Having not done a ‘news column’ for a while, I thought now might be a good time, as F1 grapples with its identity and what might make sure the sport remains interesting going forward.
Not for the first time this season, Red Bull are threatening to quit. Owner Dietrich Mateschitz said to Red Bull’s Speed Week Magazine “they (Renault) take from us not only time and money, but also the will and motivation”. Clearly he is (understandably) unhappy with the performance of the engine thus far, but once again I find myself thinking ‘sore loser’. That sounds harsh, but when Red Bull dominated the sport for four years straight, they were in no hurry to change the rules or make threats. It was though, the words of Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene that summed it up more eloquently than I: “It is easy to be happy when you win four championships and easy to complain when you are not winning. You have to accept when something goes wrong and when it goes right.”
Ferrari last looked truly competitive in 2010, and last season did not win a single race, yet even during times of difficulty for the team (they endured a long barren run during the 80s and 90s, especially in terms of championships), they kept plugging away and never made the sort of noises Red Bull are making. They quietly got on with their jobs and now, in 2015, they have a car that is a lot quicker than their 2014 effort. They are showing a lot more class than Red Bull, to put it mildly.
Of course, the current problems in F1 have seen to it that no one is going to catch Mercedes in the near future (barring the Merc-powered teams making big strides). There is a danger that people will switch off out of boredom – but the Silver Arrows’ dominance is only part of the problem.
If Hamilton and Rosberg were dueling like Senna and Prost did in 88 and 89, we might not be so quick to complain about any one team’s control. Unfortunately, they’re not battling like that. The Canadian Grand Prix highlighted things that are slowly becoming worse and worse – lift and coast to save fuel and brakes, cars not being able to get right up to each other because of aerodynamic properties and tyre wear – artificial overtaking thanks to DRS – F1 is not what it could be (a view echoed by former F1 driver Mark Webber).
One or two ideas have come up that I feel have merit. Free tyre choices for races would mean the teams would all be thinking strategically regarding tyre wear and speed – the softer compounds would offer better grip and better lap times, but inevitably degrade quicker, whereas on some circuits you might be able to complete the entire race on medium or hard tyres – add to this mix refueling, alter the wing designs to make it easier for cars to close in on one another, and ditch DRS, and perhaps there would be more opportunity for exciting, wheel-to-wheel racing. Whether that happens or not, is anyone’s guess.