And breathe everybody……
Time to relax after a brilliant Grand Prix, we’re in Hong Kong for a couple of days before heading to Japan and what a place it is too. And after a hectic Sunday in the heat of Malaysia, where if I wanted a really good race to remember my 200th F1™ commentary, I certainly got it, it’s good to relax for a bit.
Looking back, as you do from time to time, what was my overriding memory of the events of Sepang?
Was it Sebastian Vettel’s bold, but ultimately costly, move down the inside at the start? That took away his and Nico Rosberg’s chances of victory? Or Nico’s even bolder, and more misjudged attempt to pass Kimi Raikkonen? A pass which earned him a 10 second penalty, one that I maintain was still on the lenient side. Nope, it was neither of those and for those that think I’m trying to be harsh on Nico, I’m not alone in this view. I’ve spoken to former F1™ drivers about this and they agreed that if the move was judged by the stewards to have been wrong, why was he effectively given a penalty that would still allow him to keep 3rd place? By barging Kimi out of the way, wrongly in the opinion of the stewards, shouldn’t he be penalised to the extent that he at least swapped places with the driver who had been on the receiving end? I’d love your thoughts on this, keep the tweets coming in – @CroftyF1
What about Lewis Hamilton? Robbed of a certain win, a win he thoroughly deserved on the day? But another mechanical issue, this time to his internal combustion engine, did for his chances. His cries of “Oh no” as he pulled off the race track, surely must have tugged at the heart strings of even his fiercest critics, and he has plenty of those it seems? If it didn’t, that’s a shame, I certainly felt for him, a moment akin to his Chinese Grand Prix in 2007 when on his way into the pits to replace tyres that looked as worn as a mangy dog, he went off into the gravel trap, never to get out. A moment that ultimately cost him the world title that year.
Whether his engine failure in Malaysia costs Lewis a title this year remains to be seen, but with 5 races to go, his luck might need to take a turn for the better you feel.
To be honest though, what I remember most about Sunday’s race is what happened afterwards. At the end of 56 grueling laps, raced in extreme conditions, the top three drivers got out of their cars, celebrated with their crews, went into the cool down room and stepped out onto the podium, all with massive smiles on their faces! A statement that shouldn’t be at all surprising but sadly, it’s something we haven’t seen at every race this season.
For me, whether it’s your 1st podium or your 101st, you should be overjoyed, shouldn’t you? Fair play if you’re stood in 2nd or 3rd and feel that the win has been taken away from you by fair means or fowl. I get that you might be a little miffed at that stage, Daniel Ricciardo in Monaco for instance. But so often we don’t see proper celebrations up there, so often we don’t see the joy on the faces of the lucky trio.
Now it helps when someone like Ricciardo wins, his smile is infectious and can lighten up a power cut in a coal mine. It was brilliant to see him take the win, under some intense pressure at times from his team mate too. That scrap between himself and Verstappen was an utter joy to commentate on, and whilst it didn’t last right up to the Chequered Flag, it was great whilst it did.
Verstappen’s promotion to the team has been good for Ricciardo. He’s raised his game; he has had to, and emerged on top, further cementing his claims to be one of the top drivers in the sport. He’s at an age now where, and he admits this himself, he should be thinking about world titles. I hope that Red Bull give him the machine to be able to challenge for one next season. And talking of Red Bull, a first one-two for them since Brazil in 2013, blimey has it been that long?
Christian Horner maintained after the race that there were no team orders, only instructions to keep it clean. He’s a former racing driver, not a man who wants to deny others the chance to race if there’s no need, so I believe him on that. But it’s a shame that Verstappen couldn’t follow closely enough without destroying his tyres to mount a more continuous attack, tyres once again, why do they dominate F1™ conversations so much these days?
But back to that podium, and the celebrations. Ricciardo after Spain and Monaco, wins that got away, finally got the chance to return to the top step and finally got the chance to do the ‘Shoey’ as a race winner. Now the fact that not only his boss, his team mate, and fair play to him, Nico as well, were all persuaded to join in, just added to the overall feel good atmosphere. I’m not sure the sparkling wine tasted that good, but the drivers entertained the crowd and lived the moment in just the right way and I hope that we see this sort of behaviour carry on for the future.
I want to see fun in Formula 1™, it’s a serious business for sure, but it’s a sport and sport, at a professional level with plenty of millions watching around the world, should have an entertainment level to it. And those podium celebrations were proper entertainment, almost to a pantomime level at times, complete with crowd participation.
So whatever happens in Suzuka this weekend, and whoever is lucky enough to have the privilege of standing on the podium, take some advice from last Sunday (and the Madagascar penguins). Live the moment like it could be your last and “Just smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave!”