Buying your way into
If F1 is going to try and tell everyone that it
represents the pinnacle of motor sport in the world, then it has to
present to us the finest drivers in the world. However, that is not
the case. Do I have to remind you of Alex Yoong, the driver who bought
his seat in the Minardi team a couple of seasons back? A driver who
did not even qualify for some events, because he was too slow. Hardly
the best in the world!
there has been Jacques Villeneuve, the ex-world champion, who was told
that he would have to ‘buy’ his seat in another team, after being
dropped by BAR. The figure of around $6 million was being bandied
about at one stage.
To be perfectly frank, I couldn’t give a
tinker’s cuss whether JV got a seat for 2004, but I do give a damn
about the fact that because of the ‘pay driver’ system, we are not
seeing the best pilots, other than the man they are all trying to beat
- Michael Schumacher.
The way the system works is very simple. As a
driver, you approach a corporate sponsor and ‘sell’ that sponsor
on the idea of seeing his firm’s name and logo on the side of the
world’s fastest bill-boards. Let’s say you can get a promise of
the aforementioned $6 million. With this, you then approach the teams
and hey presto! The next thing is you are being measured for your
fancy race suit and the team PR people are sending out bulletins about
how pleased they are to being able to give this new young driver a
chance at the big time.
This is not an exaggeration. Latest young drivers,
with money behind them, are the sons of ex-F1 heroes, Nelson Piquet
and Keke Rosberg. These young chaps are getting a ‘test’ with BMW
WilliamsF1. According to a press release from BMW WilliamsF1, Rosberg
and Piquet were selected for the one-off test roles as part of the
team’s “ongoing commitment to developing emerging talent”, with
Chief Operations Engineer Sam Michael claiming, “This is another
sign of WilliamsF1’s contribution to the sport by assisting in the
progression of the next generation of drivers.” This is hogwash, to
put it politely!
Pitpass.com the very authoritative website was
moved to comment, “With no disrespect to either Nelson Piquet Jnr or
Nico Rosberg, wouldn’t it be good to see WilliamsF1 giving similar
opportunities to emerging talent that doesn’t happen to have the
same surname as a former World Champion?
“Although Nelson finished third in this year’s
British F3 championship with six wins and nine pole positions, how
about title winner Alan van der Merwe who took nine wins or runner up
“Furthermore, since Nico Rosberg finished eighth
in the Euro F3 Championship with just one win (Le Mans), where are the
‘trials’ for some of the drivers - including two other rookies -
that finished above him, including Timo Glock and Markus Winkelhock,
that’s a name with an F1 history too?
“We’re not saying Nelson and Nico don’t
deserve their tests, rather than that it’s vital (most) drivers get
into F1 on merit rather than their sponsorship budgets and family
connections. We know cash-strapped teams such as Minardi and Jordan
are in no position to pick and choose, but when Ford-owned Jaguar
reveals it’s looking for a driver with a budget, it sends shockwaves
down the pitlane and beyond.”
That’s what pitpass.com felt about the subject. I could not agree
more. Talent is being overlooked as money clouds the vision of the
teams. A ‘cash-strapped’ team is not going to improve its position
on the grid by employing second string drivers. They would do much
better by employing (that is ‘paying’) a young driver with cojones
and talent to get them further towards the sharp end of the action.
But will they do this? Not on your nelly. We are now seeing young
drivers ‘selling’ themselves, or shares in themselves as a public
company, to try and raise the finance to buy their drives.
Prostitution by any other name, and the teams have become the pimps.
It disgusts me.
Christian Klien for 2004
It seems like every race team is hoping to find
another Kimi Raikkonen, a youngster who came from nowhere and set the
tracks alight, coming second in the world championship this year, and
causing just a few grey hairs in the Ferrari camp.
Racing has now confirmed Austrian Christian Klien, a 20 year old, as
Mark Webber’s team mate for the 2004 Formula One season.
Having never previously driven a Formula One car
before, Christian Klien was invited to test for Jaguar Racing two
weeks ago at Valencia (Spain) where he demonstrated clearly his
capabilities and potential over two days.
According to Jaguar, “Christian was in as much
control of himself as he was the car,” said David Pitchforth,
Managing Director, Jaguar Racing. “He was extremely calm, composed
and didn’t seem remotely fazed by his first ever experience with a
Formula One car. His technical feedback was excellent and there is no
doubt in our minds about the potential of this exciting new young
talent. He worked very well with the race engineers and demonstrated
increasing speed as he became familiar with the car. Christian’s
professionalism and brain bandwidth are also very impressive and
combined with his application, our decision to employ him as a race
driver was based on merit, potential and speed,” added Pitchforth.
This, of course is total PR-speak, and although the
lad returned excellent times in the car, he also comes with a large
sack of gold, in the shape of many millions of dollars from the Red
Bull energy drink manufacturer! The previous incumbent, Briton Justin
Wilson, had to sell shares in himself to get into F1, but after only a
few races with Jaguar, was given the flick in favour of Klien. Shares
in Justin Wilson are now probably not worth the paper they are printed
After contesting his contracted five races with the team, Justin
Wilson now has been moved out of the cockpit. Pitchforth kissed him
goodbye saying, “I cannot thank Justin enough for his hard work and
commitment since joining us after the British Grand Prix. Justin’s
speed, focus and experience are exemplary and our decision to put
Christian in the race car in no way reflects upon Justin’s clear
ability as a competitive racing driver. We are, however, in
discussions with Justin about how Jaguar Racing can help with his
future career.” Does he really believe we will swallow that? Help
him with his racing career? He just torpedoed it!
A new (old) face for Audi
The new Audi for 2004/5 is the Audi A8 6 litre quattro (4WD).
According to some reports out of Australia, this is the first time the 6 litre
engine plus 4WD has been presented in a production car.
to the blurb, the new look grille is meant to evoke memories of the Auto Union
racers of the 1930s, and the powerful new front-end look will gradually spread
through the Audi range of vehicles. Its central element is the single-frame
radiator grille, the outer chrome ring of which surrounds the painted grey fins
of the grille with horizontal chrome strips.
For me, this is stretching the longbow somewhat. The Auto
Union grille was almost pear-shaped, pointed at the top and wider at the bottom,
but ah well, the copy writers will seize on anything!
managing director Graham Hardy says “This absolute hero model is the kind of
powerful icon capable of raising the image of Audi locally, and as such its
introduction in Australia will be carefully considered.” That introduction
will be with a huge price tag, as the current model 4.2 litre V8 costs AUD
The upcoming 6 litre A8 is powered by the Volkswagen
family’s unique W12 6 litre engine, producing 331kW of power and 580Nm of
The performance figures being quoted are 0 to 100 kph in 5.2
seconds, and from 0 to 200 in 17.4 seconds. The twelve cylinder reaches its
electronically governed top speed of 250km/h in about 30 seconds.
Mated to the engine is ZF’s excellent six-speed automatic
transmission with tiptronic function, while other technical features include the
Audi Space Frame (ASF) aluminium chassis, quattro permanent four-wheel drive and
Audi claims the 12 cylinder A8 is the first car in the world to be equipped
with the new lighting technology of adaptive light with LED daytime driving
lights. The energy consumption of these lights is said to be only a fraction of
that of conventional bulbs.
Last week I wrote about two cars from the same team that
crashed, but the third car went on to win the race. We published this photo and
told you that the background would tell you the corner, the circuit and the
race. It was the White House corner, which is at Le Mans and the race was the 24
hour. Another clue was that a car from the same team won the same race this year
and had the same number as the winning car from the team in the photograph.
Bentley won this year with car wearing number 7, and that was also the number on
the winning Bentley in 1927, the year of the White House crash. That car was
known as “Old No. 7”.
So to this week. Ice cooling was used three times in world
land speed record attempts. Who were the three drivers? A clue - two were
British, one was American.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email:
[email protected] Good luck!
Are Thai roads becoming safer? Is the government able to
reduce the road toll? The answer to both these questions is a simple, No.
Statistics from the Royal Thai Police show that last year there were 149,600
road accidents nationwide, a 20 percent increase over the previous year’s
125,432. The number of road deaths was 13,116 in 2002 and 11,652 in 2001, while
the number of injuries climbed to 69,313 last year from 53,960 the previous
year. That is a 30 percent increase.
This year the government tried to do something about the
Songkran road toll, but had to admit failure. Total deaths were something around
600, around the same sort of numbers as SARS deaths world-wide that crippled the
world’s tourism industry. But that 600 was just here, in Thailand, and hardly
caused a ripple. And don’t worry, they will be lining them up in rows in the
mortuaries all over the country after Songkran 2004.
So can anything be done? Yes, it can. Since the majority of deaths are to
motorcycle riders, by applying the ‘wear a helmet’ rule all over Thailand
would be a good start, and ensuring that all the helmets for sale from now on
were of a decent standard would be even better. And as they do in Bangkok, the
pillion passenger(s) have to wear a helmet too. But don’t hold your breath.