The Inside Line #59: Wall of fame

TILI Logo PrintWhether it’s because of the chance to do something useful in my typical hours of insomnia, or because it usually throws up a chaotic race, or because it brings back memories of my own experiences in Montreal, the Canadian Grand Prix has always been in my top three (non-Australian) races of the year [1]. For one, it’s a GP for the purists if you’re in Australia – only fans rather than the ‘look at me’ social set will watch a race at 4am in winter [2] – and secondly, the race – on a semi-permanent street circuit in a public park within easy reach of downtown and with grandstands packed with real fans – reminds me more of the Grand Prix in Melbourne than anywhere else. And then there’s the ‘Wall of Champions’.

‘Bienvenue au Quebec’ reads the sign on the exit of Turn 14 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve [3], but it’s one corner of the season that offers anything but a warm welcome to those who get it wrong. And it doesn’t discriminate – Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher all biffed the wall there in 1999 – while Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel have ripped their cars to bits against it in subsequent years. Driving talent and – as Daniel Ricciardo alluded to in the lead-up to last Sunday’s race – plenty of courage can make the difference. “Some guys will play it safe and sacrifice half a tenth to get through there cleanly” he explained in the lead-up, “but others who will take a risk and go flat out trying to find a little bit.”

Speaking of flat out … that’s exactly how Ricciardo drove in the closing stages of a thrilling Canadian GP last weekend, taking his maiden F1 victory and ending Mercedes’ run of dominance. Ricciardo’s rousing win is the main focus of Episode 59 of ‘The Inside Line’, while we also look at why Ferrari are so far off the pace and what they plan to do about it. Have I mentioned on this blog before that Nico Hulkenberg was available when Ferrari re-hired Kimi Raikkonen? ‘The Hulk’ is now 39 points ahead of Ferrari’s (distant) number two driver after he finished fifth for Force India in Canada. Such a waste, on two fronts.

‘The Inside Line’ is on SPEED TV Australia (Foxtel/Austar channel 512) at 7pm on Wednesday June 11, and also on ESPN (Foxtel/Austar channel 508 in Australia) at 7pm on Thursday June 12.

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[1] Along with Canada, and in no particular order: Japan (for obvious reasons) and Belgium, because there’s still something awesome about the cars going through Pouhon and Blanchimont even if Eau Rouge isn’t what it once was. Abu Dhabi just missed out in 19th place.

[2] The sport’s official website – you know, the one that puts together cookie-cutter GP reviews weeks after races actually happen, doesn’t allow its fans to watch online in 2014 and is generally stuck in the dark ages – had an enormous banner ad this week for Paddock Club tickets, Germany coming in as the cheapest race at just US$3950 per person for a weekend of corporate blowharding. The sort of price that attracts real F1 fans, evidently. And in an environment where half the grid is haemorrhaging money and teams are apparently too impoverished to do two 90-minute practice sessions on Fridays from 2015. Fodder for another blog soon.

[3] Did you notice the appropriate use of French there? There’s a time and place for it. And it’s not in the first paragraph of everything you write for an English-speaking audience.

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