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GP Week : Issue 76
GPWEEK OPINION >> just not cricket old chap The excitement comes in short burst. And often quite unexpectedly. It's not exactly like cricket, since the average MotoGP race lasts somewhere more than 40 minutes rather than days on end. But there are still a couple of parallels. F1 has already demonstrated a massive come-down after the first race of the year was a soporific procession. The sour taste lingered even after the second was a humdinger. Largely down to bad weather conditions, perhaps -- but still a relative thriller. MotoGP fans need not feel complacent, however. Last year's opening round at Qatar was somewhat follow-my-leader ... the leader in this case being Casey Stoner, from pole position to the chequered flag. There was a little shuffling behind, but once Rossi had got into second by lap three, and Lorenzo to third by lap eight, still with another 14 to go, that was pretty much the end of that. Sure there was tension, but nothing in the way of hand-to- hand combat, and the rostrum was composed of the top three qualifiers, in the correct order. This was a poor indicator of the season to come, but a good demonstration of why it is wrong to expect too much from the beginning of the season. Because when it doesn't happen, the let- down is all the more acute. This is especially likely in Qatar, where everything is peculiar -- from the overhead lights to the sudden chill of the midnight hour; on a little-used circuit that is simultaneously abrasive but also rather slippery. I'm not saying it won't be a good race, and of course I hope it willI am saying that if it turns out not to be, don't worry too much. Sometimes good things are better if you have to wait for them. Had Michael never become a legend, I wonder if we'd have ever met Sebastian? The attendance in Sepang was greater than in previous years -- perhaps due to Lotus and their efforts to generate a national following in Malaysia. Tony Fernandes spoke to GPWEEK of his desire to make heroes in the region (see 5 Minutes With...) and he's embarking on a long-term search for a Malaysian world champion. He says he's not just going to stick a Malaysian driver in an F1 seat next year (which Fairuz Fauzy will be saddened to hear); his search could take a decade. Generally, attendance in these new venues is low, and that's because the sport has little relevance to people in Malaysia, Bahrain, China, Abu Dhabi and Turkey (and I can't see South Korea being any different) without a driver or a team they can root for. If they had a guy winning races, Tony reckons they'd all tune in. Billions of them. Bernie hopes Karun Chandhok is some kind of Chennai-born Trojan horse, but getting an HRT to the grid is hard enough. Winning isn't in Karun's future, at least in the short term. "I still think Formula One is predominantly a European sport and I always tease Bernie and I say 'when you have a night race in Silverstone or a morning race in Silverstone because of the Asian audience then you know you have a global sport'," says Fernandes, adding: "Asia needs to create its own heroes -- we can't keep supporting Manchester United and Ferrari." At the height of Schumacher's career, Germany needed two grands prix just to meet the demand. The same then happened in Spain with Fernando Alonso. For many years we had two rounds in Italy, to service the Tifosi. There are enough venues now in the East to cater for that level of mania -- they just need the star. rkets need stars in their eyes Schumacher -- paved the way for a generation of young German F1 drivers 23