Monaco GP – Qualifying

Wish you were here?
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The wait is finally over. We have made it all the way from Down Under (a race that seems like an age ago already), survived the biblical floods of Malaysia, trundled off to the UBS Chinese Grand Prix for a surprisingly good race, dodged a few bullets in Bahrain and dutifully ticked off the Race Before Monaco (Barcelona). F1 has landed in Monaco and it is time to PARTY!
Ah Monaco, how we love thee. With its gleaming sun-kissed harbour full of launches owned by Russian oligarchs, its marvellously dysfunctional but oh so glamorous royal family (note to Prince Harry – Charlotte Casiraghi would make a stunning bride and in one fell swoop immediately obliterate the Daily Mail obsession with ‘Her Royal Hotness’, Pippa M), and all those ugly beautiful luxury tower blocks perched perilously on the surrounding hills alongside the evocative Belle Époque architecture. Monaco is like Hong Kong on the French Riviera. What is there not to love? I have been there several times and it is absolutely my Favourite Place On Earth. The husband even proposed to me there – he’s a crafty piece of work. Wining and dining me in Monaco before a moonlit walk by the harbour. I think I must have thought this was a taste of things to come…fast forward 7 years and we’re watching The Voice on a Saturday night in deepest surburbia with the unbridled joy of Match of the Day still to come. I have a big birthday (wail…..!) in a very small handful of years time and that big birthday is in May, when the Monaco GP always takes place. I have to telegraph things as the husband well knows.
Anyhoo we have established that I love Monaco. But everyone freaking loves Monaco. The roll-call of celebs, politicians, film stars and sports personages will be immense and as much as I will mercilessly hurl abuse (not in the presence of my small children of course) at the TV upon sight of any of them (who aren’t self-professed petrolheads), I can’t really blame them for squeezing the Monaco GP into their schedule. Heck, if you’re invited to the Monaco GP, then you go. It’s a total no brainer. But I absolutely draw the line at Geri Halliwell who always seems to be there. But then who doesn’t.
The hotpotch collection of celebs floating around at the Cannes Film Festival normally give a few pointers for what A to Z listers will pop up in the pitlane at Monaco. I am fearing an appearance from Kanye West and his new ladyfriend, Kim Kardashian. Actually she has the potential to overtake Geri in the annoyance stakes. At least I know (faintly) why Geri is famous, mainly for singing (being kind) a bit and wearing very short Union Jack dresses a very long time ago. I don’t know what Kim Kardashian does and nor do I care. Old fart alert but honestly I really don’t care. Still the spectacle of Martin Brundle interviewing braindead Kim would be something to behold! <Suddenly remembers that Kelly Brook has been at Cannes – weeps morosely into computer>

All together now “Monday, Tuesday, Happy Days!”
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

I also believe that Ron Howard (who has just finished shooting his movie about Niki Lauda and James Hunt) may be taking in the Monaco Grand Prix. Now could anyone be more deserving of a gold-plated Monaco VIP pass than Ron?! Martin has to get a few words with him. Lets hope anyway that Ron doesn’t get accosted by Eddie Jordan who will undoubtedly bring up Happy Days.
So huge apologies in advance for the stream-of-consciousness and unedited nature of today’s blog. Am I allowed to chuck in some caveats or excuses at the very outset just in case I fail to live up my usual blog standards (ie. mediocre or rambling or plain daft or all three). Cheers!

1.     I like the rest of the UK have been waiting for some semblance of summer or indeed sun (last spotted in March) and so naturally the most and indeed only scorching weekend of the year to date coincides with the Monaco GP.

2.    It is absolutely, stone-bonkingly predictable that on the day of my most eagerly awaited qualifying session of the whole F1 season, I had a cram-packed schedule of lunatic proportions. Before anyone thinks that my weekends are a never-ending stream of fun and excitement, rest assured most (if not all) of the fun is for the benefit of the 4 year old and I am merely the unpaid taxi-driver, PA, general dogsbody who is responsible for the family itinerary running like clockwork or more realistically not disintegrating into total chaos. Given the husband has cited lack of punctuality as one of my failings (in our pre-marriage course from memory!), it’s a miracle we ever make it anywhere to be honest. 

3.     I have been awake since before 5am. As the 4 year old so succinctly put it in the car ‘Mummy, during the week you wake me up and at the weekend I wake you up’. It’s a cruel world.

This all means that at the time of starting this blog (6pm), I have only caught NINE minutes of qualifying but they were THE BEST nine minutes of qualifying all season (spoiler alert possibly if you know me well or have read previous posts and bravely/foolishly come back for more!). I am currently watching the start of qualifying while typing – this is the kind of upside down reverse time vortex that I seem to live in these days. I blame Sky Plus and possibly Doctor Who for messing with time.
After perusing several hundred tweets from various members of the F1 fraternity over the last few days, this had felt like the longest build up to a qualifying session ever. It didn’t get remotely annoying seeing countless pictures of sun-drenched Monaco at all hours of the day and night for days on end. Occasionally there was the odd reference to the forthcoming race but by and large, there was a lot of ‘look at me standing by the harbour/on this big boat/in front of the casino’ or ‘here are some models in a hot tub’ by people who should have known better. I am saying nothing but a Sky presenter who is called Simon who I don’t rate springs to mind.
So the Beeb coverage is now underway on Sky Plus and after a quick recap of previous dramatic openings to the Beeb’s coverage of Monaco in recent years (I never did get the point of the one with all three of them in the lift – another achingly cool movie reference I failed to get?!), they decided this year to save on the budget just sit on a boat and talk about all the different race winners so far this season and how we might get a SIXTH different race winner in Monaco for the first time ever in the history of time. Yet to win is Hamilton, Webber, Schumacher and Kimi to name but a few great drivers and Webber. The earth might stop turning on its axis if we get a sixth different winner – or so the Beeb would have us believe. I’m a bit scared to be honest.
Quick bit of footage of DC winning the Monaco back in 2002 (I want to know if paying homage to DC’s great racing moments is in his contract – if so, nice bit of negotiation there). Coulthard then wondered out loud where those ten years went. You and me both, David. Is it really ten whole years since 2002? <Opens first beer of the evening and sobs into it>
Inspired by my new obsession of reading fashion blogs (hard to imagine our respective readers overlap at all but must do a quick plug for the very entertaining Does My Bum Look 40), I’m trying to pay more attention to matters of style and so nearly passed out when I caught sight of the sheer monstrosity that was David Coulthard’s ensemble. He was sporting a shirt of the most vilest neon bogey colour you have ever seen. Good god man, its Monaco, make an effort! If there was ever a place to wear your wardrobe stable of white jeans + pink shirt it surely is here. Even the husband who NEVER plays any attention to matters of style commented on the hideousness of the shirt. Eddie Jordan was reassuringly keeping faith with one of his customary Pan’s People flower power shirt although the mind boggles as to what he has in store for race day.
Quick mention that Mercedes are apparently keeping tabs on Paul Di Resta. Just as I thought to myself ‘why?’, the husband chimed up with ‘that’s because they think he’s Italian’. I pointed out that Mercedes were a German team and the husband mumbled something about Ferrari and the heat. 
So has the Beeb not splashed out on a few square foot of terrace with a bit of trendy decking and wicker chairs like previous years? Poor old Jake Humphrey, DC (and less so Eddie Jordan who kept veering off at random directions) seemed to be just wandering around the streets of Monaco. But suddenly excitement of excitements – they stopped and marvelled at the Rascasse corner. We told the 4 year old this was where Mummy and Daddy got engaged and he said ‘why?’.

The Great Michael Schumacher – he quite likes driving at Monaco
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Now I don’t think the Beeb have so much an axe to grind against Michael Schumacher as a full-blown fatwa kind of vendetta. They had found some never-seen-before footage of Michael Schumacher ‘using his car as a weapon’ against our plucky Brit, Lewis Hamilton, in Barcelona. Two points. Firstly, dudes, this is Monaco, there must be a trillion magical moments in the Monaco archives that F1 aficionados would love to see way much more. Secondly, Lewis is no saint either, nor was Senna, nor was Prost etc. Just deal with the fact that Michael is A Racer. Heck even Damon Hill over on Sky isn’t that biased against Schumacher even though Hill was deprived of an almost certain title when Schuey crashed into him at Adelaide in 1994. Anyway Eddie was in full rant mode saying Schuey needed to learn some basic common manners – oh puh-lease Eddie, you would have walked over broken glass to get Schuey behind the wheel of a Jordan again after his debut race. Oh that’s right you applied and failed to get an injunction to try and prevent Schuey moving to Benetton. STFU.
Next up for a mauling was none other than last time out’s race hero, Pastor Maldonaldo. Apparently he also ‘used his car as a weapon’ (new Beeb buzz-phrase alert) when colliding into Perez in FP3 and we were told he had previous (cue footage of some incident with Saint Lewis Hamilton at Spa in 2011). Maybe these dastardly acts mean he is the next Schumacher. So Pastor has a bit of a dark side. I like a drivers with a dark side. Anyway he has a ten place grid penalty as a result presumably after Eddie marched up to the stewards with his clipboard of grievances.

Niki Lauda, coming to a screen near you soon
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Then a MASSIVE treat – a long feature on the Ron Howard Lauda/Hunt film. Lots of snippets from the film and even better from real-life F1 racing back in the 70s. The husband even stopped following the cricket on his phone for a few seconds and was waxing lyrical about the good old days. This movie looks AWESOME. I am booking a sitter for the very first night that it is released. Down in the land of surburbia as opposed to attending the Premiere. Obviously.
Apparently Kimi Raikkonen is wearing a James Hunt helmet (it actually says James Hunt on it!) for the Monaco Grand Prix. If there was any doubt as to Kimi’s super-coolness it is confirmed for all eternity. I am SO glad that Kimi came back to F1. It needs drivers like him who not only are pure racers and totally uncompromising but are unpredictable and maverick and basically would have fitted in perfectly into the 1970s.
Next up an interview with Dickie Stanford. Apparently static electricity caused the fire. Dickie, that is a great explanation – who can control the forces of static electricity hey! But seriously a nice touch by the Beeb to follow up on the Williams fire at Barcelona and a big hand to those teams who lent Williams Lots of Important Equipment for the race. Ooops lets hope Sauber didn’t lend any equipment to Williams otherwise they will be mighty pee’d off! 
Ah I spoke too soon about the lack of terrace. Jake and Eddie were now located by the Red Bull Pool. Ah yes, I remember the Red Bull pool from last year when DC and Eddie were thrown into it. Happier times.
Time for Q1. The main drama was Perez just slamming the car into the armco at the Swimming Pool Complex. Two crashes in two years for Perez at Monaco. Safe to say its not really His Circuit. Cue red flags. Out from Q1 – the usual suspects, the two HRT’s, the two Marussia’s and the two Caterham’s, and poor old Perez.
Moving onto Q2. First point to note was that Nico Rosberg was looking very, very fast and Button was looking pretty sluggish. And Vettel isn’t even at the races (pardon the pun). Then to everyone’s total amazement (not least Luca Montezemolo I suspect), Massa topped the timesheets in Q2. Absolutely astonishing. Kimi and Button were battling it out to get into the top ten and boy, its really not Jenson Button’s year. He finished up in 13thplace. Maybe its advancing years, maybe his desire and ambition is diminishing but I feel we may be starting to the see the decline of Jenson Button. Cue stunning Monaco victory after massive first lap pile up. Natch.
Finally time for Q3 and for me a delightful re-watch of the 9 whole minutes of qualifying that I did see live! Five minutes to go and the top grid order read 1. Rosberg, 2. Grosjean, 3. Webber, 4. Hamilton and 5. Schumacher. When watching this live, the 4 year old spotted his surname on the billboards around the track (V-Power). He is easily impressed!
Back to the action and my beady eye was trained on Alonso with a minute to go, my hot tip for pole, but he finished 5th. What do I know hey? The usual flood of drivers were on flying laps and moments after DC said that Webber was too slow and wasn’t going to improve, he plonked the Red Bull on provisional pole. Way to tear up the Beeb script, Mark! Hamilton, Kimi and Grosjean were all on track. Kimi didn’t improve on his time. Massa ended up 6th and suddenly here was Schumacher who put the Mercedes ON POLE at the absolute death. His first ever pole was in Monaco. I had forgotten that. Nice.
DC reminded us at the speed of light that Michael ‘Voldemort’ Schumacher had a 5 place grid penalty after the ‘dishonour’ of the collision with Senna in Barcelona. Oh just shut up David.

The Lucky Cap!

There was a glorious moment when Ross Brawn came on the radio to Schuey and said ‘you little star’. The 4 year old was demented with joy and dancing around in his new Michael Schumacher cap and I didn’t have the heart to remind him (he wisely doesn’t listen to DC’s warblings) that Schuey will drop 5 places. Lets just all enjoy this Truly Golden Moment.
All hail Michael Schumacher, 43 years young, rolling back the years. This might possibly be his last ever pole position but there is no finer or more fitting place to do it than Monaco, the track which is the ultimate test of driver skill.
And so the last word is from Michael: “I told you guys already that my situation is going to be that I will be on pole, start the race in sixth and go on to win it. And that’s what I’m going to aim for. That’s all I have in my mind and the past doesn’t matter at all.”
Legend. End of.
So, so excited about tomorrow. Who knows, I might have to locate a bottle of Krug after all! 

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