Before I start, be sure to listen to my podcast interview with wheels.ca special F1 correspondent Gerald Donaldson by clicking here. We’ll do one before every GP this year.
And on Monday, I’ll be answering motor racing questions in a Live Chat on thestar.com at noon. Agree with what I say? Disagree (see letters to the Wheels editor for a few of those)? Or just want to exchange views about our favourite sport? Go to the home page of thestar.com and log in at noon Monday.
In news today, Sebastien Vettel has won the pole for the Grand Prix of Bahrain in the Red Bull (for full story, click here), with Felipe Massa (way to go, Felipe!) and Fernando Alonso second and third in their Ferraris. Ex-world champion Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) finished fourth, seven-time heavyweight champ Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) is seventh – he qualified behind new teammate Nico Rosberg, who’s fifth – and current title holder Jenson Button is eighth. Mark Webber is sixth in the other Red Bull.
All the new teams are at the back – Virgin, Lotus and and HRT in that order with HRT drivers Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhock last, between eight and 10 seconds off the pole pace.
Okay, does anybody remember F1's 107% rule? The FIA instituted that back in 1996 when they had F1 entries coming out of their ears (remember Simtek? remember Forti?) and most of those little, unsophisticated and underfunded teams simply couldn’t cut the mustard.
So the rule was, if a driver was not within 107% of the pole speed after qualifying, he couldn’t start the race because he’d be deemed a hazard.
(It was abolished in 2002 for two reasons: the number of cars entered had fallen – they needed a field – and the stewards had to keep making exceptions because name drivers like Damon Hill and Fernando Alonso would have off-days and be terribly slow in qualifying and wouldn’t have been able to race under that rule if it had been enforced as written.)
In any event, what are Senna and Chandhock, if not hazards? They are rookies and their untested and untried cars are slow and letting them race in Sunday’s Grand Prix is a recipe for disaster.
Between the end of qualifying today and the race tomorrow, the established teams and the stewards should ask the FIA to re-establish the 107% rule immediately. As Donaldson said in our F1 season preview interview (click here for the column), a fast car closing rapidly on a slower car is very dangerous and is exactly how Gilles Villeneuve died.
This is not Saturday night at the local race track. This is Grand Prix, second only to the Olympics (where, incidentally, you generally have to get through qualifying before going for the gold) in money, sophistication and world-wide interest, and is no place for amateurs.
By the way, Martin Brundle – on the qualifying broadcast today – said tens of millions of people were watching. Presumably, he was talking about the TV audience because it looked like tens were in the grandstands and it makes you wonder why F1 insists on going to those places where the local interest appears to be just about zilch.
No wonder F1 wants Montreal – and should get back to Indianapolis, too. (By the way, the real reason they don’t want to go back to Indy has nothing to do with money; the participants don’t find the city particularly stimulating – it’s a little too small-town for their tastes, with all them Steak 'n Shakes and the like – and that’s why they’re not there.)
All the seats and all the suites will be packed on first practice Friday morning in Montreal – and would be in Indy, too – and that’s what should be important to F1.