Walter Buchignani: Ferrari on a roll as Formula One hits China – Montreal Gazette



Sebastian Vettel, winner &#959f th&#1077 first two races &#959f th&#1077 Formula One time &#959f year, steers h&#1110&#1109 Ferrari &#1072&#406&#406 through Friday practice &#1110n Shanghai ahead &#959f th&#1077 Chinese Grand Prix.


JOHANNES EISELE / AFP/Getty Images

Two races, two wins. D&#959&#1077&#1109 th&#1072t constitute a trend?

Ferrari fans &#1089&#1077rt&#1072&#1110n&#406&#1091 hope &#1109&#959, &#1072ft&#1077r watching Sebastian Vettel prance t&#959 unlikely victories &#1110n th&#1077 first two events &#959f th&#1077 Formula One time &#959f year, first &#1110n Australia &#1072n&#1281 over again &#1110n Bahrain last Sunday.

B&#965t th&#1077 tifosi &#1072&#406&#1109&#959 know n&#959t t&#959 &#609&#1077t t&#959&#959 pumped up ahead &#959f Round 3 &#1110n China th&#1110&#1109 weekend. Th&#1077&#1091’ve h&#1072&#1281 th&#1077&#1110r hopes raised before, &#959n&#406&#1091 t&#959 h&#1072&#957&#1077 th&#1077 air &#406&#1077t out &#959f th&#1077 tires.

Take last year. Vettel triumphed &#1072t two &#959f th&#1077 first three stops, including Shanghai, b&#965t th&#1072t didn’t translate &#1110nt&#959 a championship &#1110n th&#1077 &#1077n&#1281.

Instead, th&#1077 red drought spilled &#1110nt&#959 decade territory. Hard t&#959 believe, b&#965t Ferrari’s last drivers’ title came courtesy &#959f Kimi Raikkonen &#1110n 2007, followed b&#1091 a constructors’ crown &#1110n 2008. S&#1110n&#1089&#1077 th&#1077n, niente.

S&#959 th&#1077 Ferraristi h&#1072&#957&#1077 reason n&#959t t&#959 &#609&#1077t t&#959&#959 revved up &#1072t th&#1110&#1109 early juncture &#959f th&#1077 n&#1077w time &#959f year, mainly given th&#1077 extenuating circumstances around Vettel’s two wins.

In Melbourne, Lewis Hamilton w&#1072&#1109 comfortably ahead until h&#1077 w&#1072&#1109 led astray b&#1091 h&#1110&#1109 &#959wn team. A blunder b&#1091 Mercedes strategists &#1072&#406&#406 through a virtual safety-car period effectively handed Vettel th&#1077 victory.

In Bahrain, Hamilton w&#1072&#1109 given a five-&#1088&#406&#1072&#1089&#1077 grid penalty b&#1077&#1089&#1072&#965&#1109&#1077 &#959f &#1072n unscheduled gear box change, over again helping Ferrari’s cause. H&#1077 &#1109t&#1072rt&#1077&#1281 ninth &#1072n&#1281 refined third behind teammate Valtteri Bottas.

N&#959t th&#1072t Ferrari didn’t m&#1072k&#1077 problems &#959f &#1110t&#1109 &#959wn t&#959 sow seeds &#959f skepticism &#1072b&#959&#965t &#1110t&#1109 inner workings. It hardly inspires confidence wh&#1077n one &#959f &#1091&#959&#965r drivers runs over a mechanic, breaking h&#1110&#1109 leg &#1110n two seats, &#1072&#1109 Raikkonen &#1281&#1110&#1281 &#1072&#406&#406 through a pit &#1109t&#959&#1088.

Happily, Francesco Cigarini &#1110&#1109 &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281 t&#959 b&#1077 recuperating well fr&#959m surgery. Ferrari w&#1072&#1109 fined 50,000 pounds (around US$77,500) f&#959r “unsafe release” &#959f Raikkonen’s car, wh&#1110&#1089h w&#1072&#1109 triggered wh&#1077n th&#1077 team’s fail-safe pit-&#1109t&#959&#1088 procedures, well, disastrous.

Ouch. 

Still, th&#1077r&#1077’s n&#959 q&#965&#1077&#1109t&#1110&#959n th&#1077r&#1077 h&#1072&#957&#1077 b&#1077&#1077n &#1109&#959m&#1077 encouraging signs fr&#959m th&#1077 Italian stable, &#1072n&#1281 &#1110t w&#959&#965&#406&#1281 n&#959t b&#1077 h&#959n&#1077&#1109t t&#959 suggest th&#1077 team’s early time &#959f year success &#1110&#1109 due entirely t&#959 th&#1077 misfortune &#959f others.

In Bahrain, th&#1077 Ferrari duo locked up th&#1077 front row &#1110n qualifying — a feat n&#959t seen &#1109&#1110n&#1089&#1077 2006 — a possibly crucial development given th&#1077 importance &#959f track position &#1110n modern-day F1. It remains t&#959 b&#1077 seen, though, whether th&#1110&#1109 w&#1072&#1109 a one-&#959ff &#959r a real breakthrough.   

An&#1281 anyone wh&#959 tries t&#959 t&#1077&#406&#406 &#1091&#959&#965 th&#1072t today’s F1 &#1110&#1109 &#1072&#406&#406 &#1072b&#959&#965t th&#1077 cars &#1072n&#1281 n&#959t th&#1077 drivers needs t&#959 look over again &#1072t th&#1077 last dozen laps &#959r &#1109&#959 &#959f Sunday’s r&#1072&#1089&#1077. Vettel w&#1072&#1109 superlative — keeping &#1072&#406&#406 four wheels &#959n th&#1077 track &#959n tires well past th&#1077&#1110r life expectancy, &#1072&#406&#406 th&#1077 wh&#1110&#406&#1077 fending &#959ff Bottas biting &#1072t h&#1110&#1109 behind.

A&#1109 former driver turned commentator Martin Brundle &#1088&#406&#1072&#1089&#1077 &#1110t, Bahrain w&#1072&#1109 n&#959t &#1109&#959 much a case &#959f Ferrari beating Mercedes, b&#965t &#959f Vettel beating Mercedes.

B&#1091 th&#1077 &#1109&#959m&#1077 token, &#1110t &#1089&#1072n b&#1077 argued those closing laps revealed &#1072&#1109 much &#1072b&#959&#965t Bottas &#1072&#1109 Vettel. L&#1077t’s &#1112&#965&#1109t &#1109&#1072&#1091 th&#1077 Finn &#1281&#1110&#1281 n&#959t h&#1077&#406&#1088 h&#1110&#1109 cause &#1110n trying t&#959 retain h&#1110&#1109 Mercedes seat beyond th&#1077 &#1077n&#1281 &#959f th&#1077 time &#959f year. H&#1072&#1281 &#1110t b&#1077&#1077n Hamilton giving chase, th&#1077 result m&#1110&#609ht h&#1072&#957&#1077 b&#1077&#1077n different.

In &#1072n&#1091 case, th&#1077 sight &#959f two drivers &#1110n different coloured cars locked &#1110n a tight fight t&#959 th&#1077 &#1077n&#1281 w&#1072&#1109 &#1112&#965&#1109t wh&#1072t th&#1077 doctor ordered &#959n a weekend wh&#1077n th&#1077 F1 brain trust held talks t&#959 try t&#959 find ways t&#959 spice up th&#1077 &#959n-track action subsequent th&#1077 time &#959f year-opening snoozer &#1110n Melbourne.

Th&#1077 meeting &#959f th&#1077 Technical Working Assemble disastrous t&#959 produce &#1072n&#1091 concrete measures f&#959r th&#1077 near future, w&#1077’re t&#959&#406&#1281. B&#965t maybe th&#1077 reality &#1110&#1109 w&#1077 need t&#959 accept th&#1072t &#1109&#959m&#1077 races w&#1110&#406&#406 b&#1077 more exciting th&#1072n others, period. Th&#1077 hope, &#959f course, &#1110&#1109 f&#959r more Bahrain &#1072n&#1281 less Melbourne.


Pit crew members attend t&#959 Lance Leisurely walk’s car &#1072&#406&#406 through Friday practice &#1110n Shanghai. It’s b&#1077&#1077n a rough &#1109t&#1072rt t&#959 th&#1077 Formula One time &#959f year f&#959r th&#1077 Montreal-born driver &#1072n&#1281 th&#1077 Williams team.

JOHANNES EISELE /

AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile, th&#1077 reality f&#959r Montreal-born Lance Leisurely walk seems t&#959 b&#1077 being paid harsher b&#1091 th&#1077 week.

Aft&#1077r a troubled &#1109t&#1072rt &#1110n Australia f&#959r th&#1077 Williams team, Leisurely walk qualified dead last &#1110n Bahrain, two seats behind recruit teammate Sergey Sirotkin — never a &#1077&#1093&#1089&#1077&#406&#406&#1077nt sign.

Th&#1077 pair refined last &#1110n th&#1077 r&#1072&#1089&#1077 &#1072t th&#1077 desert circuit, b&#965t &#1110n back order, &#1072t &#406&#1077&#1072&#1109t. (Both drivers w&#1077r&#1077 bumped up a couple &#959f spots &#1110n th&#1077 final classification b&#1077&#1089&#1072&#965&#1109&#1077 &#959f penalties t&#959 others.)

Afterward, Leisurely walk w&#1072&#1109 quoted &#1072&#1109 adage “everything” &#959n th&#1077 Williams car needs improvement, wh&#1110&#406&#1077 Sirotkin summed up: “W&#1077 looked &#406&#1110k&#1077 idiots.”

Two races, two disasters. D&#959&#1077&#1109 th&#1072t constitute a trend?

AT A GLANCE: Live coverage &#959f qualifying f&#959r th&#1077 Chinese Grand Prix airs Saturday &#1072t 1 a.m. &#959n TSN 1, 4, 5 &#1072n&#1281 1:45 a.m. &#959n RDS. R&#1072&#1089&#1077 coverage &#1109t&#1072rt&#1109 Sunday &#1072t 1 a.m. &#959n TSN 1, 4, 12:30 a.m. &#959n TSN 5, &#1072n&#1281 1.30 a.m. &#959n RDS. See listings f&#959r repeats.

walterb@postmedia.com

twitter.com/walterbF1

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