The RACER Mailbag, May 18

The RACER Mailbag, May 18

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, May 18

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Q: Why is it that NBC jumps into, “Drivers start your engines,” like they did at Barber? I find it hard to believe that they cannot find three minutes for the invocation and the national anthem. It’s a slap in the face to IndyCar and its fans. It makes the entire racing community look second-class.

AE, Danville, IN

MP: I hear what you’re saying, but I wouldn’t assume your expectations for invocations and anthems are shared by all IndyCar fans and the racing community as a whole. I hear just as many complaints about NBC slowing down the broadcast by including the parts you want — “Just get to the racing!” — as I hear criticisms when the invocations and anthems aren’t shown. If what I watched on Saturday was on the broadcast, all of the pre-race ceremonies were aired.

Q: I read about Juncos’s technical partner Carlin quite often. My understanding was that Juncos bought out Carlin’s IndyCar operation. Please can you explain the exact relationship? Does Carlin have equity in the Juncos team, or is it a lease relationship? Could Carlin could re-emerge as a standalone team again?

Oliver Wells 

MP: Juncos and Carlin have been hesitant to fully define their relationship, so that’s not an option. What I do know is JHR bought all of Carlin’s IndyCar assets and has taken on the majority of its crew members. If Carlin were to return to IndyCar, Trevor and Stephanie would need to start from scratch.

There’s some Carlin DNA in there somewhere, but pretty much all the bits you can see are Juncos Hollinger. Penske Entertainment

Q: Verstappen won yet another race in what would have been dominating fashion without a safety car to intervene in Miami. The comments from fans are about what a great drive he put in. 

Yet for the last several years, when Hamilton had a similarly dominant win, it was attributed to the car and Hamilton’s accomplishments become disparaged. Hamilton finished behind Russell again, once again because Russell got a well-timed safety car. Again, commenters started tearing down Hamilton and praising Russell for using the hard tires to start and somehow strategizing to get a nicely-timed safety car.  

Vettel never reached the heights he found at Red Bull after leaving. For the couple years he had a car that could compete against Hamilton and Mercedes, Hamilton still beat him. Yet Vettel’s accomplishments aren’t disparaged nearly as much. 

Even last year, when all Verstappen had to do was dig deep and win one of the last four races without a massive gift from the race director, Hamilton showed up and frankly kicked his teeth in on race day at each of the last four races. Yet Hamilton gets disparaged because the race director chose to hand the last race of the season to Verstappen and Red Bull. 

So why are Hamilton’s accomplishments viewed with such vitriol? I have my own opinions on it, but I’m wondering what someone closer to the F1 paddock thinks about it. 

Anonymous, Somewhere in the U.S.

CHRIS MEDLAND: I’m glad you pointed out this is a view built on fan sentiment/social media comments rather than coverage, because I’d hope you’d say you won’t have seen Hamilton getting disparaged in our content here on RACER. But I believe those opinions predominantly stem from boredom. It was the same in the Schumacher era — I was actually a culprit as a fan when I was younger — because you get bored of seeing the same person winning all the time and want variety and unpredictability. Believe me, it won’t be long before people are bored and saying similar if Verstappen keeps dominating races and appearing to ease to title victories, regardless of how well he is driving.

Where Verstappen has probably avoided that so far is that he has only ever been in close fights with Hamilton, or now with Leclerc, so we haven’t really had a run of dominance from Red Bull.

I actually see Vettel getting his achievements belittled regularly because of how he’s performed since 2013 (he got the Hamilton treatment back then too, with so many people saying it’s boring and not liking him while he dominated), but he then gains a lot of credit back for his stance on wider issues. Hamilton also gets rightly praised for that from many, but as you say, not as strongly.

I feel that because Lewis has enjoyed a lavish lifestyle in the past — one he’s earned and is entitled to — and is regularly transcending different areas of popular culture, people don’t relate to him enough, which makes them quick to (unfairly) criticize. Either they’re massive fans, or really don’t support him, there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. Unfortunately I’m sure there will be an element of racism — both subconscious and conscious — and I’ve seen it at some races in the past, but I don’t believe that’s the overriding aspect at all. I think it’s mainly the jealousy that is often projected towards those who have been extremely successful.