MotorSportsTalk’s 2013 F1 season review, Part 1

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Now that we’ve completed our IndyCar and NASCAR season reviews, it’s time for us to focus on everything that went down from Albert Park to Interlagos in the 2013 Formula One World Championship.

If you’ve been following us this off-season, you know the drill by now. We’ll start with our respective Top 5 stories of the season, followed by our respective Top 10 drivers, and then deliver our capsule reviews over the next couple of weeks.

In the words of Murray Walker, let’s Go, Go, Go…

Tony DiZinno’s Top Five Stories

Vettel’s Fourth Title. I’ve never been a huge fan of one driver or team dominating the proceedings in any racing series; it can have the potential to turn fans off. That said, Sebastian Vettel’s achievements in 2013 had the potential to change the minds of even the most ardent “Vettel haters.” Armed with a car that actually, it seems hard to believe now, wasn’t the class of the field in the first half, Vettel still won four of 10 races while no one else won more than two. “Multi 21” was a disappointment, but it showed his ruthless tenacity when he puts the helmet on. In the second half, coupled with the Pirelli tire construction change and its knock-on effect, Vettel and Red Bull obliterated the competition. Nine straight wins, either dominating from pole or strategic excellence like in Japan, represented the height of his powers. Post-victory donuts were merely the cherry on top. No one else really stood a chance after the summer break.

Tiregate and its effects. All too frequently Pirelli’s tires stole the headlines this year, and no one won from that – not even Pirelli. From Mercedes’ secret tire test at Spain, the spate of blowouts at Silverstone, and the variance between its prime and option tires either way too close or much too far, it seemed all of Pirelli’s efforts and decisions had consequences which they probably didn’t want or expect. Perhaps the bigger issue are the stringent regulations against tire testing with current-year chassis; the fact “tiregate” even became an issue arose from the fact that the only testing of 2013 compounds could come with 2011 or earlier chassis. Fixing that and allowing for several in-season tests would go a long way to eradicating the frequency of tire-related stories in 2014.

The Kimi and Lotus saga. Kimi Raikkonen is awesome at not caring. Lotus, in my estimation, is close to awesome with its social media presence. What was not awesome was Lotus apparently shirking its issue as a responsible team and not paying Kimi, who otherwise wouldn’t care except for the fact that along with alcohol and ice cream, getting paid is one of the few things Kimi cares about. You can’t blame him for seeking alternative options in either Red Bull or Ferrari, the latter of which he signed to for 2014. The Kimi/Lotus pairing shouldn’t have ended like this, and sadly the commercial realities dictated that the team has gone for an underperforming replacement in Pastor Maldonado alongside Romain Grosjean, who grew by leaps and bounds in 2013.

Silly, Silly Season. Raikkonen to Ferrari, Mark Webber leaving F1 for the WEC, Felipe Massa’s inevitable departure from Ferrari, Maldonado at Lotus, Nico Hulkenberg once again missing a top flight ride, and Daniel Ricciardo getting promoted to Red Bull all stole the headlines at various stages this year. Hell, even Fernando Alonso was rumored to leave Ferrari after some battles between he and its management team. The driver swapping is frenetic and at the top of the heap, only Mercedes will carry over its 2013 lineup, and perhaps that consistency will give them an edge… except now Ross Brawn is leaving there so who knows. This is why it’s called “silly season.”

New rules for 2014. A late add into the top-five stories of the year because on top of the already looming, massive change from V8s to V6 power units for 2014, among other adjustments, now comes this raft of sweeping changes that seem to create problems that didn’t previously exist. The backlash has already been strong against the double points finale at Abu Dhabi, the permanent driver number system seems a better idea in theory than in execution, and a cost cap for 2015 lacks specifics that could make it work. A lot to shake out in the offseason as the new rules work their way through the paddock.

Chris Estrada’s Top Five Stories

Sebastian the Fourth. A dominant season by Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel transported Formula One back to the days when his German countryman, Michael Schumacher, was beating the tar out of everyone for Ferrari. If not for a gearbox failure at Silverstone, Vettel would have broken Schumacher’s single-season record for wins instead of just equaling it in the end at 13. Nine of those triumphs came in succession to close the season. Plus, his haul of 397 points this year would’ve been enough to give Red Bull the constructors’ title on his own. No doubt there’s many followers of Formula One that are hoping the new technical regulations for 2014 will slow him down. But no matter what happens in the year to come, Vettel delivered a season for the ages.

Multi-21, Seb.” There’s no way around it. To succeed in Formula One, you have to be at least somewhat amiable outside of the cockpit but almost completely cold-blooded behind the wheel. Sebastian Vettel was most certainly the latter during the closing stages of the Malaysian Grand Prix, when he defied team orders and passed teammate Mark Webber for the win – bringing down a firestorm of criticism upon him in the process. Vettel initially apologized for his actions but then effectively retracted it going into Shanghai: “I don’t apologize for winning,” he said at the time. A champion’s killer instinct or a jaw-dropping display of ego? Or maybe both?

The “Tiregate” saga. Pirelli had already been under fire for early-season tire failures, but it got exponentially worse when word got out at Monaco that Mercedes had a secret, three-day tire test following the Spanish Grand Prix. With in-season testing banned in F1, the uproar was immense. Both tire supplier and team got away with a slap on the wrist, however; in fact, for Mercedes, their only big loss was being forced to miss out on the Young Driver’s Test at Silverstone in July. But that would not be the end of Pirelli’s issues in 2013…

Pirelli’s problems peak in Britain. Multiple tire failures at high speed during the British Grand Prix – a disaster that Webber afterwards likened to a game of Russian roulette – threatened to throw the sport into chaos and raised the heat on Pirelli to a new high. After revising their tires for Germany by implementing Kevlar belts, the supplier then rolled out an entirely new specification of tires for Hungary that married the 2012 specifications to the 2013 compounds. Following that decision, the second half of the year went off relatively smoothly. But another challenge awaits Pirelli as it now tries to create a solid tire for the 2014 cars that will be vastly different from what they once were.

Mark Webber says goodbye. One of the more beloved drivers in F1, Webber’s departure for sports car racing is a tough loss for the series. A mainstay for 12 seasons, Webber notched a Top-5 in front of his fellow Australians in his 2002 debut for the humble Minardi outfit. And on he went from there, through a pair of two-year runs at Jaguar and Williams before coming to Red Bull, where he would enjoy his greatest success. His final year in F1 is tough to classify – he, like everyone else, was buried by his machine-like teammate, Vettel, but he still got third in the championship and closed out his F1 tenure with four podiums in the final five races. He deserves all the credit there is for being a fighter to the very end.

NHRA: Schumacher needs big weekend to keep Top Fuel title hopes alive

tony schumacher NHRA
(Photo courtesy NHRA)
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With just three races remaining in the Countdown to the Championship, eight-time and reigning NHRA Top Fuel champ Tony Schumacher needs a big-time Texas turnaround this weekend.

Schumacher, as well as the rest of the Top Fuel class, has been at the mercy of Antron Brown thus far in the Countdown.

Brown, who is Schumacher’s teammate at Don Schumacher Racing, has won each of the first three races in the six-race Countdown.

“We do have quite a challenge in front of us over the second half of the Countdown. Hats off to Antron and all those Matco Tools/U.S. Army guys because they’ve had about as perfect of a run so far as you can have in this sport,” Schumacher said in a media release.

And as the NHRA moves into this weekend’s AAA Texas Nationals at the (Ennis) Texas Motorplex, Schumacher – who is in second place in the standings, 94 points behind Brown – knows what is at stake.

And most importantly, with just 12 rounds of racing remaining this season (four rounds in each of the final three races), Schumacher – who is the defending champion of this event – knows what he and his team have to do.

“If you do the math, we have five round wins to make up in the next three race weekends, which is entirely within the realm of possibility, especially for this U.S. Army team,” Schumacher said. “We’ve made up larger deficits before and came out with the championship by the time all was said and done. We live for the challenges we face every day and this is one we’re certainly ready to tackle.

“Obviously, it would be incredible to wipe out the entire deficit at Dallas and then hit Vegas and Pomona (the final two races) on equal ground.

“It’s mathematically possible, but is it likely? I would think not, especially with the way (Brown’s) team has been performing the first half of the Countdown. But, you never know. The way we approach it is to take care of what we can control, and that is to go out and try to be fastest in every qualifying session, then run the table on Sunday. That’s the best we can do.

“I always say it is a gift to be able to do what we do, and it is a gift to be presented with the opportunity to come to bat with the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and your team needing a grand slam to win the game, to win the championship.

“Some people wilt under that kind of pressure. This Army team has proven time and again that it is at its best when those opportunities come around, and we have one of those in front of us right now. It’s time to go out and get it done.”

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Canada Drag Racing Hall honors some of nation’s greatest legends

canadian drag racing hall of fame
(Photo courtesy RB Photographie/Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame)
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Hockey may be the national sport in Canada, but drag racing isn’t far behind in overall popularity.

And nearly 40 legends in the sport were honored Oct. 9 as inaugural inductees of the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame in Montreal.

Among the 28 living and 10 posthumous legends honored included racers, crew chiefs, mechanics, track officials, promoters and sponsors from across the nation “who made a lasting impact and significant difference the development of drag racing in Canada and elsewhere,” according to a media release from the Hall.

“The recognition of world-class Canadian drag racing legends, all under one roof, is long overdue,” said Hall founder John Scotti. “I am very excited about this achievement for the sport and look forward to sharing it with others who will visit the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame museum as well.”

Added Hall director Bob Aubertin, “It is a dream come true to see great ones of our sport getting the recognition they deserve for their extraordinary achievements, contributions and efforts for the sport of drag racing.”

Among inductees are NHRA senior vice president Graham Light, all-star crew chief Dale Armstrong, famed Funny Car driver Gordie Bonin, longtime John Force Racing crew chief Bernie Fedderly, former U.S. Nationals Top Fuel winner Terry Capp and 1970 Winternationals Super Stock winner Barrie Poole, the first Canadian driver to win an NHRA national event.

A former Competition Eliminator and Top Fuel driver, Light owned and operated Edmonton International Speedway in his hometown from 1974 to 1982. He joined NHRA in 1984 and has been with the sanctioning body ever since.

“It’s a great honor to be inducted into the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame during its inaugural year and to be included among the legends of Canadian Drag Racing,” said Light, who was inducted into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1996. “All of the inductees owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to founder John Scotti for his vision in creating the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame, which will provide an appropriate venue to preserve the history of the sport well into the future.”

Complete list of inductees in alphabetical order:

  1. Dale Armstrong, AB (Posthumous)
  2. Gordie Bonin, AB (Posthumous)
  3. Ron Bracken, Pierrefonds, QC (Posthumous)
  4. Ronald Brunet, Napierville, QC
  5. Frank Cantusci, Ottawa, ON
  6. Terry Capp, Sturgeon County, AB
  7. Wally Clark, Niagara, ON
  8. Aurèle Collette, Bouctouche, NB
  9. George Constantine, Montreal, QC (Posthumous)
  10. Marcel Couture, St. Henri, QC (Posthumous)
  11. Garry Dearn, Lasalle, QC
  12. Louis Desjardins, Montreal, QC
  13. John Dingman, Montreal, QC (Posthumous)
  14. Sandy Elliot, Chatham, ON (Posthumous)
  15. John Elliot, Chatham, ON
  16. Bernie Fedderly, Edmonton, AB
  17. Alban Gauthier, Montreal, QC
  18. Ralph Hope, London, ON
  19. Don Lavoie, Dieppe, NB
  20. Graham Light, Edmonton, AB
  21. André Massé, St.-Jean d’Iberville, QC (Posthumous)
  22. Jacques Marier, Repentigny, QC
  23. Terry ‘Zeke’ Maxwell, St. Constant, QC
  24. Ken McDonald, Montreal, QC (Posthumous)
  25. Doug Miller, Williamsburg, ON
  26. Jim Morrison, Elmsdale, NS
  27. John Petrie, Victoria, B.C.
  28. Barrie Poole, Montague, PEI / Chatham, ON
  29. Jim Rini, Kingston, ON
  30. Dan Rini, Kingston, ON
  31. Joe Roy, Montreal/Toronto, QC/ON
  32. Stan Sipos, Victoria, BC
  33. FJ Smith, Cayuga, ON
  34. Ollie Stephan, Scarborough, ON
  35. Alain Tanguay, Charlesbourg, QC
  36. Claude Tetreault, Napierville, QC
  37. Denis Warner, Toronto, ON (Posthumous)
  38. Scott Wilson, London, ON

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