F1: How rain is saving the season start from being a washout

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarThursday, April 1st, 2010

 
 

Last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix saw the drivers rained off the track little more than halfway through the race and awarded half points for their efforts. And this year, by all accounts, we’re probably in for another downpour.

And that’s just the thunder and lightning that we expect to happen above the racetrack. Don’t take your eyes off the storms taking place behind the scenes.

If the rain does come, a wet Malaysian Grand Prix would follow a thrilling race in Australia with damp weather at the start which led to the form book being thrown out of the window. It was held on the same weekend as an upredictable, rained-off IndyCar race in the States that had to be cancelled thanks to a tropical storm in Florida.

That was the second IndyCar race in a row to meet this fate after the season opener went the usual way of circuit racing in Brazil – into a blinding cloud of spray. In fact, the only dull race we’ve see so far this year was dry as a bone and held in Bahrain.

Whereas last weekend, going into the Australian Grand Prix, we felt that we had detected rather less drama than usual we are now comfortably back to a situation where there’s more going on than the cast of an EastEnders Christmas Special could cope with even after a couple of shots of gin apiece.

A struggling Michael Schumacher has reignited his feud over blocking with Fernando Alonso. It started four years ago after the latter threatened to lie down in front of his car on the Monaco grid in protest during the 2006 season following the notorious Rascasse “stalling” incident in the previous day’s qualifying.

Although why Schumacher would want to remind anyone about his behaviour that day is a mystery to us. But possibly it won’t be long before both Nico Rosberg and Felipe Massa find themselves feeling the fall-out of this stress and ill-will.

Lewis Hamilton presumably couldn’t get on a plane fast enough after being caught indulging in some boy racerly tricks in Melbourne then having a miserable time on the racetrack trying to intuit what tyre strategy to adopt.

As he struggled, seemingly with few resources of his own to draw on, his team did little to help him and his more experienced team-mate was able to pull off a seemingly psychic decision that effectively won him the race.

Happy days. As was widely pointed out earlier this week, things may have been just that little bit less chummy down Woking way ever since.

At Red Bull Sebastian Vettel has now thrown away two race wins in a row thanks to the fact his team can’t supply him with a car that can finish. And, despite all his outward charm and good-naturedness, being a fly on the wall of the motorhome in the Melbourne debrief would probably not have been a pleasant experience.

Neither Vettel nor Mark Webber yet been able to perform to the very high expectations that were set out for them at the beginning of the season, by team and fans alike. And the tension is definitely starting to build, with the possibility of a huge discharge of electricity if things don’t go right from tomorrow onwards.

In the midfield Renault are definitely the up-and-coming team, what with Kubica’s podium last week and some flashes of brilliance from rookie Petrov – for as long as he can keep it on the island, which doesn’t currently seem to be very long.

Nico Hulkenberg for Williams is also due for a bit of good luck after being recklessly punted out for two races in a row, and he has been given whatever passes for a hearty and encouraging slap on the shoulder by the team’s undemonstrative technical director Sam Michael.

At the back Jarno Trulli has had some very hard-hitting and personal experience of just what it means to move from a big, well-funded manufacturer outfit to a backmarker. But at least his team has got a car home, as has Colin Kolles’ Hispania squad.

Over in the Virgin Racing comedy corner they still have to achieve that feat – and Nick Wirth has conceded that it will be his Wirth Research outfit picking up the tab for building chassis with fuel tanks large enough to get them round the racetrack the requisite number of times.

That is, if this year the weather holds off long enough to actually allow 56 laps of racing. And if no other storms intervene.

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