Yeah, that happened.
The Formula One Mexican Grand Prix
Circuit: Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez
Chapter 16: The FIA carjacked us, senor
So to the shock of nobody, the FIA disqualified Renault from the Japanese Grand Prix (In which Dan finished 6th and Nico Hulkenberg 10th) for a breach of the sporting regulations, with those automatic brake bias thingamajigs, which fortunately wasn’t deemed a technical regulations breach, which would have opened Pandora’s Box.
At the same time though, it did confirm that the car wasn’t ‘technically’ illegal.
Those lost 8 points dropped Dan The Man from 9th to 12th in the championship, and continues the utter disaster of a gamble the move to Renault is proving to be.
In non-chronological order; They get absolutely shellacked by their only customer team McLaren, who promptly leave them for Mercedes, constantly let Dan down with shithouse car performance and rule breaches, the proposed 2021 rule changes, which they banked on, are no hope of going through with Ferrari opposing them with veto power, they destroyed their reputation as a car brand internationally, and now they’re half a chance of finishing 7th in the Constructors’ championship.
We truly are the world’s worst compulsive gamblers.
As well as that, Lewis Hamilton’s engineer Bono was off having a medical procedure, and someone in the paddock ate a dodgy taco, spreading a stomach virus to personnel from just about every team, giving everyone a bad case of the shits, most notably Pierre Gasly.
Helmut Marko’s response: “If he’s too sick, we’ll have to give him a diaper.”
After the pain of losing his Suzuka points, Dan The Man showed he truly is cursed, by qualifying in the dreaded 13th, one position behind The Hulk, a year after he’d started on pole with an unofficial lap record.
Based on his reaction after weighing in, he is rather annoyed about this whole situation
Max Verstappen looked comfortably on for Pole Position, and it looked secure when Valtteri Bottas, on his last flying lap, caught the kerb exiting Turn 17, and slammed into the tyre barrier, displacing it in a fairly violent impact, and ending the session a minute early due to a red flag.
However, Verstappen carried on (When he didn’t even need to) with what proved to be the Pole Position lap of 1.14.758, which was the only sub-1.15 lap of the session and a new unofficial lap record, beating the Ferraris of Charles LeClerc and Sebastian Vettel.
HOWEVER- He was investigated and penalised by the stewards for ignoring a clear yellow flag, and not lifting at the scene of the Bottas accident, having perfectly incriminated himself by setting a purple final sector.
Turns out the “I didn’t see the Yellow flag” gag worked as well as Warnie’s classic “Mum gave me those diet pills” from 2003.
The Dutchman was docked 3 places, and the result was that LeClerc inherited his 7th pole of 2019, with Vettel up to 2nd to make it another Ferrari front row, and Lewis Hamilton was bumped up to 3rd, needing to win, and for Bottas to finish no worse than 4th, to claim World Title No.6.
As the recent years have shown, Mexico is one of the few tracks where all of the Big 3 cars have a realistic chance of winning, and Sunday would be no different.
Race (71 laps)
Lando Norris received some pre-race news about our slightly immature protagonist’s tyre choice.
At the start, there was the usual Mexican chaos, as Hamilton ended up putting 2 wheels on the verge fighting Vettel, and then he bumped wheels with Verstappen, forcing them both off at Turn 2 and into the midfield brawl, as LeClerc, Vettel and Alex Albon put an early gap on the pack.
As a result, the Mercedes were left to fight the McLarens of Sainz and Norris for a couple of laps, before they inevitably belted the crap out of them in a straight line.
On Lap 4, Verstappen’s chances of a Mexican 3peat went up like pieces of his flailing tyre, as he made a pass on Bottas in the stadium, only for the Merc’s front wing to contact the right rear tyre, shredding it down to the rim throughout a very painful lap.
After screwing himself out of pole yesterday, he had dropped to last, but Max being Mad Max, he was going to come flying through the field at a million miles an hour.
In further good news, both the Renaults had kept themselves out of trouble, with Dan The Man, the only runner to start on the ‘Hard-on’ tyres, working up to 10th, and narrowly avoiding hitting the carcass of Verstappen’s former tyre.
On Lap 13, McLaren brought in Norris from 7th, and what looked like a clean stop turned into a nightmare for the Brit, as the team hadn’t secured the left front before releasing him, and after stopping at the end of the lane (Reversing= Instant disqualification), he was wheeled back, sent back out a lap down, with his race ruined from a points scoring position.
He would eventually retire and save the car, having lost more points through no fault of his own.
As if the entire team contracting the shits wasn’t painful enough for McLaren, after Sainz pitted from 6th, he simply couldn’t get his hard tyres to work, and spent the bulk of the race falling back through the midfield.
In the meantime, the Renaults were now looking very good for a VALID double points finish, as Ricciardo and Hulkenberg sat in effectively 8th and 9th, battling the local hero Sergio Perez, which came to define Dan’s race.
Ferrari went for a 2 stop strategy with LeClerc, pitting him for mediums on Lap 16, and Mercedes pitted Hamilton on Lap 24, sticking to a 1 stop strategy and taking the gamble of making the Hard tyre work for 6 laps longer than Pirelli predicted they would last.
It would be a deep tissue massage- At first it was painful and he whined about it, but eventually he relaxed and enjoyed it.
Vettel then led the race from Bottas, and he was soon stuck in the Sainz-Gasly squabble, narrowly avoiding losing his front wing against the McLaren.
Bottas narrowed the gap down to 3 seconds before his stop for Hards on Lap 37, and he emerged in 5th behind Albon, with Ferrari covering off the undercut the next lap, keeping Vettel ahead.
On Lap 44, LeClerc pitted again from the lead, but a slow change on the right rear would kill Ferrari, costing the Monegasque 4 seconds in stationary time, and dropping him down to 5th.
Albon pitted again the next lap- Red Bull pulled out a blinding 1.9 second stop- and he emerged in a comfortable 5th, and so, Hamilton led from Vettel and Bottas, with LeClerc in 4th, but on the fresher Hard tyre.
Dan’s choice to start on Hard tyres worked out well, as he stayed out all the way until Lap 50, and emerged in a comfortable 8th place on the Medium tyre, with realistic chances of taking on Perez for 7th, and maybe Verstappen, who had recovered to 6th in a very good drive, on hard tyres that were put on the car before Max hit puberty on Thursday.
Bottas had cut down the gap to Vettel to under a second by Lap 57, with LeClerc now barely 2 seconds behind the Merc and looking a huge chance of clearing the Finn with time to spare, but on Lap 59, those plans were scuppered when LeClerc went wide into Turn 4 after a simple unforced lockup.
I’m not sure why, but that incident complete derailed whatever momentum the Ferrari had built.
Meanwhile, Dan had cut down the gap to the Racing Point, andlined up a pass at Turn 1 on Lap 61, but with the DRS assistance, the Renault carried too much speed, locked up and went off the road, gave the place back to Perez, and resumed the fight.
According to Dan The Man, he tried sending the letter, but the postman wasn’t there.
While the threat of rain persisted without eventuating, Vettel closed in on the lead during the final laps, but he was never close enough, and Hamilton made the 1 stop gamble work, winning for the second time in Mexico, after missing the podium for the last 2 editions, with Vettel starting and finishing 2nd, with Bottas keeping the championship alive for another week.
Perez would ultimately keep Dan at bay, and barely a few corners from the finish, Renault took another hit, as Hulkenberg, who was fighting with Kvyat for 9th, was torpedoed into the wall, and coasted over the line in 11th, minus a rear wing.
In an extremely efficient and surprising case of stewarding, the Russian was penalised 10 seconds, dropping him to 11th, and giving Hulk a consolation point.
That meant his teammate Gasly finished in 9th, giving him 2 points, which meant if Kvyat hadn’t made that failed pass attempt and finished 10th, Toro Rosso would have only scored 1 point.
It was the 100th win for Mercedes as a factory team, once you include the records of the original Mercedes team that featured Juan Manuel Fangio and left the sport after the Le Mans disaster in 1955.
AND, as if being a race away from World Title No.6 wasn’t fun enough, Lewis got a winner’s podium entrance so grand, and so pumped full of steroids, it just had to be in Mexico.
It reminds me of the hydraulic lift that gets used for the winning car at Indianapolis… which may very well have been the inspiration.
NEXT UP: Austin and the US Grand Prix this weekend
Supercars: The Gold Coast 600
Track: Surfers Paradise
In between all this talk about the fallout from DJR’s actions at Bathurst, this was also the 29th and final round on the Gold Coast run in daylight, with the 2020 event set to go under lights, the first time for a street race in ATCC history.
In another weird moment from 2019, Practice 3 was red flagged… due to a massive puddle forming at Turn 3 due to poor drainage, which almost caused a serious crash for the unsighted James Courtney.
There was that much water, the locals brought out their longboards.
Saturday (Race 26, 102 laps)
Johnathan Webb had a ‘Hold my beer’ moment, when he booted out his co-driver Jack Le Brocq from the Techno car (Which Webby owns), just so he could have a drive.
He qualified last.
Defending Gold Coast 600 champ Chaz Mostert qualified fastest for the Shootout, but as per usual, it was Scott McLaughlin who set the benchmark with a 1.10.078, and when Chas came out last for his lap, he made a slight mistake at the Turn 4, leading to him pushing hard to regain the lost time, and before you knew it, he clipped the inside wall at Turn 11, and had no chance to avoid veering into the concrete, smashing the front right of the Mustang to pieces.
Fortunately Chaz was perfectly okay, but car #55 of Mostert and James Moffat was a write off and out for the weekend, a major blow for his hopes at a Top 3 championship finish.
What it meant was that McLaughlin had recorded his 16th Pole of the year, equalling the record he set back in 2017, ahead of Jamie Whincup, with Shane Van Gisbergen 3rd, and based on raw pace, nobody else really looked a chance of winning the first of the two 300km Enduros outside of those 3 cars.
With the co-drivers in the cars for the start, Craig Lowndes jumped Alex Premat for the lead into Turn 1, and that was the moment that pretty much decided the race, as 888 shot off into the distance, as everyone did the usual Gold Coast trick of blatantly straight lining the chicanes to avoid getting speared into the concrete.
As the jostling for positions carried on, Jack Perkins made a noteworthy aggressive move on Tony D’Alberto at Turn 11, but Jack couldn’t pull up Car #22, and sent the poor old Shell Mustang up the escape road and down to the rear of the field.
As the race settled down, Lowndes continued building the lead until he stopped and hopped out for Whincup on Lap 35, in the process moving past 4,000 laps led in the ATCC, surely making him the first driver to bring up
It seemed all Jamie had to do was keep his hands at 10 and 2, and based on the last 15 years, he was perfectly capable of doing that.
McLaughlin pitted on Lap 61 for a fresh set of tyres for the run to the end, but after coming back on track, he locked up and seemingly flat spotted his front right tyre at Turn 4, and from there, he never seemed able to make a serious challenge at Whincup, despite not letting him blast out of sight.
Playing on a different strategy, T8 kept Van Gisbergen out until Lap 76, and after emerging 5.5 seconds back on McLaughlin, on the fresher(erer) rubber, Gizzy charged up to the back of the Mustang, and on the pit straight to begin Lap 89, he breezed past his compatriot for 2nd, and truth be told, Scotty had nothing to gain by putting up a fight, given his championship lead.
After 90 laps, the first safety car of the afternoon was called when the muffler assembly from Gary Jacobson’s Nissan came loose at Turn 4, and was run over by Nick Percat, which damaged the front right corner and forced him to pit.
Safety Cars didn’t quite breed Safety Cars this time, but 4 laps from the end, James Courtney spun Andre Heimgartner straight into the fence at Turn 5 in a really callous and boneheaded move from an experienced driver, the second Enduro running that Andre has suffered a late-race accident and been denied a Top 10 finish.
The roof camera on Courtney’s car was shattered by debris, and his race was shattered by Tim Schenken and the fellas at race control, who handed #22 a well-earned drive through with 2 laps to go, dropping him from 8th to 12th, the last of the cars on the lead lap.
But there was no stopping Triple 8, who gave everyone a bare-footed arse kicking, and for the first time since they completed the Bathurst 3peat back in 2008, the fabled duo of Whincup and Lowndes had won a race together, with Van Gisbergen and Tander making it a 1-2 for the factory Holden team, and McLaughlin and Premat finished 3rd, with Scotty still leading the Championship by more than that magical 600 point barrier.
Race 27 (102 laps)
The 2019 Championship took a violent turn in Qualifying, when McLaughlin, who was on track to claim provisional pole, missed the Turn 2 tyre barrier on his final lap and clipped the inside wall, spearing him into the right hand wall, causing a 43G impact which managed to move a 4 ton concrete barrier, and flipped the Mustang onto it’s side… and sent a shock absorber flying onto someone’s balcony.
In a great display of comradery, The Giz put petty rivalries aside and stopped trackside, rushing to help extract his fellow Kiwi, and his fellow driver.
Despite Scotty getting out alive with nothing more than a hobble, unsurprisingly, that Bathurst winning Car #17 would not be winning the championship on Sunday, and will never race again.
Meanwhile, further summing up GRM’s problems, Richie Stanaway was stood down by Garry for missing a signing session, and replaced by Super2 driver Dylan O’Keefe.
Beautiful stuff- One of Gary’s last “Kiss my arse” moments before he sadly departs the series.
So once the mess was sadly cleaned up, it was Van Gisbergen who would claim provisional pole and made no mistake when he came out last during the shootout, claiming a comfortable Pole from Whincup and Will Davison, as only 7 drivers set a lap time, with McLaughlin obviously not taking part, and Cam Waters + Anton De Pasquale having their laps invalidated for kerb strikes.
With No.17 out of the picture, this race was only heading one way- Triple 8 shitting it in with a 1-2.
At the start, Tander beat Lowndes into Turn 1, Youlden passed Alex Davison by straight lining the Turn 2 chicane, and further back, there was more Turn 11 chaos, as Todd Hazlewood carried way too much speed and spun Will Brown in the #99 Erebus, causing utter chaos, as Ash Walsh went into the tyre wall, Richard Muscat’s #34 GRM car slammed into the rear of Steven Richards in the #18 Irwin car, Heimgartner hit the wall and badly damaged his Nissan once again.
Muscat retired due to severe front end damage, Richards had his arse caved in, Hazlewood and Heimgartner both pitted and went 4 laps down, but other than cosmetic damage, everyone carried on.
After the co-drivers did their 1/3rd minimum, James Courtney hopped in Car 22 from the Top 10, and suffered a Van Gisbergen at Bathurst style problem with the drivers door, forcing him back in to tape up the door, costing WAU precious time.
As the Red Bulls changed drivers and spaced the field with Swiss watch efficiency, the Turn 11 wars continued on Lap 58, as car #18 with Mark Winterbotton behind the wheel got crossed up with the #78 Nissan of Alex Rullo during a passing attempt, wrecking the front left suspension on the Nissan, which ultimately finished 20 laps down, as the Frosty/Richo car copped more rear end damage than a redneck getting an anal probe.
In amongst all this, Tickford had good success running an alternate strategy for the #6 of Cam Waters and Michael Caruso, who led the middle stages of the race, allowing them to climb back into another Top 5 position, and Scott Pye & Warren Luff in the #2 WAU car, who have proven to be a damn good Enduro combination, once again charged into the Top 5, and Pye would successfully claim Waters for 4th before the end.
Then again, Warren Luff’s Enduro record shows he can drive and have success with just about anyone- Ambrose, Lowndes, Tander- Which makes sense, considering he is a driving instructor by trade.
But topping them all was Dave Reynolds, who had a severe cold which left him unable to speak, was absolutely flying after a disappointing Saturday, sitting in a clear 3rd, and by the end of the race he was right on the back of the Red Bulls with some really good pace.
BUT, unfortunately, he just never got close enough to make things really entertaining, and the Bulls scored another dominant 1-2 win, satisfying Roland’s fetish for those surfboard trophies, with the dynamic duo of Gizzy and GT turning the tables to win by barely a car length to Whincup and Lowndes, and Davey Boy with his runny nose scored a very good 3rd with Luke Youlden, and for the first time in 2019, we had a race weekend in which a Mustang did not taste victory, and the Sunday race was the first in which Ford didn’t even feature on the podium since Sandown of last year.
After Gizzy’s trademark burnouts, the podium celebrations were even funnier, because thanks to some superb co-ordination from all 6 drivers, we got……
A SYNCHRONISED CHAMPAGNE EXPLOSION
Technique 10/10, Landing 10/10, Execution 10/10.
And how about that weird bloke from Virgin just stood there and thought “What are these dropkicks doing?”
The factory Holdens were the dominant forces in both races, Gizzy and GT now have 2 hands on the Enduro Cup, and thanks to that massive penalty from Bathurst and Scotty’s DNS on Sunday, they’re now only 132 points behind in the teams championship with 2 rounds to go.
Overall, the organisers would be pleased with record crowds of 198,763 over the 3 days, which could very well hop up next year, given patrons won’t be suffering in that dreaded Queensland sunshine, and instead be contending with the notorious drunken and drugged up werewolves that roam Surfers Paradise after dark.
NEXT UP: The Sandown 500 in a fortnight