The Inside Line #52: A familiar tale

TILI Logo PrintThere’s a certain irony that the biggest rule changes to F1 in two decades to make things less predictable have turned out to make things even more predictable than before. Sometimes, that predictability can produce a brilliant race – Bahrain 2014 has already gone in the history books in close proximity to Japan 2005 [1] as one of the best Grands Prix of the modern era. Following hot on the heels of that stunning race in Sakhir, China was always going to struggle to capture the same attention last weekend – but if what we saw in Shanghai was nowhere near as enthralling as the race that preceded it, at least it produced a tale we’re all accustomed to.

Lewis Hamilton winning? Check. Nico Rosberg finishing second and maintaining his championship lead? Check. Fernando Alonso taking any half-chance offered to him to score decent points? Check? And Christian Horner blindly playing lead apologist for his petulant lead driver? Bingo.

While Hamilton sailed to a third straight win for the first time in his career, Rosberg battled any number of distractions to finish behind him and Alonso made the best of a bad lot, Horner once again bypassed the opportunity to show some real leadership. Sebastian Vettel blatantly ignoring a team order is hardly news, but the way Horner “dealt” with it wasn’t either, unfortunately. On a weekend where chief technical officer Adrian Newey curiously elected to attend Silverstone to see how ex-Red Bull driver Mark Webber got on in his World Endurance Championship debut, Horner was in Shanghai as his four-time world champion again showed the side of his character that sends bulletin boards and blogs into meltdown, and again wasn’t rebuked for it. Vettel hasn’t achieved what he has in F1 with a complete absence of talent, as some outraged types on Sunday would have you believe [2], but his refusal to play the team game and the inability of Red Bull’s management to stand up to him when he throws his toys out of the pram has become tiresome to say the least.

Speaking of all things familiar … it wouldn’t be an episode of ‘The Inside Line’ without a comprehensive review of the most recent race, and our China debrief is the headline act of Episode 52. We also look at the fallout from the appeal into the Australian Grand Prix exclusion of Red Bull’s new No. 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo [3].

‘The Inside Line’ is on at the same time every week, be it SPEED TV Australia (Foxtel/Austar channel 512) at 7pm AEDT on Wednesday April 23, and on ESPN (Foxtel/Austar channel 508 in Australia) at 9.30pm AEDT Thursday April 24. You can set your watch by it.

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[1] Suzuka ’05 was my second visit to Japan, and set a fairly unrealistic benchmark for all the years I’ve been back since …

[2] A factor in Vettel’s performances this year that hasn’t been discussed anywhere nearly enough; he’s not had to drive anything but the best car in the field for more than a few races at a time since midway through 2009, where he was the form driver in the second half of the championship and finished second to Jenson Button. He’s not accustomed to driving around cars not at their optimum; Daniel Ricciardo, by dint of his background before this year, is. He’s too good to not adjust, but it won’t be the work of a moment. It doesn’t excuse his petulance, but does partially explain his performances.

[3] I couldn’t help myself there.

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