| Thursday, May 31, 2012 4:53 PM
A pretty heavy weekend of motorsport just gone. All over the globe there were club meetings, national and international events. We had our own Rally Otago and the WRC in Greece, GT racing in Spain and a plethora of events all across Europe. Memorial Day weekend in the USA ensured the ‘big guns’ of US motorsport put on their respective main game ‘party frocks’ in their own home towns in the form of the Indy 500 for the IZOD IndyCar series and the Coca Cola 600 event at Charlotte for NASCAR.
There was International racing at the Nurburgring in Germany and at pretty much every track worthy of a licence (and many not so worthy) throughout the northern hemisphere but the main focus in Europe, and for much of the world, was the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco. Racing there over the weekend were not only for Formula 1 cars but the Porsche Super cup, F. Renault 3.5, GP2 and GP3 cars. It was a big weekend.
The Monaco F1 GP has, in the past, been so very processional that even I have been tempted to fall asleep towards the end of it but this year’s event, although processional in the very truest sense of the word for the last 30 laps, was anything but sleep inducing. A procession of five cars led by Mark Webber who was closely followed by drivers with a combined total of sixty eight F1 GP wins and five F1 World Championships between them finally crossed the finish line with just 4.1 seconds separating them and then it was only a further 2 seconds back to another multiple F1 GP winner in sixth place. A procession yes, but of the very highest calibre and skill level.
This high speed procession was run on public streets so narrow that the locals continually bash into each other trying to navigate them, even at very low speeds, and in between unforgiving metal barriers that allowed not a single millimeter of an error whilst running at such a pace as to be a blur on the many TV cameras catching the action. The cars were so close together during those final laps that the merest mistake by the car in front would have meant almost certain disaster for those following, and to compound all of this the last few laps were run with the track being quite damp from light rain with more threatening.
For those never having been to the Principality for a Grand Prix it is difficult to imagine the almost claustrophobic atmosphere and the tunnel vision that the high barriers and tight ribbon of track tend to induce and the absolute concentration that is demanded from any, and all, of the drivers. For 78 laps, 260 kms and well over 100 minutes.
Similar demands are made of the drivers in the Indy 500 but the events are so very different as to make any comparison totally meaningless. The speeds are far higher at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the track, in comparison, so very wide, it’s left turn only (unless you have a major problem) and visibility as far as you need to see. Close racing yes and at speeds that defy logic with accidents that look at the same time both horrifying and spectacular.
If there is any outside comparison to be made between racing at Indy and F1 at Monaco then perhaps it could be between the high speed dueling that goes on with the ‘new’ America’s Cup multi hull boats with a finish line to be attained and a few racing lines available to get to it and the high speed, nimble, noisy Jet Sprint boats racing on a tight, proscribed, racing line with menacing danger close up on either side.
Frankly I thought both the ‘500’ and the Monaco GP were equally the best events I have seen in recent years at their respective venues and I would love to go to both of them again. They are both one off events and every cliché has been trotted out about both of them - ’The Jewel in the Crown’, ’The World’s Greatest Race’, ’Iconic Event’ and many more and in a way they are all true. Each of the events is special in their own way.
Neither series would be better off without them and in fact would be considerably worse off if they ever disappeared from the calendar. Both events are the ‘sponsors dream’ and both events see deals done that ensure the future of both the series and the competitors themselves. Between them they make up two of the three most famous motor races in the world with the Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar race being the third. The standards of driving and the skill set needed in each of the series may differ but you would never see a Formula 1 car compete successfully at the 500 as you would never see an IndyCar compete at Monaco. Indy is for IndyCars and IndyCar drivers as Monaco is for F1 cars and F1 drivers. Bernie Ecclestone will never rule Indy as the Hulman family will never rule Monaco. The series, drivers and cars are like chalk and cheese. They look the same from the outside but they are so very different on the inside.
In Formula 1 this season we have seen some of the most interesting, unpredictable, confusing and frankly entertaining races ever. Great for TV, the armchair public, and, by definition, the sponsors and Bernie Ecclestone. Those that were asked to do things to make overtaking easier, like the development of the ‘Drag Reduction System’ by the ‘Technical Working Group’ and Pirelli doing a fantastic job by developing tyres that were exactly what they were asked to develop by being more unpredictable and requiring more strategy decisions by the teams, have come up with the goods.
We got what was required. Now what do we hear? Formula 1 is TOO unpredictable! Good grief!! What next? Let’s go back to the days of knowing the winner before the lights have gone out or knowing on which lap, exactly, the cars will come in for a pit stop?
The tyres are being blamed by some as being a problem. Well, the way I see it is that the tyres are all the same for everybody (unlike a few years ago) and the problem is with the teams not fully understanding their behavior under certain conditions. Surely they will get to understand them eventually and then things will settle down again. Why do the tyres HAVE to be predictable in their behaviour? Why should we, the paying public, go back to watching predictable races?
I am a bit of a purist and would like to see all the funny bits taken off the cars completely. DRS, KERS, diffusers, ‘F’ ducts, all the bits of plastic on the front wings and sidepods and all the rest of the more modern inventions, but it just ain’t gonna happen. So let’s just enjoy what we have. A season that has thrown up more winners in the first six races of the season than ever before (even without the likes of Hamilton, Schumacher, Raikkonen and Grosjean winning…yet) and a season full of more twists and turns than the Monaco track itself. It is shaping up to be a classic.
I dunno….Formula 1 eh! Who’d have it??!!