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Close finishes – thoughts on F1

Lewis Hamilton has recently said that the fans are let down if the title is decided too early in the season. Not that it seemed to bother him in any of his runaway years, but it does reflect a trend in motorsport to want the artificiality of every title going down to the wire. NASCAR did it a long way back with the, for me, ridiculous chase and the the stage segments within a race.

I am old school I know, but I have no problem with a runaway race or season. It’s about beating the competition and if you can see them off early, then I’m fine with that. For me that is what competition should stand for, not trying to contrive a cliffhanger. If you want that why not have a one off, winner takes all, race? The answer is easy; money.

It’s not about sport anymore and the modern audience seems to want instant gratification. When I got interested in motor racing things were very different. The 1971 Italian GP at Monza is often thought of as one of the greatest F1 races ever, so let’s have a look at it in more detail.

The reason that it is so lauded is because the first 5 cars crossed the line covered by just 0.61 seconds. In fact the first 4 cars were line abreast and just 0.18 of a second covered them. It was a classic streamliner and won by a master of such races in F3, but it is completely overlooked now that he would not have been in that leading group at the end had not his team-mate, and fellow F3 star, Howden Ganley dropped back from the leading group to tow him into contention. Ganley finished 5th for his efforts that day.

So a fantastic close race, or was it? Finishing 6th that day was pole sitter Chris Amon over half a minute down after a pit stop. Jackie Oliver was 7th for McLaren and almost lapped. Eight place was a lap down, 9th was 2 laps down and in 10th place was the last finisher 4 laps behind. Twenty cars started the race and eleven finished, albeit that the last of those was 8 laps down and not classified.

In qualifying Chris Amon’s Matra was 0.42 seconds up on second place man Jacky Ickx. Howden Ganley in 4th was the last car within a second of Amon and the gap to 24th place was 5.89 seconds. Consider that when there is usually less that 2 seconds covering the entire grid today.

We were happy enough with that back then. At the British GP that year Jackie Stewart won by 21.6 seconds with 3rd place man 50.5 seconds back and everyone else a lap pr more behind. In qualifying 5.1 seconds covered the grid from first to last. I was working that day and could not be there to watch, but I would have happily paid to get there and see it. I would not want to see a modern era GP.

Jackie Stewart won the 1971 world championship title at the 8th race of the 11 round season, so the Monza result was irrelevant in that sense as were those of the subsequent races in Canada and the US. We did not complain. Tyrrell won 7 races, Ferrari and BRM 2 each with 6 different drivers taking victories. Tyrrell won the manufacturer’s crown with 73 points to the 36 of BRM in second with Ferrari 3rd on 33 (scoring was 9-6-4-3-2-1 for 1st to 6th back then).

For me they were much happier days. NASCAR also me as a fan when they came up with the Chase, now Chase and his colleagues have taken F1 from me too.

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