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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.”

FORMULA 1

BOTTAS BEATS LCH TO POLE IN BAHRAIN

Bottas beat LCH to pole position for the first time on Saturday, going quickest in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Finn improved dramatically during the final session, while Ferrari and Red Bull failed to build on the promise shown in the practice sessions. Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo will start on the second row, with Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen finishing fifth and sixth in qualifying, respectively.

Bottas was the first of the top runners to come out, with the returning Pascal Wehrlein topping the standings at the time, well ahead of team-mate Marcus Ericsson. Once again, Hamilton had to abort his first attempt after locking up, although he did manage a solid lap on the soft compound.

McLaren made a fine impression in the first qualifying session, but some brake issues meant Stoffel Vandoorne did not advance.

Ricciardo and Raikkonen were notably slower than their team-mates, Verstappen and Vettel. The Finn even ventured out on the super softs to improve his position and still wasn’t able to beat Hamilton’s time, set on a harder compound.

Carlos Sainz didn’t survive the first qualifying session, as his Toro Rosso suffered yet another failure during his flying lap, with the Spaniard setting the fastest first sector. As shared by BBC F1, he wasn’t the only big name to miss out on Q2:

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.

INDYCAR SERIES

TWO-TIME F1 CHAMPION ALONSO TO COMPETE IN 101ST INDIANAPOLIS 500!

INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, April 12, 2017) – The Indianapolis 500 has attracted another world champion to its driver field.

McLaren announced today that Fernando Alonso El mas macho de Espana, Formula One’s two-time champion and three-time runner-up, will compete in the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 28.

Alonso will drive for Andretti Autosport, which has won four Indianapolis 500s, including last year’s race with Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Alexander Rossi at the wheel of the Honda-powered Dallara. Honda also powers Alonso’s car on McLaren’s grand prix team.

Alonso becomes the ninth driver to enter the 500 with a world championship on his resume. In recent years, Nigel Mansell’s participation in 1993 as the reigning F1 champion was the most celebrated, with media interest at a fevered pitch. Mansell finished third.

Alonso’s decision to join this year’s 500 field adds to the momentum of the race and the Verizon IndyCar Series. Last year’s 500 was sold out for the first time in history and broke attendance marks. The Verizon IndyCar Series has seen television ratings increases each of the past three years, a combined 55 percent, and Alonso’s participation should provide an even greater spotlight on month of May activities.

“The entire INDYCAR community – competitors, fans, media, everyone – is delighted and excited at the prospect of a driver as brilliant as Fernando making his debut in our series,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Verizon IndyCar Series. “Even better, he’ll be making that debut in the greatest race of our year, the world-famous Indy 500.”

Alonso has 32 grand prix victories and 97 podium finishes in 275 F1 starts. Competing in his 15th F1 season, Alonso became the youngest champion in series history in 2005 at age 24 and backed it up with another title the following year.

Alonso strives to win the 500 as F1 champion Graham Hill did as a rookie in 1966. Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti and Nelson Piquet also drove in the 500 as one-time world champions, while Alberto Ascari, Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt and Jacques Villeneuve won F1 titles after competing in the 500.

“I’m immensely excited that I’ll be racing in this year’s Indy 500 with McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport,” Alonso said. “The Indy 500 is one of the most famous races on the global motorsport calendar, rivaled only by the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Monaco Grand Prix.”

McLaren has a storied history in the Indianapolis 500. Company founder Bruce McLaren fielded a car in the 1970 race, although he failed to qualify in it. The next year, after McLaren died, Mark Donohue qualified a Penske-entered McLaren in the second position but completed only 66 laps and finished 25th. In 1972, Donohue won the 500, the first of a record 16 for Team Penske and the first of three McLaren victories at IMS. Johnny Rutherford won the other two, in 1974 and ’76.

This appearance in the 500 comes 38 years after McLaren’s most recent attempt at IMS and Alonso’s car will carry the same papaya orange McLaren livery. Both of Rutherford’s McLaren victories came in cars of this color. Alonso’s car also will carry many of McLaren’s grand prix partners.

Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti has a link to McLaren, too. He raced for the F1 team in 1993 alongside Ayrton Senna.

Alonso has never raced an Indy car before or driven on a superspeedway, but Andretti thinks the talented 35-year-old driver can overcome that inexperience with the amount of track time afforded competitors in May. Andretti demonstrated his point through Rossi’s victory a year ago.

“I’m confident that I’ll get to grips with it fast,” Alonso said of the transition to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the 500. “I’ve watched a lot of Indy car action on TV and online, and it’s clear that great precision is required to race in close proximity with other cars on the far side of 220 mph. I realize I’ll be on a steep learning curve, but I’ll be flying to Indianapolis from Barcelona immediately after the Spanish Grand Prix (May 14), practicing our McLaren/Andretti car at Indy from May 15 onwards, hopefully clocking up a large number of miles every day.

“I know how good the Andretti Autosport guys are. I’ll be proud to race with them and I intend to mine their knowledge and expertise for as much info as I possibly can.”

Andretti Autosport has won the 500 with four drivers: Tony Kanaan (2004), Dan Wheldon (2005), Dario Franchitti (2007), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014) and Rossi (2016).

“Could history repeat itself? Stranger things have happened,” Miles said of another possible rookie winner. “But whether or not Fernando wins this year, I’m thrilled that the name of McLaren will be returning to Indianapolis. Three times in the 1970s the Indy 500 was won by a driver at the wheel of a McLaren – one win for Mark Donohue and two wins for Johnny Rutherford – and I’m sure Johnny will be at the Brickyard again this year to cheer on his old team.

“Last but not least, we should all remember Bruce McLaren, the team’s founder, a brilliant driver-engineer-entrepreneur who was tragically killed while testing a McLaren M8D Can-Am car at Goodwood 47 long years ago and who will finally and rightfully be inducted to the Auto Racing Hall of Fame this year.”

McLaren will be inducted in May along with Franchitti, the three-time 500 winner and four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion.

Miles credited Alonso, Andretti and Zak Brown, the executive director of McLaren Technology Group, for assembling the deal. Brown called Alonso “the best racing driver in the world.”

“Could Fernando win this year’s Indy 500? Well, I wouldn’t be so silly as to make any such rash prediction, but I expect him to be in the mix,” Brown said. “Put it this way: the team he’ll be racing for won the race last year, using the same Honda engine, and he’s the best racing driver in the world. That’s quite a compelling combination.”

The addition of the Alonso entry brings to six the number of cars Andretti Autosport has entered in this year’s 500. Full-season drivers Marco Andretti, Hunter-Reay, Rossi and Takuma Sato will compete, along with rookie Jack Harvey, who was named to drive the No. 50 Honda on Sunday.

Practice for the 101st running of the 500 begins May 15. Qualifying is May 20-21. Ticket information for the race is available at IMS.com.

FORMULA 1

LCH HITS A GRAND SLAM IN CHINA

The Mercedes ace notched up the landmark achievement by taking pole position, leading from start to finish, and setting the fastest lap.

Ironically, the Brit did that on lap 44, in car number 44 — which is his lucky racing number.

Hamilton’s victory in Shanghai was his fifth in 10 years at the track and drew him level with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the championship after the German’s win in Melbourne.

Hamilton said: “It has been a dominant weekend. It has been remarkable that this is my 10th year here and I have had six poles and five wins.

“I have a great record he and I have been very fortunate to work with some intelligent and hard-working people who have helped elevate me to the top step.

“This is a track that suits my driving style, whether it is in the wet or the dry and I am really happy with how I performed today.

“The strategist made the right decision in terms of coming in for tyres and the guys in the garage did a fantastic job with the stops, so it was a very on-point weekend.”