MAR 30th 2015

Henry Hope‑Frost Goes Potty For Vettel and Rossi

Oh, the agony of choice. Which weekend victory virtues to extol the most: one of the biggest feel-good Ferrari grand prix wins for a very long time or a stunning season-opening MotoGP race with as popular a winner as you could hope to find?

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Having failed to decide if Sebastian Vettel’s maiden Ferrari win in Malaysia in just his second start with the Scuderia or Valentino Rossi’s Qatar GP victory for Yamaha did the most damage to the Feverometer, I’ll have to eulogise about both motorsport mega-moments.

After the predictable disappearing-up-the-road act by Mercedes in the Australian GP a fortnight ago and the post-race moaning from some of the folk who got beaten, F1 laid on a stunner in the Malaysian heat. And just when it needed to. Funny how motorsport’s Premiership routinely exasperates and excites from one day to the next.

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Vettel’s trouncing of the Mercs in the Sepang heat was as welcome as it was unexpected. The German quadruple champion is back to his best after a year of dropped-shoulder demotivation at Red Bull. With the Ferrari SF15-T, he’s rediscovered the sort of mojo that helped him to 38 wins and four titles for the Milton Keynes squad. That trademark pace and tyre-saving style punished the slightly-out-of-kilter Silver Arrows yesterday and it was great to see. And isn’t it ironic that after causing all that bother about helmet designs, he’s now got the best of the lot?

‘Valentino Rossi’s last-gasp win on the factory Yamaha YZR-M1, ranks as one of the best wins for the nine-time world champion’

The sight of a German ace taking victory for the reds sparked a fair amount of nostalgia, too. The 2006 Chinese GP, scene of Michael Schumacher’s final win for Maranello, seems a long time ago. And now, Vettel’s added his name to an elite band of former champions to win for F1’s most famous team. Only Giuseppe Farina, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost, Schumacher and Fernando Alonso had previously managed it.

Talking of stuff to get the statisticians salivating, let’s get on to that two-wheeled belter from a floodlight Qatar.

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Valentino Rossi’s last-gasp win on the factory Yamaha YZR-M1, by 0.174s from fellow Italian Andrea Dovizioso’s resurgent, pole-sitting Ducati, ranks as one of the best wins for the nine-time world champion (yes, that’s one in 125cc, one in 250cc, one in 500cc and six in MotoGP). The 35-year-old Italian veteran, now in his 20th grand prix season, can still pin the throttle and hang off a 150kg, 240bhp, 210mph MotoGP missile as well as anyone and showed his younger rivals how to do it in the desert.

Watching victory celebrations from Vettel and Rossi, as they grinned, hugged and high-fived their way around their respective teams in parc fermé and graciously articulated their pleasure over a great day’s work in post-race interviews showed them up as superb sporting ambassadors, role models and, crucially, good blokes.

Time to rebuild the smouldering Feverometer in time for whatever wheeled wonders unfold next…

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