The Inside Line #45: Too much to do, too little time

TILI Logo PrintChristian Horner seemed pretty keen to get off the phone, and at the time I wondered why – it wasn’t like my questions were that bad. But soon after he’d abruptly ended our conversation, the reason became clear. And explained why it wouldn’t have been ideal if he’d had a journo on the line at the time.

It was the penultimate day of pre-season testing in Bahrain last weekend, and Sebastian Vettel was about to head out for the first time, albeit two and a half hours later than everyone else, in the recalcitrant RB10. This was the day that Red Bull would start to show how quickly it could recover – on the back of 66 laps from Daniel Ricciardo and a decent lap time the day before, this was when Vettel would confirm that the world champions really were back in the hunt.

That sentiment lasted all of half a lap, when Vettel pulled over to the side of the circuit, his car able to go no further. It was worse later in the day, when a second attempt to start the day got as far as the end of the pit lane. By the end of Saturday, Vettel sat at the foot of the timesheets without a single timed lap to his name. Yes, it really was that bad. Horner, when asked how far the team was behind schedule after 10 days of testing, at least showed he’d retained his sense of humour. “About 10 days, I reckon,” came his rueful answer.

Red Bull’s continuing woes and the eye-catching final pre-season test by Williams [1] feature in Episode 45 of ‘The Inside Line’. Mercedes again looked good in Bahrain, and despite the team attempting to hose down any talk of being the favourites for Melbourne in less than a fortnight (meaning, of course, that they are), the Australian Grand Prix could turn into a fight for supremacy between the Grove and Brackley-based squads.

Also this week, Lewis Hamilton opens up on his pre-season preparations, 1996 world champion Damon Hill weighs in on the controversial subject of double-points for the season finale in Abu Dhabi [2], and we profile Sauber, who come into the new season off the back of a strong finish to 2013. The main reason for that – Nico Hulkenberg – has taken his talents elsewhere, but as always with Sauber [3], you can expect the Swiss team to say little, do a professional job and punch above their weight. At this stage, that may see them ahead of Red Bull in the early stages of 2014. Hands up who saw that coming before a wheel had been turned in the pre-season?

Be sure to tune in to Episode 45 of ‘The Inside Line’; the premiere is on SPEED TV Australia (Foxtel/Austar channel 512) at 7pm AEDT on Wednesday March 5, while there’s an encore on ESPN (Foxtel/Austar channel 508 in Australia) at 9.30pm AEDT Thursday March 6.

——————

[1] A penny for Pastor Maldonado’s thoughts. The team he left (and accused of sabotaging his car at the US GP last year) looks to be one of the pre-season favourites; the team he joined, Lotus, did fewer laps than any other in Bahrain and were second-last (Romain Grosjean) and last (Maldonado) on the timesheets. Oops.

[2] Martin Brundle’s comment that double-points was “an answer to a question nobody was asking” remains my favourite response to this ludicrous rule.

[3] ‘Sauber’ means ‘clean’ in German. I didn’t mention this earlier as I like to use English words when English words will suffice when writing for an English-speaking audience. Rather than unnecessarily use another language to showcase my linguistic dexterity. You’re welcome.

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