Friday, January 4, 2019

This Month in Motorsports Headlines: December 2018 Part Two

It is January and it is 2019 but we have one final look back to 2018 and the headlines for the second half of December. It is kind of eye opening which series are the most active during the Christmas period. A lot of motorsports series were quiet and it is not that all the seats are accounted for in IndyCar or that NASCAR is happy with its rulebook but a few series just have more to say.

How Alejandro Agag is the Elon Musk of motorsports
That is not a good thing. Nobody should want to be the Elon Musk of anything. Only a buffoon would think that is a compliment. He is the Elon Musk of motorsports in a sense he opens his yap about everything and thinks he is the second coming of the Messiah but once again, those aren't good things.

Like the actually Elon Musk, we would be better off hearing less from Mr. Agag.

Di Grassi keen on F1 demo for Roborace
Remember when Formula E pushed back against the proposal about running events with fossil fuel series because it wanted to stand on its own and promote electric automobiles? Now its stillbirth, driverless series, which was supposed to have 20 cars and run during Formula E weeks starting two seasons ago, needs to have a 15-minute demo session at Silverstone, Hockenheim or Monza during a grand prix weekend?

Look, Roborace has been a failure. Let's just toss that idea into the incinerator.

The one thing Formula E has gotten wrong from the start is its aversion to running with existing championships. We live in a world where gasoline/diesel-powered automobiles and electric automobiles coexist and Formula E fails to bridge that gap. There is no reason why Formula E should be separate from everything else and the series and potentially electric automobiles could benefit from running with certain series.

Why couldn't Formula E and the European Le Mans Series share a weekend or Formula E and the British GT Championship or with any one of the 25 Blancpain GT Series around the world? Go to actual racetracks; go race in front of actual race fans and then the series might grow. Stop living in a fantasy...

Speaking of fantasies... on to Formula One!

London mayor thinks F1 race "should be possible"
Sure, doesn't mean it should happen.

When did Formula One adopt video game levels of thinking where every racetrack takes place in the downtown of the largest cities around the world? It feels like the calendar is morphing into Gran Turismo. There has to be a racetrack in London and Rome and Tokyo and soon somewhere in the Swiss Alps and after that race in Madrid and Seattle and Seoul.

Is Formula One going to become that much more popular just by adding a race in London?

If you live in the United Kingdom, are you more likely to get into Formula One if there is a race in London? I feel like you know what it is and you know where to see it if you want to go in person and you either choose to watch it or you don't. I don't see how a race in London or any other major city of the world would somehow get people to say, "You know what? I got to watch more of this Formula One stuff."

Under-threat British GP tops F1 attendances
And this is a nice transition to the fact that the United Kingdom already has a successful grand prix, arguably the most successful grand prix, and for some reason that is never good enough for anyone involved. It is never good enough for Formula One. It is never good enough for Silverstone because despite the crowd it is still losing money and this race is always in jeopardy of falling off the calendar.

Maybe one day Formula One will realize what it has and why it cannot afford to lose that or some authoritarian regime will come along tossing bags of cash and the series only wants that.

Denmark's F1 race plan now relies on Copenhagen alternative
It is in the Netherlands and it is called Zandvoort.

No offense to the Danish people and the city of Copenhagen but it is better if Formula One doesn't head to your lovely country.

Red Bull must be F1 title contender with Honda - Brawn
I think that is the team's plan. Really Red Bull needs to be a title contender with whatever engine manufacture it partners with. It could put Kia engines in the back of the car and it still has to be a title contender.

I am not sure who needs to be a title contender more, Red Bull or Honda? Honda just needs to be competitive. If you gave Honda the exact results Red Bull had last year Honda would take it. Honda just needs to start sniffing the podium. Red Bull needs to compete for the title and Formula One in general cannot afford to have the fight go from three teams down to two.

Red Bull tried everything to keep Ricciardo
Did it try firing Max Verstappen? If no, then it didn't try everything but nobody, Ricciardo included, should have expected that to be a possibility.

Red Bull is kind of in a win-win. If Ricciardo doesn't do much at Renault, and I am not sure anyone is expecting him to win races, then it looks like Red Bull made the right choice because in all likelihood Verstappen will be finishing ahead of the Australian. And if Verstappen keeps winning races and finishing ahead of Ricciardo, even if Ricciardo is finishing third and fourth in most races, then it appears the team made the right choice.

The only way Red Bull loses is if Ricciardo carries Renault to heights it has only know previously with Alain Prost and Fernando Alonso and Red Bull is in his mirrors.

It is hard to see where Ricciardo goes from here in the long run of his career. Ferrari will never call as long as Sebastian Vettel is there. Mercedes already has the problem of three drivers and two seats. Red Bull isn't going to bring him back as long as Verstappen is there. I hate to think Ricciardo's career could be mired in the mediocrity of Renault and worse of all it end his Formula One career when he is 33 years old and who knows where that smile will land afterward.

On to another team that has shuffled its lineup but in the two-wheel variety...

Márquez: Vetoing Lorenzo would've been "sign of weakness"
This is admirable to acknowledge. Marc Márquez wants the challenge. He could have made it easy for himself and made sure some schlub would be on the other Honda in a move for self-preservation. Márquez could have made sure he was the top Honda rider for at least the next five years but instead he embraced the battle with another world champion.

You cannot say Márquez isn't confident. He knows how great he is and how few have been able to beat him since he entered MotoGP. No offense to Dani Pedrosa but this will be another level of competition for Márquez in 2019. It would not be surprising if Honda dominates the championship in a way that has not been since... Honda in 2014 when it won 14 of 18 races but event that in someway does not compare because 13 of those victories came at the hands of Márquez.

We could see a historic season from Honda in 2019.

On to Germany....

BMW: DTM still needs more manufacturers for 'stability'
Does DTM need more manufactures or does it want more manufactures? There is a difference.

Doesn't every series want more manufacturers for stability? IndyCar wants a third manufacture, NASCAR wants a fourth, WEC needs a whole bunch of manufactures for the new hypercar class, Formula One wants another engine supplier.

The only series I can think of that are good on manufactures are the aforementioned MotoGP and pretty much every GT3 series in the world. IMSA's GTD class has nine manufactures.

The question becomes how does DTM attract more manufactures? It doesn't make sense to become a GT3 series. There is ADAC GT Masters already in Germany. The Group One regulations in theory will make it possible for Super GT manufactures Honda, Nissan and Lexus to enter DTM but would any of those manufactures expand their operations into a European series? I think Nissan would. I think it is the most suited for it at least. Honda would be second but I don't think it could justify it and Lexus is in a similar boat to Honda.

Even if any of those three expand, how many cars would they have to bring to make it worth it? Right now, each DTM manufacture brings six cars to the grid. I would have to think you would have to commit at least five entries. Four is slightly too low because if you only had four manufactures and each ran four cars then you only have 16 cars and the grid would be smaller than it is already. If you have five manufactures then four entries may be permissible.

I am a bit excited at the though of the DTM including one or two of the Super GT manufactures and something inside me is screaming for Alfa Romeo to return but that is a bit of the 90s nostalgia coming out of me and I am not sure if a return of Alfa Romeo would do anything for the series nearly 25 years after it departed.

Paffett wants one-off DTM return in 2019
I think that one Formula E race already has Gary Paffett having second thoughts. A ride at Aston Martin sounds pretty good right now, doesn't it?

I want Paffett to run a one-off in the DTM and it goes back to something I wrote when Alex Zanardi announced a one-off and Sébastien Ogier announced a one-off, I want DTM to make this be its thing.

I want DTM to have regular one-off rides. I think it should be a close to regular thing for each manufacture. I want BMW to have Zanardi in a car for one race and then have Alexander Sims come in and then bring John Edwards or Bill Auberlen over. I want Audi to have Lucas di Grassi, Christopher Haase and Dries Vanthoor get a shot. Aston Martin should put Nicki Thiim, Alex Lynn and Darren Turner in as one-offs if they are not full time to begin with.

But I also want to see these one-offs be a chance once-in-a-lifetime drives that make people tune in or show up at the racetrack. I want to see the likes of Kyle Busch, Alexander Rossi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power, André Lotterer, Rob Huff, Yvan Muller, Brendon Hartley and others get a one-off and be that fun cameo at each race.

DTM should be the fun series and give fans something different to watch in each race and give fans something that no other series offers.

That puts a bow on 2018 and we are in a New Year, a new batch of seasons and the wonderful return of an unknown lies ahead of us.