Sunday, August 6

Hungarian GP

On July 30th i got home at 4 am, 30 minutes before the start of the German Grand Prix which i hadn't plan on watching. Michael Schumacher who was trailing 17 pts in the Championship was the pole-sitter with defending champion Alonso 5th on the grid. Why didn't i want to watch it? Because Schumi on the pole with Alonso 5 cars behind is like Tiger Woods leading by 8 strokes on Sunday. It's academic. Besides i was tired as heck... But i couldn't resist i stayed up and watched at least 3/4 of the show. Schumi was leading by a whopping 40 seconds and cruised to to victory, his record 85th GP win (then only trailing Alonso by 11 points. Should be 2 if he hadn't pulled that stupid stunt in Monaco).

Leading up to the Hungarian GP the following Sunday, only a 6 hour drive from the German GP in Hokeinheim, i told Adrian, depending on the grid positions i would call in sick Sunday to watch the race. Man, i really miss when Fox used to cover Formula 1. They used to show it on delayed telecast at 9 am West Coast time not like Speed Channel at the unGodly wee hours of the morning LIVE. See all i had to do back then was avoid watching sports news in the morning so as not to spoil the race. Anyway, low and behold, Michael nor Alonso was on the pole, actually they were no where near the pole position... They each received 2-second penalties for qualifying and practice infractions subsequently changing my entire weekend plans. Michael was starting in 11th position with Alonso trailing by 4 positions in a track where there's virtually no passing. Unless of course your name is Schumacher, Alonso, Senna, Andretti, Prost and the like. With the grid positions as such, there was no way on Earth i was going to miss the race. Not with Schumi hot on Alonsos heels for the Championship race anyway.

I was in bed by 9:30 pm. For a Saturday night that's gotta be a world record haha (for me anyway). And to add to the already high-strung GP-drama, mother nature decided to join in the fray with Heavy Patchy Rains. I was tempted to call Adrian, my F1 protege, to advise him of what to expect in a rain soaked GP but decided he should see it for himself. Without the rains i expected Schumi and Alonso to steam-roll their way into a pole finish, ya they're that good. They're practically in a league of their own (except when someone from other teams are on a very light fuel load and steal a pole position). Schumi is very good in the rain but remains ultra-aggressive which works against him especially in a Championship race. Alonso on the other hand is precision-driven and not quite as aggressive and probably more team-oriented than Michael will ever be. I expected both to be on a 1-stop strategy if the rains didn't let up but the rains were actually on and off which made for an even more unpredictable GP. I did predict that if Schumi DNF's (did not finish) it'll be an incident resulting from his aggressive style and faulty equipment for Alonso and that alone (yes he is that good). Usually on dry surfaces cars are on grooved slicks with choices limited to soft or hard compounds depending on track temperature. With the fickle weather however tyre choice were intermediate or full-rain (most were on intermediate). The real question was how the two tyres would perform in the wet (Michelin and Bridgestone are the only two tyre producers in F1)...

Remarkably, even with the pouring rains, the first turn was without incident. Even more remarkable was Schumi and Alonso making up 6 and 9 spots respectively by the 3rd lap (told ya they were good). By lap 7 it was apparent Michelin had the traction advantage as the Renaults and the Mclarens began picking off cars on the Bridgestone tyres and by lap 15 Alonso had an 8 second lead on Schumi. Eventually the top 7 in the running were all on Michelins with Schumi in 8th on top of the Bridgestone heap (and this is only 20 out of 70 laps in and if the rains didn't let up it was going to be a long grind of a race). Albeit Michelins dominance, i've seen enough rain-filled F1 races to know that anything could happen, especially with the sun peeking through the clouds, seemingly teasing the Slick Tyres, and the dark clouds looming on the horizon waiting for their turn to cast its wrath on the track.

To quote the official F1 site "a race in which fortunes changed faster than the weather". There was so much stuff happening at the track i hardly blinked while watching. Kimi Raikonnen leading from the pole uncharacteristically ran into the back of Liuzzi in the Toro Rosso ending his day and almost a surefire win. He may have been peeking at the mirrors a bit too much as rookie Kubica who replaced Montoya was closing in. Alonso's pit crew committed a lug-nut blunder in the pits that cost him the race in the late goings. Schumi who elected to remain in the intermediates with the drying conditions clipped both Delarosa in the other Mclaren and Nick Heinfeld while being passed for position damaging the right-front suspension costing him the race and more importantly precious championship points. He'd been better off pitting for slicks. Ultimately when it was all said and done even without Schumi and Alonso in the podium it was a great race. Historic in fact for BAR-Honda and a first win for young English man Jenson Button on his 113th GP... Somewhat anti-climactic for the Schumi-Alonso saga but quite a treat for F1 fans around the world. Rare it is that we experience such deviation from the normalcy and predictability of a Formula One Grand Prix that we welcome with opens arms anything that might bring excitement to an otherwise systematic sport with systematic results in almost every outing. In fact F1's broadcast duo, who has been at the helm for almost as long as Vince Scully has for my beloved Dodgers, made a statistical mistake by saying that only a Schumacher & an Alonso has won the Hungarian GP in the last 9 years, when in fact Mika Hakkinan won for McLaren-Mercedes in 1999 and this years pole-sitter Kimi Raikkonen took the checkered flag just last year...


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