The hardest Button to Button*


*The White Stripes – The hardest button to button

This race had everything, it even had James Allen refer to a certain Ex-Formula 1 driver as “Juan Pablo Montoya” (eight laps from the end, or lap 62 for all those sensible people who prefer things the right way round).

I seem to remember that the most rain affected season in recent years was the fantastic 2003 season where it went down to the last race of the season and Martin Brundle said several times during that season that all that Bernie Ecclestone needed to do was hire a set of sprinklers to spice things up a bit. Of course it is the unexpectedness of the rain that is important and the fact it had a) never rained before in Hungary, b) had been expected to be a very warm race not a cold race and that c) we hadn’t seen a wet race between Michelin and Bridgestone since Michelin had been really embarrassed a few years ago that were the decisive figures in making this a race to remember.

Breaking the law

A rule that needs to be changed in Formula 1 was shown a bit of lime light during this race. It’s been clear to see that the 10 place engine penalty was unfair to the drivers, but never more than in this race when Jenson had a worse penalty than either Michael or Alonso despite the fact that he only had a mechanical failure but Michael and Alonso effectively got yellow cards for dangerous driving. It is monstrously unfair that if you get a time based penalty for dangerous driving you are allowed to act as though you got that slow time fair and square and fuel to whatever level you want. Whereas Jenson had to stay with his qualifying fuel. Somebody needs to address this for future races. I can’t help but feel that if this situation had resulted in Jenson not winning at the end of this race then pressure would have been put on the FIA to make a change to the rules, but it having gone this way it’s hard to see it happening.

Just lucky? Or breaking Ducky?

The most important thing about the race is that although Alonso, Kimi and Michael fell off the race track thus practically gifting the race to somebody new. Alonso and Michael were actually behind Jenson when their car died (and Kimi fell off early enough for things to be really unclear about his real pace) and not just because they had been slowing for a while he was legitimately ahead when they fell off of the track.

Do we suddenly forget our previous complaints about Jenson? Of course not. But two things are vitally important about the future which if mis-construed could sound in another sport like glory supporting.

The psychological importance of having one win is massive in Formula 1 – it is different than in other sports where you would be really surprised to find a team who had never won in a season. Jenson hasn’t won a race for six years. In the week just gone Jenson had been on Top Gear and had done less well as the Pro driver in the reasonable car than either the retired Damon Hill or Nigel Mansell (he beat Mark Webber but Mark had been in the wet) – see separate post in next few days. And one could have easily felt that this was yet another sign that he was never going to achieve greatness. And he may never of course. But the important thing is that all of the failure, all of the pain, all of the upset and all of the crap that goes with being an almost-ran in Formula 1 can truly be washed away with one win. It can change the way that you go into every race for the rest of your career.

And the second factor is that you could really see that Honda won this race due to one factor than any other. They won it because they kept their heads. They worked like a team properly for the first time I’ve ever noticed. They really seemed together on the way. And I think they’d have taken positive lessons from this race even if Jenson’s car had fallen off the track with two laps to go. The fact that Jenson won will shape the way that they go racing for a while.

I am not, by any means, suggesting that this automatically means that Jenson will win any more races in his career or that our fundamental criticisms of him are done away with, but a win in surprising circumstances – especially when there is a justified way of saying that the win was his and not through others loss can change a driver and a team forever. I’m not saying it will – but it might.

What next now no hex?

Perhaps the most interesting thing for Jenson’s career is that they had been expecting great things from themselves at the next race in Turkey (which is three weeks away) but had never mentioned Hungary. So they have just won the race before the one that they had been targeting all season and a race that Jenson really enjoyed last year. So perhaps we will see them doing well again next race too. Two in a row would go a very long way to suggesting a step change in the team rather than one off. But haven’t Honda been good at the ends of seasons before when it was almost too late to matter? I seem to remember it, but I’m not sure.

Disappointments, I’ve had a few

In fact I’d go as far as to say the only disappointing thing of the whole race was the Japanese national anthem. It seemed particularly dreary and with a likelihood that both Honda and Toyota will be winning races in the next few years maybe we should start a petition now to see it changed. Presumably those of us here who watch Moto GP are used to it by now, but for me I was startled.

Actually no, there was one more thing. Was there ever a debut win in Formula 1 where the winning driver got less tv coverage? There seemed to be a huge bias towards Pedro de la Rosa (which actually carried on into the press conference) and we missed much of the live action and for once it wasn’t just because we’d cut away to the adverts.

Actually I’ll add the lack of Martin Brundle. I’d have been very interested to hear what he said, but I will make a separate post about this. But fair to say it was very exciting to hear Anthony Davidson so excited for his friend. And the fact that it was clearly such a natural affection and not just marketing was very refreshing.

Knocking off the German’s hat

In the end what will Jenson buttons first win be remembered for? Will it be the watershed moment when a great formula one driver’s career really started or will it be a stat flashed up on the bottom of the screen when Jenson becomes a pundit? Or both? We can’t really know now. All we do know for certain is that that bit of nationalist pride in seeing a British Formula One driver win, which some people have, can not have helped but be enhanced by seeing the winning British driver knocking off the hat of the German runner up during the British national anthem. This was definitely a race people will remember, by the context in which it is remembered is, as yet, to be decided.

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About Alex Andronov

Alex Andronov is a writer who lives in the UK. He is currently working on 7 novels, 5 film scripts, 2 plays, 2 TV series, 1 history of the United States, 1 travelogue and trying to find some focus.
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