Holiday roundup December 2010 #F1 #NASCAR #Indycar

#F1 – Good to hear that Vitaly Petrov has retained his seat at what will be Lotus-Renault and on a 2 year deal. Whether or not there may have been some finacial inducement he deserves to have a long term chance. The lad has the potential as shown the year before in GP2 and from a couple of drives in the second half of 2010, so it is refreshing to see a team making the committment. This is why I was so dissapointed to see Williams let The Hulk go when he is clearly a driver with some class and potential, but there you go.

Talking of Lotus, it will seem odd to have two varieties of Loti in the races next year, but that might be a marketing coup when all is said and done.

Will the team orders issue make any difference? I doubt it, but there are just 80 days to the new season, so we’ll soon know.

#NASCAR – I’m pleased to read that Richard Petty will have a team up and running next season, and will be looking out for the Digger and the Dinger week by week. At the moment I’m looking at options to be over in Florida in February, so might get another trip to the Daytona 500 in. It seems incredible that it will be 15 years since I last saw the race live, but time flies.

Is Junior something of a Jonah? His results have been way below expectations since the switch to Hendrick and the efforts to pair him with Mark Martin this year saw the latter have a much less stellar year than in 2009. Giving Junior another fresh start by, effectively, swapping him with Jeff Gordon may actully be doing the Martin/Gordon garage a favour at the expense of the #48. Jimmy Johnson and Chad Knaus are a mean double act, and their professional approach has seen an unprecedented 5 year championship run. Jeff Gordon is a pretty resiliant bloke and also knows what it takes to win titles, but even he seems to have been ground down by the relentless march of the #48 crew. The switch of the #24 and #88 puts Junior in something of a make or break position, but the #5 and #24 operations may well benefit from sharing an garage more. I hope that Junior does well; we know he can do it as we’ve seen him do it in the past. The question is, will putting him in with the #48 operation pull him up or them down?

We kick off in 60 days. If I’m not there to see it for real, I’ll be following the Daytona 500, and the rest of the series, on the ‘net.

#Indycar – I’ve been re-reading a few on my many books on the Indy 500 and am getting tempted to try and fit in a trip to Indiana on one of my Stateside trips this year. It was a pretty good season this year and hopefully we’ll get another one in 2011. Tony Kanaan will be back for another year, but with a new team and he’s always good value. Sarah Fisher looks to be stepping back into an owner’s role rather than owner/driver, but my hat is off to her for having done so much over the years. Andretti, Ganassi and Penske will be strong again no doubt and there is a good mix of circuits to test different styles and skills. Bring it on.

RIP Jaques Swaters & Tom Walkinshaw

Sad news that both Jacques Swaters and Tom Walkinshaw have passed away.

Amongst their other achievements they both ran successful sports car teams, but both did so much more in their lives.

Jaques Swaters managed a few F1 drives in the early 1950s and later founded the legendary Ecurie Francorchamps team that campaigned Ferraris, and other cars, at Le Mans and other major events, famously coming close to winning the 1965 Le Mans.

Tom Walkinshaw was a winner in Formula Ford in the late 60s before moving through to F2. He later made a name in tin tops winning the European title and founding the TWR team that came to success pretty much in every class they entered, including the Group C Le Mans Jaguars of the late 1980s.

Two more giants of the sport lost, but memories of what they achieved live on.

RIP both

#NASCAR – the chase and the competition caution

I’ve droned on a bit here in favour of team orders, so you are forgiven if you think that I am in favour of races being manipulated, but doing it within a team is one thing, the organisers doing it is another.

When I go to the races I like to see cars and drivers race, but I understand the importance within a team of people working together. The DTM has taken this to an art form over the years, but it has been a part of motor racing since I can remember starting to follow it back in the 50s. The scenario where one driver might sacrifice themselves, or their car, to try and break the opposition is a classic example, especially in sports car racing.

That is part of team tactics and I have no problem with it; it all adds to the interest for me, but what I do object to is the organiser playing with the results.

The worst example of this for me is NASCAR’s competition caution. I someone has got themselves the best part of a lap clear after 450 miles then good luck to them I say, and to have a spurious yellow flag to bunch up the field for the last tenth of the race is tantamount to robbery. The argument that it makes things exiting sugests to me that those who are bored are not true race fans. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t watch these pointless All Star races where they run them in segments.

If NASCAR want a 50 lap races then let them run them, but if it’s a 500 miler then being able to run it and play the track and conditions is part of the skill. If you can get yourself set to win you should be able to do it without the organising body mucking up your afternoon and letting one of those teams that you have well beat to re-fettle themselves and pinch the prize from you.

This is why I also object so strongly to the Chase format. The season is the season and that should be it. Maniplulating the ending as NASCAR do now is the equivalent of putting out a competition caution on the season. If they want a 12 car 10 race championship then run one, but I won’t be watching it.

NASCAR, you’ve screwed up the Cup series for me, so please leave the second division and the truck series alone. If you want to make the racing better then start addressing unruly driving; cause a wreck and sit out the rest of that race plus the next. Cause another wreck within 5 races and sit out two races. Wreck on a restart in the last 20 laps and sit out three races (on top of any other penalty). That should start to wake up a few of the aggresive idiots that you have out there and we might even get to have a few good runs to the flag.

F1 Team Orders OK for 2011

So they have dropped the ban on team orders in #F1. No surprises really as the situation between team cars could have been manipulated in all sorts of ways besides telling one driver that the other was faster.

But it is an interesting situation. There was a time when drivers would do things for the benefit of the team anyway; Peter Collins handing his Ferrari to Fangio at Monza in ’56, giving up his own title shot so that the Maestro could take the championship being a classic example.

For many years the concept of the team hierarchy of a number one and a number two driver was standard. The second seat at Lotus was something of a poisoned chalice during the Clark years, although they did embrace the joint number one package for a while (Clark & Hill, Fittipladi & Peterson). Jackie Stewart was the de facto number one at Tyrrell and so on.

Ferrari have generally always leaned towards a number one with supporting drivers (remember that two cars per team is a fairly recent limit). Phil Hill tried to push Moss into retirement at the final round in ’58, then gave up second to Mike Hawthorn just before the end to gift the latter the title, Bandini let Surtees through to second place and the ’64 title in Mexico (despite actually scoring one point less than Graham Hill who Bandini had also punted off (accidently)). So the Schumacher era at Maranello was nothing new.

Over at Lotus, Peterson helped Andretti to the title in’78. Instances of teams chucking away a championship becuase they let the drivers race are fairly rare. The Alonso & Hamilton thing at McLaren where they raced each other and gave the title away by a point is one example, and Mansell and the Brazilian bloke at Williams in ’86 is another, but it isn’t something you see often, hence all the exitement at Red Bull as the 2010 season drew to a close; would Webber and Vettel race each other out of contention and let Alonso sneak it?

As we know, Vettel walked off with the race and the title after a great drive from him, a less great drive from Webber and a bad call for Alonso. The fuss was that a team who let their two drivers go at it could have given the title away to a team that had played the team orders game, but were the fans really in danger of being cheated? Of course they weren’t.

As for betting scandals, well, there is a precedent, but you have to go all the way back to Tripoli in the 1930’s to find it. I doubt that you could pull that off in modern F1, despite the Alonso/Renault win that followed the Piquet jnr accident the other year.

Team orders are a fact of life and I always felt that the ban was silly as regular readers here will know. Now it’s gone. Roll on 2011.

More on that mugging! Full marks Bernie Ecclestone

I have to hand it to Bernie! I may not like a lot of what he does, but I have to applaud his posing for an advert for Hublot. See it here on Autosport’s Grapevine:

http://www.autosport.com/news/grapevine.php/id/88609

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