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Monday, July 26, 2010

Ferrari’s team orders make a mockery of racing

Anyone who saw the Formula 1 race this weekend saw a blatant disregard for the rules of the sport by Ferrari that should go against all race fans’ instincts of what should be allowed in a race.

What amazes me, though, is how many people in the racing community seem to be OK with allowing team orders to determine the results of a race. Several big-time names in the media, including members of the SPEED team that covers Formula 1 racing, have said they see nothing wrong with a team orchestrating the finishing order of their drivers to maximize their total points scored and ability to compete for the title.

While I recognize the argument that these people make – that team orders have been going on for decades in almost every form of motorsport – it’s an entirely different thing to embrace it and say it’s OK. The fact is Felipe Massa should have won the F1 race Sunday, but he pulled over and let Fernando Alonso win. This is disgusting to me, just as it was when Michael Schumacher was given a win by his then-teammate Rubens Barrichello a decade ago, and anyone who embraces this kind of race fixing has truly forgotten what motorsport is all about – letting the fasting guy win.

You could see in the post-race interview that Felipe Massa, who should have had a triumphant victory just one year after nearly being killed by a piece of debris on the track, was not happy with the result, but he bit his tongue and stood by the team line. And continuing his history of being the biggest crybaby in Formula 1, Alonso was apparently pleading during the race for the team orders to be given to Massa to let him pass. The fact that Alonso would ask for this lowers my opinion of him as a racer. He should want to earn every spot, not be given a win he doesn’t deserve.

Ferrari has already been handed a $100K penalty, but considering their budget is hundreds of millions, I hardly think they care. The proper thing to do would be to take away all their points for the race, which I highly doubt will happen. Unfortunately, though, anything less than that is an acceptance of the practice of team orders, so look for Ferrari and others to do it again in the future.

Worst call ever in Indycar

Remember the horrible call that stole a perfect game from Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga earlier this summer? There is now an equivalent in auto racing.

After a late-race restart that featured nothing out of the ordinary … just a bunch of guys racing hard for the lead … the powers that be at Indycar ruled that Helio Castroneves, the leader, was blocking and he penalized. As a result, he lost a race he should have won.

The normally jovial Castroneves was as livid as you could imagine after the race, and for good reason. He was robbed, clear and simple.

I don’t know what goes on in the mind of the higher-ups in Indycar, specifically race director Brian Barnhart – who made this particular call, but this ranks as one of the worst decisions in racing and one thing is clear: If they are going to call a penalty anytime there is close racing, they might as well close up shop and cancel the whole series.

The type of racing that brought out the penalty are what people want to see. Take that competitive racing away, and the series will return to being the unwatched joke it once was.

Good to see Villeneuve at Brickyard

I was happy to see Jacque Villeneuve make the Brickyard 400 field and run a clean race. He didn’t finish too great – 29th – But it’s not bad for his first career Cup points race.

He said the race was a lot of fun, despite some struggles.
"It was so much fun. It was very stressful because we came here without any practice and the team not knowing the car or the track,
and me not being in the Cup car for over two years. It was a big question mark. But, that's how I like it, when it's tough. We
managed to get going. After practice yesterday, I was worried for the race because we were very slow. But, we fixed it overnight and
we kept fixing it during the race and by the end, the car was running really strong.

"The engine overheated and that killed me. Then it was a question of staying out there. Halfway through the race, the car was really
difficult to drive with a broken splitter. I hit the wall a couple of times, so I backed it down because there was no point in trashing it. Then we came in the pit and fixed it and the car was very strong. I could run two-wide even against the quick guys and hold my own.
Too bad we lost too much time when the splitter came up. The car was loose after that, but it was fun. I could drive it hard."

I hope Villeneuve can get funding and return to Cup, as I’d love to see what this former Formula 1 champion can do in NASCAR.
Even though his name is still be mentioned for a possible return to Formula 1, he has said he wants to give the stock car route a try.

"I really, really enjoy driving [in NASCAR]," Villeneuve said. "That's why I moved back on this side of the ocean in 2006, was to concentrate on NASCAR. And it's taken a while to get going. It’s starting to open up a little bit. It would be great if we could carry on doing more ovals."

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