Monday, July 13, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: It Makes Sense But It's A Work In Progress

A Frenchman dominated in Milwaukee. Rain continues to follow NASCAR but it all passed by race day. There was a great battle at Mosport. There was a first time winner in the Netherlands. A certain Spaniard regained their form for at least one race. There was racing all over the globe this weekend, from Portugal to Australia. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

It Makes Sense But It's A Work In Progress
I like the idea of the FIA Super License points but I am not sure it has been well thought out.

This past week at the World Motor Sport Council in Mexico City, the FIA announced changes to the FIA Super License points system.  The series that doesn't even exist, Formula 2 will pay 40 points to the top three finishers in the championship; the top two in GP2 will each receive 40 points. FIA European Formula 3, World Endurance Championship LMP1 and IndyCar will still pay 40 points to the champions of those respective series while the Formula Renault 3.5 will get 35 points, a five point increase. The GP3 champion will still get 30 points and the Super Formula champion will still get 25 points.

There were also three series added to the list of series that will receive FIA Super License points. Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, Indy Lights and the World Touring Car Championship were all added and the three champions from those three series will receive 15 points. The other addition was the Formula E champion will automatically be granted an FIA Super License but no points will be given out for that series. So congratulations to Nelson Piquet, Jr. on earning a super license.

One of the problems I have is there are still series not getting recognized, most notably for Americans, NASCAR. You can make all the jokes you want about NASCAR you want but there are talented drivers there are they deserve something. I am not sure the NASCAR Cup champion deserves a full 40 points for a title but it deserves something. I almost feel 25 points would be a good amount for the Cup champion with the Grand National and Truck champions receiving 10 points respectively.

What about Super GT's GT500 and GT300 champions? The GT500 class is going to the same technical regulations as DTM and they get squat... actually they get less than squat. What about Blancpain Sprint and Endurance Series? Should each series get their own points or should the combined Blancpain GT Series results determine who gets what Super License points?

What about GTE-Pro in WEC? Plenty of talented young drivers who had success in single-seaters such as Davide Rigon, James Calado, Richie Stanaway and Marco Sørensen and former Formula One drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Giancarlo Fisichella and Olivier Beretta in that class. What about IMSA? Shouldn't the Prototype and GTLM champions get some type of love? What about Pirelli World Challenge? ADAC GT Masters? World Rally? British Touring Cars? I could go on and on.

Of course, I think some series should be valued more. DTM, WTCC and Indy Lights should not be on the same level. I actually think WTCC and Indy Lights are go at 15 points but the DTM champion should full 40 points as should the Formula Renault 3.5 champion and the Super Formula champion. I still don't get the logic of FIA European Formula 3 champion getting 40 but GP3 champion only getting 30. If anything, after seeing the driving in Formula 3 this year, I am not sure that champion should receive more than 20 points. And I am not going to try and wrap my head around the logic of national F4 champions receiving 12 points but national Formula 3 champions only getting 10 points.

The other thing I would like to see is bonus points awarded for winning races. Take Alexander Rossi for example. He currently has only three FIA Super License points from finishing ninth in the 2013 GP2 Series championship. If he wants an FIA Super License he needs 37 points so he would need to win the GP2 championship or finish second this year. If he finishes third, he would be seven points shy. My idea would be to pay bonus points to drivers who win races that way a driver can't make up some of those points that they can't pick up in the championship. My idea would be to pay three points for each victory a driver scores in a championship that pay 40 points to the champion, or as I would like to call them "Tier 1 Championships." For series that pay less than 40 points but more than 12 points or "Tier 2 Championships," it could be two points for each victory and for series that pay 12 points or less to their champions, "Tier 3 Championships," it could be one point per victory.

Alexander Rossi wouldn't be the only driver to benefit from bonus points from victories. While Rossi currently sits second in the GP2 championship, Rio Haryanto is third and the Indonesian driver currently has zero Super License points and like Rossi has to finish first or second in GP2 in hopes to earn a Super License. Haryanto already has three race victories and if he were to get one victory more then it would allow him for wiggle room in case he finished third in the GP2 championship.

I like the idea of it but it still has many holes. I do like that drivers will have to pass a test on the sporting regulations in order to receive the license. It's important that the competitors know the rulebook. For those who watch the NFL, it's embarrassing to hear players after a game say they didn't know a game could end in a tie. It's important to know the rulebook boys and girls.

The Pseudo-One Day Show
I liked the format of the Milwaukee IndyCar race this past weekend but I think it could have been scheduled better. There was one practice on Saturday before a practice session, qualifying session and race on Sunday. It was condensed but I liked it however the timing was off. Scheduling the race to start at 4:35 p.m. local time could work for a Saturday but not for a Sunday. Milwaukee got a decent crowd but if the race was at 1:00-1:30 p.m. local time, the crowd probably would have been better. How much better? We will never know.

How much practice do we want to see? Do we really care if the drivers get one hour of practice or two? Last year, I believe it was Will Power who was asked if he liked the doubleheader format last year and he said something along the line of yes and that fans don't pay to watch practice, they pay to watch races. If the drivers got one hour of practice, followed by qualifying and then the race, would we really care? I think the non-Triple Crown oval races should just be one-day shows. At Texas there could be practice at 5:30 p.m. local time, qualifying could be at 6:45 p.m. and the race could go green at 7:50 p.m. They could practice at Milwaukee at 9:00 a.m. local, have the Indy Lights race at 10:15 a.m., qualify at 11:30 a.m. and start the race by 1:15 p.m. Iowa could be spread out a little more because Pro Mazda and Indy Lights are also on the bill so IndyCar practice could be at 2:00 p.m. local with qualifying at 5:00 p.m. and the race starting at 7:50 p.m.

Forget the what-ifs. It might rain and throw a monkey wrench in the entire schedule but it doesn't have to ruin the day. If it rains, just worry about getting the races in because they are what matter. Some don't like the one-day format because the pole-sitter can't be promoted. To be honest, it's irrelevant to an extent. How many more people are going to turn because they find out Tony Kanaan is on pole or Josef Newgarden is on pole or Marco Andretti is on pole? The people who are going to go to the race are going regardless of who is on pole. Have anyone ever honestly said they aren't going to a race because a certain driver is on pole? That's like a Chicago Blackhawks fan saying they aren't going to a game because Scott Darling is starting between the pipes instead of Corey Crawford. No one does that.

If anything, the one-day show allows for the series to promote drivers in a new light. If anything, IndyCar needs to get the drivers away from the track to draw fans. Instead of having a day of practice and qualifying the day before the race, have the drivers get out. If anything, have a big party the night before race day with all the drivers attending and allow people to rub elbows with them and just hang out and get to know who they are. Rent out a bowling alley the night before a race and have a big party. Throw a street party. Do something different to let people know the race is in town and if people have a great time hanging out the Friday night before Texas or Iowa or the Saturday night before Milwaukee, then perhaps they will keep the party going the next day at the race. And that should be done for all the ovals, not just the non-Triple Crown races.

The one-day show isn't a bad idea but it will require a different outlook of the weekend. Instead of relying on qualifying to draw people out, engage the fans in local communities. I have been harking on IndyCar and IndyCar races not to rely on their fans to become Deadheads and have 10,000 people travel to every race. There are a lot of people in markets such as Milwaukee and Dallas-Fort Worth and Pocono, which is between New York and Philadelphia and has the entire state of New Jersey as it's neighbor. Engage the people and they may engage you. It's not bulletproof but it just might work.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Sébastien Bourdais but did you know...

Marc Márquez finally got back to the top step of the podium as he won the MotoGP German Grand Prix.

Kyle Busch was his second NASCAR Sprint Cup race of 2015 as he took the victory at Kentucky.

Marco Wittmann and António Félix da Costa split the DTM races from Zandvoort. It was da Costa's first career victory in the series.

Mark Winterbottom swept the V8 Supercar races from Townsville.

Jordan and Ricky Taylor won the IMSA race at Mosport in the #10 Corvette DP. The #54 CORE Autosport Oreca of Jon Bennett and Colin Braun won in Prototype Challenge. The #911 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet won in GTLM.

The #38 Jota Sport Gibson-Nissan of Harry Tincknell, Filipe Albuquerque and Simon Dolan won the ELMS race from the Red Bull Ring. The #60 Formula Racing Ferrari 458 Italia of Mikkel Mac, Johnny Laursen and Andrea Rizzoli won in GTE. The #62 AF Corse Ferrari of Stuart Hall, Francesco Castellacci and Thomas Flohr won in GTC. The #3 Team LNT Ginetta-Nissan of Chris Hoy and Charlie Robertson won in LMP3.

José María López and Ma Qing Hua split the WTCC races from Portugal.

Belgian Xavier Siméon scored his first career Moto2 victory at the Sachsenring. Danny Kent scored his fifth victory of the Moto 3 season and extended his championship lead.

Félix Serrallés won his first career Indy Lights race at Milwaukee.

Brad Keselowski won the NASCAR Grand National Series race from Kentucky. Matt Crafton won the Truck race on Thursday.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar will be under the lights at Iowa.
World Superbike comes stateside and the British Empire looks to avenge the Revolutionary War at Laguna Seca.
NASCAR is at Loudon.
Super Formula returns to competition at Fuji.