Ferrari calls for meeting to discuss future of F1

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Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has written a formal letter to the ruling powers in Formula 1, calling for a meeting to discuss the future of the sport following a “wrong turn”.

Montezemolo was quoted earlier this week as saying that Ferrari may consider its future in F1, only for the team to claim that his words had been misunderstood. It is common knowledge that the marque’s president is unhappy with the direction that the sport has taken, largely due to the new ‘efficient’ regulations, and now he is looking for firm action.

As part of the discussions, Montezemolo would like to focus on younger markets and fans, and has cited companies such as Google and Apple as being examples to follow.

The statement from Ferrari reads as follows:

“Ferrari has had Formula 1 coursing through its veins for over half a century and that’s why it has decided to make a move to turn the sport away from the wrong turn it appears to have taken.

“The Maranello marque has decided to do this through the means of a formal act, which is a concrete proposal, in the form of a letter from its President Luca di Montezemolo to the Formula 1 rights holder, Bernie Ecclestone and to Donald McKenzie, the president of the company that owns Formula 1.

“It is not an ultimatum, nor a threat, but a proposal to call together all the key players in the sport to sit down around a table and come up with new ideas that will see Formula 1 continue to set the benchmark in motorsport, on level terms with global events such as the Olympics and the football World Cup.

“The President wants to see a collective brainstorming from the group to act for the good of Formula 1. Contributions from all areas are of value; teams, sponsors, promoters and media, so that the key values of Formula 1 can be reestablished. President Montezemolo would also like to see other high-end players invited, those who are currently not involved or only partially so; new media, social networks and colossi such as Google and Apple.”

“Formula 1 has to be based on technical innovation, research and development, but this must all be done with sustainable costs and above all, must be moved forward as part of a product that can put on a show. Because it is the show that draws in the commercial partners, the sponsors and, above all, the fans, who are the real end users of the Formula 1 product.

“Finding the right mix of these ingredients will be vital for the sustainability and the future success of our much-loved sport.”

Montezemolo was highly critical of the new regulations that saw a greater focus be placed on efficiency, including a downsize from V8 engines to V6 turbocharged power units. In Bahrain, he called the new F1 “taxi cab racing”, only for the on-track action to be some of the most thrilling in recent years.

Formula 1 has been known to be adverse to non-profitable activities, such as investment in social media which – despite being highly valuable – does not provide an immediate return on investment. However, if the sport is to attract the new, younger generation, it might be in its interest to heed Montezemolo’s words.

That said, the on-track action is certainly still keeping fans glued to TV, with the 50m fall in global viewership largely coming as a result of the change in broadcasters in France and China.

If Ferrari was dominating the sport in the same fashion that Mercedes currently is, it would be interesting to see just whether Montezemolo would be so vocal about its future.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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