Saturday, September 29, 2018

This Month in Motorsports Headlines: September 2018

Summer has ended and autumn means the end of championships. A handful of drivers have taken home hardware but there are still a few prizes left to be decided. Races are few and far in-between with days getting shorter in the Northern Hemisphere. We are in a transitional period. Some series are looking to the next season. Others have yet to reach the finish line but see not much will change in these final few rounds. A few are focused on the remaining races.

We will start with the end of the IndyCar season.

Why Scott Dixon is a five-time IndyCar champion
Because five times he has finished the season with the most points and if he has not had the most points he has won whatever tiebreaker IndyCar has set. Plain and simple. Nothing to see hear. Nothing special. Moving on.

Alonso says IndyCar test will not decide 2019 plans
Money will decide Alonso's 2019 plans.

McLaren: Ocon's Mercedes ties were "a tick in the wrong box"
You rarely hear about the "tick in the wrong box." But I do have to say, tick, one tick? That is all it takes to rule out a driver and it isn't something serious that is the one tick ruling Ocon out. It isn't some kind of crime or past misfeasances making him undesirable. It is a relationship with another manufacture, which happens but that shouldn't have gotten in the way.

McLaren did have its ducks in order with Carlos Sainz, Jr. and Lando Norris lined up but Ocon's Mercedes tie could have been overcome. If Mercedes cares about Ocon it will make sure the Frenchman is on the grid in 2019 and even if that meant a seat in a non-Mercedes powered car. Time is running out on Ocon and that is a shame.

Haas: Rivals protesting us because they can't beat us
Or because your cars are not following the technical regulations. One or the other I guess.

As an American, Haas makes it really difficult to pull for the American team. This team talks a lot and doesn't produce much. It has had its results but it seems like a weekly headline because Guenther Steiner opened his yap cancels out that the team is fifth in the Constructors' Championship and ahead of McLaren and Toro Rosso!

F1 needs "fairer" system to help young drivers, says Gasly
How? I would love for Formula One to have 14 teams and it not cost a half a billion dollars to be run a team and teams occasionally running a wild card entry and enough room for everyone but that isn't the case.

If there is one thing that needs to change is the culture, not the system. The culture is you enter and if you are not producing results you are gone and gone forever, regardless of age. You could be 21 years old but if you aren't getting the results you are cast out of the kingdom and never to return regardless of what is accomplished afterward.

World Endurance Drivers' Champion Sébastien Buemi? Never coming back.
Le Mans winner and Super Formula champion Kazuki Nakajima? Mind as well be dead.
Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi? Not if he was the last man on earth.
Formula E champion, sports car race winner Jean-Éric Vergne? Nobody is interested.
That is Formula One.

Everyone is moving forward and because we don't have cigarette money flowing through the paddock Formula One teams can rush through teenagers. One comes in and two years later a different pimply-faced punk is set up to fail. That is Formula One.

Singapore track length reduced by two meters
Nobody noticed. Although, Singapore needs to butcher the circuit. The entire back half of the circuit could be bypassed and instead of turn eight being a right-hander it could be a left-hander and shorten the lap by a mile and we would all be happy.

Does Leclerc deal mean Ferrari is losing faith in Vettel?
No. It means they are no longer going to put up with Kimi Räikkönen and found a driver that can produce competitive results without an attitude. To be fair to Räikkönen, he has been the third best driver this year and if it weren't for a few decisions he would likely have a victory this season.

The truth is Ferrari thinks it has found a driver that can replicate what Räikkönen is doing but for a fraction of the cost and if Leclerc is soon getting better results than Vettel then Ferrari has found a special driver and a champion at a discount. If Leclerc ends up winning races and wins a championship then Ferrari will have to pay him but it got him at a discount to start.

F1 shouldn't fear reduced downforce - Brawn
This is the most obvious thing that will never happen. Formula One could be greater than it is if it made the cars a handle to drive. When was the last time the car was a handful? Not saying the current cars are easy but when was the last time two-thirds of the field got out of the cars and were gassed?

A simple thing I would do is take DRS and leave it permanently open in the races. That would shake things up. Drivers would be dancing in every turn and braking earlier. There would be a few accidents and probably a major one but drivers would really have to change how they drive some of these circuits and we would see the talented drivers rise to the top while the timid would fall back.

Formula One doesn't have to reinvent the wheel to make it interesting but when will someone have the stones to make the call and flip the series on its head?

Charlotte Roval hopes to "bring flavor of the Formula 1 circuits"
By putting up sponsorship banners in the corners and painting sponsors in the runoff areas. That's it. The blandest of the Formula One flavors.

I am surprised it has taken this long. NASCAR doesn't run many road courses so mirroring Formula One was not going to be a weekly thing but this could be something that NASCAR could try at ovals.

IndyCar kind of does it at street courses with banners on catchfencing in corners but the handful of road course races are quite bare when it comes to sponsors. You do not see Barber or Road America or Mid-Ohio covered in banners or painted runoff areas. I know a lot of these tracks do not have paved runoffs but you could paint the grass. You could make the keyhole at Mid-Ohio one solid color for a company or paint the inside of the hill in turn five at Barber and have a notable sponsor in the background.

MotoGP prepared to enforce Monday races in future
I am surprised it has taken this longer for international series to adopted rain dates. We don't have canceled races often but the fact the possibility is still out there is a bit of an example in how these series are still behind in the times despite having more money than God.

These series do run a tight schedule. MotoGP runs Japan, Malaysia and Australia in three consecutive weeks and it cannot afford to spend an extra day at a track. NASCAR might be able to do it but there is a difference between traveling around the United States and traveling around the Pacific Rim.

I suggested after the Texas IndyCar race in 2016 that was moved from June to August that IndyCar should have a few rain date weekends to make up rained out races that way teams didn't have to stay until Monday and the series could return later in the year on a weekend and allow a crowd to show up and allow for a TV rating worth sharing.

The only problem with MotoGP is you can't set aside a weekend and just fly to Japan or Thailand or the United States. That might be possible for making up a European round but flyaway races would have to be completed on Monday. Or we extend the schedule and have rain dates after the scheduled finale. It wouldn't be ideal but it would allow races to take place. I am not sure you could run Silverstone in November but in some cases, a late-November date could solve the problem.

Viñales admits he has "zero motivation, zero expectations"
That is a real bummer for Yamaha. I once had a coach who had the following motto when it came to athletes: M.I.T. - Motivate. Isolate. Terminate.

If you can't get an athlete onboard with the plan then you got to at least try to motivate them. If that doesn't change anything then you have to isolate them from the rest of the team that way everyone else doesn't follow that person's lead. If isolating doesn't get them motivated to change and buy in then terminate them. That mindset isn't going to be tolerated.

It is stunning how in a season and half Viñales went from possible championship spoiler to a shell of a competitor.

Audi, BMW not interested in hiring Mercedes DTM drivers
Both manufactures already have full lineups but Mercedes currently has the top two drivers in the championship, both those drivers already have DTM championships and there are plenty of other talented Mercedes drivers in the series that would be a plus to have.

It would be smart to take either Gary Paffett or Paul di Resta. They are career DTM drivers. I am not sure where Mercedes-Benz is going to put them once they are out of the series. I cannot see those guys settling for full-time GT3 drives in Blancpain GT Series or in ADAC GT Masters or even IMSA and I doubt either will be considered for Formula E. On top of that, the manufacture already has its hands full when it comes to Formula One drivers, so they aren't going in that direction.

Looking over the other Mercedes DTM drivers, a few are set. Edoardo Mortara is in Formula E and Daniel Juncadella is set in the Blancpain GT Series. The only other available drivers are Pascal Wehrlein, a past DTM champion who made it to Formula One and could be heading to Toro Rosso; and Lucas Auer, who has won races but never been the brightest star in the DTM sky.

I am not sure where Wehrlein or Auer are going but Audi or BMW would be intelligent taking either Paffett or di Resta or both. Audi and BMW will be increasing to eight cars next year. I bet either or both will hire a current Mercedes-Benz DTM driver.

Bern favourite to replace Zürich on FE season five calendar
This is the beginning of the end. Everyone was nuts over Zürich and the historic nature of the race and being the future of motorsports in Switzerland and it is gone. It flopped. Yes, Bern is in Switzerland but if Zürich couldn't last more than a year why would Bern last any longer?

Formula E is starting to look more like a con artist. The question is when does that catch on? Montreal was the first to realize the crappy deal it was given and got out immediately. There are only so many cities Formula E can fool before it runs out of locations.

There you have it. A baker's dozen worth of headlines. We enter October. Seasons are ending and more questions are forming.