ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 31 Email to Friend   Printable Version

Atlas F1   Rises and Falls of
Tracks and Drivers

  by Karl Ludvigsen, England

Award-winning writer Karl Ludvigsen draws some conclusions following last week's German Grand Prix, and answers the downpour of reactions following his previous column on Alesi...

With the official opening in August of the new Lausitzring complex, combining an oval track with a road circuit, the German motorsports authorities have a viable alternative to Hockenheim. The word, however, seems to be that the German Grand Prix will stay at its present venue, which will be substantially upgraded. I hope that the upgrading will make the track seem more like a real road instead of the extremely artificial setup that it is now.

Isn't this supposed to be "road racing"? Instead, at Hockenheim we have the bizarre combination of the twisty "Stadium" switchbacks, with a fast oval interrupted by three chicanes. Okay, the oval could be the road-racing counterpart of Germany's Autobahns with a few road-repair sections thrown in, but otherwise it doesn't resemble any road I've ever seen.

As for the Stadium section, I've raced on this and can testify that it's a lot trickier than it looks, with rises and falls and peculiar cambers that are very deceptive - especially when you're sitting as low as you are in a modern Formula One car. As set up to do well at Hockenheim, of course, an F1 car also lacks the downforce that would make it easier to negotiate this section. Thus I admired all the more the superb driving of Rubens Barrichello, as he kept his Ferrari on the black stuff to win a selectively-wet German race.

Michael Schumacher was commendably candid about his intentions for Turn 1 just after the start; he said he wanted to position himself well to the left to get the best approach to the corner, because speed through it is the key to achieving a good rate of knots along the following straight. With its slight inward banking it's a very deceptive corner, as Damon Hill found on his second lap in 1995. But Michael's effort was as ill-fated this time, as it deserved to be. It was a greater shame that he took out Giancarlo Fisichella, for whose race I had high hopes. As others have remarked, he is the unsung star of the 2000 season.

Speaking of stars, I have been taken to task for being mean to Jean Alesi in my prior column, after Austria. So extreme was the reaction that his English chatroom has declared a fatwah on me. I had overlooked how unrewarding it must be for much of the season to be an Alesi fan. As a follower of the Detroit Tigers I have some sympathy; it's depressing enough to watch the Tigers struggling to avoid the basement of their division without having to suffer a columnist's cheap shots to boot. The analogy with Alesi is obvious.

As some of my less hysterical correspondents have been willing to admit, responsibility for a racing crash has to lie primarily with the driver coming from behind - Alesi in Austria. I was hasty in suggesting that Prost should fire him for annihilating his entire team in one maneuver; no points were at stake so what did it matter? Points have seldom been at stake this season for poor Prost. I find it hard to disagree with the person who said that Alesi is the best part of the whole Prost setup - though that's not saying a whole lot. And I was sorry to see Jean knocked out of the German race through no fault of his own.

I singled out Alesi with Villeneuve and Irvine as the only three of today's drivers whose careers don't include a healthy dose of karting. Tim Nevinson reminded me that they also qualify as three of the "characters" of a cast of Formula One drivers among whom a well-programmed corporate robot would not seem out of place. After Hockenheim, I have a lot of respect for the warmth and humanity of winner Barrichello. His exuberant and emotional victory reminded me of what Roberto Moreno said after his recent CART win following a long dry spell: "Whenever I braked, my tears were hitting my visor."

Another "character" who deserves a mention is Johnny Herbert, who showed at Hockenheim that he still has what it takes. Sadly we will be losing Johnny next season but Formula One's loss will be CART's gain, and with the strong connections that exist between Jaguar and Ford, I imagine that we will see Johnny in the cockpit of a Ford-powered car. He will be a great asset to the CART series, which in 2001 will visit Europe twice - including the above-mentioned Lausitzring.

Now, for all practical purposes, we start the 2000 season over again with the top three drivers and top two teams virtually equal on points. It will be exciting.

Karl Ludvigsen© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
Send comments to: Terms & Conditions

Karl Ludvigsen's resume extends throughout the international automotive industry: he was Vice President of Ford of Europe, also responsible for Ford's European motor sports activity; He was the Vice President of Fiat Motors of North America; He was senior public affairs official with General Motors and previously a GM designer, where he planned experimental front-drive prototypes. In publishing and journalism, Mr. Ludvigsen has held editorial positions for several motoring publications. His work as author, co-author or editor of 17 books has won numerous awards. Among his books: "Juan Manuel Fangio" (1999), "Jackie Stewart: Triple Crowned King of Speed" (1998), and "Stirling Moss - Racing with the Maestro" (1997).

 Back to Atlas F1 Front Page   Tell a Friend about this Article