1. Button wins F1 but Hamilton's sulking is getting tiresome
2. Keselowski wins NASCAR but what's with the drivers holding babies?
3. Audi 1-2 at 60th 12 Hours of Sebring; hybrid race cars coming!
4. Piquet Jr. wins in NASCAR; Toronto Supercross event might not have any stars
1. HAMILTON HAS TO SUCK IT UP AND TAKE FIGHT TO BUTTON
We all know that most world-class athletes are uber-competitive. We understand that they want to win and will do just about anything to come out on top.
But, in the end, when the game finishes or the event is over, most of them will shake hands or exchange a hug, put on a smile and rejoice in the success they’ve achieved, whether it’s in an Olympic relay race or the Super Bowl
You do your best and you move on.
Which means Lewis Hamilton’s post-Grand Prix funk at Melbourne Sunday, where he finished third to McLaren teammate and race winner Jenson Button and second-place driver Sebastian Vettel, struck me as a little over the top.
Yes, he was disappointed. Yes, the season hadn’t started on the high note he’d expected after winning pole position on Saturday. But it wasn’t the end of the world, although one look at his face suggested he was thinking exactly that.
In the initial post-race interview and in the scrums that followed, he offered congratulations to Button, said it was a swell way for McLaren to start the season, said he’d try for consistency from now on, and not much else.
During one interview, he even suggested the car he’d been given to drive on Sunday wasn’t as good as the car he’d had on Saturday – "it was not as spectacular," was the way he put it (and I interpreted that to mean he was perhaps blaming the team for his misfortune rather than accepting his defeat for what it was).
Now, Hamilton has been known to sulk previously. He gets that "poor me" look on his face and you think, ‘You’re 26, Lewis: grow up." Because all the while he’s wallowing in his self-pity and allowing his sense of entitlement to dominate his persona, his teammate, Button, is sitting beside him looking like the cat that swallowed the canary.
If there was a cartoon bubble above Button's head, it would say: "I’ve got him right where I want him – feeling sorry for himself."
The race next Sunday at Malaysia is terribly important – which is surprising, considering it’s so early in the season. But Hamilton has got to show immedately that he’s made of stronger stuff or Button will walk all over him the rest of the season.
And Red Bull – their cars could only qualify fifth and sixth in Australia; Vettel was very fortunate to finish second, and knew it – will have to take the fight right to McLaren if it hopes to get back in the hunt to win a third world driver's and manufacturers championship.
– Button has won three of the last four Aussie GPs; the victory was the 13th of his career and it was decisive. (Full story, results here.) He was in charge from the moment the lights went out and didn’t put a wheel wrong. He’s looking like world championship material (although, before the weekend, I argued otherwise – video link here).
– Albert Park in Melbourne is very reminiscent of Canada’s Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve on Ilse Notre-Dame in that it is a relatively flat community recreation area in the middle of a metropolis and the circuit is made up, in part, by service roads. The grandstands are temporary. One difference: while the Villeneuve circuit in Montreal is surrounded by water, the Melbourne track surrounds water.
– Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen – one of six world champions on the grid – won the Hard Charger award (if they had one) for improving his position the most. He started 18th in his Lotus-Renault and finished seventh, an improvement of 11 places. Sergio Perez in a Sauber-Ferrari was right behind with an improvement of nine places: he started 17th and finished eighth. Fernando Alonso did pretty well for Ferrari. He started 12th and finished fifth, an improvement of seven positions.
– Australian Daniel Ricciardo won the battle of the newbies at Scuderia Toro Rosso. Jean-Eric Vergne of France was ahead and in tenth place going into the last lap but a last-second scramble saw Ricciardo not only pass his teammate but make it up to ninth and score points in his F1 debut at his home Grand Prix. Vergne wound up eleventh.
– Michael Schumacher made short work of Lotus-Renault second-chance driver Romain Grosjean at the start (as did three or four others) but then either suffered a mechanical problem (his explanation) or he screwed up and created a mechanical problem when he went off the racing surface (as is maybe suspected by some) and was forced out of the Grand Prix.
But he looked good for awhile when he was out there, holding down a solid third place and keeping Vettel behind him.
Others who looked like they also had fire in their bellies: Raikkonen, Alonso, Vettel.
KESELOWSKI WINS BRISTOL SPRINT CUP RACE
Penske Racing driver Brad Keselowski got the jump on second-place finisher Matt Kenseth on the last restart at Bristol Motor Speedway Sunday to pull away and easily win the Food City 500 at the Tennessee track (details, results here).
A trio of Michael Waltrip Racing entries led by Martin Truex Jr. finished third through fifth, with Clint Bowyer fourth and Brian Vickers fifth.
Vickers missed most of the 2010 season with blood clots and then was left driveless after the 2011 season when his Red Bull Racing Sprint Cup employers went out of business.
Elliott Sadler was originally signed by Watrip to drive the Toyota Cup car when Mark Martin isn’t available but Sadler drives full-time for Richard Childress in the Nationwide Series and Childress was not amused that his Chevrolet driver would be behind the wheel of a Toyota and gave Salder the choice: full-time with me or part-time with them, take your pick.
Sadler wisely chose full-time employment, so that’s how Waltrip came to sign Vickers.
Waltrip – and the smartest thing Michael W. has ever done in his career is to utilize his vast promotional and public-relations talents and leave race-driving to people who know how to do it – said afterward that Vickers might be making a few more appearances in addition to the half-dozen he’s contracted for.
There were a couple of kaboomers but nobody was hurt. Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards were notable victims.
– The final appeal of that $100,000 fine and six-race suspension levied against Chad Knaus and Hendrick Motorsport will be held Tuesday and suggestions are that it will stand and Jimmie Johnson will be without his team manager/crew chief for more than a month, starting next weekend in California.
As written previously in this blog, NASCAR is sending a strong message here and if anybody is missing the symbolism of what’s happening, they’re blind. The sanctioning body is saying to Hendrick and, particularly, Knaus that one more false move and somebody’s going to take a very serious fall.
– Okay, I have to say it. How come all the NASCAR drivers stand at attention for the U.S. National Anthem before the races and hold their children in their arms?
I don’t take my kids to work with me. Do you? Do hockey players stand there on the bench with infants in their arms before the ref drops the puck? Baseball players? Politicians? Does Lil Wayne, before he starts singing (or whatever you call it that Lil Wayne does)?
I know that NASCAR is a family sport. I get it. But the babes-in-arms bit is phony.
– There were empty seats in Bristol but NASCAR’s TV numbers are holding up and it’s still winter, even in Tennessee. I don't know about you but I’m not partial to watching cars race while I’m wearing a parka.
AUDI FINISHES 1-2 AT THE 12 HOURS OF SEBRING
Audi, with Tom Kristensen, Dindo Capello and Allan McNish taking turns driving, won the 60th anniversary 12 Hours of Sebring on Saturday (details, results here).
It was the third time the three drivers have won as a team and it was Audi’s tenth victory in the race. Individually, Kristensen has won it six times, Capello five and McNish four.
Another Audi R18, with Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Loic Duval finished second while third place overall went to an LMP2 Honda team made up of Ryan Dalziel, Stephane Sarrazin and Vicente Potolicchio.
Joey Hand won a nail-biting battle with Olivier Beretta (Ferrari) to win the GT Class for Bobby Rahal’s BMW team. Second place went to Jan Magnussen’s Corvette after Beretta lost the lead and the race because of a puncture.
The top three Audi drivers will now spend much of the next week at Sebring testing a new Audi hybrid (the R18 e-tron quattro) for future Le Mans Series races in Europe, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans where it’s expected its chief competition will come from a brand new LMP1 hybrid being prepared by Toyota.
- TV star Patrick Dempsey announced at Sebring that he will be entering a Mazda in the LMP2 division of the American Le Mans Series this year with a partial schedule planned. Co-driver will be Joe Foster (a frequent partner of Toronto's Scott Maxwell in Grand Am Series competition). Dempsey said the team will run a full schedule in future ALMS seasons and definitely wants to be at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2013. No word on whether the 2012 "partial schedule" will include the ALMS stop at Mosport (oops! Canadian Tire Motorsport Park!) in July.
- The ALMS is doing great harm to itself by not having a television package (and no, two hours on ABC the day after a race is not good enough, regardless of what some of the tall foreheads think). From what I'm told, the ESPN3 feed (an online service in the States) is terrible; the ALMS site international feed is not much better, I'm told.
Now, to be fair, I didn't have any trouble. But I heard from lots of people who gave up in disgust while trying to find a link.
Meantime, I wish the ALMS people would stop making reference to Rogers Sportsnet as being one of their television partners. It is not.
Nelson Piquet Jr. won his first NASCAR race at the weekend, a late model deal at Bristol. The disgraced F1 driver (he was involved in the fixed race at Singapore a few years ago, remember?) has gone about rehabilitating himself the right way, I think, by taking it very slow and very easy in stock cars and trucks. His father could have paid to put him into the Sprint Cup right off the bat but it would have been a foolish move. This way, he’ll earn his stripes the right way. . . . Joey Pescarella, only 19, won the Daytona 500 of motorcycle races, the Daytona 200 on Saturday. He won by 0.048 seconds over Jason DiSalvo in a photo finish. . . . Ryan Villopoto won the AMA Monster Energy Supercross at Indianapolis at the weekend. What’s worrying for the 50,000 or so Supercross fans expected to flock to Toronto’s Rogers Centre next Saturday night is that two of the sport’s biggest stars, Ryan Dungey and James (Bubba) Stewart are question marks. Dungey broke his collarbone several weeks ago and it hasn’t healed enough after surgery to risk further injury. Steward was injured on Saturday night in a crash at Indy’s Lucas Oil Stadium and is pretty banged up. He passed a post-event concussion test, but barely. He’ll have to take another one before being allowed to race in Toronto.