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Racing Roundup: Changes Necessary or F1 Will Die
Lewis Hamilton can win 2018 world championship at the next race in Austin, Tex.
As there is next-to-no-drama left in this Formula One season, there really isn’t a lot to say about the racing.
Lewis Hamilton, who’s talked frequently about boredom the last two years, was at it again after winning the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday when he said: “I hope you guys are not getting bored of this, because I’m definitely not.”
It was his sixth victory in the last seven races and his fourth straight. Whoo-ee.
How the new owners are going to turn F1 around is anybody’s guess. But they have to do something because, like NASCAR (most of the time), the races are, in fact, boring.
While at-race attendance seems to be holding at most venues, TV numbers are down.
That parity is possible and can be seen most Sundays now in the NFL. Nobody knows who is going to win those football games, as the Vegas sports books are finding out. And that’s the way it should be. That it’s now automatic in F1 for Mercedes (mostly) or Ferrari (on occasion) to win, with maybe Red Bull sneaking up now and again, is not good enough for what’s being passed off as sports entertainment in 2018.
Those guys have to do something or it will be over. Not immediately, but over time.
Don’t believe me? HBO announced last week that it would no longer televise boxing. Boxing, at one time, was king. But a combination of affluence (certain cultures that used to produce fighters don’t any longer as economic conditions in the world have improved generally) and the lack of a dynamic heavyweight champion (Tyson was the last) meant interest dwindled and ratings went in the tank.
(Before readers start inking their quills to take me to task over the obvious, I just want to say that the stage-managed melee that followed the UFC bout in Las Vegas the other night was as tiresome and predictable as anything that Vince McMahon and World Wrestling have cooked up every week over the last 35 or 40 years. The only truly original moment in all that time came when Muhammad Ali tried to pull off Howard Cosell’s hairpiece when they were in the middle of that schtick once on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. At least that was funny.)
I admire racing drivers for many reasons but I don’t want to see one driver or one team win all the time, which is what is happening these days. I have better things, frankly, to do with my time.
I am not alone. I have one friend, in particular, who is very vocal about all this. He sent me a note the other day in which he set down what he would – and wouldn’t – do if he was in charge. I won’t embarrass him by identifying him, but here – verbatim – is what he wrote to me.
I would blow up F1 real big. Set up a simpler set of rules. Horsepower limit. Limited electronics and a budget of $100M per team tops. I would also invite universities and independent designers to crowdsource the designs. There are a ton of talented folk out there that know a lot. They are just a click of a mouse button away.
For those that would moan they have too big an investment, I’d toss them. That includes the tire people. If they want to provide tires in return for PR and advertising, great. But I truly do not give a damn about tire degradation and tire wear and having to drive on a minimum of two compounds in a race. Contrived and ridiculous.
What I care about is a good race with engine noise and more than one driver able to win in a given week and not some rich and entitled team manager coming on the radio saying, “Valtteri . . . move over.”
IN JAPAN: Sebastian Vettel fought back to finish sixth but the championship is over. Hamilton can win it at the next race in Austin, Tex., the U.S. Grand Prix, if he finishes first and Vettel is third or worse. Bottas was second and Max Verstappen third Sunday. Want to read more about that race? Click here
. . . . . The Mercedes team congratulated Lewis on his Grand Slam – pole win, race win and fastest lap. Except Vettel stole fastest lap near the end of the race. Do you know who set the fifth fastest lap during the GP? Our Lance Stroll in that hopeless Williams, that’s who. . . . . .Here is the problem of depending on drivers bringing money to stay in the racing business. Ace F1 racing writer Joe Saward reports that Russian rich kid Artem Markelov was tabbed for a Williams seat to replace Stroll who is probably going to Team Canada (formerly Force India) in 2019. But daddy has been arrested in Russia on bribery charges. (In Russia? That means it’s serious.) The guy who was accepting the bribes had $123 million in cash on hand and $337 salted away in Swiss bank accounts. I imagine Williams is devastated by the news. . . . . If Vettel retires, Hamilton will be F1’s only remaining superstar because Fernando Alonso won’t be around either. If that’s the case, look for Mick Schumacher to wind up in a seat somewhere. I’m serious.
OTHER RACING: Once upon a time, Indy drivers didn’t “kiss the bricks.” Then NASCAR’s Dale Jarrett won the Brickyard 400 in 1996 and kissed the bricks. Then the IndyCar drivers got into the act. Now, everybody kisses the bricks. They had a Red Bull air race at the Speedway Sunday and American pilot Michael Goulian won. So he kissed the bricks. Canada’s Pete McLeod was second and Nicolas Ivanoff of France finished third. . . . . . Chase Elliott won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Dover, Del. Click here
for the story. . . . . . Larry Wight won the Super DIRT Week big-block Billy Whittaker Cars Modified 200 at New York state’s Oswego Speedway Sunday. First place paid $50,000. Canadian Stewart Friesen of Niagara-on-the-Lake was second and Pete Britten finished third. For this weekend, the normally paved Oswego oval was covered with dirt. And it will continue to be for the next two years as DIRTcar officials and the Torrese brothers who own the track announced an agreement to keep doing it. On Saturday, Britten drove around Friesen in the dying laps to win the Camping World-sponsored 358-modified race and $20,000. Big money in modifieds these days. . . . . . It was a big racing weekend in northern New York generally (although some people insist on calling it central New York). On Saturday night, Logan Schuchart dominated all 30 laps at the nearby Fulton Speedway as the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series invaded Super DIRT Week. Sheldon Haudenschild was second with Donny Schatz completing the podium. . . . . .Christopher Bell became the winningest rookie in NASCAR Xfinity Series history on Saturday afternoon after capturing his sixth victory of the season at Dover. Saturday’s Bar Harbor 200 was also an elimination race in the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs and four drivers watched their dreams of a championship end. Daniel Hemric, Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer, Elliott Sadler, Tyler Reddick, Matt Tifft and Austin Cindric – plus Bell, of course – advance. Want to know more? Click here.
Texas native Steve Torrence piloted his dragster to the Top Fuel winner’s circle Sunday afternoon, securing his first victory at his hometown race, the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex. Robert Hight (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and L.E. Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also winners in their respective categories at the third of six playoff events during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
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