F1 Needs Better Teams, Not Better Gimmicks

Automorbit, Sport – It is not a well-known fact that the word “guerrilla” was first used in the Peninsular War in the early years of the 19th Century in Catalonia.

There was very effective resistance to the French occupation from the Catalans. It was during this period that the Emperor Napoleon visited Spain and, so legend has it, stopped on the hill above the village of Montmelo to have lunch at a table laid out beneath a large oak tree, which provided some much-needed shade on a very hot day.

The great oak is still there, and when they designed the Circuit de Catalunya racetrack, 30-odd years ago, the planners ordered that the circuit be designed to run around this historical monument, rather than cutting it down.

An emperor of a different kind visited Montmelo last weekend. The word “imperial” comes to mind to best describe Lewis Hamilton’s victory in the Spanish Grand Prix. This time there was no resistance.

Hamilton was so dominant that it never looked—at any point whatsoever—that anyone was going to beat him. His rule in F1 continues. Although, as we saw at Silverstone, success, even with a big car advantage, cannot be guaranteed with the way the current tires behave on different cars, in different temperatures.

But F1 tire supplier Pirelli was asked to make tires that would create some unpredictability and this is clear proof that they have achieved that. Whether it is good thing is a different question.

“Managing the tires in these demanding conditions with nearly (120 degrees) of track temperatures was a big challenge, especially on the soft tire,” said Pirelli’s head of F1 tires Mario Isola. “Nonetheless, we saw stints of more than 30 laps on them, which was extremely impressive, leading to some one-stop strategies that we didn’t expect, despite the hottest temperatures that many of the drivers have ever raced in and a wide range of demands.”

It was Hamilton’s fourth victory from six races in seven weeks, and no doubt he will have broken more records by the time the next tripleheader is done, between the Belgian Grand Prix on August 30 and the Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello on September 13.

The last event will be Ferrari’s 1,000th Grand Prix and there will no doubt be much fuss made about the race, although it would take a miracle for the Scuderia to win anything this year.

The record that everyone is waiting for is when Hamilton passes Michael Schumacher’s all-time total of 91 race wins. Hamilton’s victory in Spain was his 88th and so he can equal the record at Mugello if he wins the next three races. This will inevitably mean that he will also equal Schumacher’s total of seven World Championships and will go into 2021 looking for a record eighth.

It is a strange Formula 1 season because we don’t know when it is mid-season because we still don’t know where all the races will be. The dates currently run only to the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola on November 1, which will be the 13th race. The chances are that we will get another three after that, to get to the all-important number of 15 events, which is key because it is when all the big commercial contracts are locked in and money will start to flow more. If there are 16 races in the end, then the midseason point will come when we gather in Monza.

Some people think that domination is a bad thing for the World Championship, even if it is largely inevitable, but F1 has managed to continue to grow despite the Schumacher years and despite the four-year period from when Red Bull was nearly unstoppable prior to the new engine formula in 2014.

Others disagree, because to see the best driver of all time in action is something that many fans enjoy. In 40 years, today’s fans will be able to boast that they watched Hamilton in action, just as the older fans today talk in awe of seeing Jim Clark winning in the 1960s. Still, the world has changed and people seem to have shorter attention spans. And this is why many believe that Formula 1 must change, if it is to remain a sport for the newer generations. It is a problem that has impacted many sports over the years, but traditionalists still argue that records mean nothing if the rules are changed in such a way as to alter results.

“We must all understand that the sport we love needs more competition,” said F1 sporting boss Ross Brawn a year ago. “So that other teams can also aspire to podium finishes and it is not just a few powerful teams that dominate.”

But what value is success if the way it was achieved has altered?

There are some who argue that F1 needs to introduce reversed grids and other such things, but the F1 team bosses don’t pay much attention to Formula 2 races on Sundays because the grid is defined by the finishing order of the race on Saturday, with the top eight reversed. This makes for interesting races on occasion but it also means that the drivers who win don’t get the same respect as if they win a Saturday race. When the idea was first raised to have reverse grids for F1, Hamilton responded by saying that “people who propose that don’t really know what they’re talking about” because if is clearly a suggestion that comes from the teams who are being beaten—and they would argue the opposite case if they were the team winning.

“The fact that now they are trying the reverse grid and all that feels like an excuse for not doing a good enough job,” Hamilton said.

While Sebastian Vettel, a man who appreciates the traditions of F1, and what they mean, dismissed the idea as “bullshit.”

F1 doesn’t need gimmicks. What is really needed is for rival teams to Mercedes to do a better job, while staying within the regulations.

And that seems to be a hard thing to do—even for the teams with the biggest budgets.

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