Sunday, November 18, 2012

Does America really need a Home Grown talent to root for in Formula 1?

Will Conor Daily become America’s next Formula 1 racing driver? (Source: gpnow.com)
Although this topic has come ‘N gone over the years, for reasons unknown, its reared its UGLY head once again for Mwah after hearing Connor Daily on that ‘lil Autosport Radio Show awhile ago... As I’ve truly never grasped this concept upon having been thru the lack ‘O Yank drivers during my F1 Odyssey.

The first American driver I saw in formula 1 action via the ‘Telie was a dude named Eddie Cheever, whom I’ve really never-ever been a fan of, as Eddie was then behind the wheel of those midfield Arrows team’s A10-chasis powered by the warmed over BMW re-badged Megatron inline four-cylinder turbo ‘lump; as I’m dating myself here - having begun following F1 two-plus years before the turbo-era had ended...

Cheever was in his final year of F1 when I attended my debutant Grand Prix, the 1989 Iceberg GP in Phoenix, Arizona, where Eddie was now piloting the team’s A11-chassis propelled by the ubiquitous Cosworth; now in 3.5-liter DFR V-8 guise, a descendant of the all conquering DFV power-plant alongside Derrick Warwick, under USFG title sponsorship. Ironically the Phoenix born racer would finish third that day, probably his final podium placing in Formula 1.

Yet I can still vividly recall being more  enthralled by the machinery then the drivers back then - as I’ve still got the Ivan Capelli Leyton House March 881-Judd poster on my wall, along with being overly enamoured by la  Scuderia, (Ferrari) McLaren, the Benetton Fords and “Stevie Johnson’s” (Stefan Johansson) Onyx.


Then it would be a further four years until Mikey Andretti made his mostly unforgettable one-season foray into Formula 1 as Ayrton Senna’s sidekick at the struggling McLaren outfit; which I say struggling in the sense that they’d just gone thru the most impressive run of seven (Drivers) championships between 1984-86, 1988-91 - and was trying to re-establish itself after losing its Honda factory engine links at the end of the ’92 season.

Unfortunately Andretti had decided to pursue a Formula 1 career the year the team had opted at the last moment for Customer Ford HB V-8’s, as I recall rooting for Benetton, then the “Works” Ford team to beat McLaren; as how daunting must it have been for the rookie to have the almighty Ayrton (Senna) as his team leader?

As Mikey’s best result would be podiuming at Monza, Italy before returning to the sanctuary of IndyCar racing for ‘Cheep Ganassi’s fledgling CART team...

Andretti would garner victory for Ganassi in his first race outing, for the ‘Cheepster along with scoring Reynard’s debutant IndyCar victory in its inaugural event at Surfers Paradise, Australia. Remember when CART contested fantastic events upon the Gold Coast where the Sheila’s are legendary? Just ask ‘TAG ‘bout that, eh? Can you say Bronte?

Then it would be a further twelve-years until an unlikely driver named Scott Speed became the third US driver to crack the F1 grid with his arrival at Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2006, as the Californian was part of the Red bull drivers search scheme that was spearheaded by ‘Ol Hollywood, aka Danny Sullivan. As Speed would last just 18-months before getting his ticket punched by Red Bull’s head rodeo clown Helmut Marco...

Thus I find it somewhat overrated that we truly need a ‘Yank in F1? As I’ve been thru two longish spells when we didn’t even have a Grand Prix; 1992-99 and 2008-11, which makes it seem even funnier that we were originally slated to have two Grand Prix’s in 2013, albeit not the first time, since we used to have a USGP West & East for several years at Long Beach and Watkins Glen.

And I’d hazard a guess that it was a different era way back in the 1970’s when the US saw only its second ever world champion crowned, as Mario Andretti is undoubtedly America’s finest Formula 1 driver, although Dan Gurney who proceeded him was highly ranked by the legendary Flying Scot Jimmy Clark... While many here stateside consider Mario the finest driver ever due to his unquestionable winning diversity; as Mario scored twelve Grand Prix victories over his Formula 1 career which spanned from 1968 to 1982, albeit taking multiple breaks between his early years to focus upon his IndyCar career - driving for the likes of Lotus, March, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Williams; with multiple stints at Lotus and Ferrari.

Mario first tasted the champagne in 1971 upon Kyalami’s top podium step on his debut at Scuderia Ferrari, with his final F1 victory coming in the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.

Andretti’s final two Formula 1 races at the remarkable age of 42 were for his home country and every driver’s dream, la Scuderia (Ferrari) as he was called into action by enzo to help fill the void left by the death of Gilles Villeneuve and the injured Didier Pironi. As ironically Mario finished his F1 career 30-years ago this September aboard the Ferrari 126 C2, an evolution of la Scuderia’s first ever Turbocar, the 126 C.

Mario made his swan song by electrifying the Tiafosi at Monza, Italy by taking Pole and then finishing third; giving Scuderia Ferrari a 2-3 finish with Patrick Tambay finishing ahead of the upstart American. Yet Mario’s final race was far more sober - at the much unloved Caesar’s Palace parking lot course in Las Vegas, where Mario’s rear suspension failed on lap-26; as the torch was passed to Ferrari’s next great hope Michele Alboreto - who won his debutant Grand Prix victory for Tyrrell there.

As you could arguably claim Mario’s leaving for CART and Newman Haas Racing was the closing of a chapter in Yanks racing in Formula  1, as none have been victorious since - not to mention being relatively unheralded with the exception of Mario’s son Michael eleven years later.

And I know I’m probably going to garner a ration of SHIT for saying this, but; What The Fuck was all of that BULLSHIT of Ryan Hunter-reay wrapping himself in the stars ‘N stripes after winning the vaunted IndyCar crown at Fontana this year? As note to RHR, where’d that get Yuhs, and have you seen how much you’re in the headlines recently? Or is there some sort of cancerous pandemic occurring in the land of American Open Wheel Racing right now instead...

As Randy “the CandyMann” may have gotten many things wrong, but; I certainly agree with his stance that we just want to see the best drivers in the world compete, period, zip, nada, end of story... Which I’d also argue is the basis of thee pinnacle of motorsport called Formula 1, albeit many drivers come to the series aided by their ability to garner huge amounts of dinero, a la Venezuela’s Pastor Maldonado. Yet I highly doubt that the other 23-drivers simply pulled over for the 2010 GP2 champion to win from pole at Barcelona this year; but I digress...

And how does Formula 1 seriously intend to conquer the almighty 869lb Gorilla called ‘RASSSCAR with this type of ineptitude currently overflowing in America?

Thus by my very unscientific accounting, in the past decade, there have been a total of seven Americans to sample F1 machinery during a race weekend or “proper” test session or straightline Aero test: Sarah Fisher, Bryan Herta, Townsend Bell, Marco Andretti, J.R. Hildebrand, Alexander Rossi and Conor Daily; as I’ve skipped Graham Rahal’s demonstration runs at the Consumer Electronics Show. While one lone Yank named Scott Speed actually contested Formula 1, albeit at the back end of the grid with the neutered Toro Rosso 3.0-liter Cosworth V-10.

And how many of those drivers were given chances solely to try pumping up the craving for F1 in America?

As currently our most poised Americano to potentially land himself a Formula 1 ride, albeit I’d say a slim chance is Alexander  Rossi, currently one of Caterham F1’s test & reserve drivers - who’s the first Yank to drive an F1 car  during a Grand Prix weekend since the departed Speed, when Rossi deputized for Heikke Kovalainen in Free Practise-1 at the Spanish GP this year. As Rossi’s just one of three American’s to ever contest a GP2 race, which at the moment is the pre-eminent feeder series into Formula 1, while having spent 2012 competing in the World Series Renault 3.5-liter series for Arden Caterham Motorsports. 

Jake Rosenzweig is the most current “American” to contest a GP2 event, having substituted for the Adax Team’s Joseph Krall at this year’s season finale in Monza, Italy, as Rosenzweig was apparently born in London, albeit  competes under a U.S. license. Yet how many people have ever heard of the name Rosenzweig? As his chances of graduating to Formula 1 seem even less remote...

And then there’s the upcoming Noblesville, Indiana native Conor Daly, son of the ‘legendous Derrick Daly, an ex-Formula 1 and IndyCar driver turned TV Pundit - best known for his reverent “Grandma, put down the Whiskey bottle” comment as a Champ Car colour commentator...

Conor is apparently chasing his dreams of becoming a future Gran Primo Piloto, which obviously I can only commend him upon, as he blitzed the Star Mazda field en route to the 2010 title by setting a record nine poles and seven wins. He then made the jump up to Indy Lights for three races with Sam Schmidt Motorsports and won at Long Beach - before zooming off to Europe to contest the inaugural ’11 GP3 championship, ironically won by Mexico’s Esteban Gutierrez.

Conor then contested his sophomore GP3 season, this year with the Lotus GP concern; NO relation to Lotus F1 - which is a subject for a different day, eh?

Conor won the sprint race at Barcelona, before undoubtedly grabbing more headline space by his horrific looking “Blowover” shunt at Monaco. As ironically his father garnered much press by crashing mightily aboard his Tyrrell also in the Principality...

Daly subsequently has won the opening round of the MRF Challenge Series at the Buddh International Circuit in India, during the Indian Grand Prix weekend, presumably a support race?

As Derrick let us in on a ‘lil secret prior to that by telling those of us listening to Autosport Radio that his son was currently in Barcelona testing a WSR 3.5 machine for two days in hopes of securing a drive in the feeder series for 2013, which perhaps you’ve heard of the likes of Fernando Alonso, Robert Kubica, Justin Wilson, Sebastian Vettel and Kovalainen to name just a few drivers who’ve graduated into F1 from its ranks...

Do I want Conor to succeed? Naturally, of course - but I’m not going to hold my breath, as first he needs to elevate himself to the unheralded ranks of test/reserve driver; what I affectionately label as glorified Simulator ‘Jockeys these days, as I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rossi running another FP1 session in Austin this weekend. Yet Hell! If we’re gonna get carried away on the jingoism of nation building; U-S-A U-S-A U-S-A! Then it seems it would make sense for Mercedes to roll out Oh ‘KanaDuh’s Robert Wickens, nee thee Young ‘Wicky along with Sauber running  Gutierrez alongside Sergio Perez in order to give both America’s four future Grand Prix stars to salivate over.

Or does it really matter in the grand scheme of  things? As after all isn’t it simply ‘RASSCAR or BUST for the majority of American racing fans?

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