Tire choice reined in Formula One drivers

Just about everybody, it seems, is giving Ferrari team strategist Luca Baldisserri the business for not fitting Kimi Raikkonen with fresh tires when the world champion made his first pit stop in yesterday's soggy British Grand Prix, which was won by Lewis Hamilton.

Just about everybody, it seems, is giving Ferrari team strategist Luca Baldisserri the business for not fitting Kimi Raikkonen with fresh tires when the world champion made his first pit stop in yesterday’s soggy British Grand Prix, which was won by Lewis Hamilton.

ITV’s James Allan and Martin Brundle were on his case almost immediately during the race telecast. All the auto racing websites followed suit during the day and into the evening. Last night’s Speed News on TV continued with the chatter.

This is what everybody was saying:

“If Ferrari had changed Raikkonen’s tires, he might have won. The decision not to change his tires cost him the race.”

Even Raikkonen got into the act himself.

“I had the car to win the race but the decision not to change the tires was the wrong one.”

Well, it could have been the correct one — if it had stopped raining. That was the gamble: if it stopped raining and started to dry up, Ferrari (Baldisserri) might have looked like a genius.

But it didn’t stop raining; in fact, it started raining harder and Raikkonen was left literally up the creek without a paddle, as was his teammate Felipe Massa, who looked like he was out to set a record for number-of-spin-outs-in-one-race-by-one-driver-without-any-help-from-anybody-whatsoever (five).

As a result of the downpour, Honda’s Rubens Barrichello went like gangbusters with full wet tires (extreme wets). In fact, he finished on the podium (which is unheard of for Honda these days).

This raises an intriguing question that nobody seems to have followed-up: How come nobody else went to full wets?

Why was Barrichello passing people like they were standing still and every other team left its drivers out there slipping and sliding around Silverstone on intermediates? This included McLaren, which saw Hamilton lose control at least once and nearly crash inside the last 10 laps of the race?

I’ve always been curious about the “herd instinct” within the media. Somebody points the finger of scorn at somebody (in this case, two TV announcers at Ferrari) and by the end of the day everybody is pointing the same fingers.

And yet, there were all sorts of questions to be asked after the fact about all sorts of decisions made during that Grand Prix yesterday and yet, so far as I know, only Allan/Brundle were doing any asking.

Until now.


Hamilton won the Grand Prix in his McLaren-Mercedes, followed by Nick Heidfeld (BMW-Sauber), Barrichello (Honda), Raikkonen (Ferrari), Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren) and Fernando Alonso (Renault). Hamilton’s start, which saw him move from fourth on the grid to nearly snatch the lead from his pole-winning teammate, was mouth-open astounding and very reminiscent of the days when there was traction control. . .

The British GP will move from Silverstone to Donington Park in 2010. Donington currently hosts the British Motorcycle Grand Prix and improvements in the neighbourhood of 100 million pounds (more than $200 million!) are planned over the next five years. According to the track’s website, the investment will be led by a private investor who is also a large shareholder. Gee, I wonder who that could be? . .

David Coulthard, who is a really nice guy, announced his retirement as a Red Bull F1 driver, effective the end of this season. My question: how did he ever last this long? . .

There is now a three-way tie for the world championship at the halfway mark of the season: Hamilton, Raikkonen and Massa all have 48 points. Robert Kubica is only three points behind, which makes it all very exciting.


TNT announcers Bill Weber (who does a really good job, usually), Wally Dallenbach and Kyle Petty were a scream Saturday night near the end of the Pepsi 400 (oops — the COKE ZERO 400 . . . they’ve got to stop changing the names of those races!)

As the cars approached the flag for what was supposed to be a green-white-checker finish, none of those three was speaking. All were silent. But then some car bumped another car.

“Ooops!” said one.

“Whoa!” said another.

“Eeek!” said a third.

Then silence again.

The anticipation was just about killing them.

Finally, everybody crashed.

“We knew this was going to happen,” said Weber. “Sure as shooting,” said Dallenbach. “Sooner or later, it was bound to,” said Petty.

It was as much fun listening to those guys as it was watching the pileups — of which there were many in the final laps.

When the smoke had cleared, Kyle Busch had won his sixth Sprint Cup race of the season, Carl Edwards was second, Matt Kenseth was third, Kurt Busch was fourth, David Ragan was fifth and Robbie Gordon was sixth.


Speaking of accidents, if the IRL doesn’t suspend driver E.J. Viso, and fast, then somebody is going to get seriously hurt. He put Vitor Meira into the fence at Watkins Glen yesterday and it’s a miracle that Meira wasn’t hurt in what was a high-speed accident.

All sorts of people — drivers, reporters, commentators (see item about herd instinct, above) — have been calling for the head of Toronto’s Marty Roth because he’s allegedly an unsafe driver. All I can say is I have never — never — seen Roth do anything as dangerous or as stupid as was done yesterday by Viso, Milka Duno and Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon.

Yes, Scott Dixon. The pot who calls the kettle black.

Duno, during a caution period, managed to bend herself all out of shape and crash, taking A.J. Foyt IV with her. She was maybe going 50 m.p.h. at the time.

Dixon, who’s been very vocal in recently weeks about Danica Patrick, was following the pace car near the end of the race when he decided to scrub in his tires. He did such a good job that he spun out and collected Ryan Briscoe in the process. He was going about 50, too.

So my message today to the IRL is: suspend Viso or else put him on strict probation; lift Duno’s competition licence and tell her not to bother coming back, and suggest to Dixon thatmaybe it’s not such a good idea to criticize other drivers, particularly when none of them have ever pulled as bull-headed a stunt as he did yesterday.

By the way, Ryan Hunter-Reay won the race, Darren Manning was second, Tony Kanaan was third, Buddy Rice was fourth, Marco Andretti finished fifth and Bruno Junqueira was sixth.

It was an okay race, but not terribly exciting.


There was no Molson Indy/Toronto Grand Prix this weekend, for the first time since 1986. Did anybody notice? . . . In front of a capacity crowd at Autodrome St. Eustache, Scott Steckly won the Kodak 250 Saturday night, his third win in four NASCAR Canadian Tire Series races this season. Steckly, of Milverton, beat D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas by about two seconds. Kerry Micks of Mt. Albert was third, Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond., Que, was fourth, J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge was fifth and Ron Beauchamp, Jr., of Windsor was sixth. The series now moves to Western Canada for two races — at Sun Valley Speedway in Vernon, B.C., in two weeks and then as part of the Rexall Indy weekend at City Centre Airport in Edmonton at the end of the month . . . Mark Wilkins of Toronto won the pole for the Grand Am Rolex sports car race at Daytona last Thursday and was winning the Daytona Prototype class when a suspension part failed and he was forced to drop out. Scott Pruett won that race by an eyelash over Alex Gurney.

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