There’s a great old newspaper story about the time that Herbert Whittacker, the late theatre critic for the Globe and Mail, finished the first parapgrah of a review of the Broadway musical Oklahoma with the words: "What more can I say?" before going on for another 15 paragraphs.
Patrick Scott, a hardboiled copy editor, promptly put "30," after that first paragraph – "30" being an old telegraph symbol used throughout the industry meaning "the end."
And that’s what appeared in the next day’s Globe: a one-paragraph review of Oklahoma, ending with: "What more can I say?"
I was reminded of this Sunday night as I sat down to pontificate about Sebastien Vettel’s latest triumph in Formula One racing – what some people are calling his "grand slam" at the first Grand Prix of India Sunday in which he won the pole, led every lap while winning, set fastest lap of the race and set the record for number of laps led in a season – 711 as of now but still counting.
What more can I say?
Jenson Button was second in the race in his McLaren-Mercedes, 8.5-seconds behind Vettel at the checkers, while Fernando Alonso was third in a Ferrari, another 16 behind Button.
Yes, Vettel has the best car and he has the best crew and the best engineers and the best of everything.
But he still has to drive the thing and it takes a special skill to do that , something that few mortals possess.
The delightful thing about Vettel, who’s still just a kid of 24, is that he seems – seems – to be completely down to earth. Not for him the rock ‘n roll lifestyle of clubbing his way around the world. Any paparazzi photos out there? I haven’t seen any. In fact, his favourite form of recreation seems to be watching football or hockey games featuring the teams that represents the community where he lives in Switzerland.
Despite the number of times he’s won (11 times this year; 21 times in his career), he still seems to get a huge kick out of it all. Shortly after he took the checkered flag Sunday, he shouted over his team’s radio: "Yes, boys! Yes, we did it! Winner of the first Indiana Grand Prix. Enjoy the moment."
That he is a perfectionist, let there be no doubt. He appeared to be quite concerned, during the post-race press conference, that he had lost time to second-place finisher Button during pit stops.
"We pushed very hard on the in-lap and the out-lap, but Jenson closed on us. We will have to investigate why that was."
He says he is looking forward to the next race, at Abu Dhabi, in two weeks. "I am still hungry and I love what I do," he told reporters later.
Which is not particularly good news for F1 because the best anybody else will be able to do for the rest of the 2011 season is shoot for second place.
Four quick notes: The Felipe Massa-Lewis Hamilton "war" continued at India with Hamilton running into the side of Massa as they fought for a corner. Massa was given a drive-through penalty that, to my mind, was unfair. However, perhaps the stewards didn’t want to make Hamilton’s weekend any worse – he’d been penalized three grid positions (he qualified second, but started fifth) for ignoring waved yellow flags during Friday practice. . . Everybody talks about Mark Webber’s poor starts this season (he finished fourth in Sunday’s Grand Prix after starting second). I thought he got away really well and had to check up (I think) to avoid running into the back of Vettel going into the first corner and that loss of momentum is why Button got past him two corners later. . . Lotus wouldn’t let Karun Chandhock race in his home Grand Prix, saying before the weekend that they preferred to stay with Jarno Trulli because they didn’t think the Indian could handle the pressure and Trulli would deliver a better result. So Trulli finished in 19th place, four laps behind, and was the last car still running at the finish. Could Chandhock have done any worse? Could anybody? . . Hey, look who finished in fifth place Sunday? Michael Schumacher, that’s who. There’s still life in the old boy yet. One of these days, he’ll be on the podium. . . Full results story here.
Joe Gosek, at 55 the Oswego Speedway supermodified track champion and one-time Indianapolis 500 racer who was a 2011 Oswego Speedway Hall of Fame inductee on Saturday night, put the death of Dan Wheldon into perspective for me during a post-induction chat we had.
"All of us in racing, whether’s it’s NASCAR or Indy car or Formula One – whatever – whenever something like this happens we all pull together. We’re all affected by it. We might not all watch a particular form of racing, or sometimes even like it, but when something happens like happened to Dan, we all feel it and it has an effect on us all."
I’m glad I talked to Joe about this, because after NASCAR paid its tribute to the two-time Indy 500 champion last weekend at Talladega, Formula One held a minute of silence in memory of Wheldon and motorcycle racer Marco Simoncelli, who was killed last weekend, before Sunday’s Indian Grand Prix.
Afterward, Jenson Button suggested the race be dedicated in memory of the fallen warriors.
"The last two weekends have been very, very difficult. We have had two fatalities so it is very difficult, especially with Dan. I knew Dan from a very early age, he was the guy we always had to beat in the early formulas. So I think we should dedicate this first Indian race to Dan and obviously Marco, another super talented youngster. He was the most amazing guy to watch on a bike so I think we should dedicate this to them."
Moments before, Vettel had made mention of the fatal accidents in his post-race comments: "Looking back to last weekend, we lost two of our mates. I didn't know Dan Wheldon but he was a big name in motorsport. I got to know this year Marco Simoncelli and our thoughts are with them.
"Yes, we are ready to take certain risks when we jump into the car but we obviously pray that every time nothing happens but sometimes you get reminded and it is the last thing that we want to see. So, as I said, it is a bit mixed emotions and our thoughts are with them at this moment."
Ferando Alonso added: "As Sebastian and Jenson said, mixed feelings this weekend with sad weeks for motorsport with the two accidents. I think we all raced for them today and try to go ahead but always remember these two fantastic people."
I had a friend at the Indian race, Clive Rayman of Toronto, a Formula Ford driver from the early 1970s who was a real balls-to-the-walls kind of guy in the cockpit. He sent me this report Sunday night:
Another boring F1 race. From what I saw from my seat at the hairpin, there was hardly any passing. There was a half-hearted attempt by Webber to pass Button at the end of the straight. Other than that, the only passing done was the lapping of slower cars.
The Buddh track was designed supposedly to increase overtaking. Is race craft in F1 a thing of the past? They may as well just have time trials. The rules, political correctness and technology have turned F1 into a boring sport.
It seems that the only people that get a kick out of the race are the drivers, engineers, designers, aerodynamists and computer nerds. I spoke with some of the spectators after the race and they also found it quite boring. This is definitely the last F1 race that I will attend.
As far as the paying public is concerned, getting tickets, etc., was to say the least a bit of a joke. There were many empty seats in my stand and in the other stands that I could see. Bookmyshow, who were the ticketing agent, had a website that did not function properly. In September, unless one had an address in India, you could not get a ticket online.
I had to contact Jaypee sports, the organizers. I spoke to the Commercial Officer who had not a clue as to how disorganized the sale of tickets was. She eventually said to use her office address to have my ticket sent to me. Bookmyshow's website would not accept Jaypee's address, as it was so long. After numerous attempts, she said to use her home address.
When I did eventually get to book both my race ticket and my shuttle bus ticket to the track, the
final window just showed payment of my entry ticket but no bus ticket and there was no way to correct it. The result being that I needed to book my bus ticket separately, resulting in another booking charge and additional courier costs. I would suggest this was a deliberate rip-off.
Some stands were oversold and people were moved into stands less filled when they arrived at the circuit. Incredible.
To purchase food, one had to join a long line to get coupons, then join another line to get food, water and pop. One could not take food or water into the circuit – not unusual in some venues today. However, on Saturday, the first day I went, after purchasing a bottle of water (only sold in 1 litre bottles), I headed for my seat, only to be told I could not bring it into the stand!
Fortunately there were some Buddh officials at a table close by. I went to them and basically gave them a piece of my mind. Did they think that people would sit in the hot sun without anything to drink and after purchasing a 1 litre bottle of water? Were you expected to drink it all at once before going to your seat? Well, they changed it (the rule) pretty quickly and I was allowed in and everyone else. too.
Holwever, the TV screen in my area was better suited for a living room. The result being that you could not read the times or the order of the cars during the race and of course, due to the noise of the cars, you could not hear the speakers. Other than first, second and third, one had not a clue where anyone else was in the race.
It is one thing to put on an F1 race and get the track ready, etc., but a very important part that seems very much forgotten here was the comfort of the paying spectator. I would not be surprised if the Indian GP went the way of the Turkish GP.
You asked me to send my impressions of the GP. Well, the race you know all about, so I thought I'd let you know about the BS that spectators had to put up with and that does not include the horrendous dust and smog.
Thanks Clive. And, finally, Tony Stewart won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville, Va., Sunday (full race report here). He’s nipping right at Carl Edwards’s heels as the Chase winds down. Jimmie Johnson is out of it. NASCAR will have a new champion in less than a month.