Sunday, March 14, 2010

F1: Boring in Bahrain

So the first race of the season is over. I can't say I'm displeased with a Ferrari 1-2, although I'd have been much happier if the order had been reversed and Felipe Massa had been on the top step of the podium. Mind you, from Intensive Care to second in a grand prix in 7 and a half months is a remarkable achievement.

I feel so sorry for poor Sebastian Vettel. He had led from the start and had done absolutely everything he should have done. Just after a set of mind games by team radio (Ferrari telling Alonso he could catch Vettel but he had to watch out for his engine and Red Bull telling Vettel that Alonso's car was in danger of blowing up), Vettel's engine lost power, causing him to lose 3 places. He eventually limped home in 4th but he deserved to win.

I love Ferrari, but there was something a bit sad in a way about what seemed like the old order being returned today. Last year it was the new kids on the block which stole the show from the start. Today they couldn't quite manage it.

Lewis Hamilton was gifted his place on the podium by events which just added to the feeling of the old hegemony coming back.

The Mercedes cars of Schumacher and Rosberg put in a steady performance, finishing in 5th and 6th. This was ahead of the current world champion Jenson Button, so let's not have too much naysaying about Schumi.

The race itself was actually, in the words of Craig Revel Horwood on Strictly, dull, dull, dull. After a few dramas at the start and the initial round of pitstops, there was a bit of a lull where absolutely sweet fanny adams happened. My husband almost fell asleep despite me reading the finer comments from Twitter, most of which seemed to indicate that drying paint would be much more exciting, to him.

This leads to a bit of a dilemma for the rest of the season. If the cars do what they're supposed to do, once they've changed tyres, we're all going to be bored rigid. Harrassed engineers telling their drivers not to push too hard in case they ruin their tyres or engines is likely to be as enthralling as it gets.

Schumi hit the nail on the head afterwards when he said:

"It's the start and then after it is just sort of go your pace and not do mistakes," Schumacher told the BBC.

"Overtaking is basically impossible, other than if somebody makes a mistake - Lewis had a little one so Nico was able to pass him, but got back past at the pitstop. That's about it.

"That's the action we are going to have with unfortunately this kind of environment of race strategy.


Duncan said on Twitter that this was rich coming from someone who had turned passing in the pits into an art form. Although Schumi could overtake on the road rather brilliantly as his last race in 2006 showed.

Even with a relatively sedate weekend, we saw at least 3 engines trashed - 4 if you count Bruno Senna's which sounded like something you'd cut your hedge with when he ground to a halt. The drivers only have 8 engines each for 19 races, the same number as they had for 17 last year. The last thing they will want is to take a penalty at the tail end of the season which could put them back 5 places on the grid when they're fighting for the championship. This just encourages a conservative style of driving that Jenson Button admitted to on the BBC Red Button forum this afternoon. He said that the new regime was easier cos he wasn't driving flat out all day. Surely part of what makes F1 special is drivers taking their cars to the absolute edge of their capabilities.

I wonder if they will have to consider increasing the number of engines allowed, or making them take more pit stops by ensuring that the tyres can't last for very long. Either that, or just reintroduce re-fuelling.

One brilliant result from the weekend was the way Lotus got both cars to the end of the race - they may not have speed, but they will last. It was good to see team technical director Mike Gascoyne have his own special session on the Red Button forum and to hear from principal Tony Fernandes that he'd been given Colin Chapman's black hat to wear on their first race win.

Another good point is that Rubens Barrichello nabbed the last point on offer with a 10th place finish.

Spare a thought for Karun Chandhok, though. The poor guy only got a handful of laps on track in qualifying yesterday and had to continue his shakedown in the race. Unfortunately a bump at turn 12 threw him off balance and his race was over. His twitter feed shows an attitude that is a credit to him and it's nice to see that he's quite starstruck about the whole thing.

My feelings today are perhaps compounded by the rather charmless Bahrain circuit. We'll see how it goes in a fortnight on the wonderful Melbourne street circuit with lots of fans. I hope by then that Bernie Ecclestone will have reconsidered his ridiculous refusal to allow drivers' personal physios on the grid. This meant that when the Blessed Brundle went to do his gridwalk, there were no drivers bar Alonso for him to talk to. The rest were in their garages with their physios. Now, of course the drivers aren't getting any sort of physio actually on the grid, and it's all a big perk for the physios, but it's a battle that Bernie just shouldn't have picked.

2 comments:

subrosa said...

You can say that again! Even the F1 fan here - not me I hasten to add - became disinterested.

jeremyrowe1 said...

Love the post! A great balance between knowledge and passion.

Nevertheless, as you rightly point out, it was a pretty dull race. I really hope Vettel has a touch more luck in the coming races - I truly believe he's a special talent and, combined with the brilliant design skill of Adrian Newey, he represents the best chance of breaking up the old order.

Couldn't agree more about Karun Chandhok - what a brilliant attitude that guy has.

Keep up the great work!

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