December 21, 2014

In support of Gary Hartstein

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I'm republishing the text of Dr. Hartstein's  open letter to Gerard Saillant, the head of the FIA institute.  Saillant is the head medical person in the FIA, a position previously held by Sid Watkins.

The FIA has a problem with Hartstein voicing his opinions of a his blog and has gone out of its way attempted to take away his livelihood and passion by having him fired from the hospital he practices in.

This small minded bureaucrat style thinking is pathetic and another sign a generational shift is sorely needed within the motorsport's world governing body which is now just as sad as the IOC and FIFA.


An open letter to Gérard Saillant (oh yeah Jean Todt too)
Dear Gérard,

Imagine my surprise at learning that you were in my hospital last week. You actually got on the train from Paris to come here to Liège! It’s a pity you didn’t call me ahead of the visit – we could have had a cup of coffee. Or you could have beeped me to say hi once you got here. But I guess that actually being face to face with someone is not your style. Come to think of it, it never really has been, has it? You did fire me via email!

Imagine my surprise to learn that despite having heard nothing from you or your boss since being fired, YOU ACTUALLY CAME TO MY HOSPITAL BECAUSE OF ME. You made an appointment with the Dean of my medical faculty, to speak about me. Then travelled 2 1/2 hours . . . for me. I’d be flattered if I wasn’t so . . . shocked. But let’s not dwell on the fun we could have had together in Liège, and look instead at what exactly you came here for. I think it’s important that people understand just how you and your boss work.

You came here to try to get me fired.

Not from the job you already fired me from. That one was basically a hobby. A very serious, very time-intensive hobby. No, now you’re aiming higher. You and your boss want me fired from the job that pays my rent. The one I’ve held for 25 years. Wow. Were you wearing a black trench coat and fedora? Maybe I’m glad I wasn’t there. Perhaps you also had instructions to break my knees!

You came here with a dossier consisting of printed copies of my blog posts. And a copy of a personal email TO ME (!!!) from Corinna Schumacher. OMG. An email I actually never received. Probably because it was addressed to “garry.hartstein@…”. Seriously? I get scores of emails EVERY DAY from people all over the world who spent all of 30 seconds finding my email address. But the wife of one of the world’s most famous and wealthy sportsmen isn’t capable of carrying out that difficult task? You’ve got to be kidding me. Hell, dude, even YOU (trusted advisor to “the family”) had my email (again, that’s how you fired me!).

You came here to raise the issue of whether THIS blog violated my contract at work and could therefore be a reason to fire me, or at least to muzzle me.

Now you worry me. Maybe you should sit down. That’s better. Let’s talk.

Let’s just look at the facts, ok?

1) This blog makes no claim to represent the opinions of anyone other than myself. And while my bio may mention that I studied and work at the University Hospital of Liège, no other mention is made of this fact. All blog-related activity, then, is part of my personal life. Period.

2) Doctor-patient confidentiality is never violated, for two pretty good reasons. First of all, Michael is not and (other than the stuff that came up over 15 years of F1) never has been my patient. Second, I make perfectly clear that NONE of what I wrote in the days, weeks, and months following Michael’s accident was based on anything other than conjecture and experience.

3) When opinions are expressed, they are clearly identified as such, and are never presented with an intent to harm. This intent is abundantly clear, and is even explained on numerous occasions.

So you see, Gérard, if you’d have put your thinking cap on before flitting off to “le Paris du nord”, you’d have realised the absurdity of your project. My blog has nothing to do with my job. In fact, things like “privacy”, and “free expression” come to mind – not as sterile principles, but as LAWS THAT YOU ARE ON THE CUSP OF VIOLATING. You and your boss.

You have acted like a hoodlum. What you have done was not unexpected, but was thuggish and disgusting. You might wear expensive suits and a Patek Philippe, but your tactics are from the gutter.

Be aware that I’ve referred the “dossier” you handed over to the Dean to my attorney. You are on very very thin legal ice.

Word to the wise?

Shut up, back off, and watch out.

December 16, 2014

A Tifosi's guide to loving Sebastian Vettel.


The internet's view on this...
Let's be honest, the idea of Sebastian Vettel in red  will be will make a good portion of the Tifosi gag.

This is,  after all,  the man synonymous with the worst thing that has happened to Ferrari fans in recent years: those cheating soft drink salesmen who conspired to keep from them what should have rightfully been theirs: every world championship since 2010.

Sebastian Vettel, the guy who only won because Adrian Newey gave him a car that was so much better than anyone elses.  The driver who could not make a pass to save his life,  who conspired to make Mark Webber look bad and whined whenever he did not get his way, coddled by his Germanic overlords.

In other words, the devil incarnate.

But come the first track tests in the new year,  Vettel will be transformed in the Ferrari fan psyche into a new teutonic knight riding atop the prancing horse, slashing at all foes.  He will be hailed as the savior of Maranello.

Funny right? Well,  nothing new of course.

Before he landed at Maranello in 1996, Michael Schumacher was slammed for his "dirty driving" and having won two championships with cheater Benettons, the Red Bull of the era.

Schumacher was at Ferrari for 10 years and never learned to speak Italian beyond a mangled phrase of two yet, by 2000 when he won the first driver's championship in red,  he was a national hero.
Somewhat forgotten now is that he almost bailed to Mclaren that year, after four years of frustration.
In the end, Schumi was the best thing that could have happened for Ferrari as Ferrari was for the German.

Fernando Alonso was also not especially well liked by the "Tifosi":  he had beaten Schumacher, he had driven "cheater cars" and he had the nerve to say "Ferrari is not the team he dreamed of driving for" as a kid.
Nando's dream team was McLaren and when he finally got there it turned out to be quite the nightmare for all involved.

Alonso was a much better fit with the Tifosi, latin, fluent in Italian, he was loved for being tenacious like Mansell (Il Leone) and being a Gilles who actually finished races.

Will history repeat for Sebastian?     Will the Tifosi embrace him as they did former enemies Schumacher and Alonso?

We have no doubt but here is a primer of reasons to help Tifosi accept Seb in Red.

1. Vettel is a 27 year old German joining the Scuderia at a particularly low point.

The last 27 year old  German arrived at Maranello after decades of shame for the Italians.  The first couple of years were rough but eventually it worked out quite well for both.

2. Vettel actually had Ferrari posters in his bedroom as a kid

For Vettel, Ferrari is both a challenge and a dream.  This was clear (and in retrospect a clear hint at the future) this past summer, when he had a chance to drive a historic Ferrari F1 car at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.  On his debut at Fiorano, his helmet was marked with "November 29, 2014.  My first day at Ferrari".  He probably won over half the Tifosi right there.

3. Vettel comes to Ferrari with more world championships and wins than Schumacher

Make that more championships and wins than anyone who has ever moved to Ferrari  or any other team if you discount Schumacher's disastrous "comeback" with Mercedes.

4. Vettel's first F1 win was with a Ferrari powered Italian team.

Vettel's first win,  2008 at Monza in the rain with a Toro Rosso,  an improved Minardi not only made him the youngest GP winner ever,  but should be hailed alongside the likes of Senna's early moist  exploits.   Having spent time with the Faenza based squad also means Seb's Italian is much superior to Schumacher's.

5. Seb has a good sense of humor.

Schumacher was never a champion in that category. Vettel will probably need  some that sense of humor at Maranello next year.

6. Vettel is his own manager.

Despite having just a high school education (like many professional drivers) Vettel has been able to successfully navigate F1's shark infested waters without the aid of a manager.

7. He's good friends with Kimi Raikkonen.

Both he and Kimi are intensely private, keeping as much distance as possible between their on track lives and their family lives.  Plus anyone who's cool in Kimi's book has got to be alright.

8. He's a workaholic.

After hours at Red Bull, he would hang with the mechanics and engineers to understand and tweak as much as performance as possible out of the cars.   Hopefully Ferrari will successfully replicate that atmosphere in their pits.

9. He's a perfectionist.

Like the other famous German savior, he wants things done a certain way. Yes, he will squawk if he doesn't get what he wants.  His competitiveness goes beyond his day job, he notably tried to tune the Top Gear "Reasonably priced car" by changing tire pressures.

10. Vettel is the new chapter

It's a shame Fernando Alonso's tenure at Maranello worked out as it did.  In many ways he was the perfect driver for Ferrari but it was not to be.  Schumacher too almost left in frustration but then, after four years, it clicked in a big way.    Alonso does not have that luxury, he's six year further in his career than Schumi was,  he made the move and Ferrari let him go.  
Ferrari is undergoing an epic revolution:  for years the Scuderia was being told to think outside the box, now many of those same people have been literally put outside the box.   Nobody has been safe, not di Montezemolo, not Alonso, Domenicali, Mattiacci and those responsible for both the engine and the chassis designs.  Robespierre would have been proud.
Revolutions take time to resolve so the ideal driver is one who has something to prove and the time to prove it.

Vettel is that man.

Isn't a Turbo GT3 RS a GT2?

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By now you have seen pictures of a presumably not disguised Porsche GT3 RS romping in the snow.

One of the questions everyone is asking is about what's under the hood (the one in the back, where suitcases DON'T go). Mules have all shown an intake just in front of the rear wheels. in the past this was only on Turbo cars including the GT2.

For this latest RS, did Porsche just add that intake for something other than intercoolers, are they just trolling everyone?  Or are we simply looking at a 991 GT2?

Perhaps this clip from a more disguised mule, earlier this summer can give an aural clue.  It's came to us billed as a GT3 RS (and yes, it's PDK).  

Can you divine what's under the hood by its sound?

December 11, 2014

McLaren finally makes it official, invoking the myth of Ayrton Senna.


McLaren finally made it official: Fernando Alonso, and Jenson Button will drive in 2015, Kevin Magnussen will be the reserve driver.

The official release is accompanied by a picture of the drivers, Ron Dennis and Honda's Yasuhisa Arai standing in front of of a MP4/4 in their regulation gray suits.

Much is made of the Senna legacy and the dominating 1988 season when Mclaren won 15 of the 16  races.  It was a triumph for Honda but it's worth remembering it was also a year the majority of teams sacrificed by not running turbo engines ahead of their ban in 89.   Of course Honda trashed everyone in 89 too but that's another, long story.

“We do not need myths. We need examples to be followed – examples of courage, determination and hope. We need to believe it is possible to win, and it is our duty to pursue that belief.”  A quote from Ayrton is included, without apparent irony in the release along with this from Alonso:

“I have never hidden my deep admiration for Ayrton Senna, my favourite driver, my idol on track, my reference.

“I still remember, as a kid, the posters in my wardrobe, my toy cars in which I dreamed I would one day emulate Ayrton, and the kart that my father built for my older sister, and that I ended up falling in love with. That kart had the livery of one of the most legendary partnerships in the history of Formula 1, McLaren-Honda, the car that Ayrton drove, the same partnership to which I am now honoured to join, to take part in the next Formula 1 world championship."

and Button:

“I admired Ayrton Senna enormously, but, for me, it was the exploits of his McLaren-Honda team-mate Alain Prost that inspired me most as a boy. The way he stroked those beautifully brutal red-and-white cars to grand prix wins and world championships was to my mind poetry in motion, and I have tried to emulate his driving style ever since."

This brings to a conclusion a bizarre soap opera, with Fernando's silence, Jenson's public humiliation and Ron Dennis' rumored internal power struggles with his Mclaren partners.  Things may have been chaotic at Ferrari but at Mclaren, with Alonso brought on by Honda and the history between him and Dennis it will be a situation fraught with drama potential.   It's telling that, while much is made of driver statistics and seeming justifications for their "advanced" ages,  no mention is made of the length of the contracts.   It is speculated Alonso has a out clause that would allow him to leave after a single year should he choose to and, presumably Jenson would out at any time if Magnussen secures sufficient sponsorship, perhaps from a certain Danish brick maker.

It will be something to watch,  history says Alonso at Mclaren, a team he first joined chasing a myth,  is an almost comical bad fit but shotgun marriages do work... sometimes.
Alonso is the only one actually smiling in the picture!

December 6, 2014

How fast is the the Corvette Z06?


By now you've read all there is to read about the C7 Z06 and Z07,  you know that in pure cost/performance, it blows everything else out of the water.  

But how fast is it?   Well, this clip Corvette published showing a lap of Road Atlanta puts it in a context understandable to most of us tracktards.

The lap shown is 1:29.8 but at the beginning of the clip, you see the lap before was a 29.6.   Tommy Milner's talking his way through the lap, presumably he might do even better with full concentration.

NASA held it's eastern national championships at Road Atlanta ealier this year and 1:29.8 would have been good for first place in TT2 by 1 second flat.   TT2 is unlimited mods with an 8 to 1 weight to power ratio.   Those are some wicked fast time attack cars on slicks.

Need a BMW centric comparison?  Epic's Randy Mueller driver of one of the fastest BMW club racers in the country won the GT4 championship and qualified with a 1:31.9.

The Z06 with (presumably) streetable tires, sat-nav, air conditioning, built in data / video recorder and possibly even heated seats lapped sub 1:30 with a dude talking.

OK the "dude" is one of Corvette's pro drivers but still, there's just no denying the Z06 is one sick, sick car.

Week end viewing: Do cars have soul?

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If you don't believe machines have soul then you might not understand why anyone would want their car restored in the place it was born.  After all,  there are fine "panelbeaters" in the UK,  the United States and in many other places.

But if you do believe a panel molded in Modena is not the same as a one beaten in Birmingham or shaped in Sonoma because the air is different, because the dirt is different,  because the artisans in the shop with over a half century of experience had something different for breakfast, then you'll get why collectors the world over will send their car to Carrozzeria Brandoli.

People and companies like Brandoli are true treasures a thank you to all those who believe in machine soul!

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