The ‘F’ in F1 Doesn’t Stand for Fun.

Sitting eating a reduced-to-clear pains au chocolat, whilst simultaneously watching a motoring show with some guy called Tiff, and considering undertaking postgraduate study – all at the same time, I find a spare part of my grey matter to summarise the F1 season so far.

Unfortunately, the purchase of new Sky internet (and the consequent information blackout until it is fitted) coincided with the recent European Grand Prix, resulting in me missing the race, and slipping in to motorsport withdrawal. The extent of my knowledge from the weekend in Valencia can be seen in the BBC 90 second summary and a couple of choice interviews.

In brief, it would appear that Ferrari found some extra pace on the tight, twisting marina street circuit, closing ground on the Red Bulls and leaving McLaren scratching their heads.

Victory for Vettel in Valencia

Both Jenson and Lewis appealed for improved aerodynamics in their post-race interviews. McLaren had brought a new front wing to Valencia, but the lack of rear downforce – clearly visible from both driver’s difficulty in keeping unwanted oversteer in check evidently demonstrated the need for the engineers to redirect their attention to the rear of the MP4-11.

McLaren may be the only team so far this season to take the chequered flag away from Red Bull, but their lack of adaptability from one race to another is allowing Ferrari’s consistency to overshadow their efforts. Regardless, the two purist racing teams on the grid – for all their jostling between one another – neither is making a genuine challenge to knock Red Bull off the top. And if they are, it isn’t showing. However, it may be that it’s simply out of their hands. Here’s why:

For me, the sport’s excitement peaked when Brawn GP graced the F1 circuits with a

Jenson Button stuns fans with an opening win in Bahrain, 2009

fairytale underdog story, defying the odds and performing the impossible. The unexpectedness of the events that season revived support and generated a completely new fan base.

Fast forward to 2011, and the sport’s structure is still evolving; providing the capacity for the impossible to happen once more. And it has. Button’s charge from 21st to 1st in Montreal was far and away one of the greatest races ever – certainly the best in motorsport’s modern era. So why aren’t miraculous performances being turned out every race? In short, they are. Every single race has seen an outstanding drive from start to finish. The issue is it’s the same driver every week that’s delivering.

Undoubtedly, Sebastian Vettel is an amazing athlete with talent in buckets. But a German winning every single race, unmatched and unchallenged?

Sounds familiar…

F1 created one of, not just motorsport, but sport’s greatest champions – Michael

Schumacher takes the chequered flag in China, 2006

Schumacher. But in doing so, your average fan was alienated by the monotony. Nobody was interested in watching Michael lead a procession from start to finish for the best part of two hours.

Bernie Ecclestone has made some strange suggestions in how to shake up the sport. The majority of critics have laughed these off. However, Formula 1 is fast approaching having to make some tough decisions if it is to remain popular. Radical changes may be what it takes to forge a degree of –fan-friendly unpredictability in the sport. As things stand, Vettel looks destined to dominate for years to come. He has certainly set his sights on overtaking the 7-time world champion’s record.

If the FIA shares Bernie’s desire to maintain the sport’s consumerism, it could cost F1 its greatest champion ever…


About Mike O'Keeffe

I live and breath racing. Especially, F1. Here you'll find an ocassional word or two on the ins and outs, the highs and lows and the controversies of motorsport's pinnacle.
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