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Racing Roundup: Has Toto made a mistake with Russell?

A big ‘thank-you’ to photographers Derek Smith and John Larsen and all of the weekend’s racing news

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald September 7, 2021
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Welcome to the Monday Racing Roundup on Tuesday. Here are some F1 notes before we get into a mountain of Labour Day racing results.

My friend Pete says Sebastian Vettel gets disqualified in Hungary but gets points at Spa for following the pace car for two laps. Really? He asks: “Who is running this s**tshow?”

And then at Zandvoort this weekend, Vettel is on a flyer during qualifying and comes around a corner to find both Haas cars running slowly in the middle of the track. They are mad at each other, as if that matters. Vettel has to slam on the brakes and it’s a miracle there isn’t a pileup. He is eliminated, however. Doesn’t make it out of Q1. The stewards, all members of Mensa, no doubt, decide no one is at fault. Really? The Haas drivers praise Vettel for his “sportsmanship” during a meeting with the stewards. I wonder what Lawrence Stroll had to say?

Here’s a suggestion: there is a break the week after Italy (next weekend). Go back to Spa and do a re-run. Or do that sometime in October. Spa could replace Japan, for instance. That would make too much sense for F1 so it probably won’t happen.

Nicholas Latifi of Toronto set the F1 world on its ear during Q1 Saturday by turning a last-second lap to post fifth fastest time. It was his best lap of the year. Only Jenson Button, one of the Sky colour commentators, noticed and that was to express surprise. Those guys should do their homework. Pete, who does his homework, says Latifi (except for Spa) has been faster all year than his Williams teammate, George Russell, every Friday of a race weekend. Then George suddenly gets faster on Saturday. If those Sky shills were journalists, they would perhaps ask about that.

In any event, they both crashed in Q2, Russell first, then Nicky. Anthony Davidson “analyzed” Nick’s crash. “Look,” he said, pointing at his helmet. “It’s rolling right. This shows he’s tired.” Really? Anthony, the turn was to the right. Centrifugal force means his head would be rolling LEFT if he was tired.

When Jacques went to F1 in 1996, the British press gave him the same treatment. I went to town in a column. So I’m at that year’s Canadian GP and two guys from the Times of London look me up. They are upset with me. “Why were you so nasty toward us?” they ask. I said Jacques won his first Grand Prix in his fourth race in his rookie year and he did it by staying in front of Michael Schumacher. Jonathan Palmer, who spent the weekend working with Murray Walker, criticized Villeneuve from lights out till checkers for not opening up more of a gap (I’m not making this up). I pointed out how ludicrous that was and finished by saying, “The only way you guys would ever be happy is if there were 25 cars on the grid and all the drivers were English. Now, get out of here.” They left.

And that’s that for the sermon.

The Race: It really looked like Lewis Hamilton didn’t even try at the start. He just let Max Verstappen go. Smart move. If he’d crashed Max out at the first corner, even if it was an accident, Hamilton wouldn’t have gotten out of Holland alive. After that, it was a parade. Except . . . George Russell started 11th after his crash Saturday; our Latifi started from pit lane because of his crash. Neither was competitive but when the race ended, Latifi was ahead of Russell. D’ya think Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is wondering if he made a mistake? (I know, I know: George got a five-second penalty but, again, Latifi had to start from pit lane.) Max won, of course, and Hamilton was second. Bottas was third. Here’s a link, if you’re still interested.

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/max-verstappen-f1-dutch-grand-184100718.html

Although the Russell-to-Mercedes announcement hasn’t been made yet, Valtteri Bottas said at the weekend that he’s signed a long-term contract to drive for Alfa Romeo. It’s only a matter of time, then, before Russell is promoted. Why? He’s being beaten by his teammate, Latifi, just about every time they’ve gone head-to-head this season. The answer, of course, is that Wolff manages Russell, yet another example of the conflicts of interest that are rife in F1. This is a mistake, of course. Russell is not Bottas. George doesn’t have the talent to push Lewis the way Lewis has to be pushed to maintain his dominance.

So, while Wolff lines his pockets with his share of the contract money he negotiates for Russell with himself as Mercedes team principal (sounds convoluted but that’s what’s happening: Toto is negotiating with himself), Mercedes will be all the poorer for it.

And one more thing before we leave F1: Furloughed F1 driver Alexander Albon (he’s been parked in the German Touring Car Championship – DTM – this season) and Formula Electric ace Nick de Vries are both pushing for an F1 seat next year. Albon went so far as to “visit” the IndyCar paddock a few weeks ago, not so much because he’s interested in making a move, but he wanted to be seen there so that some F1 team might say, “Gee, we’d better act fast or he’ll soon be gone.” Both those guys are Grade A Prime and are going to be somewhere in F1 next year. Fingers crossed they both don’t wind up at Williams and our Nick Latifi finds himself the odd man out. . .

GTA-AREA RACING 

Racing Roundup

Derek Smith is the hardest-working photographer in southern Ontario, maybe Canada, maybe the world. He will shoot 15,000 to 20,000 exposures (yup; that’s correct) per weekend from Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Flamboro Speedway, Brighton Speedway Park, Sunset Speedway, Ohsweken (when it’s open) and I could go on and on and on. Thank goodness for digital; he would go bankrupt if he was using that much film.

Derek has also taken on another job. As I can’t be everywhere (I was at CTMP Saturday and Sunday and Brighton Sunday night), he has taken it upon himself to send me the list of winners of each race he covers because nobody else does. Sorry, Tommy Goudge does a great job providing colour and results from the two sprint car tours in operation but that’s about it. Several of the tracks have a freelancer under contract to publicize the place but getting results is like pulling teeth. Some of the series that barnstorm need some improvement too. So, thank goodness for Derek.

I tease him that he must have the world’s most understanding wife. At the weekend, for instance, he was at CTMP Friday and Saturday, Flamboro Saturday night, TCMP Sunday and Brighton Sunday night. He posts all of his pictures on his website, racepulse.com. Take a look sometime.

The picture at the top of the column and the one atop this section were of the same crash at Brighton Speedway Sunday night and are of 360 sprint car driver Dan Nanticoke flipping out of the park. Nanticoke was not hurt but pretty pissed off at the driver who sent him tumbling.

Brighton results: Jacob Dykstra won the Pinty’s Action Sprint Tour A-Mains on both Saturday and Sunday nights. Sunday, he was followed home by Allan Downey and Austin Roes. In the Pinty’s Knights of Thunder 360 sprint car action, D. J. Christie won the A-Main Saturday night. Sunday, Jim Huppunen was the winner, followed by Jordan Poirier and Cory TurnerAndrew Hennessy was first in the late model feature Sunday, Justin Ramsay won in thunder stocks, Devon Kippen in Comp 4 and Kevin Mutch won the Stingers feature.

I have been to just about all of the speedways and road courses in southern Ontario but for some reason I had never been to Brighton. I’d done a column on owner Mark Rinaldi back in the spring when he was leading the charge to have motorsport facilities included when the province started to allow businesses to reopen after the Covid lockdown. His efforts proved successful and, as I had never met him (other than over the phone), it was great to bump fists.

Our meeting was facilitated by Inside Track editor and co-publisher Greg MacPherson, who talked me into going out to Brighton after the races finished Sunday afternoon at CTMP and then let Rinaldi know we were on the premises. We also met his father, ex-MPP Lou Rinaldi, and a short conversation with him left me concerned about the future of our province and country. No, I’m not talking about the federal election. I’m talking about the nastiness our elected politicians have to experience because of social media. Lou Rinaldi said we wouldn’t believe the abuse heaped on him and other MPPs and that everything is so polarized that one side can’t ever see anything good about the other. It makes you wonder why anyone of substance would ever want to run for public office.

(Aren’t you glad you’re reading this? You want to know who won the races at the weekend and here I am talking about the future of civilization., Okay. No more.)

Over at Flamboro Speedway, 16-year-old sensation Kyle Steckly stunned the regulars who run the APC United Late Model Series when he won his first start in that championship Saturday night. Steckly, son of four-time NASCAR Canada national champion Scott Steckly (whose 22 Racing Team prepares and enters cars for Alex TaglianiMarc-Antoine Camirand and others in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series), had been after his father to let him have a shot at the big series after racing most of this season in Pro Late Models. Dad finally said yes, and Kyle came through with flying colours. He was chased across the finish line in the London Recreational 100 by another wunderkind, Trevor Lapcevich, also 16, and Brandon Watson, who’s a senior citizen at 28.

Other Flamboro winners: Gerrit Tiemersma in the Quick Wick Super Stock 50 and Joe Arsenault in the Canadian Vintage Modifieds 30.

Thank you, Derek.

Other Racing

Ohio’s Dave Shullick Jr. won the 65th Budweiser International Classic 200 at Oswego Speedway Sunday. I know, Oswego is not exactly in the GTA but I am in the Hall of Fame there so you will always find the results of big races in this column. Only 29 cars started the Classic, down from the usual 34. But none of the Canadian competitors can cross the border with their race cars these days so that accounts for the shortfall. . . . At Merrittville Speedwaynear Thorold, it was Semenuks Esso Final Points Night. Austin Wood won the 358 modified feature; Jay Moulton was first in Central Fab/Glo & Go Mini Stocks; Dave Bailey won Hoosier stocks; Tyler Winger was first in Modified Lites; Brent Begolo won Rick’s Delivery Sportsman and James Small was first in the track’s V6 division. . . . . Tim Wilkersonwon the NHRA’s U.S. Nationals Funny Car class at Indianapolis. It was his first win in more than five years. Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were the other winners. Now the straight line crowd starts their playoffs. . . . At Sauble SpeedwayCory Whitman won the Can-Am Midget feature and Laila Walser was first in the Jr. Late Model feature. . . . At Delaware Speedway near London, Matt Robblee won the Catalys Lubricants Pro Late  Models feaure; Paul Fothergill was first in the Doxtator Property Maintenance V8 stocks; and Ryden Lapcevich won the TransAxle Super Stock Series feature. . . . .

NASCAR 

He didn’t win a race all season but Denny Hamlin won the first race of NASCAR’s playoff round Sunday when he finished first in the Southern 500 at Darlington. His timing was perfect because these are the races that really count. Kinda like the NHL but the Leafs do it backwards. They dominate all season and then flame out in the first round of the playoffs. Not Hamlin. In winning, he was the first to qualify for the round of 12, down from 16, in the 2021 chase. For details on the race, please click here

Denny Hamlin wins Southern 500 at Darlington for first win of 2021 season, advances to next round of NASCAR playoffs | 8News (wric.com)

Because I was at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Brighton Speedway, I didn’t see any of the racing on TV this weekend, other than half the Grand Prix at Zandvoort. I filed stories on the Pinty’s races Saturday and Sunday to the Star’s sports department, so here are links to those, if you’re interested:

Saturday: L.P. Dumoulin wins Pinty’s race

L.P. Dumoulin wins, Andrew Ranger black-flagged four times in Pinty’s stock car race | The Star

Sunday: Camirand wins Pinty’s nightcap

Quebec driver racing Ontario car wins Sunday Pinty’s race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park | The Star

Here is a reminder that motor racing is fun, challenging but also dangerous. Valerie Limoges has been racing in support series for years. She’s currently racing in the Nissan Sentra Cup Series and was bunted off the track at CTMP on Sunday and went into a wall (photo below supplied by John Larsen/photograffics.com). John, who’s been supplying me with photos and racing information for years, messaged me last night that he’d talked to one of her crew members who said that the Quebec racer suffered a broken collar bone in the crash.

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