5/10/2014 0 Comments
Against All Odds
No one saw that coming. To be fair, it's one of the most unexpected results we've had, especially if you take out races with variable weather, but I doubt there was anyone who would have put money on Johnny Cecotto in a Trident winning the feature race in Barcelona. And that includes the Venezuelan himself.
In Bahrain we asked Johnny to talk about the circuit for the this week’s preview: he's got a lot of experience, we thought, and it was probably his turn anyway. And while Johnny was his usual garrulous self, smiling throughout and being nothing if not entertaining. "But I don't really like the circuit," he admitted. "It's very tricky to get a set up right, because there are all the fast sections but the third section is very tight and with a lot of corners, so it's difficult to find a compromise that works. But mostly, it’s that I’ve never had good results there!", he said laughing.
He and the team worked hard nevertheless, looking for the perfect balance between the two demands, but it wasn't looking great: walking back from the pitlane yesterday with the Venezuelan, the sting of the extraordinary temperatures finally dropping away but with him still radiating heat from his exertions, and he just couldn't put a brave face on it: P16 was way off where he wanted to be.
"Of course I'll try hard tomorrow, sure," he wavered, "but it's hard to see much chance for anything. Maybe not even in the points..."
Jolyon Palmer was probably his polar opposite: he was clearly satisfied with his weekend so far, and if he'd naturally have rather been on the other front row spot, he carried the air of a man who had little to worry about in the race, even if it was his teammate who had pipped him to pole. Racing drivers always think they can beat their teammates, and the Briton's demeanour told everyone around that he had another win targeted for the next day.
His confidence was still on display this morning when we took him and a number of drivers to the F1 Game Zone to put on a demonstration for the fans: it's something that every driver moans about doing until they get there, when their competitive instincts kick in. "I always do badly at these things," Julian Leal complained good naturedly, "but it's not my fault: they always put me in a Caterham or a Marussia!"
"Yeah," Jolyon agreed, "if they put me in a Caterham today, I walk!"
Cue comedy pretend walk out when the Briton's screen shone green...
He then compounded his problems by having a terrible qualifying lap, lining up last on the grid. Alexa walked over just before the start of the race, and noted: "Sergio Canamasas is in the other Caterham, so you'd better try to beat him!"
It's always interesting to see a driver in this situation, because you don't usually get an opportunity to see exactly what they do at work, their hands, feet, face, even if they profess to not really care about it while they're there. When the lights went out Jolyon made a perfect start, running up the outside on the left to take a few cars before a flash of green came across the screen: "No! Sergio's run me off!"
After that things got really serious: after bouncing off the wall he came screaming back on track, bouncing in his chair in an effort to generate more speed, and proceeded to overtake everyone, albeit after slightly tapping someone on the way, and was in the lead until the last lap when Facu Regalia tapped him into a spin and undid all his hard work.
And the winner: Kimiya Sato. Mostly because he was the only one not to pick up a penalty.
On the way out, it was time for the debriefs: "Sergio, I can't believe you put Jolyon into the wall at the start..."
"It wasn't my fault: someone hit me!"
"Yeah yeah, save it for the stewards. Julian, you had a Red Bull: what's your excuse?"
"I know, but the pedal was a bit loose, so I had to keep stretching further to brake!"
"Sure, and did you have a rock in your shoe too?..."
After that there was only time to grab a quick bit of lunch and get all the last minute preparations out of the way, and head out to the pitlane. And then that race happened.
All eyes were on the screens watching the time gap between Palmer and Cecotto: when it finally became clear that Johnny was going to pull off a huge upset, Alexa tweeted Sabina Rosa, the Trident head of communications "are you still breathing?", only to receive a reply "shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!"
When it was finally over, the Italians could release all that tension they'd been compounding through the race: some of the team were in tears under the podium, while Sabina couldn't stop hugging everybody around them. Giacomo Ricci, who joined the team this year as team manager, couldn't stop punching the air in the direction of the podium, with relief and delight fighting each other across his face for control.
"Which race feels better: this one, or your win in Budapest?"
"Budapest, of course, because I was in the car! But this result..." he tailed off, laughing, still unable to formulate his emotions into words.
And then there was Johnny himself, standing on the top step of the podium and beaming beatifically at his team from on high, looking incredibly young and leaning forward at impossible angles, as though trying to be on the podium and down with his team simultaneously. Clutching his heart during the anthem, his face was creased with joy at achieving the seemingly impossible, at doing more than he ever thought possible, at winning in Barcelona.
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