The F1 2010 Season: The Halfway Point.
So, F1 has passed the halfway point of the season after the British Grand Prix, and as usual, there’s still everything to play for. There have been some boring and processional races, but there have also been some really exciting races. However, by this mid-season point, there’s quite a few things about the season so far that I want to discuss.
This Season’s Rule Changes:
It’s always hard to judge how the rules are going to affect the races until you actually watch them, and to that point, I was always a bit hesitant judging them until I’d seen enough races. However, I can say without a doubt now that a lot of the rule changes were simply misguided. Granted, no refuelling was a team decision, and it hasn’t changed as much as others thought it would, seeing as there seems to be a much bigger difference in times thanks to the tyres now, but its still a pretty bad idea. It’s eliminated one of the best parts of the sport: the strategy. One of the best parts of the races wasn’t just the racing, it was all of the decisions the teams had to make in regards to tyre and fuel strategies, whether to go on a really heavy fuel load and go defensive or change to a two/three stopper, go faster, but potentially lose more places with the pit stops. Watching all the teams try to second guess each other and try to have a better strategy than each other was what made a lot of the races, and it was always more interesting when one strategy paid off above the others, or the teams managed to win the race by a particularly good pit stop. Granted, I will admit that that’s not been entirely lost now, and there are still elements of strategies that work (Button’s amazing gamble in Australia) and ones that fail hilariously (Mercedes’s strategy blunder in Valencia ruining Schumacher’s race, or their tyre failure in Canada with similar results), but those are now way too far few and in-between. The default strategy for the top 10 qualifiers is to race about ten to twenty laps, then change to the hard tyres and last on them for the rest of the race. It makes the races boring and processional, and its happened way too often, only being changed by the wet races in Australia and China, and the spectacular Canadian Grand Prix, wherein the tyres grained a lot quicker and the teams were forced to make more stops. In fact, the race in Canada was so spectacular because of this that it prompted Bernie Ecclestone to consider forcing next year’s suppliers (Pirelli) to develop tyres that can’t last longer than a hundred kilometres to force more interesting races. I hope so, otherwise we’re going to be force fed a lot of races where everyone makes one pit stop, and the order barely changes apart from the midfield.
The decision to not use KERS (it wasn’t outlawed, but the teams just agreed not to use it), which backed up all the braking energy and allowed the teams extra boosts in the straights, was another short sighted decision. F1 has this habit of outlawing something after a year, or deciding not to use it next season. Not all the teams could use KERS effectively because it meant the cars had to carry extra weight, meaning that the use of it was balanced, and they couldn’t just get a straight advantage from it, it was a gamble to use. So most teams gave up on using it and the only manufacturer who could make it work was Mercedes, and so the Mercedes powered cars gained an advantage. That suddenly wasn’t fair, so it was agreed not to be used this year. It’s coming back next year now, though, but I just thought it was really short sighted to ban it one year, bring it back the next. F1 can be way too reactionary sometimes, which is also proved with the F-Duct banning for next year. The F-Duct was a clever system that stalled the rear-wing and gave users more speed in straight line, but because only one team thought of it and used it, it was outlawed because it was an unfair disadvantage, which is a short sighted decision, as it’d make the proceedings a lot more interesting next year if teams were allowed them. Generally, it seems to be the attitude in F1 to ban things prematurely, or change the rules every season, which makes it complicated, and a lot worse for the bottom end teams. Speaking of whom…
The Bottom End Teams:
Granted, its always going to be a difficult time for any newcoming team to have any kind of impact, but it’s very evident how little preparation a lot of the teams had. Lotus are going from strength to strength, and by next year, will be obvious midfield contenders with any luck. Virgin were a team who lacked a lot of foresight, which was evident from the fact their cars didn’t have a big enough fuel tank to allow them to finish the first few races of the season, but I guess next year, they may be challenging for the midfield too, with any luck. However, as much as Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna are obviously nice, refreshing personalities in the sport, it’s pretty clear that Hispania Racing shouldn’t have been on the grid this year. They didn’t even have a full line-up until days before the inaugural race, the car has been consistently miles behind every other car, and the car couldn’t even challenge GP2 cars at the bewilderingly terrible pace its at. The team’s been dogged by problems for a long while, and its very clear there’s very little reason for them to stay on right now. Hopefully next year, they’ll be able to prove us wrong, but it’s a shame Stefan F1 was denied a place on the grid this year, because it’d have been more interesting to see what that team could have done with what was literally a threadbare team than a team that should have been ready but wasn’t. I honestly hope all the bottom teams right now do really well next year, as with the 13th team next year, but its hard to root for them when they’re obviously struggling with obvious lacks in pace. When next year rolls around, it’ll be much easier to see how the teams are going to cope in F1 in future, and whether they’ll end up like Force Indias or Minardis.
Okay, so Schumacher coming back into F1 was always going to be the biggest talking point. Schumacher is an absolute legend in F1, and hate him or love him, you can’t deny the man clearly is the best ever, smashing all the records and winning more championships and races than anyone else around. He was simply the best. But coming back after three years is always going to be really difficult for anyone, and it shouldn’t be understated just how hard it potentially is having to come back after three years, re-learn the ropes and be put under constant pressure and expectations. Personally, I feel that too much is being asked of the man, especially when Mercedes clearly do not have a great car this year, so its to be expected that he’s not going to be performing at the peak of his abilities just yet. If anything, the idea that he was going to come back in his first season since retirement and win the championship was always going to be a fairly ridiculous concept, and its just proof that people expected too much, and are too quick to judge.
Every pundit in F1 has taken any excuse to slag off Schumacher’s performances and accuse him of ‘losing it’ or not being good enough anymore. When he’s been away from the sport for three years. I won’t deny for a second that he’s had some lacklustre and disappointing races, especially due to some spectacularly terrible strategy calls, but I wasn’t expecting him to come back and challenge straight away. I knew it was a ridiculous concept for him to come back and be at the same level as he was before, and yet so many people and so many veterans of the sport want to call him out on his decision to return as if it was the most terrible mistake ever. But it’s not. Its a big mistake to discount someone’s previous abilities and act as if his previous achievements don’t matter because he’s in a car that can’t help him perform to the best of his abilities. No one else would be expected to do that well after that kind of a break, but after any bad performance, people are desperate to create rumours that he’s going to leave or be replaced. Yes, he has had a bad season so far. Yes, he has been consistently beaten by his team-mate. Yes, he doesn’t have a chance this year. Yes, granted the circumstances, it may seem dubious to return to the sport, but it’s a far stupider idea to expect him to cut and run after one terrible season. If he did that in the past, he’d never have stayed with Ferrari when he moved there, and he’d never have become so dominant. His driving now won’t affect his legacy, and its pointless to criticise him for returning because he’s already achieved everything he possible can in the sport. I have a lot of respect for him to even come back to the sport in the first place, and especially to drive as well as he is now, and for him to be able to joke about and take all the media criticism in his stride is a hugely respectful thing. Don’t worry about this year, stop all the stupid rumours that he’s going to leave at the end of the year. Let him learn the car again, let him get used to the new regulations, and wait until next year, when he’ll hopefully be in a much more dominant car, and he’ll be a much more dominant driver again. Until then, you’re talking about a man who was and is the most successful driver in Formula One. Don’t be so quick to dismiss him.
Mark Webber and the Red Bulls:
Red Bull have continued their progress from last year to basically become the clearly dominant team this year. Their qualifying sessions are nearly always unbeatable, and they clearly have a lot more pace in race sessions too. The car has been fantastically designed, and its clear that the team are suffering from reliability problems a lot less than they were last year. However, the team aren’t a championship team. Sure, they’re the fastest, and they’re reliable now, and its very clear most other teams don’t even stand a chance and the rest of the field is playing catch-up. But they’re not a championship team. The team and the drivers may win championships this year, but they won’t actually be deserving of them. The team clearly isn’t experienced enough, and its shown the most through the way that the team handled the incidents in the Turkish and British Grand Prix. After Vettel and Webber’s collision, the team handled the situation in entirely the wrong manner, especially when higher-ups within the team publicly blamed one driver over the other. It was a wholly stupid collision, yes, but publicly blaming a driver for the incident over another, especially when it was clear they were both as bad as one another is a risky and stupid decision to make, especially if it backfires. As it turned out, Webber was publicly blamed even with most of the paddock blaming Vettel, and the team handled the situation poorly, allowing cracks to form within the team which shouldn’t have been there, and certainly shouldn’t have been so public.
The British Grand Prix was also a clear example of how to not run your team effectively. After Vettel’s new wing broke, they took Mark Webber’s wing off of his car and put it onto Vettel’s, giving him the advantage, citing the fact that Vettel was ahead in the championship standings over Webber. Not only should they have never taken the wing off of Webber’s car, they shouldn’t have ever cited the championship standings, because in both cases, you’re left having to answer a load of questions you should never have given the opportunity to be asked. If there wasn’t favouritism within the team before, it was incredibly suspicious to take an advantage from one driver to another, no matter what the situation, because then its a lot easier for team favouritism to be fabricated, especially within the media, and Red Bull showed their inexperience both before and after the British Grand Prix with these shenanigans. Vettel is a great driver, but he’s not yet a champion. He’s too erratic at times and prone to ridiculous mistakes, and though he will be a champion one day, it most likely won’t be this year. However, he has shown a better ability in dealing with the team’s problems than both Red Bull and Mark Webber.
Mark Webber, however, I have a bone to pick with. Before the British Grand Prix, I said to my friends that “If there’s favouritism within the team, it’s Mark Webber’s creation”. I originally meant it in the sense that if he believed that was the case, then it would begin to happen, but whether it was in his head or not would be the important thing. However, after the race, it’s clear that he’s deliberately trying to manufacture unrest within the team. He clearly exacerbated the entire situation by quipping “Not bad for a number two driver” after winning the race, and then going on to say in regards to what happened with the front wings “If I knew that was going to happen, I’d never have signed a contract with the team”. It gave the impression that Webber himself was being strong and speaking out against injustices. However, in my opinion, it was absolutely dickless.
Let me explain. After the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, Barichello went off on a rant against the Brawn GP team, claiming among other things that they messed him over on the strategy and that they deliberately favoured Button over him and went off on a whiny tirade against the team, despite the fact they were almost not on the grid in the first place that year, and he was almost replaced by Bruno Senna. Barichello had spent most of the year whining against his perceived injustices he was suffering in the team, and the Hungarian Grand Prix incident just compounded for me what an ungrateful and whiny driver he was. However, what he did took a lot more courage than Mark Webber’s tirades against Red Bull. You see, when Barichello ranted against Brawn Grand Prix, he was lucky not to lose his seat, and other teams would have fired him for what he said, and I felt myself that he should have been replaced for what he did. But the clincher is that when Barichello did it, he didn’t have a contract with the team for the next year. He had an uncertain future, and he wasn’t sure where he was going to be the next year. Yet he still threw caution to the wind and spoke out. Granted, I still think it was wrong, but it took a lot more courage than Webber. Webber spoke out earlier in the season saying that if Red Bull ever favoured one driver over the other, he’d leave instantly. He then later signed a contract with the team for another year, then spoke out against them after they blatantly favoured Vettel over him. But Webber’s words aren’t anywhere near as strong as he’d like them to be, because he said them knowing he had a seat with the team for next year. Since he was contracted, he knew that he’d be able to get away with speaking out against the team and deliberately causing unrest as he’d already been signed on. He claimed he’d never have signed if he knew it was going to happen, but he originally claimed in the first place that he’d leave the team if they blatantly favoured one driver over the other. He hasn’t left the team, and he won’t, because they’ve given him a contract for another year, and if he left, he’d only be accepted by a team with a much lower pace and ability, and he doesn’t want to have to spend even longer climbing through the ranks. That’s why I don’t have respect for him and what he said, because he’s saying it because he knows he can get away with causing unrest and making things more difficult for everyone because he has a contract and he’s with the team in future. As whiny as Barichello was, at least he said what he did without caring whether it jeopardised his future or not.
The BBC Coverage:
Finally, the BBC Coverage. Last year when the BBC took over the coverage from ITV, I was hesitant, but BBC’s coverage was leaps and bounds ahead of ITV’s. This year, too, BBC are so much better than ITV’s coverage in every way, and the pre/post qualifying/race coverage is spectacular, and only gets better. The features are interesting and awesome to boot, and despite some bad moments, Coulthard and Jordan are a very interesting choice of pundits, and they do a lot better at the job than you’d think they would be. The red button coverage and the F1 forum are also brilliant and get another great perspective into the sport. Plus, the Driver Tracker that the BBC revealed at the British Grand Prix was an actual masterstroke, and it’s an invention that I’m already in love with, and will make the races even more interesting for me in future. It’s already one of the best things around, and even after just one race, its incredible.
However, when it comes to the BBC Coverage, there is a massive elephant in the room. I’ve tried to stand it for as long as I can, and it’s at the point now where I’m sick of it eating all my peanuts, causing a mess, and ruining my enjoyment of the F1. That elephant is Jonathan Legard.
I honestly tried to bear his commentating, but every time I try to forgive him, he does something that makes me want to hate him again. He’s not terrible, but he’s damn close. Granted, no one can ever replace Murray Walker, and I used to irrationally hate James Allen, simply because he wasn’t Murray Walker, but Jonathan Legard is a flawed commentator in so many ways. I don’t like the way that he’ll come up with absurd rumours and justify them and stupid comments by claiming that “some people said” or “people in the paddock are saying” or “the latest conspiracy theory is…” in order to sound like he’s educated and in the know. Maybe so, but if you’re going to instantly dismiss them or not have any proof for what you’re saying other than “oh, other people who you don’t know said it so its totally true”, why would you even say it in the first place? I don’t like the way he’ll suddenly shout or suddenly change his tone just to try and inject excitement into what’s happening. It seems cynical, and at worst, fake. It just makes everything seem a lot worse when you’re trying to fake it, because it then detracts from what is actually happening. I don’t like the way he talks too much and will constantly interrupt Martin Brundle, clearly the better commentator of the two.
The biggest problem I have with Legard is the same problem I had with Allen, and that’s the fact that both commentators had the same incredibly infuriating habit. The Habit in question is the selective hating and praising of different drivers on a race by race basis. For example, one race, Felipe Massa has been keeping Fernando Alonso honest all season, especially with a spectacular drive like that. Next race, Felipe Massa has been terrible all season and especially after this string of poor results, you wonder if the team are making the right decision keeping him. One race, Giancarlo Fisichella puts on a spectacular drive and he’d be silly not to drive for a Ferrari if its been offered to him. Next race, Fisichella is a terrible driver and he was stupid to move to Ferrari, and hahaha its so funny that he’s terrible now and he deserves it. It’s not even playing Devil’s Advocate. It’s stupid, it makes Legard seem schizophrenic at times, and most of the time, it just makes listening to him unbearable while he prattles on about how terrible someone is and how they should be careful of losing their seat one race, and then how they’re a potential champion and the greatest driver in the world the next. It makes listening to him unbearable, and I begin to loathe every time he opens his mouth to spill another load of pointless dribble. He genuinely needs to be replaced with someone who won’t talk a load of bollocks all the time, who won’t interrupt other commentators and who doesn’t give the impression that they’re in love with the sound of their own voice and who won’t change their mind every race and become unbearable. I feel the need to point out that otherwise, the BBC Coverage of Formula One is actually outstanding. It’s just Jonathan Legard makes me want to seriously consider combining bees and blunt objects with my testicles.
So, those are my opinions and feelings about the 2010 Season of Formula One now that we’re past the halfway point. Thanks for reading! :)