Matters of moment, July 2016

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

Current page

183

Current page

184

Current page

185

Current page

186

Current page

187

Current page

188

Current page

189

Current page

190

Current page

191

Current page

192

Current page

193

Current page

194

Current page

195

Just how significant was the Spanish Grand Prix of May 15 2016 in the history of Formula 1? Beyond the astounding ‘youngest ever’ record set by teenage race winner Max Verstappen, only time will tell. It will depend largely on the scope of the Dutchman’s final career imprint – but right now, the safer money is on a size more Michael Schumacher than Giancarlo Baghetti.

For context, we offer a snapshot of the youngest-ever records on page 40. What’s startling is by just how much Verstappen has lowered the mark for youthful Grand Prix winners. Sebastian Vettel was 21 years and 73 days old when he conquered a wet Monza in a Toro Rosso in 2008 – but Max has smashed that by a full two years and 210 days, by my reckoning. Not even close.

Such an achievement inevitably led some to pronounce that modern F1 is too easy if an 18-year-old kid can win, that he’d never have managed it in previous eras when racing cars were somewhat more ‘hairy’. I find that a little tedious. Firstly, it denigrates Max Verstappen without a shred of evidence. Who says he couldn’t have driven a DFV-powered ground-effects F1 car with a manual Hewland as fast as the likes of Alan Jones or Nelson Piquet? Modern conditioning means he’s in better physical nick than such heroes of the past ever were, and from what we’ve seen there’s no guarantee he’d have made old-school driving errors under pressure. Just ask Kimi Räikkönen (who also happens to be twice Verstappen’s age – I say again, astounding).

Instead of pitching modern drivers into some virtual past they can never know, we’d be better served to consider the Verstappen example for what it represents today. Countless prodigies have come before him, but Max has set the bar at a whole new level. Even the dad-and-lad Lewis Hamilton model required early years of graft, Anthony Hamilton famously scrapping for every penny before his boy’s fateful encounter with Ron Dennis. For Verstappen, the leg-up came even earlier – from birth.

Father Jos was a decent Grand Prix pedaller, from an era that to most of us seems like only yesterday (his final F1 race, for Minardi, was 2003, and he was racing high-powered A1GP cars as recently as 2006). Jos Verstappen’s knowledge and understanding of what it takes to cut it in F1 is surely as close as a father’s can be to ‘current’. That grounding, combined with a clear natural talent and the influence of an accomplished kart racing mother, were the perfect conditions to breed the ideal modern F1 driver. Mature, with just the right amount of volcanic passion sometimes to bubble through the cracks, Max even has a decent sense of humour. He’d be sickening if he wasn’t so likeable, proof that it is possible to be both manufactured and natural all at once – just like The Monkees!

The significance of this victory on his F1 rivals, particularly those who’ve been around the block a few times, was surely not lost in the aftermath of Barcelona. Naturally TV interviewers wanted their views on the new ‘sensation’ and, in return, they could be forgiven if their praise was offered through gritted teeth. After all, the young man had enjoyed a double dose of luck thanks to the implosion at Mercedes and the right-place, right-time, right-tyre split strategy pitwall call. But the likes of Räikkönen, Jenson Button, Felipe Massa… they’re looking down the barrel right now, and they know it. Meanwhile the usually sunny Daniel Ricciardo, hardly a grizzled veteran, appeared uncharacteristically ruffled. He’d just lost a win to this upstart and couldn’t hide his feelings – just minutes after stepping from the car – that his team had favoured the kid in its strategy call. 

The dynamic at Red Bull is delicately poised for the balance of 2016. If Max is ‘the future’ for Helmut Marko and co, could it push the talented Australian into the arms of Ferrari as a replacement for Kimi in 2017? Such questions, beside those asked by Mark Hughes about Mercedes further on in this issue, offer tantalising possibilities for a changing of the guard for next season.

Rivals apart, Verstappen’s wonder-win was just what we all needed.

***

In Reflections this month, Nigel Roebuck laments the acceptance of ‘the chop’ in modern motor sport. Blocking was once considered motor racing’s equivalent to the professional foul but, as Nigel notes, now there’s even a regulation to forgive it.

The Rosberg/Hamilton incident in Barcelona inevitably split opinion, but for us at Motor Sport it boiled down to this. Nico had to dart right to defend, particularly in the context of their three-year niggly rivalry. And Lewis, being the natural-born racer he is, had to go for the gap when it presented itself – especially in the blood-rush of a first lap in which he’d already lost the lead. It’s only surprising such collisions haven’t occurred more often in the past few years. No big deal – as long as they don’t keep happening.

I’m glad neither received official sanction, even if my instinct was to regret, like Nigel, that Rosberg’s ruthless block is today deemed fair game. But I was surprised that when the subject came up with John Surtees, in a follow-up phone call to my story with the great man on page 134, he didn’t agree.

When I repeated my regret to John, prompting him to recall his own time behind the wheel, his answer suggested the past isn’t always as we remember it. “I’m not sure it was all that different,” he said quietly. So you would have swept across to defend like that, I asked? “Probably,” he answered.

I’d tweeted at the time that Rosberg’s move had shades of Clay Regazzoni, who gained notoriety for such ‘manners’ at the end of the 1960s. To John I suggested it had been “a bit Jack Brabham”. “With Jack, you wouldn’t know which way he’d go next,” Surtees agreed. “But that didn’t mean I respected him any less.”

And from Lewis’s perspective: would John have gone for the gap? “Oh yes, I probably would,” he said. “Although if it had been Jack ahead of me maybe I would have thought twice! Then again, on the first lap…”

Racing drivers. They haven’t really changed at all.

***

A postscript to my phone call with John Surtees. He’d just returned from a there-and-back drive to Maranello in a Ferrari FF – as you do at 82 years old – and was full of praise for the car. So how had his journey compared to the drives he’d made during the 1960s, in the days when he’d been on the Prancing Horse’s payroll?

“Oh, it takes much longer now,” he shot back. “Back then I’d leave Maranello in the morning and be home in the evening – 100mph most of the way, no problem. Straight roads, no motorways – and no speed limits or traffic either. Now it’s much more complicated.”

No wonder we tend to romanticise continental journeys as Denis Jenkinson used to report them. “I used my BMW 507 – the Old Man didn’t like me doing that,” recalled John. “I’d drive from Malpensa to Bromley, and to cross the channel I’d use Silver City Airways from Le Touquet to Lydd, where the RAC man would always wave me straight through. I’d average 70mph at 23 miles to the gallon. Fantastic.” 

It really must have been.