The debate over where Sebastian Vettel stands among the all-time greats in Formula One has surely grown following his fourth consecutive World Championship, but new Williams driver Felipe Massa believes comparisons between him and past legends can’t be made.
“Drivers all start a lot earlier in F1 today – you cannot compare anyone of today with [Emerson] Fittipaldi, [Jackie] Stewart nor [Michael] Schumacher, who also arrived in F1 later than Vettel,” Massa told Brazilian magazine Total Race.
“And because of this reality, it increases the possibility of younger drivers taking more titles than in the past.”
Indeed, when Vettel had his first Formula One race in the 2007 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis, he was only 19 years old.
As for the former World Champions that Massa lists, Fittipaldi was 23 upon his debut at the 1970 British Grand Prix, Stewart was 25 upon his debut in the 1965 South African Grand Prix, and Schumacher was 22 upon his debut in the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix.
However, Massa still hailed Vettel for a job well done in 2013 and noted that his success wasn’t primarily due to the Red Bull RB9 machine he took to victory 13 times this past season.
“It [his achievements] is due to his talent, no doubt,” Massa said. “He is an excellent driver and he deserves everything he has won.
“Many people say he only wins because he has the best car. But the work he did [this year and in previous seasons] was amazing and continuing with a competitive car, he can win more.”
In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.
Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.
Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.
The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.
“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”
Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.
SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.
When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.
SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.
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