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by Dr. Iain Corness

How to get a drive in F1

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 ask!

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 site):

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 someone.

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 sceptic!

Traviq jams in Japan

Subaru Traviq

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 weekend

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.

Monza 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.

Autotrivia Quiz

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 was it?

Jensen FF

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 correct answer to fax 427 596 or email [email protected]

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