It remains to this day one of the most controversial and fiercely debated Formula One Grand Prix races of all time. Coming up on the fortieth anniversary of the legendary 1973 season that saw Jackie Stewart win the World Driver’s Championship, there’s still the controversy of who should have won the Canadian Grand Prix, which took place on September 23, 1973 at Mosport International Raceway. What should have been a routine race ended up being anything but, with the race marking the first time in Formula One history that a Safety Car was deployed and the resulting confusion over who the actual winner of the race was.
It was Tuesday before I could get a flight home. I had planned to stay over for Monaco. By then Gilles had been home several days and was lying-in-state in the vestibule of the local arena in Berthierville. The lines to view his body just went on and on. He was dressed in a white, what I thought was a driver’s suit, but I have heard conflicting reports since. When I went to pay my respects, there were so many people there I almost turned for home. I was undergoing such a range of emotions I had never felt so intensely before. I wanted to comfort the family, but was not sure it was just me I wanted to comfort. Gaston was in hospital under heavy sedation. He had lost the son he never had. He and Gilles were closer than a Father and son. Like many Fathers, Gaston had pulled Gilles out of many of life’s ditches. I drove directly to Berthierville from the airport. After paying my respects I headed for home in Ottawa. I had seen my friend for the last time.
I am still in a fog about most of that week. I am not sure if it was the Thursday that the funeral was held, but I drove to Berthierville with my good friend David Morgan-Kirby, an avid race fan and sometimes journalist who, like I, had watched the rise of Gilles from Formula Fords to Formula One. He had taken the time to interview Gilles when he was in the lower ranks and still would get a good reception from him even though Gilles was now at the top of his game. David and I and my wife at the time sat in the loft to the right of the chequered flag draped coffin. We were within fifty feet of Jody when he gave the eulogy. David, a stoic Englishman was rock solid. My wife was a blithering mess. I was just stunned. In less than a week I had done the final negotiation for our Grand Prix book, received a significant advance against royalties, ventured overseas and returned home broken, but I was in better shape than my friend who was now the centre of a different type of attention.
After it was all over Gilles’ body was taken to Montreal to be cremated. Joanne would then take the ashes back to Monaco. We followed the black Cadillac to Montreal on our return to Ottawa. I thought of the ‘Red Cadillac’ on this drive. David and I reminisced about all we had seen. There was a lot of laughter and tears on that drive. We got seriously drunk that night. [Read more...]
There had been many changes to the driver line-up in the off-season. Andretti now drove for Alfa-Romeo. Emerson Fittipaldi retired from Formula One and left Keke Rosburg to carry the Fittipaldi colours. Rene Arnoux was still at Renault with newcomer Alain Prost. Formula Three star Nigel Mansell shared the driving orders at Lotus with Italian Elio de Angelis. The Williams team remained unchanged with Carlos Reutemann and Alan Jones, the new World Champion. Only Ferrari and Renault had the all-powerful turbo until the new Toleman team appeared with a Brian Hart turbo. It was entered in the Italian Grand Prix with Brian Henton at the wheel. It started twenty-third and finished tenth. Derrick Warwick was unable to qualify the sister car.
At the Belgian Grand Prix, again held at Zolder, Gilles qualified seventh, over a second and a half behind Reutemann’s Williams on the pole. Pironi out-qualified Gilles in third.
Reutemann had an unfortunate incident which put a damper on the weekend and his solid qualifying run for the pole. As he set out for his final qualify attempt on Friday, Osella mechanic, Giovanni Amadeo, fell from the pit wall into Reutemann’s path. Reutemann was unable to avoid him. Amadeo died from extensive injuries the following Monday. A second incident, also involving a mechanic, occured at the start of the race.
The 1981 Formula One season continued with the on-going dispute between the FIA, the sports governing body and FOCA, the Formula One Constructors Association. At the first race it came to a head and only at the insistence of the principal sponsors of the teams would any kind of reconciliation take place and the season got underway at Long Beach.
At Ferrari there was a new kid on the block. Jody had retired having achieved his goal of the World Championship in 1979. He stuck around for 1980 with the T5 disaster falling down around him. Some drivers would have just thrown up their hands and called it a day, but Jody showed his class by sticking to Ferrari so they could capitalize on his achievement. The new kid was Didier Pironi who had moved over from Tyyrell.
“When I joined Ferrari the whole team was devoted to Gilles. I mean he was not just the top driver, he was much more than that,” recalled Pironi. “He had a small family there…he made me fit right in. I felt at home right away. Gilles made no distinctions. I was expecting to be put in my place. I was not number one. I was number two yet he treated an equal all the way.”
Following the Mobil 1 Car Swap event at Watkins Glen, the fans went home to get warm and the media went inside for a post drive debrief. Led by retired Formula 1 star turned TV commentator, David Coulthard, Tony and Lewis chatted candidly about the day. When DC opened the conversation up to questions from the floor, things got a bit more interesting.
Whether you consider it a marketing stunt (which it was) or a historic motorsports event (which it also was) yesterday’s Mobil 1 Car Swap at Watkins Glen was a pretty cool concept. Take a pair of stars from NASCAR and Formula 1, stick them in each other’s cars and let them loose. The stars in question were Tony Stewart and Lewis Hamilton, both of whom are sponsored in their respective series by Mobil 1, which led to more than a bit of cynicism from many fans, not to mention news editors who considered it a stunt not worthy of coverage. Wah.
Of course swapping seats is not a new idea, as it has been done before with Gordon and Montoya. Perhaps less well known in North America was a similar event featuring Damon Hill and rally star Colin McRae. Guys always want to play with new toys and when the guys are stars and the toys are made of unobtainium, the fans want to see the action. For this event, Mobil 1 opened the gates to fans for free, which ensured a decent crowd would show up despite the dismal weather.
The day dawned rainy and cold, which set up some interesting challenges and a first. They say this was the first time a Cup car had run on rain tires. I’m not that well versed in NASCAR history, so I’ll believe them. It was also the first time a Cup car had been run on the full course, including The Boot. While vintage F1 cars compete at the one time home of the U.S. Grand Prix, this was the first time a modern F1 car had been driven on the track.
As the teams prepped the cars for their warm up drives, the rain stopped and the fog rolled in. 20 minutes later, the fog lessened somewhat and the rain returned. Then, more fog. Not a nice time for fans or photographers and I’m sure the teams and drivers were less than impressed too. Until they got in the car that is! On the warm up laps in the number 14, Stewart was hanging the tail out every chance he got, while Lewis was pushing his McLaren pretty hard too.
The sound of a solitary F1 car reverberating off the hills of Upstate New York in the fog is a difficult sensation to describe. Perhaps the best word might be haunting.
Infiniti press release
Yokohama, Japan Ã¢â‚¬â€œ May 25th, 2011: Infiniti, the luxury car manufacturer from Japan, today announces it has signed Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel as its first ever Global Brand Ambassador.
The collaboration with Sebastian Vettel comes two months after Infiniti announced a major partnership with the Red Bull Racing team. The 23 year-old F1 star will be taking an active role in raising the profile of the Infiniti brand and its products during race weekends and at selected events linked to InfinitiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s business and product programs.
From the start of the 2011 Formula One season, Infiniti has joined as a major partner of the Red Bull Racing team and features prominently on the race-winning RB7 driven by Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. Like many in the Red Bull Racing team, Sebastian has been driving products from the Infiniti range, both as his personal car but also at the different races around the world.
Commenting on his new global role, Sebastian Vettel said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Since our first contact with Infiniti I liked their cars. A car can impress you in two ways: its looks and its handling. After I had the chance to test some cars in the range I became a big fan. They are comfortable as well as sporty. I am sure we as a team and myself can benefit a lot from the experience of Infiniti and I am very much looking forward to our partnership in the future.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Way back when, I bought a 1975 Fiat 124 Coupe and the first thing I did was run to Canadian Tire and buy a Haynes manual to walk me through the myriad of things that needed to be done. Haynes taught me how to set the points on the first 4 cylinder I had worked on and taught me how to install new ball joints. About a half hour after I replaced them, the shaft portion of one of those new ball joints split in 2 and my beloved Fiat did a nose dive at Finch and Don Mills.
Fortunately for the folks at Red Bull, it would seem that Italian replacement parts have improved in the past 30 odd years. But some things never change and Haynes is one of those things. Well, they have changed a bit. Instead of buying a copy, you can download your very own copy of the Haynes F1 manual!
Ok, so it is a press manual and not an F1 car how to manual, but it will tell you everything you need to know about the Red Bull team for 2011.