SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE: Nico Rosberg won the first F1 race of his career and Mercedes won its first Grand Prix since 1955 at the Chinese Grand Prix today. Rosberg won from pole and was followed across the line by Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton for McLaren-Mercedes and Mark Webber and Sebastien Vettel for Red Bull-Renault. Michael Schumacher, who started second beside his young Mercedes teammate, dropped out after a front wheel was incorrectly installed at the first pit stop. Fernando Alonso, meantime, was ninth for Ferrari. Back to the drawing board for that team. Now the circus goes to Bahrain and F1 is about to get some publicity it could very much do without. Official results
SATURDAY EVENING UPDATE: Greg Biffle won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday night, with Jimmie Johnson second and Mark Martin third. The race was kinda boring.
Meantime, Ryan Briscoe won the pole for Sunday's Long Beach Grand Prix for the IZOD IndyCar Series but will likely start 11th because of the 10-grid-position penalty handed out to him because Chevrolet decided to change the engine in his car.
In all, 14 drivers - more than half the field - will be penalized because of engine changes, suggesting force majeure is in play. But rather than suspending the rule that calls for penalties if a car's engine is changed, the IndyCar brain trust (I'm using that word very loosely) has decided to stick to its guns, presumably so it won't appear weak and indecisive.
It apparently has never heard of the word "logical."
Appearing to be stupid also hasn't registered with them.
This nonsense ranks up there with the six cars that made up the field for the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis in 2005 after all the other cars pulled into the pits following the formation lap.
IndyCar sent out the qualification results on Saturday night with these words:
"Qualifying Saturday for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 1.968 mile(s) Streets of Long Beach, with starting position (my emphasis), car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine,time and speed in parentheses:"
It didn't mention that what followed would not be the way the cars will line up for the race - primarily because the brain trust is still trying to figure that out.
They say they'll wait till after the warmup session Sunday before posting the starting positions in case somebody else has to change an engine. (Hey, I just thought of something: what if one of the cars that has already changed an engine, and will be assessed a 10-grid-position penalty, has to change its engine again? Will the driver of that car be handed a TWENTY-grid-position penalty?)
You want confusion? Panther Racing, which runs J.R. Hildebrand, headed its post-qualifying session release this way: "Hildebrand qualifies 16th in Long Beach, expected to start 20th?"
(WAIT A MINUTE! STOP THE PRESSES! THAT'S ONLY A FOUR-GRID-POSITION PENALTY! WHO'S IN CHARGE THERE? OH, I FORGOT. IT'S INDYCAR!)
And that, ladies and gentlemen, will be where things really get out of control and where the bad feelings will surface: some cars will be penalized 10 places and others won't. Want to bet that somebody doesn't serve notice before the start that they're racing under protest?
By the way, things were already out of control during qualifying. Dario Franchitti was in the final group going for pole but he was driving the only car that hadn't changed an engine. Said Dario (paraphrase): "I didn't exactly stand on it out there because I knew where I was going to start."
That place is first. Josef Newgarden, who didn't even qualify for what IndyCar calls the Fast Six, will start second Sunday afternoon.
(How would you have liked being a spectator at Long Beach Saturday? You don't follow this sport particularly closely but you attend this race. You watch the cars run and you see Briscoe celebrating and you hear him interviewed and you see the names and numbers on the scoreboard and you go home thinking you've just seen qualifying. When you get up Sunday morning, the lineup is in the paper. But when you get to the race and the cars are lined up, you discover that everything has changed. Everything - particularly Briscoe, who was first Saturday and is now somewhere back in the pack Sunday. And you're supposed to understand this?)
Okay, I've said the last I'll say about this silliness. It is what it is. It's just a shame, however, that a series still on the ropes like IndyCar is being run by numbskulls.
So Briscoe won the pole, Will Power was second, Ryan Hunter-Reay was third, Franchitti was fourth, EJ Viso was fifth, James Hinchcliffe was sixth and Newgarden seventh.
After the penalties are applied, Franchitti and Newgarden will start on the front row. After that, who knows?
SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE: Nico Rosberg is on pole for the Chinese Grand Prix with his Mercedes teammate, Michael Schumacher, next to him on the front row after second-fastest qualifyer Lewis Hamilton was penalized for a gearbox change. Jenson Button will go off sixth, Fernando Alonso ninth and Sebastien Vettell 11th. Wow. Here's the qualifying story and the lineup.
FRIDAY NIGHT UPDATE: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the NASCAR Nationwide Series stock car race at Texas Motor Speedway. Paul Menard was second and Kasey Kahne third. Danica Patrick finished eighth and Steve Arpin of Fort Frances, Ont., finished tenth in his first start of 2012. Well done.
I was thinking about the insanity of F1 bulldozing ahead with plans to race in Bahrain next weekend and IndyCar sticking to its guns and insisting on penalizing 14 drivers 10 grid positions at the Long Beach Grand Prix because of "unauthorized engine changes," when I remembered a passage in a book about Peter Revson that was published in 1974.
Speed With Style was co-written by Revson and the late Autweek editor, Leon Mandell. In a chapter about the 1973 U.S. Grand Prix where Francois Cevert had beeen killed, after which the teams and drivers carried on their business pretty much as if nothing had happened, Mandell wrote:
"As I watched the joking and the laughing in the pits, I wondered about the racers and their world. It seemed to me they were so out of touch with everything that did not concern racing that they were taking a terrible chance. One of these days, I thought, these people were going to drive down a race-track access road that leads to the main highway and when they get there they are going to find the highway is gone. There will be nothing but wisps of smoke, some blackened fields, and a twisted tree. While World War III had started and ended . . . these people (would be) unaware they are the last humans left alive . . . not realizing that the world had ended."
So out of touch.
Here is what Bernie Ecclestone told a reporter for CNN during an interview on Friday:
". . . The problems in Bahrain have nothing to do with Formula One. Quite the opposite – we have a lot of support. I mean, there are other issues in Bahrain, but nothing to do with us. We don't go into a country and interfere with the politics of the country . . ."
Asked if the teams had an misgivings, he replied:
"Not at all. We had a normal meeting about other matters. . . Nobody seemed to have any concerns."
The reporter asked if Bahrain had given assurances about safety and security.
"We haven’t asked anybody. We have an event in Bahrain that has been on the calendar since last October and the people that are the National Sporting Authority in that country are the only people that could change anything if they wanted to. They were the ones that applied for the date so if they didn’t want the race to take place they would apply for it to be removed."
So out of touch.
And then we have the lunacy at Long Beach.
Because of a series of circumstances, more than half the field - 14 drivers, in total - will be assessed 10-grid-position penalties following Saturday qualifying. So 26 cars are entered. As an example, and for the sake of argument, let's say our own James Hinchcliffe has a bad day and qualifies 26th.
Now, where does he start?
His is one of the 14 engines that have been changed for this race. so he is assessed a 10-grid-position penalty.
But let’s say Helio Castroneves qualifies 17th. Because his engine has been changed, he is also given a 10-grid-position penalty.
Does he then start behind Hinchcliffe? Does Hinchcliffe get pushed forward one position? And what of the cars that qualify 18th, 19th and so-on? What if they get 10-grid-position penalties? A tsunami of penalized race cars could find themselves lined up behind Hinchcliffe and he could be pushed forward 10 places.
See how stupid this whole thing is? And don't say it won't work that way. You watch what happens after qualifying when they try to sort this mess out.
Said an IndyCar official: "We've set the precedent and we have to stick with it."
So out of touch.
I betcha they make fun of this on Saturday Night Live.
IndyCar thinks it’s being responsible by sticking to its stupid rule. I have news: it’s making itself a laughing stock.