1. F1 – Is Vettel really that good, or that bad?
2. IndyCar: It’s not often a driver admits being scared
3. NASCAR: Second-stringers put on a show in Montreal
I spent the weekend at Mosport, covering the American Le Mans Series race for the Star. For the full, unedited, version of my report, which includes comments and observations on races other than the headline event, please see the post below.
But because I was there, I didn’t get to see – live and in person – all of the other races this weekend. But that isn’t going to stop me . . .
Before we begin the discussion of whether or not Sebastien Vettel really has The Right Stuff to be a Top Gun in Eff-One, I have news:
Someone has swiped the mirror out of the men’s washroom on the second floor of the control tower at Mosport.
Don’t laugh. This is serious.
That mirror has been on the wall in that washroom since the control tower opened in 1962. The greats of the sport have looked at themselves in that mirror – Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, Peter Revson and on and on.
Which means that mirror has reflected history.
How do I know that all those great drivers (and not-so-great drivers, too) saw themselves in that mirror? Because for many years in the early days of Mosport, the men’s and women’s loos on the second floor of that tower and the co-ed can on the main floor were the only – the only – decent toilets to be found at Mosport.
Which means that most civilized people, at one time or another, managed to find a way to get into the tower to use those facilities.
Now, how do I know it was filched?
Well, there was no indication that it had been broken. There was no evidence in the form of broken mirror glass on the floor, or anything.
And, being an investigative reporter, I sought out the building’s custodian and he told me that he, too, had noticed it was gone.
So somebody had to have taken it. It was the official 50th anniversary weekend of the opening of Mosport and I guess whoever did it must have thought they were being pretty clever.
But now, because of this publicity, their friends and relatives will know they are nothing more than a dirty, low-down, rotten, stinking, cheap, thief.
Return it immediately. The ghosts of Clark, Hill, Revson and the rest will forgive you – but only if you put it back.
You have been warned.
This has been a public-service announcement.
By the way, the ALMS action picture at the top of today’s blog entry was taken by my friend John Strothard. You can view more of his work at www.lugnutsracing.com
I met John a number of years ago and we spent an entire dinner trying to stump each other on such auto racing trivia questions as, "On what lap did Jimmy Bryan get killed at Langhorne?" (The first.) Or, "How does Kenny Brack pronounce his last name?" (Brack, then Breck, then Brack again.)
In his youth, John raced TQ midgets (until one time he ran out of talent and went for the ride of his then-young life) and freelanced as a photographer for Pete Chapman’s Wheelspin News and Autosport Canada. Thanks for the photo, Johnny.
Okay, as mentioned, I spent the weekend at Mosport and, while discussing Sunday’s Grand Prix of Belgium, a reporter for another newspaper suggested that perhaps Sebastien Vettel, who suffered through a dreadful day at Spa, maybe isn’t as good a Grand Prix driver as everybody thinks he is.
I agree. And I think I know what the trouble is.
First, a recap. Lewis Hamilton won the GP in his McLaren-Mercedes, with Mark Webber second (who bogged down so badly at the start that his anti-stall mechanism (!) had to kick in) in a Red Bull-Renault and Robert Kubica third in a Renault (full story here).
It was, in the words of several correspondents, a "hectic" race with rain showers catching some drivers unprepared (sending several of them sliding off the track) and careless driving eliminating others.
It was the latter that prompted my reporter friend to suggest that Vettel isn't cutting the mustard.
The Red Bull driver attempted to pass defending world champion Jenson Button and, in so doing, managed to, first, get bent all out of shape and to, second, crash right into him, putting Button out of the race.
Vettel continued on after pitting for repairs but was given a drive-through penalty for his disobedience and then picked up a flat tire when he somehow managed to collide with another car, this time the Force India of Tonio Liuzzi.
The Button accident was reminiscent of the accident in Turkey involving Vettel and Webber in which the German appeared to turn into his teammate.
I’ll tell you what the problem with Vettel is – and it’s happened time and again to talented youngsters in all walks of life – and it can be summed up in four words: too much too soon.
In 2006, Vettel became the youngest driver – 19 years and 53 days – to participate in a Grand Prix meeting (he drove in Friday practice) and a year later he became the youngest F1 driver to score points. Also in ‘07, he became the youngest driver to lead a Grand Prix. In 2008, he became the youngest driver to win a Grand Prix.
He’s 23 now but it all seems to be coming apart. Why? Because he didn’t get the proper seasoning; because he wasn’t allowed to mature to the point where he could handle all of this.
The greats of the sport weren’t kids when they broke into the big time. Schumacher was 22 before he made his first F1 start. Senna was 23. Prost was 25.
It happens in all sports, of course, not just in car racing. Kids get rushed in hockey and baseball and most of them flame out. Sure, there’s an occasional Bobby Orr or a Gretzky. But the ones who profit are the ones allowed to grow, to mellow out.
Why is it that sport is the exception? Is there a major city anywhere in the world with a mayor who’s 19 or 20? How about the principal of a high school? Any 19 or 20-year-olds have that job? Any managing editors that age? Or heads of law firms? How about president of the United States? Any 20-year-olds out there up for that job?
You’re laughing now, wondering how I could be asking such foolish questions.
Which is exactly my point.
What is a 19-year-old kid doing driving a Formula One car anyway?
INDY CAR DRIVER SAYS HE WAS SCARED
I saw most of the IZOD IndyCar Series race on Saturday night and my heart was beating quickly for most of the last 40 laps.
And that’s because you could have taken a blanket and covered the first dozen cars with it.
They were flying at 200-plus miles an hour around the Chicagoland Speedway and one false move by any of them could have resulted in disaster.
Dario Franchitti won, with Dan Wheldon second and Marco Andretti third (full report here). But it could just have easily been Scott Dixon or Tony Kanaan or Ryan Hunter-Reay or Ryan Briscoe. If you were watching that race and blinked, the order would change just like that.
In fact, at the finish, the first 10 cars flashed past in the same second. Danica Patrick, who was 14th, was 1.5 seconds behind the winner; Sarah Fisher, who was 15th, was 2 seconds back.
One driver, however, laid it on the line for all to hear. Kanaan said, in so many words, that he was frightened.
"We were fighting for our lives," he said on TV. "It might have made for great television for people watching at home, but it was no fun for us. I didn’t like it out there at all."
It takes guts to say something like that.
But IndyCar is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. Last year at Richmond, the race was so bad that Franchitti apologized on national television. The IRL then went to work and made some aerodynamic changes and the result was the beehive we saw Saturday night.
I feel for Kanaan and the other drivers.
But Saturday night's race was great to watch and let’s have more just like it.
By the way, here’s a link to a video of the race highlights and I think you’ll agree – the action is hairy.
Unfortunately, the live audience wasn’t very big. I’d suggest there were more people in the stands for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday night than took in the IndyCar race Saturday.
Of course, in the truck series, there were crashes. Many . . . big . . . crashes.
One other thing: Will Power was winning that race, or heading for a podium finish, when his car ran out of fuel with three laps remaining. He had to pit for a splash in order to finish and record points.
At race’s end, he immediately stepped from his car and disappeared into the infield blackness, heading for his motor home. He was obviously very upset.
Reporter Jack Arute chased him down and Power agreed to stop for a TV interview, in which he was polite and charming.
Picture that happening with Kyle Busch.
BORIS WHO? BEATS MAX WHO? IN MONTREAL
Speaking of NASCAR, Boris Said just beat Max Papis to the line to win Sunday’s Nationwide Series race at Circuit-Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
1997 world driving champion, Jacques Villeneuve of Saint- Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., who was top Canadian, was third (full story here).
Other Canadians: J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge finished a fine seventh, D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas was 11th (he started 30th, so way to go D.J.), Ron Fellows of Missisauga was 30th, Patrick Carpentier of Montreal was 32nd and Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., was 39th.
One of the reasons the Nationwide race has always been held in Montreal during an "off" weekend for the Sprint Cup Series was the hope that some of the big stars of NASCAR would enter.
You know, Jimmie Johnston, Kyle and Kurt Busch, Dale Jr., Jeff Gordon – those guys.
It’s never happened. Joe Nemechek, Robbie Gordon and Carl Edwards were the "names" this weekend (even though there was no Cup race and all sorts of "names" were available) and although it might have been a mighty clash between Said and Papis, they are far from being among the front ranks of NASCAR drivers.
But tens of thousands of Montreal fans turn out for the race each year anyway, which is a mystery to me. Somebody will have to explain it to me, sometime.
Earlier Sunday, Ranger continued his domination of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series by winning yet another race.
After losing the lead briefly to Jason Bowles on the white-flag lap, Ranger muscled past on the final turn to claim victory in the Canadian Tire race at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve. It was Ranger's second win in three years at Montreal's 2.709-mile course; he was second in last year's event.
It's the third win of the season – all on road-courses – for the Roxton Pond, Que., driver who is running a partial schedule in the series. The two-time NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion has 12 career wins in the series with nine coming on road courses.
Don Thomson Jr. of Hamilton finished second, followed by Robin Buck of Toronto, Scott Steckly of Milverton and Jason Hathaway of Appin.
Kerry Micks of Mt. Albert, Trevor Seibert of Williams Lake, B.C., J.F. Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres, Ron Beauchamp Jr. of Windsor and rookie John Farano of Toronto rounded out the top 10.
Points leader J.R. Fitzpatrick and his closest challenger, D.J. Kennington, both suffered mechanical issues early. Fitzpatrick, who started on the front row alongside Ranger, picked up enough spots through attrition to finish 18th. Kennington completed just 14 laps of 24 laps and finished 28th. Fitzpatrick, who carried a 16-point lead into the race, extended that to 51 points with just three races left on the schedule.
OTHER RACING: James Hinchcliffe of Oakville won the Indy Lights race at Chicago. Philip Major of Ottawa was third. . . . Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto won the GP3 race on Saturday at the Grand Prix of Belgium . . . Kyle Busch won that NASCAR truck race on Friday night at Chicagoland, with Todd Bodine second and Ron Hornaday third . . . The AIM Autosport of Woodbridge Pacific Mobile/Biosign No. 61 Ford Riley Daytona Prototype only lasted a little over a lap in Montreal Saturday during the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race when Burt Frisselle spun it into the wall. . .
A child was killed racing motorcycles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.
Peter Lenz of Vancouver, Wash., who was 13, fell off his bike during a warmup lap and was run over by another motorcycle, ridden by a 12-year-old.
His father published the following on the boy’s Facebook Page:
"He passed doing what he loved and had his go-fast face on as he pulled onto the track. The world lost one of its brightest lights today. God Bless Peter and the other rider involved. 45 (the number on Peter's bike) is on another road we can only hope to reach. Miss you kiddo."
I’ll tell you what Peter loved as much, or more, than anything else: Making his father happy.
It’s such a shame that Peter now knows all about death without being old enough to know very much about life.