Maybe I am getting old. I don’t like all these damn buttons on steering wheels these days. On my Lexus, there are so many buttons that do all sorts of things it seems – voice command (which, by the way, is the worst system ever made… and not just based on my opinion), lane departure warning, “back’ button, volume control, media “mode” and on and on. In my Evo IX, there’s one horn button. Nothing else. Not even a cruise control button because, well, it doesn’t have cruise control.
While I long for days of simplicity in passenger cars, motorsports continues to innovate and revolutionize. Nearly every aspect of performance can be tweaked from the steering wheel, even engine maps – is this why I have an “economy” mode, a “normal” mode, “Sport” mode and a “Sport+” mode for my car? Compared to the typical steering wheel on an F1 race car, however, we have it easy. Way easy.
Donut Media did a fantastic job of visualizing the evolution of the F1 steering wheel in this video for those who are completely green to current racing technology.
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.
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.
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.
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 back 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?