The continued dominance of Red Bull, the greatness of Sebastian Vettel… and the major teams’ unfathomable reluctance to capitalise on Nico Hülkenberg’s gifts
As the Grands Prix roll by, I think back to a sunny afternoon in the Daytona paddock in January, and a conversation with Anthony Davidson about the Formula 1 season to come. I began by asking whom he tipped for the 2013 World Championship, and he didn’t so much as pause to think about it. “Sebastian Vettel,” he said. “I know it’s boring, considering he’s won it the last three years, but that’s what I think will happen.”
No doubts at all? “No,” said Davidson, “and that’s mainly because the rules haven’t changed that much – you can still have quite a powerful blown diffuser. Red Bull and Adrian Newey are the masters of designing it – it’s such a tricky thing to get right – and Sebastian’s the master of driving it: the technique needed to bring out the best in it – the complete opposite of what you’d do instinctively – brings out the best in him.
“Having said that,” Anthony went on, “this will be the last year for the blown floor, and if we were talking about the 2014 season, when the cars will be totally different, with the V6 turbo engine and so on, I’d be saying the championship was wide open. But, as I say, the blown floor requires a different style of driving, and Vettel’s got it, and I think he’ll make it four championships on the trot. For all I think Alonso’s the best, he ain’t driving a Red Bull…”
As I write, four Grands Prix – New Delhi, Abu Dhabi, Austin, Interlagos – are still to be run, but even in the somewhat unlikely event of Fernando and his recalcitrant Ferrari winning all of them, Sebastian requires only a single fifth place to clinch it. I think we may conclude with some confidence that the 2013 World Championship is a dead issue.
What has been dispiriting for the rest is that this fourth title has been won with greater ease than any of the others. Ye Gods, the last race not to surrender to Sebastian was Budapest back in July. In the five since the ‘summer break’ he has been dominant – and, what’s more, at circuits as disparate as Monza and Singapore.
Has it been boring, as Davidson predicted? In a way, yes, because it’s always desirable to have at least two teams operating at the summit, as we saw in the late races of 2012, when McLaren gave Lewis Hamilton a car good enough to take on – and sometimes, as at Austin – beat Vettel in a straight fight, but the bulk of the 2013 season has been an accurate reflection of the state of play in Grand Prix racing: Red Bull is clearly ahead, followed by a mélange of Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus.
People will grumble away to you about the amount of money Red Bull spends on F1 – appreciably more even than Ferrari, if they are to be believed – but there is no escaping the fact that in the modern era the team is doing a quantifiably better job than any other, and there’s an end to it.
Once in a while this happens: a great driver – which Vettel indisputably is – finds himself in demonstrably the best car, and then the victories seem without end. The Schumacher/Ferrari days are in the relatively recent past, but think of the Ascari/Ferrari era of 60 years ago: on June 22 1952 Alberto won the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, as he did again on June 23 1953 – and in the course of those 12 months no one but he won a World Championship Grand Prix.
All right, there were far fewer Grandes Épreuves – I’m showing my age – back then, but Ascari set a record of nine consecutive victories that stands to this day: no one else has ever won more than five on the trot, although now I think about it, by the time this is read the Indian Grand Prix will have been run, and Vettel might well have extended his run to six…
Immediately after the period of domination by Ascari and Ferrari, another – this time by Fangio and Mercedes – began. It didn’t last long, for the company’s return to racing amounted to only a season and a half, but 12 Grands Prix in the W196 yielded eight wins for Juan Manuel, leading to his second and third World Championships.
What rather sets him apart, of course, is that he then went on to win his fourth with Ferrari in 1956, and his fifth with Maserati the year after. Fangio seems to have had a natural genius for going to the right team at the right time, but I remember asking him why he had left Ferrari after a single season there. “I was close,” he said, “to all my young team-mates – Castellotti, Musso, Portago, particularly Collins – but Ferrari was the only team in which I felt unwelcome. Alfa, Mercedes, Maserati… I was very happy with all of them, but I never felt [Enzo] Ferrari liked me and, to be honest, I didn’t like him, either…”
For all that, Fangio’s run of World Championships was uninterrupted by the single year with Ferrari, and his standing in the sport has always been enhanced by the fact that he won titles in so many makes of car, suggesting that it was he who made the difference.
In today’s technological world, of course, it is as good as impossible to become World Champion in a car not on par with the best. As I may just have mentioned a time or two before, I share the view of most in the paddock that Alonso is the greatest driver of this era, and should by now have a hatful of titles, rather than just the pair from his Renault days, but until Ferrari provides him with a properly competitive car he is always going to come up short.
Thankfully that doesn’t quell Fernando’s warrior spirit, but as we know from recent events working with loaves and fishes has started to get on his nerves a bit. Suffering in silence is what they require at Maranello, as Alain Prost can tell you, and God help you if you dare to criticise the holy red product.
“The one thing that never changes at Ferrari,” said the inimitably laconic Phil Hill, “is that the car wins, and the driver loses…”
Borrowing Hill’s words, but putting them into a somewhat different context, a widespread theory today is that it is indeed the car – in this case the Red Bull – that wins, some almost giving the impression that Vettel is merely along for the ride. In absolute terms, the same might have been said half a century ago of Jim Clark, for he never drove other than a Lotus in F1, and Colin Chapman routinely designed and built a faster car than anyone else.
Did we, though, say that of Clark? No – although he won countless races with ridiculous ease – we did not, perhaps because, following the enforced retirement of Moss, Jimmy patently assumed Stirling’s mantle as the greatest, a fact acknowledged by his peers.
It doesn’t often happen that drivers concede the innate superiority of one of their number, but in Clark’s case it did, just as it had with Fangio and then Moss. “When Peter handed his car over to Fangio at Monza [in 1956],” Louise Collins told me, “he gave up his own chance of becoming World Champion, and a lot of people thought he was nuts, but it was much more a team sport back then, and for Peter the most important thing was that a Ferrari driver should win the title. He was 20 years younger than Fangio, and thought he had plenty of time to win it – and he also felt that as long as Fangio was racing it was somehow not right that anyone else should be World Champion…”
Another planet, wasn’t it? Fangio, though, was indeed held in reverence by his younger rivals: “He simply drove the car through the corner faster than anyone else, and that was the end of it,” says Moss. “And, as well as that, he was such a modest and unaffected man…”
After the retirement of Juan Manuel, it was Stirling’s turn to be king of the hill, and his status within the sport was unaffected by the fact that somehow he never won the almighty World Championship. When I asked Richie Ginther whom he believed the greatest he had raced against, his expression suggested that the question was redundant: “Well… Stirling, of course! And by a long way.”
Everyone remembers Moss’s epic victory against the Ferraris at Monaco in 1961, but just the weekend before he won the Daily Express Trophy at Silverstone. In appallingly wet conditions Stirling lapped everyone, and afterwards second man Brabham was asked how he felt about that. “Not too bad,” Jack said. “I’d probably feel worse if I’d been beaten by a human…”
It may be quite a while, if ever, before Vettel is spoken of in these terms, but in my opinion it is way harder to rate the drivers today than in times past. Of course some cars were always more equal than others, but at the top level they were much of a muchness, with ‘set-up’ confined to playing with tyre pressures and roll-bars, so that the driver’s contribution was more readily apparent. Once in a while you would get a startlingly superior car, like the Mercedes W196, and – much later – the Lotus 79 or Williams FW14B, but only rarely would most top drivers be reduced to season-long also-rans by their machinery.
The degree of Vettel’s superiority in Singapore was almost surreal. Here is a man well accustomed to super-competitive cars, yet at this race he was moved to describe his RB9 as “phenomenal all weekend”: after one lap his lead was 1.9 seconds, after five 6.1…
At mid-race, following Daniel Ricciardo’s shunt, a safety car period brought the pack back to Vettel, but as soon as they got on their way again it was the same story. “Use your tyres – open up the gap,” came the message from his race engineer, and Sebastian duly obliged, disappearing up the road at the rate of two seconds a lap.
In terms of racing, it bordered on farce; as an exhibition of matchless pace, it was stunning.
Afterwards, as at Monza, he was booed as he stood on the podium, and in recent weeks this has been the subject of much debate: periods of domination by one driver are not unknown in the chronicle of this sport, so what is it about Vettel that brings about such a response? There is always some reluctance to root for Goliath, of course, but save on the rare occasions when an angry crowd reaction might reasonably have been anticipated – as at the A1-Ring in both 2001 and ’02, when Rubens Barrichello was ordered to let him by on the run up to the line – Schumacher was never subjected to such abuse, after all, so why is his young countryman singled out?
It is a fact that in his homeland Sebastian will never be loved as Michael was. I remember driving through the villages to the Nürburgring on race morning a couple of years ago, and being struck by the abundance of Schumacher flags, the relative absence of any bearing the name of Vettel. In the press room I mentioned it to a German colleague. “Two things,” he said. “First, Michael will always be this country’s first World Champion. Second – and more important – it’s inverse snobbery! Michael was the working-class boy from a poor background who took on the world, whereas Sebastian’s middle-class and they think he’s had it easy…”
Some suggest that Vettel’s unpopularity with a section of the crowd comes from his perceived arrogance, as evidenced by a contemptuous radio attitude to other drivers during a race, by that profoundly irritating ‘1’ finger jab at the cameras in parc fermé. Others reckon the booing has its roots in what happened at Sepang back in March, when he ignored a previously agreed ‘team orders’ scenario – the fabled ‘Multi 21’ – and declined to follow team-mate Mark Webber over the line.
On that occasion, frankly, I would have blamed no one in the crowd for making his or her feelings known, but at that stage, of course, the true situation was known only in the paddock. It is a fact that many, myself included, had their perception of Vettel modified by his actions that day, but surely this alone cannot account for continuing hostility towards him several months on – many, indeed, laud Seb for what he did in Malaysia, fatuously arguing that it was merely the act of ‘a real racing driver’. If I found that unfathomable, so I feel the same way about the morons who now routinely boo him after another victorious drive.
We have seen similar behaviour in the past, of course, albeit rarely. Back in 1992, when ‘Mansell Mania’ was at its apogee, there was at Silverstone an element in the crowd – probably at a motor race for the first and last time – which waved banners bearing the legend ‘F*** Senna’ and the like, making one ashamed of one’s own country.
Such behaviour isn’t new, then, but that doesn’t make it any less distasteful. Of course there are restive fans of Hamilton, of Alonso, of Räikkönen and so on, who long to see a different outcome to a Grand Prix, but, as we said, there’s nothing new in this. And if there are aspects of Vettel’s public persona that could use a little work, that doesn’t mean he should be denigrated simply for being brilliant at what he does.
Of late Sebastian has been so unstoppable that almost inevitably there has been muttering about the degree of his car’s superiority. Giancarlo Minardi, a guest at the Singapore Grand Prix, was moved to comment on the note of Renault’s engine, hinting at the possible presence of traction control, but his remarks – if inevitably seized upon by certain websites – were treated with the contempt that was their due.
Undeniably the harsher sound of the French engines does stand out from the run-of-the-mill V8 scream, but this stems from devilishly clever mapping, which may benefit traction, but is not ‘traction control’ in the accepted, now illegal, sense.
And then, of course, there is the matter of tyres, and what a rattling good yawn this has become. In the early part of the season many people got very excited by the ‘unpredictability’ of the Grands Prix, unconcerned that it was wholly contrived by means of supplying the teams with tyres specifically designed to do a very poor job.
As such as Hamilton and Alonso have discovered, Pirelli’s response to any inferred criticism has become increasingly prickly of late, so at this point I suppose I should make clear – yet again – that no blame for ‘high degradation’ tyres should attach to the company, which is merely following instructions from powers-that-be misguidedly trying ever more to turn Grand Prix racing into F1 Lite.
At that point in the season tyre conservation was the only point of discussion, but many apparently thought that fine. Without a doubt some cars – Lotus, Ferrari, Force India – were better than others at making their Pirellis live for longer, and the argument was that it was the same for everyone, that it was up to the other teams to improve.
Well, yes, but it wasn’t racing, was it? I remember the late laps at Barcelona when Vettel, running a frustrated, cruising, fourth, finally got a message from the pits: “OK, Sebastian, you can use up your tyres…”
Then came Monaco, where in the early stages I didn’t know whether to laugh or weep as the leader Nico Rosberg lapped at GP2 speeds, and was under no threat at all. Throughout that weekend Rosberg was in a class of his own, and did everything necessary to win in the prevailing circumstances, but as a spectacle this was hardly the most enthralling Monaco Grand Prix we have known.
The Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber, fourth and fifth in Spain, were second and third here, and undoubtedly in the paddock – where its popularity is by no means universal – there was some rejoicing that the team’s wings were being clipped by its inability to cope as well as some others with the tyres then on offer.
On one level it was pleasing to see other teams and drivers get a look-in for once, but on another I could not but agree with the sentiments expressed in a rare public declaration by Dietrich Mateschitz: “This has nothing to do with classic racing any more – this is a competition in tyre management. Under the given circumstances, we can neither get the best out of our cars nor our drivers. There is no more real qualifying and fighting for the pole, as everyone is just saving tyres for the race. The target was to get more excitement into the races, with more tyre changes – but not this much. This is now a different situation from the original intention.”
At the time of Mateschitz’s statement, a leading team principal suggested to me that now the tyre situation would change. Why? “Because he’s so close to Bernie, that’s why…”
Lo, in Montréal things were indeed a little different, Vettel taking pole position and winning the race – and in the eight subsequent Grands Prix only Rosberg (at Silverstone, where Seb retired while leading) and Hamilton (at the Hungaroring) have kept the World Champion from the top step of the podium.
Yes, as with Schumacher a decade ago – and with Clark 40 years before that – it’s undeniably a little boring to have the same driver winning all the time, but more important to me is that Grand Prix racing should remain true to itself, that the results reflect reality, rather than artifice. The aim is always to produce the fastest car, as simple as that, and for some years Red Bull has done it better than any of its rivals: if Vettel has been in the right place at the right time, he has made the most of it. In stressing the need for his team to step up to the plate, Alonso may have incurred the wrath of his employers, but he’s right, and deep down they – and all the others – know it.
As for the booing, well, anyone with a discernible IQ will deprecate it, but one noted without surprise that there was none of it in Japan, where excellence is simply, respectfully, admired.
Von Grips!” barks Herr Altbauer, manager of the Schnorcedes team. “It’s time to blow your nose now!”
“Ach, now?” von Grips responds. “Already?”
“Please! Don’t argue!”
An American broadcaster, near at hand, is understandably bemused. “What was that?” he asks.
“We have discovered, following our laboratory investigations,” says Altbauer, “that the best time to blow the nose, to have it completely clear, is seven and a half minutes before the race begins. This is important, because a handkerchief carried in the pocket would be extra weight…”
I rather doubt that Nico Hülkenberg has ever heard Peter Ustinov’s sublime Grand Prix of Gibraltar, but he has an excellent sense of humour and might well enjoy its timeless observations on some of the more farcical aspects of motor racing.
Certainly the clip I quoted would resonate with Hülkenberg, not because it is to do with a German team, but because the weight of a driver – with or without a handkerchief – has lately become a major talking point in Formula 1, and some have speculated that Nico’s size – he is six feet tall, and inevitably quite a lot heavier than the pint-sized brigade – may have gone against him as team principals weigh up whom to recruit. Perhaps it wasn’t only Ustinov who dealt in farce – or maybe, coming at it from a different direction, in motor racing life really does imitate art.
Next year Formula 1 undergoes a sea change, for the 1.6-litre V6 turbo engine arrives and, with all its attendant ‘green’ paraphernalia, it will be considerably heavier than the 2.4-litre V8 it replaces. With this in mind, the FIA has announced an increase – from 642 to 690kg – to the minimum weight rule, but plenty of people suggest that this is not enough, that the new weight limit should be at least 700kg.
It wasn’t always so, but nowadays the minimum weight limit in F1 refers to car (without fuel) and driver, and as they prepare for 2014 many teams are finding it difficult – allowing for the weights of their drivers – to get close to 690kg.
Prior to the introduction of KERS – a component weighing 20kg that hadn’t been there before – F1 cars habitually came out way under the weight limit, and thus carried a sizeable amount of ballast that could be distributed to advantage: the lighter the driver, obviously the more ballast. In the forthcoming ‘heavy F1’, inevitably far less ballast will be carried, which puts an even greater premium on a light driver: Felipe Massa, for example, weighs 15kg less than Hülkenberg.
Already to some degree this has been a problem for quite a while. Mark Webber, the tallest of the current drivers, will rejoice as he leaves Red Bull to join Porsche, and not only because he won’t have Sebastian Vettel in his life any more: for some years, the whippet-like Webber says he has been living like a jockey, several kilos below his ideal weight, so it will be a pleasure to eat at least a little more normally from now on. In the new ‘turbo era’, life would have been even more difficult.
If it is utterly ridiculous that a driver, no matter how talented, should be compromised by his size, the signs are unfortunately not good that the weight limit will be increased for 2014, as this would require consensus from the teams – some of which happen to have lighter drivers than others. Had FOTA – the Formula One Teams Association – not lamentably allowed itself to splinter apart, perhaps unanimity might have been achieved, but in F1, as we know, interests are always vested before they are common.
Since Sauber recently – at last – upped its game, Hülkenberg has figured prominently at the races, driving with consistent brilliance and offering further proof that the top level is where he belongs. It seemed odd that McLaren didn’t sign him when Hamilton departed for Mercedes a year ago, but like everyone else I blithely put that down to the fact that Sergio Pérez comes with backing, and Nico does not.
Of all the young drivers – 74kg or not – Hülkenberg is the one who screams out for a place in a top team, and I’d hoped that Ferrari would take him, in place of Massa. Close but no cigar, as it turned out: as I write, the expectation is that he will join Grosjean at Lotus, and that is a driver pairing that should get rival teams’ full attention, for Romain is without doubt the most improved driver of the season, still blisteringly quick, no longer running into people all the time.
Ever since it became known that Räikkönen was leaving Lotus, Grosjean has assumed the role of de facto number one in the team, not only in the mind of Eric Boullier and other team personnel, but also on the track. Was this man who confidently led the bulk of the Japanese Grand Prix really the same one who cack-handedly turfed Webber off at the first corner in 2012?
After the announcement of his return to Ferrari, Räikkönen was typically unflinching and unemotional as he explained his reason for leaving Lotus: he was bored with the end of the month coming round and there being no pay cheque in the post, simple as that. At Ferrari they may for now have lost the knack of producing competitive Grand Prix cars, but they never run low on cash, and for Kimi and his management this is an inestimable virtue.
I understand that he has now been paid in full by Lotus, which claims it was only ever a problem of cashflow, and the hope is that the anticipated investment from Infinity Racing Partners Ltd – now renamed Quantum Motorsports Ltd to sidestep any confusion with Infiniti Red Bull Racing – will forestall any such problems in the future.
It is a pity that the deal was not in place a few months earlier, for Räikkönen – while still resolutely po-faced in public – had appeared more content at Lotus than ever he had been at McLaren or Ferrari, and I somewhat doubt that, had delayed payments not clouded the picture, he would have gone elsewhere.
Still, money – as well as time – can be a great healer in F1, and so Räikkönen heads back to Maranello as team-mate to the man for whom he was pitched at the end of 2009. Not surprisingly folk are predicting conflict between Alonso and Räikkönen, because history suggests that putting two superstars in one motorhome is asking for trouble: the fiery Spaniard and the icy Finn… not a cliché has been passed up in recent weeks.
Maybe the doomsayers will be proved right, who knows? Fernando and Kimi share a genius for driving racing cars, but in all other respects appear about as disparate as two individuals could be. Having said that, back in 1978 I had my doubts about a Lotus partnership of Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson but, apart from working together supremely well, the two became genuinely close friends. I don’t say that will happen with Alonso and Räikkönen, but it’s in the interests of both that they find a way to co-exist, and neither man is stupid, after all. There again, neither were Prost and Senna.
Almost from the day Alonso arrived at Ferrari he was suggesting he had found his spiritual home in racing, and more than once said it was his intention to stay with the team for the rest of his career. It seems to me that a quality he shares with Vettel – and no one else to the same degree – is an absolute focus on his job. Inspiration counts for a lot, of course, but it’s a characteristic common to all really great racing drivers that they work harder than their rivals.
I remember talking to Alonso about his relationship with the press, having been struck by the cool way he dealt with contentious questions at Hockenheim in 2010, when Massa was asked to let him through: if he now were to win the World Championship, someone oafishly asked, would he feel good about it? Fernando ignored the clumsy bait: yes, why not?
“I don’t get too stressed about things like that any more,” he said. “I think it’s something you get with experience – you learn how to separate the important things from the unimportant, in terms of your performance. Working with the media is an important part of the job, but it’s not something that… gives you performance…” It mattered, then, but only to a point.
Given Alonso’s expressed wish to remain with Ferrari for the rest of his career, it had long been assumed by all in the paddock that whomever else might at some point become available, Fernando was firmly off the market. While it would still surprise me if he were to move elsewhere, however, recent events suggest that his future might not be as set in stone as we believed.
Back in 2003 the Williams-BMWs of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya dominated the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, but in the course of the race Juan Pablo became extremely angry about the team’s pitstop strategy, which he saw as favouring his team-mate, and on the radio he didn’t hold back. The following week he was given a dressing-down by the management, and it struck Martin Whitmarsh that this might be just the moment to have a word: in very short order a contract was signed between McLaren and JPM, to take effect as soon as his Williams deal expired, a year hence.
No one needs to be reminded that Alonso’s association with McLaren, which lasted but one year, 2007, was anything but a happy one, and one might have predicted with some confidence that any future relationship was out of the question.
Never say never in F1, though: as Räikkönen returns to a team – Ferrari – with whom he parted in some acrimony four years ago, so recent rumours have circulated about a possible rapprochement between Alonso and McLaren, perhaps beginning in 2015, when Honda returns as the team’s engine supplier.
Gamesmanship is all in the F1 paddock, of course, and it may be that Whitmarsh is simply being mischievous, sowing seeds of uncertainty, when he speaks of a wish to bring Alonso back to the team. Certainly, though, he is aware, as with Montoya and Williams 10 years ago, that all is not currently well between a rival driver and his team. And, whatever the differences between Alonso and McLaren in times gone by, Martin has never made any secret of his admiration for Fernando’s talent and commitment.
I have always believed that the litmus test of a great driver is how he copes when up against it, when working with a car not on par with the best, and this topic came up in a chat with Whitmarsh at Monza, in the midst of what has been a hugely disappointing season for McLaren.
“What you always look for,” Whitmarsh said, “is the car that’s scoring points it shouldn’t be – and who’s driving it. That, overwhelmingly, is Fernando. To the day they died guys like Senna and [Gilles] Villeneuve – although I didn’t know him because he was before my time – had a hunger that had nothing to do with how much money they made, or any of that stuff, and that’s what you always want to see in a driver.
“For all the success he’s had, the hungriest driver out there today is Alonso – you could triple his net worth, and he’d still have that hunger. It’s in his make-up. And, unlike some others, Fernando is not someone who would be moved by money, actually…”
Whitmarsh was at pains to stress that no actual approach had been made to Alonso, that he was merely saying that he would welcome him back to McLaren any time: “Of course I would – he’s the best driver.”
And Alonso, for his part, said he was flattered by Martin’s remarks: the past was the past, and his only problem at McLaren had been “the philosophy of someone who is no longer there…” After a promising start, the relationship between Fernando and Ron Dennis swiftly deteriorated, as we know.
As I say, all this may be nothing more than a game, just as it was in Hungary when rumours arose of possible Red Bull interest in Alonso, and Christian Horner smilingly declined to deny them. It was after this weekend, of course, that Luca di Montezemolo chose publicly to rebuke his driver for an off-the-cuff remark about what he wanted for his birthday: “Someone else’s car…”
There wasn’t any doubt about whose car he meant, and with the best will in the world it wasn’t Jenson Button’s, but at the same time there is no doubt that McLaren is seriously embarked upon turning things around, as evidenced by the re-signing – albeit perhaps not for a while – of leading aerodynamicist Peter Prodromou from Red Bull, no less.
As far as drivers are concerned, Sergio Pérez is expected to partner Button again in 2014 but, although team members continue to talk him up, inescapably the Mexican has fallen short this year, and for the start of the new Honda era Whitmarsh will assuredly aim to have one of the top four – Alonso, Räikkönen, Vettel, Hamilton – at McLaren.
Perhaps by then, you never know, we could be speaking of a top five, for Hülkenberg looks to me like a superstar in the bud, not least because he can drive and think at the same time. To be under pressure from Hamilton and Alonso, as he was in Korea, would have flustered many a young driver, but when Lewis went to pass him into the first turn, Nico, rather than leaving his braking too late, rather than trying to chop him, calmly allowed him by, having already concluded that the Mercedes would be at his mercy again on the following straight.
Impressive, I thought, and the sight of him in a truly competitive car is one to relish. Even Herr Altbauer might have signed him, handkerchief and all.