Friday, August 26, 2011

Heidfeld Out at Lotus-Renault

Eric Boullier came under fire this morning on his decision to replace Nick Heidfeld with reserve driver Bruno Senna.

The Lotus Renault GP Team Principal felt that a ‘shake-up’ was necessary to motivate the team back to the front as the Formula One season restarts after the mandatory three week August break. 

The decision came as a complete surprise to Heidfeld, and he has since launched legal action against the team. A hearing is scheduled on 19 September at the London High Courts. Speaking to media earlier in the week, he remained hopeful that he will regain his post with the team within three weeks time.

Heidfeld has taken his pleas to remain with the team to social media. Earlier this morning he posted this on his Twitter account:
"I was surprised by the Team’s intention to replace me and regret that things have developed this way. I just wanted to be in the cockpit to get the best result for the team and me. I still have a clear contract and I want to drive."
Heidfeld’s argument is that he was under contract to be ‘a main driver’ with the team. But often times than not, driver contracts can easily be nullified and re-negotiated in this day and age. Teams are also very savvy to include a number of clauses pertaining from fitness, sponsorship obligations, and above all on-track performance. A driver is expected to fulfill those clauses if he wishes to remain with the team.

Boullier argued that when Heidfeld was brought in to replace the injured Robert Kubica at the beginning of the 2011 season, he was expected to match the Polish driver’s pace, if not exceed it. To that measure Heidfeld has failed to meet those expectations.

Taking a look at the statistics, Heidfeld currently sits 8th place in the driver championship, just before teammate Vitaly Petrov. Both drivers had a chance to visit the podium earlier in the season, with Petrov finishing 3rd in Australia and Heidfeld 3rd in Malaysia. The problem lied in Heidfeld’s attrition rate. With his consecutive retirements at the German and Hungarian Grands Prix, the team has lost valuable momentum. In comparison, Petrov consistently outdrove Heidfeld during qualifying, and while Petrov often fell out of points contention, he finished his races.

Boullier’s frustrations were clearly evident when he spoke with Adam Cooper on the matter, and held nothing back on his criticisms towards Heidfeld.
"Every session, every weekend, the media jumped on me asking why Vitaly is faster than Nick? Every time. You need to guess by yourself, I was not very happy with let’s say the pure speed of Nick, and his global performance as an experienced driver. That’s it."
Boullier also hinted that Petrov may take over the role as lead driver in lieu of Heidfeld’s presence.

Formula One hasn’t had a high profile driver firing since Scott Speed in 2007, when the American beached his Toro Rosso in the gravel trap during a rained out race at the Nurburgring. He subsequently got into a heated argument with team principal Franz Tost on camera and was soon replaced by Sebastien Vettel.

Meanwhile, Lotus Renault struggled to find pace at a drenched Spa on Friday during Free Practice, with Bruno Senna and Petrov charting at P17 and P24 respectively.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: Senna (2010)

It’s easy to run out of superlatives when conjuring up praise for ‘Senna’. Director Asif Kapadia’s dramatic documentary about the life – and ultimately death- of one of the greatest racing icons the world has ever seen has been reviewed many times over by the world press. The consensus is universal acclaim: A fitting tribute to a great driver and, at heart, a great man. Seventeen years have passed since Ayrton Senna met his fate at Imola on 1 May, 1994. Yet the void left by his death continues to resonate, and from the diverse demographic who came to see the film, his reach remains transcendent. Echoing the words of fellow driver Niki Lauda, Senna was the greatest driver who ever lived.

It would seem a tall order then, to attempt to summarize Senna’s meteoric life into a mere 108 minutes of film. But somehow under Kapadia’s stewardship, along with writer and fervent Senna devotee Manish Pandey, managed to achieve the impossible. With blessings from the Senna family estate and Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, the duo was granted complete access to archives that had, until now, remained unseen by the public. 

What resulted was a masterpiece that takes the audience on a journey from Senna’s humble beginnings in karting to his ascendency into the pinnacle of motorsport. Race footage along with press interviews were seamlessly spliced together to portray the feral intensity of a racing driver possessed by an unrelenting thirst for winning. 

While the racing faithful are rewarded with stirring highlights of Senna’s greatest drives throughout his career, the storytelling refrains from becoming overly technical that it neglects the casual filmgoer. Moments of pure awe came when reliving Senna’s maiden podium finish under a torrential Monaco in 1984 cementing his reputation as a rain master, to his first win on home soil at the 1991 Brazilian Grand Prix, his body spasms so ferocious by race’s end that it took an effort worthy of divinity to lift up the winning trophy. 

Kapadia made a point to juxtapose Senna’s driving prowess with an impassioned, even vulnerable facet of a mere mortal relishing in the simple company of family and friends. Proud of his Brazilian heritage, Senna was also a trailblazer in that he never hid his roots. His trademark yellow helmet was painted in the colours of the Bandeira, the national flag of Brazil. Senna’s success galvanized a whole new generation back home, where people saw him as a beacon of hope for a better future amidst a landscape of political and social turmoil.

Senna’s tribulations in Formula One took center stage for the latter part of the film. The story found its adversary in Frenchman and fellow McLaren teammate Alain Prost. What started out as the perfect pairing quickly turned distrustful and toxic, fuelled by a blind desire to humiliate one another both on and off the racetrack. Then-FIA president Jean-Marie Balestre wielded the organization to his own benefit and sided with Prost as his favourite racing son. His prejudice came at the expense of maligning Senna, the two often coming to verbal blows during driver meetings. Senna found himself in unfamiliar territory dealing with the political hubris that overshadowed his purpose as a racing driver. 

The psychological warfare intensified up until the fateful weekend at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994, with those closest to him in the paddock recounting the ominous signs. The race inevitably went ahead, Senna putting on one final dazzling display before succumbing to his fate. The on-board camera abruptly cuts away from the final moments, and Senna’s life was no more. While denial held out hope for the best, the enormity of his death didn’t hit home until the funeral. Senna’s sister Viviane stood in front of the mahogany coffin, weeping silently and clutching onto the familiar yellow helmet as mourners came in the thousands to pay their last respects. As the end credits rolled on, the only sensation left was that of raw emotion. The only sound heard was that of a thumping heartbeat, and the only movement felt was that of streaming tears. 

The poignant moment in the film came during one of Senna’s many interviews, when he reminisced on the simple, carefree days of his youth starting out in go-karts, when all he wanted was to realize his dreams of becoming a racing driver. He succeeded in becoming so much more.

‘Senna’ will be released nationwide in Canada on 13 August. Go and see it.

Hello Pricklepants.

It has been a while since I've blogged. My last attempt at blogging didn't end too well. Actually, the efforts simply waned. Life got in the way, as it usually does. 

Of course, a couple of other things popped up as well since my last entry in 2009. Social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and more recently Google+ have all diluted the blogging experience. 'Micro-blogging' is all the rage these days. It's all about getting your point across with expedience, preferably in 140 characters or less, or a highly stylized Instagram Photo. The written word has become sidelined in this day and age. 

Having done essays in high school on a typewriter (No fancy electric typewriter here... It's all about the key travel), I believe there is still much value in writing, and writing well. 

For this first entry, I will talk about the genesis of the blog name. 'Baron Von Clutch'. It starts from an unlikely place - Toy Story 3.

When I was watching the latest installment of Pixar's much loved franchise, one character caught my eye. His name was Mr. Pricklepants. He had a thick British accent and was well versed in Shakespeare. At one point during the film Buttercup labelled Mr. Pricklepants 'Baron Von Shush', because Mr. Pricklepants always insists on prim and proper speak. 

How Regal, I thought. And how appropriate as a unique Twitter Handle.

Around the same time I was contemplating an alternate Twitter persona that centered around Motorsports and the Automotive Industry in general. My friends have gotten fed up with me talking about cars and drivers and lap times on my personal account, and honestly I don't blame them, since I can become quite pedantic when talking about such things.To make it more car-relevant I decided to replace 'Shush' with 'Clutch', and the name was born.

So now that's cleared and explained, what to expect next?

Unlike the last blog I did, which was basically a diary of my concerts and various musical adventures, this will be all automotive, all motorsport, all the time. William Burroughs said 'Write what you know', so this is me, heeding William's advice.

Onto the next...