TOP 10 DRIV­ERS

2

Motor Sport News - - Review: Wrc - BY COLIN CLARK

KRIS MEEKE

Car: Citroen DS 3 WRC Team: Abu Dhabi To­tal WRT Wins: 2 Podi­ums: 2 Cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 9th If all that Meeke had achieved this year was that stunning per­for­mance on Oun­in­po­hja then he’d still have made it to num­ber two. That sub­lime effort was be­fit­ting of man and ma­chine in per­fect har­mony on one of the most balls-out, de­mand­ing stages in the cham­pi­onship. It will go down in WRC legend. Lat­vala was de­stroyed and Meeke, af­ter far too many years of be­ing a pre­tender, an­nounced him­self as a proper chal­lenger for WRC glory.

Plenty will say that Nico Ros­berg got a bit lucky this year, thanks to a bet­ter re­li­a­bil­ity record than Lewis Hamil­ton. Crit­ics will also de­cry his some­what ‘an­droid’ man­ner and squeaky-clean ‘Euro-clone’ im­age. Let them, for in tak­ing on Lewis Hamil­ton in the man­ner he has these past four sea­sons, as one half of an im­mensely strong Mercedes pair, Nico has shown him­self to be a driver of great speed and courage. But, per­haps more im­por­tantly, also one of heroic de­ter­mi­na­tion.

A lesser man would have buck­led un­der the weight of Hamil­ton’s bril­liance and ac­cepted a num­ber-two mind­set. Not this guy, not Nico – son of Keke – Ros­berg, with sisu in his veins – that defin­ing Fin­nish qual­ity trans­lated var­i­ously as ‘sto­icism’, ‘guts’, ‘brav­ery’ or sim­ply ‘re­silience’.

Lewis is cer­tainly the more gifted driver, un­ques­tion­ably one of the most tal­ented, ever. All the more credit, then, to Ros­berg for tak­ing Hamil­ton on – and beat­ing him – in the same car.

To fin­ish the sea­son as ‘best of the rest’ is a mas­sive achieve­ment for this team of old-skool-meets-nu-skool bat­tlers.‘old-skool’ be­cause the way Force In­dia go about their rac­ing harks back to a sim­pler time: un­clut­tered, un­fussy, fo­cused closely on the mat­ter in hand with­out any ex­cess mar­ket­ing bag­gage.

‘Nu-skool’, be­cause Force In­dia are quiet in­no­va­tors within their well-es­tab­lished mould.there’s no ded­i­cated man­u­fac­turer part­ner, such as Honda at Mclaren, but in­stead SFI have bought in the best of what man­u­fac­tur­ers have to of­fer: an en­gine from Mercedes, wind-tun­nel time from Toy­ota.

Lean oper­a­tions at their Dad­ford Road, Sil­ver­stone fac­tory (the ex-jor­dan base), racy choices on driver pair­ings, and a ‘per­for­mance-first’ mind­set all re­sult from the dis­tinct lead­er­ship style laid down by deputy team prin­ci­pal Bob Fern­ley and oper­a­tions boss Ot­mar Szaf­nauer. Bob han­dles the pol­i­tics, Ot­mar runs the race team, which leaves a tal­ented en­gi­neer­ing staff led by Andy Green to get on with what they do best: make a bloody fast race car.

Anthony Rowl­in­son

You know it’s a ‘big one’ when the press room goes silent. Lap 17 of the Mel­bourne sea­son-opener and Fer­nando Alonso, in P13 af­ter his first tyre stop, is clos­ing down the Haas of Esteban Gu­tier­rez on the curved ap­proach to Turn 3, at more than 200mph.

Both cars are arc­ing gen­tly to­ward the brak­ing zone but, just as Alonso is jink­ing out to pass, Gu­tier­rez drifts fur­ther to the left than Alonso had reck­oned for. Con­tact be­tween Haas left-rear and Mclaren right-front, then in­stant chaos.

Alonso pin­balls into the cir­cuit wall on the left, speed un­abated. It’s a hefty ini­tial im­pact that trashes the left­hand side of the car.then things get worse.with the MP4-31 lit­tle more than a sled, it skids broad­side to­wards the gravel trap, flip­ping the chas­sis up and over. It bar­rel-rolls mid-air, flies, then pirou­ettes, be­fore land­ing on the gear­box and slam­ming down into the bar­ri­ers.

It is a mon­strous shunt, but – al­most unimag­in­ably – Alonso wrig­gles out from be­neath the crum­pled, smok­ing heap that used to be a rac­ing car and gets his breath back. Rib and lung in­juries keeps him out of the fol­low­ing Bahrain GP, but he knows – we know – he is in­cred­i­bly lucky to be alive.

When Fer­nando Alonso clipped Esteban Gu­tier­rez’s Haas and went flying through the air at the sea­son-open­ing Aus­tralian GP, he was ex­tremely lucky to sur­vive, but he suf­fered bro­ken ribs and a mi­nor col­lapse in his lung. One man’s bad fortune was an­other’s op­por­tu­nity, as reign­ing GP2 Se­ries cham­pion and Mclaren re­serve driver Stof­fel

YEARS

2007, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016 2007, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2016 2008, 2014, 2015, 2016 2008, 2011, 2014, 2015 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 2011, 2014, 2016 2012, 2014, 2015 2014, 2015 2014, 2015 2014, 2016 2008, 2015 2008, 2016 2008, 2016 2009, 2014 2010, 2015 2007 2007 2010 2011 2014 2014 2016 2016 2016

DE­CEM­BER 14/21 2016

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