as Mercedes does on its two cars would ever contemplate deliberately sabotaging one of its drivers. Apart from the vast amounts involved there are two very good reasons for this. One; Does anyone really think that as a brand, Mercedes, who bank on their image of technical excellence, want the world to see one of their cars with flames pouring out the back as the result of an engine failure? Not likely. Two; Championships can be lost that way. Imagine for a moment that Lewis is correct and that the team had made his car so unreliable that he was only third or fourth in the standings. Nico has an accident and is out for the rest of the year. (Think Schumacher in 2009 or Villeneuve/Pironi in 1982). That, at this point, would leave Ricciardo and Red Bull –Renault as likely champions. Again not something I see Niki Lauda or Toto Wolff ever allowing.

 

  And that leads very nicely into the year’s most popular winner. Daniel Ricciardo finally got his much deserved 2016 win after the disappointments of Spain and Monaco with an utterly determined drive on Sunday. For whatever reason Sepang has never been one of the Aussie’s better circuits and throughout the weekend he was usually a fraction off Verstappen and never really on the pace of the Silver Slings – as usual. Come the race, and a bit of luck at turn one and when the Merc went pop on lap 41, Dan just wasn’t going to let the Dutchman go by. Shortly before Lewis’s flame out Verstappen, on fresher tyres, had caught Ricciardo and the pair fought a side by side, elbows out, wheel to wheel scrap for almost half a lap before Ricciardo outbraked Max into turn 7 and held onto what turned out to be critical track position. When the safety car came out to remove the stricken Mercedes, both Red Rags entered the pits to bung on soft tyres with which they would finish the race. Daniel’s were completely fresh, having used one set less in practice, and this may have been the deciding factor. Despite a concerted push from Max early in the stint Ricciardo finally pulled a two and a half second gap by the time the flag dropped to give Red Bull their first 1-2 finish since 2013 and that enormous smile was back and began one of the more bizarre celebrations the sport has seen. Playing up to the crowd on the podium the grinning West Australian removed one of his driving boots, filled it with champagne and drank from it. I can’t imagine it improved the flavour a great deal. But with the crowd cheering him on he not only convinced team boss Christian Horner to also sup from the boot, but also team-mate Verstappen and remarkably, Nico Rosberg, who should all be commended for their sportsmanship (and bravery) if not their sense of hygiene. Rosberg’s comeback drive from dead last to third after the corner one carambolage was one of his finest and probably just as good as his complete dominance in Singapore two weeks ago.

 

  On a sour note (and I’m not talking about the Champagne Shoe) nine utterly moronic Australian fans were arrested on the track after the podium ceremony after stripping down to their underpants, which were all in the image of the Malaysian National flag. A less respectful demonstration to a fairly conservative but generally delightful national populace I cannot imagine. At this point in time they are still in a Kuala Lumpur nick (good) awaiting a decision on whether to charge them or just expel them from the country. Give the stupid bastards a couple of months I say…..

 

 

 

For full results go to http://www.mmmsport.com.au/index.php/the-database/formula-1-races/2010-2019/2016-formula-1?limit=20&limitstart=20

 

Sam Snape

 

05-10 2016

 

BELGIAN GRAND PRIX

 WE DON’T NEED ANOTHER THUG

   Max Verstappen needs a large clog up his Khyber Pass, because if he doesn’t get it he will end up with a large F1 car there instead and who knows what the consequences will be. And it’s Charlie Whiting and the race stewards that need to wield the clog – NOW. Don’t get me wrong, I like Max. He is just about everything F1 needs right now. Young, fast, exciting, a demon overtaker who will surely become a world champion if he lives long enough. He just needs to reign in his overly aggressive defensive swerving. Because if he doesn’t, someone will get hurt. Someone will not back off like Kimi did at Spa and when that happens, either Max or that someone will have an almighty accident.

 

  The stupid thing is that what Max did at Spa was almost entirely within the rules as they stand. And the equally stupid rules will probably not be changed by the hypocritical FIA until someone does get hurt – or worse. But those same people who insist on safety cars starts in the (mildly) wet and those abominable bloody halo things are the same ones who refuse to enact certain parts of their own regulations to prevent this upcoming tragedy. The rule that Max hasn’t broken is as follows, Article 27.6 of the FIA's sporting states: "More than one change of direction to defend a position is not permitted. Any driver moving back towards the racing line, having earlier defended his position off-line, should leave at least one car width between his own car and the edge of the track on the approach to the corner." 

Well Max only made one change of direction on the Kemel straight so technically he was within the letter of this law. It’s just that his move was late and on a rapidly closing car that had to brake to avoid an enormous accident. 

  And this is where the stewards should have broken out the clog. Articles 27.5 and 27.8 state in part: "at no time may a car be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person" and "manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such as deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are not permitted". Swerving late into the path of a rapidly closing car would have to be, in any sane view, considered as driving erratically with an abnormal change of direction in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person and liable to hinder other drivers. Just imagine what the cops would do if they saw you doing this on a highway? It unfortunately seems that the only way to get Max to understand this is to hit him, or any other driver using such odious methods is to hit them with ever increasing penalties. First offence – 10 seconds. Second offence – drive through. Third offence – start at the back of the grid. Fourth offence – race bans. 

  The overriding problem though is the bloody stupid rule 27.6 allowing one change of direction to defend a position in the first place. It was bought in to try to codify what had until that point been the unwritten rule that you did not swerve about on a race track, because you just might kill someone. Those two class A thugs, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher had concluded that as there was no such written rule, they could pretty much do whatever they wanted and receive no penalty – think Senna on Prost at Estoril or Schumacher on Barrichello at Hungary. Sadly they were right, the FIA did bugger all and suddenly every up and coming driver thought it was OK to drive others into concrete walls. So the very badly thought out article 27.6 came into being. And being worded the way it is, it can be read as it is OK to drive others into concrete walls, so long as you only do it with one move. Brilliant….

   The obvious rule that should have been introduced is the one that has been in use in Indycar (and the CART series before that) for many a year. That is you are allowed to take any racing line you like onto a straight or into a corner so long as you do not then alter that line in reaction to an attacking car. Put simply – you are not allowed to block another car from passing you. And do you know why you hardly ever see blocking in Indycar racing? Because the stewards there impose penalties ruthlessly. And they don’t bugger about with small time penalties either. They start at drive-throughs and escalate to disqualification and race bans very rapidly. 

  So Charlie please, enforce your own existing rules regarding dangerous driving and Max, please, go on and win those championships, but please, please, please, we don’t need another thug. 

Sam Snape

 30-08-2016

 

 

 

THE UNCERTAINTY OF FOREGONE CONCLUSIONS

 

  Toyota win Le Mans – Almost. How many times could that headline been written over the past two decades? This time it was particularly harsh for the determined Japanese manufacturer. It wasn’t a middle of the night drama or even a problem with an hour to run. For 23 hours, 53 minutes and 27 seconds the Toyota of Kazuki Nakajima, Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi was on course to defeat the defending champions, Porsche with whom they had battled furiously since the start. All four cars from both teams had led and entering the final hour there were just seconds between the two leading cars.

 

  This had been a titanic struggle, the likes of which had never before been seen at the 24 hours and may never be witnessed again. The number 1 Porsche had led early but suffered a long pit delay due to a cooling system failure. The second Toyota dropped back with bodywork damage limiting its speed with about three hours to run. Either team had a chance but as the final hour wore on the number 5 Toyota edged away. The Porsche struggled to stay with Nakajima as the Toyota could run that little bit longer just that little bit faster. With 10 minutes to go Porsche effectively threw in the towel by pitting for fresh tyres and a top up of fuel. Neel Jani was now one minute and nine seconds behind with three, possibly four laps to run. Surely, finally, the race was now a foregone conclusion. Surely, finally, Toyota would break the hoodoo that has hovered over it and win the Le Mans 24 Hours.

 

  But no. With just 6.33 left on the clock came the desperate radio call from Kazuki, “I’ve lost power.” But the Toyota was still moving at pace. Not full pace but still pulling over 180 kph on the Mulsanne straight. If they could at least keep that pace maybe just maybe, they could still limp home. By the time Kazuki got to Arnage forty odd seconds of the lead had disappeared and gloom and disbelief was setting in down in the Toyota garage. As Nakajima entered the Ford chicanes he was now in sight of Jani’s Porsche and with just under three and a half minutes to go the Toyota exited the chicane onto the start/finish straight and ground to a halt right in front of the pits. At 23 hours, 56 minutes and 39 seconds Neel Jani passed the stricken Toyota to begin his final lap giving Porsche its 18th outright win at Le Mans. 3 minutes and 21 seconds. That was all the time that the Toyota needed to keep going for. That’s less time than it took my espresso machine to make this mornings coffee. Less time than you can wait at a red light in the morning crawl to work. It was hard not to be emotionally effected as the disbelief descended into tears of despair at Toyota. This was as harsh and cruel as it gets in motorsport without the inclusion of injury or loss of life. As one commentator said “Someone should make a movie of this”. However as Anthony Davidson pointed out, “If someone made a movie of this, no-one would believe it.”  

 

Sam Snape

 

22-06-2016    

 

A SOGGY PAPER BAG

 

   I never thought it would come to this. Sunday night (in Oz), Monaco Grand Prix. Expectations high after a scintillating qualifying in which Daniel Ricciardo put in another of THOSE laps to take pole. Just 0.066 shy of the fastest lap ever of Monaco. Predictions of rain – just to spice things up nicely. A great battle in prospect with the two Silver Slings and Vettel chasing hard on his tail. You tune in and yes, it is damp but it has stopped raining. There are no huge puddles or rivers streaming across the track. The sun is even starting to peek through. They are all on full wets so will anyone be able to make them last long enough to go straight on to slicks. We all know that passing is a bugger at Monaco so who can do what with their rubber could be vital. A quick top-up of my glass of red and into the comfy chair.

     WTF???? Starting behind the safety car? Just because it’s a little damp? Again, they are all on the “extreme” wet tyres. There is NO standing water. NONE!!! The sun is now out. Drivers are complaining over the radio that they SHOULD be racing. The safety car continues. And then it happens. Having watched every race live since Belgium in ’81, yes even that Indy race, the words “Fuck this” escape my mouth, the TV is off and I am heading to bed to get up early and watch the Indy 500. OK it’s just a sort of one make series race with four left hand corners but at least with Indy, you KNOW they will race. Unless it’s wet, but on an oval at 230 MILES an hour that’s understandable. On a street circuit at maybe 75 miles an hour it’s not. Not understandable. Not excusable.

    And that’s just me. At home. Turning off the idiot box and going to bed early. How do you explain this to someone that has just possibly spent about two or three months wages taking the missus and kids to Monaco to see the greatest drivers on the planet battle it out in what is supposedly Formula One’s Blue Riband event? What happened at Monaco displayed everything that is so wrong with F1 at the moment. There is no thought given what-so-ever to the poor mugs in the grandstands who are forking out ever increasing amounts to be served up shit in a soggy paper bag. The reason I fell in love with this sport is that the drivers were heroes who battled not just each other, but whatever conditions that were thrown at them. Races rarely stopped even for the most torrential rain until the late Eighties, hell occasionally they even raced while it was snowing.

    They were gladiators in brightly coloured cars with enormously fat slicks and big wings that had way more power than grip. Power slides were still one way to get around quickly. Screaming flat & V12s, rorty V8s, squealing steel brakes and the smell or burning oil and rubber. And then came the turbo age. Bugger 1000 horse power that the powers that be are wanting sometime soon. BMW and Honda were churning out over 1500 in qualifying trim. You could always tell when Piquet was on a qually lap because you could see the plume of black smoke that was from the burning rocket fuel that was rapidly destroying yet another BMW engine block well before the car came into sight. Having to manage all that grunt coming in at once with just one hand on the steering wheel because the other one was being used to change gears. Yes, they still had gear levers. And clutch pedals. They had to be bloody miracle workers just to keep these beasts on the black stuff let alone race.

    Now it seems to be rule making by knee jerk. It was put ever so well once in Yes Minister. “Something needs to be done. This is something. We must do it.” A prime, and pathetically stupid, example was paraded at Monaco. A new rule was to come into force whereupon a driver was no longer allowed to dispense with his visor tear-off strip by tossing it away from the car. Why?? Whatever or whoever could have decided that this practice was in any way harmful and had to be eradicated from the spectacle of motor racing? Then after coming across some criticism from various sectors, including drivers pointing out that it may be dangerous having those used visors rattling around the cockpit, the rule was dumped before it was even introduced. The current head protection issue is also a prime example. The great and mighty have decided that the “Halo” concept is to be introduced for next year as the best way of avoiding head injuries. Really? The best way? OK it would prevent errant wheels and other large objects from striking a driver but probably not any smaller ones which can cause just as much head trauma. Just ask Felipe Massa. The Halo would not have stopped the spring from hitting him if it was horizontal. A few drivers opined that the Halo would have protected Jenson Button if the flying piece of gutter cover went any higher than it did during practice. Again not if it had been horizontal. It just would have gone straight through the gap and the effects would have been catastrophic. The Halo is not just stupendously ugly but fatally (??) flawed. The only device that would provide full protection is either a canopy or the screen that Red Bull tested in Russia. These could conceivably carry their own dangers though in the event of an overturned car or fire etc. But hey – Head protection – something must be done. The Halo is something. We must do it.

    Despite decades of fan feedback almost universally demanding a reduction in aerodynamic downforce to improve the actual racing, what do the great and mighty come up with? Something must be done to improve the racing. More grip and downforce is something. We must do it. Not one team manager thinks this will improve close racing or overtaking. The wider cars will create more drag and disturbed air. With the cars being more aero-dependant they will less able to be close enough through corners to aid overtaking on the straights. But this is what we will get in 2017. It’s almost impossible to overtake at Monaco as is (or Catalunya for that matter), so won’t it be so much better with wider cars that can’t get as close as they currently do? Can’t wait.

    So watched the Indy 500 which was typically American. Tons of overtaking. Some silly driving and cars into the walls. Bad driving vigorously punished. Forget five second penalties, bad boys go to the back of the field or do a stop-go in the pits. No stupid grid penalties for the next race, you get whacked immediately, just as it should be. Brilliant placement of TV cameras so that the impression of speed was given even on TV. There’s something else F1 could learn from the Yanks. Varying fuel strategies resulting in some very late “splash and dash” pit stops a few laps from the end. The winner was the occasional Manor driver Alex Rossi who took the lead with just three laps to go and running on fumes in the fuel tank. He ran out of gas coming out of the final corner but had enough momentum to coast across the line to win his very first “500”. A great fun spectacle that had you in doubt as to the winner until the flag dropped. The exact opposite of Monaco.

    Watched the recording of Monaco after Indy and what a contrast. The first ten percent of the race was behind the safety car. Snore. The rest was fairly processional. Hamilton couldn’t get past Rosberg despite the latter being slowed with brake problems until team orders were issued. After the pit stops, in which Red Bull made a monumental cock-up of Ricciardo’s tyre change which cost him a certain win, no-one else of note successfully overtook. Ricciardo was stuck behind Hamilton. Vettel was stuck behind Perez. Everyone was stuck behind everyone else. It was at about the 40 lap mark that the fast forward button started being used extensively because you knew nothing was going to change except in the case of some stupidity. Kyvat and Magnussen for example. Or the Saubers. Just what a team struggling with financial issues needed, its two drivers taking each other out while dicing for last place. Good grief Charlie Brown.

    Here’s an idea. If we have to put up with Monaco with its lack of passing as a Grand Prix circuit, and I don’t mind it once a year as it is very different from all the other Tilkedromes, how about an F1 oval race? I like the idea of F1 cars racing on all types of circuits and the one glaring omission is an oval race. A Grand Prix at Indianapolis, Michigan, Rockingham or the Lausitzring? Or even Motegi? Could be fun and some of the teams that are not usually in the running could be dark horses. How fast are the Manors in a straight line for example? Or Williams and Force India? Red Bull and Mercedes would be hard pressed to beat them around an oval.

    Then again I like the idea of a mixture of engine types, bugger-all aero downforce, steel brakes, manual gear changing, my heroes racing in the rain, engines that occasionally detonate and a bit of doubt as to just who will win any given race. Maybe that’s why I spend way more time at historic racing these days. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper and a hell of a lot more fun than going to Monaco and seeing them troll about behind the safety car.

    For them wot are interested the ARDC/HSRCA are putting on a pretty good historic meet at Eastern Creek on the June long weekend. I know where I’ll be – getting great value for my money. And not a soggy paper bag of shit in sight.

 Sam Snape

 31/5/2016

 

LAPS OF THE GODS

 

  There are those brief moments in time when a great driver (or rider) gives free reign to their otherworldly talent and produces a lap, or in a very few cases, a series of laps that enter into folk-law. One of THOSE moments that if you were lucky enough to witness – even on telly – you and others will talk of through the ages. These are the Laps of the Gods. Gilles Villeneuve in torrential rain on a Friday afternoon at Watkins Glen. True the lap was 25 seconds slower than Alan Jones’ dry morning session time, showing just how thoroughly wet the afternoon was, but Gilles was just under 10 seconds quicker than anyone else in that session. A time of 2’01.437 against 2’11.029 set by team mate Jody Scheckter, who you will recall had just wrapped up that seasons championship. Jones, in the stunning new Williams FW07 could only muster 2’37.742. Just wrap your head around that. Jones, who had won four of the past five races in what was now by far the best car, was 36.3 seconds slower than Gilles.

 

  Not that Gilles’ lap there was the (or his) only example. Take Bernd Rosemeyer. The Eifelrennen race at the Nurburgring (the real one) started with rain and at half distance Rosemeyer was 18 seconds down on Nuvolari who was leading. The rain increased and by the start of lap 7 Bernd took the lead. The next time around he was 15 seconds to the good. And only then did he show what he could really do. By the beginning of lap 8 the fog began to set in. It is said that it was so thick that the pits were not visible from the grandstand. So understandably the drivers slowed down. Except Bernd. Lap 8 was 40 seconds faster than anyone else, Lap 9, 41 seconds and lap 10 a mere 36 seconds for the final lap of the race. The final winning margin over Tazio Nuvolari – one of motor sports true greats – was 2 minutes and 12 seconds. Rosemeyer had pulled out 1 minute and 57 seconds in just three laps of the fearsome Nordschleife in fog that brought down the visibility to about 15 metres. The Nordscheife seemed to engender these moments. Fangio overhauling the Ferraris to win his final race in 1957 and Jackie Stewart winning by over 4 minutes in torrential rain in 1968 surely must count as examples of the topic.

 

   Keke Rosberg set the first 160 mph average lap in Grand Prix history at Silverstone in 1985 (before they started butchering it with chicanes) in a Williams Honda, with a deflating rear tyre. And then hopped out and had a ciggie. Michael Schumacher’s series of “qualifying laps” to win the Hungarian Grand Prix in 1998. Moss holding off the Ferraris at Monaco in 1961. Alessandro Zanardi’s last lap lead grab at the corkscrew at Laguna Seca. But not all are laps that produce victory. Some are just stunning because of the performance of the car is transcended. Take Monaco in 1984. And no, I’m not talking about Senna. In ’84 everyone had Turbos except Tyrrell who generally struggled to qualify with their ancient Cosworth V8s. Lap 27. Stefan Bellof overtakes Rene Arnoux’s Ferrari at the Mirabeau – on the footpath - for third place. What would have happened if the race hadn’t been red flagged? Senna was catching Prost but Bellof was catching Senna even faster. Of course we’ll never get to find out and sadly of the three, only Alain is still with us.

 

   I bring this topic up because so far this year there have been some stonking laps that have sadly not been given the prominence that they deserved. For me it started with the Moto 3 race in Argentina. I’d never heard of Khairul Pawi, at just 17 the junior team mate to Hiroki Ono at Honda Team Asia. He had qualified well for the team and lined up 7th on the grid. On dry tyres while most of the field was on intermediates as the track was still wet. You will notice that wet weather often plays a part in these matters. That he led the first lap by a second was superb, but then he proceeded to pull away from the field (again – on DRY tyres) by 3 seconds a lap so by lap 5 he was 13 seconds in the lead. By lap 7 he was 20 seconds in front. In Moto3. Bloody unheard of. From there he started cruising so at lap 18 he was only (gee only) 26 seconds in front. Will he ever reproduce such a performance? We’ll see if they put him on a real front running bike and then some of Marques’ Moto2 and Moto3 heroics may just be relegated from the front rank. Most of the press were rightly enraptured with the dominant performance by Valentino Rossi and his early lap mastery in Spain. Not that I want to down-play that, it was a super ride, but the old dog(ter) is on the best bike and in the best team in a field with really only three competitive teams. Moto3 is vastly more competitive and rarely does anyone even in one of the very top teams put a gap of even 1 second on the field over the course of a race. On drys, in the wet, not on the best bike for the best team, 3 seconds a lap….ye gods.

 

   Nico Rosberg has also pulled out one this year, and again not all that much has been said about it. Most of the talk after the Russian GP was that Hamilton was robbed of a chance of a win due to his water pressure problems. Total and Utter bollocks. True, while Rosberg was dealing with some energy issues of his own and some traffic Hamilton got the gap down to 7 seconds from about 14 and set his best race lap of 1’40.266 on fresh tyres on lap 36. As if to say to Lewis, “wouldn’t have mattered” Nico bunged in an astounding 1’39.094 on knackered tyres on the second last lap of the race, some 1.7 seconds quicker than Hamilton on fresh rubber. That qualifies. Daniel Ricciardo has also transcended his Renault hampered Red Bull twice in qualifying so far this year. Both in China and Spain he produced stunning laps to start 2nd and 3rd respectively, almost half a second quicker than his team mates on both occasions. That’s a lot these days and both times Kvyat and Verstappen were right on the cars ultimate pace. That Max beat Ricciardo to the win in Spain is a great story, but one that owes as much to strategy calls by the team as outright pace. Which Max has in spades. Undoubtedly Max will soon be adding his own legendry moment to this conversation but that’s for another day.

 

 

 

Sam Snape

 

 

 

16/05/2016