Boring races

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Marco Andretti, Indianapolis 500, 2007 | IRL MediaTop F1 pundit Peter Windsor recently wrote this in response to a question on how he would improve F1:

I would change nothing. I think F1 is fantastic as it is. If you want to watch a million meaningless overtaking manoeuvres and lots of shunts go and watch NASCAR or bikes or IRL or something.

I don’t like to slag off other writers but I cannot fathom this attitude at all. Year after year we have seen the quality of racing in F1 decline to state it is in now where racing for position among the leading drivers is unheard of in dry conditions.

And his condescending tone towards other forms of motor racing is the very embodiment of the ignorance and arrogance that fans of America racing criticise F1 for – sometimes with good reason.

Here’s another quote from Windsor – this time his review of the French Grand Prix in August’s F1 Racing:

Kimi was quick enough on his second new set of options to secure P3 – on the clean side of the grid although of course he would not be sure of this until the session was over; the flip side of that risk was that he completed the lap (his tenth in Q3) only three seconds before the chequered flag fluttered. This was the critical moment.

Most teams try to have their drivers complete their quickest laps beneath the chequered flag, when the track is at its quickest; on this occasion though, Chris [Dyer] jumped on the radio, told Kimi to drop anchor… and Kimi duly completed the remainder of his last lap in a tardy 2’23.511s. He then took the chequered flag – and spent another three minutes returning to the pits.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Magny-Cours, 2007 | Ferrari MediaYes, I did say this was from the race report. Only one paragraph actually talks about the race because, as we all know, nothing happened. Raikkonen was able to pit later because of these laps in qualifying and therefore beat team mate Felipe Massa.

Is this really what we want F1 to be? Races so processional that they are decided by who gets the best combination of qualifying position and fuel load in qualifying? This isn’t racing at all.

I’m not going to leap to NASCAR’s defence, but at least it, the IRL and the likes have recognised that motor races have to have some element of motoring competition in them. I happen to think that NASCAR uses some very artificial and unsporting devices to manufacture ‘racing’, and as a result I don’t watch it.

But the bulk of the American audience looks at F1, notes the almost total absence of genuine racing for position, and chooses not to watch it. I think F1 needs to react to that in a more sophisticated way than turning its nose up at them and calling their sports ‘meaningless’.

Happily it seems other people have recognised the need to do something about the lack of racing in F1. The Overtaking Working Group have conducted wind tunnel tests on a Ferrari F2004 to look at restricting (possibly even standardising) front and rear wing configuration, and banning winglets and the like, to reduce downforce and allow cars to run more closely.

F1 does not need – and should not have – NASCAR levels of constant side-by-side overtaking. But its driver do need to be able to race each other, and make moves for position on the track, not via pit stops.

I hope the OWG’s research bears fruit, and they take no account of the Peter Windsors of this world – who apparently would have happily watched Juan Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna engaged in a fearsome competition over who can save the most fuel on their qualifying in-laps.

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