The Brazilian Grand Prix leaves itself wide open to gags regarding the selective pruning of ladies' private areas, but I'm determined not to succumb to this sordid device simply to get a cheap laugh. I just wanted make that clear. So, here goes...
Mrs. S came into my study on Monday (for study read den, lounge, home office, bolt-hole, hole, squalid little pit—enter at your own risk) to inform me that my dinner was ready. Bless.
Looking at the F1 cars flashing past on the TV screen, she added, "I've got the highlights on in the living room." What, both of them? I thought. This was, after all, the day after the snooze-fest known as the 2008 Chinese Grand Prix.
"Oh no," I replied, deciding this wasn't the moment for a sarcastic riposte, "This is the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix."
She gave me one of those "I wish I'd married someone normal" looks, and I dutifully followed her into the living room with a tray of Chicken Kievs (unapologetic children of the seventies) and mashed potato.
The "highlights" of China confirmed that this was indeed a poor race, and something of an oddity.
Love him or loathe him, Lewis Hamilton doesn't do boring. As was demonstrated in Germany earlier this year, what should have been an easy pole to flag victory was turned into a mad dash to make up places after a classic case of McLaren race mismanagement.
Emerging from the pit lane in fourth place, he tore past Heikki Kovalainen (remember him?), Felipe Massa visibly withered at the sight of the McLaren flying up the inside to take second, and a slightly bewildered Nelson Piquet was just happy to be there and offered no resistance as Hamilton retook the lead, and a fantastic race win.
But there was nothing like this in China. Even in the post race press conference Lewis looked a bit bored. Maybe he was just trying to keep his emotions under control and not get too excited—the job isn't finished yet.
Ron Dennis was also uncharacteristically subdued. "Discipline" seems to have been his word of the week, but there's no doubt that he's very happy with his young protege. You can just imagine the scene back at the McLaren Technology Centre on Tuesday Morning as Martin Whitmarsh walks in and asks the receptionist:
"He's in the loo."
"I didn't know they were that close."
Okay, that gag probably works best when spoken aloud. But when you see Lewis and Ron together it's easy to imagine them as father and son (or husband and wife), with Anthony Hamilton in the corner scratching his head and feeling a little left out.
All eyes are now focused on Brazil. I've been on the hunt to find some interesting facts about the Brazilian Grand Prix. I didn't find any, but here are some not so interesting facts. Did you know, for instance, that the event consumes 15 megawatts of electricity? Me neither. Fascinating.
Not only that, but - make sure you're sitting down—over 420,000 cans of soft drinks will be consumed, and a 100,000 'snacks' will be served. Also, during the race weekend, the circuit employs over 7,000 people (disclaimer: the author will not be held responsible if any bloke uses this as a chat up line and subsequently doesn't get laid).
Still, if you are a bloke looking for a little female companionship, it's not a bad place to work: 80% of the organisational staff are female. 80% of 7,000 is...lots!
Anyway, back to the race preview. McLaren are certainly concerned about the Mercedes engine in Lewis's car, as it goes into the season finale having already completed one race distance. You can tell they're worried because they issued a statement saying that they're not worried.
Luckily, Lewis had built up enough of a lead in China that he could turn the wick down after the second round of pit stops, but they'll still be thinking about Heikki's engine failure in Japan. Another thing that McLaren aren't worried about is the gearbox, which will be on its third race.
One thing they genuinely won't be worrying about is winning in Brazil. All Lewis has to do is bring the car home no lower than fifth, and Felipe needs to win. If Felipe comes second, Lewis only needs seventh place. If Felipe comes third, it's game over. Expect McLaren to be aiming for third—a World Championship is much more satisfying when celebrated on the podium.
What tactics should we expect in Brazil? Plenty of conspiracy theorists expect Kimi Raikkonen to take Lewis out at the first corner. Forget it. Not only has Kimi always demonstrated that he's decent, fair and an all round class act, but there is no way he is going to risk starting next season with a 10-place grid penalty, or even a three race ban.
Massa, like Hamilton, needs to keep out of trouble. Ferrari will have to go all out and just try to win. Felipe does have the advantage of having a nice, shiny new engine to play with, but realistically his only hope is for an unfortunate incident to befall Hamilton.
What will McLaren's tactics be? Ah, now there's a question! The smart money is on fuelling both cars light in qualifying to lock out the front row. They can then get a clean getaway and run a short first stint on soft tyres. That'll get those nasty option tyres out of the way. Lewis will have to pit early and, in all likelihood, lose the lead, but should emerge in third or fourth. Then two more stints on harder tyres to a comfortable points-paying position.
One scenario that I haven't mentioned is: What if Heikki Kovalainen takes Felipe Massa out at the first corner? Unlikely. Taking out the Brazilian title contender at the Brazilian Grand Prix, the final race of the season could be...well...an unhealthy option. If it does happen, I suggest Heikki take a fast drive to the airport and the first plane out of South America.
Simple! In theory. But McLaren rarely take the simple option.
And there is one unpleasant little aspect I haven't yet mentioned: The stewards. Yes, that wonderful, impartial, fair-minded and completely anonymous trio that have made this year's championship such a lottery.
Who knows what decisions they'll make this weekend, but you can bet your bottom dollar/real/peso that they'll be controversial. And another thing: As the host country supplies one of the stewards, there will be a Brazilian among them. You see, perfectly fair and equitable.
So the best prediction I can give you is: Expect the unexpected.
There, a whole article about the Brazilian Grand Prix and not a single lady-garden gag. Nothing about racing "trim," driving on a "razor" edge or making the "cut." All-in-all, a job well done.
Phew, that was a close shave.
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