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Spyker Pays the Piper

I see that Spyker’s protest against the legality of the Toro Rosso cost the team $2,000. That seems a bit steep for saying, “Oi, we don’t think that’s legal!” and makes me wonder about the wisdom of Spyker making a fuss about the Toro Rosso and Super Aguri cars at all. No wonder Williams is sitting quietly at the moment, allowing Spyker to shoulder the burden of the costs involved.

Spyker

Once they get to arbitration, the price to be paid will increase dramatically, of course – lawyers don’t come cheap these days. And what will Spyker gain, even if they win the case? TR and SA would have to stop using their 2007 models and that could easily mean they have to drop out of racing, at least for a time. Which would leave Spyker still at the back of the grid but with a bigger gap to bridge to the teams above them – at least TR are within reach at the moment.

It seems to me that Spyker would be wiser to spend the money on development rather than legal fees. Neither SA nor TR are going to get anywhere near the Constructor’s Championship this year, so it seems pointless to mutter about it being for constructors only. Customer cars will be legal next year anyway and any victories in court achieved this season will become meaningless. By then, Colin Kolles might well wish he had the money rather than a judgment in his pocket.

Okay, you can say it’s a matter of principle – TR and SA are probably breaking the terms of the Concorde Agreement for 2007. But the FIA aren’t interested, understandably since they ignore the agreement anytime they want to, and the other teams are only prepared to shake their heads and give Spyker moral support. The principle could cost Spyker a lot of money and distracts them from the main task, which is getting their car competitive with the others. Consider how much good it did Shadow in winning their case against Arrows in 1978; by the time the judgment came through, Arrows had another design ready and Shadow had dropped to the tail end of the field.

Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems to me that Spyker have nothing to gain and a lot to lose in this whole business. Ultimately, their aim has to be to build a car that can beat all comers, so what does it matter if TR and SA have stolen a temporary advantage by bending the rules? In the long run they will have to compete with the likes of Ferrari and McLaren if they don’t want to remain as perennial also-rans. And a season or two at the back of the grid is part of the apprenticeship that has to be served if they are going to learn enough to move upwards.

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Spyker Takes Sutil

Colin Kolles has announced the signing of young German driver, Adrian Sutil, to be Spyker teammate to Christijan Albers in 2007. This is slightly surprising, since most had expected that Tiago Monteiro would continue as Spyker’s second driver.

Spyker

Tiago Monteiro in the Spyker

But it does tie in with the sudden fashion for giving rookie drivers a chance. With Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, Robert Kubica at BMW, Heikki Kovalainen at Renault, Anthony Davidson at Super Aguri, and now Sutil at Spyker, F1 is filled with fresh new faces. I cannot recall a previous season in which so many first-time F1 racers entered the sport.

There are two reasons for this, I think. Clearly, the instant success of Robert Kubica at BMW made team managers realize that there were discoveries to be made within the ranks of hopefuls graduating from F3 and GP2. As the GP2 Champion of 2006, Hamilton was an obvious pick but there were others who seemed just as talented. Two who made it into test driver seats are Sebastian Vettel and Gary Paffett, both of whom look to be just as quick as any of the new drivers.

And then there came the retirement of Michael Schumacher. Somehow his disappearance has created a lot of space in F1 and allowed teams to be more adventurous in their choice of drivers. It may well be that memories of Michael’s debut at Spa in 1991 were stirred and the hunt for the next Schumacher has started. The weight of expectation falls heavily on the shoulders of Hamilton and Kubica but the others too will be watched closely for signs of greatness.

Every year we hope for a really good season to come but the changes and shake-ups of 2006 point to a fascinating 2007. So many imponderables have been thrown into the mix that there are bound to be surprises in the forthcoming races. Out with the old, in with the new!

So how good is Adrian Sutil? He finished second to Hamilton in Formula 3 Euroseries in 2005 but otherwise his reputation rests on the potential he showed in his few tests for MF1/Spyker this year. Colin Kolles has made it clear that he was impressed by Sutil’s performance and that is why he was given the nod over Monteiro.

Personally, I applaud Spyker’s decision. Monteiro is a known quantity and the team have nothing to lose and everything to gain by letting Sutil have a go. Albers is competent enough to ensure that the Spyker car will at least achieve its potential and Sutil offers the possibility that it might do even more.

It all adds up to a great season to come. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait.

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Hakkinen at Toro Rosso?

The silly season continues. Spyker’s Colin Kolles has suggested that Gerhard Berger might be interested in signing Mika Hakkinen to drive for Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Mika

Mika in the good old days

Well, I’m all for bringing Mika back but why would Berger want him? In his recent test for McLaren, the Finn was slow, obviously rusty after all those years, and he would face a steep learning curve to get back into the swing of things. STR has two promising young drivers who have done their learning and are now ready to show their real worth; what sense does it make to throw that away on the offchance that Hakkinen could be as fast now as in his heyday? The man is 38 and is dreaming of the good old days, that’s all.

If Kolles is not talking of a driving job for Hakkinen, he must mean some sort of administative or advisory position. But why would Hakkinen be interested? If he was going to do that sort of thing, it would be with McLaren where he knows the team and the way it functions. Toro Rosso would be a whole new ball game.

I think Kolles is merely stirring up the press with his suggestion. Notice the arch way he refers to “a certain gentleman” – surely evidence that he’s having a bit of fun. And, if it keeps Kolles in the news, it does no harm at all.

Apart from all this, there is that rumor that Spyker offered McLaren $10m for the services of Lewis Hamilton (who looks to be worth it on the latest showing – fastest in testing yesterday). If that is true, why isn’t Kolles trying to get Hakkinen? He could use the same money as bait for the double World Champion and put him in the seat that Tiago Monteiro thinks is his.

Of course, it won’t happen. Hakkinen wants another test with McLaren for one reason only – to see if he can wring a little more speed from himself to get on terms with current drivers. He really isn’t interested in driving for another team.

Trust me, I ought to know. It’s a midlife crisis thing…

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