Lotus Renault’s Nostalgia Road is a Rocky Road…..

Point of View

First allow me to state that I am a Robert Kubica fan, that has loyally stood by him while KERBS made a hash of any driver who was over 100 pounds soaking wet a few years back, and I would currently love to see him back  in a race winning car at the earliest possible moment. But for the moment, this article looks at the aftermath of Kubica’s rally crash from Renault’s point of view.  How can they minimise the amount of damage that has been done to their World Constructor’s challenge so close to the start of the F1 season?  It is not like  they can grab someone as good as Robert and expect him to win races from the get go right?  Okay there’s still both Kimi Raikkinen and Nick Heidfeld out in the winds, and Robert’s chances of returning to Renault have taking a serve beating, but what if Renault do not take the obvious route and rreally go all out to use F1 to market Lotus Cars?  Kimi’s a former Champion, and has the name from that, Nick can not offer more than just being a good F1 driver.  But there are two drivers that where both champions that had Lotus connections during their careers….

Introduction

 Boy, poor Robert Kubica!  Everyone believes that as a F1 driver, Robert is in the wrong team, but would any other F1 team – Ferrari, McLaren, Williams – allow their drivers to engage in any form of high-risk activity, let alone rallying?  Possibly not, Red Bull might be the exception, but I truly wish that riding a bicycle in the middle of the deserts of Australia is not considered a high-risk activity.  Might be a “Mark Webber” thing, although, as I do not see Vettel breaking his legs on a bicycle….

But what of the team called Lotus Renault, who has just lost its undoubted Number One driver for at least a fair chunk of the season?

The Man with the Yellow Helmut returns….

We know that their test driver is Bruno Senna, and well, he does bring one years experience in a HRT to the plate.   More importantly, with a Yellow helmet he brings untold sponsorship opportunities by living off the name of his long gone uncle, who did make a name for himself in a similarly coloured John Player Special cigarette box on wheels….. However, we need to remember that Senna spent only three years at Lotus, and only two, in 1985 and 1986, did Lotus run the Black and Gold JPS colours.  (In 1987 their main sponsor was Camel cigarettes, and Lotus ran a Yellow and Blue colour scheme).  In those years Senna won his first four victories, two in the wet, which showed that Senna was something special in the rain, one very close battle with Mansell, and one blow out.  Not much of a record to really link the team efforts to huh?  Yes, Senna is famous, but all of his World championships and 37 wins were in a McLaren, so maybe the Senna connection is not really linked to Lotus in the minds of the general Public, who let us face it, is sort of important to Group Lotus’ goals of selling cars….  Maybe F1 fans will associate Senna with Lotus, but even the hardcore F1 fans seem to forget that Senna actually started out with a team called Toleman back in 1984.  What hope does Lotus have milking the Senna name for their cars if the General public only remember Senna in a McLaren? 

Or how about the man who your team made a champion?

But what if Lotus Renault secured the name of Andretti to drive for one of their cars?  Mario is a person who won his second win in the Black and Gold JPS Lotus 77 of 1976 in Japan,  five wins in a JPS Lotus 78, and five more wins along the way to his drivers championship crown in the famous Lotus 79.  So there you go.  It is obvious that the name of Andertti holds more of a Lotus connection than Senna who let us face it, only won four races with the team and is more connected to the McLaren team anyway.  Obviously I am pushing Marco into F1 as, well, Mario is too old, Michael was a joke and John and Jeff, well, they had enough of a chance to shine.  I have not seen enough of Marco to say that he is not good enough for F1, but more importantly, I have not seen enough of Marco to say that he would be useless either…. 

Petrov needs a White Russian after hearing the news….

But what if Lotus Renault does go down this route?  Why not use both Senna and Andretti as a drivers just to milk whatever name attachment still exists?  I mean, it looks likely that Kubica is going for at least the season.  And going by least year, Petrov does not look exactly like a Number One driver, let alone a driver that can actually lead a team to victory.  Not that I think Senna or Andretti can do a better job of leading a team, but I am pretty sure that the name of Senna or Andretti in a Black and Gold Lotus just might actually get me to burn a Leather seat in my Lotus Espirit as it is the safest place to put my JPS cigarette as I am filling up the car at the local Total gas station¹…. Which ultimately is the name of the game….  

So how do the other teams counter this line-up?

But what if this game of going down Nostalgia Road becomes the new thing in F1?  I doubt that we will see Olivier Hill driving a TF Lotus with a Oxford Rowing Club Helmut Colours, but Scheckter (Tomas) and Uncle Jacques² Villeneuve at Ferrari would be an interesting counter, and far better than (Olivier) Hill’s teammate Kazuki Nakajima…. (Hey, all Nakajimas come with a free engine supply…)

Would Williams pick up Rosberg (provided Nico decides to all himself Finnish, of course….) If Nico can’t there always Christian Jones.³  Hopefully Williams does improve from the need to hire paying drivers as both these two would make an interesting matchup….

Okay, as Napoleon once remarked, “from the sublime to the silly is but one step”, I think I have leapt away from the region of the sublime….

Notes:

¹  In keeping with this Lotus Espirit image, forgetting to remove a lit cigarette at a gas station is a very easy thing to do when you are thinking that a 1977-era Caroline Munro (The Bond-girl called “Naomi”)would have been a better “option”  for the passenger seat than a 1977-era Barbara Bach (The other Bond-girl, KGB spy “Agent XXX” )

²  Jacques Villeneuve (elder), aka “Uncle Jacques” born November 4th, 1953.  Drove three F1 races ( 1981 Canadian, 1981 Cresar’s Palace for Arrows and the 1983 Canadian Grand Prix for RAM)  His nephew is possibly the Jacques Villeneuve  you are thinking about….

³ Adpoted son of Alan Jones.

Thursday Thoughts – Who Was The Real Star of 2010?

Okay.  So I found out that Sidepodcast’s “Thursday Thoughts” was being blogged at  VivaF1 for today.  Ooops! Hopefully I am not charged a second strike against me, as I made a good argument that Circuit Gilles Villeneuve should be replaced with Circuit Mont Tremblant and may have raised the wrath of Saltire.  The Old Guard Brigade will point out that F1 was moved from Circuit Mont Tremblant to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in the interests of safety.  And I say that is exactly my point.  If you think we Canadians have a fairly decent F1 circuit just converting an Olympic rowing basin think of what we accomplished by having a racing circuit on the same slopes we used to train our Olympic Downhill skiers when they earned the nickname of the Crazy Canucks. Just think about it.  A car goes off the track to slide down the intermediate slope bouncing on the moguls and finally wrapping itself a ski-lift pole. The driver has broken legs, can not get out of the cockpit and is eaten alive by a pack of wolves….But I digress….

Hail the Polish Polaris! Okay, no guesses for thinking that I am going to vote for Robert Kubica as the Real Star for 2010…..

First off look at it this way, to be a star you have to do something spectacular, and really how hard is it to be wonderful if you are driving say a Ferrari, or a McLaren or a Mercedes or Red Bull these days ? There is nothing to write home about Ferrari or Mclaren winning world Championships, so if Hamilton or Button or Alonso or Massa where to win the World Driver’s Championship, well, that’s expected, but not special.

But what of Red Bull you say – They are quite a new team right? Yes they are young, but looking at 2009, their drivers where in 2nd and 4th places in the championship, and the car itself was runner up. With no major changes in the line-up anywhere , you would have to say that third place this year would be considered a major disappointment.

And Mercedes? Surely a rookie would be a star. No because aside from who is actually singing the bills and the driver line-up you really have to say that this is the same team as Brawn last year, who undoubtedly where the stars of 2009 and realistically, are on the way downwards for a bit to third place, just as you would think that both Ferrari and McLaren would be / should be ahead of them this year…. Seeing Mercedes in Forth place on the constructors table surly has to be expected and not star-like.

Hey Renault’s in 5th place on the constructor’s table. Interesting. At the start of this year, there was rumours that Renault would not survive the season….You think that Kubica made the jump from the frying pan into the fire as the BMW was going to disappear. And then you had to feel sorry for Kubica when you found out that Peter Sauber bought back his team from BMW and Renault was to the brink.

Then came the deals that bought Renault back from the brink and Renault built a car that Kubica could shine in. And did he ever. With hindsight, we can say that the Renault was the fifth best car on the grid, looking at the constructor’s table. Logically, for reach race, you can expect the Renault to have fallen in the 9th or 10th spots. Baring three retirements, and one 11th place finish, and one 9th place finish , Kubica exceed these expectations.

And did he ever. Two 8th place finishes, three 7th place finishes, four 5th places, one 4th place, and a 3rd place finish at the driver’s circuits at Monaco and Spa and finally one 2nd place finish at Melbourne. And Kubica did this not in a Mercedes, or a Red Bull or a McLaren or a Ferrari, but in a freckin’ Renault !

Star of the year. The Polish Polaris, Robert Kubica.