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Jun 042010
 


I really liked Sebastian Vettel. When he first burst onto the scene, everyone said he had the talent to become world champion. He was a young guy with big dreams and a personality that was animated and fun. He always had a smile in front of the cameras and was a welcome departure from robots like Kimi Raikkonen. I was cheering him on when he took his first victory as a driver at Monza in rain soaked conditions.

Fast forward to 2010. At the Turkish Grand Prix, Vettel veers right into the path of his team mate, Mark Webber, causing a crash that takes out both cars. Webber was able to continue and get a podium but he was all but assured 1st place up to this point. After he gets out of his race car, Vettel makes the above gesture as he makes his way pack to the paddock. Replay after replay shows that there was no steering movement in Webber’s cockpit. Vettel says he was ahead but he clearly wasn’t. However you put it, it was Vettel’s mistake.

Red Bull Racing declares that it was Webber’s mistake. The team management hug and pat Vettel on the back – even though Seb caused the crash. What is this? Kindergarten? Others within the team declare Webber should have let Vettel pass him – where they got this idea is unknown, but when do you just let someone past because he wants to? This is racing. That doesn’t happen. Then based on the backlash by the F1 fanbase force their hand, with team principal declaring it a “racing incident” and even force the two to take what I deem as an incredibly uncomfortable photo, for they have “buried the hatchet.”

What hatchet? It’s clear Vettel screwed up due to his inflated ego (no doubt inflated further by the team) and / or a stupid rookie mistake… except Vettel is no rookie. He’s a third year professional in an organization at the highest form of motorsport and they currently have the fastest car. It’s also clear that Mark Webber is getting a bum deal. He’s been driving at his peak, taking home the victory at Spain and Monaco. Is this how you treat a driver who’s delivering the goods?

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Dec 132009
 

Michael Schumacher1

Dear Michael,

You will always be a legend and probably one of the best we have ever seen in motorsports (although we contend that Ayrton Senna was THE best). With that being said, staging a comeback at this point in your life seems trivial at best and we don’t feel it’s the best move for Formula 1. 2009 was a pretty crazy year, with teams dropping out at the end of it all, Renault “convicted” of shady practices and several drivers really putting the best foot forward. All this makes us want to forget this past season and really look forward to 2010, when we can start fresh. What’s there to look forward to?

  • Jenson vs. Lewis
  • Fernando at Ferrari (and probably a Fred vs. Massa battle)
  • All the new F1 teams – Campos, Virgin, Lotus, USF1
  • No refueling

Does F1 really need the distraction that is Michael Schumacher? Wouldn’t the empty seat at Mercedes, formerly Brawn, be better served by a younger driver who has the talent but may not have had an adequate car to shine? Coming back to try to win again seems very much like teams who never had real passion for racing but doing it for the sake of doing and creating a storyline with which to sell cars. I’m sure your wife and kids would appreciate you staying retired as well.

Although Bernie would probably love to see you come back to sell tickets, that’s not in the spirit of racing, is it? Please give us an opportunity to remember you as the 7-time World Champion with countless records under your belt, not as a Mickey Rourke-like wrestler pining for a last bit of glory.

Your Sincerely,
RevdCars.net

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Nov 072009
 

“Some car companies sell cars so they can go racing, while others go racing so they can sell cars.”

Not too far in the distant past, I picked up on this rather relevant comment about car companies and motorsports. It’s all the more I bring this up now, as Panasonic Toyota F1 announced yesterday that they are withdrawing from Formula 1 with immediate effect. 500+ employees at the team factory in Cologne are going to be out of a job unless they find work elsewhere in racing. The team’s suppliers are losing out on revenue as there’s one less customer to sell to. And their 2009 drivers, Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock and Kamui Kobayash, will have to look elsewhere for a drive in 2010. But I digress. This isn’t about people losing their jobs. This is about how one car company perceives racing versus another.

The oldest team in Formula 1, Ferrari, has been there from the very beginning. You could even argue that even though the first F1 race was held in the UK, the spirit of it all really started at Maranello. Ferrari has always been about racing. And Enzo sold cars so that he could go racing. And racing helped create probably the most desired car brand in the world today, but racing was always at the center of it all. A successful car building operation was merely the instrument through which the expense of racing could be paid for.

You have the billionaires, wanna-be billionaires (the Grand Prix Autopolis immediately comes to mind) and / or racing fanatics who want to feed their ego and / or fulfill a lifelong dream of owning an F1 team. Eurobrun, Leyton House, March, Larousse, Tyrrell, Brabham, Spyker, Minardi and many others have come and gone. A few had some success. A few were dedicated and helped bring many good drivers into the sport (Minardi, for example, provided maiden drives to Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber) Others were permanent backmarkers who couldn’t buy a ticket out of pre-qualifying.

Then you have the behemoth car builders with billions to spend and figure Formula 1 would be a wise investment in building their brand on a global scale. Ford came and went with success (HB engines that powered one Michael Schumacher to a driver’s title in the Benetton); Jaguar was a leftover from the Ford days; Lamborghini powered the Larousse for a while, but they were backmarkers; Yamaha powered the Brabham, but yet again another backmarker; and so on.

Honda was a raving success entering the sport in the 60s, then with Piquet at the wheels of the Lotus-Honda, then with Senna & Prost at the wheels of the McLaren-Honda. Then they left the sport with multiple driver’s and constructor’s titles in their hands. Credit Soichiro Honda-san for that one. He was a racing fanatic. And their F1 efforts gave birth to VTEC, which everyone in their 20s and 30s knows about. Honda back then went racing because it wanted to, not because they wanted to sell cars.

Honda returned to F1 with BAT, which then became BAR Honda, then became Honda F1. This wasn’t the Honda we knew. This was a Honda focused on increasing market share. This was a Honda that went racing to sell cars. Honda-san must have turned in his grave.

Which brings us to Toyota. A company that became the #1 car brand in America, as US made brands quickly lost their luster. They were selling cars like there was no tomorrow. They had money to burn. So they entered Formula 1, spending what is reportely over $500 million on their F1 program. And they kept spending. But never won a race. Their driver choices were at times questionable. But they kept at it as long as the money was there. But when the recent global economic meltdown happened, they saw their compatriot Honda leave the sport because they couldn’t afford it anymore. So they questioned whether they should stay. And inevitably left the sport. Dwindling car sales couldn’t support the habit anymore.

This all begs a number of questions – did Toyota believe they could win races and championships by throwing money at it? Did they sell cars to go racing or was it the other way around? – I tend to believe it was the former. Was it just an ego play? No way to know for sure unless you’re deep within the industrial complex that is Toyota.

Whatever the reason may be, I’m still glad there are companies like Ferrari that stands by its tradition of racing to win. Otherwise, it just wouldn’t be worth watching anymore.

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May 012009
 

ayrton_senna_1991_united_states_gp2

1991. Phoenix, Arizona. The United States Grand Prix. It would be the first and last time I would personally see Ayrton Senna blaze by in the McLaren-Honda livery that started my fascination with Formula 1. Taking the pole and the win, it seemed business as usual for the Brazilian driver.

Exactly 15 years ago at the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, Senna would go straight on at Tamburello and eventually die from his injuries later that day. Racing fans around the world were shocked and mourned the loss of probably the greatest racing driver of all time. Three F1 driver’s titles, numerous records for poles, wins and fastest laps. Any car, any where… he made it go faster. His 2 second gap over Alain Prost during qualifying at the 1988 Monaco GP is just one example of the sheer speed and brilliance this man possessed.

We miss you, Aryton.

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Apr 152009
 
brawn_diffuser

Brawn GP's Controversial Rear Diffuser

Finally, the FIA has put the final rubber stamp of approval on the disputed “illegal” diffusers in use by Formula 1 teams Brawn, Williams and Toyota. The FIA’s International Court of Appeal rejected claims made by Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and Red Bull, stipulating that the diffusers being used by the aforementioned squads were in breach of the technical regulations for 2009. Furthermore, they backed the decisions of the FIA stewards at the recent races in Australia and Malaysia, where they deemed the diffusers in line with regulations as well.

It all boils down to Brawn, Williams and Toyota being smart and ahead of the curve, whereas the contesting teams were left holding the bag. Now, the “race” for the losers will boil down to retrofitting their existing chassis with look-alikes of these disputed diffusers. But considering how aerodynamics is such a black art, and with no testing allowed, how they will manage to make it work is a mystery. With this decision, it’s not a long shot for Brawn to potentially take the F1 Constructor’s title and perhaps Jenson Button taking the Driver’s title for 2009.

Here’s the statement from the FIA:

“The FIA International Court of Appeal has decided to deny the appeals submitted against decisions numbered 16 to 24 taken by the Panel of the Stewards on 26 March at the 2009 Grand Prix of Australia and counting towards the 2009 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Based on the arguments heard and evidence before it, the Court has concluded that the Stewards were correct to find that the cars in question comply with the applicable regulations.

Full reasons for this decision will be provided in due course.”

Now that this particular saga is over, LET’S GET BACK TO THE BUSINESS OF RACING!

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Apr 032009
 

18281

You may recognize the wrecked Porsche Carrera GT in the photo above. “Pops” Hamilton, father of 2008 Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, drove the German supercar into a fence wreaking heavy damage onto the BORROWED car. Well, like father, like son, good old Lewis drove his reputation into a fence last weekend at Australia.

After the mayhem and confusion that ensued after the finish, Jarno Trulli of Toyota was penalized 25 seconds for overtaking under yellow. FIA stewards investigated the case and bumped Hamilton up to 3rd as a result. The F1 circus packed up and left for this weekend’s race in Malaysia.

But something reared its ugly head…

Trulli’s 3rd place was reinstated and Hamilton was disqualified from the race. Apparently, Mr. Hamilton misled / lied to the stewards by withholding certain bits of information. And in his defense, he claims that he was told by McLaren’s Sporting Director, Dave Ryan, to lie to the stewards. Excusez-moi? Since when did F1 drivers do everything they are told to do by their teams?

It seems that Hamilton was caught with his hands in the cookie jar and he’s deflecting his responsibility on someone else. EVEN IF he was told to lie, how much integrity does this guy have by following what is outside the lines of sportsmanship? And now he’s snitching on Dave Ryan? Why in the world would he tell Hamilton to lie? Certainly, he would have no such authority unless someone higher up – Martin Whitmarsh? Maybe Ron Dennis himself? – told him it was okay. Regardless of whatever the scenario may have been, this seems like a case of Hamilton covering his own ass and trying to save his reputation. His reputation isn’t particularly a good one, as many have called him “arrogant”…  “self-centered”… well, you get the picture. And his behavior before and after the stewards’ investigation certainly seems in line with the aforementioned adjectives.

Man up, Lewis. You screwed up.

– – – – –

Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the author. They do not represent the attitudes and opinions of RevdCars.net

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