You’ve been asking yourself all week: “Why is Honda pulling out of F1?”
Honda’s withdrawal means the two Red Bull teams will be engineless. It’s hard to be competitive with the equivalent of Fred Flintstone’s footmobile against F1 cars with 670kW engines that rev to 15,000rpm, or 6000rpm more than the new Ducati Diavel 1260 (a conveyance for temporary Australians) with the 118kW Testastretta DVT 1262 engine.
Now I know there will be a flood of emails from temporary persons who quite like roaring around on two wheels fewer than the good lord intended, but can you listen to how the PR people in Bologna, Italy, describe their $30k motorbike: “So good to be bad. Powerful. Muscular. But also agile and effective between the curves for maximum riding enjoyment. The new Diavel 1260 combines the performance of a maxi-naked with the ergonomics of a muscle cruiser.”
Look, I know quite a bit about the spin business, but “a maxi-naked’? Sounds like a heap of Bologna to me.
Anyway, back to the other Bull.
Before I give you the reason, can I just confuse you even more by saying the full name of the caffeine drink company’s top team is Aston Martin Red Bull Racing powered by Honda. Except it’s not. Aston Martins are powered by Mercedes. But Aston Martin has a much nicer logo than Red Bull or Honda, so I guess that’s why they call it that. The No 2 team was called Toro Rosso (please don’t embarrass yourself and your family by emailing in to ask what it means) but for some brilliant reason is now named AlphaTauri.
OK, Red Bull is doing pretty well. Coming into this weekend’s race in Portugal, RB driver Maxie Verstappen is No 3 in the driver standings, teammate Alex Albon is seven and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly is 10th. Red Bull is second in the constructors’ championship. Ferrari is sixth.
Anyway, the real reason Honda CEO, former chassis engineer Takahiro Hachigo, pulled the plug is because he’s sick of the bleating from the four Red Bull drivers about the lack of responsibility Honda takes for the engines. Every time they pull into the pits with an engine issue the pit crew mechanics say: “We’ve never seen that problem before.”
Which brings us to our old, well not so old, friend from the NT, Lindsey Nielsen. From when she took delivery of a 2017 Honda R in November, the car has had serious mechanical issues. At the time the dealer said a rod was not aligned or not correctly assembled. The dealer had the car for a few months and gave her $70 a day to hire a car.
Now, given the problems, you would think Lindsey is due a new car or a refund under Australian consumer law. At the time, I asked Honda’s boss of customer and communications, Scott McGregor, about his company’s side of the story. Twice. After the second email, Scott said: “Honda Australia continues to be in direct communication with Lindsey regarding her vehicle. We respect Lindsey’s privacy, and as such will not make further comment.”
Moving to this month and Lindsey’s car has been off the road probably more than on the road. The turbo is stuffed, so are a couple of cylinders. The dealer has been really helpful. Honda HQ has not.
Off the road again last week she got a call from Honda to “let me know that they are ‘so generously’ going to give me $70 per day to find a car I’d like to hire … and they would reimburse me. I obviously called them out on that as I know the market, told them that the onus of finding me a ride isn’t my job, and I’m sure as (rude word) not going through the rigmarole of cleaning, fuelling and new hire car paperwork every one to two days.
“Not only that, why should I be out $70 per day when it’s their faulty (rude word again) car that has me in this position. Mind you, I was stranded 37km from home and had to ask Honda to approve a cab charge (they did).” And we are reliably informed Honda has never refunded or replaced a vehicle.
Next Wednesday, RM Sotheby’s is auctioning the three Italians making up the Alfa Romeo Berlina Aerodinamica Tecnica Concepts produced by Bertone for the Turin auto salons across 1953, 1954 and 1955. “Regarded by many as the seminal vehicle designs of the 20th century, B.A.T. 5, 7, & 9 were presented to the public over three consecutive years and have firmly lodged themselves among the most spectacular and memorable automotive designs ever produced.” And the trio will only cost you $22m.
And talking of mistakes: last week I breathlessly wrote “I lust for an Alpina but wouldn’t recommend you buy one”. Well, that set off a few hundred explosive emails. What I meant to say was I lust for an Alpina but wouldn’t recommend you buy one because it really is only for true petrol, metal and other heads. About $100k for the best ride of your life.
Alpina is a semi-independent car company that takes BMWs and gives them a serious workover and will only cost you about $50k more than a conventional Beemer.
We run an Alpina engine in our WART rally car. Talking of which the old bloke and I will be in action from November 25 in the Adelaide Rally. No pens but we are going to try to organise socially distanced drinks one night before the start, to which you are welcome.
All the team will be there including Australia’s number one cafe reviewer John Lethlean, who is threatening to pootle along the Nullarbor on his new two-wheeled death trap from Perth to join us.