Q: As a fan of both IndyCar and Formula 1, I get tired of the European fans blasting IndyCar for being a “lesser” series, especially when it comes to driver talent. So if Herta goes to a bottom-tier Alfa Romeo program, wouldn’t he just be reaffirming that opinion in the eyes of F1 fans? Obviously, he could prove the naysayers wrong, but realistically, will the new Andretti venture stand a chance against the Mercedes powerhouse? (ED: This question was submitted before the Andretti/Sauber negotiations collapsed).
Also, why is Haas so hung up on staying in F1? They obviously struggle on the track, but they struggle even more when it comes to accumulating funding. I don’t know who it is at Haas that needs to hear it, but they could have a blast in IndyCar at a discount compared to the ridiculous F1 budget. I mean, they are an American company with American racing experience… it just makes sense.
CM: Yes and no. I do believe that IndyCar drivers deserve more Super License points to make an F1 switch easier, but don’t forget the F1 drivers have followed a trajectory preparing them for that series their whole careers, and for many that involved getting in with a midfield/back of the grid F1 team and then proving themselves. Look at Charles Leclerc — he won F2 and had to go into Alfa Romeo first — and similar for George Russell with Williams. For a relatively unknown quantity in F1 terms to walk into a top seat would be a massive gamble for all involved, and Michael himself knows all about that with McLaren…
If Andretti’s F1 plans had happened, then you’re right that the team likely wouldn’t have stood a chance in 2022 even with the rules reset, but it would have given Colton plenty of opportunity to show his talent and earn a top seat. I’d expect Alfa to be solidly in the midfield next year, but even if it’s struggling, Herta would have been paired with Valtteri Bottas, who is a very good benchmark after the one-lap pace he has shown alongside Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.
I think the “lesser” series bit comes because all the movement is one-way — from F1 to IndyCar — so it looks like a fallback option, especially when it is drivers deemed not good enough for the best seats in F1 who are moving over. But that’s often an unfair take, and it only takes one successful move the other way to change that. That’s why I say the Super License situation needs addressing to make it a little more viable.
The Haas answer is quite a simple one: exposure. Haas was already a well-known entity in terms of machine tooling in the U.S., but Formula 1 takes that company out to a global audience. Now, when Gene takes his core product out to market in other countries, they are far more likely to have heard of the name. Plus, they’ve got enough funding now under the budget cap rules to be a very solid team, with Gene getting a fair return on his investment. And as one of 10 teams with an F1 entry, the Haas team has become much more valuable as any new entrants need to pay $200m just to buy a spot on the grid, let alone build up a team. It’s a very good business investment for him now, even while it’s struggling, and will only go up in value if and when the team becomes more competitive.
Q: I, like most people, like NASCAR’s choose rule, but it is broken. After seeing it in person, you see that the cars are going super-slow then have issues seeing the line. I was wondering what you think is the more possible answer: 1. Moving the line to the finish line and setting a minimum speed limit or 2. Having an official place a cone like at short tracks, then set a lower minimum and add a maximum?
KELLY CRANDALL: You bring up a good point about the choose rule in that it can be hard to see. NASCAR did make an adjustment a while back by moving it further past the start/finish line, so it doesn’t creep up on drivers. But don’t be fooled – drivers aren’t going slow because they can’t see it. They’re going slow because their spotter is counting the lines of how many drivers are taking the top versus the bottom so that they can then pick which is better for them. Just like they used to do with cars after pit stops coming off pit road (where some drivers would flat out stop before the timing line), which led to the choose rule being created. Last year, NASCAR started penalizing teams if drivers slowed down too much coming to the line because it was stacking the field up. So, given all that, I would be fine if they added a cone or something on the fence that is a bit more visible for the drivers to see, but I don’t think we need to overthink this too much with maximum and minimum speed. The drivers know when they need to choose the lane they want, the issues stem from teams, as always, trying to science out which lane to be in.
Q: Here’s a Haiku to honor the occasion of the Mailbag’s return.
While it’s not the same,
the tradition is revived.
Welcome back, Mailbag.
Jim Kayser, Merced, CA
MG: Technically not a question, but the second-best possible way to end this week’s Mailbag.
THE FINAL WORD
From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, November 6, 2013:
Q: I was a Raul Boesel fan. Can you remind me when this was:
There was an Indy 500 during the CART era when, if I remember correctly, Boesel (I think he was driving for Dick Simon) basically had the race in hand until some penny-ante penalty was called on him and he got robbed. What year was that? I’d like to look up that race.
What did you think of Boesel as a driver? Where do you think he ranked versus his contemporaries? And what is Raul doing nowadays?
Dean Abramson, Raymond, ME
ROBIN MILLER: It was 1993 and Boesel had qualified third for Simon and was leading when he got a questionable penalty for pitting and working on his car. (USAC claimed the pits were closed, but I recall he was already on pit road). It cost him a shot at victory and he finished fourth. I liked “Stay Cool Raul” and he was a good, solid racer. Last time I heard, he was chasing women in Brazil. That was his favorite sport.