Monday, December 10, 2007

Insanity Strikes At The Top (Another Racing Rant)


Formula 1: some of the most amazing machines ever racing around circuits at speeds that scare Richard Hammond, among others. Hands down the most difficult cars to drive. But that is how it should be: the best cars - Scuderia Ferrari, Lotus, Benneton Ford, BAR Honda, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Jaguar, Spyker - requiring a special breed of driver - Schumacher, Fangio, Moss, Stewart, Senna, Prost, Villeneuve, Mansell - to squeeze the car around the best circuits at the fastest speeds, all the while pouring tons of money into research and pushing car technology - turbochargers, monocoque chassis', mid-engines, aerodynamics, tyre performance, desmodromic valves, fuel injection, aluminum in cars, aerofoils - further and further with every passing day. And that is how it has been for 57 years. Basically everything we understand about car's workings today comes from three places: F1, Le Mans, and WRC - in that order. F1 is the massive dick-waving festival. It is prohibitively expensive to play in - making it a very exclusive club to have driven an F1 car - which keeps none but the best out of F1. This is why I love it. This is why I hate it. F1 cars should be able to do this. But you see, there is a slight problem.

In the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and even the early parts of the 90s, Formula 1 was everything it hoped to be. Almost every year a major change in technology was introduced by one team or another. Rivalries developed and races were always exciting. Now, however, on the television, races are just dull. One or two cars make it through the first corner smash-up to take the race by over 6 seconds - an eternity in F1 time. The race is often won and lost in the pits rather than on the track. Michael Schumacher showed us how the drivers are taking a bit of the power back from the cars. So what has F1 done to counteract this lack of development leading to lack of excitement? Put a freeze on development, of course.

What!?

It fails to make sense any way I think about it. They put a ten year freeze on engine development - the same engine will be used from 2008 through 2017. They restricted aerodynamic research - the only research actually progressing at a pace anywhere close to that of the first four decades of F1. They even restricted computer research. So, if you are in college now, switch your major to Double A and learn how to model and run an F1 car on a computer and you'll be rich in four years. I promise.

F1 is the FIA's cash cow. It does have the biggest dick and the most money. Why are they doing this to it? Yes it needs to be fixed, but over-research isn't what is wrong! Among other things it's these draconian politics that are wrong with F1. Is this a salary cap idea? A way to even everything out? I'm not so sure it is. I mean, now it is more prohibitive than ever to enter F1 - you have to develop a body while working only five days a week, with a restriction on the amount of team members and time spent per member, and then plug somebody else's 2008 engine into it and hope the package works because if it doesn't, the FIA wont give you enough time to fix it. Is this a way to cut costs? No! F1 teams have their own wind tunnels already so what is the use of not letting them use 'em? Attract new manufacturers? Prodrive already made their comment on that one. Now computer engineers and aerodynamics engineers are going to be getting the most money on the team because there are so few of them and so much work to do! Possibly this will allow drivers to take the prominence they deserve. But hasn't that been happening since Schumie left? I certainly know more driver's names since he left than before. Improve reliability? This makes a certain amount of sense but doesn't explain why the rules are so drastic. And also, the first two years under this will be unreliable because the engineers reached so far to get an engine to the FIA by March 31st, 2008 that will win for 10 years.

F1 can never go back to what it was. F1 has to become something else. Making it static for 10 years is not the solution. As much as he was boring because he was so damn good, Michael Schumacher gave F1 a hint of what direction they should go - focus on the drivers. Yes the cars are amazing. Yes they are expensive. Yes they have the biggest dicks. But that is a given. It has always been a given and will always be a given. The driver's are what should be interesting. Since when have we had a Prost Senna rivalry? A Moss Fangio? We haven't in a over a decade! Only in the last year have we seen the start of some beautiful rivalries and now F1 has put the focus firmly back on the cars and engines. This is exactly why I don't watch F1 anymore. I can't handle the frustration at what it has become compared to what it was when I started watching it. This year I watched a few races because of the drivers alone, they have started to interest me again. But F1 just shot itself in the foot and the wound wont heal until 2017.

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