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The man with the golden helmet

india Updated: Sep 01, 2011 01:46 IST
Karun Chandhok
Karun Chandhok
Hindustan Times
formula 1

For my first column with the Hindustan Times today, I thought I would take a quick look back at the race weekend in Spa just gone and a couple of stories from there. The two big stories from the weekend were (a) the weather and (b) Michael Schumacher's 20th anniversary in Formula 1.

Spa is hidden deep in the Ardennes forest, just further along the hill range from the Nurburgring. It's amazing how these two circuits, which are possibly the two greatest in the history of Formula 1 are just an hour away from each other ! Spa seems to have its own micro-climate which is the most unpredictable on the planet I think.

I remember doing a F3 race here in 2003 where it was like a monsoon at the top of the hill for half a lap and then bone dry near the start line. The teams couldn't figure out why all the drivers were asking for wet tyres because the sun was shining so brightly where they were standing ! Come to think of it, apart from 2007 when I won my first GP2 race there, I have never done a fully dry weekend at Spa.

This weekend as well, up until the race the weather was very changeable and it really made life very stressful for the drivers and engineers to decide whether to put a dry set up on the car for the race or a compromised one for rain.

In the end, with Sunday being dry, it meant that everyone went into the unknown a little bit as it was the first time at Spa with the new tyre supplier and the DRS but what resulted was a fascinating Grand Prix!

Some of the overtaking moves that Webber and Alonso in particular pulled off were very brave and very impressive to watch.

Vintage Schumi
Michael's 20th anniversary was a big occasion for the F1 paddock folk as it's the first time that anyone has ever completed two decades of competing at the top level of the sport. I remember reading about his debut in Autosport magazine back in 1991 for Jordan (about 4 weeks late with the speed of post back then), and how the world was raving about this new “wunderkid”.

As the most successful driver in the history of the sport, it was nice to see him re-discover some form this weekend. Michael had a great race from the back of the grid to finish 5th and ahead of his team-mate Nico Rosberg at a track he calls his backyard in the way that Boris Becker used to talk about Wimbledon.

Mercedes GP had a party on Saturday night inviting all of us from the paddock to celebrate Michael's achievement.

A huge number of people turned up and the man himself got some very special gifts including a signed engine cover from Ferrari in honour of his 5 World Championships he won with them, an F1 car clutch from Eddie Jordan (Schumacher retired from that debut race with Jordan due to clutch failure), a special 21 carat gold plated helmet from his helmet supplier Schuberth which he wore this weekend and a special new cycle from Tour de France legend Eddy Merckx. Quite a good haul for a dinner party!