The Ben Evans column: Passion fading

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Mark Webber, Alexander Wurz, Istanbul, 2007 | GEPA / Bildagentur KraelingPart of my Motorsport-loving self died on Monday

It had been on life-support for a lot of 2007, but on Monday morning it finally popped its clogs and departed.

Unlike 10.4m other Brits I actually missed the Brazilian GP as I was at Brands Hatch making my annual pilgrimage to the Formula Ford Festival, so only caught the last hour or so of the race on the radio driving home.

For the first time in 2007 I was actually sorry I hadn’t been perched on my settee tuned into ITV and James Allen’s Lewis Hamilton eulogy – sorry, I mean balanced commentary mentioning more than one driver.

So why did part of my appetite for racing shrivel and die?

Well the Festival, as happened last year, was actually decided long after I’d got home, with the on-track winner Callum McLeod (although with only 6 racing laps this in itself was disappointing) given a 2-second penalty handing the win to Nick Tandy. Tandy himself was penalised from the win in 2006.

The Formula Ford Festival has long been a benchmark in close and generally clean racing, but in 2007 this was not the case. The sensational Kent final was curtailed 6 laps early following an unnecessary shunt between the front runners. The Duratecs were stopped on half distance with two drivers requiring medical assistance following separate incidents.

The whole affair was hugely anticlimactic, yet it just felt a lot more disappointing than usual, perhaps because both races were stopped when finely poised, or maybe because I was already politicked and incident-ed out from my 2007 campaign.

However by 7pm on Sunday I felt good, the F1 World title had been decided on the track in the favour of the driver who had won the most races. The fact that I would be spared a winter of having to recount my ‘I once shared a garage with Lewis Hamilton anecdote’ also came into it.

So imagine my dismay on Monday morning (although as I get up at 5.30am I am already fairly dismayed) to hear that some fuel or some such had been over-chilled, but it wasn’t black and white so no penalties had been given, but McLaren would appeal.

At that moment something inside me snapped. Formula One in 2007 has been rubbish, the racing has been appalling and thoroughly overshadowed by off-track wrangling perpetrated by individuals with egos the size of planets. Entertaining the fans, I would imagine, has not crossed Bernie Ecclestone or Max Mosely’s minds once this year.

However, Interlagos on Sunday, judging by Radio 5’s coverage, gave F1 the thrilling title decider it didn’t deserve. So for that result, and the outcome of the Championship, to be thrown into the air to be settled through another bout of courtroom argument was all too much.

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I like my racing to be close, hard, exciting and decided on the track and not in the courtrooms. I was at Snetterton two weeks ago for the Club F3 title decider, and going into the final race we had a two-way title battle which produced the finest F3 race I have ever seen, with 3 cars fighting for the win for 20 minutes.

That is what racing is about, not arguing over tiny aspects of technical specifications.

2007 has been a terrible year for Grand Prix racing, but as I went to bed on Sunday night I felt it had found some redemption, and in front of ITV’s largest ever audience. All that the upcoming legal debates will do is serve to disappoint long term fans and alienate those that the sport has attracted as the title fight has reached its (false) conclusion.

‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ is the old maxim, but right now the core of F1 is badly broken and desperately needs fixing.

Photo: GEPA / Bildagentaur Kraeling

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