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Monday, March 24, 2014

Melbourne was a good race...when there was racing!

But is it really F1?

Yes there is the matter of the engine sound (or distinct lack thereof) but there are other far more fundamental questions that need to be asked about the direction our sport is taking.

I mean our drivers appear to be car managers rather than racing drivers under the new rules. They manage tyres; they manage fuel; they manage KERS and DRS; so, when do they actually manage to race each other?

Answer: when they've managed to manage everything to a point in the "race" where they can be sure that their tyres won't give out and their fuel won't run out.

I'm just not convinced that this is what F1 should be aspiring to.

Even worse than all of the foregoing is the absurdity of limiting fuel usage to a maximum of 100kg/hr. This is what saw Daniel Ricciardo being disqualified from a well deserved second place in the first race of the season. Our sport is limiting fuel AND fuel consumption!

Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified from second place for exceeding maximum permitted fuel consumption rates.
Pure Madness!
Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images, published courtesy of Infiniti-Red Bull Racing
What is the purpose of this insanity? To appear greener?

As I was considering F1 last week a friend put this idiocy in its proper context:

We have 22 cars racing on up to 20 tracks per year. The teams rack up a massive number of air miles and road miles over the course of the season which completely environmentally outstrip any miniscule damage being done by the cars themselves on-track.

He's absolutely right, if you're going to do something about the environmental impact of F1 then the F1 circus should address this issue rather than emasculating the cars themselves to a point where they are little better than GP2 material.

I don't mind the engine size, I celebrate the return of turbo and applaud the installation of electric batteries; all of these changes are commendable, to a point. but we had 1.5L turbos in the 1980's and, as the above friend pointed out, they sounded brilliant! They gave F1 a distinctive and loud engine sound.

Can anyone explain to me how all these changes are good for the sport? They may reduce it's envionmental impact by a teensy, weensey marginal amount but that has nothing to do with it being good for the sport.

There will be those that argue that F1 was becoming irrelevant to the engine manufacturers and that may have been true but those same manufacturers would still learn shedloads from a 1.6L V6 Turbo F1 engine with two electric batteries attached that is neither limited on fuel or fuel consumption which would translate down to their hybrid cars being constructed on the factory floor.

I don't want to come over all Jeremy Clarkson on this issue but Crikey! These changes are about as logical as giving the inmates control over the asylum. Let's put the racing back into Formula 1 racing for crying out loud!

Melbourne & Engine Noise

Watching Melbourne I was amazed to hear the tyres squealing under braking; it's a sound that I have very rarely heard before because it was generally, completely masked by the engine's roar.  

I was astonished to hear it at Melbourne and, to tell the truth, I am not in the least surprised that the race organizers are looking for some kind of compensation for the spectacle of near silent cars travelling at reduced speeds around a track while fuel saving madly for half the race.

The City of Melbourne may have a love/hate, contentious relationship with F1 but it may be that this level of change may be a step too far and could tilt the question of Melbourne's future in favour of the naysayers.

Formula E

It is madness to continue down this road when the FIA are already bringing Formula E to the track this year. Why am I actually looking forward to this series? Because it will do exactly what it says on the tin. All the cars will be electrically powered. This will give a huge boost to electric vehicle technology which is currently limited by distance vs need to recharge. If the Formula E cars can be recharged in 90 seconds in the pits in 2015, which is what the FIA were predicting last year, then essentially the main obstacle to the sale of Electric vehicles will have been overcome and surely the Formula E car technology will push improved engine design and output, should this series gain enough popularity.