Race Blog
Bahrain 2013

The good old days of now

Bernie’s to blame.

Everyone’s favourite little-BIG man who controls all things Formula 1 wanted more overtaking (because that’s what people asked for), so what to do?

Brief Pirelli: make tyres with a chemical compound biased towards high levels of grip that doesn’t last for long.

They delivered, because that’s what good companies do.

Of course it may seem strange making a product that, as part of its design, falls apart. All publicity isn’t always good but mostly the maxim is true.

Ecclestone gets what Ecclestone wants and therefore – mostly – so do we. A variety of polesitters, random race winners, and championship showdowns straight out of the Hollywood play book. Everyone’s happy, right?

Wrong.

As is usually the case, the moaning starts when results don’t go as planned and understanding of how the compounds behave is low. I didn’t hear many requests for harder tyres last Sunday evening from Messrs Vettel and Horner – did you?

Generally, teams and drivers are making far less noise about their Italian rubber than they did last year. Skill sets have been honed, driving styles altered and car designs fettled as knowledge and experience increase. This year’s aggressively engineered tyres seem to be causing fewer headaches. Don’t expect Pastor Maldonado to ascend out of the blue to the peak of competitiveness at Barcelona in a few weeks’ time!

Back in the press room the story is a little different…

Everyone, and I do mean everyone in F1 likes to think of themselves as the font of all knowledge, the best informed, an original thinker, the smartest tool in the shed. Only these enlightened souls are qualified to shovel unendingly their authoritative predictions into the craw of the ravenous beast that is the punditry-obsessed 24-hour news cycle.

Trouble is, unpredictable tyres by their very nature make for unpredictable racing.

So, post-race, with all those sagacious prophecies unfulfilled, what to do?

Blame the tyre supplier, that’s what. Must be their fault – they make the damned rubber after all.

As is so often the case, each generation endlessly refers back to how great it used to be – conveniently forgetting that they’d moaned just as much back in the day. When dismissing Pirelli, the de rigueur follow-up subject for derision is, of course, the Drag Reduction System. For heaven’s sake, stop it. How many years have I and the millions more who love our sport had to defend F1 from those who bemoan the lack of overtaking?

How short memories are. It is, after all, fewer than 10 years ago that we had race after race, championship after championship so utterly dominated by the charisma-less automaton, Michael Schumacher. Steamrollering his way to five successive titles in a less than charming fashion on – lest we forget – bespoke Bridgestone tyres tailored perfectly to his driving style.

Formula 1 at that time was almost unsellable, such was his and Ferrari’s domination.

Sure, Sebastian Vettel is on a roll and Red Bull are looking strong, but the racing is good and we go into every grand prix not knowing who the favourite for either pole position or the race is.

Despite all this, one still returns to the media room after another fantastic afternoon’s racing and tactical nous to be greeted by know-it-all hacks busily telling the world – and anyone in earshot – how boring the last two hours of their privileged lives just were.

My heart sinks…

How could a sport so deep in fascinating subjects ever be described as dull? To say such things is to display a complete lack of understanding of what Formula 1 stands for.

Of course it doesn’t help when scruffy and spiky little upstarts such as Jacques Villeneuve chip in with ignorant lines (as post-China) describing how as a commentator (of modern day F1) one has no idea what’s happening.

Surely that says far more about the Canadian’s intelligence than about the sport that has served – and still serves – him so well.

Some suggestions have merit. A few more sets of tyres wouldn’t go amiss, since it would encourage more on-track activity during practice and qualifying. But when, in a few years’ time, you hear TV pundits, ex-drivers, retired team technical directors, free website armchair experts and Fleet Street hacks tell you how good it used to be, remind them and remind them well what they said in 2013.

When Pirelli leave and we go back to long-lasting, ever so predictable, expert-flattering tyres, perhaps the naysayers will pipe down. I’m guessing they won’t, quickly pining for the good old days of now.

That’s my prediction!

 

Please enjoy my 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix picture gallery by clicking here.

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