Looking back on motorsports’ 2014 “Festivus” moments

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Today is December 23, which means only one thing: It’s Festivus.

The fictional holiday created by Jerry Stiller’s Frank Costanza in Seinfeld lives on more than 15 years after its debut. If by some chance you’ve never heard of it, here’s a link.

What does this have to do with motorsports, you ask? It represents a perfect time for MotorSportsTalk to outline its 2014 “feats of strength” and “airing of grievances.”

FEATS OF STRENGTH

These were occasions where people pinned others down, or emerged victorious from battle:

  • Mercedes winning 16 of 19 Formula 1 races and their two drivers essentially saving the season by racing between each other for the win, and championship.
  • Lewis Hamilton emerging ahead of Nico Rosberg after their titanic tussle in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
  • Daniel Ricciardo winning at Montreal, Budapest and Spa. The Budapest drive in particular, where Ricciardo passed a couple World Champions in the process, was incredible to watch.
  • Pirelli making tires all year that were durable, yet went off when they were supposed to, and not being a story after being a story for all the wrong reasons in 2013.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s emotions after winning the Daytona 500 and Martinsville. Few victory lane celebrations have looked so pure and raw.
  • A.J. Allmendinger beating Marcos Ambrose to the Watkins Glen win, in one of the best finishes to a race this season.
  • Ryan Newman punting Kyle Larson out of the way at Phoenix to make the Championship 4 finale at Homestead.
  • Kevin Harvick’s final stint at Homestead that saw him rise from 12th to win and score both the win and the championship.
  • Harvick’s win delivering on his “Closer” nickname, and saving NASCAR from a potential winless champion in Newman.
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay making both that move in Turn 3 and then, a couple laps later, another move in Turn 1 to edge Helio Castroneves for the Indianapolis 500 victory.
  • Will Power finally winning the Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
  • Mikhail Aleshin – and the structural safety cell of his Dallara DW12 chassis – surviving a vicious impact against the catch fencing at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
  • The Taylor brothers emerging victorious after a great, beat-and-bang last lap battle against the Action Express Corvette at the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race in Detroit.

AIRING OF GRIEVANCES

These were cases I had a lot of problems with this year, where people got mad and it led to controversy, contact, drama, tragedy or all of the above:

  • Everything about the Tony Stewart-Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy in August. There were no winners and it led to so much angst, as the biggest racing story of the year.
  • Matt Kenseth vs. Brad Keselowski at Charlotte.
  • Jeff Gordon vs. Keselowski at Texas (captured so brilliantly here by NASCAR satirist @Nascarcasm).
  • Mercedes’ reaction to the Rosberg-Hamilton contact at Spa.
  • Everything about Ferrari this year. Three team principals, countless staff changes, and Fernando Alonso’s long, drawn out departure. How does Maranello find its way back?
  • McLaren’s delay in announcing its 2015 driver lineup.
  • Caterham and Marussia’s demise. I hated to see them fade away, even though they did so in different ways. Caterham’s situation could best be described as an ongoing cluster given their management and financial turmoil – I termed it “Clusterham” – while Marussia’s demise was quick, hasty and sad after the Suzuka accident.
  • The Long Beach crash where Hunter-Reay went for it and came up empty… oy vey.
  • The post-standing start crash for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis… again, oy vey.
  • Power vs. rival Simon Pagenaud the first half of the season. It was good to have a rivalry but it seemed almost a bit overplayed by the time we got to Detroit. Although watch this space next year when the two are teammates.
  • Power vs. race control at Pocono, and then Power deciding to take his gripes out on NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell.
  • The opening two races of the new TUDOR Championship season, where officiating errors led to controversial results in the GT Daytona classes at both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
  • Ongoing BoP and driver rating discussions in sports car racing. Sad that these are often bigger talking points than the racing itself, and that doesn’t seem like it will change anytime soon.

Any others to add in either instance? That’s what the comments section is for…

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.