| |

F1: fond farewells bring 2016 season to a close.

Publication: 
Bryan Edwards
chiefofficersnet

21 races across five continents and barely time for the teams to breath: for the mechanics and technicians, strategists and skills we never see, who commit their lives to F1, this morning the morning most of them, on a personal level, have been waiting for. They are going home and, after the trucks get back to base and everything is put into its locker, they can go home and see families that have been largely neglected for the past eight months or so. But for one person it's a eulogy, for three people it's the end of an era.

It is amazing to think that there is one man who has not missed a single Formula One Grand Prix since 1973 - and it's not even his day job.

Michael "Herbie" Blash is another of the old guard that created Formula One as we know it today: although Bernie Ecclestone gets the headlines, the reality is that F1 grew out of the ashes of the Brabham team that Ecclestone had bought and run in F1 when it was a dangerous and disparate group of people having fun and trying to get someone else to pay for it. Blash had been a mechanic for a couple of years then joined Lotus in 1968 to be Graham Hill's mechanic. For 21 years, he's been the deputy race director for Formula One, a (theoretically) part time job. Read about Blash in his own words from the website of the Trust that looks after former mechanics who have fallen on hard times: http://www.gpmechanicstrust.co... and http://www.gpmechanicstrust.co.... He's stepping sideways: Charlie Whiting, the long time race director is known to be planning to retire and Blash's retirement will permit continuity. And continuity is the aim : Blash is to head a new Marshal and Stewards training school in the FIA. But that won't keep this irrepressible man busy enough: he's continuing with his work with the Yamaha MotoGP team and, he told two TV interviewers in different interviews with a wry smile, (1) continuing to work with Gordon Murray at Yamaha (2) on a Yamaha Road Car.

If Herbie Blash is known only to F1 insiders, the death last week of Dr Aki Hintsa will bring to the attention of many who think they know a lot about F1. Hintsa died of cancer and across the whole of those who are deepest in F1, he has been receiving plaudits. Lewis Hamilton, preparing for the Abu Dhabi weekend could not speak without emotion breaking his voice as he said how much help Hintsa had been to him. Hintsa was the one Hamilton had been able to turn to when physical or mental stresses of F1 got to him. Vettel admits that he would have not been the driver he is if Hintsa hadn't told him, bluntly, that he did not have the correct physique to be a top class driver. An orthopaedic and trauma surgeon with a passion for quietly helping Africa's poor on the one hand, on the other he arrived in the lavish world of F1 at McLaren during the time of Mika Hakkinen and Kimi Raikkonen. He died on Wednesday last week, aged 58. Hamilton had flown from his victory in Brazil to visit the man who he credits with much of his success and with developing the attitude to be a champion. Before the Abu Dhabi race, Hamilton told reporters he intended to win as a tribute to Hintsa. Last year, in collaboration with Oskari Saari, Hintsa published a book called "The Core: Better Life, Better Performance (purchase links below).

And so to the two drivers who retired from F1: Filipe Massa: the man who was champion for 20 seconds - and who is, literally, a Formula One survivor. One of the most shocking events in F1 in recent years was the head injury suffered by Filipe Massa in 2009. During qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, he was hit in the head by a spring that had fallen from Rubens Barrichello's Brawn and then bounced up. It was clear at the scene that his injury was severe. The spring, at (various reports say) 700 or 800 grammes would have damaged his helmet at normal speed. At 175mph, it punched a hole in his visor. He was "off work" for several months and stunned the F1 world by returning, despite a plate in his head, and continuing an illustrious career. But he never reached the heights of his 2008 season when, after a tense season's battle with Lewis Hamilton, he crossed the line and Hamilton was one place below where he needed to be in the Brazilian Grand Prix to secure the championship. Yet, even as his team celebrated, Timo Glock whose tyres resulted in his performance falling away dramatically, a tactical error having left him on dry tyres as rain fell and soaked the track: after the last bend but before climbing the hill, Hamilton swept past Glock who was struggling to stay on track at all, not even noticing who it was until his team told him he had just won the championship. In Brazil, Glock became the anti-Christ as conspiracy theorists tried to say he had let Hamilton catch and pass him to deny Massa the Championship. Massa and his family were too upset to make any such allegations. This year, as the Brazilial national power boat festival, sorry, the F1 Grand Prix, took place, Massa was one of several drivers who wrecked his car. As he walked back to the pits, the safety car came out and the pit lane was closed. That, inadvertently at first but almost certainly deliberately after a while, allowed F1, which seems to be getting almost girly in its emotional outpourings (and that's a good thing in such a macho sport) to say perhaps the most impressive farewell to a retiring driver we have so far witnessed. As he walked up the pit lane, to the roar of cheers from the grandstand, the McLaren pit crew all lined up in the pouring rain the applaud him. Further along the pit lane, the Ferrari team, for whom he had driven for so long, did the same. The Williams team, and his wife and child, were even more demonstrative and ran down pit lane to hug and pat him. It was one of the most warming events of any sporting occasion I can remember. His car, which had been granted a special livery for Brazil (on the rear wing it said "Obrigado" and the name sponsor, Martini, agreed to their name being taken off the car and "Massa" substituted. In Abu Dhabi, with the car totally rebuilt and the livery back to normal, Massa and Bottas spent much of the race together, swapping places: under the lights, the cars looked incredible, easily the best looking on track. Williams is to make sure he remembers how good: as this year's cars are scrapped due to fundamental rule changes for next season, the team has given Massa his car to take home with him. In this, his last race, he was half a second ahead of Fernando Alonso: one suspects that Alonso would not have overtaken him in the last moments: and for sure, Massa would not have wanted to be told Alonso was catching him. I was hoping to hear the team radio telling Massa "you are faster than Fernando," in an ironic tribute to the team orders that Ferrari gave in 2010.

And so to the last retirement of the day: in both senses of the word. It's been a tough weekend for Jenson Button. He said, at one point, that he thought this would be the last time he sat in an F1 car. In reality, most people already thought that, as the season drew to a close, his suggestion of a sabbatical was looking less and less likely. But in doing so, he upset his own delicate emotional balance. Simply getting around the paddock and pits started to tell on him as he realised the enormity of his statement. He even mentioned that he wished he hadn't said it because it had brought forward the inevitable sadness. Button has always worn his heart on his sleeve. Hell, he even wears a Jessica Michibata look-alike on his arm after the two of them split after a marriage that, many would say, was doomed due to their work commitments and Jenson's sadness at the loss of his father. One of his proudest moments was this weekend, with his mother, who has rarely attended races, was not only in Abu Dhabi and in the pits but walked out onto the grid to take photos of and with him. Button has spent 17 years in F1, always making the best of a succession of misfortunes. Some say he can only win with the best car but that's not true: he can win with a poor car if it does as he tells it, provided of course, that it's fast enough. Over and over again, he's had cars that were simply woefully uncompetitive. And still he's driven his heart out and still he's been supportive of the team. Almost no F1 fan talks of F1's greatest drives does so without special mention of Canada 2011. Look it up. F1 has gone from being a sport packed with gentlemen of derring-do to a sport packed with ill-mannered people who wag their fingers, pour out expletives in public and sulk. Jenson Button has stayed away from all the bad-boy stuff. It's cost him his relationship with a woman he adored although it provided him the chance to be as close to his father as any best friend; and despite all the troubles, he almost never blamed anyone, even in the past two years when his team-mate Alonso was vociferous about the state of the car. As Button retired his car, having smashed the front suspension on a kerb in a chicane, he didn't wait to see if it could be repaired, which is what I and I suspect millions of others were waiting for. He got out of the car, hugged his mother and team members and walked to the front of the garage where the roar of the crowd drowned out the (admittedly muted) cars going by. As usual, his post race comments were ... nice. “It’s always been a massive strength of our team that components so rarely fail but, today of all days, something did." The team operated all weekend under the slogan Great Button and wore Union Jacks on their forearms. Oh, and yes, he's a World Champion, not a "former" Champion.

Thanks, JB. Not since Senna have I, personally, felt so upset by a driver's leaving F1. Go, have fun, relax. And once you slow down, look back at a life that has enriched so many others and do exactly what your heart wants you to do.

Oh, and maybe write another book: the one you did after the Brawn Championship isn't good enough!

-------------------------------------------------

Buy Jenson Button's My Championship Year.

Amazon.Com USA
Amazon.Co.UK - UK
Australia: http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/pr...
Brazil: http://www.amazon.com.br/gp/pr...
Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/produc...
France: http://www.amazon.fr/gp/produc...
Germany: http://www.amazon.de/gp/produc...
India: http://www.amazon.in/gp/produc...
Italy: http://www.amazon.it/gp/produc...
Japan: http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/pro...
Mexico: http://www.amazon.com.mx/gp/pr...
Spain: http://www.amazon.es/gp/produc...

Buy Aki Hintsa's "The Core"

Amazon.Com USA
Amazon.Co.UK - UK
Australia: http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/pr...
Brazil: http://www.amazon.com.br/gp/pr...
Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/produc...
France: http://www.amazon.fr/gp/produc...
Germany: http://www.amazon.de/gp/produc...
India: http://www.amazon.in/gp/produc...
Italy: http://www.amazon.it/gp/produc...
Japan: http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/pro...
Mexico: http://www.amazon.com.mx/gp/pr...
Spain: http://www.amazon.es/gp/produc...

Other countries: First, try the UK link and/or the USA link. If, due to Amazon's distribution policies, you are unable to use either of those sites, try a site nearest you.

hahagotcha