What did we learn from the French GP?
Well, we learned that Ferrari is back. With a
vengeance. And the wheels appear to have fallen off the McLaren
juggernaut. A very convincing Ferrari 1-2, with Kimi Raikkonen on
the top step of the podium, while Felipe Massa spent that last 20
laps trying to work out how he went from a secure first to an
equally as secure second. Massa’s race was compromised by slow ‘in’
and ‘out’ laps, occasioned by catching traffic, while Raikkonen put
in a couple of blinders to take the lead after the final pit stop.
Mum, I’ve caught a python!
For McLaren Mercedes it was the end of the 2007 season euphoria.
Gremlins in qualifying saw a bearing freeze in Alonso’s gearbox (or
perhaps it was a deliberate anti-Spanish plot, Fernando?) and the
current world champion had to start from 10th slot on the grid. Both
Hamilton and Alonso were fuelled light for qualifying, so McLaren
knew they did not have the speed of the Ferrari’s and were trying to
counteract for this. But to no avail. When Raikkonen could
out-accelerate Hamilton to get into second place at the start, the
race was over for McLaren. From then on, all that could be done was
for Hamilton to maintain position; however, a very strange strategy
which saw Hamilton three stopping completely sealed off any chance
of mounting a challenge to the Ferrari’s.
We did learn that Alonso still has plenty of tiger in him, but
whilst he attempted many overtaking maneuvers, he could only make
one of them stick. And then after the final round of pit stops, he
found himself back where he started. Not a good weekend for the
BMW continue their strong performances, with Robert Kubica an
untroubled 4th, finishing where he started on the grid. He
definitely outshone Heidfeld, who apparently has a bad back. He had
better get his doctor’s certificate ready, or BMW’s Dr Mario
Theissen will be giving him a rather different sort of certificate,
taking his name off the locker and writing “S. Vettel” in his place.
Ralf Schumacher (Toyota) had a brilliant weekend. He did not hit
anybody, and finished in front of his team mate, even though he
qualified behind him. However, this was because his team mate went
out on the first lap fracas! 2007 will be Ralf’s swansong, and he is
driving as if he knows it already. The smart money in the pits is
that Adrian Sutil will be in the Toyota next year.
Albers in the Spyker is really sealing his fate, driving off still
attached to the refueling rig.
Is this what you could describe as being ‘pumped up’? This was
totally his fault, which he admitted afterwards, and he was lapping
one second a lap slower than his team mate up to that point. Spyker
should replace him before he pulls off another hose. I’m sure they
Alexander Wurz? What can you say about this Williams driver that we
don’t know already? He is just too slow. And proves this every
meeting. Seems a very nice chap, but you don’t win races by being
‘nice’. Michael Schumacher proved this for many years. Don’t bother
with a Wurz-Williams 2008 T-shirt.
Some days I feel sorry for Renault’s silver fox Briatore. He has to
keep Renault boss Carlos Ghosn happy, with a team that is a mere
shadow of itself of the previous two seasons. Fisichella is trying
hard to the best of his ability, but even last year he showed that
he was not the match of Alonso. He is now a year older and even less
likely to improve. Young hopeful Kovalainen is not coming up with
the goods (at least half a second slower than Fisi), so Briatore has
two second or third string drivers competing in the top formula.
Unless Renault has very deep pockets and is able to buy some driver
talent for 2008, I would not be surprised to see Ghosn pull the plug
on their F1 team. A struggling automaker does not need a struggling
So Honda finally managed to score a point following Button’s eighth
place, and the Brackley boys have gone back to the UK shaking hands
with themselves. If they think Honda-san will be happy with that,
they should think again. One of the best funded teams and quite
frankly just also-rans this year. Ritual hara-kiri is coming.
Anthony Davidson, once hailed as the new white hope, is not living
up to the promise he showed as a Honda reserve driver. He has been
involved in too many incidents, and the French GP error on the first
corner was an elementary mistake. Anthony, write out 500 times “You
do not win races at the first corner - you only lose races at the
first corner!” Unless Davidson has a wealthy backer, expect to see a
Japanese driver as number 2 to Sato next season.
Last week I asked what brand of electric car did Thomas
Edison drive? It wasn’t an Edison, it was a Baker.
By the way, a couple of weeks ago I asked about retractable headlights, and
Jerry Coffey sent the following email:
I believe the 1936 Cord was the first car with disappearing headlamps. They did
it right with a hand crank and the far right and left hand sides of the
dashboard. (One for each headlight ... no electronics or fancy motors to fail).
The 1936/7 Cord 810 and 812’s were designed by Gordon Buerhig. His small design
office is preserved on the second floor of the building housing the A C D
Museum. The two storey brick building has the original Art Deco showroom on the
ground floor. Behind it was the Auburn factory. (The Cords were made in
Connersville, Indiana and the Duesenberg chassis came from Indianapolis,
Indiana). It is a treat to see, if you are ever in Auburn, Indiana over Labor
Day Weekend, when they have the annual A C D Festival. In 1938 GM built an
advanced Buick called the Y JOB. It was a one off show car which also had
disappearing headlamps. In 1941 Chrysler built a couple Newport show cars also
with disappearing headlamps. The following year, Chrysler introduced its 1942
DeSoto with disappearing headlights. When DeSoto resumed production after the
war in 1946, disappearing headlights disappeared and were not seen again on an
American car until the 1966 front wheel drive Toronado which was declared
Thanks Jerry for that bit of autotrivia. Well done!
So to this week. The London to Sydney marathon in 1968 was given much publicity,
but who was the first from London to Sydney?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email auto
[email protected] Good luck!
A Class Benz for 300,000 baht
Spotted the most amazing “A Class” Benz the other afternoon. There it was,
brilliant red color, but as I went past in the traffic, there was something
wrong. The shape was not totally right - and then there was the small fact
that there was only one wheel at the front.
A Class Benz?
This was certainly no vehicle made by Daimler-Benz, though it
should be remembered that Karl Benz’s first car was a three wheeler in 1886, and
they did build another strange three wheeled beast called the Life-Jet 300 in
1997, just in time for the economic crash, so sales were poor.
It turned out that this three wheeler was called a Trident 320 electric, and was
an imported Chinese city car. Complete with four doors, this vehicle would do 60
kph and had a range of 80 km before needing another eight hour charge. You can
also get it in a gasoline powered version, returning 3.5 liters per 100 km. You
can find out more on the Trident through Tirachart Charuvastra, telephone 081
410 0155, or email [email protected]