Saturday, 23 May 2009

Monaco GP Qualifying

The blue riband event of the season is always Monte Carlo. Most of the drivers live there, so there tend to be a lot of hangers-on, and it is the race which, more than any other, attracts the wealth and glamour that has always adhered itself to Formula One.

The most iconic of courses, but also one of the narrowest, it is an incredibly difficult track on which to overtake, meaning that qualification and tactics are more important than ever.

Because of the lack of space around the tight pit lane, the BBC team were exiled to the gilded cage of a yacht in the harbour. We were shown footage of Flavio Briatore’s enormous yacht but Jake and the boys appeared to be on one of those cheap boats that takes people on half day tours. This is the BBC after all, and they have to account for every penny. Although I bet Steve Cram and Steve Redgrave, who were shown sipping champagne on deck, hadn’t paid for their flights.

In the fortnight since Barcelona, the political powers behind Formula One have been facing off like rutting stags. In response to Max Mosley’s proposed budget cap for next season, Ferrari said they would not compete under those conditions and would withdraw from the competition. Despite the fact that Kimi Raikonnen seems to have withdrawn from competition a year early, this was seen as a very real threat, with other teams following Ferrari’s lead.

Despite Ferrari’s sixty year unbroken relationship with F1, stretching back to the very first Championship Grand Prix, Mosley said that he was quite happy for the sport to continue without the presence of the prancing horse. Bringing in new teams is his priority, and Ferrari are not bigger than the sport. He’s right, of course – F1 without Ferrari would be like Police Academy without Steve Guttenberg, it would survive but it would stink. But the competition is currently in such a mess that it resembles Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Mosley has said there is no hurry to get resolution, and the whole saga feels like it has a long way to go.

Eddie Jordan’s sycophantic interview of the week involved him lobbing underarm questions at Prince Albert of Monaco. Even when he asked an awkward question about the potential of a breakaway from F1, he couched it in such apologetic terms that you would have thought he was asking where the lavvy was.

When the qualifying started, it was Lewis Hamilton who was the star of the show. In the first session, he lost control of his car going into a corner and put it into the barrier, wiping out his rear suspension, losing his chance to qualify any higher than sixteenth, and ruining any realistic chance he had of scoring any points this weekend. I don’t know why but, I just find it very difficult to warm to the young Swiss-resident tax-exile.

It’s starting to get a bit old now, but Jenson Button again won pole, but the unexpected success came from Ferrari – Raikkonen woke up long enough to take second place, and Massa grabbed fifth. Maybe they are worried this might be their last Monaco Grand Prix so they’d better make it count. Whatever the outcome of the behind-the-scenes negotiations, I am hoping for a good race tomorrow and, if we are really lucky, another no-pressure crash from Lewis Hamilton.

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