The Formula One Insider
By Mitch McCann, USA
Atlas F1 Magazine Writer
NOW THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!
Wow! Can you believe it? Finally! After five predictable races, Bumgardner outqualified Bruni!
OK, so maybe that wasn't the highlight of the weekend. But wasn't it nice to get up early and not wish that you'd had a lie-in instead? Now I know I'm not going to make many friends amongst Ferrari/Schumacher fans but I don't have many anyway so, what the hell! Michael Schumacher did Formula One fans the world over a favour by not showing up for this race. Seems Ross Brawn, master tactician, took some mental time off this weekend and decided to fill Michael's tank to the brim for qualifying. Obviously, he didn't think qualifying was very important at a track like this and figured that a couple of extra laps at the end of the first stint were worth the trade-off of qualifying just a couple of rows ahead of the Minardis. (Did I mention the fact that Bumgardner qualified 19th!?)
With MS effectively out of contention for the win long before he lost interest completely, it was wonderful to watch a race wondering who was going to win. The fact that it turned out to be a pole to flag victory did nothing to dampen the excitement. This was like the old days when I used to watch the races to find out who was going to win. My heart would start beating faster as the red lights came on and wouldn't slow to a normal pace until the end of the race. Now that's what I'm talking about! This race had everything: excitement, drama, passing (yes there was, I saw it!), lead changes (OK so maybe they were only of the technical variety but I'm going to allow that this week), topless women (check your tape of the race) and enough upside down race-cars to get a NASCAR fan to get out of his seat and say "Ah shoot! There's only one!" Maybe Ferrari will take a full two week break and give us another exciting race next week.
Takuma Sato, the Pinball Wizard, made an amazing start elbowing Schumacher out of the way on his way from seventh to fourth. The only thing quicker than his start was his demise. By the first corner his engine was smoking like the Marlboro Man after a lung transplant and it was clearly only a matter of how long and how many people will he take out with him when he goes. Turns out the answer to both questions was two - two laps and two victims. Fisichella's tucked roll with a twist scored high marks with the judges with only the Russian judge scoring him as low as 5.0. David Coulthard of course got it in the rear once again - probably won't be the last time this season.
DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
As long as your definition of forever is half a lap. (And for the first five races of the season I would have agreed with you). Seems some bright marketing spark thought it would be great advertising to stick a couple of diamonds to the front of a couple of Formula One cars. (Just a quick straw poll - did anybody decide to go out and buy a diamond from... whoever the hell that company was... because of this marketing ploy?)
Now it seems that somebody at Jaguar was a little remiss in explaining computational fluid dynamics to the marketing gurus who therefore failed to realize that when cars crash they frequently crash at exactly the point where they stuck their little carbon nuggets i.e. the pointy bit at the front. So when Mr. Clean crashed half way round the first lap, nose first into the barrier, we were all able to modify the conventional wisdom.
When you slam a diamond into a metal barrier at 100 mph, you don't prove that diamonds are the hardest thing known to man. They are the hardest thing to find known to man. I think the responsible marketing genius and the responsible insurance genius are still arguing about who should lose their job. (I believe that one of the course workers has been making inquiries about the delivery time for a Jaguar XK).
ALONSO AND RALF - HANDBAGS AT DAWN
Seems Alonso felt that Ralf had something to do with him bouncing his way out of the tunnel and down to the Nouvelle Chicane instead of proceeding in the more normal nose-first fashion. (Precious gem marketing gurus take note - there's a clue there). Now there's no real way of telling whether Alonso made a bonehead mistake or Ralf really did help him into the wall by accelerating and/or moving over, but whoever is at fault it's been fun to watch the war of words deteriorate into a playground slinging match.
Apparently, Ralf thinks Alonso is a snot nosed kid who wouldn't know the front of a car from the back (or where to put the diamond) and Alonso thinks Ralf would be "crucified if his name was Bumgardner." Although to be fair, many people would prefer crucifixion to being called Bumgardner. Actually, the strangest thing is that Alonso thinks Ralf is getting special treatment because of who he is. And who is he? Well, out of the drivers in the best eight cars on the grid, he is seventh best. Not exactly a rising star, eh? Do you think Fernando knows that there are two Schumachers in the race?
I had to save the best for last. What was Michael doing in the tunnel? He says it's not unusual to lock up the tyres when trying to warm them and I must admit that I don't remember whether I've noticed people doing that before or not, but it certainly seems to me that if you're braking hard enough to lock your tyres then you are actually only warming about a 4 inch contact patch and not, in fact, the entire tyre.
Certainly, Montoya thought the maneuver was a little excessive as he obviously would not have intentionally driven into or around Schumacher when following the safety car. I'd like to just chalk this one up as a bonehead move by Schumacher. Obviously, his fans think he's perfect and not prone to mortal error and I do expect to hear from them this week. But for the rest of us, let's savour a god's slight imperfection and the exciting racing it brought us. Same again next week please.