Monday, November 03, 2008

F1 World Championship 2008 - A victory for Hamilton, but a loss for sport

The Brazilian GP 2008, - a story of a wheel of fortune that turned at 30,000 rpm! We all know how the race shaped up. Massa on Pole, Hamilton fourth. Hamilton needed to finish not lower than fifth. As it turned out, through a whole series of ups and downs that left the viewers at the edge of their seats, although Massa ended up winning the battle, he lost the war.

The race was beautiful, but in a tactical race, that saw Ferrari plan and work their race to perfection, a flawed strategy of Toyota, lost Massa his championship. I don’t know how much to read into this, but how could a strategy fail you in the last quarter of the last lap? When Massa had already crossed the chequered flag, cameras zoomed in on the Ferrari pit crew and showed them up in celebration. They also showed the McLaren crew celebrating and I felt pained thinking about the poor Brazilian. His home Grand Prix, more victories this season than Hamilton, his first dash at a championship that he has fought long and hard – a lot was at stake. Last year, Massa was a strong contender for the championship, and he showed that even without Michael, Ferrari could look good! Conspiracy theories can abound. Whether Glock voluntarily stepped off the gas, or

whether there really was a problem, no one will know, since FIA can intervene only in case of team orders. Glock was not McLaren, he wasn’t even Brit. Then why? And why favor Hamilton and not Massa? It just seems very unfortunate, because Massa did all he could. He qualified right, he drove a perfect race, he won the maximum races this season, then why?

As a Ferrari fan, I would have been happier if Massa had won, but honestly, gone are the days when a championship was pocketed around the 10th or the 11th race of the season. That charm and magic ended with the Michael Schumacher – Jean todt – Ross Brawn – Ferrari era. Ardent Schumi critics would vociferously claim that today’s championship battles look better, they are fought better and they engross the viewer. Granted, you like watching every race, since you want to see what happens next. But what happened to strategy, where one would try to grab the championship with both hands, when there is still a lot of time to spare? Whatever happened to creating a sporting stalwart? Alonso – 2 time champion, tipped to be the next best thing since MSC, faded away last year. Kimi – 2007 champ, faded away this year, in spite of a sterling Ferrari. This time, the champion was Hamilton. Next time, who knows? Vettel perhaps! If Hamilton had, in an exhibition of sterling driving, overtaken Vettel on the start-finish straight, or pulled some perfect maneuver that left Vettel wondering what just slingshot past him, I guess the championship win would have been well-deserved for Hamilton. But winning because someone handed it down to you because of whatever reason, at least to me, seems similar to winning through team orders. A damp squib victory indeed. Certainly not stuff great champion stalwarts are made of.

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