I have for many years been complaining about the lack of excitement in Formula 1 motor racing. My biggest bugbear has long been the pit stops, which the dear, deluded commentators keep telling us are ‘really exciting’, when in fact they have become so predictable and boring, four guys changing the tyres, yawn, not even as fit as a Kwik-Fit fitter!
However, it seems the powers that be are determined to sex up F1. At the start of the season Bernie Ecclestone’s reply to the question of what would make F1 more interesting was, “We need a good sex scandal.”
Lo and behold a few weeks later The News Of the World exposed Max Mosley’s sexual peccadilloes…oooh pardon.
The only trouble was the alleged orgy took place behind closed doors, on private property, between consenting adults. Duh, another opportunity for excitement in F1 whipped away by the minutiae of the details.
But now they seem to have hit on something, the pit lane pantomime scene.
Earlier in the year this idea was given a try when the stewards decided to see what would happen if they switched on the red light at the end of the pit lane, just when the cars were leaving from their stops!!!! It’s a bit like putting a traffic light at the motorway end of the slip road for cars joining the M1.
Kimi Raikonnen and Robert Kubica both managed to pull up in time, however Lewis Hamilton, his mind perhaps on getting back up to speed in order to maintain his lead, saw the light too late and ploughed into the backs of the two stationary cars, ending the race of all three.
However this made St Lewis look a pratt and so wasn’t terribly popular with the Brits, but when Ferrari then came up with an innovative electronic system for releasing their drivers from the pit box, when the refuelling line was removed from the car a green light would light up on the steering wheel, signalling the driver to go, the big wigs in F1 kept their council.
Sure enough the first time it was tried chaos reigned. Massa set off from his box just as the young Indian driver, Adrian Sutil, was coming up behind causing both to take evasive action to avoid the inevitable shunt. But more was to come. Kimi Raikonnen got the signal to go, only, being a racing driver he didn’t actually get it, he anticipated it following the signal to get ready, and his car leapt forward over the leg of the unfortunate mechanic who was still kneeling by the front wheel.
Well that certainly made the pit stop more interesting and the TV cameras were able to follow the stricken mechanic being given first aid and then stretchered off down the pit lane, much more interesting than watching the cars going round in circles.
Inspired by their success, Ferrari tried again this weekend at the first night time Grands Prix, held in Singapore.
All was going well until Nelson Piquet parked his car backwards into the wall. The safety car came out and the pit lane was closed, don’t know why but this is the way of things. When the pit lane was opened a couple of laps later the cars were queueing up to make their stops, literally in the case of Ferrari, with Raikonnen waitng behind the box as Massa was serviced.
As it was busy the Ferrari crew decided to use manual overide on their electronic system, which relies on the man with the re-fuelling hose pushing a button to light the signal on the driver’s steering wheel. Now whether he pushed it accidently as he struggled to remove the re-fuelling rig, or whether it was just a premature twitch of the thumb we shall never know, but Massa dropped the clutch and went squealing down the pit lane, ripping the still attached fuel hose from it’s mooring and dragging it behind him, oozing fuel, whilst tumbling the red clad Ferrari mechanics all over the pit lane, just like Santa scoring a strike in Elf Bowling.
Realising something was amiss Massa managed to stop the car at the end of the pits and then had to wait whilst the pit crew got Raikonnen back out, looked around to find out where their fuel hose had gone, er sprinted, I told you they’re not as fit as a Kwik Fit fitter – must be all that pasta, the 500 metres to the waitng Massa and then spent at least another 90 seconds tugging and pulling at the hose to try and remove it from the car. Massa then fluffed his opportunity to get the team the award for best comedy pit stop by not stalling the car and making a clean getaway. he was of course penalised for this with a drive through penalty.
The mechanics then hoisted the re-fuelling hose onto their shoulders and stoically marched back to the Ferrari pit, an image I think I shall always carry with me.
Well done Ferrari, it certainly brightened up the race a lot more than all those floodlights did.
No mechanics were seriously injured in the reporting of this incident.
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