Joe-Pinions: Sports

29 June 2010 – More Post-GP of Europe 2010 Thoughts, Random Stuff

Posted in Auto Racing, Basketball, Cycling, Formula 1 by txtmstrjoe on 29/06/2010

Here are some more thoughts on last weekend’s GP of Europe:

  • Lewis Hamilton clearly passed the safety car which was deployed in response to Mark Webber’s crash with Heikki Kovalianen.  However, I do not subscribe to Fernando Alonso and Ferrari histrionic contention that it was a case of Hamilton cheating deliberately, and the FIA stewards in charge of the GP being unfair in doling out the drive-through penalty Hamilton served.
  • For one thing, despite Hamilton’s checkered history insofar as incurring the stewards’ attention in his career so far in F1, I can give him the benefit of the doubt in this particular incident.  When you consider that he’s got Alonso in close pursuit, probable radio calls from his pit crew in his ear, and the fact that the timing of the whole incident had him racing down the pit straight just as the safety car and medical vehicle were being deployed from the pit lane, that’s a large number of things to think about on top of actually keeping his McLaren under control under racing conditions.  That’s a lot of factors to calculate in your mind all happening concurrently, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed with so much information to think about.
  • There is no question there was a transgression, but I don’t agree with Alonso and Ferrari’s insistence that it was a deliberate attempt to cheat.  I think Hamilton got confused by all that information coming at him, hesitated for a few brief moments (he lifted on the pit straight, allowing the safety car to get in front of him in the first place), and made the mistake of passing the safety car after it had crossed the 2nd blend line.
  • What’s intriguing about this whole incident is that the FIA originally had been completely unaware that Hamilton had indeed committed a rules violation; the stewards in charge of the race only became aware of the incident because Fernando Alonso complained to his team bitterly about it, and Ferrari relayed the complaint to the stewards.  While I give Alonso full marks for his knowledge of the rules (all competitors should be similarly comprehensive in their knowledge of the regulations), I believe that he is nurturing an unhealthy obsession over Hamilton.  Either that, or Alonso is still nursing a very angry grudge against McLaren.  (I don’t believe Alonso would have been so bitter about the safety car overtaking incident if it involved another driver or team altogether.  I might be wrong, but you have to admit there are grounds for my beliefs.)
  • Perhaps this is only natural, since Hamilton is the only teammate Alonso has ever had who has proven to be a match for him.  The two were contentious teammates at McLaren in 2007, when Lewis Hamilton was an F1 rookie and Alonso a new recruit into the team.  Hamilton beat Alonso in an equal car, so perhaps Fernando fears Lewis as a rival.  Also, Alonso may still be angry with McLaren because the team did not cede to his wish to grant him a guaranteed #1 driver status, a condition that Alonso is used to having in most other teams for which he has driven.  McLaren has never subscribed to the practice of officially naming one of its drivers as a #1, making it team policy to allow them to race each other as hard as possible without jeopardizing the team’s chances at scoring the most championship points.  McLaren has always believed that the issue of which driver is “#1” is settled on the track; in other words, the more successful driver in the team becomes #1 by virtue of his performances and results, not because he is nominally granted that status before the races are run.
  • One more point against the idea that Hamilton deliberately cheated by passing the safety car:  Alonso and Ferrari are mystified by why they fell so back in the race order while “respecting the rules,” to paraphrase their statements, when Hamilton did not suffer too much of a penalty by “cheating” and passing the safety car.  I disagree with this viewpoint as well.  I think that Hamilton’s drive-through penalty lost him all opportunity at challenging Sebastian Vettel for the win; 2nd place was the maximum result he could get if Vettel finished the race sans problems.  Hamilton had a lot of performance in hand, in my opinion, as shown by his torrid run of laps after the FIA notified McLaren that Lewis was being investigated for passing the safety car.  He put the hammer down and created a big-enough cushion between himself and Kamui Kobayashi so that he wouldn’t get stuck behind the slower Japanese driver in the Sauber during his drive-through penalty.  Let’s now suppose that Webber didn’t have his spectacular somersaulting crash and the safety car had never been deployed:  I think that Hamilton was just biding his time, saving his tires so that he could attack harder and close the gap to Vettel as the tire stops came into play, thereby putting himself in position to challenge for the win.  Alonso, in contrast, was pushing hard just to stay in contact with Hamilton.  What I’m trying to say is that I think there is enough evidence to suggest that Hamilton was never going to finish behind Alonso anyway  unless he hit trouble (say, he had a bad pit stop, or made a mistake on the circuit, or got balked by traffic long enough to allow Alonso to close and stay in contact).  Whether Lewis was faster than Vettel was and could overtake, however, is another argument altogether.  It’s a moot point, regardless.
  • The last few races, Ferrari has been quite vociferous in their complaints against their fellow competitors, whether it’s against McLaren (a long-time enemy since it’s a successful team with a long history, just like Ferrari is) or against the backmarkers (the slower cars and teams who happen to all be new to the category).  Things aren’t going well in Maranello, but they don’t ever acknowledge the possibility that their car simply isn’t good enough to fight against the front-running Red Bulls and McLarens.  It’s always other people’s fault that Ferrari isn’t doing well, if you were to swallow everything the team tells you.
  • Last thing about Valencia:  I think that a large part of the problem is in the rules themselves.  For some incomprehensible reason, the FIA likes to write their rules in legal-speak, which means that even the simplest contingencies are governed by regulations that are needlessly complicated.  (Again, kudos to Fernando Alonso for his apparent mastery of the rule book.)  I very strongly believe that the FIA does this deliberately so that their rules can be subject to interpretation.  This is especially true in the technical regulations; apparently, even the apparently mundane regulations governing merging behind the safety car are more muddy than they are clear.  Insofar as how the cars line up behind the safety car is concerned, in the event that there is a mistaken overtake of the safety car (obviously, this is the first time the safety car had ever been overtaken in F1, so the rules governing this contingency had never been exercised prior to the European GP 2010), the driver who overtook the safety car would simply be instructed to allow the safety car to overtake him again as soon as possible, then take his rightful position behind it.  This is the most straightforward solution to this particular question, in my opinion.  It does not penalize honest mistakes, which is all Lewis Hamilton’s violation really was.

And now, some other non-F1 items:

  • Lakers fans like me are on pins and needles right now waiting for Phil Jackson’s decision to either return to the team and coach, or to finally retire.  In my selfish heart of hearts, I want Phil to come back since I believe he gives the Lakers their best chance to defend their title again next year.  A new coach coming in may have a good shot at performing reasonably well given the quality of the team’s core, but he is also handicapped by that same advantage.  The Lakers’ success depends much on positive chemistry given the egos and personalities of the players on the team, and I fear only Phil Jackson is the only coach around who can come up with the right mix of ego massaging, instruction, and strategic direction for this group.  If a new coach is needed, this will obviously disturb the equilibrium that Phil Jackson creates for this team, and this disturbance may be enough to send the whole house tumbling down on itself.
  • LeBron James’ arrogance is astounding.
  • As June ends and July begins, I’m getting quite excited for the Tour de France.  I feel this way every year in July.
  • In my opinion, the Tour de France is the single most difficult athletic challenge that exists.  Consider these facts:  1)  The race takes place over the better part of a whole month.  The peloton is out racing almost every day every summer in France.  2)  The Tour is unmistakably dangerous partly because of the tremendous variety of terrain that the peloton has to cover.  They race up and down mountains, they race on cobblestone streets, they sometimes have raced on roads so dusty and bumpy they seem like dirt tracks.  Riders have been killed in the Tour.  3)  It takes a great degree of coordination of teamwork to win a gigantic race like the Tour de France.  The team’s ace (most teams which are run well know which of their riders gives them the best chance to win the Tour, so everyone else in the team becomes a domestique in service to the ace) cannot win without his team’s support.  This means having superior tactics (primarily in where they position themselves in the peloton) as well as performing the best in the team time trials.
  • Anyone who tells you that the Tour de France is overrated as an athletic event, and that road race cycling is not a “real” sport, is a bloody ignorant idiot who has absolutely no clue about what he/she is talking about.  It is not just riding a bike.
  • In fact, the same is true for people who say car racing isn’t athletic either.  I’d love to see what these morons can do strapped into a real racing car.  Let’s see them set competitive lap times lap after lap, racing in traffic, without stuffing the car into the barrier or the wall or into another competitor.  It’s not just “driving a car.”

After all, when was the last time someone was killed playing on the PGA Tour?

Now golf:  THERE’S a “sport” whose status and credentials as an athletic event I seriously question…


One Response

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  1. Tim said, on 02/07/2010 at 01:21

    I adore the Tour – in fact, cycling in general – for all the reasons you describe. This is a sport undertaken by serious athletes whose idea of a day off is to go for a four-hour ride. And many of whom get paid less than you or I do. (I read once that the minimum wage for a pro cyclist is something like Euro 30k!!)

    You may also find my Tour de France previews of interest – this one focuses on the key contenders for the yellow, green and polka dot jerseys, but I am intending to post (hopefully) daily updates as the Tour progresses. I would love to read any comments you have:

    Vive Le Tour!

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