Daily News and Comment: Monday 8th April 2013

Marko Watch – Red Bull’s first female driver

Our favourite pinscher is making the news again. Last month during the inaugural NASCAR event we had the good doctor suggesting that Danica Patrick wasn’t good enough to race in F1. Danica had hit the headlines having become the first female driver to take pole position in the season opener at Daytona.

untitledTo be fair to Helmut, he did provide analysis that showed she was not nearly as good in the Indycar road races as she had been in on the Ovals stating, “We are looking for drivers based on performance, not by quota”.

Lauda too questioned whether Patrick is the right woman for the job, indeed whether anyone in the US racing series was good enough – male or female. “It has to be said that the technical level in the US does not compare to the level in formula one. This is also reflected in the drivers. The last American who had success in Europe was Mario Andretti — and that was in my day!” exclaimed the 63-year-old.

Well, never to be one behind the 8 ball for long, Marko has today signed up a female driver to its infamous driver development ‘junior team’ – the team that allegedly was described by a young Dutch driver as treating its protégés like ‘dogs’. 18 year old Netherlander Beitske Visser will race in 2013 in the German single seater category ADAC Formel Masters in 2013. She won 2 races in 2012 out of the 23 events in the class and will receive the full backing of the giant Austrian energy drinks brand this year.

untitledShe is “the first ever female to join our squad”, Red Bull said in a statement (even though this is still not on the RBR website). Of course Vettel is the famous and only truly successful graduate of the Red Bull junior driver programme though we presently have Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo driving the Toro Rosso cars and prior to them before their summary dismissal, Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastian Buemi.

Whilst we can accept that Marko is not looking to recruit by quota, we can be sceptical of the appointment of female drivers to F1 programmes unless they demonstrate they have the ability to compete properly.

The problem is that there is a widely held view in F1 that a ‘token’ female driver will be great for the sport as Lauda made clear. For ten years I’ve told Bernie Ecclestone he’s dopey for not getting a woman into formula one. If we could get a woman into the top six, you would immediately have twice as many fans in front of the TV,” he told Bild.

I know there are those in F1 who hold the view there is room on the grid for a second tier series, whether that be by a separate specification of the cars or by gender, Still, for now Red Bull march on with Mateschitz world brand domination objectives with the latest F1 marketing ploy of signing a female driver.

Nordschleife closed

The legendary Nordschleife which sits alongside the modern Nurburgring Formula One circuit was closed for a while yesterday. Graffiti ‘artists’ painted a giant 15 by 4 metre bright  white penis on the asphalt of the famous circuit.

The operators of the circuit were forced to bring in specialist cleaning vehicles to remove the graffiti, and local police confirmed that the facility was closed for 90 minutes. An estimated 20 litres of white paint were used and apparently the artwork caused a ‘low grip safety hazard’ for those driving the circuit. Unfortunately TJ13 has been unable to obtain relevant pictures for this story (though one of our loyal readers has supplied one in the comments section 😉 )

No civil war at Mercedes F1 – yet

This may be interesting merely because that this story follows a broadcast interview in the UK with Ross Brawn by SKY last Friday. During that interview he stated categorically that he was the only one making calls for the team during the race and that a committee including Lauda and Wolff would not work.

untitledSo according to German media Toto Wolff has found it necessary to announce that there is no substance in the rumours of a ‘power struggle’ between the two Austrian owners of the team. “I am going to use Niki’s words by saying that is the biggest bullshit I have ever heard.”

The real story which began last September on the appointment of Lauda is about the inevitable power struggle between Brawn and the ‘new kids’ and how that will play out. So far, Wolff made a mess of handling the media over the Paddy Lowe story which he leaked and Brawn was forced to clean up after him.

Brawn also cleaned up nicely for Lauda and Wolff following their criticism of him issuing team orders following the GP in Sepang (see yesterday’s news).

In a pretty obvious U-Turn Wolff accepts this now, “From the team’s point of view, you need to make sure you don’t throw away the team result. If we had let Lewis and Nico race each other, we would certainly have had a fuel problem with both cars. We knew this and so we used the team order. “We did it because we didn’t want to look like idiots at the end.”

Toto’s attempt at justifying his outburst at Brawn looks weak stating, “From a sporting point of view, team orders are an absurdity. I speak as a fan, as a sportsman, as a race car driver”.

McLaren offer olive branch to Lowe

In an interview with Autosport, Martin Whitmarsh admits he would love Paddy Lowe to turn his back on the proposed move to Mercedes AMG F1 at the end of the year. McLaren have a difficult 2013 car at present and are suffering the consequences of shifting from a push rod to pull rod suspension system, yet Ferrari experienced similar birthing pains in 2012 when they made the identical system switch.

Whitmarsh reflects, ‘The fact is that Paddy was involved in the concept, birth and development of this car and I’d happily have him back to fix it.” The Daily Mail is adamant this is just wishful thinking from Whitmarsh, I on the other hand am not so sure and that this just will not happen. I have to say I’m not so sure.

untitledDennis and Whitmarsh play the good cop bad cop routine particularly well and never more obviously than during the Lewis Hamilton negotiations. Clearly Whitmarsh persuaded Dennis to relent on the pay cut he demanded Lewis take and fought all guns blazing to keep the team protoge – but the damage was done.

I heard last week that Martin Whitmarsh does in fact believe the Paddy Lowe situation can be turned around – and in practical terms there is no reason it cannot. However, the spectre looming in Lowe’s mind would be whether  the damage is irreparable with Ron Dennis to make such a U-turn worth while.

Watch this space. You heard the ‘where is Paddy’ going – first on TJ13 and now….

Webber v Vettel: Team Radio

I know some of you don’t have the access to media we in the UK do – so here is the full broadcast transmission of the Red Bull team pit wall to Webber and Vettel during the Sepang GP – in sequence.

Branson pay up date set

Nearly 3 years after that fateful handshake, Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson is to pay up on his wager with Ex-Caterham boss Tony Fernandes who himself was mentored by Branson as a financial controller for Virgin Atlantic in the  1980’s.

For those of you who don’t know, the two men had a wager over which of their respective teams would finish highest in the 2010 F1 racing championships. It was agreed that whoever lost the bet would have to dress up as an air hostess, serving champagne to guests on the other owner’s airline and of course it was the predecessor of Marussia – Virgin Racing – who came last in the field that year.


A special TJ13 photo render

It was announced today that Richard Branson will serve passengers on board an AirAsia X’s flight D7 237 and he will be required to wear AirAsia X’s regulation red stewardess outfit, along with make-up and high-heels. Fernandes says Branson would also have to shave his legs as AirAsia X does not permit “hairy stewardesses”. He will, however, be able to keep his beard.

“He will be committed to carry out the responsibilities of a flight attendant, including offering coffee, tea and other food and beverages to guests on the special six-hour Perth to Kuala Lumpur flight,” said the Air Asia boss. “The day of reckoning has come for Sir Richard finally.”

Sir Richard said: “I’ve done some outrageous things in my time but this will be up there with the best of them. Tony won our bet fair and square and I’m a man of my word – so I will dress up and make a splash in the name of Starlight, a fantastic charity. I’ve just got to practice walking in high heels first.”

Tickets for the flight can be booked online at www.airasia.com from April 8 to May 12 (or until seats are sold out). Fares will cost from AUD399 (£270) one way, and AUD100 from each sale will be donated to the Starlight Children’s Foundation in Australia. The airline will also donate 10 per cent of all in-flight sales, including duty-free merchandise sold on board the flight, to the foundation.

Ex-Sky Presenter ‘returns’ to F1

Georgie Thompson is pitching herself as ‘back in F1’. She is the face for a new campaign for Lotus sponsor ‘Sure’. Georgie says, “It’s great to be involved in a campaign focused on F1 and Sure men is such an exciting brand to be involved with, especially given the strong early season form of the Lotus, with Kimi Raikkonen winning the first race. It’s a brand that fits really well with the fast-paced and exhilarating F1 lifestyle – I’m really looking forward to being a part of such an exciting project”.

untitledReally. There are times I just can’t help – how do my kids say it? Ah yes ‘ROFL’. But wait it gets even better. Thompson’s friends at the Mail are spinning the story that she chose to leave SKY F1 as she became disillusioned playing second fiddle to Simon Lazenby.

Apparently, Georgie informed SKY of her decision on in the run up to the channels season opening F1 show and “her profile has since been airbrushed out of the team shot on the Sky Sports F1 website”.

Strange Thompson should give up willingly an 11 year association with SKY that saw her become the face of SKY Sports News.

15 responses to “Daily News and Comment: Monday 8th April 2013

  1. “on the asphalt of the famous asphalt”?

    It was interesting to see the reaction of much of the world media when Danica was forced to go to a number of photshoots scantily clad. Many male F1 drivers have done this before, and there has never been the argument that they are being objectified.

  2. Did Helmut really talk about Danica as not being good enough to be “the first female to race in F1”?? Or is that a slip of the keys in the report?

    Either way, let’s remember Lella Lombardi who not only raced in F1 but finished in the points.

    • You are correct sir. I think there were too many ‘first female driver’ sentiments flying around in sentence 1 and 2.

      By the way if we want to be pedantic, Lella didn’t finish in the ‘points’ – plural 😉

          • Nonetheless, do we not say “so-and-so finished in the points” where “points” is, essentially, shorthand for “points-paying positions”?

            Yours, even more pedantically, Tim.

            BTW – Sadly, I don’t ever remember seeing her race although I must have done (on TV).

  3. TJ, different topic, but could you ask SomersF1 or whoever to explain to us that new FRIC system Merc are using? Some pretty pictures or simple analogies in the manner of Archimedes in a bath would help.

    Note: Analogies in the manner of Archimedes running naked shouting ‘Eureka’ not needed.

  4. I thought at the time it was a fun idea for Fernandes and Branson to bet on who would do the better job, but it seems too long for this debt to be paid – I’ve lost interest, and I’ve quite forgotten Virgin’s interest in F1. However, I fail to understand why he has to do it in drag… Perhaps I’m too old-fashioned for this new-style PC attitude but am I the only one who finds this sexist, and demeaning for all who take part…? 😉

  5. I’m not surprised Red Bull signed up Visser – looking at upcoming female drivers a few months back I noticed her and Natasha Seatter. She’s done well in Karting and won races last year so it’ll be interesting how she does going forward. And she fits in with the brand, being German-speaking too.

    Looking at the other successful female drivers – Danica won in Formula Ford before going back to the US and doing well there, and Simona de Silvestro won in Indy lights as well and can now do well in Indycar by finally getting a competitive car. It’s only a matter of time before a very successful female driver comes along and I daresay Susie Wolff will be driving for Williams in the YDT. Although, maybe the ‘dogs’ expression could be changed to Marko having his ‘bitches’ – very non-PC too indeed 🙂

    • ….But very amusing. Most F1 chicks I know are fairly good sorts and can give as good as they get – if not better – so I wouldn’t worry.

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