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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wow. I’ve seen some bad crashes as races, including the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix where most of the field was decimated on the downhill toward Eau Rouge. But I have NEVER seen something as ridiculous as what happened at the 2019 NASCAR Daytona 500. Straight up amateur hour at best, with MULTIPLE pile ups caused by one “I-only-know-how-to-turn-left” jackass after another. I have no sympathy for this racing series, the fans (seriously… why don’t you follow Indy Car or Formula E instead??!) and the drivers. Is it any surprise that NASCAR’s popularity has plummeted?