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Scenes around Melbourne the day after the race
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Scenes around Melbourne the day after the race
Posted By:   |  30 Mar 2009   |  1:34 pm GMT  |  55 comments

I’m sitting in Melbourne airport in the departure lounge waiting for a 1am flight to Kuala Lumpur. I’m not alone, there are plenty of F1 people milling around, rather bleary eyed waiting for the plane. Ferrari are on the flight, along with some French and English journalists, a few photograpers and others. It’s an eight hour flight and it will be tiring, but it’s not a bad flight to catch as it gets in to KL at 6-30am, so you don’t lose a whole day travelling.

I was rather surprised at the check-in to see Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali with both of his drivers, travelling as a team. I was quite impressed actually, I’ve not seen that before. I don’t know whether it’s just circumstance or whether there is some kind of edict that they should be together. Ferrari as a team has always been good at sticking together to travel, not for them the private jets for the senior management, there are no obvious signs of hierarchy. But the drivers are not normally a part of it.

Felipe Massa, his wife and his manager were together, while Kimi Raikkonen had one of his Finnish mates with him, the pair with their distressed baseball caps worn at an angle, making cracks in their own private language about people they saw, laughing like teenagers.

It was a shocking weekend for Ferrari, with reliability once again the problem. They also have to catch up to Brawn or hope that the appeal against the diffuser succeeds. I’m hearing that they have two parallel development programmes going, one with a copy of the new ‘double decker’ diffuser and with a new gearbox, the other a development of the car they have. McLaren are also flat out building new parts and they will be flying out packing cases full of kit to Malaysia this weekend. Both teams are chucking money at solving the performance crisis.

I’ve also heard of teams who were about to lay off staff from the aerodynamic department, who have delayed the move so that they can accelerate the development of their own ‘double decker’. It rather makes a mockery of the whole cost-cutting mantra we were hearing over the winter! Brawn has got the big teams on the run.

I bumped into Jenson Button twice today, at lunch and dinner. The Melbourne race winner was in a very relaxed mood, hanging around near the beach, just savouring the moment and looking forward to the next. He enjoyed a long lunch with his new girlfriend Jessica.

He was saying that his main emotion before the race was excitement, rather than nerves. He struggled to control the excitement, but now that he has the win under his belt he knows he can start to build momentum. He has to capitalise while the big teams are down.

He feels that the Red Bull is the biggest threat at the moment and certainly until Vettel crashed into Kubica, he had kept Jenson honest. Jenson added that the tyres were quite tricky on Sunday, especially towards the end as the temperatures dropped, but the Red Bull seemed able to stay in touch. I wonder if it will be able to on Sunday.

It is such a graphic illustration of the fact that in F1 you really are only as good as your car. Jenson was not a tosser last year, although he struggled with motivation at times and was outperformed by Rubens Barrichello.

He has the car to get the job done and the team has developments in the pipeline for Barcelona. He should have his nose well in front by then.

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55 Comments
  1. mark says:

    Just wanted to say how much I missed your commentary on Sunday. The new guy is no replacement for you..

    At least we still have your excellent blog!

  2. Colin says:

    Envy you dropping into KL, can you email me a nice fresh Roti Chanai please with fish curry and lentil dahl, my favourite street stall dish.

  3. Finn says:

    All this globe trotting makes for a hard life, eh? But some lucky geezer has got to do it! ;-) Us, green with envy? You bet.

    If teams are ‘copying’ double decker diffusers (DDD) – which DDD are they going to copy? The Brawn with the heart in the middle, presumably? Or will they have entirely new DDD designs constrained by other elements in their cars?

    Can’t see Red Bull doing much in Malaysia .. unless they appeal Vet’s unfair 10 place penalty. Kub really should have allowed Vet more room and driven round the outside of him. A racing incident – Vet should not have been punished at all.

    In struggling with motivation last year, JB wasn’t a tosser – but he was a big disappointment. For a bloke to get paid millions (and to have people paying to watch him perform in one way or another), he was a real self-indulgent under performer.

    Wonder if Rubens’ exotic race was in part due to the pre-race excitement he felt…. he looked a bit like a rookie waiting for his first race in the pre-race build up.

    Would have LOVED to see Senna in the second Brawn … think he could have put in some good performances and had time to learn tracks over this season. But oh well, I can’t expect Ross to do everything I want ;-)

  4. Colin says:

    “Kimi Raikkonen had one of his Finnish mates with him, the pair with their distressed baseball caps worn at an angle, making cracks in their own private language about people they saw, laughing like teenagers.”

    Great tid-bit Sir!

    What a contrast with McLaren protocol; recalling the time Mr. Dennis dismissed a mechanic at the departure airport simply for failing to wear his McLaren tie.

  5. Boston F1 Fan says:

    - That’s interesting that they fly commercial; basketball and baseball teams fly private. A sign of the times, or something that they’ve always done? Ferrari must have a private jet.

  6. Clackers says:

    “Jenson was not a tosser last year, although he struggled with motivation at times and was outperformed by Rubens Barrichello.”

    What? Tosser?

    Is that an unfortunate typo, or is this a new James Allen with angrier, racier vocabulary than every before? lol

  7. Patrice Ici says:

    “Jenson was not a tosser last year”

    James, what are you saying about the other drivers :o)

  8. VonSpeeX says:

    Is the fact that the difusser 3 wasn’t 1-6 after qualifying enough evidence in its self to say its not giving the 3 teams using it a massive advantage,They must lose the apeall!seriousley gutted about Kubica,What did u think of his pace James?Do u agree with Dr Mario that he would have won or come 2nd??

  9. athlon says:

    James! What do you think about the appeal?

  10. Martin says:

    I enjoyed your twitter commentary during practice, qualifying and race! Goes straight to my phone for free! Well done!

  11. Yo says:

    Of course it is giving them a massive advantage, that’s the advantage of being smarter than others! Cost-cutting, eh? And now they are spending millions in designing new diffusers, they should save a bit of money ;) Hypocrites!

  12. Joel Heaton says:

    James, did you see Trulli re-passing Hamilton under the safety car? There’s a transcript of an interview out there where Lewis says the team told him to yield. Trulli said Hamilton had slowed and moved over to one side – if this is the case, the penalty is really unfair and the comments that Martin Whitmarsh made after the race even more so!

    Trulli did absolutely everything to deserve third place, so I’d be interested in seeing whether or not the story is as is said. If it is, I would hope that Toyota’s appeal (the way they have gone about which being quite clever) is successful and the penalty overturned.

    As for the Brawns, all I can say is wow! Jenson did absolutely everything perfectly this weekend (okay, he made some slight mistakes, which he admitted to) to deserve his victory and hopefully it will be the first of many this season. As a huge fan of Rubens, I was a little sad to see him making some uncharacteristic mistakes, but was glad to see him take second place in the end. Imagine the battle between the two Brawn cars had both drivers got away well! :D

  13. danf1 says:

    James and all readers of this blog, I thought I’d make you aware of this. It’ll make you smile!

    Bring Back JA petition

  14. Daniel says:

    Just wanted to say how great your blog is. It is incredibly insightful and it really does make the whole F1 experience a lot more enjoyable and accessible. Please continue to keep up the good work, it really is fantastic.

    You thoroughly deserved your Autosport award…Why the BBC did not hire you I shall never know.

    Thanks again James.

  15. Daniel Hoyes says:

    Jenson has always gone slower than his team-mate in slower cars. I don’t think it’s motivation – it’s just his style requiring a balanced setup.

    All that was missing at the chequered flag was a James Allen style “AND JENSON BUTTON… WINS… IN AUSTRALIA!!!”

  16. Andy says:

    James, did you take any picture from your travels at the airport? would be intresting to see F1 teams on the move at airports etc. Not something we often see.

    All so great website, one of the best places i found to be kept upto date on F1 news in detail.

  17. Gareth Evans says:

    I was pleased with the pace of the Williams in the practice and quali sessions. Just a shame they fell off the pace during the race..

    Great blog by the way !

  18. Matthew says:

    James. You’re excellent at this job, why did you not go to the BBC?? why why why?? Please tell us.

  19. Chris says:

    James, there are many of us (myself included) who thought you were a little “loud” in your early years and to be honest, were not that sad to see you go.

    I take it all back now though. Not only did I miss you but Jonathan Legard is no good.

    You and Martin are the best partnership and you are one of us really: just a massive fan of F1!

  20. rpaco says:

    Once again things have deteriorated due the the Steward’s interpretation of the rules.

    Lewis accidentally overtook Trulli when Trulli went walkabout, then McLaren told Lewis to let him back past in case Lewis was said to have overtook under the safety car. This caution on the part of McLaren, Lewis pulling over and slowing, caused Trulli to re-take Lewis resuming his position (keeping Lewis safe) only for it to be interpreted by the stewards as Trulli overtaking under the safety car! Followed by penalty!

    Some heads need knocking together again in the steward’s den.

    Yes BTW I am a Lewis fan and he drove brilliantly to take fourth from near the back of the grid. Trulli however did not deserve to be penalised, his only other option would have been to pull up and stop behind Lewis.

  21. rpaco says:

    You always see the strangest people in airports and wonder what their stories are, and should you be worried if they are on the same plane as you.

    Very strange that Ferrari are allowed all to travel on the same plane. Even in the SMB I worked for, no two directors or principle people were allowed to travel on the same plane in case of a fatal crash.

  22. Toastiejoe says:

    James, thanks for the best stream of info on F1 today. Keep it up!

  23. Myles says:

    Why has Hamilton not admitted that he slowed down and as a result Truli passed him?

  24. Ben James says:

    Hello fellow James Allen Blog reading buddies!

    Somebody commented on the piece earlier asking:

    “Do we really want James at the BBC? Would they let him keep this blog etc…”

    Here’s what I would like:

    James back in the saddle next to Brundle

    Part of this blog to continue

    The other half should be in F1 Racing magazine

    I pay good subscription to that mag and James isn’t in it enough. I almost feel bad that I am getting to read such great F1 journalism for free in this fantastic blog.

    Yes that’s right, I am willing to pay to read this blog James! Please tell me you have a permanent fixture in the pipeline for F1 Racing. Remember when Ricky Gervais started charging a small pound for his podcast? I would have NO problem doing the same for this blog and for the upcoming podcast you have mentioned you’ll be doing.

    And again, please get into F1 Racing James. Don’t get me wrong I love the magazine, it is always well written and informative, its a great magazine. If you were in it, it would be greater!

    People may vomit with all the praise I am giving, but I don’t give a s***. Your quick written and well composed blog is pumping out more genuinely good stories than all the other sites put together. Crikey you may even make F1 Racing obsolete at this rate!

    F1 is my religion, amen.

  25. sean says:

    James interested in the performance of the soft tyres.Ferrari showed that after 5 laps they were absolutely useless. In the case of brawn waited till 7 laps from the end to change on to them rubin’s car ,are these standard from now on or will bridgestone bring out a different tyre for sepang.With the temps there being far greater than aussie teams will be lucky to get 2 flying laps out of them they were never this bad in past seasons.As for the diffuser fiasco amazing there told to cut cost, fire staff save save save but spend millions on making new parts after the first race. Makes a mockery of Max’s 30mil teams what would they do in this situation trolley around for the season keeping out of everyone’s way cause they can’t break there cap.Also has Mr Branson any idea how much these guy’s spend on updates if mclaren & ferrari claw back their loses in the next two races and brawn’s mid pac how keen will he be to shell out 10mil so the car can go 200′s a sec quicker a lap. He didn’t become one of the riches men in world by throwing his money away this could end in tears.

  26. Grabyrdy says:

    Agree with all the above comments on Trulli/Hamilton. McL are just dishonest. Final proof ?

    PS From your earlier blogs: do we know what Williams’ protest against Ferrari was about ?

  27. Steve Rodgers says:

    More great insights into the shrouded world of F1….thanks James…oh and by the way, the guy who took your job alongside Martin Brundle….he’s rather dull – the Beeb should have hired you….

  28. Lee says:

    I hated the commentary during that last race from legard and was quite pleased to notice a petition online to get JA back in the box. I specifically came online to google to see if there was a petition available.

    http://www.gopetition.co.uk/online/26544.html

  29. Mick says:

    Why is Vettel being penalized? This is what makes F1 stupid.

  30. Jenson added that the tyres were quite tricky on Sunday, especially towards the end as the temperatures dropped,

    And that is NOT going to a feature in most races. Most races are going to be mid-day, local time (ish), so the temperature is going to be “in the window”. That is going to help everyone, but especially Brawn GP.

    Jenson drove really well to be #2 when Dave Richards was in charge. Then Honda dropped the ball and replaced DR because of Buttongate. Since then Honda went downhill. Everyone seems to forget than Jenson was, has been and is a great driver. Now all of a sudden they say he is great.

    Jeez. Short term or what?

    The guy can drive. When you hear former or current drivers talk about his style, it is that he is fluid, smooth, calm, turns in once, turns out once, is on the power etc.

    I’m not a pro athlete. I’ve always been good at the sports I do. The single thing that unites all sports that I do, or that I watch, is that the best people are beutiful to watch (and I don’t mean beautiful as I’d I’d give her one), they are elegant, smooth, streamlined, no jerky movements (with a few exceptions for a very, very few excepional atheletes), and no splash (for swimmers, because splash indications wasted energy).

    The number of times I get into a pool and see strong people going slowly, well i can’t count it, because its all the time, But then you get folks like myself, not obviously strong, visibly putting less effort in, going faster. Its technique, pure and simple. Doesn’t matter what the sport, pretty much, its true.

    If it looks good (where good is smooth, elegant, graceful) then it generally is better, even when you ramp up the power output.

    Jenson is in that tradition, as was Schumacher (although more angular), Alonso, Hamilton and Raikonnen and Rubens. The difference is Jenson has never had the car to shown it (except for when DR ran Honda).

    Changing topic: Loyalty.
    Jenson has shown steller loyalty, more than any other driver I can think of.

    Lewis Hamilton on the other hand, last year said he’d happily race for McClaren for life. But recent repots say he said he’d consider talking to other teams. What a cheap, shallow chav! Absolutely stunning. How can you go from one to the other in 5 months? – not the time since the remark, but the time since they gave him the title. That is unforgiveable.

    BTW. I’m not a Hamilton detractor – passionately wanted him to dethrone Alonso (not because he is Asturian, I love Asturias, I play gaita, but because I didn’t like Alonso’s attitude).

  31. M__E says:

    James, given your privey to ‘inside info’ – care to stick your neck out with a predicted team pace heirarchy when they get to Malaysia on Sunday?

    go on..!

    Ill get you started..

    Brawn GP
    then….;-)

  32. Xia Junjie says:

    Miss the commentary of you and martin,but at least also can read your blog and itv-f1 column

    Hope can see you again in Shanghai next month (if you remember last year thursday in paddock :)

  33. Murray says:

    Distressed baseball caps! Love your commentary, James, but that description smacks of the grammar nazis who don’t like text message shorthand. If Kimi wants to be a homey, your distress is probably why he and his mate are giggling in Finnish.

  34. Elna says:

    Hey James Allen!!! We missed you on Sunday! We sat here in South Africa……………..and said it is not the same without you. Thanks for the blog though.

    Elna

  35. Gary D says:

    James, I’m just loving your insider descriptions of the scene. Just brilliant and more power to your elbow and wifi connections. 10 out of 10!

  36. Sami says:

    Thank James! I just love the blog, more of the stuff we don’t (or can’t) see or hear i.e. what you see at the airport, on the aircraft, behind the scenes at the race, lunches and dinners etc. It’s so interesting to hear from you how the F1 folks “hang-out” in real life. Like The body language between Alonso and Hamilton after the Press Conference in Oz, Ferrari at the airport check-in, mood of the Ferrari drivers versus Rubens on the flight to KL, who is staying at what hotel, more of this please……love it.

    Keep up the great work on the blog!

  37. VonSpeeX says:

    I never knew vettel got a penalty,Did Kubica?

  38. Colin says:

    I think he’s been sitting too close to spikey-haired Germans in the Media Centre, Mr. Allen certainly doesn’t write like that if the Financial Times.

    Speaking of vernacular expletives, did Mr. Barrichello really call Master Vettel a “F****** German!” before the race?

  39. Colin says:

    Not a “Merchant Banker” amongst them Patrice.

  40. John Kilmartin says:

    “Own private language”, Finnish? Five million people may take exception to that bit of license.

  41. Nik Black says:

    They do fly private on the Euro legs (both Kimmi and Felipe have their own jets) but the distances to Australia, Malaysia and China etc. are too far for the small and medium range private jets that these guys own – so its easier to juts fly commercial during this part of the season.

  42. John Kilmartin says:

    How many of the 6 were in the top 7…and if I’m not giving it away, where was the other one. ;)

    If an unfair advantage put Force India, say, 7th and 8th would it then be reasonable to overlook it?

    It’s whether there is an unfair advantage that is important, not simply the ability to capitalise on it.

  43. jiminycricket says:

    I reckon James deferred to Brundle because he respected him as a former racer, because Brundle had been in the seat with the Murray before and eventually because he realised there isn’t room in that booth for too many “expert” commentators. But because of this he probably played down his own insights and so was treated by some of you as “just another mike-jockey”.

    Anyway, I am chuffed he now has this blog and you folks are doing some healthy reversing.

    As for Legard… I am sure he had more adrenalin in his veins on the day than either of the two BrawnGP drivers put together. He will realise soon enough that we can see the pictures too … Just one word less in three would be my shout.

  44. James says:

    They better not be famous last words…!

  45. Stephen Kellett says:

    Indeed, there have been a few famous rock bands that have been destroyed that way. Lynrrd Skynrrd and a band from an earlier era (Everly Brothers?) whose name I can’t quite recall.

  46. Mike Ellison says:

    …yet they’re probably expected to travel to the airport in the same rental car with enormously higher risk! :)

  47. Mark Z says:

    He did! But it was all good-natured banter. Here’s the transcript (from http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/28032009/13/melbourne-qualifying-press-conference-part-ii.html the 3rd question down):

    Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) I have already asked Jenson this question in Thursday’s press conference, so this is to Rubens and Sebastian. With all the rule changes this year, do you think we will see more overtaking, not only in tomorrow’s race but throughout the season?

    RB: I think so, I think that there are some teams with KERS and some others without it, so you’re going to see some overtaking because of that. You might see more overtaking on a proper track, you will see overtaking on this road circuit but it’s because of people making mistakes. You always do see overtaking here in Melbourne anyway, with the visibility being a problem and so on, I think the race is going to be quite a good one. Plus, the wings help. They don’t fix the problem but the moveable wings help, so that could help overtaking too.

    SV: I know I’m small but I was also in Thursday’s press conference, next to Jenson!

    RB: That was the best answer so far!

    SV: You’d better be quiet, you’re even smaller!

    RB: No, no, your answer was the best answer so far. – I gave him a compliment – f*****g German! (laughter)

  48. alex m says:

    Given Rubens’ boyish good looks and Blonde mop, he is probably rather glad his grandmother did…… ;-)

  49. Clinton says:

    On the loyalty side … You seem to forget the whole Williams contract battle Jensen Button had, twice.

  50. VonSpeeX says:

    Can i have some of what you have please,It seems to be strong!!

  51. Stephen Kellett says:

    What a contrast with McLaren protocol; recalling the time Mr. Dennis dismissed a mechanic at the departure airport simply for failing to wear his McLaren tie.

    Crikey. If that is true, its a pathetic attitude to life.

  52. Stephen Kellett says:

    Legard should be replaced by the guy that does the cycle racing commentary for the BBC (for the Olympics and the bash last week in Poland). He is so enthusiastic. He’d be perfect. “It’s Bradley Wiggins!!!!!!!!”.

    If we can’t have James back, lets have the cycling guy, whose name I don’t know.

  53. Stephen Kellett says:

    Indeed. That was a mistake. He took his management’s advice and paid the price. Literally, millions to get out of it. Then his management paid the price, he sacked them. The casualty in the long term was Honda because they in turn sacked Dave Richards and Honda went to the back of the grid as a result.

    His loyalty to Honda has been more than any other driver to any team. Its easy to stay with a team when you have a good car, hard to stay there when you have a rubbish one.

    Sorry about the previous posting, I forgot the closing italic markup and thus all my posting ended up italics and very hard to read.

  54. F1 fan says:

    he did.

  55. F1 fan says:

    there can’t be an appeal, you cannot appeal a time penalty. If there is then all the Lewis fans can go crazy. Lewis couldn’t so they can’t let Trulli. Anyway, it should have been a penalty…and if it had to be it should be 1 place penalty…so 4th, he got a 25s penalty…but the safety car was out so he was practicly last. Unfair Penalty…just like Vettel’s.

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