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Frankl's Motorsports Thoughts and Reports - This Week F1, IndyCar and FIA

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Nicholas Frankl
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Motor Sports Correspondent


What an amazing ten days of world class open wheel motorsports!

Barely has the dust settled on Bahrain and we will find the F1 circus in China this weekend. So what did we learn in the desert heat?

Ferrari have a long way to go before they are competitive. The engine is down on top end power, the straight-line speed is poor and the mechanical grip is below par, so what power they do have they can’t deliver to the track. It’s very sad to see team boss Stefano Dominicali resign, though extremely honorable of him to do so. I’m really not convinced (and I discussed this with my father just days before his resignation) that having him leave the team would somehow magically improve the performance of the team and the cars. Ferrari is THE political beehive and, after 23 years, Stefano certainly knows how to navigate it. Marco, the former Prez of FNA, and a rising star after years in Asia and navigating the machinations of the Ferrari car world, is totally untested in F1. I’m sure he’s a qualified manager and will run the team, but how he gets on with the shark tank of F1 is another matter, unless Montezemolo has simply taken on a bigger role in that arena. Either way – I don’t care how good Matteo is, he’s not going to find 2 seconds a lap to close the performance differential with our Silver Arrow friends, and neither will anyone else for that matter.

Watching the last 10 laps was awesome and reminded me again of the golden years of various teams’ dominations. Sometimes you just hit it right and leave the field behind. Maybe these new rules aren’t so bad after all or maybe we just have exciting races and boring ones whatever the rules are!

Talking of rules, Red Bull were rather foolish to think they knew them better than Charlie Whiting and could outwit him and the FIA. Come on Christian, what were you thinking old boy? I suppose he’s paid to fight his corner, so fair enough, it’s already forgotten!

The IndyCar race here in Long Beach was an excellent weekend. New cars and sponsors and a fresh vitality that I haven’t seen in some time in this sport – a long time in fact. The standing start was a novel (for them) idea and worked very well. It still stuns me how much easier the access is to the sport, teams and even cars on the grid. It doesn’t make it any less impressive and certainly is WAY more fun than trying to access the grid on any F1 race that’s controlled like the proverbial Fort Knox.

The race was exciting, with the right amount of incidents to keep the crowd on its toes. A great Sunday for everyone unless your name was Scott Dixon. For some extraordinary reason his team decided to ’go for points’ and pit him whilst in the lead with 2 laps to go for a splash ‘n’ dash, as he was ‘low’ on fuel. I can appreciate that the championships always come down to the wire and he won at the last race of the year by a point. BUT on race two out of eighteen, surely it’s worth racing for the win??? Certainly his team manager and my dear friend, Ferrari legend Stefan Johansson, felt so and could hardly contain his anger and frustration. And who can blame him??

The hot topics of the weekend were the new US F1 team and the Chris Pook proposal to bring F1 back to Long Beach.

I’m reliably informed by a man who knows the facts about the real costs of F1 and running the LBGP race that everything Pook has been telling the City of Long Beach is at best ‘Hollywood creative accounting’ and that the reality of F1 returning to Long Beach without someone writing out a $150m check is zero.

I’m sure that Mr. Haas would love to be faced with such a small financial hurdle. I don’t want to be clever after the event, a mean critical cynic, but what is it that he thinks he can achieve that the might of the Toyota, Ford, Honda and BMW organizations couldn’t?

With at least half the teams on the grid in financial peril and up for sale, or at the least a partnership, why create another team in the USA with little or no F1 expertise or man power?

Go buy Caterham from Tony, or Toro Rosso from Didi! They would probably off load them for pennies on your dollar Mr. Haas!

About Nicholas Frankl

Nicholas Frankl has attended more than 250 F1 Grand Prix in the past 30+ years (1st race age six weeks). He has been writing for The Auto Channel since it started in 1995/6. He managed the Asprey/Ferrari partnership from 1996-99 working closely with Todt, Irvine, Schumacher and Stefano Dominicalli. Visiting the Ferrari factory annually he has a deep insight into the inner workings of the team. He is also an three time Olympic sportsman, having qualified and driven a two-man & four-man bobsleigh in Lillehammer 1994, Nagano 1998 and Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympic Games. He has raced cars in the UK and USA, competed in the Cannonball, Gumball and Bullrun rallies, is a certified private pilot and member of both The Royal Automobile Club and Automobile Club of Monaco. Throughout his life he has visited the majority of F1 tracks and shared drinks and many fun times with many of yesterday’s legends and todays hero’s.

A Word from Nicholas:

So where does bobsleigh fit into this mix?

Well, that's me. Gilles Villeneuve I may never (unfortunately) be, but the next best thing (I'm told - and in fact can vouch for) is Formula One on ice. 1994 saw me competing as driver of the first Hungarian bob team in the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, and then onto two more Olympic Winter games. Why am I telling you this? Well, if for no other reason than that you'll at least understand how I gain some insight into the sport we love. Strangely enough, the F1 boys have a real respect for their ice cousins; the speed, G' forces and exhilaration are quite similar. This, however, is only my "off season" hobby. The reason for this intro is to allow me to say HI, From here on I hope we’ll become firm friends, as I follow the F1 circus around the world and you get to pick up all the details. Not just the results, but the gossip too and the first-hand natter you just don't get from the usual sources.

Thanks to my father, whose stories you'll also be reading, I've grown up in the world of motor sport and cars - in fact instead of a birth certificate, I think I was born with a pit pass. It's the sort of life that if you enjoy our sport is tough to beat, so I thought this would be a good way of sharing the fun.