Syntagma Digital
21st-Century Phi
Stage Latest
  • Auto Insurance
  • Nascar Tickets

Alonso Explains

In the Thursday Press Conference at Suzuka, Fernando Alonso has been expanding on his reported criticism of the Renault team. It seems that the initial newspaper article was correct (at least, Alonso did not deny it) but there is much less in the story than appeared at first sight.

Alonso

Essentially, Alonso is disappointed with Fisichella’s attempts to keep Schumacher back while the Spaniard broke in his new tires.

Alonso: “What I felt there is that maybe I had a problem with the car that was a specific problem for ten laps, nine, eight or whatever, and probably I felt alone, for sure. I was first and my team-mate was second and they came to me, they overtook me and they were gone. And after, when I recovered the pace, they were too far (ahead), and for sure it is like you are in the Tour de France in the mountains, climbing, you have a puncture or whatever and your team and your rival has gone uphill with no stops. That was a little bit difficult to understand…

“…I fight with Fisichella in the last corner, Turn 14, once and he overtook me and I overtook him again because he went a little bit longer and these things, these risky moments… Three races to win the championship… your team-mate is a little bit… (It’s) not good enough, I think.”

Asked what more the team could have done to help, Alonso replied that he didn’t know. But he went on to patch up the relationship with the team:

Alonso: “All the team, all the people, are really focussed for the championship and anyway we have been leading both championships all season nearly and now the last two races all the people is motivated and the atmosphere inside the team is just super and it’s the last two races of me in the team as well and every single person in the team is just focussed on the championship.”

So it appears that his outburst was the result of frustration and disappointment. That is something he will have to learn to control in future if he wants to win more championships; no team likes to be blamed for circumstances beyond their control. But, for the moment, we can accept that he is still young and feeling the pressure more than he admits to.

Whether this will affect the race on Sunday is a different matter. Schumacher looks as cool as ever in his interviews and it is tempting to assume that Fernando has exposed a weakness in himself that may lose him the championship. But it comes down to what happens on the track and that is where the German often responds to pressure with some dubious manouver or another. In contrast, Alonso looks cool and focused when in the car. We shall see.

There was one moment in the press conference that made me smile. After watching Alonso being battered by questions from the press on his indiscretion, Jenson Button was finally moved to intervene:

Q; (Ed Gorman – The Times) “If Michael wins here, and you don’t finish, it’s all over. Is that going to affect the way you approach this race?”
JB: “You’re really helping the guy’s confidence here. He is fighting for the world championship…”

It seems the British sense of fair play is not entirely dead.

Do you have a view? Leave a Comment

BMW and Young Drivers

At the Friday Press Conference for the Shanghai Grand Prix, some of the team managers were in the spotlight. Amongst these was Mario Theissen of BMW Sauber and he gave some interesting insights into BMW’s policy on selecting young drivers.

Theissen

BMW Sauber’s Mario Theissen

Q: Mario, we’ve seen you use young drivers this year to remarkable effect: obviously Robert Kubica but also latterly Sebastian Vettel as well. What is BMW’s policy regarding young drivers? You have a staircase of talent with Formula BMW, tell us your policy.

Mario THEISSEN: Well, the general policy with our entire Formula One project is to groom the team in-house rather than take on people from the outside. Obviously, if you want to ramp up (your personnel) by 150 people in one and a half years you have to take on people from the outside, but wherever possible, we take young people on the engineering side as well as on the driving side and develop them on our own. On the drivers’ side, there is a particular resource with Formula BMW. Guys go there at the age of 15 or 16 so we have quite a close relationship, get a very good idea of what they are capable of, and then we have them on our screen as they go up through the other formulae, so I think it’s quite a successful approach to watch young drivers and to evaluate them. That led us to taking on Sebastian Vettel which certainly is extraordinary for a 19-year old guy. Generally, I’m not proposing to take on younger and younger drivers into Formula One but in the case of Sebastian, we thought he’s there, he’s ready to take the job and apparently he’s proved that. If you are successful doing so, I think it’s the best approach you can take. You have to be careful to pick the right guys.

It is true that, in both Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel, BMW seem to have chosen two exceptionally talented new drivers. Remembering that Michael Schumacher first came to fame through the Mercedes program for young drivers in the sportscar formula, the wisdom of F1 constructors being involved in lesser formulae is apparent.

This is just a part of my increasing respect for BMW’s efforts in F1. They look like a team that is going places. Their professionalism and design strength is very apparent, they have set realistic goals (and do not become over-excited when they exceed those goals) and their car is the best-looking on the grid (well, it’s important to me – why do you think I supported Minardi from very early on?).

Much of this must be due to Theissen’s organizational skills. I particularly like his realism in admitting quite openly that one of their two podium finishes this year had a lot of luck involved. He is being cautious about the team’s chances in China, too, pointing out that it is a very different type of track from Monza, where they did so well. It’s such a sensible attitude – if they do particularly well, he can give a sly wink as if to say, “Well, you didn’t expect me to tell you we had something special awaiting, did you?” And, if the cars finish out of the points, he can always say that he told us so.

Elsewhere, Friday practice in Shanghai proved very little, as usual. The test drivers were quick, Alex Wurz (Williams) and Sebastian Vettel battling it out for quickest time. Ferrari look to be in a strong position with Renault holding their cards close to their chests. We shall see the true position tomorrow in the qualifying sessions.

Do you have a view? Leave a Comment

Michael Schumacher (and others)

Whatever your opinion of Michael Schumacher as a man and as a driver, it has to be admitted that he has long been the champion when it comes to handling the press. No-one else is so expert at answering politely but never giving away anything that he doesn’t want to. Take these few quotes reported from Hungary, for instance:

“I know it is your job to speculate, but obviously it is my job not to get into all that.”

“It might go one way, it might go another way.”

“I don’t believe I have to comment.”

I have seen journalists construct an entire team strategy from one stray and innocent sentence buried in a driver’s comments (and rarely does it turn out to be true). But who can infer anything from Michael’s pronouncements? They state the obvious in clear and unambiguous terms.

And, if Michael says that we will have to wait until the Monza race before finding out his plans for next year, then that is exactly how long we will have to wait.

Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher

Two extraneous and unrelated items of news caught my attention this morning; the first, that Prodrive, due to enter Formula 1 in 2008, have been granted permission to build their factory on the site of Coventry’s Baginton Airport. Now, I’m a Coventry kid although I now live in the States, and I know exactly where they will be building. The airport is sited on a high plateau just southeast of the city and has been the home of an excellent air museum, as well as a cargo and leisure flights facility.

There is opposition to the factory from local “greens”, apparently, but I cannot see that they have a reasonable case. Apart from the fact that the airport has been there since before WWII, just across the road there is a developing industrial and commercial complex already. If there ever was an argument, it was lost years ago it seems.

I find it entirely appropriate that the Prodrive HQ should be in Coventry. The city was always the center of Britain’s car industry and lost that position only through idiotic government and corporate decisions in the seventies. Jaguar remain and Peugeot occupy the old Rootes factory, but otherwise everything has gone. Prodrive’s choice at least is a reminder of past glories.

And secondly, I see that Champ car driver, Christiano da Matta, has been seriously injured after colliding with a deer at Road America. Christiano had an emergency operation to remove a subdural hematoma and is now under observation in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Naturally, I wish Christiano a speedy recovery and return to racing, but I am also intrigued by the nature of his accident. A deer? How did a deer manage to get onto the track? If nothing else, this is a reminder of how much of America is still wilderness and the wild, wild West is still there if we care to see it.

Do you have a view? 5 Comments

Jacques Villeneuve

With Montoya’s departure for NASCAR, the spotlight shifts to Jacques Villeneuve as potentially the next to desert F1 for American tintops. Jacques’ options in F1 seem to be narrowing as the end of the season approaches and still BMW Sauber have not renewed his contract. His latest public pronouncement, suggesting that the teams are wrong to prefer new and unseasoned drivers over experience, shows that he knows Robert Kubica is the main threat to his continued presence within the team.

Jacques the driver

Jacques the driver

That’s one of the great things about Jacques – he has never been afraid to let his views be known. Have a read of yesterday’s press conference at Magny-Cours and see if anyone says something remotely unexpected. You won’t find anything – almost all the drivers these days stick rigidly to the script. But not Jacques.

It is easy to forget that the French Canadian was world champion in only his second year of F1. He spent too many years after that trying to make the BAR car competitive and his reputation suffered as a result. Now that he is in a team that is becoming increasingly competitive, we are beginning to see signs of a renewed energy and will to win. It would be a shame if he does not retain his seat for 2007 and so reap the rewards of his hard work so far.

You have to like Jacques. Not only is he a quick driver, he has a personality as well. And for years he has kept us entertained with various extra-curricular activities, the latest of which is the release of an album of his songs. You can hear one of them, Accepterais-tu?, on his myspace web page (myspace? Oh come on, Jacques, you can take this “I’m just a regular guy” thing too far, you know).

Jacques the pop star

Jacques the pop star

So it’s quite clear that Jacques has plenty of options for post-F1 life – if Nascar doesn’t want him (and it does), he can always become a pop star. The question is: does F1 want him?

My answer would have to be yes, if only because we would miss his outspoken comments (and irritation to Michael Schumacher) were he to go. Let’s face it, if you want to know what’s really happening behind the scenes, the person to ask is Jacques – he’ll happily stick his foot in his mouth for you!

Do you have a view? Leave a Comment