Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Comment: European Grand Prix

TTS looks back at the European Grand Prix and responds to my “Alonso Storms to Chaotic Nurburgring Win” post.

After reading Chris Hayes recent blog entry, “Alonso Storms to Chaotic Nurburgring Win”, and after a brilliant European Grand Prix, I felt the need to respond. An opinion is like a head, everybody’s got one.

I have to admit that I’m not a fan of Murray Walker. I met him at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2001, and from this brief encounter, my opinion of him has been set in stone. I won’t deny that he is the ‘Voice of Formula One’, but I wasn’t that excited to hear about his return to the commentary box. Murray Walker’s magic is in his passion for the sport.

This compensated for the fact that he was constantly getting things wrong!! Some fans might see this as an endearing characteristic. There is a nostalgic feel to his return, but the coverage that ITV’s current commentary team provides viewers in the United Kingdom is far superior.

One thing that Murray Walker used to possess was ‘the dreaded commentator’s curse’. He’d comment on how well a driver was progressing on lap 10, and the same driver would be off the track on lap 11.

Saying all that, if I had to choose between Murray Walker and James Allan, I’d pick Walker (without hesitation). This is only my opinion, but I don’t like James Allan’s commentary style.

He continually name drops, to make viewers think that he’s well connected – which I is doubt is the case (especially when compared to Martin Brundle). If I ever needed to provide an example of how bad James Allan’s commentary skills are, I’d refer to the moment Jenson Button crossed the line for his first and only victory. Allan’s voice went super sonic in a very conscious attempt to show emotion. But ironically it felt ‘put on’. If you compare that to Murray Walker’s ‘true’ emotional line ‘I have to stop because I’ve got a lump in my throat’, as Damon Hill won the 1996 driver’s championship, there’s no comparison.

I would also like to comment on how Chris, a number of years ago, signed an Internet petition to have James Allan removed from the ITV commentary box!!

I put my hands up to this and I stand by it, I can’t stand James Allen’s commentary. But I do think some of the criticism is a bit harsh. The attacks on him on the ITV message board (as it was before they took it down) – got very personal for example.

I never know how to rate Alexander Wurz. I can remember his debut season with Benetton in Formula One. He showed signs of brilliance. Many readers may remember his battle with Michael Schumacher at Monte Carlo many years ago.

I think it’s slightly inaccurate using the European Grand Prix to judge whether Wurtz podium performance in Canada was a ‘fluke’ or not. I would tend to classify Wurtz as a fortunate driver. His best results have come in races with extraordinary incidents: Kubica’s horrific crash in Canada, and an extremely wet and changeable European Grand Prix.

I have to commend Wurtz on his ability to keep out of trouble during these unpredictably occasions, but I still feel he has benefited from other driver’s mistakes, rather than through his own skill.

I was absolutely amazed that Lewis Hamilton was allowed to continue after being craned back onto the track. A lot of people made a lot of fuss after Michael Schumacher was pushed back onto the track during the European Grand Prix a couple of years ago. Yet nobody’s questioned Hamilton’s method of re-entry onto the track.

Did briefly mention this but yes, I was amazed they allowed this. There has actually been quite a lot of comment about this. See the debate at Ed Gorman’s (The Times) blog HERE, HERE and HERE.

I understand the ruling, that drivers can obtain assistance if they’re in a potentially dangerous location. But was he in a dangerous position, once the safety car was deployed?
It shows a great presence of mind to keep the engine running, especially as cars were flying off the track behind him at turn one. That presence of mind shows a formidable competitor and a future world champion.

I was wondering why Hamilton didn’t reverse his car out of the barrier at turn one. Why did he need to be craned out? Do Formula One cars have reverse?

I visited the old McLaren site in Woking around five or six years ago. I distinctly remember the guide telling us that Formula One cars can’t reverse. But from Sunday’s footage, it was clear to see that Antony Davidson was able to reverse his car, after aquaplaning at the first corner. If anyone knows the answer, I’d be good to know.

I can’t believe Chris wants McLaren to suffer a points deduction at the FIA hearing on Thursday. I’d much rather the championship be fought out on the track, rather than in a hearing.

I’m not sure where you got this from, I mentioned in my post HERE, that ironically points deductions might end up bringing Raikkonen into the mix again. But no, I think it would be damaging for the sport if the drivers ended up getting punished for Coughlan’s actions.

We are currently witnessing one of the best, most competitive and unpredictable seasons in many a decade. How many times have we witnesses four men challenging for the championship after ten rounds? After ten rounds 18 points cover four men. Even though the points structure makes Kimi’s championship challenge an uphill challenge, the recent performance of the Ferrari makes his chances alive and well.

It’s interesting to note that Alonso and Raikkonen have both won three races, one more than their respective teammates. Yet Hamilton and Massa are ahead of their respective teammates in the driver’s championship. It just goes to shows that consistency is key.

I was reading an interesting article featured in the August edition of F1 Racing. It commented on how McLaren only became in possession of Ferrari document in March, at which point the McLaren had already been developed. They also speculated whether McLaren’s improvement in performance in Malaysia was due to the knowledge obtained, or due to Ferrari having to alter its flexible wing. Whether McLaren gained from the possession of the document is pure speculation. But I think McLaren will find it hard to prove that they didn’t inadvertently benefit from Mike Coughlan’s possession of the document, whether anyone else knew or not.

Chris commented on how Hamilton ‘broke the golden rule of wet weather race strategy: regardless of what the reports are telling you about the future, react only to the present’. I totally disagree with this comment.

Hamilton wasn’t predicting the weather. The rain had stopped when he made the decision to opt for slick tyres.

True, I guess I interpreted it like this: the rain had stopped but he was taking a gamble that the track would dry out quickly and that there would be no more short-term rain (predicting the future) rather than putting the tyres on that best suited the current track conditions, which were clearly the wets or inters. I don’t think that when he made the decision he genuinely thought that the slicks were the best tyres for the moment; I think he was gambling on a drying track.

I believe that Hamilton, whilst driving the lap to un-lap himself, felt that he could handle a drying track on slick tyres. This ‘bad’ decision was due to a distinct lack of experience, especially in wet weather conditions. Many, including myself, wondered how Hamilton would perform in the wet. And like Silverstone, he made another rare rookie mistake.
Renault and Kovalainen’s decision to throw away a fifth position was crazy. And Chris’ golden rule react only to the present clearly applies.

I think Chris sells Alonso slightly short in his closing paragraphs. Massa proved to be extremely quick, but Alonso was continuing to close Massa’s advantage, ten laps before the second spell of rain.

Sorry, didn’t mean to. I still don’t think Alonso would have been able to close the gap enough to get past Massa if it had remained dry. But his aggression in the wet and his move on Massa was stunning.

The mark of a good driver is his ability to cope in all conditions, including wet. Massa was very tentative in the closing laps, which shows how talented Alonso is.
I’m personally glad Alonso won. It ensured that McLaren couldn’t back one driver: Hamilton in their defence against a revitalised Ferrari team.

And Chris will be glad to hear that Alonso has admitted that he was wrong to accuse Massa regarding the incident in the closing stages of the European Grand Prix.

But overall, what an amazing race, and what an amazing season. Bring on Hungary!!! And what a brilliant twist, having Winkelhock lead his debut home grand prix in a Spike. Anything can happen in Formula One and it usually does (now Michael Schumacher’s retired)!!

“Anything can happen in Formula One and it usually does”; the power of Murray, he can even influence those who are not 100% fans!


TTS said...

I'm trying to prevent this from turning into a 'war of words'.

My entry wasn't purely a criticism of your posting. When I said I was amazed at Hamilton being allowed to continue after being craned back onto the track, I was purely reiterating, and agreeing with your comments.

I have to put my hands up and admit that I misread your comments surrounding your hope for points deductions. You did state that Raikkonen would be praying for a points deduction - not yourself.

I still feel that Hamilton's decision to select slicks, on a drying track, was based on what he felt would be best for 'his' race. Therefore that 'bad' decision was due to a lack of experience, and an amazing self confidence.

I agree that Alonso wouldn't have been able to close the gap to Massa as easily, without the late shower. However to state that the Ferrari's performance was 'robbed' is a bit strong. If Massa wasn't so damn tentative in the rain, the Ferrari's performance wouldn't have been 'robbed'.

My closing comment had been derived from Murray Walker. A bit of the slip of the fingers.

F1 Voice said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
F1 Voice said...

Don't worry, I never interpret your comments as criticism - it's great fun to read from another angle. You're the only person that ever writes to me about the blog - *big hint to all those lurkers*.

Half of the time I can't remember my exact words. I also tend to write in a bit of a rush which can give things the wrong meaning. E.g. I can't believe I said that Massa was robbed of victory, no way was that the case.

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