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Drivers talk of risk on a rainy day in Montreal
Drivers talk of risk on a rainy day in Montreal
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Jun 2010   |  9:08 pm GMT  |  103 comments

Today was cold and wet in Montreal, creating a subdued atmosphere after all the feverish excitement of the last Grand Prix in Istanbul.

The drivers did their press briefings early to accommodate European press deadlines and predictably much of the talk was about the right and wrong ways of racing a team mate and about the risks of driving close to the walls here in Montreal.

The body language of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber was interesting. Webber went first, sheltered under an awning with rain bouncing off the umbrellas and onto the media. When the subject of Turkey came up, he folded his arms, a traditional defensive gesture. He is obviously still uncomfortable with this situation even though he said, “I’m cool. I’m totally over it.”

He had nothing to hide, after all he’s come out of this episode the best, with the Red Bull management going through several phases of blame-laying, finally arriving at Christian Horner’s interview with BBC yesterday in which he said that the team had been wrong to blame Webber after the race. Horner repeated that this afternoon with us in the paddock.

On top of that Webber has landed a new deal with the team for 2011, so it’s been a positive outcome from a difficult situation. But he doesn’t look very triumphant, or even particularly pleased. The episode still rankles, I reckon.

Clearly there have been some hard words behind closed doors.

As for Vettel, he handled himself very well in a difficult situation. He had some of the English tabloid journos trying to goad him, asking if he felt he had anything to apologise for and whether indeed he was even capable of saying sorry.

He covered it well, saying, “I did what I did, if I had my time again I wouldn’t do anything different.”

At one point he started to get a bit shirty, saying that he would like to move on and talk about the future, but he got hold of himself quickly and carried on his laconic, half-smiley delivery and going over what happened when he turned into Webber. It was as if he suddenly realised that all these hacks surrounding him was a compliment to him and he rose above it. It was impressive maturity for a 22 year old.

It’s hard not to like Vettel. He has a calm, easy way about him and impressive intelligence. I asked him whether he regretted that the episode had blown open the debate about him being the favoured son at Red Bull, due to their massive investment in the young driver programme. F1 fans don’t like driver with a sense of entitlement -just ask Lewis Hamilton. He has suffered from that since McLaren nurtured him into F1. It won’t be until the end of his career, probably, that he is able to shake that off.

Vettel said that he doesn’t regret it, because he accepts that at the top of this business the media will take a view and you have to accept it and focus on the racing. He has sustained some collateral damage over this, mostly because of the reaction of Helmut Marko immediately after the incident and it’s just something he has to deal with.

The other drivers were talking today about this Montreal track and the thrill of racing close to the walls, knowing how finely to judge it. The two outstanding Montreal exponents, Hamilton and Robert Kubica had a lot to say on the subject.

As I posted in the last LG Tech Report, one of the great skills of an F1 driver is judging risk. They work their way up to the limit and every corner is about a micro-decision on how far to push their luck. In Istanbul if they make a mistake they go for a jaunt across acres of asphalt run off. Here in Montreal they hit a wall and it brings out a safety car.

It’s not often that you get the modern drivers to talk about existential subjects like risk taking. They conversation tends to be either factual or opinion. It is especially fitting that we should be discussing risk at a track named after Gilles Villeneuve, F1’s ultimate risk-taker.

Drivers take calculated gambles at every corner, based on the consequences. On a track like Montreal the consequences can be severe, as they were for Alonso in Monaco for example, and it is about closing the gap between what is comfortable and what is fast, finding the limit.

” I like when the walls are close and there is a very small margin for a mistake,” said Kubica. “It’s always more challenging and it gives you more fun to drive. I am a big fan of street circuits, but I’m also a big fan of safety because I have been through a big crash, here in Canada. Thanks to a big effort of the FIA and the teams it becomes much safer and I am still here. Otherwise if would crash here ten years ago with such a big impact as I had, most probably I wouldn’t be here.”

“A lot of us like the street circuits where there is less room for error,” said Hamilton. “Here you can be really close to the walls and there is a real danger factor. The tyres grain here too and if you go off line it’s easy to crash.”

And this brings the whole discussion full circle really, because assessing risks is also a crucial factor when racing against another car, especially if it is your team mate. When you race another car the consequences of a mistake are far less severe than if you collide with your team mate. Both Webber and Vettel failed to assess those risks properly in Istanbul and that is because they were motivated by a desire to get the upper hand over each other at a vital point in the season.

We are told that they have learned from the experience, but what that really means is that they have had their risk assessment retuned by the team. The competitive tension is undoubtedly still there.

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That last paragraph is a perfect “in a nutshell” encapsulation of the Webber/Vettel situation. They are racers and will never be “ok” with what happened, but it made them re-assess priorities a bit. Nicely done.


Just hoping for a better pace from Alonso and Felipe this weekend.


totally off topic comment. I think you should go for the job of bbc f1 commentator. the current guy aint got a clue. you did a fastastic job on itv and id much rather have you on the television than what’s his name?..



I’m going for JB to get his third win this weekend!

Good to see another race coming up, I’m sick to the teeth of the Redbull saga now. Lets see some racing again 🙂

Renault have really upped their game again this year. Great to see them back on their game. Kubica is very impressive this term also.


JB or Lewis this weekend for the win? I even fancy Robert Kubica to do well.


James Allen true F 1 fans love Lewis Hamilton. I’m not talking about those who support drivers along racial lines, or nationalities. I have been following Lewis career since Karting, and I don’t quite understand the sense of entitlement you are referring to. Lionel Messi was nurtured by Barcelona since the age of 12 look at him today. Even the vettel you seem to adore didn’t come from now where, as a matter of fact if were to argue who’s current crop of drivers really project a sense of entitlement I will suggest it is Vettel. That silly move on Webber in Turkey says it all


For another perspective on risk, I would urge any UK motorsport fans to tune in to ITV4 at 9pm tonight for the Isle Of Man TT coverage.

MotoGP star Jorge Lorenzo was there doing a parade lap today. I think many would say the MotoGP racers are taking big risks compared to F1 drivers, so it will be interesting to hear what Lorenzo has to say about the risks being taken by the TT racers. Risks which have been amply demonstrated today sadly.


James, on a different note (this may not be the thread for this, but it’s related nevertheless).

The voice on the McLaren radio that that replies Lewis’s question – “If i back off, is Jenson gonna pass me or not” is actually Martin Whitmarsh! He is heard saying ” No, Lewis,No”. In subsequent interviews, Martins says it is Phil Prew speaking. This is clearly a lie.

The voice before saying – “Lewis, we need you to save fuel, both cars are the same” clearly belongs to somebody else’s than the voice afterwards. A simple voice analysis – if the FIA choose to do it would confirm this.

Why is no one picking up on this, and why are the media choosing to ignore this glaring inconsistency?


There was a lot of comment on that voice being Martin’s on F1Fanatic. If it is, then Whitmarsh is exactly who i think he is – [Mod} who will always looks for somebody innocent to blame.


Interesting comments again from the gang, and very much like Vettel & Webber, each will take their opinion of whose to blame to their graves. Let’s move on is it? It’s been two weeks and thankfully in a few hours we’ll have something new to talk about.

On the Gilles front, I can’t comment as it was before my time, but I have my favourites and in my opinion it’s impossible to compare drivers across generations – the sport, cars, safety have all moved on. I just think KR was a legend to enter a snow-mobile (not sure of the spelling of that) race under the name James Hunt as Ferrari had forbidden him to race prior to the season opener due to his insurance policy – brilliant.

Going back one step it’s good to have another GP to look forward to, I must say that after the first race I was contemplating having to find another sport to follow but thankfully (as Wales didn’t manage to qualify for the World Cup!) my worries were short lived as the season since Bahrain has been brillaint. i think the refuelling ban has added something, I can’t remember the last time 4 cars followed each other so closely as turkey for a race distance without making any mistakes – excpet the obviously catastrophic one at the end – but hopefully you know what I mean.

let’s go Montreal….

I’d rather not have rain or safety cars – but seeing as they’re likely I’ll be putting a few quid on Alonso this weekend (odds permitting of course)!


Hi James,

Thanks for the fantastic blog, you cover a huge gap for all f1 fans these days. And thanks for the guys who comment, impressive level!.

Sorry for deviating from the topic, but I would like to ask you a big favour.

Which are your prefered books regarding F1 history?. Specially regarding 70’s as early 80’s as I have vivid memories as from late 80’s onwards.


A great book about racing, the period and a [sadly brief] f1 driver, is “The Unfair Advantage” by Mark Donohue. A great driver who was dominant in the US and raced very briefly in F1 before being killed at the Austrian GP in ’74 or ’75. Fantastic book as it discussed how they built and developed cars in the period, took risks and raced F1 drivers coming to the States.


Grand Prix Greats by Roebuck is good on that period. To be honest I’ve not read many from that period. I read all the 1950s one for some reason and may of the 1960s and 1990s. Let me know what you find.

Scrutineer's Cousin

Being an aussie who has lived in Europe for the past 6 years, I was actually quite intrigued by the comments on the previous post on Webber’s accent and how he adapts and drops the colloquial aussie when he speaks to the non-aussie contingents. It’s actually fairly common because the aussie drawl relies a lot on tone of voice, and ‘calling a spade a spade’ and therefore lacks nuances – especially when it is quoted.

But I really think that this Turkey episode really plays into the hand of Webber. Firstly, he’s extended the gap between him and his main rival. Secondly, Aussies love being the underdog (think Steve Bradbury and not our cricket or swimming) and even though he is leading the WC, how the Red Bull mgmt fell over with their comments in Turkey gives Webber the underdog status within the Red Bull team. He also proved to Vettel that he’s no pushover and the spotlight will now be focused on the team to prove to the world that they really are impartial between the drivers.

All bodes well for our boy Webber. C’mon son!


Button lied about not having a target lap time straight after the Turkey race. Something didn’t add up because Tim Goss, McLaren’s chief engineer, said categorically that both drivers were given target lap times, and Button said he wasn’t. Now in Canada, Button has said he was given a target lap time. What a sneaky liar. If this was Lewis Hamilton doing this, lying to cover his back to his own teammate and team, it would be front page news.


Ah, the old risk-to-reward ratio. I like to think about it in the following way: if each driver has a specific ‘risk-taking score’, eg. Hamilton, Kubica -high; Rosberg, Trulli -low (personal opinion!) then all the drivers ‘scores’ might be normally distributed. What I have found fascinating this season is relating this hypothetical ‘score’ to the drivers standings, my early conclusion is that base on this point system it rewards both ends of the spectrum, in other words, the change in the points system is working – from the rabbit and hare perspective anyway.

Also I wonder if it can be argued that consistent and successful risk taking (on-track) can be viewed as driver talent.


“Also I wonder if it can be argued that consistent and successful risk taking (on-track) can be viewed as driver talent.”

No shi*, sherlock.


*Sigh* Thanks for that thoughtful comment, I think it really added to the debate.

I actually think its a tricky question to answer as it depends on one’s definition of risk and driver talent. For example, looking at the McLaren drivers this season, it can be argued that Button has taken more risks with strategy calls that were successful, like the tyre choice in Australia. Hamilton has taken more risks by pretty much overtaking most drivers at some point, usually in a successful manner. So which one is a more talented driver? Can of worms anyone?

“Also I wonder if it can be argued that consistent and successful risk taking (on-track) can be viewed as driver talent.”

No shi*, sherlock.

Actually, my initial question is a paradox because ‘consistent’ and ‘successful’ means that it is not a ‘risk’.

Not so elementary, dear Watson.


SUCCESSFUL risk taking can be considered talent. I think paraphrasing Senna, you have to know which risks to take. If a drivers risks tend to be ‘successful’, then he is taking the right risks.

I can’t help but think that (based on what James said above) Villeneuve thrived on ANY risk, it was the rush of roulette wheel that made the sport worthwhile for him.

I think that in past generations, the drivers approach to risk was shaped by how much he was prepared to chance his own injury or death. Now, it much more about not costing the team constructors points or a good finish in front of the sponsors.


A very interesting suggestion. There is no doubt that playing the percentage game can be very effective.


But I wonder why the colision has not been investigated? After all Webber was the victim.


Re James’s last sentence—- In my opinion the only one of the two RB drivers to “learn” anything must be Finger Boy, he must learn that Weber is not one to be syched out by anyone, and he is certainly not going to make it easy for anybody to overtake, especially Vetti!



From Mark’s Interview yesterday :

Q. Will you give more room in the future if he attacks?

Mark : Or vice versa.

Bring it on !!


I remember Mansell storming around Monaco, always a couple of inches (5cm) away from the barriers, lap after lap, after lap. Very consistent.

That kind of precision required incredible focus and many would agree incredible bravery.

Whilst F1 safety has thankfully moved on today’s drivers still face similar challenges. And it’s not just about repeating the same line every lap. Conditions change throughout the race and the drivers need to adapt, testing the limit of grip.

Vettel’s quail lap in Australia was a good example of driving on the limit, and then a little more. If, as one driver suggested last week, the difference between leaving a safe gap and kissing the wall on exit is around 0.2 seconds, drivers will at some time during the race have to up the pace and hope lady luck is on their side.

Will be interesting to see the onboard shots on Saturday + Sunday.


Hello James,

Would it be possible for fans to meet you and the drivers in the paddocks in Canada? Montreal here we come! 😀


Actually, I find it hard to like Vettel. And for all your put downs of Lewis Hamilton, he is still one of the most popular drivers today because he is a nice, decent guy, and the best driver on the grid.


Hear hear.


Although the issue probably still rumbles inside of him, I think Webber will put his head down and make the most of his opportunities this year! He will be doing his best to show that Vettel isn’t the best driver in the RBR Team. AussieGrit!

Krzys Wolyniec

I have to say, James, I like your work, but your attempts to be political and not alienate anybody get tiresome at times. Webber and Vettel not judging risk properly? How do you judge the risk of somebody turning into you? You cannot straddle fence here and talk about the likable Vettel, when the guys has clearly not taken responsibility for an accident he clearly caused. I used to like Vettel, but not anymore. The petulant sense of entitlement and a distressing lack of self-awareness he developed this season (he behaved much better when he crashed into Kubica) is a real turnoff. As is your inability to call a spade a spade. Take example of Martin Brudnle on this one.


I’ve always supported Webber, I started supporting Red Bull when they joined the F1 circus and I’ve always kind of tolerated Vettel. Didn’t like all the fuss about him when I could only see a fast driver who’d managed nothing more than a couple of decent drives from the front row of the grid. Sure, he had to qualify well to get there, but qualifying doesn’t involve dicing with other drivers and that’s where I feel Vettel has a weakness.

So, after RightTurnGate or TurkeyGate or whatever it is I now support Webber more than ever, the team has gone way down in my estimation and I see Vettel as an Annointed Champion who still can’t overtake properly. The whole situation where Vettel was gifted a lap on full power to overtake the guy who led the race from the start smacks of favouritism no matter how the team explains it. (And days afterwards the team was still saying Webber had asked Vettel to turn his engine down, which is yet another bunch of crap designed to make it all Look Like Webber’s Fault.)

I’m fervently hoping Webber mops the floor with him and takes out the WDC, or at the very least tops Vettel’s points tally.

On the plus side, having four quick drivers in the top four cars, all of them playing Dick Dastardly tricks on each other, is going to give us a season to savour for years to come.


James – damned if you do, damned if you don’t…

That’s the lot of a journo I guess!


It still rankles all right. Webber’s faith in the team was rocked. And he was a believer- just check out his comments before the Turkish GP re ‘everyone moving in the same direction’ etc. I reckon that the TGP will either mark the end of his competitiveness for the season or, hopefully, the beginning of a period of utter ruthlessness. Mark is going to need to use all his guts and wit if he’s going to succeed this year.


Here’s hoping the latter!


It’s so true about the proximity of the walls creating excitement – not only for the drivers but for the fans, too. It’s become harder to really appreciate the skill of a driver when watching the TV – but places like Montreal allow you to see that skill to the full.

Istanbul is a wonderful ribbon of tarmac, totally ruined by the barriers simply being too far away from the track.


Just imagine turn 8 with no runoff, deadly!


Rain will be tricky, when it did in 2000 i seem to remember some drivers getting very cautious, staying off the kerbs etc, could prove to be a big challenge


The BBC forecasts no rain. Let’s hope they’re wrong (again).


It is clear. webber feels uneasy abaut the hole affair. He knows he is nº2 no matter what they say to the media. Vettel feels more at home, because he knows he is nº1. I hope webber doesn’t get affected by the situation, and matches vettel’s speed. Even though i think hamilton will be world champ this year.


I think had RB not signed him he would spill the beans on all of the BS going on inside the team. As for the other driver he would have been coached on how to handle this press conference. I think if it rains then it could just come back to Redbull this weekend, if they can stay out of trouble.


“The episode still rankles, I reckon.” I think you’re right. And being forced on the defensive when your team-mate has driven into you is surely only half of it. I wonder if RB haven’t signed Mark up again so quickly, the better to control him. Time will tell.


Webber should have steered right when he saw his teammate was passed, that is what the team feels too. Webber even told the team to slow Vettel down, he DEMANDED team orders.

It is very strange to see that almost exclusively English speaking fans defend Webber for him thinking about himself more than thinking about the team.


Carl why the hell should ANY racer just back off and give their position away????? Webber gave ample room, squeezed him to make him work for the position, but he never barged him off track like a one mr alonso did to lewis Hamilton at la source.

I like many others believe you to be deluded


What!! This is F1 mate, Webber had the line and was 100% right to keep it if he hadn’t it’d be Coulthard all over again and look what happened to him.


End of debate Carl. If he needed Webber to move over, the Wunderkid simply wasn’t good enough.


Carl, I guess it’s like Mark says – he and Junior will never agree, and neither will you and I. If you define “passed” as being alongside, there’s a problem for a start. Junior uses these little jerking moves to get people out of the way, but here he did it too suddenly and above all too early. He caught Mark by surprise, as he has said.

As for the rest, the nationality card is generally trotted out by those who’ve lost the argument.


Carl, Webber held his position as he is entitled to do. Vettel swerved to his right and hit Webber. In any language the reality of what happened is the same. Vettel was 100% at fault. Any objective fan of F1 would draw the same conclusion.


Carl – although Webber intially moved left on Seb (a bit) a long way before the incident it is as Beendun says – get over it – Seb will have to – and learn to do it right next time


You mean he should have spread wide for his teammate? Not a chance. Vettel depended only on himself to make it to the corner and finish the move. He messed up.


Vettel crashed into Webber. End of. Watch the footage if you need proof. If he wanted to overtake, if he felt he was in the faster car – fine. But you’ve got to make a clean pass. Vettel did not. How can the responsibility be placed upon the car ahead? If you want to get past, make a move and make it stick. Vettel didn’t. He messed it up. This isn’t about blue flags, this is passing for position.


I remember Alex Wurz, you know the German guy, saying in very strong terms right after the race that it was totally Vettel’s fault and how dare Vettel expect Webber to disappear just because he wanted to steer to the right. So less of the nationality talk – it has nothing to do with nationality, just common sense and what is right and wrong.


well said pitter, as has been said before he wasnt yet passed webber, so why should he make it easy carl


You are right, it has nothing to do with nationality …

Alex Wurz is Austrian and not German!


Carl, you appear to be as rabid as those you complain about.

It has come out from the radio transmissions that Webber did not tell “team to slow Vettel down”, but had in fact asked his engineer what engine setting Vettel was on. This somehow been twisted into Webber telling the “team to slow Vettel down”.

Not to say that Webber was not thinking about himself over the team or not, but do you really believe that Vettel was thinking more about the team than himself when he tried to pass Webber?


Carl, you’ve accused Webber of demanding team orders when he did not. Pointing that out has nothing to do with laying blame over the incident or whether or not people commenting are native English speakers.


Yah right, Its easy to be a team player when you know that if he moves over, you will take the lead in the Championship. If you want a team player then you should just have a constructors chamionship team, not a driver championship. Both are going for glory, it what happened after the race that has everyone upset.


See example of all English speaking fans responding to my post to prove my point, cheers.

Never they question Webber not leaving space to avoid a collision and that way thinking of himself only. Vettel passed him, he should back off instead of risking 2 cars going off by squeezing out the teammate.

If the roles were reversed these same people would still have picked Webber’s side again….(Vettel should have left space and steered right to avoid a collison, Webber passed him…)………..but the other guy is a German so never gonna happen.

Go to non-English speaking forums, not English or German, (if you know more languages), vast majority say Webber was selfish and should have backed off after being passed by Vettel and think about the team.


Webber did not demand team orders. All Webber did was ask if Vettel was on the same engine settings as him. He did not ask the team to slow Vettel down. Clearly mud sticks though which is why Red Bull never should’ve made their original claim that Webber asked for Vettel to be slowed down.


Also, Vettel attempted a risky pass he hadn’t made stick. There was no way he could brake on the dirty side of the track and hope to hold the pass, so he basically expected Webber to move over as a sign of courtesy. If teammates are expected to move over anytime this happens, all they have to do is make a dangerous move on the inside and gain a position.


It was later clarified that all Webber had done was ask the team if Vettel was on the same engine settings as him, not that he demanded Vettel to slow down.


Great post as usual. The comment that vettel made about Lewis Hamilton was quite interesting.


I don’t think Vettel made a comment about LH. James do you think that Seb is any good at overtaking? I ask that question because I have never seen a race where Vettel has overtaken Alonso, Hamilton, or Kubica on the track, not through pit strategy.


We’ve not seen too much of it yet. He has tended to win from the front.


Brazil 2008 Vettel overtook Lewis in the rain and threatened together with Kubica unlapping himself to spoil the party.


he pulled out some crazy moves at interlagos 09, i think it was on rubens, i remember being impressed as hell,


Vettel will likely still develop his abiltiy to race closely in an over-take situation and not get tangled up in a crash.

Having said that, I think it is one area where Lewis has been very good straight from the get-go. I’ve lost count of the myriad of great overtakes he has done over the past few seasons. Last race’s move on Button was very typical in that he was forceful (there was contact) but still pulled it off. Although Lewis has had crashes through driver error (Monza last lap in ’09 comes to mind) I can’t recall Lewis binning it while passing someone (but don’t take that to the bank…). He really can RACE wheel-to-wheel.


The majority of the evidence suggests that he’s a very fast driver but still isn’t great when it comes to racing. His attack on webber was wild, poorly calculated and carried out. When under pressure, he seems to lack composure. His defence of second against kubica in oz in 09 was wild, he didn’t deal with being in a crowd too well in Monaco that year and then blew any chance of challenging for the win in Singapore with pitlane hot headedness. Come to think of it, the only overtake I recall him having completed cleanly against a top-tier competitor was on the straight against button last year (can’t remember which race)


I don’t see where Vettel said anything about Hamilton. I think those are JA’s thoughts.

I could be wrong


I suppose it would be if Vettel actually made that comment, when in fact it was James Allen’s comment, once again madly supportive of one of the British drivers.


Firstly, what comment?

Secondly, if you feel that way about the website why do you visit it? It’s not as if there’s a shortage of F1 websites.


What comment?


With respect James I cannot agree with you saying ‘Gilles Villeneuve, F1’s ultimate risk-taker’.

Not sure how long you’ve been following F1 but I’d even Lewis Hamilton is a greater risk taker just look at his overtakes and it’s much harder to overtake in today’s F1 than it was in Gilles Villeneuve’s.

In days past when leading drivers had to pass cars on the track without flags just look at some of Senna’s moves the ultimate master when lapping slower cars.

If Gilles Villeneuve hadn’t died I don’t think he’d be thought that highly of, there were always better drivers around during his time, loosing ones life before ones time doesn’t make them any better at whatever the do.


To be fair, they all pale next to Nuvolari. Seriously. I’m reading Richard William’s biography of Enzo Ferrari at the moment and the accounts of Nuvolari’s driving, even in his 50s, is just spine-tingling.

I know the debates of who, in the same period, in equal machinery etc etc will always rage with some degree of futility, but it seems that man was on a whole other level…


So true,you never hear anyone mention his name anymore & IMO the guy was a legend without equal,two wheels & four.Broken leg he gets his mechanic to hold his bike at the start & grab him at race end,”outstanding”.Would have loved to see that famous win at the Nordschleife.Realistically there’s really no comparing the greats from different era’s though eh,they are all champions for entertaining us with their skill & courage.

Scrutineer's Cousin

Sorry – but i think these comparisons across generations are pretty much pointless.

In terms of ‘ultimate risk takers’ though, why not put Jacques Villeneuve and Takuma Sato into the mix (all because some of their moves didn’t pay off, or in the case of Sato he was vying for 6th doesn’t mean they took less risks)? They’ve made more banzai overtaking moves and have been the most intimate with the barriers of Eau Rouge.

But coming back to my original point. Silly question to begin with in my opinion.


Hell’s teeth, Freespeech, You’re skating on thin ice with comments like that!



Well we can only say it as we see it can’t we and I have been both a watcher and follower of F1 since the late 1960’s.

GV was good but there were always better drivers around during his day.


I’m sorry, but Villeneuve took insane risks. On the day he died they came to move his helicopter and found it had no fuel in it…and stories of his journeys by road from hotel to don’t want to know.


Yeah I’ve read of he and other drivers playing chicken en route to airports, where they’d mount motorway bankings, bust red lights etc rather than lift. Kind of like the short movie ‘C’etait un Rendesvouz’…

On another note, speaking of Herbie Blash as you were below, I used to have a lady neighbour who had known him well in their youth. She sadly passed away a few years ago, but she spoke highly of her times hanging out with him and his gang, and she gave me a 70’s Walter Wolf sticker and a 70’s Rothmans brolly he’d apparently given her. She also claimed to have an original wing mirror from a 6-wheeled Tyrell that he’d given her too.

When you next chat to Herbie, tell him Gillian remembered him fondly!


Will do!


We would love to know these stories, How about some of these in your blog. I remember reading in Prof.Sid Watkins book “Beyond the Limit” that Bernie Ecclestone can drive a car and how!

Can you share some such experience of yours?


This whole thread is an example of why your blog is so good James. From my dim memory I think Gilles may have had something of a death wish perhaps like some of the extreme sportsmen – and I do think there are parallels with Hamilton – but modern technology makes it hopefully less likely that we will see a repetition – as I always ponder that he seems the most likely candidate of the current top drivers (and Kimi being another) to lose their life if the safety technology were to fail them.


You know I was talking to Herbie Blash yesterday about G Villeneuve and we realised that with the passing of the 2000s, we have just gone through the first decade in the sport’s history in which it did not lose a driver. That speaks volumes for the safety work in F1



I’m not saying Villeneuve wasn’t a huge risk taker or anything other that a great diver, but the greatest in any area, NO.

I do agree that times change and certainly Villeneuve was a true racer, just like Senna and of course Hamilton who is simply the best current ‘racer’ in F1.

Only those that really understand what the term ‘racer’ really means within an F1 context will understand this and whether Hamilton is liked or not F1 would be a lot worse without him.

Vattel (can he overtake-not so sure?), Kubica, Alonso are all great drivers as WAS Schumacher but as ‘racer’ Hamilton simply comes out on top of today’s crop.


Hmm… I get your point. I intrepreted James’ comment not as meaning the Gilles was the “best” risk-taker in terms of calculating risks the best etc., but rather that he was (in that time anyway) the driver who would ALWAYS be taking risks. He was never the driver who would rationally take a safe points finish instead of putting it all on the line with a low-percentage move. He raced every lap at the limit, even when it didn’t “make sense” to do so. I think Senna would take risks in a much more thoughtful and rational way. When he (i.e. Senna) would put it on the line, he would really put it on the line, but he chose those times much more judiciously.

I really can’t think of another driver (in the more modern eras anyway) who was as “crazy” as Gilles.


Without turning thread into a Hammo vs Jense fightfest. It really irks me when i read about Hamilton “learning” how to “think” from Jenson. Or learning how to preserve his tires, or whatever else.

Hows about Jenson learning how to drive fast from Lewis? Or have better race pace? How about him learning how to be an aggressive overtaker? Or a late braker? No one seems to go on about that!

If anything, Jenson has far more to learn from Lewis, than Lewis has to learn from Jenson.


Err Paul- ” Already this season we’ve seen Button beat Hamilton fair and square”

Making strategy calls in the rain can hardly qualify as “fair and square”. He beat him, yes, but dont put any extra spin on it. A bit less spin please!


I’d argue that although Hamilton ‘may’ be the best racer of the current top 6 cars it’s impossible to tell without the drivers having the same machinery.

Already this season we’ve seen Button beat Hamilton fair and square in the same machinery a few times. All the Hamilton fans were sure Lewis would destroy Jenson, not happened has it. The point to this is that to be an F1 Champion the racer part of a driver is only one of many elements required to win. Hamilton may be the best at that, but when it comes to some of the other areas like ‘thinking’ (which I’d rate Senna as the best at) he’s in the later half of the grid. He can improve that area, by learning from Button who excels at it, but until that point the most rounded driver on the grid is probably Alonso.


James we want to know … any books on the subject from you?


Now there’s an idea!


Let’s see Lewis Hamilton take these risks in a circa 1980 F1 car. More importantly, let’s see him take them on a circa 1980 circuit.

There is no way the guy is taking more risks than Gilles.


No, but they are different times and the real racers do whatever they have to do in the time they race.


For those of us that are not old enough to remember Gilles, here are a few opinions of his peers about him.

Please read through all the quotes, especially from Jody Scheckter about qualifying at Watkins Glen – Gilles was 11 seconds per lap faster than the next guy. With the safety equipment and track design these days, the consequences of pushing it are a spin. With no HANS device, no deformable fuel cell, no driver safety cell, etc., the consequences of a driver pushing it was a very real danger of death in those days.


the Keke Rosberg comment is perhaps telling in the context of the current debate about RBR…Button and Hamilton in the same race coming to mind


When drivers die in the sport things are always said that people would probably never say if they were alive and all of a sudden anyone who dies is suddenly seen through rose tinted glasses.

I agree Giles was good but the best risk taker, noway Hosay ❗


I remember Gilles before his death and he already had near-legendary stature before that fateful May 8th.

Other drivers of the era were unaminous that Gilles would generally push closer to the edge than anyone. I don’t necessarily think he was the absolute best driver talent-wise, but I believe he was the most fearless.

Carlos Eduardo Del Valle

Senna had his share of problems during backmarker lapping. Just look Monza 88 and Interlagos 90. He was agressive, but sometimes things just didn’t work out fine.

I think Hamilton has the same agressive way of racing (you gotta respect him regarding Monza 09 for instance, pushing and crashing during the last lap).


I think you make an excellent point here about Hamilton, well said.


senna hamilton and gilles are the same type of drivers. don’y get too deep into it. But remember that the same skills don’t always give the same results. But having paid the ultimate price must count for sometyhing.


Pretty unnecessary discussion you’re trying to initiate there mate (in my opinion).

The last thing the comments section needs is a “who was better” debate.


Lewis Hamilton is not in the same league as Villeneuve or Senna. He probably never will be. He may be a very good driver, but Villeneuve and Senna were great. There are excellent drivers and there are legends. Anyone with any sense of F1 history would think twice about making this sort of false comparison.


Still,there’s always the small matter of that WDC that LH has & Gilles never had that kinda nullifies your opinion eh.While Gilles was very entertaining with balls down past his knees its debatable whether he was WDC material.



Good for Red Bull, bad for McL and Renault (and my bbq).

I hope we quickly move on from TeamGate (RB and McL), it’s talked to death.

We want to know:

Has anyone caught RB in quali speed?

who’s improved their car?

who’s got the best strategy?

how do the re-surfaced bits react?

what’s new in short fuelling?

will they be relying on a safety car or 2?


I hope the finger pointing is behind us now, as to see drivers actually compete is what it should be about. I hope that Red Bull and McLaren both let the guys go out there and race rather than just form up and coast to the line.

Fingers crossed Canada throws up an interesting race (like it usually does) and with a little bit of rain, so far so good!


I think that now Christian Horner has come out and said that the team was wrong to put all the blame on Webber, everyone can and should move on. They should never have indugled in the finger pointing in the first place, they should have said its an accident, thats that. Very unprofessional approach.

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