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OTD Lite: 2008 – First American F1 champion passes away
Having started in Formula One with the Maserati team in 1958, Hill’s rise to prominence began as he joined the Ferrari F1 team for 1959. Having won Le Mans the previous year with a Ferrari 250 Testarossa, he was known to the Commendatore and enjoyed mixed fortunes in his first season with the Scuderia. His victory at the 1960 Italian Grand Prix would prove to be the last front engined victory, and for the 1961 season, Ferrari entered their first sublime rear engined creation – the ‘sharknose’ Ferrari 156.
Five victories that season, shared between Hill and Wolfgang von Trips and the debut victory for Giancarlo Baghetti captured the constructors crown. The only remaining title was the drivers which was decided in the most horrific circumstances possible. On the last running of the Monza banked circuit, as the drivers came towards Parabolica on the second lap, Trips and Jim Clark tangled. Losing control, Trips was launched up a spectator bank and the ensuing crash killed the driver and fifteen spectators.
Hill returned the following season, but his heart was no longer in motorsport, “I no longer have as much need to race, to win. I don’t have as much hunger anymore. I am no longer willing to risk killing myself.” His last full season was 1964 with a one off drive at Monza in 1966. He continued in sports-car racing until he retired from the sport completely in 1967.
“I’m in the wrong business. I don’t want to beat anybody, I don’t want to be the big hero. I’m a peace-loving man, basically.” He returned to America and built up an award winning classic car restoration business and it’s a bitter twist, that the next American World Champion – Mario Andretti – would be crowned at Monza following the death of his team-mate – Ronnie Peterson.
Mclaren looks at progression of Vandoorne
Mclaren proved in 2007 that their system of driver training was measured and, significantly, brought into the sport a rookie superstar – Lewis Hamilton. The experiment proved so successful that after Kevin Magnussen’s third place finish in Melbourne, it seemed that lightening had indeed struck twice.
Unlike the rapid advancement of the Red Bull system which churns out more dross than quality in keeping with its corporate image, Mclaren take the measured approach to driver advancement – which made the signing of Sergio Perez for the 2013 season something of a surprise.
Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne has been part of the Mclaren Junior system for some time now and the team believes that he is ready for the transition to a full time seat in Formula One although the paymasters are considering another season in GP2 against being placed in a smaller team next year.
With Boullier admitting that Mclaren are looking at three to five year driver plans it could emerge that he may be drafted into the senior squad as Mclaren rebuild with their Japanese partners, Honda.
Yet Boullier sounds a cautionary note: “It is a little bit too early to take a decision, I think if you have to go to F1, first he needs to feel ready, and I am happy that he feels ready. He also needs the opportunity to step into F1 but not in any condition.”
“We are now assessing all scenarios. I think GP2 is one of them, as he still has to learn more about GP2, get more wins and obviously fight for the championship. He is doing a good job for the first year. You can see really clear progress over the last few races. He is very dedicated and I am happy to see he is getting there – but it is too early to have plans, so everything is open.”
Global disbelief surrounds Verstappen recruitment
Max Verstappen’s recruitment by the Red Bull Corporation – to run in their junior team from next year – has created headlines around the world – something that Red Bull may well have foreseen.
With Adrian Newey offering measured views about the ‘kids’ that compete at the top level of global karting and Villeneuve attacking the futility of the Superlicense scheme there have been countless opposing views from different observers of vastly differing age groups.
Mika Salo, a pundit for Finnish television has questioned the wisdom of Verstappen debut next year. He race in Formula One against the lad’s father Jos and has similar feeling to 1997 champion Jacques Villeneuve.
“I think it’s really bad for formula one, in my opinion, a guy that young should not be allowed to drive in F1. It should be the very top category of racing for which drivers train for years. F1 is not a junior series, what happens when it doesn’t work out after two years? An unemployed F1 driver at the age of 19,” he said.
Mark Webber who raced for the Red Bull team for six years also commented that he had a wonderful career, “but when I see that a 17-year-old is coming into formula one, I think it’s not hard to see that it’s over when you’re 38!” As yet neither Nigel Mansell or Damon Hill have been quoted with their opinions but Mansell took the 1992 title aged 39 and Hill succeeded in his quest at the over-the-hill age of 36.
As ever the confrontational Helmut Marko has completely missed the point in his quest to reduce Formula One to a Red Bull advertising arena, arguing that while other teams “talk about young talents, we make it a reality. I bet 100 euros that in his first race Verstappen will be able to compete with (Daniil) Kvyat,” he was quoted by Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport.
Brazil’s Totalrace published perhaps the saddest comment of all is Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost. “Of the drivers we have had, I think he (Vergne) is the best, although Sebastien Buemi also did a good job and has shown talent for Toyota (at Le Mans), I hope he (Vergne) has the chance to develop and to show more, because for me, he deserves to be in formula one.” Which begs the question why replace him?
Recently Fernando Alonso wanted to renegotiate his contract with Ferrari for $50 million annually but with the new comers earning a pittance in comparison there is little surprise that Ferrari baulked at his wage demands. Which raises the question that if this era of F1 is so easy to compete in, maybe we should review how we place these gladiators in the pantheon of the greatest. If experience counts for so little, how can an argument for the serial winners over the last decade be offered.
There has always been teen sensations in sporting endeavours, be it tennis, at the Olympics or football for example (soccer for the readers stateside) but in motor-sport you have to look at the phenomenons of motor bike racing for comparable achievements.
Valentino Rossi entered the 1996 125cc championship aged 17, but didn’t reach the top level until 2000 having accumulated four years of racing experience in the junior championships. In recent years Marc Marquez has been breaking records and his entry into the 2008 125cc championship coincided with him being 15 years old. His entry into MotoGP arrived in 2013 after the required years of experience.
Essentially no manufacturer would entertain the thought of recruiting a 17 year old, to the top level, who has practically zero experience of dealing with engineers and global business expectations. The likelihood of a Newey, Allison or a Brawn communicating with, essentially, a young boy is almost absurd, unless the technology has actually reached a point that an engineer no longer needs a driver’s feedback.
At the same time, would you allow a brilliantly gifted individual to perform life saving surgery before he has begun his studies…
(sourced from GMM with TJ13 comment)
Button admits F1 retirement possible after 2014
Jenson Button has admitted for the first time that he might be forced to “retire” at the end of 2014. As McLaren and Honda look ahead to their new works partnership beginning next year, it is clear the Woking based team is hoping to sign a truly top driver.
Disgruntled Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have been linked with the seat, but so too has Ferrari’s frustrated Fernando Alonso. The Telegraph claimed the Spaniard could make an enormous $32 million per year with McLaren, Honda and also his sponsor Santander pitching in.
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and the Eric Boullier-linked Romain Grosjean are also believed to have been considered by McLaren, so while the situation remains unclear, the future of 15-year F1 veteran Button hangs in the balance.
“We haven’t sat down and talked about it,” the 34-year-old Briton and 2009 world champion told the BBC. “If I have to retire at the end of the season then so be it, but I feel I have so much more to give and I can’t imagine life without motor sport and especially formula one,” Button said.
TJ13 comment: In the UK there is an old saying – ‘Mutton dressed as lamb’. In effect it is used to describe vain women of a more mature age dressed in the fashions that their teenage counterparts would be wearing. In the 21st century, this particular fashion has seemingly died out because much of what young women wear is effectively grunge style clothing.
Jenson Button debuted in F1 fourteen years ago with Williams, was called out as a non serious playboy by none other than professional playboy Flavio Briatore – so maybe a case of the kettle calling the pot black – before landing a drive with BAR and settling down to a career that to many people has exceeded all expectations.
A World Champion in 2009, and multiple race winner, Button has never been quite accepted as truly top drawer. If the car didn’t work, nor did Jenson. The corporate world made it clear earlier in the year that he is not an attractive proposition to them and it seems that Mclaren are agreeing.
His strongest ally at the team was Martin Whitmarsh who has obviously left and with Ron Dennis making it clear that he needed to work harder and Eric managing Romain Grosjean, even without a signature signing – his tenure in Woking seems to have run it’s course.
Rather than hanging on in desperation, he should be seeking other opportunities himself. After all, if Felipe Massa can fall on his feet after Ferrari ousted him, then Button must surely have something to give other teams..
(sourced from GMM with TJ13 comment)
Mercedes chiefs resolve to ‘cool hot heads’
Mercedes chiefs have resolved to cool the simmering feud between title-warring teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Germany’s Bild newspaper reports that when the pair – who collided during the Belgian grand prix – came face-to-face in Germany on Wednesday for a sponsor photoshoot, they barely acknowledged each other’s presence.
In the few days since Sunday at Spa, the drivers have been exchanging their barbs through the media, but team bosses have reportedly now instructed Rosberg and Hamilton to quieten their dispute. “Toto Wolff, Paddy Lowe and I agreed that hot heads should be cooled this week,” team chairman Niki Lauda confirmed. “Each word only triggers a reaction from the other. The drivers know now what responsibilities they have,” he added.
The explosive coming-together at Spa-Francorchamps is still the dominant topic in formula one, but the governing FIA has resisted calls to open an investigation despite Hamilton having accused Rosberg of crashing on purpose. The driver steward in Belgium, Emmanuele Pirro, has revealed to Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport that his fellow FIA officials needed only “10 seconds” to decide against investigating the clash. “There was no intention,” he insisted. “Perhaps Rosberg was a little cunning and clever to try it, but in the end the main problem was what happened within the team.”
Alain Prost, one of the most successful F1 drivers of all time, agrees that what happened on lap 2 was just “a racing incident. You have to remember that from the cockpit you can’t see your big front wing, and every weekend we see two or three incidents just like it,” he told Russia’s f1news.ru. “Lewis did not want to leave him more space, and Nico didn’t want to leave the track and perhaps made a small mistake in assessing the situation. But he didn’t do it intentionally, because the chance is much higher that you only damage your own car. Of course, the consequences were very serious for Lewis, but it was still a racing incident, albeit inflamed by the media and the fans and even the team,” said Prost.
Mark Webber, who until his F1 retirement had an intense rivalry with Sebastian Vettel, tipped the dispute to certainly roll into next weekend’s Italian grand prix at Monza. “The two of them are going into a media nightmare in Monza,” the Australian told Austrian broadcaster Servus TV. “The whole story is going to be replayed all over again and it won’t be easy for them to concentrate on the job. They will only be paying attention to one another, as they know the constructors’ title is as good as over. But Mercedes will overcome this controversy and get both titles,” Webber predicted.
TJ13 comment: Mr E will be rubbing hands with glee. Of course this has nothing to with a German juidicial system finding him innocent/guilty/masonic… no pure and simple this is TV gold. With Lewis the most marketable athlete in F1 involved in a bitter feud, all the talk of the last few seasons of dropping viewership has stopped.
Back in the 80’s the combination of Senna, a mythologized driver in his own race suit versus the Frenchman Alain Prost, became an ever expanding news story as they pushed the barriers of fair play to the limits. Watching two men in the goldfish bowl of TV dominating the season so completely but pushing each other to new limits made for fascinating viewing. The sad part of motor-sport is that something primeval makes many people want to watch for morbid reasons. They want to see the big crashes – whereas the aficionados ( like us ) watch for the skills and the artistry.
Of course, Mercedes want to control the situation and Webber is probably right that they will win the drivers title too – but many pundits believed that a dominant Williams would lead a driver to the title in 1986 as well, yet circumstances allowed Prost to win it.
As has become fashionable in schools where the bully has to apologise to their victim, the victim says how they feel and the world is rosy once more, real-life isn’t that simple. Once out of the headmasters office that victim has no support and the bully is angered at his perceived humiliation. It probably doesn’t help that at this particular school we have three deputy headmasters who have differing views on how to run the organisation..
Meanwhile in Monza…
Ready for Monza!! pic.twitter.com/sjK1WC25R7
— Taki Inoue (@takiinoue) August 28, 2014