Saturday, July 11, 2009

German Grand Prix Preview

The real action is in the driver’s championship, not in the corridors of power

LEWIS Hamilton pulled a stunt in front of his home crowd after the last race at Silverstone three weeks ago and the fans went wild. The world champion did a doughnut, rotating his McLaren-Mercedes at high revs around the same spot, until a plume of smoke rose up from his rear tyres. It didn’t matter to his fans that their hero ended 16th out of the 18 drivers who crossed the finish. They had fun, so did the 24-yearold Briton. At Nurburgring for Sunday’s German Grand Prix, the McLaren pilot said drivers should be given more freedom to improve the Formula 1 show — just like in MotoGP, where the speed demons do all kinds of wheelies, stoppies and burnouts at the end of a race to the delight of the fans.
The powers-that-be who run F1 ought to listen to Hamilton. Not that they should push drivers to perform tricks. But they need to understand that fans watch motor-racing for fun. The bickering over the past few months between motorsport’s governing body FIA and the top eight teams has left many disturbed. They sighed with relief when both sides seemingly ended their feud in Paris two weeks ago. It was short-lived. At Nurburgring earlier this week, the eight teams walked out of a technical meeting seething after efforts to sort out rules for next year with the FIA broke down. The breakaway series they had threatened to launch resurfaced, and the mud-slinging resumed. Fans are tired, of not knowing what a bunch of men, who have made discord in F1 their life’s goal, will do next. I know I’ve tired of the off-track drama. We’ll just have to let the demons sort themselves out and not lose sight of the fun taking place between Hamilton and company on the track.That is where the real action is. That is where the grown-ups in F1 are today.
Beware the Red Bulls’ charge
Hamilton is effectively out of the running for the drivers’ championship. The real deal is Brawn GP’s Jenson Button, who has taken six of the eight races so far. But the 29-year-old Briton is facing some real opposition from others, rather than just team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who was the only one pushing him earlier in the season. It came from the Red Bull Racing pair of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, who knocked the wind out of Brawn GP with a one-two finish at Silverstone. They have the talent and now the car to stop the championship leader from taking any more race wins. To do this, Red Bull must come to a bold decision, starting this Sunday in Germany. They must focus the rest of their campaign around Vettel, who is better all around than Webber. The 22-year-old knows how to win races, and his three career wins, including his Silverstone victory, have been nothing short o fGe rman Grand Prix Keep your eye on the tarmac spectacular. In front of his homefans, the German will be fired up to repeat that. Though 25 points behind Button,Vettel has a long shot at the title, and that will require Webber, 3.5 points behind his teammate and who has yet to win an F1 race, riding shotgun. Button’s route to the titleis far easier. All he needs is to register three more wins and be consistently on the podium for the rest of the season.
Ferrari spoilers
The real threat to Button’s bid, however, is from within his camp. Barrichello, second in the championship and two points ahead of Vettel, is in the twilight of his career. At 37, this may be the Brazilian’s last chance to finally be crowned world champion. After playing second fiddle to Michael Schumacher at Ferrari under Ross Brawn, who is again his boss at Brawn GP, Barrichello is not in the mood to be short changed once more. There is no hint that Brawn GP has issued team orders and is forcing Barrichello to give way to his team-mate. But Button must also keep his eye on other drivers such as double world champion Fernando Alonso of Renault and the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and 2007 title winner Kimi Raikkonen. Although out of the championship reckoning, their cars are fast improving and could take precious points off him. They can turn out to be kingmakers and hand Vettel or Barrichello the title. This is where the fun in F1 is, on the track and not off it.

By Ian De Cotta ; TODAY Paper

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