The Inside Line #60: The hills are alive …

TILI Logo PrintI always did have a soft spot for Rubens Barrichello – good guy, great to deal with from a media point of view and (IMHO) underrated as a driver – and that only increased after he won the German Grand Prix in 2000 in one of the nuttiest races I’ve ever seen (remember the protestor running at the cars on the straight leading out into the forest on the old Hockenheim layout?) It was impossible not to get caught up in the emotion he showed on the podium that day, and it was great that he didn’t feel the need to tone it down when that maiden win finally came.

But when I think of Rubens, I think immediately of Austria 2002 and Ferrari’s instruction that he move over for teammate Michael Schumacher in one of the most blatantly unnecessary examples of team orders imaginable. Ferrari (and Schumacher) were already miles ahead of the rest of the field after only a few races that season, and Barrichello had out-paced his team leader all weekend before grudgingly relinquishing first place within sight of the chequered flag. James Allen, commentating on the ITV feed we got in Australia at the time [1], picked a bizarre moment to go into rhyming slang (“Can you Adam and Eve it?”), and I remember being incensed by Ferrari’s actions like I’ve felt few times since. One more Austrian GP later, and the race was off the calendar, and with the sport moving towards races in cashed-up city states and to Tilke-dromes good and bad [2], a return to the picturesque Styrian Mountains looked to be an impossibility. Until this weekend.

A comprehensive preview of the Austrian GP features on Episode 60 of ‘The Inside Line’, and while the circuit was derided by several drivers and never captured the imagination of the truly great tracks visited by F1, I always liked it for reasons I could never quite work out. Maybe it was the elevation change, maybe because it was a race track that didn’t attract loads of corporate wankers and look-at-me types, maybe it was the backdrop – maybe my memories of the last race there in 2003 and the sound of those cars echoing through the mountains allowed me to reminisce. Regardless, it’s a welcome return to the calendar thanks to Red Bull’s mega-dollars – and speaking of Red Bull, we look at the event by focusing on their new man of the moment, race-winning Grand Prix driver Daniel Ricciardo [3].

There’s plenty more on the show this week, so be sure to tune in to ‘The Inside Line’ on SPEED TV Australia (Foxtel/Austar channel 512) at 7pm on Wednesday June 18, and/or on ESPN (Foxtel/Austar channel 508 in Australia) at 8.30pm on Thursday June 19.

—————

[1] Other than his try-too-hard Murray Walker-type race starts that always sounded forced, James was pretty good – but he had a shocker that day.

[2] Good: Sepang, Istanbul Park (such a shame), COTA. Bad: Abu Dreary.

[3] It felt quite good to write that.

 

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