This past Sunday’s Russian GP has opened up many questions as to just what this pinnacle of racing has become. Many in the racing world have questioned the direction that this competition has taken in the recent years. Others have wondered as to its relevancy and future.
After watching the Russian GP after seeing what occurred the previous weekend in the Singapore GP one has to wonder just what is real racing and what is contrived. Sebastian Vettel’s win in Singapore clearly angered his teammate, Charles Leclerc, who felt slighted by the team’s tire strategy and felt he had deserved the win. For many watching it was nice to see Sebastian able to demonstrate the capabilities that this four-time world champion still has.
Within the first laps of the Russian GP the radio traffic between the Ferrari team and the drivers it certainly appeared that there was an understood agreement between management and the drivers that the lead in the race was to transfer to Leclerc and that Sebastian was expected to let Charles pass him. At the time Leclerc was not able to keep pace with Sebastian and could not even come within the the one second requirement for DRS to be used to pass. Instead Charles complained of not having his way and that Sebastian continued to behave as a racing driver.
Eventually there came the inevitable pit stops to change tires and it was structured in such a way by the Ferrari team to ensure that Vettel would not be able to come out ahead of Leclerc. Essentially letting Charles pass Sebastian anyway. Sebastian immediately returned to the track only to suffer a failure – his kinetic energy recovery system. While this may have been genuine, it could also have been interpreted as Vettel giving Ferrari a big F* You. Saying okay, give the young guy what he has been whining for but now you will only have only one team car winning points.
We then watched as the Mercedes team took the first two steps on the podium. Leclerc standing on the third and Ferrari having to live with far fewer constructor championship points than it could have enjoyed.
We can also speculate about Mercedes and what they are doing within their team and how they are managing their drivers.
Early in the season Bottas came to the new season with a refreshed attitude and confidence that was reflected in his driving performance. Within the first few races that changed significantly.
After less than a handful of races it was Hamilton in the lead and Valtteri acting much like the follow-up driver that was there to simply provide interference for the chosen team leader. You could detect it in his demeanor during interviews and when he was on the podium.
A few races ago it was announced that Valtteri’s contract was renewed and one wondered what possibly had taken place behind closed doors as the assurance for another year’s employment was taking place. Was more money provided to assuage Bottas’s feelings of being used as a second class driver?
What has Formula 1 become? Is it still a competition between racing drivers and teams? Has it become simply a contest of contrived tire strategies and preordained driver standing?
One would like to have an honest conversation with some of the “best of the rest” drivers and learn their perspective without the fear and influence of the top team managers and their budgets of nearly half a billion dollars a year.
Many positive changes have occurred in Formula 1, including massive improvements in driver safety. The technology used can be not only very effective, but monetarily prohibitive. The caliber of drivers is astounding, but they have become remote and reclusive personalities that fans are only provided a very brief and limited glimpse of.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to allow fans to understand the amount and types of physical training that the drivers must endure in order to cope with the physical and mental demands of be a top level driver with a “super license”?
How about having far more revealed about the technology used amongst the teams? The technological edges they enjoy appear to be fleeting as so much is often revealed as they are photographed at speed and in and around the grid and garages.
Formula 1 is under much pressure to keep its fans engaged and expand its base. The current formula has it critiques and many are suggesting several changes to improve this pinnacle of motor racing.
Perhaps Formula 1 should keep in mind that it is a sport and that racing is at its core. That is difficult to remember with the billions of dollars involved, but if the powers that be don’t understand the basics of the sport they risk losing it all.