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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.

Wham, bam, thank you ma’m

So Seb has gone, Carlos and Danny have shuffled and Renault have a spare seat, all for next year. And we haven’t started this year yet. Talk about silly season.

The speed of these announcements suggest that the deal was sorted in advance and that Seb’s departure was, in effect, a firing. The way that it was done is brutal, but Ferrari have done the right thing.

The Vettel you get in the car is not the one you see out of it. There is a red mist that descends and he lacks reason. Multi 21, Turkey and many more incidents point to a problem that few team managers can afford and whilst he clearly has talent, the dark side is coming through too often.

If you can remember his qualifying performance for Red Bull, emerging in Q3 with just enough time for one flying lap and bagging pole race after race. That skill was a major factor in those four consecutive world titles. That record shows that he was something special and it is a record that will endure.

But like the equally talented Alonso before him there is that corrosive aspect that can ruin a team. Ferrari could see that and had no desire to keep him. They have a potential world champion in the team and in Carlos Sainz they have a very strong support driver with the potential to pick up wins. A classic number one and two situation.

That is why Danny Ric would not have been a good choice even if a lot of us would have loved to see him, with his Italian heritage, in one of the red cars. Instead we will have him in a McLaren and that should be an interesting combination. It will do Lando no harm either.

What happens to Seb remains to be seen, but I am not sure that there is room for him anywhere. Maybe his time has come to walk away, for certainly he deserves better than tooling around in midfield. He is pretty toxic though and who would take a chance?

The short 2020 season is going to be interesting though. If I were running Ferrari I would bench Seb and bring in Hulkenberg to see out the year in the second Ferrari. But it isn’t my decision.

please steer clear of Ferrari Lewis

Lewis and Seb to swap places at the end of the season is a good story as are the hot denials that it might happen. It could be pure speculation, as could the one about Lewis walking away from the sport at the end of the year, but we are well into Silly Season and there will be all sorts of tosh floating about. That said, if we are to speculate, would a move to the Prancing Horse be a good one for Lewis? Continue reading

on Vettel

Out of the car he seems a good guy; family man, keeps himself to himself, good sense of humour and all that, but strap him into the racing car and a switch seems to flick over and you can’t be sure which of two Sebs you are going to get. Continue reading

#F1 silly season re-visited

In the wake of the Korean GP and another good drive by Felipe Massa we hear that Ferrari are to retain him for 2013 and good for both sides. He’s a decent bloke and a decent driver so it’s good to have him confirmed for next year and Fernando has him firmly where he wants him having taken the team by the scruff of its neck very much as Michael did. On the other hand there is Nico Hulkenberg. Continue reading

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