Monday, June 10, 2019 at 08:45AM

by Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Longtime readers of this column know that I've been disenchanted for at least a decade now with what F1 has become. The rampant technology for technology's sake; the bewildering sums of money being spent; the rote orchestration of everything on race weekends; the precious garages required so that none of the local color may intrude into F1's world; the holding up of governments and cities for egregiously usurious sums of money for the "right" to hold a F1 event; the steadfast neutering of the fundamental sound of the cars that defined the sport for so long - it goes on and on. 

In short, F1 has become antiseptic, sanitized and regimented down to the very last detail, and the racing has become predictably boring as a result. So when something happens on-track like what happened on Sunday at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal between Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes, one would get the sense that there was at least a glimmer of the old spirit and brio of F1 still at work. I'm not going to get into the incident, as readers have seen it repeatedly and from every angle by now, but that glimmer was reduced to a resounding thud of disbelief as the F1 stewards slapped a five-second penalty on Vettel for re-entering the track in a non-safe manner, or some such nonsense. That decision effectively cost Vettel the race, as he was moved to second behind Hamilton after leading almost the entire race.

This decision was everything that F1 has become in one monumentally stupid moment. Anything that goes against the grain is systematically removed or purged. Anything out of the ordinary is routinely ostracized and exposed as being not in "the spirit" of F1 competition. Anything that shows the least bit of emotion or human involvement is reduced to a penalty or some form of punishment. F1 had become an embarrassing joke long before this point, but for many, this incident and the penalty that ensued - which changed the outcome of the race - was the last straw.

Defenders within the F1 paddock stupidly agreed with the ruling as being the right decision. That those defenders were primarily within the Mercedes team was predictable. And this piss-poor decision couldn't have come at a worse time for the sport of F1. Interest is waning, the turbo V6 engines with their muted sounds have turned off countless longtime fans of the sport, and the rumors about the next rules package coming for 2021 are ominous, as in, going in the wrong direction. Sebastian Vettel was suitably pissed off after the race, and while talking to the media he blasted F1, giving voice to what many out there are thinking:

“I was just thinking that I really love my racing,” said Vettel. “I’m a purist and I love going back and looking at the old times, the old cars, the old drivers. It’s an honor when you have the chance to meet them and talk to them. They’re heroes in a way. So, I really love that, but I really wish that I just was maybe being as good as I am, doing what I do in their time rather than today. I think, it’s not just about that decision today... So, I think Lewis, obviously as I said, I rejoined the track and Lewis had to react. I don’t know how close it was or how close he was. Once I looked in the mirrors he was sort of there but, for me that’s racing and I think a lot of the people I just mentioned earlier, the old Formula 1 drivers and people in the grandstands, would agree that this is just part of racing, but nowadays I don’t like it. We just sound a bit like lawyers and using the official language and I think it just gives no edge to people and to the sport and ultimately, it’s not the sport that I fell in love with when I was watching.”

Amen. In the parlance of racing all across America, what happened on Sunday was "just one of them racin' deals." You don't penalize a driver for that, and you certainly don't take a sure win away from him or her. But then, again this is what F1 has become, supposedly the premier form of motorsport in the world is deeply mired in Bush League Bullshit, and it has been reduced to an embarrassing joke. 

And that's the High-Octane Truth for this week.

Le Mans, France, June 20, 1966. Ken Miles in the No. 1 Shelby American Ford Mk II that he shared with Denny Hulme during the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team was comfortably in the lead for the win, when Ford operatives demanded an orchestrated 1-2-3 formation finish of the Ford team at the end of the race. Because of that, the French organizers determined that, taking into account the starting positions, the No. 2 Shelby American Ford Mk II driven by Bruce McLaren/Chris Amon had, in fact, won the race. Miles, who was the one person most instrumental in Carroll Shelby's success and who played a crucial role in the development of the Ford Mk II, was furious that the victory was taken away and remained bitter about it right up until his death.

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