Thursday, March 22, 2007

O! As you'll find out... I'm a Formula1 Fanatic!! (for want of a better word)

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Egmont Sippel

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Walk of life
20/03/2007 07:53

Egmont Sippel (He's the best Motorsport Journalist in South Africa - he has a weekly column that he wrights in the Afrikaans Sunday newspaper, Rapport)

"Oh yeah, the boy can play..."

Remember this line from the Dire Straits song 'Walk of Life'?

Well, adapt it just a little, and you've got Kimi Raikkonen: "Yeah, the boy can drive..." Or, even more to the point, "He got the action, he got the motion/yeah, the boy is quick."

Very, very, very...VERY quick. This time the line is stolen from Bono's summary of just how rock-and-roll F1 is, in that little pre-race TV blurp showing half of Hollywood on the grid. A motley crew, to say the least, for what would the likes of Sly, Michael Douglas and Nicolas Cage understand about Grand Prix racing, besides Flavio Briatore's fake tan?

Hang on, they'll understand Flav's choice of girlfriends as well. It doesn't take a scientist to work out why Elisabetta Gregoria, Heidi Klum, Naomi Campbell, Elle Macpherson and Eva Herzigova trip the light fantastic, although it might take a sorcerer to discover why they displayed such a preference for Flav's yacht instead of the next one belonging to a younger billionaire with less stomach embellishments.

Ah well, it's quite simple, actually. The next guy might possibly be Italian, like Flav. But he's not running a French F1 team. Or he might be French, which means that he's not Italian - unless he is Jean Alesi, of course.

And Alesi can run a hot lap, at best. But not a whole F1 team.

Both is important, then, the Italian Job plus a French Connection. Ask Kimi. He's riding an Italian horse powered by a French flavoured V8, Giles Simon and Jean-Jacques His having taken over from the legendary Paolo Martinelli as Maranello's latest engine wizards.

Flying F2007

And is the F2007 flying, or what? Even Felipe Massa found it hard to believe how quick the car really is, when he saw Raikkonen's pole setting time flash up on the screen in Q3, on Saturday.

There he stood in the pits, having failed to make it through Q2 because of a broken gearbox. That's the official technical reason, in any case.

But the gearbox didn't just break. Raikkonen broke it, for Felipe.

Kimi, see, has been branded by detractors as a master of breaking his own cars. He's too hard on his equipment, they say, especially the engines.

But he's not. Modern F1 cars carry two limiters, to begin with. The soft limiter can be exceeded when needed, but the hard limiter will block the engine from being over-revved, full stop. And if the soft limiter is being exceeded too often, the engineers will pretty soon put an end to that, too.

The theory that modern F1 mills can still be wrecked by an uneducated right foot took hold a couple of years ago, not only because McLaren suffered so many engine failures, but also because Takumo Sato blew one after the other Honda V10 in 2004.

That's the year that Sato chased Barrichello's Ferrari down at the Nurburgring, before trying to dive up the inside of Turn One in a bold effort that nearly put paid to both drivers - more through Rubens having been asleep than the buccaneering nature of Sato's move, it has to be said.

Rubens branded Taku an amateur, nevertheless. Sato could safely have passed him at a later stage, as the Honda was faster. So said Rubens.

Experimental engines

A Honda faster than a Ferrari?

Yes, that was the case on May 30, 2004. Sato had even started second on the grid, next to Michael Schumacher.

Honda, see, was experimenting with extreme light-weight pistons in Taku's car. That's why he blew up so often, whilst Button didn't.

It happens, in any case, that engines let go. At the end of last year, a blown V8 scuppered Schumacher's quest for an eighth title only weeks after Alonso had lost a motor at Monza.

Nowadays, however, it is virtually always the result of sloppy assembly or a faulty part, like Ferrari experienced with their Mahle supplied piston rings in early 2006, up to Malaysia.

So, if it wasn't Kimi who broke all those Merc engines, how could he break another man's gearbox?

Easy. He broke his mind first.

And then he waited for Felipe to become ragged, turn in too early, jump the highest kerb too heavily, get the car airborne and spin the rear wheels freely only to wind up huge and sudden torque in the drive train as the car bounced and lifted and hit the ground again with way too much force.

Mind games

Mind games, then?

Well, Kimi played two of them, one after the other. Or see it as a single game, thus far, with three cards having been dealt.

The first one was unto himself. Being of the cool level-headed clear-thinking uncomplicated type, he knew that there was no point going into Ferrari trying to bluff anybody, least of all himself. Throwing cars off the road just to impress with his speed would not have done him any favours.

So the Finn left that part of the bargain to Felipe (who duly planted a car in the barriers) whilst he carefully and methodically set out to learn about a new car, new settings, new tyres, new operating systems, new mechanics, new people, new team structures, new bosses and a new environment.

In the process, Massa's lap times beat the Kimster's like clockwork, by two or three tenths per lap. To the unsuspecting mind, an order seemed to have emerged, which led a host of punters to believe that Raikkonen just didn't have the pace to outgun Massa, let alone assume the mantle of team leader, let alone fill the boots of a seven times world champion.

Now, Kimi's work ethic is not exactly in the Senna or Schumacher mould. Ever so often he consumes a beverage with an inebriation factor slightly higher than you'll find in Coke Light. He won't spend hours and hours pouring over data, either - Raikkonen sorts the best options out by intuition. Nor is he all that interested in the progress of other drivers or teams.

He does his own thing, and it's hard to point to any single race in his career and say that any of the above had cost him. Whenever he's been in a good car, he has been in with a great shot at winning.

Schumi's choice

At Spa, in 2004, he beat Schumacher in a classic head-to-head in a McLaren that's been thoroughly outpaced in every other race that year. That's, by the way, when Ferrari sat up and seriously started thinking about life after the Schu.

And just for those who didn't know: Michael wanted to keep on racing. In fact, he was desperate to race in 2007, as it has long been on the cards that Ferrari will win the title back after two years of Renault successes.

But head honcho Luca Montezemolo put his foot down. Schumacher, he said, was free to race on with the team that he had served admirably for so long.

But Raikkonen would be in the other car.

Kimi then, was willing to go to Ferrari in the full knowledge that Michael just had to say 'yep', and the other car - or the first car, for all intents and purposes - would have been his.

But Michael was not willing to race Raikkonen. Not with similar equipment.

Shocks and shivers

The reason became clear on Saturday afternoon, in Q3, when the Ice Man sent shivers down rivals' spines as he annexed P1 on his first flyer, 0.9 secs quicker than Alonso and the rest.

This then, was the Ice Man's second card. Massa was watching as Kimi flashed past the post. His eyes stretched like a light bulb exploding, and blood drained from his face at a rate that would have left Button's Honda for dead.

He was virtually paralyzed with shock. The Flying Finn had blown Felipe's mind.

It didn't happen without a warning salvo, though. On his very last lap of the opening day in Oz, the Kimster coolly banged in quickest times in sectors one and two, before peeling off into the pits to call it a day. Just like that, out of the blue.

Massa must have slept like a man fleeing the Mafia.

Then, in final practice, Raikkonen was suddenly half a second quicker than the winner of the Winter Olympics. That's a swing of seven or eight tenths on what certain pundits were predicting, including Jacques Villeneuve and Damon Hill.

What the hell was going on?

Massa was the only man who could answer this question. He tried - too desperately - to reverse the order in Q2. A kerb stepped in to finish Raikkonen's job. Game over.

And Felipe was lucky. It might have been a barrier.

The Third Card

Card Three came in the race itself, on laps 40 and 41, when the Kimster blitzed the fastest lap sheets with two scarily quick tours, the best of which was more than a second up on Alonso's ultimate pace in second place, and close to two seconds quicker than Massa's fastest of the day.

Okay, there were extenuating circumstances for both, Felipe being on a heavily fuelled one-stop strategy and Fernando having been bogged down, first by Heidfeld boxing him in into to Turn One, and subsequently by Lewis Hamilton who used that very moment to pass his team leader.

And how spectacular was it not, for a rookie to lead a double world champion on his F1 debut! Nico Rosberg had an almost equally impressive start in Bahrain last year, posting fastest lap in a Williams. But then he faded badly.

This won't happen to Lewis, although the 22-year old will find it difficult to repeat his "Alonso trick" for a while yet.

But he showed his speed, mettle and control, especially compared to the other highly touted rookie, Kovaleinen, who obviously raced on an ice rink. If they had awarded points for going farming, Heiki would have been world champion already -after one race.

Renault's average, in any case, was a second a lap slower than Ferrari. Alonso took half of that second with him to McLaren, and Raikkonen takes the other half away from them. La Regie has no chance. Their fight this year is not to retain their titles, but to beat BMW.

Those flying Newey cars

David Coulthard's attempted pass on Alex Wurz - literally 'over taking' the Austrian - must also have warmed the cockles of Sly Stallone's heart. Sly was slated a few years ago for his hopeless piece of silver screen drivel called Driven, but DC's launching act would have slotted perfectly into Sly's outrageous vision.

It was the first time, mind you, that we had the privilege of seeing a 2007 Adrian Newey car fly - and it really flew. Up to that point, they had rather been pedestrian, with three of the four Newey designed cars failing to make it past the first round in qualifying.

Honda's so-called Earth Car also seemed to love the planet so much that it gets attached to a specific spot, not wanting to move. Displacement at a quick rate of knots clearly is counter-intuitive to the car's character. All of this meant that Sato -this time in a Super Aguri - again raced closely behind Barrichello, who had taken Taku's place at Honda.

In F1, it seems, you can be moved so far down that you start to move up again - except if you're Minardi or Spyker. Then you'll stay last for longer than it will take Massa to comprehend Raikkonen's speed.

The walk of life, then. Kimi for champ, Felipe to race Fernando for second and Lewis Hamilton staking his claim for the future. Oh yeah, this Brit is also quick.

But not as quick as the Kimster. The Ice Man's got the action, he got the motion/oh yeah, the boy can fly...

Or, in Bono's words: Little Red Raikkonhood is very, very, very...VERY rock-and-roll.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hi All! I know I created this blog a million moons ago and it doesn't really resemble anything except open space, but I am going to try and give it more attention in FUTURE!!

I just created a Picasa Web Album if anyone is interesed in my wonderfully boring Phototakin escapade since I got my new Sony Erricson Walkman phone...

Please check it out:

and let me know what you think - "You are a total idiot/you love me/I must get a real life/let's meet" - I'll regard them all!!

Hey! N-joy ur day!!