• Lance Stroll

Racing Roundup: Mercedes, Penske fail; Ranger dominates Pinty’s

Stroll comes into his own, Canadian F1 fans owe Bernie and all the rest of the news

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald July 29, 2019
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The author, Budd Schulberg, wrote these words:

“He may be a giant but giants have been licked. Don’t forget Goliath. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

Schulberg was writing about prize fighting. He could just have easily been writing about auto racing on Sunday.

Mercedes-Benz was using the German Grand Prix to celebrate 125 years of motorsport involvement. It was also their 200th Grand Prix. They fell flat on their faces.

That was in Hockenheim, Germany. In Ohio, U.S.A., Team Penske started the NTT IndyCar Series race there with its driver, Will Power, on pole and its other two drivers, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden, third and fourth, respectively. They all missed the podium.

It happens.

We have a lot to cover this Monday morning. Let’s get to it.

Max Verstappen won an absolutely incredible German Grand Prix for Red Bull, with Sebastian Vettel second (he’d started 20th and last) in a Ferrari and new daddy, Daniil Kvyat third for Red Bull. Lewis Hamilton had, perhaps, the worst day of his professional racing career by crashing and being handed two penalties. He finished 11th and outside the points.
(The two Alfa Romeo drivers, who finished top ten, were both penalized post-race for clutch performance and torque delivery, moving Lewis up to ninth. Alfa says it will appeal.)  His Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, crashed out and cooked his goose so far as his future with Mercedes is concerned.

It was a chaotic race, with frequently changing weather, racers playing spin-the-bottle, four safety cars brought on by crashes and then two virtual safety car periods brought on by less-serious crashes. Then – and how nuts is this? – race organizers decided there would be several formation laps on wet tires behind the Safety Car. Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton would then decide whether there should be a Safety Car start or a standing start.  After three laps, Hamilton said: “It’s not even that wet. Come on!”  The grid then formed up for a standing start. Eventual winner Max lost five positions at the start; last-place Vettel advanced six positions. It went from there.

Notebook Jottings

Lance Stroll finished fourth. If Bottas, whom he had covered, hadn’t crashed out, he’d have been on the podium. It was a wonderful drive by the talented young Canadian after a brilliant call by his team got him to the front. I stick to my prediction that he could very well wind up with Mercedes.

What is Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg still doing in Formula One? He has started 167 Grands Prix and has yet to make it to the podium. It is time to give somebody else a chance.

It is a famous facility but isn’t Hockenheim awfully narrow in several places? I also hear from friends who were there that the place has seen better days, particularly the washrooms. It is one of many reasons why this German Grand Prix might have been the last. Why? The facilities are not up to current F1 standards and the German promoters don’t have the cash to pay F1’s asking price

Speaking of which, Liberty Media, like Bernie before it, is going for the gold. Formula One will be racing in Vietnam next season. Vietnam? I know Bernie continues to be the butt of jokes – I heard some as recently as the Canadian Grand Prix – but I think Canadians, in particular, have Bernie to thank for Montreal still being on the F1 schedule. Bernie owned the Canadian Grand Prix for many years. Perhaps he still does. I don’t know. I do know that he owned it at one time. And I think when he sold the series to Liberty, several of the races were grandfathered into the deal – Montreal, Brazil and the French Grand Prix, which was resurrected last year at Circuit Paul Ricard in the south of France. Why those three? For sure, he still owns the Brazil race and his ex-wife, Slavika, owns Paul Ricard. And he either still owns Canada, or he has a soft spot. I mean, F1 comes here for $15 million. Just about everybody else – U.S., Russia and so-on – pays a minimum of $40 million. It doesn’t make economic sense to keep coming to Canada – unless the fix is in somewhere, And I think that “fix” is Bernie Ecclestone.

Arrow Electronics, which is the “Arrow” in the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports IndyCar team, is on the McLaren car. I see stuff like that and it makes me nervous.

For a complete story on the Grand Prix, please click here.

Moving right along, Scott Dixon won the IndyCar race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Felix Rosenqvist second and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay third. The margin of victory was 0.0934 seconds, the closest Indy car finish at Mid-Ohio and third closest on a road course in Indy car history.

Points leader Josef Newgarden spun off course two turns from the checkers when he and Hunter-Reay’s wheels touched in the fight for third place. Although it was a nose-to-tail race with lots of action back in the pack, there were only four race leaders: winner Dixon, pole-sitter Will Power, Rosenqvist and Newgarden.

Newgarden remains in the lead but second-place Alexander Rossi is now only 16 points behind. Pagenaud, Dixon and Power are the rest of the top five.

For a nuts ‘n bolts story, please click here.

Notebook Jottings  

James Hinchcliffe started 11th and his teammate, Marcus Ericsson, was right beside him in 12th. Takuma Sato must have got a storming start because he went from 17th to trying to pass Ericsson halfway through the first lap, running into him in the process. Ericsson was pushed into his teammate, Hinchcliffe, who had to pit. Ericsson was eliminated on the spot; Sato returned to eventually finish 19th and Hinchcliffe ended up 22nd. The usually effervescent Hinchcliffe was short and to the point after the race: “We got hit on Lap 1 which put us two laps down with a bent car. Obviously not ideal with no yellows. We didn’t get a chance to get our laps back which is unfortunate because we had fastest lap of the race, so the No. 5 Arrow car was quick but didn’t get a chance to show it today.”

Paul Tracy is a good announcer but periodically becomes a comedian without knowing it. Commenting on Newgarden’s coming together with Hunter-Reay, Tracy said there was no need for the IndyCar points lead to be so aggressive. He didn’t have to do that, Tracy said. Even my wife laughed.

In Edmonton Saturday night, Andrew Ranger – who’d gone West with the idea of sweeping the three-race NASCAR Pinty’s Series swing through Saskatchewan and Alberta – won his second of those three races by finishing first in the rain-shortened Luxxur 300 at Edmonton International Raceway. Jason Hathaway was second and L.P. Dumoulin third in the 300-lap race that was called after Lap 275.

Lance Stroll

Alex Labbe and Donald Theetge were fourth and fifth with Marc-Antoine Camirand sixth, Kevin Lacroix seventh and Alex Tagliani, Anthony Simone and DJ Kennington rounding out the top ten.

It was Ranger’s 27th victory in his Pinty’s Series career after starting out in Formula Atlantic and IndyCars. He scored two wins and a third Out West and now leads Lacroix in the points race by 18. The next race in Canada’s national stock car racing championship comes in two weeks at Trois-Rivieres, Que.

Lance Stroll

In NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series action, Denny Hamlin won the Gander RV 400 at Pocono, Pa,. his third of the season and his fifth at Pocono. His margin of victory over second-place Erik Jones was .341 of a second. Martin Truex Jr. was third. Joey Logano remains the championship leader with a six-point lead over second-place Kyle Busch. For a complete story, please click here.

NOTES PLUS WEEKEND RESULTS

That massive camping crowd at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Sunday looked like the camping crowd at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on NASCAR trucks weekend every year. Which reminds me, the Chevy Silverado 250 is rapidly approaching. It will go to the post on Sunday, Aug. 24.

Lance Stroll

Speaking of Mid-Ohio, there were other races. Oliver Askew led all 30 laps from the pole Sunday to cap a sweep of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires weekend. In Indy Pro 2000 presented by Cooper Tires, pole sitter Kyle Kirkwood led all 25 laps to score his fifth win in the past six races. Pole sitter Hunter McElrea executed a flawless race to win the second leg of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship. Darren Keane won Saturday’s race.

Robert Hight raced to his 50th career Funny Car win on Sunday at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway in California. Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also winners at the 15th of 24 events in the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff suggested at Hockenheim this weekend that interest in motorsport declines in countries that don’t have a driver in a racing series – in this case, Formula One. “The only team that is having a full nation behind them is Ferrari. People cheer for drivers – at least in Formula 1. We have had very successful German drivers in Formula 1 – Michael in the early 2000s and then Sebastian from 2010 to 2014. You can see there was great interest in Formula 1 and Formula 1 drivers in Germany in these 10 or more years, in a similar way that there was in tennis around Boris Becker and Steffi Graf. But that interest has faded. And if you look at Spain, which is another market that gives you some kind of indication, it was not existent before Fernando and it was one of the best markets with the most vivid fans when Fernando could compete for race wins and championships. But once that was over it was one of our weakest markets, and there is not a lot of following.”

I still maintain Ferrari has to start over, despite Vettel’s fantastic drive Sunday. And speaking of hopeless, Robert Kubica scored the first World Championship point of 2019 for Williams. Hip, hip, hooray.

Chase Briscoe won the NASCAR Xfinity race at Pocono Sunday, with Christopher Bell second and John Hunter Nemechek third. For details, please click here.

Lance Stroll proved Sunday he can get the job done if handed the opportunity. And he was pleased as punch with his fourth-place finish: “I’m really happy with that,” he beamed. “What an amazing day! Fourth place feels great considering everything that happened this afternoon. I was running at the back for most of the race; I spun a couple of times and we pitted five times! As special as it is to finish fourth, I am disappointed that the podium slipped away from us. I think a critical moment was the mistake I made in Turn Eight on my second or third lap on slicks, which is when Daniil managed to get ahead of me. We tried our best to keep the quicker cars behind, but the podium was just out of reach. Today’s race shows why you should never give up because it’s never over until it’s over. It’s great to see how much this result means to the team and it was so special to see the crew celebrating on the pit wall when I crossed the line. This important result is for everyone here, and we will enjoy this moment.”

Zack Brown says a full-time IndyCar Series entry is back on the table for McLaren. No it’s not. He likes the publicity, is all.

Daniel Ricciardo is being sued by his former manager/agent for $12.5 million in unpaid fees. That’s 20 per cent of the race driver’s base salary (never mind the bonuses and so-on). Yikes.

Matt Farnham won the Action Sprint Tour’s feature at Merrittville Speedway Saturday night. Josh Hansen and Paul Klager were second and third. Dave Shullick Jr. won the Sandusky Speedway Classic Saturday night in Ohio, with Mike Lichty second. Michael Barnes finished third but was disqualified for being too light. Donny Schatz won the World of Outlaws’ Summer Nationals at Williams Grove Speedway in Pennsylvania.

It rained at Mosport Sunday, briefly, but enough to create chaos in the Toyo Tires Formula 1600 race.

By Norris McDonald / Special to wheels.ca

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