Monday, September 21, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: Nationalism and Formula One

One race featured massive track limits violation while another had track limits strictly enforced. Meanwhile, a spectator seriously violated track limits in Singapore. One race got the Fox Sports 2 treatment while another got even worse treatment. I took a nap and missed the NASCAR race. Texas wasn't the only place hosting endurance racing. A Brit was crowned champion in Spain. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Nationalism and Formula One
When Gene Haas said "there is no [American] who really makes an impression" it was disrespectful to Alexander Rossi, who has won two GP2 races this season and is currently second in the GP2 championship with three rounds to go.

Fast-forward just under two week after Haas' comments and Rossi made his Formula One debut for Manor Grand Prix at Singapore in place of Roberto Merhi and the Auburn, California-native is scheduled to run four of the final six races including the United States Grand Prix on October 25th.

I would have understood Haas if he said he didn't want to put a rookie in his car for the first season of Formula One but he didn't say that. He said no one was making an impression. Meaning he is not against hiring an American but there is no American driver in the world who he thinks is capable to drive for his team in Formula One.

Eat it Gene. Eat it.

Why are there such strong sentiments in reaction to Haas' statement? Because nationalism exists in Formula One. It is the world championship. These teams aren't just representing themselves as a business; they are representing the flags they put beside their names. Why does McLaren Autosport BRDC Award exist? To get the next best British driver in the pipeline toward a Formula One seat. Why did Mercedes buy Brawn GP? One reason is because they wanted a German driver in a Mercedes and at the time and McLaren didn't give it to them. Why did Honda leave Williams after 1987? Mostly because Williams wouldn't replace the Brit Nigel Mansell with Japanese driver Satoru Nakajima. Why did Giancarlo Fisichella leave Force India after finishing second at the Belgian Grand Prix to go to Ferrari? Because an Italian boy can't pass up driving for the Italian team.

If Gene Haas ever wants an American behind the wheel of one of his cars, he is going to have support young Americans, whether they are in European feeder series or in American feeder series and when I say support, I don't mean sending out congratulatory tweets I mean putting his money where his mouth is and helping some of these drivers make their way. For the last three-plus decades Americans have been walking through the valley of the shadow of death trying to get to Formula One.

It's not like America hasn't produced a driver talented enough to drive in Formula One in the last 30 years. There have been plenty of talented Americans but the support hasn't been there. Josef Newgarden was an up-and-coming driver but money disappears quickly and he came back to the United States and is now making a nice career for himself. The same can be said for Conor Daly.

It's not pertinent that Haas hires an American driver. Other than Fisichella and Luca Badoer, Ferrari hasn't hired an Italian driver since Ivan Capelli in 1992 and Capelli was fired and replaced by Nicola Larini, who would drive four races for the team and finished second on that fateful day at Imola. An Italian hasn't won for Ferrari in over 30 years when Michele Alboreto won the 1985 German Grand Prix. While Ferrari has had a lack of Italians that hasn't stop the tifosi from showing up at Monza each year but we all know that if it was an Italian to get back Ferrari to the top step of the podium at Monza, the scene would be chilling.

But Ferrari is different and the United States is different. Ferrari captured apart of the Italian psyche. While the United States is the consumer capitalism of the world, no American manufacture has become apart of American identity. Gene Haas means nothing to America. People aren't going to tune in to see how Gene Haas' team does.

When the Oracle Team USA came from behind to win the America's Cup in 2013, the one gripe was the lack of Americans on the American team. There were more New Zealanders and Australians on the team. It was tough to convince many that it was an American victory. If Haas F1 wants to become known by the American general public as America's Formula One team, they will need to eventually hire an American. The team could have all the success in the world with Romain Grosjean or Jean-Éric Vergne or Esteban Gutiérrez but it won't make nearly as many waves as if and American is doing it.

Champions From the Weekend
The #23 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN GT-R of Wolfgang Reip, Alex Buncombe and Katsumasa Chiyo won the Blancpain Endurance Series Pro Cup championship with a second place overall finish. Ian Loggie and Julian Westwood, drivers of the #24 Team Parker Racing Audi won the AM Cup championship with a fifth-place finish in class.

Jonathan Rea clinched the World Superbike championship with a fourth place finish in race one from Jerez. Rea went on to finish fourth again in race two.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Sebastian Vettel but did you know...

Denny Hamlin won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Chicagoland and clinched a spot in the second round of the Chase.

Joey Hand and Scott Pruett won the IMSA's Lone Star Le Mans in the #01 Ganassi Ford-Riley. Colin Braun and Jon Bennett won in Prototype Challenge in the #54 CORE Autosport Oreca. Dirk Werner and Bill Auberlen drove the #25 RLLR BMW to victory in GTLM. The #33 Viper of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating won in GTD.

The #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Brendon Hartley, Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard won the Six Hours of Circuit of the Americas, their second consecutive WEC victory. The #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan of Sam Bird, Julien Canal and Romain Rusinov won in LMP2. Porsche won the GTE-Pro with #91 Porsche 911 RSR driven by championship leader Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen crossing the line first. The GTE-Am championship leading #72 SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia of Andrea Bertolini, Viktor Shaytar and Aleksey Basov won their third consecutive race in class.

The #58 Von Ryan Racing McLaren 650s GT3 of Rob Bell, Kevin Éstre and Shane van Gisbergen won the GT 500 from the Nürburgring. The #14 Emil Frey Racing G3 Jaguar XK of Fredy Barth, Lorenz Frey and Gabriele Gardel won in Pro-AM Cup. The #16 AKKA ASP Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Fabien Barthez and Anthony Pons won in AM Cup.

Tom Sykes and Chaz Davies split the World Superbike races from Jerez.

Kenan Sofuoglu won World Supersport race from Jerez with American PJ Jacobsen finishing second and Lorenzo Zanetti finishing third.

The #46 MOLA Nissan GT-R of Satoshi Motoyama and Masataka Yanagida won the Super GT race from Sportsland Sugo. In GT300, the #61 R&D Sport Subaru BR-Z of Takuto Iguchi and Hideki Yamauchi were victorious.

Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Grand National Series race from Chicagoland. John Hunter Nemechek scored his first career NASCAR Truck Series victory on Saturday morning after being rained out on Friday night.

Coming Up This Weekend
Formula One continues their Asian road trip and will be at Suzuka.
NASCAR heads north to Loudon.
MotoGP will be at Aragón
DTM will keep the Nürburgring busy this weekend.
WTCC is in China.