Hello everyone, Spy here, coming at you from somewhere in Switzerland, heading for Italy via a pass one of Spy’s less geographically-inclined colleagues described as “The one where they have all the St Bernards, can’t remember its name.” Yes, Spa is dust, we’re heading for Monza, swapping waffles, frites and mayonnaise for… well, insert whichever Italian culinary stereotype you feel is most appropriate.
So, Spa. Glass half-full. Podium for Max, nowt for Daniel, once again the victim of someone else’s accident. Actually, although it was Fernando Alonso who sliced through Daniel’s rear wing, the catalyst, back up the chain was Nico Hülkenberg. That’s a hell of a way to welcome your new team-mate! Ultimately, five cars – one quarter of the field – ended up DNF victims of that particular incident, which was a real lulu. Even when you spend your adult life watching F1 cars, you really can’t tell how fast they’re travelling until 19 of them stop and one doesn’t.
There’s going to be a couple of sore drivers in Monza – but also some seriously knackered crews. The three cars that were DNF’d on the spot shipped some serious damage, and the crews had to start the rebuild the moment they were trailered back to the garages after the race. Alonso’s car looked like it could have been easier swept up with a shovel – that’s a late night for everyone involved – probably an early morning too.*
On the plus side, everyone will now stop wittering on about the Halo. Without it, Alonso would have come straight down on Charles Leclerc’s head. There’s still a few hold-outs arguing it would have slid over the roll-hoop and onto the bulkhead. But this, to use a phrase once popularised by James Hunt on BBC commentary duty, is bullshit. Without the Halo, Charles was going to be wearing a McLaren for a hat.
If there’s such a thing as a good DNF, then we had one. A smashed rear wing is game over in F1. Or, at least it is usually. The wing attaches to the gearbox, so to replace one you have to take the gearbox off, and by the time you’ve done that, the race is over. Daniel, however, had some very unusual damage that could be repaired, and given the length of the lap and the presence of the Safety Car, the crew had a crack at fixing it. It didn’t quite work out, he came out two laps down, whereas one lap might have given him a shot with another Safety Car – but that’s still the fastest work in the history of rear wing replacements. It doesn’t score any points – but it’s nice when, after the race, hard-bitten bolties from other teams offer the slightest nod of appreciation for a job well done.
Anyway, old news. Today we’re arriving at Monza where, for once on the European tour, the sea of orange becomes a sea of red. It’s a special atmosphere – with ‘special’ being a euphemism for ‘wonderful’ or ‘bloody difficult’ depending on who you are.
It isn’t necessarily a walk in the park for Ferrari: senior management, Seb and Kimi** will bang on about how great it is to be at the home race, but for the boys in the garage, it can be a bit of a test. They’re mobbed whenever they’re trying to get into the circuit, and you really don’t want to be wearing red on Sunday night if they haven’t won. It is, conversely, massive amounts of fun being the pantomime villain. For a while, that was our job (and hopefully it will be again) but it’s Merc who have that particular privilege at the moment. And this is how it should be – though for the younger drivers on the parade it’s a bit of an ear-burner.
We’re not expecting great things at Monza, which is why Daniel’s taking a full suite of engine penalties. Then again, we thought that would be the case last year and ended-up qualifying second and third, and wondering if, perhaps, taking a full set of new bits (to have everything ready for Singapore) was a mistake. Lots of people grumble about the grid being mucked about by all of these penalties but Spy’s quite a fan. Daniel finished fourth at Monza last year, having started at the back. If he hadn’t taken the penalties, he might have been a place higher – but the crowd wouldn’t have been nearly as entertained by the sight of him carving through the field like a hot knife through mozzarella. Hopefully we’ll see more of the same this weekend.
* No curfew on a Sunday night – but the campaign starts here.
** Well, Seb