Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.
Questions for Robin can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the high volume of questions received, we can’t always guarantee that your letter will be printed, but Robin will get to as many as he can. Published questions have been edited for clarity. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of RACER or Honda/HPD.
Q: You had a lot of negative remarks regarding your Comeback Club article that ranged from it being too macabre, to Romain Grosjean’s accident being taken too lightly, to other various complaints. I saw nothing wrong with the article. I grew up during the time when the command to start a race should’ve been “drivers, start your coffins.” Today, safety standards are so much better that when a driver has a horrible-looking accident. They more often than not climb out of their cars and walk away; even at today’s speeds compared to 50-60 years ago. I believe that your complainers are too young to comprehend that, or they’re just a bunch of bleeding hearts that can only live in their “current” world and could care less about history. Sorry for the ramble, but I had to get that off my chest.
Now for my question: Do you know if Romain lost his candidacy at Foyt Racing because of his refusal to participate in the Indy 500, or was it for some other reason? Foyt could’ve always found another driver for the 500. Thank you, and please keep up your HOF-quality writings!
James B. Michener, Albuquerque, NM
RM: Thanks for your note. The purpose of that column was to give a history lesson on what constitutes a near-fatal crash and to honor the brave men who returned to race again after almost losing their life. It wasn’t an attempt to downplay the emotional trauma Grosjean encountered in Bahrain or to suggest it wasn’t a serious crash, but the defective guardrail and subsequent fire made it a lot worse than it should have been. I’m not sure how serious A.J. and Larry were about Grosjean, but I doubt Indy was a deal-breaker. I think they were already pretty far down the road with Charlie Kimball anyway.
Q: Regarding Romain Grosjean, folks should be aware of his accomplishments. Now, compare the titles for Spencer Pigot, Zach Veach, Charlie Kimball, Conor Daly, Ed Jones, Sage Karam and JR Hildebrand and let’s discuss who is the more accomplished and who brings what to the IndyCar series. We have to remember that a factory team in F1 hired Grosjean whereas none of the above even got a whiff. Watch or don’t watch, but don’t try to diminish someone’s accomplishments.
I’ve always gotten the impression that many think that F1 races on road courses and street circuits are slow. Last year at Spa, the fastest speed across the start/finish line was 203.3 mph. At Monza it was 220.3 mph in the speed trap. Even at the slowest circuit on the calendar, Monte Carlo, there is a place where the cars are well over 180 mph.
Further, it is patently not our place to decide how brave someone needs to be. And seeing as how precious few of us have ever pushed the button in a serious race car, I can’t see how we have the right to criticize. Also consider that while a driver is in control of his actions, that does not cover mechanical reliability and the actions of others. Remember that Justin Wilson and Dan Wheldon were victims of crashes that they did not cause. Anyway, I’m tired of people complaining about who’s brave and who isn’t. Folks ought to put their spare time into figuring out how to get people to oval races…
Don Hopings, Cathedral City, CA
RM: He won the GP2 title and Euro F3 crown, and has made 181 F1 starts with 10 podiums driving for Renault, Lotus and Haas. His propensity to crash or be involved in accidents is pretty staggering when you add them all up, but he always seemed to have pace even though he was never on the best team. Is he that much better than all the guys you named? I guess we’ll find out, but he’s at least got a lot more even footing in IndyCar. I don’t recall much criticism of his ability, just the fact he didn’t want to run ovals, and obviously it takes plenty of intestinal fortitude to run F1.
Q: Ever since I read the initial comments on Jimmie Johnson signing with Chip Ganassi to drive Indy cars but not in the Indy 500, I can’t help but laugh. Jimmie promised his wife he wouldn’t run because of the danger? Has Mrs. Johnson ever been to a NASCAR demolition derby like last Sunday’s Daytona 500? Is there danger? Of course! It’s racing. But to bow out of the biggest sporting event in the world because your wife said no? Shaking my head – what say you?
Vincent Martinez, South Pasadena, CA
RM: Jimmie used to call Dario all the time and ask questions about Indy and how long it would take him to get up to 200-210-220 mph, and he was interested in giving it a try. But after Dan Wheldon’s accident we believe his wife told him no way he was ever running an oval in an Indy car — let alone IMS. It’s hard for old guys like me to comprehend, because growing up with A.J., Parnelli, Mario, Herk, the Unsers, Johncock and J.R., an ultimatum like that wasn’t part of the vernacular. I’m proud of J.J. for trying out IndyCar and I know he could have a shot at some success on ovals, so maybe by the time May gets here he’ll have convinced his wife the cars are safer than ever with the Aeroscreen and he’ll get the green light.