The Drood Report

Nick Fry is a jerk.

The Australian Grand Prix

So as I posted yesterday, a couple of weeks ago I predicted we’d see an unpredictable race, and called the eventual top 3 correctly. At the time I was mainly saying it out of hope. I honestly expected the usual predictable top 3, but decided that rather than try and win the prediction contest, I’d predict what I HOPED would be the finish. Well, not entirely, as I’d have Heidfeld winning if it was TOTAL fantasy land… Actually scratch that, if we’re going total fantasy I’d have Takuma Sato winning, but I went with a feasible, but highly unlikely prediction… And I completely nailed it, which just makes me wish I’d posted it on here, or on the Sportsfilter post etc… Ah well. I know I was right. So does my wife. So do my kids. (If they were paying attention. Probably not.) No sense dwelling. I’m amused I was right. On with the race review…

The first race of a new era with no traction control, no engine braking, and no mucking around with the differential on a per corner basis. Also the first race to start without a Schumacher on the grid in 17 years! We’re finally free! Qualifying had shown the BMW’s were a threat, but as always with these asinine fuel rules, the fuel load was a big question.

The start was largely as expected. The predictable back of the field carnage occurred with Fisichella deciding to remodel his Farce India into a light aircraft. Fisichella landed pretty swiftly, his car significantly worse off than when it took off. By laps end, a good quarter of the field were buggered in some fashion. Massa had to pit with damage. What had happened? We get an onboard replay and see him go off. “Well he must have been hit.” So we go outside. No car was anywhere near him. Cold tyres + no traction control = Massa’s barely filled glass of talent tipping over and spilling its contents. I’m trying to remember if I recall ANY driver in a top 4 team ever doing any such thing on a dry track. Seen it a few times in the wet (M.Schumacher at Monaco, Prost at Imola), but I don’t ever recall it happening in the dry without any help. Yet another proud moment for Massa.

While all this is going on, from 15th on the grid, Kimi had fought up to 8th. I sat back and relished the prospect of another stellar drive from Raikkonen and… Hang on… How the bloody hell did Rubens get up to 7th?… Why is Raikkonen not… I don’t… Why is Raikkonen stuck behind that piece of crap Honda unable to pass?

These questions were running through my head. For reasons best known to himself, the guy who will soon take Patrese’s record of most GP’s contested was up higher than you’d expect and keeping the current world champion, in arguably the fastest car on the grid, behind him. Eyebrow raising to say the least. This led to a line of utter genius commentary from James Allen on ITV. His insight, his wit… His tenacity at the mike… We should all be in awe of his skills and bow down to the master for this absolute gem of an utterance.

“It’s not helping him being tucked up behind Barrichello.”

Just astonishing that he actually gets paid for this. I’ve not listened to ITV commentary in several years now. I’ve read the “Stop the Cock” campaign. I knew he was bad, but honestly, how have you fans who have no choice but to listen to this cretin not put a bullet in your heads by now? In fact ITV’s coverage is by far the dumbest sports coverage I’ve ever seen, and I say that as someone who watches US coverage of sports. It’s atrocious on so many levels. Louise Goodman is the dumbest broad to ever step in front of a mike, though it was worth it to have David Coulthard make her squirm in Australia. After Massa unceremoniously punted DC off, Louise, as always, goes and asks an angry driver stupid questions. So it was with great joy that we heard DC say “I’m going to kick 3 colours of shit out of the little bastard” on live TV when asked if he was going to have a chat with Massa. God bless ya, DC! Given how many countries use ITV’s commentary, it’s awesome to think of just how many broadcasters DC may have got in trouble with that. Funniest live comment from a driver since Le Mans a few years ago where a driver who I won’t name (simply because I’ve forgotten who it was) dropped the C-Bomb on live coverage. Yes, that most dreaded of “C” words… Sure you can figure it out.

Speaking of Massa vs Coulthard, having looked at the cars this year I do have to wonder if with the sides so high, there’s visibility issues. From the looks of the few cars we’ve had the right viewing angle on, it looks like the drivers now have next to no peripheral vision. Not sure how cutting down the drivers awareness of what’s around his car is a good idea, and now it seems to be a case of once a driver ducks out to pass, the car in front largely has to guess where it is.

In fact with Massa binning it on the opening lap, then destroying Coulthard’s race, combining that with Raikkonen’s bad day, it seems the wheels well and truly fell off the Ferrari wagon this weekend, which is unendingly amusing. I will put my head on the block here as I have no idea if anyone reading this was a reader of my earlier ventures in F1 writing. I always said that when Michael left it’d be pulling the ripcord and the team would spiral down the field as they had banked on short term success rather than long term glory by wrapping themselves so tightly in Schumacher’s poisonous embrace. (Kinda how the female Praying Mantis eats the male after mating.) Last year was largely business as usual, which makes sense as Michael had serious input on the car. The seeds for 2007 were planted in 2006. Now, with the rule changes and all the changes of personnel at Ferrari, we’re into the new era of the team, and Melbourne was by far their worst performance in years. At least in 2005 they were finishing races. This time, for the first time in longer than I care to research, BOTH Ferrari’s retired. Couple that with Raikkonen making more mistakes in one race than he made all season last year. Massa drove like a cretin, but then that’s akin to saying “the sun rose this morning”. While technically true, the fact it IS true is hardly a revelation. What is most interesting is the mechanical issues. Both cars failed. Also Bourdais’ car running a Ferrari engine failed as well with what was clearly one side of his V8 going boom. Not the stellar reliability we’ve come to expect from the Scarlet Menace. Curious.

All the while, Lewis soldiered on at the front. In fact the only time we ever saw him was when a safety car came out. It highlights something I’ve always said, which is that dominating is BAD for sponsor exposure. Think about it. How many times did we see Lewis outside of safety car periods? I don’t recall seeing him at all. I have some recollection of reading that this year Bernie’s Elite TV Ninja’s are responsible for what we see on TV for all races this year (I think it was five races last year), and clearly they know their stuff. As a fan of the sport first and foremost, I would much rather see cars battling over the final points position than watch some muppet at the front lapping on his own endlessly. I don’t care who is fighting over that points position, if it’s cars dicing and fighting, I want to see it! Doesn’t even have to be for points. I’d rather see a ferocious battle for 12th place than a lone driver endlessly lapping. So Vodafone and all the other sponsors of McLaren whose names escape me (money well spent then!) got no exposure with Lewis scampering off like a scalded cock leaving the rest to fight over the scraps, as we spent the entire time watching those scraps, and a glorious sight it was, too.

Scariest moment of the race was Timo Glock’s crash. Has there ever been a car MORE destroyed than this that didn’t hit a barrier? When the car came to rest it looked like he’d had a monster shunt into a wall, but on replay, he didn’t touch anything. He just hit a bad spot on the grass. Now I expect this bump to be gone next year, but this raises an interesting point. The Grand Prix Drivers Association inspect every track and demand safety changes if they see something bad. Yet here we are with a really big bump that nobody ever noticed until Timo found it in such spectacular fashion. Clearly a safety issue that nobody ever noticed before. A year or two back, the drivers were bitching about Monza and Max Mosley stuck the boot in saying the drivers shouldn’t comment on things they don’t understand, or words to that effect. Ironically, Max might have been right as clearly no inspection ever noticed this launchpad to the stars.

Quite clearly at some point over the weekend, Kimi Raikkonen lost his mind. Hanging out with Massa clearly drains ones ability if you do it for too long. This is Kimi. The Iceman. He almost never makes mistakes, and yet here we are having him make two monstrous ones in one race. First while fighting Heikki, he forgot to brake and went off. Then when fighting back, he spun at the same corner! WHERE IS KIMI AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH HIM!? Clearly the Kimi in Melbourne was an impostor, or he’d been out caning it the previous night and was hungover. It’s very strange that Ferrari AND Kimi went off the rails in the same race. Wonder if the car was crap and Kimi was overdriving to compensate? Neither off Kimi had was especially bad, though the first one did nearly put him in the wall, but this was a Kimi we’ve never seen before. Perhaps it’s the changes to engine braking, diff settings and all that, but if you were listing drivers least likely to screw up, Kimi would be pretty high up that list, which is why Melbourne was all the more surprising.

Speaking of screwing up, Heikki did a good job too. After fighting to get past Alonso and seeing Ron grinning like an idiot on the prat perch, Alonso went straight back past. Really wish we could have seen Ron’s face for that one. Turns out Heikki somehow hit the pitlane speed limiter, which I find highly amusing. Heikki shouldn’t feel too bad though, he’s in good company. I remember in the late 80’s in one race (Spain or Portugal in ’88 if memory serves), Berger triggered his fire extinguisher while driving and flew off the track. At least Heikki still got to finish.

The race ticked down and after last years reliability, where more than 2-3 retirements was rare, a mere 7 drivers were running at the finish of this race, though Rubens was later disqualified for leaving the pits under a red a light. Lewis drove a great race, but I really don’t care. I don’t like the guy, and really don’t care to see him win. I nothing him. I was pleased to see Nick Heidfeld take second, but more importantly I was ecstatic to see Nico Rosberg get a well deserved podium finish. A punch the air moment for this longterm Williams fan. The good guys got a podium.

All in all, Australia was a great start to the year. I have a feeling we might see another couple of equally crazy races as drivers adjust to the new electronics under race conditions. I think it’s a bit much to expect Malaysia to be quite as spectacular, if only because the circuit is dull compared to Melbourne (my hatred for Herman Tilke designed tracks is legendary among people who know me), but here’s hoping it’s fairly exciting, and that at race end we feel we’ve actually watched an event rather than a tedious procession. My realistic hope is “Well it wasn’t as good as Melbourne, but it was still good fun!” Of course my fantasy land hope is “GREATEST RACE EVER!”

Kuala Lumpur, here we come!


March 17, 2008 - Posted by | f1 | , ,


  1. Nice report, your views are remarkably similar to mine – other than your dislike of Lewis Hamilton which I just don’t understand. This race clearly showed him to be very friendly with a lot of other drivers, far more than you can say about Mr Sulk or Mr Silent. His driving was exceptional, while as you say, most of his rivals were awful without computer help.

    Comment by fifthdecade | March 18, 2008 | Reply

  2. Lewis is an exceptional driver on his day. As I said in an earlier piece, he needs to add wisdom to the pot as he can go hell for leather, but he doesn’t temper it with intelligence.

    As for not liking him… I honestly can’t put my finger on why. I just don’t like his personality. Some of that is probably due to the Alonso thing last year as I’m a big fan of Fernando. Plus the endless HYPE last year.

    As for Mr. Silent… Last night in my massive MP3 playlist, the theme from “Terminator 2” came up, and I thought “This is perfect music for Raikkonen.” So much so I have the urge to make a video of Raikkonen highlights with that as the music:)

    Comment by Steve | March 18, 2008 | Reply

  3. I really don’t understand the adulation Alonso (aka Mr Sulk) gets. Before he was champion, he had that massive shunt in Brazil when under Yellow flag conditions he ploughed straight into the side of a car that had broadsided and blocked the track at right angles – he hadn’t slowed down at all. That was the moment I decided he was a reckless and dangerous disrespecter of rules and I haven’t supported him since. Before that I thought he was interesting.

    With Lewis, the hype didn’t come from his mouth. He wasn’t the one walking around saying to everyone “I am great, if I had the full support of the team I would be better”. Alonso blames others for his inability to perform; Lewis is honest and, OK, very young. But you cannot blame him for what the tabloids say.

    As for Mr Silent and the Terminator, I can hear the dialogue now:
    Mr Silent to gravel trap: “I’ll be back!”

    Comment by fifthdecade | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  4. If I recall, Alonso hit a wheel that had been left behind by Webber’s huge shunt. The car in front of Alonso barely missed it. ALL the drivers disrespect the yellow flags. It’s just some run out of luck. Look at qualifying in Melbourne. There was a yellow flag, and damn near every car going across the line was less than a second slower than their best lap. That means that’s barely a lift.

    As for Lewis, there is just something about his personality I don’t like. Yes, he’s not responsible for the hype, but there is just something I don’t like about him. Maybe it’ll change. I don’t know.

    As for your line from The Terminator… HAHA!:) That’s great!

    Comment by Steve | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  5. You’re right, many drivers don’t seem to respect the yellow flags, but some disrespect them more than others. Go around the world and see which Nationalities are more likely to jump a red light and I’m sure you’d see a North South divide here. It’s well known in the EU that the Northern countries obey rules more than the Latin ones do. As Ferrari commented when they were defending being caught with an illegal floor but not losing the points for it “the floor was not illegal until it was discovered to be” or words to that effect. Basically, you can do anything you like, it’s only if you get caught that it was illegal.

    Having said that, I think losing a second a lap is quite a slowdown when drivers fight cat and dog and teams spend tens of millions to gain just an extra tenth here and there. Waved yellows are only waved at one corner, not the whole track, so losing one second on one corner must be equivalent to losing say 12 seconds on a complete lap.

    Comment by fifthdecade | March 21, 2008 | Reply

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