I’ve hinted at this in various posts and comments since the end of the 2007 Formula One season, but I figure it is about time I came out and said it straight. 2007 has left a bitter taste in my mouth. I feel as though Formula One – a sport I love and cherish – has lost its roots, its meaning. I feel sad for the sport. I can see it spiraling ever further downwards, out of control in a tiring mess of penalties, exclusions, poor decisions and ultimately, failure. This isn’t what Formula One should be about. It isn’t what sport is about. But I genuinely fear for the future of F1. And that, quite simply, is not how a fan should be feeling.
Why Do I Feel The Way I Do?
I think it is a combination of expectations in late 2006 and a chronic failure on behalf of the FIA and certain people within the sport. In the lead up to the just-passed season, I was full of joy. Fernando Alonso in a new team, Kimi Raikkonen in a new team, Renault with a potentially dodgy car and lots of key people moving around behind the scenes – Newey and the like. I was buoyant, expectant and really looking forward to 2007. Away from the event of racing, BlogF1 had done really, really well during the winter. I was proud of myself, and of course, I was really looking forward to the upcoming campaign with the site in mind as well.
Everything started well. Kimi won from the blocks, Lewis did well and the McLaren looked good in racing trim. Renault were essentially nowhere, but the title looked good for a down-to-the-wire climax. 2007 looked like a vintage in the making. Like that bottle of chianti you’ve kept in the rack for special occasions.
But it soon started to go a little awry. Sure, Formula One does that from time to time. An odd penalty here, a funny decision there. But generally speaking, it all washes out in the end. Monaco was one of these times. The press launched an attack at Hamilton’s employer – the man who has supported and ultimately allowed him to race – and thus the FIA followed up the press’s request with an investigation. It did all wash out though, and no penalty was given. The season continued.
And then it went, for want of a better phrase, tits up. The spy scandal, preferential treatment allegations, further penalties, Hungary, team in-fighting, out-of-control media, Max name-calling, Speed getting all fisty-cuffs and walking away, McLaren fair-sport marshals, appeals, appeals, more appeals than you can shake a stick at.
Why can’t eleven teams just go racing? Why can’t they just let the best man win?
I don’t mind a bit of drama. In fact, sometimes it can be refreshing to the mundane event that is plain and simple racing. A fall out within the team, a driver giving his boss the finger, down and dirty racing on the track – it’s all good for the sport and draws in audiences. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that there is little actually wrong with this in a controlled and moderate way.
But so much in one year. Combined with poor moves from the teams, people within the teams and FIA and race stewards, it really did become almost too much. McLaren shouldn’t have been investigated for the gear box infringement. McLaren shouldn’t have argued the [lack of] fuel penalties in Brazil. McLaren should have been kicked out entirely, or allowed to continue, entirely. UK broadcasters should learn that there is more to Formula One than Lewis Hamilton. I won’t go on, we’ve all heard it before.
What I Hope For In 2008
Twelve teams. I hope Prodrive can race. Ultimately, I don’t care who is using whose chassis. I don’t care how old the engines are, or whether or not the gear box is one, two, three or four races old. I want twelve teams, racing, competing, jostling for positions and actually making the sport;
- A sport.
I want fair penalties. I want them written down, in black and white, with no ambiguity. Circumstance does not come into it. If a driver commits a sin, he gets a predetermined penalty. If a team commits a sin, they too shall get a predetermined penalty. No ifs, no buts. I also want Max to keep his bloody mouth shut. In my mind, he is the president of the FIA – the governing body of the sport. He shouldn’t attend the races unless he intends to turn up at every FIA governed motor race, rally, whatever. He should be empowering people beneath him to make key decisions. After all, that is what a boss does, isn’t it? Only stepping in when things get really serious. And I mean, really serious.
I want the teams to stop fighting each other over insignificant advantages and penalties, and actually get on with racing each other. I’m not condoning cheating, far from it, but I just want the petty squabbling to stop. I want the FIA/Stewards to make decisions, and those decisions to remain. Uncontested. Uncontested because they are correct, as per the black and white rules.
I want fair coverage. I want to see a Spyker lead the race should the feat be repeated. I want to see the battles. I want to see the accident that has major ramifications on the championship, not just the remains of the car in the aftermath of the incident, driver storming away in frustration. I want to hear from drivers up and down the grid. I want to know how Sebastien will fair to the changes from Champ Car, how Brawn is doing at Honda, whether or not Nakajima has improved his pit stop technique. I want to see and hear this stuff. I want to hear Brundle, I want to see Brundle driving the cars in a bid to educate the viewers. I want to hear Murray Walker again.
This surely is not rocket science, is it?
2007 was not a vintage year. It does not belong in a wine rack or being served at that special occasion, nor does it deserve respect or space in my memory. I am proud of Kimi, he did well. He kept his nose clean and, if anything, I guess it shows the best man can still win. He didn’t get involved in inter-team battles (that we overly-heard of), nor did he open his mouth at every opportunity (typically, quite the opposite). He just raced. For that, I like him. He races. I want races filled with racers. It really isn’t rocket science.
Bang on. Absolutely. This year has indeed been a mess – inconsistency in the Stewards reactions to events being one of the biggest problems, as you say, make the penalties clear and defined, and apply them fairly.
With regards 2007, various teams, but mainly McLaren, broke the rules and you can’t blame anyone but McLaren for that – the FIA can’t be held accountable for a team who break the rules.
If no rules were broken then there wouldn’t be any chance for them to hand out weird punishments – and then all 11 (or 12) teams could get on with racing.
I agree 100% that the penalties should be set in stone before the season starts, I even called for it in an earlier post on my blog – I see it as the only fair way to run a sport. In football a player knows that if he is sent off then he faces a 1 match ban, but if it’s a serious offence then it will be increased to a 3 match ban. Currently F1 drivers haven’t a clue what penalty is going to be dished out if they are naughty.
Max not to attend races is a weird one – the president of FIFA attends the World Cup final and other “showcase” games, but you wouldn’t expect him to go to every football game in the world surely?
I fear that next year’s TV coverage will be all about Hamilton again – unless Honda get their act together and we then are smothered under a blanket of Button/Brawn hype instead.
I often wonder what F1 coverage is like in a country which doesn’t have any drivers currently competing – it must either be extremely boring or like a breath of fresh air to see everything with a total lack of bias.
The rest I agree on, but please no more Murray Walker!
I made the comment about Max because I don’t see why he needs to be there, or even why he needs to be directly involved with F1. (Or any other sport the organisation controls.) I just don’t get it. He doesn’t manage the sport very well, he just sticks his oar in all the time. His presence doesn’t help, nor does his input when its given on the fly. It didn’t help the 2005 USGP, that’s for certain. If Max had kept out of it and allowed someone else within the FIA to work with the teams and Bernie, then the race probably would have happened.
I like the idea that footballers know what will happen when they are bad, it is something that F1 definitely needs to adopt.
Now, no more football. 😉
As far as I’m concerned, Max can attend all the Grands Prixs and other motor sports events he likes (he is after all a fan of motor sport… …isn’t he?). The thing is he should go as a spectator and observer – maybe one who is allowed to look at every aspect of the meeting, but not one who would be permitted to interfere with its running or grab the limelight with ill-advised comments.