With one of its worst weeks in history behind it, Formula One went into Singapore with one goal in mind: to put on a good show and to show the world that it was moving on.
(The FIA’s World Motor Sport Council met in Paris last Monday and found Renault guilty of fixing last year’s Singapore GP (the sentence was suspended). And it cut out the twin cancers of Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds by banning team principal Briatore from ever again having anything to do with Formula One – although it’s interesting how the words "indefinite suspension," that were used by the FIA Monday through Wednesday last week had become "unlimited suspension" by Thursday – and kicking out Symonds for five years.)
|Fernando Alonso, centre, surrounded by media at Singapore. Has anyone told him that maybe praising Flavio Briatore isn't so smart?|
In any event, it was a good weekend, a combination of excellence on the track with a small dose of political intrigue mixed in – Ferrari’s whacking of Kimi Raikkonen – just to keep it interesting.
Lewis Hamilton dominated qualifying and the race in his McLaren. Timo Glock (Toyota) kept his nose clean to finish second and Fernando Alonso was third, making it onto the podium for the first time this season in his Renault.
It was nice to see Alonso up there. It was as if the team had divorced itself from the past and was moving forward, confident in its abilities to ignore any and all distractions and just race.
But then Alonso, at the post-race press conference, dropped the F-Bomb.
"I dedicate this podium to Flavio at home," Alonso said, "because he is a part of the success we had today."
Earth to Alonso, Earth to Alonso: Flavio Briatore was part of the success you had last year, too, and look what it got him and you and Renault and the entire sport of Formula One racing!
Fernando, you don’t thank a crook and a cheat. At least not in public, with the whole world watching.
I betcha the CEO of Renault, at home in Seville, just about choked on his muesli when he heard that one. He and the company won’t say anything, though, for two reasons: 1) they still want to sell cars in Spain, and 2) Alonso is going to Ferrari next year and that’s a good thing for Renault because then, everybody involved with this whole sorry mess will be gone – Briatore, Symonds, disgraced driver Nelson Piquet Jr. and, finally, Fernando.
Maybe Alonso was just being naive. The problem is, the mere mention of Flavio's name by him reminds everybody that his two world championships were won with Briatore pulling the strings and if Flavio was caught cheating this time, how many other times did he cheat without getting caught, eh? Fernando?
On the other hand, Alonso is pretty much like everybody else in the tiny, insulated world of F1. They fly around in their private jets and they get their news (if they care at all) from their personal secretaries or communications people and they only ever talk to other people in the sport and they have – or seem to have – absolutely no idea how this scandal is playing out in the real world.
Did it not cross any of their minds, but particularly Alonso’s, that when ING pulled its sponsorship of Renault F1 last Thursday night that it might have been because they were angry, disappointed, let down, scandalized and browned right off by the immoral behaviour of people in the sport and that they didn’t want their company associated with it any more?
And that maybe lots more companies already in the sport, or perhaps considering getting into it, are also now thinking the same thing? That maybe F1 isn't such a good idea at the moment?
Obviously not, because it sure didn’t stop Alonso from thanking his old buddy, Flavio, for everything he’d done for him and the team.
Somebody ought to slap Fernando Alonso upside the head and then sit him down and make him write out 1,000 times: "I WILL THINK BEFORE I SPEAK."
SINGAPORE F1 NOTES:
– It’s probably better for him that he goes, but Alonso is going to miss Renault. Because when he’s there, he’s the top dog, he's No. 1, he's king of the hill. He went to McLaren and wound up No. 2 to Lewis Hamilton and was miserable all year. Now he’s going to Ferrari and Felipe Massa is God over there. He’s going to have trouble again, that boy.
– As if racing drivers don’t have enough to do, now they have to re-program computers in mid-race. At least, Hamilton had to yesterday. The team became concerned with the KERS power-boost system during the race and asked Hamilton to disable it. They gave him a code to punch into his on-board computer using buttons on his steering wheel. Later, when they determined everything was working properly, they sent Hamilton instructions to activate it again. One upon a time, all those guys had to do was drive.
– Maybe I don’t know all the rules (and F1 has a million of them) but I fail to see how Mark Webber – who went wide into a run-off area early in the Singapore race and gained a position over Alonso and then had to give it back – is any different than Kimi Raikkonen, who did the same thing at Spa and didn’t have to give back anything.
– Here is how lack-luster a weekend Raikkonen had. After giving up during Saturday qualifying (he could have squeezed in one more banzai lap before the checkers waved in P2 qualifying), he started 12th. World championship leader Jenson Button started 11th. At race end, Button was fifth – an improvement of six positions. Raikkonen finished 10th, an improvement of two. What was worse is that Nico Rosberg, who was having a very strong run in his Williams and in second place when he violated the blend line following a pit stop and received a drive-through penalty, finished 11th, about 100 yards behind Kimi.
Of course, Raikkonen doesn’t care any more. He’s through at Ferrari and will play out the string at McLaren.
– Kudos to TSN for staying with the race after it ran over its scheduled time period. TSN even stayed for the podium and the first round of post-race interviews. Credit where credit’s due, I say.
– Speaking of TSN, they will show the next race (Japan) next Sunday morning at 12:55 a.m. and then repeat it at 7:55 a.m. (whew!) Qualifying can be seen at 8 a.m. Saturday.
NASCAR CHASE RACE AT DOVER:
One of the worst racing movies every made was "Stroker Ace," with Burt Reynolds, Jim Nabors and Loni Anderson. It was based on "Stand On It," one of the best novels about car racing ever written. Its author was the late William Neely (with help from co-author Bob Ottum) and its attraction - other than that it was hilarious - was its honesty.
When Stroker crashed, he admitted to being scared to death. He talked about his hands shaking so much he couldn’t imagine trying to light a cigarette, that his testicles were stuck so high up in his throat that he could barely breathe and his knees were knocking so hard he was afraid he wasn’t going to be able to walk back to his pit.
What reminded me of all this was Joey Logano after his car flipped at least a dozen times early in yesterday’s Sprint Cup race at Dover, which was won by Jimmie Johnson, with Mark Martin second and Matt Kenseth third.
Logano let it all hang out. He talked about how scared he was. "It just really scared the heck out of me," he said. "It started rolling, and I was in there thinking, ‘Man, just make this thing stop.’ "
It did and he’s fine – a testament to how well the Sprint Cup car is constructed and how well the HANS device works when put to the test.
Just about any of the other NASCAR macho men out there would have brushed off that wreck as being "just one of them racin' deals," so it was refreshing to hear that Logana was clearly worried about his mortality.
Martin still leads the Chase for the Championship, with Johnston second and Juan Pablo Montoya third. The Sprint Cup tour now goes to Kansas Speedway (a gorgeous facility – everybody should go) for a race next Sunday.
10-HOUR PETIT LE MANS BECOMES 4-HOUR LITTLE LE MANS:
Allan McNish is one of the best sports car racers in the world. Which is why it was so unsettling to see him spin twice in the rain on Saturday – both times while driving relatively sedately behind the pace car!
The first time, he went from first to second and the second time he fell to third place. The upshot was that for the first time in the history of the Petit Le Mans 10-hour race at Road Atlanta, somebody other than Audi drivers won.
Anyway, the rain that pretty much flooded Georgia last week started falling again shortly after the American Le Mans Series race started on Saturday and, around the four-hour mark (see McNish spins, above), they red-flagged the thing and then checkered it around 8 o’clock, an hour or so short of the scheduled time.
Frank Montagny and Stephane Sarrazin, in their Peugeot 908 Hdi, finished first and their teammates, Pedro Lamy and Nicholas Minassion were second, with McNish and Dindo Capello third in their Audi R13 Tdi.
Marino Franchitti, Butch Leitzinger and Ben Devlin were first in LMP2 in a Lola Mazda B09/86.
Jaime Melo, Mika Salo and Pierre Kaffer won in GT2 in a Ferrari F430 GT.
Here’s the problem with big-league auto racing today. Louis Diaz and Adrien Fernandez scored enough points in this event to wrap up the ALMS P2 championship for their team and for Acura. But at the end of October, Fernandez will close down the business because he is out of money and he doesn’t have a sponsor to continue.
This is going to happen to a lot of teams in a lot of series in 2010.
The last race of the ALMS season will take place a week from Saturday, Oct. 10, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
IT’S OFFICIAL: ANDREW RANGER 2009 NASCAR CANADIAN TIRE CHAMPION
It was just a formality, because all Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., had to do yesterday afternoon at Kawartha Speedway near Peterborough was take the green flag in order to wrap up the 2009 Canadian Tire championship – his second in three years.
But the former Formula Atlantic and Champ Car World Series open wheel driver fought it out to the end and finished ninth in the Z-Line Designs 250, which was won by D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas, with Kerry Micks of Mt. Albert second and Don Thomson Jr. of Hamilton third.
As was the case at Road Atlanta, the weather make things miserable for the Kawartha round of the Canadian Tire Series, which was the last of 13 races in ‘09. Rain forced postponement of the race Saturday night and the 27 cars and drivers only got in 204 laps of the scheduled 250 yesterday when rain brought an end to everything again.
Ranger finished the year with 2190 points. Kennington and Ron Beauchamp Jr. of Windsor tied for second with 2023 points while defending champion Scott Steckly of Milverton was fourth with 1953.
There will be no awards banquet in Canada this year – a shame. Ranger will be honoured, along with all of the other NASCAR "regional series" winners, at a banquet in Concord, N.C. on Nov. 14.