By Bob Constanduros
Four for Nico Rosberg, hiatus, six out of seven for Lewis Hamilton; what an amazing series this is turning out to be and it’s far from over. Indeed, could we yet see a challenge to Mercedes from elsewhere in the next nine races?
One thing is for certain; while Lewis may rest on his laurels and his fantastic six wins out of seven, Nico Rosberg will be doing far from that. Not only has he got to sort out his starts, but he’s also got to sort out his race pace as well. OK, he drew the short straw in Germany when it came to tyre strategy (was it strategy or guesswork?) as Mercedes covered Red Bull’s tyre choices but he was scarcely as quick as the other guy on the same tyres.
But of all the people capable of getting their head together, I would say Nico is right up there. He’s a professional, intelligent, knows what has to be done. He will come back strong, having worked out a lot of things. He isn’t the natural that Lewis is with prodigious pace, but he’s not far behind and capable of using the little grey cells to good effect.
But first, a little story. Before the German Grand Prix, we heard the news that James Allison had left Ferrari. This probably revolves around James’s personal life; he has three children and his wife died earlier this year. He’s a fantastic guy and he will do the right thing for his family and if he left Ferrari for this reason, so be it, that’s the kind of person he is. Everyone in F1 has much respect for James.
We know Ferrari is clutching at straws anyway, so when a journalist colleague plus a couple of snappers found that we were sharing a flight from Heathrow to Frankfurt on Thursday morning with none other than Ross Brawn, touted as Ferrari’s new saviour, our imagination was running riot. Well, ours wasn’t but we could imagine what other people would think. So one of the snappers got onto Twitter and sent out the message: Ross Brawn on his way to Frankfurt. Surely the fishing isn’t that good in middle Germany at this time of year?
Of course, Ross might have been a guest of Mercedes – Paddy Lowe was on the same flight – and, as it happens, he was going to something slightly Ferrari-related: a charity football match in the name of Michael Schumacher. He would only be staying the day and indeed, scarcely knew that the Grand Prix was taking place. That’s how much interest he has in current F1. But we thought we’d just chuck his name into the mix and see what the young web whipper-snappers would make of it!
Ross was long gone when we got through passport control and collected our luggage in Frankfurt, but not so the Mercedes technical director. Before going to Budapest, there was a warning of luggage disruption in terminal three at Heathrow, and lots of F1 people arrived without luggage in Hungary. While we were checking in at Heathrow terminal five for Hockenheim, we had a similar warning: we might not get our luggage at the other end as a belt had broken. Would we take our cases and put them in… oh, wait a minute, it seems to be OK again.
So some of us didn’t have a problem, but poor Paddy, for the second race running, had to hang around with lots of others and register to reclaim his baggage. I’d hired my car and gone and he still hadn’t emerged from the baggage hall.
I’m often asked how I still do all this, aren’t I fed up with the travel? I am not a young man, travel in the back of the plane at my expense, and have just completed my 30th flight this year. Of course, I know how to limit the damage but for the first time, I have to admit that the travel is getting me down. Making connections in Toronto and Kiev was fairly wearing but endless endless late flights is getting really tedious. Of course such are the schedules that the airlines are getting away with it. So the fact that they leave an hour late doesn’t matter because they’ve built that into their schedule. The airline has allowed two hours for an hour-long flight; they aren’t late and it doesn’t show up on their record.
My other complaint – as I’m on about it – is hand luggage. If its legal, that’s fine but how often do the airlines not actually abide by their own laws? It really infuriates me that I might have to have my perfectly legal backpack in my foot area in order to make way for someone’s oversize suitcase which should be in the hold. Grrr. ‘Nuff said.
Another story which might have a bearing on the upcoming second half of the season concerns Red Bull a couple of years ago. I happened to meet the parents of one of their senior engineers in the pub around this time of year, just at the beginning of the shutdown. ‘How’s Jim,’ I asked his parents of their son. ‘Enjoying his holiday?’ ‘Er, no, he’s not on holiday,’ replied the parents, ‘don’t think so.’
Now either Jim hadn’t told his parents he was on holiday, or he wasn’t on holiday, he was working hard. Whatever, Red Bull came back and won a whole host of races. Might we see the same again?
We might, but I can’t see any panic signals from Mercedes, can you? Sure, Lewis was taking it relatively easy at the end of the German Grand Prix in order to conserve his engine; he is going to have to take at least one penalty for going over the permitted number of engines fairly soon, but he had the pace to stay in front quite easily. There didn’t seem to be much of a panic about it.
Two other little points: the relaxation of radio rules threatens to put commentators out of a job. We had engineer-to-driver messages every twenty seconds; not all of them were of interest and unfortunately, such was our communication situation that I didn’t hear them all. But what a great deal had been done: you can have your radio communication back but we want to broadcast as much as we want, unexpurgated apart from bad language. In the past, teams could press the mute button to prevent FOM from re-broadcasting. No mute button now! Good deal, all laid bare.
And finally, my congratulations to Hockenheim for getting in a really good crowd. The security situation in Germany and elsewhere in Europe has been a massive worry and might well have cut the crowd at Hockenheim but even though there were fewer campers and the last three sections of the grandstand were not being used – this is normal at the circuit – the rest of the stands were full and a 122,000 figure for the three days announced. Two years ago, that was far from the case, so well done to the organisers for that crowd.
Now we all go on holiday, apparently. The drivers have quite a nice time of it, they just stay fit by cycling, swimming, exercising. Some of us will go on holiday, others just relax at home – even if our other halfs desperately want to go away. But that may be the last thing we want to do. We still have three double-headers to come, seven overseas Grands Prix and lots of excitement. I’m looking forward to it – but I could do with a rest first.