• Max Mosley

Racing Roundup: It’s time to stop racing in the rain 

Miss Supertest designer dies, F1 incidents fishy and all the rest of the news

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald May 25, 2021

Here is the Monday racing roundup on Tuesday.

SAD NEWS, to start off:

James Gordon Thompson has died at age 94. A member of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, Thompson designed Miss Supertest III, which dominated world hydroplane racing for three consecutive seasons. Thompson retired from the sport when Supertest’s pilot, Bob Hayward, was killed. For details, please click here

Andre Ribeiro, 55, the pilot who gave Honda its first victory in Indy car racing and later drove for the mighty Team Penske before retiring to run Penske auto dealerships in his native Brazil, has died of cancer. For details, please click here

Max Mosley, who helped launch March engineering, teamed with Bernie Ecclestone to turn Formula One racing from an expensive hobby into a multi-billion-dollar business and who was the victim of a defunct British tabloid who published details of his sex life, has died of cancer at age 81. For details, please click here


It’s time to do something about rain in auto racing. I have come to the conclusion that, with arguably one exception, there should be no racing if it rains.

If it rains, they don’t play baseball. They play football in the rain and snow, but it is not a pleasure for anybody. It might be wonderful to watch in the warmth of your family room, but I guarantee it is not in the least fun to sit out in the elements and get soaked. If it rains they stop professional tennis. If it rains on the golf course, they will go for a while but, when it gets soggy, somebody will see a bolt of lightning off in the distance and they suspend play – as they should.

They do not race on short tracks when it rains. Those tracks are called SPEEDways, not DRIVEways for a reason. People pay to see drivers exercise skill and daring while going like a bat out of hell along with a whole bunch of other bat-out-of-hellers. And that’s the attraction.

So how come there’s this mania of racing in the train?

Back when racing started in Europe, not all that many people had personal cars. They got around on trains. Tens of thousands would take the train to places like Monaco or the Nurburgring and it took a lot of effort. Then they paid to get in to watch the race and the organizers and participants felt an obligation to race, come rain or shine. This obligation has never gone away and I think it’s ridiculous.

It’s hard enough to control a Formula One car or an IndyCar when it’s dry. Try doing it when it’s wet. Nuts. I know, it shows the skill of the drivers that they can do that. Maybe that was true at one time but auto racing is entertainment now and entertainment should be shown in the best possible light.

The one exception – arguably, again – could be 24-hour races, of which there are only a couple. Otherwise, if it rains, cancel the race until the next available opportunity.

It’s miserable for fans and it’s miserable for the drivers. The most famous example came at the Molson Indy in 1990. Al Unser Jr. was leading, and Michael Andretti was second. They were going around and around and Al Jr. wasn’t increasing his lead and Michael wasn’t gaining. Finally, Al Jr. radioed his pit. “The fans have mostly left,” he said, “and I’m cold.  Ask Michael if he wants to keep going and then ask CART (the sanctioning body).” Michael said he was fine to stop. CART checked with one or two other drivers and then threw the checkers early.

What got me going on this was the race the NASCAR Cup Series held Sunday at the Circuit of the Americas in the rain. They had a big crowd, all of whom got soaked. The drivers were slipping and sliding around and half the time they couldn’t see because it was so misty and foggy. NASCAR finally ended the race with 14 laps remaining, primarily because of standing water on the surface.

“We’ll learn from this,” they said.

I hope what they learn is to stop trying to do it. And I hope F1 and IndyCar stop trying, too.

For a story on the race at COTA. please click here

Max Mosley


The next time the NTT IndyCar Series TV contract comes up for renewal in Canada, I really hope Roger Penske and his people don’t give Sportsnet more than a passing glance. Go back to TSN and ask them if they will carry everything having to do with the series, as is the case with NBC Sports Channel in the U.S. and the Peacock streaming service. Otherwise, put a link on the IndyCar website and charge me a reasonable sum to access it.

I can watch Formula One practice, qualifying and the race and get interviews galore. Same with NASCAR Cup and the Xfinity Series. That’s all on TSN. I just want the same treatment for IndyCar, which I’m not getting from Sportsnet.

Because NBC had it on its main channel, which is available to cable subscribers in Canada, I was able to watch the Fast Nine Shootout for the Indianapolis 500 pole on Sunday afternoon. Scott Dixon and Colton Herta were about a millimetre apart and it was all very exciting. But there were other moments that were just as exciting.

The most exciting came 90 minutes earlier on Sunday when the last chance shot at qualifying was held. Five cars and drivers were trying for the last three places in the field and if you were looking for drama, it was there in spades. Will Power actually hit the wall during the last of his four laps and didn’t take his foot off the throttle in order to finish his run. Power’s commitment and guts were on display for all to see. Simona de Silvestro made it in by the skin of her teeth. My heart was in my mouth. Of course, most of us didn’t get to see that.

Saturday, between 5:30 and 5:50 p.m., was another heart-stopping 20 minutes. That was when Stouffville’s Dalton Kellett bumped himself out of the field and then requalified to start 30th. He finished his run but then had to sweat it out while de Silvestro tried to go faster. She couldn’t and he could breathe again. Something else we didn’t see.

I hope this is the last time I have to write paragraphs on this subject. If nothing else, it’s not fair that NASCAR and F1 fans get the cream week in and week out while all IndyCar fans ever get is skim milk.

For a story on IndyCar qualifying, please click here

Max Mosley


Although the Grand Prix de Monaco turned out to be somewhat of a boring affair on Sunday (Max Verstappen won for Red Bull, with Carlos Sainz second for Ferrari and Lando Norris third in a McLaren;  for a complete story, please click here

I am always amazed by the media who make their living covering that series. Can’t anybody ask questions anymore?

It’s not just motor racing, but any sport these days. The reporters get an audience with a driver or team principal and the first question anybody ever asks is, “Talk to me about,” . . . or, “Tell me about,” etc. This allows the athlete (or athletes) to control the narrative. They’re quite happy to get a question like that.

But they can get quite testy if a writer asks them something they’re not expecting. So not that many tough questions get asked because the journalists all want to remain on the good side of the driver, player, manager and so-on.

I am leading up to something, of course. There were two incidents in that race Sunday that stunk to high heaven. But nobody turned on the grill.

If I’m there, and I’m lucky enough to gain an audience with Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto, I say to him: “Your car driven by Charles Leclerc ran into the Armco at high-speed Saturday. Why did it take you nearly 24 hours to determine that the car was too badly damaged to start the race on Sunday?”

He would then say that they did not realize the car was that badly damaged and the follow-up question would be: “Why not? This is Monaco, the most famous of all Formula One races, and your driver, Leclerc, lives in Monte Carlo and has won the pole, which means he would likely win the race, and you didn’t think the damage was that bad? Why did you not take the car apart and look at everything?”

I would not get an answer, of course. And the way it works in F1 is the way it works in the world these days. You get one question and one follow-up and, well, it’s time to move on. But let me float something here: I don’t think Ferrari wanted the tech inspectors to get too close to that car. Why? I leave that to your imagination. But that’s probably why we had the song and dance.

Then, of course, we had the case of poor Valtteri Bottas and the right-front wheel that just wouldn’t, wouldn’t, come off. If the universe had continued to unfold as it should, Bottas would have continued in that parade, er, race, and finished second. Team leader, and perennial world champion, Lewis Hamilton, was having a terrible weekend and had qualified poorly (he went off seventh) and would likely have finished there and his teammate would actually have moved closer to him in the points, WHICH WOULD NEVER DO.

Now, I’ve seen wheels get stuck and guns get jammed and all sorts of things happen during pit stops but sooner or later the wheel comes off and a new one goes on. Not this time. Why, said an astounded technical director James Allison, the wheel nut was sitting in the Mercedes garage and they would have to take it back to the factory to get it off there. And I’m thinking, “Why bother? It’s ruined, never to be used again.”

But there’s a narrative at stake, so best to stay quiet.

At some point, though, I would have asked if he had ever seen anything like this happen before and after he said yes, I would ask him for the driver, race and date. That sort of thing stops people in their tracks. It can also get you on the FIA’s media blacklist, too.

There’s one other thing: I wonder if Hamilton has something in his contract stipulating that Bottas can’t finish ahead of him. That would be impossible to find out (probably) but I wouldn’t be surprised.


Lance Stroll, Aston Martin F1 (8th): “Both cars scoring points in Monaco (teammate Sebastien Vettel finished ahead of him) is a good day for the team,” Lance said. “We executed a great strategy and picked up some deserved points for our hard work. It wasn’t easy to race on the hard tire in the first stint, especially at the start, but I was able to launch well off the line. That gave us a platform for the rest of the race, which came to life late in the stint as we pushed to make the overcut viable or be ready in case the Safety Car came out. We gained three places through the overcut in the end and had strong pace to the end, too. We are still learning every race, and we can be proud of the job we did today.”

Nicholas Latifi, Williams F1 (15th): In what was his best race yet, the Canadian was only a second behind his highly rated teammate, George Russell, and did well to fend off Yuki Tsunoda’s faster Alpha Tauri toward the end. “It was a very tricky race, probably the trickiest race I have done so far in Formula 1,” Nicholas reported, “but I think I managed it quite well. It’s definitely a track that doesn’t suit our car, either on low or high fuel, with the low-speed corners and the bumps. It was very tough out there to manage, but I feel like I looked after the tires as best I could. I did have some more pace than George at various points in the race, but ultimately, we wouldn’t have been in the position to score points. There was no Monaco chaos, but that’s just how it goes sometimes here.”

Max Mosley


I spent time in Monte Carlo in 2019, but not while the race was on – which is probably a good thing. I could walk the track and not have to worry about being mowed down.

I was there as a guest of Bentley, who were introducing their latest Silver Spur. As well as getting to drive that magnificent car around the roads of the South of France, I stayed at the Hotel de Paris ln Casino Square. (That is a view of the harbour, above, that I took from my room.)

Something I didn’t do was go into the famous Casino. That would have cost me 17 Euros (about $25 Canadian) and that would have allowed me to stand inside a roped-off section and watch people lose millions.

While the tourists look happy, everybody who lives in Monaco looks desperately unhappy (except the Prince, who shows up at the Casino most nights around 9 p.m. to gamble; he doesn’t have to pay the cover charge). I wonder: does he ever lose?

An aside: when the Prince is out and about, the police close the road or roads he’ll travel on and don’t open them again until he’s back in the castle. It’s your tough luck to be on one of those roads in a car when it’s shut down. You might not get to go anywhere for hours.

One last thing: if the police, who are everywhere, don’t think you look like you belong, they will take you into custody, put you in a cruiser and drive you out of town and country (pretty much one and the same), at which point they will tell you not to come back. If you are stupid enough to go back anyway, they will arrest you, charge you with vagrancy and throw you in jail.

Here is a quick tour of the famous circuit, which is a postage stamp compared to most Grand Prix tracks:

At the start/finish line (even when you’re there, it is hard to figure out how they can have a road going one way, a pits, grandstands and a road going the other way in an area about the size of my street) there are a couple of statues (Monaco is big on statues, particularly of the under-dressed women variety) of racing cars and a race driver named Louis Chiron, who is the one and only Monegasque (how snobbish, eh?) to have won his home race to this point.

At the first corner off the start straight, which the British TV announcers insist on calling SAN DEVOT, is a little church dedicated to the patron saint of Monaco and Corsica, Sainte Devota. This chapel was first mentioned in history books in 1070 and renovated several times since. The façade was rebuilt in 1870. It was rebuilt completely in 1948 after Monaco was bombed during the Second World War. (Who, in their right mind, would order an attack on this place?) So, a year from now, when the cars flow through there for the first time, you can think of this history lesson, provided to you today by Prof. McDonald.

The hill up from the pit straight to the Casino Square is a lot steeper than it looks on TV. I was pooped when I got to the top.

I stood on the steps outside the Hotel de Paris and imagined the F1 cars sweeping left in front of the hotel and then right after the casino and I still couldn’t figure out how they could do it at the speeds they run there.

After the Casino, the cars jink right around something in the road en route to the Mirabeau turn, which takes the field down to what was originally called the Station Hairpin (because that’s where the train from France and Italy stopped). They jink to miss a paved platform in the road that normally houses a patio for the Tip Top bar, a 24-hour establishment.

I could go on but just about every centimetre of that track has history, However, the “race,” as mentioned, did not feature one pass. They are reclaiming more of the Mediterranean every day that goes by and there are suggestions that they add to the circuit to actually create a passing zone. I don’t know how I feel about that. In one way, yes; in another, no.

And that’s it for this column. I plan to file another column this week, which will appear on wheels.ca Friday or Saturday. It will be an Indy 500 advance (interviews with Hinchcliffe and Kellett) and some items I have to catch up on. See you then.

By Norris McDonald / Special to wheels.ca