F1 Festival of Team Orders — The brouhaha coming out of the F1 race in Malaysia was the team orders issued both in the Mercedes team and the Red Bull team. To wit: During the race, which Red Bull’s Mark Webber led from lap six, his teammate, three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, was P2 late. Team principal Christian Horner told the two to hold station in P1 and P2 since there was no pressure from behind and just grind out the last 15 in lock step to save the cars, preserve the tires, and not take each other out.
Same thing happened in the Mercedes team at Malaysia where boss Ross Brawn ordered Lewis Hamilton to back off his pace in P3 to save fuel. Meanwhile, teammate Nico Rosberg closed up in P4 and wanted to overtake Hamilton but Brawn repeatedly told Rosberg to stay in P4, despite some impassioned pleas from Nico. Ross kept saying he wanted to bring the cars home in one piece. So Rosberg dutifully stayed behind Hamilton.
Well, of course, since this is F1 there was some drama after the race with Webber and Vettel nearly coming to blows and Hamilton accepting the P3 trophy with all the enthusiasm of accepting a warm cup of piss. Hamilton, apparently, thought Nico should have been allowed to overtake. BUT, if Hamilton would have suddenly “lost power” or “missed a gear” to let Nico go by, that would have been disobeying team orders as well, and in F1 disobeying team orders can get you canned.
Except for Vettel. When you’re a 3X world champion, you’re probably not going to get wacked for disregarding team orders. At least that’s what an enraged Webber thought post race:
"After the last stop, the team told me the race was over," said Webber. "The team made their decision. Seb made his own decision and he will have protection as usual." Vettel apologized to Webber. You can make up your own mind if that was sincere or Vettel doing damage control.
So, here’s the deal: personally, I think team orders are goofy. Let them race. But, team orders have always existed in F1 (even when they were technically illegal, which they no longer are). And if the team has rules, as in “you have to do what we say,” both drivers need to be onboard with those rules. You can’t have one driver listening to the boss and one not. If the race was on for P1 coming out of the last pit stop, tell Webber and Vettel “boys have at it but don’t wreck each other.” That would be my prefer option (and Webber said he would have been fine with that). But the BOSS said “stay where you are” and Vettel basically flipped him off and overtook Webber for the win.
Red Bull should suspend Vettel for a race for ignoring team orders. To me it’s not a question of if team orders are dumb or not, but rather who’s the alpha on the team. If they don’t sit Vettel, Webber should say “f-bomb team orders” and take it to Vettel if the tables are turned. I think it should be either “boys have at it” or “boys listen to me or I’ll kick your ass.” Can’t be both. Of course this being an F1 team, they can do whatever they want, including letting Vettel disobey with impunity and firing Webber if he does the same.
I hear you saying “that’s why Vettel is a three-time champion, because he’ll do whatever it takes to win.” Then make Vettel team principal in name as well as function and be done with it. I got no idea what Ross Brawn was thinking in the Mercedes situation. Protecting the star (Hamilton)? If they let Nico go he would have easily overtaken Hamilton and Hamilton wouldn’t have likely put up a fight. I suppose they thought if they let them race and they really go at it, one or both runs out of fuel, uses up their tires and gets overtaken by pursuing cars or they crash each other. You gotta remember F1 cars are all basically built by hand from scratch and cost like a billion dollars.
Speaking of Boys Have at it, NASCAR at Fontana — NASCAR at Fontana came down to the last lap (there’s a shocker) wherein a feud from last week between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin re-ignited sending them both spinning. Check the video …
This all started last week at Bristol where Logano thought Hamlin wrecked him on purpose. Hamlin said he hit Logano on purpose, but didn’t mean to wreck him. After the Bristol incident, Logano stuck his head into Hamilin’s car on pit road and did some barking, but Hamlin’s crew hip checked him away. Scuffling!
After this race, Logano said essentially “paybacks are a bitch” (I am paraphrasing). Both of them ended up crashed and Hamlin’s car went nose first into an inside concrete wall (no SAFER barrier). Big hit. He was taken out of the car on a back board and choppered to the hospital (since it was too congested to get an ambulance through traffic quickly) for tests, observation. Injuries were not life-threatening, but unknown beyond that.
Couple things. First of all, a lot of people got all exercised about Logano talking about Hamilin getting what he deserved as Hamilin was being taken to the care center on a back board. Chill. I severely doubt Logano had any idea that Hamlin may have been injured, especially minutes after the race was over when he made his statements. It was the last lap, he most likely didn’t see them taking Hamlin out, he wasn’t watching on TV or have his twitter going and the team likely didn’t tell him.
So I thought that was some classic Jumping to Conclusions (the conclusion being that Logano knew Hamlin was maybe hurt) calling Logano a prick for not worrying about Hamlin when he probably didn’t even know he was hurt. Everyone else including race winner Kyle Busch also carried on as normal with the celebrating and everything and the SPEED guys after the race were all gleefully discussing things before stopping to say “we hope Denny is OK.” So Logano wasn’t the only offender there, IMO.
Second … boys have at it. This is what you get when you have Prison Rules Racing. Many NASCAR fans seem to love it -- my twitter was flooded with “NOW THAT’S RACIN!” after the last lap of Fontana -- but it elevates the risk that someone will get hurt or up in the fence or what have you. Everyone is all about “boys have at it,” but then the #Prayfor(Driver Name) hashtags come out when the result of having at it injures someone. So is it “boys have at it unless someone gets hurt?” When cars go to swapping paint at 195 mph, random stuff happens and it’s possible for someone to get seriously hurt or die. Let’s all just be aware of that fact as we cheer for more THUNDERDOME racing.
Third … Tony Stewart got all up in Logano’s grill after the race because he didn’t like the way Logano blocked him on a late restart. Ahhhhh, OK, well Stewart blocks plenty and blocking is legal so what’s the issue? Stewart seemed to say Logano blocked in a dangerous fashion or discourteously or something. It was too blocky of a block or something. Recall that a block gone wrong set off the car-in-the-fence incident in Nationwide at Daytona. Stewart has promised to bust Logano’s ass on the track at some point, so look for more flying sheet metal. And if Logano gets injured then we’ll #PrayForJoey, I guess.
Danica Patrick had a decent race. Drove from P40 to P26 and the team seemed to have a better handle on making changes during the race. After the race she had a front row seat for the Stewart/Logano skirmish. Quipping with her spotter she said she better stay out of that because if she got involved then the other drivers would feel like they have to push back and that wouldn’t be good. I took that as Danica realizing she can’t go start shoving another driver because if she did and that driver pushed her back, which would be the natural response, then that driver would be yelled at for pushing a woman or whatever which would be unfair but you KNOW it would happen. Danica has been accused by some of getting up in other people’s faces knowing they won’t get physical with her because of her gender so it was an interesting out-loud thought process from her there.
Hinch Wins IndyCar at St. Pete — Much rejoicing in IndyCar after James Hinchcliffe won the opening race on the streets of St. Petersburg. Race notes here. Hinch is very very personable and funny and has a lot of fans so there were a lot of happy people. Festival of Euphoria in Victory Circle. He’s Canadian so the Canadians were on fire. There’s also been this underlying hope that if Hinch would just win a few, combining victory with his personality would get people to notice him, see he’s a star, and it would be good for the league. I hope that is true.
Too bad for IndyCar it came on a race-packed weekend with both the F1 controversy and the last-lap insanity of NASCAR … and the NCAA tournament … competing for news time and space. The personable and media-friendly Hinch winning will help IndyCar compete for news space.
As for the race itself, first of all after four months of off season, virtually any race will be hailed as OUTSTANDING!!! by the faithful of any series. I heard a lot of “it’s great just to see cars back on the track.” And it was. St. Pete was a street race, so I engage that set of expectations when I considered it. There was a fair amount of passing, actually, even aside from on the restarts. We saw some good passing coming off the last corner, onto the long start/finish straight and into Turn 1. Ironically two “gimmicks” that purists decry — push to pass and the optional tires — led to a lot of the non-restart overtaking. Push to pass (which delivers more horsepower for a certain period of seconds) was key on the long straight. In the end, the softer compound red sidewall tires came into play and caused Simona De Silvestro to lose some places late.
It was good to see a first-time winner and good that it was the very popular Hinch. Simona’s race was also a big bright point. Simona suffered last year with a Lotus engine that had all the horsepower of a 1968 VW microbus. She had NO chance at all on any weekend unless the entire field crashed out in front of her. She showed a lot of poise and class in suffering through that without going off on how much it sucked. Evidence of that is in my interview with her at Iowa last year … before a race she had no chance to win.
Biggest Circus Moment of the race goes to J.R. Hildebrand who became the poster child for distracted driving. He was focusing on his steering wheel knobs and talking to his pit under yellow and drove right over the right side of race contender Will Power’s car, effectively hosing Power’s race. That was bizarre. Also the yellows during the race seemed very long. Some of that was due to multiple incidents to deal with under the same yellow period, or things like Hildebrand driving over the back of Power causing the yellow to be extended. I suspect they got the sweepers out for many of the yellows as well. So you could argue that long yellows enhance racing by getting the track swept a little bit. But they broke up the flow of the race, I thought. It’s definitely a tradeoff.
Power getting smacked by Hildebrand also busted up the expected outcome (Power winning) and opened the door for Hinch. Hinch passed Helio Castroneves for the lead into Turn 1 the last restart in an opportunistic move when Helio dirt tracked a little. Street race expectations: many passes require the guy in front to screw up and open the door. That or your tires go off. There were also some mechanical issues that claimed some cars and mixed it up more. Street race expectations: bumpy streets are hard on equipment so expect attrition.
It’s hard for me to tell how well the race will be received by the mass audience since I’m a harder-core fan. Two indications of that — attendance and TV rating — may or may NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. I enjoyed the race based on the unpredictability (some of that caused by brain lock and mechanical failure, but still), Hinch winning and Simona’s performance. I watched the entire IndyCar race whereas I zipped through the DVR of F1 and watched just the last few laps of NASCAR. I did listen to Danica on the scanner app most of the race while typing up IndyCar race notes, though.
Speaking of Hinch and Simona, OF COURSE there had to be Danica Patrick mentions/comparisons. First, Hinch drives for GoDaddy, which is Danica’s team, so there was some Danica-sucks-spirited mentioning that Hinch was the first driver to WIN for GoDaddy. Saw that coming. Second, Simona is female, so of course there was Danica-sucks-spirited mentions of Simona being a female racer with “real talent.”
Both are unfortunate. First, they are unfair to Danica. Second, even if you don’t like Danica, why use Hinch and Simona’s very praiseworthy accomplishment as a way to needle Danica … thereby giving her more publicity? Maybe just focus on celebrating their accomplishments and not distract from it by dragging Danica into it? If you really hate Danica, that’s the way to go. Don’t give her the extra pub. But people just can’t resist.
Simona got a couple of stories for being good in qualifying and she got an entire story from AP for finishing sixth. If that was Danica, would there be howls? Yeah. But it’s Simona so there aren’t any. To be fair, the news hook of “Simona performs now that she’s rid of the boat anchor (Lotus engine)” is another justification for her getting shout outs in stories. I begrudge no one for getting publicity, including Danica and Simona, but then again I don’t have a dual standard.
To be sure I am a big fan of Simona’s who is a Woman of pressdog®, super talented and a very nice person and I’ve owned her T-shirt for many years now (in fact, it wore out and I have to get a new one). Simona has always been very classy in handling the inevitable Danica comparisons. She’s very classy in general. So simmer down with the “you love Danica more!” stuff. Not true. Again, I am happy for Simona to see her get as much press as she can get … just as I am happy for Danica to do the same. I don’t compare the two just because they are both female.
Anyway, huge props to Hinchcliffe for his win and Simona for her drive. Also to Marco Andretti who put in a great race on a street course which have vexed him in the past. Many stores of Marco taking the off season to work with a driver coach and really get focused on self improvement. Glad that paid off for him.
Finally, big shout out to Scott Dixon who drove the shit out of his car which was off pace in qualifying and finished P8. If the car was as pigged out as Chippy and his team was saying, that’s a huge drive. Chippy went off on Honda about their engines being behind Chevy in a rare bit of candor this weekend. Nate Ryan captured it here. The AP’s Jenna Fryer and ESPN’s Brant James were also there to hear his discourse. I guess Chip was in rare form. One thing for sure: If Chip was being critical of Honda (or talking to the media at all) it was because Chip thought it would benefit Chip. There’s some kind of agenda there, I suspect, and we’ll see what it is as the season plays out.
Day job time. Thanks for reading. Happy Birthday today to Danica Patrick.