As we all know, Clive James passed away this past week, and anyone who knew Clive would know he was a massive fan of Formula One (Prior to the ugly scenes of Austria 2002), providing narration for the end of season reviews in the 1980s, during the ’90s he even hosted his own F1 show, and among his many memorable lines, James said this when describing Murray Walker’s commentary.
Even in moments of tranquility, Walker sounds like a man whose trousers are on fire.
Another literary genius has left us.
Circuit: Yas Marina Circuit
Duncraig Dan, Chapter 21: Schooooool’s out, for, summer!
The last race of the Teens was the annual farewell in Marina Bay, serving as the backdrop for Nico Hulkenberg’s second departure from F1, the end of Robert Kubica’s heroic comeback to the sport, and also Toro Rosso’s last race in their original name, before they change to Alpha Tauri (Red Bull’s clothing label) next year.
Clothing labels have had success in F1 before- Just look at Benetton.
When practice began, Danny Ric’s weekend was immediately beaten in the shins, when his engine went bang in FP1, giving Pierre Gasly the lovely taste of hot oil.
By some fortunate coincidence, Renault were going to replace the engine after the session.
The action didn’t stop there, because Sebastian Vettel, just a day after his wife Anna gave birth to their 3rd child, slammed into the wall at Turn 19 and ended FP1- The other Ferrari of Charles LeClerc ended up hitting the same wall during FP2.
Valtteri Bottas was already due to start from last after taking on a fresh engine after the failure in Brazil, and it didn’t get any easier when he had a stupid incident with Romain Grosjean in FP2 – Bottas came from way too far back and clouted the Haas at Turn 11, with Grosjean completely unaware of the incoming silver bullet- It destroyed Grosjean’s new floor, and Mercedes took on a second fresh engine, because why not.
Despite the long straights supposedly favouring their horsepower, the Renaults were languishing in 15th and 16th, some 2 seconds off the pace, as they struggled to get heat into the tyres, plus their engines had been turned down in order to save mileage for Saturday and Sunday.
But if all that wasn’t weird enough- Mark Skaife made a cameo in the Sky F1 box during FP2, discussing all sorts of things with David Croft, such as the origin of the Shoey in Australian motorsport and how it got to Dan The Man.
It wasn’t Dave Reynolds, it wasn’t Jack Miller, it was Ryal Harris in the old V8 Utes at Barbagallo in May 2015, although ‘shoey’ as we’ve come to know it started with The Mad Hueys way back in the 2000s.
Led by Lewis Hamilton’s first pole since Germany, Mercedes secured another 1-2 in Abu Dhabi, which would only exist on paper with Bottas’ engine penalties, with Verstappen in a clear 3rd, while Ferrari managed to squeeze in another arse-up for 2019, holding off the final runs for both cars until it was too late, which resulted in LeClerc immediately behind Vettel being unable to set another flying lap, due to crossing the line after the session had timed out.
If there was a Formula One Stupidity World Championship, Ferrari would win it every year with the same sort of dominance they used to win the actual World Championship with.
Thanks to setting their fastest laps in Q2 on the Mediums, the Top 4 drivers were all able to start the race on the yellow tyre, while Renault and McLaren had no choice but to start in Softs, in what will be the last race before that utterly stupid rule gets changed.
In a positive end to the year, both the Renaults reached Q3, getting the upper hand with Toro Rosso to retain 5th in the Constructors’ table, with Ricciardo’s only lap in Q3 good for 8th place, with Hulkenberg 10th.
The last team qualifying battle still undecided in 2019 was that of McLaren between Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz, and it was the rookie Brit who took the honours, qualifying 7th (Which became 6th) against 9th for Sainz, to claim the honours 11-10, although Sainz will comfortably beat him in the championship.
In all, it was a fairly stock standard qualifying session, although in a noteworthy performance, George Russell, despite qualifying in 19th, managed to complete the perfect 21-0 season against his Williams teammate Kubica, tying Fernando Alonso (Against Stoffel Vandoorne at McLaren in 2018) as the only two drivers to out-qualify their teammate 21 times in a season.
Funnily enough, Hamilton also took the last Pole Position of the 2000s – The inaugural Abu Dhabi GP in 2009.
You may have seen this somewhere, but Sunday’s Grand Prix was the first World Championship race to be held in December since way back in 1963!
On that occasion, it was the 85-lap South African Grand Prix in East London, held on December 28th, with victory going to the Flying Scotsman, Jim Clark, in a Lotus, having already romped to the ’63 Drivers’ Championship.
I can only think that the days of the season ending in mid-October are long gone – Heck, I remember the 2005 season ended on my birthday.
Race (55 laps)
Ferrari apparently weren’t done kneecapping themselves, with LeClerc under investigation BEFORE THE RACE, due to the team under declaring the amount of fuel they’d put in his car.
After the events of this season, I’m surprised Piero Ferrari hasn’t called in some of his dad’s old mob connections to clean out Maranello.
When the lights went out, Hamilton jumped cleanly and raced away, LeClerc swamped Verstappen for 2nd, and Vettel was all over the back of the Red Bull, as both Ferraris looked very lively.
Further down, the McLarens had cleared the Renaults, while Pierre Gasly lost his front wing after a tap from Lance Stroll, which sent him into the other Racing Point of Perez, destroying Gasly’s chances of taking 6th in the Drivers’ standings, as he went a lap down thanks to spending a decade in the pits, which also wrecked Toro Rosso’s hopes of claiming 5th from Renault, given they needed to finish 8 points ahead of the French in the race.
Bottas had worked his way up to 14th by Lap 3, but in another funny situation, the DRS was disabled by Race Control after the F1 data servers shit the bed, which meant pretty much every car except Valtteri in the superior Mercedes couldn’t even sniff an overtake, thanks to them being trapped in the so-called ‘dirty air’ of the car in front.
This really crippled Renault and McLaren later in the race, given they had no hope of passing each other in the dirty air, and the soft tyres were going to go off within 12 laps, putting them at a disadvantage to those who had qualified outside the Top 10, namely Perez and Daniil Kvyat, free to start on whatever tyre they wanted.
By Lap 8, Hamilton had checked out in front, leading by some 4 seconds to LeClerc and Verstappen, and only bad luck could stop the World Champion from coasting to victory (Hint: It didn’t).
The first driver to pit from the Top 10 was Norris, who pitted on Lap 9 and had a slow stop thanks to the right rear, then with Bottas and Perez closing in, Ricciardo pitted on Lap 12 and went on to the Hard tyres, and Ferrari pitted the next lap and double stacked for Hard tyres, which killed Vettel, when the left front wouldn’t stick.
Sainz pitted and emerged alongside Ricciardo, and they traded punches for the next several laps, which the race director didn’t give two hoots about (Thanks FOM), but Sainz eventually got ahead, as Hulkenberg stayed out, going for the overcut.
There appeared to be issues with the timing screens, because Norris and Sainz seemed to exchange positions every 3 corners, despite the fact they were a second apart on the road.
The DRS was finally enabled on Lap 18 after the FIA probably turned the computer off and on again, and immediately, Bottas got past Hulkenberg for 4th, which was the sign for Renault to pit The Hulk for a set of Mediums, and he emerged behind the McLarens, but ahead of Ricciardo.
With the fresh tyres, Hulkenberg was soon ahead of Sainz, and the status quo of the orange cars battling the yellow cars resumed once more, only this time they were cancelling each other out with the DRS.
Verstappen finally pitted on Lap 26, and he did emerge behind LeClerc with the younger tyres, and Mercedes, despite Hamilton’s 10 second lead, decided to play it safe and cover off the undercut, which went flawlessly.
Just highlighting how utterly boring the race was, halfway into the race Renault and McLaren were in an ever-changing battle for the lower reaches of the points, with all 4 cars still stuck within a second of each other (Ricciardo at the end of the train), which was playing into the hands of Perez.
Forget about the DRS trying to make overtaking happen, how about the FIA simply give the teams free license to equip the cars with red shells?
Bottas made it to Lap 30 before Mercedes decided it was the time to pit, and the Finn emerged comfortably clear of Perez, giving him a clear shot at recovering a podium, after starting from Saudi Arabia.
Despite complaining about some sort of an electrical fault causing a handbrake effect, Verstappen had closed up to the rear of LeClerc, and as the Ferrari closed up to lap Kubica, Verstappen made a ballsy pass into Turn 8, but LeClerc came back during the second DRS zone, his attempted pass didn’t work, the Ferrari was hung high and wide, and Mad Max could power on to a comfortable 2nd place.
As the race ticked under 20 laps to go, Vettel was falling back towards Albon, who was being caught by Bottas, while Perez finally pitted on Lap 38, and the long stint of the Racing Point paid dividends, when the Mexican soon ranged up and easily dispatched Ricciardo, and it became apparent that the Hard tyres were running out of juice.
LeClerc decided to pit for Softs on Lap 39 to cover off the threat of Albon and Bottas, and it was another double stack for Ferrari, with Vettel pitting for Mediums, as Bottas passed Albon to go up to P4.
The threat of Perez forced Sainz to make the call to stop for a set of Mediums to have a crack for points right at the end, and with his points chances reliant on a respirator, Ricciardo decided to pit on Lap 44 for a set of Softs to have a crack at Sainz, which didn’t make much sense, considering he came back out 8 seconds behind the McLaren, and was 18 seconds off 10th with 10 laps to go, although that said, the damage was already done long
In the meantime, Perez ate up another Renault with his superior grip, taking the Hulk for 8th, as he set out after Norris, with McLaren backing in the rookie to make it home, which was the right call, given he was leading the Formula ‘1.5’ field in 7th.
Kvyat stayed out until Lap 40 on his Hard tyres, re-emerging with a fresh set of Mediums in 10th, and the fresh tyre advantage paid dividends when he overtook Hulkenberg for 9th behind a trail of sparks into Turn 11.
In the meantime, Perez had closed up to Albon to such a degree that he could smell the fear in Lando’s jockstrap, but at a track like Yas Marina, it’s one thing to close up to a car, and another to pass them.
In the last 5 laps, Bottas was tearing chunks of out the deficit to LeClerc, while Vettel had caught up to Albon in 5th, first trying a pass down the outside of the first DRS zone, which nearly ended in tears when Albon braked very deep to retain the place.
But with a better exit out of 9 & 10 and the DRS open, Vettel decided he was having Thai for dinner.
Out in front, there was no touching No.44, whocompleted another epic season by claiming another ‘Grand Slam’ victory, breaking the lap record on the penultimate tour, further underlining that this has been the fastest season in the 69-year history of Formula One.
As the Mercedes and Red Bull crossed the line, all eyes were on the battle for the minors, with LeClerc beating off Bottas for 3rd, pending the stewards’ inquiry, but that had shit-all entertainment value on Perez claiming Norris for 7th on the last lap, and Sainz did pass Hulkenberg for the last point through Turns 12-13, as did Ricciardo, meaning both the Renaults finished outside the points, having really been screwed with the tyres they started the race on, but with Kvyat only claiming 2 points, the French outfit did hold on to 5th place in the Championship.
Unfortunately, because the aforementioned complete dickhead directing the world feed was so focused on a Bottas overtake that never happened, we saw NONE OF THOSE PASSES LIVE.
For shit’s sake FOM, THERE ARE CARS OUTSIDE OF THE BIG 3 TEAMS.
As if it were some small recognition for his record 179 starts without a podium, Hulkenberg was voted Driver of the Day by the fans, having battled in the points until the last lap.
It’s fair to say that classification is a reflection of the state of Formula 1- Hamilton wins, and Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull are the only cars n the lead lap.
So as a result of that last lap overtake, Sainz won the three-way battle for 6th place in the Championship, a fantastic result, making him the first driver outside of the Big 3 teams to pull that off since 2015, when Bottas and Felipe Massa finished 5th and 6th for Williams.
Despite my criticisms about his/her ineptitude, the race director did play the audio of a wholesome post-race message Norris had for his engineer Andrew ‘Jarv’ Jarvis, who was finishing up with McLaren after 7 years, and was also emblazoned on Lando’s helmet for the race.
I’m pretty sure he hit puberty midway through that speech, so good on you Lando.
After an inquiry, LeClerc retained his 3rd placing, as the FIA determined Ferrari’s discrepancy was a breach of a Technical Directive the governing body had issued, rather than an actual breach of the Sporting Regulations, which would’ve been a slam-dunk disqualification, although the team were fined €50,000 ($81,000 AUD) for the 4.88 kilo discrepancy.
And being the last race of the season, Hamilton and Verstappen gave their gearboxes a spectacular send-off, in the ceremonial pit straight DOUGHIES.
Hamilton broke his own record the most points in a season, and in a funny coincidence, Kevin Magnussen, in No.20, scored 20 points, and Romain Grosjean, in No.8, scored 8 points.
So, it’s the end of another year, and decade, of the universe’s premier motorsport category, and in a season in which we sadly, and suddenly lost two stalwarts of the sport in Charlie Whiting and Niki Lauda, plus a rising talent in Anthoine Hubert, it was a classic case of ‘Same old shit, different year’, with Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton making a complete mockery of the V6 Turbo Hybrid field, Ferrari invented new ways to shoot their own toes off, and pretty much anyone outside of the Big 3 was left to climb Everest with only a backpack to get a decent result.
Like many other people, I’m holding out hope that the 2021 regulations (If they go ahead) might make things more competitive up front, but let’s call a shovel a bloody shovel, there’s a 99.99% chance Mercedes are going to master the regulations better than everyone, and continue dominating F1 until Skynet fires up in a few years, enacts Judgement Day, and kicks off the war against humanity.
Putting on my Green & Gold spectacles, with regards to the bloke referenced in the title of these weekly reports, I’d say most fans knew it was never going to be an easy first season for Duncraig Dan at Renault, but I didn’t think it was going to be this underwhelming.
It honestly felt like watching Duncraig Dan this year was like the good old days of watching Mark Webber limp around in an uncompetitive Jaguar and Williams, showing some glimpses of hope here and there, but for the most part, he was pushing the proverbial cart up a steep hill.
At times, he had the usual terrible Australian driver’s fortune, at others, the team found a way to get him excluded, and others, he tried his trademark ‘Lick The Stamp’ overtakes that used to work with ease in a Red Bull, only to find he was driving a car with worse aero than a Ford Model T, leading to an inevitable collision with another car, which feeds into my next point.
Despite a much improved engine powered by French optimism, the Renault chassis single-handedly sent the factory team flying backwards from outright 4th in 2019, to falling a mile behind their own customers in McLaren, who capped off their long-awaited revival by dumping the Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys to return to Mercedes power in 2021.
Quite simply put, I have got no hope they’ll even sniff a podium in 2020, let alone look like contending in 2021
With next year being the last year of the current technical regulations, for the good of the sport, hopefully next year, some team or driver can get it right, and make a sustained fight against Mercedes.
Who am I kidding, that’s about as likely as NASA restarting the Apollo missions.
First Up in 2020: Albert Park, March 15th.