So again we see another F1 season close and again I find myself asking “where’s the racing?”
Sure it was a tight finish in the end. Sure they had four drivers all in contention. Sure we had David Coulthard’s all too tight jeans and Eddie Jordan’s florid shirts. Sure we had Ferrari cheating (again) and the soap opera drama of Red Bull “we don’t favour any driver – but we give the CrashKid anything he wants.”.
But where was the racing?
When people talk about the great days of F1 they typically recall the battles of Senna, Mansell, Prost, Hill and Schumaker – all of which typically involved close racing and, most importantly, overtaking.
I, like most people I expect, were probably attracted by that more than anything. It was the guys wringing the last gasp out of powerful cars and taking the other guy by any means possible. That was the thrill, that was the adrenaline buzz. Can he make it? Can he make it stick? Is there just enough room to squeeze by?
Then things started to go wrong somehow. We started hearing about tracks that were hard (or even impossible) to pass on. And these tracks weren’t historic tracks like Monaco that deservedly maintained there place on the calendar. These were new tracks.
Suddenly all the overtaking was being done in the pits. Huh? Now it was all about how much fuel people were putting in the cars, short-fueling versus long-fueling. Would the hose go on right? Would it come off?
And collectively I think the racing fans scratched their heads. What the hell is this? The races started to get pedestrian, now it was all about ‘tactics’ and ‘strategy’. Okay, that’s interesting too. But hmmmm… I’d still like some racing too please.
So then we get to 2010. Suddenly we have even more new tracks on the calendar. In places we’ve never heard of, with no history behind them. These are specifically built just to house F1 races and jump on Bernie’s great cash cow – or sometimes just to make a political point. But, insanity of all mother of insanities, these are all being designed by the man Tilke to be hard to overtake on?
Huh? Why would you make a ‘race’ track hard to overtake on? Shouldn’t we be encouraging overtaking? Isn’t that the life-blood of motorsport and F1 specifically?
I’ve heard the arguments. It’s hard to overtake because of the aerodynamics. Its that the cars are so similar in power levels. They don’t have the tire advantages the older cars had. Blah blah blah. None of that matters at all if you’re deliberately making the tracks hard to overtake on?
Sure there were some exciting races in 2010. When it rained. Is that all we have to look forward to now? The most exciting part of F1 is… rain? Wow, excuse me while I… nod off here…
So 2011 is going to be ‘even better’. They’re banning diffusers and F-Ducts, there are more races than ever, in more unusual places, movable wings and the return of KERS (yawn…) and teh 107% rule.
None of this will help if the tracks are still designed to disallow overtaking (should we say designed to prevent racing in fact?) . The new Indian track will be another Tilke disaster, as will the new US, Austin TX track. He’s the guy who also gutted the famous and daunting Nurburgring.
Increasing overtaking in F1 should be easy. It also doesn’t have to be expensive either. You want to keep costs down? Hmmm… how about giving the teams a maximum budget? Wow – that was hard…
The FIA seems to delight in making things as hard as possible while providing nothing extra. Moveable wings – great. But they can’t be used in the first two laps when the overtaking opportunities (such as they are) are greatest? They can only be used at FIA designated overtaking zones? Jeez, give me a break.
What next? The drivers are asking permission to pass? “Excuse me old chap, would you mind awfully letting me by?”
It’s interesting that F1is often referred to as a ‘circus’ – it seems that the clowns have taken over…