Good Oil: The secret life of Sauber
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Rather quietly, while nobody was paying much attention, the Formula 1 team formally known as Sauber, had a promising 2018 season.
“Formally known as”?
That’s right. This week Sauber officially became Alfa Romeo Racing ahead of the 2019 F1 season kicking off next month.
Alfa Romeo was involved with the Swiss team last year too, of course. But then it was much less visible.
Buoyed by a solid 8th in the 2018 championship standings (where Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson combined for a 48-point tally), the manufacturer has stamped its recognisable motif and name across the team.
Kimi Raikkonen will be the team’s lead driver for the 2019 season, which (hopefully) will add some extra drama to proceedings.
After a consistently strong start to last year’s championship from the Iceman, his final year in the Ferrari red racing suit seemed to fade to bland by the time the season was half done.
Here’s hoping — for Sauber as much as spectators — there’ll be plenty of blunt “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing,” chatter across the team radio during the forthcoming season as Raikkonen powers his way towards the front of the pack from within the midfield. And let’s hope all that Alfa Romeo hardware holds up to the task, too ...
Ford teases small sub-Ranger pick-up
Weekend gardeners rejoice. Ford Motor Co has confirmed it is developing a prototype small pick-up truck which would be dimensionally smaller (and cheaper) than the popular Ranger.
The vehicle would be a small, unibody truck, possibly built on the Ford Focus platform, making it a more compact wellside option than the big Ranger (big being a relative term, given that in the US market the Ranger is the manufacturer’s smallest pick-up truck option).
The news will be welcomed by those looking for a handy truck to have for DIY duties, but who find the sheer size of the modern Ranger and its ilk intimidating (especially when encountering congested city car parks, as many owners would).
The idea isn’t new, of course. Subaru’s small late-1980s Brumby ute remains a fan favourite, while Nissan — or Datsun at the time — sold its tiny 1200 utes by the boatload in the 1970s. These, too, are now sought after by collectors.
A teeny sibling for the Ranger wouldn’t even be a new idea for Ford. A few years back, the American carmaker offered a diminutive truck in South American markets that was based on a Fiesta platform. The badge on that model is a familiar one, too, Courier.
Could the prototype small truck end up being badged as such? It’s too early to tell, as first Ford has to find an audience for the compact ute ... no easy bet in XXL-lovin’ ’Murica. Mind you, the auto giant wouldn’t be developing a test mule were the appetite for such a thing non-existent.
For now, Ranger owners will have to keep wincing involuntarily as their ute’s parking sensors scream every time they venture into a supermarket car park.
Lincoln to revive suicide doors?
While one division within Ford is looking to future markets, another has its head in the glorious past, when Detroit’s heavy iron ruled the highways.
Rumour has it that luxury carmaker Lincoln looks set to revitalise the reverse opening “suicide” door on its 2020 model year Continental sedan.
According to US motoring outlet Autoweek, at a closed-door dealer meeting last year, Lincoln unveiled a concept Continental which featured what the company politely terms coach doors.
After relative silence since then, an official Lincoln-generated Facebook post last week featuring a closely cropped image of some classic 1960s suicide-style door handles has rekindled the rumour that the manufacturer is set to incorporate the retro feature on its forthcoming updated halo sedan.
There is no word yet whether such a design feature would be an option or standard; you’d have to presume not everyone would want such ostentation.
Then again, in the US, Lincoln is still held up as a luxury brand; anyone alighting from a Continental probably wants to be seen and a little added drama courtesy of reverse-opening rear doors might not be a bad thing.
The other unknown at this point is what implication suicide doors might have for the vehicle’s crash test safety rating. A fair bit of engineering work will have to be done to ensure the Continental’s c-pillar structure is up to the task of hinging the (presumably heavy) rear doors onto.
Mind you, that bastion of semi-tasteful nostalgia, Rolls-Royce, has managed just such an aperture arrangement with its convertible Dawn model. So, it can be done. But will Ford do it well? And, will anyone buy it?