Belfast Telegraph

Spa break takes F1 racing to the Max

By Billy Weir

After a lengthy lay-off the natural place to head off to is Spa and that was the case as Formula One returned from its summer recess to resume battle at the Belgian circuit.

This was one of Channel Four's live races, although the opening felt as if I'd stumbled onto Discovery or the History channel by mistake.

"The deep forests of the Ardennes, one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution, a landscape torn apart by two World Wars, but a place too of healing - Spa - a small city of water that gave its name to all the spa towns of the world," it began, and there was me thinking it was outside Ballynahinch.

Presenter Steve Jones was quick to tell us this was a special place, and asked David Coulthard and Mark Webber was this because of the "high speed, the elevation, the pine trees, the fans or the waffle truck just up the road?"

The problem with F1 is that there is usually far too much waffle and not enough action, but Coulthard promised us this was "the scariest roller-coaster you've ever been on".

He wasn't wrong, as we only had to wait until the first turn for near disaster as Sebastien Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen had a bit of a to-do, meaning that a Max hasn't figured so centrally on a Sunday show since Hart to Hart was in its pomp.

Hard to imagine that Kimi and Max will be having too many heart to hearts anytime soon as the young whipper-snapper kept annoying the oldest man on the grid but before they really got started or finished, a man called Magnussen introduced us to the very scary Eau Rouge stretch of the track at high speed.

He failed to pass it with commentator Ben Edwards saying he would be "a little bit sore" but not as damaged as his car being shovelled onto the back of a lorry.

"They'll not be saving many bits from that, it's to be scraped off the back of the truck and into a skip," said Coulthard, where there is bound to be an old mattress.

The red flag for Magnussen's crash meant we had some time to fill and we were literally left scraping the you know what with Coulthard.

"Once in Malaysia I ended up, and I guess this isn't the most pleasant conversation, with a blister on my rear because the car was low to the ground, quite an unpleasant experience." And for us too, David, and why were you driving Fred Flintsone's motor?

Back to racing and Kimi and Max were getting along famously, the furious Finn hinting that the flying Dutchman's "only interest is in pushing me off the circuit completely" as he then proceeded to try it again.

"If Raikkonen's already frustrated he may have just upped that to angry level," said Coulthard and they really do think of everything in these cars, but Kimi's thoughts were more industrial, suggesting over the radio that "this is f****** ridiculous".

"I'll just apologise for any language there, Kimi Raikkonen getting a little hot under the collar," he added but it was catching, Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg locking horns, with the latter not just as fuming as the Finn.

"Did Alonso hit you?" he was asked by his team.

"Yes," came the whimpering reply, thus ruining a perfectly good chance to cram in a joke about him getting angry, tearing off his overalls and banging Fernando like a drum. Incredible.

What was more incredible was that Lewis Hamilton somehow managed to finish third having started last on the grid, with Nico Rosberg winning the race and Max, as Edwards told us, "didn't make it to the podium" which was maybe just as well as he'd probably have mowed it down.

"He has electrified Formula One this season," he added, as if he isn't dangerous enough, but even he couldn't overshadow the podium show from runner-up Daniel Ricciardo who enjoyed some Aussie banter with interviewer Webber, handing him a racing shoe filled with champagne.

And he drank it. Then again, he who races Australian, drinks Australian, and there was us thinking that XXXX stood for something else when in fact it stands for shoe.

What Kimi may do with his shoe when he sees Max was not shown, but at least Coulthard had a theory as to what happened to Magnussen.

"He's not spinning his tyres, it's almost like he's had an aero drop out," he said.

The same happened me once when I pranged into a feisty Finnish tourist when I dropped my Wispa. Careless of me, I know. I think I'll nip down to the Spar in Spa to pick up another one, a wee lad called Max has offered me a lift.

The good, the bad and the ugly

The good: For those of you with an interest in battered confectionery, Irn Bru and the Krankies, a small heads up for a very good football documentary on BBC Scotland. Scotland’s Game is a three-part series exploring the history of fitba amongst our Caledonian cousins and part one focused heavily on Graeme Souness’ moustache and if that isn’t enough to watch, then I don’t know what is.

The bad: Talking of Scottish icons, Charlie Nicholas had a little moment which he shared with the nation, whether they wanted it or not, on Sky’s Soccer Saturday, his passionate moans of ecstasy filling the studio and leaving Jeff Stelling to utter “Charlie doing his best Meg Ryan impression”. Let’s just pray that he never has to use the words “Phil Thompson doing his best Sharon Stone impression”.

The ugly: Saturday morning and there was nothing on UTV. No, I literally mean nothing as possibly one of the most hair-brained initiatives ever, entitled ‘I am Team GB’, filled the airwaves with nothing so that we could all go out and do some exercise. Bizarrely, 60,000 people decided to stay in and watch a blank screen, which augurs well for Tokyo 2020.

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