The departures of 3 top-line engineers at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing suggests that another mediocre season, combined with the loss of a title sponsor, has left some difficult financial decisions to be made. Seeing staff leave race teams without, it appears, new posts lined up elsewhere is bad enough. But on this occasion you wonder if the right people are taking the flak for poor performances.
A while back I wrote about the need for Marco Andretti to part ways with his father’s eponymous team. Now, in light of what is likely to be just the start of a difficult period for RLL, it seems that perhaps the same is true for Graham Rahal.
That mixture of expectation and privilege is a heady one when combined with the romance of second-generation open-wheel stars winning races and titles. The reality has been somewhat different. The impression is that Graham has been cosseted and protected at his father’s team. Consider that if Rahal’s performances had been those of a Bourdais or Conway, they would likely have led to the driver and not the engineers heading for the exit.
Moving forward, both parties need to part ways. Rahal seems too comfortable, too relaxed in his position at RLL. Similarly so when at Ganassi, the security of a big team has not got the best out of Rahal. Which leaves us to presume that the pressure of working for a small team, where every finish and every point is a matter of survival, might just be the key to unlock that latent talent properly.
For RLL, the difficulties inherent in retaining the bosses’ underperforming son, could be resolved with a parting of the ways. Rahal Sr would be free to hire a young up and coming driver with fire in his belly and a willingness to listen to a former champion. Alternatively, the partnership can continue as the results dwindle and a great idea becomes a recurring bad dream.