Archive for August, 2011

Bruno Senna replaces Heidfeld. People ask “why replace an average driver with a below average driver”

It’s easy to laugh at the Lotus Renault F1 Team. Renault didn’t want them after they were caught cheating at Singapore, so it sold them to a venture capital company with no capital.

Now Renault can’t get it’s name away from the team, whatever reputational damage the team does.

Meanwhile Group Lotus has provided a bit of smoke and mirror title sponsorship, but lost a court case for the right to call its cars lotuses, so Renaults they remain, whilst the only chassis named lotus on the grid is that of Team Lotus.

Oops.

And now we see team member after team member walking away from the former Renault factory team, and serious questions asked about the long term strategy.

In an era when we have back marker teams with strong backing and an aspiration to become front runners, Renault are sadly becoming an example of a front running team with back marker backing, and you don’t need to be a genius to map their decline and fall over the next few years, as the brain drain and cash constraints inevitably lead to steadily worse car performance.

Fast forward 10 years and the Renault name will have gone, as will the Lotus name (once Group Lotus does a SAAB). The Renault engines will have gone to pastures new, and the once great technical team will have moved on to teams higher up the grid.

No need to fast forward that far however to see the biggest clue to their lack of front runner status. The drivers.

Kubica is tragically unavailable due to his horrific pre-season accident, but were he available I’d say Mark Webber, Felipe Massa, even Jenson and Lewis, would be having sleepless nights about his 2012 plans right about now.

I expect Jenson and Lewis would have meekly re-signed as soon as they could, and Felipe and Mark would still be very much kept in limbo by their teams.

So to the drivers they have. Heidfeld, a solid performer who makes up for a lack of outright quali pace with good development feedback and race craft, and Petrov, who after a terrible first season is performing better and more importantly thinking and acting like a team leader.

Heidfeld’s experience has kept him just ahead of Petrov in the points, but the only time he’s set the world on fire is when the front engine exhausts have caused an air bottle in the sidepod to explode.

He’s getting them points though, and if they think replacing him with Bruno Senna is going to get them from fifth to fourth they are sadly mistaken.

So sit back, enjoy the slow decline of a once great team, as the two pay driver team mates slug it out on track.

Unless I’m wrong, in which case, Senna – the sequel, will be great viewing.

But if I was a Brazilian VC firm with a new shareholding in the former Renault team, apart from asking “oh god what have I done” if I wanted a star Brazilian driver I’d be on the phone to Tony Kanaan.

After all, he’s driving for a team that isn’t really Lotus as well.

Will Power gains ‘living legend’ status at New Hampshire

This week’s IndyCar race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway had everything:

  • Wince as popular rookie Pippa Mann injures herself by smashing into a concrete wall with no SAFER barrier
  • Gasp with concern as cars wreck against the inside of the track, hitting ragged tire barriers and narrowly missing bare armco
  • Frown as the huge potential capacity of the venue goes unused, empty grandstands making a respectable first-year crowd (30,000) look like 3 men and a dog
  • Worry as the ragged tire barrier flips TK’s car causing him to land head first on soft grass, with all the attendant risk of neck injury through ‘digging in’
  • Stifle a laugh one you find out TK is fine, and notice that he hit a portaloo on impact, then worry a bit more as you ask what a portaloo was doing in harm’s way?
  • Finally, collapse with laughter as Race Control attempt to placate network broadcaster ABC by prematurely allowing a restart on a damp track
It’s a shame we couldn’t have a reply of the final spins and pirouettes slowed down and set to the music of the Blue Danube Waltz, so perfect was the synchronised spinning as one car after another swapped ends and shuddered to a stop.
For Will Power, it was not surprisingly all a bit much. He had been in line for some strong points, and with championship leader and rival Dario Franchitti out of the race (for the first time in a long time) he was looking good to close the championship gap considerably.
But the wet weather restart took him out, and not surprisingly left him furious.
We are beginning to understand that Will can get a bit stroppy when things don’t go his way, and this was no exception, as he went running off to remonstrate with everyone and anyone. And then, wonderfully, pricelessly, he saw himself on the big screen, and launched the gesture that generations to come will understand has given him immortality as a motorsport legend.
Call it a “double rude Vettel”, or an “angry bird”, it was a masterpiece and it has made him an instant legend.
Twitter came alive, fellow drivers promised to pay any fine, declaring him a legend and Will Power became #1 trending topic on US twitter, and rightly so.
Today even F1 start Mark Webber got in on the action, congratulating Power for his stand.
Will, we salute you, but please don’t salute us back.