No. 769,
October 22, 2014

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Formula Done.

How about this one from the Russian GP? "Putin also will have found cause to smile in comments made by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who over the weekend told Russian news outlet Vedomosti that Russia's top dog should be in charge of considerably more territory than is currently under his control."

Formula 1 truly does have the mien of its maestro, one Bernie Ecclestone. So why do I continue to follow it? First off, I can't stand watching it anymore, and only listen to the races via my mad internet skillz. Second, the politics and intrigue, or more properly, the rat pile, are a spectacle unto themselves. This whole Vegas thing is just Bernie stirring up some conflict before the race in Austin and putting a little stick to promoters in Long Beach who dream of earlier days. Oh yeah, and I'm still not keen on looking at those droop-donged mingers with their frozen engines, quietly driving around at 8/10ths (fuel flow rate is limited by the rules). There's a reason team sponsors are hard to find, these days.

Mike W.
Eastchester, New York

Hello Vegas, Goodbye Texas?

Eloquently crafted ‘Fumes’ this week.  Bernie always has viewed COTA in Austin an "America’s track that supports F1 fans in Mexico and Central America" more so than as a true United States GP… he’s even said as much in interviews. We know Bernie has always wanted a race in the U.S. but so few will pony up the money to satisfy his carpetbagging demands. We scares me about the Las Vegas race is that if you combine a race in Vegas with the sure-to-be good new Hermann Tilke F1 track in Mexico bought and paid for entirely by Carlos Slim (no pesky committees or governments), I’m concerned that once Mexico has its new track in place, and Bernie has a new place to call home for "the Americas" that the Vegas race will become the sole USGP and once again the U.S. will look like a clown show on the world’s racing stage.

Mark S. Weaver
Auburn Hills, Michigan


Formula 1.

I think F1 went too far by embracing hybrid technology.  These are tiny vehicles, with little room to place all these components, let alone shed the heat that some of them must do in order to work properly.

So, some of my suggestions:

- Scrap the hybrid systems
- Go back to normally aspirated engines, with a personal preference for small 12 cylinder configurations
- Get rid of automatic (or semi-auto) transmissions.  Sequential gearboxes are ok, but use a d*mn shifter so we know you can drive.  And use a clutch.
- One I'm not completely sure about: going back to refueling.  I do like that things are safer without it.  But it's an option that could be considered.

In the aero realm, there is lots that can be done -- or undone would be a better description.  All these winglets and trim pieces just make the car look like crap.  (And I love it when Steve Matchett notices the fencing on the front wings are knocked or fall off  -- and the car does not slow down or seem to have any handling consequences!)  Two single plane wings (front and rear), end plate winglets on those two planes -- and that's all.  No fences, no strakes, get rid of the silly configurations around the "driver's floor".  You want to conceal a bunch of aero INSIDE the side pod, go ahead.  Mess with the airflow off the engine compartment, fine.  As long as you don't add wings.

And if y'all want to return to the gumball tires of the 70's and 80's, I'm fine.  I liked those fat tired cars that were not much bigger than a roller skate.

One final thought:  F1 will be changing in the near future no matter what else happens.  Bernie is not getting any younger, and he won't be around that much longer.

Atlanta, Georgia

Editor-in-Chief's Note: Interesting ideas all. Then again I would take just about anything over what we have in F1 today. This coming from a guy who thanks that Dan Gurney's 1967 Spa-winning Eagle-Weslake V12 Grand Prix car was the most beautiful open-wheel racer ever built. - PMD

Bad. Real bad.

People killed by exploding shrapnel in Takata Corp.-supplied Honda airbags? And they're in Toyotas too? I can't wait to read how Consumer Reports handles this one, since they fawn over just about every car these guys make.

Grosse Pointe, Michigan

Formula Greed.

Thank  you for the pin-point accuracy in your piece on F1.   Personally, I think the whole concept is 'bass-akwards'. "If YOU want to play in MY town, how much will YOU pay ME?"  B.E. has managed to hoodwink so many that to even begin a count would be an exercise in futility. What was once a (motor)sport filled with real personalities and a variety of cars has denegrated into a cookie cutter parade. I stopped paying any serious atention to F1 about 10 years ago... as well as other forms of motorsport. As they have become more "homogenized" they have also lost my interest. The seven or eight races I attended a year are now down to a single vintage event at a local venue. What's wrong with motorsport is the perennial question and yet the powers that be can't see past the box office.

Rochester, Michigan


Seems logical.

This whole fiasco with the Takata airbag detonators appears bigger than the GM ignition switch brouhaha. You don't even have to have 27 lbs of junk hanging on your key chain to have a problem occur. What gives me a good feeling of schadenfreude is how two high-priced GERMAN manufacturers used the Takata devices as well. I bet the people leasing them thought they were buying safety in addition to snob value. One hears the constant drumbeat of how precision and uncompromising German engineering is. Can't they engineer their own airbag systems? No doubt they'd be far superior to anything else on the planet.  Wouldn't they?

D.J. Mann
Henderson, Nevada

The Unctuous Prick All-Stars.

You probably should have given St. Elon at least two "down" arrows rather than just one.  He is wealthy, successful and innovative, but his arrogance is beyond that of Sergio and Captain Queeg.

John B.
Houston, Texas


Much ado about nothing.

I think fretting by Mustang lovers over the new impending Camaro is all for naught, or at least from where I sit the bigger dick wars ended decades ago.  I have yet to meet someone who changed their purchase from Camaro to Mustang or visa versa, or even weighing an apples and oranges comparison.  There may be a few out there, but I haven't run into them.  You are either a Mustang person or a Camaro person; now is either the time to upgrade or not.  They spun into very distinctive models back in 1970 with the new Camaro; sometimes similar over the generations but rarely alike.

Dave M.
Houston, Texas


The way it should be.

Everyone writes to complain, but I am pleasantly surprised today.

My 2003 BMW 330i got caught in the Takata airbag recall.  I got a letter from BMW, and then a postcard three weeks later when "the part was in".  I called and received an appointment with a loaner car.  It took 24 hours, and I got the car back the next day.  Not bad for a car purchased new in 2003.  The local Hertz store told me they were paying $40 per day and the nice Hertz guy who picked me up was very familiar with the route to the dealer.   They were out of normal "loaners" and were into renting cars.   I can only imagine the bill passed back to the supplier.

Here, "industry" is a recall done right.  Contact customer.  Follow up.  Fix as scheduled. Customer more, not less, likely to buy in the future.

Oh, and I got kudos but not the record for mileage.  My car has 310k, but I'm beat by a lady who has an e90 with 350k, "and she only does routine maintenance and fixes things when they break".   Oh well.

Casey Raskob, Esq
Croton on Hudson, New York


Elon, Elon, he's our man, if he can't do it, nobody can!

I don't really have a stake in what happens to Tesla.  But I enjoy the fact they're shaking things up.  So to me, your comments On the Table seem disingenuous.  Tesla's goal is to own the sales points rather than franchise them out.  And they have service facilities around the country.  Legislation blocking them from opening retail points effectively blocks them from opening service centers, as well.  So I view this strictly as a move to protect constituents and nothing more.

And it's not exactly like your car is getting trucked to California to be fixed.  They have service centers across the nation, and many non-Tesla owners (cough, Audi, Subaru, cough) need a flatbed tow truck when they break down.  And of course, the more cars they manage to sell, the more stores, and service centers, they can open.

Finally, I definitely think Elon's soft skills could use some work, but I admire the fact that he has the thick skin needed to take on major competitors entrenched on local, national and international levels.  Plenty of big ideas come with big personalities attached.  It'll be interesting to see how his legacy fares long term rather than just listening to the criticism of the moment.

Farmington, Michigan

Editor-in-Chief's Note: I'm always amazed at the people who go out of their way to defend Elon Musk. Is he brilliant? Yes. Has he done some cool things? Yes. But like most people with egos the size of Silicon Valley, he begins to think every idea he has is so preposterously visionary and brilliant that he can't for the life of him understand why people don't just bend to his wishes because after all, their lives would be oh so much better for it. Well, that's unmitigated bullshit. Musk is trying to circumvent the existing system because that's how he operates, outside of the box thinking, zigging while others are zagging so we can all bask in his brilliance, blah-blah-blah. Well, sometimes that's admirable and sometimes he comes off like a petulant child stomping his feet to get his way, like now. He thinks his idea is better but he can't service his cars, even though he protests otherwise. And it's tedious. Almost as much as people sucking up to him is. Does the current franchise system have monumental problems? Yes? Are there bad dealers out there? Yes, of course. But so far Musk has not come up with a better idea. As I clearly stated, direct selling is all touchy-feely cool right up until the day you can't get your precious Tesla worked on when you need to have it worked on, and you have no recourse other than to wait for a factory representative to parachute in. In this case Musk does not have a better idea, even though his boot-licking acolytes insist that he does. - PMD


Elon's gambit.

I can't figure out if Elon is taking on dealership franchise laws because he's got a short attention span, or if it's because he realizes this is a great smokescreen for his company's horrendous financials.

Rich Jensen
Sioux Falls, South Dakota