A discussion about what is probably not working as it should today in F1.
After the events that unfolded during the recent 2019 Canadian GP, we are left to wonder if Formula 1 is really heading into the right direction or, maybe, it is going straight into a concrete wall that might mark its definitive end. At least, as the most prestigious series in the motorsports, the pinnacle of racing and technology.
For those who might not know, this is what happened: Sebastian Vettel, who was leading the race in his Ferrari, was handed a five seconds penalty for unsafe re-joining on the track after going wide at Turn 3. When back on track, he slid almost against the outer wall, closing the way for an overtake to his following opponent, Lewis Hamilton on Mercedes.
In this instance, I believe we have witnessed everything that is wrong or simply not working as it should in current F1.
To start with, the penalty should have been handed after the race, not while it was still running. We could go on and on discussing if the penalty was right or wrong. I believe we all have different opinions on the subject and it would be pointless to discuss this. I think, however, that everyone can agree that by handing the penalty to Vettel during the race, they killed the race itself. The German driver lost focus, because you can be a professional and have your mind in the game as much as you want, but it is inevitable that knowing something unsettling like this, it gets to the back of your brain and it stays there until you cool it off. Hamilton instead, had no longer any interest in overtaking the Ferrari, and risking an accident by doing so. He knew that everything he had to do was to pursue his opponent and stay behind him at a reasonable distance. The battle for 1st place was finished and so was the race, with a third of the distance still to cover. For a series that is seeing a worrying drop in audience on media platforms and in attendance levels on track, and that is constantly looking for ways to level out the field for spectacle, what was the point of that? They could have waited the end of the race, take the chance to listen to both sides of the story, confront again the replays, and then act. What they did was instead shooting themselves in the foot, and attract in the following days such a level of bad publicity and discontent that it will take much effort to clear the air now.
Second issue is, the uselessness of appealing against an FIA decision. Ferrari did the only sensible thing they could, move against the penalty inflicted, asking the FIA commission to look again at the case and judge whether it was correct or not to blame Vettel for closing Hamilton into the wall with him. Again, we could argue if the penalty was rightfully inflicted or not in the first place, but anyone can agree that it is a right for someone to defend himself against what he/she believes it’s bad justice. What should happen is that, if you are found innocent, your sentence should be re-formulated. This is not what happens with FIA though. Even if they understand that a penalty was misgiven, the result of the race remains sealed. It is as if you go to prison, your lawyer proves that it was not you to commit the crime, the judge declares you innocent but you still have to serve your time in jail. We need a solid commission from FIA, having nominated members that stay always the same from race to race, able to be consistent with their judgement and following clear indications about general situations that may occur, and against which it is actually meaningful to appeal. What we have now is not consistent, not reliable and unethically unfair.
Third issue, drivers need to be sportsmen again. In this case, it was Hamilton, but every single one of the current F1 drivers is the same. Every time there is as much as a bit of contact, or a driver closes the line, they cry aloud on team radio asking FIA to take action. What about going heads down and race instead? As someone said, this is what happens with drivers that have been grown in a vivarium, rather than making their own way into the series as it happened in the past. Now we have these kids, rich enough or talented enough to be spotted by a sponsor at a very young age, and nursed into becoming a racing driver. Obviously, they lack the roughness of spirit of someone who has made himself. Drivers of the past raced one another, never gave up position without a fight, but at the same time never put another driver in harm’s way, because they knew that going off track might result in a serious injury or even death. Nowadays, we have drivers who think that everything should be handed their way, but they themselves have no obligation towards others (the behaviour of lapped drivers is the most striking example). Therefore, when they decide to block aggressively, they do incredibly stupid things, putting in danger other people lives, because thank God safety today is what it is, and so they take unnecessary chances knowing, or rather assuming that, everything will result in nothing serious. They take it as a game, rather than a sport. This is what is seriously wrong with modern F1 drivers. They need to be trained to have a different consciousness about what they are doing, and what are they supposed to do on track. They need a fresher and healthier mentality.
Stewart and Rindt were locked in a wheel to wheel battle for much of the 1969 British Grand Prix
Finally yet importantly, cars do not help in the matter. These sort of vessels, torpedoes 4 meters long with tons of downforce, do not make for a great spectacle. The fact that the pinnacle of racing and technology, as we were saying at the beginning of the article, as turned into a levelled out, single make series, does not help either. Everyone with the same engines, same tyres, same gearboxes (intended as gear ratios), same strict regulations for suspensions, brakes, aero. Do I need to state the obvious? This is no longer Formula 1. We need innovations, diversity, and freedom of interpretation. Obviously, this would create many problems, with the FIA that would need to be on the lookout for any infringement in the rules, but we cannot relinquish what is the spirit of the series just to make sure everything is as under control as it possibly could. We do not need less safety, as many state, to have again a challenging and fun series. No. We need bravery, the will to do things different, to think differently and accept to be different. We live in a world that is so afraid of what is diverse, that it is trying to water everything down to the same thing. No. Differences are what makes us unique, and give us strength as humans. Competition can only come from a confrontation of different solutions and ideas, stating from time to time which is the best among them. This is key to growth. Of course, the same can apply to track layouts, indecently similar between themselves. Moreover, they cannot talk about costs, when the names involved today are the like of Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Red Bull, McLaren, Williams, which are all billionaire companies related one way or another to industrial production.
We need F1 to have courage again, which comes from the Latin and it means, “To act with the heart”. In an aseptic society, at least sport should remember us that we are creatures made of emotions and sentiment. That we haven’t got just a brain to feed, but a hearth to get pumping too.
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