What did we learn from the Italian GP?
The first thing we learned that it was wet, wet
and wet. The second thing we learned was that Sebastian Vettel is
the rising star of the future. On second thoughts, forget the
future, he is already a star, winning his first Grand Prix in
conditions that beat everyone else. To finish 12 seconds in front of
a McLaren, acknowledged as one of the best cars on the grid, while
he was in a Torro Rosso, acknowledged as one of the poorest cars on
the grid, was simply sensational. A very well deserved win, driven
with maturity that belies his 21 years. The new Schumi? He could be,
and without the personality flaws!
Let’s go back to Qualifying before we look at the race. I have it on
good authority that McLaren had placed a Moses sticker on the dash
of Lewis Hamilton’s car, rather than the more usual St. Christopher
medal. This was to part the waters so that Lewis could go straight
to the top while fitted with intermediate tyres, while everyone else
was on extreme wets. And to compound the problem, McLaren kept him
in the pits waiting for God to turn off the water from the heavens.
By the time he got out, there was not enough time to come back in
and fit the correct tyres, so the boy wonder qualified 15th and thus
compromised his race from the outset. This is a world championship
team? Who is making these decisions at McLaren (like keeping
Hamilton on worn out tyres, showing canvas, at the Chinese GP last
year)? Probably the cleaning lady.
Now, forgetting the hype and the excuses, Heikki Kovalainen
(McLaren) hardly covered himself with glory, even though he did
finish second. He is certainly not showing himself to be a leading
driver. Solid, dependable and dull (like his performance at
Kubica, of the scythe-like aerodynamic nose, had a good race, well
timed pit stops, going to the intermediate tyres at just the right
time and deserved his third place. His publicist should tell him to
smile at post race interviews, however.
For a driver who gets a multi-million dollar salary and has just
signed another two year contract with Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen’s
drive was amateurish, at best. Qualifying almost as poorly as Lewis
Hamilton (14th grid position) he languished in the middle of the
field and then suddenly at the end produces a string of fastest
laps. He should be made to stand outside the headmaster’s office on
Monday with his excuse written out 100 times.
Massa kept it all on the island and his sixth place was as good as
he was going to get. No fire, no brilliance. Massa has always been
known for his lack of consistency and he demonstrated that again at
Monza. He is in the box seat to become world champion this year, but
if he does, he doesn’t deserve it. When a ‘top’ driver says, “I
tried to attack Heidfeld (BMW) but then I thought it wasn’t worth
taking too many risks and I chose to just bring the car home.” Not
the thoughts of a champion in my book.
Mark Webber in the sister Red Bull team to Sebastian Vettel had
qualified third but then faded from view after the first pit stops,
as he always seems to do. He did mount a late race challenge, but it
was a ‘too late’ challenge and he was certainly beaten on the track
by both Massa and Hamilton. With Vettel as his team mate next year,
he will have to pull his Nomex socks up.
The next race is in Singapore on September 28, and at night. Pray
Last week I mentioned that when we pull up at the traffic lights, why should we
remember Herbert Frood? That was easy, as Herbert Frood was the father of
‘Ferodo’ brake linings - which became popular after 1905.
So to this week. The trend to rear engined Indy cars is often thought to have
come after Jack Brabham raced the rear engined Cooper-Climax at the Brickyard in
1961. However, was he the first with this layout?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Hyundai really coming to the fore
It is the avowed intention of Hyundai to be in the top five auto
manufacturers in the world. To get to that objective, they have tightened up
their quality control, so much so they have recently scored very well in
customer satisfaction and expanded their vehicle line-up.
Last year, for the first time ever, the Hyundai brand produced the most leaders
on Strategic Vision’s Total Quality Index™ (TQI), leading in three segments. The
2007 results were based on the ratings of new vehicle owners in 19 product
The only other brand to produce three leaders was Nissan. Hyundai Motors had a
total of five leaders (the Kia brand earning two more), Ford Motors and BMW
Group each earned three (one for BMW, two for Mini); GM, Honda, and Mercedes
each earned two with Dodge, Lexus and Volkswagen each earning one.
Hyundai are producing a vehicle to run against Mercedes-Benz in the luxury car
segment this year (Genesis), and have a new small car, which is a potential
leader in the fuel efficiency stakes as well. This is the new i20.
Hyundai claims the diesel version of the i20 will use just 4 liters per 100km,
less than the Fiat 500 diesel (4.2L/100km) and the Toyota Prius (4.4L/100km).
This would also make it conform to some of the guidelines for Thailand’s
The i20 is the second small hatch to be designed at Hyundai’s European Design
Centre in Russelsheim, Germany, following the release last year of its bigger
brother, the i30.
As with the i30, the i20 has been designed to appeal to European driving tastes,
which means it is likely to have excellent road holding, brakes and steering. It
is said that the i30 is the best handling Hyundai yet and the i20 is likely to
retain the focus on increased driving enjoyment.
The interior fit and finish will be a big leap forward following on from the
quality parameters that Hyundai has set for itself.
The exterior design is also a big improvement over the Korean maker’s current
offerings, with sharp European lines reminiscent of the Volkswagen Polo.
In a press release, Hyundai Motor Europe president Kun Hee Ahn says the i20 will
offer more standard equipment than its European rivals, as well as more interior
space, strong fuel economy and competitive road manners. In January of this
year, Hyundai Motor also launched its new rear-wheel drive Genesis luxury sedan,
a car the South Korean company sees as its ticket into the ranks of the world’s
top-end automakers. Hyundai Motor said it has invested 500 billion won ($533
million) to develop the Genesis over the past four years, and sees it as a
competitor to luxury models such as Toyota’s Lexus and similar European cars
from BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Genesis “symbolizes our determination to enter the highly competitive arena of
luxury cars now dominated by the Europeans,” Hyundai chairman and CEO Chung
Mong-koo said. “Genesis will consolidate our position as the leader of the
Korean auto industry and will pave the way forward for our leap into the global
Thai Ford Fiesta plant tribute to Thai
The new generation of the Ford Fiesta (and its Mazda twin, the
Mazda2) will be built at the Auto-Alliance plant in Thailand (AAT).
This is the plant at which the Ford Ranger and the Mazda BT50 are built, and
they have earned good reputations outside of Thailand for their quality. Locally
this region is known as the ‘Detroit of Asia’ with the GM plant next door, and
scores of automotive suppliers in the vicinity.
The Thai government settled on promoting the manufacture of automotive products
and electronic consumer goods as two additional props for the local economy and
followed the model established by the Japanese, with the Thais developing the
domestic market for vehicle sales by low tariffs for the one-tonne pick-up
segment before turning an eye towards exports.
With the world waiting for the Fiesta/Mazda2, the AAT plant should return the
investment by Ford/Mazda very quickly.
Chevy Volt - electrifying news!
GM seems to be on target for the release of their electric car,
the Volt, in 2010, complete with “accidentally” released photographs of the
production vehicle. Whilst not as futuristic as the Volt concept which was
displayed last year, it is still a clean looking design.
released photo of production Volt
The Volt is designed to run on an electric motor powered by a battery pack,
which can be recharged from a standard home wall outlet. There is a very small
petrol engine included in the package, but its only function is to drive a
generator to recharge the car when running. The petrol engine is not mated to
the transmission in any way, as opposed to the Toyota Prius or Honda Insight
GM is currently testing new lithium-ion battery packs that will enable the Volt
to travel 65 kilometers when fully charged. After that, the small petrol engine
will recharge the batteries to keep the car rolling at an equivalent of 1.5
liters of gasoline per 100 kilometres.
GM says it will bring the car to market late in 2010. It is expected to cost
$US30,000 to $US40,000 which, although expensive by US standards, is not totally
out of the ball park.