And so the season is over
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at least up the pointy end of the championship table.
Michael has his seventh gong, I got that right even if Kimi did take the win at Spa. Rubens will persevere and take 2nd giving Ferrari another hat trick. I don't like Michael but I do have enormous respect for his talent and spend a fair bit of time defending him in this column. Sorry folks gotta do it again. Michael got a bit of a roasting from the press for his 'wooden, sour grapes' response to the post-race interviewers questions. I didn't see it that way. He's a professional and he knew that Spa was about Kimi's second GP win, not about his own 128 points or his 7th title. He called a press conference a few days later to take his glory. That was gracious, not spiteful. Michael knows he has nothing left to prove and he gave the limelight to the apprentice.
Further back down the field it is another story. Mixed emotions must abound in the Williams and McLaren camps. One of these two will get fourth place in the constructors championship, getting more cash and kudos - the other - provided that testing rules won't change - will win something far more valuable, track time on Fridays during 2005. To either of these teams not doing your best in anathema and knowing that the least successful will go into next year with a huge advantage (Just ask BAR if Fridayís 3rd car time is valuable) must be galling.
Spa was an interesting race of incidents, accidents and blowouts; all criteria for spectacle but not the stuff great races are made from. I didnít see Spa as a Ďgreat raceí, I found it entertaining but I was horrified at the risks it presented. Michelin and its partners are desperate and that desperation is showing in marginal tyre selection. Itís no coincidence that all the tyre related incidents involved Bibendum failing. Ferrari stated that they had made a conservative choice on tyres, they could afford to and the others couldnít.
The FIA (more on them later) are pushing for a ban on shard producing component materials for external parts (ie exposed carbon fibre) and that canít come soon enough for me. It was very obvious that the Race Stewards at Spa learnt nothing from Indianapolis, preferring to continue the TV coverage than to make the track safe. As valuable as the proposed rule change is I am worried about the next race, not the next season. Brooms patently donít work so red flags and vacuums have to be the order of the day. Lets not wait for another Senna-like incident to fix the problem. Ralf was enough, Jenson could have been worse if it werenít for the unfortunate Baumgartnerís Minardi.
No, Spa was not a Great Race, but it was a spectacle. Iím not sure if the spectacle was caused by, or reduced by, the number of incidents that occurred. US Driving-Round-In-Circles World Championship (I'm now an honourary American so I can say that) events are ruled by safety cars and full track yellows bunching the cars up whenever you can see daylight between the bumpers and they provide spectacle too, but three safety cars is three too many for F1. If there is a dangerous situation, stop the race, remove the danger and restart. That will bunch the cars up and allow close racing again, but it will control the danger, not sweep it into the track surface.
One Boxing Analyst at the Olympics made the statement "Sure there have been injuries, and even some deaths in boxing, but none of them really that serious." Lets not adopt those same brilliant principles to the pinnacle of motor sport.
Iím not even sure what makes great races. It certainly isnít accidents, blowouts and safety cars. Pitstop Chess doesnít fit into my definition anywhere either. I recall only a handful of truly great races, but then senility is fast encroaching. The common denominator for most (not all) was weather. Wet weather! Most of the drivers out there today are competent steerers, some are brilliant. Wet weather brings out that brilliance more often than dry.
Following that logic I propose building a track at each of the following; Mawsynram, India, Debundscha, Cameroon, Quibdo, Columbia, Bellenden, Australia, Henderson Lake, B.C. and Crkvica, Bosnia-Herz. These are, according to the web site I looked up, the wettest places in each of the continental regions. Now we can start eliminating tracks (starting with Hungary please) and replacing them with a track like Bahrain (probably need better roof structures in the stands though) in each of these areas. I know I would pull my galoshes on and join the circus.
Kimi won at Spa, and deserved to. I was particularly impressed with his racecraft during safety car periods. Michael had time to stop and reinflate his tyres with a footpump had the Ferrari been so equipped. By forcing Michael to a crawl Kimi capitalised on the only weakness the Ďconservativeí Bridgestoneís displayed Ė rapid deterioration when cool. In the circumstances Michael acquitted himself well, he had no answer to a situation that required several laps to get the tyres back up to operating temperatures, not once but three times.
BAR, Renault and Williams were the big losers at Spa, Toyota were unlucky but didnít deserve the points they missed out on anyway. Had troubles not hit the faster teams they wouldnít have been up there anyway. Pizzonia was driving quite well till he got given a choice of which neutral he would like by a recalcitrant gearbox. Montoya and Alonso were both looking at podiums in their turns when disaster struck them. Button could argue the same. Trulli, Iím still not sure what happened there but I do believe him when he claims the car was undriveable, he slowed down too much for it not to have been real, and Renault have him driving next week with a completely new chassis. They wouldnít have if they doubted his claim. Webber blotted his copybook again and was probably instrumental in most of the carnage that followed.
Kimi and the two Ferrari drivers were the winners.
The FIA have released their engineer-speak options for next years design criteria, a tad late given that a decision is still some way off. Bottom line, they have backed down on the engine size reduction in favour of more stringent aerodynamic requirements and left it up to the Technical Working Group to decide on which set (or combination of components) of not very attractive design changes they will take. Everybody concerned needs a swift kick for the delays in getting to a set of design rules for a season only 6 months away.
Bernie has obviously gone off his tablets again. Now he wants points for qualifying but qualifying to not count towards err .. qualifying! His latest bout of senility has bought on a proposal to award points for something (not sure what you would call it Ė it certainly isnít qualifying) on Saturday then draw the starting positions for the race out of a hat. Would that be the same hat you were talking through when you came up with this weird notion Bernie? Might be better if you just get your script refilled and wait for the drugs to kick in before you try thinking again.
Now on to Monza where the strategy of the Williams and McLaren teams will become apparent. We just might see huddles of team members trying to come up with excuses for why their cars were doing 5 kph down the main straight trying to lose a point to the opposition.
One thing is for sure, Ferrari will be very quick again and the BARís plus (if the strategists let them) the Williams and Kimiís McLaren will all be up there at this power circuit. Iím still looking for a Red 1-2 though, to quote a TV Softball Presenter at the Olympics ďIf history repeats itself, I should think we can expect the same thing againĒ.
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While I usually can't disagree with your your informative comments and
whole heartedly agree with what you have said on the safety issue this time,
I cant help but wonder if Carbon Fiber is not getting a raw deal here?
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