Saturday, 9 May 2009

Spanish GP Qualifying

It’s a fortnight since the Bahrain Grand Prix, and in that period, McLaren have been up before the authorities again – I’m getting bored of this now so I won’t go on about it. Especially as the biggest off-track news was the proposed changes to next year’s championship.

In a beautiful piece of Formula One backroom politics, FIA president Max Mosley took the ball-gag out of his mouth and announced a £40m budget cap from 2010*. A sensible idea designed to allow teams to budget in these straitened times, encourage new teams onto the grid, and level the playing field. This being the FIA, however, they managed to take a good idea and turn it into a complicated mess.

The £40m budget will cover all expenditure except one or two exceptional costs:
1. Marketing and Hospitality – okay, that’s fair enough. No sense punishing a team for putting on a good spread.
2. Fines imposed by the FIA – erm, okay. But I would have thought any disciplinary wrongdoing should be included as a punishment.
3. Drivers’ Salaries – what? Surely the driver is an integral part of the team’s performance. That should be number one on the budget process surely.
4. “Any expenditure that has no influence on performance in the championship.” – Oh you’re just taking the piss now.

I haven’t got to the best bit yet – the budget cap will be entirely optional. This makes it beautiful in its redundancy. It’s like taking the government’s ID Cards, saying that you don’t need a picture on it, and that your date of birth is optional, and it doesn’t really matter if you carry someone else’s instead.

* There was no ball-gag, and any suggestion that there was a ball-gag would be a filthy lie.

Before qualifying, the BBC boys continued their habit of conducting interviews in front of the team garages, despite the fact that the engines are being revved in readiness, making it the loudest place in Spain. Ross Brawn and Williams’ Patrick Head were both interviewed about the proposed budget cap, and both seemed to dismiss the idea as unlikely to happen, but this didn’t stop Eddie Jordan working himself into a lather.

I think perhaps I am being unfair on Jordan, but he just seems so angry. Mind you, the Dalai Lama would look pissed off standing next to David Coulthard, soaking up the sun with his air of benign contentedness.

There was also a short film on the British Grand Prix featuring an interview with Simon Gillett, who runs the Donington circuit that will host the British GP from 2010. The back-story here is that Bernie Ecclestone fell out with Silverstone over their inability to expensively upgrade the circuit and, amid threats to remove the British GP from the calendar, Donington stepped in and secured the contract.

The problem is that Donington is not much more than a building site, they are being sued for £2.5m in unpaid rent, and the bank has withdrawn their credit. This chap Gillett was trying to sound reassuring about securing funding and having the place ready in time, but he came across as something of snake oil salesman, and I reckon Silverstone might yet have to step in.

Jake summarised the piece by saying, “I’m sure British fans wouldn’t want to lose the British Grand Prix.” Well, that’s probably a safe assumption for the tens of thousands of fans who pay their £250 to attend each year, but for the rest of us, it wouldn’t make that much difference – Barcelona or even Singapore is just as close as Donington for me because I’m watching them all in my front room. The British GP only gets more media coverage than, say, the Spanish, because all the papers’ top sports editors fancy a day out.

In the actual qualifying, Jenson Button pulled out the final lap of the day to secure pole position alongside Sebastian Vettel – they say Barcelona is not a great course for overtaking, so this might shape up to be yet another victory, but that’s for tomorrow.

Further back, Ferrari’s much vaunted upgrades seemed remote as Kimi Raikonnen managed to go out of the first qualifying session, and will start sixteenth on the grid. Although Felipe Massa made it to the second row of the grid, it seems that all is still not right at Ferrari.

Commentary of the day:
Martin Brundle, commenting on Kovalainen clunking onto the kerb, said he had, “an armful of opposite lock through seven and a tankslapper through eight.” I have no idea what any of that means.

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  1. Optional? That is the most retarded thing I've ever heard. And I've heard someone reading quotes from "Being Jordan" by Katie Price; or Jordan, as everyone else calls her.

    Also, who the fuck goes to watch a grand prix? it can't be the most interesting of spectator sports. My best guess is you pitch up on the most dangerous corner and hope for carnage.

    I think "an armful of opposite lock" is when you have to turn the steering thingy as far as it goes to avoid spinning off. And "a tankslapper" is something to do with the petrol tank but I haven't figured out what that could be yet.

  2. You'd be surprised at the attendance at a GP weekend. There are a bunch of hardcore fans who camp out all weekend and pay a lot of money for the privilege.