The Ben Evans Column: A classic season – on paper

Posted on | Author Ben Evans

Adrian Sutil, Sebastian Vettel, Istanbul, 2007 | Peter J Fox / Crash Media GroupEven Kimi Raikkonen agreed that the Turkish GP was an exercise in tedium not seen in F1 since, oh, the Hungarian GP three weeks ago.

Aside from Hamilton’s puncture it was a largely incident and interest free two hours. Furthermore what little glimpses you did get of the grandstands showed them to be largely empty.

From a distance this has been one of the best F1 seasons in years, a genuine four-way title fight between the top two teams. But on a race-by-race basis, judged by on-track action, it must surely be going down as one of the most tedious.

The end of season DVD will be quite good, but in fortnightly two-hour instalments F1 2007 isn’t doing it for me.

Partly I think its because although the rivalries have been simmering they have yet to explode into a race-day confrontation. This is due both to the re-fuel and go nature of F1 which means that drivers are not compelled to overtake (how awesome would the British GP have been without pit stops?), and also the points structure that rewards second or third instead of pushing for that win.

Back in ’89, would Ayrton Senna have sat dutifully behind Alain Prost, as Kimi did behind Massa on Sunday? I don’t think so.

Hopefully as the season reaches its closing stages and drivers really have to push for the win this will change and we will see some bona fide dicing for podium positions. In 1989 Senna and Prost were at each other’s throats following a move in Round 3.

Whereas in 1989 the points system and Championship structure rewarded the winner of the most races, now with longer seasons and less of a gap between the points positions, the reward is for the driver who can string together the most consistent season.

It is surely only a matter of time before we have a champion who has not won a single race. Whilst this is not uncommon in many club championships it is hardly fitting for a series that is the pinnacle of motor sport.

A rather anoracky analogy (and one which gives away how I spent my weekend) would be the 1984 500cc motorbike season. From what I’d read about it, it seemed like the season was a classic confrontation between Freddie Spencer and Eddie Lawson, but watching the DVD of the season, most of the races were quite dull with only four bikes from two manufacturers really capable of winning (Spencer, Lawson, Randy Mamola and Ron Haslam).

Sound familiar? I guess the only difference is that judging by the safety standards of Grand Prix motorbike racing in 1984 I would say that the riders really earned their money – no 500m of tarmac run off for them.

Lewis Hamilton, Istanbul, McLaren-Mercedes, 2007, 2 | DaimlerChryslerMy point is this. On paper 2007 looks like a classic F1 season and that this is how it will probably be remembered – along with the remarkable success of Lewis Hamilton.

However, I believe that this is masking that there is a great deal in F1 that needs fixing. In Turkey literally nothing of interest happened for nigh on two hours – one spin at the start and a puncture – there were no mechanical failures, no accidents to spice things up. Even fanatical audiences will tune-in for only so long if this is always the case.

The next 6 weeks are critical for the health of F1. If the next couple of races are exciting and incident packed with a genuine title-fight emerging then F1 could see itself catapulted into the homes of a whole new audience.

However if the back-to-back races mirror Hungary and Turkey then I believe that very few people will be bothering to get up at the crack of dawn for the Chinese GP.

As Turkey proved cars running at 200mph in single file, pitting every 30 minutes is not entertainment. Hopefully Monza in two weeks time will be a different story.

Photos: Peter J Fox / Crash Media Group | DaimlerChrysler

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Ben Evans

Contributing writer.