Unless you have been very luckily sunbathing in the Maldives and a cajillion miles away from those infernal contraptions known as the TV set, you will no doubt be aware that this weekend just gone was the Italian Grand Prix.
Suffice to say it is terribly difficult to find any form of amusement from a difficult weekend that witnessed Ferrari getting a good drubbing on home turf by the McLaren team. Apart from the vague sense of enjoyment to be had from using your air-horn to deafen the McCheat fan in grey sat next to you, or watching Ron Dennis blub like a 6 year old girl when his team won. Presumably Ron was practising in earnest for this Thursday (Sept 13th) and the World Motorsport Council (I can live in hope).
The weekend began pretty much as it would continue, with the spying scandal dominating the attention of all. The grandstands of Monza Park were plastered with plenty of relevant banners and posters, presumably the tifosi venting their spleens on the subject…. Rather than one of our Nige’s advertising campaigns.
One such Banner reading “get your F2008 plans here” conveniently hung up within spitting distance of the McLaren pits should they have time to stop for a sandwich and to pop across the pitlane for a perusal.
Anyway before we get lost in the politics which will no doubt be a big feature of this week’s motorsport news we should perhaps actually talk about the on track action…well what there was of it.
With McLaren pretty much dominating the Monza test the week before, and much of the free practice sessions leading up to Saturday, it was always going to be an uphill battle for the Maranello Squad to get their cars on the front row of the grid.
In the morning free practice, Kimi Raikkonen did not help matters by sticking his car headfirst into the barriers at the entry to Ascari. Much debate then ensued as to whether the car had suffered some sort of mechanical failure or if in truth the Kimster had been caught napping again. Ferrari later confirming that Kimi had lost control of the car under braking on a bump in the road.
The truth of the matter (apparently) much to the embarrassment of the Ferrari team was that the Finn not used to actually finishing races let alone anything else from his time at McLaren, had dropped his road map in the footwell of the F2007, and as he bent down to retrieve it lest he got lost, he failed to notice a banana skin lying innocently in the road (presumably dropped there by Ross Brawn last year).
The team then had to set about changing the engine over to the T car chassis for the qualifying session to enable Kimi to go out again.
In qualifying Ferrari never quite seemed to have the pace of the McLaren team, as has been the case quite a lot this year. We can’t help but wondering if this is because McLaren are in possession of Ferrari’s magic bible, and the Ferrari team don’t seem to know their bottoms from their elbows without it, let alone which end of the car is which. So can they have it back please Mr.Ron?
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso stormed to a dominant pole ahead of his team-mate Lewis Lovechild, leaving Ferrari trailing in 3rd and 5th spot respectively. Not a good position to be stuck in really for Kimi, as being behind BMW-Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld on the grid would mean he wouldn’t be able to see much of the pit straight at all behind that voluminous facial fuzz.
The McLaren team displaying dominant form despite apparently receiving a friendly visit from the Modena Magistrates who thought they’d pop in for a tour, a cup of tea and a friendly chinwag with the team prior to qualifying starting.
McLaren later issuing a press statement on Sunday declaring the move had been orchestrated to disrupt their on track preparations. Subsequently McLaren’s CEO Ron Dennis admitted that the magistrates had been “very polite and discreet”.
Presumably very alarming behaviour for the likes of Ron when your used to being under siege for being a bunch of ‘cheats’ and have your two drivers perpetually shouting the odds at each other across the garage and flouncing off in huffs every other weekend.
Down at Honda revisions to their planetary nightmare seem to have started paying off with Jenson Button for once making the top ten final shootout. Either that or the entire lack of gravity needed at Monza suited their hippy tree hugging earth dream better than usual.
Red Bull’s David Coulthard joined Ralf Schumacher in the previous GP winners hall of shame, after losing the back end of his car ahead of the first chicane in the first qualifying session putting paid to any further action for the afternoon.
Yet another disastrous qualifying session doing not much to further the F1 career of the other Schumacher brother, who would have us believe he is quite confident of keeping his seat for next year. Right pull the other one, last time we heard such twaddle it was from the mouth of Ron Dennis saying his team would be completely exonerated in the spying/letter writing debacle.
With the two McLaren’s locking out the front row for Sunday’s race, Ferrari had to do something to get back on terms with their bitterest rivals on race day to save a bit of face at home in front of their gloriously partisan fanclub. (Personally a packet of thumbtacks on their grid slots would have done the trick I feel).
As the lights went out Ferrari’s ickle Felipe Massa looked like he was going to snatch second spot off of Lovechild Lewis going into the first chicane, only for Lewis to have a go at punting Massa off track to get it back again.
As McLaren’s Nando (happy as Larry) Alonso lead Lewis, Flippin ‘ell Felipe, Beardy-chops and the Roll-mop chewing Snoozemeister around the opening lap, Red Bull’s David Coulthard yet again was off track this time parking his vehicle neatly in Curva Grande, apparently as a result of a front wing failure.
Here at FFN we are thinking it’s got to be worth going down the betting shop and put a bet on for both Red Bull’s to actually finish a race without a technical failure at some point. As the odds you’d get, going off their season’s reliability so far have to be pretty darned reasonable really. Perhaps if the team stopped drinking all that taurine and being so darned well jittery when they put the car together they might actually get to the end of a race? Just a thought.
As a result of Mr.Magoo’s neat parking trick at Curva Grande, the safety car was deployed giving the backmarkers a chance to catch up with the big guns at the front.
On lap 6 the safety car was brought in, and the ‘race’ was back on again.
A few laps later ickle Felipe seemed to be driving around very slowly, initially we presumed he had slowed down and was looking for his dummy lost somewhere out on the Parabolica but by all appearances all was not happy as the diminutive Brazilian came into the pitlane.
After a quick refuel and tyre change Felipe was sent out on his way again only to return to the garage and retire a lap later due to a suspension failure of some sort.
We don’t really see why Nigel ‘Steppers’ felt the need to apparently sabotage the F2007 before Monaco, given that the Ferrari team seem to be doing a stirling job of messing it up all on their own this season. (I know I’m being a bit harsh – I love them all really).
Felipe then sat about in the garage pouting and doing his best to look petulant anytime the camera’s flashed in his direction. As he might, given that this retirement has effectively put paid to his championship challenge for the season unless the FIA are feeling particularly vindictive towards the McCheats on Thursday at the convening of the WMSC.
Meanwhile, the only real excitement on track was happening between the Honda of Jenson Button and the Williams of flaxen-haired golden boy Nico Rosberg, who were having a tantalising duel swapping places at every given opportunity.
Out front Fandango and Louie were trading fastest laps and scampering away, leaving Kimi trailing behind rather pitifully. Either the Kimster was on a one-stop strategy and heavily fuelled or he kept mistaking the brake pedal for the accelerator. In all fairness the Kimster was apparently struggling all race from excruciating neck pain as a result of his accident in free practice, but we cant help feeling if you don’t keep your wits about you and look out for discarded banana skins you only have yourself to blame.
On lap 18 second placed man Lewis Hamilton came in for the first of his pitstops, followed two laps later by his team mate Nando. Presumably McLaren having learnt their lesson from Hungary that two many drivers in the pitbox is akin to a spanner in the works or some such proverb. Meanwhile the Kimster took the lead of the race, coming into pit just four laps later for his one and only pitstop but was unable to maintain track position over the McLaren duo.
However, unfortunately this time the strategy did not pan out as expected and the Kimster could not keep up with the scintillating pace of his rivals, slipping back too far to be able to challenge them for the win.
Nothing to do with the fact a certain frightening fashionista by the name of Michael Schumacher had been spotted lurking around the Ferrari team over the weekend was it? one too many flowery shirts and dodgy cowboy hats and boots is enough to put anyone off what they were doing…now where was I? No wonder poor Kimi looks like a perpetually slapped haddock.
Meanwhile down at Renault Giancarlo Fisichella was languishing down in 13th after overtaking the Super Aguri of Ant Davidson, his poor start position apparently the fault of Rubens Barrichello who felt the need to go off track and rejoin just in front of the verbose Italian just when he was doing his fastest qualifying lap. Rumour has it Fissyfella was still whimpering and whining about the unfairness of it all 24 hours later.
By lap 30, the Kimster was lapping over 1.2 second slower than race leader Fernando Alone-so and was being rapidly caught and put under pressure by Nick Heidfeld in the BMW-Sauber. Presumably the only thing keeping the Kimster in front of the German was the improved aerodynamic flow around his car due to a lack of a bird’s nest on his chin.
At the end of lap 39 Lewis Hamilton came into the pits for his second stop, only to rejoin the track some seconds later behind the Ferrari of the Kimster much to the delight of the fans in the Grandstands. But it wasn’t to last, being on fresher tyres Lewis was able to outbrake the Ferrari into the first chicane and zoom past the Kimster, who still seemed to be peering into the footwell of his F2007 presumably still looking for his circuit map in order to find out where the drinks stand was.
Meanwhile race leader Nando was 7 seconds ahead of Lewis and looking to all appearances to be firmly on his way to the chequered flag having given his younger illustrious team mate a bit of a lesson.
From this point in nothing much of import or interest occurred (not if you are a tifosi at any rate), with McLaren coming over the line to take a much-needed morale boosting 1-2 on Ferrari’s home turf. Ron sobbed like a girl, and Ferrari snuck off to lick their wounds and regroup for the Belgian GP in Spa this weekend.
It remains to be seen if McLaren will still actually be in the championship come Thursday afternoon, or if they will be thrown out by the FIA for having sticky mitts.
Whatever happens we do hope here at FFN they can race in Spa, just so Ferrari can have another chance at giving them a good trouncing….and if they don’t it will be back to gibbering like an idiot and hiding under the duvet again.