On tap this week:
- Fellows deserves honour
- Alonso could use a new career coach
- F1 needs more tire wear
- The Strange ears have it
- Quote of the Week: Vettel takes on the Mercedes duo
- F1 teams show self-interest — again
When you're a sports car racer like Mississauga, Ont.'s, Ron Fellows, you can't do better than being a class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Doing it a couple of times and adding two class wins in the 12 hours of Sebring and an overall victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona already sets you apart as a Canadian driver.
When three American Le Mans Series (ALMS) class titles and four NASCAR Xfinity Series road course wins are thrown into the mix, Fellows is pretty much in a league of his own. Then there's the part about being an exemplary Canadian ambassador at racing events around the world and taking most popular driver honours in ALMS for four consecutive years.
Put bluntly, Fellows is a terribly pleasant, low-key, patriotic Canadian, who also finished first a lot.
Along the way, he played a key role in revitalizing and reinvigorating Canada's most legendary racetrack — Mosport International Raceway, now Canadian Tire Motorsport Park — and transforming it into a first-class venue. He's also been a central figure in helping mentor the next generation of Canadian racers with his Sunoco Ron Fellows Karting Series including IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe and Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters star Robert Wickens as alumni.
Despite his impressive credentials on track and his invaluable contribution to Canadian racing in general, The Globe and Mail has learned that none of it constitutes "achievement and merit of a high degree" or even "distinguished service" in a particular field in the eyes of the Order of Canada, which rejected his candidacy in the last round of nominations.
How Fellows' unmatched accomplishments on and off the track weren't seen as more than worthy enough remains a mystery because the Governor General's office won't talk about particular cases due to privacy concerns. A spokesperson did say there is no detailed criteria used to make the call on who gets in and who doesn't because the nominees come from varied fields and head-to-head comparisons are difficult at best.
While the criteria may be fuzzy, one thing is crystal clear: No Canadian racing driver is among the 207 sportspeople who have been invested in the Order of Canada, which seems rather odd considering this country's excellence in the field.
In the end, no matter how or why racers have been completely ignored, leaving a Canadian of Fellows' stature on the outside looking in remains a dreadful mistake that the Governor General should correct immediately.
It seems about time Formula One driver Fernando Alonso find a new career coach. Since the two-time world champion took the decision to leave the Renault team following his second title in 2006, Alonso's team choices have been questionable at best. A move to McLaren in 2007 turned out badly, with a rift between he and the team culminating in Alonso's departure. The next year, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton won the championship while Alonso went back to Renault for two seasons and ended up being mired in a cheating scandal. Five fruitless seasons at Ferrari followed before he returned to McLaren this year only to suffer a concussion in a mysterious testing crash and miss the season opener on Sunday. To add insult to injury, Ferrari looks to be the best of the rest so far, while the McLaren was more than five seconds off the pole time set in qualifying on Saturday.
By the numbers
There's an old saying about being careful what you wish for because you just might get it. A case in point is the ultra predictable, durable F1 tires now provided by Pirelli after it came under fire a couple of years ago for its rubber's degradation. In Sunday's Australian Grand Prix, only three drivers deviated from a one-stop tire strategy with almost all pitting around lap 25 and cruising to the finish. With everyone essentially on the same strategy and the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg streaking away to an easy 1-2 finish, "it was a boring race," according to Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo. While nobody wants five pitstops per grand prix as happened previously due to excessive tire wear, a little less tire predictability would help make things a bit more exciting.
While Formula One teams spend millions of dollars on sophisticated noise cancelling technology to keep the conversations going between the driver and his pit during races, outfits in the lower ranks don't have that luxury. NASCAR K&N Series Team Strange has found a novel, cost-effective solution: Off-the-shelf earbuds. Supplied by partner Färbe Technik, the earbuds have a noise isolating design and an integrated microphone that seem to work well in the car. They have also allowed the pit crew and team guests to ditch the usual bulky headphones, which can be hot and uncomfortable, for the smaller earbuds.
Quote of the week
"Be honest. Do you really hope so? Seriously? You finished 30 seconds ahead of us and you hope it's going to be closer? So you hope you slow down? Is that what you're saying?"
— Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel responding to post-Australian Grand Prix press conference comments by Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg who said they'd like to see some teams close the gap and bring fight to the dominant Silver Arrows.
The last word
Anyone who ever thought F1 teams would work together for the betterment of the sport got their answer Sunday. As the Australian Grand Prix wrapped up, it emerged that Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz may be looking to sell his team, mostly due to its drop in performance after four consecutive championships with Sebastian Vettel beginning in 2010. On the other hand, Ferrari unsurprisingly seems to have stopped moaning about the state of the sport after newly signed Vettel drove its 2015 challenger to a solid third in Sunday's race. "This is a good starting point, although it's definitely not the end of the road." said Scuderia boss Maurizio Arrivabene. "Now we have realized we can do well, we must begin to stop thinking about being 'second best' and start aiming higher."
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