BE QUIET & DRIVE


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The Fall Guy (mini blog)

If I was Pastor Maldonado, I’d be spending the break between Korea and India in deep talks with Romain Grosjean, finding out what spectacularly expensive Christmas present he’d like.

Let’s be fair, Romain has done Pastor an enormous favour; becoming the new ‘love to hate‘ driver on the grid.

Since Spa, the heat has been rising in the cockpit of the number ten Lotus, while Maldonado’s Williams has quietly slipped back into the pack, even scoring a well deserved second spot on the grid in Singapore. Everyone seems to have forgotten about his bristling collection of misjudgments  while the paddock stamps it’s collective feet about a cartwheeling E20.

However much the Williams press team might have wanted to breath a sigh of relief at the idea of Pastor spending a week or two out of the headlines, he was off again. This time chatting with reporters about how he may not be keeping his seat, not a week later, at the Korean Grand Prix driver press conference, he was letting them know that he’d love to stay. Make your blooming mind up!

I’m one of Pastor’s greatest critics, in the past I have labelled him a dangerous, pay-to-race driver, with a hot head and a penchant for dicey moved he lacked the talent to pull off. If you’re asking me has this opinion changed? My answer is not yet. Let’s see what he can do for the rest of the season, then we’ll decide.


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Schumi the way to go home.

It’s been a difficult seventeen years onboard the Michael Schumacher rollercoaster. From deviously  evil genius, to laid back mellowed out grandfather of the grid, he’s been one of the constants in my Formula One lifetime and, in a turnabout to my previous opinions, I’m going to be sorry to see him go.

My formula one watching career is only surpassed by Michael’s driving, I joined the television circus in the summer of 1995, I was fourteen.

My first memories of Michael are of arrogance, aggressive self belief to the point of narcissism. He was hard faced, he didn’t care about anyone except himself, both on the track and off it. He strutted about the paddock, exuding importance (unsurprising given that this was his second Championship clinching year) and I hated him.

Michael Schumacher celebrating with team principle Flavio Briatore
– Daily Telegraph

He became as sinister to me as childhood baddies, the man who would crash into his competitors to end a race on his terms. That meant he didn’t know if he could win surely? Was he as self assured as his gait suggested? I watched Damon Hill’s title year from the relative safety of behind a pillow, but that year he was safe, the Ferrari F310 was abismol, and the only real challenge came from Indy Car transfer student Jacques Villeneuve, who’s hopes ended on three wheels in the Suzuka gravel. Schumacher finished a lowly, yet thoroughly respectable (given the equipment) third.

Just as you thought it was safe to head out onto the racetrack however, he was at it again! The 1997 season saw Michael get back to his old tricks once more; as he battled Jacques Villeneuve for the title. This year was a little different to 1994, it was not Adelaide and the points weren’t stacked in his favour. With the eyes of the world watching him, he took a swipe at the Williams of Villeneuve around Estoril’s ‘Dry Sack’ corner. From behind my cushion (for the second year running) I slammed my eyes shut and waited for Murray to confirm my fears; that Jacques was out of the race. The opposite occurred, and karma seemed to have finally come back to haunt Michael, his wheel’s spinning uselessly against the gravel. He was beached, and deservedly so.

Over the years, Michael has won and won, over and over again, I was sick of him. Of course I know that if I had been a logical fan without the furious passion that thought he was a cheating scumbag things would have been completely different. He is a great of the sport, the Championships speak for themselves, and what he did with the late nineties, early noughties Ferraris was a feat only a few men could have performed. Think about this season, everyone’s praising Alonso for the way he handles his car, the 1997 F310 was a pig on wheels!

Cue the U-turn.

The Michael Schumacher of 2012 is modest, chilled out and ready to apologise when he makes a mistake. Since his return there hasn’t been one sniff of a win on the horizon, eeking out one podium in Valencia – despite me wishing it in 2011 at Canada.

The last two Grands Prix I have been to have filled me with a weird sensation when he’s driven past. I found myself feeling particularly honoured to be sitting beside the track while he drove past. I suddenly seem to appreciate him more, because to me he’s proved that there was a human being underneath all the controversy.

A calmer, happier, mellow Michael these days

Thanks Michael, it’s been an experience.


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Boo. Hiss. The F1 villain returns..

It’s been a while hasn’t it, since we had a true bad guy in Formula One? Of course recently we’ve had the the frustration of Maldonado and his every increasing tally of penalties, or Grosjean and his first lap drama in Spa. Incidents like this tend to unite the community, rather than divide it.

Enter Lewis Hamilton. Since the tender age of fourteen the McLaren wonder boy, hand raised by Ron Dennis into a world of fast cars, flashing bulbs and big deals. Since the departure of Heikki Kovalainen, and his replacement by 2009 World Champion; Jenson Button, the Woking outfit became a team all Brits could have faith in. On paper it was an incredible coup, two recent World Champions, a reliable car with a competent, world class team behind it? What could go wrong?

It has been four years since Lewis’s last lap charge around ‘that’ corner at Interlagos, while the Massa family jumped for joy in the Ferrari garage. What has he achieved? Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel have taken the sport to it’s current point and Lewis appears to have achieved little to nothing to emulate his past successes.

It was without surprise then, when I was rudely woken by a noisy fiance at 6.00am, that I read the initial tweets about Lewis jumping ship to the ‘real’ Silver Arrows. So began the shocked comments, voiced dismay and eventual altercations in the aftermath of his 10.30am announcement.

- Getty Images

The problem with the Formula One fan community, is it thinks that they can make a difference. Sadly they’re wrong. This isn’t the Camp Nou, you can’t join the McLaren fan club with any hope of making the decisions. This sport is run by money and success, and the unhealthy, unpredictable relationship they share. Lewis Hamilton will not stay at McLaren just because a grandstand full of red cap wearing members of the public stamp their feet and pout. He is in this business for the wins and the pay cheque. At McLaren the winner’s champagne has gone flat, and the trophy’s – however many he can scrape out of the 2012 season, – will mean nothing if that ever elusive World Driver Championship win doesn’t come his way.

So what’s in it for him? Why not stay where he is? The money is the same, we all heard Martin Whitmarsh speak about an offer which matched Mercedes challenge. The car is good, both drivers are winning.. wait. Both drivers are winning? Ohhh.. yes, there’s a problem. Nothing like a competitive team mate to keep one of a driver’s eyes on his back. Fernando Alonso doesn’t have that problem, and look at how he’s slicing up the points. As McLaren have already proved with the nightmare pairing of Prost and Senna, two number ones isn’t really that great for business. Felipe Massa may well lose his saddle on that prancing horse, but you can damn well expect the next guy to be just as meek and helpful. Fernando will always be faster than you.

- David Ramos/AP via The Guardian

So Lewis will bounce Herr Schumacher out of Mercedes. It’s not a bad thing, the old boy’s seen better race days, and I’m sure he’d agree it’s time to drive an armchair. He can’t hurt anyone with one of those. Rosberg will make a much more suitable side-kick for Lewis, he know’s what it’s like to win, but unlike other first time winner Pastor Maldonado, hasn’t tarnished his reputation with a series of unprofessional faux pas. Nico has his head back down, working hard for his team. Lewis has worked with him before in GP2, and was practically overcome with happiness to see the German win. They’re friends already, but how long will that last?

Which brings me to the fans. I myself? I don’t give two hoots where he goes, along as he works hard and achieves. I am his fan as long as he ‘goes for the gap‘, as Ayrton Senna would say, and when he no longer tries, I will forget him as easily as I did Jacques Villeneuve. The fans seem to think otherwise, there is real-life anger and resentment at this choice. They believe him to have betrayed them, their team and their country! He’s signed for the Germans, my goodness, get the tins hats out, it’s bloody World War III! When the dust settles, and they realise that with Sergio Perez in a race winning car their Sundays are even more exciting, they won’t even remember this week.