TWO WAYS OF LOOKING AT IT
The debate over Ferrari's use of team orders at the German Grand Prix highlights a divide between traditional thinking and the perceived need to focus on the “show”
The dispute over team orders that marred the German Grand Prix for some demonstrated that a clear philosophical difference exists between F1 teams – and members of the sports chattering class – over the concept. Officially banned from the sport since the infamous “handover” of the Hungarian Grand Prix from Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello to teammate Michael Schumacher in 2002, the manipulation of results by more surreptitious means to serve a team's ends has remained a thorny issue. Ferrari's relatively open order to Felipe Massa in Germany to make way for Fernando Alonso showed that the Scuderia remains old-school on the subject. The team refused to back down from its position that it had done nothing wrong, even after being fined $100,000 and called before the FIA's World Motorsport Council to account for its actions.
“Our drivers are very well aware – and it is something they have to stick to – that if one races for Ferrari, then the interests of the team come before those of the individual,” said Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo. “In any case, these things have happened since the days of Nuvolari and I experienced it myself when I was sporting director, in the days of Niki Lauda. Therefore, enough of this hypocrisy – even if I can well believe that some people might have liked to see our two drivers eliminate one another, that is definitely not the case for me or indeed for our fans.”
Schumacher, now with Mercedes, quickly came to his old team's defense.
“I have been criticized in the past for exactly that and I understand 100 percent – and I would have done exactly the same if I were in their situation,” he said.
However, his team boss Nick Fry disagreed, arguing that teams should put the good of the sport above their own ambitions.
“I think the first thing is that we all have to obey the rules,” Fry said. “Whether you like it or not, the stewards and the FIA have the final say. Putting that aside, I think the teams have an absolute responsibility for the show. The show is what generates the fans; the fans are what generate the sponsors, and the sponsors generate sponsorship which allows us to run the teams. So they are the customers.”
Fry acknowledges there are huge commercial pressures on teams to succeed in F1, but believes that they should think more carefully about delivering what fans of the sport want.
“Personally, I think the show is the most important thing,” he said. “I heard David Coulthard talk about the history and the fact there always were team orders, but I think times have changed. This is sport and the fans out there want to see the drivers fighting. While the teams think it is a teams' championship, most of the fans – possibly with the exception of Ferrari – support the drivers who happen to drive for a team. I think we have to let them fight it out and only intervene if it is getting out of hand, and they are knocking each other off.”
JACQUES' NEW BEANSTALK
Ex-World Champ teams with Durango for new F1 bid
Jacques Villeneuve has confirmed that he has partnered with Italian motorsports group Durango in his bid to return to Formula 1 as a team owner.
“The team will be a joint venture with Durango, and based out of Italy,” explained the 1997 World Champion and '95 Indy 500 winner and CART champ, who last raced in F1 with BMW Sauber in 2006. “To be clear, right now all the money comes from corporate sponsorship, and not from personal investors.”
Durango announced its intention to apply for a 2011 F1 entry earlier this year. The team had withdrawn from GP2 due to funding issues and said it had attracted backers more interested in an F1 bid. It has spent this season racing in the new Auto GP series.
In the meantime, Villeneuve is not giving up on his NASCAR ambitions. He raced in the Brickyard 400 for Braun Racing, making the field on speed but finishing three laps down with an overheating and ill-handling car.
RAHAL SAVINGS AND LOAN
Rahal Letterman lends out sponsor to Newman/Haas
Just when Graham Rahal looked set to join Dreyer & Reinbold Racing or his dad Bobby's team for an extended slate of IndyCar Series races, he reappeared at Toronto in his old No. 02 Newman/Haas Dallara-Honda – his fourth different ride this season.
The rapprochement between Rahal and the team with which he joined the series from Champ Car – a partnership that ended for lack of sponsorship at the end of '09 – was expected to be renewed at Long Beach only to be nixed at the last minute. Its revival involved NHR, Rahal Letterman Racing and diet system sponsor Quick-Trim.
“All of our efforts were based on us running our car with Graham and Rahal Letterman Racing,” said Bobby Rahal. “But we had to make sure that any effort we made did not detract from our BMW ALMS program, and to do that was going to be cost-prohibitive. So, in the interest of doing what was best for the sponsor, for Graham and for the sport, we reached out to our friends at Newman/Haas.”
MOVE IT OR LOSE IT
Milka Duno finally faces scrutiny over slow pace
The presence of Milka Duno has been an increasing thorn in the side of IZOD IndyCar drivers this season and, at Toronto, series CEO Randy Bernard went public on the issue.
“It's very, very important for the credibility of the IndyCar Series that fans know they (the drivers) are the best in the world,” Bernard said. “And if someone can't maintain and compete with that, I really think that's what we have a ladder system for.”
Duno was placed on probation by the league after being ordered off the track just eight laps into the race at Toronto. She was also pulled from the race at Iowa while lapping more than two seconds slower than the leaders, and drew the ire of Ryan Hunter-Reay at Watkins Glen while running more than 7sec off the pace.
Bernard said series chief steward Brian Barnhart would be the final arbiter. “He has to make the assessment who is allowed in and who isn't,” Bernard added.
PORSCHE GIVE RACING A JOLT
Factory's new hybrid GT racer will make its American competition debut at Petit Le Mans in October
Following a strong competition debut by the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid at the Nurburgring 24 Hours, where the car led the overall classification for more than eight hours (and ran for more than 22), the hybrid racer will make additional race appearances later this year. The car will contest the final rounds of the new Le Mans International Cup: Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta and Zhuhai, China.
“After the 911 GT3 R Hybrid's fantastic performance at the Nurburgring 24 Hours, we are now eager to gain more experience with the hybrid technology on a variety of racetracks,” says Hartmut Kristen, head of Porsche Motorsport. “At the same time, we would like to show fans and customers in our most important markets how our ‘race lab' performs under racing conditions.”
The car features two electric motors at the front axle each developing 60 kilowatts to supplement the 480hp normally aspirated engine. An electric flywheel power generator in the cockpit has the advantage of storing and delivering high amounts of energy very quickly. The combination of the combustion engine and electric motor uses less fuel without compromising performance. When overtaking or accelerating, the driver can engage the system by pressing the boost paddle on the steering wheel to send energy from the charged generator.
PRODRIVE'S MINI VISION FOR RALLYING
British WRC squad to field works team in 2011
Mini is back in rallying, and it's jumping in with both feet. The German-owned marque has formed an association with Prodrive, which took Subaru's rally program to World Rally Championships, to field a works team in next year's WRC. Prodrive will build the cars and offer them for sale to private teams.
“During the 1960s, Mini captured the imagination of the world when the tiny car took on the might of V8-powered Fords and won what was then one of the toughest motorsport events, the 4,000km Monte Carlo Rally, said Prodrive boss David Richards. “I believe our new Mini will become a firm favorite of the latest generation of rally fans.”
The Mini Countryman WRC will run with a BMW-developed 1.6-liter turbo engine. No drivers have been confirmed, but Marcus Gronholm and Kris Meeke are frontrunners for seats.