Formula One - On and Off track week 34

Formula One - On and Off track week 34

Ecclestone still dreams about Danica Patrick, Virgin Racing not giving up on Formula One, Rotterdam City Racing Ecclestone still dreams about Danica Patrick The only thing that's still missing in the life of Formula One's ringmaster Bernie ...


Ecclestone still dreams about Danica Patrick, Virgin Racing not giving up on Formula One, Rotterdam City Racing

Ecclestone still dreams about Danica Patrick

The only thing that's still missing in the life of Formula One's ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone is a woman, not in his personal life, but in his Formula One life. The name of the girl who he has secretly admired for so many years is Danica Patrick, and she would be perfect for Formula One, the 79- year old Ecclestone recently confessed. The 28-year old Patrick is very high on his list, "She is probably the best female single-seater racer in the history of the sport and it amazes me nobody has tried to sign her.", he told the UK Daily Star last week.

Ecclestone still dreams about Danica Patrick.
Photo by Richard Sloop.

Ecclestone and Patrick collided a few years ago, after the 2005 Indy 500, where Patrick took fourth position, Ecclestone told the media, "She did a good job, didn't she? Super. Didn't think she'd be able to make it like that. You know, I've got one of these wonderful ideas that women should be all dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances." Ecclestone phoned Patrick to apologize, but he then repeated his statement in the press a few days later. Patrick at the time, "I just didn't make sense of it, I was surprised, I guess, somebody would say that to me. I was a bit confused. So I don't really know what to think about it."

Ecclestone already made some remarkable statements about women in racing, in 2000 he said that women would never excel in Formula One. "She would have to be a woman who was blowing away the boys. What I would really like to see happen is to find the right girl, perhaps a black girl with super looks, preferably Jewish or Muslim, who speaks Spanish.", the FOM boss said to a perplexed reporter. Ecclestone likes to make bold statements, as he admitted earlier this year when he said, "If there are no fires, we light a few of our own." Hopefully he knows where to find the fire extinguisher.

But Ecclestone has apparently changed his mind, and would welcome any female driver in Formula One, and said Patrick is still the woman of his dreams. "Regarding an American driver, we have tried that lately [referring to US F1] but obviously what's missing is the right attitude. You can race successfully in the US without the huge effort you need to succeed in Formula One.", he said about her. And added, "She is an absolute beauty and a proven and superb racer. She would be the perfect advert for Formula One. She works hard, she's attractive and a winner -- but nobody in Formula One seems to take her seriously." Yes, indeed Mr. Ecclestone, one can only wonder why she is not taken seriously, perhaps your comments attributed to people having the wrong idea about women in racing?

The last woman who entered a Grand Prix was Italian Maria Grazia "Lella" Lombardi, her last race was the Austrian Grand Prix in 1976. But in 2010 Patrick herself remains confident about a possible move to Formula One, "I was flattered to be considered for US F1 and I'll just have to wait and see what happens. Moving to F1 would be a difficult switch but I have no worries, I could hold my own once I got used to Formula One."

But although Ecclestone would love to see her in Formula One, he seems to have forgotten his own words about the future of the sport, "I think there are a couple of teams in Formula One who really shouldn't be there. They are a bit out of their depth at the moment. I would not be surprised if one or two of them did not make the end of the season." Which, if true, makes it very unlikely Patrick would find a place on the 2011 grid, 'perfect advert', as the dreaming Ecclestone describes her, or not.

Virgin Racing not giving up on Formula One

Virgin boss John Booth was also not happy with Ecclestone's comments about the new teams last week. "I wasn't particularly pleased, because comments like that for a team like ours can do great damage.", Booth said in an interview with a German magazine. "It's difficult for us at the moment as it is for other teams, and for all the new teams, it's destabilizing." And commented, "If you look at what we have built up so far, it's not all bad. In Formula One there have been probably 30 or 40 new teams [in the past], some of which never qualified for a race. But we are there at the start of every race and, step by step, we are getting closer. We are where we expected we would be, and maybe even a bit further ahead than that."

Virgin Racing not giving up on F1.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Technical Director Nick Worth also had a few things to say in favor of his team, but also admitted they have been struggling to find the right pace. About the 'lows' of the team he said, "It's obvious isn't it? The wretched fuel tank problem and the difficult race in China. We went through a tough period over those few weeks but our resilience in the face of that adversity will ultimately do us no harm." But he also remains confident about the future of the team, "Looking forward, we are feeling confident that we will reach our target of being top of the three new teams and take that much coveted 10th place in the Formula one Championship."

And why is Wirth so confident? "Where Lotus and HRT have now switched their attention to developing their 2011 cars, we are in the unique position of being able to further develop our present car as well as working on the development of our future 2011 car - all because of our unique digital design approach. Therefore Virgin Racing can expect to continue to improve our performance.", Wirth explains. Virgin sponsor and billionaire Sir Richard Branson said the team was in it 'for the long haul' and confirms Virgin will not give up, "We went into this with our eyes open, and we plan to stick with it as long as we can."

Rotterdam City Racing

More than 500,000 race fans turned up at the annual Rotterdam City Racing event in the Netherlands last weekend, and despite the rain spoiled some of the fun, they had a great time watching the action on the city race track which runs right through the heart of Rotterdam. Spectators enjoyed the day watching demonstrations of the Renault Formula One cars, Dakar trucks, Indy cars, Superleague Formula cars and cars from the Dutch Drift Challenge. Drivers like Vitaly Petrov, Jan Charouz, and Vladimir Chagin were present and of course Dutch drivers Robert Doornbos, Christijan Albers, Yelmer Buurman, Junior Strous, Tom Coronel, Jan de Rooij and Allard Kalff were the favorites of the public.

Again Dutch prime minister, and die-hard race fan, Jan-Peter Balkenende visited the event and this time he raced through Rotterdam in the Minardi two-seater piloted by Albers. Balkenende, "It's great, I really enjoyed it. I already did a short run on Saturday, but today it was at real race pace. Albers is a great driver." Albers, who joined the event sever times, about his experience in Rotterdam, "Of course I have been here before, it looked easy but there was a safety car in front of me, so I couldn't go as quick as I really wanted, I thought about overtaking the safety car, but that would have been a bad idea. It was a great day for me."

Vitaly Petrov at the top of the Willems bridge in Rotterdam.
Photo by Renault F1.

Allard Kalff had a bad day, he drove a classic 40-year old F5000 car, but he crashed into the IndyCar of Junior Strous, the first crash ever in the five years of this event. The young Dutchman, who is currently driving in the Indy Light Series, threw his car around to make a few donuts in front of the VIP grandstand, but didn't see Kalff behind him. And traditionally, when two race drivers crash, they both have a different opinion about what happened.

Kalff was not happy at all, his car was badly damaged, "He [Strous] made a donut, but there wasn't enough room so I crashed into the back of him. It's a pity, I borrowed this car from a friend and promised to bring it back in one piece." Strous who drove a car that was specially shipped from the US for this event, "I wanted to make a few donuts, so I stopped, and when I made the first donut he just smashed into my car. Luckily we were both unhurt." Strous will promote from the Indy Lights to the IndyCar series next year and will be driving for the HVM team.

Buurman gave a demonstration in the Superleague car, but when he arrived at the scene of the crash red flags were waved and he had to stop. Buurman, "There was a red flag, so I had to stop, but without proper cooling the engine temperature increased so I had to shut the engine down. The car doesn't have a start engine, so I was stuck there and couldn't continue my demonstration."

But most spectators were waiting for the main event: a demonstration of the Renault R9 with Petrov behind the wheel. He replaced Dutch born Chinese driver Ho-Pin Tung who was injured after a GP2 crash. And Petrov did what the crowd expected him to do: he raced through the streets of Rotterdam, stopped a few times in front of the City Hall and awed the crowd with smoking donuts and the screaming Renault engine echoed through the streets and high-rise buildings surrounding the track. The Renault was equipped with an onboard camera and the spectators could watch Petrov from inside his car. Petrov who did the second run after Charouz had done the first run in the wet, "It is good fun, I could do donuts and burn-outs and I was really close to the spectators."

Doornbos had given a demonstration with a NASCAR at Zandvoort at the same day during the DTM venue, and was flown by helicopter to Rotterdam to drive the second Minardi two-seater. He arrived just in time, but he had to abandon his run after the gearbox of the Minardi started to make strange sounds, and not much later he couldn't get the car into any gear anymore. Doornbos, "A pity, the mechanics already warned me the gearbox was almost at the end of its life, I had problems getting out of the pits, but I managed to do one lap and a few donuts. It was a great event, and I'll be back next year."

Another one who was happy with the event, was the mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb. "When I'm together with the people of Rotterdam who enjoyed this event, I as a mayor of this city also enjoy it, and then I'm very happy as well." And after all the race cars had left town, and after the barriers and grandstands had been removed, Rotterdam was again ... just Rotterdam.

Join us again next week for the weekly "Formula One: On and off track".


See also: Formula One - On and Off track week 33

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Christijan Albers , Robert Doornbos , Ho-Pin Tung , Vladimir Chagin , Junior Strous , Yelmer Buurman , Vitaly Petrov , John Booth , Bernie Ecclestone , Danica Patrick
Teams Virgin Racing