Red Bull: What to Do, What to Do…?

As Honda is set to leave Formula 1 after the 2021 season after mixed results this time around (3rd time in F1, if memory serves me correctly), Red Bull is now left holding its nuts in its hands with no readily apparent place to go. Would Mercedes provide engines to RBR? Nope. Would Ferrari? Maybe, but would Red Bull want them from Maranello considering how dismal engine performance has been in 2020? That leaves Renault. Remember their acrimonious parting a few years ago? (documented oh so in dramatic fashion by Netflix) The French manufacturer is probably Red Bull’s best (only) bet at this point. Sounds like Christian is gonna have to bend over and take one for the team!

The OG – Willy T. Ribbs

It’s really easy to assume that Lewis Hamilton is the first black professional racing driver because, well, there hasn’t been enough – perhaps close to zero? – exposure provided to these unsung heroes. It’s also easy to assume that Lewis is the first black driver to RACE in Formula 1 because, well, that is true. But he isn’t the first to actually sit in an F1 car and drive it. It’s also easy to applaud Lewis for this speech at the recent Laureus Awards because what he had to say about diversity in the sport made so much sense. So much sense, indeed.

Really, though, he – and we, motorsports fans – have to thank Willy T. Ribbs for paving the way decades ago for drivers of color to even THINK about entering motorsports. From the Miller Brewing pulling its sponsorship of a NASCAR team because he was hired on as its driver – RACIST MUCH, Miller Brewing? To Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham squad ultimately giving a seat to an Italian driver instead because Parmalat wanted an Italian behind the wheel.

And it’s easy to get excited about season 2 of Drive to Survive. But before you deep dive into that documentary about the 2019 Formula 1 season, I highly recommend watching Uppity: The Willy T. Ribbs Story. Hear and feel all the crap he had to go through, from being called the N word a countless number of times, being discriminated, marked, boo’d and more throughout his career.

The OG. Let’s praise the OG.

Fernando Alonso to Contest the 2020 Indy 500 with McLaren

Yes, it’s happening! Despite earlier stirrings, Fernando Alonso – who one of this author’s most favored Formula 1 drivers, past and present – will be contesting the Indy 500 with McLaren after all. Due to his remarks about the Honda-supplied powerplant during his last years at the Woking outfit, it was rumored he would not contest the May motorsport spectacle with McLaren. Surprise, surprise. It will be great to see the Spaniard contest the 500 once again. If he wins, he would be come only the second driver in history to win the Monaco GP, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indy 500. One can only hope!

2019 LA Auto Show: Part I

Despite the rather chilly and rainy weather in downtown LA (yes, it actually RAINED in Southern California), hordes of automotive industry professionals and media heads – although I can’t understand how much of a “media” person anyone can be shooting photos with an iPhone – gathered at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the latest edition of the LA Auto Show. Phew. What a mouthful.

There were a handful of new vehicle debuts to speak about, although few are going to raise anyone’s heart rate.

At the Ford Motor Co. booth: So what did Detroit unleash upon us? Their own version the Pontiac Aztec, it seems. While it’s 100% electric, it’s also 100% ugly. Nothing wrong with going all in on electric but the Mustang Mach-E looks nothing like its petrol-drinking brethren. I would be embarrassed to drive this thing around town. Wow. Speechless.

Meanwhile, at Porsche: The Taycan was the rage. Couldn’t get a clean photo because attendees were too busy leaving the fingerprints all over the car, inside and out. Regardless, I am really excited for this all electric car as it will give Tesla a serious run for its money. And frankly, Tesla’s brand cache will take a serious hit once the Taycan hits the road.

Yes, electric Porsches are cool but I was more titillated by their gas guzzling counterparts. Namely, the new 911 Carrera 4S on display (drool) and the IMSA GTLM winning 911 RSR. Oh my…

Nothing to see at Nissan: Perhaps it’s reflective of their horrible sales numbers… There was nothing to see at Nissan, except a “50th anniversary” edition of the GT-R. And a customized Nissan truck. Neither really excited anyone, AFAIK, but here are some photos for shits & giggles.

Still working on other photos. Coverage will continue tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Ron Dennis: Comprehensive Interview

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how important tobacco money has been to F1 and the lack of it is making the pinnacle of motorsport a bit laughable at times.

Well, I happened upon this comprehensive interview with Ron Dennis, the man who made what McLaren was – until the consortium led by Mansur Ojjeh booted him. It’s a thoroughly pleasurable viewing experience, going way back to the days of the Brabham team, and onto the days of Senna, Mikka and more. It’s also very interesting that Phillip Morris was the primary source of funding to grow the team into what it ultimately became – multiple constructor and driver champion.

Huge props to the American Academy of Achievement for the interview that we share above. Also check out their YouTube channel for more scintillating interviews with other overachievers.

Tobacco Advertising in Formula 1

Fernando Alonso in the Renault R25
Ayrton Senna in the Williams FW16
Ayrton Senna in the McLaren MP4/4
Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari F2002
David Courthard in the McLaren MP4/14
Ayrton Senna in the Lotus Honda 99T

Just take a look at those gorgeous F1 cars from years past. My first memories of Formula 1 go back to 1988 in the old turbocharged era, when those 1.5L V6 engines were producing an excess of 1,000 horsepower. Oh yeah… cast iron blocks, 9:1 compression ratio and so on. Sorry, I went off on a tangent there.

So what do you see when looking at all the racecars above? Sure, lots of Senna but what else? Simply, there were all sponsored by a tobacco company. Marlboro, West, Mild Seven, Camel, Rothmans and many more. And it’s in this commercial era where we’ve had some of the best racing in memory and the most radical rate of development and innovation.

Based on “health & safety” concerns, tobacco advertising was banned from Formula 1 in 2006, effective with the start of the 2007 season. it effectively halted the biggest stream of sponsorship dollars to the sport and left teams scrambling to find new title (or otherwise) sponsors.

Last year, Ferrari tried to get around this advertising ban by integrating Phillip Morris’ Mission Winnow “initiative.” Even after going through their website, I still have no effin’ clue what it is that they do. Interestingly enough, PM has never stopped being a Ferrari sponsor. They just couldn’t use any of the livery space on the car. The Australians apparently weren’t very happy about this ploy, as Ferrari has been forced to remove Mission Winnow branding from the car for the upcoming Australian GP.

Wait…! What about the other “sin product” that’s been given free reign over the years to advertise as much as they want? Johnnie Walker, Martini, Heineken, Molson, Foster’s, Labatt’s, Chandon, Singha, Kingfisher. What’s taking so damn long for the same talking heads to address banning or limiting advertising by alcohol producers? Hell, Heineken is the title sponsor for the Chinese and Italian Grands Prix in 2019. And Johnnie Walker is the title sponsor for the Belgian Grand Prix. How the hell does this make sense?

But it’s not just tobacco and alcohol companies that are “killing people.” Let’s take a look at the general records of current Formula 1 sponsors:

And this isn’t even the whole list! What about all those tech companies, such as Lenovo and HP, making their computers through vendors like Foxxconn… who pay their employees the equivalent of $200 US per month… indentured servitude. Suicides. These don’t count, right?

You may counter that the companies above aren’t directly killing people like cigarettes. That it’s false equivalency. On the contrary, all of these companies are doing real damage to the global society at large, directly or indirectly. Why should they be given a pass when it comes to advertising in F1? How is it okay to spill hundreds of millions of crude oil into the ocean which starts an extremely dangerous chain reaction from contaminating sea life (and birds too!), destroying ecosystems, YOU eating that contaminated seafood and eventually getting cancer.

I am NOT a fan of smoking in any shape or form. I find it disgusting. I WAS a smoker for 10 years but I quit cold turkey almost 9 years ago. It stinks and makes me sick. But it’s completely wrong for the “elites” at the WHO to determine that tobacco advertisers can’t advertise in F1, yet plenty of other industrial and consumer brands, that kill just as effectively, can go wherever and do whatever they want. It’s a farce.

Polska! Robert Kubica Reppin Hard in F1

If this happened in the age of Hunt & Lauda, he’d be DEAD

Long time fans of F1 will remember the absolutely horrific crash in 2007 at the Canadian Grand Prix. Kubica bounced around the circuit pretty much like a pinball, his BMW Sauber disintegrating before our eyes. Amazingly enough, he walked away relatively unscathed by the whole thing. Guess he couldn’t be bothered by it. Hell, he came back to the same circuit a year later and won the race.

Luck (or lack thereof) bit Kubica hard the next time around, doing some serious damage this time around

Then in February 2011, Kubica suffered a huge accident at a rally event in Italy. It did some serious damage to his right arm and no one thought at that point if he would ever race – let alone drive – ever again.

But this guy is about as indestructible as any superhero, as he is set to start a Formula 1 race yet again in the seat of a Williams. And while doing 70% of the driving with his left hand.

If THAT isn’t repping yourself and your countrymen hard, then I have no clue what it’d be. Mistrz Kubica is.