It's not just engines that can overheat

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 October, 2011, 12:00am


As far as Formula One punch-ups go, it was a bit of a tame affair. The confrontation between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa in Singapore might not have threatened serious violence or injury to either party, but there was no doubting the anger of Massa, the astonishment of Hamilton, or the amusement of the rest of us with a ringside seat.

That was mainly due to the fact that Massa couldn't wait to have a word in the pits or motorhome. He marched straight to the pen where drivers give interviews and grabbed the McLaren driver by the shoulder in front of a dozen cameras. A sarcastic thumbs up and a 'well done' and he was off to fume somewhere else.

The reason for the anger was the crash between the two during the race when Hamilton clipped Massa's Ferrari from behind, giving the former a drive-through penalty and the latter a puncture. Massa was telling anyone who would listen afterwards that his rival 'cannot use his mind'.

His brusque analysis was partly due to the near miss in qualifying that had already raised the temperature. Hamilton's siege mentality after a series of incidents wouldn't have been eased by his father's comments that his new management team should do more to help the driver. Neither would the revelation that Massa's race engineer Rob Smedley encouraged Massa to 'destroy his [Hamilton's] race as much as we can.'

It was the third drive-though penalty of an error-strewn season for Hamilton and he's not exactly winning friends and influencing people on his way. Still, Formula One does not have a history of harmony, and fisticuffs were common in the days before the smooth corporate image was paramount.

Remember a young Michael Schumacher marching down the pits to grab David Coulthard after the two had crashed in Spa? James Hunt was always good for a punch-up. In 1977, he felled a marshal who tried to stop him heading towards Jochen Mass after a crash. Nelson Piquet had a right old pop at Eliseo Salazar when the backmarker took him out in a race in 1982. Given that Salazar still had his helmet on, there didn't seem to be much point.

If watching that on YouTube makes you laugh, you might also smile at Sebastian Vettel's assertion that he's not taking the 2011 driver's title for granted. I hate to tempt fate, but I'd like to congratulate Seb for clinching the title at Suzuka this weekend. He needs one point. Jenson Button needs to win every race from here on in, without the German gaining any points, to snatch glory. That isn't going to happen.

Vettel will become the youngest driver to secure back-to-back titles and in the next few days the media will be awash with tributes. He certainly has grown in stature as the season has progressed. It has helped that the car is the best by some distance. If you are on pole position, as Vettel invariably is, it certainly makes life easier, but when overtaking is required he has shown he can do it as well as anyone else.

Last season's title was a close, tight and tense affair. This has been anything but, and in large part that is because 2010 gave Vettel such confidence and inner belief. The team look as focused as ever and you have to wonder if Vettel and Red Bull are going to have the same run of dominance as Schumacher and Ferrari. Given the circumstances, you have to credit Button. He knows that he has no chance of becoming world champion in 2011, but he says he wants to beat Vettel from here to the end of the season. You imagine his glass is always half full. Given his positivity, it is perhaps no wonder he has outperformed teammate Hamilton recently. It's also no wonder he's being hotly tipped for a seat at Ferrari in the future.