News and views on motorsports

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Liuzzi, As we predicted

As I predicted here Vitantonio Liuzzi is steadily and surely making his way into Formula 1. A Sauber employee has stated that Vitantonio has had a seat fitting with the Hinwil concern. Read more about it here. Apparently according to the F1 article, Ferrari may be interested in employing another tester. So, a place for Vitantonio may be on the cards at the "Ferrari Junior" racing team of Sauber... ugh... Petronas, really Ferrari. No I'll stick to its real name Sauber Ferrari.

Vitantonio scored a pole position at Spa this weekend. Although he didn't win the race, he managed a second position which was enough to win the championship. Eight race victories so far this year have really caught the eye of a lot of people. Paul Stoddart among others. Ferrari, despite Jean Todt's denials are definitely intrested in this man as well.

I would imagine once Michael retires, they will also fire Rubens Barrichello and slot in either Fernando Alonso or Kimi Raikkonen in one seat and if Vitantonio does well, slot him in the other Ferrari. Ross Brawn this weekend admitting as much at least in regards Alonso and Raikkonen. They have their eyes on these two as well. Over Ron Dennis' and Flavio Briatore's dead bodies I would imagine. But Ferrari have ways to get their man.

Perhaps an all Italian Ferrari squad would also be on the cards? After all, Giancarlo Fisichella makes no secret about his desire for a red car. It would be very interesting to see how he matches Alonso at Renault next year. Fisichella has just about dominated all his team mates in Formula 1. He destroyed Ralf Schumacher and he nearly destroyed Jenson Button's career as well when he partnered them. Will he do the same to Alonso? I would imagine a very tough rivalry will be on. Alonso after all is also Briatore's charge.

A place at Sauber would I think place Liuzzi in a very strategic position. The last karting man in there went on to a McLaren drive after just a single season. I really relish watching the 2002 world kart champion in the Sauber to see how he races. I can imagine some spectacle here. Vitantonio's maiden season in car racing in the 2003 German Formula 3 championship I believe was a place where he got used to the idea of driving cars for a change. Cars with gear changes to perform. Now in 2004, I believe he has fully got the hang of things. I fully believe he would rule Formula 1 should he get his chances. Here's hoping.

Spa: A Welcome Relief At A True Racing Circuit

Praise the lord. Spa is back. After all the Tilke designed or mangled dog fest circuits we've seen races on this season, finally we are back to a classic racing circuit. Heck there are negative cambers on the exit of corners for this one. Just as it should be to test the car and the driver.

And the corners. Eau Rouge, fifth gear Double left at Pouhon, and the massive flat out run all the way to the Bus Stop chicane. A Formula 1 race should be made of these. But unfortunately the devil's hands in the form of Herman Tilke made its presence known at the Bus Stop. This man, and by his own admission too, just loves slow corners and the new Bus Stop is absolutely dreadful. Just ask the drivers. Where once it was a left right flick, that idiot replaced it with this just god awful slow left and frightfully slow right. It used to take some real skill to negotiate the corner. I remember back in 1986 Mansell had a spin at the Bus Stop after jumping around on the curbs.

As it is Juan Pablo Montoya produced a brilliant overtaking move on Michael Schumacher at the start of the race at the new Bus Stop. However, a similar move on Jarno Trulli at the same corner ended in a spin for Trulli and in the process delaying Montoya who in turn got pipped on the run down to Stavelot. You notice that even the corners in Spa have these very stylish names instead of your Turn 1, Turn 2, Turn X on Tilke dogfests. Or even sillier names like Berjaya Straight or Genting corner or whatever corporate stupidity Sepang likes to come up with.

And what a race it turned out to be too. After the threat of another Ferrari whitewash, Kimi Raikkonen, The Man, drove absolutely faultlessly to a superb victory. One might have speculated that had Fernando Alonso still been in the race he might have won but after witnessing a lap record on Lap 42 after the safety car restart, I don't think anyone would have caught The Man.

Spa has always been known as a drivers circuit. That's because the driver can make a big difference at this place. And so it is that winners of this race are simply some of the best ever. Senna, Mansell, Schumacher Sr., Prost, Hakkinen and now Raikkonen have all at one time or another won at Spa cementing their status as true Formula 1 racing drivers. The best of the best.

The magic of Spa is that it comes from a different era. Times where cars were given lots of space to do their job. A time when safety be damned, let's just go bollocks because it's such a great drive through the mountains. They didn't purpose build this thing originally, it just was a good piece of road to drive fast. So how about driving some of the fastest cars in the world over here?

When Sepang was being built I prayed that they would use Spa as an inspiration. But oh my god, what the hell did we get? A bloody bitch of a track with all its slow corners, drag race after drag race.

Enough about dogs. The irony of it all is, all the commentators from Steve Goodwin to Martin Brundle have commented that its a fantastic place to watch a race from television as well. I couldn't agree more. And isn't that the whole point? To produce circuits guaranteed to produce top racing? Give a Formula 1 car room to stretch its legs and fast corners that really make them lean hard and we have a brilliant a spectacular show. When they speak of the Formula 1 spectacle, this circuit is exactly the showcase for it. So why are the FIA still persisting designing stupid circuits that take inspiration from Chinese characters instead of giving us superb tracks like Spa. No offense to the Chinese and the new Shanghai circuit of course. Its not their fault, its the FIA and their moron Herman Tilke.

I think even the spectators sitting on the main straight and especially the ones sitting on Eau Rouge with incidents aplenty could have nothing to complain about. It just was a great race.

I know what you're thinking. And you'd be wrong. Even if Michael Schumacher and Ferrari won it, I'd still be waxing lyrical about this place. Just looking at the cars run at this place gives a sense of wonder. Like cheetahs with plenty of room to just do their thing.

Another nice thing about Spa is that every single time a race is held here, you'll get lots of action. Lots of overtaking and the result really cannot be predicted. It manages to throw up some surprise or another. Would you really have thought that Kimi The Man would win from tenth? In 1995 Schumacher won this race from seventeenth!!

I can't say enough good things about Spa. For me it is the last real personification of the ultimate motorsport category. It not just provided us with a refreshing change at the top step of the podium this year, it is also a very very welcome to a true racing circuit.

Well, the best thing about the tail end of this season is that the remaining circuits on the calendar are all in majority classic circuits. Except Shanghai of course, we have Monza, Sao Paulo and Suzuka coming up next. All superb racing circuits and we can look forward to some more enjoyable races. Yes, even if they will be won by Michael Schumacher.

If Spa were ever to go away again and I wouldn't bet against that from the way Bernie Ecclestone is dealing these days, I think I would be in tears for days. Long live the true circuits!!!

Monday, August 09, 2004

Return of the Flying Finn?

With Buttongate roaring around the news pages of F1 these days, a contender for his replacement at BAR has emerged. Two time world champion Mika Hakkinen has been rumoured to be in contact with Williams for some months now with a view to making his return to Formula 1. Well, it seems that "Our Jense" has closed that door firmly.

Now the news is filled with speculation that Hakkinen will instead step in to BAR. Could that be any truth in that? Hakkinen himself has made some comment about the existence of fire in the presence of smoke or something like that. Well, well, well. That would be interesting now wouldn't it?

Hakkinen is now like Schumacher firmly in the senior citizens sector of the drivers market. However, unlike Michael, he's been out of it for 3 seasons now come the end of 2004. Will he still have what it takes? That's an incredibly tall order I believe. No competitive motorsport and heaven knows what sort of training regime he follows for the last few years. To top it all off, what sort of money would he demand to be at BAR?

The more I think about it, the more it doesn't make much sense. Perhaps it would be better signing up David Coulthard instead. Now perhaps he has already? After all, David had been making some noises about landing a "competitive" drive next year but he hasn't mentioned who that might be.

So what happens to Taku? I really hope he'll remain at BAR next season. The man deserves a chance seriously. He's extremely fast in my book. Quite as fast as Jenson himself. That banzai kamikaze metality needs to be kept in check one would argue but I think that can be turned into his strength instead of a weakness. Give him another season and I think he'll be as unstoppable as he was in British F3.

If Taku fails to retain his seat then could we have a return to the Mika Hakkinen / David Coulthard pairing we had in the late 90s and early millenium? I'm not so certain that it would be such a hot pairing these days. But they work wel together and David should be more equal to Mika nowadays given that Mika is off form.

And what of the BAR team itself? More later but for now I'd say they are a lean outfit and I believe are applying more brainpower to maximize their resources than any other team in the paddock. I'm a big Honda fan despite owning a Toyota and I'm quite keen to see them succeed. They have as good a chance as any I believe.

Yes, I mentioned Toyota. More of them later as well. But at the moment, that team is completely rubbish.


Lots has happened since I last wrote a month ago. The most interesting of which seems to be the Button Saga. I guess you've all heard about it. A loophole in Button's contract has given him a way out and seeings how Sir Frank needs a driver to partner Aussie Mark Webber.

It all began of course when it was discovered by Button's management that David Richards exercised his option on extending Button's BAR contract before Honda made a long term commitment to the team. This was a prerequisite for the contract extension. Honda delayed and so Button's management found a way for him to worm his way out.

Sir Frank of course has been in constant contact with Button all the while since they parted after the 2000 season. So, when Button came knocking on the door, Frank signed him up immediately. Reports has it that he had mere hours or less to make up his mind. Well, he did and it seems that BMW are pretty happy with the choice as well. Remember of course that it was Gerhard Berger who pushed for him to drive in BMW Williams for the year 2000.

My first reaction is that its an excellent choice for Button. Ok so Williams are not in the best of shapes at the moment, the team being in a flux. I am certain however that such things will come together in due course. Button need only sit it out and wait. In Mark Webber, he has a highly competitive team mate who should be at the top of his game given his age. I admire Webber tremendously. He doesn't have the flair of a Senna or Montoya but his driving is solid and he complains very little. He's also mighty consistent and should push Button extremely hard. Jense can't have any off days with this bloke around.

Jenson admits that the technical resources of Williams BMW are what made him change his mind. He believes, and quite rightly that Williams has a better chance of giving him a championship winning car. With the driver pairing Frank now has I believe, the team will galvanize and be stronger than ever in their championship challenge. Two, no bullshit drivers in the team, one of whom seems to have excellent technical abilities, will certainly ensure that. In addition, it is known that Webber is also good at motivating the troops. All in all, a win-win situation for Frank and Jenson.

After that initial reaction, I visited Planet F1 and found some other reactions that I found quite amusing. Indeed, for David Richards what goes around seems to have come around. Remember last year? Remember Jacques Villeneuve? One Planet F1 reader referred to David Richards as a PR infested slimeball. I couldn't agree more. Yes, he's an excellent manager who's managed to turn BAR around. But he's also slime. Just as he unfairly ditched Jacques (by using a PR campaign against him), so now he's been ditched by his superstar Jenson Button. All this of course, after Jenson confessed his eternal love and loyalty to BAR. On David Richard's side he'll also feel hard done by when after all, one could say he "rescued" Jenson Button after he was completely blowm away by Fisichella at Benetton.

In life, I have observed that people have a hard time taking what they've dished out. And it seems, David Richards has a hard time dealing with the Button situation. Quite honestly I love watching him squirm right now. There is justice in the world after all. As for Button, I believe he simply has like any other driver, the right to choose the best option for himself. Despite being outclassed by Fisichella at one point in time, I still rate him very highly. Perhaps not as good as Webber but close. If one day Button does a Buttongate on Frank then I don't think Frank would complain much. To someone like Frank Williams he's just a driver after all. Expendable. David Richards doesn't quite share that view of superstars and you can tell. Up yours David!