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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Chinese Grand Prix

After the breathtaking action we got last weekend and the promise of a titanic battle between the McLarens and Renaults for the season finale, in the end the Chinese Grand Prix was a bit of a let down. And yet, despite the fact that the driver's title has been settled two grands prix ago, here was a race win by Alonso that showed just why he deserved his title. When it mattered in qualy and the race, he put in an absolutely faultless display of superiority beating Kimi fair and square. No engine blow outs, no broken front suspension.

TO be sure the race was quite a boring one. It was amusing to see a seven time world champion make a damned fool of himself even before the start of the race, colliding with Christian Albers in Minardi's last race. That meant Michael had to forfeit his sixth on the grid and start from the pitlane. Joining him from the pitlane was Albers and Karthikeyan who came in immediately before the start of the race to refuel.

Michael was perhaps the only person really on the move today having to fight his way from way back. Up front, Alonso romped away from pole and left teammate Fisichella, Raikkonen and Montoya for dead. Montoya managed to force his way past fourth place starter Button at the start. I'm sure it was a fair fight but I can't but help think if Button was asked by the powers to move aside so that the championship battle could be settled by the big boys up front. Of course, we'll never know but its happened before 12 seasons ago. Just ask Nigel Mansell.

Fisichella was keeping Raikkonen at bay. The Renaults running lower wings to maximise speeds down Shanghai's long main straight. This circuit is too bloody technical for its own good and despite its width, there's only one quick line into the twisty bits and if you're off line you're going to lose too much time. As I've so often said, the Shanghai circuit is absolutely bullshit. This and Bahrain being among the worse of Hermann Tilke's ghastly creations.

With no way to make it stick in the turns coupled with bullshit FIA aero rules, Fisichella's tinier wings meant he'd have an easy time keeping Kimi behind in the straights. In fact, Raikkonen's care looked for once, not quite as planted as it normally would be. Moreover, even Montoya was having a sniff at his teammate's position just ahead.

It looked bad for the McLarens. Any thought of the Renaults running light was completely rubbished. They were definitely running with the McLarens fair and square and they were ahead for once. In the end, we had a safety car period when Juan Pablo, unsighted, ran over a drain cover that had popped up on the exit kerb on turn 10.

And there's the thing isn't it? The FIA who purports to care so much about safety somehow had let this slip by. In fact the the Australian Touring Car Race that was held here prior to this weekend also experienced the same thing. And isn't it a well known fact that at least a couple of weeks prior to any race, the FIA would be sending delegates to check on the condition of the circuits? Seems like they didn't do a thorough job on it.

For here's the thing. Montoya was lucky that the loose manhole cover punctured a hole in the floor of the McLaren damaging the radiators and coolers in the process. Lucky for him, it didn't punch a hole right underneath his seat. The consequences could have been lethal. As I said, so much for the much vaunted FIA safety.

And whilst there are whole loads of run off areas in the right places in Bahrain and Turkey, nevertheless, on the sweeping right hander before the main straight, Narain Karthikeyan was left without any when his car understeered and slammed into the wall, prompting another lengthy safety car period. Oh yeah, I forgot, Max Mosley is too busy campaigning to keep his FIA presidency to care I suppose. Typical crony.

Okay thats a bit harsh I admit. Back to the race, Michael Schumacher made a really silly school boy error in the safety car period and somehow managed to lockup his car and spin into the kitty litter. I suppose when its not your year.... He must simply hate the Shanghai circuit. Well he's not alone, I absolutely detest it.

Teams used the second safety car periods to dive into the pits for their second stops of the day and during this time, McLaren managed to get Raikkonen ahead of Fisichella. Still, with Montoya out of the race by now, it really didn't matter. Ralf Schumacher and Christian Klein stayed out. At the restart, so quick was the Renault of Alonso that even brimming with fuel he managed to slowly pull ahead of the chasing Toyota and Red Bull behind him.

Eventually, Klein dived into the pits leaving Ralf alone in second. When the Toyota made his stop, he re-emerged ahead of Klein and Fisichella. Fisichella had been delayed for a stop go penalty for stacking up the field when he came in for his second stop. In fact, Mark Webber did the same thing to Button much to the chagrin of Nick Fry at BAR. Somehow, Mark escaped any penalties.

In fact Mark was locked in a battle with Barrichello in his ever fading Prancing Mule. Its a sad fact of this circuit that only if you're so much bloody faster than the person in front will you ever find a way past him. Luckily for Webber, Barrichello's car was deteriorating rapidly courtesy of ineffective Bridgestone tyres. Not only did Webber make it past but so did Button and eventually David Coulthard.

Coulthard was unlucky at various points of the race. He went into the pits just before the safety car and thus wasted time. Otherwise, he'd have been ahead of Klein.

At the finish, Kimi gave it one final push but everyone could tell that Alonso was just cruising home. Kimi did set the fastest lap although I would've thought Alonso could have easily beaten that if he were really trying. Alonso crossed the line in the lead muich to the delight of the entire Renault team. I think they deserved their title for they always pulled through went it really mattered this season. But as James Allen said at the end, Alonso ought not quit his day job for his rendition of Queen's classic victory tune was horrid! Perhaps the only thing he did wrong today.

So ends the 2005 season and whilst some (especially Ferrari fans) would say its been a boring season, I thought it was a good one, the best in many a year. 2003 could have been greater had Ferrari and Bridgestone not pulled their political muscle into play but c'est la vie. All hail King Alonso and long live The Regie!

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