MMR Blog

Reflections on F1 2013

Posted on November 26, 2013 Comments (2)

Brazil is done. A race made interesting mostly by the threat of rain which never came. But didn’t the commentators and viewers wish it had. Other than that, it was notable for a couple of things.

First, of course, was the departure from F1 of Red Bull stalwart Mark Webber. A man of talent but also unlucky and inconsistent. Vettel may miss him most because he was not a serious threat. If it wasn’t clear before Malaysia, Mark’s position was very clear afterwards.

Frank Williams

Sir Frank Williams

Massa departs Ferrari. He appeared at times this year to require motivation. If driving for Ferrari is not motivation enough, he will surely disappoint at Williams. Sir Frank is not a cheerleader.

We learned, at this race, that in 2013 Ferrari and McLaren went to a different front suspension that allowed them an aero design advantage. This was apparently the major cause of their lackluster performance.

Heikki Kovalainen was consistent, sadly. Surely someone else could have done better and helped Lotus, themselves, and the viewers in the last two races. Management error.

Speaking of error. Red Bull’s on a pitstop for Vettel. A rare occurrence and a comfort to competitors.

Musical chairs will shortly end and many will be fitted for new uniforms and seats, but in the end, it is the cars that are the stars and Lotus, who do not have the budgets of RB, McLaren, Mercedes, and Ferrari appear to be punching above their weight. Where they will be after McLaren and Ferrari sort themselves out is an open question. On a positive note, they will have a Renault engine and a good chassis and a deserved reputation for being fast. Good drivers will be attracted to them.

Will Buxton’s interview with Nico Rosberg was a highlight of the interviews. Asked if he felt better about his improved performance this year over last, Rosberg replied no. It was due to an improved car and he left no doubt that he felt his performance was always good. He reminded Buxton that he had driven with Schumacher for three years and beaten him consistently. This is a driver who knows where he is at mentally and, should Mercedes deliver the car, he will deliver a championship.

Great credit is due and is paid to the Red Bull team, its drivers and management. Nobody on their side appears to say a word of thanks to their engine supplier Renault.

Red Bull

Finally, Vettel and records: A wonderful accomplishment for which he rightly thanks his whole team profusely. He is very good. He also owes thanks to Webber for not contesting his unexpected pass in Malaysia. That would have stopped the streak half way. Webber also deserves credit for taking 199 points that might have otherwise helped his competitors. He will miss Mark Webber.

In Will Buxton’s summary of the year he credited Vettel with finally realizing that he had to be ruthless to be a champion and that his pass of Webber in Malaysia showed he had come of age as a Champion.

This certainly fits the Senna–Schumacher mindset mold. Hardly fits the one from which Fangio, Clark, Stewart, Graham, and Phil Hill were cast.

As for Buxton’s comment, perhaps it is the times and perhaps it is the difference in our ages but when the goal is more important than the manner by which we achieve it, I lose interest. Fortunately for F1, I believe the majority of the drivers competing would not have needed to be reminded of team orders. It would never have crossed their minds to take a win away from a teammate.

NBC are to be supported for saving F1 from the Fox troglodytes. They have developed a first rate product and, if for them alone, the motorsports community should work like hell to grow F1 in North America.

As for the TV show itself, the sooner they get away from podium interviews the better. They are at best inept and mostly embarrassing to watch, and I would imagine to perform.

Despite all that, or perhaps because of it, F1 remains compelling.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on November 22, 2013 Comments (0)

This week’s images are from Michael Furman’s excellent new book Automotive JewelryRead our review.

Fixing F1 – Step Three - Bring Back Risk

Let’s face it, the risks in today’s F1 races are hardly commensurate with the rewards. The danger and often deadly aspects of older tracks, long gone road courses, and races such as the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio were inherent and impossible to eliminate. Huge trees, narrow roads and stone bridges, were all part of the perils of racing and everyone, drivers and spectators, recognized them. For drivers, the risks were always high and the monetary rewards comparatively low.

However, other than being a fighter pilot during war, there are few opportunities to compete with like individuals at a potentially lethal level and earn both adulation and great sums of money for doing it.

Keeping It on the Island

Keeping it on the island.

Today, what commentators call a brave move is more likely to be an unanticipated maneuver. The risk is now limited to a damaged car and/or loss of championship points. Is it admirable? Unquestionably. Is it brave? Not the way it once was. Is it exciting? Well that’s the question isn’t it? Lawyers and insurance companies have successfully eliminated risk from but a few corners at a few tracks. And if we are not pleased that racing is now safe, what does it say about us? Are we the new old Romans?

F1 – US GP

A boring race. See above. There was an opportunity for drama. Lotus borrowed former F1 driver and now Caterham test driver Heikki Kovalainen to replace the Never Leave ‘em Laughin’ Kimi. The Kimster had back surgery so that he could be healed in time to race for Ferrari next year. True to form, Kovalainen, once again, didn’t fail to disappoint. Surprisingly quick in practice, only 8th in qualifying, he finished 14th. There is a reason this driver has a test contract with the worst team on the grid. To his credit, he doesn’t blame the machinery.

Snooze Fest

Snooze Fest in Texas

So now on to Brazil and more of the same.

NASCAR – Johnson Wins Again

The 2103 NASCAR marathon is over. A talented driver, who works hard, has a great pit crew and races clean, Jimmy Johnson won the championship. I gave up watching when the challenge became the re-engineering of the tire pressures and suspension setups through their far-too-long oval Sunday afternoon marathons. Like other forms of high level racing, the battle now is among the engineers. The saving grace for NASCAR may be its road races. NASCAR drivers are not recognized for just how good they are. If NASCAR dropped Sears Point, added Laguna Seca, Lime Rock, Road America, and Road Atlanta and two more tight tracks, they would have an exciting new series.  

Nascar

Welcome NASCAR Fans?


Denise McCluggage

Denise McCluggage: The Centered Driver Workshop

Mark your Calendars. January 28, 2014. Denise will hold an interactive drivers workshop at European Motorsports in Lawrence MA. The class is for a maximum of 60 participants. Order your tickets here.


Burt Levy

Our Buddy Burt – Holiday Offerings

Vintage Racer and Author, Burt Levy, has forwarded his Holiday gift suggestions and a teaser about delivering his second Ford/Ferrari/Le Mans book entitled Assault on Four O’clock. Check out the pricing on Holiday cards on Burt's website.

Have a great weekend.

Peter Bourassa


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on November 15, 2013 Comments (6)

Our images this week are from the new book 1967 – Chris Amon, Scuderia Ferrari and a Year of Living Dangerously by John Julian. See our review.

Fixing F1 – Step Two – Tires

Instead of a single source, open it up to two or more manufacturers and scrap the six lap specials except for qualifying. Let the tire manufacturers work with the teams. Since each chassis reacts differently to the current tires, it is already a part of the strategy. Change the paradigm from adjusting cars to tires to adjusting tires to cars. The current situation benefits Bernie and the teams as they sell the exclusive rights to one manufacturer. The manufacturer gives them money they would otherwise have spent on developing better tires for the different teams and tracks. Under the current formula, Pirelli has no competition, no incentive, and no opportunity to show themselves better than their competitors.

Tires-600

1967: My Favorite Car Year

I was 23, single, with a good job that partially involved racing. I wasn’t ugly or stupid and I had a little jingle in my jeans. Life wasn’t bad. On the car front it was also a good year. Corvette introduced the final iteration of the C2. The '67 Stingray model went from the iconic 1963’s split rear window to an iconic stinger hood on the 427 and subdued front side vents. Refining the details on each model year has been a Corvette tradition. The '62 C1 was the cleanest of that grouping also. If that holds true, considering all the bits added on to and hanging off the C7, it should be pretty by 2018. A friend had a '67 427 4-speed 435 HP convertible, dark green on tan with a white stinger and tan top. It had the optional side pipes and cast aluminum finned wheels. It was a comfortable driver and I don’t think he paid $5K for it. Unlike today’s performance cars, the suspension wasn’t tuned to generate g-forces through turns. It was a simpler time. We burned rubber and street raced in straight lines.

1967 Stingray

Mustang introduced its second generation model in 1967 and in some people’s view (mine) the first completely real Mustang. The very early first series Mustangs with six cylinder engines and 260 CID V8s were pretty and popular but they were not much as cars. Shelby and other racers got power out of the 289s and retuned the suspension. Once they got a fastback model and began racing and rallying them, they became decent cars. But the '67 with the 390 320 HP GT package was, in my opinion, as close as America ever got to the European style Gran Turismo of the day. The 390 engine was heavy and had no top end, but it had tons of grunt and would lope along at 3000 RPM all day long. Gas was cheap then. In hindsight, the 289 with the 271 HP engine was probably a better balanced package overall but it was not a popular option then and Ford built fewer than 500 of them.

1967 Mustang

If for nostalgic reasons alone, both are cars that might happily have a place in any garage today. But neither car would make a good daily driver. The things we loved about them in 1967 have been bred out of the newer cars by advanced technology and societal demands. Those Corvette side pipes we loved were hot as hell and far too loud for top down distance driving. Squealing bias ply tires? Both the Vette and the 390 Mustang plowed terribly at relatively slow speeds. The hardly sensitive worm and sector steering didn’t help either. Cars have come a long way since 1967. And so have we.

Have a great weekend.

Peter Bourassa


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on November 8, 2013 Comments (0)

Fixing F1 – Step 1

It has always amazed that the F1 circus would travel half way round the world to perform before crowds that know little and care even less about F1. France, home of several fine circuits, great automakers, the world’s greatest tire maker, the greatest endurance race, and knowledgeable fans has no Grand Prix. It should have two, so should Germany, Italy, England, and Spain. The US should have two. Drop Malaysia, Bahrain, Singapore, Korea, and Abu Dhabi.

Abudabi

Remember that at one time some European countries had more than one F1 race per year. There once existed non-championship F1 races in Europe that also served as testing sessions. Thoughts?

Kimi Doesn’t Buy “Team” Concept

In the football book, North Dallas Forty, the quarterback, Phil Elliott, utters words that could easily apply to F1 or any other kind of professional racing. In a discussion about the team, he points out that ownership and management are the team, the players, like helmets and jockstraps, are the equipment.

As we mentioned last week, the Constructors Championship year end pot is about $700M. Red Bull has won the top prize of about $100M. Mercedes, Ferrari, and Lotus are fighting for second spot. Renault reportedly owes Kimi Raikkonen $15M in salary. They are in fourth place in the championship and it is reasonable to believe that when they began the year they believed that they would do better than fourth and could count on that Constructors Championship payout to defray Kimi’s salary. They will unquestionably pay him, but it will hurt like hell to do it if he doesn’t help them garner more points between now and year end. And if he does… he will be taking money away from Ferrari.

Raikkonen left the Abu Dhabi GP track early on Sunday. His car was damaged on the first lap and he couldn’t go on. He didn’t stick around to tell people how disappointed he was, or how badly he felt for the team that had worked so hard etc. Kimi is not a team player. Ferrari once bought him out of his three year contract after two years. He drove a Citroen in the WRC. He was not competitive and his departure was not mourned. He now leaves Lotus under a cloud to return to Ferrari who once paid him handsomely to make him go away.

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi is a fantastic natural driving talent. He is not a student of the game, hates the PR work, and doesn’t take direction well at all. But give him a good car and he can be a winner… when so motivated. For the teams, the stakes are high and history shows that winning teams throw personal driver attachments out the window when a quicker driver walks through the door. The beloved Michael Schumacher was “promoted” when Ferrari felt they had a better team with Massa and Kimi. Kimi knows this and as long as he is capable of winning races he will be forgiven past transgressions and whatever shortcomings he may dream up in the future. But the minute he reaches his “sell by” date he will be gone. Kimi knows the difference between the team and the equipment.

Michael Keyser Returns to the Targa

Racing Demons

Michael Keyser raced his 911 in the Targa Florio in 1972. Subsequently, he featured the race in his excellent racing movie, The Speed Merchants. As featured in our MMR Newsletter, he has now published Racing Demons, an excellent history of Porsche at the Targa Florio. In our Short Stories he tells us about his trip to Sicily to launch his book. Enjoy.

Have a great weekend,

Peter Bourassa


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on October 30, 2013 Comments (0)

Our opening image is from Michael Furman’s book Curves of Steel. Classic & Sports Car is making it possible for MMR subscribers to receive this book in an offer detailed here.

Curves of Steel by Michael Furman

Penske Wins Race and Loses Championship

Will Power, aptly named Penske driver, won the finale of the 2013 Izod IndyCar Series at Auto Club Speedway in California on Sunday. Fellow New Zealander Scott Dixon finished fifth and one place ahead of Helio Castroneves, the driver who led the series for most of the season. Dixon and his Ganassi team are the deserved champions. A race management mistake by Roger Penske, who called Castroneves in while the pits were closed, didn’t help but this was a very odd race at a very odd place. It was a race with 28 lead changes and 11 different leaders and, as with so many other IndyCar races this year, the poor quality of the track was a factor. The 2-mile D-Shaped Oval was so dirty that radiators were plugging and face shields were being sandblasted all day. It is a dull track and will make a dull housing development. Hopefully soon.

TK’s Take on Final Petit Le Mans

Our hero, the brilliant and perceptive Tommy Kendall, and his Viper SRT Team, at one point led the GT class of the Petit Le Mans at a real race track, Road Atlanta, and finished fifth in Class. Tommy writes:

While it was a good finish, after the strength we showed all week and clearly having the fastest two cars there, to leave with a 5th and a 7th was definitely a disappointment. But, as I am fond of saying, if it was easy everyone would do it! That said, to be disappointed with a fifth shows how far this team has come so quickly. The progress by all involved in SRT Motorsports is truly remarkable.

He adds:

I appreciate the MMR Community’s support, as you are an esteemed, knowledgeable, and passionate group clearly possessing extraordinary taste! :-)

We did mention his perceptiveness?

F1 Then and Now: 1955 Belgian Grand Prix – Spa Video

Nigel Roebuck’s Reflections in the November issue of Motor Sport magazine mentions this video and it is on our home page for you. If only to give you an appreciation of how far F1 has come, view this video and compare it with what you will see in this weekend’s F1 Indian GP. It is also a study in bravery and talent.

Peter Bourassa