(Note, I’m renaming this series Dre’s Newswipe, in tribute to one of my TV heroes, Charlie Brooker. He’s the goddamn man and if you’ve never watched Black Mirror, or any of his satirical TV/Gaming/News shows, go find them on YouTube, he’s unreal and a massive inspiration to me.)
But seriously, my God, SO MUCH NEWS today, all being announced within minutes of each other, it’s ridiculous. So, I’m going to tackle all four major stories as best I can.
First up, it was the astonishing news that my own cohorts at Downforce Radio were first able to break last night, that Jenson Button is staying with McLaren for 2016. Is it just me who thought this was really obvious? I suspect that Fleet Street reckoned he had a 50/50 chance of retiring, so they decided to tease a retirement in the hope that they can be first… to jump the gun. *sighs* Mainstream journalism 2015, everyone.
Anyway, I’m in two minds about this. Jenson Button is a brilliant driver, marketing asset and overall great guy for F1. I only hope McHonda can eventually give him a competitive car to fully utilize his and Alonso’s incredible ability. What sucks, is the hole it’s now dropped their headlining young talent into, with Stoffel Vandoorne. He’s going to win the GP2 Championship at a canter. He’s been F1 ready for two years now. McLaren have to realize it’s simply unfair to keep talent like him and Kevin Magnussen back in the hope that one day, a seat will be available, which, thanks to Button’s two year contract, means 2017 at the absolute earliest.
My friend Ben McPhillips hinted at a possible Honda-backed IndyCar drive, and that would be really cool to see, if he has the funding to make it work. Can’t be any worse than Francesco Dracone, right? Still, McLaren hoarding talent without the luxury of a 2nd team must suck for Kevin and Stoffel. I fear Ron Dennis has sacrificed his talent academy for having a star-studded team, with no car to get the best out of them. It’s a lose-lose for everyone except for Fernando’s agent.
Meanwhile, a good bit of news for F1’s lowest ranking team, as Manor confirmed today they’ll be getting 2016 Power Units from Mercedes, as well as Gearbox parts from Williams for next season. Now, as I’m sure many of you will have pointed out, I’ve not drank the Manor kool-aid since their comeback was announced at the start of the year. I’m a realist, and the way they were talking, didn’t give me much hope. But they’ve taken some steps forward in terms of advertising, and now, this is a big step forward in terms of development. To have the best engine in the field, in an engine formula, is nothing but a positive.
Also, I wonder if this means Mercedes will share driver talent and treat Manor like a B-Team? Mercs have Pascal Weirlein (DTM-Champion Elect) and Esteban Ocon waiting in the wings, who could be real nice additions in terms of driver talent, and a chance for them to stretch their legs, something they just wouldn’t be able to do given the power of Mercedes factory team.
Now I’m not going to pretend that this is going to suddenly make Manor points scorers. I’m no technical expert, and I have no idea how much better this is going to make the team, but honestly, I’m just glad this means Manor will be sticking around for a while longer. A more sustainable sport is still some way-away (Have you seen Red Bull?), but a more competitive sport, is a healthier one. Again, I’m not drinking the kool-aid just yet though.
On the two-wheeled side of things, Tito Rabat confirmed the world’s worst kept secret in MotoGP and announced that he’s finally moved up to the top class next year, arm-in-arm with Marc VDS, replacing Scott Redding.
I’m a huge fan of Tito, and I think he ticks every box as a GP rider. Ultra-fast, extremely consistent, a high level of race-craft and adapts well to change. Sure, Johann Zarco might have shown him up a bit, but Rabat’s gotten better every year he’s been in Moto2 and I think he’s more ready than anyone else on two wheels. I think he’ll do great as long as Honda build a better customer bike for 2016, because they’re suffering as a brand at the moment. Looking forward to seeing what he can do.
Also, very happy that Loris Baz is getting a second chance in the class with the Avintia team, alongside Hector Barbera. Baz has taken to MotoGP like a duck to water and he deserved to be there, even before the 4th placed finish at Misano.
In not so bright news, Jaime Alguersuari has decided to retire from racing at just 25 years old. For me, this is a really sad story. Jaime was quoted to have said that he’s lost his love of the sport and that he “needs to try something else”.
Alguersuari was the first modern-day example of pushing a really young guy into F1 for marketing reasons. Until Max rolled up, he was the youngest driver to ever
start a GP, and he was a solid driver for them, he never really put a foot wrong and I feel like he was really start to getting to get it together before Red Bull wiped the slate clean for the 2012 season with Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.
What’s doubly sad about this, is that you have sacrifice a part of your childhood to get to F1 so fast. His pro career started at 15. He won’t be the first guy and he won’t be the last that had to give up a part of your education in order to race full-time. It’s even more commonplace in bike racing now, with smaller engines being a thing, and riders having World Class potential as a teenager. Fabio Quartararo being the case in point, making his Moto3 debut at 15 this season.
I’ve seen stories of some young riders being barely able to read or write, but they’re on bikes racing. And I think it’s that reason alone that we need to be a little bit careful in terms of trying so hard to promote younger talent and fast-tracking them, because stories like Jaime’s, we don’t often see.
This goes hand-in-hand with Red Bull’s Driver Academy. Sure, it’s supportive, but it’s also ruthless. Imagine being cut from F1 at 21. Drivers rarely drop out and drop in again, especially when they’re relatively unproven, so where the heck do you go from there. RBR’s academy has produced Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo. That’s all the justification it needs for its existence. But so many people forget, that if it doesn’t work out, it can damage a career, like in Jaime’s case, and for guy’s like
Sebastian Buemi and Jean-Eric Vergne. I mean, can you realistically ever see Pierre Gasly, Jann Mardenborough or Dean Stoneman, making it to F1 now, given the talent that Red Bull have at its disposal. Let’s be real here, F1’s the dream for these guys, and deep down, I don’t think they’ll ever make it.
I wish Jaime the best in his future endeavours, and I hope that he doesn’t forget that whatever happened in his career, he made history. Also, I hope this gives us all a little bit more awareness that Motorsport isn’t just champers and celebrations at the best of times. There’s a negative side of things too, that many people would rather ignore. And for me, a 23 year old moving into the next chapter of his life, and aspiring to be in this industry, that makes me sad.