While I have wondered in these columns how the F1 drivers are going to “Race As One” in Saudi Arabia, a.k.a. the Butcher Shop, next month, it was interesting to see during Saturday’s F1 qualifying a report on the climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland, by Nico Rosberg. It seems like our favourite sport isn’t completely divorced from the world.
Now, this is interesting. If you watch the CBC or Global or CTV and read the Canadian papers, you would think that our prime minister was the star of the show. But Rosberg, in naming all the major leaders of the world, didn’t mention him and the film crews managed to miss him as they were panning. And while Justin’s focus was to fight pollution by putting a price on carbon, that didn’t seem to be on the minds of anyone else.
Of course, deep down, they were all concerned about how the fight against climate change would affect the economies of their countries. Our guy wasn’t, although he should be. There’s no doubt he’s fighting to be a hero in the eyes of climate change soldiers, but you have to wonder what job he’s got his eye on. Secretary-General of the United Nations? He’s up to something, that’s for sure.
Meantime, Rosberg presented an excellent report that included, with the help of others, an interview with F1 boss Stefano Domenicali, in which the top dog said that F1 always wanted to be ahead of the curve and was working to help develop a sustainable fuel that would allow internal-combustion engines to be used for many years in the future.
The first time I had a discussion about sustainable automobile fuel was several months ago when I talked about it with Ron Fellows. I have heard it mentioned here and there since, but Saturday was the first time I heard someone in a position of responsibility discuss it seriously.
Several people at the summit talked about hydrogen but the die appears to be cast so far as electricity is concerned. Here’s why. As someone on TV said the other day, Washington is run by a bunch of idealistic 20-year-olds with little or no life experience working for a bunch of heavy drinking senior citizens. (Ottawa, by the way, is much the same except for the age and the drinking.) They are – the young ones, that is – in love with Elon Musk and as far as they are concerned, he is god. What he says goes and until he suggests something other than electricity, electricity it will be.
Let’s hope that Musk sees the light and suggests something other than electricity. Or somebody else comes along with a better idea and the determination to sell it. For instance, scientists are rock stars these days. How about using science to develop sustainable airline fuel? That way, all those people who flew over to Glasgow, the Al Gores of the world, for instance, won’t tell the rest of us not to do what they are doing.
Okay, let’s go racing, First with a totally boring F1 race and then a not-quite boring NASCAR final.
Max won, Lewis was second and Sergio Perez finished third in the Mexico City Grand Prix. Max is now 19 points ahead of Lewis going into Brazil next weekend.
Toto Wolff told a German magazine last week that Lewis Hamilton would do anything to keep Max Verstappen from beating him to the world championship. If he had to do a Senna or a Schumacher in order to win, so be it, Wolff said. No so fast, said Hamilton: “I always want to win it the right way,” he said, “and if you’re going to lose it, you lose it the right way also, with dignity and knowing you’ve given it your all and you’ve done things the right way, and you’ve worked as hard as you could. “That’s all you can do, is give it your all and work as hard as you can with your team. If it doesn’t work out, then you live to fight another day.”
Now, that sounds all very well and good. But remember the race in Abu Dhabi when Nico won the title and Hamilton spent the last third of the race going slower and slower in hopes his teammate would catch him and try to pass him so he could crash him?
Rosberg, in announcing his retirement a day or so later, cited that as one of the seasons he was quitting. If the championship comes down to a winner-takes-all between him and Max, let’s see how Lewis behaves then?
Daniel Ricciardo made an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres’s popular U.S. TV show last week. But no sponsor, or the team, or anybody arranged it. DeGeneres had watched some of the Netflix series F1 Drive to Survive and had seen the episode where Ricciardo won at Monza and drank champagne out of his shoe. So, she had her people make contact and interviewed him on what he does and the series and why he had to stay so fit. Google it on YouTube. It’s highly entertaining.
Next weekend, in Brazil, there will be a sprint race rather than final qualifying. There will be six of them next season.
Our Nicholas Latifi had a miserable weekend. Before the race, he suggested the Williams wasn’t suited for the Mexico City race circuit. This is what he said afterward. “Unfortunately, my race came undone at the start. I’ll have to watch the video back to see what happened in that first lap. I thought I was going to come out of the first few corners gaining a couple of positions from the cars going off, but I stayed on track to avoid them and ended up losing out quite a bit. After that, with the pace we had, it was just a race of blue flags. An afternoon to forget.”
Finally, both Toto Wolff and Lewis tore a strip off Vallteri Botttas for letting Max past at the first corner. Jeez, Louise. If he goes over to block Max, 10 cars would get past him. As it was, Ricciardo ran into the back of him. Race over. That’s the second time this season he’s been run into like that. Anybody hit Hamilton? Don‘t think so. Wonder why?
A year-and-a-half ago, Kyle Larson was playing a video racing game and used a racial slur – a slur that many young white guys use frequently. I can still hear one of his opponents: “Uh, Kyle. You’ve got an open mic. Everybody can hear you.”
He was driving for Chip Ganassi Racing at the time and Chip fired him the next day. NASCAR suspended him for the 2020 season and made him take sensitivity training. He used his time wisely: he worked very hard at learning why he was wrong to use the particular word in question and he won just about every sprint car race he entered. Forty-three, or a total like that.
I wrote a column that he was one of the greatest race-car drivers to emerge in the last century – a Tony Stewart, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti, all rolled into one – and that if one of the IndyCar owners had any sense they’d sign him up for the 2021 season.
Of course, just like the CART owners didn’t have a clue about Jeff Gordon (he’d already won a Busch Series championship when somebody came up with the bright idea that they should put him in Indy Lights), they knew nothing about Larson either, but Rick Hendricks did. With the urging of that same Jeff Gordon, Hendricks signed Larson to a contract and Sunday in Phoenix he won the NASCAR Cup championship.
It wasn’t all him, of course. On the last pit stop, his crew got him in and out by performing their second-fastest fuel-and-four-tire-change stop of the year. As a result, Larson went from fourth place to the lead and was never headed in the run to the checkers. Conversely, Martin Truex Jr., who was flying and, in the lead, when a minor on-track incident brought out that last caution flag, saw his team take a full second longer to perform the same duties. He left the pits in second place, where he finished. Denny Hamlin was third, Ryan Blaney fourth and Chase Elliott fifth.
This was a winner-takes-all deal and only Blaney wasn’t eligible for the championship. It makes you wonder how he snuck in there because it is well known in these playoffs that while everybody else might be out there, they are to leave the championship contenders alone. Somebody settling a score, for instance, and costing somebody a championship might very well make themselves persona non grata in the years ahead.
It was a very popular victory. Truex is a fan favourite too, as is Elliott. Fed-Ex employees, who sponsor Hamlin, might cheer for him but he is not well liked in the garage or the grandstands. Larson kept up his sprint car activities this season and, when you add up his victories last year and this year plus his trips to NASCAR Victory Lane, you have him winning a grand total of 93 races.
That’s incredible. Everybody talks about Colton Herta maybe going to Formula One. Why? If anybody over there has an open mind, they should be arranging a test for Kyle Larson.
Xfinity Series: Daniel Hemric waited till the last turn of the last lap to win the Xfinity Series Cup race Saturday night at Phoenix. Austin Cindric was leading but Hemric, in second, did a bump-and-run and won the championship by inches. The other two eligible for the championship, A.J. Allmendinger and Noah Gragson, finished 14th and 12th, respectively.
Camping World Trucks: Ben Rhodes won the trucks championship at Phoenix Friday night. Chandler Smith was second, John Hunter Nemechek finished third and Matt Crafton was fourth.