Indianapolis Sunday's come and gone, and this is the race that everyone saw. Seriously, if you didn't catch the race of the season so far, your status as a follower of motorsport is under scrutiny. Go catch a replay at the earliest. Since everyone watched and read about this race in graphic detail, I'll skip the usual race reportage.
Instead, allow this scribe to tug at your feet and slip them into a ridiculously expensive pair of blue and white sneakers. Imagine, dear reader, that you are a Formula One driver. You are one of the 20 fastest men on the planet, have thousands of people working round the clock to ensure that the car you drive goes as blindingly fast as is humanly possible, and are paid insanely to endorse products of all kinds. The world is literally your oyster, as is evidenced by the fact that you can have your pick of international supermodels to choose from.
Images from the US Grand Prix
Not just that, you are one of the sensational Formula One drivers. A fast, talented racer capable of winning world championships. You entered the sport a few years ago with tremendous applause, having already proved your mettle. A couple of prestigious driving championships under your belt already, even your rookie days gave race leaders a lot to sweat about. Heck, you have won the Indy 500. You take the Formula One world by storm — tangling fearlessly, overtaking dramatically. Respect was yours for the taking, and you swooped and grabbed it. The media loves your rebellious image, and you fit into the new 'F1 in America' programme rather well, confidently schmoozing with Letterman and taking Formula One outside Europe.
You, in short, rock.
Then again, there is a bit of a flip side. You haven't won a race all of this season, which doesn't compare well to last year, when you almost mounted a serious challenge for the world championship, only to throw it all away in the last few pressured races. Still, your fans were nice enough to chalk it up to natural inexperience, and decide that your brilliance would shine through soon enough. Well, not in 2004, anyway; they will have to wait. You are also stuck in a team continuing to make itself look consistently foolish, in a brutishly horsepowered car with an awful nose reminiscent of the now gone Patrick Head.
You can't stand your partner, a snot-nosed little German boy who keeps whining about you taking him off the road. You repeatedly explain that this is all racing, and the media thankfully laps up your super-marketable ruthless persona, but that tyrannical team boss of yours doesn't really approve and derides you constantly. Not fun. And your partner's brother, the man you hate, and a bloke the world championship can't seem to get enough of, continues in a ludicrous run of unstoppable form.
This weekend, it is time to put it all behind you, because this is Indianapolis. A wonderful, oval track where you have won one of the most respected motor races in America. A track where there is overwhelming support for you, in a country where you are celebrated and cheered vociferously, your legions occasionally even drowning out some of those irritating people waving those red flags. Your car enjoys the straightline-speed advantage by a couple of miles, and this is the ideal circuit to exploit that to the fullest. You grit your teeth and prepare for action.
Then your car won't run. So you dash valiantly from the grid, leaping heroically over fences and running harder than ever to get to the team's spare car, and hop in. The race begins, and you are stuck dead last. Well, look at it this way, at least you can't be overtaken. First, a few excitable maniacs collide all over themselves at the start, and you start lapping behind the safety car. Then, that Spaniard who drives so bloody spectacularly you can't help but hate him, blows a puncture coming down the start/finish straight, and that Mercedes is back out, and you are left dragging your heels. Not to mention that disgraceful scarlet car has taken the lead from his teammate at the start, simply by gunning past him. Imagine! Without even taking him out! Woe is racing.
The race kicks off again, but then that partner of yours you aren't particularly fond of, he crashes. It's big, fast, and scary, and he sits in the car an awfully long time before being attended to, and you are outraged. Now you really don't care whether he swallows his tongue [blasted Kraut seems to have, anyway. Hardly talks.] or breaks a leg [the most mediocre of all drivers], but you certainly are concerned: for heaven's sake, you drive the same darned car; you don't want it to be bloomin' unsafe, damn it! As if cornering like a three-wheeled truck wasn't bad enough. So you are still behind the safety car, and, despite all your bravado, this is working out well for you — you have a full tank of fuel, you are conserving it and saving your tyres, all of which might be an advantage.
The race becomes one of attrition as you carve your way through the field. No heroics really, mostly just letting the others stop for gas, but you keep the car on the racing line. Yay. You move up the order, which, you admit, isn't the hardest thing in the bally world to do with a dozen cars coppin' it. You begin lapping relatively decent times as your fuel finally diminishes, make a delightfully uneventful pit stop, and begin realistically dreaming of a podium. The points table flashes before your eyes: essentially just that you get 6, or maybe 8 points [if that kamikaze Honda takes a Renault out!], and your teammate, the surly one who can't tell a joke to save his life, gets zero. Your eyes light up. Yay! Oh wait, he's hurt, the poor fellow, you do hope he's okay — you force a frown. But yay!
Suddenly, Sam comes on the radio [Your boss — yet another Michael proving to be unlucky for you] and tells you to watch it and that you are under investigation. You are wondering about what you did wrong, and whether you overshot the pitlane speed limit or erroneously crossed a white line when you are black-flagged! Your race is over. Apparently, your dash to the spare car overshot the legal limit by a second and a half!! You drive in to the pits, wincing at the thought of that vulture of a team boss making new wisecracks about your doughnuts! Your podium is gone, and, after being disqualified in the last race, the bad luck just doesn't seem to die.
Also [a few asides about your life proving it's not as blessed as it should be]:
For next season, you have signed on to drive a career-ending [Ask DC] and, prospectively, seriously-career-shortening [Ask the Finn] car, which refuses to overtake Toyotas. That, and with a seemingly insane, ill-tempered team boss with a permanent scowl [okay, you have been there] who loves telling his drivers off in public.
Plus, you know that the fresh-faced Finnish whippersnapper is going to outqualify you 80 per cent of the time, and you can't take him off [he ain't no clumsy Kraut] in every race. Drat.
As if that wasn't bad enough, all your 'maverick racer/rebel without a crash helmet' gimmick has been taken over by that bloody Jap who really does seem fearless, and sure does possess racing cojones.
Add to this that continuing to open your instinctively anti-Michael mouth every time someone shoves a microphone near it is really making you look stupid.
And [this is the last straw, your eyes moisten], he just keeps winning. *sob*
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