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Finn Air

2005-10-13 08:41

Egmont Sippel

His pass on Michael Schumacher around the outside of Suzuka's 130R kink during Sunday's Japanese GP was absolutely astounding, and ranks with Kimi Raikkonen's pass last year, also on Schumacher - and also on the open side - on the run down to Spa's fearsome Eau Rouge.

Alonso's razor-edged timing certainly looked more audacious, mostly because it was better covered by TV.

But keep in mind that the Kimster's flier was executed on a semi-wet track, as was Montoya's when he pipped Schumacher - earlier in the same race, and also on the outside - in between the Bus Stop's two rectangular turns.

By rights, none of these moves should have been possible at all.

But Alonso's and Raikkonen's defied believe because they were executed at full chat.

Montoya, on the other hand, could have afforded to slide off or even tangle at Spa 2004; he and Michael were both traveling at sedate speeds. The Bus Stop, after all, is not called "Bus Stop" for nothing.

But Alonso and Raikkonen would have had aero plane crashes, were they to have touched Schumacher. Squabbling at close to 300 km/h could have nasty consequences, especially with very little run-off space in 130R or the approach to Eau Rouge.

Three elements are at stake in cases like this, however.

The first is courage and guts; who will be first to lift, just as a precaution? Call this a pragmatic issue.

The second is machismo; who is intent on showing that he will not lift now, because it's not in his nature to lift, ever? Call this blind testosterone or reckless pride.

The third is superiority on track; who has the edge, who subjugates, who reigns, who carries the momentum forward to the next encounter, the next clash?

Who de boss, in other words.

These are all manifestations of split-second decisions born from resolve, courage, experience and the instinct to rule, which is often - in racers - stronger than the instinct to survive.

Give or take pressure

Jockeying for position then, carries with it the same kind of effect that the finishing order of a modern F1 race imposes onto the next meeting; results roll onwards, and have a bearing on the future.

It establishes a long-term benefit or deficit. In F1, as Martin Brundle is fond of saying, you either give or take pressure.

Both Alonso and Raikkonen - not to mention Montoya - will thus be armed with an important psychological edge over Schumacher, come 2006.

The ex-champion, for sure, has never had it so tough in his life before. Not only has his Ferrari not been performing, but the Young Turks have shown unequivocally that they fear him not.

In fact, in manos-a-manos skirmishes the momentum rides with them. Raikkonen established that beyond all doubt when he also polished Schumacher off at Suzuka, again blasting by on his unprotected flank, into Turn One.

And take note: this is a very incomplete little list of the Schu getting shafted in duels with drivers not piloting a Ferrari. A-ha, no contract there, to prevent the Kimi's and Juan's and Fernando's of this world from overtaking.

As it is, the above-mentioned four passes on the Schu's outside all took place in just two races: Spa 2004 and Suzuka 2005.

Which means that there is life yet, in modern F1.

Granted, that the rain-affected runs of Suzuka's final qualifying quartette contributed heavily to what turned out to be the best race of 2005, and one of the best of all times.

That much, though - with four of the sport's fastest drivers right at the back of the grid - that much came about by pure chance.

On top of that, Alonso made no secret of his intention to throw caution to the wind, now that he has clinched the driver's title.

And it was obvious that Raikkonen could not give a damn about pushing his engine to the limit, in trying to pull off an entirely unlikely victory.

So, passing Fisichella - again on the outside, into Turn One - the Flying Finn hit the McLaren's rev limiter in seventh gear but simply kept his foot planted. Having fought back from a disastrous 17th grid slot - courtesy of another blown Merc V10 and this time also the inclement Japanese weather - Kimi had every intention of going for gold.

In the process, he moved into rarified air, where only the gods breath. At Suzuka, the impish blonde with the pinkish face and Tintin tuft really invoked memories of The Great One's style and spirit, in abundance.

Ayraikkonen, shall we say?

True character of F1?

So, here's the real point of Japan 2005, which none of our esteemed British colleagues, least of all James Allen, had picked up on - and it is not that the true character of F1 had come to the fore.

The true character of what F1 should all be about, yes, had come to the fore.

But what we had witnessed at Suzuka is, alas, not exemplary of modern F1.

It could not be, because Max Mosley and his merry band of FIA idiots have changed the tone of the game from attack to defense - driving with one eye on the next race, and thus half a foot off the gas pedal.

How breathtaking was it not, then, to watch Alonso give full reign to his quite formidable powers of aggression. At last.

And how beautiful was it not, to see Raikkonen absolved from the shackles of imprisonment. For most of the season, the Finn - courtesy of a fragile Merc V10, coupled to Mosley's silly regulations - had to balance himself on the fine edge between Maximum Attack (to quote compatriot Hakkinen) and Hara Kimi.

But at Suzuka he simply threw caution to the wind, pushing the engine he has to use in China to the brink, notwithstanding the unpleasant penalties it might once again attract in Shanghai.

That's the way a racer should race, of course - flat out. And in Japan, it yielded sheer magic; the Matador was mighty, and the Sorcerer flew in Finn Air.

A plea then, to the authorities: Abandon the two-race-per-engine regulation.

And set the Alonso's, Raikkonens and Montoyas of this world free, to race as hard as they possibly could, from lights to flag.

As the new world champion and his runner up did to such glittering effect at Suzuka.

  • Egmont Sippel is the motoring editor of Rapport newspaper


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