Monday, August 07, 2006

Hello Jenson…this is Buckingham Palace calling.

Before I get in to the race I do have to do the patriotic bit and congratulate Jenson Button on a fantastic race. I was quite emotional when I heard the National Anthem and realized that it was a Brit standing up there in first place on the podium. What really made me smile though was that just the day before Luc and I had been chatting about Jenson Button and Luc was saying I needed to be more patriotic and support the Brit. My reply was "when he starts winning I'll start being supportive!" How I am eating crow! I was thinking about it last night and wondering if his win was a default win, (due to drivers such as Alonso, Schumi and Kimi being forced out of the race…more on that later) but the more I thought about it the more I decided that Button won because he deserved to win. Honda had a great strategy that worked and Button ultimately was the best driver of the day. Even before Alonso’s disastrous retirement from the race, Button had been hot on his heels and so who’s to say that Button may not have won anyway? He moved up from 14th place, due to a last minute engine change, to win. He ran a great race and after 113 grands prix, to finally claim his first victory, is fantastic. Of course now he’s done it once, the door is wide open for further wins. Good on you, Jenson, superb race.
Sunday’s race at the Hungaroring was the epitome of Formula 1. Phenomenal racing, wicked power struggles, totally unexpected appalling weather conditions, a steady stream of retirements.
Just brilliant.
The weekend started with fabulous controversy when Alonso received penalties for blocking and overtaking under a yellow flag resulting in him starting in 15th place on the grid and then Schumacher received a penalty for overtaking during a red flag so he ended up 11th on the grid. Kimi Raikkonen won pole position and I really thought that Kimi would end up taking the Hungarian grand prix. Then when the race started it was pouring with rain and so there was the inevitability that those teams running Michelins would do well, and this absolutely proved to be the case. Renault didn’t bother with the mass damper and so the competition was truly down to tyres and strategy. Bridgestone just doesn’t perform as well in the wet and the track was soaking. But once the race got underway both Alonso and Schumacher made surprising headway with the Ferrari driver moving up to fourth and Alonso up to sixth from 15th. Most of the cars started on the intermediate tyres which seemed to be the most effective. Kimi had a tremendous start and by lap 10 had opened up a pretty good 8 second lead. At this early point in the race, Klien, Mark Webber and Yamamoto had already retired from the race. Then the weather really started coming down and a few of the drivers pitted early to change to full wet tyres. I thought that Fisichella would run a great race; he seems to excel in adverse weather conditions and true to my expectations he and Schumacher had a nice little battle on the track. Fisi was totally on the defensive and the two cars bumped on more than one occasion with the final result leaving Schumacher losing his front wing, forcing him to pit and allowing Fisi to gain some much needed ground for Renault. However not more than three laps later Fisichella spins off the track and although he carried on for a few more laps he was eventually forced out of the race, leaving his teammate driving blind and having to battle the Ferrari alone.
As they came up on lap 25, however Alonso showed that he didn’t really need the help of the other Renault driver and he actually lapped Schumacher. Things really started to get exciting at this point. Kimi drives into the back of Liuzzi’s Toro Rosso and the McLaren is complete toast, wheels flying off and everything. Liuzzi and Nico Rosberg are also out bringing up the total of retirements to seven. It was at this point that Jenson Button started making serious headway into the lead position, moving up to second behind Alonso, just in front of De La Rosa. The track also started to dry out adding yet another dimension to an already thrillingly exciting Grand Prix. Immediately the Bridgestones started to perform better and Schumacher moved up to sixth, putting him in a viable position for a podium position. In lap 52 Alonso pitted and changed his tyres to dry but as he moved into turn 2, you saw the nuts fly off his rear wheel; he took a dive into the tyre barrier and was forced out of the race due to a driveshaft failure. Sorry Fernando, snakes on a plane.
By this time I was half sitting, half standing, not able to believe that Schumacher might actually win the Hungarian Grand Prix and have a possibility of taking home the overall Championship. But this wouldn’t be Formula 1 without another sudden turn of events and with two laps to go until the end of the race, Schumacher suffered handling problems and was also forced to retire! Oh calamity - I could not believe it. It doesn’t get much more exciting than this. Button had a 40 second lead and victory was clearly his as he claimed the chequered flag for Honda. Pedro De La Rosa finished in second for McLaren and BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld took third.
As one of the commentators commented it was nice to see some different faces on the podium for a change and I do agree. Jenson Button’s exuberance was charming and even De La Rosa looked as pleased as Punch to have taken second place. Heidfeld was typically German and looked rather miserable, perhaps made more so because Jenson knocked his cap off during God Save the Queen. Who the hell wears a hat during a national anthem anyway?
The Hungarian Grand Prix was by far the most exciting race yet of the season and proved that you just cannot predict what will happen. This was the first time it had ever rained on the Hungarian track and talk about throwing a spanner in the works. With only five races left, it is going to be one hell of a finale in the world of Formula 1.
On a sidenote, Jay can now say Michael Schumacher, Alonso, Fisi and Kimi. He knows that Michey drives the red Ferrari and that Fisi and Alonso drive the same colour car. Kimi’s car he’s not sure about. I figure we’ll have to learn Jenson Button and Rosberg next. By the end of the season I might just have him polished up on all the drivers!

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