What did we learn from
the British Grand Prix?
Well we learned that despite all the hype around
McLaren-Mercedes, Ferrari have the faster car. With so much hanging
on qualifying, young Lewis Hamilton did a heroic job in collaring
pole position at the last second, and there was no time left for the
other top spot contenders to have another lash at getting a good
time. Top marks to the youngster there.
However, the strain on Hamilton did show, with his over-reacting to
the lollipop. It is however interesting to note that other teams
just hold the lollipop and then lift it, whilst McLaren hold the
lollipop, then turn it over to say select 1st gear, and only then
We also saw that Massa can “tiger” coming from the rear of the field
up to 5th after his Ferrari stalled on the grid when he selected 1st
gear after the warm-up. However we also saw that young Robert Kubica
was able to hold off Massa for the final 13 laps. Kubica is driving
better since his monumental crash in Canada, and what is more – is
outdriving team mate Heidfeld. It is well known that Dr Mario
Theissen favors Kubica, and I would not be surprised to see the
line-up of Kubica and Vettel next year, with Heidfeld at Toyota,
replacing Ralf Schumacher.
Wurz (Williams) and Speed (Tossing Roarer) had a coming together,
with each blaming the other. This will not happen in 2008, as
neither will have a drive.
Toyota – what can you say? Trulli complaining bitterly that the car
was undriveable, while Ralf had his left front wheel bearing begin
to collapse. Toyota should bring Trulli over here to teach the Yaris
One Make drivers how to avoid accidents, and give Ralf his pipe and
slippers and a new Corolla and show him the road to Kerpen where he
Another in the pipe and slippers brigade is Fisichella, getting his
usual radio call to go faster because he has the same car as his
team mate but he (Fisi) is going slower. Last year it was Alonso.
This year it is new boy Kovalainen. A new Renault Megane for Fisi
will be in his Xmas stocking, but no F1 contract for 2008.
Alonso did drive well in the race, and other than showing some
Spanish petulance in the press conference after qualifying, behaved
himself and didn’t blame his team.
And talking about the team, poor old Ron Dennis is certainly having
his problems over the ‘Stepneygate’ affair in which (now ex-)
Ferrari engineer Stepney is accused of passing on Ferrari secrets to
(now suspended) McLaren designer Mike Coughlan. Interestingly, the
whole sorry mess came to light after a photocopy shop reported
someone furtively copying engineering drawings, which they thought
could have been terrorist bomb plans. Bombs or not, it certainly has
blown up in Coughlan’s hands! Stepney is also now really out in the
cold, saying “Ferrari is unique in Italy; it’s a religion. If you go
against it, it’s like going against the Vatican.” Which should be
enough to have him ex-communicated as well.
Will somebody please fix Mark Webber’s hydraulics? That was about
the fourth time this year that his hydraulics have all gone, leaving
him without power steering, throttle or gears, just while he was
looking a points position. His Red Bull certainly is no ground
pawing steer, but more like the red bull post-abattoir.
Who have we forgotten? Ah yes, Spyker and Super Aguri. Not only did
we forget them, but so did the TV director. I don’t think we saw
Albers or Sato for the entire GP, and we only saw Sutil when his
engine detonated, and Davidson when he retired, several times.
The next race is in Germany on July 22 from Nurburgring.
Last week I mentioned the London to Sydney marathon was run
in 1968 and was given much publicity, but I asked who was the first from London
to Sydney? The answer was Francis Birtles, driving a 14 HP Bean. He left London
on October 19, 1927 and arrived in Sydney on July 15, 1928. Now that’s what I
call an epic!
So to this week. Engineer Malcolm Loughead invented a hydraulic brake so what
did he call it? (Clue – think phonetics.)
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Shooting the messenger?
Auto News in America has reported a huge shake-up in GM’s
advertising. This comes hot on the heels of the consolidation of Buick,
Pontiac and GMC dealerships, so GM also is combining those brands’
advertising, sources familiar with the move say.
GM told dealers that it has fired longtime advertising agencies
McCann-Erickson which held the Buick account for nearly 50 years, and Lowe
Lintas & Partners Worldwide, New York, from the GMC accounts. The three
brands will be serviced by Pontiac’s advertising agency, Leo Burnett
Mark LaNeve, VP of North American vehicle sales, service and marketing shook
out the ad agencies last year as well. Last June, he fired Leo Burnett
Detroit from the Cadillac account and gave it to Modernista. Burnett had
held the account since 1935. Also last year, Chevrolet’s ad agency,
Campbell-Ewald, lost a piece of its business to Deutsch, of Los Angeles.
Deutsch handled negotiations for Chevrolet’s 2006 Major League Baseball and
motor sports ad campaigns.
Showing that there was more than just rationalization in these moves, LaNeve
indicated that Buick would focus its ads more on product and less on the
brand’s celebrity endorser, golfer Tiger Woods.
It has taken some time, but it would seem that GeeEmm is finally realizing
that people buy cars they want, not ones that the manufacturer wants them to
buy, even using celebrities to peddle the product.
Ferrari goes on a diet
According to sources in the UK, Ferrari is putting their future
cars on a diet. Rather than chase performance through increasingly expensive
engine technology, the answer is to make the cars lighter.
Ferrari engineers say that if the Enzo had weighed 1000 kg, rather than its
existing 1365 kg, its 485 kW power output would be effectively equivalent to 600
kW. An obvious power advantage over other supercars.
Ferrari used its recent 60th anniversary celebrations to reveal an Enzo-derived
concept known as the FXX Millechili (shortened form of “mille chilogrammi”
Italian for 1000 kg) and the car embodies the specialist carmaker’s new goal of
achieving efficiency through weight savings and cutting-edge technology.
The Millechili is more compact than the Enzo and its wheelbase of 2112 mm
compares with the latter’s 2351 mm. The distance from the top of the windscreen
to the tip of the nose is also shorter – 976 mm versus the Enzo’s 1107 mm.
The Millechili is not a publicity exercise and Ferrari has reportedly said it
plans to make each of its future vehicles 300 kg lighter than their
Other F1 inspired concepts and others being designed for the future road cars
are regenerative braking, advanced turbo engines and biofuel-compatible
According to Autocar in the UK, Ferrari is also working with Imperial College in
London on an innovative ‘active aerodynamics’ system that uses air pumps to push
air over and under the car to streamline the airflow.
Ferrari are certainly a niche manufacturer, but with the emphasis on technology
has joined Porsche as a technological leader in the supercar stakes.
Jaguar on the block
As they did with Aston Martin, cash-strapped Ford Motor Company
have put another of their acquisitions up for sale, with the combined Jaguar
and Land Rover concerns up for grabs for a reputed B. 190 billion. This has
become necessary after Ford reported a loss of B. 380 billion last year. And
you think you’re doing it tough!
sale offer was reported in the pages of the world’s financial press (always an
interesting place to get automotive low-down) and Middle-East money is already
interested, after Aston Martin came into their clutches this year. And they have
money, with one Kuwaiti investor tipping in almost B. 17 billion into the Aston
To turn Ford around is going to be difficult, but like GM, Ford has to better
understand its market and make reliable cars that people want to buy, at
affordable prices. The way Toyota and Honda do. They don’t need better examples.
Honda tops UK reliability survey
Honda has practically swept the board in this year’s Which? Car
reliability survey, the biggest-ever owner satisfaction survey in the UK
with almost 100,000 cars rated.
The Honda Jazz is the most reliable new car, with a rating of 96 percent in
the ‘supermini’ class. More than 1,300 owners confirmed it rarely lets them
down – cementing its reputation as the number one for dependable motoring.
Not only does Honda make the most reliable supermini, it also either wins or
shares the honors in the large car (Honda Accord), MPV (Honda FR-V) and
off-roader (previous generation Honda CR-V) categories.However, the new
Civic in the UK did not fare well, with a reliability rating of only 82
percent. Owners have reported problems with the fuel system, steering and
The least reliable new car in the Which? Car survey is the Land Rover
Discovery 3, with an error-prone rating of 79 percent. Maybe that’s why Ford
is trying to get rid of it.
Other notable disappointments are the VW Passat, contrary to Volkswagen’s
reputation for reliability, the Peugeot 307 and Renault Megane, all with 82
Which? Car also includes a manufacturer league table, showing the year’s
brand reliability winners and losers. Unsurprisingly, Honda is top of the
table with an overall reliability index of 86 percent. Toyota, just one
point behind, is another extremely reliable brand.
Behind the two Japanese giants, six Asian makes vie for third place:
Daihatsu, Hyundai, Lexus, Mazda, Subaru and Suzuki all score 82 per cent.
Land Rover as a manufacturer is rooted firmly at the bottom of the
reliability table on 68 percent, just behind Renault and Fiat.
Which? Car Editor Richard Headland, said, “Congratulations to Honda, which
has topped the reliability table in most mainstream categories. Honda is
setting the benchmark in car reliability and it’s up to other manufacturers
to raise their standards to match. Several Far Eastern car makers are hot on
its heels, but European manufacturers still have some catching up to do.”