Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Tale of Six Champions— and Eighteen Other Drivers


That is the percentage of the grid made up of world champions. For the mathematically challenged, that’s six drivers out of twenty-four with at least one shiny star to their name.

Twenty-four is, of course, counting the HRTs who didn’t start the season-opener in Melbourne. When they will get to start a race remains a matter of mystery. Someone should start a betting pool for it.

I wouldn’t miss those (slow and sometimes stubborn) moving chicanes though, especially if we have races like today’s.

Jenson was on the button throughout the entire race. Good start, quick overtake of Lewis for the lead, skillful tire management throughout the race. Very Zen from Jenson.

In fact, it was quite Vettel-esque, right down to the celebratory finger-wagging.

"I tried to think of something new but I just can’t beat Seb’s finger."- Jenson 

Even with such a dominant victory however, there’s hope that the championship won’t be as one-sided as last year’s, especially since Lotus Renault and Mercedes didn’t really get to maximize both their qualifying and their race.

One team that did maximize its race was Red Bull, the defending champions.

Mark gave the Aussies something to cheer about as he challenged Lewis for the last step on the podium during the closing stages of the race. But If I were Lewis and I planned to sulk in public after finishing third in the first race of a 20-race season, I would rather have ceded the position to Mark for the following reasons:

  1. Mark can finally have a podium in a decade of racing in front of his home crowd (and they would love me for it),
  2. I can minimize the scrutinizing my facial expressions and body language will be subjected to (seriously, it gets analyzed far more than the Red Bull’s underside), and
  3. I can run straight to the loving arms of Nicole who, by the way, was looking very fresh… I noticed because the director was very generous with the WAGs coverage like I tuned in for them, but that’s F1.

There, there.

Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel looked high as a kite after bringing his RB8 up to 2nd after starting 6th. At times, he even looked happier than the race-winner. Conducted himself like one during the press conference too with answers approximately 150% longer than Jense’s (and 300% longer than Ham’s).

Some find it annoying. I find that, if you dig amongst the rubble, it’s a source of pure gold. Ones like:
“They said we were in the shit, then other people behind us, they were at the back of the shit.”

You know who found himself in the shiz, though? Michael Schumacher with a gearbox problem. Baby Schumi even touched on it, albeit erroneously:
“… he was very kind, he did exactly the same mistake I did a couple of laps earlier, so that was good.”

Déjà vu, I tell you. Didn’t Schumi bin it in Free Practice 3 a few minutes after Seb too? Only this time, Seb was lucky it wasn’t a race-ending excursion. He was likewise lucky with the Safety Car as he jumped the Hamster while avoiding what could have been a very, very messy tussle on-track. Can you imagine, Crash Kid 2010 vs. Crash Kid 2011 (one of them, at least)? Crash Kid 2012 nominee I’ll get back to later.

They're magically delicious!

But to be fair, champions make their own luck. He made what was arguably the overtake of the race. I know some people won’t believe that, so here’s the video:

In my best David Croft impression: NOTHING LUCKY ABOUT THAAAAAT!!!

Speaking of champions, two of the six made very commendable drives through the field.

First up is Fernando who showed again why he is considered one of, if not the best drivers on the grid by literally hauling his F2012 to 5th from 12th. El Nano put in a gutsy drive to save Ferrari’s face somewhat, unlike Felipe baby who just couldn’t stay cool. Instead, he opted for a steaming hot Brazilian tango with Bruno Senna that ended both of their races.

Next is Kimi Raikkonen who made up ten places to finish in 7th. I especially enjoyed the little Kimi vs. Kamui battle. Maybe Kimi should deliberately screw up qualifying in the following races so we can have more of that.

Didn’t I tell you Kimi’s fight back would be interesting? And that wasn’t the only interesting bit from him. See, unlike his Badminton buddy Vettel, the Iceman is a man of few words. The good thing about that is you don’t have to dig as hard to find gems like this one:

Or these from his NASCAR stint. Deciphering them must be a pain though, and on top of all the cuss words I would be getting, I wouldn’t want to be on the other end of that radio.

Now, on to the guys who haven’t been F1 champions, haven’t been close to being F1 champions, and perhaps, will never be F1 champions.

Harsh, I know, but not even four percent of drivers who make it to this level get their signatures engraved on the championship trophy. Doesn’t mean they can’t give us a good show. I mean, how crazy was that last lap?

Just with the two Toro Rosso drivers, it was already a battle, not just for track position, but already for Webber’s seat it seemed. Boy, those two are hungry. For a while, it looked like Jean-Éric Vergne, in his first-ever F1 race, was going to finish ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo. But Dan the Man, in front of his home fans, said yes he can. And he did put it in P9, two places ahead of his teammate.

Sauber was very solid as a team today with both drivers finishing in the points. Ferrari take note. Scratch that, I’m sure they already have seeing as the former outscored them by two points and is currently third in the standings. If this keeps happening, Ferrari might get tempted to supply them with B-grade engines.

Special mention to Sergio for a controlled drive to 8th after being handed that gearbox grid penalty that saw him start the race 22nd.

A Ferrari paycheck would be nice too, no?

Maybe the Ferrari Driver Academy member should already swap places with Felipe but I’m not sure Peter Sauber would agree to that arrangement; and as a Sauber fan, I say “Do not want!”

And finally, drum-roll please.

The first nominee for Crash Kid 2012 is…

Pastor Maldonado!

I know this may be a bit premature but yes, I am still bitter from RoGro’s early exit after I made up that cheer for him yesterday. I couldn’t even properly use it, except to will him out of the gravel trap.

And no, it’s not like Pastor crashed into Romain. In fact, Pastor raced very hard today and was on course towards a 6th place finish that would have earned him three points more than what Williams achieved throughout last year.

That was until he decided to bin it. On the last lap.

I imagine he had his angry face on afterwards.

That is NOT a good look.

To be frank, the entire Williams garage and everyone else back in the Grove factory must have looked like that too.

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