The Ben Evans Column: Rant

Nico Rosberg, Williams-Toyota, Barcelona, 2007Maybe its because of my bad run of results in Formula Vee, or maybe its because, Canada and Europe excepted, Formula One is rather boring this year, but I have spent the past couple of weeks feeling unusually indifferent towards motor racing.

I think partly its because once I start feeling a bit down towards racing, then I start thinking about everything that’s wrong about motor racing today.

So to get them off my chest here are my six big gripes with motor racing today. Which do you agree with?

Overtaking - I have three problems with overtaking.

In Formula One in the dry there is none, because the design of the cars won’t allow it. And if that is overcome then you can guarantee the pit stop strategy will prevent it.

Then you have the junior single seater formulae where the rule is ‘thou shalt not be overtaken’ – the consequence being a huge number of unnecessary, enormous accidents.

Finally you have the contrived overtaking series like Nascar and WTCC where the action is as authentic as Jordan’s breasts. Whatever happened to wheel-to-wheel dicing in evenly matched, but different, cars?

Personalities - There aren’t any.

Amnesty International is considering banning interviews with Kimi Raikkonen because people die of boredom listening to him. Lewis Hamilton seems like a nice guy – but he doesn’t come across as the life and soul of the party.

Let’s face it – the vast majority of modern racing drivers are painfully dull. At least in the US they have the occasional punch up but then its only Paul Tracy and Danica Patrick, and they both fight like girls.

Refuelling – Why? Why?

No, really, why? Yeah so strategy adds another dimension to the racing – but at the expense of overtaking, balls out wheel to wheel racing and dicing.

If I wanted to see cars being filled with petrol I’d spend every Sunday sat outside my local BP station. Refuelling is only exciting when somebody catches fire or gets run over, but living in Tower Hamlets I get to see that most weekends anyway.

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Anthony Davidson, Magny-Cours, 2007Crashes - As a connoisseur of crashes the move towards acres of tarmac to contain an accident is most concerning.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to see anyone get hurt, but come on, I want to see some impacts, some damage, wheels flying. In short, when a driver goes off a track at 100mph it should probably be the end of his race – not something that costs him a couple seconds, or nothing at all if the panicky stewards rush the safety car out.

Again in series that are contrived to cause crashes – hello again WTCC – it just doesn’t feel the same, there isn’t that spontaneity. Some people called Kubica and Hamilton’s crashes horrific. I see them more as a dying art.

Circuits - Which modern GP circuits are guaranteed to produce interesting races? That would be Monte-Carlo, Montreal, Silverstone and Spa – 4 out of 18.

That only gives me 4 weekends of cast iron excuses for not going on walks with my girlfriend – ok add in the Mugello Moto GP and Knockhill Touring Cars and you have 6, but that’s still a lot of nature time.

‘Hermann the Hairpin’ Tilke’s circuits may have run off spaces bigger than most continents, but do they produce exciting racing? Not a chance.

TV Coverage – Most coverage of motor racing on the TV is a bit crap. Badly informed commentators – take a bow James Allen. Horrible ‘matey’ banter – hello to the BBC Moto GP team. The guest pundit you’ve never heard of – that would be Champ Cars on Eurosport.

Combine that with camera positions that remove any sense of speed and advert breaks that cut out entire laps and motor racing on TV can be a rather disappointing experience.

Having written all that before the European Grand Prix, isn’t it amazing what a difference a few drops of rain can make?

Photo credits: Nico Rosberg, Williams FW29 Toyota. Action. Photo: Glenn Dunbar /LAT Photographic. ref: Digital Image IMG_9226

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12 comments on The Ben Evans Column: Rant

  1. Monte-Carl

    Que?

  2. Bart said on 25th July 2007, 11:10

    I only watch F1 regularly so I can’t comment on the other racing sports.

    Overtaking is a problem with F1. If they could change those wing designs or do something to improve overtaking chances would be great. Too many races are more mathematical exercises of pit stop strategies than races.

    Personalities, I was thinking this more and more recently. These drivers are ok guys, but they are likes machines. We are nearing the edge of just letting computers drive these cars. Maybe giving them some random thresholds for making mistakes once in a while for excitement. It’s all so calculated and by the numbers. Hopefully the removal of traction control will make for a more human feel.

    Personally I am neutral on the refueling. Without pit stops positions wouldn’t change at all anymore (no overtaking), so they could just do qualifying and move on to the next race. Or hope for rain.

    Crashes are always exciting, but you could hardly wish people to get hurt.

    Circuits, I never liked the new Hockenheim. The old one was fast and exciting and unique. The new one is just like all the others, boring little circle. They make circuits sterile and bland. Mathematical marvels that have 0 character.

  3. Rabs said on 25th July 2007, 11:19

    Here, here!
    I am a huge fan of F1 but I do think that Ben has some very valid points here.
    Refuelling – let’s go back to the days where the cars tanked up at the start. Drivers then had to pace the race. If you ran out of fuel – tough!
    Overtaking – the refuelling thing would promote overtaking as different cars would be on hot laps at different times. Also, give us circuits – and cars – which promote overtaking. If that means bringing in active dampers and suspension to allow the aerodynamics of the car to adjust for optimal performance – so be it. F1 is meant to be the pinacle of motorsport after all.
    Personalities – leave the personalities to the drivers Bernie and Max. We don’t care about you. We never have. OK, you did a lot for safety in the early days Bernie. Now though it’s all about the money – isn’t it, admit it. Haven’t you got enough yet. I mean how many handbags does your wife need? Leave F1 alone! Diesel engines and Energy return systems, Max. Get real mate and stop jumping on bandwagons. We want speed! Lots of it! Overtaking – lots of it! Cars changing direction, braking and accelerating at mind numbing velocity. Not some electrically powered green machine trundling along on super thin tyres to reduce drag coefficient.
    Crashes – yeah we all cringed when Kubica hit the wall and when Schumacher had his big one at Indy a couple of years back…. But this is all part of the reason why F1 and motorsport is dangerous and the drivers get paid the obscene amounts they do. Gone are the days when the first corner pileup is the norm rather than exception. F1 is safe these days. Alonso’s pit exit on Sunday is all part of the risk mechanics and drivers take and sign up for. It’s what adds to the adrenalin.
    Commentary – James Allen leave now! At least you got rid of that permed bog brush you probably though was trendy. sniffpetrol.com should bring back the “Stop the Cock!” t-shirts and they should be handed out for free at every GP until he gets the message. I mean to go from Murray Walker to that prat is a step too far. At least Slug Rosenthal has gone….
    Ah, better now…..

  4. Andrea said on 25th July 2007, 12:02

    A few comments:
    Personalities.
    I’ve been following F1 for some 35 years by now, so I’m old enough to know that F1 drivers have always been dull. I mean it’s 35 years that I’m reading that the current crop of drivers is boring compared to the previous generation. So in the 70′s drivers were dull compared to the ones in the 60s. Suddenly the very same drivers became extremely brilliant when compared to the 80′s drivers. and so on. This has become very predictable. Only one thing never changes. People complain about dull driver.
    Refuelling.
    You can ban refuelling but you will not remove pit stops. They still will change tires. So strategy will still play a part. The only difference would be that to pass someone you should pit earlier than the opposition instead of after him….OK, tyres change could be banned as well (as in 2005) but on safety grounds I think it will never happen.
    Circuits.
    New circuits may not have historical heritage but are not that bad. Turkey and China are not bad at all and have produced much better racing than, say, Siverstone lately….

  5. Andrea is quite right about the personalities. But why should we care? Kimi Raikkonen has as much personality as a sheet of cardboard but drives like an angel – and that’s what I come to see. Sure, it’s nice if we get the occasional character (and Jacques still gives us his opinion from the sidelines) but that’s just icing on the cake to the genuine F1 enthusiast.

    Oh, and you know the most boring thing about F1? The constant whining about “no overtaking”… :D

  6. Hummm… he complains about the lack of overtaking, then goes rating Monte-Carlo as an interesting race…

    Yep, valid comments indeed. Yeee-haaaw!

  7. I agree with most points made here.

    I like the idea of requiring teams to run their cars more efficiently if you want to run on lighter fuel, or suffer the consequences of weight if you decide to run more fuel, but otherwise, if you ban refueling there will still be tire changes! If you must watch the men change the tires, what difference does it make if there is a hose in the car or not?

    I am in favor of getting rid of the “you must use both compounds” rule. There should be an advantage to teams that can run the entire race on the hards.

    As for crashing, I think what’s really missing is that the current teams are too perfect at what they do. An engine failure or two will serve the same purpose as a wreck: It’s not enough that Schumacher lead at Japan last year, his engine had to finish the race, too. If we don’t get the feeling that the leader’s car may accidentally break at any moment, there is no excitement, since there is no overtaking in the field without rain.

    Seeing what the rain has added, I’d like to add a gripe: the weather has been too cooperative.

  8. Fer no.65 said on 26th July 2007, 0:47

    Well, i agree with this.

    I 100& agree with this…

    F1 politics made F1 boring. That’s all. Also (and many old racers told this) there’s no more danger at those races. Before, if you made a mistake, you were finished. But not your race, your life. Or you could be really lucking and leave the car walking.

    Now you have news like: “:O! Hammy Crashed Heavily!!!”
    I didn’t see that qualy, so i thought it was a huge accident. But no. Yes, he crashed at (correct me if im wrong) 200km/h?. Yes, he didn’t leave the car walking. But it wasn’t a big terrifing crash.

    The danger made F1 interesting. Because the fastest was the man that not only was talented and had the best car. The fastest also had big balls to drive like that. I mean, if Clark won so many races was because he was taking risks. So he died like that, taking risks. If Fangio lived his whole life, doesn’t mean he didn’t take risks, he also was f*cking fast, but he was lucky and talented enough to avoid crashes.

    Im not blaming F1, but things have changed and they won’t change back again.

    Cheers…

  9. Carldec said on 26th July 2007, 5:11

    RE- Personalities in the sport.

    That is why i am a huge fan of Fernando Alonso. He has personality!

    I started being a fan right after his win in hungry in 2003. He gave an interview where he just answered every question with yes and no… It was funny and charming and I was hooked.

    as for the rest…

    Overtaking – yeah. need more…. removing traction control will help abit hopefully. You didnt mention the rev limit of 19k that they have this year… I think that has hurt overtaking a bit too.

    I would like to see them open up the formula a bit… allow different asperations, different revs, allow some variance from car to car.

    I think the only green thing that will help the sport is the energy reclemation… this could also help overtaking if you can get some of that energy and use it in a passing situation.

    With you on refuling.

    Crashing…. well, I do wish there was a better way to punish mistakes without endangering the driver… but I also dont want to go back to the days when people were dying for the sport. It sounds really macho, but its a total waste.

    Cercuits – Hopefully some fo the new circuits will be exciting… singapore looks interesting. There is hope that France and US can come up with something that adds a bit of spice to the mix.

    TV – well, i watch Speed in America and we have really good commentators. commercials still suck tho. I have downloaded the ITV Coverage from bit torrent some times and I have to agree, your guys suck. Perhaps you should download the speed coverage….

    four of the races last year were on CBS and their commentators were beyond horrible. One guy talked incesantly about how the cars went over the curbs, the other guy explained things at such a basic level that it was sickening.

    I have to say, the combination of Tivo and Speed chanel have really spoiled us here in the US. Our comentators are terrific.. and we are now getting very good coverage. We now get 1.5 hours of practice, all of Qualifying, the Race, F1 Debrief, Inside F1 and the speed report news show and then a fan call in show after that. I do wish they had more people at the race, but they do an outstanding job from their studios in the states. The wall to wall USGP coverage was terrific. They had a special where they interviewed every single driver. They also maintain an outstanding F1 discussion board at Speedtv.com. (my second favorite source of F1 news after this site.)

  10. sam said on 26th July 2007, 20:04

    You want to see boring, watch a NASCAR race for 4 1/2 hours, mate. It has all the intrigue and drama of slamming your head against the wall until it bleeds. The margin for error is about six miles wide.

    As for personality.. any time a driver does something that isn’t in line with Raikkonen’s funeral-home dullness, all these whiners and complainers come out of the woodwork to cry about how they didn’t think the driver was acting professional. So please don’t start on ‘we need drivers with personality.’

  11. I’m certainly in the minority I know that, but I find Kimi funny. I’m never quite sure if I’m laughing with him or at him but I do find it really amusing every time he starts speaking.

    It’s probably just my warped sense of humour.

  12. John Teager said on 18th March 2008, 13:44

    The biggest problem with F1 isn’t washed up drivers, obscene budgets, or even Mosley’s arrogance. The biggest problem is the development and allowance of downforce aids to the extent that generated turbulence prevents overtaking. You have arguably the world’s best racing drivers parading single file for lap after lap waiting for pit stops to create the opportunity to pass. For Formula 1 to become more exciting and competitive, the wings need to be reduced. The loss of downforce could be offset, if necessary, by permitting some ground effects without creating turbulence. I realize that F1 is the foremost showcase of technology in racing, but adding wings and winglets isn’t hi-tech. Wouldn’t it be fun to watch the best cars and drivers drifting and passing again?

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