ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 39

  The Formula One Insider

by Mitchell McCann, U.S.A.


For all of us F1 fans living in the U.S., Americans and ex-pats alike, the sight of the largest ever F1 crowd at a venue no more than a couple of thousand miles away was certainly one to warm the cockles of our hearts – not that I'm sure American’s hearts have cockles. As a casual fan of American open-wheel racing, I have long thought that Tony George's major contribution to Formula One would be his ego-driven effort to kill CART/Indy racing. But no matter what you think of his stewardship of the Indy 500, you have to give him credit for doing a fine job for Formula One.

Given America's strictly capitalist viewpoint and Bernie's view that he has more capital than America, its easy to see why F1 was absent from America for almost a decade. Its unlikely that any other facility could withstand the tremendous financial requirements of FOCA and still provide its owner's with really expensive suits and cheap haircuts.

The circuit laid out at Indy is not perfect. Clearly the infield section was contrived to provide the minimum required track length without cutting across any of Tony's perfectly manicured golf greens. I don't know what the relationship is between the golf course and IMS or how important it is to anybody be able to 'drive' inside the speedway without a car but it might have made more sense to give up a couple of holes and make a really good course rather than throwing in a couple of obscene back to back hairpins just because the track was coming up a few hundred yards on the 'way too short' end of the scale.

But having said that, this is an interesting circuit that produced a decent race including passing for the lead and is likely to do so again. The dichotomy of the two parts of the track led to various set-up solutions which produced different results for different cars on each section. The reaction of the drivers and teams to the facility seems to be universally positive and the largely Ferrari-leaning crowd seemed to be pretty pleased with everything at the end of the day. I just wish we could have the race in May. Anti-clockwise. On the full oval. With cars that sound like lawn-mowers.

So much for what F1 thinks of America. What does America think of F1? Well, for the most part, they want to know whether it will really get the gray out of their hair in just one application. The rest of them claimed that they didn’t take algebra. Formula One in the states is only slightly more unknown than CART. Clearly there are millions of motorsports fans (and by motorsports I don't mean NASCAR) throughout the country but this is a huge country and we're so thinly spread that I haven't met another one yet. Try this experiment in your office tomorrow (or right now in fact as most of you are probably reading this while you’re supposed to be working on that proposal that's due by Friday). Ask 10 or your colleagues whether they’ve heard of Gil de Ferran or Michael Schumacher. I've tried it in mine. One person had heard of Schumacher. He's Canadian.

F1 has, as Villeneuve said, a tough row to hoe (actually I said that but that's what he meant) in America. It's been gone for a decade, pops back for a weekend and won't be heard of again for a year. Chris Economacki, the dean of American motorsports journalism, may have shed the most revealing light on the subject. When interviewed during the first practice session, his comment was that when he asked what the prize money was for the race, nobody would tell him. Either (a) as Chris so eloquently spluttered, American's are SO money-driven that a race is meaningless without a price tag attached or (b) the state of American motorsports journalism has sunk so low that they completely fail to register the most significant moment in American motorsports for a decade because they asked a question at a press conference that everybody else in the world knew wouldn't be answered.

Another sad clue is the fact that by a strange confluence of fate, we in the states were probably treated to the best coverage of any race in any country this year (excluding Bernievision which is only available if your name's Bernie and you can afford your own television station). We were treated to the race, qualifying and even the Friday practice sessions live on two channels. Unfortunately, the two channels, Speedvision and Fox Sports Net, have a combined viewership which is approximately equal to the workforce and immediate family of Speedvision and Fox Sports Net. So while I can gloat to family back in England about the wonderful coverage we got while they were watching Coronation Street, my conversation at the water-cooler this week will soon send my colleagues scurrying back to their cubicles desperate to find the proposals that they were supposed to have finished by Friday and that they will feel are at least twice as interesting as I am.


Did David Coulthard make the record books as the first driver to race in F1 at the Brickyard? Why is he such a bone-head? How does he keep his job? Why do I get abusive e-mail when he screws up? We know from his post-race comments that he thought the lights were on for longer than usual but surely he knows that that's part of the idea. If the lights always went out after four seconds, we wouldn't be able to hear the cars over the sound of everybody in the stadium counting 1-one thousand, 2-one thousand, 3...

David, you cannot anticipate a random event, an axiom which has made a few people in Vegas fabulously wealthy but which seems to have been completely over-looked by the millions who take their money there every year. Let's just hope that Coulthard doesn't swing through Nevada on his way home.

Having jumped out to an early lead, Coulthard predictably and controversially held up Schumacher while he awaited the inevitable decision of the stewards. This was clearly (a) cheating or (b) intelligent use of team tactics. You are (a) a Ferrari fan or (b) not a Ferrari fan. I think that (a) you look really good in red or (b) who do they think they are anyway – always waving those big flags right in front of our faces. (a) Its just a good job that Schumacher's so good that he made DC look even more stupid than he already did or (b) it's a shame Coulthard didn't take out Schumacher just like that dirty Ferrari driver would've done if the situation had been reversed. (a) Please don't write to me just because you disagree or (b) please don't write to me just because you disagree.


Jos finally out-qualified his team-mate and celebrated in traditional style on the beach. Apparently this was caused by the brake-bias fairy changing the setting without him knowing.


Having already broken one of my own rules by praising Tony George, I may as well go the whole hog and hand out plaudits to Bernie Ecclestone and Michael Schumacher. Following the death of a track marshal at Monza two weeks ago, both Ecclestone and Schumacher stepped up to the plate and made financial contributions to the man's widow. Obviously money isn't everything and nothing will replace the husband and father that they lost but at least these two, and probably others (several drivers attended the funeral) stopped and thought and made a gesture that will at least ease some of the family's more immediate practical problems.

Mitch McCann© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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