When they’re compiling the Best Moments of F1 in the 2010s decade DVD, its fair to say that the Singapore Grand Prix of 2013 won’t be appearing heavily.
Abandoned once again by Mr Eau Rouge on race day (he is making a habit of this – anyone would think he is bored to tears watching Vettel pulverise the rest of the field into oblivion), I persuaded my one-time fanatical little F1 bud, the 6 year old, to watch the race with me. When the build-up came on, he shrieked like a banshee “is it night-time…that is AWESOME”. The innocence of youth. And the funny thing is we should love the Singapore GP because it offers something different but by and large it just doesn’t bloody work. Street circuits look cool but don’t tend to produce scintillating races. Even the ‘we bow down before thee’ Monaco has given us some excruciatingly dull races over the years but admittedly the exciting races when they come round are un-freaking-believably exciting (eg. cars in the harbour, 15 car pile-ups etc).
There was an interesting chat between Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert about street circuits. Obviously they have to be on message to keep the powers that be at Sky Towers happy but they were both in total agreement about how street circuits were the most thrilling to drive as the driver concentration levels are so intense and supreme skill is required. I totally see that but as entertainment they’re not the greatest. But then we get into what is more important, sport or entertainment. For another time! However, there is ‘on message’ and there is just a Plain Big Fat Lie such as when Simon Lazenby welcomed us to ‘one of the great theatres of sport’. What the Marina Bay Street Circuit?!! Is he having a laugh? #senseofhumourfailure
Anyhow, I am so loving the Damon and Johnny double-act segment where they go round the track together that we’ve seen in recent races. Its just utterly brilliant hearing them chat about the old days and it seems this year they’ve finally figured out how to best use Damon. His chat with Simon Lazenby about his different team-mates was also fascinating especially when Damon semi-contradicted Prost (who had earlier told us how him and Ayrton shared everything, were totally open and honest with data and the like) by saying Alain was in fact a pretty secretive team-mate. I know who my money is on!
Simon was even granted an audience with the iconic (Simon’s words) David Beckham who was hanging out with Mercedes for the weekend. We all like David Beckham (or indeed David Bacon as the 6 year old calls him) in the House of Power. Admittedly for different reasons. Poor old David, he has only been to two F1 races and one of them is Singapore. He wants to get his people to sort out a few Monaco tickets for heaven’s sake. David Beckham and Monaco were made for each other. I digress. To his credit Becks did not go down the whole ‘I’m the biggest F1 fan’ route and to his even bigger credit he name-checked Michael Schumacher as the driver who raised the bar in terms of dedication and physical conditioning or as Dave put ‘making sure you eat the right fings and drink the right fings’. Love him.
I’ve toyed with how best to blog about this race. For so many reasons: inertia, a slight but persistent hangover, the fact it is already Thursday (yes, I really started this blog two days ago – it is now Saturday) and Singapore wasn’t exactly the race of the century, I’m going to keep it short and sweet and punchy (there may be lawyer style bullet-points). Because really who needs to know again that Grosjean pitted on lap 16 or whatever. Oh and also I want to have my say about boo-gate and hitching-a-lift-gate. There may be ranting.
- The race winner was Sebastian Vettel. But then we all knew that from the moment the teams rocked up in Singapore. He hasn’t won the drivers title yet but it is only a matter of time. Basically the maths is how many lots of 25 points (Seb’s standard points haul per race) does he need to get to stop any other driver catching him. He has a 60 point lead with a maximum of 150 points up for grabs in the remaining 6 races. Sod the maths. He’s won it already. The only moment of heart-stopping panic for Christian Horner was when Nico Rosberg edged ahead of Vettel at the start but after Nico ran wide soon after, Vettel was quickly able to regain the lead. Game Over.
- And in 2nd place aka the Best Possible Result in a Non-Adrian Newey Designed Car was of course Fernando Alonso. A smart pitstop gamble when the Safety Car came out meant Alonso leapfrogged other drivers to keep his title challenge alive. Faintly alive but still flickering nonetheless.
- The biggest surprise of the afternoon was the appearance of Kimi Raikkonen on the podium. After another dire qualifying where he started 13th on the grid, he drove brilliantly to join his future team-mate, Fernando Alonso, on the podium.
- Almost at the very moment that Vettel sealed victory, poor Mark Webber’s engine spectacularly burst into flames on the final lap after overheating due to a loss of water pressure. It would be Mark’s car yeah?
- The main enlivenment came from the Safety Car which was brought into play after Daniel Ricciardo steered his car into the barriers halfway through the race. It did mean that teams gambled on two different strategies – whether to pit immediately (Alonso, Raikkonen and the McLarens) or stay out and pit later (the Red Bulls and the Mercedes drivers). Pitting immediately turned out to be a super-smart move but obviously in the case of Vettel who can pit and squeeze in a 10 course tasting menu before returning to the lead such trifles as race strategy are utterly irrelevant. After the Safety Car he pulled out a 30 second lead in 15 laps which is simply mind-blowing.
What will we remember this Singapore race for? Honestly speaking. Well two things, both of which occurred after the race.
First off Mark Webber decided to flag down Fernando Alonso on the warmdown lap to hitch a lift back to the pits. Watching it at the time, I thought ahhhhh what a lovely moment between two good buds. Things like that don’t happen much in F1 any more. Everyone remembers or knows of the famous moment when Mansell gave Senna a lift at the British Grand Prix in 1991. Just one of those beautiful images that will stay with you forever.
Then what happened next? WELL HANG ON. They have only gone and slapped poor Mark Webber with a 10 place grid penalty for the next race for cadging a lift. The Twitterverse imploded at the travesty of it all. So had we seen the greatest miscarriage of justice in the history of forever? Well replays showed that in fact Alonso stopped on the racing line to collect his passenger causing Lewis Hamilton (and others) to take rapid action to avoid hitting the Ferrari. It was clearly daft and reckless but really did they need to reprimand Webber (knowing full well a 3rd reprimand would trigger a 10 place grid drop). FFS no harm was done. A slapped wrist and talking to from someone with a clipboard would have sufficed. The stewards’ decision just looked like a mean-spirited reaction to a genuinely nice moment. Sometimes the sport does not help itself.
And so to the podium. Thankfully after the farce that was the Monza podium, Bernie had seen fit to issue an imperial decree to stipulate that Martin Brundle was to take charge of proceedings. But the boo-boys were there in force to jeer Vettel on the podium once again. The booing is starting to become a customary part of the podium along with spraying champagne and instagramming the assembled throngs below. Vettel it must be said is handling the deafening boos with good humour and dignity. But everyone likes to be liked and even with 3 drivers’ titles to his name, it must hurt a bit deep down.
I’ll hold my hands up. I’ve made a lot of despairing comments in recent blogs about the dominance of Vettel and generally praying for Anyone But Vettel to snatch a win and somehow derail (even temporarily) the Vettel Juggernaut that is seemingly almost out of sight. But there is a whole world of difference between favouring another driver or team and being so unsporting that you can’t even admire brilliance in a driver as supremely talented as Vettel. Do I want him to win the title this year? No. Do I think he is the best driver in F1? No – although it really is so difficult to properly judge given the ridiculous superiority of the Red Bull every single year.
But it would be wrong to slag off the boo-boys without trying to analyse why they boo (aside from the moronic ‘sheep’ fans who always just copy what other fans do). So why all the booing all of a sudden?
Sebastian Vettel is phenomenally successful. Three world titles by the age of 25 is a huge and unparalleled achievement. His almost total domination this season (7 wins in 13 races) has resulted in depriving us of a title race. Unless you are a die-hard Vettel fan this is beyond boring.
But I think the reasons go beyond mere success. Many fans feel he has had it too easy and the genius that is Adrian Newey (with an undoubtedly great team behind him) deserves more of the credit for designing a car every season that is in a class of its own. It isn’t just that Vettel wins but he wins with such crushing dominance that we’re all utterly bored to tears by the end of the race. Even Schuey had to toil for years (experiencing the heart-break of narrowly losing out on two titles) in the wilderness at Ferrari before experiencing success. His uncomplaining loyalty and dedication in helping restore Ferrari fortunes earned him the respect of many.
Obviously the car isn’t everything. It isn’t quite as simple as saying ‘stick Narain Karthitheyan in the Red Bull and even he would win’ because…er…hello…Mark Webber (who isn’t too shabby a driver but has not come remotely close to winning a title). The real question is would Alonso or Hamilton in a Red Bull be faster than Vettel? We shall never know.
And talking of Mark Webber, the whole multi-21 incident where Vettel screwed his team-mate (one of the most likable guys on the grid) and disobeyed team orders to overtake him and win the race possibly did the most damage to Brand Vettel. He revealed to the world a cold and ruthless side that seemed in sharp contrast to Seb’s (dare I say it carefully cultivated) smiley, chilled and funny guy image. You know what? Drivers don’t win 3 titles in a row without having a core of inner steel. For Senna, for Prost, for Schumacher, winning was everything. Still in the hysterical social media age, Vettel certainly tarnished his reputation and post-Schumacher the press, media and some fans need a villain of the piece. Interestingly before this year I do not remember anyone booing Vettel.
So those are the main reasons I can think of. But it is still utterly ridiculous to boo a guy for NO reason who has won a race fair and square. Booing the Malaysian podium (the multi-21 race) would be arguably understandable and other low points in F1 history such as Austria and indeed Monza (where it is de rigeur to boo non-Ferrari drivers) but it is getting seriously out of control now. When a new drama hits F1 or indeed we get a race with any drama or a non-Vettel podium to break the booing cycle it will fade away soon enough.
So next up it is the Korean Grand Prix. Could that sentence be anymore harrowing? It is my least favourite track of the season with NO redeemable features or to quote the husband, it is a sterile shiteheap. So a blood and thunder race with multi-car pile ups, safety cars and a stunning win for Giedo van der Garde from the back of the grid then!!!
But before then I am off to see Rush on next Tuesday. I Am Beyond Excited. The upside is I will be immersed into a glorious age of F1 where racing was insane, dangerous and ridiculously, beautifully quixotic for two hours. The downside is the Korean GP follows 5 days later. I may have to mainline coffee and hypnotise myself back into a world of Chris Hemsworth. Sorry I mean James Hunt.