Forgive me for being cynical, but the whole concept of
the F1 “Super Licence” is a joke these days. This is the necessary
standard you have to reach before you are allowed to compete in an F1
race, against the like of our supreme best in the world drivers such as
Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen and Alex Yoong. Alex Yoong? I hear you
Well, young Alex will be doing the last three races
this season in place of Tarso Marques in the Minardi, who has graced
position number 22 out of 22 since we first saw him at the beginning of
this year. Tarso will be no loss to the “world’s finest drivers”
collection, but where did Alex bob up from?
Alex hails from Malaysia and will be the first
Malaysian in an F1 grid. So bully for him! But has he really set the world
alight and therefore deserves this leg-up the ladder? Here’s where Alex
has been for the past five years (the following I gleaned from his own web
1996: British Formula Renault Sport Championship:
Numerous top 10 finishes.
1997: British Formula Renault Sport Championship:
Numerous top 6 finishes.
1998: British Formula 3 Championship ญ Numerous
top 6 finishes. Macau F3 Grand Prix ญ 9th.
1999: British Formula 3 Championship - Four races, one
second and the rest top 6. Italian Formula 3000 Championship ญ five
races, one second and one fifth. International Formula 3000 Championship
ญ five races. Macau F3 Grand Prix ญ 7th.
2001: Formula Nippon Championship with Team LeMans.
Twice 7th and once 9th after 5 rounds.
OK, he’s got enough experience in various types of
cars, and has been an upper field runner, without actually reaching the
top step on the podium. Is this enough to get the “Super” licence to
compete against the world’s best? Apparently so, even though the guys
who actually won the different championships Alex competed in are
generally still waiting for their turn, if it ever comes at all.
So what is the difference? A gigantic bundle of money,
so big you couldn’t even jump over it - that’s what! Alex has the
backing of the Malaysian Magnum Corporation, who has bankrolled the whole
operation. Alex is also backed by the Malaysian government who need a
Malaysian in F1 to bolster the dwindling gate at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Money talks, and speaks louder than anything else in F1 these days, I
fear. You can hear it over the sounds of the exhausts!
Following the earth-shattering announcement that,
wonder of wonders, Alex has got the nod and will oust Tarso from slot
number 22, Paul Stoddart, Team Principal, of European Minardi F1 said,
“We are pleased and proud to welcome Magnum Corporation Berhad as a
significant commercial partner of European Minardi F1. This is excellent
news and comes as a direct result of the company’s support of Alex
Yoong’s efforts to enter Formula One. Mr Lim and his colleagues at
Magnum Corporation Berhad have been able to see for themselves the unique
marketing opportunities provided by the sport in general, and by European
Minardi in particular, and decided that these fit well with the
company’s marketing strategy. From a personal standpoint, it is pleasing
that a major corporation has understood the strong potential of our team
and seen fit to invest at an early stage in a programme that we intend
will take European Minardi F1 to a notably increased level of
competitiveness within three years.”
That’s the official stance. What Paul was really
saying was, “Thanks for the bundles of money, chaps, and in return your
boy gets a start.” For the young chap’s sake, I hope it goes well for
him, but on paper he’s no Kimi Raikkonen who won everything he drove
before his F1 debut, which I am sure would also have been bankrolled by
So if you’ve ever had the hankering to drive in F1
and get your name in the books, just get a couple of million behind you
(dollars, not baht, my boy) and I’ll manage you for a small 20% of the
sponsorship sum. I’ll guarantee I’ll get you a test drive, even if I
can’t get you on the grid, now that slot 22 is taken up! Oh I am an old
|Traviq jams in Japan
The locally produced Zafira to be destined to
travel to Japan as a Subaru, is called the Traviq in that country
(and not the Zabaru as I facetiously suggested when we first got
wind of the news). While I am definitely not a fan of badge
engineering, it is a feather in the cap of the local GeeEmm plant.
Subaru have a good name as far as quality is concerned, so they must
be happy enough with our local product. The extra business is good
for the Eastern Seaboard, and good for Thailand too in the long run.
Well done, the General!
|Italian GP this
This weekend it’s Monza, one of the fastest
circuits for the GP circus. Even way back in 1971, Peter Gethin in
the BRM, who won by 0.01 seconds from Ronnie Peterson, was averaging
over 150 miles per hour (240 kays) for the duration.
Monza is also one circuit that has probably
killed more drivers than most; the list is long and includes Emilio
Materassi (1928), Luigi Arcangeli (how could you kill someone with
that name?) in 1931, Campari, Borzachini and Count Czakowski in
1933, Ascari (1955), Taffy Von Trips (1961), Jochen Rindt (1970),
Peterson (1978), plus others whose years I am unsure of - including
Count Zobrowski, Marazza, Giacone and Pittard.
Circuit in Italy
To give you an understanding of just how quickly
these F1 cars get up to speed, this is how Giancarlo Fisichella
described a lap of Monza (reproduced per kind favour of Planet-F1).
“Having crossed the start line at around 200 mph (320 kph), I
accelerate reaching a speed of nearly 220 mph (350 kph) before
braking hard for the new, very tight Prima Variante. Braking at over
3.5g for this corner, I’m on the brakes for over 180 metres before
taking the corner at less than 45 mph (70 kph) in 1st gear. I remain
in 1st gear for the second part of the chicane before accelerating
through Curva Grande and heading off towards the Variante della
Roggia at about 205 mph (330 kph). Again it’s hard on the brakes,
with a force of up to 4g, for the 2nd gear 60 mph (95 kph) first
part of the chicane. Then follows a short 4th gear straight where I
reach up to 160 mph (260 kph) before reaching the first of the Lesmo
corners which is taken in 3rd gear at 100 mph (165 kph). I
accelerate through in 4th gear to just under 160 mph (260 kph)
before dropping down to 3rd gear for the second Lesmo corner which I
take at about 95 mph (150 kph). Another long straight leads me under
the famous banking towards the Ascari chicane. I reach 210 mph (335
kph) in 6th gear before dropping to 3rd gear to take the first part
of the chicane in at 85 mph (140 kph) and the second at 110 mph (180
kph). On the back straight before the Parabolica, I reach 210 mph
(340 kph) in 4th gear before entering this very long corner, the
minimum speed of which is just under 100 mph (160 kph). A good exit
is imperative to carry speed on to the main pit straight.” And now
you’re back where you started!
Being in Italy, the Tifosi will be out in full
force, and I note that even the circuit manager has the name of
Dottore Enrico Ferrari.
Last year’s winner was Michael Schumacher from
Hakkinen (McLaren) and Ralf Schumacher (Williams). It was also
notable in that the normally composed Schumacher broke down at the
post-race conference after being reminded that he had then equalled
Ayrton Senna’s race wins. Of course he has gone on a lot further
since then, surpassing the previous mark set by Alain Prost, to
become the “winningest” driver in history.
Join me in Shenanigans in front of the big screen
for the race. It should commence at 7 p.m., but I would suggest
getting there early for a good seat. I generally have the carvery
dinner while waiting for the red lights to go out.
Last week I recalled that 15 years before the Audi
Quattro, there was a GT high performance car built in the UK offering 4WD
and the revolutionary Dunlop ‘Maxaret’ braking system. It was hailed
as the safest high performance car in the world at that time. I asked what
It was the Jenson FF, which stood for Ferguson Formula.
This 4WD system split the drive with two thirds going to the rear wheels
and one third to the front. They built 320 of them between 1966 and 1971
and they were good for over 200 kph.
So to this week. Another easy one. Air Vice-Marshal
Donal “Pathfinder” Bennett produced what he hoped was the British
“peoples car”. What was it called? (I lied about it being easy.)
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first
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