A race to be missed


I made a complete hash of watching the Grand Prix of China in Shanghai.

I was particularly keen to see this race for two reasons. Firstly I was in Shanghai this time last year, writing about the Renault team, so I am familiar with the circuit. Secondly I found the grid especially intriguing, with Hamilton on pole and surrounded by Indians with the cavalry but a distant glint of silver in his mirror. The Finn had failed just when Hamilton needed him most. Some prospect, then, of great drama with Räikkönen (nothing to lose), Alonso (nothing to lose) and Massa (everything to gain) staring down the world championship leader.

But I had to wait an agonisingly long time to see this unfold. At 0650 UK time I was ready, in front of the telly, mug of tea at my side and three cats demanding their breakfasts. Then, watching the build-up to the race, I became fed up with all the chit-chat, most of which I’d heard the day before, and decided to record the race.

This way, I figured, I could study the action in detail, and have the event on tape to add to my collection of ‘Drivers winning world titles for the first time,’ should Hamilton escape from the front row and win the race.
Not such a bad plan. But it was. The tape had stopped before the start of the race. I have no idea why. This is simple technology, tried and tested, a tape in a machine. It is now 0955 and I realise, to my horror, that I will somehow have to avoid hearing the result until half way through the afternoon when ITV will broadcast a re-run of the Grand Prix of China.

Has this happened to anyone else? It leads to a difficult day. No radios, televisions or computers can be switched on, no telephones can be answered, and out in the real world people must be avoided at all costs as – if Hamilton has won the title – a lot of folk will be talking about it. Venturing outside, I do not see any Union Jacks, I do not see any banners declaring ‘Yo! Lewis’ or ‘Cool, Man, Cool’ or ‘Sweet, Lewis, Sweet’ or whatever his fans would chant. No, the world seems quite normal, and there is no feeling that we have a new British World Champion. I cannot pause outside the houses of my neighbours. They are both F1 fans and will not have made a hash of watching the race. So, what to do? I need to find a cave, or a stone under which to hide, some place that is not hooked up to any news or chatter. Not easy in 2008.

Suffice to say, you can walk a lot of miles through the Sussex Downs over the course of nearly five hours. Why on earth did I not stay with it, having risen at dawn with that very purpose? And I could have watched the Moto GP at Suzuka while waiting for the race to be recorded. As I said, a complete hash.

Imagine my disappointment then, when I realised I was watching a re-run of the most boring race this season. But two good things came out of the stupor under the leaden skies of Shanghai. One, Hamilton proved he has the grit and the character as well as the pure speed. Two, the title will be decided in Sao Paulo, the most atmospheric and highly-charged event of the year. The soporific procession in China will be forgotten as soon as the samba starts, and the drums roll, in the grandstands at Interlagos. Not to be missed.

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