POWER WINS INDYCAR SNOOZER; KESELOWSKI ON A ROLL; OSWEGO CLASSIC NEXT SUNDAY
Jenson Button took a lot of years to get going and is now in the sweet spot of his career but the biggest problems he’s encountered lately have originated within his own team.
It’s reminiscent of a famous quote from the old New York goalie Gump Worsley, who replied – when asked which team gave him the most trouble – “the Rangers.”
Button finished third in the Grand Prix of Belgium on Sunday – Red Bull-Renault teammates Sebastien Vettel and Mark Webber were first and second – but could have challenged for the win or at least a runner-up spot if he hadn’t started 13th.
And the reason he was back in the second-half of the field at the start is because he never made it out of Q2 in Saturday qualifying because of a “misunderstanding” he had with his race engineeer.
Button thought he had three laps in which to set a time when he only had two. How this happened is anybody’s guess. Said the ever-diplomatic Button:
“My engineer did say before I went out, not that I recall it but I believe him (my italics), that you’ve got two laps to do. It was a miscommunication. It shouldn’t have happened, but it did. We messed up.”
So instead of starting, perhaps, in the top six, Button he was able to make it to the podium from 13th. Pretty good.
(Not as good as Michael Schumacher, of course. The seven-time world champion who was celebrating 20 years in F1 this weekend started 24th – last – because he crashed in qualifying when a wheel came off his Mercedes. He made it all the way up to fifth by the end of the race so it’s obvious he still has magic in him.)
Button, who drove one of the greatest Grand Prix races of his – or anybody’s – career when he won the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal in June, has never been out of the top six this season when he’s been able to finish.
The two times he didn’t came when his team sent him on his way during the British Grand Prix without a wheel properly attached (it fell of, natch) and a hydraulic problem did him in at the next race in Germany.
But he’s got two victories, a second and three thirds in the other races, which means that without “misunderstandings” or "miscommunication" or incompetence, he’d maybe be higher than fourth in the standings.
Of course, nobody can hold a candle to Vettel, who’s now 92 points clear in the standings. After seeming to take a couple of races “off” just before the summer holiday break, the defending world champion returned to battle at Belgium and won the pole and the race, showing the world that although he might be human on occasion, he’s the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world of motorsport when he has to prove it.
Webber, who signed a contract to continue racing with Red Bull through 2012, battled back from a lousy start (he always seems to have trouble getting off the line, doesn’t he?) to finish second to his teammate.
At 35, he continues to have huge balls. He and Fernando Alonso, who eventually finished fourth for Ferrari, were heading toward Eau Rouge together at about a million miles an hour and somebody had to lift or else they were both going to go into orbit.
As it was not going to be Webber, who was on fire, Alonso did the smart thing and eased off, preferring to fight (and live) another day.
– F1 might have Monaco but nothing is more grand than a traditional road course like Spa-Francorchamps. And Spa these days is looking manicured, complete with lawn on both sides of the tarmac. Simply beautiful.
– Poor Lewis Hamilton. He’s showing serious signs of suffering from Paul Tracyitis (a malady in which the sufferer’s brains periodically turn to cement).
He was holding off an attacking Kamui Kobayashi and, thinking he had the corner, moved ever so slightly to his left before turning in. The problem was that Kobayashi hadn’t surrendered the corner completely and was still there, so KA-POW.
This sense of entitlement has bitten Hamilton previously. “I’m coming through, so get outta my way,” seems to be his motto.
He ran into Button in Montreal (I still can’t believe he tried that pass when – and where – he did) and bulldozed his way past Pastor Maldonado on Saturday during qualifying (which angered Maldonado to the point that he banged wheels with Hamilton later and earned himself a five-spot grid penalty as a result).
Here’s hoping Hamilton puts his thinking cap on really tight from now on or else one of these times he’s going to hurt himself.
(He made a start in that direction last night when he tweeted that he’d seen the replay and realized it was his fault. “I didn’t give Kobayashi enough room,” he said. “Apologies to Kamui and my team.”)
– Bruno Senna showed the world what the Renault can do (something the dismissed Nick Heidfeld couldn’t) and qualified seventh. He also showed the world what he can do when given a good car to drive.
Unfortunately, he has to work to do on his race craft; he went barreling into the first turn way over his head and it’s lucky he didn’t take out half the field.
The nephew of the great Ayrton Senna finished 13th in the race but will be well worth watching from now on.
– F1 might have been on vacation for three weeks but there was all sorts of press-release journalism going on in an attempt to keep it in the public eye (most ignored, except by the hard-core racing sites).
The big story was speculation that Michael Schumacher would retire again at the end of 2011. What made it nuts was when commentators started guessing who would take his place at Mercedes. The favourite seemed to be Paul DiRestra.
Speculate all ya want, folks. Michael is not going anywhere. In fact, I won’t be surprised if he signs a contract extension with Mercedes to go past 2012.
– INDY CAR: The IZOD IndyCar Series race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., started with Will Power on pole, Helio Castroneves second, Ryan Briscoe third, Dario Franchitti fourth and Scott Dixon fifth. The race ended exactly the same way.
I had a nap in the middle.
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville started sixth and finished seventh. Actually, he finished eighth but moved up a spot when original sixth-place finisher Giorgio Pantano (subbing for Justin Wilson) was penalized 10 finishing positions for blocking.
Alex Tagliani of Montreal started 12th and finished 20th. Danica Patrick started 25th and finished 21st – a lap behind. Top woman was Ana Beatriz in 13th. Simona de Silvestro missed the race because she wasn’t allowed back into the United States, following a trip home to Switzerland, a problem that hopefully will be cleared up soon.
The first three drivers are employed by Penske Racing. The last time the team had a sweep was in 1994 when Paul Tracy won at Nazareth, followed by Al Unser Jr. And Emerson Fittipaldi.
It was also a particularly good weekend for the Captain. His driver, Brad Keselowski, won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol, Tenn., on Saturday night.
– NASCAR: Earlier this month, Brad Keselowski crashed at Road Atlanta and broke his ankle. Since then, he’s won twice and had a second and a third in four races.
This puts him very close to a place in the Chase for the Championship with just two “regular season” races to go – at Atlanta Motor Speedway over Labour Day and at Richmond, Va., the week after.
He won the race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night over Martin Truex Jr. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray were the others in the top five.
On Friday night at Bristol, Kyle Busch won the Nationwide Series race by inches over Joey Logano. Elliott Sadler was third. It was Busch’s 50th trip to Victory Lane in that series, making him the all-time leading winner.
– OSWEGO SPEEDWAY: Indy 500 veteran Joe Gosek won the Oswego Speedway track championship Saturday night by finishing second behind first-time winner of a 45-lap feature at the Steel Palace, Dave Danzer.
Randy Ritskes, formerly of Brockville, finished third in the race Saturday and second in the championship.
Next weekend will see the 55th Budweiser International Classic 200 for supermodifieds get the green at or about 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
Indy veterans Davey Hamilton and Bentley Warren are expected to be in the field (although maybe not Warren, who's 71 and not feeling 100 per cent these days).
Canadian drivers expected to try to qualify include Dave McKnight Jr. of Brampton and Gary Morton of Stouffville.