After the parade of Monaco and yet another Grand Prix reliant on tyre management in Montreal, the world of Formula One takes a short break from the glitz and glamour of the worldwide phenomena.
With the sport increasing in popularity by the year, the need to create entertainment at every race has developed along with it.
The Monaco Grand Prix was heavily scrutinised two weeks ago for being more than below par in overtakes and entertainment, causing mass evaluation of its workings. The news broke about Mercedes’ Barcelona test with tyre supplier Pirelli, a test which is banned under F1 rules and regulations, over the same weekend producing uproar amongst the paddock.
In the days of the legendary Sir Stirling Moss, Sir Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, even Michael Schumacher, Formula One never used to be so politically obsessed, driven more by money than the drivers themselves.
The main cause for concern among spectators is the introduction of the current set of Pirelli tyres. Seen as both a positive and negative from race to race and depending on your perspective, Pirelli created exactly what was asked of them - a tyre far more unpredictable than any other before it.
The unpredictable nature of the canvas has caused wide concern about whether drivers can really push their cars to the limit whilst being restrained amongst the complicated world of tactics and management along with dodging the safety hazards caused by the marbles left on track by the tyre.
Lewis Hamilton amongst those criticising the tyre said to reporters in April: “It’s like you have a hundred dollars and you have to spend it wisely over a period of time. It makes racing a lot different. It’s more strategic rather than pure speed racing.”
The tyres certainly cause more overtakes than in the past, but well over half of them are being dubbed ‘artificial’ with the majority leaving a defending driver a sitting duck on older, degraded tyres.
Likewise the introduction of DRS, similar to the more durable tyre idea, was originally a strong concept for more entertaining racing. However, overtakes resulting from the Drag Reduction System also leave the driver in front unable to defend his position.
Most DRS areas are either too early on a straight or far too late to leave drivers either unable to benefit or too easy to get by, thus removing the physics of overtaking through slip streaming entirely.
On the other hand, the introduction of the KERS button a few years back has been a revelation. The idea to enable more overtakes for more entertaining races was a brilliant one, executed in the right way. KERS enables drivers with an extra charge, or extra speed, in a lap which can be used tactically to attempt to overtake the car in front. The advantage of this is that the defending driver also has the charge which enables both drivers to fight for position on an even playing field, something DRS is yet to achieve.
Formula One also relies heavily on guru Bernie Ecclestone’s calendar decisions on where to host Grand Prix’s each season. His increasing desire to scrap some older, more nostalgic tracks like Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain have been met with strong opposition.
The sport’s hierarchy are looking to fuse more races across the world such as in Northern America and in Asia to widen Formula One’s scope. Fans have seen Bahrain visited despite political and safety fears in the past, from races, which generate very little atmosphere in the stands. These races provide Ecclestone with more cash than the traditional venues like Spa but with less atmosphere, passion and glamour.
If Bernie wants entertainment to be the true victor amongst the sport, surely true wheel to wheel racing, merged as naturally as possible, on the best, most iconic tracks in the world, is the best and only way forward?
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