Ok here’s the thing. I think I might have called F1 races in China a bit ‘meh’ in my qualifying blog. But then what do I know? It turned out to be a frigging brilliant Chinese Grand Prix full of (shock horror) wheel to wheel racing from beginning to end. Mind you, it does lack yachts and the bling factor. At least I got that bit right.
So after much debate (me to the husband at 7am “lets watch it on the Beeb” though I can’t actually remember if the husband responded), I merrily jettisoned the Sky offering and Just Pressed One (as Jake would say and indeed does say a lot on Twitter). This might not have been my smartest move ever but stay with me for the ride. We started off with a strange little intro entitled ‘F1 and the city’ featuring Jake Humphrey, Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard. I’m not sure if this was a pastiche on Sex in the City but who knows as I have never watched it (which probably makes me an outcast among womenkind). Maybe it was a spoof on some other supremely cool cult film that has passed me by. I fear it will forever remain a mystery to me. Tell you what though, a ‘Dallas’ segment with Eddie is absolutely nailed on for the US Grand Prix.
We then had a very bizarre film basically where Jake, Eddie and DC all went shopping and had jackets made for each other. Yes, it really was that weird. This metrosexual thing is getting out of hand. Not sure this was the best way for the Beeb to kickstart its ‘live’ coverage for the season. DC looked physically ill when he had to put on his jacket in the pitlane which had the loudest car print you have ever seen. This is a man who is a Disciple of white jeans and pink shirts and literally has nothing else in his wardrobe. Heck he probably has more white jeans than Liz Hurley.
Next up, we had some footage of Keke Rosberg (father of little Nico, today’s pole-sitter) which got the husband wildly excited because it was from Brands Hatch in 1982 (ie. back when the husband was young.) Then we saw DC’s first pole. Yawn. One interesting thing that emerged was that it was arguably better to qualify 2ndfor this race as it was generally felt that pole was positioned on the wrong side of the track. A less suspicious person would almost think the person who had qualified 2nd on the grid had done so deliberately but its hard to believe such a thing of Michael Schumacher. There was a brief interview between Lee McKenzie and Schuey which had to be rewinded about 5 times for the benefit of the 4 year old. I think Schuey has a soft spot for our Lee ever since she took part in that western-style horseriding ‘reining’ competion at the Schumacher Ranch. I bet Michael is a mahoosive Dallas fan too. The Texas Grand Prix will be out of control.
The Beeb had been rifling through the old Blue Peter archives as you do and had dug up some footage of a very young Lewis Hamilton racing remote control cars. So then to show us how relaxed and fun he really is, Lewis raced some more remote control cars around McLaren HQ with Jake Humphrey. Maybe it was just me but it felt a little bit ‘Top Gear’. This is not a good thing.
Anyway back to the Chinese GP (the BBC producer is more prone to going off on daft tangents than me!). A little box came up telling us the track temperature was 286° before someone spotted the typo (along with millions of viewers) and corrected the temperature to a far more boring twentysomething degrees.
Still chin up, it was time for DC’s first gridwalk – I had grave doubts as to how this was going to bear up to the legendary Martin Brundle Gridwalk™. The fate of the BBC coverage (for us anyway) might hinge on the next 10 minutes. My scrawly notes simply say ‘Button, Kobayashi, Newey, Webber. BORING’. Poor old DC – he really was a fish out of water and by the end he was just scrabbling around interviewing his Red Bull mates (he used to drive for Red Bull you know – before they were good) with a deeply annoying faulty microphone. Its safe to say he is no David Frost or indeed Martin Brundle. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, the producer in a moment of utter insanity decided to cross over to Eddie Jordan who was seemingly taking over the gridwalk mantle. First up, a quick word with Jean Todt, a man who seems to become more small and sinister with age – in fact the husband did absentmindedly comment on how Balestre was being interviewed. The poor love is stuck in the 1980s (the husband not Jean Todt). Then Eddie just started some long monologue culminating in some some horrifically cringy speech about much he adored and loved Frank Williams (yes really). Probably my personal highlight of Eddie’s gridwalk was his attempt to interview Charlie Whiting. “Can we have a few words”. “No”. It was desperate stuff.
Quick confer with the husband (occasionally it happens) and we decided to jump ship (ie. off the Titanic) and switch over to Sky. We were just in time for the Martin Brundle Gridwalk™ which was just immediately SO much better. Unfortunately we had to see Jean Todt being interviewed again but Martin did manage to interview Bernie which is always good value. I shudder to think how a Bernie/Eddie interview would have gone. Bernie said he would like to see Michael win. Some things never change! Martin was unable to interview Nico Rosberg who was talking to a Race Start Strategy Guy – who knew such jobs existed? Interestingly Johnny Herbert was there with Simon Thingy and not Damon Hill. Hmmmm. What can be we conclude from this? Hmmmm, Johnny was doing a great job but I love Damon so I’m not going to say anything more. Suddenly realised we hadn’t had our Random Celebrity at a Race then Mika Hakkinen popped up. Its not much but he’ll do for this week.
So it was time. The Schumacher Watch (ie. the 4 year old) was in place, the Race Start Strategy Guy had imparted his wisdom (‘drive fast and stay in the lead’) and it was GO GO GO. After predicting carnage at the start (with my beady eye trained on Kobayashi) , there was in fact no carnage and no crashes. Button had a fantastic start and was up in 3rd place. Poor Kobayashi was just slipping off the radar after his great qualifying. Vettel had an awful start and was down to 15th place. A few laps in, he complained that he just couldn’t get past Paul Di Resta (its Di Resta for heaven’s sake, not Fangio). Life is tough isn’t it, Seb, when you don’t have the best car…welcome to Narain Karthikeyan’s world.
As Rosberg pulled away from the pack, there was an almighty scrap for 2nd place between Schuey, Button, Kimi, Lewis and Perez. The two McLarens pitted quite early on and Lewis was wheel to wheel with Kimi in the pitlane. This really could have ended up messily but Lewis just inched ahead leaving Kimi to get tangled up with Webber.
Then Schuey came in for his first pitstop. Just as I was thinking (I kid you not) how brilliant it was going to be to see Schuey on the podium again, the next thing we saw was Schuey’s car pulling over onto some grass and he was OUT OF THE RACE. This was a tragedy. The only crumb of comfort being I wasn’t listening to DC who probably was commentating on this development with barely disguised glee. I had to break the news to the 4 year old who burst into tears and said “Michael Schumacher never, ever wins”. It occurred to me that he might actually see Schuey as some kind of plucky ‘Johnny Herbert’ underdog and maybe that’s why he likes him. Oh the irony. Apparently it was due to an untightened wheel-nut. Who cares, my dream of a Schuey podium was in tatters and I had a hysterical 4 year old who no longer wanted the Grand Prix on. Still there was a race to watch and so the 4 year old was overruled much to his distress.
By lap 15, Perez was in the lead after Rosberg pitted but as he cruised around dreaming of Ferraris and Tuscan villas, mini-disaster struck and he locked up a wheel. Ironically this meant that Massa temporarily led the race. Enjoy it while it lasts my friend. Eventually Massa pitted and slid back to a position of nothingness. To the obvious amazement of Brundle and Croft, Rosberg was driving very well and looking like he might well win this race. The two McLarens behind him in 2nd and 3rd came in for hard tyres so by lap 28, the front-runners were 1. Rosberg, 2. Kimi, 3. Grosjean, 4. Vettel (how did that happen?), 5. Perez and 6. Button. How on earth was Rosberg staying out so long? Eventually on lap 35, Rosberg pitted no doubt in line with a Ross Brawn Genius Strategy and came out 2nd behind Jenson Button. Hamilton meanwhile was stuck behind Perez who was driving the wheels off his Sauber and not in any way trying to impress anyone back in Maranello.
With classic Murray Walker timing, just after Button got a message saying he was still in this race to win, he had a disastrous pitstop on lap 39 and ended up rejoining in 6th place. The husband was noticeably distraught (he has a man-crush on JB, say no more). Rosberg was being warned to look after his tyres otherwise the Ross Brawn Genius Strategy would be all in vain (I might have ad-libbed the last bit). Everywhere you looked, there were cars wheel to wheel – it was absolutely awesome stuff. All those clever suits who came with new rules, we salute you!
So by lap 44, it was 1. Rosberg, 2. Kimi, 3. Vettel (still confused about how this happened!) and 4. Button. There was another stonking battle for 2nd going on. For all we knew, Rosberg could have won as it was so long since we had seen him. We were told he could still pit and take the lead. Its as if Ross Brawn had devised the strategy. Oh yeh he did. Then on lap 49, Kimi’s tyres just fell off a cliff and he started skidding backwards and in the space of a lap had dropped from 2nd to 12th. Oh dear.
It was basically then total pandemonium – everyone was top of everyone else trying to overtake as if their lives depended on it. Remember those races where no one overtook and they were ‘won’ in the pits. They were dark days. Finally Button got past Vettel with an audacious move and there was a highly amusing radio message from his engineers telling him to pull away before Lewis got past Vettel. Either they rate Lewis or they know Vettel has turned into Kevin the Teenager or both. Sure enough, on the penultimate lap, Lewis passed Vettel for 2nd place. Remembering there was some dude driving a Mercedes in the lead, we just managed to rejoin Nico as he won the Chinese GP and his very first race in F1. Schumacher feigned joy on the pit-lane but that must have been very hard to take. Those poor Mercedes mechanics won’t get a minute’s sleep until Bahrain. Never mind having to face Schuey, imagine how cross Bernie is with them all. I wouldn’t like to ever see a cross Bernie.
So here are the results from the Chinese Grand Prix 2012:
1. Rosberg – a commanding drive and will be interesting to see how he performs now he has the ‘first race win’ monkey off his back.
2. Button – oddly for Jenson, he seemed very dejected…he should go and sink a beer with Michael and compare useless mechanics.
3. Hamilton – his 3rd third place of the season and is now leading the Championship. Crikey!
4. Webber – ahead of Seb…bet Mark likes that. A lot.
5. Vettel – what’s gone wrong dude?
6. Grosjean – well done that man.
So lots of happy Mercedes bods and happiest of all might have been Norbert Haug. I think our Norb has been on a bit of a diet – there’s definitely less of him these days. He was up on the podium where possibly the most hideous trophies ever in the history of motorsport were handed out. They are just like those robotic ‘techno trousers’ from Wallace and Gromit that the evil penguin stole.
But trophies aside, what a brilliant, brilliant humdinger of a race. The drivers loved driving it (except for Schumacher, sob). We loved watching it. Its shaping up to be a vintage F1 season. See you all bunkered down in Bahrain!