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.

A Review – Formula 1: Drive to Survive (Without Ferrari or Mercedes) on Netflix

  • Ferrari and Mercedes did a huge dis-service to the sport by not actively participating – perhaps they think they’re “too good” to take part. Who the hell knows. Sure, they are constantly battling for the driver’s and constructor’s titles and that probably keeps them a little busy. BUT, they have plenty of time to produce and post a bunch of videos on YouTube. So much of the 2018 season is overlooked due to this lack of participation. We merely get flashes of those teams during the documentary, which is awkward or done during press conferences. Bleh.
  • I’ve been following F1 for the past few years and it definitely feels like we’re in the golden age of media coverage. Liberty green-lit all Formula 1 access to go digital and, thankfully we have now come out of the old “get off my lawn” mentality of the archaic legacy Formula 1 ownership. For those who’ve been following F1 a tad longer than I have, here’s a little nugget from 1980 – coverage of the Monaco Grand Prix on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. (that’s right… ONE measly race covered in America… how did you live???!!!)
  • The series is best summarized by Ricciardo in the premiere episode – “My name is Daniel Ricciardo and I’m a car mechanic.” Light-hearted (?), without much meaning and distracted.
  • I am still wondering why Grosjean still has an F1 seat. He doesn’t bring dollars to Haas with any major personal sponsors. And his race performance has been lackluster. Perhaps he knows where all the bodies are buried.
  • Want to see more drama / behind-the-scenes storylines around:
    • Red Bull’s displeasure with Renault engines (or vice versa?)
    • Verstappen vs. Ocon

What are YOUR thoughts? Share your comments below.

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.

So THIS is Racing in America?

Might as well call this the Daytona Demolition 500

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?

What If Honda…

The boys at Motorsport.com + Giorgio Piola have yet again done a fine job dissecting a new F1 car launch. Namely, the new Red Bull Racing RB15. From what has been reported, Max Verstappen came away smiling about the new car. Really? Are my greatest fears coming true? That Honda has finally managed to create an iteration of the hybrid that can perform competitively with the likes to Mercedes and Ferrari (and Renault, to a certain extent)? McLaren will be pounding the ground in disgust and anger if this is the case in 2019.

A Stable Of…? What’s To Come at Scuderia Ferrari in 2019

Does the Scuderia Need Stability or a Driver Who Can Come From Behind?

It’s easy to blame the car. It’s easy to blame the wrong strategy. It’s easy to blame something other than the driver. In the case of Scuderi Ferrari, however, it’s the driver. Namely, Sebastian Vettel. While he is a 4 -time FIA F1 driver’s champion, when was the last time you remember him actually making a clean, strategic pass on someone for position? For the race win? Sure, he’s terrific when out front, but he’s a dog when behind. Just look at what happened during the 2018 season. And look at the shenanigans he’s pulled in the past.

While I am not as enthusiastic about the 2019 season – more so because my favorite driver is not on the grid and kicking ass elsewhere – I sincerely hope Charles LeClerc comes in and proves once and for all that Vettel is #OVERRATED.

Bon chance!