The RACER Mailbag, November 16

The RACER Mailbag, November 16

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, November 16

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Q: Medland, what in the wide world of sports was that stewards’ decision baloney from Brazil?  Are the stewards really saying that Max should have 1) observed that Lewis wasn’t going to leave him enough room 2) oriented himself to see if he should bail out 3) decided to bail out of the corner 4) and slammed on the brakes in the hope that Lewis doesn’t pancake him and the driver behind doesn’t Ricciardo him? In the span of about a second, while Max’s front axle was never behind Lewis’s rear axle from the entrance to Turn 1 through the accident scene?

I mean, you know Lewis knew he didn’t leave him room if Lewis is quoted as radioing the team that it was a racing incident instead of describing it as the most dangerous driving since the 1995 Hungarian Grand Prix.

I know F1 doesn’t care about the product as much as it cares about the ticket prices, hospitality suites, and staging racing in places that high dollar investors want to go, but they can’t seriously talk about fixing the lack of overtaking while keeping rules that seriously potentially penalize overtaking drivers. Unless a driver is fully ahead of another driver, the leading driver can run the overtaking driver off the track all day long. There are two outcomes: the leading driver always remains ahead, or the overtaking driver is penalized for any contact, even if the leading driver creates it. This leaves no motivation for an overtaking driver to try anything but an ironclad pass. 

A simple solution exists here. Obligate the leading driver to leave a car’s width to any overtaking car whose front axle is equal to their own rear axle. This would remove disincentives to passing and make steward decisions on contact much more straightforward. The overtaking or leading driver would receive a penalty almost always based on front/rear axle location at the time of impact, and like baseball, a tie (axle to axle contact) would go to the leading driver, putting the onus on them to leave room. 

Keep up the good work.


CM: I don’t think I made many friends among Max fans with my column about his team orders row this week, but I do side with them (and you) on the Hamilton incident. Lewis actually said “that was not a racing incident” to his team, pushing for a penalty for Max, but to me it was one. Both put their cars in a position where contact was likely, which is why they each blame the other pretty firmly.

Max knew Lewis would close the door, and Lewis knew Max wouldn’t back out. They haven’t quite worked out how to race each other cleanly yet because Max is so aggressive and Lewis started pushing back just as hard a year ago. In Brazil he wasn’t allowing him to have the apex after not completing the move at Turn 1, but really, only half a car’s width more probably would have allowed him to keep the Red Bull behind on the exit. If Max had then hit Lewis after the apex it’s a different story, but he’d have had to adjust his exit speed to ensure he didn’t understeer wide into him from that angle.

The racing rules actually say Max was entitled to room there, so I agree with you that the stewards got it wrong. I don’t think it was a penalty for Lewis either, just a racing incident where they share the blame for the contact and in the end Hamilton was penalized by running wide and losing places, and Verstappen was by breaking his front wing. 

Fun and games. Sam Bloxham/Motorsport Images

Q: In response to Brian Gabriel’s comment on the Sky F1 announcing team and his defense of Crofty and Brundle (who are indeed knowledgeable), I’m drawn back to about 10 to 15 years or more, when in Canada, two different F1 broadcasts were shown. Both obviously used the F1-supplied feed; however, one was anchored by the ITV team of James Allen and Martin Brundle (with a smattering of Ted Kravitz, as I recall) and the other was a Speed TV product hosted by Bob Varsha with David Hobbes and Steve Matchett.

It was clear that the ITV team was much better versed in the nuances of F1, but I gravitated towards the Speed product. Varsha was a good presenter and I enjoyed Hobbes’ insights and he gave us the term ‘clag’, for which we should be forever grateful. Plus, I enjoyed Matchett’s stories about Berger passing gas when Steve tightened his belts. But the main reason I watched these guys is because the ITV team was too openly pro-British. They went insane over everything Button did (remember, until the Brawn year, Jenson had only one win in a rain-affected race), and the ITV team refused to refer to Eddie Irvine as being even remotely Irish, only grudgingly acknowledging he was an ‘Ulsterman’.

I started watching F1 in ‘95 and unless I’m very much mistaken, don’t remember Murray Walker and Jonathon Palmer lacking this objectivity… I mean Murray did refer to Schumi as ‘ze German’, but I seemed to recall they were as happy when Villeneuve won a race as they were when Hill did. Maybe time has altered my memory?  Anyway, when faced with a choice, ITV had me reaching for the inferior Speed product, because the US based announcing team didn’t go nuts for Scott Speed, (also an inferior Speed product). The same is occurring now.  The Sky Sports F1 team, (with perhaps a slight exception for Brundle) has very little objectivity when it comes to Lewis and now George, culminating in Kravitz’s inability to let last year go and Red Bull’s petulant ban.

Sky’s solution to better appeal to North American viewers? Showcase Danica Patrick’s woeful lack of F1 knowledge. The only time Danica seemed engaged during the Mexican broadcast was when she was talking to Ricciardo about NFL football. My friends and I all wish ESPN would go it alone and produce their own play-by-play from a booth and just cut to Sky for the pre and post-race. Not feasible, I know. I do believe in national pride and as a Canadian, I know our broadcast of international hockey tournaments is likely similarly cringe-worthy for anyone else, but I wish the Sky Sports F1 crew could tame the nationalism down just a little bit. (Or maybe I just wish current Canadian F1 drivers were not so bad, and I’m secretly jealous).

Trevor Bohay, Kamloops, Canada

CM: I feel like this topic could run and run so keep those opinions coming in, but I actually think it’s a bit too lazy of Sky to just use Danica and say that ticks the box. It’s not a broadcast designed around her, and she’s excellent on IndyCar coverage and has great racing insight, but needs to be part of a U.S.-specific set-up and not the more heavily British one you point out, Trevor.

Actually, commentary from Bristol would be feasible and then cut to the pre- and post-race shows from Sky, but ESPN is testing the water the other way with a bit more original programming and then taking the Sky feed for the race itself each time. We do similar on SiriusXM with a live pre- and post-race show that’s U.S.-specific and produced, but then cut to BBC 5 Live for the commentary as it stands.

The main reason I wanted to respond to your point though is that I think options are good, and F1 TV means there’s already a neutral option there for U.S.-based fans who would rather have something a bit more nuanced. Perhaps ESPN could offer its own coverage alongside a feed that is from F1 TV.

None of it is easy or cheap to do, I’ll admit, and F1’s on a good trajectory that has been helped by ESPN, but it’s just some of the ways I feel the sport can better engage with the audience here.

From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, 19 November, 2014

Q: Today I went on YouTube to watch the greatest race of all time, the 1982 Indy 500, and something about this race always bothered me and nobody seemed to talk about it. No, it has nothing to do with the ‘Coogin’ crash, or ABC’s obsession with showing Rick Mears’ wife, but it has to do with Bobby Unser. I’m wondering how in the heck did Uncle Bobby go from defending winner to managing a small team like Garza Racing? Seemed like a very odd pairing to me. Can you give us the story behind that?

Derrick, Lancaster, PA

ROBIN MILLER: A quick phone call to Robert Unser for his story. “It was all because of my youngest son, Robby, and trying to help get his racing career going. I’d neglected my other boy, Bobby Jr., for the most part and he was a stranger to me so I wanted to make it right with Robby. And believe me, it was tough to walk away from that PC10 of Roger’s [Penske] because I developed it and I knew how fast it was. It ranked right there with Dan Gurney’s 1972 Eagle. I’d broken every track record testing it and I promised Roger I would run five races for him in 1982, but I just couldn’t get along with Derrick Walker [team manager] so I quit. Flew home to Albuquerque and called Roger and told him I wasn’t going to drive anymore. That was a tough day.”

Unser then agreed to help develop Pat Patrick’s Wildcat in the spring of 1982 but the bodywork flew off during a test at Phoenix and damn near decapitated the three-time Indy winner.

“That was it,” says Unser. “Damn near put out my eye, and I drove myself to the hospital and decided, ‘No more.’ I wasn’t broke and I was healthy so I put away my helmet – at least, for Indy cars.”

Uncle Bobby got paid a pretty penny to help Garza, who reportedly needed a shrink after two years ;-)

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