Hello everyone, Spy here, feet up in my personal pineapple under the sea, enjoying a drink with a little umbrella in it. You may think I’d be keen to contemplate pretty much anything other than F1 this week but like an old greyhound hearing the bell, I’m off chasing the furry glove puppet at the slightest provocation. Turning it off is hard to do – which is why Mark Webber still exists on a diet of dry cornflakes and salad*. So, as you're here, and I’m here, what sort of season has 2019 been?
Well, on the face of it, depressingly normal. Ferrari flatter to deceive before Merc show up and crush everyone with the mighty silver fist of ennui**, we keep the two of them honest, ensure everything has to shuffle up a bit in the trophy cabinet, and start looking more competitive from mid-season onwards.
Of course, it wasn’t really like that. It never is – but that’s what it’s going to look like when people see only the dry statistics. The reality is of a season of close finishes, results in jeopardy until the dying laps, and some real edge of the seat racing. However, that’s hiding a hell of a lot of three-way races, some gripping battles down the field, the emergence of a very talented next generation (the ones who call Max ‘Grandpa’) and – even to a weary cynic like Spy – a lot of positivity.
It’s been a long season, the first one in Spy’s lifetime to end in December, and next year, with an unprecedented 22 races, is going to be absolute hell on wheels. Fortunately, we have trophies to keep us warm over the winter. Our three (ish) poles and three victories are about par for our hybrid era performance – but there’s a real sense of possibility around the place at the moment. Rebuilding the car around a new engine was a daunting, complicated prospect, not unlike using an electronic loo in Japan, but after pushing the buttons a few times the end result was… happily satisfying. There’s a lot more horsepower (I’m talking about the engine again) and a marker has been laid down.
The victories are obviously the highlights, and each is memorable in its own way. Winning in Austria ticks a lot of boxes, though for all that it’s our home track and it was filled to the gills with Max’s Oranje Army, it’s also a power circuit so thank you very much Honda. The abiding memory for most people of that race is the man in Honda kit with tears in his eyes. We’ve all done that – though in Spy’s case it was because of a champagne bottle swung in a low arc rather too enthusiastically by David Coulthard. One assumes in this instance the Honda crew were welling up at the thought of all the extra work they’d have to do before knocking off for a well-earned beer and the near-impossible challenge of finding a karaoke bar in rural Austria.
Hockenheim was a mad race but we like those, and may Spy be the thousandth person to say that not having a German Grand Prix is just crazy. Finally, Brazil, which was also crazy – but in this case, the sort of crazy that stopped us winning by a bigger margin. It’s the podium picture from Interlagos that’s going to be the motivational mental image in the factory over the next few months. It’s not our sort of racetrack but Max made it look like it was.
The future looks pretty bright – but there’s really nowhere to hide in 2020.
* no, not together.
** like Colossus – but more Teutonic