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Maybe there won’t be even one Canadian in F1 next year

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

My good friend, Juliana Chiovitti, who, if she hadn’t run out of money, would have been in Indy cars before Danica Patrick and, in her own words, would have won races, plural, sent out a Tweet the other day, to the effect that: did anybody think there would be an all-Canadian team in Formula One next year, with Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi doing the driving?

I answered no. What I didn’t say is that there might not be any Canadians in F1 next year.

Lance Stroll is suggesting he won’t be back at Williams and there was speculation that he could wind up at Force India. But Force India already has two good drivers. And they are both well-funded drivers. So unless Stroll is prepared to show up at Force India with way more money than either or those two guys, he might wind up knocking on the door for a long time.

And just because you have the money, or think you do, it doesn’t mean F1 teams will be welcoming because, when it comes to Formula One, there is never enough money.

Timothy Collings wrote a book, the Piranha Club: Power and Influence in Formula One, in which he detailed (and he’s since revised and updated it) how the three or four people who really run that sport can sniff out a sucker the moment he walks into a room. And they proceed to steal his money, spend it all, or most of it, and then chew him up and spit him out – smiling at him the whole time.

It takes a long time, and a whole lotta money, to be accepted into that club.

Williams has undoubtedly burned through the (reported) $80 million the Strolls put into that team and unless they continue contributing, Lance will be out as of the end of 2018. And is there another $80 million floating around for him to take to some other backmarker team? Money doesn’t grow on trees.

Meantime, Nicholas Latifi of Toronto is, unfortunately, not doing as well as could be expected in Formula 2. Yes, family money could get him into F1 but you have to be competitive once you get there and I’m not sure Latifi has it in him to race at that level – at the moment.

Which is nothing to be ashamed of, by the way. There are only 20 jobs in F1 and while there might be a weak sister or two in that crowd, you could take any of the rest of them and pop them into a Ferrari or a Mercedes and they would be going for pole every time out, just like the four drivers on those two teams already do.

McLAREN UNDER INVESTIGATION, SELLING OFF CARS

Meantime, Latifi’s father, Michael, who recently purchased 10 per cent of McLaren for a reported $200 million (Canadian) via a British Virgin Islands company he controls called Nidala, might be wondering about his investment.

The first bit of bad news is that the team’s parent company, the McLaren Group, is being investigated by the U.K government over “third-party companies and executive and other persons who have been, or are currently, associated with the group.”

Investigations of any kind are never good.

The second bit is that McLaren is selling off many of its historic, and valuable, racing cars to raise money, which is also not a good sign..

This information is being reported by Pitpass.com and comes from investigate work conducted by the British newspaper, The Telegraph.

According to Pitpass.com. the revelations about the fire sale and the investigation come amid claims of unrest within the F1 team, where there is allegedly a “toxic” atmosphere and claims of “clueless management.”

The Group has seen a £1.3m profit turned into a £66m pre-tax loss, courtesy of lower passenger car production. And it admits, according to The Telegraph, that any investigation could be financially damaging because of negative publicity surrounding assertions against “executive persons and other persons who have been, or are currently, associated with the group.”

The sales of historic cars were announced in company filings for the McLaren Group.

Just over a year ago, as Ron Dennis awaited the £275m in lieu of his 25 per cent stake in the company, it was revealed that McLaren had raised £37.5m from the sale of 13 rare and historic F1 cars including a 1981 MP4/1-1 (the first McLaren MP4), a 1993 MP4/8-8 (Ayrton Senna’s last winning McLaren) and a very rare white Lamborghini-powered 1993 MP4/8-1 which was on loan to the Lamborghini Museum.

As the filings show, the identity of the cars that have been sold and their purchasers are not known. What is known is that Dennis was paid off and new investment found from Michael Latifi.

TIMES HAVE SURE CHANGED IN THE RACING WORLD

It was interesting to watch the goings-on at Hockenheim last weekend, scene of the German Grand Prix. Everybody was loose as a goose.

Back in the 1950s and 60s, when I fell in love with auto racing, you couldn’t talk to the drivers as the start drew near.

Clark would ignore everybody, standing there chewing his fingernails. Stewart looked like he was on another planet. Amon would get into his car early and stare at the instrument panel. I stood beside Gurney, at Indy in ‘67, as he sat on the pavement with his back against his car’s front wheel, holding his face in his hands,

Nowadays, they have time to talk and joke around. Verstappen talked to an interviewer after the anthem was sung as if he had all the time in the world. Ricciardo was starting at the back Sunday and the camera zoomed in and he winked at it and although his face was covered by his balaclava and helmet, you knew there was a big grin on his face.

Why the difference?

Because in the 1950s and 60s, you had a very good chance of dying in a race car. In 1958, a half-dozen Indy drivers died. In 1970, seven Grand Prix drivers were killed. They were dangerous days.

Now? Nobody gets killed in the upper echelons of the sport anymore. With the introduction of the halo, nobody even gets hurt.

You can afford to take the time for an interview, and to kid around with the camera, because nothing bad is likely to happen.

Not back in the old days, though.

nmcdonald@thestar.ca