Letters, February 2013

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172

Dirty talk

Sir,

What a charmless swipe from Sebastian Vettel, alleging “dirty tricks” by his rivals — by which he is presumably referring to Ferrari’s grid strategy in the US and its deliberate hobbling of Massa’s gearbox.

Before he next speaks out, Vettel should learn the history of his sport. It has long been accepted practice for a driver to assist his teammate when the latter retains a slim chance of winning the championship. In 1956, when Fangio retired at Monza, his team-mate Peter Collins (who himself was still in the title hunt) came into the pits and handed over his car to Fangio, who duly went on to take the title.

Sacrificing a few places on the grid is small beer by comparison. Vettel’s undignified sniping will simply confirm the belief of many fans that the more worthy World Champion would have been Fernando Alonso. David Goddard, Hove, Sussex

*

Leopards and spots

Sir,

Michael Schumacher is leaving the sport just as he entered it, as a bully, as evidenced by his career-long on-track incidents and the arrogance implied by those manoeuvres — he seemed to think the rules did not apply to him, to wit his driving Button into the pit lane exit in Texas. I can’t believe officials ignored it. I hope driver steward Emerson Fittipaldi put up a fight to penalise him, but I fear not. A Brazilian threatening Michael on the eve of his final GP in Brazil would be political suicide. It was a lost opportunity to hand out a one-race suspension, which would have been a perfect footnote to an imperfect career.

I would have been willing to buy Michael’s ticket to Brazil, so he could watch the race from the cheap seats (if such things exist).

Locke de Bretteville, California

*

Tricks versus talent

Sir,

As a Ferrari fan since the days of Hawthorn and Collins, am I alone in voicing my concern at the team’s tactical stance during the United States Grand Prix?

Over the years, many ways of gaining an advantage, by teams and drivers alike, have been viewed as unsporting, ungentlemanly and bringing the sport into disrepute. It pained me to hear what had gone on to give Alonso a better chance, and I know, before anyone reaches for their laptop or pen to remind me of the Schumacher era, that this is not new. To me it seems to highlight the ‘win at all costs’ ethic that has prevailed over the years, not only at Ferrari but at other teams as well.

The list of offences goes on: Coulthard’s submission to Hakkinen in Australia, Barrichello’s and Massa’s similar moves for Schumacher, Schumacher’s barge at Hill and Villeneuve and his near-miss last year with Rubens, Senna’s barge at Alesi and his ‘accident’ with Prost, the deluge of water left on the grid as cars jettisoned their ‘brake coolant’, flexible wings, tricky exhausts, cute engine mapping. All examples of pushing the boundaries of the rules and regulations.

Had Fernando won the championship, it would not have sat easily in my memory; in fact all the fantastic drives he has made in every GP this year would have been erased by that.

I am not a stick in the mud, longing for days gone by, but I do wish the owners and directors of the teams, and Frs chiefs for that matter, would not treat us as idiots, without heart or passion for the sport we love. The attraction has already started to melt away at some of the venues — you only have to see the empty seats and bare bankings. Soon the die-hards will question spending hard-earned money to view a sport that can be won not by the best driver in a good car, but by those with no heart at all, just bags of trickery.

Tim Latham, Alrewas, Burton upon Trent, Staffs

*

The right crowd

Sir,

While the US Grand Prix in Austin was the best I’ve been to in a while — such a great circuit — I was really impressed by the crowd. We had a great field for the historic F1 race, the last event on Saturday afternoon, and from my picture I hope you can get a sense of all the people that stayed for the race. This was taken on the banking by Turn 19. Hopefully this will remain on the US GP schedule and maybe the paddock can be brought closer, so we can see the cars as we did at Indianapolis in 2000.

If Christopher Hilton was still with us I’d tell him for the next edition of Grand Prix Battlegrounds that Austin is a great circuit with excellent sight lines and plenty of rest rooms; it just needed more food stalls. And the queues to buy T-shirts etc were more than an hour long…

David Corbishley, Skillman, New Jersey, USA

*

Title challenge

Sir,

Further to David Baxter’s wonderful collection of slides in ‘You Were There’ in December’s issue, I was one of his friends who travelled down from Edinburgh to Oulton Park in the 1960s for the superb Gold Cup meetings. Although latterly for Formula 2, the entries were amazing and we have often wondered whether the entry for the 1965 race was at the time a record for the most past and future World Champions in one race — between them they would amass no fewer than 13 titles: Stewart three, Brabham three, Clark two, Graham Hill two, and Hulme, Rindt and Surtees one apiece.

Roger Paton, Edinburgh

*

Sunbeam tiger

Sir,

In May 1982 I was fire marshal at an Oulton Park meeting. I was allocated the infield post at Cascades, at the bottom of the steep downhill section of the circuit after Old Hall.

At this time the short circuit meant that drivers finished the sprint from the start/finish line, negotiated Old Hall and then had to think about their approach to Cascades and Fosters, accelerating as hard as they could towards a brow followed by a steep downhill into a left and almost immediate right. It was a complex section where the temptation to lift was tempered by the need to maintain momentum through Fosters ready for the run up Clay Hill to Druids.

As a marshal you learnt to watch the cars carefully to try and anticipate the drivers who were likely to come unstuck, especially where a car leaving the circuit was likely to be heading straight for you. The post at Cascades was particularly hazardous if the short circuit was being used. As a marshal you had only two pieces of Armco, three feet high, between you and the oncoming cars, which came into view suddenly over the brow. If a driver lost control they were frequently heading for you.

This day was especially memorable for the astonishing way the winner of a seemingly tame saloon car race managed to negotiate Cascades in a Talbot Sunbeam hatchback.

It was a one-make race for standard road cars from the Brands Hatch Racing School, and we were fairly relaxed as the leading cars approached over the hill. It quickly became apparent that the driver of the first car had no intention of slowing down. He carried on at such speed that the car heeled over, sliding on two wheels down the hill in an oversteering attitude, with the driver applying a small amount of opposite lock, still in top gear.

As the car got to the bottom of the hill the two wheels in mid-air hit the track with a loud bang, and the driver recovered the car while immediately braking hard and revving the engine as he did so to enable the required downchanges.

“He’s left-foot braking,” I said to a marshal. “We’d better watch out, he’s close to the edge.”

Next lap the car did exactly the same thing, only this time there was a large gap between it and the following cars. It was incredible, I had never seen anything like it. Every lap the same. The wheels in mid-air hit the floor in the same place, brake lights full on as the driver doubled down the gears. We even relaxed a bit, once we realised that he was not likely to lose control.

He won that seven-lap race by nearly 10 seconds. We were gobsmacked. A year later he changed his racing name from Ayrton da Silva to Ayrton Senna.

Charlie Plant, Waterloo, Liverpool

*

North Yorks Grand Prix

Sir,

As the Grand Prix season finale loomed I was somewhat sceptical of my wife’s plan to spend a long weekend in the North Yorkshire moors. We stayed in a picturesque, almost idyllic cottage, but the internet was not available and that meant watching the Grand Prix the old-school way on TV. Undeterred, the race was sure to be my highlight of the weekend.

That was until I walked into the local country inn, for a pre-lunch pint, and noticed a selection of beautifully painted portraits of Formula 1 drivers from the 1950s to modern day.

“Well?” came a voice from a gentleman in the corner of the bar, “how many can you name?” The likes of Montoya and modern-day drivers were easy, as was Jim Clark.

“I want to say Surtees to that one,” I said unsurely, explaining my knowledge starts really from the 1970s. I was told to guess again: “British Ferrari drivers”. I wanted to say Hawthorn but there was no bow tie. “Peter Collins,” came the reply.

Within minutes my new friend and I were talking racing. “Do you read Motor Sport?” I was asked. “Have done for years,” I replied.

“What do you think of Nigel Roebuck?”

“Genius, been reading his work since a boy, with his Fifth Columns in Autosport.”

“What do you think of Jenks?”

“Stubborn old legend.”

The conversation was getting more and more captivating, and then it was suggested I look at the photos in the far corner. These were pictures of this fascinating gentleman racing sports cars in the 1970s on real circuits such as Niirburgring and the old Spa. I was engrossed. I asked for more about Spa. Then came the quote of the weekend…

“I touched the brake going into Masta and Pedro Rodriguez overtook me on the outside!” Brilliant.

By now my in-laws were suggesting we were going to be late for lunch, which was when my friend’s wife asked me if I knew what ‘the dog house’ was?

“Which one? I know of two and my wife’s in charge of the one I’ll be in!” The other was of course the domain of racing wives. This was another conversation I was itching to have; however, the family won and I had to leave.

So if you’re passing sleepy Rosedale Abbey, fancy a pint and see the White Horse, you might want to stop. I can assure you the conversation is truly first class. Thank you, Peter Smith.

Turns out the Grand Prix was a thriller, but not the highlight of my weekend after all.

Stan Wiles, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

*

Keep two Chevrons apart

Sir,

As an avid reader since schooldays in the 1960s and, in period, a great fan of Peter Gethin I must humbly advise that the photo captioned as Geth in the Chevron article is in fact one of Brian Redman. I recall Geth was driving a brown car when my pals and I witnessed his great win. Notwithstanding this, keep up the good work — still a wonderful monthly read.

Jon Jeffery, Woobum Green, Bucks

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