Racing Roundup: F1 not practicing what it preaches
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I was watching Formula One this weekend (the Grand Prix of Portugal was won by Lewis Hamilton and here’s a link if you missed it), and it suddenly hit me that the series doesn’t practice what it preaches. The lack of diversity is, frankly, frightening.
What makes it worse is that the best racing series in the world could be so much better if the people in charge could just bring themselves to make the changes that are necessary.
Except for Lewis Hamilton, there are no people of colour racing in F1. Except for the women hired to handle public relations and communications (and, in the case of Hamilton, his physical health), there are no women or women of colour working in F1.
Formula One is a rich, white-man’s sport. Just about all of auto racing is a white man’s game but we’re talking about F1 today. How F1 goes could have a positive effect on the remainder of the sport.
Okay, let’s take a closer look.
Lewis Hamilton, who comes from a broken family of modest means, won a karting championship and was invited to the Autosport magazine British champions awards gala in London. While there, he walked up to Ron Dennis, introduced himself and told him that someday, he would be driving for him. Dennis was impressed and became Hamilton’s mentor, financing his career through all the lesser formulai before signing him to his first F1 contract.
So, every team owner in Formula One has to take a page from Ron Dennis’s book. They have to dispatch scouts to find the next Lewis Hamilton. And then they have to finance his or her career through Formula Two and into the Big League. It is imperative that they do this. F1 owner Liberty Media should make it a condition of involvement in the sport.
When those scouts are out there, they should also be looking for the next Janet Guthrie or Danica Patrick. The Formula W Series is okay in and of itself. But women racing against women won’t get the job done. Like Janet and Danica and Lyn St. James and one or two others, they have to race against men.
Guthrie was an SCCA champion; Patrick caught the attention of Bobby Rahal when she finished second in the British Formula Ford Festival. Both had modest success as professionals but could hold their own. And that’s the key: any woman signed to drive in F1 has to be able to race the car competitively and they can only learn to do that by racing against guys. Those women are out there. Those F1 bird-dodgers I’m talking about just have to be on the lookout.
Meantime, do you want to tell me that the best aeronautical engineers in the world are all white and graduates of British universities or British tech schools? Some are, of course. But all of them in F1? What we are seeing there is the old-boys network in high gear. Once again, the teams have to start looking around the world and pick the absolute best rather than someone who’s a friend of good old Charley.
And if you’re going to hire two, you’d better make one of them black. He or she is out there. F1 just has to find them.
I can go right down the list here. Tire changers, roadies, truck drivers, secretaries, office assistants and so-on. It’s time.
Do you ever look closely at one of those “team pictures” that the manufacturers have taken each year, either at the start of the season or at the end? Everybody employed by, say, Williams? All 600 of them come out of the offices and machine shops and line up behind the drivers and everybody smiles? Well, the next time you see one of them, count the number of non-white faces.
I rest my case. If is 2021 and it took the murder of one man to wake up the whole world. I really hope F1 is paying attention.
Formula One will conduct three sprint qualifying races this season, one each at Silverstone, Monza and one other. Normal qualifying will now take place on Friday instead of Saturday, a 100 km sprint race will be run Saturday and the finish will determine starting positions for the full Sunday GP. The top three finishers in the sprint races will earn points, likely 3, 2 and 1.
I, personally, think this is a great idea and I hope it works this season and becomes the norm for 2022 when, hopefully, every GP will have spectators.
There was a flurry of activity surrounding the Grand Prix du Canada early last week. Pay attention, as there will be a test later.
When the dust settled, it was revealed that the new owner of the Grand Prix is Bell (CTV, TSN, RDS, etc. – and you just thought they were a phone company). Promoter Francois Dumontier, president of Octane Racing Group, which is now an independent branch of Bell, previously owned the race. Bell’s Grand Prix contract with series owner Liberty Media has been extended for two years and will now run through 2031.
This year’s race, however, has been cancelled for the second consecutive year. In the meantime, representatives of the federal and provincial governments as well as Tourisme Montreal announced continuing financial support for the Grand Prix.
Dumontier and his team will continue to do what they’ve been doing with the GP all along and that’s to market it. A search for a title sponsor will continue because, although Bell owns the race, they are not the sponsor. He might have a tough time.
(I want to interrupt this column for a moment and tell you a great Canadian racing story. It involves a company, Gulf Canada, which sells oil and gasoline; a guy named Stan Houston, who pioneered Canadian sports and event marketing and communications, and millionaire Canadian racing driver George Eaton. Eaton had hired Houston to find him a sponsor for the 1969 Canadian Formula A Series because, well, why spend your own money when you can spend somebody else’s, eh?
(So Houston, along with some others from his company, the Houston Group – Chick McGregor, Paul Dulmage, Sid Priddle – lined up Gulf Canada to sponsor Eaton. The VP of Marketing for Gulf Canada (sorry, don’t know his name) was all ready to sign the contract when – at the very last second; the pen was poised just above the paper – the guy looked up at Stan Houston and said: “The only thing that bothers me about this is, why does George Eaton need a sponsor?”
(“And Stan Houston, being the brilliant marketer that he was, said: “You’re right.” He took back the contract, scratched out Eaton’s name and wrote in ‘Canadian Formula A & B Series’ before handing it back. And that’s how the Gulf Canada Series for Formula A & B racing cars came to be. True story. Okay, back to my column.)
Anyway, Dumontier told a Montreal reporter that the cancellation was a shame for many reasons but, among them, was that Canada was scheduled to be one of the locations for the sprint-races experiment. He wouldn’t say what circuit would replace Montreal. We know Silverstone and Monza are locks. Some people are saying Brazil, but unless they get Covid under control in that country, it’s unlikely that race will happen. So I say the U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas will host a round of the sprint series.
Now, while Bell owns the race it doesn’t, as mentioned, sponsor it. And it has to bid for, and ultimately pay for, the national broadcasting rights. So subsidiaries TSN and RDS own those rights till 2024. TSN just buys the whole package from the U.K.’s Sky Sports and puts it on the air in Canada. That is unlikely to change. But you would think they would do something special for the Canadian GP, now that they own it, and we have the people in Canada who can do it.
I suggest a 30-minute lead-in just before the race, hosted by TSN’s Cory Warren with a panel of Canadian journalists made up of Tim Hauraney, Stephanie Wallcraft, Juliana Chiovitti and Jeff Pappone. The focus would be on Canadian F1 drivers past and present with particular emphasis on Canadians in the race next year. This is something you would never get from the Sky crew, a knowledgeable and talented bunch but particularly enamoured of British drivers. That’s fine most of the time but if the race is in Canada and the race is owned by a national broadcaster, then consumers would have every right to expect some home-grown commentary.
Okay, so that’s enough about F1 for this week, other than to note that our two Canadians didn’t do well in Portugal. Lance Stroll of Montreal finished 14th, one place behind his teammate, Sebastian Vettel. And Nicholas Latifi of Toronto finished 19th, the last of the cars that were still running. Both those guys have to pick up the pace.
NTT INDYCAR SERIES
I didn’t see the first IndyCar race from Texas on Saturday because the only way to see it would have been to pay Rogers more money and I already pay them enough and I am not paying them one more cent. I saw the second one on Sunday because it was on a channel I can get, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable race after they got it going. They had an awful wreck at the start that eliminated six cars but didn’t hurt anybody. And thank God for the Aeroscreen that protects the driver. It saved one in particular, Conor Daly, from serious injury.
Short Notebook Jottings:
If IndyCar wants to kill somebody – and they will if they let this nonsense continue – is to not do anything about the slow starts and restarts in oval-track racing and the blocking that’s going on when someone attempts a pass. I couldn’t believe it when I saw a tape of Jack Harvey driving almost all the way over to the infield wall to keep somebody from passing him and this was at 200 miles an hour. If they want to do this in road racing, I’ve given up that fight. But blocking at 200 mph on an oval is insane and IndyCar has to put a stop to it pronto.
And the cat-and-mouse game that’s crept into oval track starts and restarts, which piled up the field Sunday and at a race last year, is also something that has to stop. It’s dangerous and expensive. Many of those smaller teams don’t have any money. Remember Alex Tagliani and Paul Tracy fighting that time in San Jose? It was because Tag was on a team without a pot to piss in. They couldn’t afford a crash like the one Tracy had caused.
The person at fault here is the IndyCar flagger. Really at fault. The drivers will try anything and it’s up to the flagger to stop them from being stupid. If the leaders aren’t on the gas by the time they come into the view of the starter’s stand, the starter should throw the yellow and make them go around and keep doing it until they behave themselves and get it right. And after three tries, the two in front should be made to relinquish their spots and be sent to the back of the field.
There are some in that league who will look at you and say, “You know, Norris, there’s a difference between short-track speedways and what we do,” and I say, “So how come the best flagger IndyCar racing has had in the last 50 years was a guy named Nick Fornoro Sr.? He flagged midget races in the U.S. northeast. He was as good as a guy named Shim Malone, who was the chief starter for USAC before he was killed in a plane crash. He was also the guy who ran USAC’s midget division. So, don’t give me that guff. “Those two guys grew up around racing. They lived and breathed it. They understood the rhythm of racing; they felt it in their bones when things were right and when they were wrong. They had a sixth sense. With due respect, the guy who succeeded Fornoro was a guy who painted landscapes. He went to races, but he wasn’t part of them. It’s gone on from there.
“I’ve said it a million times: go get Roger Slack, the best flagger on Earth today. He’s at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
Defending Sportsnet: I don’t do this very often; not at all, in fact. But Rogers Sportsnet was caught in a perfect storm Saturday night that prevented them from showing the first IndyCar race from Dallas (except on Sportsnet World, which costs extra money and I won’t etc.). They had the Blue Jays on Sportsnet 1. The Leafs and Canucks were on Sportsnet Ontario, Sportsnet Pactific and Sportsnet East (the Maritimes, where the Leafs are still the team). The Canadiens and the Senators were on in Quebec and eastern Ontario and parts of New Brunswick. The prairies got the Senators-Canadiens or Leafs-Canucks. In short, there was no way to get the IndyCar race on the air. Oh, Sportsnet360, where the races usually appear, had a Raptors pre-game show starting at 9:30. So, they were snookered. If they took a chance that they could get the race in on Sportsnet360, fine. But there was a weather delay and the race wouldn’t have been over when the Raptors pre-game show came on. At which point Sportsnet had no room anywhere to move the race. The screams heard Saturday night when fans couldn’t find the race would not compare to the ones we’d have heard if Sportsnet had said goodnight with 50 laps remaining. I don’t think this will happen again this year. But they couldn’t do anything about it this time.
Back in the 1950s, the Game of the Week baseball game on CBS (Channel 4, Buffalo) featured an announcing team made up of Buddy Blattner and a retired St. Louis Cardinal legend named “Dizzy” Dean. “Dizzy Dean” regularly murdered the English language (‘an’ he SLUD inta third. . .’) and frequently broke into song. He’d murder the music, too. He was the first announcer of a major league professional sports broadcast to sing on the air.
Back in the 1970s, the original Monday Night Football announcing team was made up of sportscaster (and retired football legend) Frank Gifford, “Dandy” Don Meredith, another retired football player, and Booklyn lawyer Howard Cossel who had an ego the size of Nebraska and loved to think he knew what he was talking about. They put on a wonderful show and Meredith, in the closing moments of the game (sometimes way before) would signal the end by murdering an old country and western song that started with the words, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.” He was the second to sing on the air.
Sunday, at Texas Motor Speedway, mid-way between Dallas and Forth Worth, during the second NTT IndyCar Series race of the weekend, retired racing legend-turned broadcaster Paul Tracy of Scarborough started to sing. “It’s too late baby,” or something like it. He did not murder the song, nor did he disgrace it. In fact, with a little training, he might be on the cusp of a third career.
I think. It’s late. But he really is turning into an all-‘round entertainer and it’s no wonder NBC backtracked on an earlier decision to only have him on the air six times this season. I might be his friend, and a fan, but if you had a choice between Townsend Bell and P.T., which one would you pick?
I will comment at length on the Vancouver Formula E race next week. I think, of all the places in Canada, though, that Vancouver is the perfect place for electric-car racing.
NASCAR: Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Cup Buschy McBusch Race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, his birthday. For all the details, please click here
Camping World Truck Series race results: Kyle Busch. Who else? Kansas-Truck-results.pdf (nbcsports.com) And congrats to Quebec racer Raphael Lessard, who finished eighth.
NHRA: Antron Brown (photo, above) wins final Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. Antron Brown cements Atlanta legacy, beating Steve Torrence in final round | NHRA More results and stories at NHRA.com
One of the longest-running teams in the IMSA paddock announced its 2021 WeatherTech Sprint Cup program late last week. Compass Racing, started by Karl Thomson of Toronto, announced that its new No. 76 Richard Mille Acura NSX GT3 will debut at Mid-Ohio for the first round of the series, May 14-15, with Jeff Kingsley and Mario Farnbacher assigned driving duties.
I’m sure there’s more, but I’m done for this week.
Norris McDonald / Special to wheels.ca
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