A reader noted that last week Happiness had posted information about the wrong Formula One grand prix. I made the error and corrected the column as soon as I saw the response, but it says something about fans of motorsports. You could call it being keen-eyed and passionate.
The focus here isnʻt to note a journalistic lapse but to remark, instead, on how powerful players continue to mess with this love of racing. Leadership in many forms of motorsport continue to tinker with fan loyalty as if itʻs inexhaustible but often fail to see what theyʻve done. This aspect couldnʻt have been more obvious than with the Monster Energy Cup race this past weekend at New Hampshire.
Having the start of the race delayed by rain surely affected peopleʻs schedules and desires but that does not explain the terrible attendance. For a track that has already lost one race, this past Sunday should have been one of the most obvious sights of the problems in NASCAR, and yet little was said about how sparsely populated the stands were. Pathetic works as a great descriptor.
The powers that be might be able to explain away the lackluster turnout due to some kind of reason but thereʻs another problem – has anyone actually heard from the power-that-be of Brain France? After a showing like that at a race that actually featured an enjoyable ending, itʻs time for leadership to, at the very least, acknowledge that something is amiss.
Everyone has their version of how to fix the sport but maybe just getting more response from leadership about what is happening would be a good show of faith that they actually care as much as the fans do. Wouldnʻt that be a pleasant start?
Letʻs get happy.
Happiness Is…Compound. If Goodyear isnʻt going to develop a tire that improves the racing, and if NASCAR isnʻt going to switch to the idea that Formula 1 and IndyCar have been using of different tire compounds, then itʻs time for PJ1 Trackbite™ to be applied everywhere. Both the Bristol and New Hampshire tracks have applied the substance and enjoyed some degree of success with it.
The use of PJ1 is an interesting concept. It allows for more of the track to be race worthy and wears out just as tires would – meaning that the racing line shifts over the course of the race. But why be selective with it?
At $55 a gallon, this stuff is cheaper to use then it would be for any R&D person to come up with a quick fix that would help the current generation of cars race better. Seriously, how has this stuff not been considered at big tracks, especially one like Michigan? The drivers all comment about how you can drive anywhere at Michigan, but that mainly hides the fact that the width of the track appears to spread to about the same width as an entire section of a Los Angeles freeway – being able to drive anywhere on the track doesnʻt necessarily mean that the racing is good, and certainly does not encourage close quarter battles.
While everyone is looking for answers to the ʻaero-pushʻ problem – surprise, there isnʻt one – having PJ1 sprayed in strategic places at every track would only make things more fascinating. Manufactured racing you say? Pshaw. Everything in the sport is manufactured, so why not make it more interesting? The fact that it could be re-applied during the stage cautions (because they seem quite long enough) just goes to show how useful it could be in creating better racing.
Happiness Is…Hungary. One of the things that the country of Hungary is known for is its mineral spas, places that provide convalescence and rejuvenation. The thermal aspect of Lake Hevic is well regarded for this aspect. So now that the Formula 1 drivers have had a chance to soak and refresh themselves after the German Grand Prix, itʻs time to get back in the cars for this weekendʻs race in Hungary.
At this point last year, the same two drivers hogged the headlines, but this race was a bit of a pivot point. Sebastian Vettel held the driverʻs championship lead by one point over Lewis Hamilton. Vettelʻs peculiar misstep at the German GP, however, gifted Hamilton with the ability to jump him, and Hamilton now rests 17 points ahead of the Ferrari driver. The big difference this year has been that Ferrari has been able to maintain close competition to Mercedes in the constructorʻs title, even with Vettelʻs gaffe. The two rivals sit eight points apart, with Mercedes on top, as the head into the final race before the summer break.
What does it all mean? In many ways, it shows how these two drivers and teams have been leading the way for the past two years, especially as Red Bull continues to drift further behind. Again, these players will be at the fore and, again, itʻs likely that, even should Vettel win, as he did last year, thereʻs still a long way to go in the season.
The one tidbit that should shine through, however, is a maneuver from Hamilton. During the 2017 race, Hamilton pleaded to be let by his teammate Valtteri Bottas, as Hamilton thought he could catch the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, who held second. The Mercedes team allowed the switch, but Hamilton could never get close enough. The agreement had been that Hamilton would give back third to Bottas should he not pass Raikkonen, and it didn’t appear he would. Yet on the final corner, and with Max Verstappen charging, he slyly pulled over, letting Bottas through and settling for fourth. Those are valuable points he gave away, but he also showed a side to his character thatʻs rarely seen. How rare in racing!
(Note: Much thanks to the reader that pointed out the mix-up last week.)