Why was the Las Vegas Grand Prix the best race of this season or maybe any season for a very long time?
Weirdness, is the answer.
Well, there were loose man/woman/person hole covers that nearly destroyed Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari and caused practice to be no more, expired and finished. F1 owner Liberty Media incompetence and FIA’s stupidity also caused Sainz to lose 10 places on the grid in Sunday’s race, because he found the person hole cover at 320km/h.
You know how corporates work: “Despite spending $500m on the track we left a few loose manhole covers. Finding one and nearly killing yourself was your fault and we’ll penalise you. That’s why we get the big bucks and never apologise.”
Then they decided practice would start again at 2.30am but, despite fans having tickets, F1 said you can’t watch. $560 for nine minutes of car-to-car action does seem a bit on the light side.
No sooner had the real race begun than McLaren’s Lando Norris hit a “bump” on the track and had to go to hospital.
But this is America where the class-action lawyer is king – so cue Steve Dimopoulos, personal injury and wrongful death lawyer who has filed a “massive” class action against Las Vegas Grand Prix and its owner, Liberty Media, in Nevada state court on behalf of the dudded ticket holders but not, unfortunately, on behalf of Sainz and Norris who nearly lost more than money.
So how surprised was everyone when the race itself was really a race. In fact, this was the race that had it all. Two safety cars, Mad Max actually battling to win, the best third place battle in sporting history, lots of prangs, lots of penalties including five seconds for Maxie; Chuck Leclerc looking like he was going to win but his team put a stop to that with another bad call; Oscar driving an aggressive, brilliant race, but coming 10th; Dan and Alpha Tauri never being in it and lots of nearly has-been celebs.
With one race to go in Abu Dhabi, Mad Max is so far ahead on the drivers’ championship he can’t see Perez, Hamo, Sainz and Alonso behind him. While Red Bull will kill the constructors’ championship, Ferrari has at last shown it has a car that can match them.
The other big event of last weekend, the Adelaide Rally, was even more exciting than Las Vegas.
Yes, for the first time in world history three days of tarmac rallying ended in a tie. Oscar Matthews/Naomi Tillet and Matthew Selley/Hamish McKendrick couldn’t be separated by a second and shared the winners’ sparkling wine.
Your very own Weekend Australian Rally Team (WART) didn’t get off to a great start. Co-driver Michael McMichael, 600 years old of Stepney, South Australia, lost his glasses.
As Mick said, this wasn’t a problem unless he needed to see. Then there was the small problem of your correspondent’s inability to discern left from right. A small issue when coming over a crest at 200km/h, not being able to see where the road goes and being told to go left.
In the time it takes to shake each arm to see which one is the left one, disaster is not far away. Cruelly, Mick took to drawing a big R in Texta on the front window driver’s side with an arrow indicating right.
More than 300 cars started from in front of the pig pavilion at the Royal Adelaide Showground. About 30 of those were in the competition section and the rest, a very nice collection of Porkers, Feezers, McLarens and Mercs, out for a tour.
But the car that rightly got the most looks was the super 1960 blue beetle of Gordon and Tracy Harris. About two years ago Gordon got hit with a diagnosis of motor neurone disease.
He has spent his time since building the most beautiful VW on the planet which he and Tracy rally.
In other rally news, Sydney Daily Telegraph cartoonist Warren Brown and editor-at-large Matthew Benns will follow the 26,000km London-to-Melbourne route taken by the extraordinary adventurer Francis Birtles in 1927.
Frank became the first person to drive from London to Australia. Of course, you can guess what happened when he hit good old Aussie soil. Yup on arrival in Darwin, the customs officials seized his Bean 14 car demanding import duty, until then prime minister Stan Bruce intervened. Anyway, when he finally got to the official finishing point of the journey at Melbourne Post Office, the fun police promptly asked him to move on because he was obstructing traffic. Thank God times have changed!
Best Xmas book this year is Rosco the Fastest Aussie On Earth from Amazon for about $30. Rosco McGlashan went from spending time in the slammer, including time eating bread and water, to getting an OAM for driving his rocket-powered Aussie Invader 2 at 802km/h.
A few years later he hit 1000km/h. Now he’s built a new rocket ship and is aiming to break 1600km/h. A must read but probably not one for the kiddies. (Warning: very adult themes.)
Talking of Abu Dhabi, Bonhams will be there next Saturday, auctioning off a whole lot of cars, helmets and other crap on the starting grid at the Yas marina circuit the night before the race.
Our car of the week is the ex-Mario Andretti Formula 1 World Championship-clinching, ex-Carlos Reutemann Monaco Grand Prix 3rd-placed, 1978 Lotus-Cosworth Ford Type 79 John Player Special for a little under $30m. As Bonhams says in the best get-your-hand-off-it brochure language this century: “This 1978 World Championship-clinching Lotus’s exquisitely well-proportioned and lithe form combines significance within more than just one connoisseurial collector’s discipline. This car, resplendent in its contemporary jet black and effectively gold livery, is an entirely captivating, sleek and beautiful head turner – nothing less than a fully functioning, electrifyingly usable, piece of mechanical and artistic sculpture.
“Dig deeper and consider its gorgeous surface form as seen by the appreciative art-lover’s eye.
“The number of truly successful, functioning Formula 1 racing cars which could ever be considered seriously as a sculptural form of connoisseurial-world value is vanishingly small.
“Yet within even such a rarefied group, Lotus 79/4 as offered here most surely soars.” Shoot me now.
Great to see one reader in Adelaide. He is another JC – actually reader 19 – and he raised an important issue with me. “John,” he said because that’s my name, “you have 25 readers not 20 because there are six people in my house that read your column.”
Sorry JC that’s not how it works. To be classified as readers everyone in your house must have a subscription. Luckily, we have a special deal right now where you can get the other five digital papers AND five copies of The Weekend Australian delivered to your house for $10 a week.