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motorsports

On tap this week:

  • F1 tire wars without tire wars
  • Racing is still dangerous
  • Good news for IndyCar
  • Spanish Grand Prix favours Silver Arrows
  • Quote of the Week: Helio Castroneves on turning 40
  • Gary Paffett shines in the rain.

Otmar Szafnauer may not be a familiar name to most Formula One fans, but that may change if the sport adopts his innovative tire proposal.

The Force India chief operating officer wants the teams to choose what rubber they use at grands prix rather than having F1 tire supplier Pirelli decide for them.

Under the plan each team would secretly pick two tire compounds for every grand prix from the four options — super soft, soft, medium, and hard — Pirelli already supplies. These choices would only be revealed on Thursday of grand prix weekends, which should create some intrigue before and during races as varying strategies play out.

"It will certainly mix it up," said Szafnauer, who hails from Detroit.

"To me, there is no downside to this change and it actually emulates what used to happen during the tire wars, without increasing the costs at all."

To ensure Pirelli can produce the different quantities of tires, the teams pick their tires at least one month in advance of races and in two-month blocks. The deadline would be flexible and respond to Pirelli's lead time needs for manufacturing the rubber.

Word in the paddock is that both the sport's governing Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile and F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone like the plan.

Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery sees things differently, calling it "impossible" from a logistics point of view last week. He also contended that the teams would never agree unanimously to the proposal and, even if they did, part of Pirelli's job is to ensure "responsible choices" when it comes to tires.

Pirelli's opposition may arise from the additional logistics and possible costs that may arise from having to produce and ship four compounds for every race, especially if only one team wants to do something completely different.

On the other hand, it's hard to argue that having assorted performance and degradation rates and different strategies wouldn't improve the overall show, especially with some cars already proving to be easier on the tires than others this year.

Random thoughts

The dangers of motorsport were front and centre Saturday night when at least five spectators were hurt in an accident during an Ontario Modifieds Racing Series event at Flamboro Speedway, near Hamilton. A car involved in a collision between Turns one and two at the one-third mile oval went over the track's waist-high wall. Luckily, the car was not travelling quickly enough to reach the grandstands and there were only minor injuries to the spectators involved.

By the numbers

Early indications point to a hugely competitive Indianapolis 500 on May 25, which is good news for the IndyCar Series. The first practice sessions for the 99th edition of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" ended Sunday with 25 of the 27 cars on track separated by less than one second. The quickest driver was Penske's Juan Pablo Montoya who managed a best lap of 39.6874 seconds (364 kilometres per hour) on the famed 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In addition to the close times, the two engine manufacturers — Chevrolet and Honda — were evenly represented in the top-16 cars. Canadian James Hinchcliffe was 19th.

Technically speaking

Formula One's European home stand begins this this week with the Spanish Grand Prix at a Barcelona Circuit that's relatively gentle on tires and brakes. That may play into the hands of the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg who scored an easy 1-2 victory in Spain last year, crossing the line 49 seconds ahead of third place finisher Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull. While Ferrari seems to have a car that can challenge at tracks where tire wear is an issue, the medium and hard rubber selected for this grand prix combined with the Barcelona's characteristics point to another easy Mercedes win.

Quote of the week

"Age is just a number. If you're thinking about the past, drivers and special legends, they used to race until what, 54? Mario [Andretti], what was his last race? I still have 14 more years."

— Penske driver and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who turns 40 on May 10.

The last word

Mercedes driver Gary Paffett put on a show in a wet Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) race on Sunday, passing 20 cars on his way from the back of the grid to a podium finish for third. With rain predicted for the race, the 2005 DTM champion gambled with a wet set-up in dry qualifying earlier in the day, hoping it would pay off. It certainly didn't look like it after a post-qualifying penalty for a rule violation demoted him from eighth on the grid to 23rd, but all went his way once the rain started falling. Meanwhile, his Canadian teammate Robert Wickens struggled with tire pressures in the rain and finished seventh. The other Canadian in the DTM field, BMW driver Bruno Spengler was ninth.

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