Pit Stop

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2008, 12:00am

Bernie Ecclestone must be spitting tacks. Apparently billions of people around the world are watching a huge sporting event in China and it's not the Shanghai Grand Prix. The Olympics is one of the few sporting events to put Formula One in the shade, but even then it casts its influence on Olympians in the most unexpected places.

The sailing in Hong Kong is one of them. The Brit Ben Ainslie has just bagged gold in the Finn class, his third in three games. If you want to glean an insight into what makes him so formidable, an interview in a British newspaper provided a surprise for petrol heads.

'I took a lot from F1, the days of Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Nigel Mansell and their intense public battles. The mental toughness of those guys, especially Schumacher, was amazing.'

It's not unusual for sportsmen in different disciplines to learn from each other, but you would have thought that sailing, at it's snails pace relative to F1, would be too different. Not so apparently. 'Jacques Villeneuve said that the biggest thing about fitness was his ability still to be able to think under pressure of heat and cornering, whatever'. Ainslie maintains 'it's the same with sailing. Sailing is an incredibly complex sport, with so many things going on at once; you're constantly analysing the speed of your boat, the conditions and your competitors'.

Of course, many F1 drivers like the life of yachting, although they prefer larger and more luxurious models, preferably moored in Monaco. Their skills don't necessarily transfer the other way - witness Lewis Hamilton's crash while racing on the high seas before the British GP.

I don't know if Timo Glock is a sailor, but the wind is certainly in his sails at the moment. The German celebrated a second place for his Toyota team in Hungary and will be hoping his luck this season has changed for good.

You may remember that before then, Glock had hit the headlines for the wrong reasons, emerging unscathed despite being stretchered away from a big smash in Hockenheim. For most of the season, last year's GP2 champion had been distinctly average. Only fourth in Canada gave a hint of what might come.

He said two things have helped propel him to the sharp end of the grid. Firstly he acknowledged that he had to improve his starts. A poor get away from the grid can ruin not only your placing, but put your pit-stop strategy in trouble. Secondly, the problems with understeer on the car were fixed by his Toyota team.

There are other factors, of course. The improvement by Toyota has been marked this season, and after years of underperforming, they look to be headed in the right direction. Glock's tenacity also helps. This is a man who has been given a second chance in F1, and he's anxious to grab it. Initially he managed only a handful of races for Jordan back in 2004. He then raced Stateside before heading back for the GP2 series. Becoming the champion the year after Lewis Hamilton secured him his second chance. His luck has also changed recently, despite getting food poisoning shortly after his crash.

A lot of sportsmen believe you make your own luck, and Glock certainly helped his cause with a fifth place on the grid in Istanbul. When Massa's engine blew three laps to go, Glock was more than happy to take advantage of the Brazilian's bad luck and hold off Raikkonen for second.

He'll be hoping to carry on his good form and good luck in Valencia this weekend. It's a new street circuit and preparation to say the least is limited. 'I've studied a computer game', Glock said, as well as watching footage of a recent Formula Three meeting.

Those races saw a lot of GP2 drivers trying to get a seat for a bit of experience. For F1 drivers, practice sessions will be crucial, and learning quickly will be the name of the game. As a proper street track, there are no run-off areas and Force India have already started planning to take advantage of safety car periods that they feel are inevitable.

Glock will be hoping to get another good qualifying session in, and with luck on his side another podium isn't out of the question. In the meantime he's been enjoying the Olympics. 'Cycling is definitely one thing I will follow closely,' he said. Another sport where being top of the podium is everything, medal or not.


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