This weekend we had the first race of the 2011 Formula One season in Australia.

There are a lot of new rules as there always are each year as the organisers seek to manipulate the outcomes of the races and artificially generate ‘excitement’ in a sport that is more circus than competition.

The race itself was about as uninteresting as we’ve come to expect in recent years, with little on track action and most of the talk being about ‘tire strategy’ based on the (again manipulated) wear characteristics of the new Pirelli rubber.

Personally, I don’t really watch racing to listen to endless repetitions of how the tires are designed to fall apart after 15 or 20 laps. I watch racing to hmmmm… oh yes, watch racing. Do you remember that? You know, cars, on a track trying to overtake and gosh, sometimes managing it…

So this year we have movable rear-wings to reduce drag and promote overtaking. It didn’t seem to make a lot of difference. Which isn’t really surprising given the ‘rules of engagement’ for the wing are tortuous and inexplicable to the point of recreating one of the lower levels of Dante’s Hell. Here’s a summary:

  1. Following car has to be within 1 second of lead car at a given point.
  2. Wing can’t be deployed until the main straight.
  3. Wing automatically disengages when brakes are hit.
  4. The wind must be from the East.
  5. The spin of the Earth must have stopped.
  6. The drivers name must contain a B, H or W.

I think I got that right 😉

The second new gizmo, also designed to help overtaking, isn’t really new. It’s the return of KERS, the system originally promoted to show how ‘green’ Formula One is (like flying a few thousand people around the world and shipping entire cars and spares etc. could ever be promoted as an environmentally friendly pastime!).

KERS stores energy from braking that can then be used to give a boost at a later time, using technology similar to that used in ‘hybrid’ cars. Again, this didn’t really seem to help anyone and in fact the race winners didn’t even use it because they found it so unreliable.

Much like the ‘flapping wing’, KERS is governed by a number of artificial rules that have nothing to do with how the system works in reality. Each car suddenly getting a full recharge as it crosses the start/finish line regardless of the amount of energy that was previously stored.

The pundits keep pumping all the newness and trying to convince us that this year will be even better than last year, which was amazing… apparently. The latest in pathetic tomfoolery? Bernie Ecclestone wants to ‘improve’ things by introducing artificial rain!

Come on, guys. It’s time to stop shouting about the Emperor’s new clothes and start bringing back some real improvements and give us back real racing – this is starting to look more like ‘Jeux Sans Frontieres’ than the world’s premiere motorsport event.