News and views on motorsports

Thursday, August 11, 2005

News Roundup

Summertime... and the living is hazy. But for the Formula 1 teams, at least some are taking a break from the activities. Unless of course, you're Ferrari in which case you do whatever you damn well please.

Maybe I've been spoilt by back to back grand prix thats happened quite a lot this season but three weeks before Istanbul seems like an age. And where there is no action, there's very little news. Its even quiet on the silly season front.

The Formula 1 news websites seem to be out of ideas as to what news to publish. So, we get silly things like news of Jenson Button getting back together with Louis Griffiths. And some congratulatory articles like this one.

Elsewhere, someone started a rumour saying that Mika Hakkinen is being pursued by BMW as they embark on their journey as a full fledge team. This is simply most unlikely as our Mika is getting on and is currently quite happy at the DTM. I'm sure some people are connecting him to BMW on account of his connection with Williams last year. Frank and Mika were in discussions but that plan fell through when Frank decided to try and take Jenson Button instead. A non plussed Mika decided to drop plans for an F1 return and take a drive in DTM. Still, he remains an incredibly popular driver and one that a lot of Formula 1 fans really miss. In a recent poll on Planet F1, he was voted as the driver most people would like to see returning.

Everyone these days wants to keep their options open. Fernando Alonso being one of them. Ferrari is clearly an option once his Renault contract runs out in 2006. Driving for Maranello appeals to the Spaniard but his first priority is to get behind the wheel of the fastest car. At the moment that is clearly Renault and McLaren.

Fernando had this to say: "At Ferrari there’s always been a number one and a number two driver, and things have always been very clear. For the other nine teams, I’d say that in theory the car conditions and the priority among drivers are equal." True but it should be noted that this situation came to existence only when Michael Schumacher arrived at Maranello. Enzo Ferrari in his day would laugh at the notion. Like Frank Williams, Enzo Ferrari believed that the most important thing was to win the constructor's championship. The driver's championship to Enzo was strictly secondary and was completely up to the drivers to fight for it between themselves.

When Schumacher arrived at Ferrari, he was joined a year later by Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn and clearly it seemed that the three would do another Benetton. At Benetton clearly the entire team was structured around the German. Even the design of the Benettons and now the Ferraris were optimized for Michael's driving style. If his team mate could adapt to the car fine otherwise it wouldn't matter.

Even though he'd hate to admit it but Michael's style is very much like the late great Ayrton Senna. The Brazilian was also notorious for demanding the complete attention of Lotus when he signed up for them. The difference between Michael and Ayrton was that Ayrton then went to McLaren where he had to contend with that other great driver Alain Prost. And despite not winning the 1989 championship, Ayrton generally had the measure of the Frenchmen. Michael has not been similarly tested. Sure, some would argue that he had Nelson Piquet for a team mate at the start of his career but surely it can be said that Nelson Piquet was already on his way out at the time. When Senna joined Prost at McLaren, the Frenchmen was still at the height of his powers, in a team he fashioned as his own.

At the end of the day, once Michael leaves, I'm sure the powers at Maranello will be going back to the days when both their drivers got similar attention. I doubt if anyone will be able to pull off another stunt like that in the future. Nevertheless both Kimi and Fernando (and perhaps Button) will be looking for signs that the Italian team will be a force to be reckoned with in the future. I doubt it myself.

Harking back to the old days, here's a little rant by Nigel Mansell on ITV-F1. A very enlightening article, not least for this link to Anyway, Nigel gives us an account of events that transpired during the 1994 Australian Grand Prix. Yes, you remember, the one where Michael Schumacher took out Damon Hill to win his first world title.

Nigel alleges that some of the powers took him to one side and told him to stand back and simply let the two championship contenders duke it out for the race. All this, after sticking his Williams on pole position by a full second. He got in trouble for that too and was told to hang back during the race.

Mansell further alleges that Michael Schumacher had asked for some bits of kerbing to be lowered after the German ran over them and damaged his Benetton Ford during qualifying. Mansell, having none of it told them to stop work. For this, he apparently got into hot soup again with the powers. Michael didn't get his way that time but at Sepang in 2000 he managed to get a pole stuck at the apex of Turn 2. This I suppose was to prevent a repeat of David Coulthard's move on him at the same corner.

There are many reasons to doubt Mansell's story. I mean, if he really was as quick as he says he is, why was he so hapless at McLaren the following season? Mika Hakkinen completely blew him away. Nevertheless, if Mansell's story is true then its quite troubling. I have no doubt that Bernie was behind all that but it all reeks of WWF wrestling style sports entertainment. Completely bullshit that is.

Still, Bernie or whomever it was probably had their reasons. Business related reasons that is. After all 1994 was a terrible year that saw the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola. This lead to a safety paranoia everywhere which was making the action a little boring. Michael Schumacher was running away with the championship at one point before a two race ban was placed on his Benetton team for cheating. Some way it was the traction control in his car (which was banned that year) and others say it was for the wooden plank at the bottom of his car being of an illegal thickness. In fact, Nigel Mansell's return to Formula 1 after a year and a half in Indycars was a move to spice up Formula 1 again. So, I guess they didn't want this old geezer getting in a way of an otherwise classic showdown at the final race of the season.

Moving along, here's a good article by Mike Lawrence of Pitpass showing us the history of wind tunnel technology in Formula 1. An interesting read but I don't agree with the conclusion that aerodynamics is a technology that has no meaning to most fans. I'd say there are plenty of fans with huge interests on any technology, aero being one of them. Its just that we hardly get a glimpse of the technology involved because its all so secretive. But I'm certainly fascinated by such aspects and when a previously secret technology is revealed, I'm the first to read about it if I can get my hands on it.

Lastly, we see 6 time world MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi doing yet another test with Ferrari at Maranello in last year's F2004. His times were a couple of seconds off Michael Schumacher's lap record set last year. Valentino has already signed up for Yamaha in 2006 but after that anything's possible. This has lead to speculation that he would be taken on as an official test driver for Ferrari. I think a lot of people would like to see the Italian driving in Formula 1. I'm sure Bernie would want that as well as it would attract plenty of new viewers who normally only watch MotoGP.

If Michael Schumacher were to retire, then a Rossi/Alonso or Rossi/Raikkonen partnership at Maranello would go a long way towards making up for the loss. To be honest, I like the sound of that but it would only work if Rossi is able to go as quickly in a car as he is on a bike. Perhaps a year spent testing will prove the case.

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