Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Chinese GP Comments

The inaugural GP of China, held in Shanghai, was one for the books. The track itself was really cool. Lots of serious curves and elevation changes. Not a simple track but one that did afford room for passing. And there were over two hundred and fifty thousand people in attendance. Quite spectacular, really. On to the race...

Rubens Barrichello took his Ferrari to his second consecutive poll with Kimi Räikkönen putting McLaren-Mercedes in P2. Michael Schumacher spun his Ferrari out in qualifying and elected to start from pit lane. This was what you'd call foreshadowing. Anyway, for a time in the middle part of the race it looked like Jenson Button in his BAR-Honda could take his first win. BAR had him on a two stop strategy while almost everyone else was on three stops. But Rubens pulled the standard Ferrari tactic by whipping out blazingly fast laps just before going into his last stop. Putting over 25s between him and Jenson pretty much assured him of keeping the lead.

Michael, on the other had, all kinds of problems. He started out dead last out of the pit and kept losing 2s a lap to the leaders. When he finally was able to make a move he got all the way to 9th then just spun out all by himself. This dropped him back to 15th. Later, as he was starting to make a move again, his left rear tire blew. He hobbled into the pit to change it out but by then it was over. He ended up 12th running a lap down. This was the first race since 1999 that Michael finished a race running out of the points. He still finished ahead of the Minardi's, Jordan's and Olivier Panis in his Toyota. The Minardi's have not had a good season. They haven't finished on the lead lap all season (Zsolt Baumgartner ended up his usual +3 laps).

Some other highlights were when Gianmaria Bruni lost the left front wheel from his Minardi due to a mechanical problem. Nothing like seeing a lone wheel bouncing down the track. Ralf Schumacher started his first race since his bad accident at the US GP. He was in the mix up until he got a flat and, with a total mix up in the Williams-BMW pit, ended up out of the race. Ricardo Zonta was also driving quite well in his Toyota 'til he lost his transmission.

The biggest story off-track, though, was Ford's announcement that they were pulling out og F1 completely at the end of this season. This means that the Jordan team is essentially dead unless someone comes in and buys them. Ford is also selling off the Cosworth division which will put is big hurt on the Minardi and Jaguar teams. This move took the entire F1 world by surprise. Ford has been in F1 for over 40 years and, just until this year when Ferrari moved ahead of them, was the engine manufacturer with the most wins. The F1 team landscape will be quite different next season.

But, for today, Rubens and Ferrari were the crown of the very first Grand Prix of China.

On a side note, I wish I could have been there. Not just for the race. I have been trying to learn Mandarin and would have loved to see the largest city in China and meet some of the people there.

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