The process of recovering from the events at Monterey Week has less to do with sleep than sorting out everything that happened there and how to tell the story to you, our loyal readers.
This week we will share the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance images in the Blind Pig Gallery on our website. I remember standing somewhere in the middle of the field, looking around at all the exceptional cars, the exceptional setting and saying to myself, for a car guy, this is the best place to be in the whole world today. Thank you Pebble Beach people.
The Lime Rock Historic Festival will be the best place to be this weekend and we will be there beginning today.
Vintage race cars will be on track today and tomorrow, Sunday will feature a huge concours and Monday it is back to racing. Tough to beat.
Please note that several notable cars from the Ralph Lauren Collection will be on display all weekend. For a sneak peek at what you'll see, here's a gallery featuring Tony Singer's photographs of the Ralph Lauren car collection in the exhibition “L’Art de L’Automobile”.
See you there.
Spa, VIR, and Sonoma are road courses and they benefit the sport hugely. Both the drivers and the spectators see racing as it was meant to be. No temporary pit, potholed streets, or concrete walls the whole way round. This past weekend may have been the most entertaining motorsports viewing of the year. So let’s get to it.
F1: Rosberg Turns Whine into Wine
The soap opera goes on. Even after the summer break and the advancements made by Ferrari and Red Bull, Mercedes continues to be the class of the field. On a long track like Spa, they are as much as a second to two seconds better and in F1 that is huge. The drama of the show, decidedly different from the driving of the show continues to be the conflict between the drivers on the leading team. Meanwhile the driving spotlight falls on Red Bull’s Ricciardo, who is both good and lucky, and Williams’ Bottas, who is due a top step on the podium soon. He consistently does well while avoiding conflict. McLaren’s Magnussen’s fight with the far more experienced Alonso, Button, and Vettel on older tires was really entertaining.
The Brits believe they invented F1. Since the F1 industry is based in Britain and Brits have held the major positions at most teams at some point, it is not difficult to understand from whence they come. All European countries support their F1 drivers and in England Button and Hamilton are national heroes. Since North Americans have not had F1 winners since the Villeneuves, our coverage has, of necessity, always had a British filter. Whether it is David Hobbs or before him Sir Jackie Stewart, we have always accepted their analysis of how the cow ate the cabbage. I enjoy reading Denise McCluggage’s view of F1. Unfettered by having to defend or promote an American hero, it seems to me that she writes about pure racing. Read her recent piece on Vettel’s whining. But getting back to the Brits. In Hamilton they have their classic tragically flawed hero. Possibly, and I stress “possibly”, the most naturally gifted driver on the grid, he understands the car and the racing but he is woefully pitiful in what we have previously referred to here as racecraft. His dilemma is that in partnering with Rosberg, who probably, and I stress “probably” is not as naturally gifted, is a master of racecraft. While unquestionably affected by being booed for his second place finish, he immediately explained that only a few of Lewis’s British fans were responsible, thereby marginalizing Hamilton’s constituency to a few rabid Brits, which can only have infuriated them more. Then, while Hamilton woefully pleads that he was in front and he had the line, Rosberg, when questioned, politely explains that he hasn’t yet seen the video and that it would be unfair to comment until he has. From what we could see on the US broadcast, Hamilton unquestionably had the line and didn’t leave room. Rosberg could have backed out earlier and was wrong to expect that Hamilton would leave him room. But he was too stubborn to avoid a collision and so they did. It cost Rosberg a pit stop for a new nose, and possibly the win and it cost Hamilton the race points he would have received for winning or finishing second. It is not hard to believe that had Hamilton’s tire not been cut he would have won the race and had absolutely no sympathy for Rosberg’s plight.
Mercedes was the big loser and management are understandably annoyed. This was an embarrassment to them, and they made both their employees aware of their displeasure. But the gamesmanship between Hamilton and Rosberg continued to fascinate. While Lewis dejectedly lamented his loss to the media, Rosberg, recognizing that the British press would never love him as they do their beloved Lewis, accepted that he could have backed off. His acceptance was brilliant and I wouldn’t find it hard to believe that once he got away from the embarrassing trophy presentation a little birdie whispered in his ear that this could work for him. In one fell swoop he mollified his team management, further incensed a constituency that Rosberg has little chance of winning over and sent a message to Hamilton not to do that again unless he wanted the same result. It was clever of Rosberg to accept some responsibility, even if he didn’t feel it or wasn’t in the slightest bit responsible. He won the points, which was his goal and handed Hamilton a lesson in the mind game known as racecraft.
The Rosberg-Hamilton situation is in many ways reminiscent of the Prost-Senna battles of their day. It is little remembered that while Senna enjoyed the adulation of the masses, he won but three world Championships to Prost’s four. Only two other drivers have won more. And in the end, to Prost, to Senna and to history, nothing mattered more.
On a far friendlier and less Machiavellian note, the battle for the IndyCar Championship between the Penske drivers continued at the Northern California Sonoma road course. The long (2.4 mile) track, seemingly unaffected by the previous night’s earthquake hosted the second to last race of the season and the quick but erratic points leader and pole sitter Will Power blew the lead and a good points to finish tenth. He picked up 24 points to teammate Castroneves’ 12 giving him a 51 point lead going in to the final double-points paying race this weekend at Fontana California. A win at Fontana is worth 104 points; Power won it last October.
The winner of the Sonoma race was Scott Dixon who has emerged from the shadow of former team leader Dario Franchitti to finally be recognized for the excellent and clever driver he is. A third Penske driver, Juan Pablo Montoya also showed he will be a force to be reckoned with next year. The fiery Montoya has calmed somewhat since his first IndyCar go-around but he is still very feisty and he will definitely be a noisy challenger next year. He lead Sunday’s race at one point and finished fifth overall. This weekend’s race at the dreaded Fontana oval will be very exciting.
It was stated several times over the weekend that IndyCar has never been more competitive. This is difficult to prove but there is little doubt that this new product has the cars, the drivers, and the sponsorship base. It requires a larger enthusiast base and better quality venues. Once the latter has been addressed, the former will come.
Tudor United Sports Car Racing
The verdant VIR race track has only pavement in common with Sonoma. But that is the most important similarity. Virginia International Raceway is 3.3 miles long and hosted the 2 hours and 45 minutes that constituted last Sunday’s Oak Tree Grand Prix feature race for sports cars. Once again, kudos to the people who are adjusting the rules that allow their two series to come together and be competitive.
The Risi 458 Ferrari driven by F1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer beat back a Porsche, two BMWs, and a Viper to win a thrilling wire to wire all sports car race. The final ten minutes of this race were epic and the drivers fought bumper to bumper to produce a fantastically entertaining race.
Corvette continues to lead the series but Viper are giving them a great run and were exceptionally fast at VIR. The next race at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) on September 19-20 (circle the date) will be equally interesting as this 3.4 mile track also favors big fast cars.
The final race in the series will be the Petit Le Mans 10-hour endurance race at Road Atlanta on October 3 & 4. Hopefully our hero Tommy Kendall will be co-driving this race in a Viper.
I must confess that the multiple classes in the United Sports Car series still confuse me and that at some tracks the combining of the prototype and sports cars just makes for cluttered racing. I have determined that I like both kinds of racing, simply not together.
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