What’s with Formula One’s signing of geezers and retreads these days when there’s a whole bunch of young tigers around, waiting for a shot at the Big Time?
Michael Schumacher (on the cusp of 43) is an exception, He’s won seven World Championships, so he gets a pass.
But the signing the other day of Pedro de la Rosa to a two-year contract by the HRT team was a shocker. The guy’s 40. If he was Superman, I could maybe understand it. But he’s not. He’s a very ordinary driver from Spain who’s had a very ordinary F1 career (one podium in 86 starts) and should be retired.
Kimi Raikkonen’s return to F1 as a Lotus-Renault driver in 2012, announced Tuesday, is also a puzzle. Does anybody seriously think he is going to be anywhere near the pace after a two-year layoff?
Remember Jacques Villeneuve? After getting his butt kicked by Jenson Button at BAR, JV was without a ride for 2004. For reasons never completely clear, Flavio Briatore signed him to drive the final three races of the '04 season for Renault and it was embarrassing to watch because not only did he fail to score points, he failed to finish any of the races on the lead lap.
He said it was the layoff that killed him and that was for less than a full season. Kimi’s been out for two years, so he doesn’t stand a chance.
(By the way, the Kimster spent his time the last two years in the World Rally Championship, where he was largely unnoticed. He took a crack at NASCAR and bombed out there also.)
Mark Webber will turn 36 next season and has already said it will be his last year. Good for him, because despite a victory in the last race at Brazil, he was clearly not the driver this year that he had been in 2010 and things will only get worse.
Jarno Trulli, 37 going on 73 (it seems), will again drive for Lotus in 2012 (when it will be called Caterham) and it boggles the mind that he still has a seat. He has done exactly nothing the last two years – no podiums, no poles, no nothing. He finished 21st in the world championship of drivers in 2010 and again in 2011.
Who decides to hire these guys?
Poor Rubens Barrichello is 39 and counting and telling everybody that he will drive for food - er, I mean he'll sign to drive for anybody in 2012 for a very small retainer – whatever that means in F1 parlance. Williams hasn’t called him to say he’s still on the team and they were nogotiating with Raikkonen before he signed with Renault.
Presumably, Kimi was too rich for Sir Frank’s blood, hence Rubens’ public declaration that he comes cheap.
It’s a mystery that the old guys and the comeback artists are being courted, particularly when there are drivers out there of the calibre of Nico Hulkenberg, Robert Wickens, Esteban Gutierrez and others, who could properly be called "racers," rather than all the octegenarian "drivers" we’re stuck with now.
Meantime, here’s something to chew on.
Renault is not anxious to have the injured Robert Kubica return to the team, particularly now that Kimi Raikkonen is the big name associated with it. Although Kubica has said that he won’t be ready for the first race of 2012, the suggestion is that he’s not far off and Autosport has speculated he could do some rehab work at Ferrari.
Now, Ferrari has poured cold water on the speculation but I have a friend who really knows his stuff, who says flatly that the Scuderia’s denial means something is definitely in the works. Writes my friend:
"If Kubica somehow rounded back to form, then the gamble would pay off in a huge way. . . It would put pressure on Felipe Massa if Kubica were to somehow get it back together. Ferrari would not hesitate to dump Massa."
I think he's on to something.
Other racing news:
– There are problems with the new Dallara Indy car for 2012, the car that Dan Wheldon spent most of 2011 testing. In a nutshell, it’s been significantly slower than expected in tests at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and only marginally quicker in road course trim. Dallara and IndyCar have a mere four months to get everything right, with the opening race of the 2012 IZOD season scheduled for March 28.
– Old-time supermodified star Harvey (Leadfoot) Lennox was inducted into the London Sports Hall of Fame recently. Here’s a link to the induction video:
– The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series will operate under a new points system in 2012, it was announced this week.The new structure awards points in one-point increments. As an example, race winners earn 43 points (equal to the maximum number of starters), plus three bonus points for the win. Drivers also can earn an extra point for leading a lap and leading the most laps, bringing the race-winning total to a possible maximum of 48 points.
The points system was simplified, NASCAR says, to make it easier for fans, competitors and the industry to understand. All series under the NASCAR umbrella, from Sprint Cup on down, will be scored the same way.