Letters: October 2018

F1’s engine struggles

Having recently become aware that 2021’s fabulous new Formula 1 engine rules are no longer, it seems to me that Mark Hughes is right – the manufacturers have too much say in what is going to happen, so Liberty and the FIA need to come to terms with the need to have independent rules created to foster improved competition.

The way to achieve that is to have an F1 engine class for the independents and another for manufacturers. That way the latter can no longer hold the FIA and race promoters to ransom. Being able to supply engines to everyone that wants to take part is a pre-requisite for good competition.

Just a thought.

Gerard Sauer, Worthing, West Sussex

Ferrari in a tangle

I read with interest John Watson’s 1975 British Grand Prix recollections, as at the time I ran Alan Jones in the Embassy Hill Racing Hill GH1.

As I remember, the start of the race was dry, then it rained, then it dried out and then it poured. Tony Brise crashed one of our cars in the rain, but Alan was right in the thick of it.

As we were preparing to bring Alan in during the deluge, the next team along the pit road was Ferrari. They were experienced in pit stops from their sports car racing and had pneumatic wheel guns connected to the air bottles by those curly extendable yellow plastic air hoses. Clay Regazzoni came in and the bloke on the left front undid the nut with his airgun, removed the slick-shod wheel, fitted the wet, turned to pick up his gun and did the nut up, but did not manage to get around the front of the car before the team manager signalled Regga to go. The Ferrari had a high airbox in those days and the air-line was still across the front of the car. The yellow hose snagged the bodywork below the opening of the airbox, started to uncurl and got really long before snapping the wheel gun out of the mechanic’s hands and whipping it in a big arc until it hit the pit wall. Crews around the Ferrari pit hit the ground as this heavy projectile was winding up, knowing that it would soon be propelled at them.

While we were waiting for Alan, Niki Lauda appeared in the other Ferrari – and the team was by now in total disarray as it set about servicing Niki’s car. The left-front guy, now with another wrench, undid the large nut, removed and replaced the wheels, put the nut on by hand, then turned to pick up his gun as the team manager signalled Niki to go. He moved about two feet before the nut dropped off its thread and rolled slowly to my feet…

Steve Roby, via email

In defence of Lewis

David Buckden (Letters, September 2018) appears to be an enthusiast of long standing, but prejudice seems to be getting in the way of sound judgment. Lewis Hamilton wears his emotions on his sleeve more than some – which endears him to me far more than corporate blandness – and his “behaviour” after the British GP was surely down to his absolute emotional and physical exhaustion after a rollercoaster race. 

Lewis Hamilton has proven time after time that he is pre-eminent in his generation for his speed, determination, exceptional hand-to-eye coordination, ability to master the complexities of modern F1 machinery and sheer will to win. He most certainly did not have success presented to him on a plate. He caught Ron Dennis’s eye at an early age, with his exceptional karting ability, but he had to go on proving his class through the junior formulae, and he delivered immediately when he got his hands on an F1 car in 2007. 

The greatest drivers of each generation rarely had to plug around in uncompetitive machinery for long: Nuvolari, Rosemeyer, Fangio (once he was backed to come to Europe), Clark, Stewart, Prost, Senna, Schumacher – they are no different. Lewis Hamilton’s ‘lifestyle’ may not be to everyone’s taste. So what? His focus on racing denied him much in his youth and he can now afford his showbiz inclinations, which have not affected his racing up to now..

Chris Mason, York

Not now Bernhard

I very much enjoyed Dickie Meaden’s article on Timo Bernhard’s extraordinary exploits at the Nürburgring in the equally extraordinary Porsche 919 Evo. But I must take exception to your description of the machine as a “racing car”. It is not eligible or sanctioned for any series in the world, though I suppose it could run at Pikes Peak.

It may be – indeed is – an amazing feat of engineering prowess (one expects no less from Weissach), but you cannot compare it, or Bernhard’s feat, to Stefan Bellof’s achievement in the Porsche 956.

Eliot Wilson, Sunderland

Orders aren’t racing

The recent German Grand Prix was hailed by some scribes as F1 at its best, yet for me it was another farcical episode. After being an avid fan for nearly 40 years, I’ve had enough of what is now a ludicrous ‘sport’.

Lewis Hamilton was clearly in breach of the regulations with his pit entry shenanigans, but escaped penalty. Why? Rules are rules and a poor understanding is not an excuse. It was like a police patrol saying, ‘Oh you didn’t realise you were speeding, very well then, off you go, have a nice day.’

Kimi Räikkönen was holding up Sebastian Vettel, so Kimi was asked to move aside. This is not racing that we pay to enjoy. If Vettel found himself behind his slower team-mate then it’s a strategic error! This era of subservient team-mates is not racing, it’s manipulation of the outcome to favour one driver. In 2010 Alonso lost the championship in the final event because he couldn’t get past Vitaly Petrov and paid the ultimate price for a poor strategic decision, yet ‘gifting’ your team-mates positions can win titles…

In the closing stages, and on fresher tyres, Valtteri Bottas was catching Hamilton hand over fist but was denied the opportunity to race. Again, manipulation of the outcome to favour one driver, gifting him a victory he should have already been denied by breaking the rules with his pit entry mistake.

Christophe Ellis, Australia

Don’t forget Leyland

Among the many anniversaries that seem to have cropped up this year, one which has slipped through the net (perhaps intentionally) is the formation of the British Leyland Motor Corporation, which offered so much promise in 1968 when BMC and Leyland Motors united. 

I joined the company’s Bathgate plant straight from school in 1973. If anybody had suggested then that, within my lifetime, there would be no British Leyland and we would buy cars made in Korea, we would have had a right good laugh at that. 

I have just bought Mrs McRae a Kia Picanto…

Ian McRae, Gartcosh, North Lanarkshire

Shell suits

About 10 years ago you published a Parting Shot from the 1969 Spa 1000 Kms, with an MGB clearly visible in last place. This six-year-old car had just been driven from Bucks to Spa under its own steam. Owners Charlie Dawkins and Rod Eade practised and then completed the race at a remarkable 101mph average. They had needed only a single set of tyres. The Shell representative caught the spirit of their efforts and gladly refuelled the car at his company’s expense for the run back to Bucks. This was surely amateur motor sport at its best.

John Bilton, Salisbury, Wilts.

McLaren’s Medicine

I’ve used motor sport to illustrate concepts for pharmaceutical development in conference presentations and university lectures, and Mark Hughes’ analysis of McLaren’s problems provided a stunning example of how company culture can cripple innovation.  

Departmental silos promote ‘cover your ass’ thinking, which prevents teams from focusing on true goals, whether they are constructing a winning car or developing an effective cancer drug. In both cases it’s managing the people, not the technology, that present the greatest challenges and opportunities for success.

Thanks for another great article – I’ll be describing it to my colleagues..

Mark Moody, Concord, USA

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