'CRAZY LEO URLICHICH' WINS RALLY OF THE TALL PINES; WICKENS LOSES OUT ON F1 SEAT
Mark Webber won the Grand Prix of Brazil on Sunday, with his teammate Sebastian Vettel second and Jenson Button third (see Sunday post below, or click here for race details) but the question must be asked:
Did Vettel deliberately try to make his Red Bull-Renault team look bad when he was asked to give way to Webber, allegedly because of problems with his gearbox?
There are all sorts of conspiracy theories out there about how the gearbox story was concocted by Red Bull in order to throw Webber a bone.
The team’s No. 2 driver had been decimated by his World Championship-winning teammate this season (a record 15 poles and 11 victories in 20 races for Vettel, zero and three for Webber going into Brazil) and the feeling is that Red Bull – as Ferrari did with Eddie Ervine and Rubens Barrichello during the Schumacher years – wanted a win for Webber, if for nothing more than to boost his confidence heading into winter.
Whether there were problems or not, Red Bull notified Vettel about a third of the way through the 71-lap race that he’d have to baby his gearbox if he wanted to make it to the finish. It was suggested he not hold up his teammate, Webber (they were running one-two at the time).
A radio transmission between Vettel and the team was garbled, but you got the feeling that he wasn’t 100 per cent in agreement.
Three laps later, on Lap 28, he turned the fastest lap of the race, to that point. Then, a lap later, he pulled over and suddenly slowed down to let Webber pass and take over P1. He left no doubt in anybody's mind who was watching that he was following team orders.
Despite having to be warned at least twice more to stop trying to take it to Webber (he set another fastest lap on Lap 46), Vettel subsequently held station and drove his car home in second place, well clear of third-place finisher Button’s McLaren-Mercedes.
It must be hard for a racing driver to be told to slow down, particularly a driver who’d recently wrapped up his second consecutive world championship season and one who is clearly – at this point in time – head and shoulders above his competition.
But auto racing is a team sport and selfishness has no place. He didn’t have to stick it to Red Bull with that ultra-quick lap before ceding his position, as well as the one later, and I suggest Christian Horner will have taken note.
Note: With the basketball strike settled, and tons of hockey and baseball news out there, this blog might not appear regularly in the Top 5 sports blogs lineup on the sports home page this winter. But it's updated almost daily and can be found at wheels.ca and thestar.com/sports/auto racing. Have a great off-season.
– An interesting part of watching the last race of the season was guessing which drivers will be back in 2012. As announcer Martin Brundle pointed out, the same five drivers have been on the podium in the last 51 races, so I suggest that everybody outside the top five should be worried about keeping their jobs.
Rubens Barrichello, for instance, won’t be back at Williams (but is Sir Frank really serious about hiring Kimi Raikkonen?) And Jaime Alguersuari likely won’t be back at Toro Rosso because Red Bull wants to promote Jean-Eric Vergne and although Alguersuari beat his teammate, Sebastien Buemi, in the standings, Buemi brings big money to that team and money seems to be the name of the game in F1 again: drivers with money get the rides and drivers without it, don’t.
Case in point. Charles Pic is a French driver with bags full of cash. He has had a very ordinary motor racing career to this point. However, the Marussia-Virgin F1 team announced at Brazil Sunday that Pic will partner Timo Glock in 2012, leaving Canadian Robert Wickens, who has had a pretty successful motor racing career to this point but who hasn’t got a dime, on the outside looking in.
Jerome D’Ambrosio has been dropped to make way for the ultra-quick Pic (ultra-quick, as in nobody can write a cheque faster).
- Quick Monday Morning update: Patrick Head, Sir Frank's right-hand-man at Williams forever, will end his involvement with the race team during the off-season as he moves to another role with the company, director of Williams Hybrid Power.
– I’ve got a call into TSN about F1 coverage in 2012, so that will be a blog entry this coming week when they get back to me (everybody was out west at the Grey Cup).
But F1 coverage could be a problem because TSN gets its feed from the BBC and in 2012, the BBC will only televise 10 of the expected 20 races live. Sky Sports, a British pay-TV channel, will cover all the races live and has announced a dynamite package in which every practice, qualifying session and race will be carried live with all sorts of digital add-ons available.
Anchorman Brundle has already announced that he is leaving the BBC for Sky and analyst/sidekick David Coulthard, Eddie Jordan and the rest will undoubtedly follow.
The implications for Canada are, shall we say, interesting. Hopefully, TSN will be able to make a deal with somebody so that live coverage of all races continues.
– Speaking of TSN, their commercial placement in the first hour of Sunday’s telecast interfered with some serious on-track action.
I know that it’s a crapshoot – they have to stick the commercials in somewhere, and at least we get side-by-side coverage so we’re not left totally in the dark – but it’s still irritating to have a commercial playing (complete with sound) on the right side of the screen and all hell breaking loose on the other.
When they went to commercial the first time at 11:14 a.m., Michael Schumacher and Bruno Senna collided and there were repercussions as Senna was subsequently given a drive-through penalty (yes, there were replays, but that’s like missing a goal in hockey).
When they next went to commercial at 11:24, everybody went into the pits for fresh rubber. Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Webber – everybody. Lots of action on a screen the size of a postage-stamp.
Here’s a suggestion: when the checkered flag fell, it was 12:36 p.m. When Webber, Vettel and Button went out on the podium, is was 12:42. If they put six minutes of commercials in there, would anybody mind?
– Everybody in F1 is stick thin – the drivers, the engineers, etc. So when I saw a Force India jack man with a pot belly, I didn’t know what to think:
1, Formula One has an image to protect and what’s a fat guy doing out there?
Or . . .
2, Hey, there’s a fat guy in Formula One! There's hope for all of us fat guys yet!
– I’m confused. Martin Brundle clearly said F1 is so sophisticated now that "you can’t damage your own gearbox any more . . . it’s the luck of the draw whether or not it holds up." If that’s the case, why would a driver be told to be gentle with the gearbox?
– Coulthard kept switching back and forth between pronouncing Vettel’s name VET-ul and Vu-TELL during the telecast (it’s really FET-ul, if you want to know). I don’t know why he can’t get the correct pronunciation around his tongue, considering that he sits (or stands) right beside Brundle, who’s got it mostly right.
Which is reminiscent of Jacques Villeneuve’s years in CART, when Paul Page used to call him "Vellano." I loved Paul Page, the true voice of Indy car racing, but I couldn’t figure out what was so hard about "Veel-noov."
– Being an F1 fan requires effort. Most of the summer, you have to be up at the crack of dawn to watch the races, or else rest up in anticipation of staying up half the night.
Which is why Canada and Brazil are my two favourites. The start times are just so much more civilized.
We had an early lunch Sunday, while enjoying the 11 a.m. race. Delightful.
CRAZY LEO WINS RALLY OF THE TALL PINES
Hey, talk about timing. Two days ago, I posted a feature interview I did on Thursday with rally driver 'Crazy Leo' Urlichich. Saturday, he went out and won the Rally of the Tall Pines in Bancroft.
Here's the report.
“Crazy” Leo Urlichich, of Thornhill, and co-driver Martin Brady of Ireland defeated a record-breaking number of entries at the 2011 Rally of the Tall Pines, their first win at a Canadian Rally Championship event.
The competition was extremely strong, with 2011 Canadian Rally Champion Antoine L'Estage of St.-Jean-sure-Richelieu, Que., second-place Pat Richard of Squamish, B.C. and 2011 Rally America champion David Higgins of Trefeglwys, Wales, in action.
“Wow, this is incredible,” said Urlichich, who literally jumped around on the podium in excitement. “All season the whole team has been working hard to get to this point, and so this win really proves how much the team has put into the effort.”
With the Canadian Rally Championship already decided in favour of L'Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard of Halifax, nobody was holding anything back and all teams were attacking from the start.
L'Estage won the first four stages, taking control of the event, until disaster struck at the end of the fifth stage. The transmission in his car shattered, with large pieces of the casing falling off.
Said L'Estage: “Well, it's too bad. We were leading the rally, and had a good lead, but it's okay. The important thing is we are Canadian Rally Champions.”
The 2012 Canadian Rally Championship season is only a few short months away, with the season kicking off Feb. 4th and 5th with the Rallye Perce Neige in Maniwaki, Que.
The Canadian Rally Championship is comprised of six events held nationwide in a season that goes from February to November. The series is presented by Subaru Canada, supported by Yokohama Tire Canada and features contingency programs from Subaru Canada and Mitsubishi Canada.