Farewell 2022, hello, and have a cigar season 2023!
I remember Frank Spencer, played by Michael Crawford in in the sitcom Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, once announcing to totally confused folk: "My uncle said there are old pilots, and bold pilots. But there are no old, bold pilots!"
That quote has stuck with me ever since, wise words in jest, as has often been the case throughout human history.
So here we are nearly 25% of the way through the 21st century (anyone feeling like Buzz Light Year or Flash Gordon right now? Didn't think so...) and we still have charioteers flying around circuits at an unseemly rate of knots, just as we did almost three thousand years ago. That's progress folks!
Reason? We all love a good fight!
So which of our famed pilots is fettering the horses, polishing the wheels and getting ready to go flat-strap for another season of life on the edge? We have younglings, geldings and old war horses all across the grid this season. Which one is going to be home and hosed prior to the rest finishing, and which is going to be hygienically tinned dog meat before mid-season?
In the true spirit of rolling the bones, reading the tea leaves and shaking the magic eight ball, here we go with the occasionally amusing, and possibly not entirely factual, Pitpass season preview...
First up for a light roast, and a few sweet turns of cracked pepper is Fernando Alonso. Luigi Fagioli was 53 years and 22 days old when he won the 1951 French Grand Prix, sharing a car with none other than Juan Manuel Fangio.
On lap ten Fangio stopped and had his magneto swapped as his car was misfiring. He only got one more lap out of the car before it simply stopped functioning. So when a few laps later Fagioli came in with a perfectly healthy car the team told him to give it to Fangio, which he did. With the Ferraris suffering a number of problems Fangio was able to go on to win the race, with both he and Luigi credited with the win. This was the first of only three occasions on which two drivers were credited with the win. Fagioli was so incensed at being ordered to give his functional car to Fangio that he quit racing on the spot, never to race in F1 again.
Born 29 July 1981, Fernando is currently 41 years old, meaning he will need to race for another twelve seasons to overtake Luigi in the 'oldest winner' stakes. Anyone fancy Alonso still racing in 2035...? Overcooked we think...
Sir Lewis! At 38 years old, is only three years behind Fernando. Lewis requires another fifteen years in the saddle to beat Luigi's record. While Lewis is good enough that teams would pay him for those fifteen years, one wonders at what point his focus might wander.
A fractionally lower bar. Fangio was 46 when he won his final F1 drivers' title in 1957. Lewis would only need to keep racing, and winning, for a modest eight years to try and equal this record. This is a record only five years away for Fernando. What is five years in these post-truth times?
The 1957 German Grand Prix was held at the green hell that is the Nurburgring, where Fangio states he scared himself. It was his 24th and final F1 victory, giving him a career score of 47.06% wins from 51 starts. At a time far, far too many died behind the wheel it is a statistic which defines the fact that a minor deity walked among us.
Returning prodigal sons... Nico Hulkenberg. 37 years old. One pole, two fastest laps and an F1 career which started back in Bahrain in 2010. He won Le Mans with Porsche in 2015, so he knows how to peddle. Could he have another 16 years in him to beat Luigi's record? Given his 'comeback kid' record, I'd not bet against him.
V. Max! Ha. Two-time champion. Along with Vettel and Alonso one of the youngest winners ever. V. Max is the confirmed youngest at 18 years, 7 months and fifteen days when he won in Spain in 2016. In second place is Vettel, being 21 years old when he won for Toro Rosso in Italy in 2008. Third is Charles Leclerc who was also 21 when he won at Spa for Ferrari in 2019.
V. Max is now 25 years old, already seven years into his career. He needs to keep racing for another 28 years to beat Luigi's record. Do any of us see V. Max having a 35 year racing career? No, didn't think so. It would require V. Max to be on the grid in 2051... by which time I think a few Pitpass regulars might have rolled to a halt in that great parc ferme in the sky... Indeed your respectful scribe will be "getting on a bit" by then!
How about teams?
Ferrari first entered F1 at the 1950 Monaco GP, having skipped the opening British round. Enzo managed the Alfa racing team before moving out on his own. While Ferrari lost complete independence some time ago, it has always been treated as a mystic national treasure, and as such its owners have lavished it with love and funding, rather than destroying the spirit with corporate micro-management. FIAT took a major share of Ferrari in 1969, but in recent times looked to spin it off into its own entity. Now Ferrari, the car company, is owned by Ferrari NV being a holding company register in the Netherlands, while common stock was floated via an IPO on the New York stock exchange. 10% of the company remains in the hands of Piero Ferrari.
Given it sold just over 11,000 cars (mobile collectable jewellery - did I hear someone shout from the back?) last year, it is impressive to see that Ferrari is the tenth largest car manufacturer on the planet by market capitalisation. Founded on 13th September 1939 in Modena, moving to Maranello in the early 40's and still there to this day. Looking to celebrate its 84th birthday this September, and as respected, coveted and flaunted as ever. No other team generates so much passion, desire, frustration and loyalty even when losing as Ferrari does. Even the confirmation of their first SUV being readied for sale will not diminish the racing myth which is Ferrari. A market capitalisation of $52 billion US, on revenue of 4.27 billion Euro (around $4.57 billion US) means Ferrari is assured to be here for the long haul.
Aston! Has raced the mighty tracks of the world, and crossed the "you're finished" line of bankruptcy multiple times. Founded 15th January 1913 by Lionel Martin, and Robert Bamford (Happy 110th Birthday Aston!) Aston is historically known far more for GT and Sports Car racing than F1, yet a fine racing history is solidly in place. For your humble scribe they have also built some of the most beautiful GTs on the planet, and generated some of the finest engine notes. Mr L Stroll senior is keen to see them stalking the podium each race weekend, and we can only hope he finds the hot sauce to make it so.
McLaren have been returning to the top step "any day now" for several seasons. While I have to confess to Zak growing on me, as his love of motors, motor sport and clean competition are now quite clear, I'm not sure if he is the chef to spice-up McLaren performance all the way to consistent P1 finishes.
Well-seasoned past for McLaren? They wrote the entire recipe book; To date they have eight F1 World Constructors' Championships, and 12 World Drivers' Championships. Between 1967 and 1972, frequently with Bruce behind the wheel, McLaren cars dominated Can-Am sports car racing with 56 wins, leading to five constructors' championships in the series. Then we have three Indianapolis 500 wins as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 12 Hours of Sebring.
If Zak can reconstitute these classic dishes then McLaren will truly be back in the mix, maybe this season, maybe...
Williams! How the mighty have slid under the table, spilling their soup on the way. Frank Williams and Patrick Head first turned a wheel in anger at the 1977 Spanish GP. The 1980's and 90's saw 114 race victories, resulting in nine Constructors' Championships, and seven Drivers' Championships. The last double came in 1997. Contrasted with the eight points amassed at great effort in the 2022 season, and one can only believe that not only is the secret recipe lost, but the kitchen has been repurposed as a yoga studio and the spices sold down the local market. I'm not expecting any Michelin Stars to be awarded for the dish Williams will serve this coming season... Sadly...
The Silver Arrows... A label first applied back in 1932 to both Mercedes and Auto Union (the genesis of Audi) race cars. Moving from Sports and GT cars, Mercedes first entered F1 in 1954 at the French GP. They have been in and out of the sport since that time, amassing a considerable history, some tragic crashes, and an immense number of wins and titles. As of this writing they have 125 race wins, cementing eight constructors' titles, and nine drivers'. While Toto spilt the secret sauce all over the place last year, he kept the salt dry and served some piping hot dishes just as the season was ending. Do not doubt that Toto and the gang are keen to bring tears to our eyes with mouth-watering dishes throughout the 2023 season.