McLaren Won't be Awesome and Vickers Impressive in Vegas Return

Formula 1

How Bad Will It Be For McLaren?

If you believe what 1996 World Champion Damon Hill says about McLaren going into the 2015 season, then all signs point to bad for McLaren. The team switched to Honda engines for the first time in more than 20 years and, as I mentioned last week, they turned barely any laps in their final open test.

'The McLaren-Honda thing has to work at some point, but Formula One is so difficult now. There is so much technology and you are taking on so many strong teams.

'I expect a modest beginning, but from whatever they start at you want to see a trajectory which is pushing to regular top sixes and a podium at the end of the season.' ~ Damon Hill

Obviously, I’m not as well-versed on Formula 1 as many are, but based on what Mercedes, Williams and Ferrari did this off-season, McLaren will probably be happy to be in the top 10. As Hill says, top 10s aren’t what McLaren expects, but after making a major change like this, challenging for a podium in 2015 is likely just a pipe dream.

What Really Happened to Alonso?

Hard to say we’ve heard the entire story about Fernando Alonso. Between the conflicting reports from McLaren and the laughing denials from Alonso himself, one can draw one of two conclusions: 1. McLaren & Alonso got caught with their pants down and are in PR recovery mode. 2. EVERYONE else has it wrong, there was no concussion, and certainly no electrical shock.

Where do I stand? I’m going with #1 – partially. I believe Alonso was concussed, and either he and his team or a combination of he, his team, and Formula 1 don’t want the bad news out. Yes, I’m going full conspiracy theory on this. It seems very odd, and unlikely, that a car as technologically advanced as Formula 1 car can get into an accident like Alonso did on February 22 and require a three-day hospital stay.

Who stays in the hospital for three days unless there was some type of significant injury or the victim needed to be tested and monitored?

The other conspiracy theorists postulate that Alonso had some type of medical condition while driving the car that caused him to lose control and crash at about 134 mph. If true, Alonso could be placing the entire field in danger. I won’t speculate on what exactly the condition might be, but if it’s something that has the potential to re-occur then full disclosure is a requirement.

All we know at this point is that Fernando Alonso will miss this weekend’s opener in Australia and hopes to return for the Malaysia race on March 29.

Formula 1 links:

F1: Drivers "a perfect combination," Ferrari says Mercedes-AMG GT S and C 63 S in action for the 2015 Formula 1® season: Maximum safety, maximum performance Australian GP guaranteed as F1 season opener until 2020


Good at Being Consistently Inconsistent

"If charges are filed, that will change our equation, and we will look at that," NASCAR chairman Brian France said last November. "We'll stay the course, let the investigation be completed, and then we'll react."

About all you need to know about NASCAR and consistency: there is none. NASCAR Chairman Brian France said in November that the sanctioning body would wait until a decision on criminal charges had been reached before they acted on the racing status of 2004 champion Kurt Busch.

MTAF Wheels’ writer Ryan Isley believes NASCAR sent the right message about domestic violence when they punished Busch without waiting for charges. I disagree. 100%. Ryan compares NASCAR’s situation in which Busch had never been charged, to the NFL’s situation where Ray Rice had been charged and accepted diversion in a domestic violence case as NASCAR protecting itself.

In this case, it was necessary to suspend Busch to protect the sport and its governing body. Sometimes, the sport has to look out for itself – this was one of those times. After seeing the backlash the NFL received for their fumbling of the Ray Rice situation, NASCAR decided it needed to act quickly and sternly to get in front of any firestorm that may be headed its way once the commissioner’s opinion was made public.

What Ryan and many others either didn’t know, or chose to ignore, is the obvious conflict of interest held by NASCAR in this situation. NASCAR EVP Steve O’Donnell served on the board of Busch’s ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll’s Armed Forces Foundation until late 2014. Can we say that O’Donnell has no voice on any discipline that Busch or any other driver may face? We can’t. Do we know that Brian France came to the decision to suspend Busch alone? No, and if he came to the conclusion on his own then he’s doing everyone a disservice by not accepting information from multiple parties.

ESPN’s Ryan McGee says the suspension is just not because of the incident with Driscoll, but as “the sum of a much larger pile of parts.” That’s probably a lot closer to what this suspension is about. As McGee details, Kurt Busch is no saint. In fact, most people aptly describe him as “an asshole.” Look, he is what he is, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve the right to go through an established discipline process.

Missing discipline process

The process is what is missing from NASCAR at the moment. Section 12.1.a of the NASCAR rulebook essentially allows for NASCAR to do whatever to whomever whenever. That section means that when they put people on probation and those individuals violate probation they never face any NASCAR “jail time.”

Unless the drivers form a union and collectively bargain – which isn’t happening as long as drivers are partial car owners – drivers' input in disciplinary process isn’t happening.

An easier solution would be for NASCAR to appoint a commissioner who can handle such issues and take away the appearance that only person – or family – controls the sport from end to end. This also isn’t happening.

Brian Vickers impressive in return at Las Vegas

I had a feeling when we found out Brian Vickers wasn’t going to run the first two races of the 2015 campaign because of a medical condition, that 2015 as a whole would be for naught. Brian seems like an incredibly nice guy, which is the exact opposite of what people say about Kurt Busch, and based on that, I always feel like Vickers doesn’t get the most out of himself or his car. He obviously a talented driver, but seems to lack the aggressiveness or anger to drive NASCAR to the level of success of others.

His 15th place finish yesterday changed my entire thought process. Facing the adversity of being down a lap not once, but twice in the first 150 laps now makes me a believer in Vickers. Vickers raced as high as 10th place with 70 laps to go. Do I think Vickers makes the Chase this year? No, but I do think he has a very good shot at finishing in the top 20 once the season is over.

This weekend showed two surprising outcomes: 1. Brian Vickers can race consistently with the big boys, and maybe Michael Waltrip Racing has finally figured out a competitive racing formula.

Next week, Vickers races at Phoenix where in 16 races his average finish is 23rd with one top five and top 10 finish.

NASCAR links:

HAAS HOPEFUL FOR CHASE ELIGIBILITY Jeff Gordon to meet with NASCAR Austin Dillon dominates Las Vegas, wins Boyd Gaming 300

Other links:

Audi makes substantial change for 2015 WEC LMP1 R18 e-tron quattro Dusan Borkovic raced in 2015 WTCC opener against doctors' advice IndyCar teams busy 'beavering' away with new bodywork kits IndyCar: Ergonomic assessment for multiple benefits