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Monday, June 13, 2011

O Canada! ...With Glowing Hearts we see thee rise

What a day.  From disappointment with the red flag in Monaco to exuberance with the red flag in Canada.  From the depths of my Spanish tyre depression to a most inflated sense of Canadian delight.  It really was the maple syrup on my pancakes, the wonder and awe and amazement that characterises the most complete thing (for what are pancakes without Maple Syrup? crepe!).

What did we not have in this race?

Start under the safety car - Given the state of the track I wasn't too bothered by this, remembering what happened at Spa in 1998.  I understand Eddie Jordan's feeling that the excitement of a proper start was lost but, given the conditions, I wasn't surprised at the way things worked out.

Torrential Downpour - I was amused really by the drivers on the live radio feeds talking at the race director through their teams.  Charlie is listening to all of this stuff and they all know it - why can't they just communicate to him? I know the link is to the team but given that they know he can hear they could appeal directly to him - I guess it's just a matter of form.

The weather really did disimprove dramatically and the red flag was inevitable.  The conditions were reminiscent of Adelaide in 1991 when the race was stopped on Lap 14.  At that time, if you remember, we had no access to pit-to-car radio transmissions and what I remember most of all was Senna, driving down the start-finish straight, along side the pit-wall gesticulating madly that the conditions were undrivable and the race needed to be stopped.  It was, on lap 14 - the shortest ever F1 race.  Senna won.

Even more so I remember it was the first time I didn't get up to see the GP live - I was meeting mates in the pub on Sunday morning to watch the replay.  None of us had listened to the radio or seen the news and we had no idea of what was going to occur.  We bought our drinks and sat down to watch the show, the preamble had built up our expectations for an exciting wet race, another chance to see Senna the Master of the Rain.  And then the pub owner dashed cold water over us - walking behind us he looked up and said the words "Oh yeah, that's the race that they cancelled after 11 laps!" - We cursed him from a variety of heights and grumbled into our drink - but we still watched the race 14 laps! and listened to the afters.  We never did watch another GP in that bar though.

Red Flag - I thought the race director and his team did exactly the right thing.  Even though I had to wait for a couple of hours, listening to Martin and David discuss the merits of red-shouldered Blackbirds and grey shouldered seagulls (even with the constant threat of a black flag and half points), the wait was worth it.

Rhianna and George Lucas.  What I loved watching was the shot of Rhianna drinking her champagne immediately followed by a shot of the boys on the grid getting their polystyrene cups of coffee and a hunk of sandwich - The glamour of working in F1 eh?  Brundle, lost for something to fill the time, making fashion statements about Rhianna's hairdo, while equally cringeworthy, EJ tells George Lucas that he'd make a good Bernie! Live TV.

Restart - The restart was a shambles.  By the time that they had decided to restart the race, with all cars on full wet tyres, the track had dried to such an extent that some teams would have chosen to go with intermediates - as was evidenced by D'Ambrosio going in on the last lap under the safety car to change tyres - and the resultant drive-through penalty.

A slew of cars raced into the pits immediately after the Safety Car pulled in in order to change to inters with the Ferrari's in the next lap - neat work by the Ferrari pit crew, Massa out and Alonso straight in.

Alonso muddles into Button on the chicane and beaches himself - Button gets a puncture and has to drive around to the pits for the fifth time.  Safety Car out and another free pitstop for Vettel.  With Kamui K in second I was expecting him to have a go but Vettel really knows how to control the restarts and didn't give him a chance.

It was only a matter of time before he got overtaken.  Schumi overtakes Webbo - The man drove like the champion he was - just didn't have the car under him to hold the place.  Forget Hakkinen on Schumi around Zonta in Spa 2000 - best overtaking move ever? Michael on Massa and Kamui, on a drying track, on intermediate tyres, lap 52, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2011. It is the Master showing what he's capable of.

Button comes back from 21st to sneak onto the radar again - he's made a sixth visit to the pits and is flying on dry tyres He's up in tenth and surely is driving on pure adrenalin at this stage - he's putting in fastest lap after fastest lap, Jense in the Brawn in the first 7 races of 2009, consistent, fast, aggressive, controlled.  It's like he had drawn a target on Vettel's back and was honing in - He drove like he knew the race was his.

By lap 56 he was into fifth, Heidfeld lost his nose and brought out the safety car.  What a close call for the Track Marshall's - that was a lot closer than I'd ever want to get to Kamui when he was in the car - great control by Kobayashi to steer away from him.  The eternal question do you move and hope to escape the much faster missile pointing directly at you or do you let the driver avoid you?  Common sense says the latter, deer in the headlights syndrome says RUN!

Button flys up behind Schumi and Webbo who are going at it for Second place - Vettel is busy deciding what he's going to say on the team radio after winning again.

Webbo takes Schumi but skips the chicane and relinquishes the place - does a great job not to let Button through, but he can't hold him for long.  He screws up the chicane again, goes off-line and pulls back onto the dry line, Button is much quicker, has to dive onto the wet part of the track to avoid colliding with him, and powers past on slicks in the wet.  Heartstopping moment, could have been the end of his race right there and then.

Another burst of adrenaline must kick in - I've survived that and taken the place - DRS right past Schumi - no worries.  Now where's my target.  Lap 65 to Lap 69 Button pushes like crazy, probably still living on the adrenaline rush from the Webbo overtake, on 69 he gets into the DRS window but can't make it stick, just no quite close enough.

Vettel has stopped thinking about his winning speech and finally decides to concentrate on winning, but, like Brundle always used to say it's hard to pick up the pace again after you've been cruising.  Your mindset is all wrong. And we see the result.  Lap 70, Vettel Cracks for the first time this year - puts a wheel on the wet and spins, Jenson goes by, cheerio Seb! WOW! What a win, What a drive.  Definitely Button's best drive ever.  What a roller coaster of a race.  Even after writing this and recalling everything that happened It's like I've relived it. And I've missed so much Button/Hamilton, Massa, Button/Alonso, Heidfeld (who had a great race up until his run in with Kamui), Di Resta, KERS in the Rain, Button's 5 pit-stops and one drive-through, Schumi overtaking Hamilton, Hamilton running into Webbo, How the Safety Car worked for Vettel, Petrov, and loads more.  You could write a book.

Great drive Jenson, Great drive Michael, Great drive Webbo.  Hard Luck Seb - you still got second and didn't deserve the booing crowd - I apologise for them (even though it has nothing to do with me) but I guess they're just happy to see someone else on the top step for a change! remember the Michael era?  Loved and hated in equal measure.