In the first of what will be my weekly Monday column, I look back at the weekend of racing and give my thoughts on what I witnessed.
Welcome to Parc Fermé.
I was fortunate enough to sit in the seat and perform live comms for The Pit Crew Online covering the 6 Hours of Mexico in the World Endurance Championship. The moody Mexican sky gathered menacingly above the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. The teams and fans alike gazed up, wondering when the weather would change. Audi looked cautiously to the track, wondering whether they could stop the Porsche onslaught. Porsche themselves, in control and leading the championship chase were confident. Toyota a distant ray of hope, possibly still reeling from the heartbreak of Le Mans. The ‘what ifs” and “what could have been” thoughts still swirling round their heads in the paddock, their mood as dark as the clouds that covered Mexico City.
How would the race unfold? What would the reaction of the fans be? How would this new chapter in the story play-out? Dramatically and with incident would be the answer.
As I mentioned in my article http://www.thepitcrewonline.net/#!From-Mexico-With-Love/cjds/57cbf54af97b694429bc4d35 this was a new race and it was unknown territory.
It just worked. Tremendously well.
Olly Jarvis losing control of his Audi, sent pirouetting across the track before slamming into the barrier. The team straight on the radio checking to see if he was hurt. He replied that all was well, be it sounding shaken and slightly emotional.
Lotterer, chasing hard, too hard. He locked up and clipped the barrier. That was the race for the win over. Today would be Porsche’s day, again. A Toyota side-swiping the LMP2 car of ESM, they were given a penalty and rightly so in my opinion. The Aston Martin of Dalla Lana face planting the barrier with the gentle assistance of Ford. Another penalty. The raging, tug of war battles across the field and the ongoing conflict between Audi and Porsche which resulted in both cars diving into the pits. Now it was a battle of the pit crews.
The forlorn sight of a Corvette, battered and stricken on the track with pieces of bodywork hanging off. The car was dented, the team wounded. The inter-changeable weather that refused to pay attention to Race Control. “We expect rain in fifteen minutes.” That was the message. It arrived in five. The weather, unlike the race, can’t be controlled.
Mexico produced a race of dramatic steel, but with charm. It was unknown, but it delivered and then some.
And that brings me to the next series I watched at the weekend. Formula One.
Monza. The Italian Grand Prix. Just those words conjure up images of passionate fans packed into this arena. The nostalgic allure of the old circuit, memories of days gone by. It should have been a celebration with fireworks, dancing girls and an Italian street party with loud pumping music.
Except it wasn’t.
It was more like a birthday party for Auntie Doris at the local village hall with bunting, paper hats, party poppers and cup of cocoa. It wasn’t the spectacle it was supposed to, or even deserved to be.
Rather than concentrate on the damp squid which was the race, I will as always try and pluck some positives from it.
Whether you are a Rosberg or Hamilton fan, there is no denying that Nico’s win was dominant and commanding. He controlled the lead he had and managed to put in a totally professional performance. He capitalised on Hamilton’s bad start.
I have seen the idiotic comments on social media from both Rosberg and Hamilton fans over the last couple of years and I saw a few more over the weekend. That’s just what they are. Idiotic.
Jenson, on the back of his news, looked feisty (as much as you can be in a McLaren at the moment). Then we have Fernando Alonso. After pitting towards the end he came out and showboated a fastest lap. Not only did this put a smile on the faces of McLaren fans, it actually proved that unharnessed and released from its shackles, the car is quick. It also reinforces the fact, if it had been forgotten, that Alonso is a fast driver given the right tools. Just needs to work on those mood swings of his.
I was playing catch-up. My recording box primed with times of races so detailed it was a like a master battleplan and I was the General.
Buckle up, it’s time for the mayhem, chaos and excitement that is Moto3.
Brad Binder extended his lead to 86 points in the Championship. He could possibly sit in the garage, put his feet up and have a cup of tea for the next couple of races if he wanted to. He won’t and nor should he. The likeable South African put in a great performance to win the Octo British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
The Silverstone track was bumping the riders all over the place. The old lady is getting on a bit now and it’s starting to show.
Binder was assisted in putting one hand on the trophy after Jorge Navarro was unceremoniously ejected from his bike. At first it looked as though Andrea Migno had clipped him, but on the replay you see that it was actually the wildcard rider Stefano Manzi. Navarro and Migno came together after Manzi’s contact and they both went tumbling. Manzi, who had started on the second to last row of the grid, carried on and managed to put himself in fifth place at the chequered flag. The collision aside I think there might be a few teams looking at this young man.
Last season British fans were in the same position as South African fans. We look at our rider surging ahead in the points, putting in one sublime performance after another and yet there is still that nervousness of what if? If Binder gives South African fans the kind of end of season that Danny Kent gave us Brits you’re in for an edge of the seat finish. That said, I think Binder will be crowned Moto3 champion.
It was Moto2 next and it was time for Sam Lowes.
The battle for the title is on. Zarco, Rins and Lowes (though some might add Luthi to that now). It has been an epic tussle between the three of them and as Sam sat on the grid, pole position, I could feel the butterflies in my stomach. Come on Sam!
The race went off at a furious pace and then Zarco started to come back. In a press conference before the race he had stated that he needed to stop Lowes. He stopped him alright, but it definitely wasn’t sporting. Lowes was catapulted by Zarco as the Frenchman barrelled his way through on the inside. I have no qualms whatsoever laying the blame of Sam Lowes crashing out at the door of Zarco. It was a reckless move from the defending champion and he kept his word. He stopped Lowes.
There is no taking it away from Thomas Luthi, who rode a fantastic race and has put himself back in the Championship hunt, now six points behind Lowes. We should have had a Brit on the podium in the Moto2 race at Silverstone, but it wasn’t to be.
The main race. The big one. MotoGP.
For the entire Silverstone weekend the pressure had been put on Cal Crutchlow. After a second place at the Sachsenring and winning the Czech Grand Prix, the fans were hoping for more. Ever since the birth of his daughter Cal has just looked and raced like a different man. He admitted feeling the pressure.
Cal Crutchlow. British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Pole Position. As I type that it gives me goosebumps.
Aside from Cal the spotlight was also on Scott Redding and the replacement for the injured Bradley Smith. A certain Alex Lowes had moved across from the Yamaha World Superbike Team to take the ride for Smith. His first ever MotoGP ride. With the obvious interest in Rossi (where isn’t there?) somebody forgot to tell Maverick Vinales that he didn’t have a lead role in this production.
The race however would have a scary start as Pol Espargaro and Loris Baz had a coming together at Turn 2. That’s around 180mph. Both their bikes went cartwheeling across the grass, the riders themselves bouncing around with the debris. The rest of the field sped round the corner and the riders went sliding across the track, bikes weaving to avoid them.
My heart was in my mouth. Red flag. Of course there had to be a red flag, though it did take a while to come out.
Thankfully both riders are fine.
The re-start. Vinales skipped by Rossi and Crutchlow and I sat and waited for the Yamaha and Honda rider to close down the gap on the Suzuki. I waited and waited. Nope. Maverick had cleared off into the distance and won the British Grand Prix by over three and a half seconds. Suzuki’s first dry weather win since 2001.
It was the battle behind which had the fans stomping, cheering and shouting. Cal Crutchlow was involved in an almighty battle with Iannone, Rossi and Marquez. Iannone decided to throw his bike at the scenery at Luffield and that left the Brit, the Italian and the feisty little Spaniard to go at it hammer at tongs…..and didn’t they just.
What pleased me the most was the hard, fair battle between Rossi and Marquez. None of those silly shenanigans we saw last season, no bad mouthing after the race. Just good, hard racing. Cal Crutchlow wasn’t ready to be bullied by Marquez either and stuck his Honda in second place ahead of both the factory bikes. He was using the chassis that the factory team had decided not to use. He did not disappoint the British fans in what was an epic race.
Cal Crutchlow on the podium at Silverstone. Smiling again.
It was full of incident and that brings me nicely to my conclusion.
I witnessed four absolutely brilliant races at the weekend in WEC, MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 and the yawn-fest affair in Formula One.
Now, don’t get me wrong I have been an F1 fan for over forty years now so I am not a hater, just disappointed that the sport which gave me the passion for motor racing as a child is…well…not as interesting as the other series I have watched this weekend….well actually the entire season.
Time to buck your ideas up F1, you are being out-gunned and out-played. Let’s hope this proposed buy-out injects some excitement, I say that more hopefully than with any conviction.
Here are my “Weekend Awards”:
STAND-OUT WEEKEND PERFORMANCE
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND
“Look at Cal! Maybe I should go and make a baby.” – Valentino Rossi
AWKWARD MOMENT OF THE WEEKEND
Valtteri Bottas blanking David Coulthard on the Grid Walk…..twice.
PUT-DOWN OF THE WEEKEND
“When you have played a gig to 400-500 people, must be a bit difficult going home to impress the wife.” – Julian Ryder to James Toseland (married to singer Katie Melua)
See You At The Chequered Flag
(c) MotoGP, F1, WEC