The Inside Line #68: Horses, hair and high hopes

TILI Logo PrintAs click-bait, it was a good idea: spinning Daniel Ricciardo’s comments that “we’re still in the championship until it’s mathematically impossible” (or words to that effect) into ‘Ricciardo says he can win F1 title!’ got a few extra eyeballs onto Australian websites that should stick to whatever football code they usually provide saturation coverage to [1]. In this media age where quantity matters more than quality for so many providers of content, it was as predictable as it was pathetic. But while Ricciardo is right to continue to fight for the crown until the numbers tell him he can’t, this F1 season is a two-horse race, and has been almost from day one. The good news is that we don’t – can’t possibly – know which of the afore-mentioned steeds will be crowed as world champion by the end of the year – which is why the second half of the season will make for such compelling viewing.

A personal aside on Nico Rosberg: I’ve never particularly cared for him as a driver, which goes back to two lengthy interviews I did with him as a rookie alongside Mark Webber at Williams in 2006. Whether it’s because I was, like Mark, an Australian, or whether he just couldn’t be bothered, or whether he was one of those people who views every encounter with another person as a transaction – “what can I get out of this?” – he was spectacularly unhelpful, condescending, aloof. For someone who hadn’t done anything yet in F1, his attitude (and his hair) struck me as a little unnecessary, and my opinion has usually been negative about him as a result [2].

For all of that, let’s give credit where it’s due. Rosberg has made a far better fist of being in a car capable of winning the championship for the first time than I and many others imagined he would, and after 11 races this season, he’s ahead of his teammate and the driver thought by many to be one of the fastest two men in Formula One, Lewis Hamilton.

While Hamilton has been what Hamilton is this season – spectacular at times, emotionally on the edge and pure theatre – Rosberg has been methodical, consistently quick and has stepped up his game. The British TV coverage that occasionally verges on Hamilton cheerleading can make it seem like there’s only one Mercedes driver on the grid (and, according to Wikipedia, the title race is already over), but Rosberg is the man in the ascendancy at the mid-season break. Who will blink first? Will Hamilton’s bad luck – he’s undoubtedly suffered the lion’s share of Mercedes’ reliability woes – turn around? Will the teammates bash wheels and damage bodywork between now and the end of the year? It’ll be fantastic to find out.

Episode 68 of ‘The Inside Line’ features part two of our mid-season review covering the top five teams in the constructors’ championship. It’s great to see Williams firmly entrenched in that quintet, while you could argue Ferrari could be outside that group were it not for Fernando Alonso. Force India has done superbly to be within touching distance of their best season ever with eight races to go, and Red Bull has bounced back to a quite amazing degree given how horrendous their pre-season testing campaign was (remember that?) But they’re all part of the supporting cast to the main act that is Mercedes.

Let’s hope the Rosberg/Hamilton inter-team fight lasts all the way to Abu Dhabi and comes down to a head-to-head shootout that double points doesn’t decide. That said, if double points was to make the championship decider a complete farce, perhaps it’ll never see the light of day again [3]. Here’s hoping.

Check out ‘The Inside Line’ on SPEED TV Australia (Foxtel/Austar channel 512) at 7pm on Wednesday August 13, and/or on ESPN (Foxtel/Austar channel 508 in Australia) at 8.30pm on Thursday August 14.

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[1] Listening to football bozos tripping over themselves on radio attempting to talk F1 the day after Ricciardo’s Hungary win was partly amusing and mostly frustrating. Given half of these types got their jobs based on who they were rather than what they should be, perhaps they should stick to what they know. “Never mind world sport, how about those (insert local football team nickname here) …”.

[2] I did laugh when this happened though. Check the 3:10 mark of this clip for the famous “Britney’s in the wall” incident. One of Webber’s better caustic quips in a career with some beauties. My other favourite happened in Abu Dhabi one year. (Ditzy BBC radio journo with flicky hair and regularly-displayed cleavage, while batting eyelids): “So Mark, who do you think will win on Sunday?” (Webber, after shrugging shoulders): “Dunno mate. Guess that’s why we’re all here …”

[3] Toto Wolff is one F1 person who will come out of 2014 with his reputation enhanced, and not just for these comments.

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