The RACER Mailbag, June 22

The RACER Mailbag, June 22

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, June 22

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Q: My motorsports wish is for Colton Herta to go to Formula 1 next year. The way I figure it, he needs to finish third in the championship to earn enough super license points. It’s not looking too good for that. How would you rate his chances of moving from 11th to third this season? Is there any word on when he might be testing for McLaren?

Ken, Lockport, NY

MP: If it were all down to Colton’s talent, I’d say being top three isn’t impossible, but his team has rarely looked like it’s capable of winning, so that’s the greater concern. Herta won in the changing conditions on the Indy road course with ease, and Rossi was a strong second at Road America, but the Andretti group has been rather hit-or-miss this season, and Colton has made a surprising number of errors in his fourth full season that really weren’t part of his first three — Nashville aside.

More than almost any other driver in the series, the second half of the season is crucial for Herta to lock into his 2020-21 form and prove the first half was an aberration. Who would have believed he’d get through eight races and have a single podium so far?

Q: Having attended every IndyCar race at Road America since the mid ’80s, I have to express my displeasure with the over use of full-course yellows, so I ask why don’t they use local yellows anymore? With a four-mile track, why do they have to throw the full-course yellow the second an issue occurs? As a fan I’m pissed at the racing I was robbed of seeing. If I’m a driver, let me compete for position instead of going around in a parade.

The ultimate example of this was with about six laps to go when Helio looped it coming out of Turn 14. It sure seems like they could have let the race run under green through at least Turn 8, let the fans in Turns 1-8 see some great racing and let the drivers have a go at it. The awesome AMR safety team got Helio going very quick and they could have probably stayed green, or at minimum a local yellow but no, since they went full-course yellow we had to spend two or three critical laps to get going again from that minimal incident.

I guess the full-course yellows wouldn’t be half as bad if it didn’t take them so painfully long to get green after each one. I have know idea why it takes three laps (12 miles) to get the set. My local 1/4 mile short track can do it in a few laps — if they needed 12 miles they would have to go 48 laps to get set.

Craig C.

MP: I hear you, Craig, but that’s no longer the officiating style in IndyCar. On a more practical level, the call to go away from having local corner workers go running out to a car like Helio’s is something I welcome; I’d rather have the dedicated full-time AMR team, with their safety/response vehicles, get to the car and driver and manage the situation. Granted, if the car was on fire, and the SCCA volunteers were close enough, nobody would want them to stand idly by, but the days of the men and women in white uniforms running out to an IndyCar first are mostly gone.

Only other point I’d mention is thanks to the cautions at Road America, we had a lot of strategy options and a lot of restarts, which is where the action tends to happen. Sure, pace laps at a four-mile circuit take longer than almost every other track IndyCar visits, but I can’t say the race suffered for quality as a result of the way the series handles its local incidents.

Q: When watching Indy 500 qualifying, it appeared that everyone was driving what seemed like a unconventional racing line in terms of coming toward the inside of the track off of Turns 2 and 4 and setting up wide for Turns 1 and 3 very late. Why don’t they stay near the outer wall for the straightaways given that would be a shorter distance (read straighter line)? Are they avoiding bumps on the straights? Are they avoiding dirty air created by the car bouncing off the wall/fencing which disturbs the air more?

Of course I tried Googling this info and was not successful in finding a good answer.

Loren, Monterey Park, CA

MP: The cars are set up to turn left, so rather than fight the steering wheel on the long straights and scrub speed from the friction it causes, drivers give the cars their head and let them pull to the left as they are set up to do and then turn right — keeping the friction to a minimum — and navigate the corners.

Q: When in the name of mercy is Latifi going to be replaced? Obviously he is not qualified to be in Formula 1. Week after week he is last, has unforced errors or is completely uncompetitive. I know it is money, but enough is enough. F1 currently says safety is a high priority. Is this guy safe? Not in my opinion. Comment if you want, but it is not needed. Just venting.

A week ago in Baku Lewis Hamilton could barely get out of his car. I recall the announcer made a comment that no one wanted to assist him until he officially weighed out. In Canada, as well as many other races, the top finishers emerge from the car and immediately jump into the arms of their team crew. What are the facts here? Rules, if any?

Zortman from NW suburbs of Chicago

CHRIS MEDLAND: Vent away! Robin used to vent at me all the time about F1 stuff and never liked it if I gave a boring response, but Latifi looks set to be in for the rest of the season. You’ve got to remember these drivers are still massively skilled — Marcus Ericsson struggled in F1 and is leading the IndyCar championship — but slight differences in what are highly sensitive cars add up. The Williams is the slowest car, Latifi is a few tenths off Albon and not comfortable, and the result is him being last most races.

But because Williams is where it is, terminating his contract would cost millions of dollars and replacing him wouldn’t achieve much. Maybe a few places in some races, but it’s not hurting its championship position. And don’t forget Latifi (and his backing) helped Williams through an extremely tough financial spell in 2020, so to stick with him for the rest of the season is almost repayment. I think he’ll be out after that, though.

There are rules that you’re not meant to be touched before you’re weighed, to avoid silly old tricks like a weight being dropped into a driver’s pocket to add ballast. But those sorts of things are impossible to do now, which is why the FIA is lenient around celebrations. Around the car though, only a select few personnel can touch it in parc ferme before it goes through scrutineering, so with Hamilton still in the car they weren’t meant to address it.

“Is that some ballast in your pocket, or are you just happy to see us?” Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Q: Chris, I would like to follow up about women marshals at Baku. Can you provide more insight into the F1 tweet and the use of women marshals? Women are one of the groups underreported an/or misrepresented in motorsports. Myself and some friends thought the pictures in the tweet did not meet their intent. Not to get into a lot of specifics, but one example is their uniforms did not appear to meet standards. It looked like a photo op of putting a “pretty face” in front of the camera. While maybe not the planned message, the message received from the tweet was to objectify the woman either by the choice of women or by taking pictures in way that objectifies. Motorsports needs to do a better job with PR about current women in motor sports.

Jamie Carr

CM: Thanks for flagging this up Jamie, I had to go looking for the post you mentioned. So the women you mention were not marshals but volunteers elsewhere at that race. If you look at the other photos in the tweet (which was actually an FIA tweet if I’ve got the right one) where women are marshals they were in the same uniforms and equipment and standing with their male colleagues, there was no segregation or objectification in that photo. But it was very odd to then have an image where women were appearing to be objectified in that same post.

I agree a better job needs doing, but actually would disagree it needs to be around marshaling. There are so many female marshals that it is completely the norm now and a great way of promoting inclusion in motorsport. That’s probably something that isn’t championed enough. But the FIA’s PR needs to improve full stop, and I believe changes are being made to try and make that happen.

From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, June 25, 2014

Q: Robin, you were quoted several times in the book “Beast” about the development of the Penske/Ilmor/Mercedes pushrod CART engine. Excellent read, by the way. Do you know if those three cars still exist with those engines in them, or did they use the chassis with other engines after they banned the pushrod engine. By the way, why did the Indianapolis Star gas you?

Gary, Anza, CA

ROBIN MILLER: I’ll ask Jade Gurss, the author. I believe one of those cars is in Roger Penske’s museum in Arizona but have no idea what happened to the engines. I imagine Mercedes proudly displays one of them somewhere. The Star claimed it was because I used vulgar language in e-mails (really?), helped Kenny Brack start his website and borrowed money from Tom Sneva, but the real reason is that they wanted to be business partners with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Which they’ve been since a couple days after I was fired.

MX-5 Cup | Round 10 – Road America