Racing Roundup: F1 Channels NASCAR, Lets Hamilton Keep Win

Harvick wins NASCAR race, Jordan Szoke untouchable in Canadian Superbike competition.

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald July 23, 2018
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Formula One took a page from NASCAR Sunday when the stewards found Lewis Hamilton guilty of a racing violation but opted to let him keep his win despite issuing a reprimand.
During the German Grand Prix, run at the Hockenheimring in the rain, Sebastian Vettel crashed and the Safety Car was dispatched. Mercedes immediately called Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton, who were running two-three at the time, to the pits for tires. Both entered the pit but when leader Kimi Raikkonen stayed out, Hamilton drove over the line separating the pits from the circuit, as well as over the grass, to return to the track in order to stay behind the leader.

This was a clear violation of the rule that says: “Except in cases of force majeure (accepted as such by the stewards), the crossing, in any direction, of the line separating the pit entry and the track by a car entering the pit lane is prohibited.”

This would seem to be pretty cut and dried but apparently not. The stewards opted to issue a reprimand (“Lewis, you were a naughty boy!”) but no further penalty.

NASCAR is famous for – and correctly criticized for – allowing race wins to stand despite clear evidence of cheating. This philosophy goes back to the founding of NASCAR in the 1940s, when Big Bill France didn’t want fans to leave the track after watching Junior Billy Bob win the race and then find out in the afternoon newspaper the next day that Junior Bobby Bill was really the winner.

(The fact that communications are instantaneous in 2018 and nobody is surprised in the least to hear that NASCAR drivers cheat hasn’t deterred that organization one iota from staying the course.)

Formula One has now adopted the same approach, it seems. One of the reasons Hamilton wasn’t penalized Sunday was because the stewards didn’t reach their decision till three hours after the race ended and just about everybody had left for home. Wouldn’t want to confuse anybody who saw Hamilton win and then get home to find out he hadn’t. Hello NASCAR!
Actually, there should be an investigation into how come the stewards didn’t recognize a penalty when everybody on the planet watching the race did. Even Mercedes seemed to think something would happen because they asked Hamilton to push, push to the end so that when the inevitable time penalty was announced, it wouldn’t affect the outcome. But there was nothing. Zilch.

It seems clear that someone in authority, likely Charlie Whiting, knocked on the door after the race and reminded the stewards about the rule that says you can’t do what Lewis just did. It was then that the stewards launched their investigation. (I like those last three words, don’t you? They sound so decisive, so official. . . . launched their investigation . . . . . more likely, one of them said, “I thought you knew the rules. How do we dig ourselves out of this hole? . . . . . but I digress.)

The stewards, in their wisdom (I always put that in . . .) decided not to penalize Hamilton because (they said) there were three mitigating factors:

Although it was clear the rule had been broken,

“(i) the driver and the team candidly admitted the mistake and the fact that there was confusion within the team as to whether to stay out or to enter the pits and that led to the infringement.
“(ii) The fact that the infringement took place during a Safety Car period.
“(iii) At no time was there any danger to any other competitor and the change in direction was executed in a safe way.”
That, in three words, is a Load Of Crap. I mean, really.

Mercedes (poor babies) said they were confused. So? The rule was broken when the safety car was out. So? Nobody was in danger and the rule was broken in a safe way. I can’t believe I just wrote that last sentence.
In recent weeks, I gave some unsolicited advice to IndyCar, which needs a new race director. I stand ready to offer suggestions to the FIA about recruiting some new stewards.All they have to do is call.

For a complete story on the German GP, please click here.

German Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel, seen in full flight on Saturday, crashed out of Sunday’s German GP. Credit: Courtesy, Ferrari

Okay, I’ve tried to like Lewis Hamilton. I really have. I know he’s a fantastic racing driver but something always – always – seems to get in the way of me warming up to him.

Look, there was not a lot to like about Michael Schumacher either. On track, his arrogance frequently got the better of him. He crashed Damon Hill to win his first world championship; he tried to crash Jacques Villeneuve to prevent him from winning his one and only. He pulled that stunt at Monaco to prevent Fernando Alonso from winning pole legitimately. But that was on the track.

Off the track, I choose to believe that Schumacher was a nice guy. That, in many ways, he was a normal person. Remember when he broke his leg? He was procrastinating – taking his time returning to work (seriously; I’m not making this up) – and was home in Geneva with his wife and kids. Jean Todt called one day to ask after his health and one of the children answered and told Mr. Todt that daddy couldn’t come to the phone right away because he was outside playing football (soccer). When Michael did get to the phone, Todt told him to get his tush back to Maranello, pronto, because if he was well enough to kick a football, he was well enough to drive a racing car.

And when he won what turned out to be his final Canadian Grand Prix, in 2004, I watched him run around and shake hands and hug everybody on the Ferrari team, from the guys in the pits to the roadies packing things up for the flight back to Europe. He made everybody feel part of the team and important to him, personally.
Hamilton? This is what got me going this week.

According to the London Telegraph, Hamilton found out that Nico Rosberg would be conducting the post-race interviews for the Sky broadcasts from trackside at the end of the German Grand Prix. So he “asked” that Nico not do that job. Actually, I doubt that he asked. I will say flat out that he told F1 officials that if Rosberg was there with microphone in hand that he, Lewis Hamilton, wouldn’t speak to him and that they’d better get somebody else. And so F1 told Sky to get somebody else, which is what happened.

How petty. How small.

Lewis talked, after the race, about all the negativity that had been around him in Germany. He might look in the mirror to determine who injected some of it.
Here are some other observations from the German GP:

– Is Fernando Alonso losing it? He went to pass Charles Leclerc and missed his braking point. He’s supposed to be the best, even at age 36. I mean, he looked like me at the go-kart track.

– Martin Brundle says the Williams was an improved car at Hockenheim. “Maybe not a podium car, but better,” he said. Was he serious? Or kidding? Williams is not even in the running to be best of the rest, the rest starting at No. 7 on the grid. (Some might argue No. 5.)

– F1 has opted to put off the proposed Miami Grand Prix for a year. I suggest it will never happen. The board of control, which gave preliminary approval for the race a month or so ago, was scheduled to vote again next week to send the proposal to the full council but put that vote off till September. That’s because they have been getting it in the ear from people who live in downtown Miami.

Liberty Media, which owns F1, only has a few options. It is highly unlikely that it will ever be able to convince any city of any size in the United States of America to let them start a street race downtown from scratch. So they can go to a place where a street race is long established – like Long Beach – and put so much money on the table that the city would have no choice but to go with F1 over IndyCar. Or, it can do what it should have done in the first place – go back to either Watkins Glen or Indianapolis.

Eddie Gossage, who runs Texas Motor Speedway for the Bruton Smith family, told the Indianapolis Star in an interview that the Circuit of the Americas people in Austin were not happy with Liberty for proposing that race in Miami. As I observed a month ago in one of these columns, the two cities would be drawing from the same demographic and the established one (COTA) would suffer while the new one (Miami) wouldn’t attract the numbers expected. It would be a lose-lose. . . . . .

– I know we’re talking about F1 here, but I have to sneak in a note about the IndyCar race on Belle Isle in Detroit. The Penske organization has made application for a new three-year contract and the opposition is out in force, talking about noise and damage to the environment.  While one can – perhaps – understand opposition in Miami, it is difficult to figure out what the problem is with Belle Isle. That island used to be a dangerous place, with drug dealers doing business pretty much out in the open and druggies taking the one bridge over there to make purchases. The police didn’t go over there much because it wasn’t worth it and the downtown needed more attention.

Now, the place is well-lit at night, the roads have been repaved, sod has been put down, flowers planted and the patrols are more regular, which means the dealers aren’t as obvious. It’s just a nicer and all-‘round safer place. As usual, the guy who did this was Roger Penske, who’s saved much of Detroit single-handedly.

You would think people who go over there now to picnic, and to ride their bikes, might take that into consideration. Or am I missing something?

– Word around the paddock in Hockenheim is that poor Sergio Marchionne was in hospital for minor surgery on his shoulder when he suffered a heart attack and a stroke. Although Louis Camilleri, the former chairman of Philip Morris International, will run Ferrari in the short term, the best bet for a permanent replacement is Stefano Domenicali, who was Team Principal for Ferrari from 2008-14 (when Marchionne took over). He is currently working wonders as the head of Lamborghini.

– If Mercedes called Botas in for tires when Vettel crashed, how come they didn’t have them ready when he arrived at the pit box?

– There were two instances of team orders in the German GP. Kimi was told not to challenge Vettel and Botas was ordered to stay behind Lewis. This would not happen in IndyCar. At least, I don’t think it would happen. Which is why I wrote last week that there was more racing in the Honda Indy Toronto than there is in F1 in a season.

 

OTHER WEEKEND RACING

NASCAR decided Saturday to move up the start of Sunday’s Monster Energy Cup race an hour because of the potential for rain. So it rained early and, instead of the announcers having to fill time for two hours before they finally got the race going, they had to talk for three. The best laid plans . . .

In the end, Kevin Harvick,, who is having a career year, won. He bumped Kyle Busch a couple of times in an effort to pass him and finally just pushed him out of the way. Aric Almirola was third. For a complete story, please click here.

Christopher Bell’s first NASCAR Xfinity Series appearance at New Hampshire Motor Speedway ended with a win on Saturday, giving him his second consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series victory after last week’s trip to Victory Lane in Kentucky. Brad Keselowski finished second while Ryan Preece was third. In other New Hampshire racing, the Eastern Propane & Oil 100 turned into a quarter-mile drag race between Bobby Santos III and Chase Dowling as the pair headed for the granite stripe on the final lap of the race. Santos edged out Dowling by .014 seconds for his fourth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory at the track. . . . . .

At Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing played the rare role of spoiler Saturday in the Northeast Grand Prix, a round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. With Corvette Racing eyeing an historic 100th career IMSA win following what had been a dominant weekend for the team, the No. 66 Ford GT of Joey Hand (co-driver Dirk Mueller) slowly caught and eventually passed the No. 3 Corvette C7.R of race leader Jan Magnussen (Antonio Garcia) with 13 minutes remaining, driving away to an 11.431-second victory. Magnussen/Garcia started on pole and led 150 of the race’s 178 laps. But it wasn’t enough. The No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow powered to the GT Daytona (GTD) class win. In the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race earlier Saturday, the Tuner Class victory went to the No. 54 JDC-Miller Motorsports team with drivers Stephen Simpson and Michael Johnson aboard. It was Johnson’s first professional race victory since he was paralyzed from the waist down in a motorcycle accident at age 12. . . . . .

Speaking of motorcycles, Jordan Szoke of Lynden, Ont., continued his east coast dominance in the Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship with two convincing victories on Saturday and Sunday, as the three-time defending champion took his sixth- and seventh consecutive wins in the Mopar Pro Superbike class at round four from Atlantic Motorsport Park, presented by Pro Cycle and Honda Canada.

Szoke, who continues to move closer to a record 13th career title, started from pole position on Saturday and led virtually the entire race, powering his way to a four-second victory over Collingwood’s Ben Young.  Samuel Trepanier of St. Isidore, Que., was third. On Sunday, Trepanier finished second and Young was third. All three podium finishers, plus the rest of the two wheelers, will be at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in three weeks for a big weekend double-header. . . . . .

In World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series racing, Lance Dewease got better with each restart and passed Donny Schatz on Lap 20 to win his 91st career Feature at Williams Grove Speedway and his 14th on the WoO tour. Schatz settled for second with Brian Montieth completing the podium. . . . . .

Clayton Johns reports that on one of the most anticipated nights of the year at the Brantford-area Ohsweken Speedway Friday night, in which a Christmas in July promotion saw fans bring dozens of new, unwrapped toys to be given to area underprivileged children during the Christmas season, rain got in the way and feature races in all classes had to be postponed. A total of 132 drivers were signed in across four divisions, headlined by the invading Patriot Sprint Tour versus the Kool Kidz-Corr/Pak 360 Sprint Cars, which saw 37 360-c.i. sprinters registered for the $3,333-to-win event.

Rain, meantime, forced cancellation of the second night of Outlaws racing at Williams Grove. Some of the fans who were at the Mechanicsburg, Pa., oval looked at the weather radar and figured Oswego Speedway would be a good bet and drove up to see Otto Sitterly, driving one of the John Nicotra stable of racing cars along with Indy 500 veteran Davey Hamilton, finish first in the $10,000-to-win mid-summer Mr. Supermodified championship race. Hamilton finished 13th. Sitterly’s best time around the 5/8-mile paved oval was 16.481 seconds for an average speed of 136.521 miles an hour. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is motoring. . . . . .

German Grand Prix

Jordan Szoke continued his domination of the Canadian Superbike Championship by winning two races at Atlantic Motorsport Park. Credit: Rob O’Brien/CSBK

nmcdonald@thestar.ca

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