Monaco – Indy – Villa d’Este Results
The Memorial Day weekend races dominated the TV screens of America but for New England enthusiasts a pair of happy events meant more. Internationally, at Italy's Villa d'Este Concours d'Elegance, Essex Ma. based Paul Russell & Co presented a 212 Vignale Coupe and won the Trofeo BMW Group Classic award. The award is the jury’s choice for the most sensitive restoration. The 1952 212 Europa, Vignale Berlinetta is owned by Bradley Calkins of the USA. The car is stunning. Congratulations to all involved. The remainder of our eye candy also came from Villa d’Este. Thank you BMW for sponsoring this superb event. On the racing front, New Englanders were absorbing the news, announced on Thursday past, that Boston will host the final race of the 2016 IndyCar season. We have mixed feelings. Read on McDuff and tell us what you think.
F1 Monaco: Rosberg wins – Mad Max Steals Hearts!
When enthusiasts tire of the beautiful setting, the beautiful boats, and the beautiful people, there will no longer be a race in Monaco. Long recognized as the most exclusive tax haven in the world (rumor has it that citizenship applications require proven assets in excess of seven uninterrupted digits), its days of hosting a truly competitive F1 race are in its distant past. Its crowning achievement is its downfall. This is the only F1 track in the world where excellence is demanded because there is literally no room for error. Yet the entertainment of racing consists of high speeds and errors, forced and unforced, which allow pressing and passing and in a word, entertainment. Hamilton proved the rule; he qualified best and would have won but for an error by his pit which caused him to lose. Sad for him but good for racing. On purpose-built race courses such as Laguna Seca or Silverstone, or the long course at Nurburgring, or road courses such as Spa or Le Mans, where houses and harbors do not inhibit passing, Hamilton may have had to defend, take chances, make errors and oblige his fellow competitors to do the same. Not so at Monaco. He had the fastest car, and all he needed do was be in front and not make errors.
But even a parade needn’t always be a bore. A comparison could be made to the historic 1981 Spanish GP at the narrow and twisty Jarama circuit. Ferrari driver Gilles Villeneuve (See Villeneuve’s 5 greatest races) qualified seventh in the Ferrari 126CXK, a powerful car with atrocious handling. He dubbed it a “big red Cadillac”. He was third by the first corner. Villeneuve passed the second place car on the opening lap and later, when race leader John Watson made a mistake, he passed him to take the lead. For the remainder of the race, without blocking or weaving, he held off competitors by placing the car in situations that discouraged his competitors from passing. It was brilliant driving. The first five cars crossed the line within 1.24 seconds.
Sunday’s race, which for television purposes focused primarily on the leaders, was simply another high speed parade. Two exceptions that kept it from being a complete bore were, one, the pass for the lead that took place while Hamilton was in the pits. As a result he came out of the pits with eight laps to go, superior tires, and a superior car to Vettel’s Ferrari but couldn’t pass him. Makes you wonder what Villeneuve might have done. And, two, Max Verstappen. His pass on Maldonado on lap 6 was brilliant, and gutsy. It reminded us of Villeneuve. Later on he crashed while trying to pass the other Lotus driver, Romain Grosjean. Verstappen said Grosjean eased off 10-15 meters early. The telemetry didn’t support that. Grosjean actually braked later. But young Max was caught short of room when he decided to pass on the right while sitting too far to the left of the Lotus. Prior to that, after in the process of allowing Vettel to lap him, Max tucked in behind the Ferrari and taking advantage of the blue flags that waved other drivers aside for the faster Vettel, he thus slipped past Sainz and Bottas. But it was a short lived tactic once word got back to the pits. Clever though. My guess is that the Montreal fans will love this “special” kid (Mad Max?) when he arrives at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the Canadian GP in two weeks. As for Hamilton, it had to be a huge disappointment. And there were probably several ways to handle it. He was perfunctorily correct. His teammate rival was also in an awkward, though happier, situation and acknowledged same. But grace under pressure continues to elude Hamilton.
IndyCar Indianapolis 500: Penske – Ganassi Driver Wins!
The major difference between Monaco and Indy is striking. At Monaco, the leader into the first turn generally wins the race. At Indy, the car leading the last lap generally loses. On this Sunday, both proved untrue.
Fifteen years ago, 24-year-old Juan Pablo Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 for Chip Ganassi’s Target Team. On Sunday, 15 years later, he won it again. This time for Ganassi’s arch rival, Roger Penske’s Verizon Team. In the meantime he has spent time with McLaren in F1 and struggled for seven years in NASCAR. When Ganassi cut him loose from the NASCAR team last year, it would have been easy to believe that at 38 years of age, he was done. And JPM, whose reputation could be considered mercurial at best, found little sympathy. But Roger Penske, against whom he has competed in both the old Champ Car days and currently in NASCAR, called him and offered an opportunity, not in NASCAR, but in IndyCar. He jumped at the opportunity to come back. It was a mellowed and thankful JPM, surrounded by family, who accepted tributes in the winner’s circle. A pleasant change from the combative and often surly demeanor he has presented over the years. The new Juan Pablo has been a strong addition to the Penske Team and this win for Montoya was validation of his worth. Possibly even in his own eyes.
An aside: The race was between these two major Chevy teams, and for the third IndyCar race in a row, the first single car team was the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda powered team with driver Graham Rahal who finished fifth, is fifth in the points standings, and the leading American driver.
The final five laps were frantic as Will Power, Montoya, and Scott Dixon swapped the lead 15 times in five laps. It was ballsy racing and damned dangerous too. But they trusted each other and each knew when to give up a little space and so it all worked out. This is what racing is all about.
Michael Furman – Photographer
Our featured Classified Cars
Spring time and the open road beckons. What better way is there to enjoy this most-special of seasons than in a new-to-you classic car. Maybe even a convertible. Check out our picks in the MMR Classifieds.
Subscribe to the MMR newsletter and get our pithy commentary direct to your inbox every Friday morning.