Race Notes: 2008 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix

2008 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix
Marina Park Circuit, Singapore
5.07km street track

Welcome to the first ever night race in Formula 1!

What we learned in qualifying:

The lighting works well. The drivers are more worried about the bumpiness of the circuit, which is high. The track is quite wide and there are a lot of corners.

Laptimes in qualifying were 1m44s or so, which is what they do at Spa’s 7km circuit – Singapore is only 5km so that’s how much slower it is.

Joining ITV coverage.

Anchor/Analyst: Steve Rider & Mark Blundell
Commentary: James Allen & Martin Brundle
Pitlane: Ted Kravitz & Louise Goodman

The humidity is very high, at least the temperatures are lower than daytime. They are worried about rain which has appeared during the week. If it rains at night there will be a lot of glare from the lights reflecting on the track.

Short package of Button making a ‘Singapore Sling’ cocktail which he says is very alcoholic and may be the most expensive drink in Singapore!

ITV Qualifying Report with James Allen
– Massa is becoming a street racing specialist after results in Monaco and Valencia.
– Button and DC knocked out in Q2.
– Hamilton struggled in Q2 and only just made it through in 10th.
– Massa’s 0.6sec advantage in Q3 suggests he is fuelled lighter than the opposition. Hamilton is 2nd, Kimi 3rd.


GRID ORDER

Q3 Massa, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Kubica, Kovalainen, Vettel, Glock, Rosberg, Heidfeld, Nakajima
Q2 Trulli, Button, Webber, DC, Alonso
Q1 Piquet Jr, Bourdais, Barrichello, Sutil, Fisichella

Note – This includes Heidfeld’s 3-place penalty for impeding a car, he blocked Barrichello when entering pitlane. It wasn’t intentional, the pitlane entry and exit positions are not ideal here and are actually quite dangerous.

Alonso was FAST in qualifying and looked good for the front row, until mechanical failure in Q2 meant he didn’t set a time.

Fisichella will start from pit lane following accident damage in qualifying.

ITV take us to an onboard lap with poleman Massa. He’s fast and the back end is sliding!

After the lap, Mark Blundell tells us the Ferrari looks much easier to drive over long runs, he’d much rather be driving that this weekend than any of the other cars.

Ted has been talking to mechanics and team personnel about having breakfast at 4.30pm, lunch at 11pm and evening meal at 4am. Pat Symonds of Renault says it is working surprisingly well. They are displacing their routines by the same amount of time as the sessions. It doesn’t faze Kimi though.
Raikkonen – “I sleep when I feel like it and I wake up when I feel like it.”

Louise is with the physio at Williams, talking about how tough this track is. They will lose 2-3kg of bodyweight. With this European timezone routine everyone is only getting 4 hours of daylight which is tough on the bodyclock. Fatigue could be a concern.

We’re now going over the McLaren/Hamilton penalty hearing. I’m reading yesterday’s quotes on Autosport.com instead.

12:30 Cars are heading to the grid. Pitlane will close in 15 mins.
It seems strange sitting here at ‘normal’ race time, early afternoon and looking at the screen where it is night. I’m used to the reverse, sitting here with it dark outside while looking at Australia or Japan in broad daylight.

Webber and Vettel are taking in the sights of Singapore. Vettel says they are trying everything they can to close the gap on the other teams.
Mark Blundell says Sebastian’s doing a fantastic job.

Steve Rider says they analysed Heidfeld’s block last night and said the penalty was harsh, because of the nature of pitlane entry. I’ll add that there isn’t a proper deceleration lane here and they have to slow down on the racing line impeding anyone behind, it was unavoidable really.

Martin’s Gridwalk
– This will be a very tough race. The humidity is high, the track is bumpy and it’ll be a long race at 1 and 3/4 hours.
– Felipe: “It was a great pole position, it is always great to start a difficult race from pole, we have to do the same over 61 laps.” Martin notes he has a clear visor rather than tinted.
– A rep from ING, Renault sponsor, shouts out “ITV! ITV! How does our logo look at night?” Ha! He says ‘same as it does in the day, looks fine’.
– Bumps into Bernie who shuffles him to the Prime Minister of Singapore. They talk about the weather.
– Ross Brawn who’s just been looking at a Ferrari: “If you go off line into 7 you’re in trouble, there’s only one line. Brake wear could be a problem, we’ll manage but I don’t know about other cars.”
– Quick word with Tamara Ecclestone who doesn’t want to take all this over when Dad retires, then we’re back with Steve and Mark.

Ted is with Glock (P7): “Quite a lot of oil on the last corner turn-in but it should be okay. We are in the right window with brakes so should be okay.”
ITV completely ignoring the local national anthem but then so is everyone else. F1 people don’t care really.

Louise with Rosberg (P8): “It’s gonna be a good race, tough on the car, we have a good chance starting 8th to score some points.”

We are expecting Safety Car appearances. Personally I can’t see how we’ll get through the chicane of turns 1-2-3 without damage of some kind in lap one, and then the jagged bumps at 10-11-12 is sure to take someone out.

During our final pre-race ad break, a reminder of the start order:

MAS, HAM, RAI, KUB, KOV, VET, GLO, ROS, HEI, NAK, TRU, BUT, WEB, COU, ALO, PIQ, BOU, BAR, SUT, FIS (p/l)

Massa is 1 point behind Hamilton going into this race, both are opening a big points gap on the field.

Loading live timing at http://www.formula1.com.

Official Swirly F1 Graphics means 5 minutes to go, we cross to James Allen and Martin Brundle. James – “No sign of a credit crunch here!”
James was told by Pat Symonds of Renault that “..this race could take up to 1hr 50 minutes to complete.”
A reminder then that F1 has a two-hour rule to satisfy international TV windows, if we hit two hours we get the chequered flag regardless of number of laps completed. If there is a Safety Car here we will almost certainly hit the limit.

DC radio. He forgot to put a drinks bottle in! He’ll need that today, so he might suffer later.

The ‘spinners’ on the wheels have been removed to aid brake cooling. Funny, I thought they were to aid brake cooling.

13:00 BST / 20:00 Singapore – Cars are under way for the formation lap.

James – “It looks like everyone is on hard tyres except for Fernando Alonso.”.
He could be going for an early attack with the extra grip from those tyres.

Distance: 61 laps or 2 hours

5..4..3..2..1..GO!

Massa has a clear lead out of T3. Heikki lost places and is fighting Glock.
Everyone gets through the ‘traffic calming’ part undamaged.
Alonso 12th from 15th.

Rosberg is also on soft tyres, ITV haven’t spotted it yet. Radio to Rosberg: “Need to pass Trulli or it’ll be the end of the day.”

Replay of the start. Martin – The front were very well behaved, the back were two and three abreast.
There was a nudge from Kubica on to Heikki, which is how Heikki dropped back.

Massa is running fast, pulling out a gap. This fits the light fuel theory.

Lap 4 – Rosberg goes for Trulli but he’s in too fast, Jarno takes it back.
L5 – Williams are telling Nakajima that he needs to pass Trulli. Rosberg needs to do it first and he tries again… no.

Trulli is always a tough guy to pass which is why he often takes a heavy fuel load, this is known as the Trulli Train. The Trulli Train currently consists of 7 or 8 cars which are falling away from Massa at 5 seconds per lap, and from Heidfeld at 2 seconds per lap. Heidi is the next car up from Trulli.

There’s a piece of brake duct on the track, local yellow out the back somewhere.

L7 – Massa leads by 3.1s over Hamilton, with Raikkonen 5.3s further back and Kubica another 3.4s. Vettel is next, Kovalainen fell to 7th and is still behind Glock, then we have Heidfeld and a gap of 13s back to the Trulli Train.
Cars are now no more than 1sec apart from Trulli in 10th back to Sutil in 19th with Fisichella not far off the back after starting from pitlane.

L8 – We come back from an ad break to find Rosberg and Nakajima have passed Trulli. Rosberg down the inside into T7, bumpy.
Massa has run over some debris which is now wedged under the car.
Alonso passes Trulli into 7. Webber now on his tail.

Trulli has gone for a very long strategy and everyone else seems to be much shorter.

Kimi Raikkonen sets the fastest lap on lap 9, he’s gained 1sec on Hamilton.

Report from Ted: ‘McLaren think they can get Hamilton to run two laps further than Massa so they are keeping the gap stable at 3.3 seconds.’
Meanwhile Kimi is catching, he just set another FL. Martin is expecting Massa to stop on lap 16 or so, Alonso a touch earlier.

James – “Each of these 1800 lights is 2000 watts run from standalone generators not connected to the power grid.”
I’m sure the locals appreciate not having this added to their monthly bill.

L12 – Alonso pits. Very early and he’s fuelled for a long middle stint. Martin doesn’t think it worked because he was stuck behind Trulli.
Ted at Renault – “the super-soft tyres grained heavily, they’ve switched him from a 3-stop to a 2-stop strategy.” Martin says if they are graining that heavily it’s a good thing they’ve got them out of the way now.

Bourdais goes up the escape road and loses two places. James tells us he’s the only man in the field with single-seater experience at night after winning twice at Houston, although he seems to think Houston was in the IndyCar Series.

BIG CRASH – Nelson Piquet hard in the wall. Webber and DC pitted.

SAFETY CAR DEPLOYED

Webber and DC pitted before the SC came out. Barrichello is in as well, not sure if he made it before the SC. If you can get into the pits before the SC comes out, you won’t get a penalty.

Piquet is out of the car and runs across the track. Replays show he hit the wall on his right and it bounced him around to the left wall at speed.

Rosberg pits and will get a penalty as the pitlane is still closed. James tells us Lewis Hamilton needs to pit, will the pitlane open before he gets there? We don’t know because ITV take the chance to take an ad break, so I watch live timing..

According to timing Barrichello has lost a lap and is stopped in sector 2.

L16 – Kubica has pitted, everyone else continues. I believe the SC came out on lap 15.

L16 (still) – We’re back from adverts and we can see Rubens helping marshals to push his car out of the way. We don’t know why he’s out.

As this is such a long track the SC laps are taking about three minutes each.

L17 – Pitlane is open. Martin says some of the cars can switch to just 4 cylinders and save fuel that way.
Everyone pits who hasn’t already. OH! Massa! The fuel hose is still attached as he leaves!! He’s drive down pitlane with the hose still attached, knocks a man over as he pulls away, he stops at the end of the pitlane to wait for his guys to run down and remove it.
Ted says it is a 500 metre sprint while the McLaren guys cheer them on as they run past!
They’ve arrived and the hose is stuck, they can’t get it out of the car. Finally they get it out of the car and Massa is on his way in last place.

Replay: He did get the green light from Ferrari’s traffic light system, and they weren’t even trying to release the fuel hose when he went. Not again! Sutil JUST avoided Massa. Not again! Huge Valencia deja vu.

L18 – Bourdais pits.
Massa will move up after the ‘pits closed’ penalties are applied, but ITV speculate that Massa will have a penalty for unsafe release from pits. He currently runs last, behind Bourdais, and was lucky not to lose a lap.

Rosberg leads with a penalty to follow. Trulli and Fisichella have not yet stopped and run 2nd and 3rd. Kubica is 4th and will have a penalty. Alonso appears to be the leader after penalties and stops.

SC IN THIS LAP

L19 – RESTART

Vettel loses some ground running wide.

Raikkonen lost time while Ferrari were sorting out Massa, Kimi runs 16th. Kovalainen dropped to 14th.

James – “This race is now anybody’s.”

L20 – Massa ran wide at the last corner. Nobody is stopping for penalties yet, they will lose 30 seconds (including 10 sec stationary) so are pushing hard to pick up some ground. They haven’t been officially notified yet. When they are notified they have 3 laps to come in or they will be disqualified.

Fisichella in 3rd is holding everybody up, allowing Rosberg to make up a big gap.

Louise with a Ferrari rep: “Most important thing is the guy is okay, he is in the medical centre. I cannot tell you anything that happened I’m sorry, I haven’t seen the replay, I have been taking car of the injured guy.”

Rubens throws his gloves into the water instead of the crowd!

Louise with Nelson: “Basically I lost the back end. The car was really heavy, it was touching the floor. I was trying to push, I touched the rear on the wall.”

Massa penalty – ‘unsafe release from pit stop’. He has passed Bourdais but nobody else. He takes it immediately. This was a drive-through penalty.

L25 – Rosberg – 10 second stop/go for refuelling when pitlane closed.
Kubica – ditto. These guys must pit and stop for 10 seconds at their own garage.

L27 – We’ve taken an ad break and come back, Kubica and Rosberg have not taken their penalties yet. Alonso radio: “We’ve no idea what’s happening, push like hell to the end of the race.”

L28 – Kubica is in for his penalty and emerges last. We see that Massa has caught Bourdais again.
Webber has run wide and loses several places, maybe 5 or 6 places.
L29 – Rosberg pits for his penalty. He needs to beat Alonso…. he does not, he gets out ahead of Coulthard who is 5th.

Trulli, Fisi, Alonso, Rosberg, DC. The first two need fuel soon.

These pitlane closure rules officially suck. I don’t mind closing the pits, but you’ve got to at least let them get half a second of fuel without penalty if they are running out and need to pit.

Ted: It wasn’t Mark Webber’s fault, it was mechanical, he’s on his way back to the garage, they are going to pit him and retire.

L30 – Fisichella pits and fits the softer tyre.
L31 – Renault tell Alonso that Trulli will stop in 4 laps time. Alonso was FAST in qualifying until mechanical failure.
Kubica passes Massa! Ted says Massa is out of fuel, and indeed he pits. He’s fuelled to the end from the reserve rig and he has the soft tyres. This is an unplanned stop.

L33 – Looking at timing and everyone is slow, over 3 seconds slower than Kimi’s fastest lap from earlier. A couple of guys up front are slightly faster.
L34 – Trulli pits for his only stop of the day. He’s out alongside Nakajima and takes the place, which is… 9th.

Bourdais and Kubica are also in.

Fisichella has somehow dropped to 16th, he shouldn’t be there after being 3rd not long ago…

Massa passes Bourdais for 14th.

L35 – Kovalainen pits. Martin has been looking at Rosberg’s penalty, he’d been wondering how he emerged only losing a few places. Turns out the gap to 4th was 23 seconds because Fisi had been holding everyone up, so it was legitimate.

L36 – Hamilton is working his way up, he’s 4th now and looking good for points against Ferrari who are currently set for zero.

L37 – Alonso, Rosberg, DC, Hamilton, Glock, Vettel, Heidfeld, Trulli. Kimi 10th, Kovi 13th, Massa 16th.
Hamilton is close behind Coulthard, who is 11sec behind Rosberg, then 7sec up to leader Alonso.
L38 – Nakajima passes Trulli, Kimi tries to follow but runs out of room.
L39 – Kimi now takes Trulli, who is again fat with fuel. Kimi is now 9th and goes looking for Nakajima who has driven away.

L40 – Things have been fairly flat for a while, other than Kimi making up places. Alonso has an increasing lead. Rosberg pits, switches to the super-soft tyres and is out behind Heidfeld in 7th.

For once we don’t know how long it will be before anybody stops. Everyone came in under that yellow meaning we could only follow a few people – and the F1 teams aren’t as forthcoming as the IndyCar teams.

L42 – Alonso pits, he has a big lead and does not lose the lead as he emerges from the pits JUST ahead of DC and Hamilton.
Hamilton passes Coulthard! He’s now on Alonso’s tail but he does need to stop again, he pits now and so does Coulthard.
Coulthard went too soon but stops it, he’s away after a minor delay but he lost position to Trulli.

L44 – Vettel and Heidfeld pit now from 3rd and 4th. I don’t see where they come out, we’re in adverts.

L45 – Alonso, Glock, Rosberg, Kimi, Hamilton, Trulli, Vettel, Heidfeld, DC, Nakajima. Heikki is 12th, Massa is 15th.
Glock needs to stop, I think Kimi does as well.

L46 – Massa overshoots turn one. Kubica just passed Fisi and Massa was trying to do the same. Massa and Kubica seem to have lost all speed since their penalties.
Glock pits, TV director misses where he rejoins.
This moves Rosberg up to 2nd with a gap of 15.5 seconds behind Alonso.

We miss Coulthard’s radio while Ted reports on something. James said he is complaining of losing his brakes.

L49 – James is worried that we won’t get all the laps in, there is about 25 minutes of running to complete the race and we are just short of 25 minutes remaining. “This is like the old days when the races used to take half the day!”
Martin – “Good though isn’t it!”

L50 – Alonso, Rosberg, Kimi, Hamilton, Glock, Trulli, Vettel, Heidfeld. Kimi needs to stop.
Trulli is slow at a chicane, he gets running again.
L51 – Kimi stops, he’s out in a large gap between Glock and Vettel.
Trulli seems to be in trouble.

Oh no! Kimi spins, a Force India is in the barrier. Looks like liquid on the track.
L51 – SAFETY CAR
Trulli has pitted to retire from the GP, Ted tells us a gearbox problem.

L52 – Massa it was that spun, he was watching Trulli who was slow on the inside. The water came from the barrier, it was there to absorb the impact. The Force India slides sideways into the barrier.

Trulli is out of the car and soaked in sweat.

L53 – Louise with Mark Webber – “We lost 7th and then 5th gears, it cost us a great result. Would have been nice to share the podium with Alonso. We had some good pace, I’ve never suffered gearbox problems with this car.”

Order: Alonso, Rosberg, Hamilton, Glock, Kimi, Vettel, Heidfeld, Coulthard, Nakajima, Button, Kova, Kub, Fisi, Massa, Bourdais
The crashed Force India was Sutil.

L54 – RESTART

Alonso drives away, no position changes on the restart.
Rosberg has good traction, he’s fine.
Coulthard vs Nakajima, DC stays ahead.

L56 – Alonso is on it, he’s running 1m45s while everyone else is back in the 1m47s or worse. Hamilton is faster than Rosberg but can’t catch him on the long run to turn 7, the favoured overtaking spot so far.

Martin – “Glock is keeping Hamilton honest, he’s improved all through the season.”
James reminds us he raced against Hamilton in GP2 in 2006.

L57 – Alonso has dropped his pace to match the others.
Ted – This won’t go to a timed race.

Five laps to go. 10 minutes to go, James says he didn’t allow for the parade lap before the race, the time starts when the red lights go out.

Raikkonen in the wall!! He caught the kerbs everyone has been complaining about. He manages to drag it around the corner to safety, no Safety Car required.
Replays: he hit the second kerb and ran into the wall. Four points down the drain.

Not Ferrari’s day today.

Martin – Lewis Hamilton looks like a man very happy with the lowest stop on the pdoium today, he’s not hustling the car.

Three laps to go.

Martin – Raikkonen’s accident is classic street circuit stuff, you take your eye off the ball and you’re off.

There’s a close battle between Vettel and Heidfeld, the TV director is choosing to focus on Alonso.

Final lap.

ALONSO WINS!

Rosberg 2nd, Hamilton 3rd, Glock 4th, Vettel 5th, Heidfeld 6th, Coulthard 7th, Nakajima 8th. Massa comes in 13th, only one from last.

Flavio Briatore on the radio! Alonso contratulates the team.

Martin says Nico Rosberg is his Driver of the Day after overcoming a stop/go penalty to finish 2nd. Ironically Alonso’s strategy only worked because of his teammate’s accident.

The cars are back in pitlane, Alonso stands on his car!
Everyone’s rear tyres look very worn.
Kimi doesn’t look happy – applause to the top three drivers from the grid girls!
Alonso relaxes in a chair with a bottle of water, take a break Fernando. A brief handshake with Hamilton.. surprised at that after last year..

Flav speaks to Alonso in Italian.

Podium ceremony, Spanish and French anthems, trophies, champagne!
Great trophy.

Martin: A great success but I hope they don’t make them all night races in this part of the world, it’ll lose the novelty.

We cross back to Steve and Mark as the champagne is dropped from the podium to the mechanics, the Renault guy drops theirs!

Press Conference
Alonso: “Fantastic, 1st podium for the season and first victory, extremely happy. Unlucky in qualifying and lucky in the race. The start was good, not good enough, but the pace was there. The car was super today.”
Interesting that he has the UNICEF logo on his race suit.

Rosberg: “I had a difficult start on the dirty side, dropped behind Jarno who was heavy with fuel. It was quite a hairy moment [passing Trulli], very bumpy. After that it was qualifying laps all the way. Car felt good, it was strong on this track, it was a great feeling.”

Hamilton: “My pitstop went well, I had to wait for some cars to come past and lost a little bit of time, we had great pace generally but got stuck behind DC. It was difficult to get close because he drove a fantastic race, so did these guys here.”


Race Result

01. Alonso 61 laps [10 pts]
02. Rosberg +2.9s [8]
03. Hamilton +5.9s [6]
04. Glock +8.1s [5]
05. Vettel +10.2s [4]
06. Heidfeld +11.1s [3]
07. Coulthard +16.3s [2]
08. Nakajima +18.4s [1]
09. Button +19.8s
10. Kovalainen +26.9s
11. Kubica +27.9s
12. Bourdais +29.4s
13. Massa +35.1s
14. Fisichella +43.5s
15. Raikkonen + 4 laps

DNFs
Trulli + 11 laps
Sutil + 12 laps
Webber + 32 laps
Barrichello + 47 laps
Piquet + 48 laps

Fastest Lap: Kimi Raikkonen 1 minute 45.599 seconds

Kimi was officially classified as a finisher by completing more than 90% of the distance.
Vettel collects yet another points haul! Great for him, and also excellent to see Rosberg and Williams on the podium. Glock also had a good result and it is nice to see DC scoring again. In all a great race for the underdogs!

Driver Points
01. 84 Hamilton
02. 77 Massa
03. 64 Kubica
04. 57 Raikkonen
05. 56 Heidfeld
06. 51 Kovalainen
07. 38 Alonso
08. 27 Vettel
09. 26 Trulli
10. 20 Glock
10. 20 Webber
12. 17 Rosberg
etc.

Hamilton extends his lead by 6 points as the three drivers behind him fail to score. Heidfeld is looking to pass Raikkonen for the 4th position.

Constructor Points
01. McLaren 135
02. Ferrari 134
03. BMW-Sauber 120
04. Renault 51
05. Toyota 46
06. STR 31
07. RBR 28
08. Williams 26
09. Honda 14

McLaren regain the lead in the table by one point from Ferrari, this one is going to the wire. BMW are still lurking should the top two make any further mistakes although they didn’t have a great day themselves.

Next Race
Next up is the Japanese Grand Prix from Fuji on October 12th. No luxury of an afternoon race for us this time, we’re looking at 5am here in the UK.
One week later is China, followed two weeks later by the season finale in Brazil.
Look out for my race previews on the Thursday or Friday of each race weekend.

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Preview: 2008 Singapore GP

Preview: 2008 Singtel Singapore Grand Prix

This is the inaugural Singapore GP, and also the first ever night race for F1. In order to light the 5km track to make it suitable for F1 cars, high-power lighting has been installed throughout. Some articles are quoting 1500 light projectors providing light which is four times brighter than your usual stadium lights, and equivalent to daylight. Check out the Autosport.com preview gallery of photos taken Wednesday/Thursday as the last details were being added, and you can well believe it.

So there are two bits of good news. First: the drivers WILL be able to see where they are going. Second: The track is actually quite wide and fast in places. This is good, the initial track maps indicated short straights and lots of slow turns. There are lots of slow turns except that now we can see there is enough width to encourage racing, at least in places.

Two problems have cropped up, these are the dusty track surface (which will hopefully rubber in a la Monaco or Melbourne by Sunday morning), and the other is the weather forecast which is suggesting storms. You don’t really want that in a night race!

The drivers, teams, journalists and seemingly everyone involved are apparently still operating on European time so that they are fully alert for the race and all the post-event paraphernalia which occurs (press interviews, team debriefs, etc.). Hamilton says their doctor told them not to acclimatise to the local timezone. They are getting up at lunchtime and going to bed at 3am, which isn’t too far from my normal weekend routine, I don’t know what they are complaining about…

The race gets under way at 8pm local time which just so happens to be 2pm Central European Time, 1pm in the UK, the time all European races start.* Big thanks to Bernie for burning all this extra carbon, running several massive generators lighting this long track, purely for my benefit. I get a nice lie-in. And it’ll look great on the telly.

As the times here are fuckoed, make sure you know when everything is happening. Your best bet is to go to Formula1.com and use the widget in the sidebar where it says ‘Convert to My Local Time’. If your computer clock is set correctly it should work. I say this because qualifying does NOT happen at the usual European time, it is a couple of hours later. I have no idea why this is because that’s 10pm local time, which is nuts.

Annoyingly I have to miss qualifying live as Dad decided to book a tee-off time midway through it, he didn’t know the Qual time had moved. If it rains it is a moot point as we won’t go.. I’ll set the VHS and make sure he’s got the radio turned off. Yes, I still use VHS – digital terrestrial hasn’t got here yet and I can’t afford satellite… I will of course watch the race live.

* bonus fact: if the race is held in Europe but outside of the CET area, it still starts at 2pm CET.

ELSEWHERE IN RACING
MotoGP – Motegi Japan: The two-wheel circus heads to Motegi. I can’t remember ever seeing an exciting race on the road course at Motegi. If you ever wondered why this is called ‘Twin Ring’, the bikes are on the ‘other ring’ to the oval. I’ll hopefully catch the BBC replay, not sure when it is on yet. I’m not getting up at 4am for bikes!

NASCAR – Kansas: I’m sure some people will watch this, I’m not one of them. I really don’t care.
World Series by Renault – Estoril, Portugal: Europeans stopped mocking the American baseball thing when this Europe-only series was introduced. I’ve never got into this series.
Errr, that’s it. The season is winding down and the busy weekends are becoming few and far between. Thankfully they invented A1GP and GP2 Asia, so no more hibernation!

Speaking of A1GP, the first event was postponed and the second event looks like becoming a non-points race because their equipment isn’t ready yet, so not all teams can take part. This doesn’t look good for A1 while Superleague is solving problems every week.

While I have your attention, you need to do yourself a favour. When you’re done here, click this link. Don’t worry it isn’t a scam, there’s no money involved. It’ll take you to Last.fm. There’s a big play button on the right. Press it. Turn up volume. Listen.

EDIT – Even better, check it live with Jools Holland at YouTube. This was aired live two days ago.

You’re welcome.

See you Sunday.

Move along..

..nothing to see here.

I was going to write about the outcome of the McLaren/Hamilton penalty appeal but really, who expected any differently? They lost. Big deal. Who cares? We all expected them to lose. The only people who didn’t were either McLaren employees or British tabloid ‘journalists’.

And you know what? I agree with the penalty. Not the harshness of it, but the concept that he had a penalty. He gained an advantage by leaving the track and he didn’t relinquish the advantage in full before going for the pass – I agree.

My problem here is that Kimi did the same later on – if he’d finished the race, would he have been served with a penalty? I don’t think he would. The inconsistency and apparent Ferrari-bias – or at least anti-McLaren bias – of the officials just won’t seem to go away. They need at least one full time steward, preferably all three full-time, and for at least one to have competed in Grands Prix before.

Oh. It turns out I DID write about the outcome of the McLaren/Hamilton penalty appeal.

The post is fuelled by red wine, Lemon Jelly, and a relaxed couple of days off work.
(you really need to listen to “The Curse of Ka’Zar” in that state of mind)

McLaren look forward to night race

On the F1NGers newsgroup somebody posted this link to a video preview from McLaren, a chat with Martin Whitmarsh ahead of F1’s first night race which will be held in Singapore in ten days’ time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOl_p3gyrD0

Just the usual boring Martin waffling along… or is it?

EDIT – I’ve just discovered the same thing is at www.mclaren.com

Racenotes: Gran Premio Santander d’Italia 2008

Gran Premio Santander d’Italia
(Italian Grand Prix)

Autodromo Nationale Monza [official site] [wikipedia]
Monza, Milan, Italy
5.793 km (3.56 miles)
53 laps

Coverage: ITV1
Paddock analysts: Steve Rider & Mark Blundell
Commentary: James Allen & Martin Brundle
Pitlane: Ted Kravitz & Louise Goodman

Beverage update: Tea during the race this afternoon, these notes are being edited some 7hrs later with the aid of Whitbread Best Bitter.

12:05 To Monza, where we have what is described by Steve Rider as ‘showery, intermediate conditions’.

Report from Ted Kravitz with replays from Spa, the whole Lewis vs Kimi thing. The stewards believed Hamilton didn’t give all of his advantage back which is why he got the penalty.
Alonso agrees with the stewards. Rosberg says he should have waited until one corner later before trying to pass again.

Ted talking to Sir Jackie Stewart: “If it rains as I rather hope it will [because it is always exciting], I think the McLaren is an easier car to drive in the rain than the Ferrari. Both Kovalainen and Hamilton seem to be able to handle the conditions better than Raikkonen or Massa.”

Max Mosely is in the paddock this weekend for the 2nd time this season. Steve says they wanted to ask him about penalties, stewards decisions etc., but they weren’t granted an interview – “we’ll keep trying”.

12:13 Qualifying report with James Allen
STR is based on the old Minardi team and most of the people there were at Minardi.
Hamilton tried intermediate tyres on an out-lap but pitted straight away, he then had a long delay in which his brakes ‘glazed over’. He’s 15th.

START ORDER
Top ten: Vettel, Kovalainen, Webber, Bourdais, Rosberg, Massa, Trulli, Alonso, Glock, Heidfeld
Out in Q2: Kubica, Fisi, DC, Raikkonen, Hamilton
Out in Q1: Barrichello, Piquet, Nakajima, Button, Sutil

Vettel: “I was always dreaming of driving these fast cars and now I’m on pole position.”
Kovi: “We are strong.” Those Finns are always to the point..
Webber talked a lot of words without really saying anything.
Ham: “Very tricky, couldn’t see much. I missed the good window to get a lap in.”

Felipe Massa has had an engine change. The rule is that you have to run the engine for two races, else you get a penalty. An additional rule for this year: there is a ‘joker’ card which means you can make one free unpenalised change. That’s what Massa has taken this time so no penalty for him. Kimi took his after his Valencia unit blowed up.

Vettel again: “Comfortable in these conditions, I was saying ‘we have to push’.”
STR team manager: “We never thought we were a bunch of idiots, we knew we needed more money to be invested. We’ll have a good race.”
Replay of Bourdais interview last week after the race, he was very frustrated at losing three places on the last lap – almost crying.
This is him yesterday when he was much happier: “Its tricky here but starting up front is never a bad thing!”
Vettel: “Long race tomorrow, tough day, we don’t know about the weather. We will have good dreams tonight and we will see tomorrow.”
Berger: Something about Vettel, missed it… “Not a question of beating the sister team, sometimes they are better than us, and we are here to beat all the other teams.” When asked about Bourdais’ contract: “He is doing a good job in a good position.”

Hamilton: “Myself and my engineer made a decision. My brakes because they were so cold they weren’t really working, so I struggled to get heat into the tyres. I just want to get through the first couple of laps, after that I know I can challenge.” I’m bored of hearing about Hamilton so you can look up the rest of what he said. We get these long post-qualifying interviews with him at every single race.

12:27 DC interview, career retrospective ahead of retirement. Lots of good stuff there which I was paying attention to – rather than half-listening while transcribing here..

12:31 Bourdais leaves the pits as the grid starts forming. Blundell, CART race winner, mentions Bourdais’ career in ‘Indycar racing in America’. Near enough, Mark.
I’m amazed we’ve gone 20 minutes before our first ad break which is only taken now.

A wet GP at Monza is very rare, the last one was in 2004 which was only partly-wet, before that you have to go back to the 1970s. The problem here is the spray hangs in the air, helped by the trees at the back of the track.

12:36 Massa almost throws it off the track on his way to the grid! It is still wet out there.

12:41 Louise on the grid with DC asking which tyres he’ll start with. “I think it is quite clear, it is a full wet. The spray back here will be bad, we need to consider a Safety Car start. When you come to Lesmo or Ascari they spray hangs there, you can’t see the nose of your car.”
Max Mosely is on the grid networking, talking to Dietrich Mateschitz who owns Red Bull. The company Red Bull not just the teams.

Martin’s Gridwalk
We go to Martin Brundle on the grid, who has just spoken to Bernd Maylander who drives the Safety Car. They started the GP2 race yesterday with a rolling start behind the SC, he says it was more dangerous because they are carrying a more speed than with a standing start and they had ‘an almighty shunt’.
MB: “Every car has new tyres on. I can see problems in the pitlane with the shiny apron surface, it was slippery yesterday.” Looking for Heikki.. can’t find him, he’s not there, so he asks a McLaren man – when do you know if it is a SC start? “When you do. If it drives away with 5 minutes to go we won’t have one, if it is still there we will.”
With Gerhard Berger, part-owner STR: “Fantastic for us to be here at front of the grid, let’s see if we can meet expectations.” What can you tell the drivers to help them out? “Stay on the road! You know yourself it can be difficult to make speeches.. stay on the road, make use of the safety cars, it’s all about car control. It’s a good chance for a team like us.”
Martin says good luck to Bourdais who says no to an interview – then turns round and bumps into Bernie!
Bernie: “I’d be surprised if [Kimi and Lewis] come through actually. Unusual for me but I’d like the guy on pole to win. The stewards are gonna be busy. Are you still with ITV?” “I haven’t been fired yet.” “They need to buy you an umbrella.”
Bernie in a good mood today! Martin and Bernie have a great relationship on the gridwalks, throwing one liners at each other all over the world. I like his sense of humour which is dry and understated, doesn’t require the exclamation mark..

Martin throws back to Steve because the drivers are getting ready a little earlier than usual with the conditions, he knows none of them will grant an interview at this stage because they have a lot of thinking to do before a wet race.

Louise has found Fisi, might have been recorded during Brundle’s walk: “I like these kind of conditions, it will be difficult with a lot of spray. I feel okay, I hope to get to the end of the race and score points. Safety Car start is the right decision otherwise there is too much spray.”
Steve says we have confirmation of a Safety Car start. It does look like the rain is falling harder now.

The good news is that f1.com live timing is working for me this week. If you watch F1 live on TV and near a computer, make sure you have timing on. TV commentary often misses things and you can spot laptime patterns while they warble about something boring.

12:55 Out of our final pre-race ad break. Official F1 Swirly Graphics ™ means 5 minutes to go, we throw to James and Martin for race commentary.

James is rambling as he often does. This will be a 53 lap race.

Okay – with a Safety Car start we will NOT have a formation lap. When the green lights come on we will start counting laps and the race is ‘live’. When the track is ready they will set the cars loose from the Parabolica.

A reminder of the start order:

Vettel, Kovalainen, Webber, Bourdais, Rosberg, Massa, Trulli, Alonso, Glock, Heidfeld, Kubica, Fisi, DC, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Barrichello, Piquet, Nakajima, Button, Sutil

Scratch Button and Nakajima who are starting from the pitlane – meaning they can change anything they want on the cars because they are no longer in ‘parc ferme’ conditions. Between Qual and Race you can’t change anything on your car without attracting a ‘go to the back’ penalty. They probably had their cars on dry settings.

13:00 Cars pull away – Bourdais doesn’t get away!! He’s pushed to pitlane. Because of the lack of formation lap he will drop a lap if he’s not careful because this is now LAP ONE. Looks like we’ll go green at the end of this lap.

L2 – We stay yellow with massive spray on the front straight. Bourdais has not yet left the pits, they are still working on it. If this had been a normal start the cars would form up on the grid this time and he would not have lost this lap so he got screwed by the rain.
The pack are halfway around and Bourdais is now released, he’s at racing speed to catch them! SC IN THIS LAP

L3 – Merc SC drives away as Vettel holds them back. You cannot pass until you go over the finish line.
Vettel floors it, three wide in spray!
Cautious under braking into 1.. Martin: “It was absolutely right to start them behind the safety car, the spray is horrendous.”
James says the cars spread out more than they usually would in dry conditions. This is because of the visibility. No shit.

L4 – Alonso is racing the two Toyotas. Vettel is considerably faster than anyone else. James says he’s a lot lighter than anyone else. Replay: DC passes Fisi for 11th.
Hamilton missed the chicane, lets Kimi repass…. deja vu…

L6 – Glock spinning, almost takes out Alonso.
Why haven’t Kimi and Lewis passed Fisichella yet?

Kovalainen is now matching Vettel’s pace. Martin is wondering why Hamilton can’t match those times. He seems to not have noticed Fisi holding them up.

Kimi runs at Fisi, just gets out of it in time or Fisi would be pushed off.. now Hamilton tries Kimi.. Close but no.

L8 – Kimi takes Fisi into the first chicane and is now 12th. I thought DC had passed Fisi earlier but he’s now 14th.. the next car for Kimi is Heidfeld who is 3 seconds ahead.

James: Massa is 5th, 0.6s behind Rosberg.
Hamilton racing Fisichella… got him on the pit straight for P13.
Vettel radio: ‘Balance when you can’. Martin: Tell me the balance of the car when you are able to.

There is no traction control this year, it was banned for this season, these guys have to work for it. Have to say it looks great in the wet, the engines sound great, not strangled.
Hamilton passes Kimi at the Lesmo! We didn’t see the start of it. Hamilton now he has it hooked up and is pulling away from Raikkonen.
Replay – Martin: Better traction through the chicane, put his car in the right places.
Rosberg on the radio complaining of tyre degradation on his full wets – Massa is on his arse. Martin says we are getting close to the crossover to intermediates.

This would be too early for a fuel stop but you would lose too much time on the wrong tyres to even think of not changing. I think the one-stoppers are going to have to stop twice because of tyres.

We’re getting ad breaks every 10 minutes.. Live timing is showing Fisichella has stopped on the track.

L13 – Massa has been passed by Rosberg, we didn’t see the Rosberg over Massa move. Hamilton has passed Heidfeld for 10th as Massa takes Rosberg again. Maybe he had to give the place back before?

Replay: DC passes Fisichella, who hits DC’s tyre. Later in the lap Fisichella’s front wing collapses and he’s in the tyre barrier! That might have hurt. Shame, he was running well for that car.

L15 – Massa sets fastest lap. Hamilton on the outside of Glock, who is fighting back but is pushed on the grass.. not a good thing..
Hamilton is immediately on to Kubica just ahead of them. Vettel is already one pit stop ahead of Massa in 4th!
Martin thinks Hamilton wouldn’t know Glock was there because of the spray and the small mirrors. Replay: Not much spray there IMO…

Rubens Barrichello has stopped but TV missed it. I’ll watch his laptimes as I think he’s on different tyres.

Alonso radio: more rain in 5 minutes, for a long time.
L18 – Hamilton passes Kubica quickly.
L19 – Vettel pits from the lead. I could get used to typing that. They put on a new set of the full wets. Barrichello’s numbers aren’t any different to anyone else’s so that would suggest he’s done the same.

Hamilton has taken Alonso on the front straight! He is now 7th. Kubica had cut the chicane, Glock passes him.
Hamilton is now 6sec ahead of Raikkonen.

Ted: The FIA told Massa to give the place back to Rosberg.
Martin: We need a different camera angle though, if they keep two wheels inside the white line it’s okay, that’s the normal line at Monza.

L20 – Vettel runs 4th. Hamilton is catching Trulli at 1.5sec per lap. Raikkonen is still 12th. Glock makes a clean pass of Alonso who looks like he’s used up his tyres.
L22 – Hamilton passes Trulli, but has to cut the chicane because he’s in too hot. Has to give the place back.

L23 – In all of this everyone seems to have forgotten Kovalainen who is leading. He now pits. Massa is also in, James says earlier than expected. Webber also in.
Hamilton passes Glock legitimately.
Raikkonen trying Heidfeld, can’t do it. Kimi is struggling under braking but Nick has it nailed.
Vettel leads again from Rosberg, Hamilton, Trulli, Glock, Kovalainen, Alonso, Kubica, Webber, Heidfeld, Raikkonen, Massa, DC, Piquet, Naka, Sutil, Button, Barrichello, Bourdais.
Only a third of the grid has made a stop so this is sort of a false picture..

L25 – Hamilton is now 2nd and is the fastest man on the track. Slipstream move on Rosberg, just drove around him.
Hamilton could be one-stopping. Vettel radio: Hamilton will be stopping in 3 laps.
Glock pits. Hamilton sets fastest lap.
No sign of the rain from Alonso’s radio call earlier.

When Massa pitted he came out behind Heidfeld and is losing a lot of time behind him. He’s stuck like Kimi was.

L26 – Ted: “Everyone who has stopped has taken full wets. Thought Glock would try intermediates.”
Raikkonen pits and takes full wets. Trulli is also in.
Hamilton is catching Vettel, he’s only 1.1s behind but does need to stop. Vettel will also need to stop again in this race – will Hamilton need a 2nd stop?
L28 – Hamilton pits and takes full wets. Clear track when he gets out, there’s a Renault in the background.
If Hamilton doesn’t stop again he’s carrying a lot of fuel and will need to protect his tyres – and will need it to rain some more.
L29 – Rosberg pits, he also has full wets. Fuel hose is stuck! Gets going.. This is Williams’ 500th GP.
Coulthard pits and he HAS taken the intermediates! He’s a long way back in the field and has nothing to lose, the track is drying now. Will it rain?
Replay: DC exiting pits doesn’t even take to the first corner, runs up the escape road.
L30 – Heidfeld pits but we don’t see it. Bourdais pits from a lap down..
Alonso, Kubica, Piquet and Nakajima have yet to stop.

L31 – Alonso is now in. Martin says Hamilton has a good chance of winning this race and Massa will have to stop again. Alonso does take intermediates.
Raikkonen passes Trulli for 10th. He’d already taken Glock on the previous lap.
I’d like to know what they make of the chances of Kovalainen.

L32 – From the timing – Coulthard is lapping at roughly the pace of the guys on full wets. That means we’re at the crossover point between tyres – it will now come down to whether it rains or not.

L34 – Massa pits from 5th. He’s on intermediates now. Rosberg is in. Everyone is switching because Alonso is the fastest car on the track on intermediates. DC and Nakajima are also fast but a way back.
Kovalainen is in from 2nd, he’s 16sec behind the leader. Kubica is in for his first stop, Webber is in. Everyone going to inters.

If it rains heavily now all these guys are screwed.
L36 – Massa has passed Webber for position – Webber spins!! Saves it. He’s struggled with the change of tyre.
Kimi changes tyres.

Hamilton is going to have to change tyres, he’s second now and still needs that rain. It is still wet but there isn’t enough water on the track for his full wets.

Vettel pits for the change to inters. He has a full pitstop over Hamilton.
Piquet is running 3rd and still hasn’t made a stop!
Hamilton has pitted for inters, his chance of winning has now gone.
Massa sets fastest lap. Piquet has now stopped, he’s going to get a good result.
Hamilton sliding it past Webber, great driving when he doesn’t know what grip he’ll have on these tyres!

L38 – Kovalainen has cut the gap to Vettel from 16sec to 9.5sec through the stops, in laps, out laps. There are 16 laps to go.
Hamilton sets fastest lap.. some was faster than anyone else. 2 seconds faster! He’s 7th, 5.5sec behind Massa.

Order after stops: Vettel, Kovalainen, Kubica, Alonso, Heidfeld, Massa, Hamilton, Webber, Barrichello (eh??), Coulthard, Button (?), Piquet, Nakajima, Raikkonen, Glock, Trulli, Rosberg, Sutil, Bourdais

Kubica’s long run worked for him, he pitted at just the right time, as did Alonso. Coulthard is 10th so it worked for him too. Where did Rubens come from? Does he need to stop again? It hasn’t worked at all for Kimi who is still 14th.
L40 – Massa is trying to get by Heidfeld. Hamilton is close behind both and catching fast.

L43 – Kimi takes Nakajima for 14th. Martin: It’s interesting but not really what we want to see, we want to see Massa and Hamilton.
Glock takes Nakajima too.

There are ten laps to go.

Replay: Coulthard runs across the middle of the Ascari chicane.
L44 – Barrichello pits from 9th, he did need a stop.
Ted: “Barrichello has put on the full wets – do they know something the others don’t? All the teams are given the same forecast by Meteo France.”

Piquet messes up turn one.

L46 – Kimi now sets fastest lap as he catches DC and Button.
Kovalainen was 0.7s slower than Vettel on that last lap! McLaren vs Toro Rosso. This isn’t supposed to happen!
Button has now pitted. He’s taken the inters again.

Webber now sets the fastest lap! Kimi takes it straight back again. Shame you don’t get an extra point for that. Replay of Kimi passing Coulthard, he’s caught Piquet now.
Kimi passes Piquet for 9th. Piquet missed the chicane as Glock and DC fight.
Webber has caught Hamilton, he was 1sec faster last lap. Has Hamilton wasted his tyres already?
Lewis pushes Webber wide so Webber has to take the escape road.. they touched wheels.. Martin says he’s pushing his luck. I say Mark will NOT like that..

L50 – Raikkonen is still setting fastest laps but he’s 16sec behind Webber who is 8th, the last points-paying place.

Vettel is fourteen seconds clear of Kovalainen. Martin: “I tell you this kid has gotta change his attitude, he’s polite with the media, shakes your hand, shakes the soundman’s hand, gives explanations and has a great sense of humour – he’ll give Grand Prix drivers a bad name!”

L51 – Coulthard hits Nakajima! DC has to pit with damage.
Raikkonen is consistently two seconds per lap faster than pretty much every car except Alonso.

L53 – Final lap. James on Vettel: “Every now and then you see something which reminds you why love Formula One. This is one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in 20 years of Formula One.”

The fans horns are blowing. Final corner.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS!!
He applaudes himself. Even HE can’t believe it. Martin: “Faultless in dificult conditions.”
No position changes on the last lap.
Radio: “You have won the Italian Grand Prix. We’re proud of you.”
Vettel on the radio in Italian. I like that he took time to learn the lingo.

James: “I won’t even ask your driver of the day, it has to be Vettel, it has to be the drive of the season let alone day.” Martin agrees, suspects STR have moved ahead of RBR in the teams standings. Ferrari engine, the main team has the Renault.

Result:
Vettel 53 laps [10 pts]
Kovalainen +12.5sec [8]
Kubica +20.4s [6]
Alonso +23.9s [5]
Heidfeld +27.7s [4]
Massa +28.8s [3]
Hamilton +29.9s [2]
Webber +32.0s [1]
Raikkonen +39.4s
Piquet +54.4s
Glock +58.8s
Nakajima +62.0s
Trulli +65.9s
Rosberg +68.6s
Button +73.3s
Coulthard (-1 lap)
Barrichello (-1)
Bourdais (-1)
Sutil (-2)
Fisichella (-42 DNF)

STR get 10 pts, McLaren 10, BMW 10, Renault 5, Ferrari 3, RBR 1

Fastest lap: Kimi Raikkonen, 1m28.047, lap 53 (the final lap!)

Cars have returned to the pits. Vettel is out of the car, diligently replaces the wheel and head restraints, then arms aloft! Alonso congratulates him as does Kubica. I’m glad F1 doesn’t do that false choreography of NASCAR and IRL, I hate manufactured reactions.

Martin: “McLaren’s cloud should’ve had a Kovalainen today.” groan!

They are on the podium! Vettel is grinning. Great to see this. German anthem for Sebastian. Look at the crowd on the straight now. Italian anthem for STR!
Who would believe this team used to be Minardi?
We’ve heard that combination of anthems far too much over the years with a certain Herr Schumacher. This is the first time I’m genuinely pleased to hear it.
Gerhard Berger collects the trophy for STR. He won 10 races as a driver, Brundle says this will top all of them.
Kovalainen does NOT look happy.
Kubica gets the trophy for third.

Champagne! Sprayed over the masses by the youngest ever winner in F1. He takes that record from Alonso.

Steve is with Mario Theissen who used to employ Vettel as test driver: “They were the best team today. Sebastian did a fantastic job. He’s just 21 we shouldn’t put too much pressure on him.”

STR team bloke: “Sebastian wrote a bit of history.” And you used to be Minardi! “We always dream of the podium, our first podium is P1 in Monza in Italy. Unbelieveable.”

Press Conference
Peter Windsor: All I can say is Sebastian, over to you: “Unbelievable. All race we had no problems, good race, very good strategy. For sure the best day of my life. So much better than you might think it is. Big big thank you to all the guys in the team. It’s great, fantastic, I’m speechless.”
“We were thinking it might be dry today and we didn’t change wing settings, so on the straight lines we were bloody fast. I was pushing hard, nearly over the limit. It was more tricky in the middle of the race with no standing water [to help the tyres]. Overall what a weekend! Pole position, race win, I don’t know what to say really.”
“I was thinking it still says P1 on my board, how can that be?”

Heikki: “Clearly not possible to win today, Sebastian and Toro Rosso very strong. I had a problem in the first couple of stints especially with the full wets. Problem warming the brakes. Got some good points, we can look forward to the next one now.”
“The problem was related to the ambient temperature.”

Robert: “Quite good weekend. We were the first car out of Q3 so we could choose our strategy. I make up quite good pace closing gap to Heikki but he was too far away. Start of the race was difficult, I overtook Nick without seeing him, suddenly I realised I’m ahead of him. Lewis got by quickly, he was faster but we stayed out longer.”

ITV cut away here so we didn’t see what Vettel said when they returned to him.

Louise with Lewis: “I drove a good race, started to close, think I was up to second at one stage and if it had rained I would have won. Once I got behind Felipe I overcooked the tyres and struggled to stay with him.”

Ted with Norbert Vettel, Sebastian’s dad: “Thank you very much. It’s perfect.” I don’t think he can speak much English – or he might just be speechless!

Not many post-race interviews from ITV today, they are talking to Mark Blundell more often.

ITV Sport has left the building in order to get Police Academy 3 on the air. Really!

Points:
Drivers: Top Ten
1 78 Hamilton
2 77 Massa (-1 back)
3 64 Kubica (-14)
4 57 Raikkonen (-21)
5 53 Kovalainen (-25) [+1]
6 51 Heidfeld (-27) [-1]
7 28 Alonso (-50) [+1]
8 26 Trulli (-52) [-1]
9 23 Vettel (-55) [+?]
10 20 Webber (-58) [-1]

Massa only scored one more point than Hamilton, mission accomplished in terms of damage-limitation from 15th. Kimi didn’t score! Frankly now I’d be more worried about Kubica.

Constructors
134 Ferrari
129 McLaren
117 BMW-Sauber
41 Toyota
41 Renault
27 STR-Ferrari
26 Red Bull-Renault
17 Williams-Toyota
14 Honda

Toro Rosso are indeed ahead of Red Bull Racing! Both McLaren and BMW close on Ferrari. Renault have caught up to Toyota.

Next up is the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix, the first F1 race to be held under the lights. Because of the time difference, and the fact it will be night there, the race will get under way at the same time as it did today in Italy, that’s 1pm UK time.

Some of the F1 personnel are a little wary of the safety aspect but I think it’ll be fine. They race in the US under lights all the time, albeit ovals, and it seemed to work okay on a road course for that MotoGP race in Qatar. It’ll look spectacular with the city as a backdrop – I’m not sure the racing will be up to scratch after seeing the track map. Let’s hope it is.

That’s a fortnight away and there isn’t the usual IndyCar race in the middle to keep us occupied, so it gives us a little break. I’m not sure I want a break…

I’ll see you later in the week for something, I’m sure.

Preview: 2008 Santander Italian Grand Prix


or.. ‘Formula 1 Gran Premio Santander d’Italia 2008‘ – as the official F1 website has it.

This is yet another race sponsored by Santander, yet another unique trophy replaced by corporate tat. The trophies for this race will be identical to those given in Britain and at least one other race, maybe two. Was it Germany? Their corporate logo. Pfft. Every race should have a unique pot.

Let’s not dwell on that though. We’re at our second classic venue in as many weeks, the historic Monza, just outside Milan.

Autodromo Nationale di Monza.

Just reading the full name gives me goosebumps. This is the home track of Ferrari, if you don’t count Imola and most don’t any more since Imola stopped holding GPs. I’m not a fan of Ferrari but I respect the history of the team. Ferrari is the oldest F1 team by quite some margin, formed in the 40s and having roots in the Alfa Romeo teams of the 1930s. What blows the mind is this: Monza is older than that – it was built in 1922. That was ages ago! It isn’t as old as Indianpolis, it does have as much history. Indycars even raced at Monza in the 1950s on the oval, so in some ways the USGP at Indy was completing the circle. I love this stuff.

The cliche about Monza is that you can feel the history at Monza, sense it in the air. That cliche is actually true. There is just something about the place which you can’t help but soak up when you are there. Okay it doesn’t have the spectator facilities of a modern circuit, and it can be a bitch to find. It is worth it. It isn’t like any other track I’ve visited and I’ve now been to several. I’d like to go to an F1 race there.

The other, maybe bigger cliche: Monza is the Temple of Speed. The fastest F1 circuit on the calendar, both in average lap speeds and I believe in top speeds as well. They run wings specifically designed for Monza and remove many of the little aero devices, winglets, etc. The GP2 cars even run with oval-style rear wings! That makes GP2 races at Monza unmissable.

I went to Monza in May 2003 as a warm-up before going to the Monaco Grand Prix. The Ferrari Challenge was there for a test day, which meant access was basically unrestricted, the only place we couldn’t go was the track itself.

I was with a group and we got into the pitlane, climbed on the pitwall, leaned through the gaps in the fence to see the cars come by. The drivers even waved at us as they left pitlane! We watched turn one from a grandstand with the old banking below us. We visited the second chicane and saw smoking tyres and the killer gravel trap which has now been replaced by asphalt.
We also found a way on to the banking, got our car on to it – I can say I have driven on the old Monza banking. It was a rental people carrier but that doesn’t matter. We got out, walked around, tried to climb to the top – very difficult, it is near-vertical. I didn’t manage it but others did.

This was taken from the very end of the pitwall during the Ferrari Challenge test. From 2003 Monza

Many of my photos from that day are on my Picasa page. If you get the chance you should go and visit Monza on a day where you can walk around anywhere, preferably when there are cars of some sort on-track. I imagine the place can be quite restricted at Grand Prix time.

Take a look at the Picasa link and bear with it while it loads each picture. Go to the official F1 website map and follow the drop-down menus to their history write-up. If you are not familiar with Monza, and I have no idea how you couldn’t be, but if you aren’t just go and take a look at those two links before this weekend’s race. Like another historic venue, Indianapolis, you have to ‘get’ Monza before you watch any race held there.

Speaking of Indy, the MotoGP crowd has landed there, hopefully causing a buzz with the locals. I can’t wait to see what they’ve done with the place, and what the MotoGP people make of Indy. It’ll be a good race, make sure you watch it on Sunday some time after the Italian GP is over.
If you are in the UK it will NOT be live on BBC2 as per usual according to the RadioTimes.com listings, they are showing it delayed at 10:45pm (it might be available via ‘red button’ or on the BBC Sport website). Check BBC2 at 7pm and 8pm anyway. Eurosport will air it live from 7:15pm, as well as the 125s and 250s earlier on. I don’t have Eurosport so will either watch online or hang on avoiding the internet for the delayed showing (in which case my F1 notes will appear Monday). I think one of the big networks is showing it in the USA? I hope so.

I nearly decided to go to Silverstone for the 1000km Le Mans Series race but with a double-header this good, no way, I’m staying right here in front of the TV.

Okay, enjoy the weekend’s racing!

Bits and bobs

Just a few things you can expect from me in the next few weeks:

F1
Race notes on the remaining F1 races this year, starting with the Italian GP this weekend. If I think about it tomorrow or Friday I’ll do a race preview but it won’t be as good as the Belgian one. I liked that preview. I guess I could gloat about having been to Monza.. Nobody likes a show-off, least of all me, but everyone likes to show off…. so that sounds like a plan. Consider it done.

Then there’s Singapore, Japan, China and Brazil. I think that’s the right order. I haven’t been to any of those so the previews would probably be a bit rubbish.

MotoGP Indy
A little after the Italian GP this Sunday is the MotoGP race at Indianapolis. If last Sunday’s IndyCar madfest at Chicago and F1 craziness in Belgium didn’t get you going, then how about back-to-backs at two of racing’s most storied venues? Shit if these 8 days don’t do it for you, you don’t like racing, and if you don’t like racing what are you doing reading this? Go away!

GP2
I keep promising to watch (and post about) some GP2 – and then I end up doing something else entirely. I’m not watching the races and ignoring the blog updates, I really haven’t seen the races yet. Basically this means I’m like 8 weeks behind on GP2. So yeah I need catch up with that, now the IndyCars are done I should have an extra couple of hours a week for doing that. Any bets on when I’ll *actually* watch the things?

A1GP
I said I’d do a series preview for A1GP. Their first race of the new season was due ten days from now but it got postponed, apparently indefinitely. I think there’s a clear weekend in there somewhere so I’ll see if I get time to knock something up but I’m not promising anything.

I’ve just realised I have no clue why I’m posting this, yet I’m going to hit Publish anyway. Does this mean I’ve become a Blogaholic? Is that a word? Help!

By the way, on the whole Lewis vs Kimi thing:
Both put in great drives and I’d have been happy for either to win – ON THE RACETRACK. Post-race decisions disappoint me, especially ones which make no sense at all.
Glock got the same penalty as Hamilton but I understand that, he passed under yellows, that’s a No-No. Fine. Yet Hamilton backed off enough that Raikkonen was ahead by a nose. The position was returned in accordance with accepted precedent.
Hamilton was faster on the straight because he had been faster for the whole of the previous lap. The McLaren is just better in the rain on this type of track.
What about all of this did the FIA stewards miss? Even Charlie Whiting of the FIA told McLaren it was safe – twice! The stewards are independent of Whiting..
The FIA’s structures are too rigid and old-fashioned, and they always have been. Time for a rethink.