The 2013 F1 racing season will come to an end Sunday in São Paulo, Brazil.
It is a good bet that Sebastian Vettel will win this last Grand Prix and, in so doing, tie two pretty significant records — the 13 victories in one season recorded by Michael Schumacher in 2004 and the nine consecutive wins scored by Alberto Ascari over two seasons in the early 1950s.
Now, I happen to think this is pretty terrific stuff. My goodness, the man and his team are in a class by themselves. I’ve always enjoyed watching an artist at work and Vettel is certainly that.
There are others, however, who have stopped watching F1 (they say) because Vettel has made it boring. If you know who the winner will be, they say, why bother to watch?
I can tell you right now that if one driver — be it Jimmie Johnson or somebody else — won eight or nine or 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in a row, the grandstands would be empty. Or else being burned down. The fans wouldn’t stand for it.
But I think F1 fans are a different breed. It seems that whatever the year, there’s always been a dominant driver or a dominant team. Before Vettel, it was Schumacher. Before him, it was Senna, Prost and Piquet. Before them came Lauda, Stewart, Clark and Brabham. And way back in the beginning, it was Fangio.
Regardless, the series and the drivers are worshipped around the world, year-in and year-out.
But is this good? Should the people who run F1 be trying harder to make it more exciting?
For instance, how come up to 16 people are allowed to change tires on the cars? Isn’t the point of tire stops to shake things up? To inject the possibility of a screw-up that might affect the outcome of the race?
If that is so, how about limiting the number of people “over the wall” to one crew member per tire? And, as is the case in NASCAR, they couldn’t go “over the wall” till the race car was inside the pit stall.
Then, the tire changers would have to carry the tires with them, undo the nuts holding the tires on the car, make the switch, and tighten the nuts again. If something negative happened, one of the other tire changers would have to pitch in to help the guy having trouble.
As it is, pit stops are completed in less than three seconds. With all those people, that is no big deal. But if you only have four “over the wall,” it would take longer to change the tires and lots more could go wrong.
I would say it’s worth a try. There are other suggestions out there but I think restricting the number of tire changers is the best one.
The news that Dario Franchitti was being forced into retirement has dominated the IndyCar Series of late but there was an announcement late last week that was more significant.
The announcement was that a car being entered into the 2014 IndyCar championship would have two drivers instead of one. Ed Carpenter, who owns Ed Carpenter Racing, will drive the oval races and Mike Conway will drive the road and street circuits.
Now, I know that cars have previously had more than one driver. Those are the rent-a-rides offered up to the highest bidder and they don't count. And some NASCAR teams have hired road-course specialists like Ron Fellows to drive in place of racers who aren't very good away from ovals. But they don't count either. I'm talking about a team entering a car in a series and naming two drivers before the start of the season and I don't think it's ever been done before.
And to be honest, I don't know why. I would think the aim of a team owner in IndyCar would be to win races for his or her sponsors. There can be only one series champion - usually Franchitti or Scott Dixon in IndyCar - but there can be 19 "champions" at each of the races and it makes perfect sense to utilize the talent that's available, particularly if your driver is good at one discipline and not another.
Carpenter is a good oval racer. It is his background and he excels. He is not a good road racer. He's tried, and he's been getting better, but why waste your time when you know you can't win? Conway does not like ovals. They have nearly killed him several times. But he is an above-average road and street racer. Why force either to do something in which they are uncomfortable?And why not take advantage of their talents?
I have been preaching this for years. I first brought it up with David Billes, who owned the Canadian Tire-sponsored CART team in the mid-1980s. I interviewed him at post-race tech inspection in 1985 after Johnny Parsons Jr., who was a great oval racer, had finished fifth in the Indianapolis 500 in place of Jacques Villeneuve Sr., who had crashed twice while trying to qualify. Jacques was good on road circuits and not so good on ovals - at all.
So I said to Billes, why not let Villeneuve drive the road and street races and put supermodified veteran Warren Coniam into the car for the ovals? Billes said he thought it was a good idea but because the points went to the driver and not the car or team, he would rather stick with Jacques.
That was his position but I like what Carpenter had to say when the announcement was made about him splitting time in the car with Conway: "I want this team to have a chance everywhere we go."
Attaboy, Ed. And do you know what? It might start a trend.
Catching up with all kinds of racing news: Make your reservations at a Syracuse-area motel for next Oct. 10th and 11th for Super DIRT Week at the New York State Fairgrounds. It was announced this week that the U.S. Auto Club Silver Crown Series will be part of the program and I, for one, will not miss seeing them run the dirt "Moody Mile." The Silver Crown cars (dirt champ cars) run pavement as well as dirt but the mile tracks - Indianapolis State Fairgrounds, Illinois State Fairgrounds and DuQuoin State Fair - are where they get to stretch their legs. Trust me: in 2014 do not miss the World of Outlaws at Ohsweken Speedway in July and now the Silver Crown series at Syracuse in October. . . . Quebec stock car racer Maryeve Dafault has signed to drive for Team Stange in the 2014 ARCA Racing Series. . . . Headline on AutoWeek.com: 'Despite winless season, Junior optimistic about future.' Why? . . . Mistic Electronic Cigarettes will sponsor Sebastien Bourdais in the IndyCar Series next season. I wonder how long it will be before those coffin nails are banned too? . . . This from the Honda Indy Toronto: "The Honda Indy Toronto is thrilled to host a 2inTO weekend again in 2014, featuring TWO back to back, full length IndyCar races: one on Saturday July 19th, and another on Sunday July 20th. The festival off-track offers a wide range of interactive activities, demonstrations, sampling, and contests, highlighting an AdrenalineFest, Craft BeerFest, TasteFest, MotorFest, CelebrationFest and an IndyFest all in full swing at Exhibition Place for one unforgettable weekend! TICKET RENEWALS Nov. 25th. If you are a returning 2013 purchaser, look for your 2014 renewal email during the week of Nov. 25th. Secure your seats early and take advantage of our BEST OFFER OF THE YEAR! TICKETS GO ON SALE Dec. 9th. Tickets for the 2014 Honda Indy Toronto go on sale to the general public the week of Dec. 9th. . . . Mark Martin says he won't race in NASCAR Sprint Cup any more. Somehow, I don't believe him. I suggest he will do one-offs. He might not commit to a full season but I'm positive he's not finished.