Looking At Your Sport Through Autosport – August 24, 1995

January 23, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Autsport 95

The top story from this issue of Autosport was speculation of the return of Alain Prost to F1 after it was announced he would carry out testing and development work for Mclaren during the 1995 season. As it turned out, Prost would not return to F1 racing and the seat at McLaren was taken by David Coulthard.

In Class 1 Touring car news, Jason Watt is being watched by both Opel and Mercedes for 1996 after his dominance in the Formula Opel Euroseries. Watt was a star in the making before being paralyzed in a motorcycle accident in 1999. While his racing career continued after his accident it’s something to ponder what he could have done if he didn’t get paralyzed.

Nigel Roebuck’s Fifth Column is a tribute to the retiring Keke Rosberg. Roebuck reflects on memories of Keke during his time at Williams in  the early 1980’s. Nigel talks about Spa 1983 when Rosberg finished fifth driving the wheels off of his naturally aspirated Williams against all the other turbo cars.

Across the pond, Andre Ribeiro wins the New England 200 in New Hampshire giving him and Honda their first Indycar wins. Points leader Jacques Villeneuve finishes fourth, which means he only needs to finish fourth at the next race in Vancouver to take the title.

Autosport celebrates their 45th Birthday looking back at where the magazine has been over the past 45 years and reflections from various contributors.

In British F3, Cristiano da Matta wins the race at Oulton Park after Ralph Firman jumps the start. Other finishers include future Red Bull team boss Christian Horner in 8th and future Corvette GT star Ollie Gavin in 13th.

The new “2” in Multi 12

July 26, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Daniel Ricciardo

With Mark Webber leaving the F1 paddock and joining Porsche’s return to top level sportscar racing; the question remains who will join Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull for 2014? The shortlist points to three men: Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne with Ricciardo appearing to be the front runner for the seat.

After the Multi 21 incident and with Webber’s announcement to join Porsche, many had Kimi as the frontrunner for the 2014 seat. He’s a free agent after ’13, has had Red Bull sponsorship during his Rallying sabbatical. In addition to the Red Bull connection, he is one of the most talented driver’s in the paddock and seems the most likely to not give “a hoot” about who his teammate is.

The negatives are the first being it’s Kimi Raikkonen. As we’ve seen, Kimi is either on or off, if the car is on, Kimi can win. If the car is off, Kimi will float the bottom half of the points table, unlike Alonso who has the ability to be championship contender in a horrible car. Kimi will also want to cash in; is Red Bull willing to deliver the Brinks truck to Kimi? It’s been stated that Kimi is on a bonus heavy contract at Lotus. Could Red Bull handle having “two bulls in one field”? How would their poster child Vettel react to a driver who could possibly be his equal more than Webber and who wouldn’t be phased by the Vettel/Marko machine in a bit. Also, how would the PR machine of Red Bull and Kimi work together?

If we were ranking the three drivers from most likely to least likely Jean Eric Vergne is the least likely of the three to be in the Red Bull in 2014. While Vergne has done a workman like job for Toro Rosso, he hasn’t had spectacular performances bar the Canadian GP. In all likelihood, I expect Vergne to be back at Toro Rosso at 2014, loaned to another team or be Red Bull’s full time Test Driver.

Out of the three, Daniel Ricciardo appears to be the most likely to be at Red Bull for 2014. Ricciardo has been fairly impressive for Toro Rosso with an uptick in his performance since the announcement of Webber’s departure. Ricciardo has been impressive in testing with Red Bull with even his teammate Vergne saying that Ricciardo deserves the seat at Red Bull.

What helps Ricciardo’s case besides his performance has been it appears that Red Bull has an interest in Austrailia. Red Bull sponsors a V8 Supercar series, has sponsored former Moto GP champ Casey Stoner and currently has an Aussie in Mark Webber in the team. Replace an Aussie with an Aussie? Ricciardo would also help Red Bull’s driver program. It hasn’t been since Vettel that Red Bull has fully produced a young developed driver with all other young drivers being cast off after a year or two at Toro Rosso. Also, unlike Raikkonen, Ricciardo would not cost an arm and a leg.

So, my money is on Ricciardo to be the new “2” in Multi 12. However, as a long run prediction, isn’t whoever gets the driver is just keeping the seat warm until Antonio Felix de Costa?

A Road with Many Turns – Why there are no Americans in F1 Part III

June 12, 2013 at 11:40 am


Part II left off in 1995 when Elton Julian’s possible ride at Larrousse vanished due to financial reasons. 1995 can be seen as the turning point in the CART/F1 war with the emergence of the Indy Racing League (which could be another multi part post in itself). The emergence of the IRL divided open wheel racing in America which destroyed the power CART had as it no longer had the Indy 500 and allowed Nascar to develop into the 800 pound gorilla it became. The fall of CART and the rise of Nascar caused a change in direction in the development of young racers in America. Young drivers who wanted to be rich, famous and race in the biggest series only thought of Nascar as sponsors and manufacturers began throwing money at the series.

By the end of 90’s, CART was still offered great racing, but was no longer a threat to F1. It was now seen as a second rate series where there were some talented American’s racing against foreign drivers who were either “rejected” from F1 or waiting for an F1 seat to open up.

One of the criticisms of F1 during this time period was that in order for F1 to be a true World Championship, it needed to have a race in America. Many of sponsors and manufacturers in F1 viewed America as one of if not their biggest market. In 2000, F1 returned to America in 2000 with the USGP at Indy. Yes, the famed brickyard built a road course inside the oval. Perhaps it was Bernie Ecclestone’s way of saying thank you to Indianapolis Motor Speedway boss and IRL creator Tony George for starting the IRL and destroying CART.

The first USGP was a major success with and estimated crowd of 225,000 which is estimated to be the largest attendance for a Grand Prix in the modern era. The races after however were less attended and featured controversies such as the 2002 Ferrari “Dead Heat” and the 2005 race where all the Michelin teams withdrew after the formation lap leaving only six Bridgestone shod cars left to run the race. The 2007 race was the last USGP held at IMS due to dwindling attendance, the high sanction fees of having a Grand Prix and lack of a title sponsor

In 1997, Red Bull entered the US market. Red Bull was already know to fans european racing as it sponsored teams and drivers in a wide variety of series including F1. Trying to link their passion for racing with their new market of America; in 2002 Red Bull teamed up retired CART star and former F1 driver Danny Sullivan to create the Red Bull Driver Search. The program’s goal was to create an American F1 Champion, by taking young American talent and develop them in the open wheel racing ladder with Red Bull backing.

One of the first driver’s chosen was young karter with the perfect name for a racing driver: Scott Speed. Speed was a young karting star from California who had shown promise by winning the Formula Russell Championship in 2001. In addition to living up to his name, Speed was young, good looking, personable and very much an individual; the type of driver Red Bull could easily market.

Speed’s first year under Red Bull’s wing was a disaster. Speed was running in British F3 championship when he began suffering from Ulcerative Colitis and had to return to the US to take care of his condition. 2004 was a better year for Speed as he won Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup and the German Formula Renault championship in Red Bull colors. For 2005, Speed was promoted to GP2 and finished 3rd in the Championship. In addition to his Gp2 duties, Speed also acted as the Red Bull F1 team’s test driver at Canadian and US GP’s.

By 2005 it looked as if the US would finally have an American in F1 with Speed having success in the European Formula ladder, something an American hadn’t done in many years. Speed with combination of talent, Red Bull backing and the need for F1 to make ground in the US had a solid chance at being in F1.

Speed was not the only young talent Red Bull had under their wings. By 2005, it seemed as if 90% the young promising driver’s on earth were involved in the Red Bull Junior Program. In 2005, Red Bull bought the struggling Minardi F1 team and re named it Toro Rosso. Toro Rosso acted as junior team to Red Bull’s main F1 squad. A place where there young talent could develop in F1 without being on the main squad.

For 2006, Speed was a Toro Rosso driver, a team part owned by Red Bull and run by Franz Tost and Gerhard Berger. Speed and Toro Rosso struggled with reliability and crashes, usually finishing in the bottom half of the table. As the season went on it became clearer that he was favorite son of the Red Bull duo of owner Dietrich Mateschitz and racing guru Dr. Helmut Marko and not team principles Tost and Berger.

In 2007 was beginning of the end, Speed was confirmed as a Toro Rosso driver late in the pre-season and was tipped by many to be on the hot seat. Speed suffered with poor reliability and crashes. Speed’s time as an F1 driver would end with European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.

Tension were high in the Toro Rosso camp between the drivers (Speed and Tonio Liuzzi) and Team Principles Tost and Berger. Speed went public with the tension telling the media that weekend that the team was trying to get rid of him and Liuzzi. The principles blamed the drivers for team underperforming while the driver’s blamed the car and poor management.

As for the race, Speed started 18th on the grid. One highlight of Speed and the Toro Rosso was that they worked well in the wet. Earlier in the season, Speed had been the fastest in a wet session at the Monaco GP. The European GP became a rain soaked race, Speed worked his way up from is lowly starting position a up to 6th when everything began to unravel.

The Toro Rosso pit crew expected Liuzzi to come in first and fumbled Speed’s pit stop, over a minute was lost during Speed’s pit stop. During this long stop, the rain became worse. After his pit stop, racing into turn one. Speed followed five other cars into the gravel trap. After this, the race was red flagged and Speed was forced to retire.

When returning to his garage, an upset Speed was met by a just as upset Tost. Tost yelled at Speed for crashing and Speed in return yelled at Tost for the botched  pit stop. When Speed turned away, he was then punched in the back by Tost, Speed walked away and was then grabbed by Tost and shoved against a garage wall. Speed moved into the center of the garage and in front of the whole team told Tost that if he wanted to punch him to do it in front of the whole team. Tost declined, Speed then told Berger that if Tost ever touched him again he would knock him out.

On July 31st, Speed was released from his Toro Rosso contract and replaced by Sebastian Vettel (what ever happened to him). It would be the last time that an American would be part of the driver line up (not counting 3rd and test driver’s) for an F1 team.

So why did something that seemed so promising go so wrong? First, the shotgun marriage of the team and drivers was a failure with Tost and Berger being “forced” to take young Red Bull drivers. In association with that there were differences in why the team was not performing up to expectations. Team management blamed the drivers while driver’s said the car was not able to do what was expected.

Second, one of the criticisms of Speed in the wake of the everything that had gone wrong was his demeanor. Speed’s confident attitude was received by some as cock and arrogant. Acclaimed F1 Pundit Peter Windsor blamed Red Bull driver coaching and development in part for Speed’s failure in that Speed wasn’t self critical enough. Windsor noted that Red Bull driver’s have not been taught self assessment and blame others for the lack of result.

While Speed may have burnt the Red Bull F1 bridge, they were not ready to let go of their investment. After F1, Speed with Red Bull backing started a Nascar career. The Red Bull/Speed Nascar partnership was unsuccessful and Speed was released by the Red Bull team at the end of 2009. Speed currently drives for a backmarker team in the Sprint Cup series.

The F1 circus would return to US in 2012 with the Austin Grand Prix with no American F1 drivers on the grid which takes us to Part IV. Is there anyone on the horizon and what will it take to get an American into F1.

Multi 2112

March 26, 2013 at 12:11 pm
These two men will not be sharing a Red Bull together anytime soon

These two men will not be sharing a Red Bull together anytime soon


“Multi 21”. The order that Sebastian Vettel chose not to obey by his Red Bull team when he was instructed to hold his position behind his teammate Mark Webber at the GP of Malaysia. Red Bull gave the order for their driver’s to hold their positions, instead Vetel passed Webber and took a very hollow win that brings back memories of when Didier Pironi went against orders to pass his teammate Gilles Villeneuve and take the win at Imola in 1982 (a move which many feel led to Gilles’ death at Zolder).

I don’t think Webber will be killed at the next Grand Prix, but Vettel,the once innocent smiling schoolboy has become the ruthless villain; this all sounds very like another multi time world champion from Germany, one M. Schumacher. This incident was so terrible that even Red Bull racing guru Helmut Marko, a man who sees the world through Vettel glasses hasn’t been as defensive as Vettel as he normally is.

The question, how does Red Bull handle this? They have created a monster in Vettel, allowing him get whatever he wants and not facing responsibility or consequences for his actions. What action do they take? It’s inconceivable that they would suspend their star driver and best chance at a title. Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz was not at all pleased with what happened and it’s supposedly been made clear to Sebastian that something like this won’t happen again.

But is it too little too late? Vettel has been groomed  by Red Bull since age 11, is 25, a three time world champion  and is rumored to have contract with Red Bull through 2016 while his teammate is 36 and on a one year deal.The team has been built around Vettel and he is their best chance of title so it’s possible that they may have to reap what they sow. How will the team react going forward? Will equal focus be placed on both cars now that they have much compassion for Webber? In regards to Red Bull team orders, are there any? Is it open warfare? Will one driver help the other late in the season if it came down to winning a title? If I were Webber I may think long and hard if Vettel needs help later in the season.

As for Webber, I’m saddened for him, there were rumors going around after what happened in Malaysia that was going to quit the team immediately but those have been denied by Webber’s father who has been vocal about the support his son has received from the team and from the entire F1 paddock. Let it be noted that Webber is one of the more beloved driver’s in the current crop while Vettel isn’t. Webber came up the hard way to F1 with stops at F3000, Sportscars and Minardi and has the image of being tough customer but also a team player. Perhaps Mark now regrets not signing with Ferrari and having Alonso as his teammate.

This brings up the question of team orders, which is a messy gray area. It’s something I’ve gone back and forth about. To me the one team order that should always apply is “Don’t crash your teammate” (something Vettel has done to Webber). I understand team orders late in the season when one driver is in contention for the championship while the other isn’t. The difference is that what happened took place at the second race of the season and isn’t the point of racing to win and beat the guy ahead of you?

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