Saturday, September 12, 2009

Formula 1: Records and allegations heading into Monza

Debuting in 1921, the Italian Grand Prix continues this weekend as round #13 in the FIA Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monza. Long favored by race drivers, together with Monaco and Silverstone, its long straights and medium downforce tract offers speeds of up to 330 kph in the 5.7-km tract, 53-lap, 306.7-km race distance.

Ferrari is the most successful car manufacturer in terms of wins in Monza and the driver with the most wins? You guessed it. It’s Michael Schumacher raking in 5 wins for Ferrari from 1996 to 2006. Lap record still holds for the 2004 spec cars (picture above) of Ferrari driven by current Brawn GP driver Rubens Barrichello.

Last year German driver Sebastian Vettel won his inaugural race for Toro Rosso (engines supplied by Ferrari, no surprise here) breaking records for the youngest driver to qualify on pole and win a Formula 1 Grand Prix at 21 years and 74 days. The German driver broke Spanish driver Fernando Alonso’s record of 23 years.

Cars with KERS like Ferrari, McLaren and Renault will be favored this weekend where the boost system, for the first time, will be allowed to be deployed twice. Fresh from his transfer from Force India, Italian driver Giancarlo Fisichella will be donning his red cape for today for the tifosi and the pressure, I imagine, for an Italian in his first drive for an Italian car manufacturer like Ferrari in an Italian tract, will hit the roof.

Fisichella will have a lot to prove substituting for the injured Felipe Massa, replacing error-prone Luca Badoer and driving beside former champion Kimi Raikkonen this weekend.

Qualifying starts today and race day is Sunday at 8 pm (Philippine time).

But not without its issues. Allegations of race fixing by former Renault driver Nelson Piquet, backed by his father 3-time World Champion of the same name, has the World Council convening and investigating in what could be, if proved to be true, a ridiculous conspiracy of outlandish proportions.

After being dished out by Renault F1 Racing for failing to score points this season, not to mention being continually out driven by teammate double World Champion Fernando Alonso, the Piquets have alleged that last year’s win by the Spaniard in Singapore was no fluke.

Despite starting 15th on the grid, Fernando Alonso won the inaugural night race of Singapore after an early crash by Piquet brought out the Safety Car. At that time then, Alonso had just pitted for fuel and tires after making up 3 places on the grid on a light fuel load.

A heavy fuel load is the usual strategy for a car starting on the back of the grid but Alonso’s team decided to do otherwise predicting an early racing incident that will bring out the Safety Car. There were 2 racing incidents that day.

On lap 14, Piquet crashed while being chased by Force India’s Adrian Sutil which then brought out the SC while organizers try to clean up the debris. Overtaking or pitting is not allowed at this point lest you incur penalties.

Sure enough when race resumed and the pit lane opened, there was a mad dash for fuel and tires except for Alonso, who had already pitted early on. The Renault driver took the lead and a commanding victory in old Singapura.

Piquet alleged that the crash was deliberate allowing Alonso to take his first win of the season despite a poor performing Renault car.

If World Council finds Renault in violation of ethical standards, they will be strip of their winnings and points finish for 2008. Poor Alonso’s titles in 2005 and 2006 will also be investigated.

Deliberate, my foot! If a conspiracy did take place, the FIA would have hounded on it already. From race communications to surveillance cameras, even an oil drop can be recorded and heard by race stewards.

Piquet’s allegations are far-fetched. More like bitterness after being fired for “driving too slow.”

If, however, the World Council finds the allegations untrue, the father and son duo should be penalized and banned from attending F1 racing…forever.