Sunday 11 December 2016

F1: Vengeance passes so sweetly for patient Barrichello

The season is hotting up for everyone, even those not in the battle for the title, says David Kennedy

Published 08/08/2010 | 05:00

T he incident in Hungary last week between Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello was heavy on flashbacks and light on remorse.

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Samuel L Jackson's monologue in Pulp Fiction could well have provided audio for the unfolding drama. "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men." (Think Schumacher barricading Barrichello against the pit wall).

Jackson, buoyed up by his own adrenaline, is shouting: "Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and goodwill, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness . . . You will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you." (Think death as the possible consequence of Schumacher's actions).

And in that instant the seemingly seraphic Schumacher had turned dark, delusional and a touch demonic with a blast from his 9mm steering wheel.

Looking at it through Barrichello's lens, this was no ordinary overtaking manoeuvre. It was vindication for years spent being Schumacher's whipping boy, always playing second fiddle to this Ferrari deity.

This was revenge for the humiliation of being asked to forfeit victory in Austria 2002, an early exercise in pandering to the whims of an over-indulged super-smug team-mate who enjoyed 360-degree control at Ferrari.

Like the kid who has lived too long in the shadow of the sibling who could do no wrong, Barrichello has waited long for this moment. When Schumacher retired in 2007, he effectively robbed the Brazilian of that duel. But when he unretired this year, the opportunity to square things off was resurrected.

If Schumacher felt put upon by the media who gave him no latitude when he failed to find the form that made him seven-times World Champion, he could live with that. When Schumacher got beaten race after race by his younger team-mate Nico Rosberg, he could live with that. But when the boy he euphemistically used to clean his shoes with at Ferrari had the temerity to overtake him, this was a bridge too far.

Their post-race reactions were entertaining. Barrichello displayed the euphoria of someone who had dodged a spray of bullets and couldn't believe he was still alive. Schumacher, on the other hand, wore a smirk that was bordering on the pathological, showing scant empathy for his victim. The FIA gave their judgement and it seemed lenient; Schumacher would go back ten grid positions at the next race in Spa. Barrichello, meanwhile, could enjoy his double celebration. In between the nightmares that is.

As yet another victory slipped through Sebastian Vettel's hands, it was caused, as is often the case, by a two-bit piece of technology. His radio communication failed just when the FIA announced that the pace car was pulling in. That resulted in a drive-through penalty for not staying within ten car paces of Webber. Another one of those daft rules that seem to stymie instead of enhance the sport.

Mark Webber of course was delighted. He'll take his victories whatever way they come, sunny-side up, over easy or poached -- the latter is especially tasty when it comes from the plate of your team-mate.

To be fair, some clever pit strategy has put Webber in the lead of this year's championship, though you could hardly call a four-point advantage much of a cushion.

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso's return to form means he's back in the fray and currently 20 points behind the leader as last of the five contenders. With 25 points for a win, if things swing his way he could be in Webber's shoes faster than a jumping kangaroo.

Some plucky drives came courtesy of Russian and Japanese sensations, Vitaly Petrov and Kamui Kobayashi; two stars of the future for sure. Nico Hulkenberg is another driver finding his form and sixth was his best F1 result to date. His Cosworth-powered Williams provided a royal flush for the engine manufacturer, with all eight of the Cosworth-engined cars finishing the race.

Ford sold Cosworth to business/racing magnates Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe in 2004; the duo were owners of the former US Champ Car World Series which ultimately merged with the Indycar Series. Cosworth returned to F1 this year after a three-year absence. They remain the second most successful engine manufacturer behind Ferrari with 176 wins to their credit.

Kalkhoven, who hails from Australia, was educated in London, lives in the US and is currently holidaying in Ireland, has enjoyed extraordinary business success. When he was CEO of JDS Uniphase -- the optics communications company -- its capitalisation leaped from $23m to a mind-boggling $100bn.

When he's not overseeing his racing interests, Kalkhoven has a venture capitalist company that invests in early-stage photonics and wireless devices. It's based in Menlo Park, California (interestingly named after Menlough in Co Galway when an Irish immigrant who hailed from there purchased the land in the 19th century). A generous philanthropist, he continues to support his late friend Paul Newman's 'Hole in the Wall Gang' which of course includes Barretstown in Kildare.

Mark Gallagher, who was head of marketing at Jordan for nine years, runs Cosworth's F1 business unit. With that calibre of person now steering Cosworth and with drivers like Rosberg and Hulkenberg at the wheel, Cosworth's 177th win shouldn't be too far off.

F1 resumes after its summer sojourn at the end of August in Belgium. The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is a track beloved of drivers, yet it in turn spits out those who fail to impress. Last year will be best remembered for Giancarlo Fisichella planking the Force India car on pole. He finished second in a race that was won by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. Vettel, Kubica, Heidfeld and Kovalainen completed the top six.

Things are hotting up in the cauldron of competitiveness and Ferrari is benefiting from a late surge. The remainder of the season promises much and the pressure is building. Teams, drivers, pit crew -- everyone will have to be at the zenith of their capability. And that includes ensuring a detail like pit radio communication doesn't let you down when you need it most. As CS Lewis put it, experience -- that most brutal of teachers.

The Hungaroring provided another great result for Status GP when Robert Wicken's Mickey Finn-sponsored car finished fourth and second respectively in the two GP3 races. Now lying second place in the championship with two double-headers still to come in Spa and Monza, there's everything to play for. Stay tuned.

David Kennedy is Setanta's

Formula One analyst

Sunday Independent

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