Monday, September 8, 2008

The Typical Guy's 2008 Belgian GP Review...

To sum it all up, it was the race that never was.

There was a time during the glory days of the Michael Schumacher vs. Damon Hill/Jacques Villeneuve/Mika Häkkinen tussles that F1 stewards were quick and smart to act whenever a driver gained an unfair advantage over another driver, like if they cut across chicanes or overtook them while the yellow flag was out.

Unfortunately, those days seem to be long gone because yesterday's Belgian GP saw another giant snafu courtesy of slow-acting, dimwitted race stewards that, if not corrected soon enough, just might make this season's race for the championship controversial, the likes of which we haven't seen since Schuey tried to bump off Villeneuve to try and win the 1997 title. But perhaps more importantly, with the recent scandals the FIA and F1, in general, have been through for the past couple of years, like the Stepneygate scandal and the corresponding $100 million fine levied against McLaren, and Max Mosley's business with prostitutes, another F1 incident that harms McLaren only to benefit Ferrari, directly or not, would just serve to tarnish the sport.

And as Spa-Francorchamps proved once again why it's a classic and why many drivers and fans (this Typical Guy included) rank the track as one of their favorites, yesterday's nasty blow of bad news now serves as a blemish that mars Spa's almost-perfect record.

Yesterday's race was top-notch, and if not for the controversial post-race ending, just might be this year's highlight race. After all, in a circuit that undoubtedly provides some of the season's exciting racing action, add to that the sort of rain that any driver not named Michael Schumacher would have them spinning around the track like a washing machine spinner gone possessed, and you have the a race that's certainly worth catching on the replay for those who're unfortunate enough to not own a DVR.

Although Lewis Hamilton was on pole, Kimi Räikkönen, no doubt out to prove to everyone else that he was still in the thick of the fight, snatched the first place position from Hamilton after he spun at La Source on Lap 2, even at the risk of banging his wheels wit that if teammate, Felipe Massa. But four laps later, Hamilton manages to cut Räikkönen's lead down to just .6 of a second to which Kimi responds by bringing it back up to as high as 5.6 seconds by Lap 15, even after both Hamilton and Räikkönen make their first pit stops.

And it was pretty much like that, with Kimi leading the way as Lewis tried to cut the lead down to manageable levels. That is, until everything went awry for Räikkönen with just 2 more laps to go in the race. By Lap 43, the rain was pouring down on track, with Hamilton displaying the same impressive car control he displayed before under similar soaking conditions in the British GP a couple of months ago. And although he gained the lead for a short time by running through the Bus Stop chicane, simply because there was hardly any room between him and Kimi, Lewis duly handed back the lead to Kimi lest he be penalized before Lewis legitimately took back the lead at La Source. From then on, it was a constant tussle for the lead between the two until Kimi finally lost it and spun off into retirement just 2 laps short of the finish. From then on up to the checkered flag, it was just a matter of keeping the wheels on the tarmac for everyone else although 'Quick' Nick Heidfeld did manage to pick up three places in just a couple of corners, earning himself a spot on the podium.

So a classic race it was then - until the stewards decided to play F1 God and, in the process, damage the sport's already maligned reputation even further.

According to the stewards, Hamilton took the lead from
Räikkönen by cutting through the Bus Stop chicane. And while that IS illegal, that only happened because Lewis had nowhere else to go other than risk taking both Kimi and himself out by stubbornly sticking to the racing line. And anyway, the video - and more specifically, the telemetry - shows that Hamilton eased off when that happened to give the lead back to Räikkönen. It was only through pure racing strategy coupled with a dash of sheer talent that Lewis outbraked Kimi into La Source to take the lead.

And if the stewards are looking into that, then why don't they look into the fact that Räikkönen overtook both Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who was just getting back on track at Fagnes, under the yellow flag? Perhaps they thought that was irrelevant since he crash out of the race a good hundred meters or so after that.

Ever since I was a Typical Kid, I've always been a Ferrari fan. If I can't have the car, might as well cheer for the car. But in times like these, when Ferrari's errors are often being overlooked while that of others are studied over meticulously by the FIA, I can't help but think that Ferrari, no matter if they're directly influencing this or if they're just lucky bastards to have everything going their way, are benefiting too much from all of this babying the FIA has been giving them.

I tell you, ever since the millennium started, F1 racing has been more about politics than racing. And for a sport that has been seeking some semblance of credibility after all the scandals they've been through, both inside and outside, the sport, stripping Hamilton of the win is a malaise no shot can easily take care of.

"Why, God? Why have You forsaken me?"

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