It’s everywhere at the moment, that Volkswagen advert. I do rather like the funked-up Mint Royale mix of Singing in the Rain but I must confess the motion-captured impression of Gene Kelly is downright scary and I have to hide behind the sofa when it’s on.
But when the public is used to the same old thing – black & white heroes of the screen, ‘normal’ qualifying sessions – they react badly when that familiar, comforting old standard is fiddled about with for no obvious reason.
The problem with the latest qualifying system that we have in F1 – and it’s the fourth such system in as many years, lest we forget – is that it takes everything that was wrong with the last system and throws the good bits away.
The purpose of the changes first made in 2003 were to give TV exposure to all the cars and to give each driver a shot at the track free of traffic. Unfortunately, because drivers had to preserve their cars for race day and run with a race day fuel load, the action was less than spectacular.
Now, for reasons that have never been adequately explained, we have two such sessions. One of which is held at a time when no domestic broadcaster is going to show it – and this is the one that actually tells us what the grid is going to be!
It also doubles the chance that one of the sessions will be wet, mixing up the grid and unfairly disadvantaging certain drivers. And it completely neuters the chance of seeing drivers going flat-out on banzai laps, which is surely the whole point of having qualifying (other than to determine the grid). In 2002, which was pants, people said, “Well at least the qualifying is still exciting.” Even that isn’t true any more!
It’s another item in the long list of “things that are wrong with F1 right now” and it doesn’t take a political genius to suspect that it is directly linked to:
1. Bernie Ecclestone trying to buy back his share in F1 from the banks at a reduced price, and
2. F1’s governing document (The Concorde Agreement) coming up for renegotiation in 2007.
In other words: bugger up the sport, drive down the price, Bernie buys it back for less than he sold it.
F1’s biggest problem since the early 1980s has been the appalling way in which it is governed. If only Tony Blair’s trigger-happy chum across the Atlantic could spy into the offices of the FIA and spot the urgent need for regime change there.
But I digress. The race continues in spite of the incompetence of those who organise it, and those who are happy to let it go on that way because it makes them richer. Hope for dry weather in Malaysia, in spite of the qualifying system designed to catch every drop, so that we might know who is actually on form this season.
Rain, rain, go away. We want to know the state of play.