Monday, 26 April 2010
A Scientific Study of Motorsport Nations
After spending twenty minutes yesterday trying to explain the concept of the football World Cup to Christian, I thought I’d had the breakthrough with it seemingly sinking in that Manchester United couldn’t play Brazil, until, in typical seven year old fashion, I was faced with a new poser; who would win in a world cup of motor racing? Frustrated at losing precious BTCC watching time, Christian was duly sent back to his room, with the instruction not to come back out until he was twenty five. The seed was sewn, though, and I started to consider his question. I could have dug out the A1 GP results for the time that the now ill fated series was running, but it wasn’t exactly conclusive in that respect, was it? There was no historical value to it, most drivers and teams that have made any impact on motorsport haven’t been anywhere near it, and the cars were identical – sourced from a single supplier. So how would I do it? I would look at the World’s most prominent racing nations and score them on certain areas; F1 World Champions, current top class drivers, race car production and national racing series, and see how they came out. Which countries would I choose to represent this highly scientific survey? I don’t suppose it would take long to assess the merits of motorsport achievement in Burma, Gabon or St Lucia. So I would select a few nations with the richest motorsport heritage. Here comes the controversial part; feel free to lodge displeasure at any omissions:
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain and the United States. A special mention at this stage goes to Denny Hulme and Jody Scheckter, whose nation’s – New Zealand and South Africa are the only ones with a World Drivers Champion in F1 not to be considered, and to Russia, India, Poland and Switzerland, who all have current F1 drivers; it had to stop somewhere. Now let’s consider them individually:
Argentina – F1 World Champions – Juan Manuel Fangio (x5) 8/10. Current top class drivers – Jose Maria Lopez nearly made this year’s F1 grid (albeit with substantial state funding), but sank with the USF1 mess 1/10. Other – Potrero del Fuego in San Luis is probably the most picturesque circuit anywhere in the world, and will stage a round of this season’s FIA GT1 World Championship, while national touring car series, TC2000 (where Lopez is reigning champ) is in good health 4/10
Australia – F1 World Champions – Jack Brabham (x3), Alan Jones 8/10. Current top class drivers – Mark Webber, Jamie Whincup (Double V8 Supercar champ), Indycar stars Will Power and Ryan Briscoe, David Brabham (Current ALMS Champion and 2009 outright winner Le Mans 24 hr) and Daniel Ricciardo (2009 British F3 champ and Red Bull test and reserve driver) 7/10. Other – Great racing pedigree and infrastructure, V8 Supercar championship is thriving, where the Holden/Ford battle is almost tribal. Bathurst endurance race is iconic, and Melbourne is a favourite F1 destination 7/10
Austria – F1 World Champions – Jochen Rindt, Niki Lauda (x3) 8/10. Current top drivers – FIA GT1 driver Karl Wendlinger, IRC’s Franz Wittman and 2009 British F3 runner-up Walter Grubmuller, whose Dad seems to have enough money to make up for any shortfall in his boy’s talent 2/10. Other – Red Bull F1 team hails from Austria, which has hosted many Grands Prix in the past, latterly at the A1 Ring 4/10
Brazil – F1 World Champions – Emerson Fittipaldi (x2), Nelson Piquet (x3), Ayrton Senna (x3) 9/10. Current top drivers – Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, veteran Rubens Barrichello, and F1 rookies Bruno Senna and Lucas di Grassi, Indy legends Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan and WTCC ace Augusto Farfus 8/10. Other – Interlagos has seen the F1 title decider in each of the last three years, and is always one of the most entertaining races on the calendar, Indycar, GT1 will also visit this term 5/10.
Canada – F1 World Champions – Jacques Villeneuve 5/10. Current top drivers – Villeneuve had been tipped to return to F1 this term, but didn’t, Bruno Spengler (DTM nearly man), Indycar legend Paul Tracy, Alex Tagliani (Indycar) 5/10. Other – Gilles Villeneuve’s life was cut short and would surely have been F1 champion had it not, F1 returns to Montreal this year, while Indycar has two races in Canada, and NASCAR holds a Nationwide race there 6/10.
Finland – F1 World Champions – Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen (x2), Kimi Raikkonen 7/10. Current top drivers – Raikkonen, Heikki Kovalainen, Ford WRC stars Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, and Williams test and reserve driver Valtteri Bottas 6/10. Other – Climate doesn’t suit top level racing, although ideal for WRC round and other major rally events 4/10.
France – F1 World Champions – Alain Prost (x4) 7/10 Current top drivers – Sebastien Loeb (on his way to an unparalleled seventh straight WRC crown), Sebastien Ogier, F3 Euroseries champion Jules Bianchi (firmly on Ferrari’s F1 radar), touring car ace and former BTCC and WTCC champ Yvan Muller, Romain Grosjean and Sebastien Bourdais 7/10. Other – Le Mans (say no more). Has lost its F1 race at the moment although still represented by Renault team, Citroen dominate WRC, while Peugeot replicate this in IRC and won the 2009 24 hours. ART are clearly the top feeder series team in European motorsport, and World Series by Renault has become a huge series of events 9/10.
Germany – F1 World Champions – Michael Schumacher (x7) 9/10. Current top drivers – Schumacher heads a list of six F1 drivers comprising Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Timo Glock, Adrian Sutil and Nico Hulkenberg. Double DTM champion Timo Scheider and current GT1 champion Michael Bartels 9/10. Other – Two of Europe’s most iconic circuits (Hockenheim and the Nurburgring) rotate the staging of the F1 round, whilst all top European based series’ visit the country. DTM is Europe’s premier touring car category, German based F3 Euroseries is struggling for numbers this term, but has launched the careers of many current F1 stars. Audi, Mercedes, Porsche and BMW all have huge motorsport pedigree, only minus is lack of a presence in top level rally, with only Walter Rohrl’s two WRC titles in the early 80’s to consider 8/10.
Great Britain – F1 World Champions – Mike Hawthorn, Graham Hill (x2), Jim Clark (x2), John Surtees, Jackie Stewart (x3), James Hunt, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button 10/10. Current top drivers – Hamilton and Button; the two latest F1 World champions. Reigning Indycar champ Dario Franchitti, and previous champ and Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon. DTM frontrunners, 2005 champ Gary Paffett, soon to be F1 driver Paul di Resta, Jamie Green and David Coulthard. IRC champion Kris Meeke, and triple WTCC champ Andy Priaulx 10/10. Other – Britain struggled to hold on to it’s F1 round this year, until Silverstone came to the rescue, like Germany, Britain holds rounds of most top European series’, and it’s BTCC is a great spectacle, although not on the scale of the DTM, while the British F3 series has become the top F3 championship in the world. The UK no longer manufactures large volumes of vehicles, although Ginetta and Aston Martin continue to thrive, and most F1 teams have their main base in the UK 7/10.
Italy – F1 World Champions – Nino Farina, Alberto Ascari (x2) 6/10. Current top drivers – Lotus F1’s Jarno Trulli and Ferrari test driver Giancarlo Fisichella, WTCC Gabriele Tarquini, GT1 champion Andrea Bertolini, Max Papis (the only European in the main NASCAR series) and double BTCC champ Fabrizio Giovanardi 6/10. Other – Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Maserati, Monza – brands which exude the spirit and history of F1, Auto GP and the Superstars touring car series are fast becoming big name championships on the European scene, and talk of a second Grand Prix around the streets of Rome will only add to the country’s racing stock 8/10.
Japan – F1 World Champions – None 0/10. Current top drivers – Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, Kazuki Nakajima, Indycar stars Hideki Mutoh and Takuma Sato, HRT reserve driver Sakon Yamamoto and British F3 frontrunner Daisuke Nakajima 5/10. Other – Japan holds a popular F1 race at Suzuka, Twin Ring Motegi holds the only Indycar race outside of the American continents, Japan holds top level rallies, and its Formula Nippon and Super GT championships are as big if not bigger, than any domestic series in Europe. Toyota’s withdrawal from F1 marked the end of Japanese involvement as an F1 constructor, but Toyota and Honda (especially their engine department) have massive F1 pedigree, Mazda have won Le Mans outright, and Nissan run a successful GT programme. Subaru and Mitsubishi have had huge success in rallying, producing two of the sports most iconic and successful challengers of all time, in the Impreza and Lancer Evolution respectively 9/10
Spain – F1 World Champions – Fernando Alonso (x2) 6/10. Current top drivers – Alonso (in my view the most talented driver on the F1 grid), fellow F1 drivers Jaime Alguersuari and Pedro de la Rosa, Le Mans winner and Ferrari tester Marc Gene, F2 champ Andy Soucek, and WRC Citroen driver Dani Sordo 7/10. Other – Spain holds two F1 rounds and all of the official F1 testing, due partly to its climate, but more to its excellent facilities. Three International rally events will be held this year, as will rounds of all of the top European series’. Carlos Sainz is a former double WRC champ and his son is moving quickly through the ranks of single seater racing, HRT is Spain’s first F1 entrant although their cars are made externally by Dallara 8/10.
United States – F1 World Champions – Phil Hill, Mario Andretti 6/10. Current top drivers – Jimmie Johnson has won four consecutive Sprint Cup titles, while Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart also star in the States’ top series. Indycar stars Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti and the only woman ever to win a top level car race Danica Patrick (a PR man’s dream). Ken Block is a popular rally star and Alex Rossi is making waves in the junior formulae on this side of the pond 8/10. Other – The NASCAR brand, including its many series’ is a huge organisation, so much so that the US audience is totally switched off to F1 (a situation not helped by the 2005 US Grand Prix fiasco), and most single seater enthusiasts are mopped up by Indycar. Some of the world’s most iconic races take place in the States, including the Indy 500, Daytona 500 and Sebring 12hrs, while an F1 return is being mooted, either to Indianapolis, or as a New York street race 9/10.
1) Great Britain, 27; 2) Germany, 26; 3) United States, 23; 3) France, 23; 5) Brazil, 22; 5) Australia, 22; 7) Spain, 21; 8) Italy, 20; 9) Finland, 17; 10) Canada, 16.
So there we have it, its official, England beat Germany in the World Cup, and it’s been a long time since anyone said that. Scientific, of course it wasn’t, but I am not biased towards Britain in any way; I would be just as happy to see Webber, Massa or Alonso win the title this year as I would Lewis or JB. Doubtless people from this country will disagree with the scoring, as I’m sure people from other countries (the US and Germany, in particular) will argue the result, but I think before they start pulling holes in it, I’ll let Christian out of his bedroom, tell him it wasn’t such a silly question after all, and give him the answer he was after. Let’s hope they (or England at least) can make it a double in South Africa.