Malaysia – There are no Tough Mudders on SPEED

Posted: April 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

Yesterday (Saturday 9th April) I completed the Tough Mudder Pennsylvania 2011.  This is best left to another blog.  The important thing to point out here is that after 10 miles, 830 feet of elevation change (up red grade ski slopes in snow and mud) and 25 obstacles (including fire, freezing water, electrocution and more walls than I care to mention) I was not going to wake up at 3am to watch the Malaysian Grand Prix live on SPEED.  So, here I am instead at 8am watching the DVR’d coverage. I slept well. I can hardly move. I already cannot remember what it feels like to walk without pain.

Off we go…

It’s SPEED’s Hollywood-style intro and it’s telling me that Vettel is “running free on the racetracks of the world”. I don’t know what this means.

Ah, the other drivers – Button, Hamilton, Alonso, Schumacher… wait a second – Schumacher?

BIG, DAY-DEFINING, NEWS – Leigh Diffey (an Aussie it appears) is standing in for Bob Varsha this week who is apparently “on assignment at Barrett Jackson!” Barrett Jackson is a televised Florida car auction by the way. Priorities Bob, priorities…

Leigh tells us “SPEED’s F1 royalty” are still with him in the commentary box and… yes, sure enough, there’s the Hobster and Steve-O next to him looking like Team America puppets. If you need an introduction or reminder as to who the others are, please see here.

“If it rains here, it will be monsoon rain.” says Steve-O the meteorologist.

Steve: “Emmanuelle Pirlo, the 4 (he later confirms it is actually 5…) time Le Mans 24 winner is here”  Le Mans 24hrs? No, “Le Mans 24”.  I wonder what the 24 stands for..?

Will Buxton interviews Chrisitan Horner. Really good interview this. He is asked about which side the pole should be on and gives the pros and cons without whinging. Back in the studio, the Hobster is asked what he thinks and literally repeats exactly what Christian Horner just said. There begins a day of zero added value.

Oh look, there’s Michael Schumacher – because we haven’t seen him in at least 2 mins.

Vitaly Petrov is next to be interviewed by Will Buxton. Vitaly seems really nice. I like Vitaly.

The drivers put on their cool-vest tank-top thingys. Even F1 drivers cannot make this look cool.

The Aussie newcomer Leigh is keeping it simple but is at least getting things right. I am not missing Bob one little bit right now.

Nick Heilfeld looks like a late-70s East German spy.

Beumi says the DRS was not much use because “when you get out of the last corner and you slide and you cannot get close enough even with it” So, what you mean is that DRS is not enough to make up for your lack of talent then, Sebastien?

Interesting range of views on DRS – Lauda hates it (has he ever liked anything?), Nico loves it.

Ad break. Apparently the Dodge Durango has been away for a couple of years “getting handling lessons on those sporty European roads” – presumably the advertising team has never been in a traffic jam on the M40 or driven through the Po Valley south of Milan.

Back to the F1 coverage and it’s another SPEED promo – “In Australia it’s the flickering light, in Monaco it’s the narrow streets, in Singapore it’s the time zone halfway round the world and in Malaysia it’s…” another time zone halfway round the world? No? I mean, it’s the same time zone as Singapore, so..?  No, apparently it’s the weather.

Malaysia is pronounced MAY-lay-sha, and Sepang is pronounced Sea-pang according to the guy doing the voiceover.

On board with Vitaly on his Q3 hotlap who, it turns out, is a MAJOR throttle featherer. Old school Senna style. Nice lap.

Sergio Perez has GREAT hair. Like an 80s TV cop.

DRS is too artificial. So, at a given point on the track it measures whether you’re within a second of the car in front and then, depending on the answer, around the next corner you may or may not be allowed to press a button and flatten… no, sorry… bored already. Stop it. Ban carbon brakes instead. Thanks.

Warm-up lap: Leigh lets me down for the first time – the “main storyline” is not “will Renault repeat their performance in Australia?”

Start: Vettel gets a decent enough start. Webber bogs down. Renaults get a flyer. Hamilton closes on Vettel coming down to the braking zone. Vettel moves to his right,  then left, then slightly to the right and finally left again as he keeps Hamilton behind braking into the apex of Turn 1. If I was Clerk of the Course I would not call it in but technically that’s weaving and should be a black flag. Just saying.

Lap 1 – 2007 Hamilton takes himself and Nick Heidfeld out of the race at Turn 4. 2011 Hamilton sees the gap closing and decides his race should last at least one more corner.

Lap 2 – Steve is amazed that those drivers that are not in the top 10 are racing so hard. I mean – they should just give up, right?

Lap 2 – Leigh: “Schumacher’s made a great start – that’s good.” Is it?!?

Lap 5 – Vitaly runs out of talent and goes wide, letting both Ferrari’s through. I grumble.

Lap 7 – Kobayashi breezes past Webber by using KERS and the DRS. Exciting? Not really.

Lap 11 – Someone in the commentary box uses their graphical device to draw all over the screen with yellow digital ink like they’re testing a biro.

Lap 11 – Webber comes in for new tyres. It then immediately starts to rain. Not, please take note meteorologist-Steve, ‘monsoon rain’, but instead drizzle.

Lap 13 – We listen in as Hamilton says something from the cockpit. You cannot tell what it is. Steve guesses (without admitting he is) it’s about the rain.

Lap 15 – Hamilton outbreaks two cars into the last corner through sheer driving talent. It’s fun when you can clearly see the difference between the good and the great on TV like that.

Lap 16 – Great move from Perez on Algusuari. Nice start to your F1 career my Mexican friend.

Lap 17 – Alonso overtakes Button. At least that’s what I just saw on the screen. What I heard was three commentators speaking over each other.

Lap 17 – Alonso takes Kobayashi.  He’s on new rubber which helps, but it was still damn good.

Lap 18 – Hobster (two corners from the end of the lap): “Is Alonso closing on Hamilton here..? Yes… I think he is!”

Lap 19 – Hamilton pulls out the fastest lap of the race.

Lap 23 – The Hobster thinks Paul Di Resta is “pretty awesome”. This sounds like the Saturday Night Live Miley Cyrus saying he’s “pretty cool”.

Lap 23 – A replay of Heldfeld losing it mid-corner, running through the grass and gravel and back onto the track. “Ooohhh! Errrrr… oh!” is what we hear as a soundtrack from Hobbs.

Lap 25 – Vettel enters the pits. “Yes! Yes!” says Steve, without explanation.

Lap 26 – Hamilton takes Petrov aggressively but cleanly. Hobster: “Ha hah! Yes! Petrov will be saying (attempt a Russian accent that comes out as vaguely German) “Vot ‘are ou do-inge!!” Hannah and I cringe in unison.

Lap 27 – Massa gives up a perfectly defensible lead to Vettel, who makes a mistake in overtaking him but is still able to easily hold off the Brazilian. Sepang is a Massa circuit – one of the new ones with constant radius corners and 7 miles of runoff at every corner (see China, Bahrain, Turkey etc). Either the Ferrari is rubbish and Alonso is even more out-of-this-world than I thought, or Massa really has completely lost it.

Lap 28 – Hobster: “Red Bull may be just a drinks company but they have the top car designer of the last 40 years in Adrian Newey.”  Really? As simple as that? Gordon Murray, Colin Chapman, Steve Nichols, John Barnard etc etc. Newey is on the list, but no more than that.

Lap 30 – Hobster (really gunning for LVP – Least Valuable Player – on this broadcast) “Button on the soft tyres is a touch quicker than his teammate, but Vettel who is also on the softs is only a touch quicker than Hamilton.” What?

Lap 31 -Vettel starts kicking some ass. Fastest lap by a mile.

Lap 34 – We watch Petrov easily pass Kobayashi down the straight using KERS and DRS. Now clear front-runner for the LVP, Hobster: “The old combo of KERS and DRS really gives ya some welly down the old straight ey?!”

Lap 34 – Vettel, another new fastest lap, starts running away with it.

Lap 36 – I’m worried about Williams. I would hate for them to leave F1, but they’re becoming more irrelevant every year. Sad. Hopefully the history books will show they bottomed with the hiring of Barrichello and it only gets better from here.

Lap 37 – It’s a little bit processional right now is this race. I don’t trust it.

Lap 38 – Really slow pitstop from McLaren and more hard tyres for Lewis with only 18 laps left. Weird.

Lap 39 – Button comes out ahead of Hamilton on the strength of a normal pitstop.

Lap 40 – Lewis fights to keep Webber behind him. The coming overtaking move has a certain sense of inevitability about it.

Lap 42 – Stunning stop from the Red Bull boys for Vettel, who goes onto his set of hard tyres.

Lap 44 – Schumacher runs wide. Steve: “Where’s the grip?”.  Me: “Or the talent?”

Lap 44 – Petrov makes the mistake of giving his teammate too much room to overtake and allows Massa to draft and take him down the main straight as well. He’ll learn.

Lap 46 – Back from an ad break and we’ve missed Webber taking Hamilton completely (and they have not mentioned it). Alonso misjudges a move on Hamilton and takes his front wing out on Hamilton’s right rear.

Lap 47 – Alonso pits for a new nose.  I’m stunned Hamilton’s car is ok. Alonso’s fault 100% – nowhere near a braking zone, he just got it wrong.

Lap 48 – Ahhh. Hamilton is now lapping 3 secs a lap slower than Button. That’s not exactly normal. Probably something wrong with the car huh guys? Guys..? Anyone…? No…? No. We’re won’t talk about that then. Ok.

Lap 50 – Webber dives down the outside of Massa and feathers the throttle to keep the inside line for Turn 2. Standard stuff, but a nice move all the same. What I hear: “Waaa!  Oooh! THEY TOUCH! (they don’t) Ooooh golly! Ho ho ho ho! Woooo!

Lap 50 – Leigh “Here comes Massa again! He’s setting up an inside move on the outside!”

Lap 51 – Steve-O:  “There’s some problem on Lewis’ car”. Finally.

Lap 51 – I re-adjust my position of the sofa and nearly burst into tears as my thighs scream at me for making them move.

Lap 52 – Heidfeld flies by Hamilton, who then runs wide.

Lap 53 – Hamilton pits and shakes his head as new rubber goes on with 3 laps remaining.

Lap 54 – Petrov is off.  Steve-O: “What HAS he done?!?” We don’t know.

Lap 55 – Replay. He runs wide (looks like he has no grip left at all) and over a kerb as he tries to rejoin the track, takes to the air and his steering column breaks on landing sending him out. Leigh: “Wow! Golly! He motorcrossed it!  That’s some serious air he could go err..  super-crossing.  And that’s a nice segue into our next event on SPEED, super-cross from….” I throw up in my mouth a little.

Lap 55 – Hobster: “Maybe, er, well, um, the way Petrov drove off on that right hander, he did just, um, er, the wheels did not seem to turn so maybe the steering column was broken before that happened.”  Sure – it wasn’t the six foot drop at 120 mph that did it.

Lap 55 – Leigh – As if an alien has just landed on the track. “Ahhhhhh!!!! Lock up from Heidfeld!!!!!”

Lap 56 – “At the moment it’s the same podium as Austraila, but different drivers are involved.” I kind of know what he’s saying, but he didn’t say it.

Lap 56 – Webber runs wide, ruining any chance of him passing Heidfeld.  He’s been really poor since halfway through last year has Mr. Webber.

Lap 56 – The drivers come across the line for the last time. Hobster:  “Wow!  Wow indeed! How about that!”  How about what?

Parc-Ferme – Vettel climbs out of his car, jumping off the tyre in celebration of another well earned win. Steve-O: He gets on top of Kinky Kylie (giggles in the background). That’s the name of his chassis I should say (more giggles)”. In other news, how have I gone through 32 years of my life without releasing that “innuendo” is itself a bit of an innuendo?

Post-race: Nick Heldfeld walks down a corridor on his way to the podium with Malaysian grid-girls lining the walls either side of him applauding.  They are all taller than the man who is seemingly the world’s most hopeful for a remake of Magnum PI. Vettel is taller, with Button taller still. Didn’t know that.

Podium: Vettel is his usual chubby cheeked happy self bouncing around like Tigger on the top step. Button seems happy, as he should be – a very, very solid drive. Heidfeld attends to his mane and should also be content with an excellent day’s work. Adrian Newey picks up the constructors award. Hobster: “Of course when Williams Honda was at the height of their fame, Adrian Newey was the man behind them as well.” No he wasn’t. Adrian Newey came into F1 designing the March / Leyton House as the Patrick Head / Franck Dernie Williams Honda ruled 1986/1987.  He did later join Williams to design their Renault powered cars of the early 90s. I hate David Hobbs. He adds nothing, knows nothing and what he thinks he knows he get wrong. A dominating LVP performance from the Hobster today.

Driver interviews: Vettel suggests that having Heidfeld behind him in the early laps was an advantage because it kept Hamilton from challenging him in the first stint. Heidfeld looks suddenly glum. Jenson is very happy. He is starting to use his hands a lot when speaking like an Italian would. I’ll have to watch his development closely.  He does the ‘thanks to the team, they did a great job yada yada’ stuff – I’m pretty sure Lewis will not share those sentiments. Heidfeld talks through nearly every lap of his race. The interviewer mails in his last question asking Vettel if he feels positive going into the next race. Vettel mails in his answer.

The Hobster rounds of a near flawless LVP day: “The points. Wow-ee! Look at that! Vettel (50) could drop out and, well, um, Button (26) would only be a point ahead of him…”  You mean, if Vettel did not finish the next race and Button won it then Button would carry a one point lead going into the race after? Ok, then SAY SO.

Leigh wraps up with the news that Bob Varsha will be back next week.

Promo for next week’s GP in China which…. wait for it…. was the venue of…..? “Michael Schumacher’s last win in F1…” The race begins at 3am NY time.  Cannot wait for Europe.

Final thoughts: Of the ‘big 3’, Seb was dominant – again. The combination of him and the Red Bull seems completely unstoppable right now, but things rarely work out like that in F1. Hamilton was strangely very off colour. I don’t buy the theory that he needs to have the car working properly to drive well – just look at 2008 – but something went very wrong in the 2nd half of the race today. Alonso also made a very uncharacteristic mistake which effectively ruined his race.

Epilogue: Alonso is penalised 20 secs for running into the back of Hamilton. Considering he apparently only damaged his own chances through doing so and it changes nothing about the results this seems a little harsh and also a little pointless – which is almost what Hamilton found he left Malaysia with after he too was penalised 20 secs for weaving (blocking) in front of Alonso. He dropped a place in the classified standings as a result. The TV coverage did not show this so I cannot comment on the offense it self, but I do know that Vettel technically ‘weaved’ in front of Hamilton at the run down to the first corner and was not penalised.

We don’t ask our stewards to get every decision correct. They are human. What we do ask is that they are consistent and avoid just penalising high profile incidents. I really hope we don’t see this setting precedent for picking on every small infringement that goes on in the future.

The fact remains that there was simply no need to give either penalty today. The way Vettel drove, neither Alonso nor Hamilton needed kicking while they were down.

  1. LaMurph says:

    You know it’s the same stewards in China this weekend as at Malaysia? Cue more pointless idiotic penalties.

    Oh, and it’s nice to see you’re spelling Kobayashi correctly now…. shame it’s at the expense of Heidfeld and Buemi 😉 xx

  2. LaMurph says:

    Also, I’m upset that you have so little knowledge of drivers’ heights. Perhaps this will help:!/photo.php?fbid=10150507926120613&set=a.10150507923765613.648968.764910612&type=1&theater

    Unfortunately Heidfeld is not on the chart, but if he was he’d be at the bottom!

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