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F1Weekly podcast # 812

THE HOST REGAINS HIS COMPOSURE AND GETS BACK TO THE BUSINESS AT HAND NASIR IS ALREADY GIDDY ON THE PROSPECTS OF THE 2020 F1 SEASON

THOUGHTS ON THE PASSING OF BILL SIMPSON…

Indy 500 Veteran, Racing Safety Pioneer Simpson Dies at 79

INDIANAPOLIS, – Veteran racer Bill Simpson, who made one Indianapolis 500 start and was renowned in global motorsports for his development of groundbreaking safety equipment, died Monday, Dec. 16 in Indianapolis due to complications from recent health problems. He was 79.

Simpson competed as a driver in drag racing, sports car racing and open-wheel formula racing, including in SCCA and USAC Indy-car competition. He made 52 career Indy-car starts between 1968 and 1977. He produced 11 top-10 finishes, including a career best of sixth in the 1970 Milwaukee 200.

Southern California native Simpson qualified 20th and finished 13th in the 1974 Indianapolis 500 in the American Kids Racer Eagle-Offy owned by Dick Beith. It was his only career start in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” but competing in that race was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream and the pinnacle of his varied driving career.

Another noteworthy highlight of Simpson’s career was providing four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears with a car to make his first career Indy car start, in the 1976 Ontario 500.

Simpson’s racing career ended during an Indianapolis 500 practice lap in May 1977, when he realized he was thinking more about a phone call he needed to make for his racing safety products business than driving a race car at nearly 200 mph. That realization caused him to hang up his helmet for good on the spot, with Formula One veteran Clay Regazzoni taking his seat.

The colorful Simpson started his driving career in drag racing as a teenager in Southern California. His work in motorsports safety started inadvertently when he crashed his dragster as an 18-year-old in 1958, suffering two broken arms. During his recovery time, Simpson devised and developed more sophisticated, purpose-built parachutes – through trial and error on a rented sewing machine in a garage – to slow dragsters after the finish line, starting a company called Simpson Drag Chutes.

Those humble beginnings evolved and grew into Simpson Performance Products and Impact! Racing, highly successful companies that designed, developed and produced more than 200 motorsports safety products used by drivers in all series worldwide, including helmets, gloves, fire-retardant driver suits, seat belts and more.

Perhaps Simpson’s biggest racing safety breakthrough came in 1967. He was introduced to a temperature-resistant fabric called Nomex through NASA astronaut and racing enthusiast Pete Conrad.

Simpson created the world’s first racing suit made of Nomex and brought it to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that May, where it became a safety sensation quickly used by nearly every driver in the starting field and now is standard equipment for every race driver. Donning his Nomex suit and a helmet, Simpson set himself on fire during demonstrations to prove the suit’s effectiveness on several occasions over the years.

Those tireless contributions to motorsports safety led to a host of accolades and honors, including enshrinement into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2003 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 2014.

Simpson chronicled his colorful and substantial life in racing by writing two books, “Racing Safely, Living Dangerously” and its sequel, “Through the Fire.”

Despite the vast success of his motorsports safety companies, Simpson never forgot his magical year of qualifying for and competing in the Indianapolis 500.

He annually returned to the Speedway during the Month of May for veterans’ activities, including appearances at driver autograph sessions for fans on Legends Day presented by Firestone. Simpson often attended these sessions with fellow colorful motorsports mogul and Indianapolis 500 veteran Chip Ganassi, and he was a passionate supporter of the IMS Museum.

Simpson is survived by a son. He also was a devout animal enthusiast, whose menagerie included his beloved dog, Maia, camels and other pets. A celebration of his life is being planned for this May at the IMS Museum, with details pending.

Play Podcast: 12-19-19f1weekly812.mp3

FORMULA 1

MAX TAKES POLE WHILST BOTTAS CRASHES

Verstappen celebrated his pole for Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix but the Dutchman is likely to face stern criticism for what many will see as the dangerous manner with which he sealed the place. His final two laps were superb but for a driver still trying to shake off a reputation for recklessness and lapses of judgment, he was surprisingly unconcerned by his decision not to slow as he rounded the final corner, where Valtteri Bottas’s Mercedes lay after crashing into the barriers.

Verstappen took pole ahead of the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel in second and third, with Lewis Hamilton in fourth for Mercedes. Hamilton’s title hopes, however, may yet have taken a boost if Bottas takes grid penalties for the repairs to his car.

Valtteri Bottas emerges from the wreckage of his car. Photograph: Pixathlon/Shutterstock

Verstappen had been quick throughout but the crucial moments came in the final seconds of the final session. He held the top spot from his first run but as Bottas went though the final corner, he clipped the wall and took a major, 17G impact. The stricken car was left at the side of the track but Bottas was unharmed.

Verstappen entered the corner shortly afterwards, where stewards were waving single yellow flags, denoting that drivers should slow down. However, there appeared to be no yellow indicators on the Dutchman’s dashboard. He would have been expected to back off and in the past drivers have had times set under yellow flags deleted.

Verstappen said he had not slowed. “I was aware Valtteri crashed,” he said. When asked if he had backed off, he made no attempt at deception. “It didn’t really look like it, did it? No.”

INDYCAR SERIES

ALONSO VISITS BARBER AHEAD OF INDIANAPOLIS 500

A racer is a racer is a racer. If nothing more can be gleaned from Fernando Alonso’s visit today to Barber Motorsports Park – and his plan to race in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 28 – it’s that racers share one goal: to be faster than the rest, no matter the car or venue.

And to do that, they occasionally need assistance from other racers.

The two-time Formula One champion explained that he’ll need help to be competitive at Indianapolis next month, so he’s relying on his five temporary teammates at Andretti Autosport – Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato and Jack Harvey – to help him get up to speed.

“I need to learn all of these things,” Alonso said. “To learn them alone would take two years. To learn it with some help would take six months. But I have two weeks. I will need a lot of help.”

Alonso has 32 F1 victories and championships in 2005 and 2006 to his credit. Aside from some Indy 500 warmups on a simulator in Italy, though, he has no experience with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, oval tracks or Indy cars.

“I will need the help to be competitive,” he said. “I’m very open-minded, knowing that the series is completely different, the cars are completely different and superspeedways require a driving technique and a driving feeling that’s completely different and that I don’t have yet.”

Alonso met his teammates Saturday night after arriving at Barber to watch today’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First. From there, he’ll travel to Andretti Autosport headquarters in Indianapolis on Monday for a seat fitting and more time on a simulator. He’ll then travel to Sochi, Russia, for next weekend’s Russian Grand Prix and his fulltime job with the McLaren Honda F1 team before returning to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a solo test in the McLaren-Andretti Honda on May 3.

That’s when the sorting of the details will commence.

“The setup of the car is extremely important, because the difference is in milliseconds,” Alonso said. “To set up the car for different parts of the race in different wind direction and fuel loads in the car, tire degradation – there are many things that you need to make small adjustments, apparently, that I have no idea about.”

For now, Alonso is just taking as much in as he can and relying on his fellow racers in the process.

“There are many, many things – more than people can imagine,” Alonso said. “There are little things when you’re driving at those speeds and you have all those things going on – the radio, etc. – but we are professional drivers and we should be able to deal with it.”

FORMULA 1

RED BULL ON THE BAHRAIN RESULTS

MAX VERSTAPPEN, Finish Position: DNF, Start Position: 6th
“I had a good start, Kimi struggled a bit off the line so I passed him straight away and then I went round the outside at turn one and overtook Daniel which put me in a good position. After that I could keep up with the leaders, the car was performing really well on the tyres and the pace was good. I think we made the right call with the pit stop to try and undercut the two Mercedes but then the rear brakes failed on lap 12 and it was race over. These things are all a part of racing and there are definitely positives to take away from today. The car was working a lot better here than the previous two races so it’s just an unfortunate ending as we could have scored some really good points.”

DANIEL RICCIARDO, Finish Position: 5th, Start Position: 4th
“For me it was a race of two halves really. At the beginning of the race I genuinely thought we had a chance to win. That stint was looking very competitive and I could see Valtteri was struggling. I was at the tail end of the front pack and I could see everyone else in front of me. They were sliding and looked like they were struggling more. It was quite easy for me to stay there and I was looking after my tyres, so at that point I was thinking it could be on today, not only for a podium but for a win. The safety car worked for me in that we jumped up to third but it wasn’t so good for our tyres and that’s where we lost a lot of ground. Even once we settled into a pace and the chaos settled we fell back and I was struggling with grip at the front and rear. We never really got that tyre working for us today.”

CHRISTIAN HORNER, Team Principal: “After an exciting opening to the race up to the first pit stops, our cars looked in good contention with Max having made a good start. He managed to move up a couple of places and we pitted reasonably early for an undercut but unfortunately shortly after a rear brake pressure issue caused his immediate retirement which brought out the safety car. We stopped Daniel under the safety car but lost some time behind Lewis as he deliberately slowed in the pit lane for which he was later penalized. Nonetheless we were still able to get out ahead of him and at that stage for the restart we were third on the road. It became very quickly apparent that Daniel struggled to warm up the soft tyre compared to our competitors and dropped several places before recovering one against Massa. With the final stint on the supersoft tyre unfortunately fifth place was the best that we could achieve today.”

FORMULA 2

LECLERC STORMS TO DRAMATIC SPRINT WIN

Charles Leclerc made use of an unexpected Plan B to blast to a dramatic win in this afternoon’s FIA Formula 2 Championship sprint race at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, stopping for fresh rubber from the lead of the race and emerging in P14 before fighting all the way back up for victory ahead of a crestfallen Luca Ghiotto and Oliver Rowland.

With conditions hot but slightly cooler than yesterday thanks to strong winds the teams were looking for options on a circuit renowned for its abrasive surface, but the decision to make a pitstop in a sprint race was one that took most observers by surprise, particularly coming from the lead: the fightback topped off a superb weekend of racing after Artem Markelov’s strong comeback yesterday.

There was drama at the front of the grid before the start when poleman Nobuharu Matsushita failed to make it out on time, forcing the frustrated Japanese driver to start from the pitlane. But when the lights went out his ART teammate pushed front row starter Ghiotto hard from P3, with the Italian braking as late as possible to slide inside and into the lead at turn 1 ahead of Albon, a fast starting Leclerc, Norman Nato, Jordan King, Oliver Rowland and Artem Markelov.

Nato was soon out of the race after a come together with King, and the resultant safety car period gave everyone a breather for 2 laps before going live again, with Leclerc making short work of disposing former teammate Albon, followed almost immediately by Rowland, and then Markelov next time round. The Russian was looking for more after his success yesterday, blasting into the podium positions by deposing Rowland on lap 7 and setting the fastest lap, but 3 laps later he was in the pits, switching from his options to a set of primes as Leclerc led the way, having grabbed the lead from Ghiotto the lap before.

Antonio Fuoco was looking to emulate his teammate: after starting in P9 he was up to P4 on lap 11 by easing past King, giving the hurry up to Rowland. 2 laps later the Briton barged past Ghiotto for P2, leaving the Italians to squabble among themselves, before Leclerc dropped a bombshell by pitting on lap 15, emerging ahead of Markelov and wasting no time in fighting back towards the lead, now held by Rowland, setting the fastest lap in the process.

In a 23 lap race it seemed impossible that the Monegasque driver could force his way back, and the action continued at the front of the race as King snuck past Fuoco, giving him the space to look forward to Rowland instead of in his mirrors. The Briton was falling back towards the Italian as Leclerc broke back into the points positions, and on the penultimate lap the inevitable happened as Ghiotto forced his way into the lead, just as Leclerc blasted by King for P3.

And on the final lap Leclerc on fresher rubber easily dispatched Rowland on the front straight and Ghiotto in the back section of the circuit before cruising to his maiden win ahead of the pair, to the obvious delight of his PREMA team. Behind then Nicholas Latifi had done a superb job of managing his tyre for P4 from P11 on the grid ahead of King, with Nyck De Vries grabbing his first points for 6th from 10th at the start ahead of Albon, and Markelov rounding out the points in P8.

After the first round Leclerc leads Markelov by 36 points to 28, ahead of Rowland on 20, with Ghiotto, Nato and King on 18, while in the Teams’ Championship RUSSIAN TIME is on top with 46 points ahead of PREMA Racing on 38, DAMS on 28, with Pertamina Arden and MP Motorsport on 18 points as they look forward to the next round of the championship in Barcelona, Spain on 12-14 May.

FORMULA 2

ROWLAND ON TOP IN F2 PRACTICE

Oliver Rowland has topped the timesheets in the first FIA Formula 2 Championship free practice session with a blistering lap under scorching conditions this morning at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, leading the way for most of the session by less than a tenth from Artem Markelov and Charles Leclerc.

The Briton stopped the clocks at 1:42.221 just nine minutes into the session, which opened under a cloudless sky, with track temperatures at 45˚C as the lights went green to open the session. All of the drivers headed straight out onto the circuit to get the day started, with Johnny Cecotto setting the first competitive lap 6 minutes in, before being usurped by Nobuharu Matsushita next time round.

Rowland stole the top spot on the next lap, as Markelov (0.092s) and Antonio Fuoco (0.160s) following in his wake. With such extreme temperatures and serious tyre wear at the desert circuit there was little chance of improvement, although Leclerc had clearly saved some tyres for a quick run at the 15 minute mark to nab P3 by a hundredth from his teammate.

The second half of the session was focused on race pace, leaving little opportunity for a change on the timesheet, with the only excitement revolving around a few drivers being caught out by the heat as they stopped at the end of the pitlane for practice starts, putting the marshals to work pushing the stricken cars back across the line for their teams to restart.

Behind the top three Fuoco, Norman Nato, Luca Ghiotto, Nyck De Vries, Johnny Cecotto and Matsushita all posted times within a second of the top spot, and will be hoping to find a small margin in the cooler conditions for this evening’s qualifying session.