The first thing we learned is that Michael Schumacher is
certainly one cool customer. Sitting there as his Ferrari was on fire, and then
goes out and storms past Raikkonen as if he were standing still, setting new lap
records, lap after lap, and winning at a canter. He was over one second a lap
quicker than anyone else. That is a champion driver.
Due respects to the Iceman, Kimi Raikkonen. He drove with his
head, made no mistakes and deserves to be where he is at the top of the ladder.
His team mate, poor old David Coulthard, is really in the twilight of his
career. Unfortunately everyone can see that, other than Coulthard. I would not
be surprised to see Ron Dennis of McLaren letting DC go at the end of the year.
Alonso, Renaultís Wunderkid, did not do so well in Austria,
and never really was in the hunt all weekend. The other charger, Aussie Mark
Webber, showed just why Jaguar have snapped him up for the next three years.
Started from pit lane, cops a 10 second stop-go penalty because the crew worked
on the car while waiting for the umpteenth restart, but just went out and drove
the wheels off the thing and even set the third fastest lap after Michael
Schumacher and Rubens Barichello. His Jaguar team mate, Jungle Boy Pizzonia, had
a better weekend, but still blotted his copy book with an off track excursion
and finished a couple of places behind Webber, despite having started on grid 8,
while Webber started stone motherless last.
There has been much muttering about whether electronic driver aids should be
removed, so it was interesting to read just why Jacques Villeneuve (BAR) did so
badly. According to JV, "We had a problem all the way through the race
because the electronics on the steering stopped working on the first lap. I had
no limiter button, no idea of which gear I was in, no neutral - no nothing. I
had to do it all manually. My race engineer was even counting my speed down for
me coming into the pits! Then the electronics problem caused a stall at the
second pit stop. We had decided not to change the steering wheel at the first
stop because it can mess up the electronics, but after the car stalled we
changed it then had to wait for the system to reset. It was a fairly disastrous
stop and I lost a lot of time." So there you have it - the driver didnít
know what to do without the electronics doing it for him! The sentence, "I
had no limiter button, no idea of which gear I was in, no neutral - no nothing.
I had to do it all manually," says it all as far as I am concerned. Our
Jacques has been spoiled. Anyone who has raced an open-wheeler up till a couple
of years ago has always had to remember which gear he was in at any time. No,
bring back clutches and manual gearboxes and letís sort out the men from the
How much does a recall cost the manufacturers?
Last month, GM recalled 500,000 trucks to disable features
that were not permitted in the vehicles under federal safety regulations. The
offending items were mechanical overrides, which permit the key to be removed
from the ignition with the shifter in a position other than park and allow the
transmission to be shifted out of park with the ignition in the off position.
(This feature would be very useful in Thailand where you often have to park,
leaving the car in Neutral, so that it can be pushed out of the way in car parks
According to US Federal antitheft rules, administered by the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), overrides can only be
used in vehicles with locking steering columns, and GM had installed them on
some trucks without locking steering columns. Now imagine just what half a
million recalled trucks just cost the General? Even if it were only a $40
modification, thatís $20 million down the drain! Ouch!
Unfortunately, recalls are part of life for the auto
manufacturers. Ford is going to replace windscreens in about 68,000 American
Ford Tauruses and Mercury Sables from the 2002-03 model years. NHTSA says the
windscreens are not mounted properly, and motorists may experience wind noise,
water leakage, squeaks and rattles. But from a safety perspective, NHTSA says a
vehicleís occupants are in greater danger if a windscreen comes out in a
crash. So the repair qualifies as a safety recall and cannot be ignored.
A Ford spokesman said the problem developed because primer
for the adhesive was not applied properly to the glass and the head rail during
one shift at the companyís Atlanta assembly plant. Look back at the numbers of
windscreens - 68,000 in one shift! And how much did that remove from FoMoCoís
In another NHTSA recall report, Nissan is asking its dealers
to repair the exhaust systems on 268,000 cars (2002 Sentras and 2002-03 Altimas)
equipped with 2.5 litre engines to prevent fires. NHTSA says that debris
collects on an exhaust pipe hanger pin and can be ignited by the carís main
catalytic converter. Dealers will remove the protruding part of the pin and
install heat shields on the pre-catalyst and exhaust tube. And how much will all
that cost? For something that would be very difficult to predict.
Last week I printed this old B&W photo. The woman raced
F1 and the venue was Spa in Belgium. I asked what was her name? The correct
answer was Maria-Theresa de Filippis, and the year was 1958.
And so to this week. A very famous racing driver used to wave
when passing the grandstands, saying, "You may not know anybody there, but
thatís all right. Somebody will think youíre waving at him and heíll start
waving back and if you can get a good percentage of the crowd waving at you itís
going to impress the organizers, so when you come back next year, theyíll pay
you more money to appear." So who was it?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
[email protected] Good luck!