Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Congratulação Felipe!

There’s nothing like an emotional, twenty-five year old Brazilian racing driver fighting back the tears as he struggles with the reality of having won his first Formula 1 Grand Prix to bring a tear, or two or three, to my eyes. Actually in reality when Massa stood on the podium with that trembling bottom lip, gulping down the emotion as his national anthem played the tears were full on streaming down my face. It’s the whole sporting victories thing, magnified by the fact that for once Massa didn’t have to play second-fiddle to Schumacher and was able to demonstrate what a terrific driver he really is.

So congratulations to Felipe Massa, Ferrari’s no.2 driver, who not only took pole on the grid but went on for his first podium win at the Turkish Grand Prix yesterday. He pulled away from the pack right from the start and despite the pressure from the world champions behind him, succeeded in maintaining a beautiful drive and a good lead enabling the Brazilian to bring home the chequered flag. Two first time wins in two consecutive races, apparently not a common occurrence; the last time it happened was in 2003 with Heidfeld and Fisichella. As I mentioned with Button – it’s rather nice to see a different face taking the victor’s cup.

Not that Massa’s victory wasn’t of course, completely overshadowed by the almighty battle that raged on behind him between Alonso and Schumacher for second place. The last twenty laps of the race left me absolutely exhausted as the two of them pushed their cars in a fight that Hector and Achilles would have struggled with, (those Trojan horses have a hard time on the tarmac anyway); Alonso intent on not allowing Schumacher to get passed, Schumacher constantly vying for that opening when he could slip the Ferrari around the Renault and grab onto the much needed points for the championship position and success in the Constructors Cup. But, thankfully it wasn’t to be and despite the number of times when it looked like it just might happen, Schumacher failed to overtake the Spaniard’s car and Alonso slid into second place over the finish line, half a car’s length ahead of Schumacher.

For once it seemed that the race was all about the drivers. Despite the heat, 97 degrees air temp I think it was at the Istanbul Park raceway, and the well-known fact that Bridgestone seems to always fair better, Michelin seems to have got its act together and Renault’s tyres finally proved a hearty match for Ferrari and the Bridgestones. Ironically it was Schumacher’s tyres that blistered due to his pushing the car so much in an effort to make up time from the very lengthy pit stop where Ferrari brought in both he and Massa at the same time???

Onto a quick recap of the race. Before the cars even got around the first corner there was the usual F1 calamity. Massa and Schumacher came dangerously close in an effort to block Alonso; Fisico slammed on the brakes so as not to hit his teammate and ended up spinning out, getting hit himself and losing his R26 nose. Raikkonen, amongst the fray, also was forced to pit for a nose cone replacement only then to find himself having to retire from the race as his rear tyre exploded and he ended up in the tyre barrier. In lap 13 Luizzi spun his car and stalled the engine resulting in the safety car coming out. This gave Alonso the needed opportunity to gain ground on Schumacher and close the gap between the two champions. In lap 15 the race leaders pitted only Schumacher is forced to wait behind Massa allowing Alonso to leave the pits ahead of him putting the Spaniard in second place behind the race leader, Massa.

Nico Rosberg ran an excellent race and until engine failure forced him to retire in lap 24, maintained a steady position in 5th place. Jenson Button was in fourth place, keeping a steady hook on Schumacher who seemed to have dropped back a little of Alonso’s pace. After the second pit stop for Schumacher, Massa and Alonso the race leaders maintained the same position – Massa was clearly running the race of his life out in pole position, Alonso in second and Schumacher raging hot on the heels of Alonso’s Renault.

The last 15 laps of the race were magnificent with a real dogfight going on between Alonso and Schumacher. Listening to the commentators was brilliant as they kept stopping mid-sentence to insert a gasp and an “Oh, he’s got him…no he hasn’t…can Schumacher take the lead over Alonso on the next corner? Yes he’s going to do it…no he’s not”. It was great. Alonso always just managing to hold off Schumacher behind him. A real test and demonstration of driver ability.

Felipe Massa, after having started and remained in first place for the entire race crossed the finish line to triumph in his first Grand Prix victory, some 13 seconds over Alonso who by the skin of his teeth took second with Schumi pulling up third. Jenson Button finished fourth, quite respectable I think after his Hungarian win; de la Rosa finished fifth and Giancarlo Fisichella, driving a superb race, pulled himself back from near the end of the pack after his first corner mishap, to finish in sixth place. Ahh Fisico…

So with only four races of the season left the Constructor’s Cup is now totally up for grabs between Ferrari and Renault as only two points separate the two teams. Thanks to Alonso’s second place over Michael, he has taken his lead for the driver’s championship back to 12 points. Something he is surely breathing a sigh of relief about.

Which takes me back to the beginning of my blog entry and to Massa standing on the podium…absolutely fantastic race for the Brazilian. Felipe Massa well deserved his win and for once to have the limelight beaming down on him rather than his teammate, Michael Schumacher, who showed good sportsmanship and was obviously thrilled for Massa. Yes, Ferrari does have two world-class drivers. Indeed Daniel Jackson…

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